Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Audibles at the Line: Week 8
Audibles at the Line: Week 8
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.

Miami Dolphins 17 at New York Giants 20

Danny Tuccitto: Oh joy. Dan Dierdorf is doing color -- already three superlatives in the first two minutes of action.

Tom Gower: Don't feel too bad, the crew doing Tennessee and Indianapolis said that (a) the Titans recovered the fumbled opening kickoff and (b) the Colts have won all nine AFC South titles.

Danny Tuccitto: It's still early, but the Dolphins' corners look absolutely helpless against in-breaking routes so far. Two slants and a shallow cross for a couple of first downs already.

Vince Verhei: Giants' first drive ends in a failed fourth-and-9 at the 33. Obviously the right call to go for it there, but I hate the third-down call -- a long incompletion. If you know you're in four-down territory, why not call a screen or draw to make fourth down easier? Especially because they just put up a graphic saying the Giants had the worst third-and-long conversion rate in the league.

Danny Tuccitto: I think the operative phrase there is, "If you know you're in four-down territory..." I continue to be amazed at NFL head coaches seemingly making the go-for-it decision on the fly.

Mike Tanier: Giants were three-for-three on dropped passes on one second quarter drive.

Fade to Mario Manningham, covered by some rookie, for a touchdown before halftime. Sometimes, the simple call is the right call.

Danny Tuccitto: At some point the quarterbacks have to start hitting open deep receivers. Midway through the third quarter, Eli Manning is 1-for-5, with the one "deep" completion being a 20-yard toss to a tight end. Matt Moore is 0-for-4. On almost every one, the receiver had a step on the defender.

Indianapolis Colts 10 at Tennessee Titans 27

Tom Gower: Well, the Colts are somewhat more inept than I expected them to be. The Titans have had very little success offensively, but a third-down conversion and one big pass were enough to set them up for a long field goal, and they just got a score off a punt block. The Colts have been killing themselves with penalties (seven in the first quarter-and-a-half) and special teams mistakes, particularly when punting. They've also been throwing way too much even though they're having success running the ball. If the Titans were any good, they'd be up way more than 10-0, as they've started in Colts territory twice and punted without getting a first down both times.

The Titans get their first actual drive going in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half to take a 20-0 lead. The other 13 points came off two field goals where they got decent field position and one big pass play each (aided by what looked like a bogus 15-yard defenseless receiver penalty) and the punt block. The Colts' special teams have really been abysmal this game. In addition to the punting problems, Joe Lefeged should NEVER bring a kickoff out of the end zone.

The Colts take the opening second-half kickoff down the field, and then on third-and-goal from the 4 they run a wide receiver screen and kick the field goal on fourth down to get to 20-3. Is Jim Caldwell playing the Titans D/ST in fantasy football? I just wish I was surprised by the move.

Danny Tuccitto: Caldwell's either playing the Titans defense in fantasy or he's scoreboard watching. He sees Arizona, St. Louis, and Miami all on track for improbable wins, and figures a field goal there gives Indianapolis the inside track for Luck.

Tom Gower: The Colts move the ball a lot more effectively in the second half, but a Curtis Painter pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage, the Titans convert that good field position into a 27-10 lead, and Painter gets two meaningless fourth-and-goal failures in an attempt at a semi-pointless comeback.

I suppose I haven't mentioned Chris Johnson's play today. To some surprise from me (and to their credit), the Titans played Javon Ringer more, especially in the second half, and Ringer was consistently more successful. The Titans aren't as good a run-blocking line as they were in, say, 2007, but Ringer makes them look a whole lot better. I don't think he's much more than Just A Guy, but he's actually bothering to run out there.

Arizona Cardinals 27 at Baltimore Ravens 30

Tom Gower: If you get a chance, watch Patrick Peterson's punt return touchdown to make it 17-3. I only saw a replay on streaming red zone, but counted eight potential tacklers avoided.

Vince Verhei: I don't know what's happened to Baltimore, but the past two weeks have looked like player-organized workouts during the lockout, not midseason games. And the bounces are going Arizona's way -- Joe Flacco hits Torrey Smith for what should be a first down, but Smith can't handle it, and it bounces into a Cardinals defender's hands.

Benjy Rose: Watching this at a La Guardia gate (and so is Randy Cross, I'm pretty sure), and it was a nice touchdown drive followed by a sweet punt return touchdown. The aforementioned bobbled interception came next, and then a quick drive for another touchdown.

Arizona looks to be much more aggressive on defense, and Baltimore isn't getting much pressure.

Mike Tanier: The Cardinals now have a big enough lead to take the Ravens completely out of their power/play action offense, so they are bringing a lot of house blitzes. The Ravens are not what I think of as a "comeback" team.

Ravens are now running non-stop sideline passes to Anquan Boldin. There have been about seven straight, four caught. Then, Boldin over the middle draws pass interference in the end zone.

Ben Muth: Terrell Suggs causes a turnover and the Ravens go to Boldin again and get an obvious pass interference for a first-and-goal. Boldin is murdering the Cards right now and seems thrilled about it. Ray Rice scored the next play.

Vince Verhei: After Baltimore takes the lead, Kevin Kolb tries really hard to give the ball back to them, but they just won't take it. First he throws a pass right to Ray Lewis, but Lewis drops it. Then Kolb scrambles, waving the ball around like a child with a sparkler on the Fourth of July, and inevitably fumbles. That play is waved off on a Ravens penalty.

This is getting ridiculous. Kolb throws a pass that's intercepted by Ed Reed, but Baltimore is called for pass interference. This is all one drive.

Mike Tanier Ravens are playing punt-and-pin with the score tied and three minutes left. They put the Cardinals on the 3, so maybe it will work.

Who watches a lot of Cardinals? How bad is that cornerback named Marshall?

Sean McCormick: Isn't that Richard Marshall, who used to play for Carolina?

Ben Muth: Awful. Him and A.J. Jefferson both are just atrocious. The Cardinals secondary is almost as bad as Houston's was last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Houston Texans 24

Rivers McCown: Blaine Gabbert left early on after taking a shot to his ribs, but made it back after one series -- he has been pretty much what you would expect from his stat line so far. I note that he does look a little more comfortable in the shotgun, and I'm surprised that they don't run that more often. The Texans were having problems getting pressure on him in the latter part of the second quarter, which let the Jaguars get a late drive going, but for the most part they are in this game because of the sack-and-fumble inside the Houston 20.

Meanwhile, Houston is taking a lot of shots downfield on Jacksonville and the timing just isn't there. Matt Schaub has overthrown three or four deep balls, another one was barely defensed, and Kevin Walter couldn't get both feet inbounds on another. The Texans' low halftime score was also produced by Gary Kubiak punting inside Jacksonville's 40 and a missed field goal.

The final score made this game seem much closer than it actually was. The Jaguars' run defense was absolutely great, and Terrance Knighton and company kept Arian Foster in check for most of the day, but that was about the only thing they did right. Their two scoring drives were off turnovers and went a total of 34 yards. Gabbert was skittish and ineffective outside of the aforementioned stretch of the second quarter, Maurice Jones-Drew was running into walls all day, and Houston would have won this game by 30 if Schaub was a little more on-target.

Bit of an ugly duckling game, but that's the AFC South for you this year.

New Orleans Saints 21 at St. Louis Rams 31

Vince Verhei: We talked about how the Cards are getting some breaks in their early lead against the Ravens. Well the Rams are up 17-0 on the Saints at halftime, and while a blocked punt was a big part of that, this looks more like one team clearly outplaying another. The Saints' tackles are losing badly against Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and the Rams have the Saints' screens completely figured out -- Jed Collins and Pierre Thomas have five catches for a combined 14 yards, and 14 of those yards came on one play. Drew Brees threw an interception right before halftime to set up a Rams touchdown. There's a difference between giving your receiver a chance to outfight a defensive back for the ball, and forcing a throw to a guy who's not open, and this was the latter.

Danny Tuccitto: Is it fair to say Long and Quinn are one of the more unheralded end combos in the league right now? I haven't watched enough of the rest of the league to know where they stand in terms of perception and publicity. From what I've seen of them this season, seems like they're consistently beating the tackles, but the back end can't cover.

Vince Verhei: Steven Jackson scores again to make it 24-0 St. Louis. The Rams are attacking the edges in the run game with multiple off-tackle runs and wide receiver runs. Jackson had a big run on that drive with three great perimeter blocks that I badly want to go back and diagram.

Mike Tanier: Drew Brees just attempted an Archie Manning underhand pass.

With the exception of the Saints, everyone is being who we thought they were today.

Minnesota Vikings 24 at Carolina Panthers 21

Aaron Schatz: I would like to congratulate Leslie Frazier for blowing both his challenges on plays where the television replay clearly showed the refs made the right call, thus leaving himself with no challenges for the final 28 minutes of the game.

Rivers McCown: Gary Kubiak is challenging your compliment.

Aaron Schatz: I think Christian Ponder must leave the pocket twice as often as Cam Newton. You never would guess that Newton was the quarterback who was supposed to be the runner. Once again, this week, Minnesota with a lot of designed bootlegs for Ponder to split the field in half.

I want to know why Brian Orakpo and the Geico Caveman are playing "circular Scrabble."

Vince Verhei: Obviously Cam Newton deserves the lion's share of the credit for Carolina's offensive turnaround, but he's not the only new addition on the team. The Panthers have gone from two lousy tight ends (Dante Rosario and Jeff King, both of whom are fighting to stay in the league right now) to two pretty good ones (Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen). When you've got two quality weapons like that, it lets you get so many mismatches on both running and passing plays.

Mike Tanier: Vikings just completed an 57-minute field-goal drive.

Aaron Schatz: I also like this kid Antwan Applewhite, who was an outside linebacker for San Diego but is now playing defensive end for Carolina.

Cam Newton's incomplete of choice is "overthrown." Everytime he misses a guy, he misses him high.

Luck finally turned for Minnesota today. When Olindo Mare honked the would-be game-tying field goal for Carolina, it was the first field goal missed by a Minnesota opponent all season.

Mike Kurtz: Minnesota won that game? Funny, based on the highlights I thought it was 49-0 with Newton curing cancer during halftime.

New England Patriots 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Aaron Schatz: The entire first Pittsburgh drive seemed to be Heath Miller. Just a huge void sitting in the middle of the field.

J.J. Cooper: Steelers clearly looked at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart before the game. They spread the Patriots out frequently on the first drive, sometimes the Patriots stayed in their base 4-3 against three wide.

Mike Kurtz: Good lord, Miller is giving the Patriots fits.

J.J. Cooper: Dick LeBeau has changed up much of his usual approach against Tom Brady. More tight man coverage, less zone. It doesn't hurt that nickel back Keenan Lewis gives them another corner comfortable in man compared to when Bryant McFadden played last year.

Twice now Phil Simms has identified Antonio Brown as Mike Wallace on replays. One of the times came after a commercial as they talked about Brown's touchdown catch.

Aaron Schatz: The Steelers are doing a great job of coverage on the Patriots receivers today, very tight coverage. Looks like it is mostly man coverage. When they do send more than four pass rushers, they're getting to Brady fairly easily. On one play, LaMarr Woodley just went right past Sebastian Vollmer, as if Vollmer wasn't even blocking at all.

J.J. Cooper: Patriots bring out three tight ends and one wide receiver to start the second half -- Steelers stay in nickel.

Mike Kurtz: I think one of the big stories from this game is that Pittsburgh is just ignoring the possibility of downfield throws by New England. It's working because, while they're getting to Brady at a decent clip, their non-blitzes are still rushing Brady to his throws.

Aaron Schatz: Are we all enjoying Ben Roethlisberger's seminar on Finding Huge Holes in Zone Coverage?

Danny Tuccitto: I'm not one to pile on bad announcing, but during the review of Pittsburgh's game-icing safety, Phil Simms first marvels at the divots created by Ziggy Hood during his fumble recovery, and then forgets who was involved in the Holy Roller.

Mike Kurtz: The real problem with these Steelers is that they're very good at the start of the game but bad at building up leads. Tomlin is very happy to get field goals, so when they're in range the offense gets much less aggressive. That said, the defense was top-notch today and it didn't matter.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, this game was not as close as the final score. The Patriots offense looked lousy until their last touchdown drive, and the Steelers had a lot of good drives where they settled for field goals (or a missed field goal). Not sure what changed in that drive that they suddenly were able to get open. Maybe part of it was more throws on the sides rather than up the middle.

Stephen Gostkowski has to be the worst onside kick kicker of all time.

J.J. Cooper: Part of what happened for the Patriots late, as I saw it, was the Steelers pass rush limped off when Woodley left the game with a hamstring injury. Lawrence Timmons has shown zero pass rush skills since moving to the outside to replace James Harrison and rookie Chris Carter, the fourth outside linebacker on the depth chart (Jason Worilds, like Harrison, was inactive because of an injury) has a predictable speed rush and no counter to it if an offensive tackle sells out to stop his speed.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is a master of the zone blitz, but I give him credit for going completely against type today against the Patriots. LeBeau's teams generally play a lot of zone, and very little bump-and-run man. Today, they played a whole lot of man coverage with their corners up at the line.

LeBeau's teams want to make sure they stuff the run and prevent the big play, while allowing teams to complete short stuff underneath -- the theory is that at some point the Steelers will generate pressure to make the opponent make a mistake. Today the Steelers dared New England to run -- staying in nickel packages even when New England went to two and three tight-end sets -- and the Steelers dared the Patriots to throw deep.

LeBeau's teams generally don't let any one player for an opponent change up what they do. But today, the Steelers took their best cornerback, Ike Taylor, and had him cover Wes Welker all over the field, even though Taylor generally never plays in the slot.

It worked, even if the Steelers played the fourth quarter without one starting linebacker in their starting spot. It wasn't LeBeau's normal style, but it was one of the better games he's ever called as a defensive coordinator.

Tom Gower: I've been hesitant to wade into the New England thicket, because I'm not necessarily watching them closely every week and not covering them, but they seem like an offense that's very horizontal in how they get open. Whatever Brady's strength's are, he's not a great deep ball thrower, and they don't have an exceptional deep ball target. LeBeau's gameplan is the way to attack that. Of course, you then have to execute and actually cover guys like Welker and Rob Gronkowski, and I'll be re-watching today's game to see how the Steelers managed that.

Aaron Schatz: This is generally true. The way that the Patriots stretch defenses is very abnormal, they do it more with the tight ends than with the receivers. They tried to stretch the defense with Chad Ochocinco on one play today and when the cornerback jammed him (don't remember which corner it was) he couldn't quite recover and Brady ended up overthrowing him deep. That play seemed like the final straw in Ochocinco's non-participation in this offense. For most of the game they were playing Taylor Price instead of him.

Two other thoughts on the Pats now that I've had time to consider things a bit.

1) This game really highlighted what seemed at the time like a very strange decision -- using both second- and third-round picks on running backs. Stevan Ridley has been reasonable, but generally unnecessary. Shane Vereen, the second-rounder, can't get on the field and seems completely superfluous, especially now that Kevin Faulk has come back from his ACL tear. Most of us here in New England thought Faulk was only being kept around as a semi-coach, basically, and maybe in case one of the other backs got injured before Faulk came off PUP. But Faulk not only was activated this week, he was on the field more than any other running back. Why on earth would a team with Faulk and Danny Woodhead need Vereen? Meanwhile, this defense is awful and really could have used a second-round defensive player and a third-round defensive player instead of all the undrafted free agents they have running around providing bad zone coverage.

On the other hand, the Pats haven't exactly done much with the defensive players they have drafted early. This is the biggest problem with this team. The late-season defensive improvement that was supposed to carry over from last year has disappeared instead, or even gone backwards. The idea was "young talent, will improve." Instead it's "young talent, barely playing." So many of these players never developed -- Terrence Wheatley is gone, Darius Butler is gone, Jonathan Wilhite is gone, Jermaine Cunningham is barely playing, Ron Brace hasn't played much and is still on PUP ... Belichick's defensive drafting has just been terrible the last couple years. Even Devin McCourty is sophomore slumping.

2) As long as I'm criticizing Belichick ... I do not understand the decision not to challenge when Gronkowski scored what looked like a touchdown with 4:02 remaining, but was instead called down at the 1. The replay seemed to show touchdown. I understand the general argument there is "you want to save your touchdowns for the final drive," but at that point you have 4:02 left and you know you are going to need to score, stop the Steelers, and score again. What does it matter if you save 30 seconds by taking a timeout now or two minutes later? In fact, the Patriots spent something like 30 seconds just setting up the next play, Brady was adjusting all kinds of stuff at the line and really could have used the timeout there. Which would have not mattered anyway because the challenge likely would have resulted in a touchdown. It would have been a lot better to kick deep with 4:02 left than to try the world's worst onside kick with 2:35 left.

Cleveland Browns 10 at San Francisco 49ers 20

Danny Tuccitto: First series of the game: Ahmad Brooks abuses Tony Pashos, loses his helmet when Pashos grabs a handful of mask in desperation, and gets the strip-sack on Colt McCoy. San Francisco takes over at the Browns 20.

Vince Verhei: On their second drive, San Francisco comes out with an unbalanced line to the right. They run a bootleg to the left. Joe Staley, who lined up tackle-eligible to that side, is wide-open for a catch-and-run. The bootleg to the short side of the line, with the tackle to that side running a route, is about the ballsiest call I've seen all day.

Danny Tuccitto: I really believe this kind of stuff is what's separating this year's offense from last year's. Not so much an increase in gimmickry; moreso increasing the amount of deception within the parameters of a traditional, run-first offense.

I should also mention Harbaugh and Roman once again used end-around action on a simple handoff early in the first quarter. The last two games, they've done the same thing, and then gotten an efficient gain from Ted Ginn end around later in the game.

Tom Gower Alex Smith's TD pass to Michael Crabtree to make it 17-0 late in the first half was really, really easy. The Niners were in goal-to-go, Crabtree lined up on the wing. The Browns blitzed a defensive back off the edge, Crabtree ran an out pattern, Smith managed not to completely melt down from the pressure, and T.J. Ward had no chance to get to Crabtree in time.

Danny Tuccitto: At some point, the NFL really needs to clarify what an illegal hit on a receiver is. This week's edition of "lamenting the quasi-violent days of yore" stars Dashon Goldson, who used a double-forearm shiver to the chest of Greg Little to dislodge the ball on second-and-3 with about a minute left in the half. No contact to the head, no spearing, no launching. Just a hard hit. Obviously, I'm biased here, but I think an objective observer would wonder what was illegal about it.

Tom Gower: I saw that Goldson hit live and even on the replay didn't see any head contact. No contact to the head of the defenseless receiver, no foul, at least as I understand the rule. I'm not sure crews are doing a good job of calling it that way this weekend, though.

Mike Tanier: Every NFL clarification is another layer of obfuscation. Stop legislating and let refs use their brains.

Mike Kurtz: Amen, brother.

Danny Tuccitto: Tanier, were you channeling Damon Wayans/Oswald Bates there? "First of all, we must internalize the flatulation of the matter by transmitting the effervescence of the Indonesian proximity..."

Mike Kurtz: It's also illegal if you lead with your helmet. Or if you lie in wait for a receiver to get into the air and unload on them (compared to just running to them and hitting them).

Tom Gower: To clarify, the contact with the defensive player by Goldson and on the play the Colts were flagged on against the Titans that I noted earlier appeared to be with the shoulder, not with the helmet.

Danny Tuccitto: All of a sudden, the Browns are finding open holes in the 49ers zones with their tight ends. It nets two first downs. Then, inexplicably, McCoy throws a Hail-Mary-esque pass to a double-covered Greg Little, which is intercepted by Goldson. During the replay, I believe Dan Fouts calls him "Dasher" Goldson. Guess that makes Donte Whitner, "Donner." San Francisco only rushing four most of the time, so not sure Blitzen showed up today.

Rivers McCown: *groan*

Danny Tuccitto: My friend and I have been suspended in mutual disbelief that Aldon Smith hasn't been playing many snaps today. Like clockwork, he comes up with a sack on third-and-12 with 10 minutes to go in the game.

And, as I predicted 2 hours ago, there's the reverse to Ginn. This time, however, Cleveland was all over it. Film study, it's a beautiful thing.

This game has all the makings of a Niners-Cowboys Week 2 redux. Regardless of how lame his penalty was, Goldson has been at the center of pretty much every big play Cleveland's had today; or at least it sure feels that way.

Vince Verhei: Isaac Sopoaga just became the second 49ers lineman of the day to catch a pass for a first down, lining up as a fullback and running out into the flat on play-action.

Danny Tuccitto: Although that's, of course, interesting in itself, the play was perfectly designed to force defensive end Jayme Mitchell into deciding whether to go after Smith or follow Sopoaga into the flat. He chose to go after Smith, and that's what left Sopoaga wide open for the conversion.

Cincinnati Bengals 34 at Seattle Seahawks 12

Vince Verhei: Charlie Whitehurst starting for Seattle again. Seahawks, needless to say, go three-and-out their first drive. Ensuing punt is boomed 64 yards, but Adam Jones breaks a few tackles and hits the open field. Jon Ryan, the punter, then proceeds to run him down from behind. Not making that up. Jones comes up grabbing at his hamstring.

Andy Dalton hits Jerome Simpson on a post route for a touchdown shortly thereafter. Seahawks cornerbacks today are CFL refugee Brandon Browner and fifth-round rookie Richard Sherman. Sherman gave up that touchdown pass.

Brian McIntyre: The Seahawks deactivated WR Mike Williams. Didn't appear on the injury report at all this week and presumably has more of a rapport with Whitehurst than Sidney Rice or rookies Doug Baldwin and Kris Durham. One of the great stories of the 2010 season has just nine receptions for 89 yards and one touchdown in five games this season.

Vince Verhei: OK, I need someone to explain this to me. Dalton wants to throw a swing pass to his left, but the Seahawks are all over it. So he tries to pull the pass back, but the ball comes out of his (right) hand and goes almost straight backwards. He falls on it, but it's obviously a loss of yards, right? Wrong. It's ruled an incomplete pass because his arm had started off in a forward motion.

I think this discussion came up in an earlier in the year, but if this is the way it's written, then it's an awful rule. Dalton was standing there unmolested. The ball came out of his hand and landed five yards behind him. It didn't travel forward and bounce off his non-throwing hand. He just ... threw it backwards. How can that not be a fumble?

(For the record, Cincinnati runs two more plays and punts, so it turns out not to be a huge deal.)

Whitehurst is benched. This means the coaching staff has deemed him inferior to an injured Tarvaris Jackson. I'm inclined to agree.

On Jackson's first play, he bonks right into Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Ball is fumbled and Bengals recover.

The 2011 Seahawks, everyone!

Danny Tuccitto: It's been proven that I'm not the rules guy here, but kudos to Dalton for remaining unmolested.

Doug Farrar: I'd like to point out, without additional comment, that Tony Corrente, the head official in this game, is also the officiating coordinator for the Pac-12.

Brian McIntyre: Surprisingly chippy game between two teams who play each another once every four years. On the Bengals first offensive possession, Simpson continued to block Browner while whistles blew the play dead, so the former CFLer made like Bret Hart and delivered a nice suplex (it was Canada Day at CenturyLink Field) and earned a 15-yard personal foul penalty. On Seattle's second offensive possession, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson picked up a 15-yard unnecessary roughness for kneeing Golden Tate in the head after the play.

Andre Caldwell also punched Browner in the head, which would've been an ejection if the eight officials on the field were the only eight people watching or playing in the game to not see it. Domata Peko ripped Lynch's helmet off and threw it downfield, too, and there's been lots of jawing between both offensive and defensive lines and Bengals receivers and Browner.

Doug Farrar: Best part of the Peko play was Tony Corrente’s ruling that there was no facemask (and thus no penalty) because "the helmet was pulled off with both hands on the side of the head." I’d give Mike Pereira 500 bucks if he could explain that one to me in a way that would make me believe it.

Mike Kurtz: Did he grab the facemask?

Doug Farrar: No ... but the defender ripped the helmet off with both hands. So there was no facemask. I'd really like to know how ripping a guy's helmet off and throwing it isn't a penalty of any sort though.

Aaron Schatz: Seahawks decide to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the 3 with 14 seconds left. Lynch runs for two yards, but doesn't get the touchdown. Seahawks have no timeouts, and the Bengals basically sit on top of Lynch to prevent the refs from setting the ball up so they can spike it on first down. Clock runs out, end of half.

Tom Gower: The decision to run with no timeouts left was deeply questionable, but the Bengals should have been flagged for delay of game. It's in the rulebook precisely for situations like that one.

Robert Weintraub: Even the little bit of this game I saw was horribly officiated. I think Corrente's crew did the London game last week; possible they are still jetlagged?

Vince Verhei: I suppose a penalty could have been called at the end of the half, but I think the Seahawks knew when they called the play it was an all-or-nothing gambit.

Bengals lead 17-3 at the half. A.J. Green burned Earl Thomas on an in-and-up move for a touchdown. Fantastic throw by Dalton on the play. Prettiest football by either team in a Seahawks game in weeks.

Seattle, as expected, moved the ball better with Jackson in at quarterback.

In defense of both Jackson and Whitehurst, Seattle receivers have dropped a number of balls, Rice in particular has been a repeat offender.

Dalton is not perfect. He misses a wide-open Caldwell on a crossing route. He was under pressure, but wasn't hit until the ball was released. Then he tries a deep pass to Green, but Sherman has him blanketed and pulls in the interception.

Seahawks drive down the field and answer with a field goal. The big play was a deep sideline pass to Ben Obomanu that seemed to hang in the air forever. On third-and-goal, Rice caught a pass in the back of the end zone, but couldn't quite get his feet inbounds.

For the second time today, Sherman turns a long pass to Green into an interception. Green was a step behind him, but the pass was underthrown. Sherman outfought Green for the ball, tipping it into the hands of Kam Chancellor.

Doug Farrar: Sherman was one of my training camp faves. Really tall corner and a former receiver from Stanford who initially struggled with anything that wasn't a straight go route, but he's starting to put it together.

Vince Verhei: Brandon Tate returns a punt 56 yards for a touchdown to ice the game against Seattle. It's actually seven yards shorter than Pac-Man's non-touchdown return earlier.

Quote of the year by Pete Carroll, on the Lynch run that ended the first half: "That's what happens when a coach gets hormonal."

Robert Weintraub: I actually had to miss the first two-and-a-half quarters of the game (halloween parade, chili tasting party). Good to know others were actually watching. Needless to say I'm satisfied -- the two fly patterns to Green that got picked (one A.J.'s fault, one just a great play by the corner) made it closer than it should have been. The one thing the Bengals are doing this season that they haven't consistently done in the past is getting putaway scores late in the game. Today they got two: a punt and pick-six. And somewhere Bill Walsh is smiling, for the fourth quarter pass rush continues to be excellent. In fact, the key play was Carlos Dunlap making a very athletic sack of Jackson on third down when it was still 20-12. So often, the QB eludes the big end in that scenario and makes a throw on the move. I've seen Cincy get burned by that a billion times. But this time, Dunlap got a paw on Jackson's jersey, pinioned him around and got his other hand on him, and then it was over. The next play was the Tate punt return for six that ended it.

Washington Redskins 0 at Buffalo Bills 23

Rivers McCown: Bills, employing the Bill Simmons offense, get a long C.J. Spiller defensive pass interference penalty on Josh Wilson -- questionable in my eyes -- to set up a field goal.

John Beck would be a lot more acceptable as a starter if he didn't take so many sacks.

Tom Gower: From the first half of this game, Beck's primary virtue as a starting quarterback is he's not Rex Grossman. I thought the Wilson DPI penalty on Spiller was absolutely legitimate, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't underthrow the ball, it's six points as Spiller as behind Wilson. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick doesn't have the arm to hit the deep pass or the anticipation to make up for his arm.

Mike Tanier: Every time I check in on the Bills game, Fred Jackson is gaining seven yards.

Tom Gower: And Scott Chandler now has two touchdown catches, the latter giving the Bills a 20-0 lead and making this game pretty much over, I'd think.

Detroit Lions 45 at Denver Broncos 10

Mike Tanier: The Matthew Stafford Experience is three bombs and ten passes that don't come within 20 feet of a receiver.

Ben Muth: I know you can't use stats when discussing Tim Tebow's game, but 4-of-13 for 37 yards at halftime pretty accurately describes his play. Or you could use 24-3, which is the score at the half.

Vince Verhei: Early in the third quarter, the Broncos have given up more sacks (five) than they've completed passes (four). They have two passing first downs and -7 net yards through the air.

Oh, and Tebow has fumbled twice.

Ben Muth: On the final play of the third quarter Tebow runs for a first down. Notable because it was the Broncos first third-down conversion of the day.

Mike Tanier: There is something transcendant about a team in the full house backfield while down 38-3.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Philadelphia Eagles 34

Tom Gower: Nice audible on the screen to Jeremy Maclin for the first score of the game, and he had an absolute convoy of blockers downfield. No real bombs, but otherwise that seemed like a very Eagles opening drive.

Ben Muth: I have no idea what Michael Jenkins was doing on that screen to Maclin. He looked so passive, almost like he was just waiting to get blocked. I'm not sure he could've made the play no matter what he did, but breaking down and waiting for the left tackle to come block you is not the a very good effort.

Mike Kurtz: Ben: for a second he thought he was playing for the Giants.

Rivers McCown: Can we talk a little bit about Jason Babin? I remember trying to sneak him into an underrated free agents column during the July blitz and getting an argument on that. Now he's got eight sacks and is keeping up last season's breakthrough under Jim Washburn again. All for only about $6 million in guarantees.

Tom Gower: I think Babin's career says his value is very scheme-dependent, and in the wrong role, he's not a very good player. The Eagles should have been, and were, the right team for him to go to, and he's been pretty effective, including particularly that first quarter series where he just killed Tyron Smith.

Rivers McCown: I don't know that I entirely buy that. The Texans shed him without ever giving him a real shake at defensive end once he failed as a Charlie Casserly outside linebacker. He showed some promise as a situational pass rusher in Philly in 2009. The wide nine definitely jump-started his career, but he hadn't really been given much of a chance to succeed -- and this is a guy SACKSEER was really high on coming out of school.

Mike Tanier: I say, but this was quite a smooth start for the Eagles.

Danny Tuccitto: It seems like this season, more than others, there's a point in every game where a football receiver turns into a volleyball setter. Tonight, it took less than a quarter for that point to come. Martellus Bennett with the set, Nnamdi Asomugha with the kill.

Mike Tanier: I know that is still Keith Brooking, not Keith Brooking Jr., but I don't believe it. It's just like I was certain the guy the Flyers got had to be Jaromir Jagr Jr. because there was no way the original was still playing.

Mike Kurtz: The only thing keeping me awake at this point is trying to figure out which writer will sanctimoniously mention Tony Romo playing with sleeves.

That was the most horrible hut-hut I've ever seen. Romo was wandering aimlessly in the backfield.

Mike Tanier: I expected a tricky fake snap. Or maybe he has been reading Camus.

Vince Verhei: I missed the first half of the Sunday nighter, but I turn on at halftime to see Rodney Harrison expressing surprise that Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have a combined zero catches.

So I check the boxscore, and it's even more one-sided than that. Neither Bryant nor Austin has even seen a single target (partly because the Cowboys have only eight total pass attempts, plus three sacks).

Mike Kurtz: And as you say that, Michaels comes back and runs down a graphic that includes the "no targets" stat.

Danny Tuccitto: And I tweeted it with a minute left in the first half. #thatguy

Aaron Schatz: Is this Eagles Porn Part II?

Vince Verhei: Can anyone think of a worse call, ever, than the "backwards pass" ruling that is about to be overturned on replay? Michael Vick released the ball at the 11. DeSean Jackson was standing at the 8. They are off by nearly 10 feet.

Mike Tanier: Pathetic, really. Just a "no one is thinking, let's go with the flow" call.

Vince Verhei: On replay, the pass was tipped, but it was still tipped ten feet ahead of where Vick was standing.

Tom Gower: That's a terrible call, but not close to the worst ever, in part because it's not a high-leverage situation in the game. Think about the calls that got replay reinstated, particularly the Jets-Seahawks phantom touchdown that kept the Seahawks out of the playoffs in 1998 (not to pick at any sore wounds) or the Oilers-Steelers Mike Renfro touchdown catch that wasn't. Add in penalties that were and weren't called and rule misinterpretations and you have plenty more to choose from.

Vince Verhei: There may have been more critical mistakes that changed games, seasons, or careers, but I still say that was the worst as far as "how can they possibly be so wrong on this?"

I saw the Vinny Testaverde non-touchdown in the Jets-Seahawks game. The ball was one yard short of the end zone on that play. The "backward pass" tonight was inconsequential (especially since it was overturned), but it was still three yards away from being backwards. In my mind, that makes it three times as bad as the Testaverde call.

Mike Tanier: Cowboys cannot stop LeSean McCoy until they are at about the 9.

So last two games on Sunday night it has been ... 96-7?

Rivers McCown: Which has been worse this year: the Sunday Night slate, or the Monday Night slate? Sunday has had better teams, but even when they get what seems like a good matchup (like this or Jets-Ravens) it turns into a slog.

Vince Verhei: Laurent Robinson for a long touchdown. Even in their biggest win of the year, the Eagles can't cover third receivers.

Tom Gower: Just wanted to note the Eagles' possession up 34-7 where they punted at 9:15 of the fourth quarter was their first of the game that did not end in points. Now seven possessions: four touchdowns, two field goals, one punt.

Danny Tuccitto: That non-pass-interference call late in the fourth on Amosugha versus Bryant ... that's my vote for the worst call ever.

Mike Kurtz: That's a bit silly, but wow, that was really, really bad. Not a great game for Steratore's crew.


221 comments, Last at 03 Nov 2011, 9:56am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"The replay seemed to show touchdown. I understand the general argument there is "you want to save your touchdowns for the final drive," but at that point you have 4:02 left and you know you are going to need to score, stop the Steelers, and score again. "

You mean save time outs, not touchdowns.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Don't feel too bad, the crew doing Tennessee and Indianapolis said that (a) the Titans recovered the fumbled opening kickoff and (b) the Colts have won all nine AFC South titles."

I hate to have to stick up for the announcers, but I'm pretty sure they said Tennessee recovered that fumble because the refs idiotically signalled that Tennessee recovered it, and then took way too long to figure out they were wrong. Also, on the "all nine titles" comment, what I heard was that the two teams between them have won all nine AFC South titles, which I think is true.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You're right. They did initially (and quite emphatically) signal Titans ball.

At that point I turned to my neighbor and predicted a very home-friendly ref crew. As I recall, they called about 100 yards in penalties on the Colts (though all but the personal foul "helmet to helmet" were justified) before any were enforced against the Titans. As if the Colts weren't playing poorly enough to lose on their own.

That said, Harlan and Wilcots made Simms and Dierdorf look competent by comparison yesterday. They were simply awful.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I should have clarified in a later email that it was Boger's crew's mistake (and that the announcers didn't actually see the Colts recovering the ball). On the division titles things, I guess I just misheard them, though someone else at the same time mentioned they'd heard the same thing I thought I heard.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"The replay seemed to show touchdown. I understand the general argument there is "you want to save your touchdowns for the final drive," but at that point you have 4:02 left and you know you are going to need to score, stop the Steelers, and score again. "

You mean save time outs, not touchdowns.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Belichick claimed that no replay was shown in time for him to make a decision. Certainly for us home viewers CBS showed no replay before the next snap.

(Which reminds me -- is there an NFL rule against teams having a staffer sitting in front of the network feed, with a DVR, so they can do their own "replays"?)

And AT THE TIME, was it really that unreasonable, with the ball on the 18-inch line, to decide it was more valuable to keep the timeout?

My bigger problem was with the playcalling after that.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

CBS didn't show a replay because Brady immediately started on the next play, and proceeded to take up 25-30 seconds calling out adjustments before the ball was finally snapped. They're not going to cut away from the action when the offense is one the 1 yard line.

(I actually think he knew that it was a TD and was stalling for a red flag. your mileage may vary on whether he was being canny or outthinking himself.)

There was plenty of time for NE to get a replay.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The problem isn't whether there was a replay available or not.

In this situation, it would have been a smart thing to call a timeout anyway. If you call a timeout, then you can also challenge - even if they had lost the challenge, they wouldn't have wasted a timeout.

Why call a timeout? It took the Patriots ~25 secs to start the next play, which was a pass to Faulk tackled in bounds, clock running, another play, TD. Overall cost was slightly over a minute.

Had they called a timeout or challenged, they could have set up two plays (optimum case: incompletion, TD) in ~20 seconds. Even if the next play would have happened the same way like the Fault tackle in bounds, the timeout would not have been wasted, they would have saved ~40 seconds.

That is a horrible clock management error, even if they had lost the challenge.

Replay showed they would have won the challenge, and that would have saved 1:20 roughly.

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

In this situation, it would have been a smart thing to call a timeout anyway. If you call a timeout, then you can also challenge - even if they had lost the challenge, they wouldn't have wasted a timeout

Well in that scenario, if they lost the challenge they would have burned two timeouts, so I don't think that's what you wanted to say, but rather just challenge the play if the worst case scenario is going to be a time out and the loss of a challenge opportunity that won't matter.

I thought that Belichick made the right call. I didn't see any clear evidence that would have overturned the ruling, although I thought it was a touchdown...but I was assuming they'd quickly line up and run a QB sneak immediately afterwards. That lost 40 seconds or so probably also factored into the decision to onside kick the ball, which I thought was a poor decision also, although I guess the numbers bear it out in a vacuum.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yes, I would not have called a timeout to check the replay and then challenge. I would have challenged immediately without a replay (the result is a timeout). Otherwise I would have posted under "Andy Reid" alias.

Gronk was standing with both feet on the line, that's a good indicator that there was a clear chance that it was a TD ... I know the Steelers once had the (I think Santonio Holmes) play when the WR caught the ball standing on the line and it looked like the ball never broke the plane.

As I said before, it would not have mattered to me whether I won or lost the challenge. The timeout would have saved ~40 secs, which is the max a timeout could ever buy you. Sure, it would also have given the Steelers the chance to regroup ... not sure whether the Steelers were or were not in a goal line package and that's why the Pats played ... but then, why not hammer it right thru the middle instead of throwing a 4th and 2 like pass to K Faulk?

I love Kevin Faulk to death, but the dude has never had any success the past three seasons when the Pats dialed up his number in do or die situations (even when I think it was a first down on the 4th and 2 against Indy:D).

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I thought for sure they ran to the line so Brady could sneak it like they usually do on short yardage, but instead they ran the play clock down before the next play after running a hurry-up until that point. They then took the play clock down again before the 4th down play with the clock running. Just a really strange sequence.

6 Re: Pats vs Man coverage

Isn't this reminiscent of the old NE-DEN-IND triangle days?

Denver beat NE in part because Champ Bailey could lock on Deion Branch (now Ike Taylor on Wes Welker), slowing Brady's progressions, and the other receivers couldn't get open in time. NE beat Indianapolis by because Brady would pick apart their zones. Indianapolis beat Denver because Manning could ignore the Champ Bailey/Marvin Harrison matchup, and marched up and down the field throwing to Reggie Wayne and crew.

Ah... the old days.

8 Re: Pats vs Man coverage

There's no real triangle.

Brady has always had trouble with Man coverage, and eaten zones alive.

"Just a huge void sitting in the middle of the field"

That was Brandon Spikes. I'm not sure why BB decided that a guy who can't cover at all needs to play so much more than the guy who can (Guyton).

Its kind of strange to me that BB has completely embraced the idea that this is a pass first league on offense, but doesn't seem to be able to do it on the other side of the ball.

17 Re: Pats vs Man coverage

Spikes was being used in pass coverage? I didn't see much of the game...from what I saw the problems were more with the safety play than the linebackers.
Spikes is much better at stopping the run than Guyton is.

77 Re: Pats vs Man coverage

I guess, but what is the rest of the triangle? I never understood the triangle, because the years didn't align. The Broncos did beat the Pats in 2002 and the Pats needed the intentional safety in 2003, but the Broncos beat the Pats three times in 12 months from 2005-2006. Problem was, in a similar 15 months from 2005-2006 the Colts beat the Pats three times. 2003 and 2006 were the only years all three matchups happened, and in 2003 the Pats went 3-0 and in 2006 the Colts went 3-0.

Also, why has Dick LeBeau never really tried this before? Further, for all the owning Tom Brady has done of the Steelers, the matchup is really 4-2 NE since 2004. The other wins were in 2001, where Brady left the game before halftime, and a win in 2002 where the teams are nothing like the teams now.

207 Re: Pats vs Man coverage

"Also, why has Dick LeBeau never really tried this before?"

I think the answer is a simple as not trusting his corners to play man to man from the line.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Ponder again showed decent instincts, for a rookie in his 2nd start, who had no benefit of an off-season with his team. The Vikings offensive line is obviously better coached than it was under The Chiller's reign, which is something, I suppose. Good grief, is their secondary play, especially with the safeties, beyond horrible. The 44 yard completion Newton had at the end of the game set back football 50 years.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You seem reluctant to give him any props, Will. Him performance on the money down has to be noted, both this week and last. If nothing else, it gives Viking fans a reason to watch and hope better things happen next year.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Hey, I said he has shown decent instincts, especially given that the lock out ended so late. That's not insignificant, as anyone who watched Tavaris Jackson knows. He has a chance to be an above-average NFL starting quarterback. Why is that seen as being reluctant praise?

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Ponder's performance on third down has been extremely good. He gets the ball out quickly and almost always down the field beyond the 1st down marker. Jim Souhan of the StarTribune noted his play on 3rd down has been excellent, but it was also something he did in college,

"During his first road start in the NFL, Ponder completed 18 of 28 passes for a touchdown and no interceptions. On third downs, he completed nine of 10 passes for seven first downs. Last week, 12 of his 13 completions went for first downs or touchdowns; Sunday, 14 of his 18 completions went for first downs or touchdowns.

This is not a recent development. When the Vikings scouted Ponder, they were impressed by his intelligence and maturity, by his ability to make big plays even when lacking superior weapons. During his last season at Florida State, Ponder completed 45 passes on third down, and 41 of them went for first downs or touchdowns."

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

He has a lot to learn, but so far he he seems to have great capacity for learning, which is more than can be said for a lot of young quarterbacks. The intangible known as "feel for the game" has a lot of value. "We'll see" is my extremely unique insight.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I've enjoyed watching the last two games, which hasn't been the case since 2009 and that's largely due to the possibility that the kid can play. For the last year and a half we were watching broken down QB's that couldn't play any more and you knew there was no hope they were going to get any better.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Vince: Giants' first drive ends in a failed fourth-and-9 at the 33.
Danny: I think the operative phrase there is, "If you know you're in four-down territory..."

While I agree with the sentiment generally, I don't think it applies here. Sure, 4th at the 33 is reasonable 4-down territory, but suppose the Giants get a 7-yard screen pass on 3rd down as Vince requests: you've got 4th and 2 at the 26. That's obvious field goal territory, not go-for-it. So on third down, you can either
(a) call a play that settles for the FG, or
(b) call a play that tries to extend a drive for a TD, settling for 4th-and-long as a fallback

I don't see "set up a short 4th down, but eschew the routine FG attempt" on that list -- particularly for the opening drive.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think the general idea is this: if there is a chance you will go for it on fourth down, why not have a "checkdown" where you try to pick up yards for a better FG try, or make it an easier conversion? (We see teams call a draw on 3rd and forever to move the ball further from their endzone to give the punter room--or at least obtain better field position before punting--what's the difference?) In other words, you have two "positive" outcomes for a play on 3rd and 9 from the opp. 33: one, you get the first down; two, you get a positive gain which makes the FG try realistic. You prob. want 2 receivers to go past the sticks, 2 about 6-7 yards downfield who might be able to pick up the first down with YAC, and a "dumpoff" RB who probably won't pick up the first down, but will pick up 3-4 yds. With this play, the QB MUST go with the open receiver--no trying to fit the ball in, or back-shoulder stuff to a well-covered receiver. This should esp. apply late in the game where game situation dictates that you HAVE TO go for it on 4th down.
Relevant point: I don't understand why on 1st & 10/2nd & 10 or less a QB will try for a riskier downfield throw when the dumpoff guy is "wide-open." I'm not talking about a guy who is open--I'm talking about fitting it in between two defenders or something similar. I've always thought that "taking what the defense gives you" wasn't a horrible idea. (As a Saints fan, Brees does this too much for my liking.)

11 Aldon Smith

Aldon Smith mainly plays in the nickel defense when Isaac Sopoaga and Parys Haralson come off the field. Chris Culliver also comes on as the 3rd CB. The D-line in Nickel is Ahmad Brooks (LB/DE), Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Aldon Smith (LB/DE). Anywhere from 2 to 3 to 4 of these guys will line up in the 3 point stance.

I think that the coaching staff likes Haralson better as a combo run/pass defender and they are trying to bring Smith along slowly and build his confidence.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I was disturbed by Brady's comments after the game. "They showed us a lot more man coverage than we'd seen" or something to that effect. So now Tom Brady can't deal with man coverage?

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Can somebody explain that play in Detroit where nobody dropped back to cover the guy waving his arms in the middle of the end zone? And by nobody, I don't mean, "got beat by a nifty move and was three steps behind". I mean, nobody even bothered to drop back into the deep coverage. That was even worse than the TD against Green Bay last week.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Titus Young, and yeah, that was possibly the most open I've ever seen a receiver in my life of watching football. The safety completely let him go, and he was what, 30 yards behind the defense? Pretty ridiculous.


52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

That was in Denver, by the way. The receiver was supposedly Brian Dawkins' responsibility, but I haven't heard exactly what happened. There was literally no one within 20 yards of Young.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

On the replay, it looked like a corner was following Young and obviously thought he was passing him off to Dawkins and went to cover another receiver running shorter. Dawkins also went toward that receiver.

18 Schaub

Schaub came out with the black shoulder "brace" type bandage you see on guys with shoulder injuries. He as not looked as good this year as last year and last year he was consistently short on the long bomb type throws. There were a few years when he first joined the Texans in which he had offseason shoulder surgery. I am wondering if the Texans running game and defense have showed up to find Schaub winding down his career.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Patriots are now showing why near-functionally insane people like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens stayed in such high demand for so many years.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah, I can hear Belichik saying, "Yes, we may have to one day put him in a straightjacket, but until then, at least we won't have opposing secondaries squatting on every 10 yard pattern our receivers run."

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I haven't looked up the data, but anecdotally, it seems to me that Belichick has historically undervalued WRs and DBs. That is, he tends to commit less salary to them and seems more willing to let them go. Randy Moss was an aberration which yielded some pretty amazing results for a time.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Belichick, who obviously is deserving of most of the accolades thrown his way, really is more mysterious to me that most HOF caliber coaches. I was shocked that Seymour was traded, although that was perhaps due to me being ignorant of the Pats cap numbers. I think it obvious that Belichik sees advantage in being a cipher, however, so my being mystified is not surprising, given that it is not hard to render me into that state.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think BB makes a lot of trades based on clubhouse attitude. Certainly that was the talk when Seymour was traded, and that's also what people are saying about the Bodden trade. Moss, for all of his personality issues, never failed to work hard, at least in BB's view.
Seymour wasn't traded for cap reasons. He was traded because Belichick thought he wasn't playing up to his contract.
Of course, you can ask why so many players seem to need to be cut or traded for not playing up to a proper motivational level. After all, player motivation is one of the job functions of a coach or manager. Considering how much BB has gutted the Pats' secondary this year, I think it's a valid question to ask whether he's really getting as much as possible from these guys.
I do think it's clear that the player motivation aspect was much better back when Weis and Crennel were the coordinators.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Seymour was traded because there was no way he was getting re-signed after that year and Oakland offered a #1 pick for him. It was absolutely a cap move with Wilfork and Mankins contracts expiring.

Belichick has admitted that WRs are the hardest players for him to evaluate. Donald Hayes...Chad Jackson...Bethel Johnson...Doug Gabriel...Chad Ochocinco...

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

BB consistently drafts DBs pretty high.

2011, Round 2, Dowling
2010, Round 1, McCourty
2009, Round 2, Chung
2009, Round 2, Butler
2008, Round 2, Wheatley
2007, Round 1, Merriweather

He just cuts them later cause they suck.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Anyone who thinks jason babin is anything other than an extremely limited, one-dimensional frequent liability has only been looking at stat lines and not watching the games. The eagles defensive improvement corresponds directly with them getting parker on the field more and using babin in much more limited role...

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This was the prevailing wisdom on why Babin was not here in 2010. I have to disagree. "One dimensional" may also mean "really good at what he does best".

To take an example from another brutal contact sport--in tennis, there are lots of very good "one dimensional" players who build their games off of the one major strength and do well enough to cover the weakness. With good coaching, this is exactly what you can do with Babin.

Now if only the Eagles' LB corps offered something more than "weakness to cover"

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

He's not good enough at what he does best to make up for what he does badly. The eagles agree, parker is playing more, their defense has improved. Also, anyone still complaining about their lb's in general hasn't been watching the games. Fokou is terrible without a doubt, but chaney has come on in the past few weeks and is a totally viable starter. Rolle has down nothing but play solid d and shown potential to get better and better. Anyway, getting babin off the field is one of several things they have done to improve.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Also, anyone still complaining about their lb's in general hasn't been watching the games

Seriously?! They're still a liability, easily. I'm not sure if the problem is that your opinion of a linebacker is colored by years of terrible Philly linebackers. Versus Washington and Dallas, the other team became one-dimensional very fast because they got down multiple scores very fast.

And the fact that the other team didn't score on their first few possessions had little to do with the Philly linebackers. Against Dallas, they had a holding penalty which killed the first drive, a tip-drill interception (which should've been a 25+ yard reception if Romo had thrown it slightly deeper and Bennett had held on). Against Washington it was an offensive holding penalty, then a great play by Asomugha which also took out this very good receiving tight end you might've heard of.

getting babin off the field is one of several things they have done to improve.

Personally the main thing I think their defense has done to improve is have the offense score on the first 3 possessions of both games. That kinda helps. Especially since all but 1 of those scores was a touchdown.

I still don't believe in their defense at all. The weakest parts of the defense haven't been challenged at all the past two games.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

From Sheil Kapadia at

Juqua Parker - He played 16 snaps, the fewest of any of the Eagles' eight defensive linemen.

Perhaps they were 16 really good snaps, or perhaps Parker isn't the reason for the improvement. I'm thinking having Trent Cole back might have helped a little.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Seriously - three drives. Three touchdowns. That, plus a tip drill interception will make any defense look good.

The defense didn't look *that* good. The offense - now that looked unstoppable. They were converting 3rd and 8, 3rd and 10+ all the time.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

No, it's true the Eagles' never had a big lead (established early, held into the second half) before these last two weeks. Or a two score lead in the 4th quarter. Also, their defensive improvement didn't begin in the second half of the Buffalo game. Also, their improvement didn't coincidence with Babin playing less, the 9 gap getting all but dropped, Chaney moving to MLB, Rolle starting at WILL. They had no improvement on defense. (Of course, all of these statements are wildly factually incorrect.)

If you want to complain about the safeties being untested the beneficiaries of blowuts, I'll give you that. Also, the crack about Parker playing fewer snaps and them being quality is true: please note that a better defensive will play fewer snaps because they get the opposing team off the field.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Also, the crack about Parker playing fewer snaps and them being quality is true: please note that a better defensive will play fewer snaps because they get the opposing team off the field.

Ok, but that only goes so far. I mean, the Cowboys had 49 offensive plays against the Eagles, so even if all of Parker's 16 snaps came in that game, he'd still have been on the field for less than a third of the total defensive plays. So apparently Parker's not that vital to the defensive improvement, or the defense would've been horrible on those other 30+ snaps. Don't get me wrong, Parker's a good DE, but unless you think he can make tackles from the sidelines through telekinesis, he's not the main factor in the Eagles defense playing better in the last couple games. As for what is the main factor, I think Pat's observation is probably closer to the truth.

As for Babin, I get that you think he's one-dimensional, and maybe you're right. He'll probably never be an elite run stopper. Maybe he'll never even be an average run stopper. But he seems to be a very good pass rusher, and that's pretty valuable on its own. He's got 9 sacks already. He's on pace for 20+ sacks this season. There aren't that many players that can do that, regardless of whether they pay any attention to run defense. I don't see how you can argue that he isn't a valuable player.

Is he as good as Julius Peppers/Jared Allen/other elite pass rushers that can also stop the run? Of course not, but I don't think anyone's making that argument. If he sustains the level of performance he's had over the last season and a half, he'll be a poor man's Dwight Freeney, and that's pretty good for a team's second best DE. I'm more worried about the always terrible Eagles LBs being more terrible than usual and about the dropoff in performance in the secondary after they let Mikell go.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Parker numbers were just from the Dallas game, so yes he played a third of the snaps, which was the least among all the Eagles D Linemen.

As for the idea that he played so well that he got the Eagles D off the field quicker, that's just stupid. If he was playing soooo much better than the other D lineman, that he consistently got the Eagles D off the field quickly, thus limiting his own playing time to the point where he was the least used D Lineman, I believe that would represent a new level of coaching incompetence for a franchise that once employed Rich Kotite.

I just don't get attributing the improvement to Parker, what about Landri, he was signed about the same time, and played more than Parker against Dallas, why doesn't he get credit ? What about Nate Allen over Page, why isn't that the difference ? Why not the linebacking changes ? There have been a lot of moving parts, focusing on Juqua Parker seems a bit odd.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If you want to complain about the safeties being untested the beneficiaries of blowuts, I'll give you that.

No, the safeties got plenty of work vs. Washington and Dallas (and screwed up at least twice versus Dallas, too). It's mainly the rush defense and shorter passing game that hasn't been tested much. Anyway I didn't mean that having a lead automatically makes you a defense incapable of screwing up. Of course you can still screw up a big lead. What I meant is that having an offense that scores every possession makes it a lot easier to play defense. The fact that they still screwed that up versus San Francisco just shows how chaotic the defense is.

(After all if the offense had been even close to as efficient scoring touchdowns versus San Francisco, they might've called those touchdowns garbage-time touchdowns.)

It also doesn't hurt that Dallas is one of the worst rushing teams in the league.

181 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The knock on Babin as that he's helpless against the run, which was killing the Eagles. He's still effective on passing downs. Once the Eagles went up 21-0, they were all passing downs, so Babin played a lot and was reasonably effective.

Had the score been 14-7, you'd have seen more of Parker.

Also, the Eagles are still playing a 9-gap, just a tighter 9 than early in the season. (Again, except on passing downs, so you saw a lot of wide-9 again on Sunday)

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I always knew football fans were largely nuts, but it has taken the Tebow phenomena to really illustrate the point fully. Who, other than those in the depths of an ether binge, can think that this guy can throw the ball well enough, to play qb in a way that consistently helps the Broncos win games? Who was Josh McDaniels' supplier?

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I've read and heard plenty of the reports and commentaries, but as a non-US resident with no reason to be interested in college football last night was the first time I had ever seen him play at any level. I was left stunned by how bad he was. I kept having to remind myself that this wasn't an undrafted rookie being forced into action in the midst of an injury crisis, but a FIRST ROUND draft choice who has had over a year to learn and work on his technique, and who displaced a generally serviceable starter.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think there are two explanations for this. The first is that many of the people who love him are very casual (at best) fans who do not understand the game. People who do not follow the game closely and maybe only know the names of some superstar players may have heard of Tebow, know that his team won a lot in college, etc., and think that means that he is a good quarterback and can succeed in the NFL. These people simply do not understand the vast difference between playing QB in college and playing QB in the NFL.

The other obvious explanation is religion/faith. The people that he appeals to believe in things that cannot be seen, verified, quantified, measured or explained by science. They simply have faith in Tebow.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I most respectfully disagree with both these explanations. I agree that many of the people who love him are casual fans, but they aren't the ones clamoring on talk radio or in the stands. And I've found that most people, not just the conventionally religious, have quite a deep ability/desire to believe in things that aren't true.

I think a number of disparate things go into the Tebow phenomenon.
1) The grass is greener. Orton isn't great, and wouldn't it be nice if Tebow was? This isn't a whole lot different than people hating on McNabb, or any of a number of other episodes of people underappreciating the known commodity.
2) Swell guy/chicks dig him/charisma (?)
3) General QB insanity. Guys like Favre, Elway, Marino all got to points, verrry quickly for the latter two, where many felt they could do no wrong, and quietly looked at their shoes whenever they did to maintain the illusion. NO position in any other sport engenders anywhere near the amount of irrationality as QB (with the possible unique exception of one Mr. Derek Jeter). Which probably makes sense, given the importance of the position. For many, if you are great in some way, you must be great in every way, and forever. Tebow has accomplished a lot, in college granted, but still. He MUST be the savior.

The amazing thing is, jeez, he's quite amazingly bad. Did anyone expect this?

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

There are several factors in play in Denver, not all of them unique to Tebow. He does have a cult following, some of which barely realize that footballs are oblong. But since Elway left, Bronco fans have been famously fickle. Check out any of their message boards and you quickly discover a large majority are convinced that Jake Plummer totally sucked his entire time there. And Orton was being raked over the coals even when he was putting up good numbers because it was easier to hate the QB than face the fact the entire team stunk. They have become an amazingly negative bunch, with bile being directed at Fox from the very moment he was hired--they were overjoyed to have McDaniels gone, but Fox was not a popular hire. The only guy that has gotten a free pass so far has been Elway, though they're happy going after Fox and Xanders and just pretending that Elway is somehow not a part of that conversation.

The thing Tebow brings is hope. After their past few years, wins have been extremely rare events, and Tebow has brought them more than his share in the few games he's played. Extraordinarily good luck or some mystical skill on his part, the fans want to believe. The comeback against Miami was tailor-made for idol worship--now he can stink for the entire game and nobody will hold it against him until afterwards. It's a bit like a pilot steering the airplane towards the mountain and not being able to complain until it's too late to pull up. It's going to be interesting how bad he will have to be before boos start ringing down on him in Mile High. Because they've booed everybody since Elway.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I agree with (2). I should have mentioned his charisma in my post. I do think it is related to the point about religion, as a huge part of his appeal is that he is known as being a wholesome, nice, good guy. If his personality was different (for example if he was obnoxious like Ryan Leaf, dour like Jay Cutler, or anything at all like JaMarcus Russell), he would not have such zealous fans.

I don't think (1) or (3) have much, if anything, to do with it. Tebow's following would be large no matter what team he played for, as long as that team didn't already have a great QB. (Of course, no team with a great QB would have drafted him in the first round.) Have you seen the video of Tebow going to the bus after the Dolphins game? I have never seen anything like it. Many of those fans are not Broncos fans; they presumably are Florida Gators fans or just fans of him personally. Here is a link to the video with an accompanying story:

As for him being amazingly bad, yes, many people expected this. I did. Plenty of scouts and analysts did, too. There were many people who said he couldn't play QB in the NFL.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Did anyone think he could play QB when he was drafted? I thought the general consensus was "Josh McDaniels did all his trading to get THIS?" Denver was stacked in that draft, and came out with DeMaryius Thomas and Tebow. Von Miller has contributed more than both already.

Tim Tebow is the microcosm of the problem with choosing winning college quarterbacks simply because they were successful in college. Lots of people are successful in college. But Tebow wasn't in an offense which could ever see the light of day in the NFL, was not required to make throws (the "jump pass" was a PLAY in Florida) at all, let alone accurately, and would have to completely retrain his mechanics just to get a pass off.... before we even start discussing whether or not he can find a receiver, learn a route tree, or deliver a football.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

In the context of the offense Florida ran (QB as FB who can throw), the jump pass was a *good* play (they ran a ton of QB Power). He pantsed Alabama and LSU teams who were stacked with future NFL starters on defense with that play, so you can't use the excuse he was abusing lesser opponents with it.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

A lot of great points another reason is that in general professional sports fans and people who cover the game love players with grit. People want to believe teams win and players succeed not because of talent or skill but because of grit, determination and clutch play. Tebow has tons of grit so people love him for it.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The other obvious explanation is that there is a segment of the population that is disproportionately attracted to sports discussion boards - namely, internet geeks that like to use anonymity to spray their cynicism towards anyone who will read it. And one thing that cynics hate is a guy without a cynical bone in his body. They see it as a nail that needs to be pounded down. I half-suspect that Tebow's support will increase if someone finds out he's messing with someone's wife, or anything that'll take some of the luster off of his image. "Ah, now he's one of us."

Seriously, how many of the people here pounding on Tebow's performance against Detroit actually watched the game? I just rewatched the entire first half and took notes, and I counted one legitimately bad drive by Tebow - the fifth one, where he had two inaccurate throws on a three-and-out. The rest of the half he showed a mixture of good decisions, accurate throws, bad wide receiver play, slow-developing WR routes against seven Detroit rushers, and play-called runs on second-and-long. Not one of the first-half sacks were Tebow's fault.

Meanwhile in the first half, the Broncos have a ridiculous defensive breakdown, poor run defense on first down, Fox's unwillingness to have Champ Bailey follow Calvin Johnson into the slot (in favor of an UDFA!!), two dumb personal foul (one by the defense, one by the special teams) penalties leading to ten more short-field points... twenty-four points given up by the defense overall, all in the first half. I'm sorry, but just because Tebow played a part in bringing the team back 15 points last week doesn't mean that we can make a game play to spot Detroit 21.

The game was basically over by then, and if not then it was on Tebow's fumble-return/touchdown, which was again on a short sack wholly attributable to Orlando Franklin. Tebow regressed after the point, but he was down 28 by then.

Meanwhile, you have ladies like Merrill Hoge screaming that this is the worst game she's ever seen a quarterback play in her fifteen years of studying film. Really? She studies film? This wasn't even Tebow's worst game since last week at Miami, he showed real improvement since then.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

There is nothing cynical about noting that he can't throw very well, by NFL qb standards. If you want to non-cynically wager that he has 100 NFL starts, for a hundred bucks to the charity of our respective choices, I'll be so uncynical as to take you at your word that you have not skipped out.

As to other matters cynical, I'd also wager that Hoge, whatever his evaluation skills, has about 100 time more courage in his lady-like mind than you do.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Typical silly bullying, given that you have zero knowledge about my personal level of courage. Hoge's courage aside, he's shown a laughable level of skill in football analysis from his pronouncement of this game as the worst NFL-player game of the last twenty-five years. Unless you'd like to enter in a wager with me - $100 to charity, your choice - that Tebow's performance against Detroit is actually rated as the worst quarterback game of the last twenty-five years in either quarterback rating, FO rating, or QBR - your choice. Note that I'm sweetening the pot by limiting it to just quarterbacks, as opposed to all NFL positions as Hoge contends. If he's the worst, I'll donate. If he's not, you donate. Deal?

As for 100 starts, I wouldn't take that bet for *any* young quarterback.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Hoge has that loud abrasive personality we come to expect in a studio analyst but unlike most of those guys he actually puts in the work. And I think Hoge was just going on what he saw with his eyes not on anything statistical. Also Tebow has the lowest total QBR of the week(unless Rivers or Cassel tops him).

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Uh, you don't understand oddsmaking very well, which is a bit of a surprise. You see, I don't need to know anything about you at all, to make a reasonably decent wager that you don't have anything close to the courage of a lady with Hoge's NFL bio. Now, if you want to wise up, and restrict your comments to Hoge's analytical abilities, as opposed to making idiotic ad hominem remarks of a misogynistic nature, fine. First, however, educate yourself as to meaning of "bullying", as well as "cynicism", along with noting that I have made no assertions regarding how Tebow's performance on Sunday ranked, relative to others in the last 25 years. Now, if you don't like the wager regarding 100 starts, fine, we'll reduce it to 50, and I'll give you 2-1 odds.

I'm bullying again! Oh, the humanity!

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Don't know if that's directed to me or not, but if it is, it misses the mark. I enjoy this site because it usually has intelligent, insightful analysis, both in the articles and especially in the comments. I have nothing against Tebow the person and don't consider myself particularly cynical. While I don't agree with everything he stands for, I think he is a fine young man. My opnion of him as a QB would not change if he messed with someone's wife, although I would think of him as a phony. I would be shocked if he did something like that.

As for the game, I watched most of it. As a Bears fan, I was rooting for the Broncos to beat the Lions. But my opnion of him as a QB is not based on his performance yesterday. It is based on watching him quite a bit at Florida (many of his games were on TV), on watching his performance in one of the college all-star games, on watching his performance at the NFL scouting combine, on reading analysis of his NFL prospects prior to the draft, on watching his performance so far in the NFL, and generally on having watched football for years and recognizing good QB play and bad QB play. (As a Bears fan, I know horrible QB play when I see it.)

It is obvious that his skill set just isn't good enough to be a quality NFL QB and that he has severe mechanical flaws in his throwing motion (which everyone knew about before the draft). As someone else already posted, he also had other well-known limitations coming into the NFL, partially due to the type of offense he ran in college. None of this has anything to do with being cynical about Tebow. I'm sure he is a fine man, and I don't believe he is phony at all or will ever be involve in a scandal involving personal misconduct or immoral activities.

I think of him as comparable to someone like Myron Rolle. He was a Rhodes Scholar who is an exceptional man and was a good college player. But he wasn't good enough to play safety in the NFL. He'll undoubtedly go on to do great things that will benefit society. I'm sure Tebow will, too. Just not as an NFL QB.

Put it this way: If there were an identical twin of Tebow who was exactly the same as Tebow in his playing style, skill set, etc, and who differed from him only in his personality (say he had the personality of Eli Manning, or say that you didn't know anything at all about his personality), would he still get all this publicity? Would people be clamoring for him to play? Or would he not even be on an NFL roster (at least not as a QB)?

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I was responding to the entire thread and all the mutual back-patting, not to you in particular, and more in regards to this particular game. Tebow wasn't even close to the limiting factor or the core constraint in this game.

As for Tebow getting playtime, I've always been on record as just wanting to move on from Orton - whether it's Tebow, Quinn, or someone else not on the roster, I didn't mind so much. I vacillated between Tebow and Quinn this offseason. I'm in favor of Tebow because I think we know the least about his ceiling, and because he has a history of proving doubters wrong. Despite his performance these last couple of weeks, I think it's idiotic to declare the verdict this soon. Ideally I think he should have the rest of this season, the offseason, and at least a few games next season in order to amass enough data, but I'd be fine with just the rest of this season and if he truly is a bust, then I'd have no problem rooting for whoever the next draft choice is. But given all the people piling on, I have doubts that there's going to be a lot of intelligent opinion on Tebow's play level the rest of this season. Tebow showed more good than bad in the first half of the Detroit game, and I haven't seen any commentary that would suggest otherwise that has actually been backed up with real analysis.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I understanding your optimism but, you must have some pretty low standards for QB play to say Tebow showed more good than bad in the first half. What was your grade on Stafford's first half?

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Why would you want to just move on from Kyle Orton? I've watched precisely one Broncos game in last few years, but Orton's rep is middling NFL starter. As a Lions fan, I can assure who it can (J.T. O'Sullivan, Dan Orlovsky, the ghost of Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, much as I love him from college) always get worse.

Matt Millen was big on getting rid of guys who were middling starters in favor of his cornball acquisitions.

But I kinda get the Tebow optimism. Presumably you'd think of me as a terrible cynic in my views on everything, but Tebow was not as inaccurate as I thought he'd be. You've got to love his size and ruggedness behind that offensive line, too. And the Broncos look like a really bad team, why not play Tebow the rest of the year and see if he can develop into something?

201 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I don't quite get the assumption Tebow would be inaccurate, or where that development in reality came from.

He's the most accurate QB in SEC history, and played in college against a lot of stellar defenses. His sudden inability to hit the broadside of a barn is odd. The projections coming out of college was of slow reads and a deliberate throwing motion (true), but the NFL reality has been some remarkably errant throws, which didn't happen in college.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think it's easier to argue that high completion % = accuracy than it is to assert that low completion % = inaccuracy.

Simply, without at least marginal accuracy, even a wide-open receiver cannot catch the ball. However, there are many reasons for even a very accurate QB to throw incomplete.

What has amazed me are the horrifically inaccurate passes I see on occasion. I don't remember those at all from his Florida days.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'd imagine it's some kind of combination of the speed of the defenders at the NFL level + his long release forcing him to commit to throws with more lead then he's used to and footwork that's causing his accuracy to plunge.

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You need to throw a pass with some accuracy to complete a pass this is true. However, I strongly disagree that completion % = accuracy. In some cases it can be used as a proxy, but it is definitely not a measure of how a accurate a QB is. Just look at the combine. Just about every throw during the passing drills the QBs there make is catchable. Every NFL QB could stand in a spot and throw passes to defined points with ease. That's not all that makes up accuracy.

I assert that at Florida, the scheme, Tebow's individual talents, and the level of talent around him made for a situation where he was not required to throw passes required of NFL QBs with regularity. He rarely need to lead a receiver 100% correctly or put sideline route throw on the receiver's back shoulder or throw a cross route pass low and away from the linebacker about to annihilate his receiver.

Getting a ball near a receiver is simply not good enough in the NFL, but at Florida it often was.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Agreed. Lots of QBs have high completion percentages, but that doesn't make them all accurate. Look at Donovan McNabb. He has always had pretty good completion percentage numbers, but many of his passes are very low or very high and don't let his receivers get yards after the catch. In his last game (ever?) against the Bears, his numbers looked OK, but he missed wide-open receivers repeatedly or made them dive for catches that led to them being tackled immediately and thus unable to pick up what should have been easy first downs.

I do note that accuracy at the combine is kind of interesting to look at. At this year's combine, Cam Newton was wildly inaccurate, leading many experts to downgrade him and question his worthiness to be selected #1 overall. Based on his success so far, those questions seem ridiculous now. Maybe he's just the type of player who performs better in games than in drills vs. air.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Vince Verhei: Can anyone think of a worse call, ever, than the "backwards pass" ruling that is about to be overturned on replay?

Hochuli. Cutler fumble. Broncos vs. Chargers, September 2008.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Disagree. In real time, that play was at least borderline and not a slam dunk. There is no reason for them to have been even slightly confused last night. It wasnt even in the neighborhood of something that could be disputed. (incidentally, the other call they were complaining about, the non-pi, was invisible in real time and only visible for one or two frames in slow-motion. It was clearly pi, but I'm not sure how a ref could have ever seen it without the benefit of the tape to slow it down.)

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I really believe that this call and a handful of other bizarre rulings that year and following morphed into the "must maintain possession of the ball all the way to the ground and through the process of rolling over/getting up" rule-- which, while equally bizarre and counterintuitive, is at least more consistent and predictable.

The NFL will go to great lengths to make heavily publicized calls retroactively correct, or at least retroactively more reasonable.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Both of those injustices are the result off bad rules/enforcement issues. The philly screw-up was as simple and clear as a call gets. It was on the level of declaring a td when the ball-carrier was down at the for yard line and literally never came within five feet of the goal line.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I missed the game because of a snow-induced power outage. So I only now saw the Polomalu play. Wow. That's pretty textbook, and in exactly the kind of situation it's supposed to apply to.

You do wonder what the refs were doing. With a loose ball, there are maybe two or three penalties that still apply. Facemasks and batting the ball, and maybe hitting the QB if he is far away from the play. Just about everything else is legal during a loose ball.

It didn't really matter much, since it deprived the Pats of maybe one play to score a TD from 80 yards out. But still, a blown call.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If you can prove to me that a guy sliding at high speed into a scrum for a bouncing ball DELIBERATELY batted it, I'd agree. But you can't prove that.

On the other hand, I have no idea how that Gronkowski 4th quarter "TD" was not called a TD on the field. He had both feet and the ball over the goal line.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

'An open hand is not a fist'.
This sounds like some sort of Zen Buddhist trope somebody in Boulder would have embroidered on a throw pillow which reeks of patchouli and bongwater.

( I'm not making fun of you, the phrase just struck me as funny. Do carry on.)

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Agreed, you would not only have to prove that he intentionally batted the ball (which, even as a Steelers fan, I think he clearly did) rather than hitting it while trying to recover it you would also have to prove that he was intentionally batting it toward the end zone rather than trying to simply bat it away from the opponent.

Unless I am wrong, the rule is that you cannot intentionally bat the ball toward the end zone, but you CAN bat it away from an opponent.

The refs, at full speed, would have had to not only clearly see him bat it (which I dont think they did) but clearly determine intent.

The fact is that a Patriot player was falling on the ball and Polamalu dove it and batted it away from him to prevent the recovery. The fact that it went toward/into the end zone was clearly the result, but not necessarily the intent.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Agreed, but it is a slippery slope in this case.

If every ball that is batted by the defense toward the opposing end zone is illegal without exception, then would all passes batted by defensive linemen be illegal? Would every fumble have to be overturned unless it was immediately recovered by the defense (i.e. no bobbling)?

In this instance, I think they made the correct (non)call. Polamalu was, by all appearances, attempting to bat the ball away from the Pats player who was about to recover it. He had no chance to land on it, so he did the only thing he could.

Regardless of how anyone feels about that particular play, I think we can all agree that it had absolutely no bearing on the result of the game.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not sure it'd change much anyway. Balls aren't easy to grab anyway, so a lot of times a fumble recovery attempt squirts the ball away, and how often is it true that a defender would prefer to bat the ball rather than recover it?

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The entire rulebook needs to be rewritten with this in mind. The tuck-rule/pass/fumble Gordian rule knot needs similar treatment.

And how bad of a thing for the game is it if the holy roller was legal again? I don't think teams are going to try to play soccer with an oblong ball more than once or twice a decade.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Eh, I'd just prefer to have any fumble recovered by the offense, forward from the point of the fumble, spotted at the point that possession was originally lost, and allow defenses to bat the ball around any way they wish. The side which failed cannot realize a gain, and the side that succeeded has wide latitude to try to maximize its gain. Seems pretty simple.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It's easy to write the rule so that DLs are still allowed to bat passes -- just make it legal to bat the ball before it hits the ground.

Writing the rule to distinguish between batting and just failing to pick the ball up would be harder.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

What does the rule actually say?

Is the penalty for "intentional batting" penalty for the intent to bat the ball forward, or is it for an intentional bat that happens to go forward. In other words, is the requisite intention to bat the ball forward or is the requisite intention to just bat the ball, and if it happens to go forward it's a penalty?

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Is it legal to bat the ball away from the opposing team or to a teammate? I'm pretty sure I've seen that done before without penalty.

Because that's what Polamalu was doing. If he had a free shot at the ball, he would have just fallen on it to give the Steelers a kneel-down victory or picked it up for a (practically) game-clinching TD. I'm pretty sure his first thought had to be keeping the Patriots from recovering the fumble; he just had the foresight to realize that squirting the ball off towards the endzone was also a plus.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Nope. You may not "bat" a loose ball for any purpose whatsoever, including (especially?) to keep it away from the opponent. Yes, I know this means refs have to distinguish "muffs" from "bats". But in most cases it's obvious, and the refs usually ignore the non-obvious cases, as they should.

Until and unless batting a loose ball forward is made a legal play, Polomalu's play would about as blatant a case as you could get. If you aren't willing to read intent in this play, you might as well make the forward fumble-pass a legal play.

Still, reffing is hard and this play didn't have much impact. Rest assured that the next player to try Polomalu's stunt will draw the penalty. Because the league does NOT want every fumble to become a volleyball game.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Until and unless batting a loose ball forward is made a legal play, Polomalu's play would about as blatant a case as you could get. If you aren't willing to read intent in this play, you might as well make the forward fumble-pass a legal play."

Completely agree.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

After reading the "use of hands" section of the nfl rulebook:

It does seem that no batting toward the endzone is allowed. Of course, this definately doesnt address the question of intent. If the refs thought he was trying to recover but muffed it, no penalty.

Other interesting notes from that page...apparently every forced fumble that I have ever seen was illegal:

A player may not bat or punch:

(b) A ball in player possession.

Another interesting note:

"Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops."

So apparently, James Harrison is indeed held 95% of the time. And yet the accouncers claim that the headlocks that he repeatedly finds himself in are perfectly legal.

Just further examples of how the NFL enforces the rules that they feel like enforcing.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Just keep in mind that URL isn't the real rulebook. It's the "Digest of Rules". The NFL doesn't make the real rulebook available for free (except to credentialed media). However, if you really want it, you can buy the official rulebook at Amazon and other fine booksellers.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Phil Simms thought it was a really smart play, too. I didn't think it was very smart at all; it seemed to me an example of a player trying to do something smart that really wasn't.

Let's assume that Polamalu just tried to recover the ball rather than batting it away. At that point, it didn't really matter who recovered, because either way, the clock would have run out before the Patriots could run another play. There was only 12 seconds left when Polamalu batted the ball. Even if the Patriots recovered, there is no way they could have gotten lined up to run another play, as they had no timeouts left, the players were scattered all over the field, the receivers were way down field, etc. The clock simply would have run out.

By batting the ball, he risked a penalty that would have allowed the Patriots to run at least one more play. Obviously, it is extremely unlikely that the Patriots still could have scored. But at least they would have had the opportunity to run a play.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Absolutely. Any result other than a defensive penalty or the EXTREMELY unlikely Pats recovery + TD run ends the game. Polamalu took an unnecessary risk of giving Brady another down, probably because he didn't know the rule. (For the record, I did not know the rule either.)

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I agree with you. Actually that line of thinking is why despite looking like an intentional batting of the ball, I'm not sure it wasn't a muffed attempt to recover it.

I think the real problem with the call is that you don't need intent to note that Polamalu provided the impetus for the ball going out the end zone, and that means the result is a touchback not a safety.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Safety versus touchback is determined by last possession, not last touch. Polamalu never had possession.

The most famous touchback in NFL history was last touched by Don Beebe, not Leon Lett.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not sure about this rule, since it comes up so rarely.

The Holy Roller, which was alluded to in the broadcast, was, if I remember my NFL's 100 Greatest Touchdowns videotape correctly, on the last play of a Raiders game (against the Chargers?) in which the Raiders needed to score a touchdown to win. A Raider was near the goal line and fumbled, and a Raider knocked the ball forward into the end zone where Oakland of course recovered, so winning the game.

Now, I can see why there is a rule against the offensive team knocking forward a ball on the ground, but I'm not clear why the rule would apply to the defensive team knocking the ball anywhere they want. Are defensive players really prohibited from that?

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yes, yes they are.

The rule is cited.

The defense has an obvious interest in seeing a safety called. But the game of football is predicated on ball possession. It's not soccer or rugby or some sport where batting the ball all over the place is part of the game. It's deliberately not part of the game.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Here's the illegal bat rule from the 2011 rulebook. Polamalu clearly violated section (a). And the rule says nothing about intent (and just to be clear, this had virtually zero effect on NE's chance to win the game).

Illegal Bat
Article 8 A player may not bat or punch:
(a) a loose ball (in field of play) toward opponent’s goal line;
(b) a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone;
(c) a backward pass in flight may not be batted forward by an offensive player.
Exception: A forward pass in flight may be tipped, batted, or deflected in any direction by any eligible player at
any time.
Note: If a forward pass that is controlled by an airborne player prior to completing the catch is thrown forward, it
is an illegal bat. If it is caught by a teammate or intercepted by an opponent, the ball remains alive. If it is
not caught, the ball is dead when it hits the ground.
Penalty: For illegal batting or punching the ball: Loss of 10 yards. For enforcement, treat as a foul
during a backward pass or fumble (see 8-7-7).

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Whoa. I did not remember the "toward opponent's goal line" limitation. It makes sense though, since you could pass a ball backwards legally.

(b) is interesting. I guess the idea is that you can't bat the ball back from the endzone to prevent the other team from getting a touchback, or out through the endzone to get a touchback.

(c) is as expected. A defender can bat a backwards pass in flight, but once it hits the ground he has to try recover it before trying to advance it.

Thanks for looking that up.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Intent comes from the definition of "bat or punch": Rule 2-5 (g), "A Bat or Punch is the intentional striking of the ball with hand, fist, elbow, or forearm." So he struck the ball causing it to move towards the opponents' goal line, but the officials have to read his mind to determine if he struck it intentionally, instead of just doing a really, really bad job of trying to grab it.

(My talmudic interpretation of the rules is that any intentional striking of the ball is a bat, and batting towards the opponents' goal line is a violation, regardless of where the player intends to bat the ball towards - i.e., the bat requires intent; the direction does not. But I hate all these rules that require the officials to establish mens rea as well as actus reus...)

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

B) seems to make illegal every time a QB or punter kicks a bad snap out of the back of the end zone avoid a defensive touchdown. Yet, we never see it called. Just another example of rules being enforced in a way favorable to the offense.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The defense would never accept that penalty, so it's rather moot. According to the page below, illegal batting is a 10 yard penalty, no loss of down, so a defense accepting the penalty would be turning down a safety to allow the offense another attempt to punt.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Intentionally punching or batting the ball backwards is not a penalty.
Intentionally kicking the ball in any situation other than a punt, PAT, FG try, or drop kick is, in fact, a penalty. And if a QB kicks the ball backward out of his own endzone, he'll get flagged for that, and his opponent will get a safety.

You say "every time" as if this were something that happens often.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If you can find either the word "intent" or the word "deliberately" in the NFL rule in question, I will concede that there may be merit to your argument.

Since you won't find that, I have to wonder why you're bringing up an irrelevant issue.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

3-2-5(g), "A Bat or Punch is the intentional striking of the ball with hand, fist, elbow, or forearm."

3-2-5(g) is referenced by and references 12-1-8, which states that "A player may not bat or punch (a) a loose ball (in field of play) toward opponent’s goal line..."

So, rule 12-1-8 effectively says that a player may not intentionally strike, with the hand, fist, elbow, or forearm, a loose ball in the field of play toward opponent's goal line.

"Intentional" subsumes "intent".

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Doesn't review in college football work purely from the booth (i.e. the official giving the explanation is not the one who saw it)?

If so the whole thing would make sense if the review official just confused which team was receiving and which team was kicking, and since the official on the field never saw anything (he just heard "receiving team touched the ball, kicking team recovered the ball"), he has no reason to question it, because I think the officials blew the play dead after the Oregon player jumped on the ball, not realizing it had squirted away from him. So the replay official's explanation seems fine.

I never understood why they did that in college football : it seems incredibly easy for a stupid mistake to happen like that.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

From an article 3 years later:

Nevermind that while fans watched on those 50-inch screens, and got several replay angles from ABC, Riese [the replay official] saw just one -- an end-zone shot. He was stuck with a 16-inch screen -- "blurry," he said. The simple contraption didn't allow him to rewind, or fast-forward, or run plays in slow-motion.

Though other replays showed an Oregon player had touched the football before it traveled 10 yards, Riese couldn't tell from his angle. And by rule at the time, he couldn't tell the referee what he had seen: Oklahoma's Allen Patrick had recovered the football.

The conflict was difficult: Call it by the rules, or get the call right. Riese chose the former, and later kicked himself for it, because "the ultimate goal is to get it right."

FWIW, this happened before the NCAA standardized the replay rules, so each conference had its own way of administrating replay.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Anyway, the original point was "most indefensible call on the field" and I really don't think this applies. The officials blew it dead, thinking they had seen the Oregon player with the ball, and down. That's fine, I can easily see how they thought that (and they probably thought the Oklahoma player picked up the ball while they were prying players away), even though they were wrong. Lots of players clamoring around the ball = crowds and lots of chaos, you see weird things.

The Philly one was a lot more cut and dry. I also kinda think the Hochuli call was pretty similar, but I think this call was worse. With Hochuli's mistake, he just blew the whistle prematurely because he thought he saw something. Whatever. He realized he was wrong later, but couldn't fix it, by rule.

In this case, I don't care what one of the officials saw, just about everyone else could've said "no, it was a forward pass." There's no way anyone should've even thought it was a backwards pass.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I could believe that if the officials immediately signaled Oregon's ball instead of waiting 4-5 seconds until unpiling the players, and/or noticed the Oklahoma player walking away with the ball behind the pile well before the signal.

This is just speculation on my part, but I think the referees in the game last night kept the call the way the first official saw it because they knew it could be overturned on replay.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It was worse than that.

If I recall correctly:
1. Oregon makes illegal contact with the ball prior to 10 yards
2. Oklahoma recovers, but possession is awarded to Oregon
3. Oklahoma challenges, and despite clear evidence it was their ball, loses the challenge

The game was at Oregon, and played with Pac-10 officials, against standard NCAA procedure. (Non-con games are typically played with neutral or road team conference officials. The Pac-10 is the exception, and historically notorious for home-town reffing)

This game was less a matter of incompetence and more a matter of blatant corruption, though.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As a Colts fan, the most memorable game-losing penalty call was the 1996 AFC Champ game against the Steelers. Colts were the scrappy team that should have been destroyed by mighty Pittsburgh, but where hanging in...then Kordell Stewart caught a 5-yard 3rd and goal TD where he had clearly stepped out of bounds right in front of the ref, right before he caught the ball. Modern replay rules would have overturned that TD catch. Assuming the rest of the game went the same, the Colts could have kicked a game winning FG in the last second of regulation instead of going for the Hail Mary that bounced around before harmlessly going to the turf, and the Colts would have had the right to get creamed by the Cowboys in the Superbowl.