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

Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Audibles at the Line: Week 4
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.

San Francisco 49ers 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 23

Mike Tanier: Eagles gashed for two long runs early, then the 49ers pass three straight times. Again, I would never pass against the Eagles unless I had to.

Vince Verhei: Kendall Hunter has gotten the bulk of the carries at tailback. Frank Gore had his best run of the year, when he lined up at fullback in the I and the 49ers slipped it to him on a belly play.

49ers bring Colin Kaepernick in at quarterback on a third-and-17. They run a read-option, Kaepernick hands off on a short gain, and San Francisco punts.

Danny Tuccitto: Immediate thoughts about first quarter in Philly. Eagles' run defense is as bad as advertised. Pleasant surprise: 49ers actually able to pass the ball a little bit too.

Mike Tanier: More Eagles goal line shenanigans. I am too disgusted to even write about Ronnie Brown trying to throw a pass with three defenders on him.

Eagles just attempted a reverse on a punt return. Please stop outsmarting the universe and start playing football.

Danny Tuccitto: It seems like the entire Eagles offense so far today has been by virtue of the busted play or Michael Vick elusiveness. Niners have Vick dead to rights in the backfield, miss tackle, Eagles get big gain. Wash, rinse, repeat.

After a play where Vick got sacked by Aldon Smith, who was being held to boot, Alberto Riverson submits his entry for Unfortunate Penalty Explanation of the Week: "The quarterback was blown dead in the backfield."

Mike Tanier: The Colin Kaepernick era is coming very soon

Danny Tuccitto: Earlier in the week David Akers said he felt no ill will towards the Eagles. Today, he's proving to be a man of his word: Two misses from 45, one of which was blocked.

Aldon Smith has been an animal so far in this game. He's getting constant pressure on Vick, and he saved a touchdown on that blocked field goal.

The 49ers run a quick slant for seemingly the first time since 2002. The result: Josh Morgan with a 30-yard touchdown.

Mike Tanier: Eagles doing a great job letting the Niners back into the game. I am curious where the real Nnamdi Asomugha is.

Danny Tuccitto: As someone who hasn't watched much of the Eagles so far this season, I'm kind of astonished at how bad their defense is. San Francisco gets a three-and-out on defense, and then moves the ball at will, capping a 77-yard drive with a 9-yard pass to Vernon Davis. A game that seemed all but over is now 23-17 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

FOX with yet another NFC West replay fail. Jeremy Maclin makes a "catch" where the ball clearly hits the turf. Cut to 20 seconds of DeSean Jackson getting his hamstring stretched out on the sideline. Luckily, Jim Harbaugh had practice with this last week, and decided to throw the challenge flag blind.

Alex Henery pushes yet another chip shot, and it remains a one-score game with about six minutes left. It's still early in the season, but it seems like the 49ers have had an inordinate amount of missed field goal luck so far.

Robert Weintraub: Jeremy Maclin fumbles and gets a huge ovation from the Giants fans gathered here at the restaurant. A rarity -- folks in Atlanta rooting for the Niners.

Danny Tuccitto: Sorry I'm not saying much lately. I passed out at the thought of the 49ers actually winning a road game on the East Coast.

Rivers McCown: Don't feel too Danny, I'm busy praying for Andre Johnson's hamstring.

Vince Verhei: Eagles get two touchdowns in seven red zone possessions today, lose by one point.

Danny Tuccitto: Probably overshadowed by the Eagles total collapse in this game, Alex Smith did actually just lead a 20-point comeback on the road. Will that silence his critics? My guess is no.

Mike Tanier: Smith made many good throws, several of them on the run.

I am just going to say this: The Eagles are the most fundamentally sloppy team I have ever seen, at least among teams with real talent, not last year's Panthers or something. They are an embarrassment on many levels. That may be it for me in Audibles because I will actually break my keyboard if I keep typing with this angry force.

Aaron Schatz: The two teams we picked for the Super Bowl have started 3-5. So, um, yeah. I didn't watch this one except in dribs and drabs on Red Zone, but Michael Crabtree and Morgan combined for eight catches and 133 yards, so it doesn't even look like the super shutdown corners are shutting things down.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at Houston Texans 17

Sean McCormick: Pittsburgh has been getting pushed back at the line of scrimmage on nearly every single running play. Down by the goalline they finally stiffen up and push back Houston on the snap, only for Matt Schaub to play action and float a rainbow to a wide open Owen Daniels.

Ben Muth: Texans score on a nice play action goal line pass. Owen Daniels blocks for just long enough for the guy covering him to green dog. Daniels releases into the flat for an easy TD.

Vince Verhei: Houston's first drive: 19 plays, 95 yards, 10:55 possession time. They actually had more than 100 yards when you take penalties into account. As others have said, the running backs had three yards without getting touched on virtually every carry.

Mike Tanier: Something baaad just happened to Andre Johnson's knee...

J.J. Cooper: Things you don't want to see -- Andre Johnson going down clutching his right knee without being touched. Doesn't look good.

It is amazing to see how pedestrian the Steelers run defense looks, and how good the Texans run offense looks. Many in Pittsburgh are pointing the finger at Aaron Smith's play, but the inside linebackers, Casey Hampton and pretty much everyone else is culpable too.

Vince Verhei: It's the entire Pittsburgh defense. It's not like the Texans are finding holes in the line -- the entire line is being pushed back.

Would the term "tragic" be too strong if Houston makes the playoffs and Andre Johnson doesn't get to play? As a grown man I know we're supposed to save that word for things that happen off a football field, but it seems to fit here.

Rivers McCown: Andre Johnson is fine. They're just resting him to be fair to the Steelers.

(I have to tell myself this.)

J.J. Cooper: Mike Wallace has almost 80 first half yards for a Steelers offense that has done nothing else.

Vince Verhei: On the last play of the first half, the Texans block a field goal and run it in for a touchdown -- but the Texans are called for a block in the back when Danieal Manning hit the holder, who was a good five yards behind the play and was not about to run down the guy with the ball. The Texans are dominating on the field, but it's a "short" game in terms of possessions -- each team has had only three drives -- and they're only up 10-0 on the scoreboard.

Ben Muth: Also worth noting is that Texans blocked FG would've broken the record for most yards high-stepped on a single play. Johnathan Joseph started high-stepping from like 40 yards out.

Rivers McCown: The officials in the Texans-Steelers game are just hellbent on making sure nothing exciting actually stands. Mike Wallace had part of a big catch called back for taunting at one point as well.

Vince Verhei: The Steelers come back and tie the Texans 10-10. On Houston's next drive, Arian Foster runs a zone play to the left. A giant cutback lane opens back to the right. Troy Polamalu falls down trying to fill the gap, and Foster has a clear path to the end zone from 30 yards or so. 17-10 Houston.

Game ball to Houston's punt team. Texans are punting up seven on fourth-and-1 from about midfield. Ball hits at the two and bounces straight up, and two Texans bust their ass to down it at the 1. Pittsburgh has to go 99 yards in less than a minute with no timeuts.

First down, Ben Roethlisberger throws a pick-six, but the Texans are called for roughing the passer. Defender was already going down to the ground when Roethlisberger released, and hit him in the knees. Roethlisberger is fine.

Rivers McCown: The Texans defense can be very good when they get a pass rush. That we knew. After Johnson went down, Gary Kubiak basically turtled up. Run, run, pass. Foster bailed him out with skill on the touchdown, but he's going to have to open it up a bit more if Johnson is out for any real length of time. Where were those James Casey throws today?

Carolina Panthers 29 at Chicago Bears 34

Mike Kurtz: Chicago marched from their own 25 to Carolina's 1-yard line. How did they do it? Running. Every single play. Matt Forte had a 55-yard run and even Marion Barber chipped in for 13. third-and-goal was an empty-backfield quarterback draw for about 3, stopped at the 1. This after Carolina did basically the same thing (albeit with some effective throws mixed in) on the drive before. This is already a much better game than I had anticipated.

Devin Hester just broke the punt return touchdown record, after a huge, 60-odd-yard kick return the previous drive. Hester is making sick cuts today, and Carolina has looked completely lost every time. This is a very bad combination for the Panthers.

Vince Verhei: Panthers get a garbage time touchdown to make it 34-29, but the Bears win. I'm thinking how strange it is for a Mike Martz offense to complete only nine passes in a win. Sure enough, the camera cuts to Martz in the booth, looking miserable in victory.

Tennessee Titans 31 at Cleveland Browns 13

Tom Gower: Chris Johnson has his first good run of the year, running aggressively and picking up 25 yards after contain man Chris Gocong makes a bad step and loses contain. Matt Hasselbeck then finishes the drive off with a TD pass to Craig Stevens -- a simple smash combination and both CB Sheldon Brown and LB D'Qwell Jackson picked up Washington, leaving Stevens wide open.

The Browns defense is starting to try my patience. After the Gocong whiff and then the coverage screwup on the Stevens score, they let Jared Cook run free for an 80-yard TD. Scott Fujita just gets outrun, but Usama Young was slow to react, took a terrible angle to the play, and then tried to make the tackle from behind instead of knocking Cook out of bounds. The Browns have moved the ball OK, in what I think of as a very Browns way (mostly short passes and runs between the tackles), but have stalled out before the red zone.

The Browns have had some success offensively -- they've been in Titans territory on four of their five possessions, on the other one they punted from their own 48. But they keep screwing up defensively. The blown coverage on the smash, Young on the Cook TD, and with the Titans backed up after a punt they give up a big play to Nate Washington on blown coverage that looked like the old run and shoot switch play, then Brown commits pass interference and still doesn't prevent the TD. I didn't think they were great, but they've been a parade of errors today.

Vince Verhei: Two stunning facts about Cleveland:

1) They were actually favored in this game. Really.

2) The Browns have 13 completions in the first half to nine different players, none with more than two catches.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think it ended up as a pick 'em. But hey, the FO premium picks formula took Cleveland too, since they were at home. Tennessee is a real surprise, and after accounting for what we knew about them before the season, they didn't look that much better than Cleveland.

Sean McCormick: Yep, Washington and Tennessee seem to be two teams that the preseason assumptions were off on, as both teams have been very good on defense and have had better than expected quarterback play.

Tom Gower: Colt McCoy scrambles after former Browns DT Shaun Smith gets pass pressure, rolls right, and chucks the ball away. Unfortunately, rather than throwing it out of bounds, he chucks it straight to Titans S Jordan Babineaux, who's a good 15 yards from any Browns player and manages an easy 97-yard return for a score. 31-6 late in the third, and this game is over.

Buffalo Bills 20 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Robert Weintraub: Bengals defense dominates the first quarter, but Andy Dalton looking very much like a rookie, and they can only get three on the board. Wild high on nearly every throw. Meanwhile, the Bills finally get some field position after two Bengals deflect a pass that caroms 20 yards towards the sideline, where Naaman Roosevelt just happens to be hanging out. A 30-ish yard gain.

Bills get a strip sack on third down returned for a TD. Bengals need to go CFL from now on and punt on third down. Check that -- the tuck rule saves them! Always was in favor of that one. Point about punting on third down stands, though.

More deflections going Buffalo's way -- pass bounces off Andre Caldwell, he kicks it up in the air, Bills pick it off and run it in for a score. Typical Bengals.

OK, Cincy may stink, but A.J. Green sure doesn't. That's his second grab of a bomb on fly routes, a spectacular catch. But like the first, he didn't score, so it's a lock that the Bengals will get three at most on this drive.

Now Jermaine Gresham with a sensational one-hand catch for the score. Maybe we have a game after all. 17-13.

Bengals get a break -- Buffalo throws on third-and-1, Steve Johnson appears to make the catch but refs rule it hit the ground, replay looks like he caught it but indeterminate. Now they have the ball down seven with a little over eight minutes left.

Aaron Schatz: Loved the Andy Dalton quarterback draw. I'm thinking "Hmm, that's weird that the Bengals are going with an empty backfield on the 3." Oh, that's why.

Vince Verhei: I'm looking around and see a half-dozen games going down to the wire. You know how crazy baseball people went on Wednesday? Yeah, as a football fan I get that seventeen times a year.

Rob Weintraub: Bengals let it run down with the field goal a 42-yarder. Still have two timeouts left. Would have liked to see another run or two there.

Bengal Fever!!! All 41,000 who bothered to show up at Paul Brown Stadium got their money's worth.

Just confirmed my hunch from earlier; the last time the Bengals won on a last second kick, I was on my honeymoon. December, 2005. Bengals beat the Browns while I ignore my new bride to watch the last quarter from a bed and breakfast in Kauai. Yes, we are still together. Last time Cincy beat the Bills was the AFC championship game in '88, by the way.

Detroit Lions 34 at Dallas Cowboys 30

Aaron Schatz: Is Matthew Stafford anxious today? I'm not impressed with the Detroit offense so far, halfway through the second quarter. Stafford has overthrown guys four or five times, one of them ended up as an interception. He doesn't seem to have any touch on his passes, and this explosive offense looks very non-explosive.

J.J. Cooper: To be honest I am surprised we haven't seen the touchless Stafford more often. In college this is something you saw a lot of.

Aaron Schatz: Now Stafford is underthrowing instead of overthrowing. He didn't set his feet right, backing up, and put a dent in the dirt in front of Nate Burleson on one pass. He's really inaccurate today.

Not only is Stafford inaccurate today, but the Detroit line doesn't seem to be doing a good job of protecting him today... although some of it is Stafford's fault because he seems to keep moving backwards out of the pocket. Anyway, it's interesting because until the last Detroit drive I don't think Rob Ryan was blitzing much and the Cowboys actually were sending only three a lot of the time.

I don't have much to add yet about the Cowboys offense/Lions defense. Dez Bryant is good. The Cowboys are screening a lot but it looks like the Lions have a pretty good bead on that.

Dallas just ran a great play at the start of the third quarter. Kevin Ogletree was wide right, and the Cowboys ran your typical end-around with a fake handoff up the middle. Except Ogletree reversed as he was starting to run behind the quarterback, and went back out to the right. Tony Romo flipped him the ball, and all the defenders were either in the middle to stop a handoff or over on the left to stop the end around, and Ogletree had open field ahead of him. Made it down to the 1.

Ben Muth: That sound you heard was every Cowboys fan vomiting. Bobby Carpenter makes a leaping pick on a Romo pass and runs all over the field to return it for a TD. By far the best play he's ever made in a Cowboys game

Romo has thrown pick sixes on back-to-back drives. Here come the Lions.

Mike Tanier: Every time I look over my shoulder Tony Romo is throwing a pick-six.

Aaron Schatz: Ndamukong Suh has got to stop doing stuff like this: They had Romo pressured, and he threw it incomplete on third down. But wait, no punt, because Suh coming in on Romo put his hand up and smashed Romo in the face. It was ridiculously unnecessary. They had Romo already. Suh was totally in control of himself, he made the decision to put his arm up there. Sometimes you can get away with stuff like that, but Suh has to know the refs are always looking at him. He can't play like that.

Vince Verhei: Calvin Johnson runs into the end zone, stands there. Cowboys defenders swarm to him. Stafford throws it to him anyway, and Johnson outjumps everyone and grabs the ball for the score. Yes, he's very good.

Ben Muth: Similar to Seattles blown coverage last week, Dallas only has three guys on Calvin Johnson in the redzone. Touchdown is a forgone conclusion at that point.

Aaron Schatz: Romo throws a third pick, an awful throw to a clearly well-covered Jason Witten. Cowboys have entirely dominated the Lions today except for four plays: three picks and the play where three guys couldn't cover Calvin Johnson. They should feel horrible if they lose this thing.

Dallas defense has 12 men on the field on the one-yard line and somehow, only one of those 12 men is covering Johnson.

Washington Redskins 17 at St. Louis Rams 10

Aaron Schatz: Washington pass rush is killing Sam Bradford. He has no time to throw. None.

Atlanta Falcons 30 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Vince Verhei: Michael Turner cuts back for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Atlanta. I noticed this charting the Pittsburgh game this week, Seattle is way more vulnerable to outside runs than they are up the middle. The outside linebackers get hooked inside, or abandon their outside containment duties to jump inside and fill the middle.

Seattle has gone to a no-huddle offense in the second half, and it's giving Atlanta a surprising amount of trouble. They've pulled within 27-14, and Tarvaris Jackson hit Zach Miller for what would have been a touchdown, but James Sanders knocked the ball out of his hands, and Falcons intercept. Falcons go three-and-out, and Leon Washington gets a big punt return inside the 10. Marshawn Lynch then scores to make it 27-21 with 3:07 to go in the third.

Seahawks have a third down in the red zone. Atlanta rushes three and drops eight into coverage, but none of the eight men cover Ben Obomanu in the corner of the end zone. Atlanta 30, Seattle 28.

Julio Jones has something like 200 catches today, but a lot of them have been for short gains, including some attempted screens for big losses.

Ben Muth: Brandon Browner just held the crap out of Jones for a key third-down conversion with seven minutes left. Worst part is that he had great coverage and didn't need to do it.

Mike Tanier: So are the Falcons and Eagles having some kind of disappointment contest?

Ben Muth: Or maybe the NFC West is freaking awesome! ...But probably your theory.

Vince Verhei: Falcons only drive 30-some yards before punting, but manage to kill almost six minutes in the process. Seattle has the ball down two, one timeout, nearly two minutes to go.

Here's all I have to say about the Seahawks' time management on that drive: They just missed a 62-yard field goal on fourth down with 13 seconds to go, with that timeout in their pocket, after spiking the ball on first down.

Miami Dolphins 16 at San Diego Chargers 26

Tom Gower: Vincent Jackson was so wide open on that first touchdown play that even though Philip Rivers underthrew him by 5 yards, he had time to get up after going to the ground and run the last 10 yards to the end zone. Chad Henne hurt his shoulder, so Matt Moore is in the game. Lex Hilliard is getting the between the tackles carries with Daniel Thomas out.

Jackson had another big catch along the sidelines to set up the current red zone opportunity, but a Jeromey Clary unnecessary roughness penalty helps limit the Chargers to a field goal. Still, I don't think Philip Rivers had hit a deep pass before this game and he has two mid-way through the second quarter today.

New York Giants 31 at Arizona Cardinals 27

Rivers McCown: Beanie Wells is keeping Arizona in the game, but the Giants are limiting the passing game with their pass rush so far. Kevin Kolb has looked hurried -- though he's good at doing that himself too -- and the result has been three sacks and a handful of throwaways. Meanwhile, Eli Manning has barely been getting pressured at all since I tuned in, and it leads a long drive to get three points before halftime solely because he had forever on back-to-back plays to wait for someone to get open.

So naturally, the Cardinals reverse that narrative, forcing a fumble inside the Giants 20 on the turnstile that is Kevin Boothe. Kolb still being bothered early and often, but Larry Fitzgerald yanking a sure interception away from Deon Grant for 47 yards will make just about anyone look good.

Giants cut the lead to three when Arizona forgets that Jake Ballard is on the field, then after the ensuing review that overturns that touchdown, Brandon Jacobs sledgehammers it in for six. On the Cardinals next drive, Kolb lobs one right into double coverage and Antrel Rolle picks it off easily. Fitzgerald can't absolve you on every bad throw.

Arizona runs all over the Giants on a late drive, then Ken Whisenhunt makes one of the worst challenges I've seen this year on a non-touchdown run by Alfonso Smith where he clearly stepped out of bounds. In fact, his knee is down before the goal line too. Since the Giants called timeout before the challenge, we get the rare "both teams lose a timeout" scenario.

Wow. Victor Cruz makes an inexplicable mistake but gets bailed out by the referees. Makes the catch, stumbles, goes to the ground untouched, and lets go of the ball, which Arizona snags. Ruling on the field was that Cruz gave himself up on the ground.

Next play, Hakeem Nicks catches a touchdown to give the Giants the lead. Crazy times in the desert. Even Mike Pereira doesn't like the ruling!

Aaron Schatz: I've never heard of the concept of "giving yourself up" used for anybody other than a quarterback sliding. I thought it only applied to quarterbacks.

Ben Muth: I thought you had to go feet first to "give yourself up". If you go head first aren't you still live until you're touched?

Tom Gower: When a dead ball is declared, excerpt:

(d) when a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead the instant the runner touches the ground with anything other than his hands or his feet; or
(e) when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance; or

You rarely see players declare themselves to be down, but it does happen. Most players who do that apparently also make an oral declaration that they're down. Note this is intended as a general comment on the rule, not the rule as applied to Cruz.

Robert Weintraub: Even Dungy said the NFL basically pulled that one out of their rear ends to protect the refs.

New England Patriots 31 at Oakland Raiders 19

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what to say about the Patriots-Raiders game at halftime. Patriots offense is awesome. Patriots defense sucks. Jerod Mayo is injured; if that's serious, then things get even worse. Oakland offensive line looks good. It helps that after playing around with the idea of starting two or three rookies, they ended up going with only one, Stefen Wisniewski at left guard.

Sean McCormick: I find New England's game plan rather interesting in that they are doing a lot more running than I would have anticipated. Seeing as their passing game would seem tailor made to give Oakland's man coverage problems, I expected New England to really spread the field horizontally and get Wes Welker free on picks like they did for their first touchdown. But they haven't done much of that. And to Oakland's credit, they've largely taken Rob Gronkowski out of the game with good coverage down the middle of the field.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, Tyvon Branch has been right on him, good game from Branch.

We're definitely seeing today how Darren McFadden is both faster and more agile than Michael Bush.

Denver Broncos 23 at Green Bay Packers 49

Ben Muth: Aaron Rodgers is really good.

Vince Verhei: Packers just scored to make it 42-17, but Denver's offense has played better than it sounds. They've made a couple of crucial turnovers -- a Charles Woodson pick-six early, a fumble inside the 10 on their last drive -- but they've completed a lot of passes deep in Green Bay's secondary.

Mike Tanier: Aaron Rodgers is truly amazing, but why is he still raining footballs with a 42-17, and now a 49-17 lead? And more importantly, why risk Donald Driver at this point in the game, when he appeared to get seriously injured earlier?

New York Jets 17 at Baltimore Ravens 34

Aaron Schatz: The Jets offensive line has really fallen apart without Nick Mangold and Damien Woody. Egads.

Heh! The Jets have Joe McKnight playing defense now. He's in as a situational pass rusher. That's kinda cool, like in NCAA Football from EA Sports where you can move your players' positions around in the offseason and your running backs often make good defensive ends.

Mike Tanier: The man does everything well except play running back.

J.J. Cooper: As a Steeler fan this Jets' offensive line looks awfully familiar. Maybe Pittsburgh has the second worst offensive line in the league.

Mike Tanier: Take another look at the Eagles offensive line today. The basic premise this year, really, has been that there is no chance at all to stop defenders from knifing right through the middle, so all plays must be rollouts or misdirection of some kind.

Rivers McCown: This game set the "year of the quarterback" storyline back at least three weeks. Yeesh.

Tom Gower: I don't have anything of interest to say about this game, but found this way of breaking down the game from Friend of FO Gregg Rosenthal fitting: SNF score: Ravens D 21, Ravens offense 13, Jets ST 7, Jets D 7, Jets offense 3.

Rivers McCown: This has to be one of the lowest-commented Sunday night games in Audibles history. Neither team really established an offensive rhythm to make it feel like it was a real football game. This wasn't football, it was pinball.

Comments

235 comments, Last at 07 Oct 2011, 5:12pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Its amazing how much better the Redskins pass rush is now that Orakpo can't be doubled every single play. Orakpo was just destroying everything and everyone that the Rams were trying to block him with. When the Rams would try to shift and double him, Kerrigan and the d-line were taking advantage of it. Rams looked terrible and Bradford seemed completely shell shocked. Only Rexy and the offenses turnovers kept this game respectable, it easily should have been a shutout.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The other thing that made Orakpo much more effective was utilizing the bullrush.

At times in the past he would just speed rush around the outside every single down and make it too easy for the offensive tackle.

Yesterday he bullrushed a lot, it gave the LT something to think about, and orakpo dominated him all game.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Your headline score for the Falcons-Seahawks game is incorrect. It should be Atlanta 30, Seattle 28.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

"You know how crazy baseball people went on Wednesday? Yeah, as a football fan I get that seventeen times a year."

The fate of four teams was on the line, and 3 of them were decided by comebacks. All-time collapses were unfolding before our eyes. You do not get that 17 times a year.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

That's debatable. In the NFL, every game counts for a large percentage of your record, unlike baseball, where you have to wait for the playoffs for meaningful games.

And besides, baseball at its most compelling can't even get me to read a box score. I tune in to watch any NFL game I can, regardless of whether I like the teams, because I know the game matters and I know there's a good chance it'll be close. And at least I know it'll be at least somewhat exciting.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

We're not talking about a Tuesday in May. By that standard baseball pales in comparison. We're talking about a day where there were essentially four playoff games being played at once. It was an awesome, awesome day if you like baseball.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Really? You'd tune in to watch, say, a draft position jockey-fest between the 3-11 Panthers and the 5-9 Bengals on a Thursday night in December, when you could be out at a party, or watching a good movie, or something? How about a week 17 showdown in which two teams that have already secured their playoff positions play their scrubs for four quarters?

Football is a fun sport, but it is not by any means without unwatchably dull and dreary games. It has its analogs to the mid-May Orioles-Royals game.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I agree he was overstating it a bit. But remember these are just 1 off emails.

I think the point he was hopefully trying to make goes something like this:

1) In baseball there are so many games the outcome of any individual game simply is not that important to the playoff picture.
2) In football there are so few games that several weeks a year many games have important playoff implications.
3) Having 4 baseball games being played simultaneously that had seriously playoff implications is very rare. An occasion where these games are all also mostly dramatic is extremely rare.
4) In football the chance that several dramatic games with playoff implications are on simultaneously is comparatively high.

C) When baseball people are all "This was the most exciting night in sports history and there is nothing like this in other sports (I heard a lot of this)." they are just fools who are kidding themselves. If you want simultaneous excitement you should try out relegation day in the EPL or other foreign futbol leagues. That is certainly a lot higher stakes than who gets to play in the ALDS.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I stand in amazement reading Jason Campbell saying that he was throwing the ball away on the gift-wrapped INT to Pat Chung.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

FOX's decision to constantly show sideline shots and celebrations, instead of replays drives me crazy. "Was the knee down? Was there a push-off? He left his feet, so he has to maintain possession even after hitting the ground, did he?" If you ware watching FOX, the answer is "The world may never know..."

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The 49ers show that if you wait that bust you drafted at QB might turn into a average starter in his seventh season.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Alex Smith hasn't been the problem for awhile now, he just takes the blame because he's the most visible disappointment. It's amazing what good coaching can do for a young quarterback (and Alex is still young).

Do you think Aaron Rodgers would be this good if the 49ers had mismanaged his career for 7 years?

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Anyway, I'm just happy for the 49ers to get a win like that. Haven't had one that felt so good in...10 years? 12?

I'm sure Philly outplayed the 9ers, and the win was pretty lucky. But they played well enough to stay close so that the luck could matter, if you know what I mean. Also, they lost one to Dallas when VOA says they played better, so I don't feel their record is that out of whack.

Tampa Bay might be a good game, but I imagine that Detroit D-Line is going to absolutely wreck our shoddy O-Line. I don't want to be a 49er QB in two weeks.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I agree it was lucky, but I think a lot of what Philly did is not repeatable by other teams. There isn't another QB in the league (not even Cam Newton) who can escape certain sacks the way Vick did to generate huge positive gains. A lot of the Eagles offense was due to Vick's unique skillset.

That is why I feel good moving forward. The 3-1 start in 2009 was very different and skewed by a lot of lucky wins.

Also I hope Harbaugh starts to open up the offense a bit now that Alex Smith has shown some ability to run it efficiently.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I remember handful of situations were a player "gave himself up" without being touched. One was on an interception near the end of the game, where the player just went down thus the attempts to have the ball stripped would be too late.

Another was on a pass to set up a field goal with seconds left, the player caught the ball in easy FG range but with a lot of defenders closing and not much time. He went down, they called timeout immediately and got to kick the field goal. There was even a ref discussion about "giving himself up". But in both of those i think there was a slide or a kneel.

I don't doubt that Cruz' intention was to get up with the play over, he was not attempting to advance or anything. But neither does a running back stood up intend to continue standing so the defense can strip the ball.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

This isn't a consistent call amongst officials, anyway.

Remember when Brian Westbrook messed fantasy football owners up when he went fetal at the one yardline after gaining a first down and seemingly having a sure touchdown? The officials on that play didn't blow the play dead until he was touched. That was a clear play where a runner gave himself up, but even then the officials weren't as quick with the whistle as they were when Cruz appeared to have been stumbling.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

If Cruz does that, then gets up and tries to advance the ball, my guess is they call the play dead. The call should work both ways.

MJD did the same thing as Westbrook at the one yard line. The difference is that both of them were trying to kill clock, so there was no rush to get up. Cruz was rushing back to the line of scrimmage since it was a 2 minute drill. In my recollection, there has been no similar situation of the receiver going down and the defender NOT touching him to cause this controversy.

If you follow the letter of the rule, the refs called it right. The fact that the particular situation has never happened before is what will cause people to talk about it all week.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

It all is based on the assumption of a player's intent. If Cruz assumed he was touched, similar to the Plaxico Burress spike during his rookie year, then you can't say he really gave himself up.

It's a distinction between giving himself up and giving up on the play, and it's impossible to speculate on the thought process of a stumbling player diving foward for yardage.

Lesean McCoy made a similar dive forward inside the ten against the Giants the week before. The Giants touched him to make sure he was down. Likewise, we've seen follies of defenders assuming that a player that went to the ground was touched, only to see the ballcarrier get back up and keep running. So from an officiating consistency standpoint, it's atypical that the ball was blown dead.

It really boils down to the assumption that Cruz went to the ground and knew this rule, or if he just assumed that while diving between four black jerseys that at least one finger grazed him.

Personally, I think the lunge forward at the end is what compels me to say it wasn't a case of "giving himself up".

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Agreed. Officiating is difficult enough without being tasked with determining intent of players on the field. My guess is Cruz thought he was touched, but where does the onus of the referee to determine his intent begin and end?

Regarding the follies of defenders, the scenarios that stir up for me are when players go to the ground after making a reception. This can't be defined as giving oneself up, since there is an attempt to advance the ball once he collects himself and gets off the ground. I think this should be a different case then when a ball carrier voluntarily stops forward progress by going to the ground.

I suspect there will be a rule clarification in the offseason just because of this one play. The intent must be displayed with the body, or vocalized, and stumbles to the ground cannot count. Cruz's dive was so close to a stumble that even with rule clarifications it would be a difficult call to make.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I think the refs got it right. Cruz was clearly down and not trying to advance the ball. That's why he intentionally put the ball on the ground -- I think that's a fairly unambiguous communication of his intent to give himself up. Ruling that a fumble would be a "gotcha" type play that has nothing to do with the performance of the teams on the field. What if he got up and tossed the ball to the nearest ref to spot the ball? Does the ref have to get out of the way and pretend the play is still going on?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The problem is that--as Cruz himself said after the game--he thought he was touched. The entire concept of "giving himself up" is "I know the play could continue, but I'm intentionally ending it right here"--whether it's a QB sliding because he doesn't want to be killed, or Westbrook taking a knee on the 1 so the team can take a knee, or taking a knee in the end zone. It's based on a player thinking, "It's better for my team if we just stop this play now." Cruz didn't know that; he *thought* the play was over and so just got up and stopped playing football. It's no different than Cadillac Williams walking away from the backwards pass against, ironically, the Giants. Williams believed there was an incomplete pass and the play was over, while the alert defender picked the ball up and ran for the touchdown. Cruz didn't deliberately decide to end the play, he believed that it had been ended already.

(A better question is, does anyone actually believe that that was actually the call on the field? It seemed pretty obvious that the official that blew the whistle did so under the same mistaken assumption as Cruz and the crew just pulled the "gave himself up" routine out of some orifice so they wouldn't have to admit they blew the whistle prematurely.)

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I haven't seen a replay with the sound on - When, exactly, did the ref blow the whistle? Was it right when he went down, or did it come after?

I think it's clear from the replay it was a fumble, but if the whistle blew right when he went down, then that's all there is to it - they play is over. It might have been a premature whistle, but the call carrier is right to set the ball down when he hears the whistle, especially if he's hurrying back to the formation for the next play. It's still a bad call, but an excusable one.

If the whistle only blew after Cruz put the ball down and got up, then it's a different story, because the refs aren't calling what they saw, but what they assume must have happened. If that happened, the closest ref decided against blowing the whistle because he didn't know for sure that it was down, and then either he or another ref started blowing the whistle on the assumption that he was down, without ever seeing the play. That's a much worse error, especially because the refs have been specifically trained to let the play run out and leave it for replay to decide on cases like that, ever since the Jay Cutler fumble/incomplete a few years back.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I don't know that that follows. Cruz thought he was down. He had, objectively, given up trying to advance the ball. It is consistent with the written rules for the referee to have declared him down.

I would have accepted either ruling by the officials -- that he was down or that it was a fumble. I can certainly understand the other viewpoint. However, I don't believe that what was called was contrary to the rules.

As for determining intent: please define for me the difference between a forward fumble and an illegal forward pass.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The other obvious difference is that the Charger grabs for the ball.

I don't understand why everyone is so intent on Cruz's intent when he fell. The way the rule reads, he declares his intent by falling -- which he did -- and not attempting to advance the ball. Doesn't matter whether he thinks he was touched or whether he was trying to run out the clock or whatever. If he falls and he stops trying to advance the ball, then the play is dead. He definitely fell. And he definitely stopped trying to advance the ball (ball on ground, jog back to huddle).

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Because I'm sure what Cruz did has happened dozens of times without the refs calling it this way. And I'm guessing, but not sure, that other times players have done what he did it was called a fumble. The intent of the player adds a level of interpretation that is certainly going to be problematic, as opposed to the un-interpretable rule that if the player isn't touched, the play is live.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

For all the thoughtful discussion on this topic, I think this (did the whistle blow when Cruz hit the ground, or after he got up sans ball?) is the key question, both for the "correctness" of the call (had the whistle blown, it could have been a referee screwing up by blowing the whistle prematurely or because he saw Cruz's "intent" to give himself up, but in either case it would clearly not be a fumble) and for absolving or condemning Cruz (if he heard a whistle, reasonable of him to leave the ball on the ground, and reasonable to assume he wouldn't have done so had he not heard the whistle). Given Cruz's comments and the progression of the play, seems very clear to me giving himself up had absolutely nothing to do with going to the ground or leaving the ball there -- he thought he was touched and that the play was over. It shouldn't have been. And yes, had he gotten up to run the right call would have been that it was still a live play. As a Giants fan, I would have been furious had they blown it dead in that situation, and I feel equally guilty about the call on the field.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

It seems as if Cruz wasn't aware of the rule, and he did say after the game that he thought he'd been touched. However, he ALSO said after the game that he went down intentionally because they were in the hurry up and he wanted to get back to the line of scrimmage. In other words, he purposefully went to the ground in order to end the play, so according to the rules the refs called it correctly.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

You're making too much of this.

Cruz was down with control of the ball. He got up, intentionally leaving the ball behind, and ran back to the huddle. It doesn't matter why he thought the play was over. It only matters that he was down and he (very clearly) gave up on continuing the play.

It's tremendously different from walking away from a fumble or spiking a ball on the field of play. What difference? He was actually down while in control of the ball. That's the precondition for ending the play. You can't give yourself up from a standing position or without control of the ball.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

You're right, but I come to the opposite conclusion -- yes, it doesn't matter why he thought the play was over, and he was down in control of the ball. But he was simply mistaken that the play was over (or should have been), and absent the whistle blowing it should have been a live ball. Replacing a clear criterion for calling a play dead (defender touched him, he's on the ground) with a very vague notion of intent can't be the, well, intent of this rule. Would need to apply only to very obvious situations, as others have pointed out -- the QB slide, hitting the ground as half/game clock winds down, etc.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

No, this is incorrect. A player only "gives himself up" when the entire act of stopping his forward progress is intentional.

Based on your interpretation, no play in the history of the league where a player releases the ball of their own free will (Burress spike, the SD receiver last year) could ever be called a fumble because they clearly had gave up on continuing the play.

The entire act of stopping needs to be intentional. Slipping a falling while trying to make a move that would earn you even more yardage does not pass this test.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Huh? How can a player "give himself up" unintentionally?

My other arguments are wholly germaine to the dicussion, you just have no answer. If you feel that fits the description of giving oneself up then you need to be able to explain how that play is different than the countless others that were called fumbles.

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

That's easy. Referees are inconsistent and bad at applying the rules as written.

You continue to fail to explain how the call on the field violated the rules as they are written. That you have a philosophical argument with them is immaterial.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

You still don't get the point. {shakes head}

This isn't a case of it sometimes going one way and sometimes going the other. Virtually every single case in the history of the league has been ruled a fumble. I have 80 years of precendent on my side.

Either every call of similar nature in the past 80 years was called incorrectly or that should have been a fumble. You can't have it both ways.

224 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I've seen one compelling similar situation, and that was the Chargers-Pat fumble.

Burress was standing when he auto-fumbled. Manning was still moving.

I can point to many examples, usually on late-game INTs or pop-up onside kick attempts where NFL referees acknowledged the rule in question, and blew a play dead without the ball carrier being touched. It's rare for a player on offense, but I've seen QBs do it on fumbled snaps -- they'll dive on the ball and a whistle will blow before a defender makes contact.

Your strawmen is your assertion that you have "80 years of precendent" and "virtually every single case in the history of the league". The only part of that statement that is accurate and defensible is the "virtually".

231 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Your continued reference to a strawman makes me think you don't understand its meaning. A wholly relevent point isn't a strawman, a strawman is when you create a tangental argument that bears only passing resemblance to the original discussion and then argue against that.

The fact that you don't recall the plays has no bearing on the discussion. I've personally witnessed no less than 10 plays of similar circumstance - offensive player goes to the ground untouched, lets go of the ball thinking the play is over - and every single one of them was ruled a fumble. If you feel this one was ruled correctly, you must either be able to differentiate this one from the others or state that those were called incorrectly.

You also need to explain why every single player, former player or coach who has commented on this subject agreed that it should have been rule a fumble.

BTW, your examples don't have any bearing on the discussion. QBs falling on an aborted snap are almost universally touched before the play is blown dead. I've personally not seen one where the whistle blew before the defense broke through and tapped him. Defenders going to the turf after a pick is also a different animal because those situations only occur on game clinching interceptions when everyone, including the refs, understands why the player gave himself up. You'll also notice that on that occurance, the player "intentionally" went to the ground per my statement above.

233 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

People use 'strawman' as inaccurately as they do 'ironic' or 'regression to the mean'. They are terms used by people who think it makes them look smart, but sadly reveals them to be just the opposite.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

He intentionally stopped advancing the ball and deliberately placed it on the ground, what he was thinking when he did it should be irrelevant. Your interpretation of the rule is unenforceable, whereas defining "giving yourself up" as making it clear you no longer intend to advance the ball is more enforceable. Whether he thought the play was dead, or not, he still deliberately stopped advancing the ball.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Please read the post just above yours:

"No, this is incorrect. A player only "gives himself up" when the entire act of stopping his forward progress is intentional.

Based on your interpretation, no play in the history of the league where a player releases the ball of their own free will (Burress spike, the SD receiver last year) could ever be called a fumble because they clearly had gave up on continuing the play.

The entire act of stopping needs to be intentional. Slipping a falling while trying to make a move that would earn you even more yardage does not pass this test."

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I did read the post above mine, I was responding to it directly. I fully understand your argument, and I disagree with you. While I genuinely loathe Florio, I agree with his take on the rule which I've linked to.

The rule was applied correctly as it was written, and it is entirely possible that the Burress spike was called incorrectly. Cruz intentionally stopped moving forward AFTER he fell to the ground, then he intentionally let go of the ball while on the ground and in full control of it thus "giving himself up".

I don't think there is a more clear way to "give yourself up" than to purposefully set the ball on the ground while you are down. I don't think it makes any sense at all that a player that falls to the ground can not "give himself up" after falling, and I don't think the wording of the rule suggests that to be the case at all.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So you feel the countless other plays nearly identical in nature that have occurred before were called incorrectly?

Fair enough, at least the viewpoints are consistent.

I do find it interesting that every single person who has played the game feels that it was a fumble.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Honestly I thought it was a fumble until I read the full text of the rule. It may be a fumble at the collegiate and high school level. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the NFL rule book contradicts itself on this issue. I can understand the officials interpretation of the wording of the rule so I can't really fault them for calling it as they did. The NFL should probably revisit the rule, "gives himself up" needs to be stricken or clearly defined.

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I really do not follow college football, but I think the collegiate rule is that you're down as soon as anything besides hands or feet touch the ground - regardless of contact?

In a way a better rule as you don't have to bother with intent that is always hard to gauge, but you'd miss out on a few nice plays too.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

In the Cruz play the receiver gave himself up, placed the ball on the ground and returned to the huddle. No fumble. In your scenario the receiver did not stop attempting to advance the ball and did not return to the huddle. The events at the end of the play are the deciding factors.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Returning to the huddle is part of what makes it over? When a quarterback slides, do refs see if he returns to the huddle before declaring the play over? Is even getting up relevant? What if he slides and lays there awhile?

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Sliding is handled in a different subsection of the rule. If you slide feet first you are immediately down and the play is over when any part of your body besides your feet or hands touch the ground. Different rule. So, to answer your question, no, going back to the huddle is not necessary and the refs don't have to wait. He can lie there for a while if he wants a little rest, but the play is already over.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

To comment on the Cruz play, I would like to bring up a similar play in last year's first Eagles/Giants game. Eli Manning dives forward head first, as if to "give himself up." Upon doing this,the ball pops out. It is declared a fumble, in which the Eagles recover. Now this is a quarterback that they did not rule down. Is this going to become this year's equivalent of the "Calvin Johnson rule?"

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

"Only the feet first slide is giving yourself up"

No, look at the rule as quoted in the staff emails, a slide is not the only way to give yourself up. He clearly was giving himself up when he stopped trying to advance the ball and placed it on the ground. At that stage it doesn't matter whether he thought he was tackled or whether he was touched on his way to the ground.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I have not seen this play mentioned as a possible comparison, but the play yesterday reminds me of a play that was a ruled a fumble in the Patriots vs Chargers 2010 game. See video of the 2010 play ruled a fumble at http://www.casttv.com/ext/rtv0y3d

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I didn't see the game, but from watching the replay it seems to me that the biggest difference between those 2 videos was that in last years Pats-Chargers game the receiver fell to the ground in the process of making the catch, he didn't give himself up because he never had control of the ball and then intentionally fell to the ground. In yesterdays game, he has the ball makes a couple of moves runs forward a few yards sees that defenders are surrounding him and goes down.

As pointed out above, whether or not he thought a defender touched him shouldn't matter because he thought that by going down he was giving himself up, he just happened to be ignorant of the rule that saved him. Much like Brady was probably ignorant of the tuck rule.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I strongly disagree that anything he did was "clear." If it was there would be no discussion.

What the discussion is centered around is how clear a ball carrier needs to be with his intentions to get the whistle blown dead. I side with those that say a player needs to make his intentions to be down clear before he is actually down, otherwise it throws a lot of confusion into the matter.

If a defender had landed on him, would it have been unnecessary roughness?

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So you think when a player is stopped on the ground, gets up and leaves the ball there to return to the huddle that there's some ambiguity about whether the player intends to continue to try to advance the ball? I don't see any basis for confusion whatsoever about that. And there's no competitive advantage that could possibly be gained by a player leaving the ball on the ground with the expectation that the play would be over rather than saying "I'm down" or "give up" or "ollie, ollie, oxenfree" or whatever shibboleth one can come up with. The only question is whether to award the ball to the defense on the basis of a technicality, which I think is bad for the sport. I think some people are hung up about the fact that Cruz either didn't know the rule or mistakenly thought he was touched and therefore the Giants ought to be punished for his ignorance/mistake, which I don't get. The spirit (and, I think, the letter) of the rule is that a runner can end the play by declining to continue to advance the ball. That's what happened.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So you think when a player is stopped on the ground, gets up and leaves the ball there to return to the huddle that there's some ambiguity about whether the player intends to continue to try to advance the ball?

From a defender's perspective, that is a very small window to go from playing defense to play over. Again, if a defender had landed on him would it be unnecessary roughness? Or what if one decked him right as he stood up?

the Giants ought to be punished for his ignorance/mistake, which I don't get

There are a lot of rules designed to punish ignorance and mistakes in football. Not going after backwards passes, lightly brushing a player making a fair catch, the entire way intentional grounding is worded.

My thoughts are this, a player needs to make it clear before hand that is planning on stopping the play. The ways Dungy mentioned seem very good to me, sliding feet first or staying on the ground for more than .1 seconds. Otherwise, a ball carrier needs to hang onto the ball. Unless he hears a whistle or hands the ball to a ref, he should not be leaving the ball somewhere. I feel that this is a fundamental aspect of football.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Regardless of this particular rule, if a runner is laying still on the ground and the defender hits him instead of touching him, it is unnecessary roughness by definition.

The rules you mentioned are not designed to punish ignorance -- they actually effect competition. Backwards passes impact field position even if the offense retains possession. Fair catch interference, like pass interference, is there to deter unfair conduct and, in order to achieve effective deterrence, the rule occasionally extends to conduct that is only technically infringing. The intentional grounding rule is a somewhat inelegant balancing of competing policies -- protecting QBs from harm while not allowing QBs to avoid sacks cheaply. On the other hand, what competitive impact will calling a play dead when a runner at rest puts the ball on the ground and returns to the huddle have, other than giving the defense the ball on a technicality? What's the difference (from a competitive standpoint) between a player kneeling and putting the ball on the ground vs a player falling down and putting the ball on the ground?

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

if a runner is laying still on the ground and the defender hits him instead of touching him, it is unnecessary roughness by definition.

If a ball carrier dives head first like Cruz, you can hit him. There was never any time where he was lying still. As soon as he came to a stop he let go of the ball and stood up.

Which is my problem with everything. If he was never lying still with the ball, how can he have communicated his intention to stop advancing the ball? The counter argument seems to be "well he just left the ball there". And the counter-counter argument is "well that is just really stupid."

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

So your argument really does come down to "Arizona should win because Cruz was stupid." My view is that his stupidity created no competitive advantange (and application of my preferred interpretation of the rule could not conceivably provide a competitive advantage in the future) and giving Arizona the ball would give them an unearned benefit and deprive everyone of further entertainment. Unless one is morally committed to punishing stupidity for some reason, I can't see why that's an optimal outcome.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I think the rule should be re-written so that this play was a fumble in the future. I do see a competitive advantage gained, making defenders cautious about defending because they don't know when they'll get hit with a late hit penalty. I also feel that holding on the damn ball is an important part of football and there is no reason to minimize it.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Ok. I don't think this will cause defenders to hesitate in touching a player down (and I'm usually sensitive to unequal burdens imposed on defenders to prevent injuries), but I can understand your concern. I don't understand your "holding the damn ball" point, but different strokes for different folks...

225 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Conversely, i think there is also a competitive advantage for the defense if this rule is not in place. With an offense in the 2-minute drill, the defense can simply refrain from "touching down" a prone receiver to let valuable seconds tick off the clock. One good reason why a rule like this should exist.

I do agree with your other post that there should perhaps me a mechanism for the receiver to declare his intent.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The rule as written doesn't require that he communicate any intentions. It says that the ball is dead when "a runner ... declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance." Both of these are clearly satisfied in this case; he fell to the ground and he made no effort to advance. For the most part the NFL rulebook is horribly imprecise, but this rule is unambiguous (at least as applied to this case) and I don't see how you can make a credible argument otherwise.

So we're left debating an old philosophical point, which is: Should officials always enforce the rules as written, or are there cases when they should go outside the rulebook? From what I can tell, the people arguing that the rule was correctly applied in this case also think that the rules should (as much as possible) be enforced as written, regardless of the score, game situation, or how many other officials in past games have failed to follow the rules as written. (Count me in this camp.)

On the other hand, most of the people arguing that this should have been a fumble are (implicitly or explicitly) taking the "the written rulebook isn't the end of the story" side: We have people arguing that they should not have invoked this rule because 1. the runner did not adequately signal his intention to declare himself down (he didn't even know about this rule, after all); 2. other similar situations have been ruled a fumble; 3. ruling this runner down is inconsistent with the spirit of the rule, which was not intended to cover for such mistakes. But 1. the rule as written does not say anything about the runner's intent; 2. there are (to my knowledge) no approved or official rulings indicating that this rule does not apply to this situation; 3. invoking the spirit of a rule clearly goes outside the text of the rule.

Anyway, went on too long but the point is that I think we're all talking past each other since we're coming at this question with different assumptions.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Hypothetical question - what if, as he's getting up, he decides to spot the ball in front of where he's down? Under the letter of the law, he's trying to advance the ball by moving it into a more favorable spot.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

If 50 plays, hypothetically, such as this have been called fumbles and only this one has been called down prior to the fumble, should we say that the in the case of the 50 the refs were wrong and only in this one the refs were right. That doesn't seem sensible to me.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Against the Jags, the Saints were still throwing deep, up 13 with 2 minutes left on the clock. Brees took a couple of shots including one while he was on the ground which led to a scuffle. Poor coaching IMO to jeopardise your best player when all they needed to do was run clock...and lets face it, Gabbert and the Jags weren't scoring 14 with 2 minutes left

In the wake of Devin Hester's record-breaking TD...I'm going to continue my pleas for Dave Toub to get a head-coaching gig somewhere. Yes, he has been blessed with the greatest returner of all time, but the Bears STs are consistently good in all phases, and have been for the entirety of Toub's tenure. He can obviously manage talent and motivate, even if he doesn't have a strong offensive or defensive pedigree.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Coaches themselves seem to be big advocates of Special Teams coaches getting a shot. I remember a few years ago when Bobby April was being given some hype as a potential coach when he was still in Buffalo. John Harbaugh had to move to defensive backs in order to get an interview.

It's probably more of a qualm of management and marketing than it is about the actual football guys in an organization. The common, and correct, sentiment is that special teams coaches have to be responsible for players on both offense and defense and know the full roster of players, as well as what each player's abilities are.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

That is true. Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett also have returned kicks for TDs under Toub's guidance. Not to mention Robbie Gould becoming one of the more reliable kickers in the league (not sure just how much a ST coach has to do with kicking technique but I assume a little bit)

It wouldn't be a 'sexy' pick from a marketing point of view, but quite possibly a good one from a pure football point of view.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

As well as the Eagles played the free agency part of the abbreviated offseason, they really seem to be struggling more than most in getting young players up to speed with a lack of practice.

Danny Watkins, though old, is also relatively new to football. Asking him to learn a new scheme like Howard Mudd's would take time and repetitions. Jai Jarrett would be the exact kind of safety that his team needs if he had a full camp and any sort of experience. Maybe the young linebacking unit would be a little more cohesive if they had more practice together. It seems like they often confuse assignments or overplay and blow assigned coverages. The linebackers behind a Wide Nine front have to possess gap control, but it doesn't seem like they are aware of which gap they're supposed to be filling.

None of this is an excuse. For as much as they received praise and even praised themselves for their offseason plan in free agency, they hadn't done enough to prepare the young players they were counting on.

11 Picking up a PI flag after the announcement?

Has anyone ever seen a DPI flag picked up after the ref announced the penalty to the crowd? Now, while I think it was the right call (I'm biased, but it sure looked to me that the Pats DB and the Raider WR unintentionally tangled legs), why didn't they talk it all out before the ref announced the penalty?

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

This is driving me insane. Every week, you see a game where a team has a comeback or a team is far ahead. And each time, somebody says "Why are they still throwing?" about the team ahead. This weekend is a perfect example for me as to why a team should continue throwing: because the other team is continuing to throw.

In the Green Bay game, up 21-17, end of the half, go down and get a score to make it 28-17. To start the third, they come out swinging, and go up 35-17. Even if you have doubled up your opponent in scoring, the other team is still playing. For a team like the Packers, their run game is garbage; in order to run down the clock, they have to complete passes and keep the ball moving.

The same is true for the Cowboys -- their run game sucks, so they have to keep throwing it. Play to the strength of your team. If you cannot get first downs running, throw it.

Yes, I know that an incompletion stops the clock. Yes, I know the dangers of interceptions. But by running the ball, you risk fumbles. By running the ball with a bad run game, you risk not getting the first.

Do whatever you can to take time off the clock, run or pass, and limit mistakes. It only looks bad to throw the ball when you throw interceptions. It looks great when you win.

Therefore, I submit that we all stop with the age-old "playing to not lose" commentary if we cannot embrace the idea of "playing to win." Green Bay was playing to win. Dallas was playing to win. It just happened to only work for one of those teams...

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

As a GB fan I had no problem with them keeping the pedal down throughout the 3rd quarter. However There was no reason for Rodgers to play into the 4th, at least more than a series.

Also, GB has one of the best running games in the NFL this season (5th in rush DVOA through week 3), and Starks averaged 4.8 YPC yesterday, so "their run game is garbage" is a year out of date. That isn't Brandon Jackson in the backfield anymore.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I watched the game in between swapping to Red Zone, and every time he touched the ball, it just seemed like he did nothing. And maybe I am just mis-remembering, which is entirely possible. But take out his 16-yard catch and his 22-yard run, and his numbers are much worse. Sure, we can do that with a lot of players in a lot of situations, but every time I saw him, he was getting stuffed within 2-3 yards. It just never seemed like he had a positive play other than his two long ones; so, yes, by conventional numbers, he did not look terrible.

That said, 13 carries for 63 yards is really not impressive either. I mean, 63 yards a game is barely enough to average out to a 1,000-yard season, which is not altogether impressive anymore.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

He had 4.8 YPC. You say the Packers run game sucked, and point at his total yards, yet of course his total yards are going to be low when the team passes nearly every play!

And nearly every RB looks worse when you take out their long runs. 12 for 41 is still 3.4 YPC, which is far from terrible. And I don't really see what his 16 yard catch has to do with GB's running game.

Bottom line, you're engaging in extreme cherry picking, focusing on one stat (total yards) that only sorta supports your argument. Your can make almost any player look mediocre by looking at a single game and ignoring their two best plays, at least when they play in an offense that spreads the ball like GB.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

You are not really suggesting much of anything I do not already know, except the fact that the run game is not terrible. And maybe that is not the argument I should be making. Perhaps I should say "their running back is bad," which is, at this point, purely semantic.

James Starks and Ryan Grant are not amazing. They are merely average, and that will do fine for normal game situations. Like my original argument presents, if you put them in a position where you need to "run to win" to grind out the clock and pick up first downs, they most likely will not not be able to get it, but they might. They are so 40/60 in their ability that removing the long play is justified. You cannot expect them to get the 16-yard run; you can expect them to get the 3.2-yard run. Three 3.2-yard runs will not gain a first down -- thus, my argument.

Now, that is not the whole thing with this team. Their short passing game acts a lot like a run game, and if you take all of Starks' numbers from yesterday, he looked like a decent enough player. Total, 13 runs for 63 yards, 5 catches for 38 yards; those are good numbers. But again, it just felt like every time he touched the ball, he was not getting the positive yardage. Maybe it was just a boom/bust day, or maybe I am down on the running backs for Green Bay, as I have been for a few years.

Either way, based on what was actually happening in the game, and how they have been playing, passing the ball is the way to go with this team. Sure, maybe you put in Matt Flynn when you are up 42-17 and 49-17, but I would have continued to pass well into the 4th quarter, because it was working and it was eating time. Starks' numbers do nothing to add to his credibility at wasting away the end of the game when compared to what Aaron Rodgers was doing. The fact that they were scoring is not indicative of trying to score; it just means the passing was effective. That is why they should have continued to pass.

And yes, I would stand by this argument even if Rodgers went down. I am not fair-weather in my beliefs. I think the Cowboys did well to continue passing, because Witten, Bryant, and Austin are much better options than Felix Jones; they just happen to have Romo. Draw whatever conclusions you want from that, but more teams that "play to not lose" end up losing or in tough situations, time and time again.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

You know, if you had just said GB's running game was "merely average", we wouldn't have had this argument. You shouldn't throw around terms like "garbage" so casually if you mean average.

Also, I really think you should look at typical running numbers for more players from other teams. All players have a little bit of boom-and-bust working for them. Most players who have a per carry average of say 4.5 YPC (slightly better than NFL average for RBs, I believe) will gain 3 or fewer yards on a majority of their carries. Look at these hypothetical gains:

3, 2, 7, 10, 3, 2

Hardly a boom-and-bust set of runs, but with 6 carries for 27 yards you get 4.5 YPC, and yet 2/3 of the runs were 3 or fewer yards.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Teams with good rushing DVOAs often rush when the opponent does not expect it. (It's a rate stat, not a volume stat)

That's a very different thing than being able to rush when your opponent expects it, despite a high DVOA. For instance, DVOA suggests that the Eagles should run at the goalline or in short yardage. Ten years of performance data suggests that doesn't work.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Anyone else watch the Redskins game? Austin Pettis was doing the punt returning. One his first return they made note of the fact he has only called one fair catch on the year. Other than that comment, the return was uneventful. On the second punt, LB Perry Riley smashed into Pettis as he was catching it. Pettis fumbled, but the Rams were baled out as Riley was called for a "hitting a defenseless reciever" penalty. The announcers seem to think it was a blow to the head penalty, but the officals did not call it that way and they showed no good replay. So not sure what the problem was. Then on Pettis' third punt return, Niles Paul smashes into Pettis who again fumbles. Rams again bailed out as this time the officials call a blow to the head (which it was as Paul slid up into Pettis' helmet) penalty.

My thoughts:

(1) First Pettis was an idiot for trying to field either punt
(2) What is the exact rule here on hitting a punt returner? The Redskins did not hit Pettis early, but obviouly if a guy is standing still catching a ball high in the air and someone else is running full speed down field, the collision will be brutal.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Also, should note my favorite call from the Baltimore-Jets play. Ngata hits Sanchez right as he's throwing. Johnson recovers the ball (possible fumble) for a touchdown. Scoring play is reviewed and it's very questionable if its a fumble or a forward pass. Ump comes back after replay to say "arm was going forward" and the entire Baltimroe crowd boos in anticipiation of an overturn only to have the ump continue "with an empty hand" and for everyone to then cheer the upheld touchdown. Ah, good ole home town fans. :)

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

And there was such a big delay between "going forward" and "with an empty hand" that he was either deliberately trolling the crowd or just paused so people could hear the call after the first surge of yelling.

I'm kind of hoping for the first one. ^_^

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Jets game was a train wreck, and the Raven Dline so thoroughly dominated the Jets Oline that nothing else mattered and nothing would have made this game anything other than a lopsided dominating defeat. However, it sure seemed like the 2nd fumble-six was a forward pass. Your thoughts?

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

"Dallas defense has 12 men on the field on the one-yard line and somehow, only one of those 12 men is covering Johnson."

Pure awesome. I thought the same thing when that play happened.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I think the rule distinguishing forward pass from a fumble needs serious re-vamping. On the second Sanchez "fumble" recovered for a TD, Sanchez was clearly intending a forward pass and the ball traveled about 10-15 yards in the air in a generally forward direction. There was minimal (if any) contact between the sacking defender and Sanchez's arm (although quite a bit of contact between the crown of the defender's head and Sanchez' back, but I digress). Under those circumstances, I think some common sense is in order. How could the ball travel so far forward if Sanchez did not, in fact, throw it? If your fine grained analysis of whether the hand was "open" when the arm started moving forward leads you to conclude that a ball traveling that far forward in the air was not a forward pass, maybe you need to go back and check your work or rethink the rule.

My only other comment on that ugly game is that it was amusing that the Jets determined that second round pick and 2nd year veteran Vlad Ducasse was a bigger liability in the game than the undrafted rookie center who was having trouble snapping the ball.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The NFL ought to rely on Newton's first law: Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.

If the ball lands forward of the spot it left the Quarterback's hand, it's a forward pass. If it lands behind of the spot, it's a fumble. Tie goes to the Quarterback. Gets rid of the tuck rule, too.

Easy to officiate, too difficult for the NFL rule committee.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Honestly, I think the open hand rule is pretty simple when you've got replay. The Sanchez one was awfully close, but I think they got it right. And had they called it the other way, I'd have had no problem with it standing as an incompletion, for that matter. With any rule you're going to have cases that are borderline calls.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I guess Calvin Johnson's touchdown against the 'boys' special "cover three" proves that Rob Ryan was right: no need to put more than one guy on him...that explains the coverage on the second one, too...

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Really no answer as a defense to a well-thrown jump ball. Your best hope is to mess up the timing of the fade, somehow, usually with a jam at the line.

Once the ball is in the air, you have to focus more on dislodging it than jumping with him.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Varied thoughts:

I cannot understand how Calvin Johnson has not averaged about 50 TDs per year throughout his career. Throw the ball high to him, he scored. Throwing the ball high is something any QB should be able to do. Even Joey Harrington should have been able to throw that ball. Over and over and over and over again.

Victor Cruz fumbled.

A.J. Green is ridiculous.

The Ravens-Jets game was one of the best bad games I've ever seen. The offenses were stunningly inept to the point of humor, and the constant return TDs made it fun as hell. A shoddily-played game full of big plays is still fun as hell, we need more games like that. Also, at least Sanchez had an excuse due to the problems on the his offensive line and having no time, but Flacco? Lord, that was an epic stinker. How do you go half a game without completing a pass.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I was looking forward to watching the Detroit game (which was the live early broadcast here in the UK) principally because I was keen to see Matthew Stafford in action for the first time and get a gauge on how good he is. After watching the whole game I am still nonethewiser. How do you objectively judge a guy who has such a formidable weapon as Calvin Johnson to throw it to?

It would be interesting to see the numbers if Sam Bradford were to play a few games with the Detroit receivers, and vice-versa.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I'll give the same answer to both posts:

Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.

The difference is that Stafford will throw that ball up high to a triple-covered Johnson and Hill and Stanton won't. Also, Stafford can throw that 40-yard dart that only Megatron can get and Hill and Stanton can't.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Stafford was off this week. He made some throws in the first few games that weren't simply jump balls. Gorgeous back shoulder throws etc. I was skeptical of his accuracy coming out of college but he's impressed the shit out of me.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

He has a strong enough arm to throw traditionally short-field pass plays in the open field. Not many can throw a fade route from as far back as he's attempted it with some accuracy, or to attempt a bullet-pass on a post route as if it's a quick slant.

He also seems to be comfortable throwing high to his bigger receivers with confidence that nobody is going to outjump them.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I cannot understand how Calvin Johnson has not averaged about 50 TDs per year throughout his career. Throw the ball high to him, he scored. Throwing the ball high is something any QB should be able to do. Even Joey Harrington should have been able to throw that ball. Over and over and over and over again.

You are forgetting arm strength is important. Yes any QB can throw the ball high to Johnson. However, when Stafford does it, the ball gets there so quickly the defenders have very little time to react. When Joey Harrington tries the same thing, defenders have 4 seconds of watching a rainbow to plan how to defend it.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Terrible officiating from Mike Carey & crew last night...three crucial no calls: helmet to helmet hit to Sanchez on a sack, leading with the helmet to Sanchez's back on the second "fumble," dive into punter's plant leg...probably wouldn't have altered the outcome, but still...I think any of those is more deserving of a roughing call than what Suh did to Romo yesterday...

Jets line lost something in 2010 without Faneca...lost more without Woody this year...obviously lost its competence when playing without Mangold...all this stuff about Jets shouldn't be trying to improve their passing game because they're going away from what they're best at (from Collingsworth, in particular) ignores these truths...Jets running game has deteriorated due to loss of oline personnel, not "change in philosophy"

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The QBs hand is always empty at some point, so referring to an "open hand" doesn't clarify anything. What you mean is the hand was empty at the time Sanchez's arm started going forward. In this case, the trajectory of the ball makes that virtually impossible. The ball couldn't go forward that far without something pushing it forward and the only thing in contact with the ball was Sanchez's hand and the hand couldn't be moving forward unless his arm was moving forward. Thus, Sanchez's arm had to be going forward. Looking it at the play frame by frame in slow motion is actually deceptive because it allows you to talk yourself into a conclusion that actually makes no sense.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The "empty hand" rule is used to distinguish between throwing the ball forward and pushing a ball which you've already lost control of. The ball's trajectory can be the same, which is why refs are supposed to look at the hand and not the ball's trajectory in these replays.

I don't have a strong opinion about this particular case. But your idea that the hand pushing the ball forward always constitutes a forward pass is not consistent with the rules.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

No. It means that when the QB throws the ball 10-15 yards downfield while he's being hit, it's always an incomplete pass. I can live with that. I appreciate what Nat is saying about the rule allowing for fumbles where the open hand pushes the ball forward. That's not this case and could not be this case. A ball does not travel the way that ball traveled unless it is thrown.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Dude, you need to take your green glasses off. Watching the game live I thought it was incomplete but from the first replay, and I mean normal speed, not slow motion, it looked like a fumble. They called it that way on the field. And video confirmed it. Your poor interpretation of both the wording of the rule and the laws of physics don't change anything.

And it makes no difference what new rule on fumble/incompletion you come up with, there will inevitably be close calls where sore losers such as yourself think the refs got it wrong. So, why bother changing the rules?

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Wow, we were having a nice discussion until you popped in and decided to be a dick. Why chime in to be insulting and add nothing of substance? If you'll notice, I've been discussing the Victor Cruz play above, and I have no fan interest whatsoever in that game. I find discussion of the rules interesting and favor a common sense application of them. Ruling an attempted pass a fumble when there is no contact with the QBs arm and the ball travels forward 15 yards is, in my view, contrary to common sense.

What team do you root for, by the way?

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

"In this case, the trajectory of the ball makes that virtually impossible. The ball couldn't go forward that far without something pushing it forward and the only thing in contact with the ball was Sanchez's hand and the hand couldn't be moving forward unless his arm was moving forward. Thus, Sanchez's arm had to be going forward. Looking it at the play frame by frame in slow motion is actually deceptive because it allows you to talk yourself into a conclusion that actually makes no sense."
______________________________________

You don't have to watch it frame by frame to come to the empty hand conclusion--the officials on the field made that call watching it live. And the standard replay slow motion--not stopping every frame--shows the ball coming out before his arm starts forward. As for it being "impossible" that the ball would go forward, it's no coincidence that he was hit from behind. Had he been hit from the front, the ball would have logically went backward. This was a close call, but not a particularly controversial one.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

No, they got it wrong because they should have wiped the result out on a roughing the passer call, which is what the NFL says it is going to call (and has been calling) leading with the helmet into the quarterback...

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

The Ngata hit that caused the "fumble" was the one that had me perplexed. Ngata lowered the crown of his helmet to hit Sanchez right at the top of the #6 on his back. A few weeks ago, John Abraham hit Kafka (Eagles #3 QB of course) with the crown of his helmet - and with much, much less force - and he was flagged for roughing the passer.

On top of that, I thought for sure that was an incomplete pass. It reminded me of a play in a Raiders game - I think - several years ago. The QB got hit while throwing to the flat and as a result the ball was thrown behind the line of scrimmage. It was ruled an incomplete pass, when to my mind it should have been considered a fumble because it was a lateral. Whatever.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

On both of the occasions when the Ravens hit the Jets punter's legs the Raven had been blocked into him. If you're thinking of the Ed Reed collision, you couldn't see it on the first replay but it was clear on the replay after the ad break.

I also don't think Ngata's hit was that bad, if he' hit him any higher he'd have been in danger of a blow to the head. And how are you supposed to hit someone in the chest without your facemask hitting them?

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

I agree about the second hit on the punter...that's not the way I saw the first hit...anyone have a youtube link that shows it?

Re Ngata's hit, he led with his helmet...you're supposed to lead with your shoulder to avoid the penalty...not saying it's easy to do, but that's what they've been enforcing...

42 Eagles' offensive line

In defense of the Eagles' offensive line, this wasn't the proposed group going into the season. They signed Ryan Harris to be their right tackle, and drafted Watkins to be their right guard. These appeared to be substantial upgrades. Then, Harris gets hurt in the preseason and then Watkins isn't ready to play yet. It's not an excuse for what it happening, but it isn't as if they did not address the line in the offseason.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Reason #273 why I often want to strangle Mike Martz: Your offense has just run something like 10 consecutive successful running plays, and you have 3rd and goal from the 4 yard line. You call an empty-backfield formation, thus eliminating any advantage you might have gained from the threat of your suddenly potent running game. But still, you've probably caught Carolina in a formation that is keyed to stop an inside run, so you're likely to have a couple of guys outside in single coverage. So you run your QB into the heart of the goal-line D.

I guess he couldn't bear to go an entire series without Cutler getting pummelled.