Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Audibles at the Line: Week 13
Audibles at the Line: Week 13
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1st

Philadelphia Eagles 14 at Seattle Seahawks 34

Tom Gower: So after Vince Young's terrible interception, the Seahawks drive 60 yards in five plays for a go-ahead touchdown. The drive features (a) a positive gain on a dumpoff when Jamar Chaney ignores the back for no apparent reason, (b) a 26-yard pass to Ben Obomanu where Chaney decides not to play downfield at all for no apparent reason, and (c) a 15 or so-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch where Chaney had Lynch wrapped up and blew the tackle.

Danny Tuccitto: Somewhere, Mike Tanier is personifying "drunk and disorderly."

Tom Gower: Young has enough of his own problems. Clay Harbor and Riley Cooper dropping passes on back-to-back plays on the opening drive of the second half, Cooper's tipped to Brandon Browner for the interception, are not helping

Vince, seriously? He looks for LeSean McCoy on the swing pass, sees David Hawthorne right there, then throws the swing pass anyway. Naturally, Hawthorne intercepts it and takes it back for a game-sealing score.

Vince Verhei: Watch a replay of Hawthorne on that. It's hysterical. He moves out to cover McCoy, and they both realize McCoy is covered and stop running, nearly coming to a standstill. Hawthorne, convinced his job on this play is completed and the pass is absolutely not headed his way, gives a bored look into the backfield to see if anything more exciting is going in that part of the world. And there, lo and behold, is the ball, in midair, headed his way. I half-expected him to duck out of the way, the pass caught him so off-guard.

The Seahawks use a lot of over and under shifts, so they often end up in kind of a 3-4 look with 4-3 personnel. Tonight, it looked like they were running a lot of straight 3-4 stuff, with Chris Clemons, normally the pass-rushing end, standing up as an outside linebacker. I assume the idea here was to get more lateral movement out of the defense, so they'd have a easier time chasing McCoy all over the place. If I'm right about that, it says a lot about McCoy that they'd switch up their entire defensive philosophy just to try to contain him.

Rivers McCown: Lo, so it was written in the Book of Just Winning: When we say someone just wins games, we have never clarified for which team he wins games for.

Sunday, December 4th

New York Jets 34 at Washington Redskins 19

Ben Muth: The Redskins just ran three straight tosses to Roy Helu inside the 15-yard line and ended up with a touchdown. They must have seen something on tape to go outside three times in a row that close to the goal line.

Atlanta Falcons 10 at Houston Texans 17

Aaron Schatz: The confusion over incomplete passes and fumbles is getting ridiculous. T.J. Yates gets hit in the Atlanta-Houston game, it's an incomplete pass. The ref calls the pass incomplete right there anyway, but apparently there's no whistle. So Atlanta picks up the ball and runs it back the other way. Houston thinks the play is over, and a different official signals touchdown for Atlanta. Apparently it was reviewed from above and they went with touchdown, which I think is the wrong call. The replay looked to me like an incomplete pass by Yates. But also, why was the default call to go with the ref who signaled touchdown over the ref who signaled incomplete pass? In a play like this, that's an important question, because you have to go with the default if the review doesn't show "conclusive evidence." The ref who was right there next to the play signaled incomplete. Shouldn't the default be incomplete?

Because the original official had signaled incomplete pass, both teams had started to sub in their field-goal units. So while that one Atlanta player was returning the "fumble," both teams had more than 11 players on the field. So after the Atlanta player scores, the officials call offsetting 12 Men on Field penalties on both teams. They ended up putting the ball at the point where the officials estimated the returning player was when the extra players started coming on the field, which was the Atlanta 35. That's got to be the first time I've ever seen a 12 Men on Field penalty shorten a turnover return, rather than get called before a play started. What a weird play.

Mike Tanier: No need for professional refs in this league. Nosiree!

Ben Muth: Yates just tried to make a tackle on Dunta Robinson without using his arms at all on an interception return. It didn't work, but it didn't matter since the play was called back for defensive holding. Still, it was a really funny visual.

Rivers McCown: I wasn't real impressed with Matt Ryan -- he was checking off on practically every play, Wade Phillips was giving him man-to-man on the outside practically all day, and he was sailing a lot of throws without much actual pressure. His receivers definitely didn't help him out either, but I think part of that was offset by the fact that Kareem Jackson continues to draw an NFL paycheck.

Yates was not dominant by any stretch, but I thought he looked really comfortable out there. His one big screwup (the pick-six to Robinson) was called back on holding, but even counting that, I thought he only threw about four or five balls I'd describe as bad, and Andre Johnson dropped a long play-action pass that would have put him closer to 240 yards than 190. I know Atlanta's secondary took a blow with Brent Grimes out, but for a first-time starter I was pretty impressed.

He sort of reminded me of Matt Moore at the end of the year with the Panthers in 2009. And just like with Moore, it is my sincere hope that he manages to make sure Texans fans don't have to watch Jake Delhomme play football again.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: The Colts march the ball down on the porous Patriots defense. They get a first-and-goal from the 1. On the first play, Joseph Addai is stopped for no gain. For the second play, they try a quick snap and Jerod Mayo bats away the pass. On third down, they waste time, have to call timeout to avoid delay of game, come back, get a false start, and then Dan Orlovsky is sacked. Field goal. That's about the Colts season in a nutshell there. They have first-and-goal from the 1 and lose 12 yards.

Mike Tanier: I think I just saw the last ember of Colts self-respect die on that last Rob Gronkowski touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots nearly managed to blow a 31-3 lead in the fourth quarter. When the Colts made it 31-17, that seemed like a cute backdoor cover. When they made it 31-24 with 40 seconds left, that probably gave Bill Belichick heartburn. The Pats recovered the onside kick and held on for the win, but this was a good example of why our stats don't stop counting plays in a blowout. That 21-point late Colts comeback tells us something about these teams. In particular, it tells us the Patriots pass defense is still really bad.

Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 35

Mike Tanier: The Bengals have played pretty well. The Bengals are down 14-0.

J.J. Cooper: The Steelers get a gift on a 40-something yard pass interference penalty on Chris Crocker. Ben Roethlisberger's pass to Mike Wallace was way off line, but that meant that Wallace had to redirect himself back toward the middle of the field, which means he bumped into Crocker. It doesn't seem like Crocker did anything wrong, but then with pass interference that doesn't seem to always matter.

Like Mike said, the Bengals are playing pretty well and have nothing to show for it. A.J. Green got behind Ike Taylor early for a 43-yard catch which set up a touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham, but that was called back on a false start penalty on Green. So the Bengals settled for a successful field goal, which was waved off because of delay of game. Then Cameron Heyward blocks the second field goal attempt. Now Pittsburgh's got a 14-0 lead, and the Steelers have forced and recovered a Brandon Tate fumble on the resulting kickoff. This could get ugly quickly.

Robert Weintraub: For what it's worth, Cincy was about ten points worse than Pittsburgh, not 28. The penalty nonsense on the opening drive really took some of the life out of the Bengals. Then Pittsburgh got three scores off a terrible pass interference call, a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and a punt return touchdown that was keyed by a block in the back that went uncalled -- one so blatant that even Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were laughing about it. When one did get called the next time the Bengals punted, Nantz said something like "Bengals fans are wondering why that wasn't called on the last punt," and they were giggling. Needless to say, I was not.

Having said that, the Bengals tackling was atrocious, really for the first time all year, and the pass blocking was subpar once the Steelers got ahead and unleashed the hounds. Cincy was without both starting corners and their best pass rusher, so they played a lot of zone, and were far more passive than usual as a result. On the other hand, the Indian food I for dinner was excellent, so there's that.

Tennessee Titans 23 at Buffalo Bills 17

Tom Gower: Well, I was anticipating a mostly drab but close game between the Bills and Titans, but the first quarter was fairly interesting. When Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't been getting his passes broken up, he's been finding the holes I
thought he might be able to hit. C.J. Spiller has also been effective when he's found the edge. He had a 42-yard touchdown called back for holding and another touchdown that counted when he recovered his own fumble in the end zone after a separate long run. That last score came off a replay reversal, and I'm not sure I would've overturned the call on the field.

The Titans lead 17-7 though, early in the second quarter. Chris Johnson, who's running like he did last week and also in 2009 except with very good instead of extraordinary deep speed, has two touchdowns, including a vintage one on a 48-yard draw play. The Bills defense is looking particularly non-threatening, which is good because Damian Williams is not having a good game.

Aaron Schatz: In the red zone, apparently the Buffalo Bills like to throw one-yard passes that don't go anywhere near the end zone. For crying out loud, they threw a one-yard slant to Brad Smith on second-and-2 and he got tackled short of the sticks.

Tom Gower: Well, the Titans game in the last three quarters was more like what I was expecting. The Titans ground out a couple field goal drives, including one up 17-10 when Mike Munchak elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the red zone and converted. The Bills had a field goal, then pushed out a touchdown drive with a couple fourth-down conversions to cut the deficit to 23-17. With 2:58 and two timeouts left, Chan Gailey kicked deep, and the Bills ended up getting the ball back deep in their own end with a minute to play and didn't even make it to Hail Mary range.

Denver Broncos 35 at Minnesota Vikings 32

Mike Tanier: I have really been missing the high school teacher experiences, including going to lots of high school games. Luckily, I have Broncos-Vikings.

Vince Verhei: Tim Tebow is not waiting for the fourth quarter this week. He has thrown a pair of touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter. One was a fade route in the end zone where it looked like the nearest defensive back was more concerned with an imaginary receiver running a skinny post. The other came when Tebow scrambled to the sideline, the defense came up to cover, and Tebow threw back to the middle to Thomas on a crossing route.

However, both touchdowns left the Broncos down by two points, and they opted to go for one each time. I know there's a whole quarter to go, and the Vikings haven't let you do much on the ground all day. Still, your quarterback is theoretically a great goal-line weapon, and it's better to be tied than to be behind. Anyone want to argue for taking the single point(s) there?

Aaron Schatz: Nope. I agree. I think it makes sense for Denver to always go for two. Probably Carolina as well.

Mike Tanier: The Broncos fail a lot in short yardage. Two fails would be a four-point swing. They tend to win by three, and they thrive on only having to drive for only a field goal late in games.

Aaron Schatz: Denver in short-yardage situations before Tebow became the starter: 33-percent conversion rate.

Denver in short-yardage situations after Tebow became the starter: 67-percent conversion rate.

And as I type this, Denver scores a two-point conversion to tie the game. They scored on two plays. The first one was a long pass to a wide-open Thomas. Thomas sure has been wide open a lot today, but this wasn't a play that had broken down. This was just him beating Cedric Griffin straight out.

Vince Verhei: The front page of presently says Denver is beating Minnesota 272-29.

After Percy Harvin takes a 3-yard crossing route 48 yards for a touchdown, the Broncos drive down the field again and Willis McGahee scores from 24 yards out. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos go finally go for two, and Tebow runs it in to tie the game. Harvin, by the way, has caught all seven passes thrown his way for 145 yards and two scores. This may be the best game for the Florida Gators all year.

Aaron Schatz: On third-and-long with 1:45 left, the Vikings finally manage to actually cover Thomas. An incomplete pass, followed by a Matt Prater field goal, ties the game with 1:33 left. Can Christian Ponder do a fourth-quarter Tebow to Tebow?

Vince Verhei: Before the two-minute warning, 20-some seconds ticked off the clock. The Vikings had two timeouts and elected not to use them.

Aaron Schatz: Ponder throws a pick in his own end and the Broncos are going to have it on the 20. They are going to win again in the fourth quarter, and we're going to hear about Tebow some more, apparently because he inspired Andre' Goodman to make that pick.

Mike Tanier: I guess one of us should point out that he looked real sharp much of the game and found a lot of open receivers. It might as well be me.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, Tebow definitely did look better as a passer today. It helped that the Vikings cornerbacks kept waiting for safety help that wasn't there, but Tebow did have to find those guys with accurate passes, and he did.

Vince Verhei: To be fair, Tebow made a lot of plays in the second half. Mostly because his receivers were wide-open, but he's missed a lot of wide-open receivers in recent weeks. Still, keep in mind how lousy the offense was in the first half: Seven drives, one first down, 45 yards, two lost fumbles, one safety given up.

Mike Tanier: But I remember a quarterback about 23 years ago ... great runner, technically very raw, had a great defense helping him, made two or three plays per game with his arm, and he led a team to a lot of eleven-win seasons. Games like this are viable, when you are completing about ten passes. All Tebow needs is a Gumby haircut and a return of the Arsenio Hall show...

Vince Verhei: It's funny, because after charting Denver's game against Kansas City this weekend, I was ready to come on here and talk about what a guilty pleasure it was watching Denver's offense and their slavish dedication to the running game, full of triple-tight-end sets, options, end-arounds and other creativity. But that's not really the offense we saw today, or at least not the offense that won the game. Denver only had six rushing first downs all game, and from what I saw it was your basic I-formation inside zone stuff. The big plays all came via the pass, and most of them with Tebow throwing out of the pocket.

Although I agree with Tanier that Tebow would be a lot more popular with a Gumby haircut.

Rivers McCown: Who wouldn't?

Mike Tanier: Vince's point about the Broncos offense is dead on. This is no longer wacky option stuff, this is just basic conservativism. And before my Tebow = Randall remark becomes a position statement, let me just say that I am drawing comparisons in the name of framing debate in a way that goes beyond Tebow Stinks and Tebow is Awesome, not suggesting that they will have the exact same career trajectory. Though I will say that I can now imagine the Broncos being exactly where the Jets now are in two years.

Kansas City Chiefs 10 at Chicago Bears 3

Vince Verhei: Dexter McCluster, all 5-foot-8 of him, catches a Hail Mary touchdown on the last play of the first half. He's got to be the shortest guy to ever do that, right?

Mike Tanier: How tall was that squirt from Jacksonville? And White Shoes was a bit of a smurf, right?

Vince Verhei: Good call Mike. White Shoes was 5-foot-9, which is close, but Mike Thomas of Jacksonville was 5-foot-8.

Mike Tanier: Tip drill Hail Marys are the provence of the tiny.

Mike Kurtz: Tim Jennings has had a great tackling day. He hasn't missed his guy yet, wrapped up perfectly, and even blew up a screen all by himself.

Carolina Panthers 38 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

Vince Verhei: I love the Cam Newton low-speed chase on that option pass. I know he was setting up blocks, but he looked like an old guy riding a StairMaster.

Brian McIntyre: Brian Price of the Bucs was called for a personal foul today. Raheem Morris was asked after the game what he told Price following the play. Morris' response, courtesy of Stephen Holder of the St. Petersburg Times: "I told him to go home. F--k."

Mike Tanier: Go home and f--k? Go home you little f--k? Go home, aw ... f--k?

Baltimore Ravens 24 at Cleveland Browns 10

Vince Verhei: So, I think it's safe to say the Ravens have the most schizophrenic offense in the league. Or they just adjust completely to their opponent's weakness. Against Seattle's strong run defense a few weeks ago, they started with 18 passes and five runs. This week, against Cleveland's soft run defense, they start the game three passes and 17 runs.

Mike Tanier: It is raining at the Ravens-Browns game, and after a long gain, Ray Rice gets up with glops of sideline paint and grass all over his helmet. It looks like he was tackled face-first into a giant bowl of Caesar salad.

St. Louis Rams 0 at San Francisco 49ers 26

Danny Tuccitto: Nothing out of the ordinary to talk about in this game so far. The Rams, unsurprisingly, can't run the ball. The 49ers offense is playing close to the vest, and featuring their usual modicum of Isaac Sopoaga formations. Frank Gore is running effectively most of the time. David Akers is kicking field goals. The Niners offensive line is totally blowing protections, which allowed James Laurinaitis to register a sack of the untouched variety. Vernon Davis is dropping numerous passes, including a sure 40-yard touchdown just moments ago. Basically, a game that feels like it should be 21-0 San Francisco currently sits at 6-0.

Oh wait, I forgot. Patrick Willis is out with a hamstring injury, and Gore broke the franchise record for rushing yards. Minor details there.

Tom Gower: Watching A.J. Feeley play NFL quarterback for a team that's not very good without him against a good defense just feels like a completely wasted exercise. The Rams won't be able to run the ball, nor will they be able to pass the ball. Assuming the 49ers convert this current drive into points (they're up 6-0 and in goal-to-go), this game feels over.

Offensively, San Francisco is trying to keep things interesting, busting out wrinkles like some option stuff. I'm not quite sure why. Running room for Gore is tougher to find near the goalline, though, and thus we're about to be 9-0.

Danny Tuccitto: Two lesser-known 49ers have really impressed me today, both of whom got their opportunities today because of injured starters.

With Braylon Edwards inactive, Kyle Williams has shown himself to be superior in speed, hands, and physicality. His first catch was one of those snatch-it-out-of-the-air types, he absolutely decleated a Rams defensive back while blocking downfield on Delanie Walker's third-quarter end-around, and he shifted into ludicrous speed after catching an intermediate pass for his 56-yard touchdown. As far as Larry Grant goes, the Niners defense really hasn't missed a beat with Willis out, and that, in and of itself, says a lot about Grant. He's been stout against the run, especially the helmetless smack he put on Steven Jackson at the end of the third quarter. Against the pass, he hasn't been a liability in coverage by any means, and he sacked Feeley on an inside blitz that San Francisco likes doing with Willis.

Down 26-0 with about four minutes left in the game, the Rams punted on fourth-and-5. Then, at their own 33, still down 26-0 with about a minute left, the Rams huddled, ran the ball up the middle, and let the last 40 seconds of the game run out. I know it's not like you're going to come all the way back in those situations, but still, at least try, guys.

Green Bay Packers 38 at New York Giants 35

Ben Muth: Is it me or have there been a lot of blown coverages today? There were a couple in the Denver game, no one was close to Roddy White on his touchdown. Marion Barber had a touchdown called back where no one covered him. And then there was the Donald Driver touchdown at the end of the first half here. This seems like a lot, right?

Mike Tanier: Don't forget the Don't Cover Gronkowski initiative. And much of what the Eagles did on Thursday night.

Aaron Schatz: The Giants are having trouble covering Jermichael Finley on seam routes. The Packers receivers have dropped a couple balls today, and the Giants are getting good pressure on Aaron Rodgers -- although they are running into
the problem where they get pressure on Rodgers, but they are in man coverage so it is easy for Rodgers to just scramble for a good gain.

I will also add that the Giants running game looks much better this week; Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are both getting some nice holes.

Tom Gower: Rodgers, tie game, own 20, one timeout? Just ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Not sure it's possible to do it much better than that.

Rivers McCown: Rodgers is a sorcerer.

Aaron Schatz: And man, the Giants offense sure did play well to tie that game, too. For naught.

Mike Tanier: So, do you think Randall Cobb knelt one-yard deep in the end zone because he figured even getting to the 30 or 35 yard line was not as valuable as giving Rodgers six extra seconds?

Mike Kurtz: Absolutely. I guarantee the special teams coach told him to not take it out under any circumstances right before he took the field.

Dallas Cowboys 13 at Arizona Cardinals 19

Tom Gower: With four minutes to play in a tie game, the Cowboys face fourth-and-1 at the Cardinals 44. They punt, and are fortunate enough to down the punt at the 5. The Cardinals' ensuing possession: Kevin Kolb underthrows a 5-yard pass, a 4-yard run up the middle, and Early Doucet drops a first-down pass after Kolb scrambles to escape from pressure. Dez Bryant then returns the Cardinals punt inside the 25 yard line, except of course there's a block in the back call and the Cowboys instead start inside their own 35.

From what I've seen of this game, Tony Romo seems to be scrambling a lot, which I assume means the Cardinals secondary is actually covering guys and taking away his initial read(s). The improvisation all too frequently seems to be leading to tight end dumpoffs no more than three yards downfield.

Rivers McCown: I didn't get home until the third quarter or so of this one, but Patrick Peterson showed excellent technique on a couple of deep balls in Bryant's direction.

Tom Gower: Romo completes a pass to the Cardinals 31 with 23 seconds left. Jason Garrett elects not to use either of his timeouts, and instead has Romo spike the ball with seven seconds left and send Dan Bailey out for a 49-yard field goal attempt. With the play clock running down, Jason Garrett gets worried and calls timeout. Bailey hits the field goal that doesn't count. On the one that does, Bailey mishits the ball and it goes short. Against all logic, we now head to overtime.

Ben Muth: Garrett clearly learned a lot from Norv Turner.

Mike Tanier: Is that why Garrett called timeout? I was so confused. For the record, Romo appeared to have the Cowboys lined up for the spike at about 12 seconds left, but waited and motioned a bit. I think everybody was lined up legally, so I figured he was calling a quick screen or something. He just took 5 extra seconds -- maybe a play's worth of time -- then spiked.

Ben Muth: Kolb behind this offensive line is terrible to watch. He seems to be naturally skittish, and this line gives plenty of reason for any quarterback to get nervous back there.

Tom Gower: That LaRod Stephens-Howling touchdown on a screen pass to win the game simply continued the complete absence, nay, refutation, of logic that brought this game to overtime in the first place.

Mike Tanier: Howling Wolf Stevens is still running. The Cowboys do make things interesting, don't they?

Detroit Lions 17 at New Orleans Saints 31

Tom Gower: The anti-Keep Chopping Wood award this week goes to Detroit Lions gunner John Wendling, who knew he went out of bounds going down the field and thus intentionally avoided touching the dead ball so he didn't get called for a penalty. The Saints start at their own 3 because of him.

Mike Tanier: Should we just recycle some old comments about how good the Saints offense is and stick them here? They are delivering more-or-less their standard beating right now.

Tom Gower: Yes, let's, and in the name of "opposing defensive back getting beat when team tries to play man coverage," insert "Eric Wright."

Mike Kurtz: The Lions have plenty of life left in them, and excel at playing from behind. New Orleans is putting on a hell of a show, but Detroit isn't roadkill. Yet.

Aaron Schatz: Man, the Lions are making some ridiculous catches tonight in tight coverage.

Tom Gower: OK, so at least in the third quarter, the Saints were stoppable on offense.

Jason Hanson just missed a 55-yard field goal attempt with the Lions down 24-17. It was fourth-and-12, and that's really a no-man's-land area. A punt likely results in a touchback for net 17, I wouldn't trust the defense even if the Saints are pinned down, and 12 yards is a long way to go for it. Sometimes, all options suck. I probably would have punted.

Rivers McCown: Yeah, I think you've got to punt there, as much as it pains me. Pinning Drew Brees deep in his own end isn't much of a deterrent, but it was the most-appealing of three bad options.

Tom Gower: Maybe it's just me, but I like the backbone by the refs tonight. It seems like the natural inclination is for teams to get penalized once or maybe twice for the same thing, and the refs decide they've gotten the message. Instead, the Lions keep committing offensive pass interference, and the refs keep flagging them for it.

Aaron Schatz: By "the Lions" you mean "Nate Burleson." Burleson has been flagged for OPI three times in this game.

Tom Gower: Was it just Burleson? I thought they also got Rashied Davis one time.

Mike Kurtz: Nope, just Burleson. I'm up against him in my do-or-die game of fantasy football today, so I am pleased by all three calls.

Danny Tuccitto: After tonight's game, it's apparent that Nate Burleson's name was pulled out of a hat at NFL officiating headquarters and won the grand prize of "Offensive Pass Interference Regression to the Mean Week." Regardless of how guilty or innocent he was, I haven't seen that much OPI called in one game in my life, let alone against one player in one game; and as a 49ers fan from Miami, I watched a lot of Michael Irvin back in the day.


224 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2011, 6:17am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Was working during the game, but what was Price's personal foul? Every time I read a story related to it, there is no mention of what he actually did. Was it a punch? Or a late hit?

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Don't think they showed it so it must not have been too dramatic. I think it was more the situation. Going from a pretty certain stop to giving up a first down entirely due to stupidity. Same thing as Cameron Jordan's penalty in the Saints game last night. Except at that point the Saints had it pretty much wrapped up and in the Tampa game we were watching out last shot at respectability walking out the door.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

It was just chippy after the play pushing and shoving. It was a stupid penalty on third down, but there's been a lot of those this year. Talib got one on 3rd down at the end of the . . . second Saints game? Not sure which, but it was similarly a stupid, drive-sustaining play, and IIRC it was in a closer game than this. Talib didn't get sent home. Then again, Raheem probably feared for his life if he did it to Talib.

Brian Price has played incredibly well, and I don't recall him getting penalized on anything resembling a regular basis. I think Morris made a huge mistake here by punishing a "good kid" while he lets the guys who frequently screw up off the hook.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

What was the deal with the Tebow fumble? I assumed it was a clear "ground can't cause the fumble" situation.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I believe that is only the case if some other part of the body that considers the runner down (knee, elbow, etc) is down first. On that play the ball started coming out before and of those parts of the body touched the ground.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I was wondering about that, given the discussion of whether his knee was down first or not.

I personally thought it was down -- there was a shot of his knee down while he was holding the ball and the tip of the ball was being compressed against the ground. My thinking was that if the ball is being pushed into the ground that hard, he must have still had a tight grip on it.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"And man, the Giants offense sure did play well to tie that game, too. For naught."

Well . . . yes, obviously they did. But I could not fathom why they didn't try to take a bit more time off, especially once they got down to 1st and goal from the 2 with over a minute left. Of course Rodgers can get into field goal range in 58 seconds. Unless your defense is, at a minimum, 2008 Steelers levels, you should not even consider trusting it in that situation. You have Brandon Jacobs. You have a timeout, should you need it. You have two yards to get, and over a minute to get them. Run the damn ball.

"Yates was not dominant by any stretch, but I thought he looked really comfortable out there."

Yates' performance was unquestionably encouraging, but I did think his pocket presence left something to be desired. As the evidence of his senior season would suggest, his big drawback is likely to be taking too many sacks. He did throw a couple of delightfully accurate deep balls, though - better than Schaub would be likely to manage.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I think the Giants did well to run whatever play had the best chance of scoring a TD rather than trying to get cute with the time. The TD was not a given at that point -- you're not in until you're in. Plus if they didn't get the conversion, they would've had to onsides kick and would need some time to get into position for a FG. Rodgers with 58 seconds is dangerous, but you have to think the Giants would put up more resistance than that.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The gamble almost paid off, as Williams was about 6 inches away from intercepting that first pass, and then the Giants can kill clock until Tyree comes on.

The Giants had to play aggressively and it served them well. Softening up against Rodgers in that situation is pretty much certain to fail.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You think running on 1st and goal from the 2 is a bad call in terms of maximising scoring probability? I absolutely agree that they had to score, but they shouldn't have run a play immediately before the two minute warning, and they should have handed off on 1st and goal.

The Packers scoring in 58 seconds is vastly more likely than the Giants recovering an expected onside kick and driving for a score in the same time. I know it's more complicated than that (and I had a stab at running some rough numbers in the Open Discussion Thread) but I really think that unless the running play really does vastly reduce your scoring probability (which I don't buy) this one's a no-brainer.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Disagree. The 2-pt conversion wasn't a gimme. A much bigger chance of missing that (and needing the time for an onside kick and drive) than Rodgers driving down the field in a minute or so.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The relevant probability here is not the Giants missing the 2-pt conversion vs. Rodgers driving down the field in a minute or so, it's (the Giants missing the 2-ptr AND getting the onside kick AND subsequently scoring) vs. Rodgers driving down the field in a minute or so. The probability of the former is about 0.5*0.2*0.5 = 5% vs the Pack scoring with a minute left (which probability felt like 90% to this Giants fan, although I'll grant that in reality it was significantly lower).

In other words, there's only a 5% chance that leaving a minute on the clock ultimately helps the Giants and a much larger chance that it helps the Packers.

FWIW, I was praying for them not only to run the ball on first down, but to NOT score, because I feared exactly what ended up happening.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"You think running on 1st and goal from the 2 is a bad call in terms of maximising scoring probability?"

I don't know. I'd have to defer to Coughlin and Gilbride on that, and their view on what was the best way to score was validated (in an extremely small sample!) by what occurred. I know I wouldn't trust Jacobs to get any tough yards. Bradshaw may be a different story.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

According to FO's numbers, the Giants run offense is slightly below average in power situations, with a 59% success rate. The Packers run defense is significantly below average, with a 69% success rate allowed. With four attempts to get two yards, that seems like a winning proposition to me.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

But by 3rd down the run/pass choice is fairly irrelevant -- at that point you need to worry 90% about getting into the end zone and 10% about clock management, unlike on first and second down, when runs were definitely what they should have done (although I think it's likely they would have scored on first down and handed Rodgers the same situation he ended up having). I must admit though before the Giants final drive started I thought about the need to leave some time on the clock for an onsides kick if the 2-point conversion failed, although in retrospect (and confirmed by the thread above) clearly that was a 2nd-order risk to worry about compared to leaving Rodgers too much time; better they should have said the hell with the onsides kick, we're going to try to leave no time on the clock and we'll lose or go to OT should we be lucky enough to score a TD.

With a minute to go, what I almost wanted (but never would have had the cojones to call myself) was for them to try the onsides kick anyway. Imagine the utter extremes of fan/press reaction based on whether that had succeeded or not (or more likely, it would have worked, the Giants would have gone 3-and-out, and Rodgers still would have led the Packers down the field for the game-winning FG).

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You're second point is absolutely on track. With the way Rodgers was playing, there's no difference between giving them the ball back on their own 20 versus near midfield, so you might as well onside. Either way you're probably screwed, but I think the surprise onside actually might give you a better chance of winning. (I figure about an 85% chance of the Packers winning if you kick deep, versus a 95% if you onside. If you surprise onside, you have say a 35% chance of recovering. Even assuming you then run out the clock, you have a 35% + (65%)*(5%) = 38% chance of going to OT if you onside, and a 15% chance if you kick deep). Plus the onside gives you the added benefit of maybe being able to win outright in regulation if successful.

But no coach would do that. Look how Belichick was crucified in public opinion for the far more obviously correct 4th-and-2 call a couple of years ago, and he's almost untouchable because of his success. You would always get the Tony Dungy's of the world saying "when you're up against someone as good as Aaron Rodgers, you can't risk giving him a short field". When of course the exact point is that when you're up against someone as good as Aaron Rodgers, it doesn't matter how long a field you give him, and what matters is that you want to do everything in your power to not give it to him in the first place.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I was glad that Yates didn't cost the Texans the game, but there were a few short passes he threw which looked like they'd have been completed if he put a bit more zip on them. I don't know enough about QB play to know if what I was seeing was real, and if so is it a case of lacking the physical tools, or if it's a mechanics problem.

Regardless the Texans are only going to go as far as Foster, Tate, and the Defense can carry them. I don't think the Yates-led Texans will be able to get into a shoot-out like Schaub could do.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Oh, God, absolutely not. Yates is not a legitimate NFL starter at this point (though I think he has a reasonable chance of ultimately developing into one). What he is is much better than one would generally expect of a late round rookie, and seemingly unlikely to either blow a game through turnovers or allow a defense to ignore the pass as a legitimate threat. But sure, he'll miss some makeable throws and take some avoidable sacks. It's "thank God he's not Caleb Hanie", not "OMG, Brady 2.0". Orton's a fair approximation of where I think his career's headed, and rookie Orton (but with a better supporting cast) is about what we should expect this year. That's enough to have a chance of winning a playoff game against most of the likely wild card teams. It's not enough for much more than that.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

My oldest friend is a Falcons fan. I was watching the game at his house, with another friend who is also a Falcons fan. I love old school, smash mouth football anyway, love aggressive 4th down strategies and love just about everything about Arian Foster.

Yes, I enjoyed that drive. Apart from the 20 seconds or so when I thought the pick was going to stand. That wasn't so fun.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You are correct about the Giants not taking more time off the clock. IMO the main mistake they made was hurrying up to run a running player before the 2:00 warning. If they let the clock run to 2:00 and ran that play after the clock stoppage, at least 30 additional seconds would have run off the clock.

The Giants also hurried too much against Seattle earlier in the year. In that game, Seattle got a pick six before the Giants had a chance to take the lead, but even if the Giants scored a go-ahead TD they would have left the Seahawks plenty of time for another drive.

Just another week in NFL clock management blunders.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Not just those games either. Giants have had enough down-to-the-wire games this year to repeatedly drive me nuts with exactly this problem of abandoning the run when they need to milk more time off the clock. Worst was when they played the 49ers, driving for the would-be tying TD. Had over a minute to go from the 49ers 10 yard line, so clearly no need to hurry, and they threw a pass to the end zone. Mind-boggling call in that even if it was successful, they would have allowed the 49ers enough time that they wouldn't even need to rush to get down the field to win the game. I agree yesterday's situation was marginally different because of the worry about the 2-point conversion, but better play calling and clock management could easily have knocked another 30 seconds off the clock. I assume Kevin Gilbride is to blame.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

If it was a 7 point game, I'd totally agree. An 8 point game changes things a bit, because you have to weight the chances of failing the two point conversion against the chances that the Packers can drive down the field.

In a 7 point game, the chances of the extra point failing are about 1%, so you just don't worry about it and run the clock down.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Actually, I think they had about a 16% chance of winning if they failed the conversion with a minute and one time out left - 20% chance of recovering the onside kick, and 80% chance of then being able to get into range and score.

They still should have run the clock down.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Yes. Absolutely. To the point where actually maybe not running out the clock would have been the right decision after all, provided they planned to attempt an onside kick regardless. I hadn't even thought about that.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You have Brandon Jacobs. You have a timeout, should you need it. You have two yards to get, and over a minute to get them. Run the damn ball.

If they only needed 7 I agree in a heartbeat. They needed 8 to tie though. So what is worse? Leaving 58s and giving Rodgers a chance to drive for a field goal or only have say 20s left, not getting the 2 point conversion and now needing to onside kick and a get a field goal for the win?

I'm not actually sure that is clear so I'll muddle thought trough it.

NFL average is still less than 50% (44%) on two point conversions. Of course I think the Giants had about an 80% chance of converting with how that game had gone (Matthews could have gone beast, Raji or Williams could have thought it was 2010 and played that way, etc which keeps it from the 100% that my pessimism about the defense wants). But let's stick with the NFL average plus a bit and call it 50-50 on the 2pt, I'll call it 80% chance they get the TD.

Onside kicks are only successful about 26% of the time and since teams try that against the Packers a lot this year and they do well against them I'll stick with that. Then they still have to get 20 some yards to make the field goal. Total chance there is less than 26% for all that obviously, let's call it 20% though. If they recovered the kick I think they had a very good chance of getting the yards and the FG.

Everyone feels Rodgers had a 100% chance to get into field goal range with 58s and one time out, but let's call it 50% he can do it and Crosby, who is only 90.5% on the season and had his 2nd miss during the game, makes it.

Yeah I think playing for the tie and a very short clock still seems to be the way to go even if there is 30 some seconds left, then you are probably gambling on Cobb not getting a big return to allow the one or two plays Rodgers would still have time to get off to get then in FG range.

So yeah after some very fuzzy thoughts I think burning clock and running a couple times would have been the better shot for OT and hence a win.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Against most teams I think you just have to score before getting too cute with the clock, but against these Packers, yes, you absolutely must try and leave them as little time with the ball as possible at the end.

What was with Green Bay consistently running the ball on first, and often second down? I know there has to be some element of keeping a defence honest, but with the relative strengths of this team, they should not be handing the ball off 24 times in what was always a one score game.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13


Newhouse was getting manhandled on the edge and EDS is filling in for Sitton. Dollars to doughnuts McCarthy was working to slow down the pass rush.

Mike also likes to run more later in the year prepping for weather being a factor.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Here is how I figure it.

The odds of making a TD are irrelevant, because if they don't score the Giants lose anyway.

So they score a TD.

Scenario 1: Little time left on the clock.
In this scenario the Giants are happy with their choice if they make the conversion, unhappy if they don't. Let's give the Giants a 60% chance of converting.

Happy Giants: 60%
Unhappy Giants: 40%

Scenario 2: Lots of time left on the clock. There are three possible outcomes:
1) Giants convert, prevent Green Bay from scoring. Giants happy with their choice.
2) Giants don't convert. They now need the time to score again. Giants happy with their choice.
3) Giants convert, and Rodgers drives GB within field goal range. Giants unhappy with their choice.

(In actual fact there is a continuum, since even with 20 seconds Green Bay has a chance at a Hail Mary, but let's keep things simple).

So the Giants will only be unhappy if they a) convert and b) Rodgers scores. We assumed a 60% conversion ration above. Let's give Rodgers a 60% chance of scoring. 60%x60% is 36%:

Happy Giants 64%
Unhappy Giants 36%.

The Giants are more likely to be happy if they leave time on the clock.

This holds for most values of converting and Rodgers scoring. Only if you think the probability of both is very high is it a poor choice.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I am neither a statistician, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but doesn't your model only hold true if nos. 1, 2, and 3 all have equal probability of happening? I guess you cover that in the last sentence.

I agree with the conclusion...if you're the Giants, score as soon as possible. Trust the defense to make a play and deny the Packers the yardage needed for a field goal attempt. It isn't unreasonable to take your chances that the defense will come up with a sack, interception, or simply making the tackles immediately after reception.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

But he asked the wrong question. Framing it in terms of "happy Giants" vs. "unhappy Giants" is not the way to go - you need to calculate the win probabilities of scoring with a minute left vs. scoring with essentially no time left. It's not the same calculation.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I can agree with this fuzzy thinking as well.

I was on the fence when I started my post. I wasn't strongly swayed by my own arguments.

The 8 point difference makes the whole thing less clear. Which is more evidence as to why I think the Packers going for one and not two to go up 8 was the right decision. That is something I debated briefly during the course of the game. Should they go for 2 here and possibly be up 9 with the downside still being up 7? I quickly decided that the 1 point and 8 point lead was the better choice. It meant it was still 2 scores for the Giants to win and the 50-50 2pt conversion chance still meant it was a pretty solid chance for an outright win if it came to that (which it did).

This one just seems to be one where it's not perfectly clear and it's pretty easy to see why either choice may have been made.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Happy vs. unhappy, with all due respect, is not the way to look at it. Giants win vs. Giants lose is the only concern here. With that said, let's look at the probability of the Giants winning in each scenario:

Situation 1: They leave little time left
Giants win if:
they make the 2-ptr (prob 60%)
AND they win in OT (50%)
Probability of winning is thus 30%

Situation 2: They leave ~one minute left
Giants win if:
they make the 2-ptr (prob 60%)
AND Packers offense doesn't score (lets say 40%, but I felt like it was 10%)
AND Giants win in OT (50%)


Giants miss 2-ptr (40%)
AND recover onside kick (20%)
AND subsequently score (say 50%)

In situation 2, they have a (.6*.4*.5) + (.4*.2*.5) = 12% + 4% = 16% chance of winning.

Obviously you can quibble with the probs I assigned but it doesn't matter: the outcomes are not even close.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

But you're assuming that the probably of the initial Giants' touchdown is the same, regardless of if they take their time or not. As it stood, the Giants had the opportunity to score a touchdown, so they took it. If they had waited one or two more plays, they might not have gotten one.

You could easily model the probabilities as:
Giants take their time:
Initial TD: 60%
Two-point conversion: 60%
Win in OT: 50%

Overall WP: 18.0% (60% x 60% x 50%)

Giants score the first chance they get:
Initial TD: 90%
Two-point conversion: 60%
Stop Packers from scoring: 40%
Win in OT: 50%


Intial TD: 90%
Miss two-point conversion: 40%
Recover onside kick: 20%
Subsequent score: 50%

Overall WP: 14.4% ((90% x 60% x 40% x 50%) + (90% x 40% x 20% x 50%))

That brings things much closer.

Personally, I'm a believer that a team needing a touchdown needs to get that score before getting too concerned with the time left on the clock. In an ideal situation, the Giants would have scored with no time left, and forced OT. But it's not an ideal situation: the probability of scoring a TD definitely decreases if you try to milk the clock along with it.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You are right in that I ignored the difference in the probability of scoring a TD under the two circumstances.

However, the difference in the probabilities you assign to the scoring of the TD in each situation is far too large. To wit:

Assume the Giants have a 40% to score on any given play from the two yard line: If they, e.g., run a QB sneak for no gain on first down, they have 3 shots at a TD instead of 4. Obviously, the only way they don't score a TD is to fail to score a TD on each play. This leads to:

Situation 1 (QB sneak on first down):
P(scoring) = 1-P(failing to score 3 straight plays) = 1-(.6*.6*.6) = 1-0.216 = 78%

Situation 2 (try to score on first down):
P(scoring) = 1-P(failing to score 4 straight plays) = 1-(.6*.6*.6*.6) = 1-0.1296 = 87%

This is far closer than the 60% vs 90% suggested above.

Applying these numbers to the ones in my post above yields:
Situation 1 (QB sneak on first down): 78% * 30% = 23.5%
Situation 2 (try to score on first down): 87% * 16% = 14%

Still a big difference. Thanks, though. These numbers are obviously more accurate than the ones I first posted.

Two notes: The QB sneak--which would be a surprise--would likely gain a yard or so, increasing the chance of scoring and strengthening my argument.

I'm aware that consecutive plays are not independent events and hence multiplying the 0.6s above is not technically correct. I do not think this changes things much, though I'd be willing to listen to a contrary opinion.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

My "stastical" model is a bit different than most above: If you don't make the 2-point conversion, you're screwed. If you give the ball back to the Packers with a minute to go, you're screwed.

Therefore, you run out some clock and take your chances you might not score the TD. It's what Belichik would've done,no?

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I respectfully submit that all of you who are arguing that it's the job of the offense to score the tieing TD at exactly the scheduled time are completely nuts.

Even without considering the difference between a 7-point lead and an 8-point lead, the job of the offense is to score points. When facing a deficit of a TD, you cannot think about things like intentionally not scoring for 55 seconds, to ensure that you score at exactly the right time. You can burn time like that if the deficit is only 3 points, but if you're down by 7 or 8, you really cannot get so fancy.

You have to run every single play in a way that commits to scoring on that play. The strategy suggested is that the offense only tries to score on one play - the last play. That kind of scheduling will end up making life much easier for the defense. If you intentionally don't score until there's only 10 seconds or left on the clock, you're doing the defense's job for them. So the defense, instead of having to prevent a TD play 6 or 7 plays in a row, now only has to stop the offense only once or twice.

You really have to score as quickly as you can and demand that the defense do its job. The defense was particularly egregious on the final drive. On the very first play, the defender missed a tackle, letting the receiver get an extra 10 yards. While the Packers had moved the ball all day, they hadn't moved it as quickly as that. During their last drive, the Packers went 68 yards in 4 plays in about 30 seconds. You cannot give up nearly 20 yards per play in the NFL.

Rather than blaming the coaching here, I think you really have to blame the defense. They played 4 plays, had one stop for -1 yard and had three plays where they gave up 24 yards, 27 yards, and 18 yards.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"When facing a deficit of a TD, you cannot think about things like intentionally not scoring for 55 seconds, to ensure that you score at exactly the right time." Oh yes you can, and should, and need to. Perhaps not the offensive players, but the offensive coordinator needs to. It's not a matter of intentionally not scoring, it's realizing that when you're at the opposing 20 yard line with 2 minutes to go time is not going to keep you from scoring, and the priority can shift quite a bit to milking the clock. In practice, that means running the ball -- and the way the Giants ran yesterday that concedes absolutely nothing in their probability of scoring a TD. And when they had first down from the 2 and 1:15 remaining, with a timeout to burn (and the Packers having just one timeout), they needed to run the ball twice.

My similar response to "You have to run every single play in a way that commits to scoring on that play" is no, you don't. That is, if you want to maximize your chances of winning the game. Fine and technically accurate to say "it's up to the defense to stop them", but that doesn't mean you're not maximizing your chances of allowing them to succeed if you leave the opposing team less time.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

What you're doing is adding a constraint to the offense. And doing so is going to make it considerably less likely that you actually get the TD at all. If you start playing clock-burning games at the 20 yard line, you're running a high risk of not getting into the end zone at all.

Are you saying that you're going to run plays where, if the ball carrier has the possibility of getting into the end zone, he should drop to the ground instead?

I understand that it's mathematically possible that the world exists in a state where it's easy to schedule TDs to occur whenever you wish. But this seems to be a wildly flawed model to use. And if anybody is going to assert that "your maximizing your chances" of winning by intentionally not scoring, I'd really want to take a long, hard look at the assumptions being used by their mathematical model. It seems highly likely to me that the model is flawed.

Ordinarily, your probability of scoring a TD would be the sum over the strategy space, integrated over time, of scoring at a given time and using a given strategy. It seems to me to be obvious that, if you constrain your strategy space to only allow strategies that score with 20 seconds or less on the clock, you are doing serious damage to your total probability of scoring at all. Such a sacrifice could only be justified if you view your defense as an escort service for the opposing offense.

Now it turns out that the Giants played like an escort service in the last minute of the game yesterday, but if I were a coach, I would spend a lot more effort trying to get my defense to stop giving up 20 yards/successful play, at a rate of 75% success, than I would trying to make a fine choice as to when the team scored, knowing that doing so would seriously hamper my odds of scoring at all.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You're arguing an extreme that doesn't always occur, because you're not using the right objective function. The objective is to win, not to score a TD as early as possible.

I agree that constraining your strategy space to try to do things other than just score a TD does lower the probability of scoring a TD. However, it's not always true that it does "serious damage" to use your phrase, and even if it does, the serious damage may be worth it if you affect other outcomes enough.

Are you saying that you're going to run plays where, if the ball carrier has the possibility of getting into the end zone, he should drop to the ground instead?

There are scenarios when that is exactly the correct play. Certainly, if you trail by 1 or 2 points, the other team is out of timeouts, and there is 1:55 left on the clock, it is absolutely the right thing to do to drop to the ground at the 1 yard line, kneel twice to bring the clock down to 0:04, and then kick the chip shot.

One could even argue that it is the correct thing to do if you trail by 4,5, or 6. If you have confidence in your ability to punch it in and low confidence in your defense to stop an ensuing FG drive, then it's worth considering.

Trailing by exactly 3, 7, or 8 points gets far more complex (i.e. this case).

I agree that, given that the Giants needed a TD and a 2-point just to tie, the opportunity cost of wasting a down to burn clock is probably too high. HOwever, that doesn't mean that they used the optimal strategy. No one said you had to waste a down to burn clock...I think what a lot of folks are saying is that the Giants should have called running plays. If you get a TD, great. If you don't, you still get some benefit by leaving them with less time to answer with a FG.

To generalize and simplify, imagine you have two strategies: A and B. Strategy A gives you a 70% chance of scoring a TD, but leaving a minute left on the clock. Strategy B gives you a 30% chance of scoring a TD (i.e. you run it in on your first try) and leaving a minute on the clock, a 35% chance of scoring a TD with no time on the clock (your running attempt fails and then one of your subsequent passing attempts succeeds), and a 35% chance of not scoring a TD. If you're trailing by, say, 5, I think Strategy B is the clear winner.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Re "What you're doing is adding a constraint to the offense", I disagree again, and completely in this case -- it's not constraining, it's liberating. It's not that the offense can "schedule" their TD's, but once you realize that the clock is not going to restrict the number of plays you need to run you can call both running and passing plays as opposed to thinking you can only pass, which probably increases the team's chances of scoring. And whatever we think about what the burden of the offense should be to milk the clock, the fact remains that you have more chance to win if you leave the other team less time to score -- therefore it's better to score and leave less time than leave more time. But I do understand what you're saying, and agree -- it's a lot worse to milk the clock successfully and not score. If it becomes an issue of the offense having to rush to score before time expires, then it affects the offense's ability to score.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

(Sorry, sounds pretty stupidly tautological for me to have said "therefore it's better to score and leave less time than more time". What I meant is an offense can feel free to ignore the time part of the equation and just try to score whenever it can, and if you don't score the clock management becomes pretty irrelevant, but ignoring the clock is still going to result in more losses than trying to do something about it.)

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I remember Peyton Manning interviewed after the Colts/Pats 4th&2 game a couple of years ago, after he had just executed a two minute drill for the game winning TD, leaving no time on the clock. He said it was absolutely in his mind to leave as little clock as possible for the Patriots to drive the field again. Perhaps he was just mentioning it after the fact to make himself seem even more genius-like, but I suspect he was being genuine.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

That was a different situation for many reasons.

Let's reset:
The Colts got the ball at the NE 29 with 2 minutes left. They had a completion for 15 yards, and then a run for 13 yards, which killed 1:24 and got the ball to the 1 yard line.

You could argue, then, that the Colts ran one running play that was designed to kill clock. And perhaps Manning is implicitly arguing that in retrospect. But I don't think that Joseph Addai intentionally failed to score on the next run. At that point, the clock was down to 13 seconds and the Colts scored.

There are some special circumstances here. Notably, the Colts were abusing the Pats' defense so badly in that 4th quarter that it was actually reasonably for them to think that they could take a play off and still have a very high probability of scoring a TD. That kind of situation is ordinarily not the case. The other special circumstance was that, to a slightly lesser extent, the Pats under Brady were doing the same thing. So Manning had a combination of
a) he could reasonably delay the offense a slight amount without sacrificing much (if anything) from his probability of scoring
b) he felt a certain degree of fear of the opposing QB (even though I suspect he's overstating this fear, or at least its reasonableness thereof, given that the Pats just failed to convert a 1st down that would have won the game for them).

So, yeah, if you feel certain that the opposing coach will try to cover your all-Pro receiver with Ellis Hobbs in man coverage in crunch time, go ahead and burn clock to your heart's content. But most of the time, getting that TD isn't quite as easy as that.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13 was jonathan wilhite that was burned on the td. But in many ways, he and the pats dbs played pretty well...if you watch the game, despite the two picks(miscommunication on routes), manning was pretty spot on with his throws.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Just to be clear, in my arguing that the offense does need to consider the clock and not focus solely on scoring whenever they can, I'm not suggesting anyone waste a down. I'm saying they shouldn't eschew running the ball and definitely shouldn't throw to the end zone too early once it becomes clear that running out of time with normal clock management is no longer a concern. In Giants-Packers, that meant once the Giants crossed the 20 with over 2 minutes to go, and certainly when they had first-and-goal from the 2 with over a minute to go. I'd say that situation mandates running on first down and second down, but I'm not suggesting the running back should go down at the one instead of trying to get into the end zone. They score on a running play on first down and leave Aaron Rodgers 60 seconds to win the game, so be it.

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I think it's a very close call whether you should try to score on first down from the two or not, and I'm inclined towards not (run a sneak to minimise the chance of something bad happening and hopefully get you to the 1, increasing the chance of scoring on subsequent downs).

Excluding the surprise onside kick approach, of course. I think that's actually the right call in this particular case.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Wow, the wild range of statistical estimations.

Seems the notion of managing the clock, in this case, to leave as little time as possible has much to do with how sure giants felt they can score. Since for the giants to not lose, they'd have to score TD and convert 2pt, two events with less than bright prospects---compounded. Having watched the game, the giants plays felt more extraordinary than packers' felt routine. Don't know how confident Coughlin or Eli felt, but one gets the feeling that you take the score when can be done. Anyway, none of it was guaranteed; and if they hadn't done both, any of these discussion is moot.

Also weird is the way everyone seems to frame the whole issue around the giants' decision, as if the packers' scoring was a given--> hence we really don't have to visit their line of reasoning, or moreover, as if they bear no impact to the eventual outcome, sort of.

Why didn't the gaints' D try to take away the sideline and bait/force more underneath stuff? I know that Rogers & receivers are amazing, but come on...

Agree on the whole surprise on-side kick argument at least having merit.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Pissing and moaning about officiating in a Steelers win (a 4 TD margin of victory)?

I'm shocked. SHOCKED!

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"For what it's worth, Cincy was about ten points worse than Pittsburgh, not 28."

Scoreboard does not agree. (Neither would most people who watched the game, as the Steelers did what they wanted for most of the day.)

224 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

That was one of the most horribly lopsided officiating jobs I've seen recently. I had nothing to say about the refs after Cincinnati's earlier loss to the Steelers, either. For that matter, it's not like watching the Bengals lose is particularly shocking so it's not just a disappointed fan talking (like, say, Steelers fans complaining about the refs in BOTH Baltimore games.) Also, a large margin of victory is hardly evidence of fair play. On the contrary, in fact. If one team is allowed to flaunt the rules the score will reflect that. I'm not saying the Bengals would have won that game otherwise, but in this case they never had a chance.


Not only has Tebow been much more accurate, he's been very, very careful where he throws. The FO crew is right, there's was very little option stuff this game. It was old school, pound it up the middle football.

I'd like to know what happened to the Denver D. The Vikings ripped us apart through the air. Was it just Miller being out?

21 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by PerlStalker

Well, when you are up against the Vikings' secondary, finding the open receiver is more like finding sand at the beach than a needle in a haystack.

38 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by Will Allen

Certainly but in his first couple of starts, Tebow couldn't hit his receivers. He was throwing passes into the dirt or leaving viewers wondering who he was trying to throw to regardless of how open the receivers were.

73 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by PerlStalker

I've watched the last two Denver games and I've really noticed both SD and Minn terrified to rush the passer. Gives Tebow all day to pick out a receiver. Combine that with some horrible secondary play and it led to some big plays.

76 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by jimm (not verified)

I would still say that would be the best way to scheme the Broncos the run and don't go to nickel personnel regardless of situation. Keep your linebackers on the field, although if one is a major liability in coverage replace him with another or a big safety.

I'm very interested to see what Belichick is going to do with him in two weeks. He's always done a good job taking Vick out of the equation in the past, usually with a speedy linebacker spy. I would guess Gary Guyton is going to play some heavy minutes.

85 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by dryheat

I'm very interested as to how the Bears' defense fares against Tebow next week. The Bears have done a great job stifling Vick his whole career(*), because they (a) have very good gap discipline, (b) have great linebacker speed, and (c) are very good tacklers.

(*) Vick's career stats:
........ vs CHI . overall
record .. 1-5 ... 49-37-1
comp % .. 57.8 .. 55.9
TD/int .. 3/4 ... 104/69
yd/pass . 6.34 ... 7.0
AY/A .... 5.59 ... 6.5
yd/rush . 6.14 .... 7.2

89 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by Eddo

Just fyi, that "win" was a game where McNabb played all but two snaps.

95 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by tuluse

Ah, that's what I get for not digging into P-F-R's data at all. Thanks tuluse.

142 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by dryheat

I've always been a fan of the "big nickel" where the nickel back is a safety. The D loses a little bit of beef but the S should be better in coverage against a faster TE or RB without sacrificing too much against the run.

180 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by PerlStalker

I'm pretty sure you caused several seizures among 49ers fans by mentioning Big Nickel (aka the Mike Nolan third-down defense).

188 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by Danny Tuccitto

Somebody has to. :-)

The difference is that I like it as a way of dealing with TEs and RBs who are serious receiving threats on 1st or 2nd down and shifting to something else on 3rd and long. Eh, but what do I know?

115 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by PerlStalker

Some of the explanation is that people were assuming that every one of Tebow's dirt-throws was a bad play by Tebow, or an inaccurate miss. The reality is that that is how Tebow throws the ball away. He's under orders to "beach" it, and Fox praises him for it. I think what has really been driving Tebow's performance has been conservatism, not inaccuracy.

218 Re: DEN @ MIN

In reply to by tunesmith

I'm coming around to this opinion too, after being a big doubter initially. It is hard to explain how someone with such a poor completion percentage could be so inaccurate, but only in the direction away from the DEF, so consistently.

Some of his inaccuracy is he's still sometimes a bit late in his reads (not unlike like many many many 1st season QBs)... for example on the deep comeback to DT on 3rd-and-9 sunday where DT just missed dragging his feet, if it was 6 inches more inside or a touch faster, it is a first down.

Some of TT's struggles in early games seemed like it was him focusing so much on his mechanics that he'd turf throws to open receivers... as he's settled in the past couple games (or in those 4thQ drives early) his mechanics loosened up a little, but he's been more accurate.

In any event, I think you're completely correct that he is focusing on being very careful with the ball and putting it where only his guy can get it... which in some cases means no one can actually get it. This approach is helped, because even when no one is open, he'll still tuck it and run for a few yards, so he feels no need to force it.

Can he keep this up long-term? Who knows, but he's still showing improvement basically every week, so its far too early to say he can't. He's a work in progress, but his chance of long-term success is probably as good as any other rookie or 1st year QB playing today.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

[b]Vince, seriously? He looks for LeSean McCoy on the swing pass, sees David Hawthorne right there, then throws the swing pass anyway. Naturally, Hawthorne intercepts it and takes it back for a game-sealing score.[/b]

What makes you think he saw Hawthorne? On the replay from the zip line camera, Hawthorne was hidden behind a mass of humanity; I think he was throwing blind, knowing where McCoy was and assuming no one was near him.

9 Stupid coding

[strong]Vince, seriously? He looks for LeSean McCoy on the swing pass, sees David Hawthorne right there, then throws the swing pass anyway. Naturally, Hawthorne intercepts it and takes it back for a game-sealing score.[/strong]

What makes you think he saw Hawthorne? On the replay from the zip line camera, Hawthorne was hidden behind a mass of humanity; I think he was throwing blind, knowing where McCoy was and assuming no one was near him.

10 Stupid coding redux

In reply to by Anger...rising (not verified)

Vince, seriously? He looks for LeSean McCoy on the swing pass, sees David Hawthorne right there, then throws the swing pass anyway. Naturally, Hawthorne intercepts it and takes it back for a game-sealing score.

What makes you think he saw Hawthorne? On the replay from the zip line camera, Hawthorne was hidden behind a mass of humanity; I think he was throwing blind, knowing where McCoy was and assuming no one was near him.

It'd be awesome if the coding from every other site under the sun worked here, too.

14 Re: Stupid coding redux

In reply to by Anger...rising (not verified)

I don't understand why FO has stuck with this really inferior website product for so long, but by this point I have to assume its sales staff is holding one of Aaron's family members hostage.

27 Re: Stupid coding redux

In reply to by Joshua Northey (not verified)

You know, if you have sufficient command of language, you can actually express your thoughts with actual words, rather than needing a programming gimmick to convey your message for you.

97 Re: Stupid coding redux

Well I submit a post, I look below the window and see a line with
"Allowed HTML tags" including em, strong, and cite.

Seems simple enough to me.

113 Re: Stupid coding redux

So let me get this straight. Back when we were talking about football, the comment was that Vince Young shouldn't be blamed for an interception because -he couldn't see the receiver or the defender and was throwing blind-?

I know Magic Johnson got a lot of credit for no-look passes, but I didn't realize this sort of thinking had crossed over into the NFL. If he assumed McCoy was uncovered, he not only made a bad pass, but needs to be immediately replaced by someone who has some concept of what an NFL quarterback - especially a backup for a good running team - is supposed to do.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Young's mechanics look awful? He doesn't seem to have arm joints other than the shoulder...

19 Re: Stupid coding redux

In reply to by Anger...rising (not verified)

What, you mean HTML? It does work.

BBcode isn't that common anymore. All of SBNation uses HTML in comments, for instance.

Plus the list of allowed tags are right below the comment entry box.

75 Re: Stupid coding redux

In reply to by Pat (filler) (not verified)

No, he means that tags often break entire threads, and that the DB spits out SQL schema information every time you post something.

That second one is a good part of why I (and I assume some others) will not buy anything from the FO website. If you can't get a simple message board to work, I'm not trusting you with any valuable info.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

That 21-point late Colts comeback tells us something about these teams. In particular, it tells us the Patriots pass defense is still really bad.

Yes, it's shocking that a defensive secondary consisting of 2 wide receivers and a player that wasn't on the roster 3 weeks ago had trouble with the Colts no huddle.

As well as Brady played, going 3 and out (on three passes) after the Donald Brown touchdown really extended this game for a bit. But is there any doubt the Patriots couldn't have won this game by a larger margin had they cared to? Time mismanagement towards the end aside, few starters played in the fourth quarter, or in some cases the third, and one drive consisted of Brian Hoyer feeding Stevan Ridley handoffs up the middle.

Orlovsky really looked good though, which might be an indictment of the pass defense in it's own right. I think getting Patrick Chung back solves lots of issues though.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Ben Muth must have switched to another game after the Redskins' TD, reducing the group of enthralled observers from FO from 1 to none...and missing the Jets' 9 minute 17 play response...the rest of the first half and the first 25 minutes of the second half could easily have been dispensed with by football lovers...can't fault the FO'ers for not guessing right on tuning back in...(spoken as a Jets fan)

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

As a Jets fan who wants to bleach out my eyeballs after watching this offense much of the season, I had a few thoughts:

The Skins did do very well on outside runs early in the game, but then completely went away from it- ran inside and (even worse) had Grosssman (the extra s is for grosss) chuck it around an awful lot. Coaching mistake by Shanahan or good reaction by Pettine/Ryan? dunno. Jets D did hunker down, and forced punts and FGs from short fields all day after the 1st two drives.

How on earth can the Jets special teams had come into this game 3rd in ST DVOA if they had already turned the ball over 5 times? (add a 6th yesterday plus a crappy punt and a bad decision by McKnight to set the Jets up at their own 8). Is the rest of the league that bad?

My pet theory- on Tuesday, Schotty sees that the Skins would be vulnerable to a double-move for a deep ball to Holmes. So, he spends the entire game trying to "set it up" by running slant after slant after slant after slant to Holmes, getting zero benefit for 3 quarters. Then, bam, they unleash the double-move for a beauty go-ahead TD pass with 5 minutes to go. So Schotty gets 1 great play out of the offense all game because he wastes so many plays trying to set it up, instead of doing what most competent OC's would do and try to call successful plays throughout the game.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Obviously, if Tebow dedicates himself to become a NFL passer with average accuracy, and average at finding the open receiver, and he manages to pull it off, his other skills will render him an above average NFL qb. It's hard to judge things when he is playing a secondary as inept as the Vikings', and it should be remembered that without Ponder handing the Broncos 10 points, without any Tebowesque wonderfullness, the Broncos lose.

Ponder was playing a good secondary, and has had about a year's less work with an NFL team than Tebow, and is being asked to shoulder the normal passing workload of an NFL qb, so I won't be too harsh in assessing him. He needs to get better with his decisionmaking,but I expected him to need to get better in that regard.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Ponder was playing a good secondary"

There's a whole lot of evidence at this point that its not a good secondary.

That being said, I'm not sure how much of it is playing the run first, but the Bronco's WRs were WIDE open every time Tebow had to make a throw.

It looked like the Vikings had a lot of problems with their safeties. Seemed like the CBs looked to be handing off WRs when no one was behind them.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Well, let us put it this way; the Broncos have a very experienced secondary, the type that tends to have some interceptions against a very inexperienced quarterback. Darren Sharper extended his career by about four years by getting intercpetions against such qbs.

It doesn't speak well of Leslie Frazier, with his background in playing defensive back, and his coaching emphasis in that area, that the Vikings' dbs are so Cottrellesqe in being in the wrong place. Maybe they just drafted and signed morons, but I suspect coaching is playing a non-trivial role here.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Broncos secondary has real trouble when there are multiple targets to cover. Champ Bailey is still pretty good corner, but seems to be a bit slower. Goodman makes plays and gives them up too. The safeties are a problem, Dawkins is good in the box, but seems to have really lost a step and the rest of the safeties are mostly young and inexperienced and so mistakes get made, coverages get blown.

I think when they get the pressure they can get with Miller and Dumervil and can play man with 1-2 safeties back then they can be reasonable in base defenses, but they have serious problems it seems in nickel and dime, and hence give up too many 3rd&longs when they don't get good quick pressure on the QB.

I think as long as you can hold the edge rushers off for a short time then going with 3+ wide is the way to attack the Denver defense, they simply cannot cover that consistently at the moment. Of course the edge rush is pretty good when both Miller and Dumervil are fit. If Denver can stay in man and aggressively rush the passer, without a total mismatch then they seem to do OK, but they have real trouble matching up in man against the many-wide sets.

Tebow seemingly improving his throwing should make a CB a high priority in the upcoming draft for Denver. Someone developing into a good slot-coverage player and the safeties getting better at picking up coverages could improve things a lot, I'd be interested in the detailed 3rd down splits for Denver's D.

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Agree with pretty much all of this.

Champ is really the only starting caliber DB on the Broncos, with Dawk being hugely useful in many ways (leadership, run DEF, blitzing), but a liability in converage. This is due to age slowing down folks like Goodman, extreme youth in the safety corp (rookies and first year-on-the-field players in Moore, Carter, & McCarthy), and some season-ending injuries injuries to the nickelback position (Squid Thompson, Cassius Vaughn).

DEN can hide the backend deficiency against lessor QBs when Miller and Doom are healthy, but if you get either a great/deep pass offense (e.g. Rodgers) or the pass-rush becomes more human due to injury to Doom/Miller, the DBs are very exploitable.

Next year, Thompson and Vaughn will be back to compete with Goodman and this years UDFA find Chris Harris (current nickelback) for the #2/#3/#4 slots... that will help the depth, but indeed, a high round draft pick at CB or FA pickup is a dire need given Champ and Goodman's age.

Given TT's improvement to-date and future potential, it is a far more critical need than any of the lower-tier QBs Denver could potentially pick up. Or(And?) a better coverage MLB to replace the athletically challenged Joe Mays would similarly improve the pass DEF (or current 3rd round pick Irving can get his game together)...

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Frazier hasn't had much time to fix the secondary problems. I think the biggest factor is that Cedric Griffen hasn't come back completely from his injuries, and they were probably counting on that. Losing Winfield out only makes things worse.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I wouldn't put all the blame on the safeties; the Broncos looked like they were running 4 deep patterns at once, while the Vikings were playing a vanilla Cover 2...which leads to problems.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Indeed.... saw an article earlier today showing how the FS had the unenviable choice to cover either Eric Decker in the middle or DT to the outside... eitherway it was a TD (and more the blame on the MLB for not dropping deep enough to take away Decker on the inside route)

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I've been waiting for the karmic-payback game in which Tebow plays reasonably well, the Broncos lose for non-Tebow-related reasons, and then everyone blames Tebow for not being clutch enough or a True Winner or whatever. Thought this was going to be the one (not that I'm going to complain about the end result).

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I keep going back and forth on Ponder. He makes about 3-4 throws a game right into the hands of the opponent. He misses a bunch of easy throws as well. He takes off out of the pocket way too soon. But he also makes great throws. He is a very skilled runner.

Then you have to take the context of the team he is on.

Got to admit though - he looks better than I thought he would by a fair bit.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I know Ponder had his two big mistakes but overall I thought it was his best day passing as a pro. With opponent adjustments I expect him to rate higher than Tebow (though its saying something that something like this needs to be qualified in the first place).

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

and it should be remembered that without Ponder handing the Broncos 10 points, without any Tebowesque wonderfullness, the Broncos lose.

I used to complain about these kinds of statements - after all, no reasonable Tebow fan would claim that Tebow single-handedly won this game. It was a one-score game, and because of that, every single impact play that advantaged Denver was Necessary, and not one of them was independently Sufficient. It's also true that Denver would have lost had Tebow not stiff-armed a defender to the ground just before throwing a touchdown pass while falling out of bounds. I mean, pretty amazing play, and uncommon, and Necessary, but still not Sufficient.

But still, then you come across quotes like this from the Associated Press of all places (source)

Athletes are all the time praying, crossing themselves, kneeling in thanks. But does God really care who prevails on the playing field? Ordinarily, we'd say no. Then again, how to explain QB Tim Tebow, who wears his devout Christianity on his sleeve and who led the Denver Broncos to yet another improbable comeback win Sunday?

And that kinda makes me think, well gosh, maybe it's good that we have people out there on discussion boards reminding us all that there really are reasonable ways to interpret what's happening on the field just so we don't all fall off the precipice into the void of religious zealotry.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Ben Muth: Is it me or have there been a lot of blown coverages today? There were a couple in the Denver game, no one was close to Roddy White on his touchdown. Marion Barber had a touchdown called back where no one covered him. And then there was the Donald Driver touchdown at the end of the first half here. This seems like a lot, right?

It seems to me like the Packers benefit from about 3-4 blown coverages almost every week. Really the Giants had fewer than most.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

It seems to me that most defense has 4-5 blown coverages a game, but most of the time they don't get exploited because the QB doesn't see it, the pressure gets there first, or the QB just misses the throw. The Packers just seem to exploit it CITE>every time it happens.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

You know that might be, but because of my viewing habits it's not perception.

Packers opponents seem to exploit all the blown coverages as well which makes for these 42-34, 33-27, 45-38, 38-35 games they get into this year. Both sides exploit the others mistakes, all the time.

Maybe this is why I think blown coverages are always leveraged because I watch the Packers more closely and that is what I see this year. :)

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Bera is horrible, horrible team. No excuse losing to t. Palko. Team should be shot. Other jorrible joke is vikings.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I for one am stunned that Lovie Smith of all coaches cannot find a way to compensate for his starting qb being on the bench. The Bears got a SB with a mediocre to subpar qb. And now they cannot beat the Chiefs at home?

This baffles me.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

At this point, I think there's a bit of evidence that Hanie is not in the "mediocre to subpar" tier. There's a huge dropoff from even the Rex Grossmans of the starting QB world and most backups.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I have to admit, I'm starting to entertain the notion that Martz wasn't entirely crazy when he considered Todd Collins his #2 quarterback above Caleb Hanie last year. (He's still crazy for wanting Todd Collins at all, of course).

These past two weeks have been incredibly depressing. I've gone from thinking the Bears were a lock for the playoffs and capable of competing with anyone including the Packers (just after the Chargers game, before the reports of Cutler's injury) to thinking that they had a good chance to win 3-4 games and make the playoffs with Hanie, and now on to believing that they won't win another game this season. Yeah, the Seahawks and Vikings are terrible, but are they really worse than the Chiefs? The Packers game is liable to be a 30-point blowout and compared to Hanie, Tim Tebow looks like Aaron Rodgers.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Well it was one of the flukiest, most unlucky games I've ever seen from the Bears. The Chiefs scored on an end of half hail mary, the Bears lost a TD because Barber didn't line up on the LoS, Roy Williams turned an excellent pass into an interception, Robbie Gould missed a FG. Change the result of any of those things except perhaps the missed FG and the Bears probably win.

Also, the offense outside of Grossman in 2006 was way better than what Hanie was working with against the Chiefs. Once Forte left, Bennett and Knox were the only players on the field that one could consider good. Well maybe Garza, but how much difference can a center make? Grossman had the best line I've seen from the Bears, Thomas Jones 2006 is better than Marion Barber 2011. The receiving corps are probably similar.

The defense was also better in 2006, but that wasn't the problem in this game.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Yeah, I have a hard time blaming the loss on the Bears' defense. The Hail Mary TD at the end of the first half was mostly bad luck, and they only gave up 3 more points the whole game. If your defense holds the opponent to 10 points, you have no business losing the game. (It would have been nice if they could have taken the ball away, though).

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The 2011 defense is not the same as the 2006 defense. Tommie Harris pre-surgery was unblockable, and Briggs & Urlacher were still in their 20's, and they were still supported by the likes of Adewale Ogunleye, Mark Anderson, Mike Brown, and the much-maligned Danieal Manning. Pepper is the only clear improvement on that 2006 unit, and I'm not certain that a 31 year-old Julius Peppers is an improvement on the healthy, 23 year-old Tommie Harris.

Teams have a life cycle - the Bears D has been good, but declining for several years now.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Teams have a life cycle - the Bears D has been good, but declining for several years now."

I disagree with that. It declined a lot and then improved last year to where it is quite good again. Still not 05/06 good, but very good.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Chiefs fan. I told my wife early in the game it would take a miracle for the Chiefs offense to score a TD. Good call.

That was one of the worst NFL games I've ever seen. Not just the teams - the defenses played well, helped by bad QBs and stupid mistakes on both sides - but the refs and announcers were (Harlan and Wilcots) were horrible too. I cannot believe that somewhere in America there aren't two announcers better than those guys. At one point they analyzed a replay and identified Hanie as Palko. One ref looked at an obvious fumble recovery by the Bears and pointed Chiefs ball. Then after several seconds he got around to pointing Bears ball. Apparently the refs then talked Haley out of challenging the call, getting a mulligan on his red flag throw.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Bears fan here, and I agree 100%. Jerome Boger's crew had no clue what was going on, Wilcots kept saying things that were simply false ("Hanie has the authority to change the play at the line of scrimmage"---really, Solomon? Martz won't give that power to Jay Cutler, but he'll turn the backup he hates into little Johnny Unitas assistant offensive coordinator?), and different Bears players kept taking turns making face-palm plays.

Ultimately, though, the blame for the loss has to be on the Bears' coaches. 4th and 2 from the KC 35, and they call a pass play, fail, punt. 3rd and 12 from the KC 25, they set up with an empty backfield, Hanie is sacked, delay of game before they can set up the field goal, punt. 1st and goal from the 7, coaches call *consecutive* empty sets, resulting in consecutive sacks, 41-yard FG attempt, miss. I can't blame them for Roy Williams turning a TD pass into a pick, except that they asked Angelo to sign the guy.*

I've never seen a coach allowed to pick up a red flag, but 1) the refs did clearly point the wrong way at first, and 2) it didn't matter anyway.

* I keep saying "the coaching staff" and "they." But really it's one guy. F***ing Mike f***ing Martz.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Run the ball twoce and then take a six point lead into the half (a half in which the Bears played like shit). Do that and the Bears probably win. As it is I wouldn't be suprised if they don't win another game (unless Cutler returns).

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"Though I will say that I can now imagine the Broncos being exactly where the Jets now are in two years. "

Where are the Jets now? Does anybody know?

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

It's an oversimplification but colleges have to defend guys that play like Tebow all the time. The rushers have to stay in their lanes, you need to keep a linebacker near the LOS in the middle of the field and tackle well. Typically qbs like this don't like to throw into tight spots so the cover guys just need to be within a few steps versus right on their man. You also need to have blitzes well coordinated so that you are not leaving an obvious running lane should the blitzer miss. Tackles have to pinch the middle while the ends stay on the outside.

I wrote play 'like' meaning they throw or pass equally and can make a defense look awful if it loses containment.

What typically happens is one of the rush ends goes inside, misses and then the qb skips away for 20 yards.

That is why it's likely so frustrating to pros, having to do the same approach every time versus mixing it up.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I just don't understand why more teams don't defend Tebow like Detroit did. They rushed four, and then the three linebackers delay-blitzed. It allowed the linebackers to read, and it gave Tebow fits - he couldn't run, and he couldn't get the pass off fast enough due to all the pressure.

It's true this was before they introduced the zone read option but I'm not sure how that would counteract Detroit's tactic.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13


I don't think you need to have the Fearsome Foursome to have guys stick to their rush lanes to avoid creating large gaps for a running qb to exploit.

And for a guy who is not a proficient passer just pushing the pocket and getting hands up seems to impact their ability to go downfield.

At least it does in college. And yes, I know there is a world of difference. Just that college has more situations akin to what is happening in Denver.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

There is a difference between defending players like Tebow and defending Tebow. To my knowledge, no one every played the system he played in remotely as well as he did it.

That's kind of why I get tired reading about all the criticism about TT. Until quite recently, all I ever read was how bad he was, how fluky he was, and how he'd never win in the NFL. Now I'm reading comments like "obviously, if he improves his passing, he'll be an above average QB" blah blah blah. It seems to me you have a once in a lifetime kind of Fullback/QB hybrid, and if he can improve his throwing to NFL average, you will have an unbelievably hard man to stop, especially in short yardage. I have griped about the lack of respect the man gets from analysts, and I don't understand why none of them have said anything remotely respecting the strengths he brings to the game.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

"The ref who was right there next to the play signaled incomplete..."

Doesn't he have a whistle? Why wouldn't he blow it?

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Were there not a handful of games where the defenses should have rolled over late and let the opponent score in order to get the ball back? Vikings game, and I swear there was another one, too.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Problem is, in both of those games the team with the ball only needed a FG. If they played it smart those teams would fall down at the 2 yard line even if the defense let them go.

It's possible that the Packers (in your example) were not instructed to fall down short of the goal line, in which case let them score is probably the best strategy. However, if GB doesn't score then you just make a relatively easy FG even easier.

The situation is pretty dire regardless of the strategy either team chooses and in any combination. But I think that if a FG try is at least 30 yards you have to try and play defense. Hoping for a mishandled ball (like the Philip Rivers fumble a few weeks ago), an offensive penalty, or a missed short FG is long odds, but is probably just as likely to win the game as trying to score a TD with only 20 seconds left.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

Re "In the Packers-Giants game, after the 2nd completion the Giants should have let the Packers score", no way -- Packers were at the 30-yard line until their final reception. 47 yards if definitely a makeable field goal, but nowhere near certain enough to instead choose to try to move 80 yards down the field for a tying TD with 30 seconds left.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

I think as long as the Broncos can line up for a two-point conversion with Tebow having a large sign over his head reading "I AM GOING TO KEEP THIS BALL AND SCORE", and he does, then they should keep doing it. Once LBs are better able to defend the read option, Denver can go back to more conventional extra-point decisions.

The Lions don't have the composure to be a playoff team right now. Every game seems to have a handful of stupid penalties, most of which end up stalling drives:

-- 3rd and 8, Det 40: holding wipes out first down, drive ends in punt
-- 1st and 10, NO 26: offsetting personal fouls wipe out first down
2nd and 5, NO 7: personal foul, drive ends in FG
-- 2nd and 10, NO 49: OPI wipes out 24-yard gain, drive ends in TD
-- 2nd and 3, NO 33: OPI on second down, drive ends in punt
-- 1st and 10, Det 36: OPI wipes out 42-yard gain
2nd and 10, Det 36: personal foul, drive ends in interception

Two of those five drives were helped along by New Orleans penalties, but still, whatever chance the Lions had of pulling off a big upset disappeared thanks to the other penalties. Detroit is doing a pretty good job of finding backups to fill in for the key injuries they've had ... and it's been the remaining starters who've been the guilty players, for the most part. (Kevin Smith had the holding call; the other penalties were on Burleson, Pettigrew, and Titus Young.)

99 Dallas

Wait, I knew that Jason Garrett botched the time-out use, costing Dallas a chance to perhaps move in for a closer FG attempt...but he also SUCCESSFULLY ICED HIS OWN KICKER?! After watching DET/NO I assumed Nate Burleson would get the KCW award hands-down, but now...

103 Re: Dallas

In reply to by DEW (not verified)

That was so hilarious. KIK, Jason Garret!

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 13

The guys from NFL Network in the booth on Thursday night. I'm sure they were told that acknowledging that a game between two 4-7 teams had no playoff implications whatsoever would have been likely to lead to a smaller viewing audience.

It's been fun watching the Eagles on different networks the past few weeks. Every week, the new network decides that this is the last chance for the Eagles. And then they lose. But it's technically not dishonest if an entirely new group of people then recycle the same arguments. Not dishonest, but increasingly disingenuous. Or something like that.