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

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Audibles at the Line: Week 16
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Danny Tuccitto and Aaron Schatz

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.

Saturday, December 24th

Arizona Cardinals 16 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Robert Weintraub: A Rey Maualuga pick sets up Cincy in the red zone, and of course they settle for three. This is a recording.

Then Jermaine Gresham's second superb catch of the first quarter results in a touchdown, 10-0 Bengals. Cincy pass rush is the story so far, after weeks of absence. Two sacks and a couple of pressures already.

Ben Muth: Cincy's D-Line is dominating the game. Already a couple sacks and additional hits. Arizona lucky to be down only 10. I also think Levi Brown has been the most consistent player in the NFL over the past four years. His level of play is awful and it hasn't changed at all.

Robert Weintraub: Yeah Brown is getting knocked backward by everyone who lines up on him.

In typical Bengals fashion, Cincy is finding ways to keep the opposition in the game even though it's been total domination thus far. A pair of missed field goals by the usually reliable Mike Nugent are the culprit this time. It is simply impossible for this team to win a laugher and make my life a tad easier.

(Nugent had missed two field goals all season before today.)

WOW! Jerome Simpson catches a drag route and is alone until the goal line, when he is challenged by the safety. So naturally, Simpson performs a full leaping somersault over the Cardinal defender, and sticks the landing! Unbelievable play. Say this for Cincy -- they may be maddening at times but the squad has some serious athletes on the roster. 17-0 Bengals.

Ben Muth: Jerome Simpson just front flipped, over a defender, into the end zone.

Robert Weintraub: The Fox broadcast even fonts the play "Simpson 19-yd touchdown catch and full flip."

A.J. Green isn't perfect -- he has way too many pre-snap penalties, and he just took an end around that sat Cincy blockers outnumber Cards tacklers 4-1 and he just stepped out of bounds rather than cut inside. Poor field awareness.

Ben Muth: Yeah, that effort by Green on the end around was embarrassing. I know it's 20-0, but you can't stroll out like that.

Robert Weintraub: Give Arizona's defense plenty of credit--they have fought hard to keep the game at least in shouting distance. Cincy's pass rush however is destroying Arizona's front line. I think the Cards have run one series in Bengals territory through three quarters.

Inevitably, Larry Fitzgerald gets involved, taking a dump off under pressure and scooting for a touchdown. Bengals second-half offensive ineptitude has made this a two score game with plenty of time left. 23-7 Cincy.

Shocker -- Benson fumbles it away, and the Cards have it at the Cincy 40.The Bengals just cannot put teams away.

Pass rush took some time to nap, but awakened on the two-point conversion after Skelton took the Cards in after Benson's fumble. Fanene knocked the ball from his hands, maintaining a 10-point Cincy lead. Still an eternity to play, nearly eight minutes. What did I say earlier about having to sweat every single game? As usual, John Skelton hangs around, hangs around, Cincy drops a pick, fails to corral a fumble, blow a coverage that has Crocker and Pacman fighting on the sidelines, and gets the Cards to 23-16 with over three minutes and two timeouts left.

Then on the first play of the next drive, Benson fumbles. Of course.

Ben Muth: Et tu Early? We're gonna need more booze in Nashville.

Robert Weintraub: Oh man. The Cards throw a screen to Fitzgerald but Clements, who was outstanding today, oles the block and drills him. Then on fourth the Bengals bring the blitz, Skelton has Doucet all alone for the score, and Early tumbles down trying to turn and locate. Of course, Cincy commits a dumb personal foul on first down so they still cannot kill the clock. Just unbelievable. I cannot watch this team anymore. Punting with 57 ticks left and the Cards down a score, no timeouts.

Cards complete a pass to the 30 with 8 seconds left, but don't spike it, run a play instead, complete a pass in the middle of the field... and the game is over. That was a simultaneous domination/gift. I maintain that even if the Bengals find the playoffs they are too young and dumb to do anything but go out in the wild card game.

Ben Muth: That win in the CIN-ARI game was like a homemade oven mitt in a Yankee swap. Both teams just trying to give the thing away. Eventually Andre Roberts gave himself up on the 15 yard line w/no time left to end the game and stick the Bengals with the win.

New York Giants 29 at New York Jets 14

Vince Verhei: Jets go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Giants' 36. Mark Sanchez throws a quick backwards pass, basically a wide pitch play, but the pass goes through the receiver's hands, and the Giants pick it up and run it in for a score. Only two problems: 1) The refs rule it an incomplete pass, not a fumble. 2) More importantly, the Giants get called for 12 men on the field. The Jets had used a lot of motion to confuse the defense, but they took a lot of time to run the play after breaking the huddle, so there's no excuse for the Giants there. Jets go on to score on a Sanchez play-action pass to Baker. So instead of 7-0 Giants, it's now 7-0 Jets.

Aaron Schatz: Refs were right, not that it mattered. It was a forward pass.

Mike Tanier: The same thing happened a few weeks ago, right? Backward pass, touchdown, no call by refs, 12 men on field?

Aaron Schatz: Well, I was about to write at halftime about how Eli Manning was having trouble finding guys open. But on third-and-10 from 1, Eli just threaded it to Victor Cruz through two guys and then those guys, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, fell down trying to tackle him and Cruz went 99 yards for a touchdown. 10-7 Giants. One 99-yard touchdown can cover up a lot of incompletes.

The Jets offense halftime report: Sanchez is getting the ball out quick to avoid pass rush on first and second but can't find anyone open on third. Where are those big holes in zone from last week? Are Giants cornerbacks not playing back because they don't respect Jets wide receiver speed?

Mike Tanier: Good looking two-minute drive for the Jets ends with a missed field goal. Things not looking good for the boys in green. The Eagles, I mean.

Aaron Schatz: In case it hasn't been said in Audibles in a few weeks, Wayne Hunter sucks. Is there a bigger gap between two linemates than the difference between Hunter and Nick Mangold?

Mike Tanier: Also, is it me or has D'Brickshaw Ferguson been really struggling lately?

Aaron Schatz: Dear Giants, stop challenging Revis. It isn't working. Love, sane football fans

Mike Tanier: Giants really crossed the Jets up on two straight plays at the end of the third quarter. First, Cruz runs a little wheel route in man coverage against Kyle Wilson. Then, a Brandon Jacobs shotgun sweep traps the whole defense inside. Bradshaw punches it in. Think I will be watching Eagles-Cowboys with minimal enthusiasm.

Actually, the Jacobs play was supposed to be a power run inside, with Snee fold-blocking. He bounced it.

Vince Verhei: The Giants' offense has run seven plays in their first three drives of fourth quarter: one interception, one intentional grounding, one sack, one incompletion, three runs for 1 total yard, zero first downs.

Robert Weintraub: As a former Sydney Swans season ticket holder, I loved that onside punt in the Jets-Jints game. Looked very Aussie Rules.

Aaron Schatz: Oy. I didn't think the Giants offense played well at all even though they won. A couple of really big, somewhat fluky plays like the Cruz 99-yarder. A couple of good runs with some missed tackles by a number of Jets who were not Darrelle Revis. The Jets safeties took some weird tackling angles.

The Jets offense was also off sync. Some of that was the Giants defense playing better -- the coverage was much better than recent weeks, and Sanchez had a few balls slapped down at the line -- maybe five or six. The pass rush got to Sanchez more in the second half. Although I bitched about Hunter earlier, let the record show that Matt Slauson gave up the pressure by Chris Canty that led to the safety with 2:13 left.

Sanchez also was on a different page than Dustin Keller. A couple times he tried to hit Keller when Keller wasn't even looking for the ball. And man oh man, was Sanchez's first pick a bad pass. Horrible. Threw the ball like 10 yards over Jeremy Kerley's head on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Interesting, this game featured not one but two tuck rule plays that were originally sacks, challenged by the Jets, and overturned when they were ruled to be forward passes.

Miami Dolphins 24 at New England Patriots 27

Aaron Schatz: Dolphins pass rush relentless today against injury-riddled Pats line.

Somebody needs to tell the Pats defenders to stop tackling Miami receivers on nigh-uncatchable passes. They got 2 DPIs in under a minute on passes that were never going to be caught but were just close enough to draw flags.

Hard to imagine a worse first half for the Pats. Brady under duress on every pass. Can't find hot reads because Dolphins are doing great job with coverage on slants. Pats D alternating bad coverage with rank stupidity. Crowd is actually booing an 11-3 team.

With 35 seconds left I think Brady just had his first clean pocket of the game. And with 12 seconds left, Deion Branch makes horribly boneheaded play, staying in bounds on long catch and forcing Pats to use final timeout. Costs the Pats a chance to use the whole field to get more yards, which means a long 51-yard field goal, which Gostkowski misses.

Completely different game in the second half. I have no idea what happened. This is one of those games where you have to go back and watch the whole thing in tape to figure out what changed in the Miami pass rush and/or Pats blocking schemes because all of a sudden Brady had plenty of time to throw in the second half. With time to throw, guys could get open, and there you go, Pats offense back to normal. I don't know what changed. Same replacement linemen -- Nate Solder at left tackle, Donald Thomas at left guard, Marcus Cannon at right tackle -- and as far as I know, same Dolphins defenders until Vontae Davis got injured late. Meanwhile, the Dolphins offense slowed down until their final drive. Pats defense was finally getting to Matt Moore with sugar blitzes. Total switcheroo from the first half.

I will say, though, that Reggie Bush really looks like a different guy. He was still shakin'-and-bakin' on pass receptions, but when he took a handoff up the middle he was eschewing those famous Reggie Bush horizontal yards, instead going right forward and hitting the hole -- and hitting the right holes. I was impressed. No idea who finally taught him how to run up the middle effectively, but it was good.

Denver Broncos 14 at Buffalo Bills 40

Brian McIntyre: In case there was any doubt the wheels have completely come off the Buffalo Bills' bus, on their first possession after a Tim Tebow touchdown run, C.J. Spiller breaks off a 38-yard run, putting the Bills in business at the Broncos' 33-yard line. Next four plays: Tashard Choice slams it up the middle for a yard, Ryan Fitzpatrick underthrows Spiller then throws a wobbly pass to Choice, who is blanketed by Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Dave Rayner then misses a 45-yard field goal attempt, a third straight game where he's missed his first field goal attempt.

The defense forces a three-and-out and Leodis McKelvin returns the punt 38 yards to the Broncos' 28-yard line. The Bills pick up a quick first down, but a holding penalty by Andy Levitre and Fitzpatrick short arming a third-down screen pass to Choice leads to Rayner shanking a 31-yard attempt.

Mike Tanier: The Broncos converted on a Fourth-and-1 sneak. Tebow throws a touchdown a few plays later. Note on the replays of the wide open Fells that No. 90 is flailing around in coverage. That's Marcel Dareus, right?

Wait, No. 90 is Kelsay. Not that bad in coverage for an endbacker. Where's my head?

Bills keep marching downfield and settling for three. No way that bites them in the rump.

Vince Verhei: As usual, Denver hangs around, hangs around, and then Tim Tebow produces a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns. This time, though, he's producing them for the Bills -- a pick-six to Byrd, then a sack-fumble by Kelsay leads to a touchdown by Spencer Johnson. The Bills have 40 points with one offensive touchdown.

One problem with Tebow's mobility: He tends to scramble out near the line of scrimmage, then gets tentative. Receivers don't know if they should be blocking or getting open, then the next thing they know Tebow is throwing their way. You'd have to mark it as a drop, But it's hard to say it's their fault when they weren't even sure what their job was at that point. Michael Vick had the same problem early in his Atlanta career. (Actually, throughout his Atlanta career). Tebow needs to make quicker decisions.

St. Louis Rams 0 at Pittsburgh Steelers 27

Vince Verhei: Hustle play of the day: Rams run a fake punt on fourth-and-10. The Steelers pick up all the receivers, but Jones finds a wide-open seam on the right side and runs. Looks like he's going to pick up the first down, but Antonio Brown -- the returner! -- comes out of nowhere to make the stop a yard short. He started at about the end zone and came up to make the tackle at the 35.

Ben, you may want to send a resume to Pittsburgh. They're losing linemen left and right. Legursky, normally a starting guard, was moved to center to fill in for Pouncey this week. Now Legursky is out with a shoulder injury too. They took him into the locker room. He's back on the sidelines in his pads, but not in the game.

J.J. Cooper: Trai Essex isn't very good, which was made clear when he had no offers as a free agent this offseason until the Steelers brought him back, but he is versatile. With his play at center today he has now played every position along the line.

Vince Verhei: The Lexus commercial with the couple in the elevator is edited so badly. She's giggling! She's not giggling! She's looking straight ahead! She's looking at the speaker!

Robert Weintraub: And would hipster doofi like that really buy a Lexus? Seems like they are trying to expand the target audience in an unrealistic way.

J.J. Cooper: The Steelers seem to know that the Rams offense is good for seven points at most, so we are seeing a Bill Cowher offense -- lots of runs and lots of field goal attempts. It's pretty boring but with Kellen Clemens not really knowing the Rams offense it has been enough up to now.

Vince Verhei: Amazing graphic in the St. Louis game: Not only are there four players in the league with at least as many touchdowns as the Rams, but you could own those players on one fantasy team. There's one running back (McCoy), one wide receiver (Calvin), one tight end (Gronkowski) and one quarterback (Newton).

Oakland Raiders 16 at Kansas City Chiefs 13

Vince Verhei: More special teams shenanigans: Raiders run a fake field goal, and Shane Lechler hits Brandon Myers for an apparent touchdown, but the Raiders are called for delay of game. Next play, they try a 59-yard field goal. Janikowski hits the crossbar, and the ball bounces out.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 at Carolina Panthers 48

Mike Tanier: I can only get scores for the Panthers-Bucs right now. Have the Bucs actually boarded the bus? Are they at home? Enjoying the seven fish already? Are they planning to show up next week? If there was a pack it in sweepstakes this year, I think they win the Death by Chocolate gift basket.

Vince Verhei: Early in the fourth, the Panthers are up 48-10. Cam Newton is averaging 10.1 yards on 17 passes, and 10.8 yards on six runs.

Four different Panthers have carries. All of them have at least one 20-yard run.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at Tennessee Titans 23

Tom Gower: My viewing of this TEN-JAC game has been hit-and-miss due to technical issues and family obligations, but I've seen more than enough to confirm Steve Tasker is still an idiot. I can't decide which I liked more, his complaining about a Titans player tackling a wide receiver out of bounds on third down short of the sticks in the two-minute drill (which forced a field goal and also saved the Titans from having to use their last timeout to stop the clock and get the ball back) or his retrospective criticism of the Jaguars for going for it and not taking the field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 10 down 13 with less than 10 minutes to play. Now, granted, he was right for criticizing Gabbert on the play for throwing a bad interception.

What I have seen this game still makes me think people need to update their Blaine Gabbert evaluations a little bit. He's still flawed, and I'm not sure what his long-term prognosis will be, but I've mentally upgraded him from abysmal to showing occasional signs of promise, but stuck on a horrible passing offense.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Dallas Cowboys 7

Vince Verhei: Romo hits his hand on a helmet on his follow through. He's on the sideline. Stephen McGee in at quarterback for Dallas.

Mike Tanier: The Cowboys are playing like they want to watch the Broncos on SNF next week.

Loving the seven minute Cowboys drive, down by 20 with ten minutes left. I am feeling strangely certain that the Giants will win the NFC East.

Tom Gower: The Cowboys drive, which ended with a failed fourth down play, is all I've seen of the late slate of games. I literally turned the TV on at the start of the drive, and saw the whole thing. It was quite epic in its own right.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure today's game really tells us much about who is going to win next week's Giants-Cowboys contest. Assuming Tony Romo is healthy enough to play next week, the Dallas offense will look better. And in general, it seems after two games that we can safely say that the Cowboys don't seem to match up particularly well with the Eagles, and I don't know if that tells us they are hopeless against the Giants. Giants will probably be favored, but it's a slim advantage, not a slam dunk.

San Francisco 49ers 19 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Vince Verhei: Seahawks had a third-and-goal from the 1 right before halftime, poised to score the first rushing touchdown against San Francisco this year. But then, well, weirdness occurred. It looked like Seattle false-started right before the snap, but the referees were the only ones who didn't see it. So everyone kind of stood there for a while before realizing it was a live play. Jackson dashed to the left to make it to the corner, but San Francisco cut him off. Seattle kicks a field goal to go up 10-3.

Bummer for the 49ers defense. They'd just throttled Seattle's offense in the second half, but with about 7 minutes to go Seattle blocks a punt and takes over inside the 5, and on first down Lynch runs up the gut. He's stopped, but bounces outside, beats the corner to the edge and sneaks into the end zone. First rushing touchdown San Francisco has given up all year. Seattle is up 17-16.

49ers add a field goal to take the lead. On Seattle's first play after the kickoff, Marshawn Lynch catches a pass for a first down, but instead of stepping out of bounds before the two-minute warning, he stays in, busts a tackle and gains about six more yards. He's tackled in bounds, though, and the clock runs down before the break. That's not Marion Barber level stupid, but he cost Seattle a chance to run another play for a small gain of real estate.

And then after the two-minute warning, they go run up the middle, swing pass to Lynch, scramble/fumble (with Larry Grant tomahawking the ball out of Jackson's hand). 49ers recovered. The fumble is why San Francisco is going to win, but Seattle used one minute to run three plays there.

Most impressive player today: Kendall Hunter. Great cutting and acceleration, slicing through Seattle's defense.

Mike Tanier: Did Tarvaris just throw out of bounds on fourth down with 13 seconds left?

Sunday, December 25th

Chicago Bears 21 at Green Bay Packers 35

Aaron Schatz: When the Packers shift Jermichael Finley out wide, the Bears are covering him with Nick Roach. Yeah, that's not gonna work.

Tom Gower: Nick Roach in coverage was pretty much Rodgers' green light to throw that opening drive. More bootlegs than I recall the Packers normally running as well.

Danny Tuccitto: Through one quarter, I find myself wanting to shout, "Hello, Green Bay! Chicago is running!!!" "Predictable" isn't a strong enough word to explain the Bears' offense so far.

Mike Tanier: Woodson's knee is getting worked on after breaking up a pass. The Packers need to deliver some knockout punches and then bubble wrap the starters.

I am enjoying this nutty Bears second-quarter drive where Roy Williams converted a long third down, Whichever McCown recovered a fumbled screen pass, and someone named Armando, probably Mike Martz's masseuse, is getting carries.

Oh, intercepted screen pass, never mind.

Tom Gower: Beautiful interception by Matthews. Read the route, broke off his rush, and took McCown's gift.

Aaron Schatz: You've got to give credit to McCown. Except for that interception, he's looking like a professional quarterback out there. Not bad for a guy who was coaching high school a month ago.

Mike Tanier: He's a McCown! Not sure which one, but he is one of them.
The Bears must settle for a field goal on a play where Woodson slices inside pre-snap and occupies the B-gap, like the world's smallest defensive tackle. I am stunned at how many two-man lines and strange fronts the Packers are running against a team that appears to want to revive the old Redskins Counter-Trey all night.

Tom Gower: The Packers' lack of credible defensive linemen may be their Achilles heel.

McCowns have the tendency to look like professional quarterbacks for a while with the occasional boneheaded play, then the spate of boneheaded plays that remind you you're starting a McCown.

Danny Tuccitto: "Except for that interception," is a pretty big exception given how throwing-it-right-into-the-defender's-gut-on-a-screen it was, but, yeah, I agree that, overall McCown is above expectation through the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Matthews had to jump for it, it wasn't right in his gut, and Collinsworth made a good argument that the running back was supposed to cut block Matthews which would have prevented him from making the pick.

Tom Gower: Let's get it right. That was a fullback flat pass, not a screen, which raises its own questions.

Aaron Schatz: The Bears seem to have switched to a safety on Finley when he's split wide instead of a linebacker.

Mike Tanier: Peppers is eating Milhouse alive at right tackle. Don't the Packers have six or seven tight ends? Newhouse should have a tight end surgically attached to his left hip until the offensive line crisis is solved.

The drama is dissipating rapidly. The Bears need help in the secondary. And the amount of time Rodgers spends scrambling and hitting the turf has to be worrying Packers fans.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, there's only so much running the Bears can do down 28-10.

Danny Tuccitto: It's pretty apparent that Green Bay doesn't feel like Chicago can cover a slant on the goal line.


90 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2011, 1:59pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I dont really understand the comments about the gb o-line. Yeah, Rodgers had to step up a number of times in the first half, but he wasn't sacked and was hit only once all game. Rodgers was hugely complimentary of the line after the game.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Newhouse played LT for GB last night, and Lang moved from LG to RT. So Tanier got the rare trifect wrong on his comment, misspelled name, wrong position and poor opinion. Newhouse did not get a ton of help, and gave up no sacks and maybe 1-2 pressures. He is a middle of the road LT, nothing more, but started the year at 3rd string. Thank god the depth at O line was a heck of a lot better than at D line. I agree wholeheartedly the depth at D-line and lack of players is a real issue. One of the challenges of the 3-4 defense is that it only allows you to carry 6-7 D-lineman (you need 9-10 LB's and 9-10 DB's, and you only get 24-26 total defensive players). Hard to bring on a situational pass rusher with that few guys. They need somebody who can bring it at the other OLB, and they are not getting it. Maybe they are resting Zombo to hope he can bring what he did last year in the playoff's. One can only hope at this point.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Walden has been god awful the last two games, continually giving up the edge. Raji has been awful as well, seemingly content to belly bump and get turned as running backs run past him.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

True that. One of the least reported stories about GB's defense this year has been the utter failure of the opposite side LBs from Matthews to perform-- either as pass rushers or, more recently, run defenders. Walden got benched at the end of the KC game, and Zombo was torched on those final runs. So'Oto showed some promise in preseason but injuries and inexperience held him back. Brad Jones barely plays anymore. I wonder if Walden's domestic incident has affected his play. Zombo has been hurt and not very good. Might Capers take a chance and move Matthews around more in the postseason (he claimed he did that anyway but the actual stats shows it occurs less than 10% of snaps) to try to create more pressure on the QB??

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The 2-4-5 alignment is killing Raji. The offense has 5 big linemen against 2 Packer D linemen. The two down guys each get doubled, even tripled at times on the initial push. Hawk and Bishop align so deep that the offensive linemen get a chance to put multiple bodies on the Packers two down front before the O linemen release for the backers. Hawk and Bishop start so deep that if they take a bad angle, they're out of the play. Packer defense last night was embarrassing. Incredibly, they could play an even worse Patriot defense in the Super Bowl if the stars align.

Walden got yanked last night also for So'oto, who only played a handful of snaps before yielding (hurt again?) to Brad Jones, the Human Neutrino who doesn't interact with any other player when on the field. Doesn't matter what the Packers do defensively, they can't get a sniff of the QB in the past few games. That is gonna hurt at some point in the playoffs.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Oh, Walden was turrible. Soft. The Bears ran to the left side 100% (or close) when Walden was in there. When he got taken off the field for the undrafted rookie (So'oto), the defense improved a ton, and the Bears even started running towards Matthews (to no effect).

The have 0 DL and OLB depth. Without Pickett NOBODY can even attempt to stop the rush. The Bears doubled Raji, ran away from Matthews (with Walden on the field) and simply dominated.

Pickett will be back for the playoffs, so will Zombo, which helps a lot in the running game.

But if either Pickett or Raji goes down, teams will run this Packers D to death.

Nice to see the patchwork OL play a great game against one of the best DL in football.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I for one, love the idea of "Milhouse" at left tackle. Having that blue-haired 4 eyes in the lineup would probably explain the disastrous KC game.

Anyway, Tanier probably intended this joke, knowing him. If not, I'm happy to be the first to suggest it.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Houstob better come tp play Sunday otherwise moght be repray of Jets vs brngals 2009. Bengals let jets win in rs last game then jets play them again next week playoffs and jrts win.

Please win texans. Use delhomme or J. Garcia if have to.

Raiders going to brat chargers and racens going to beat bengals

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Funny you should mention that. The Texans would have made the playoffs in 2009 were it not for the Bengals (and the Colts the week before that) laying down for the Jets and letting them get free wins. So, as a Texans fan, I would certainly sympathize if the Texans resting starters against the Titans cause the Raiders to miss the playoffs.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Another interesting Packer-Lions tidbit. Should the Saints defeat the Falcons tonight, then the Lions gain the #5 seed with a win over GB. Meaning they get the far easier opening round game-- at Dallas or NYG as opposed to NO (or possibly SF, should they lose to the Rams-- not gonna happen)-- AND, more importantly, unless the Falcons can win the rematch in the Superdome, should Detroit win that WC game, they would come right back to Lambeau to play the Packers in the divisional round.

Whereas if they end up the 6 seed (Atlanta owns the tiebreaker, so Detroit would win the 5 seed at 10-6 only if the Falcons lose both their remaining games) they would play SF or, more likely, the Saints in Round One-- they would still come to Lambeau in Round Two but the odds of that happening are much more remote.

So does McCarthy want to put the hammer down against a division rival he may not want to see again (they were the last potential Packer opponent to beat GB-- not counting the Patriot win in Foxborough against Flynn), or does he go vanilla and rest Rodgers, Woodson, Matthews, etc..? I think caution wins out and Rodgers plays the first quarter and not much more.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Steven Jackson crossed the 1000 yard mark for the 7th concecutive season yesterday. That doesn't sound like much, but only 7 backs in NFL history have done it. Even Jim Brown didn't rush for 1000 yards 7 concecutive years. Of the other 6, 5 are in the Hall of Fame and the 6th is Curtis Martin, who gets plenty of debate on the topic.

Of those 6, every one had a 50% or better winning percentage except Barry Sanders whose Lions won at a 47% clip. Jacksons teams are winning at a 25% clip. He's also never once been the focal point of a power rushing offense built around his abilities.

It's hard to get excited about a guy whose teams average 4-12, but is Steven Jackson having a Hall of Fame career? Is he the Aeneas Williams of the 2000s?

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

"Even Jim Brown didn't rush for 1000 yards 7 concecutive years."

This is an archetype of the Tyranny of Round Numbers. Jim Brown's annual rushing yardage:


Give Brown one more garbage-time run any of half a dozen games where he averaged over 4 YPC and he would have crossed 1000 yards.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

you think the 2 extra games Jackson plays every year has anything to do with it?

Jim Brown-- probably the greatest player in the history of the NFL.

Stephen Jackson-- ???

He's a good running back for a bad team. End of story.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Except that the 7 RBs who did it, ALL did it in 16 game seasons. 4 of the 7 are in the Hall of Fame. The 5th is Curtis Martin, who has an excellent shot. The 6th is LaDanian Tomlinson who is a shoe in. Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas are the others. All - even Sanders - played for teams who are MUCH better than the Rams. Last years Rams, I believe, might be the BEST team he ever played on. Walter Payton played the bulk of his career in the 16 game era and never did it, either.

That's not to say that Jackson is as good as Brown or Payton - they're the two greatest RBs in NFL history. But he IS in rare company, and even though his name hasn't been thrown around in the HOF discussion, I think it's time to at least put him in the discussion.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Payton was over 1200 yards every year from '76-'86 except for the 9 games in '82

Between the 14 game schedule and the strike seasons, I don't think this number is relevant to anyone prior to the last 25 years

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

25 is a rather arbitrary number. What was so special about 1986? Other then that it conveniently excludes Payton, of course?

Actually, don't bother. The entire thread misses the point.

Even when his name is raised for discussion, people would still rather split hairs about who didn't achieve what Steven Jackson achieved rather than discussing the career of one Steven Jackson.

I realize he had the temerity to dare to have a great career without having the good breeding to at least play in a major market, let alone a winning team, but dude is one hell of a back.

RJ mentioned Ricky Watters, and go figure, RJ is the only one who actually doesn't miss the point. Watters isn't a bad comparison. But having seen both of them in their prime, I'll take Steven Jackson any day of the week even before Watters' baggage enters the equation.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Seems to me the fact that he did all this on a terrible team, with no other legitimate offensive options during his tenure, bolsters his case as a real great, rather than diminishing it.

Jackson always makes me think of Tomlinson's early years carrying the otherwise useless Chargers, only for a whole career.


51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The entire thread misses the point.

No. It makes the point that when you say "Even Jim Brown didn't rush for 1000 yards 7 concecutive years," you're using an arbitrary standard. (And I know you're not trying to denigrate Brown.)

I was impressed by Jackson on Saturday, and have no problem with calling him one of the best backs in today's league. He went over 1000 in his team's 15th game, though, which was a chance Brown never had.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Again, missing the point entirely. Go figure.

Rushing for 1000 yards 7 years in a row doesn't PROVE anything. But it IS a rare accomplishment. And in light of Jackson' having done that, it's a good opportunity to reflect on his career so far.

THAT is the point. Which no matter how many times I say it, is completely ignored by people who for some bizarre reason would rather do anything BUT reflect upon the remarkable career Steven Jackson has had thus far.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The point is that 996 yards is not significantly different than 1000 yards. It has nothing to do with lack of consistency. Jim Brown was a more consistent runner than Stephen Jackson. Jim Brown's YPA in 1962 was 4.3, the worst of his career; Jackson has done better than Brown's worst in only 4 of his 8 seasons.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The lack of Brown or Payton on the list doesn't discredit those two great RBs, but the manner in which the list is created.

The list, and lists of this nature, aren't measuring one quality directly, but are playing with numbers. "At least X yards for Y seasons in a row" is the kind of statistic that allows for many choices of X and Y. And it's the kind of thing that sportscasters love doing. It's a great way to cherry-pick the results you want while presenting the appearance that you're doing something objective.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I hate the "exclusive" lists that throw out some arbitrary cut off line in order to show a player or players in a good light. Baseball is really "good" at doing this, think this 7 year, 1000 yard Steven Jackson argument falls into this silliness as well.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Verygood RB. Probably in R. Watters, c warren, d perkins territory. Very good wualityfor decade but not yruly special. Maybe if get with good team have coupke more good years and have great moment in postseason he will be hall of famer

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

If the Rams so much as make the playoffs again before Jackson has to retire, he's a shoo-in for the HoF, I think. If they don't... anyone's guess.

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

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Yeah if dont male playoffs Jackson may fall through cracks in hof voting process. Bigger name backs on better teams this era will get in. Maybe jackson will take while to het in or througjsenior comittee. Leroy kelly had to wait a while and he about same level RB as jackson

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Steven Jackson crossed the 1000 yard mark for the 7th concecutive season yesterday ... Even Jim Brown didn't rush for 1000 yards 7 concecutive years

Jim Brown played a 12-game season with 942 yards, which prorates to 1,256 in 16 games, and a 14-game season with 996, prorates to 1,138.

If Jackson played in 14-or-fewer-game seasons, four of his seven 1,000-yard seasons would be sub-1,000.

Brown averaged 104 yards per game and 5.2 per carry for his career. Jackson has averaged 79 yards a game and 4.2 per carry for his.

Jackson is a good RB on a bad team, but let's not get carried away with comparisons. Since the arrival of the 16-game season, 1,000 yards rushing in a season has not been the accomplishment it once was.

is Steven Jackson having a Hall of Fame career?

Curtis Martin had 10 consecutive 1,000+ yard years in 16-game seasons and the vote on him has been "no" so far. Let's see what happens to him first.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Not to be "that guy", but Brown was also running through DT not much larger than he was. There's also Jackson's proficiency as a receiver and his not fumbling at Brown's rate. This is not a cut and dry argument, as much as those living in the past insist it must be.

Today's athletes are simply better, while also opposing other athletes who are also better (forcing both to be even better). In other words, put any of today's truly great RB's (and yes, Jackson just has to be considered "great" - could you imagine this guy's press if he was on a consistently winning team?) on Cleveland's '60's squads and they very well would have records still considered unattainable.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

"Peppers is eating Milhouse alive at right tackle."

Peppers failed to record a single sack, hurry, hit on QB, or tackle on anyone for the whole game.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Another week, and another emasculation for the Rams run defense. The offensive ineptitude is thoroughly documented. Nobody’s talking about just how wretched they are against the run. By my count, there are 17 teams playing predominantly a 4-3 front. According to PFR, defensive tackles on those teams have totaled 1020 tackles – 60/team (not including this weekends games). The Rams DTs have made 41 tackles. Rank? 16 of 17. If you remove each team’s leading tackling DT, you have 632 tackles by the second starter, the reserves, rotational guys, etc. – an average of 37.2/team. Take away Fred Robbins’s 19 tackles, and the rest of the flotsam have 22 tackles – DEAD LAST among 4-3 defenses.

236 rushing yards allowed vs Philly opening day.
119 vs Giants
168 vs Baltimore
196 vs Washington
96 vs Green Bay
294 vs Dallas!
56 vs New Orleans
70 vs Arizona
126 vs Cleveland
126 vs Seattle
268 vs Arizona
144 vs San Francisco
145 vs Seattle
110 vs Cincy
169 vs Pittsburgh

You don’t need advanced metrics to see the complete ineptitude of this team against the run. DT isn’t the only hole, but I would argue that it’s just as big a problem as Wide Receiver.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I don't get the joke o comment if you are serious. Detroit's run defense is not good and Suh is one of the biggest reasons for that. He is a good player, reminds me Warren Sapp, but run defense is not his speciality.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Sam Bradford was, is, and will continue to be the right pick in that spot. DTs may be scarce, but they're not nearly as scarce, nor as important, as quarterbacks.

Just ask Seattle how drafting a Hall of Fame DT instead of a QB turned out for them when they picked Cortez Kennedy.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

"but they're not nearly as scarce, nor as important, as quarterbacks."

Yet the Rams are going to be in position to take a QB as good, if not better than, the one they took that draft. And a DT of Suh's quality is nowhere to be found.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Let us not crown Suh's ass and write off Bradford in two years. And it does not matter if Rams is in a position to take a QB. First unless they employ fortune tellers in their front office they would not have known they wuold be in this situation in two years. Second, they are as good as in a position to select a DT as they are for QB, finally no one knows how a player will turn out, draft is an educated guess.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I agree that DT is a big hole, and not just in The run game. Long would probably have another 4 or 5 sacks if the DTs could push the pocket a little more.

But I think OLB is as big a hole. If you block Laurinaitus there's no one who can tackle you until the safeties get up there, and that's not particularly reliable.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I think we're on the same page. DT isn't the only hole, just the biggest. Chamberlain is OK on one side, but they haven't had a legit weakside LB since they traded Witherspoon.

Guys who can play weakside lb are easy to find, though. A good DT is much more scarce.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

A solid defensive line also makes it much easier to find a linebacker. If the line is keeping blockers off the linebackers they can focus on just running and tackling. It's a lot easier to find a line backer who can run and tackle than one who can do that while regularly shedding blocks.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Yeah I'm inclined to agree that DT is actually the biggest need on the team, particularly a run stuffing one. OLB would help and better depth on the secondary too. WR is obviously a need, my biggest disappointment is that the O-line still looks like it needs upgrading despite the huge investment.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The OL has underachieved for probably 3 years now. The whole is much less than the sum of the parts. Jacob Bell won't be missed. The cap hits to get rid of Jason Brown and/or Jason Smith make them difficult, but not impossible, to jettision. Problem is, at this point even if you get rid of those 3 and build around Dahl and Saffold, do you really think their replacements will make any difference?

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

No I think enough players have been tried without any signifigant improvement that the blame has to pretty much entirely be put down to coaching. Finding a new OL coach thats competetnt and who fits into the new offensive coordinator's system should certainly be one of the top priorities for the offseason.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Oh, Eagles, why couldn't you have gotten your shit together enough to win even one of the 5 games you lost by a touchdown or less? You're clearly the best team in a pitiful NFC East... Anyhoo, let's hope Spagnuolo gets fired and comes back to the Eagles next year...

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

There's a different report every week on whether Spags will get fired or not. Truth is, nobody really knows. Stan Kronke may or may not even know yet. If so, he's not exactly doing interviews and tipping his hand.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Reid were to take him back - assuming, of course, that he's available.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Thekry proved correct today. 90% of Football Outsiders posts made from workplace.normally would br more than 100 posts in this columb by monday adternoon. But this Christmas holiday many people not at work and therefore not posting. Therefore many people use FO to grt through work but dont care about FO as much when on own leisure time

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Bro, you have no idea how much that game irked me. Watching Norv in that game makes me ask who's the Ringmaster at that Three Ring Circus. And that's what San Diego has become, a circus.

The only relief are the reports that Spanos is calling on Bill Cowher to be the next Head Coach, AJ Smith is going off to St. Louis with Jon Gruden, and Norv is going to be an OC for a deserving team.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Or, what better irony than Jay Gruden goes to the Chargers?

Not sure how this will turn out. I thought SD should've let Norv go and promoted Rivera and Chud, but they stuck with their hand and played it. Time to shuffle again and draw.
Maybe time to hire a GM-HC combo like Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, Pittsburgh, or New England.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I'd like to be the only Wade Phillips defender left in the NFL for a moment. What happened last year was a fluke season. People say the Dallas defense would have been elite with better coaching and how much better the new scheme is and there's all this talk about Rob Ryan, but now here they are a year later with pretty much the same personnel and the defense is still doing worse than they were in an average year under Wade Phillips. Meanwhile, Houston hired him and look at the turnaround their defense is having. And Wade was never given any power over the offense so that's beside the point. This is now the third time he has been fired and the third time a team has gotten worse since losing him.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I'd like to be the only Wade Phillips defender left in the NFL for a moment.

"Only?" I think it's widely accepted that Phillips has been the best assistant in the NFL this year.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

"49ers add a field goal to take the lead. On Seattle's first play after the kickoff, Marshawn Lynch catches a pass for a first down, but instead of stepping out of bounds before the two-minute warning, he stays in, busts a tackle and gains about six more yards. He's tackled in bounds, though, and the clock runs down before the break. That's not Marion Barber level stupid, but he cost Seattle a chance to run another play for a small gain of real estate."

To clarify that was Justin Forsett, not Lynch. It was also the time where the every Seahawks fan within 5 yards of me at the game hissed, got up and left.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I think the Broncos are dead in the water. That game in Buffalo was disastrous on every level; not just Tebow's usual hot-and-cold routine, but the defense was being shredded by Spiller runs and screens, and the special teams allowed a huge number of return yards. As a fan, I've wholly understood the quality of opponents that the Broncos have been able to beat is not exactly headline worthy, and I even expected the Pats to lay a beating on them, but this game in Buffalo convinces me that, no matter how fun this run as been, it's been a lot of smoke and mirrors. I am at a point right now where I kind of hope Orton comes in and throws for about 350 on the Broncos next week, if only because I didn't like the way he was run out of town by the fanbase. I like Tebow, and he can be fun to watch, but I think this train has been derailed. I don't think Oakland is really worth a bucket of warm spit, either, but somebody has to win the stupid division. I would've thought that San Diego would be a real threat to the Raiders, and they still may be, but they were horrendous in Detroit. If the Broncos do win the division, I dread the idea of watching Pittsburgh or Baltimore swallow Tebow up whole. The first round of the playoffs this year are going to be ugly, in both the AFC and NFC.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Biggest problem Broncos have is no serviceable nickel defense. A collection of rookies with a shortened preseason simply is not working at the back end. It is also affecting the creativity in the blitzing and everything else. A lot of youth which gives some hope for next year if there is enough to coach up. Opponents are simply spreading them out and hitting enough big plays - if the big plays are not TDs then the defense gets pretty stout inside the 20. Dawkins is nothing like the player he was, but at least he could take decent angles and make tackles when on the pitch.

They just cannot likely keep it close anymore and with McGahee seemingly unable to last more than a quarter before going gimpy and Decker unable to catch anything anymore means there isn't a lot to work with. Might still be enough to sneak into the playoffs, but shouldn't be more than a quick exit. Still 8-8 is a better finish than I expected before the season let alone after the 1-4 start.

Predicting what Denver will be like next year is hard though - Tebow has a reputation for working hard, and if he is made starter for 2012 then he will presumably get all the coaching he can take (and I've no idea if it will work or not). The defense has shown some signs of life this year, after being almost historically bad for a long time, at least Miller is a bone-fide playmaker, and the rest of the front 7 seem at least adequate, Buckley has likely played his way into a contract. I could see the Bronco next year finishing with a similar record but actually looking more solid about it rather than freak wins and inconsistency.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I think Kahlil Bell just ran for another first down while I was reading this.


75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Watching Bell on Sunday night, and to a lesser extent the 4th string guy (what's his name, Armando Allen?) I kept thinking "how can we have this much depth at running back but can't find even one good offensive lineman, or one good wide receiver?"

I know the Packers' run defense sucks, and that it was only one game, but I still think it was a pretty impressive showing. Especially given that the Bears were starting a guy who was out of the league until a few weeks ago, so it's not like the Packers should have been surprised by the Bears running the ball so much.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I watched this one condensed on gamepass.. Pretty insane visual to see the same play rewound and played over and over again. Had to check and make sure the laptop wasn't broken.


45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Re Pats turnaround:

One thing that might have changed is that the refs might have warned the Phins DB's to lay off the contact. Throughout the entire first half, Welker (and Gronk and Hernandez, but especially Welker) were wearing Dolphins DB's, and yet no flags flew. The only ones that flew were on Pats defenders who committed interference (provided you're definition of "catchable" ball assumes the receiver has 18 foot extendo-arms).

Then, all of a sudden, in the second half, they stopped holding Welker. Only think I can think of is that the refs warned both sides about being too up close and personal, and once the Dolphins backed off (the Patriots didn't need to back off, because they suck), Welker started getting open.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The simpler explanation is one of protection. In the first half Brady was getting hit before he completed his drop-back. By the last two drives he was throwing off one-step drops. He was horribly inaccurate, and while the WRs were getting hit, besides the first hold on Welker, they were pretty much legal - with 5 yards of the LOS.

I don't know whether the Patriots made an adjustment to their protection (probably), or the Dolphins changed up their defensive game plan at the half (possibly, but if so they were awfully stupid for not switching back at some point), but in the second half Brady had time to drop back and scan the field before throwing.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Yeah, yeah, I am sure you'll just simplify and call me a hater again, but let's be real: NE got better when Matt Moore returned to being Matt Moore. NE did have a nice drive to start the second half, then got the ball back in Miami territory because Moore fumbled the snap.

Let me be more objective/statistical for you, by listing the DVOA of the last 7 QB's that NE has faced, from November to now (using DVOA not DYAR because some of these guys haven't played enough to get very good DYAR's):
Sanchez #26
Palko #41
Young #35
Orlovsky #24
Grossman #28
Tebow #29
Moore #27

Or, by DYAR:
Sanchez #20
Palko #38
Young #35
Orlovsky #29
Grossman #25
Tebow #31
Moore #23

Can't say it any simpler that this: the NFL is a passing/QB league, and the Pats haven't faced a quality QB since late October/Early November, and they lost those games (to Big Ben and Eli). I just don't see NE as any good. They have feasted on bad QB play. Of course, they should do that, as any good team should do, but come the playoffs, I would have zero confidence in them, unless they get lucky enough to play more bad QB's.

The likely playoff path:
First game against #29 Tebow (good chance) or an injured #7 Big Ben (good chance if he's still hurt)
Second game against #15 Flacco, #32 Yates, or #22 Palmer.

Actually, looking at those paths, maybe they do have a legit shot at the SB.....

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

(picking up where you left off)

...exactly. They've feasted on bad QBs...but who are the good ones? You realize that in the AFC, at least 1, and it's entirely possible 2 or 3, of Fitzpatrick, Tebow, Dalton, and Flacco will make the Pro Bowl.

The AFC has Brady and Roethlisberger. There's no Manning this year, no Schaub, no Rivers (whom they beat early on) in the playoffs...

As a Pats fan, the only team in the AFC that scares me is Pittsburgh. If they can navigate through the AFC field, I'm comforted by the knowledge that New Orleans and Green Bay are about as bad defensively as they are.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I agree. I knew that Pats had not played any good QB's lately (I live in NE and don't have Direct TV, so I get stuck watching NE a lot), but until I put that list together I didn't realize how few good QB's would be in the AFC playoffs this year. Many are hurt, some have bad teams.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Cute, but I meant that NE as a team has feasted, i.e. been on a win streak, because of the luxury of playing against bad QB's.

And if you'd like a feast for them, every pro-NE fan in the region here is clinging not to the D's DVOA #32, but on the fact that the D is middle of the pack in terms of points given up.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Bedard wrote that the difference was with O'Brien going with an empty backfield. That put more receivers on the field which quickened Brady's release times, while also giving Brady a better visual on where the blitz was coming from.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

But his release times weren't any quicker. He was holding the ball longer, he just wasn't getting hit anymore.

I could see the extra receivers causing miami to blitz less, but the release times are a red herring.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

I understand the disclaimer about not watching every game and generally do not comment on that. However, I was surprised that none of the FO staff commented on the Colts-Texans game, as it was the only game on Thursday night. Do FO authors not have NFL network? Did everyone choose not to watch the game? Did they watch and not have any comments? I was curious, as I found it to be an exciting game (disclaimner: I am a Colts fan).

Raiderjoe -- your comments are awesome as usual.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 16

A few weeks back, I tried applying the Lewin 2.0 criteria to TJ Yates (with the understanding that they aren't meant for late round picks). He mostly came off very well, but the run:pass ratio and rushing yardage strongly suggested that he took a worryingly vast number of sacks. Lo, so it has proven. This game (and most of all the Mathis strip sack) was the clearest illustration yet of his horrible pocket awareness. He may yet develop into a viable NFL starter, but he currently has major flaws, and this is the biggest.