Audibles at the Line: Week 5

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.


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

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

When the Bears played the Cowboys and Rams they fell apart after keeping it close too. Perhaps the Bears coaching staff is making incredible adjustments? The counter point to this is the Green Bay game of course.

Another possible explanation, the Bears defensive line is ridiculously good this year. Due to this the Bears are stopping the run just fine with 7 men in the box on most plays. Now this is good for obvious reasons, but I think one unexplored side effect is that once a team is down even slightly, they start to get worried. They can't get anything going on the ground and start to force passing. This leads to a cascade effect where the already very good defense can just tee off.

I wasn't impressed by Gabbert. Yeah he made some throws, but even Rex Grossman can make some throws. He might amount to something, but I think playing him his rookie year was a terrible decision.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Your second paragraph is a good analysis. When the Bears kicked the field goal to go up 6-3 (after squandering the chance for a TD largely due to Gabe Carimi's consecutive false start penalties), I fully expected the Bears to open a can on Jacksonville because even a 3 point lead seemed big with the Bears' defense and Jacsonville's offsens-like substance. (Of course, no one could have predicted the magnitude of the second half beatdown.) I actually predicted a Pick 6 would follow shortly thereafter. Once that happened, the offense continued to roll and then finished drives.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I've heard several times now that Lovie Smith (and staff) are apparently very good at second-half adjustments. I don't recall where I've heard this--more of a just a general notion that I've heard enough to make it stick. So, at least, there is that impression.

That said, I think your other observation is good, too. This team gets a lead and that makes the other team's offense even more unbalanced, which just leads the Bears D to tee up and go sack happy. Which, with more talent on the D-Line (seemingly), they are doing better than previous years.

Also, they totally stuffed the Jaguars running game, which really helps. By my count, Jones-Drew had one 20-yard run on the Jaguars only scoring drive, and then a 27-yard run in the 4th when the Bears were up 20-3. Which means that other than that, he had 10 runs for 8 yards. The Jags were just no threat on the ground.

As a third possibility, I think it was the ESPN NFC North blogger (Kevin Seifert?) who said that Cutler looks better when playing with a lead. That's kind of my general impression, too--that he seems more comfortable. That's not exactly scientific, though.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Even AS a Bears fan, I wasn't happy watching that game. The best you could hope for is an easy, boring rout, and that didn't happen until about the 4th quarter; for the 1st half, it looked like there was a chance they would blow it.

In response to some points:
2.) Certainly there has been a lot of talk about Carimi's failings recently, and I think they'll get even louder now that his double false start debacle gives a concrete example to point to. But the Bears tackles are what they are. Either the Bears can gameplan around it, or they can't. I don't see an upgrade on the roster (or on the streets), but I think they can manage the situation.

3.) The simplest explanation for Gabbert having time would be that the Bears were focusing on stopping MJD. In the second half, with a 7+ lead, they could pin their ears back and go nuts. Not sure that that's true, but that would be my first guess.

4.) I wasn't so impressed with Blackmon. He had some good plays, but nothing that made me think you had to pay extra attention to him. It's still a toss-up IMHO as to which receiver is going to be the best WR out of this draft class.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Blackmon made Gabbert look competent for a series. He had a handful of nice plays against a very tough defense. I would agree that it's too early to tell if he'll be good or not, but I would say more signs pointing up than down.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

True. I think he'll be a useful player, for sure. What I'm not certain is that he'll end up being an impact player. I didn't see anything to say that that would happen, in this game.

Although, for a rookie in his 5th game, being thrown passes from Blaine Gabbert, against the Bears D, maybe that IS asking too much.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I know that it isn't the best measure of quarterbacking but I'd still like to point out that Alex Smith has the highest passer rating in the NFL.

I've defended him a lot down the years but I never thought that would happen.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Also, lost in New England literally redefining how offense works in the NFL, they've too run for over 240 yards in each of the last two games.

That was an incredible performance, but the Bills defense is just awful.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Particularly their secondary. I haven't seen receivers that wide open in a long time. Do they always play that badly?

A perfect secondary for Mr. Smith -- his biggest problem has always been that he's risk averse, not that he can't make the throws. (Is that a problem or a strategy?)

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Not that it would have likely changed things but the Packers were on the short end of two horrible calls on Sunday. Sam Shields was called for a 30 odd yard DPI when he was pushed down by the Colts receiver and a sack/fumble was taken away when the ref called personal foul for hitting with the helmet when there was not any contact.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I pointed this out above, too. This is the THIRD week in a row that the officials have incorrectly turned a Packer takeaway into the opponent keeping the ball (or winning, in the case of the Seattle game). The Sam Shields DPI call was 25 yards, I think, but the pass even looked uncatchable.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I agree I don't think they would have made a big difference, but it does seem that the Packers are getting the worse side of the reffing this year. Though I also think they got the better side in quite a few games last year.

And now my ramblings.

I had hope for the defense after the Bears and Seahawks games, but I'm giving up a lot of that. Seattle has no offense, and the short week hit the Bears worse than the Packers, seem like better explanations to me now. Woodson is worse in coverage that I wanted to admit, and they just don't have corners that can play zone well. I actually understand that with Williams and Shields (Williams was a man corner in college and when he came into the league, Shields only became a corner his senior year in college) so I can see why they might have zone issues, but it's really starting to hurt because Capers really wants to have the ability to have zone coverage for some of the blitzes he wants to do, and for some of the calls that he wants to use to get Matthews in more 1 on 1 situations.

I don't know if the offensive line is talent or coach deficient. I seem to think it's more coaching, because Tauscher and Clifton both looked bad in Campen's early years, and while that was getting to the end of their careers they both still played 3-4 years after that. College is still in the league and I don't know if he is considered horrible in Arizona like he was in GB. Breno Giacomini, the TE they converted to tackle, but let go is starting in Seattle, though Seattle doesn't have an offense so maybe he still sucks. I think Caleb Schlauderaff is playing for the Jets as well. Sitton had a great year in 2010. Bulaga was credited with only allowing 2.5 sacks in 2011. It seems they have the ability to play well, lack of consistency is a coaching issue in my mind. Some of that is on McCarthy and his play calling too. I don't think of any of them as great, I think of them as average to above average, but the line can just collapse.

Rodgers was 3-11 of passes that traveled over 10 yards. He looks a lot more like the 2009-2010 version of himself. Holding the ball too long, missing open receivers down field, having more passes than I had gotten used to thrown behind the receivers. I'm at worry level 6 now. 8-8 is starting to seem possible and that was my worst case lots of injuries Rodgers misses a couple games scenario in preseason.

So they are who we thought they were. A offense that wouldn't be as good as last year and a defense that should be improved but still has issues. That even has me wondering if Capers might be part of the issue.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'm curious if the NFL will defend the personal foul call on Perry's sack/fumble of Luck. There was no actual helmet-to-helmet contact, but I wasn't sure of that until seeing the replay. I saw a quote from McCarthy, who initially disagreed with the call, saying that it was "probably" the right call, because the ref explained to him that Perry hit Luck with the crown of his helmet. (No indication whether or not McCarthy had seen replays of it at that point.)

From what I saw, Perry did not hit with the crown (very top) of the helmet; it was the hairline of the helmet that made contact as Perry ran through Luck. This still could be a penalty under a strict parsing of the rules, but it would be about the most drastic restriction on hitting that I've seen. It looked to me like an excellent hit, not at all what I think of as spearing: Perry hit Luck at chest-level, his helmet, shoulders, and arms making contact with Luck's chest/arms and never riding up to strike Luck's helmet. Sure, at some angles it's possible to make no helmet contact at all while tackling; but I'm not convinced that is always possible (and depends as much on the ball-carrier as on the defender).

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I have no problem with officials calling borderline "leading with the crown" and "helmet to helmet" fouls against defenders, to get them in the habit of actively avoiding making dangerous tackles.

I think on this specific play, Perry did lead with the crown, though it wasn't an especially bad instance of the foul.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Thanks! It's good to get a couple other perspectives. I didn't have any rooting interest in this game either, though I always like cheering for a good defensive play.

It looked to me like a very natural way to make a solid hit, and I wouldn't conclude any malicious intent-- but I'm OK with an occasional safety-based penalty in such a situation. Defenders need to make extra efforts to avoid such penalties, especially when they have a blindside hit opportunity like that one.

I'm still not sure if I endorse this penalty--I'd have to see it again. I thought there was some phrase permitting helmet contact to the torso as part of a tackle, provided the helmet didn't ride up to make helmet-to-helmet contact. I'm not clear on the line between this and spearing-- possibly because it's been moving for the last few years.

222 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

For comparison, look at Dumervil's 2011 hit on Brady (link). He's clearly looking at what he's tackling. A punishing hit, but not an illegal one.

Then look at this week's hit (link). He drops his head at the last instant, leading with his helmet instead of his eyes.

It's a subtle difference, to be sure. I'm guessing the ref cues on how the helmet moves during the hit. If it flexes back, the defender was looking at what he hit. If it doesn't, or just compresses into the shoulders, the hit was too far up the crown of the helmet.

But I have to say, the difference is very subtle, and this was a border-line call.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

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.

I think you could do a pretty good job just by doing what you already do and adding in knowing who was on the field (or even using the snap count data, although you'd introduce more error) on each play, without having to watch every coverage of every receiver.

Redefine success the following way:

* If a DB is targeted and the pass is successful, he gets a failure.

* If the DB is ON THE FIELD (whether his guy is targeted or not) and the pass is a failure, he gets a success. If his guy was targeted he did his job, and if his guy wasn't targeted (or he didn't have a guy but was playing a zone), he did a good enough job that no receiver got open due to his bad play (or even if a receiver did, the QB was fooled enough not to find him).

* If a DB is on the field and the pass is a success, but not to his guy, then count it neither as a success or a failure. There's no data (without time consuming watching of the all-22) as to whether the pass was completed to someone else because the DB did his job, or because he didn't but some other DB also didn't do his job.

Then you get a success (or failure) rate based on this.

This would tease out the effects of a great CB hardly ever being thrown at and improve the DB charting stats a lot...

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I would do something differently. I would leave success rate alone and create a new stat. Well a couple new stats actually. I would just create DVOA +/- for when the player is on the field. Then you could break it down by passing/rushing. Or even look at say DVOA against #1 receivers when corner back X is in the game.

96 Broncos - Pats

A few thoughts on Broncos – Pats:
1) Re: Bailey on Lloyd. FWIW, the Denver Post was making a big deal about how Bailey used to go one on one with Lloyd in practice all the time, so perhaps the Broncos felt that was the best matchup for him. On the shake move Aaron mentioned, I believe it was one of the many times Denver got no pressure up the middle on Brady and he was able to wait for Lloyd to get open.
2) I didn’t hear Tracy Porter get mentioned at all. From what I could tell, he spent a lot of time covering the likes of Stevan Ridley when he was split out wide. Not sure why Denver wouldn’t at least try to put him one on one with Welker. I mean, it couldn’t have gone any worse that what Chris Harris was doing. Rather, not doing.
3) Maybe this is where DJ Williams was missed most: one play you didn’t mention was the 3rd and 24 New England converted on a dump off to Danny Woodhead. Joe Mays had the Woodhead assignment, and when Woodhead released from the backfield, Mays tried to jam him and whiffed. That separation let Woodhead all the space he needed. Poor recognition by Mays, because if he just keeps Woodhead in front of him, he stands a better chance of holding him to something less than 25 yds. And Denver would have had a chance to score at the end of the first half.
4) I don’t think the Prater kick was an onside attempt. My guess is he was supposed to kick it a little further so it would bounce around in the zone and the Patriots would get it at their 25 or so or a lucky fumble happens.
5) On the 4th and 1 where Manning hit Thomas deep: don’t forget that the drive before that saw Denver run a short yardage play on 4th and 2 or so and McGahee dropped the ball when he was wide open. So maybe New England was looking for that, and Peyton remembered the drop.
6) Denver was down 24 and scored a TD with about 1-2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Anyone wonder why Fox didn’t go for 2 there? I was really wondering when Denver was driving after the Ridley fumble right until McGahee gave it back.

143 Re: Broncos - Pats

In reply to by BroncFan07

Belichick apparently couldn't stop talking about Champ Bailey after the game - he apparently is continuing to show well in film if not in stats.

From what I could gather, Harris looking bad against Welker was about Denver being in man in the first half. They switched to zone concepts in the second half, which improved things. In general, it seems like Denver adjusts extremely well in the second half of games - this goes back to last season. But when it's that dramatic a shift, I think this says less about the strength second-half adjustments, and more about bad game-planning.

There are a ton of Broncos fans that hate DJ Williams and are convinced that Wesley Woodyard is better than DJ in every department... I have a lot of trouble with that belief.

Worst play was probably that 3rd and 4 run to Lance Ball. I think it was a McCoy play call, some fans had noticed that it didn't appear that Manning checked into a run on that play.

I thought about the 2, but I generally have a hard time justifying going for them when there's a large score differential. Too many other things can happen.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Another note on Luck: just as he did on that last drive, he has been zipping balls onto tightly covered receivers all year. Imagine how he'll look once he has a year or two under his belt, knows his playbook inside and out, and starts reading defenses and calling audibles. I'm reminding myself to stay patient, but after only 4 games, it's really hard not to be super excited about his future.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

For the record I don't like the current Packers team. As in they are not enjoyable to watch. It's a soft team that seems to avoid contact and well, playing football.

There are maybe a half dozen guys willing to mix it up and other than that it's pattycake stuff. Mathews, James Jones, TJ Lang, Charles Woodson and man I am already running out of ideas.

That and the constant changing of personnel. The coaching staff seems obssessed with 'match ups' and the opposition just mashes the soft spot left avaialble due to the insertion of so and so at the expense of whomever.

Is it not possible to just put out your best guys and play most of the time?

It's also time for a possible intervention on the Charles Woodson era. If you want to keep him close to teh line and have him work tight ends, backs and receivers with mediocre speed that's fine. But thinking he can cover legit receivers these days is lunacy. Those days are gone unless the league allows him at least one serious grab beyond 5 yards.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

In 5 games this season the Packers have been physically whipped in 3 of them. San Fran is mildly understandable.

Mike McCarthy needs to sit down and understand that the recipe to beat Green Bay is to punch them in the face because GB doesn't like being punched in the face.

I understand that is overly simplistic, but if you watch the games and the correspnding schemes it's all about people pounding on GB and GB not pounding back or better yet applying the first pounding.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Chicago also punched them in the face but the Bears offensive line was so bad even though GB onlly drove the ball once in the game GB was able to get the upper hand

But GB got beat up in that game as well.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'm probably going to get plenty of angry responses to this from Pats fans, so I should first start by saying the Pats offense as a TEAM is excellent. With that said, I was so thoroughly unimpressed with Tom Brady this game that it really reaffirmed all of the things I've felt about him over the years. I actually went back and rewatched this game- he completed 1 pass over 10 yards the whole game- and that came when he had absolutely no rushers at all in his face. He completed exactly 0 passes to receivers on the outside longer than 8 yards. Every other attempt over 10 yards was woefully incomplete- often either thrown out way out of bounds or noticeably overthrown.

The thing with Brady, he gets credit for his decision making on short throws, but honestly, welker, branch and even gronk all get open on short routes- welker in particular, was nearly always open on short. To me, this isn't a function of brady, thats a function just how good his receivers are in space. THis is something unique only to NE, yet Brady gets seemingly all of the credit for it. And this really has been the Mo of the pats throughout his career. Brady is a mediocre at best medium and deep thrower and I'm convinced, on every other team except NE, this would be a major liability. Hes still a great qb at other things, but I came away convinced that Brady is not in the same class as Brees, Rodgers, or Manning- who in my opinion, are far less dependent on their supporting cast than he is. And really, I hate bringing it up, but Cassel's demise is further proof of this fact. 11-5 and actually leading the nfl's best passing offense in the 2nd half of 2008- yet he's unable to beat out brady quinn these days when hes had no 3 years of starting experience since then.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Careers aren't static, and Brady is the prime example of that. The Year Two Brady was rather different than the Year Seven Brady, which is rather different than the current Brady.

I'd take any of them.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I would say 2006 P Manning is the same as 2012 P Manning- I really feel there's no difference in his game. I still came away from that game with the opinion that he's arguably the best player in this game.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

And at what point in his career did T.Brady ever look like a competent medium thrower? The 2007 version was a combo if short to welker and and watson, with deep bombs to randy moss. And as SCott Kascmar showed, even this was a myth- he was actually below average even in those years.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I think your concept of "competent" is likely ill defined. I have't done a very in depth examination of his career to give you a precise answer. To my casual eye, Brady became less effective downfield after 2008, and mid career Brady was drmaticaly better, in many areas, than early career Brady.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Oh i think it bellies my earlier point. Look, I get it, Ne has been wildly successful for a very long time and Brady is the most visible component so he's going to get a garden shed full of praise. But, does he deserve it? No. The article shows that Brady is not nor was he likely ever an above average medium and deep thrower.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

What? How do you derive that from the article? I'll also note that you are moving the goalposts (I love a good football cliche/metaphor in a debate about football), with regard to your chracterization of Brady as a medium to deep passer.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

It went in detail about Brady's failings at throwing medium to welker. Then it went further compare where Brady's production mostly derives from, then noting how skewed it is relative to other great qbs. Finally- it showed how 2007 completely skewed out impression away from reality. I don't want to argue about this too much, after all, even this article and the stats are still victims of subjectivity to an extent. I was just really saying, imo, Brady is a great qb, but he's being credited for things that really aren't a product of him and his weaknesses are being masked to a great extent.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The article uses a lot of playoff stats, which necessarily entails small sample sizes. It never once establishes a definition of competence, which woud be necessary to support your implication that Brady has always been incompetent when throwing medium to deep. I honestly don't understand how you drew the conclusions from the article you linked to.

In any case, the more I watch football, the less interested I am in making specific rankings among a group of great players at any posiion. I think football is just way, way, to context dependent to make that anything but subjective feeling, masquerading as objective analysis.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Early in the season, the Patriots tried to make use of Lloyd and throw the ball down the field more, and it didn't work so well (that's what happened against the Cardinals). Now they're getting back to their bread & butter in the short passing game, and they've been able to use the running game and fast tempo to mix things up while remaining efficient.

Their recent playoff losses have seemed to reflect an over-reliance on the short passing game. It's not clear if this week's incarnation of the Patriots' offense will provide enough versatility to avoid that, or if they'll need to find a way to get the down-the-field passing game to work too.

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

They *just* missed a couple of those shots early in the year. I don't think we've seen the last of the deep ball to Lloyd. He plays too well with the ball in the air to not continue to take a few shots.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Just one more follow up: I don't want to diminish how great brady is at doing certain things. He's got good accuracy short- takes the easy completions as opposed to forcing things- reads the defense really well and has great pocket presence(i think for some reason, his pocket mobility as really suffered now- he's starting to duck his head in the face of pressure alot more than he use to). He's also good and pre and post snap reads. Its funny, but his only liability is his ability at throwing a football over 10 yards.

137 Brady deep and risk, Brady ducking

I can understand where you're coming from. I think some of it is that the coaching staff knows where their weapons work best and design plays to work to those strengths. I know Randy Moss is Randy Moss but the vertical game in 2007 was incredible and 2008 was not even close to the same. I think Brady can make the throws but while NE is not risk averse when it comes to situation management, mid play the Pats are risk averse and it shows.

I think Lloyd can work the outside but NE still does not have a burner that can challenge the top of the defense. Slater is not the answer.

As to his ducking. Like Andy Benoit said, Brady has great pocket mobility (still terribly slow though), but he was definitely off yesterday with how the pocket was collapsing. I think Brady has actually practiced the ducking thing because I've seen a few times where he ducks a tackle. In the Baltimore game this year he did it and then was tackled by LT N Solder. He did it to the Jets last year in the Meadowlands and he also ducked a Vikings tackle a few years back. I think the Jets play resulted in a first to welker, the Vikings play resulted in a TD to Tate.

138 Best duck ever

I still think the best duck ever was Vick ducking the Giants big blitz a few years ago and then breaking straight forward for a run.

163 Re: Best duck ever

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

Nonsense! The greatest QB duck ever was by Randall Cunningham against Bruce Smith:

203 Re: Best duck ever

In reply to by Rich A (not verified)

no, the best duck ever is Randall Cunningham, in his own endzone, somehow ducking Bruce Smith, then running back to his left and unleashing a perfect strike about 65 yards in the air to a receiver who'd gotten behind the secondary for a 95+ yard TD. one of those totally mindblowing RC plays that probably made the accompanying inconsistency all the frustrating (pretty much the same as Vick of course)

204 Re: Best duck ever

In reply to by artmac (not verified)

While you couldn't do much better thand Cunningham's duck from a pure yardage feat, I would posit that from a nailbiter/historical perspective, Dave Krieg ducking Derrick Thomas's potential 8th sack (which would of been a record) then firing a game winning 25yd TD pass to Paul Skansi as time expired was much better. But then I'm a Seahawk fan and I also couldn't find any video of it. (I thought everything existed on the Internet?!) or maybe I'm dreaming.

212 Re: Best duck ever

In reply to by ticttoc (not verified)

I remember both plays. Krieg was good, Randall was better. The other play that jumped out in my mind was also Randall, but it wasn't a duck. Carl Banks went low on him and knocked his legs out, and Cunningham essentially did a pushup, got back up and threw a TD to Jimmie Giles (of Tampa semi-fame).

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I found Denver's defensive approach to the game really confusing. Given what we know about Brady and that passing offense (as has been noted, he likes throwing quick and under 10 yards), it seemed that the Broncos were getting no jam at the line of scrimmage and did nothing to disrupt that timing. The short crossing routes were deadly and all the corners or LBs were stuck trailing Welker as he could sprint into open field. If you can at least make Brady cycle through some reads, he doesn't march right down the field so quickly.

Of course, a suddenly potent running game changes the equation a bit.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I specifically watched welker the first time i saw the game. He absolutely destroyed chris harris in man coverage and then has a savant like ability to find the right hole in zones too- ie- knowing when to stop when he finds the zone or keep running when he's in the zones. I owe RickD an apology for calling Welker a system player. He may be too one dimensional, but his short area prowess is BY FAR the best I've ever seen. Its really incredible. You either funnel your entire coverage his way(then gronk annihilates your safeties), or assign a top corner comfortable in the slot. If not, this guy finds the open area time and time and time again. It was that easy for Tom Brady.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

This is where Brady's reads kick in the most, and could be fascinating to watch this season. Switch to a zone to stop something underneath, and Brady can either find Gronk in a medium zone gap or just audible to a run. Go to man, and he kills you on the crossing route.

Either way, this is why I think you have to take a page out of the early-00's Pats and maul those receivers at the line. Try to buy a half-second more for your front four to find a pass rush. But this running game really changes things for Brady. Show that defense too early and you are doomed.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

>> Of course, a suddenly potent running game changes the equation a bit.

This. Again though, as others have said, it is a schematic thing. The Patriots 2-2-1 personnel puts the defense in a difficult place.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Then I can't for the life of me understand what you find to be an exciting brand of football. I think most observers would find a no-huddle, lightning-quick tempo offense of quick passes to guys like Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski combined with an inside counter run-game and the occasional play-action deep shot the diametric opposite of dull. Back to the stone age with Tebow? Dropping back and chucking the ball deep downfield every play? Three yards and a cloud of dust? The Chiefs?

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

In other words, it's the essence of what football teams strive for -- perfectly efficient, mechanical ball progress, aided by rules that favor this kind of play.

Of course, the way to put an end to this boring game is to find a way to defend it.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

And yet I suspect every coach in the NFL would trade in excitement for that kind of perfection. The only things that save us from it are differences in talent (players, coaches, FOs, and officiating), plus the loyalties to schemes handed down through coaching trees.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

No one is saying it's not one of - if not the - best offenses in the league. Just that it's not particularly exciting.

Which I can see. Compared to other top tier offenses of recent years - Green Bay, New Orleans, Houston - the Patriots make fewer plays that make you exclaim, "Wow!"

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Personally find it great to watch (I'm not a Pats fan by any means). It's so smooth - graceful almost - when in full flow. If anybody finds it dull I think it is more to do with over-familiarity, and a tacit association with the cold, clinical methods of the head coach.

There's a similar school of thought in soccer that finds Barcelona boring to watch because their game is predicated on retaining possession and close, low risk passing. They execute it so smoothly and efficiently it looks easy, and after a while you take it for granted and start willing them to do something more adventurous. But its important to appreciate the phenomenal skill level required to execute like that. After all, nobody else can do it (although many now try). Same with the Pats offence.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

This is just from my fan perspective and this echoes tuluse's point slightly- its too simplistic in methodology. They run when they want, they throw short because its easy and it moves the chains. Thats it. Its an offense that doesn't need to rely on disguise and deception and long choreographed type plays of brilliance with receiver combinations attacking deep down the field.

I think the biggest misconception about the pats is that they do things out of scheme and design. No, its their players winning individual matchups. Their receivers and tight ends beat their man coverage and zone coverage assignments - their blockers engage defenders and push them out of the way- their running backs take the assigned holes and follow their leads. Its all brilliant but its a function of great talent not necessarily grand deceptions.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Not necessarily, even if the scheme is the driving force then you might need a certain type of player to run it and each team might not have that player. I don't mean a great player, more a guy with certain skills, perhaps a little quick receiver who works well against underneath zones. Also, the details of the processes might not be obvious without inside information. You would also need the time to install the system fully, which is not always afforded with the churn in coaching staffs. You would also have to be a good coach.

Personally I do find it dull. I think that part of it is the shotgun, the play doesn't flow as the qb drops from under centre away from his pursuers before gathering to throw. It lacks the rhythm of the Texans' boot-playaction game It's more like snap, stand still, throw short to receiver who drops to the floor and avoids the hit. It's a bit like netball with pads.

Is it effective? Yes, very. Does it have the frisson Mike Martz generates from knowing that a deep bomb could occur on any play and that the quarterback's life is in genuine danger? No, it's far to sensible for that. Remember the game against Pittsburgh where the Pats caught the Steelers in base personnel and threw seven straight identical passes to Welker. Effective but as interesting as when that irritating guy ruined Street Fighter by learning that there was a stagger on one move that meant he could win every time by repeating that move ad nauseam. Wasn't he fun to play? Actually, that might sum it up, ad nauseam. I have to say that I prefer the two TE attack to the 3 WR stuff.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I can see why the Pats offense could be viewed as boring. Even as a Pats fan, I start to take it for granted...but now with RZC I watch other teams more, and suddenly I stop doing so.

You mean, when you get the ball with 1:50 left in the first half at your own 15, it's not a foregone conclusion that you're going to score 3-7 points before the half and leave nothing on the clock?

Regarding it being skill, not's both. One of Belickick's strengths (on offense at least), is that he is willing to design what works according to the skillset of his players. A lot of coaches try to fit round pegs into square holes (for example, trying to run a zone-blocking scheme when their personnel is better suited to man, and so forth). Have undersized but athletic linemen, and a good, shifty running back or WR? Run a lot of screens. Have a WR who doesn't have elite speed, size, or separation, but exceptional quickness to create small windows, and a QB who is accurate enough to hit those windows? Design an intricate, short, over the middle attack. Manage to have two elite TE's fall to you in the draft? Design a hybridized run-seam route passing offense that gives both base and sub defenses nightmares. Don't have a QB that cna throw precision 40 yard rainbows or a WR that can stretch the field vertically? Don't insist on trying depe bomb after deep bomb.

You can say that the Pats succeed because their skill players win their matchups, not because they're doing anything clever schemewise. But the reason why they can win the matchups is that the scheme plays to their they can win their matchups.

This is probably true of every successful offense, not just the Pats. It's not enough to have talent or good play have to have both.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

By they way, I do remember that game (although I thought it was vs the Jaguars...) While it wasn't exciting from an execution standpoint (except to a Pats fan), it was very funny and amusing to watch (except to a fan of the opposing team). Like watching someone play Rock Paper Scissors, when you knew they always threw Scissors because Rock and Paper were lame, and their opponent knew it, too.

223 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

One thing I will give the pats coaches credit for is they always maximize whatever strengths they have at the time. This may seem obvious, but really, many teams run the same system regardless of whether their talent permits it or not. Part of the pats constant reinvention has to do with how their talent changes over time. I don't think the pats necessarily do this by design- after all, they've had many drafts where they've gone after receivers or rbs who didn't pan out and so they had to make do with what they had. After all, in 2010-after a very successful offensive year- they went after vareen and ridley despite having law firm and woodhead. It was hard to make sense of those picks then, but now- they've played up on it because thats where their strength is.

Still- I want to say, for the pats offense to be where it is, they got lucky. The 07 season brought them two elite receivers via trades. The 2010 season brought them one elite tight end and other special tight end via the draft. Those two seasons were what permitted the NE renaissance.

224 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'm not at all sure what "luck" has to do with whom Belichick traded for, or whom they drafted. Moss and Welker's weren't unknown entities to Belichick, nor were Gronkowski or Hernandez -- they were scouted for a year. They weren't lucky to draft Maroney or Chad Jackson either, they scouted them and decided that those were the players they wanted.

Unlesss you mean that they were "lucky" that Gronkowski and Hernandez weren't already drafted when the Patriots turn came up (Remember they traded up for Gronk). But in that sense, every player drafted after #1 overall was a lucky selection if they turned out to be good players.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I kind of take the same view of Belichick does when it comes to the draft. And btw, I have done enough work on the draft results from a stats point of view to show this- NO one has shown a consistent ability to hit consistently on draft picks or certain positions. The draft results are more or less simple- the higher the picks you have, the better odds you have of finding a great player. What i meant to say was- yes of course the pats scout players and draft who they like- but they got lucky in the sense that their process of finding great players offensively really came in those 2 years. That is lucky, because its hard enough to land an elite player so late in the draft or free agency, let alone two!

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I kind of take the same view of Belichick does when it comes to the draft. And btw, I have done enough work on the draft results from a stats point of view to show this- NO one has shown a consistent ability to hit consistently on draft picks or certain positions. The draft results are more or less simple- the higher the picks you have, the better odds you have of finding a great player. What i meant to say was- yes of course the pats scout players and draft who they like- but they got lucky in the sense that their process of finding great players offensively really came in those 2 years. That is lucky, because its hard enough to land an elite player so late in the draft or free agency, let alone two!

225 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I'm not so sure the coaches run their scheme regardless mantra is fair.

I think it's likely coaches don't recognize the talents their players have, and I think it's likely many teams have less talented players than the Patriots. There are very few coaches I've seen that simply refuse to adjust their scheme.

Even Mike Martz went max protect when Caleb Hanie was his starting QB.

228 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

I read once a player -- in a minor, non-football sport, but he was on the best team in the world in the sport for a time -- saying that the goal of their offense was to score without anyone ever saying 'great play', because a great offensive play was one that almost didn't happen, and the team trusted their offense to be able to score without taking big risks.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Like every QB, Brady has strengths and weaknesses:

He's good at reading the defense before the snap and figuring out who is likely to be open. Part of the reason why you see him complete so many balls to "open" Welkers and Gronks short is that he figures out ahead of time that they will or won't be.

He's extremely good at judging before hand how much time he's likely to have and how much pressure he will probably see.

He audibles very will into what the defense is not prepared for.

He's capable of running a high tempo no-huddle like few other QB's in the league.

All these things are powerful pre-snap abilities that often get overlooked. Now let's look at his strength post-snap:

He is extremely accurate throwing short. The rest of the reason why you see all those balls to "open" Welkers and Gronks is that they are open for someone with the accuracy of Tom Brady, but not open for someone with the accuracy of someone like Michael Vick.

He is extremely good at shifting around in the pocket to buy time. He doesn't shed tacklers like Big Ben, but he does drift to buy that crucial extra second. I actually think this is his biggest strength. I don't know that any other QB's do a better job of this that I've seen.

He takes care of the ball.

Now his weaknesses:
* His deep ball is poor, and his mid-range ball is medicore.
* He gives up on plays sometimes, taking a sack or throwing it away when some QB's would dance around and try to make something happen (conversely, this is part of the reason for his low INT and fumble rate).
* He occasionally fixates on a receiver even when it isn't working.
* He's the slowest QB I've ever seen.

These weaknesses mean he get's few sports center highlights (the deep rainbow strikes, the mad scamper for the first down, etc.), but on the whole can be coached around and compensated for by good coaching and play design. He won't have the scrable of Vick or the arc of Flaco, but he is likely to be the much better QB over his career.

And to counter the Cassel example, I would encourage you to look at 2006. Brady ran a highly successful offense with Reche Caldwell as his #1 reciever. No Gronk, no Welker, no Hernandez, no Branch even. He is not a product of his receivers...if anything, the opposite is true.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

All of what you said is true. I didn't want it to come off like Brady is secretly a terrible qb that is entirely a product of the system. Obviously that isn't the case. Still, I did want to say that since we hold him to the level of best qb in the nfl and maybe the best of all time, I find his limitations are severe enough to mention them.

Now to address some other non receiver facets- his offensive line is nearly always good. This is partly my opinion yes, but Pff since 2008 has never placed NE outside the even the top 10 of their rankings, most of the time they rank in the top 5! Thats something no other team has managed in that time span. And consider they have placed many other o lines with top qbs outside the top 10, they aren't letting their rankings be biased by qb play. Its not just them, ben alamar has also independently timed NE as the best o line in football-not sure which years he did it, but I remember he ranked their 2009 and 2010 o lines as consecutively the best.

In 2006- Ne was a short throwing dink and dunk team then as well. It wasn't as deadly as it is now, but that didn't mean he wasn't a dink and dunker then too. Remember that vikings game? that was entirely dink and dunk.

The other issue i want to add- despite all of the failings of the NE defense- they have seemingly never been poorly ranked when it comes to scoring. So while they give up yards in bunches, I have a hard time remembering when the NE defense basically buried tom brady behind a ton of points(the few happened in 05 when the chargers and colts hung 30 on them before the 4th quarter in Ne). This has the dramatic effect of not forcing brady into a frantic hurry up style where he needs to pick up yardage fast and conserve time. Thus, not further accentuating his negatives.

I'll conclude like this. Brady is one of the best qbs I've ever seen. All of the qualities you mentioned above place him very high. But, as far as I'm concerned, in totality, Peyton and Brees are both better qbs and right now so is Rodgers.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

But as I've said, qb play isn't the only explanation as there are many offenses that are led by elite qbs that do not have great o lines and this shows up in pff's numbers. Just saying tom brady makes the o line rate highly is wrong because then the colts would've had a highly ranked o line. Ditto for the packers or the chargers.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

The point of objectively ranking o lines is to find a system that attempts to rank them independently of the qb. This actually can be done- as ben muth does it every time he writes his articles and Pff tries to do the same. They've actually asked scouts to help set guidelines about how to do exactly this.

My pt is- the rankings are meant to be independent of the qb and indeed, alamar had a much better system- who can block the longest while keeping a clean pocket adjusted for the number of rushers. Both systems- NE comes out on top. Of course, nominal statistics like sacks and pressures given up are going to dip based on qb play and yes brady makes the line look better, but they also are a very good line even if it were mark sanchez back there.

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 5

Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights.