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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Audibles at the Line: Week 10
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.

On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning 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. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 at Green Bay Packers 13


Ben Jones: Better to be lucky than good ... Foles to Jackson
Mike Ridley: Scott Tolzien is in ... and looks like he just came off the practice squad
Rivers McCown: Tebow Packers
@TCBullfrog: When did #Packers QB become "drummer for Spinal Tap"?
@GDFar: I know the jokes are flying, but wouldn't GB rather have Tebow and 47 rushes than have to throw 17 times with Tolzien?
Mike Ridley: If only the Packers would've resigned Matt Flynn
@MilkmanDanimal: Reality show idea; Tebow, VY, and Matt Flynn have bake-off in jungle while singing and dancing, winner is new Packers QB.
Aaron Schatz: I'm sure before the season, Packers fans thought it would be all about the Tolzien-Boykin connection.
@MilkmanDanimal: Packers fans wildly cheer Eagles FG miss, forgetting for a moment that that means Tolzien is about to come back on the field.
Ben Jones: Call a facemask ... refs are royally screwing up GB-PHI
Aaron Schatz: One of the worst roughing passer calls ever in GB. Matthews clearly pushes Foles on the shoulder, officials call him for hit to head.
@sfckoski: Coughlin elects to run three times with Hillis to end the half with 2 TOs in his pocket down 3 rather than let Eli pass.
Scott Kacsmar: Eagles up 20-3 halfway thru 3rd quarter. With a 3rd-string QB in, let's stick a fork in this one.

Jacksonville Jaguars 29 at Tennessee Titans 27


Tom Gower: What scared me about this game is Titans could believe it's a game they could win w/o taking risks. If so, mistakes will cost you
Scott Kacsmar: Jags are up 10-0. Easily their biggest lead of the season.
Tom Gower: Second straight possession that ends with Locker Schaubing, throwing short of the sticks on 3D & not getting the first. 10-0 Jags
Tom Gower: Another bad downfield throw from Jake Locker & it's an easy pick. Struggled on those last week & today as well.
@GDFar: Even if Jake Locker was good, it would be time to move on because of injury concerns. Titans should look at QB in the draft.
Tom Gower: Should've noted this before now, but the Jaguars can't really block Jurrell Casey.
@MilkmanDanimal: Hey Bernard Pollard, when there's a rule basically named for you for protecting QBs, you should maybe stop hitting QBs in the head.
Tom Gower: Um... 3&14 screen, then I think Marlon Brown adjusted & Colin McCarthy didn't. Todman to the corner easy, Jags up 20-7. Oof.
@MilkmanDanimal: Henne just play-faked on 3rd and 12 up 2 with 4 minutes left, because the run there was clearly a real possibility.
@MilkmanDanimal: Brian Anger with a really nice punt, totally making up for that "drafted in the 3rd a few slots before Russell Wilson" thing.
@MuiEdgeGJJ: it would be hilarious if at this point Jacksonville messed up the victory formation. can't think they practise it too much


Tom Gower: I don't know what to say about this game, aside from it's a good example of a way to blow a game when you're the heavy favorite. The Titans came out conservative. They're not good enough to win a game playing conservatively unless they play mistake-free football. They turned the ball over four times, including a fumble on the first play of the game Jacksonville converted into an early lead.

I don't buy into that "they feel confident" and "momentum" stuff any more than most of the other statheads do, but in a time-delimited game situations change how teams are able to play. Get a lead on Jacksonville, force them to throw, and you should have a comfortable win. Give them a lead (and they were up 13-0 before the Titans managed a touchdown right before half), and they can do what they want to do. Don't punish them for mistakes, as the Titans turned two Chad Henne interceptions inside the 30 into three points. Last week was not a sign that Chris Johnson was "back" or any such nonsense. He's solely a function of the blocked yards, and this offensive line isn't good enough to create that sort of sustaining run game on a regular basis.

Somebody will probably make something of the Titans missing Jake Locker after he went out with a foot injury early. Well, he was lousy early. 4-of-9, 24 yards, picked off on what I thought was just a bad throw, and I don't think those numbers are underrating his performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick is just differently mediocre, which might have been enough to win with an extra defensive stop and if not for those pesky mistakes. At least I shouldn't have to listen to any more discussion about how the Titans are the favorites for the last playoff spot in the AFC.

Buffalo Bills 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23


Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger picked and some of the more pathetic "we're 2-6" tackle attempts you'll see from several Steelers.
@feb31st: If Buffalo could just pay Jairus Byrd next season instead of doing whatever they were planning on doing with him, that'd be great.
Scott Kacsmar: Poor ball thrown wide on 3rd down, but William Gay pushes the receiver. First down. I hate this game already.
@SigurWes: Wonder if Edge goes for endzone on that scramble pre-injury
Scott Kacsmar: This has been a very rough game for Stephon Gilmore. Just beat on a fade TD to Cotchery.
Mike Ridley: Cotchery did a great job of selling the block on his fade TD.
Mike Ridley: Pittsburgh just hardcounted the Bills ... on a field goal attempt
Scott Kacsmar: Bills just punted on fourth-and-5 from PIT 36, down 17-3 in the 4th quarter. That's disgusting.
Scott Kacsmar: Not to make it worse for Colts fans, but Jerry Hughes just picked up his 6th sack of the season. No chance for Roethlisberger.


Scott Kacsmar: Not that I advocate more of Jeff Tuel, but it did not look like EJ Manuel was ready to play this game. Call it rust, road jitters or just general inexperience (sixth-career start), but he did not give them much of a chance to win this game. Their best shot to take advantage was after an early interception by Ben Roethlisberger, which included some horrid tackling attempts from the Steelers. But without much threat from a passing game (don't recall Manuel ever really testing them deep), even a bad Pittsburgh defense is capable of shutting down a one-dimensional offense. The Buffalo running game was held in check.

Roethlisberger again had a slow start before coming on later, but there was nothing special about his performance. Early on he looked like a guy that wanted out of town, if you believe the rumor mill. There was just no rhythm with the receivers. Antonio Brown was shut out early, but came on strong with 104 receiving yards and two big punt returns for 74 yards. He was the best player on the field.

The game really lost its competitiveness when the hard count somehow drew the Bills offsides on a field-goal attempt in the third quarter. That led to a touchdown and those four extra points felt insurmountable for the Bills on this day.

Oakland Raiders 20 at New York Giants 24


@ptmovieguy: NYG spots Raiders 7. KR gets ball stripped, returned inside 10, OAK gets TD 2 plays later. OAK rejects NYG's ST suckitude handicap, allow blocked kicked returned for TD ties game up.
Mike Ridley: Glad to see that #OAKvsNYG is just as sloppy as we expected.
@TheRealChack: Two lost fumbles by the Giants in the first quarter. Of course, they also blocked a punt and scored off it.
@ptmovieguy: Bad Q1 for Peyton Hillis. Gave up sack vs OAK backup DB, then coughs up ball on screen. Coughlin calling Tyrone Wheatley. OAK's 17 points so far: 2 short drives from NYG ST TO, Hillis fumble, & Eli TAINT. Raider offense ineffective.
Cian Fahey: The courage to keep coming back after three ACL tears in the same knee is phenomenal. Terrell Thomas is an inspired football player
@sfckoski: Terrelle Pryor has looked terrible all day. Exposed is the word that comes to mind as best adjective to describe the performance. Fair to question OAK's play calling. Jennings had been gashing NYG, but OAK unable leverage him when they had lead
@ptmovieguy: NYG gift-wrapped game but OAK self-sabotaging offense prevented win. Felt like D took step back, DBs+middle run D exposed

St. Louis Rams 38 at Indianapolis Colts 8


Aaron Schatz: Mathis just pushed Jake Long all the way back into Clemens. Easily. Both DL look like they will very much dominate OL in this game.
Scott Kacsmar: Trent 3.0 with consecutive carries for no gain. Establishing the run in Indy means forcing Luck to have a 4QC.
Aaron Schatz: Hey Rams. Let's not put our third-string TE on Robert Mathis one-on-one, ok?
Rivers McCown: So, what does Trent Richardson have to do to get benched?
Aaron Schatz: David Reed just decided to take a deep kickoff out of the end zone and got tackled on the freaking 7. I keep meaning to do an article on the issue of kick returners getting too greedy with deep kickoffs. Just take the touchback.
Vince Verhei: As one of his harshest critics, I'd like to congratulate Tavon Austin for his 98-yard punt return TD against Indy.
@StanSellsBoats: Austin the return man: yup. Austin the WR: still unconvincing.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, kids. Tavon Austin breakout game. Just caught a deep TD pass from Kellen Clemens. Rams, 26th in DVOA going into this week, beating Colts (5th) 28-0. On the road. And it isn't halftime yet. #anygivensunday
@ScottieRock28: Everyone around me is just disgusted with this Colts game. The Rams fans here went from nonexistent to very vocal.
@The_Catch_IV: Colts maintaining their record of beating the NFL's best & worst teams, but disdaining from turning up to play vs mediocre teams.
@MilkmanDanimal: The Rams have scored four touchdowns. Kellen Clemens has completed four passes.
Scott Kacsmar: At 35-0 in the third quarter, CBS says Colts' WP is 2.5%. I'd go 0.01%. 94 years of NFL history would back that up.
Vince Verhei: The Rams currently have five completions ... For 42 yards a pop.
@MilkmanDanimal: The Rams are now up to five touchdowns, and Clemens has five completions. Patently insane statline.
Cian Fahey: The takeaway from today's Indianapolis game should be how the Colts can't rely on anything else when Luck struggles.


Aaron Schatz: I only watched the first half of the game; it was such a laugher by halftime that I decided to hit Red Zone for the rest of the 1 p.m. games. This game (or at least the first half) was really controlled by the defensive lines. Robert Quinn in particular was all over Andrew Luck. The Colts offensive line is such a problem. Going into this week, Luck had taken 50 quarterback hits, not including sacks. The next-highest quarterbacks in the league were Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin at 33 each. That's nuts. The gap will be even bigger after this game.

As for the Colts defense, as the game went on, the Rams interior line did a better job against the Colts interior line. Bill Barnwell might be right with his argument that Robert Mathis could be the Defensive Player of the Year so far, but you have to wonder what on earth opposing offensive coordinators are thinking when they single-block him. He is by far the one important pass rusher on the Colts. Why are you not doubling him on every play, or at least chipping him? There isn't much you can do when your expensive left tackle Jake Long can't block Mathis -- that's why you gave Long all that money -- but why would you leave third-string tight end Cory Harkey to block Mathis one on one?

By now everyone has seen the replay of Tavon Austin's punt return touchdown where he was calling his blockers off to give him room and the Colts may have mis-interpreted this as a fair catch signal, thus giving Austin room to run at the start of the return. Of course, even if he had room to run at the beginning, that doesn't change the fact that he made the rest of that return on pure speed. What drove me nuts is that for the rest of the game, Chris Myers and Tim Ryan insisted that the Austin touchdown was in some way caused by a "momentum change" because on the previous drive, the officials had changed their mind about a DPI flag on Darian Stewart. The announcers felt that Stewart had hit Coby Fleener before the ball got to him. I thought it was pretty bang-bang, and hard to tell. But what I do know is that while losing a big DPI gain is a bad thing, it doesn't suddenly make your punt coverage team slower, and it doesn't make them forget how to tackle.

Seattle Seahawks 33 at Atlanta Falcons 10


Andrew Potter: Seems like the refs in Seattle are way too quick with their whistles today. Waiting for Lynch to be blown dead as he breaks 3 tackles.
@ExcessiveFarce: Seattle’s run defense is looking much better, at least early on. OTOH, it is the Falcons.
@L_Crosby: The Falcons may be playing a lot of rookies on defense, but the LB and CB rookies are LEGIT. Looking good for the future.
@GDFar: Trick plays rarely seem to result in wide open receivers, but one-on-one deep is still very high percentage. Gave SEA a jump ball TD.
Vince Verhei: ATL's best play has been Matt Ryan scrambling up the middle. That's not good news for them.
Andrew Potter: Hard to believe the one-handed touchdown catch Golden Tate just made against Atlanta.
Vince Verhei: Michael Bennett was just called for roughing the passer because he wrapped his arms around Ryan's legs and sacked him.
@nath_on_fire: I like hearing the ATL-SEA announcer admit the roughing rules are because the league views star QBs as assets-- nothing about safety
@ExcessiveFarce: 2 defensive penalties let ATL start crawling back into the game. Though as @FO_VVerhei points out, the roughing was pretty Bsish
Cian Fahey: Marshawn Lynch has been phenomenally consistent this year...and a phenomenal running back too
Vince Verhei: I need a GIF of the kid in the Seahawks jersey dancing after the Lynch TD. Also: Marshawn Lynch for MV-non-QB.
Vince Verhei: Between sacks, hits, and personal fouls, Matt Ryan may not survive this game.


Vince Verhei: The takeaway from this game is that if anything, it was a bigger blowout than the final score would indicate. Atlanta’s points came on a 50-plus-yard field goal and a touchdown drive aided largely by multiple Seattle personal fouls. Meanwhile, Seattle moved the ball pretty much every drive, but kept shooting themselves in the foot with negative plays in scoring range. Brandon Browner left with a groin injury, and Matt Ryan kept looking at Walt Thurmond and Maxwell, but their guys were covered, and Ryan would usually dump off to a well-covered running back. It is amazing how good Seattle’s third and fourth corners are. Save for a few times when the middle of the field opened up and Ryan scrambled for good yards, the Falcons couldn’t do anything on the ground, and Ryan spent most of the second half running for his life. I don’t think he was officially sacked much, but he was under pressure on almost every play.

The Seahawks offensive line (again, missing sixty percent of their starters) played pretty good, but really Marshawn Lynch was phenomenal today. He picked up a lot of first downs by moving piles, as a rusher and receiver, and it seemed like he was getting five yards or more every carry.

In short, the team that is now 9-1 really is much better than the team that is now 2-7. Remember, everyone, I am an expert. Don’t try this at home.

[ad placeholder 3]

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at Baltimore Ravens 20 OT

Rivers McCown: Andy Dalton thinks @FO_ScottKacsmar never should have written that QB sneak article.
@fhyrew: Is it just me or was that Ravens touchdown a case of Flacco and Clark rescuing a terrible, low percentage playcall?
Rivers McCown: Dierdorf "Now he's learned his lesson" on Marvin Lewis going for it on fourth-and-1. Then Lewis challenges the spot. So much dumb.
Rob Weintraub: Here we go--Marvin stopped on 4th and inches earlier, now challenging spot to avoid 4th and two chain lengths. And he wins it! Marvin is unstoppable this year with the red hanky. What is going on?
@fhyrew: Return of the Suggs package, flea flicker, weird play action delay route on goal line. This is a kitchen sink game for the Ravens.
Rob Weintraub: Dalton INT on classic Red Rifle sail job in high winds. PF on return. TD Ravens and this one is over early. Cincy should really pull Dalton--he's going to get killed by the pass rush futilely throwing it another 30 times today. At least Josh Johnson can run. May be the only chance Cincy has of making a play to get back in this game. Think long term.
Rivers McCown: If I created a hypothetical #SchaubSoHard award, Andy Dalton would be top candidate.
@blotzphoto: Ray Rice looks like he has lost a step or two. Just looked incredibly slow on that dump off pass.
Rob Weintraub: HT--17-0 Ravens. Balt has done less than nothing on offense save punch it in when Bengals penalties set them up on the doorstep. 1st half--Ravens 94 total yards, Bengals 114 penalty yards. All that you need to know.
Rob Weintraub: Now Harbaugh is challenging a spot on a play: AJ stretched and converted 3rd down by one or two chain lengths. Game of millimeters. And Harbaugh wins the challenge. Eagle eyes out there. Bengals go and make it on 4th anyway.
Rob Weintraub: L. Webb makes incredible pick, yanking ball w/one arm away from Jones who had a catch. Makes Dalton's stats look worse, but all Webb. Ravens don't take advantage, 3 and out. Despite no Geno or Hall, Bengals playing great D in what will be a wasted effort.
@blotzphoto: When they play like this it looks like the Bengals brought the wrong play book. Ignoring Dalton's strengths,exposing his weaknesses.
Rob Weintraub: T. Newman with an INT, realizes pick-six is only chance for Cincy to score, runs laterally for a while looking for room, to no avail.
@blotzphoto: The Bengals D doesn't want to lose this game it seems.
Scott Kacsmar: For the 12th time in 31 games, the coin-toss loser attempted a GW FG on 2nd drive of OT. So why do all 31 choose to receive? And make that 9/31 modified OT games ending with coin-toss loser getting GW FG on drive 2. Most common outcome.


Rob Weintraub: Existential question for football fans -- would you rather have your team pull off a Hail Mary to force overtime, and not see it happen live, or get to the TV in time to actually witness your team lose painfully in overtime after said Hail Mary?

Answer -- both suck.

Not sure which team deserved to win less. Cincy was pretty bad on offense, and Andy Dalton did his usual sailing of balls in the wind. But at least they finally put together one decent drive. Baltimore did nada all day, was gifted 17 points via turnovers and penalties, and really has issues on the line. Joe Flacco basically made two good plays to escape the rush, scramble right, and hit a receiver -- for the first touchdown and for the big first down in overtime. Otherwise, he was either running for his life or missing high and wide.

I never know how much to draw from these division games. The two defenses plainly knew just about every play that was coming, and were seldom caught out of position -- that fourth-and-2 in overtime a prime example. Baltimore did a great job disguising zones and played excellent coverage, and the interior of the line, led by Haloti Ngata, of course, was immovable. Cincy barely felt the absence of Geno Atkins, Leon Hall and Rey Maualuga. Not only was Vinny Rey in there with three sacks, he was all over the place in the run game too. Another stupendously coordinated game by Zimmer. This was a very 2011 or late-2012 game from the Cincy perspective -- defense played well enough to win but the offense let 'em down again.

Cincy won two straight on field goals on the final play, blew out the Jets, and now have lost two straight in overtime. Probably on balance where they ought to be -- a little better than average.

By the way -- my first thought after I heard about the Hail Mary via my phone blowing up, after the shock, was that the Bengals should go for 2 and end it right there. Low probability of the win either way -- at least this way I wouldn't have had to see it.

Rivers McCown: I chose this game over the Scott Tolzien (nee Seneca Wallace) experience and it put me asleep at halftime.

I woke up to Dalton scrambling in the last few seconds, hitting the Hail Mary, and then they took me straight to the first play of the Houston-Arizona game, which was also memorable.

Glover Quin knows you should always spike a Hail Mary attempt.

Given the offense that I saw, I know exactly why the Bengals didn't go for two.

Detroit Lions 21 at Chicago Bears 19

@anhirsch: Both Bears and Lions go for it on 4th and 1 instead of 45yd+ FG's. Is this game being played in the future?
@TCBullfrog: My amateur opinion is that #Bears DLine has penetrated better on runs today, disrupting plays and giving LBs better route to the ball. LBs have played a bit better too. But if I was going to guess why the #Bears run D is so much better today it's because of the line.
Mike Ridley: Stafford with another trademark "screw mechanics" pick.
@JoshReedBTG: Bears opponents have failed to have a 95+ yard rusher just 3 times this year.
Scott Kacsmar: Lions - That's about as good of a situation to go for 2 as you can get, yet they kick the XP to keep it a one-score game. Bollocks.
@PigskinLover: I know it's been said, but Calvin Johnson is outstanding. Can't help be reminded of how Peyton made the Colts. Same situation right?
@pchicola: CHI does not deserve to win because Trestman didnt bench Cutler before. DET does not deserve to win because of their dumb penalties.

Carolina Panthers 10 at San Francisco 49ers 9


@Daniels_Ryan: That is at least the third time this year that the Panthers have given the ball away when they were supposed to be receiving a punt.
@sfckoski: Don't know if Aldon Smith lifted weights while away from the team, but he just bull-rushed Wharton on his first play of the game.
Vince Verhei: I think Cam Newton leads the league in "attempted throwaways that get intercepted."
@MilkmanDanimal: Starting to wonder if Cam is hurt; his mechanics have been awful today, doesn't look comfortable at all in the pocket.
Danny Tuccitto: don't know what's worse on 4th & 1 from the 2: billick suggesting FG to make it 2 score game (9-0 in 2Q?) or SF calling hard count.
Vince Verhei: Billick. Definitely Billick. I had to try very hard not to get angry.
Danny Tuccitto: for me, was a novelty thing. billick using awful CW logic Vince Verhei: 49ers are prepared for Cam runs, every time.
Vince Verhei: Eric Reid walks off after KO. Billick hopes he'll be back in the game. For Reid's sake, I hope not.
Aaron Schatz: Gore having big day for SF but OL still having problems. Most of his yards have come on double-digit runs, not 4-6 yarders. Through end of Q3 Gore has only four runs of 4 to 9 yards.
Vince Verhei: CAR up 10-9. PLEASE let that be a final, and bring up Billick's "go up two scores" argument.
Scott Kacsmar: I hope this Carolina drive brings up a fourth-and-1. Then again, with 10-9 lead, you'd be crazy to go for it. Make SF offense drive.
@sfckoski: CAR has been targeting Tarrell Brown all day. Soft coverage.
Tom Gower: Wow, Carolina, passing on 3&long in the 4-minute drill instead of calling conventional run. I like this new Ron Rivera/Mike Shula.
@TeutonSF: has Kap held ball too long vs blitz or have his receivers not adjusted to the blitz?
Scott Kacsmar: Panthers are dying to give the game away, but SF just won't take it.
Vince Verhei: 10-9 FINAL!!!! TAKE THAT BILLICK!!!


Tom Gower: Two pretty similar teams, I think, with outstanding front sevens, questionable secondaries, run games that are good but not great, and athletic, talented, but inconsistent quarterbacks who have to make the best with some not entirely threatening weapons in the pass game. It reminded me a bit of one of those physical AFC Central battles (Titans when they were good, Ravens, Steelers) in that every yard was hard-won and if you wanted fireworks you had to look elsewhere. The Panthers hit a long field goal (55), and the 49ers kicked a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 5 to take a 9-0 first-half lead, a decision Brian Billick strongly supported. In a tight game like this one, that's the difference between winning and losing. Bully for DVOA's assessment of the Panthers as being a much better team than the conventional wisdom and the line for this game would suggest.

Vince Verhei: That end-of-half call was closer than you're giving it credit. SF had a fourth-and-1 at the 2. So it wasn't even touchdown-or-bust, they could have picked up a new set of downs. They ended up trying to get Carolina to jump offsides and taking a delay of game before kicking the field goal from the 6. Considering the health of their offense, it seemed unlikely that they would get back to the red zone (and in fact, they didn't), and I thought it was clear that taking advantage of that field position was the right thing to do. Besides, shouldn't San Francisco be a really good fourth-and-1 team? Aren't they all about power blocking and misdirection runs?

The bigger problem, though, is how bad San Francisco looked without Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis (lost with a concussion shortly before that short field goal). Carolina's secondary is pretty bad, and though the Panthers hide that by playing lots of soft zones to prevent big plays (and that's a credit to Ron Rivera, by the way), there was still nothing for Colin Kaepernick to do but run for his life. They were playing with half an offense by the end of the game.

I kind of hope this game goes a long way in getting the Panthers defensive line the credit they deserve. Johnson, Hardy, and Lotulelei are all top-level guys, and I feel like they're handicapped by the guys playing behind them. They're not going to get a lot of coverage sacks in Carolina, so it's pretty much get the quarterback early, or don't get him at all.

Houston Texans 24 at Arizona Cardinals 27

Rivers McCown: Well, FO did say Arizona was the best defensive team in the NFL. And it wouldn't be a 2013 Texans game without a returned TD
Rivers McCown: I don't understand why Houston refuses to give DeVier Posey more snaps. Ryan Griffin is contributing nothing.
Cian Fahey: Andre Johnson is the second best WR in the NFL, which is basically the best because cyborgs should be disqualified
Rivers McCown: Arizona marching down the field on the backs of Jake Ballard and Rob Housler. Make a Wade Phillips D do anything but its first read.
@blotzphoto: Has Larry Fitzgerald been hurt? Or kidnapped by aliens?
Rivers McCown: Bradley Sowell versus J.J. Watt. That's not the matchup you want.
Rivers McCown:
@pchicola: Down 10, why did Wade Phillips punt on 4th & 10 with 5 minutes remaining? Want to make sure Kubiak gets fired by the end of season?
Cian Fahey: That's the second underthrown fade route that a defender has misplayed to give Andre Johnson a TD in a week
Rivers McCown: Case Keenum is better than Matt Schaub. He has also been EXTRAORDINARILY lucky today.
@StanSellsBoats: Game with Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald should be called the If-Only-They'd-Had-Better-Quarterbacks Bowl.
@heygirlitsryan: Andre Johnson can catch touchdowns, we now know the issue was Schaub couldn't throw them.
@Shake1n1bake: Never seen a better catch short of the sticks OOBs on 3rd down while trying to kill clock than Ellington just made
Tom Gower: Really low-risk, high-reward challenge here by Arians. No-brainer. Does he win it? Maybe not, but still worth it. Process > outcome
Scott Kacsmar: Bullock's such a bad kicker you may give a serious thought to going for it on that fourth-and-1 if you're Bruce Arians.


Rivers McCown: Case Keenum had about four adjusted interceptions in this game. And yet, considering the quality of the competition, and the fact that the Houston offensive line can't pass block to save its life, I thought he looked pretty good. Arizona blitzed practically the entire second half, and Houston had no answer for it. There was one throw in particular -- an Andre Johnson drop -- that was such a pretty deep ball I had to rewind it about four or five times to make sure I didn't hallucinate it.

Arizona had a pretty decent game plan: attack the safeties and try to fool Wade Phillips' defense. It mostly worked. D.J. Swearinger had a nice game, though. There were some Patrick Peterson -- Andre Ellington Wildcat plays that were pretty neat. Brice McCain got toasted, as he usually does these days.

In a three-point Texans loss, a blocked field goal kept the game from going to overtime. Are you surprised? Me either.

Denver Broncos 28 at San Diego Chargers 20

[ad placeholder 4]


Scott Kacsmar: I guess Julius Thomas is healthy enough. 74-yard TD.
@GDFar: Seems like Demaryius is the extra weapon we thought Julius Thomas would be. Julius a key part of ball movement.
Scott Kacsmar: Simms bashing Denver for taking too long. Well it's first-and-goal at the SD 7 with 0:19 left. And a timeout.
Scott Kacsmar: San Diego probably blew this one in the red zone on the previous drive. Settle for FG, miss it, great 2-min. drive by Manning.
Tom Gower: Been mostly on CAR-SF, but that DEN 2MW drive looked like DVOA #1 O v #32 D. Really pretty pass/catch on big play to D.Thomas
@MilkmanDanimal: SD rushing yards, 113, Denver 9; SD time of possession 22:29, Denver 7:31. San Diego is clearly winning this game, right?
@TickleMittens: Yes, that will score them points on Inside the NFL, those aren't counted until Wednesday... #MoralVictory #LooksBleak
Tom Gower: Demaryius Thomas #3 to complete the devastating FG miss, TD, HT, TD sequence. 28-6 & goodnight, Alice, barring oddness.
Scott Kacsmar: It's a good thing Mike McCoy knows this Denver offense...
@TCBullfrog: Jim Nantz immediately says "It's too early to go for 2", but CBS's graphic says "Go For Two" Simms and Nantz are basically mocking their own production people for advocating that the #Chargers go for 2 down 9
@RobertGrebel: No, it's not too early for SD to go for two. I don't understand this decision


Tom Gower: I didn't see much of this game. From what I saw, San Diego was moving the ball okay but not great, while Denver went up and down the field with ease. Given the eight-point margin, what I saw was apparently not entirely consistent with what happened the rest of the game, as what I did looked like a Denver blowout.

Scott Kacsmar: That was the first game in the Peyton Manning era where the Broncos didn't score 10-plus points after halftime. We were recently talking about how much John Fox deserves credit for their second-half adjustments and this just so happened to be the first game without him. That will be interesting to watch going forward, but here's a quick look at what happened today.

1st drive: 78-yard touchdown drive to go up 28-6 as Manning was doing what he wanted to this defense.
2nd drive: strip-sack on Manning. Too many of these this season.
3rd drive: 15 yards and a punt.
4th drive: Three-and-out with Eric Decker looking for a flag, which is part of his route-running on incompletions.
5th drive: 22 yards and a punt, staying pretty conservative and not attacking.
6th drive: ran out final 3:26 on clock in protecting 28-20 lead (always love that).

So credit San Diego for some good defense here. Denver may have eased up some after the 28-6 lead, but the defense did pretty well today and you always will take the four-minute offense to end the game cleanly, though any hit to Manning's knees is a concern. Might be wishing for a second-down run there.

Dallas Cowboys 17 at New Orleans Saints 49


Aaron Schatz: Dwayne Harris attempting to make up for the rest of the NFC East's lousy special teams BY HIMSELF.
@GDFar: Why are people raving about a player recovering a fumble that rolled right to his feet? He didn't do anything.
Danny Tuccitto: Welcome back to the nfl, Marques Colston.
Aaron Schatz: Great blitz pickup by Darren Sproles on TD pass up the middle to Colston in Q1
Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys also not so much with the tackling, apparently.
Scott Kacsmar: Romo couldn't have played much better against the Saints last year. Tonight, I don't think he's playing at all.
@sfckoski: DAL seemed too concerned with proving to the media that they could balance out their run/pass play mix in the first half.
Tom Gower: Very smart play by Colston there. Made the catch, looked to see if he could get a lot of YAC, saw he couldn't so went down.
Mike Ridley: Without Sean Lee, Dallas' defense is as poor as they come. Brees having his way.
@MilkmanDanimal: Dear Monte; no matter how hard you squint, none of these guys are going to turn into Derrick Brooks.
Aaron Schatz: Is this game still happening?
Scott Kacsmar: Can't stop Brees anyway, so love the surprise onside kick.
@MichaelEdits: Let's replace the Dallas Cowboy defense with Hole In Zone and see if anybody notices.
@GDFar Cowboys had 43 offensive plays to the Saints 40 first downs. Tells the entire story.


Tom Gower: I was impressed by neither Dallas' energy nor execution on defense tonight. On the road, against a potentially great offense, it's virtually impossible to win when that happens unless your offense has a particularly strong game. Failing to convert a third down until late in the game does not a particularly strong game make.


218 comments, Last at 13 Nov 2013, 8:41pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I can't figure out this Colts team. They play great against elite teams to defeat them. They roll over bad teams. But when faced with an average team, they look like they've never played football before. It's like reverse Goldilocks.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Robert Mathis aside, that's as poor an effort I've seen from the entire organization under Pagano. There is absolutely no nuance to the play-calling; run the ball a few times for no gain, get behind early, and then pass what felt like 40 or so straight plays. The middle of the offensive line is a disaster and Peppers wasn't keeping a back in to block often enough (not that that has helped much this year anyway). Darrius Heyward-Bey almost warrants a benching, he's so unreliable. Luck overthrew I don't know how many open guys early. Vontae Davis looked uninterested on occasion. Special teams were a disaster. No respect for Tavon Austin, the Rams' sole playmaker. 10 running back rushes for a grand total of one yard. Reggie Wayne is still just one player, but talk about the straw that stirs the drink.

But hey, we stopped the run, so there's that.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"No respect for Tavon Austin, the Rams' sole playmaker"

Well given that the Rams seem to have forgotten that Austin was on their roster until yesterday, I don't blame the Colts for not noticing him until he started scoring those touchdowns.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I know Austin wasn't exactly blowing it up this season. But it's like the Colts sat on their hands and thought "huh backup QB they'll just run it." On those two touchdown receptions there was no one around him at all! What were they doing, double-covering Brian Quick??

I guess some props to Brian Schottenheimer for finally treating Austin like a RC race car instead of a Happy Meal wind-up toy.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

They didn't need to target him anymore because they were up eleventy billion to negative 6.

Colts O line is so bad that Luck can't even fully execute the fake handoff of play-action because he's too afraid of taking the sack while his back is turned to the field. Sigh.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Which is exactly what the Rams did to Wilson when they played the Seahawks. They even had the blitzer timing his blitz for when Wilson turned his back for the play action. From the sounds of it, they were doing the same thing to Luck. Only the Colts handled it much worse from the looks of the final score.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

You should go back and look at the stats or watch a replay of the Rams-Seahawks game. Wilson was sacked 7 times and the team gained less than 150 yards. The differences between the 2 games was the Seahawks defense only gave up 9 points and set up the offense at about the 20 once. Seattle only scored 6 more points than the Colts but gave up 29 less.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Watching Tavon Austin's moves yesterday reminded me alot of Eric Metcalf. I think this is interesting because I always felt Metcalf's coaches failed to untap his potential in his role in the offense, over the course of many different coordinators. It seems the prevailing wisdom through half a season is that the Rams are failing at this as well.

Is there something about a player of this style that either a) makes them difficult to utilize or b) makes us overrate them?

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This game sort of exposed what I had been seeing the last several weeks. The wins and the media's infatuation with luck have hidden the fact that this team has some major flaws that were there to expose. Let's begin with - as it pains me to say - Luck is being overrated. I know he was running for his life this game, but he's been pretty inaccurate this last month. A lot of throws that sail or are thrown behind. The reggie wayne injury was a great example of a poor throw.

The other thing is...the o line stinks. Ok, that's fine and all, but didn't the colts spend a boatload of money to fix that? Why, yes they did, but then donald thomas got injured and they're back to playing McGlynn, Satele, and at times Linkenbach(A Ben Muth favorite). Hugh thorton the last few weeks has been a disaster too, but he's a rookie so what can you say?

Finally, if there's a real schizophrenic aspect to the colts, its their secondary. Against the broncos, they had tight coverage and the safeties were great. Against the texans, they were terrible but it was ANdre Johnson so I was willing to give them a pass, except...well, Kellen Clemons basically confirmed that this secondary cannot be counted on whatsoever.

So in summary, the colts are a version of last years team but with a higher ceiling. But they still carry the same baggage and weaknesses and that's fundamentally the result of possessing almost no elite talent.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Lions have red carpet laid out in front of them to win the NFC North, but this win was yet another example of why I can't bring myself to fully trust them not to screw it up. A roughing the passer on a 2 point conversion? I know the referees didn't call it a bunch of times against Nick Fairley before, but that's no reason to keep doing it! Eventually the refs will listen to the opposing teams complaints and throw the flag.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, I thought the refs were letting them knock Cutler down a lot after the ball was released. Thanks for finally calling it, though.

And that makes two games in a row that holding screwed the Bears out of easy first and goal.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As a completely biased Bears fan, I was shocked at how loose the refs called the game for 59-1/2 minutes. The Lions are quite clearly coached to play to 1 second after the whistle and to take any opportunity to inflict pain that will not result in a penalty 100% of the time. (I have watched several Lions games this year that did not involve the Bears, so this is not merely sour grapes about the two losses this year.) Given that, I would expect a veteran crew like Bill Levy's to keep a close eye on the proceedings and make sure nothing got out of hand. Instead, they let everything go until there was nearly a brawl---and there absolutely would have been one if the game had not been within a touchdown.

Another surprising thing given the Lions' M.O. is that the Bears' coaching staff chose this week to bring Cutler back. Is anyone surprised he got re-injured?

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I spent all week wondering what the hurry was to bring Cutler back. Caleb Hanie is long gone, and the Lions don't exactly have Richard Sherman/Brandon Browner types at cornerback. Josh McCown could have moved around in the pocket/avoided pressure and taken advantage of the Marshall/Jeffrey vs. Slay/Mathis/Houston matchup (like he did in the final drive). Instead Cutler hurried his throws, turning what could have been completions (had the receiver had time to run his route) into grounders.

Once you make the commitment to start him, it becomes a lot harder to bench him when you see him grabbing his groin after every pass play.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Agree 100%. There was a 3rd-down play in the 2nd half in which Cutler rolled to his left, started to run, then threw a one-hopper to Jeffery (who was open for the 1st down). A healthy Cutler makes that play easily with either his legs or his arm, and the version of Josh McCown that showed up against Washington and GB also makes that play the majority of the time.

On the other hand, the Bears aren't even in that game if Stafford plays a good game. What was with all the missed short throws? And the interception to Conte was awful---I mean, that's the only way Chris Conte ever gets an INT. (Though I should probably cut Conte a bit of slack for the great endzone play he made on Megatron.)

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Stafford didn't have a lights out game, but he wasn't terrible. That interception was bad. As soon as I saw him not stepping into the throw, I knew it was gonna be off target. But that 2nd TD to Megatron was on a dime. His numbers woulda been much better if it weren't for a bunch of drops and batted balls. He had some key 3rd down conversions, too, especially on the last TD drive. But I'm the local Stafford booster, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Oh sure, there way too many dropped passes as usual, especially by Bush, but Stafford threw at least three balls behind Calvin, including one in the end zone that was credited as a breakup by Conte instead of a poor throw by Stafford.

I wouldn't trade Stafford for any of the QBs taken after him, either... but I'd sure like to see more consistency from Stafford *and* the receivers.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well I can tell you what he should do. He should look on his staff, see Rod Marinelli, and hire him. Guy has done yeoman work with the defensive line situation he's been dealt with this year (where of the projected starting 4 they got exactly 0 games together, lost 20 to injury to two of them and lost a further 4 including 3 to Demarcus Ware). They clearly missed Hatcher last night whose played close to an all pro level. And losing Sean Lee your only other guy whose looked like an All Pro contender is just devastating.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In a move I can't think of a parallel for Jerry has admitted that it was probably a mistake to fire Ryan last year. I suspect that Kiffen will "retire" and they'll make an in house move (probably Marinelli) to save face.

The question is - If the Cowboys can't win the NFC East (it seemed a forgone conclusion a few weeks ago, they could potentially come out of their bye down a game to Philly and only a game ahead of the third place team) does Garrett get the axe?

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I've always been pretty neutral in the 4-3 vs. 3-4 debate, having always thought that either scheme was likely to work well with the appropriate talented personnel. I'm starting to think, however, that in today's rules environment, the 3-4 is superior simply because it facilitates confusing the qb more. In a rules environment where receivers are given pretty close to free releases, giving the qb more to mentally process is really helpful, and the 3-4 makes it easier to disguise things.

Marinelli is a 4-3 guy. Jerry Jones, unsurprisingly, did a stupid thing when he fired Rob Ryan.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, I think the pure 4-3 is a dying animal. I say that because you can run 4-3 and still be an amoeba defense. Mike Zimmer in cincy runs a 4-3, but hes not afraid to use 3 safeties and move his lbs all around. The gap concepts are fundamentally the same, but he's incorporating the zone blitz concepts that made lebeau so famous.

Then there also the hybrid teams, the ones who run a gap based 4-3 but also use a fair amount of standing and moving around rushers. These include denver, seattle, and Ne.

But yes, I feel the pure 4-3 doesn't have quite the same effectiveness as the others do.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

4-3 and 3-4 are becoming less meaningful as descriptions of NFL defenses. The Jets are technically a 3-4 team, but they line up as 4-3 as well, and then also as a 46 front on occasion. Coples is technically an outside linebacker who almost always stands up at the line of scrimmage, but he basically rushes the backfield almost every down. Arizona is another team that mixes things up all the time.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I can't see Garrett keeping his job if they missed the playoffs. Before the season I thought they would go 8-8 and miss the playoffs and he'd be done. Now I think they might go pretty close to 8-8 and win the division which probably saves his job. But if they don't with the division this easy it puts him in an even worse position.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I can't believe the Panthers finally won a close game. With huge games looming against New England and New Orleans (x2), the last-second loss to the Bills might really haunt them in December. They have to win at least once (preferably twice) against New England or New Orleans and win the rest of their winnable games if they want to make the playoffs.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I know we have plenty of season left, but if the Lions hold on to the North and get the #3 seed, I'm actually hoping they don't have to play the Panthers in the WC round. That's the best front 7 I've seen all year. They're so good, they're making Captain Munnerlyn and a geriatric Drayton Florence look like viable starting corners.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Leading 6-0 in the 2nd quarter, the 49ers had a 4th and 1 from the 2 yard line. The offense stayed on the field, and Billick chided them for not taking the field goal, as a 9-0 lead would be a two-score lead. He said that SF should definitely take the 3 points in this situation. SF barked a few times, didn't draw the defense offsides, took a delay of game, and took the 3 points. Their 9-0 lead that Coach Billick wanted became a 10-9 loss, with SF never again getting into the red zone for the rest of the game. Hey, a touchdown might have been worth more there than a field goal, coach.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To be fair to Billick, the field goal did put the 49ers in a situation where any following field goal at any point in the rest of the game would have put them ahead. So they didn't actually need to get into the red zone to win.

More generally, I think the criticism of "oh, how stupid to talk about a two score lead in the first half" is a little cheap. Getting a two score lead at any point in the game means that if you respond to any future score like for like you will maintain a two score lead without ever being behind. Thinking it matters doesn't mean that you expect it to hold up (although it very nearly did--the way the game was going, a 7-6 final was definitely possible), it means that you expect the marginal field goal to be important at some point.

Also, in a low scoring game I don't think it's obvious that one should embrace the high variance, slightly higher upside play over the sure points.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

One touchdown would still be worth more points than that field goal, and any potential future field goal (that didn't even materialize). With SF's power running game, I think they should have tried for the first down/touchdown on 4th and 1 from the 2. A 13-0 lead would have completely changed the game in a way that 9-0 did not. I was thrilled when they didn't try, and instead settled for the 3 points. Failing to convert at the 2 could have resulted in a safety against Carolina, or a very short field on the next drive, likely still resulting in a field goal.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm far happier with Harbaugh's decision to take 3 here than I was with Mike McCoy's to kick a 20-something yard field goal on 4th & 1 to make the score 7-6 against Denver last night.

The correct decision is probably to go for it in all circumstances on 4th & short in opposition territory early in games, but it seems far more clear cut to me when a defence is so obviously overmatched as San Diego's last night. Opting to take a 9 point lead in a game that where your defence has been to that point dominant (and the offence functional) seems at least rational and defensible.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Carolina had not scored anything yet, but it was still only midway through the second quarter. Plenty of time to make adjustments. They did end up scoring 10 and could have been 13 if the Carolina kicker did not miss a field goal. Probable worse case scenario if SF goes for it is that Carolina has to start at there own 2, which puts you in a great situation. At that point with the way they were playing, the odds of Carolina going 98 yards seemed very low and the potential to get the ball back in good field position right before halftime was decent. Going for it was the best decision. I was saying it in that moment and the end result just makes it stand out more.

I was really surprised that Harbaugh didn't go for it in that situation, as he has gone for it in those types of situations most of the time in the past. I think the thing that made him hesitate was that SF had already failed on 2 3rd and 1 rushing attempts at that point already with Carolina getting great penetration. Given this though, I still would have gone for it. Given Carolina might have been over-committed to the run, they could have gone with a play-action bootleg or something to take advantage of the over-aggressiveness.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yes. Carolina's failures to that point were to some extent self-inflicted. Bad throws and drops; they had open guys and the Niners' pash rush was pretty anemic. I think you go for a big lead there. If you fail, you have a great chance at great field position, or even a TO as Cam hadn't settled down yet.

Anyway, I don't think the point is that it was clearly the wrong decision to take the FG, so much as to say it was clearly the right decision was ridiculous.

Finally, the attempt to draw the defense offside was laughable. 79 different types of motion in sequence. Do the Niners really practice this "play"?

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The 49ers weren't showing much on the day either up to that point, which I think is all the more reason to try to punch it in for six. If points are going to be harder to score than normal, touchdowns are more valuable than ever.

SF's first drive was definitely their best, covering 46 yards before making a long field goal. There was a dropped interception earlier in the drive (Munnerlyn) that could have prematurely ended this drive.

SF's 2nd field goal came on a very short field after a partially-blocked SF punt was muffed by a Panthers player and recovered by SF. (started at the 41, advanced 16 yards before kicking)

SF's 3rd field goal came on a very short field following a 41-yard interception return. (started at the 24, advanced 22 yards, kicked after a 5-yard delay penalty).

At that time, both teams had one sustained drive of over 40 yards. SF got a FG out of theirs, while Carolina's drive ended in an interception on an attempted throwaway. The difference in the game so far had been turnovers (muffed punt and long interception return) and field position, all of which was breaking in SF's favor. In this type of game, I think you try for the touchdown, especially with the field position advantage you would get if you failed.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


1) I don't buy the logic that states, "Harbaugh was right for kicking the FG because because SF-CAR was the proverbial game where points were at a premium." If points are at a premium, doesn't that make the 4 points separating a TD and FG even more important? Of course, points are always at a premium unless you're up big in the 4th quarter, so I don't even really accept the underlying premise that "6-0 w/ 6 minutes left in the 2nd quarter" means points are at a premium any more than if the score was, say, 27-21 w/ 6 minutes before halftime. In that situation, you'd also say points were at a premium because no one's playing defense apparently.

2) If you use Burke's 4th-down calculator (, and look at win probability, going for it is marginally correct: 81% total WP going for it vs. 79% total WP kicking FG; average conversion rate is 68%, break-even conversion rate to make going for it correct is 57%. If you look at expected points, however, going for it is correct, and it's not even close: 4.21 total EP going for it vs. 2.39 total EP kicking FG; average conversion rate is still 68%, but break-even conversion rate to make going for it correct is only 35%. Burke has made it clear that, in "normal football" situations, you use the the EP model, not the WP model since there's still too much game left to worry about a single decision meaningfully impacting a win or loss. Your job at that point is to maximize points.

Obviously, these are just the baseline numbers. If it was 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter rather than the 2nd quarter, I could see how non-statistical factors (e.g., SF's problems moving the ball, stout run-blocking nullified via injuries at TE and caliber of opponent's front-seven, etc.) provided enough evidence to suggest that SF's true conversion probability was less than the 57% break-even rate per WP. However, the 35% EP-based break-even rate is so low that it's much more unlikely those non-statistical factors literally cut their true conversion rate to half of the baseline (i.e., 68% to 35%).

3) One other thing I think is being overlooked is that, in addition to a TD being a "huge success" and pinning CAR at their own 2-yard line being a "nice consolation prize for failure," 4th-and-1 meant SF also had a "moderate success now, huge success later" outcome via getting a first down at the 1-yard line without scoring the TD. Granted, there's not a big probability that that happens, but there is a distinct possibility, and that possibility works in SF's favor. During "normal football" (i.e., one-score games during the first three quarters) since 1999, on 4th downs inside the opponent's 5-yard line, where it wasn't a goal-to-go situation, teams have failed to convert on that play 21 times (32%), scored a TD on that play 26 times (40%), and converted a FD on that play 18 times (28%). So yeah, it's a small sample, and that sample is probably subject to a bit of selection bias, but I think we can say at the very least that getting the FD w/o scoring the TD is a non-trivial possibility if you go for it (

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Danny, the FG was okay. You just can't get shut out the remainder of the game and expect to win with only 9 points. Carolina winning with 10 is a fluke itself.

The rest of the game would have played out differently had SF went for it, regardless of outcome, but the fact this was their last real scoring opportunity is just pathetic.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not sure I follow. The FG was OK, but the reason you think it was OK is the same reason I think it was awful (i.e., the goal is to maximize points in that situation because a 9-0 doesn't mean diddly with 6 minutes left in the 2nd quarter)?

I agree no one should think taking a 13-0 there amounted to some kind of death blow for Carolina, but I'm also not basing my argument in any way on the hindsight bias of "13 points would have won the game." You go for the TD because, in order for the FG to have been worth as many points at that moment in time, you have to believe that your offense in that situation is less than half as good as an average NFL offense in the same situation (i.e.,

That's what this debate (aka borderline mental masturbation) should really boil down to. Did non-stat factors at that moment turn SF's O into a unit that succeeds there 3-of-10 rather than the NFL average 7-of-10? If so, then the FG was right. If not, then the FG was wrong. I'm of the latter view, but see how reasonable people could disagree.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

slightly off-topic:

Danny, didn't you think at all that the story of this game (and the Seattle game), was the SF offensive line being completely dominated? I think that last sack came on a 3 man rush, and it seemed that Carolina rarely blitzed. The run blocking seemed OK, but somebody is getting schooled in pass-blocking, probably Anthony Davis, but maybe others as well.

There's a lot of talk in town about Kaep not finding secondary targets, and this may well be true. But it sure seemed yesterday that there wasn't a whole lot of time... In Seattle, I get this with the crazy crowd. And I get this with an excellent Panther D-line. But the Niners O-line is supposed to be elite, which I would think should be a stand-off.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

slightly off-topic:

Danny, didn't you think at all that the story of this game (and the Seattle game), was the SF offensive line being completely dominated? I think that last sack came on a 3 man rush, and it seemed that Carolina rarely blitzed. The run blocking seemed OK, but somebody is getting schooled in pass-blocking, probably Anthony Davis, but maybe others as well.

There's a lot of talk in town about Kaep not finding secondary targets, and this may well be true. But it sure seemed yesterday that there wasn't a whole lot of time... In Seattle, I get this with the crazy crowd. And I get this with an excellent Panther D-line. But the Niners O-line is supposed to be elite, which I would think should be a stand-off.

201 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As the Harbaugh/Roman era has progressed, I've felt increasingly strongly that Vernon Davis is the straw that stirs their offensive drink. Maybe this is availability bias on the part of my memory, but it just seems like the offense gets "verklempt" (for lack of a better word) when VD isn't there. People can disembowel me on here for saying this, but I think he's arguably the most valuable TE in the NFL in terms of his impact on his team's baseline ability to run the offense they want to run. I've seen other offenses in the past/present (e.g., NO, NE, DAL, Manning IND, etc.) still look like functional (although admittedly sub-optimal) units without their Pro Bowl TEs. In SF's offense, it just all seems to go to hell without VD. (Which is why I had to stop and do some transcendental meditation when Billiman/Brennick intimated that SF screwed up not re-signing Delanie Walker. Give me a freaking break.)

On Twitter yesterday, I made fun of Harbaugh blaming personnel issues for why he didn't go for that 4th down, but my chuckle was really directed towards his cause-effect link. I mean I think he's proven over the past 2+ seasons that he opts for FGs every day and five times on Sundays in that situation. At the same time, though, I do agree that the absence of a bellwether like VD would be a valid reason for some other human being who runs Jim Harbaugh's offense to opt for the FG.

204 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That might be true now, but don't forget, we're judging VD's absence combined with Crabs absence. And given what we saw last year(outside of the two playoff games where both atlanta and Bal were horrid defending tight ends), it was crabtree who was doing the damage. I think if you could have one and only one of the two, the 49ers are better served with crabtree than davis, no slight to davis.

Also, remember, those other teams with great tight ends also have great qbs, so its a bit distorted. You could strip Manning, brady, brees of all their wideouts and they will still put a functional passing game together. If you put manning on the 49ers, the offense wouldn't be stellar, but still would be functional.

Personally, of all the tight ends, VD is definitely the fastest, but he feels far more like a wide receiver than a true tight end. Graham and gronk aren't nearly as fast, but they are definitely big and provide a luxury for their qbs, who just have to make a general vicinity throw than trying to thread it. Overall, I think Graham is the best receiving one of them all, though total package would probably go to gronk.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't disagree with any of what you just said. Think I'm making a slightly different point, is all.

Haven't had a chance to see if O functions w/ Crabtree-but-not-Davis because Crabtree's been healthy during the Harbaugh era up until this year. However, have been able to see the converse this season. Your QB point is something I was alluding to in my comment, but didn't explicitly state: VD's more important than Gronk/Graham/IND Clark, etc., because their Os still function at a baseline level as long as their QB's around. Re the "skill set" point, yeah, no doubt Graham and Gronk are better receivers, and Gronk is at least as good of a blocker, but that's why I didn't say "VD is the best tight end in the league." His skill set plays a role only insofar as the run game doesn't function without his blocking and the pass game doesn't function without his receiving. Think NO would still be able to pass fine w/o Graham's receiving -- not as well, but still fine -- and NE would still be able to run fine w/o Gronk's blocking -- not as well, but still fine.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am in agreement with you about how the niners miss Davis when he's not there. Whether he's the 'number one in the NFL' or not is irrelevant, the entire offense grinds to a halt without him. He's vital to the run blocking, he's our best, most dangerous receiver and our only deep threat.

This is exacerbated by the absence of Crabtree. While Boldin can be effective on certain routes, overall the receiving corps is utterly punchless. Manningham will help but he's still working back from a terrible knee injury and the others are Patton (rookie, injured), Osgood (special teams specialist) and Baldwin (crap).

We've just released Kyle Williams, who was ostensibly the number two until now. It should speak volumes about our coaches own opinions of the quality of the 49er pass catchers that we no longer view him as being good enough to remain on the roster.

In other words, without Vernon we are ****ed. I thought we were goosed as soon as I saw him surrounded by the medical staff on the sideline. We barely moved the ball at all after that and if we don't have him in New Orleans then we will lose badly.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Can I get a completely biased SF fan to tell me what they thought of the challenged-but-upheld incomplete pass to Vernon Davis? I am a completely biased Panthers fan, but I felt that was a definite catch/fumble for Davis. I was going to be really upset had the Panthers lost that game by 1 or 2 points, given that SF scored their third FG following that play.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Not a biased SF fan, but that was one of those obviously-a-catch-and-fumble-but-consistently-called-an-incomplete-pass-in-crazy-NFL-land plays. I've seen a bunch of them this year. Anything even close is being called an incomplete pass these days, and I'm not sure why.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I would have been peeved if I was a Panthers fan, he certainly had two steps after the catch. I'm not sure what the ref saw, it must have been that he didn't quite shift the ball enough to qualify as a 'football move'. He brought it into his body but didn't adjust his grip.

I was expecting the call to be overturned.

How about the non-call on the helmet to helmet on Kendall Hunter?

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If I'm remembering the same play, I thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but still very close. The head definitely jarred from the impact, and I wouldn't have been surprised had it been called.

I was a little surprised that Tolbert wasn't flagged for the hit that KO'ed Eric Reid.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I have seen players get called for less than the hit that was put on Hunter. I was little upset about the no call there. As for the Tolbert-Reid hit, Tolbert was just running and Reid engaged him. There isn't really anything you can call on that. I just hope Reid is okay as I think that is his second concussion already this season.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought it was going to be overturned as well, but after hearing the way Mike Pereira explained the rule, I understand why it wasn't. Making a football move is not part of the rule anymore. It's about whether he had the ball long enough, which they decide by looking at the replay in real time and not in slow motion. I remember when first seeing the play live, I thought it was incomplete because of how fast it all happened. Having to look at it in real time, the ref probably decided it was inconclusive. I believe he did say the play "stands" instead of the play was "confirmed."

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This Lions fan is envious that Packers fans are allowed to call a 5-4 record "poor". My cousin is a Buffalo Sabres fan, and he tells me the same thing during seasons that I complain about the Red Wings not making at least the conference finals.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yeah, there's a certain class of Detroit and Chicago fans (namely, those that follow hockey) that probably shouldn't complain too much about their football teams' futility or bad luck over the last 25 years. Minnesota fans, on the other hand, can bitch all they want.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I was unimpressed with San Diego's coaching and game management yesterday. On their first offensive series, they ran a fake punt inside their own half to sustain the drive. But thereafter the play calling and decision making was chronically conservative, including kicking a 22 yard field goal on 4th & 1 to make the score 7-6, and punting on 4th and short from midfield down two scores in the second half. The only deep passes that were attempted were on 3rd and long late in the game. The whole thing kept the scoreline relatively close, but never put them in a realistic chance of winning the game.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I completely agree. After the fake punt, I thought for sure that McCoy understood that he needed to execute a high-variance strategy in order to beat the Broncos, who are clearly a far superior team. Instead, the game plan seemed to be to just run the ball as much as possible in order to keep Manning off the field. This is fine, and shortening the game/limiting possessions is a good idea when facing a great offense, but there's no way that was going to get it done. I stopped watching at half time though so I might have missed improvement in the second half. It sounds like he didn't even attempt an onside kick at the end though? That seems especially silly considering how poor the Chargers defense is and how great the Broncos offense is.

This would have been a completely different game if Vincent Brown doesn't drop that TD pass going into the half. It would have been 14-13 if he had caught it, but who am I kidding there was no way the Chargers were winning this...

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


San Diego's play calling was fairly terrible - I saw 9 Ronnie Brown runs (not nine runs, nine runs to the third stringer) to five total passes on the stat sheet at one point.

And foregoing 4th and 1 at the 8 to kick a field goal to go to 7-3 at the beginning was pretty much enough to convince me that the game was over.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

OK folks, who had the better QB rating yesterday:

Peyton Manning, 25 completions, 330 yds, 4 TDs
Drew Brees, 34 completions, 392 yds, 4 TDs
Kellen Clemens, 9 completions, 247 yds, 2 TDs

I think we all know the answer is Kellen Clemens with a 140.6 QB rating.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Rams blew out the Texans on the road when Sam Bradford had 12 completions and 117 yards. I think they found the secret to keep winning! Have your quarterback attempt no more than 16 passes each game. If you have to pass after you hit 16, then only do it from the Wildcat.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That's like asking who was faster, a guy who ran 100 meters in 15 seconds or a guy who ran 800 meters in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. The guy who ran the shorter distance did, in fact, run faster, even though it was a less impressive effort.

QB rating is a function of a number of rate statistics. Pointing out that it doesn't coincide with cumulative statistics isn't exactly news.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I am a bit puzzled at the digs at Tolzien because he was NOT the problem yesterday. The Packers secondary seemed confused most of the day, the run defense was erratic to poor and of course Green Bay had to lose six starters during the course of the day including the starting center and tackle left the game with still plenty of game to play.

Yes the Eagles secondary is weak but Tolzien still showed WAY more arm strength and accuracy than Wallace even accounting for small sample sizes.

Word is that immediately after the game McCarthy chewed out the team given that in back to back weeks the opposition was able to run out the clock as the Packers defense flailed helplessly.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Tolzien was not the main problem, but he was most certainly a problem. The pick he threw in the end zone was both a terrible pass and a terrible decision; the receiver was completely covered, and then he threw the ball right where the CB could catch it easily. He had several other godawfully bad passes that could have easily wound up adding to the two picks he threw. I thought he was pretty terrible. Yes, the defense is a much bigger problem, but whatever the answer at QB is, it doesn't rhyme with "Bolzien".

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I guess we have different standards for a guy banging around practice squads coming in off the bench. I saw the same plays you did. They are representative of a guy working to get acclimated to NFL game speed among other things

Tolzien demonstrated far more competence than several other guys who have started multiple games in the NFL the last few seasons (Brandon Weeden anyone?) And this with a backup crew at more than half the offense.

And again, my point was that I was surprised folks thought first of mocking Tolzien when the defense was getting embarrassed on a regular basis.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

And to be clear I am NOT suggesting that Tolzien is the next great thing and the Packers now have no QB issues. Far from it

The Packers defense is officially helpless against any team with competent quarterbacking. THAT is a big problem

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It ought to be pointed out that Philadelphia's defence is terrible. Again, it's probably too much to expect a QB elevated from a practice squad the week before to perform competently against any NFL defence, but things aren't going to get any easier for Packers QB Not Named Rodgers.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Really any team that is forced to unexpectedly give a 3rd string QB extended playing time is doomed unless the defence and special teams can play at an incredible level, which Green Bay's obviously can not.

Green Bay have caught something of a break in that their next two games are against Giants and Minnesota - two bad teams that are beatable with whichever person turns up under centre. Then I guess they just pray Rodgers is back for the Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The pick in the end zone was a bad pass, but not a bad decision. Jordy has more than a step on the DB, but the pass needed to thrown a bit earlier on an arc over the DB, not on a line.

The biggest problems were Morgan Burnett's awful play. He was the main culprit on all three of Philly's TD passes. On the first Tramon Williams got to the ball slightly before Burnett for what should have been an INT and Burnett knocks the ball out into DeSean Jackson's hands. On the second he lets Riley Cooper run all the way across his face, even though he had deep inside responsibility (CB Davon House was playing outside trail technique, not in great position, but Burnett had clear responsibility to the inside). On the third, he was completely burned by Cooper's double move and Tramon Williams passed him off from his own short zone coverage.

Also GB leaving 24 points on the field, largely due to poor kicking and red zone execution: two missed FGs, INT in the end zone, turn over on downs on Jordy's not quite a TD catch, and FG instead of a TD because James Jones landed with half of his foot out of bounds just before half. GB could have won this game, but blew so many opportunities.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The thing is, it's not like the CBs screwed up zone coverage. A FS has to be able to play zone in any scheme.

Usually Burnett is solid in the respect, which makes his performance baffling. The front severn having no pass rush was disappointing but understandable, with our top 3 OLBs hampered by injuries in some way, but Burnett has been healthy and playing at least decently for over a month now.

It's like every safety put in deep zone coverage this season is having major breakdowns, no matter who it is. Jennings is too hesitant, McMillan falls on his face, and now Burnett is botching basic zone coverage.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm not sure the DB's have been any good in zone since Capers showed up, or at least since Collins career ended. Shields had well documented issues with reading his levels (though he has gotten better). Williams is average at that, just like he is average at man coverage now. House, I don't know, he is so erratic, yesterday he was pretty bad in whatever he was trying to do, Hayward getting hurt again and House getting more snaps didn't help things.

To me the Packers feel like they have a bunch of #2 level DB's. Guys who are solid, but none of them feel like a true top player. The difference between their best, Shields through the line of Hayward, Williams, Hyde, and House isn't a huge change at any step down the ladder, but I don't think Shields is much better than about 30th in the league, with 32 teams he's a bottom tier starter. Sure House might be something like 60th, but it leads to what feels like inconsistent play. All of them may "win their battles" more often than they lose them but there is no good way to cover for a deficiency because you never know who it's going to be. That's why a certain level of QB will always have success against them, because one of them will make a mistake, sometimes big, sometimes small, and if you have enough time you can find it.

The way you make it a good secondary is by getting consistent pass rush. So that a QB can't find the guy who messed up. The Packers don't have a consistent pass rush. 2010 was the last time they really did.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To my eyes, even at their best - Capers' first year, I believe, the season that led to Warner's record DVOA playoff game - the Pack DBs were either going to succeed by being allowed by the officials to cheat (lots of subtle clutching and grabbing) or be generally ineffective otherwise. Games where Woodson, Harris, et al got away with murder, their D looked great and the varied Capers fronts and blitzes wreaked havoc. When games were called tightly, suddenly a lot more receivers were open. This is why Warner's playoff game doesn't impress me as much as it impressed DVOA. I didn't see that as some dominant performance [any more than I considered plenty of Warner's games to be], just a great QB making good throws to open guys. The D on the field that day wasn't the #2 defense in the league, Warner or no Warner.

I know, I know... that's an entirely anecdotal and opinion-based response. But that's just kind of how I always saw them. Your #2 explanation seems to fit too. They're decent but not great, but when they get some leeway, they're great. Sort of like Vontae Davis against the Broncos.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Packers had excellent 'D' in Capers first season, they won the SB that year (maybe it was season2 for Capers). Since then they have been pathetic. I actually thought they may be able to make some critical stops this year, but apparently they cannot. I keep wondering if it is Capers who is the problem or the position coaches. They seem to have guys who can make plays at times and I give TT the benefit of the doubt on personnel issues given all the other folks he has landed.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Injuries have made it really hard to evaluate GB this year.

When the pass D was bad early on, the lack of this best safety Morgan Burnett (first 4 games) and best slot CB Casey Hayward (first 7 games, injured again this week) were big culprits.

After a few games the poass rush really started making some noise, and then Clay Matthews broke his thumb, and after than LOLB Nick Perry broke his foot, and ILB Brad Jones missed a few games, leaving the pass rush in tatters.

GB technically got all of their key players back for Philly, Matthews was playing in his first game after a month absence with a giant club on one hand, Perry also was in his first game back and injured (reinjured?) his foot, and Hayward also suffered another hamstring injury.

Although they haven't put it all together this year, the D has shown a fair amount of potential. The run D was very good up until the last two games, and the pass rush was good even a few games into Matthews absence.

Longer term, the D was good in Capers first two years (he came on in 2009, and 2010 was the Superbowl year and best Packers D in recent years). Since then it's been a pretty mixed bag, as they gave up a lot of yards in 2011 but caught huge numbers on INTs, and were overall close to average in 2012 (DVOA actually had them 8th, though I don't think they were quite that good).

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There were some incredibly low net passing totals in games yesterday. After sacks San Fran had I think 46 net yards passing. That's insane

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Anyone else thought that Nelson caught that ball in the end zone? The slow motion sure gave an image of his hand being beneath the ball.

But still a tough call.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That makes sense. On a side note I think Jordy Nelson is putting to rest the notion that he has been a creation of Aaron Rodgers. Nelson has been phenomenal no matter who is throwing the ball. That snatch over the defender's head along the sideline was tremendous

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the side of the ball touched the ground before he could clearly be said to have had full control, i.e. before his hand was fully under the ball. If it had been ruled a catch I don't think they would have overturned it though. Of course the one catch Boykin had on the sidelines shouldn't have been ruled a catch because he didn't get both feet down before his arm hit out of bounds. One of the Philly TD catches was a similar play to the Nelson one, but it was a arm under the ball not a hand, it was close but I think that one was more clearly a catch, not that it was reviewed or challenged.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The refs were terrible all around. I initially agreed that on Cooper's first TD there probably wasn't enough to overturn, but they didn't even take 20 seconds to review it.

Then today I cam across this image of it, and I can't see how it doesn't get at least a full review:

The Boykin catch was also a terrible call, but Philly had loads of time to challenge, and of course, GB ended up blowing the opportunity to score, so it didn't hurt the Eagles.

On another reviewed play, the strip sack by Tramon Williams was a very close call, and there's an argument that it shouldn't have been a fumble in any case, but if it was a fumble then it looked like GB got robbed of a TD, since I don't think anyone stops Tramon Williams from running the ball in if the whistle wasn't blown. Of course, GB then fails to convert for a score with the Nelson play.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought this throughout the game and even commented on it in the game discussion thread. The second INT hit the ground during the process of the catch, and it looked to me like it was moving, but no official review either. In addition to everything noted above, there was an awful missed facemask that should have been called against GB and a terrible hitting the QB in the head called against Clay Matthews when he hit the QB in the chest/shoulder. The plays came back to back, so they basically balanced each other out. There were several obvious PI plays on both sides, only 1 was called. A Packer TE had both knees and a forearm hit the ground before losing the ball, he recovered 2 yards later, but the official somehow ruled it a fumble. Just lots of bad calls both ways!

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Add to that the fact he hates Seattle and always seems to make a game changing poor call against them and it's safe to say Mr. Carey is the most hated ref by Seattle fans and considering SBXL, that's saying something.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Agree with both you and Arkaein. The officiating was just bad and both teams had major things to complain about. The lack of review on things that should have been reviewed really was some of the worst part of it. I hadn't seen that pic of the Cooper catch either, and I wondered if McCarthy was going to challenge it.

I also don't think the missed or blown calls had a huge effect on the outcome. The GB defense was just not good and Philly likely would have scored as much as they did, even if they were trailing going into the 4th they demonstrated on the clock killing drive that probably could have scored if they wanted to. Tolzien played like a 3rd stringer who had unfulfilled potential and wasn't going to lead anyone to victory.

It was just an ugly game in many ways. Bad officiating, lots of injuries, clearly over matched back-ups (for both teams).

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As someone who's been watching football since SB IV and watched the Cowboys-Vikings "Hail Mary" game, what did that call Hail Mary's prior to that - inquiring minds want to know?

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I've heard it was often called an alley-oop but I've also heard evidence that it was often called a hail mary before then as well--the popular story about that being the term's origins being a myth. (I have not done extensive research, so I will make no claims that I know whether that is true. I will leave that to someone who cares more than I do.)

I would like to change the name to something non-religious.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

San Francisco is named after Saint Francis. Similar with Saint Louis, and San Diego (Saint Didacus of Alcalá). Removing all religious nomenclature from the NFL lexicon would require either relocating those franchises or renaming the cities.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

A. Falcons called thkse plays Big Bens

Alley oop was play to R.C. Owens who woudl run a go route and jump to catch ball over defender. Not really sure that was hail Marty in sensse of multiple receivers & multi defenders all in same area like flies on poop

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I thought the Falcons used it for something more specific. I ran across that term when I was researching Marion Campbell for Football Perspective a while back but I didn't look into it much and the context just made it sound like it was more specific than "hail mary" is.

Did alley-oop perhaps start out with Owens but then spread to cover situations like what we now call hails mary before hail mary became the more popular term?

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Falcs radio annouxners called a Hail Ary a Bif Ben in 1983 game vs SF.

"...Big Ben left and it worked!..."

"Full moon over atlabta Fulton county stadium and Shoes did his thing..."

"Once he caught it he had no place to go..."

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I remember Atlanta "Big Ben" from my youth, I'm gonna say 1978 vs. Saints. For some reason, I feel like it was a tip play, but perhaps my memory fails me on that account.

I also think that some type of similar play beat the juggernaut Niners and ultimately kept them out of the playoffs in '91-'92. Darn.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The Falcons had three famous game winning Big Ben plays in their history.

1. In 1978 vs New Orleans, Steve Bartkowski to Alfred Jackson. The NFL had just changed the rule concerning tipped passes. Previously, a defender had to touch the ball before an offensive player could legally touch it (Jack Tatum-Frenchy Fuqua). The Falcons were the first team to take advantage of the new rule.

2. 1983 vs San Francisco, Bartkowski to Billy Johnson. The one Raiderjoe mentioned.

3. 1991, also against the 49ers, Billy Joe Tolliver to Michael Haynes.

As a Falcon fan, I never think of planned, end of half/game desperation tip drill passes as "Hail Marys" but as Big Bens.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wikipedia cites this research tracing use of the term back to significantly earlier:

They also mention Alley-Oop as another name, which is what the '49ers called their designed jump ball from Tittle to RC Owens in the late '50s.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Wow, that is some article - I would never have guessed it was used so many times, including by Staubach himself, prior to his 1975 Hail Mary.

They made such a big deal of the quote "Hail Mary" when it happened in 1975. The Cowboys were really an inferior team to the Vikings (so it seemed) and it being a playoff game, maybe that why it caught on then and not prior.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I watched that game and when Staubach used it, it was not new, it was the standard term for that kind of throw. It's definitely not the origin of the term. It was simply one of the first famous Hail Mary's in the NFL. So maybe to the minds of some, it was the first they'd become aware of the term.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I have to admit gaining pleasure at the prospect of Packers fans gaining insight, if only for a few weeks, as to what it is like to try to root for a team to win important games with crappy quarterbacking. It's been about 20 years since they have had a month like that.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As much as I admire Ted Thompson's work, I'm kind of shocked by the blase attitude he seems to have about the backup quarterback position. Of course you never plan to have your backup QB's get any real game action. You never really plan to have to use your fire insurance, either, but you still pay the premiums.

Maybe he was lulled by the run Favre had in a Packers uniform.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

To be fair Brunnell, Hasselbeck and Rodgers backed up Favre for, what, 6 combined seasons? most of the rest were Doug Pederson (~7 seasons?)and a succession of non-descript vets. Thats not too terrible a collection of backups. Its really since Rodgers has come in that they've been truly operating without a net.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If you were a competent veteran QB wouldn't you rather go to MIN, PHI, ARI, etc. where you are almost certain to get a chance to play and maybe win the job? In GB you know there is no way you will win the job and given past history, you might not even get a chance to play.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the point there is that it's not really cost-effective to care all that much about a backup QB. The Packers without Rodgers are not going to make the Super Bowl unless they have a backup that merits a 7-figure salary.

Sometimes people point to the 2008 Patriots as an example of how a backup can still lead a team to a good season, ignoring just how good they had been the previous season, and that they missed the playoffs.

I hear this discussion a lot on DC-area sports radio. Some broadcasters are convinced that the team needs to keep Kirk Cousins on the roster, in spite of their glaring weaknesses at so many positions. Their argument is "Well, we know RG3 is going to keep getting injured, so the Redskins need to have a backup." Meanwhile the team blows a 13-point lead to the Vikings in the 2nd half by letting them score 20 unanswered points. The Vikings. With Ponder and Cassel at QB.

The Packers' biggest problem isn't that they don't have a stellar backup QB. Not that their backups are great, but that team has too many other issues. Good backup QBs are a luxury.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"The Packers without Rodgers are not going to make the Super Bowl unless they have a backup that merits a 7-figure salary."

It's not about the backup winning you a Super Bowl. It's about a competent backup keeping your offense afloat for a few weeks so your starter still has intact playoff hopes when he comes back. Philadelphia's defense is terrible, but there was no quarterback on the Packers roster who could take advantage.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't know what VY's salary would have been had they kept him on the roster. But I thought he'd have been a better backup option than Wallace, Tolzien, or Graham Harrell. I accept that he's not very accurate. But I just think McCarthy decided he wanted someone who could run all the plays and was familiar with the WCO rather than game planning for the best QB available.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think people look at the quality of backups in complete hindsight. WHen brady went out, what exactly told people that they had a solid backup in cassel? He hadn't started a game since high school and was a low round pick.

And that's the case for every backup out there. There are only a handful that are competent enough to right the ship and like one of the posters above mentioned, they cost more and are usually kept as mentors to teams that might start them(see arizona, cleveland, etc). When you're paying a star qb huge money, its time to prioritize the cash and fill the rest of your roster. The backups then tend to be low round rookies which is what you have to have.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't know, though...have we established that Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien are definitely bad, or that they were bad due to a combination of not enough practice reps (something that's ostensibly controllable by teams, although in practice there's so little time to work during the season that teams have to give all of the reps to the starter) and injuries/badness at other positions?

Being a Bears fan, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on backup QBs over the past few years, and I think there are definitely backup QBs who should not be backups (see Caleb Hanie). On the other hand, I think having to start a backup QB is going to almost always be a disaster if you're missing other offensive players due to injury or are bad at the O-line and/or receiver positions. Look at Jason Campbell's play for the Bears last year...he looked awful, yet he's pretty clearly a decent backup QB and has had success with the Browns this year. When he played for the Bears, they had a godawful O-line and it was easy for defenses to get to him.

Now look at Josh McCown...nobody would argue that he's a starter, and very few would call him a "marquee" backup QB (ie, worth paying big bucks to even if you think it's worth paying big bucks to a backup). Yet he's doing pretty well with the Bears because they've got a great O-line and solid receivers.