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

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Audibles at the Line: Week 5
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 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Thursday, October 4

Arizona Cardinals 3 at St. Louis Rams 17

Ben Muth: It was just one drive, but Sam Bradford looked really good to start the game. First Bradford found Danny Amendola for 44 yards (despite him being covered by Patrick Peterson) right as he was getting hit, then he made a nice touchdown throw rolling to his left on third down in the red zone.

Peter Koski: What we've learned from Kevin Kolb and Bradford so far tonight: accuracy, it's important. No horseshoes and hand grenades allowed by these defenses.

Tom Gower: Greg Zuerlein just killed the ball on that 53-yard field goal in the second quarter. This isn't exactly a revelation, but the kid can kick.

Ben Muth: The story of the first half is Kolb missing some big plays. On the Cardinals first drive, he underthrew Rob Housler down the seam on what should've been a touchdown, then he didn't see a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald on a double move where he burnt Janoris Jenkins. Kolb also underthrew Andre Roberts on what could've been another touchdown in the second quarter. The Cards settled for a field goal; Jay Feely missed it.

Also, Arizona's offensive tackles still can't block.

Between Kolb's flopping and the lack of scoring, this game is a fan riot away from becoming a soccer match.

Arizona's offensive line is terrible. That said, Kolb never hangs in there and makes a throw as he's getting hit. He always holds on to the ball and tries to escape to make the throw. This usually ends in a sack because he isn't Ben Roethlisberger.

Look, I'm the one who called Arizona's tackles one half of the Sharktapus combo with Dallas' interior offensive line, so I am not fan of their work. I love Mike Mayock as much as the next guy. But him killing Arizona's offensive line for the Cortland Finnegan sack that basically ended the game is ridiculous. It was an empty protection, which means you can go full slide (and leave one edge unblocked), or man (and account for five specific guys). The Cards went man, and it was pretty clear that they decided to account for the four down linemen and the Mike linebacker. Kolb can redirect them to any defender he wants if he thinks someone else is coming. He can say "Mike 31" and Arizona will block the four down guys and Finnegan. If he doesn't, then he has to know that guy won't get blocked. Kolb has to get rid of the ball.

To blame an offensive line using the logic "they had five guys blocking and they only rushed five" is absurd. Imagine if a defense went Cover-0 with five guys but every offensive player was eligible. That's what it's like to be an offensive lineman in empty protection.

Peter Koski: I agree. Kolb HAS to be aware of all possible blitzers going empty back. Finnegan's rush was right in front of Kolb and it looked like Fitzgerald was open with James Laurinaitis still sliding over in to coverage. Kolb seemed to get paralyzed during the decision making, discounting the massive pass rush he was facing.

Aaron Schatz: Every time the Rams lined up Robert Quinn and Chris Long in the wide-nine, you knew that Kolb was toast. His pocket presence is awful, but it is almost as if he throws the ball even worse when he has enough time to think. His hurried throws looked better than his more calm and collected throws.

Not only does Zuerlein look great, but the near-albino Johnny Hekker was booming punts as well.

Sunday, September 30

Cleveland Browns 27 at New York Giants 41

Aaron Schatz: In honor of my return from Blogs with Balls, I'm picking the Giants to beat Cleveland 24-1.

Wait, I take that back. Cleveland is already up 7-0. So, 24-8.

Andy Benoit: Browns just went up 14-0. Apocalypse?

Aaron Schatz: Or prelude to another Giants Super Bowl run?

Matt Waldman: Ahmad Bradshaw fumbles his first carry on the initial drive when Chris Snee is crossing through the rushing lane and the runner's loose ball-carrying arm grazes the lineman. Ball goes straight up, and after a mini Football Follies segment, Sheldon Brown recovers in Giants territory. Two Trent Richardson carries through big creases seal the deal.

Giants punt after a short second series, and Josh Gordon draws Chase Blackburn on a play-action post for a 62-yard touchdown. Antrel Rolle is not there to provide support and it's a perfect pitch-and-catch in stride about 45 yards down field.

Andre Brown is out with a head injury on a kick return earlier in the first quarter. Martellus Bennett hyper-extends his knee blocking Jabaal Sheard, and now the Giants are relying on Rueben Randle. The first pass was a nice comeback. On the next play Randle is hit helmet-to-helmet by Buster Skrine on a deeper cross and drops the ball. Manning comes back to Randle for three straight with Skrine in tight coverage, but it fails to do anything worthwhile.

Richardson makes three Giants defenders miss on a bounce to the right side for five yards, and had no business gaining positive yards in this situation despite a holding call on Benjamin Watson. The penalty makes it first-and-20, which Richardson erases with a 22-yard gain on a screen to the left flat where he cuts across the field and stiff-arms Blackburn in the process for the first down. Then he nearly rips through a grab of the seat of his pants by Blackburn on a seven-yard gain. Anyone notice Richardson's shoulder pads look small on him, but because he's human ball of muscle you don't realize it at first glance? Crazy.

Browns add a field goal to the total after the Cleveland offensive line pulls its Richardson Tank to the edges of the Giants defense. Brandon Weeden looks pretty good when he has time, but not good enough to avoid throwing a wide open slant in the red zone behind Gordon. The rookie receiver nearly holds onto the ball while turning in the opposite direction of his break to reach for it, but can't hang on. If he does, he backs into the end zone for the score. Gordon is a really fluid athlete; even his lesser moments look somewhat graceful.

Ben Muth: Greg Gumbel just mentioned that Weeden is older than Joe Thomas. Weeden has played pretty good today, but I always forget how old he actually is.

Matt Waldman: Bradshaw running hard after the fumble, finishing with the pads low and getting yards after contact on runs where he gets a head of steam. Manning is also making some nice throws in coverage that might be better described as muggings in progress. Domenik Hixon climbs the ladder on a comeback for a nice play after catching a hook with Sheldon Brown acting as a white and orange cape. Hixon is a bit of a redemption story after an injury-filled career. He's a nice player in tight spaces -- a taller, rangy, slightly more dynamic Steve Smith when the former Giant was healthy.

Gordon's second touchdown is a seam route past Corey Webster, and Weeden threads it under the safety for the 20-yard score.

Andy Benoit: Was Weeden’s interception to Steve Brown really as inaccurate a throw as it appeared to be? That’s what interceptions at recess look like. Maybe coaches film will show something different. Hard to explain that one for now...

Matt Waldman: After that pick, Manning immediately finds Randle with a play-action pass between the corner and safety, and the rookie receiver takes it inside the the Browns three. Bradshaw takes a quick-hitter up the middle for the score.

Cruz gets his second score on another play-action route where Cruz fakes inside from the slot and breaks to the corner wide open to take the lead. Things are back to normal in the football world.

Richardson seems to be breaking no less than two tackles on every run. Even a one-yard run is fun to watch as he shoves aside players his side or larger. Gordon nearly makes a pretty catch at the right sideline in the two-minute drill. He extends for the ball low and away, and gets both hands around it, but the ball hits the ground and moves while he's focused on keeping his body inside the boundary. I think they've found something in Gordon if they can find something in Weeden.

Browns defensive back Skrine commits a pass interference penalty on Randle with four seconds in the half and gives the Giants a 40-yard FG attempt to extend the lead to 10 points. Skrine's (pronounced "screen") last name must have some root in a language that means "foul."

Tom Gower: Every time I've watched the Browns this year, Skrine has been really, really involved in the game, and not in the Jason Pierre-Paul "this guy is a one-man wrecking crew" sense.

Matt Waldman: Weeden on third-and-goal has yet another pass batted at the line. This time he catches it, rolls right, and throws it to Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone for an illegal forward pass.

After that, he throws a pick to Blackburn, killing another drive in the end zone.

Andy Benoit: Bradshaw has his career-high in rushing yardage today. He’s looked fluid and light on his feet (in a good way) from the get-go today.

Baltimore Ravens 9 at Kansas City Chiefs 6

Rivers McCown: Kansas City has first-and-10 just past midfield against the Ravens early in the first quarter: run, run, run. All of these by Shaun Draughn, not Jamaal Charles. The last of which looked like an audible from Matt Cassel. No wonder Chiefs fans are having signs about firing everyone flown over the stadium.

Andy Benoit: In the early first quarter, Jamaal Charles loses another fumble in his own territory. That’s what lost the game for KC last week. Is Charles the new fumble guy in the league? Are we going to get stories about him carrying the ball high and tight around the facility all week now?

Rivers McCown: Cyrus Gray fumbles on a pitch later in the drive Andy talked about. Cassel has attempted two passes, and one of them was a play-action dumpoff. This team has zero confidence in him.

Peter Koski: Stick with what you're good at, and the Kansas City offense is good at turning the ball over. They've already had two punts, a lost fumble, and a tipped interception in the first 20 minutes.

Rivers McCown: To be fair to the Chiefs, they have been fairly impressive in the run game when they haven't been turning it over. Charles is showing a lot of short-area quickness and getting them into favorable down-distance situations.

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Vince Verhei: Alright, this is now ridiculous. Chiefs run, run, run, and get a first-and-goal at the 12 after a false start. They then run for a loss of eight on first down; run for a loss of two on second-and-goal from the 20; and run for ten yards on third-and-goal from the 22. They have 29 runs and four passes. If you are this afraid to pass, you may as well dump Cassel and sign a Big 12 spread option refugee or CFL vet and at least throw in the occasional option or bootleg keeper.

Now, that being said, It really is fun to watch a team run so effectively. I don't watch very much college ball, but the Florida offense yesterday -- with a heavy dose of seven-lineman sets, unbalanced lines, and 20-some runs in a row in a comeback win -- was a beautiful thing to behold.

Peter Koski: The Chiefs have run 33 plays, with 27 or so being running plays. Among the passing plays: a sack with a lost fumble, and an interception.

Rivers McCown: The Ravens wideouts are really having a rough day today, and it's especially notable how often Joe Flacco is going after Brandon Flowers with little to show for it.

Chiefs just ran the ball three straight times with less than a minute left in the half to get a first down at their own 30. In a tie game. This is bizarre. The Chiefs converted third down, then took a timeout. Why?

With a big Charles run, the Chiefs get in almost field-goal range. They come up short on a Cassel dumpoff pass on third down, looking at a 60-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. Then they decide to punt with 12 seconds left in the half.

Vince Verhei: As we focus on Kansas City's rush offense, let's not overlook how great their pass defense is playing. Against the league's premier deep-ball offense, they've held Flacco to 7-of-17 for 64 yards.

Rivers McCown: Kansas City gets a first-and-goal on a pass interference, Cassel runs a quarterback sneak, then fumbles. Are we really so desperate that we need to invoke the arcane notion of Brady Quinn? Channel 6 says yes.

P.S.: Cassel completed a pass to Dwayne Bowe on this series that was such a wounded duck that Bowe couldn't make a football move after catching it. Even though his man was playing off coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Did Ed Reed just pick up a Kansas City fumble in the end zone and try to run it out with like five Chiefs surrounding him, instead of just taking a knee for a touchback? Way to blow 10 yards of field position there, buddy.

Vince Verhei: Cassel now has 50 yards passing (not counting DPI calls) with two lost fumbles and an interception. That's a lot of bad plays with very little production. (Professional football writer analysis right there.)

I'm fine with Reed's decision to run it out. It was a high-risk, high-reward play, and it didn't work out, but Reed might have a better chance to score than any Ravens offensive player at this point.

Tom Gower: Cassel came into today's game throwing an interception or fumbling the ball every 10.6 plays. He's done a great job of lowering that today.

Rivers McCown: Flacco should probably stop throwing at Flowers.

Vince Verhei: Was that written before or after Flowers pulled in an interception to keep Kansas City in the game?

Rivers McCown: Does it matter? (After.)

Thankfully Cassel is there to make Flacco feel better about himself with another turnover.

Vince Verhei: Quinn is in for Kansas City. His first game since December of 2009. Not because Cassel was benched, but because he was crushed under a pile of Ravens. He walked to the locker room.

Quinn "leads" a field goal drive in which he completes two passes, only one for a first down. Baltimore lead 9-6. I'm tempted to pore through old boxscores so I can make Johnny Unitas-Len Dawson jokes.

Chiefs sack Flacco, and it's a pretty clear fumble and recovery for a touchdown for Kansas City. The old inadvertent whistle blows the play dead though. On the next play, Flacco scrambles for a first down on third-and-15.

Rivers McCown: I thought I heard they called this Flacco's forward progress being stopped?

Vince Verhei: Right. That's what it was called, but it looked to me like a very bad call. The ref who blew his whistle could only see Flacco's back and didn't know he had fumbled. Sorry I wasn't clear.

The Ravens pick up a few more first downs to run out the clock and win the game. Man, that's an ugly, ugly win, where they got multiple gift turnovers and still needed to scratch out a win over a bad team. It might be one where DVOA says the Chiefs played better.

Philadelphia Eagles 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Aaron Schatz: The play where Michael Vick leans away from pressure and then chucks the ball into the sky without looking at where it is going? Yeah, that's not going to work out well in the long run.

Andy Benoit: On the Vick heave play Aaron referenced, he also had an interior hook route open at the top of his drop. He didn't pull the trigger, and chose to play sandlot. Classic example of the bad side of Vick.

Well, at least Vick isn’t throwing interceptions. His second lost fumble was forced by Lawrence Timmons, who is having a great first quarter.

Maurkice Pouncey had three shotgun snaps that were high and fast in first quarter ... has that been a problem with him in the past?

Vince Verhei: Early in the second quarter, Vick has the near-interception and two lost fumbles, one at the goal line. He actually fumbled away another ball, but the play was correctly ruled down by contact on replay. That should not let Vick off the hook on the play, because he fumbled of his own accord, and only incidentally got his leg tangled with a Pittsburgh defender.

It's still 0-0, though, because Pittsburgh is making their own share of mistakes. Plenty of penalties, and Ben Roethlisberger has fumbled two shotgun snaps himself, though both were recovered by Pittsburgh.

Andy Benoit: Through 10 dropbacks, Vick has taken seven hits. Never mind, make it eight hits on 11 dropbacks.

Vince Verhei: Troy Polamalu is already back on the bench with his calf wrapped. Pam Oliver says he is done for the day.

Andy Benoit: The Steelers are able to get pressure on Vick with two deep safeties. That changes the way back end defenders can play the deep ball, and ruins an Eagles system that’s predicated on creating speed-based downfield mismatches.

The Steelers are throwing a lot at Nnamdi Asomugha in first half, not so much against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Asomugha is primarily matched on Antonio Brown, Rodgers-Cromartie on Mike Wallace. Brown did a good job getting open against Asomugha in first half. Won the matchup.

Aaron Schatz: Brown definitely is able to get open downfield against Asomugha, he had a play in the end zone where Roethlisberger just barely overthrew him and he reached out but was out the back of the end zone by the time he had possession. Both quarterbacks are under a lot of pressure. Not a lot of running the ball. And to answer Andy's question, no, I don't remember Pouncey ever being known for difficulty with shotgun snaps.

By the way, a Google search on "Maurkice Pouncey shotgun problems" brings up a number of stories about Mike Pouncey having shotgun problems. Maybe they switched bodies today, like a bad 80's comedy.

Danny Tuccitto: Wait, you mean a *totally awesome* 80s comedy.

J.J. Cooper: Not recently for Pouncey. Generally he is pretty consistent at snapping. One of those seemed to hit Roethlisberger in the hands.

Andy Benoit: The only two times the Eagles have gotten near Steelers’ goal-line, they’ve benefited from chunk yards of penalties.

It won’t show in the rushing numbers, but LeSean McCoy is keeping the Eagles’ offense alive in the second half. Lots of tough yards, creating yards that aren’t there. He had a pair of fourth-and-short conversions on Philly's early fourth quarter drive.

DeSean Jackson ran a great route against Ike Taylor, Cover-3 type coverage ... may have been quarters ... but whatever it was, Jackson ran an outside route versus Taylor’s outside technique. It was a similar route to what he ran last week against the Giants for a big gain.

Outstanding fourth-quarter drive by Eagles. A 17-play drive that lasted over eight minutes. Just like last week, the Eagles have gone to the ground in the second half to regain control of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Let it be known that the Steelers running game definitely improved in the second half. Big holes for Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall.

Miami Dolphins 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 13

Danny Tuccitto: Since I wrote about it in Upset Watch this week, my goal today is to keep an eye on A.J. Green v. Sean Smith. Early on, advantage Smith, although Andy Dalton doesn't seem shy about forcing the ball to Green, as evidenced by an on-the-move, across-his-body, 40-yard toss into the middle of the field. Probably should have been intercepted, but the coverage was there nonetheless.

Totally peculiar game-management move of the week: Miami has fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 38-yard line. They line up to run a play, but it's just the ol' try-to-draw-them-offside game. It doesn't work. They take a delay of game and then punt, right? Wrong. They take timeout for whatever reason, and then *go for it* after the timeout!

They ended up not getting the first down, but the result is irrelevant.

Halftime in Cincy, where it's 7-6 Miami. This one's pretty much proceeding as expected except for the Dolphins run defense uncharacteristically allowing Bernard Scott to break off a 29-yard run. On the other nine running back carries, though, Scott and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are averaging 2.0 yards a pop. In the Green-Smith matchup, Miami's been playing a lot of zone and allowing other corners to cover Green than I expected. By my count, Green's had six targets, been covered by Smith on four of those targets, and has a whopping two catches for five yards on those plays. (Mike Carey voice) "It remains...advantage Smith."

Vince Verhei: Dalton hits Green for a touchdown very early in the fourth quarter. Bengals then kick the extra point to make it a four-point game at 17-13. Why would you not go for two there? I guess you're anticipating giving up a field goal at some point and needing a touchdown?

Tom Gower: William Krasker's two-point conversion chart has your break-even at about 24 percent. So, Marvin Lewis didn't think his offense could gain two yards more than a quarter of the time?

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Washington Redskins 17

Andy Benoit: Ryan Kerrigan doing his best J.J. Watt impersonation on the first Washington touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Could be the Red Bryant tribute as well.

Tom Gower: Yeah, that was a very impressive play by Kerrigan, disrupting a screen and jumping up to get the ball. The Falcons have been just a bit off offensively today, stalling on a couple third downs. They've been playing well this year, better than they did last year, but their offense is starting to bother me again, just because I don't understand what's going on as well as I think I should.

Andy Benoit: Alfred Morris and the Redskins are consistently beating the Falcons on the edges with the stretch run. Receivers blocking in the run game is critical for that. Stretch runs are smart against Falcons because it forces corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel to play at the point of attack.

Matt Waldman: What I like about the Falcons offense compared to the Mularkey version is that it minimizes Matt Ryan's vertical game. Ryan has improved his arm strength, but he lacks that power arm to throw line-drive style deep plays. He needs to throw the ball with more arc than guys like Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Flacco, Cutler, etc. This offense does a strong job using Ryan's precision as a play-action passer on short drops. When they move Roddy White around, they do a great job of generating misdirection on short play-action passes that leave White in single coverage on the back side or running open across the middle on boot legs. But if the ground game gets out of rhythm and the play-action game is minimized, Ryan gets out of rhythm and the offense can stall.

Andy Benoit: Redskins put a lot of demands on their linebackers in pass defense. Tony Gonzalez is liking this.

Tom Gower: With first-and-goal at the 1 late in the first half, the Atlanta Falcons lined up with Ryan, Michael Turner, Gonzalez, and eight offensive linemen. After the Redskins are flagged for encroachment, they remain in the eight-lineman look and Ryan hits Gonzalez for the score.

Aaron Schatz: We may have to have Ben diagram that Atlanta eight-lineman set.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, 76-year-old Gonzalez has nine catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, in ten targets. He's not really going to retire, is he?

Matt Waldman: Based on Brian Cushing projecting his worries that one can't compete without "supplements" on Gonzalez's vegan compatriot Arian Foster, I'm sure the Texans linebacker is hoping so.

Vince Verhei: Kirk Cousins in for Robert Griffin after that goal-line collision. The Redskins promptly go three-and-out.

Rivers McCown: Jim Miller thinks a quarterback controversy is a-brewin'!

Andy Benoit: Julio Jones makes a fantastic adjustment on the ball for the game-changing touchdown in the front corner of end zone.

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Tom Gower: Second series with Cousins, Pierre Garcon drops a pass, then nobody on defense bothers to go more than 20 yards downfield. Santana Moss is 25 yards downfield, catches the ball, and runs 50 more yards to the end zone. I don't know which defenders screwed up, but at least one of them did in a big way.

Aaron Schatz: On the Santana Moss touchdown, that looks like he just split two safeties in a deep zone, it looked like they were looking at each other like "I thought you had the middle... no, I thought you had the middle." What was odd is that Atlanta then showed a close-up of a dejected Samuel walking to the sideline, even though it wasn't his fault at all, he had a zone on the side.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Indianapolis Colts 30

Tom Gower: The Packers are a better, more talented team than the Colts. This is not much of a surprise. Cedric Benson had a nice gain on a well-executed screen to set up in the first Packers touchdown, and Bruce Arians, apparently unfamiliar with the rules, challenged the second Packers score. So Green Bay got to kickoff from the 50. Benson was just carted to the locker room, shaken up on a tackle. I didn't think it looked that serious, but you never know.

Andrew Luck came out of college with great pocket presence and movement, and he needs every bit of it today as the Colts have struggled badly in protection today.

Andy Benoit: Just as Robert Griffin takes a bad hit near the sideline (after slipping), Andrew Luck rolls to the sideline on a nearly identical play and gets out of bounds. Symbolism?

Tom Gower: Luck scrambles for a score to cut the Packers lead to 21-19 just short of the close of the second quarter. The Colts then go for two and are stopped. According to William Krasker's two-point chart, your break-even point on this call is about 25 percent.

Andy Benoit: I've only seen a few plays, but Packers back Alex Green has a LOT of juice. Incredible lateral burst on his 41-yard run. Hard to imagine him not supplanting Benson in the near future.

Matt Waldman: Green reminded me of Jamal Anderson (stylistically speaking) when at Hawaii. His burst flies off the screen in those college games. Getting healthier, I suppose.

Andy Benoit: Are we watching a legend unfold with Andrew Luck here?

Vince Verhei: All credit in the world to Luck, but let's also credit a Colts defense that limited the Packers to one touchdown, two missed field goals, an interception, and four punts in the second half.

Aaron Schatz: I'm seeing stuff on Twitter about some kind of strange Packers clock management ... any details?

Denver Broncos 21 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: Question in the press box during Denver's opening drive: "Did the Broncos actually bring any running backs with them, or did they leave them all at home?"

The Pats would like Peyton Manning to know that he can have the pass in the flats to his tight ends whenever he feels like it. Three or four yards? They're fine with that.

Andy Benoit: Breaking: Tom Brady is sharp in pre-snap reads out of no-huddle. Patriots controlling the tempo.

Von Miller is showcasing explosive speed and power off the edge, but Brady doing an excellent job with pocket movement to compensate. When your quarterback can compensate like that, you can get away with single-blocking a guy like Miller, even though your tackles can’t actually block him.

Aaron Schatz: What's impressing me about Miller isn't just the pass pressure, it's the couple of big tackles for loss he's had of runners trying to take it outside. He just took down Brandon Bolden for a four-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1.

Otherwise, I feel bad I'm not being more talkative here but this game has played out as chalk. The Patriots offense looks Patriots offense-like. Denver's defense looks reasonable but clearly misses D.J. Williams, and the Pats are completing lots of short passes and getting lots of inside runs from shotgun. Manning looks good, he just had a couple of passes that were a little off and that's why the Pats are up 17-7 at the break.

Ben Muth: Bolden busts a long run on an outside zone off the tackle. Now do you give credit to Sebastian Vollmer, who knocked down the defensive end? Or, do you give it to Deion Branch, who got in the way of the cornerback? If you're announcing for CBS you give credit to Branch of course.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots just converted a third-and-17 with a handoff to Danny Woodhead. Just ... wow. The outside is nice, but the middle of the Denver defense is a problem.

Andy Benoit: We think of how a hurry-up offense helps your pass-blocking, but New England has shown all afternoon how it can help your run-blocking.

Rivers McCown: I think J.J. nailed it in Under Pressure when he noted that the biggest difference between this Manning and peak Manning is his ability to feel the rush coming. Big sack and forced fumble by Rob Ninkovich and the Patriots are less than 20 yards from being up four scores.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go for it on fourth-and-5 from the 37, figuring it is too far for a field goal but too close to get much field position punting. Sounds like a good decision. Doesn't work out well when Brady is sacked, loses the ball, and it bounces backwards about 15 extra yards for a 20-yard loss. Judge on process, not results, of course, but yeah, that sure didn't work out well.

Broncos score on that next drive after the Brady sack to make it 31-21. They onside kicked with 6:41 left and two timeouts remaining. Does that seem a little bit early to folks? I expected them to kick away.

Andy Benoit: Chandler Jones is doing a good job getting sinewy corner turns. Ryan Clady is fending him off, but Jones’s athleticism is evident. Manning is doing a fantastic job of improving late in the down. He’s single-handedly keeping the Broncos alive.

Aaron Schatz: Late in the game there, fourth-and-1, Denver chose to throw a 30-yard deep pass to Demaryius Thomas rather than try to convert with a run or a short pass -- the kind of short passes the Pats were letting them have all day. Totally ballsy, aggressive call, and I know we usually love aggressive calls, but I have to say -- I don't think it was a good idea, even if it worked. There was plenty of time for the Broncos to march towards the end zone, they didn't need to grab 30 in one chunk, and their odds of converting on a shorter pass were much higher. Anyone else have thoughts on it?

Vince Verhei: On the two Denver strategic questions:

1) I would never try an onside kick unless it was literally my only option. I think I've got better odds of forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back than I do of recovering an onside kick.

2) I'm pretty sure the play-call on fourth-and-1 was not "throw deep." I think Peyton saw he had a one-on-one matchup down the field that was at least as good a matchup as anything short, and they needed two scores, and he took a calculated risk. There were, what, six minutes left at that point? I don't think you can assume you'll have enough time to march down the field twice there.

Aaron Schatz: The results of the Champ Bailey project are interesting. As I did three weeks ago with Patrick Peterson, I tried to follow Champ Bailey on every New England offensive play. (Admittedly, I sort of lost track during a lot of the fourth quarter with the Pats running out the clock.) Unlike Peterson, the Broncos clearly wanted Bailey on Brandon Lloyd on every play. He switched sides whenever Lloyd did and went to the slot when Lloyd did. He was in man coverage on him on nearly every play, and it looked like pretty good coverage. Bailey generally used outside leverage to prevent Lloyd from moving away from the sideline. Brady didn't look to Lloyd much at all. And yet, when they did throw to Lloyd, they had success. The Pats threw three times to Lloyd in the first half, and all three were complete for first downs. First, Lloyd was able to get open on a dig for a first down. Later, he got away from Bailey with a little shake move in the middle of the field on one. He caught a quick slant on a third.

In the second half, they only threw to Lloyd twice. The first one was with 7:05 left in the third quarter, from around the 20, it was overthrown in the corner of the end zone but coverage was good, Brady would have needed to drop it into a very small space. Then in the fourth quarter, they threw to Lloyd again, I was a bit distracted but I think it was a zone of some sort and the pass was actually almost picked off by Von Miller in the underneath zone.

I'm not sure what this told us about Bailey's declining charting stats overall. He looked good, but his stats (allowing three out of five successful plays) wouldn't look good. Unfortunately, this shows one of the limitations of the charting. It's a big leap to track the success of coverage on all passes, but it's another big leap to try to track the success of coverage on all receivers, whether they are thrown to or not. It's something we finally would have the ability to do with all-22, but have neither the volunteer man-hours nor the financial resources to make it happen. However, we certainly could take a look at the end of the season at a few cornerbacks where the charting stats disagree with conventional wisdom. And now that we have snap counts, we can also look at targets per snap, which I am guessing will produce some interesting data.

Seattle Seahawks 16 at Carolina Panthers 12

Vince Verhei: After a couple of personal fouls, the Seahawks have benched Breno Giacomini for Frank Omiyale. If Brian Orakpo knows these guys, he is going to crush the caveman in fake Scrabble.

Seattle's defense gave up nothing in the first half. The Panthers last drive had a couple of big plays, including a big Cam Newton run, but stalled and ended in three points. Newton can't get anything to Steve Smith, though part of that was a blatant defensive pass interference deep downfield by Brandon Browner that the refs missed. Watching the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner cover the 5-foot-9 or whatever Steve Smith is comical. Not that it's a terrible mismatch (although Browner is clearly winning), but just the height difference makes me laugh.

Carolina's defense is leaving holes all over the secondary, and Sidney Rice is making more tough catches than I remember. Russell Wilson is 12-of-13 at halftime. That said, it's still the Seahawks offense, and they're still only ahead 6-3.

Andy Benoit: Captain Munnerlyn just got a huge pick-six. Inaccurate throw by Wilson. At what point are we going to start really questioning Wilson?

Vince Verhei: I've been questioning him for weeks.

Rivers McCown: Yeah, and I picked him apart in Any Given Sunday last week. And Pete Carroll had to field a few Matt Flynn questions last week as well. He's been questioned.

Vince Verhei: Wilson threw another interception while scrambling and throwing across his body. The ball came in behind Marshawn Lynch and, to be fair, was catchable, but got knocked up into the air and picked off. Counting Leon Washington's fumble on the opening kickoff, that's three turnovers for Seattle this quarter.

And the Seahawks defense has still given up only three points. They're conscious of Newton's big-play ability and giving big cushions to the wideouts, much less press man than they usually play, and Newton has been too erratic to hit the shorter routes.

Aaron Schatz: I think The Asterisk is still our man in the long run, but listen, I told people before the season that rookies are usually rookies and they have rookie problems for a reason, and you don't see those issues in the preseason because opponents aren't specifically game-planning to confuse them in their glorious rookieness. So yes, I think Flynn gives them a better chance to make the postseason *this year* but I think it makes sense to believe in Wilson long-term.

Vince Verhei: Brandon Browner: Real man. He's been dominating Smith all day. Then Carolina runs the option. Browner forces Newton to pitch the ball, then peels off and hits DeAngelo Williams for what would have been a loss anyway, then strips the ball and recovers it to put Seattle back in the game.

Seahawks capitalize on the turnover as Wilson hits Golden Tate with a slant route on third down, and Tate somehow squirms through about a half-dozen Panthers for the score. A 27-yard touchdown drive.

Panthers get by far their best drive of the day as Newton finds Greg Olsen in the Seahawks' zone a few times. It comes down to a goal-line stand. Two runs are stuffed, and a completion comes up just short of the goal-line. On fourth-and-inches, they try play-action and a rollout. Olsen is quadruple-covered, and Newton, looking completely lost, throws the ball into the turf. This defense is just wild.

Seahawks ended up taking a safety and kicking away, and the defense iced the game with a Bruce Irvin sack-fumble. Alan Branch fell on the ball. Really an amazing game for the Seattle defense.

Buffalo Bills 3 at San Francisco 49ers 45

Peter Koski: Leodis McKelvin is giving the Niners special teams some problems. He brought a kickoff into Niners territory after bouncing out of a pile. On an earlier kickoff, he found a seam, but it was called back for holding.

The Niners keep going back to play-action on first down and the Bills keep giving them no reason to change. The San Francisco offense seems real close to finding a groove, but it can't quite get there.

Ben Muth: Buffalo's secondary is bad at tackling.

Peter Koski: Michael Crabtree is displaying some more of that after-the-catch playmaker ability that he's yet to do consistently in the NFL. Kyle Williams is also showing signs of development, making a nice adjustment on a back shoulder stop and then taking it to the house. The Bills are motioning guys out wide in an effort to take Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman out of the middle to create space for C.J. Spiller.

The Bills don't have an answer for Vernon Davis.

Andy Benoit: The Bills are the first team since the 1950 NY Yanks to allow 550 or more yards in consecutive weeks.

Danny Tuccitto: The predictability of this 49ers game makes me wonder if some intrepid computer engineer in Cupertino programmed it into the matrix. We knew the Buffalo defense is horrible. We knew that San Francisco's defense is great. We knew the 49ers offense can score points just fine against horrible defenses. We knew they easily handle inferior non-division opponents at home. There's been your
typical dose of Kaeper-cat, play-action passing, 300-pound defensive linemen as lead blockers, naked bootlegs, end-arounds, etc. On defense, it's Patrick Willis seemingly everywhere, Carlos Rogers getting abused in the slot, sure-handed tackling from everyone, plus takeaway after takeaway.

It's the first time in years that I'm legitimately bored watching my favorite team.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Harbaugh has to be the leader for Coach of the Year. Look, I know nobody ever wins Coach of the Year in two straight years. They almost always give the award to somebody coaching a surprise playoff team that unexpectedly goes from a losing record to a winning record. This year that would be Leslie Frazier, and the Vikings are impressive, but what Harbaugh has done with the 49ers is truly remarkable. The historical regression trends were so strong, and yet that may be the best team in the league. And Harbaugh is such a big reason, especially when you consider how much his management has meant for Smith and that offense.

Tennessee Titans 7 at Minnesota Vikings 30

Tom Gower: Matt Hasselbeck has been pretty lousy early, and Antoine Winfield was the first Vikings player to actually take advantage and catch the ball. That set up a field goal to make it 10-0, as the Vikings scored earlier on a drive that included a nice touch pass downfield to Percy Harvin and finished with a Harvin run from the backfield.

Well, my company for this week's game left a lot happier than they did four years ago when the Titans beat the Vikings in Nashville. Today's game was never really competitive. The Titans did nothing offensively in the first three quarters, and while the Vikings didn't do much either, they did just enough. Adrian Peterson ran well, Harvin is better than you think he is, and the Titans' receivers had major problems winning against an improved secondary. Michael Griffin did get flagged for a hit, so maybe Jerry Gray will be happy about that. Otherwise, there's not much to be happy about as the Titans have now given up at least 30 in every game this season and have not scored more than two offensive touchdowns in a game. I wrote this on my Titans site after last week's game, but the Week 17 home game against the Jaguars is looking like it could be a big one for draft position.

Rivers McCown: I started Chris Johnson in a fantasy league, so I am at least as culpable for his performance as his offensive line.

San Diego Chargers 24 at New Orleans Saints 31

Rivers McCown: Looks like this game is about as popular as Ryan Mathews in the Chargers front office.

Tom Gower: I've been watching with some interest, though I'm also still stewing over the Titans game. Philip Rivers has looked great at times. The Mathews stuff still drives me nuts -- I got to the point last year where I sort of figured things out and could see where they wanted him to make better decisions at the second level. Second-year defensive end Corey Liuget has turned into a heck of a player after a very meh debut season. Beyond Liuget, the guy who's really surprised me this year is Malcom Floyd. He's been a very good vertical threat in the past, but is doing better this year on shorter and intermediate passes than I was expecting.

Danny Tuccitto: Yanks fan here, so I'm watching that one. Something I'll say about SNF is that I wonder if I'm the only one that doesn't see anything impressive in Drew Brees breaking this record. I mean, we're talking three-four seasons of games with touchdowns on one of the most pass-heavy offenses in today's pass-heavy NFL. Big whoop.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it's impressive in the same way a long hitting streak is impressive: the consistency.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I was a bit too hyperbolic for my own good there. It's not that I don't see "anything" impressive about it. I just don't see why people think it's super-duper impressive enough for it to be a major storyline in the lead-up to the game.

Rivers McCown: Pierre Thomas has been a real bright spot in the second half for the Saints. And it's nice to see the vertical threat restored in New Orleans now that Devery Henderson is healthy.

Hard to mount a game-tying drive when you commit three penalties in a row. Second-and-37!

Matt Waldman: Devery Henderson to me is like the fighting chicken in Family Guy. He doesn't show up often, but when he does he shows up big. His hands have improved enough that he's not as bad as Robert Meachem. Speaking of Meachem, the Saints secondary has made him look like a starter for once this year. Watching that ball rattle off his chest and into his hands as the safety's contact helped the receiver secure the ball is typical Meachem on a good day. I've said this for years, but Meachem looks like he's doing a math problem in front of the classroom when he's targeted by a quarterback.

Listening to the broadcast team relay the Chargers' comments about Eddie Royal developing into an option that will garner 4-5 catches per week is humorous. The guy has issues recognizing zone coverage. Unless he's strictly getting targets versus single coverage, he's often a liability. Unless stem cell researchers figure out how to combine the DNA of Floyd, Meachem, and Vincent Brown, this receiving corps is not replacing Vincent Jackson with this crew. Brown is the only receiver after Floyd with promise beyond situational skill.

I don't understand why the Saints even use Mark Ingram at this point. I loved Ingram's potential, but those knee injuries have resulted in a different player than the one the Saints saw at Alabama. Thomas is a spark plug for this team. He came to this team with a chip on his shoulder and quite unintentionally the Saints gave him a bigger chip the past 2-3 years. He's the most complete back on the team.

Rivers McCown: That is why Cris Colinsworth is an excellent analyst. Wow. Correctly diagnoses that Jared Gaither is hurt, and Martez Wilson gets a game-clinching sack/fumble on the very next play.

Comments

236 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2013, 6:53am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

My thoughts on the Giants-Browns game are please bring back the replacement refs. Heck, bring back the replacement rule writers. What horse's ass thought it was a good idea to only allow ball spot challenges on plays that resulted in a first down?

The Browns completed a 3rd down pass and after a measurement, the ball was 6 inches short of a first down. However, replay clearly showed the ball should've been spotted a yard behind where it was. Coughlin throws the challenge flag because Cleveland is about to go for it on 4th down in their own territory. The refs tell Coughlin he can't challenge and Cleveland converts the QB sneak for a first down. I highly doubt they go for it if the ball is placed in the proper spot. What is the purpose of not letting a team challenge a spot on a play resulting in 4th down as opposed to 1st down? It's not like the game will be lengthened because there's only 2 challenges per team.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The main problem I see with this is that there is no way to define a "successful challenge." The refs never spot the ball exactly right. Where do you draw the line? 6 inches off? 1 foot? 1 yard? It's an arbitrary rule, but you have to make some arbitrary rule here.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Successful spot challenge:

(1) changes from being a first down to not being a first down, or vice versa
(2) changes from being <= 1 yard to go to not being <=1 yard to go, or vice versa

(1) is the current rule, as I understand it. Why not add (2), to address problems like mentioned above?

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Like I said, 1 yard is just as arbitrary. Why not the 2? It really just adds more complicated measurements. Of course, there should be no reason why you can't willingly lose the challenge in order to improve the spot of the ball.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

OK, here:

Spot gets changed AT ALL, it's a successful challenge. There, done. Easy.

If a coach wants to use one of his two precious challenges to move the spot 6", that's his business. You don't need to make an artificial "unsuccess" to discourage frivolous challenges because you already only allow two per coach per game.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I didn't see the Browns-Giants game. Was Coughlin told that he couldn't challenge (I'm assuming he had one left), or did he just decide not to when he was told that even a "successful" challenge would cost him a timeout?

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Coughlin was told he could not challenge because the challenge was not going to result in a moving of the sticks. After the play ended, there was an official timeout for a measurement. The ball was 6 inches short of a first down. A successful Giants challenge (all replays were indisputable) would've moved the ball farther back, making a 4th down attempt by the Browns more difficult and perhaps making them reconsider going for it.

In short, Cleveland COULD challenge the spot of the ball (because a successful challenge for them might've resulted in a 1st down), but the Giants could not (it was still going to be 4th down regardless of the outcome of the challenge).

I just don't understand what the purpose is of not allowing a team to challenge the spot.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I could be wrong, but I thought one could challenge the spotting of the ball up until recently. I do recall a point being made in the last year or two that challenging a spot was only allowed if it resulted in a first down. But I swear there was a change at some point. Not sure why or when.

I'd also agree that it should be allowed and if the spot changes that its successful. Coaches phsyically cannot challenge very much, so I doubt it would be used much for ball spots. But as reference in the above posts, sometimes the spot IS pretty important and cannot change the outcome.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

At least the refs had a dubious rule to fall back on for this call, unlike the 3 missed DPI's they should have called against the Browns, including the interception that happened with the Browns' DB's arms draped across Victor Cruz's a good 2 beats before the ball arrived.

On Weeden's key 1st hald interception that turned the game around, I'm surprised I haven't seen more criticism of the play call. Giants had demonstrated repeatedly that they couldn't tackle Trent Richardson, and yet on 3rd-and-1 the Browns not only threw but took Richardson off the field and went shotgun empty backfield. Drives me nuts when the Giants do that, but I was very happy to see an opponent do that. Someone needs to explain to me why that's so common, and why any offensive coordinator hell-bent on throwing wouldn't at least want to show the potential for a run to set up play action.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Was that atrocity in the Bronco game an onside kick? I thought of it as some sort of elaborate squib kick. I know that Prater isn't the best onside kicker in the world, but I would think that if he was really trying, he wouldn't flutter it out 20(ish) yards.
It was like the worst aspects of kicking away and onside kicking all rolled into one terrible decision. The Broncos' late-game kickoff decisions have been infuriating me... Also Joe Mays. Joe Mays infuriates me too.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

A fair number of onside kicks are done on the theory that you boot it beyond the receiving team's line, then your guys running forward from the start of the play can cover 20 yards faster than the other side's guys can realize what's happening, turn around, and cover 10. No clue if this works any better IRL than other methods.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The Broncos sort of did that to the Jets in the 1998 AFC championship game, but I don't think it was intentional. Jason Elam booted a kickoff and a huge gust of wind just killed it. It landed way, way short of the return man, there was a scramble and the Broncos ended up with the ball on what effectively ended up as an onside kick, but like I said I think it was a fluke. I remember the wind was doing crazy things to the football that day.

Overall I'd think pop-up kickoffs are worth trying in high school and college but no so much in the pros. NFL players are so fast you may think you're kicking into a void and find that one of those speedsters fields your short kick and returns it rather easily.

Sort of off-topic, but one thing I've been waiting for with the kickoff mark moved up to the 35-yard line is for a team to have its kicker start going for hang-time instead of distance. Have the kickoff go high in the air and come down maybe around the 5. You'd stand an excellent chance of stopping them inside their 20, though doubtless many teams would rather negate the chance of a return TD, even at the cost of a few yards of field position.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

In week 2 this year against the Lions, the Niners left a huge void 30-35 yards downfield, with the hands team up front - Hanson pooched it and Kyle Williams grabbed it for the Niners. It was kind of close, partially because Vernon Davis was a little confused about whether he needed to recover it or not. The niners even called a time out before the kick - then stayed in the formation.

It's unclear whether that was a Seely trick that worked, one that didn't work, or just a weird oversight.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

When the Giants were down 14-0 and I mentioned that it didn't look good for my decision to pick them at the biggest value in my office pool, someone said that the Giants were going to win by 14 anyway.

So, I'm not sure who it was, but props to you.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Did anyone else think Bradford's 44 yard throw to Amendola was more lucky than good? If DRC had made even the slightest effort to find the ball, that would have been incomplete or even an easy interception. It basically goes under his arm.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I found the best part of watching football this weekend was watching the NYG/CLE game (my wife and I were visiting my parents) and hearing my 69-year-old mother who watches maybe three games a year (when the Bears are on) take an unsolicited shot at Dierdorf's announcing. I'm pretty well convinced that Michaels/Collinsworth is the #1 announcing team currently working NFL games, but it'd be interesting to see how the folks here would rank them.

...Of course, network policy has a nasty effect as well. Divine intervention couldn't make a MNF color guy bearable.

21 Commentators

I've alluded to it before but I'll say it again; the tv viewing experience needs to evolve further. The camera angle is terrible and the commentary is worst. I'd rather listen to the mindless madden game monotony.

I really enjoyed the statement in last weeks article about how typical analysis of Brady doesn't say anything about what makes Brady Brady but rather is usually just descriptive of things that he has done, which is close to who he is (not to untangle the idea about doing & being) but this 'analysis' is not constructive to a better understanding of what makes him function the way he does.

I've posted a bit about day9 and the starcraft commentary community but I'm going to ramble on a bit more about how I see them functioning.

1. The commentators are self-starters and knowledgable. Some were former pro players, but they all still play and thus are aware of how the game evolves and the mechanics of the game. If a commentator can't place the players onto their 'build's' or overarching strategy early in a match then no one will take them seriously and no one will watch. When no one is watching, they don't get invited back and their streams fail. I see this not happening in pro football in two ways: 1. People aren't fired. They need to fire some of these guys who are atrocious. Before they can do that though the people calling the shots need to understand that good commentary is more than 'the pass was complete for 8 yards". Something more along the line of "Wayne got open on that long third down because of a unique new route that is being run where the WR looks to run a post route but then turns it into a lazy hook that the CB is in no position to play because of his leverage. The requirement for this would be commentators who understand this. 2. I don't think commentators do. I see them being in awe of the physical tools, which is dandy, but that doesn't explain how a team like SF has turned it completely around, and then all the pundits are scratching their heads. As noted in the open discussion thread, the networks have former coaches that don't even know the rules of the league commentating. That's terrible. They need former coaches that still put in enough work to know the rules and the actual strategies of the teams and of the game. Though I'm assuming a lot of coaches are terrible at what they do and can't understand overarching strategies, how else to you explain the complete ineptitude of certain staffs?
After wins Belichick uses the Belestrator (The telestrator) on the Patriots official site to break down plays from the previous week That is the kind of broadcasting that should be happening live. When Madden started doing it there was a soft revolution, but it needs to go all the way to the all 22, but specifically the madden cam. If a network was bold enough to do it I'm sure everyone would watch that game if no one was rooting for a specific team at that time slot.

2. The commentary should be reflective of analysis and descriptive of actual events rather than reactionary to how this new event fits the prescribed narrative of the game. Manning Dueling Brady? What a load of bs. They both play on offense. Now something like Brady vs Reed and Lewis (pre-ravens), or Manning vs Belichick. That makes sense. That's why this site is growing. It does what the networks should be doing. If the NFL were serious about promoting itself it would take a more classic Nintendo approach and have a say on how the networks used the content. In the 80's to make a Nintendo game with a stamp it had to pass Nintendo's quality review. That made the Nintendo more successful than the Genesis. Similarly the Apple app site works the same way, which is what keeps iOS generally more stable than an Android (I'm an Android guy, lets not make this the topic). The NFL should tell the networks that they can make narratives but that they should make sense and not be nonsensical.
What a live viewer should hear is what personnel are on the field, what the formation is and it's strengths, and what presnap motion is being used and to what effect. If a commentator was really good they could describe how far the back is from the LoS, the game situation, etc.
I think that the commentators are bored with the game and confused by how to fit things into the narrative when they're nonsensical plot arcs. They just keep coming back to the moronic statements that they preplanned. They need to find guys that can talk on their toes.
Since the networks realized that they should have the game situation put in an info bar (score, time & quarter, down & distance, and timeouts) maybe they'll figure out that the point of commentary is to comment on the game, not only on the musings about the mythos of the game, though someone of that mystique should certainly stay

3. Commentators should be younger and they should be able to draw women. This might seem ridiculous to some. If you want the guys to pay attention to something, get girls to pay attention to it. At least that's how good restaurants operate. The NFL has to realize to grow their actual market outside the US and outside the demographic they already own they're going to have to get football to appeal to more than the guys who innately like it, they need to make it more appealing. You have cheerleaders which is fine for gawking but when girls are saying to their guy friends, let's watch the game, that works a whole lot better for the NFL than, lets watch the Batchelorette. Old men who sound like morons in bland suits that are not appealing. I love football and I think the commentators are unattractive to the sport. In gaming women players and women commentators exist but in a minor role, though more and more women are getting into videogaming. I think women can't stand the neanderthal approach that networks use to package the games. Women buy an idea of mythos to a degree but they also appreciate learning, and I don't see educating happening in the booth. Though maybe this is too sexist of a stance and I'm off base.

4. Train the sideline reporters to ask some real questions. Instead of to Torrey Smith: "How did you do it?" (I think it's fine to bring up his heart break once or so, to mention the minute of silence but give it a break, you don't need to pry and it's not even probably relevant) have them ask a question about what actually happened; so for instance to Brady after the Buffalo game: Did you keep checking to the run against that personnel package or was it called that way? (That's actually pretty weak) Maybe something along the lines of asking Ed Reed what goes through his head as he's positioning himself or baiting a QB, so for instance; "After your rotation into centerfield what helped you key onto the route that you decided to break on?

I'd love to see these things implemented but I'm not sure that they're necessary to the business model. On Saturday I was watching WV vs Texas and my Dad said "Now all WV needs to do is score to put the game away (in the 4th with about 6 min left)." My father seemed to be completely oblivious to the idea that there was another team on the field and that that made a difference to his thought process. And my dad isn't a dumb guy, he's actually a chemical engineer and is really bright. But he seems to be completely lacking in game theory. 'Need' to him he recognizes but he doesn't understand entity interaction within a system.

To me this would be a perfect crew for a game:

Analysis: Chris Brown of smartfootball.com
Alternatively this position could be filled with some other brilliant football mind that is ideally both young and dresses well. I don't care if he's never played, if he has, or if he's old. As long as he understands and can talk about nuance of the game.
Alternative: Andy Benoit (maybe I'm showing how little I know)

Color: Sid Meier/Warren Spector or Jerry Seinfeld
Someone who cares about the game and who is funny. Don't give me narrative fluff, if you want fluff give me humor about the absurdity of pushing a guy down and then picking him up or give me an explanation/education of how coverage holding up and sacks are related. And maybe show the correlatives of big blitzing and success. I don't think most people understand that. Alternatives: Sean 'Day9' Plott, Obama, Joshua Waitzkin

Filler/Chemistry (Not a necessary position): Anna Kendrick
She's my flavor of the month and I want to hear her talk about football. I think she's hot enough that guys will take notice but not that girls will want her off the screen. This is really a spot predicated on gelling the booth. Seinfeld or Buck could also take this spot. (I'd love to hear Dr Phil's take on the New York Jets, The Dr for a full broadcast calling Jet's vs Patriots would be interesting if asked about dynamics of group responsibility for success). It could be that girl kicker out of college (forgive me for not knowing her name, my excuse is that I'm in Winnipeg), or Cooley's wife, or for that matter any gf of a player. I don't know how well Giselle understands the game but I think she'd say more interesting things, well, definitely more inflammatory things. So a celebrity or someone involved in the game in a grassroots/personal way. Get that guy who was signed by the Bucs honorarily who was paralyzed in a game. You get him talking about leading with the helmet and I think the message will start to click about tackling with the shoulder. You'd have to be careful with him though to not make him a battering ram for the issue.

Though maybe I'm just preaching to the converts and the unwashed masses couldn't give a rip as long as they get to see big and fast guys hitting each other.

23 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

Sorry for the poor editing; It's a little late

32 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

Katie Hnida was the CU kicker.

All this seems pretty reasonable to me. Announcing has been mostly the same for at least 25 years, as far back as I can remember with a reasonably critical mind: targeted at people who don't know much about the game, but not in such a way as to increase their knowledge. Anything that seems like it might be different is rejected and replaced with more of the same. Production still focuses on all kinds of unrelated crap that doesn't even need the focus while plays are happening on the field, even with teams you know will run no-huddle and hurry-up offenses.

I agree that a key demographic is younger women - I doubt the NFL can gain much more of a following among younger men. Telecasts need to be about more than just blood and boobs, but you don't want to go too far in the other direction. Making telecasts female-friendly does not mean coloring everything pink or using little words. Present more learning opportunities during games. Do away with cheerleaders. (They don't lead cheers anyway; they're just like NBA dance teams. And their pay is atrocious.)

109 Re: Commentators

In reply to by zlionsfan

I can't remember who did it but I think during the Colt SB run in 06 there was an explanation from the network covering the SB of what a Tampa-2 was. While this is standard fare for those that play madden (though the Tampa-2 wasn't actually in Madden till a few years later) it was nice to see the zone concept explained.

'Education is evil' is I think a prevailing theme of football broadcasts, and it's probably a part of the building enigma surrounding Harbaugh or Belichick. They are both educators as coaches and smart about game theory and the networks are too dumb to understand enough to even explain that.

You could also have cheerleaders actually lead cheers. Don't they at the college and HS level? (Forgive my ignorance, hockey is what's big in Canada)

112 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

In college and HS, cheerleading is a sport to itself. It's kind a group gymnastics/tumbling.

The cheerleading they do at football games is more just having fun.

189 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

Yeah.... It seems most broadcasters work on the principle of "this game is so complicated that you the viewer couldn't possibly understand what's going on, so I'll dumb it down for you".

36 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

You know, NASCAR has a huge female audience despite being almost entirely testosterone-fueled. College football also seems to have a sizable female audience. I think if the product is compelling, the audience will come.

Besides, Susan Komen has already ruined 5 weeks of the season. Let's not let her idiot sister ruin the rest of the season, too.

38 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

I have nothing to add, except that I enjoyed Dennis Miller's tenure on MNF

(I also like the Eagles)

43 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

A comedian as color guy?

Like, say, Dennis Miller? Didn't everybody hate that experiment?

Edit: apparently billsfan didn't. My bad!

110 Re: Commentators

In reply to by RickD

I hated Dennis Miller too. I think a lot of humor is based on shock value and racism and other stereotyping, which is terrible. I think what Seinfeld did, at least to my knowledge, was to make fun of the insanity in life. What is more insane than watching behemoths run around on a field and yet get paid millions of dollars to do so. It's like we value the most meaningless thing above all.

Get observational humorists like Bryan Reagan. Miller was dysfunctional because he wasn't that funny.

123 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

Always thought Seinfeld was about social anthropology -- making explicit cultural rules that we take for granted. "Dja ever notice...?"

I find the guy consistently funny. Pro football might have one or two of those unstated cultural rules to poke fun at. But does he give a flying shit about football?

126 Re: Commentators

In reply to by bravehoptoad

I don't think he does. He's made a lot of references to and jokes about baseball, but I hardly ever hear him talk about football.

115 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

I too hated Dennis Miller, but I don't him funny when he isn't talking about football either.

I'm not sure there are many comedians who can ad lib jokes for 3 hours effectively, and I'm even less sure there are enough who love football enough to do the job right.

Tony Kornheiser tried, and either sucked or was crushed under the oppressive creative drain that is the Disney corporation.

As for appealing to the female demographic, my only anecdotal experience is that my mom loved John Madden, so I don't think it's obvious how to appeal to women.

131 Re: Commentators

Here's a revolutionary concept: You know which announcers my wife likes? The ones who know a lot about the game and don't talk down to the viewers---i.e., the same ones that all intelligent football fans like.

150 Re: Commentators

In reply to by TomC

So your wife doesn't like any of the network announcers?

141 Re: Commentators

I guess I'm in the minority of FO readers who finds Miller funny, but I like one-liners like:

"That hit was later than Godot"
"Ironically a guy named Berlin showed some pretty good north to south speed"
"Truth be told, the Monday Night Football vineyard has not yielded an exquisite vintage so far this year. A lot of Ripple, Thunderbird and Boone's Farm turning up on the wine list."
"... the Colts would have to win out for the rest of the season just to go 8-8. And trust me, that's one Indy 500 that nobody saw coming."

The reason he didn't appeal to a broad audience (http://espn.go.com/abcsports/mnf/s/annotatedmiller/archive.html) is probably the same reason he appealed to me.

(I also like the Eagles)

151 Re: Commentators

I don't mind Dennis Miller generally, but hated him on MNF. Nothing irks me like a guy who uses words that the general public needs a dictionary for, yet uses them incorrectly as often as not. I still cringe at his usage of "Pyrrhic" victory to mean a close loss, that is, a moral victory.

It's the same problem I have with Easterbrook. If your schtick is that you're the urbane, intelligent alternative to football analysis, don't make stupid mistakes in your urbane, intelligent football analysis.

167 Re: Commentators

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

My million-dollar idea: create a secondary audio channel (like they sometimes broadcast an SAP channel in Spanish, etc.) that broadcasts only the actual sounds of the game, with no commentary. Just crowd noise, helmets crashing together, Ray Lewis yelling at people...it'd be wonderful. You could use the same video feed, but just cut out the talking heads and maybe fiddle with the on-field mic mix a bit. There's a possiblity you'd miss out on some pertinent info from the commentators, and I suppose telestrator illustrations without accompanying analysis could be a bit strange, but I think it'd be worth it in the end.

Of course, this will never happen because it would impinge on each network's "brand" or something, but I would really enjoy it. Who needs commentary when you have Twitter these days?

171 Re: Commentators

In reply to by canofcorn66

Some years ago when broadcast TV first switched to digital, the local Fox station actually did this. And I did take advantage.

173 Re: Commentators

What's really sad is that years ago (late 70s?) they did a game with an empty booth. Might have been Dolphins/Pats? Anyway, it was a flop. The producers found it borderline unwatchable, and the ratings were terrible.

179 Re: Commentators

Interesting, I've never heard of that. I can understand why that would flop and why it's especially impossible to present that as the only option, but it seems like having it as a secondary option wouldn't be too crazy...

180 Re: Commentators

Interesting. I thought they were repeating that experiment weekly with Joe Buck.

181 Re: Commentators

It was Dolphins vs. Jets in 1980. I remember watching it. It was very boring. Of course, those two teams were boring anyway. Here is an ESPN article from a few years ago near the 30th anniversary of that game: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5906858

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Certainly Michaels/Collinsworth is the crew I enjoy the most. Mayock is good to. Oh and Billick has been a very postive surprise. So has Mike Martz.

I'd say
1. Collinsworth
2. Mayock
3. Billick/Martz

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The last drive by the chargers had 4 bad calls all go against them. Gates called for OPI when their was barely any contact with the defender, hardwick called for holding when he released the player instantly when he got by him, Floyd fighting to get out of bounds only to have the refs call forward progress (if a player gets out of bounds before the whistle is blown it is out of bounds regardless of the spot of forward progress), and with about 1:20 left in the game the refs have a conference and allow the clock to be run down about 20 seconds.

This is the first time ive ever felt like the NFL actually fixed a game (granted i have only been watching about 10 years and on average watch about 2 games a week). There is no point in me crying and claiming i refuse to watch the NFL from here on out, but it should be known that the end of this game is evidence that the refs can fix a game in obvious ways and if it happens to a mid-low interest team it will go largely unnoticed.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Please. The NFL is not going to fix a game, for the simple reason that it would be really dumb thing to do.

I will say the game served as a nice counterexample to the conventional wisdom that the replacement refs fouled thing up to a degree that the regular zebras never would

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Your second paragraph is exactly what i meant to get to in my original post. Well said Will.

"Please. The NFL is not going to fix a game, for the simple reason that it would be really dumb thing to do."

I disagree with your assessment. My most convincing proof is the NBA officials scandal in the early to mid 2000's. Regardless of whether Donahey(?)was telling the truth or trying to become famous quick, the perception to the average fan is that NBA refs strongly affected the outcome of games, and often on purpose with alterior motives. While i agree that it would be a really dumb thing to do, the NBA appears to have done it with almost 0 repercussions. It is more popular now than it has been since the Jordan era.

I also havent even touched up on why Loomis and Payton were allowed to be present at the game. I find it very fishy that they would be allowed to break the rules, then be the beneficiary of 5 bad calls in the closing seconds of a very close game.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The perception of the average fan was that Tim Tebow was a good NFL qb last year. The perception of the average fan is that Super Bowl Rings are a useful metric in delineating among great qbs. Now we are supposed to think the NFL is involved in a vast criminal conspiracy that would send billionaires to prison (and you can ask Martha Stewart whether billionaires go to prison), in a sport where t.v. ratings are great no matter which teams win, because of the average fan's perception?

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

She either received the worst legal advice in the history of the United States, or her legal counsel may have been unethical instead of grossly incompetent. When the FBI comes calling, wanting to ask questions about your trading activity, you tell the FBI that you ain't saying anything unless a Grand Jury subpeona arrives first, and then you're taking the Fifth unless an ironclad immunity agreement is offered. If your billionaire client insists on doing an FBI interview, despite your advice to the contrary, you need to tell your billionaire that he or she is now an ex-client.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

WARNING! WARNING! NO POLITICS RULE IN VIOLATION!

This part of the comment thread stops here. Wall Street people will now be known simply as "possible Football Outsiders readers." Thanks.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

You made it through the entire 2007 season and *now* you think games are being fixed?

I agree with Will Allen's point--this game and last week's GB-NO game were a good reminder that the replacement refs weren't that much worse.

(I also like the Eagles)

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

"This is the first time ive ever felt like the NFL actually fixed a game "

The refs had two dubious calls that cancelled big gains by the Chargers and gave them 2nd and 37.

Then they called illegal hands to the face and gave the Chargers 1st down. Is this something that the officials would have done if they were fixing the game?

"If it happens to a mid-low interest team it will go largely unnoticed." Possibly true. But the Sunday night game is not going to be low profile in any case.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Didn't see much of any game until Saint/Chargers. What's with these parents and their all day baptism celebrations? Well, the brunch as pretty good......

It has to be frustrating to be a Chargers fan; the opponent is on their back-up back-up coach, and Norv is still getting outclassed. It is amazing that that the Bolts only scored 24 points.

Looking at the drive charts for earlier games, it appears as if the Vikings just slapped around an inferior opponent. I suspect the Packers just aren't very good on the line of scrimmage. The Bears performance aganst the Packers may have been a real anomaly.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Andrew Luck is going to have a nice career.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Funny thing is, they probably still force overtime if the refs don't call offensive PI on Gates negating a huge play, then a phantom holding call on the very next play negating another long pass. Replacement officials could not have done any worse on that drive than these guys did.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Mathews seems to be so much better than either Brown or Battle. I get that you sometimes have to send a message to your players (though in this case, what's the message? "don't fumble"?), but you also need to use the talent you have on hand to win games.

13 Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Wow. I can see disputing the achievement as not necessarily as impressive as the mark by Unitas; defensive backs were allowed to molest recievers, et al. But lets make list of the great modern QBs who never held that record. As standout as Brees' weapons are, other so-called great quarterbacks have had better. And let's not forget the particular liability of a Saints defense which can be quite willing to force him to watch a game from the bench. More durably and consistantly explosive than, Marino, Favre, Montana, Brady, Manning (either), Moon!, Warner, Aikman, doesn't strike me as any shade of unimpressive.

/Not even a Saints fan

17 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Not that I disagree with your main point here, but the defense keeping Brees on the bench doesn't (typically) prevent him from tossing a single TD over the course of 60 minutes. From what I've seen of their defense, it's more likely to encourage him to toss as many as possible.

20 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

It demands that he do so, it does not aid him in anyway. Maybe it did in their superbowl year. But this year they seem to be playing to allow the most rushing yards in history. That time is lost opportunities for him. If he goes three and out, or turns it over, that's extremely expensive because of the defense that takes the field. As his space of opportunity shrinks, so must his efficiency rise.

In my mind, if there's any argument strongly in favor of Unitas' supremacy, its medicine, but I've yet to even see any other critic mention it.

24 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Brady's currently on a 37-game streak, and I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the top three streaks have proceeded entirely in the past 3-4 years. Heck, until it was snapped two weeks ago, even Matt Stafford had a 21-game streak going, which almost certainly would have been 29 if not for getting hurt early in Week 1 of 2010.

And I think Stafford's streak is a perfect example of what my point is here. Like Aaron said, as an achievement in consistency/longevity, Brees' streak is impressive for sure. He's avoided injuries. As an achievement in compiling TD passes, though, it loses weight for me personally because of how many more get thrown these days. 2012 is on pace to be the third year in a row that the league as a whole crosses the 1.5-pass-TDs-per-team-per-game threshold (not that there's anything magical about that threshold, of course). Previously, there had never been even two seasons in a row like that since the merger, and the strike-shortened 1987 season was the only other single season it's happened. And for the first 1+ seasons of Unitas' streak? 1.2. (Although, interestingly and further to my point, the league average jumped to 1.4 in the final 2+ seasons of his streak.) Of Brees' 48-game streak, 41 are in the 2010-2012 period. Brady's entire streak is in that period.

Kudos to Brees for being consistently great, and not having his streak snapped because of an in-game injury or getting rested for the final three quarters in Week 17 or any other randomness. In terms of the must-throw-a-TD-pass half of the equation? Meh.

177 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

I'm not particularly enamored with the record itself because it seems to be more a show of consistency and longevity as opposed to jaw-dropping brilliance, and I think we can all agree that jaw-dropping brilliance is just more fun (some of us have Barry Sanders' 1988 season bookmarked for a reason).

Still, I don't think that we should hold Brees' context against him, or overstate the case that "everyone throws TDs these days so it's not a big deal." Sure, 2 of the top 3 streaks are from the past 3 years, and certainly that points to an extreme trend in the game. But only 4 of the top 10 are post-2000, which is only 1 more than the number that are pre-1970. Not to mention the fact that the TD% in Unitas' era was actually higher than it is today (and practically ever was), and by a lot - roughly 5.2% to today's 4.3%. There's no doubt that our current era is extreme in some ways, but other eras have their own extreme quirks, too.

I think our old friend Mike Tanier has been the most on-point on this subject: "Records are set by extraordinary players under extraordinary circumstances. That is how Brees sets them. That is how Marino set them. That is how Unitas set them." We shouldn't let that diminish our appreciation for all-time great players doing all-time great things.

201 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

That's reasonable. Obviously, I'll endorse anything Tanier has to say. Yes, longevity records typically involve rare players playing great in rare circumstances; and, yes, we should appreciate it. Contemporaneously, this is why Cabrera's triple crown in a post-steroids MLB, after no one did it during the Steroid Era, is such an awesome feat that deserves a lot more fanfare than it seems to have gotten.

My issue is precisely that Brees' record loses (some) weight when you consider that, although he is certainly a rare player, these aren't rare circumstances. Like Bonds breaking a three-year-old record after McGwire broke a 37-year-old record, we could easily see Brady break Brees' record in short order. Then you read today's XP re the one-word play calling gaining traction in college getting adopted in the NFL by the Patriots, and the near NFL future seems like it might turn into 18 possessions per team per game. In that environment, we could easily see ANY top-tier QB break it in the next decade, Brady or otherwise. And unlike the Steroid Era in baseball, I don't think the NFL is going to make rule changes to return TD passes to some previous historical level any time soon. That ship has sailed.

So really, at base, my point here is just to congratulate Brees on breaking the record, but to ask the following question: If Brady or someone else breaks it in the next decade (as the league environment makes it more and more likely to happen), will there be similar fanfare? I think not, and that (to me) dilutes the super-awesomeness surrounding Brees breaking it yesterday because he's merely the first of what figures to be several quarterbacks to break that record in quick succession. Records are celebrated because they're rare. In time, I don't think Brees' accomplishment will be considered rare in retrospect.

Of course, I could be wrong.

202 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Why the emphasis on the fact that no one did it during the steroid era? It's the triple crown, and it's based on a player's stats relative to everyone else; Not relative to some absolute that steroids should have an effect on.

Theoretically, if a lot of players are taking PEDs, a triple crown shouldn't be any easier or harder to accomplish. I don't see Cabrera's triple crown as any greater an achievement because of the steroid era - it's impressive in its own right, although I don't think it should be celebrated like it used to be.

I don't think it's as big a deal because of the lack of awe I have for RBIs, as being so team/context dependent. And because I don't see why they are treated differently than runs in that way. Why not a triple crown that's AVG/HR/RUNS? Or OBP/HR/SBs? Both of those would be really impressive too. AVG/HR/RBI does seem pretty arbitrary/old-fashioned.

216 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

I would hypothesize - though I've done no research to test the hypothesis - that the steroid era not only increased the average batting performance, but also the variance. Higher variance in performance - broadening the spread of BA/HR/RBI - would seem to make it more likely that one player would lead the league in all three. (Of the 14 modern-era batting triple crown winners, 8 were pre-integration, when there was a much higher variance in batting performance.)

230 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

No, that's a fair take, and the McGwire/Bonds analogy is an interesting spin (though we aren't dealing with PEDs and juiced baseballs here...but that's a different story).

The thing is, though, despite the fact that it's easy to imagine every top-tier QB coming within spitting distance of the record with such high-paced, high-possession offenses, only Brady is currently close at all -- the next longest active streak is Matt Ryan at 20. That's almost two full seasons away. You may be right, and there may be a slew of 'slingers who reach their way into the 30s and 40s, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that most of them fall short.

All of which is to say, I think that there's a different way to look at Brady's almost inevitable future-breaking of the record, and that's that Brady happens to be another rare/elite QB in an opportune era. If/when he breaks it, will that cheapen Brees' accomplishment a bit? It might, but I'm not sure that it should.

41 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Unitas missed two games with injuries during his streak (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/decades/1960s/unitas.aspx), but he also worked summers in a steel mill. Brees was statistically better in everything but YPA (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/2012/10/1/Unitas-and-Brees-NFL-TD-Streaks/).

ETA: And Brees took a week off, too: (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/2012/8/30/NFL-Saints-Drew-Brees-TD-Steaks/)

Both of these "records" are nonsense.

(I also like the Eagles)

113 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

I don't think the Bills are that bad of a team. DVOA had them at 22nd or something? They had the misfortune of playing 2 of the 3 best teams in the league (by DVOA), and I think the 49ers were a particularly bad matchup for them. The strongest part of the 49er offense is the o-line, and the strongest part of their defense is their ability to stop the run, and those two happen to negate the strongest features of the Bills' own game.

I do wonder how they're going to handle their recent horrible defeats. I think they can beat Arizona. But after their last six quarters, will they think they can?

153 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

Even if they get past Arizona (a team that now appears to be just as schizophrenic, but has a fairly solid defense), they'll still probably need a win against either Houston or New England to have a chance at a wild card.

I haven't seen enough yet to tell if it's bad play calling or just bad decision-making by Fitzpatrick.

(I also like the Eagles)

157 Re: Consecutive games with a TD pass mark

I saw part of the game, and would say "both". Fitzpatrick is still a backup-level talent attempting to carry a team; he isn't dumb, and he isn't completely without talent, but he is not as good a thrower as Smith (let alone Brady). He makes bad decisions when he is asked to do more than game-manage and take shots when the defense breaks down. He's a better version of Mark Sanchez, or, to put it another way, he's Matt Cassel (before this season's inexplicable Casselmageddon).

However, having him attempt 29 passes against 16 runs for Spiller and Jackson is pretty insane; giving up on the run to favor the pass when you're behind only makes sense when the passing game is generating more yards.

Buffalo isn't a playoff team, even in the arguably weakest division in football.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

So yeah, everyone in Bills management/coaching should be fired. I don't even get how a team this talented is so bad. Literally speechless at this performance

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Talent? What talent? I'm hardly an expert on anything Bills related, but I see very little talent. I mean, Mario Williams is awesome, Kyle Williams very good and I guess Dareus has shown promise. Byrd seems to be DeAngelo Hall 2.0 (a bunch of interceptions and little else). Offensively the RBs are great but injury riddled. Fitzpatrick is a below average QB and Stevie Johnson seems to be a below average WR1.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

While I certainly dont disagree with you about Fitzpatrick, in fact I would assess him as a bottom rung, fallacy at the position. Another small market re-tread, hope and prayer capable of 3-4 game spurts of replacement level-esque mediocrity, before driving off of a cliff with his head coach and GM riding shotgun. I have seen this more times than not since Kelly retired and Wade Phillips cursed this team with the inane replacement of Doug Flutie with the Golden Child Rob Johnson, puke.

I do however disagree with your assessment of Byrd = Deangelo Hall 2.0. Byrds problems can be attributed directly to scheme and an incompetent DC in Dave "the wannstache" Wannstedt. A man whos claim to fame is nothing more than hitching his wagons to loaded early 90's Cowboys dynasty, and the recruitment of Larry Fitzgerald and Lesean Mccoy.

There is talent in Buffalo. A top 5 offensive line (#'s 12 in adjusted line yards, and 3 in pass protection), a top-tier RB duo (although, grossly under-utilized), a horizontal offense capable of scoring with any team in the league, if the QB wasn't a tire fire, and a defense oozing with potential. Mario Williams gets more unjust criticism than any player in the league from the lowest common denominator sports fan/message board guru/paid sports pundit (ESPN/NFL network), who completely neglects to mention that he is coming off of a season ending injury, playing in an entirely new scheme (4-3 over) directed by a DC that has completely lost his touch with todays pass-heavy game.

In Buffalo, the talent is there, the troubles of this team can be directly correlated to coaching and scheme (of course they are hand and hand). Its absolutely abysmal watching this team, and this coming from a die-hard.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

As a Pats fan I somewhat follow the Bills. I don't think the talent is superb but it's also not that bad. I'd say a little above average generally.

I'm with Cog, the coaching is terrible.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

John Fox punted with 4th-and-5 from the Patriots 39-yard line. At his disposal is Peyton Manning and Matt "56-yards is a chipshot" Prater.

/Facepalm.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What makes that even more egregious is the offense you are punting to. Playing a team with a great defense and a really bad offense? I can make the case that such a punt has some logic to it. Does Fox really think Brady and Co., in their current form especially, is put off at all by starting a drive inside the 10 or 5?

Fox is a wonderful coach, but nearly all NFL coaches are far too frequently possessed by groupthink.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think Fox needs to realize really soon that he has one of the 3 or 5 best quarterbacks ever to play the game, and that whatever he thinks is best is probably better than whatever Fox decided to do with Jake Delhomme in Carolina.

There are obviously a ton of "crucial moments" in any game, but that run on 3rd and 4 felt like a major concession. Three of the past four games, it's taken the Broncos about 38 minutes to start playing smart football. That seemed to be the play that woke them up, but too late.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

No way Fox called the run. I don't think he even OKs the playcalls. It is all Peyton Manning - even if fox meddled, I'm sure he'd check out of it and line. I've seen Manning check to a run on 3rd-and-4 a lot of times - with good succes. It looks stupid when it fails, but I'll leave the playcalling to the hall of famer.

Major strategic decisions like go for it-situations is, however, Fox's juristiction.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Fox's post-game comments on that play seemed to indicate he had the idea that it was going to be a run. I don't buy quite yet that Peyton is running the offense entirely by himself. I think Fox is learning that that's how it should be, and they're still phasing out of an awkward transition. As a Colts fan, I've seen him run on 3rd plenty of times. But that whole sequence was rushed and strange.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I remember the Colts doing it on 3rd and 4 against New England in the 4th quarter of teh 2006 AFC Title Game. The Colts were driving down 31-28, and could've taken a lead there if they had tried a pass and got another 1st down.

Same thing happened in the 2010 Wild Card game against the Jets.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Question for people closer to actual football than I am:

How much of an advantage is being in shotgun on a passing play? Obviously, it is possible to pass from under center.

How much of an advantage is it to be under center on a running play? Obviously, shotgun running is becoming more prevalent, but runners seem to get bogged down a lot without a full head of steam.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

There is a lot more variety to a running game with the qb under center, which greatly increases the likelihood of running success with most teams.

The disadvantage from being under center when passing varies greatly with the skill of the qb.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

When you're in shotgun, you don't have to drop back 3 or 5 steps. So from the shotgun you receive the snap and make your reads faster and easier. You're not turned to one side so your vision is wider.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

If I'm thinking of the same play, Addai picks that up for a TD to take the lead with a dive untouched through the middle.

Still, different contexts. That was under center vs shotgun, and not at midfield, and with about a minute left against an exhausted Pats' D.

Was Wilfork in on this week's third down?

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Forgot that the Addai TD was on third down. That was third and two.

My play was three drives earlier. The Colts had a 3rd and 4 around the twenty and the Colts ran. They didn't get it and vinatieri hit a field goal to tie the game at 31.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

the fix was clearly in last night's sd-no game. someone mentioned it above but i also wanted to point out that floyd was clearly interfered with on that pick with about 3 minutes left. what a bunch of bull.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Arians did botch the challenge, but I'll cut him some slack, seeing as how it's his first game as HC, and he only had about a week of advanced warning. Also, the effect of the 15-yd penalty was pretty minor. Moving the kickoff from the 35 to the 50 is essentially changing the outcome of the kickoff from "probably a touchback" to "definitely a touchback". Not as big of a penalty as it was when the kickoff was at the 30.

As for the question about the Packers clock management, all I can think of is the wasting of the final timeout, which did cost them a chance to get the ball closer for the kick. 0:08 left, clock stopped, Packers can't get the play off and have to burn the timeout. Forced them to try the 51 yarder right then rather than risk running a play.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Arians claimed in his presser that he was aware of the rule, and that he just wanted some official somewhere to give it another look. Perhaps a specious claim, but in this one instance, I am glad to assess this call by result instead of process.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

An addendum to the other reply, in the press conference, Arians claimed the same logic that you used:

"Either way we were going to start on the 20-yard line" was his quote.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Did anybody else hear Troy Aikman lambasting Andy Reid for going for it, 4th&1 on about his own 40, down 6 points with about 7 minutes left?

Ok so maybe this isn't as absolutely straightforward as some decisions to go for it; the Eagles defence is good and putting trust in them to stop the Steelers quickly isn't absurd. But it has to be the correct decision with Vick and McCoy in your backfield, right? Anyway regardless of the 'correctness' of the decision, it was interesting to hear an esteemed ex-player/commentator still professing the ultra-conservative approach after the various 4th down controversies of recent weeks. Or maybe he just like ragging on Andy Reid, I dunno?

As discussed many times previously, it's pretty tough to disentangle QB/WR performance. Right now Reggie Wayne seems to be doing a good job proving it wasn't all on no. 18.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I saw this last week with Mike Golic and Cris Carter on Mike and Mike in the Morning. Our football players have a near-religious irrational attachment to the idea that punting on 4th down is necessary. Going for it on 4th down is like running a red light during rush hour. It's just wrong!
You can't argument numbers with people like Aikman.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I don't remember this exactly. Did Turner call for a punt, and Rivers got mad? Or did Turner go for it, and Rivers got mad?

Also, does anyone else feel - in light of all the Cutler and Newton behavioral analysis going around lately - that Rivers has always gotten quite the pass? Not that it makes him a worse quarterback - criticizing his behavior is as frivolous as criticizing Cutler's and Newton's - but it seems that for whatever reason there's a double standard at play.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

If i remember the drive correctly, it was about 4th and 10-15(?)and was gonna be a 55ish yard field goal, a tough field goal for anyone.

The three options for Norv were to
1. kick a low percentage field goal
2. punt to try to pin the saints
3. go for the first down since you are in 4 down territory.

I had a hard time deciphering what rivers was exactly upset about but in my non expert opinion i wanted them to do anything but kick the field goal. Going for the first down has less downside because the ball is placed farther back after a missed field goal, and a low percentage at 3 points seems silly against drew brees. Sure enough they kicked the field goal and it wasnt even close. I would have been upset like rivers, although yelling at a menopausal norv turner probably didn't help the teams chances at staying tough in a time of adversity.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5


Matt Waldman: Devery Henderson to me is like the fighting chicken in Family Guy. He doesn't show up often, but when he does he shows up big.

Well done, sir!

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

At one point in the Miami game they pointed out the stadium jersey count was Marino 48/Boomer 1. I point that out to ask the question when was the last time an actual active player on Miami had a higher Jersey count than a retired player? I looked around the bar and saw 1 Brown, 1 Williams and 2 Marino's. Is there any other team where the retired guys are more popular than the product on the field? I would guess Cleveland.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Only guessing, as London's a long way from Dolphins Stadium, but I reckon the '99' Miami jersey's would have been high on the list last season.

And typically, Miami finally make one stick, and I'm on a train back from the North & miss it...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

235 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I've noticed that there's been an upswing of Gradishar in the stands over the last year or two.
But I've also seen two Reuben Droughns jerseys (on two different people) in the last couple of years... So take what you will regarding Bronco fan awareness from those two observations.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What's even funnier about the 1 Bengals #7 jersey is that they said they interviewed the girl wearing it and it was actually a Bruce Gradkowski jersey! I don't know if that's actually true or not but if it is that is absolutely hilarious. Not only is it funny that she's got a Gradkowski jersey, but how is Esiason's number not even retired?

And to answer your question there are probably more Dan Marino jerseys at Miami games than all other players combined since he's retired. You'll see a lot of Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, but a whole lot more of Marino. What else would people wear? Trace Armstrong? Pat Surtain? Jay Fiedler?

I actually don't have a Marino jersey but I DO have a Jake Long jersey and just got a Cameron Wake jersey - I like line play a whole lot. But I got them mostly because seemingly every fan has a Marino jersey and not much else.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

We were subjected to the BAL-KC game because OAK was off (proving that you must be careful what you wish for..). It's hard to find the proper adjectives to describe how bad Matt Cassel was. KC would have won that game by a large margin if hadn't made mistake after mistake.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think the Coughlins better prepare well this week, because I believe the Harbaughs are going to want to make a statement in six days.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I just heard Tim Hasselbeck eviscerate Vick for the same issue Ben Muth raised with Kolb. We hear a lot of praise for the great qbs who do great work pre-snap, but we don't hear enough, in my opinion, about which guys are screwing up their offense with their awful pre-snap work. I don't watch closely enough to have a worthwhile opinion, but Hasselbeck does, and he played enough to know what he is talking about. When he says that Vick is doing some of the worst presnap work in the league, I think I know which way I lean on the debate last week here, about where Vick ranks among his peers.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Harvin is better than you think he is.

What if I already though Harvin was pretty darn good?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Turned on the Colts game at halftime. Packers were up 21-3. The first thing I heard from the announcer was "the Colts are matching up with the Packers in every statistic except the score." That gave me some hope, so I watched the rest of the game. Glad I did.

Was it great Colts defense in the second half, or bad Packers offense? I couldn't tell. It was obvious that the Colts D was getting to Rogers on passing plays. It seemed to me that it was good coverage downfield causing it rather than an improved pass rush.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The Packers stopped trying to run the ball and the Packer offensive line collapsed in the second half in pass protection.

On defense the Packers were in position on pass defense but Reggie Wayne kept making insane catches and the Colts offensive line locked it down in pass protection. And when GB did get a rush Luck would get away. And by mid-4th quarter the defense was completely gassed which made defending anything all but impossible

The Packer punter had a good day. Everyone else was pretty much a disaster.

Mike McCarthy has got to stop thinking offensive line is good. It's not.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Everyone else was pretty much a disaster, including the officials. For the third week in a row they took a takeaway from the Packers. Nick Perry hit Luck hard in the first half causing him to fumble and the Packers recovered on the Colts 15 yard line. The hit was clean, but he was flagged anyways.

Also, it seems like every week Sam Shields plays perfect defense, is interfered with by the WR, and then gets a foul called on him. This week the pass even looked uncatchable to boot. Instead, a 25-yard penalty that led to a Colts TD.

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Perry led with the crown of his helmet, which is why the flag was thrown even though it was not helmet to helmet.

The call against Shields was iffy, but in no way did he play perfect defense. He had position then clearly slowed down to impede the receiver, thus the flag. The ball may have been uncatchable and it's one of those plays where the call could be justified either way.

The Packers got away with many calls too, Woodson in the end zone, the DPI called against Vaughn where there was no contact until after the ball hit Vaughn in the back were far more egregious calls/noncalls than the Shields play.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'd love to see the all-22 film of the second half. We were down a starting corner (Vontae Davis) and our starting nickel (Justin King, which is whatever). Granted, around this time, GB was down Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, so maybe it was a wash. Finley in particular can stretch the middle of the field, so I'm wondering if our linebackers felt more comfortable staying home in midfield zones once he was out. Regardless, going from no pressure in the first half to five sacks in the second is curious.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Most Packer fans feel the team would be better off without Finley. They view him as a very talented player with bad hands who impedes the offense since the coaching staff seems enthralled by his physical skills versus the actual production.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The offensive line called out the coaching staff after the game complaining openly at the constant calls for passing allowing teams to not even bother with honoring the run.

Last I checked the Packers were throwing about 65% of the time this season which is a ridiculously high total.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

pfr has 190 pass attempts, for 59% of all offensive plays. That isn't counting sacks or QB scrambles, or maybe some other things, so I could believe 65%.

For comparison, last year pass attempts were 56% of offensive plays.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Whatever the reason for the weak offensive outing, it wasn't that McCarthy abandoned the run. If anything, I'd argue that he stuck with it rather stubbornly: through the end of the third quarter, he had called nine runs on first down (compared with eight passes), and only one of them had been successful (gains of 9, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 and -2). The problem was that, especially in the second half, the failure to gain any yardage at all on first down left him with no choice but to call passing plays on second and third down. Excluding the final hurry-up drive, the Packers ran on just 7 of 37 second and third downs.

Of the Packers' first 19 1st-and-10s, only five were successful (and one of those was a scramble) for a miserable 26.3% success rate. In its first five drives of the second half, Green Bay had eight 1st-and-10s but only one of them was successful (the scramble by Rodgers); indeed that was the only play that gained more than a yard.

Despite this, the Packers continued to run on first down in the fourth quarter (not that they had the ball for very much of it), which led to a 41-yard gain.

McCarthy can't afford to lean on the run any more than he did yesterday because a) his rush offense isn't very good, and b) the defense can easily give up a three-score lead in the space of one quarter. Just like last season, the Packers' best chance of winning is to get into a shootout.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

It drives me nuts when a coaching staff falls in love with an otherwise athletic tight end with lousy ball skills. The Chiller did that for years with Shiancoe, although, to be sure, Shiancoe was not the athlete that Finley is. The position demands the ability to catch the catchable balls in traffic, and I don't care how tall and fast a guy is, if he can't consistently perform the catching the ball task, you shouldn't have the guy on the roster.

Hell, give me a Kleinsasser any day; a guy with limited receiving value but who can reliably set the edge, one on one with defensive ends, has more real value than the beautiful, fast, tall, tight end, who frequently is looking at the ball laying on the ground.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Worked out okay with Vernon Davis, who has gradually learned how to catch a ball. Meanwhile Konrad Reuland, called "The Garbage Man" because he can catch any garbage throw in traffic, cut before the season.

I imagine coaches are thinking it's easier to teach someone how to catch than teach them how to run fast.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Is Finley even that athletic? His combine numbers were not impressive (4.82 forty, 27.5" vertical) - the real combine standout his year was Dustin Keller, and Kellen Davis and Martellus Bennett also put up clearly better numbers than he did.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I can't blame any non-Bears-or-Jags fan for not watching that game. I did watch, and my (Bears-centric) thoughts are:

1) The current run of Bears' defensive scoring is unsustainable but incredibly fun to watch.

2) I think Gabe Carimi is now a bigger liability in pass protection than JaMarcus Webb.

3) Gabbert can make some decent throws when he has time, which he inexplicably did for the entire 1st half. 2nd half, not so much.

4) Justin Blackmon is already pretty good.

5) I can't put my finger on what makes Jacksonville so bad. They looked like a fair-to-middling team hanging on in a tough matchup in the first half. Then as soon as anything went wrong, they completely fell apart. That generally points to coaching, or just youth, but isn't that what they used to look like under Del Rio, too?