Audibles at the Line: Week 10

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.

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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

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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

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Will, I completely agree that Packers fans have been spoiled by 20 years of HoF-level QB play. I've heard a few fans complain on the call-in shows that Rodgers has been terrible this year, without any comprehension that no other QB in NFL history had a year like he had in 2011. Having lived in either St Louis or SE Virginia (where the local team is the Skins) since 1987, I realize just how lucky Packers fans have been.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Anybody who says Rodgers has been terrible this year should be prohibited from watching football.

When I think about how many Vikings teams over the past 25 years would have been a Super Bowl favorite, or close to it, with Rodgers-level quarterbacking (I think, at a minimum, 4 or 5), it is just ridiculous for any Packer fan to be critical of Rodgers.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Completely agree. Lose Finley, Cobb and Jones and NOT MISS A BEAT. Rodgers didn't think he played well in the Bengal game, and he may have been right. But he's been terrific since then. I had the feeling Monday Night that the Packers were going to score 40 points, until he didn't get up.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Can anyone explain to me what happened with the punt in the Eagles-Packers game where the Packers looked like they downed it inside the 3 after Jackson stepped out of the way, only for a different Eagle to touch the ball, which was then eventually knocked into the end zone and fallen on by a Packer? I was watching in a bar without sound and it looked an awful lot like a touchdown to me. After the odd non-review earlier I was starting to think it was some kind of alternate reality when the ref (Carey I believe) just talked briefly and gave them the ball at the 20.

I expected Twitter to talk about it, but I didn't see a word about it until much later when Periera briefly said something about the receiving team having the option to take the ball at the original spot if the punting team touches it first. But that's not even what happened... they got it at the 20.

Obviously Carey explained it well, since I saw no discussion at all. But I didn't hear it. Can anyone remember and describe what happened there? Because without the explanation, that looked like it contributed to a 14-point swing (I think it was 10-3 at the time and the Eagles scored shortly after taking over at the 20 instead of against their own goal line).


87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Illegal touching. Once a kicking team player touches it first, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE HAPPENS, the worst the receiving team can be left with is possession at the spot of the illegal touch. Even if the returner picks it up, runs for 5 seconds, then fumbles, the receiving team still gets the ball back. In this punt the Packer gunner touched the ball right around the 20. It was tough to see live, but the replay showed it clearly. This was probably the only time the refs got something mildly complicated right all day in that game.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

IIRC the Lions gave up a punt return touchdown to Dallas in the last few years from a similar play - a Lion touched the ball, but it was still moving, and so while the Lions were gathering around it, letting it roll, the Dallas returner scooped it up, avoided the crowd around it, and ran it all the back ... there's no risk for him, because at worst Dallas would get the ball at the spot of the touch (well, I guess you could have offsetting penalties, but a turnover on the return wouldn't count).

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

FO Guys, what is the record on Adjusted Games Lost for a season, or through week 10, and are any teams like the Packers or Falcons anywhere near the top of the all-time list?

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The 2010 Packers prove that "certain" injuries don't matter. The 2013 Packers prove that injuries matter a lot.

I also think the 2010 Packers prove that Nick Collins was really, really good, especially with a really, really good Charles Woodson on the field.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Yup. I don't think the Packers have replaced Collins. I never understood all the Collins hate (or more recently the Finley hate) many Packers fans have aired. For whatever reason, they expect certain players to be perfect and anything less is terrible. The forget all the drops by Chmura, Coffman, McGeorge, all the way back to Marv Fleming and Ron Kramer. They forget the TDs let by Sharper, Butler, and Willie Wood. Unfortunately, you can't cure stupid.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In 2010 were one of the most injured teams in the NFL, and went a strong 10-6. They won the Superbowl after they stopped losing player late in the season, but injures almost kept them out of the playoffs altogether.

In 2011, GB had average health (their best health since at least 2009) and won 15 regular season games.

In 2012, GB was once again the most injured team, and slipped back down to "only" 11 wins.

GB has been plenty good for the past several years despite injuries, but injuries have still held them back. They could be amazing if they actually had above average health for once.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

They were amazing in 2011 and didn't even get to the Super Bowl.

The Packers won the Super Bowl when they had awful injuries and even lost Rodgers for a couple of games because of a concussion. The next year they finished 15-1 and didn't even make the NFCG.

The point being that no one knows how to make a Super Bowl team. Talent is not the whole answer, nor is the best record.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I've been posting on this site for something like 7 or 8 years now and I have a serious question that is going to sound dickish, but I really don't mean it to be, so please don't lump me in with some (not verified) PFT commenter here...

Have you guys who claim momentum doesn't exist ever played competitive team sports? I just really don't get how someone who has played team sports can deny that the concept of momentum exists in some fashion. It just completely ignores the human and social element to team sports. It's not flipping a coin or running a computer simulation out there, it's real people with real emotions. How do you explain slumps in baseball, or the tear David Ortiz went on in the ALCS and World Series? You constantly hear about hitters in baseball getting "in the zone" and saying that when they're hitting well the baseball looks the size of a beach ball. Have you ever gone on a run playing pool where you are hitting all your shots and seeing angles and making leaves effortlessly then the next game you can't get it together? Even in football, we're constantly seeing stats in Quick Reads that say things like "Tom Brady started 0-8 then hit 9 of his next 12 passes, then finished out 3-11." I just don't get how anyone who has played sports at any level, looked into the eyes of teammates when things are going well, or when things are going poorly, can deny the existence of momentum. Hell, even in Little League when you would bat around in an inning, you just get this feeling like everything is going your way and everyone who steps to the plate is going to get a hit. I dunno. I just don't buy it.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I actually wrote this comment after seeing momentum come up in the Titans game description... I just read Aaron's comment from the Colts/Rams game and I'd like to specify that I don't believe for a second that "momentum" can cause something crazy (and honestly a little flukey) like a 98 yard punt return touchdown. HOWEVER I DO believe that something crazy like a 98 yard punt return touchdown CAUSES a momentum change, which can pick up the spirits of all the players on all 3 phases, as well as frustrating and disheartening the opposing team.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't know if many people disagree that some people get "in the zone" or whatever else you want to call it. I think it is especially true in sports where a player's individual performance is more important like basketball, baseball, tennis, or golf. This is a very different concept than momentum which things just go right for a team, like fumbles bouncing your team's way three or four consecutive times.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Absolutely. But it seems a lot of the time on this site people come to the conclusion that "because the announcers claim something preposterous, like momentum somehow caused ridiculous fumble luck, and that's intellectually offensive to me I have to therefore overcompensate and claim that momentum as an entire concept is bullshit."

Momentum is just a team getting "in the zone." Team sports are social, when your teammates are executing and things are going well it gives the entire team confidence. People perform better when they're confident.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I would argue that the actual sequence is: a random series of plays all going for/against a player or team leads to a gain/loss of confidence, which increases/decreases their probability of success, until a random series of plays all going against/for that player or team is achieved.

So in that sense, momentum exists in that the initial win probabilities were changed by human factors, but the fact that momentum can swing quite quickly means that it's not very useful as any sort of prediction as to what the next play will result in.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Couldn't this argument be settled by a fairly simple calculation using data from tennis? After accounting for the advantage of serve, are points or games abnormally bunched or not, where "abnormally bunched" could be characterized in some mutually agreeable way (preferably before looking at the data).
I for one believe that if individuals have momentum, then teams likely do as well.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

OK, here's another example. The New Miracle at the Meadowlands. I watched that game live and at a certain point I was 100% confident that the Eagles were going to complete the comeback and win that game. You could sense it. It was palpable. Are there people out there that really would watch that game and argue that there was not a definitive and marked shift of momentum that occurred in that game? That seems impossible to me.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

But part of the point of this site is to explore how much of "you could feel it" is just cherry-picked memories, selective recognition of outliers and just wishful thinking, or at least I thought so. "Momentum" can trend awfully close to imaginary things like "swagger". Sure, it seems to make sense that people act differently when winning or losing, and it can look like things can snowball. But do they? Or do we only recognize it when it fits the narrative? I don't know that I'm convinced either way.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

As a Panther fan, I feel that Cam has to get into a rhythm to be successful. A couple of drops and some high throws, and he's not having a good half. Then he get some good completions, moving the sticks, and all of a sudden, there are no drops, but everything he is throwing is right in stride.

Immediately starting him off with deep bombs seems like it is destined to fail.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I have made a similar argument, and usually the response is that so-and-so has done a statistical analysis which failed to show the existence of "momentum" (or "clutch play" or whatever other myth is the target of the day).

At that point I usually try to make some argument along the lines of "a failure to prove something exists is not a proof that something fails to exist", which usually is ignored.

Clearly the existence of "momentum" is demonstrable in a psychological context. To go back to the ALCS, the psychological difference between how the Red Sox felt in the first 16 innings and how they felt after David Ortiz hit a grand slam should be obvious to anybody with any understanding of human psychology. At that point the game was tied, but it seemed like the Red Sox were the clear favorites to get the winning run (which they did).

From the Redskins-Vikings game, it was clear that the level of play of the two teams was far from constant throughout the game. The Vikings were clearly the team on their heels in the first half, which the opposite was true in the second half. Now you can argue that the odds against the Vikings finishing the game with 20 unanswered points aren't that high, and you'd be right from a statistical standpoint. But if you watched how the players were performing, it was clear that one defense was holding with confidence while the other was disintegrating.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Clearly the existence of "momentum" is demonstrable in a psychological context. To go back to the ALCS, the psychological difference between how the Red Sox felt in the first 16 innings and how they felt after David Ortiz hit a grand slam should be obvious to anybody with any understanding of human psychology. At that point the game was tied, but it seemed like the Red Sox were the clear favorites to get the winning run (which they did)."

People always remember things like this when they work out the way they did as proof of momentum, but ignore situations where it didn't happen that way.

By this logic, weren't the Bengals clear favourites after the AJ Green catch yesterday?

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think that this sort of selective memory has something to do with it. "Momentum shifts" are a sort of ex-post-facto definition. The Rams ran a kick back 98 yards and you could just "feel" they were going to win; they proceeded to in fact win, so it was a momentum shift. The Bengals got a tip-drill hail marty touchdown and you could just "feel" they were going to win, but they proceeded to lose in OT, so it wasn't. Or perhaps the Bernard run-50-yards-laterally failed fourth-down conversion "shifted the momentum" back the other way.

If you wanted to demonstrate the existence of "momentum", you need to first define what plays constitute a "momentum shift", and then examine how teams perform after such momentum shifts compared to how they performed before the momentum shifts. Maybe something about plays that have a significant swing in WPA (though I'd note that Austin's 98 yard punt return only contributed .04 WPA), and an examination of team DVOA before and after such plays.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

How would you explain flipping a coin and getting 8 straight tails, then 9 heads out of the next 12, then 3 heads out of the next 11? The odds of that happening with a fair coin (to be exact, the odds of 0/8, then at least 9/12, then at most 3/11) are only about 3 in one million! The coin must display momentum!

Except for two things.

One, it's not a single trial. The odds of Brady having exactly that sequence over his next 31 attempts are miniscule. But the odds of some QB having that sequence at some point in NFL history?

Two, it's not just that sequence we care about. The probability of ANY sequence of 31 coin flips is .5^31--you could look at any series of outcomes, even one as boring as H,T,T,H,T,H,H,T,H...and say "the chances of those 31 outcomes were less than one in a billion!" But what we're really looking for is the probability of any sequence that appears potentially non-random to the human brain (which, given what we know about human tendencies, is essentially any sequence).

So we need the probability that a random process over a bunch of trials will at some point generate some sequence that looks to the human mind like it displays momentum... I'll just go ahead and say for any reasonable sample that's arbitrarily close to one.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This is such a typical response. We're not dealing with random coin flips here, we're dealing with the combined actions of 22 living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings pumped full of adrenaline with all the fallacies, psychological weaknesses, confidences, nerves and racing emotions thereof. It is completely irrelevant to compare this to coin flips.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Still, how well you did on a previous play/at bat doesn't really affect your next turn. You hear "I was feeling good, but it just wasn't working today" almost as often.

And how does one just lose "momentum" anyway? If it's through random bounces, then that's pretty much the same as it not really being a factor in the first place.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There was a great article in the guardian about a cricket player who got "the yips" and how it affected his ability to play the game and how each bowl got worse and worse.

Boswell's head started to swim. He had been struggling to bowl to left-handers. Suddenly Trescothick "looked as though he was 50 yards away. He was like a tiny dot. I just couldn't see him. Then I bowled a wide and I heard the noise of the crowd. I bowled a second wide, and the noise got louder and louder and louder." His muscles grew tight. His fingers grew tense. He began to sweat. "I just couldn't let go of the ball. I wanted to get on with it, so I began to rush. The more I panicked, the more I rushed." He lost his run-up. The pitch, already on a slope, seemed to tilt sharper beneath his feet. He makes it sound like vertigo. No one spoke to him. He didn't want to talk anyway. He just wanted to get it over with. The umpire, George Sharp, finally said, out of the side of his mouth, "keep bowling". Boswell thought: "Jesus Christ. I am going to be bowling here all bloody day." He was terrified that the over would never end. "'I was thinking: 'I just want to get this over, I just want to get this over' but it kept going and going and going, wide after wide after wide." Some flew to slip, others flew towards fine leg. The video is harrowing.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Momentum is a term that is used stupidly, especially with regard to sports. Sports performance streaks depend on a huge number of factors, including quality of opponent, quality of decisions, and myriad tiny things like whether a player is having an allergy attack, or made a minute adjustment to batting stance, or even the humidity in the air.

Let's put another way: the Chiefs have scraped their way to being the only unbeaten team so far. Would you argue that they have some kind of momentum going on?

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think that being undefeated probably gives a locker room some confidence that is helpful in mental fortitude type situations like battling back after getting down in a quick hole, yeah. Do you believe that "bulletin board material" works? If the players' psychological states don't correlate to performance (even if it's just focus and dedication in practice that week) shouldn't stuff like that be irrelevant?

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

And what if the Chiefs get blown out by the Broncos next week (with or without Peyton Manning)? Will that mean that the Chiefs suddenly lost their 'momentum', or will it be simply proof of what many people have said, that the Chiefs are a mediocre team that has only won because of a weak schedule? That's the fallacy of the 'momentum' argument.

I'm saying that using a mechanical term like 'momentum' actually obscures all of the little human factors you're talking about and makes it sound as if there is some inscrutable hidden factor that keeps a team or players doing well in spite of their own efforts, like magic. It's lazy thinking.

Napoleon was one of the few who understood what momentum really meant.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I think the more accurate question is: "do the Chiefs' players believe they have momentum AND does that affect their play?"

A quarter has no memory. People do. How does this make things different in a sequence of events? This is what Nathan is getting at. You all are talking past eachother.


147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Let me make it a little simpler for you.

You said Tom Brady having an 0 for 8 stretch is evidence that momentum exists.

If the word literally has any meaning whatsoever, it has to be that you're saying missing on a bunch of attempts in a row means that he's less likely to complete his next pass.

"Momentum" = short-run averages predictive

"No momentum" = long-run averages predictive

So do you think if Brady goes 0 for 8 his probability of completing his next pass is closer to 0 (what momentum tells us!) or 0.63 (his career average)?

Go ahead and respond in the form of "did any of you even play sports????!!!" again though.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Just because I think it means he's "less likely" to complete his next pass does not mean I think it's closer to 0 than .63. Could mean .5. Could mean .6299999999999999.

Again, these are not coin flips and I really don't see the logic behind insisting that they are entirely independent events unconnected from previous events. If I move the ball with impunity all half long and the defense is exhausted and gasping for air, does that mean I have them on their heels? Does that qualify as momentum? Or is every snap a completely independent event unaffected by previous events? Why do coaches bench players for their own psychological good when opposing QBs are throwing at them over and over again if their mental state doesn't affect their performance (see Dee Milliner Week 2)? Why do teams self destruct after being on the receiving end of a bad call and make mental mistakes as they get angry (see 2007 NE vs BAL) if each snap is a completely independent event?

As to the rest of your post, I explicitly caveated my original post with the instruction to not take the question as typical "did any of you even play sports????!!!" bro nonsense.

By the way, if you're going to continue to take the, frankly insulting, attitude of "let me make it a little simpler for you", I'm going to ignore you from here on out.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Are you arguing semantics? I'm referring to "momentum" as it is generally used by the sports world. Are you approaching it strictly from the perspective of Newtonian physics? If so, you're being willfully obtuse. Or wait, am I not allowed to use that word outside of Euclidean geometry?

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, considering that 'momentum' in the sports world is closer to what physicists call ' inertia', yes, maybe we should just stop talking about it altogether, and acknowledge that the typical sports writer using the term doesn't know what he's talking about!

Nor does it change my argument that 'momentum' is a lazy, meaningless way of describing what players and teams are doing on the field! It's the way old-time sports announcers talked because they really describe what was happenning on the field. N
ow the smart people talk about adjustments, and the really smart commentators can actually point out those adjustments.

Come on... explain the results of the Rams-Colts game in your terms --- the Colts had all the 'momentum' and the Rams had none. Why wasn't it blowout in favor of the Colts? Framkly, I'd have much more credence in a breakdown in terms of matchups and luck factors.

189 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

We're not dealing with random coin flips here, we're dealing with the combined actions of 22 living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings.

We’re well aware of that. Nobody is claiming that NFL players are emotionless robots. But even if NFL players were emotionless robots, there would still be these weird streaks of good and bad results that seem like the result of emotional momentum and confidence. Tom Bradybot 3000 would still occasionally start 0-8, then go 9-12, then finish out 3-11. And when that happened, it would still subjectively feel like it was momentum or confidence or something like that. But we would know that it had nothing to do with emotion, because Bradybot 3000 has no feelings.

So, if those weird streaks would still happen even if momentum weren’t a factor, pointing to those streaks as evidence for momentum isn’t very convincing at all.

How do you explain slumps in baseball, or the tear David Ortiz went on in the ALCS and World Series?


I get that hitting slumps viewed in isolation seem very improbable, but when you look at them in the context of the entire season’s results, they’re pretty much exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to find if you benched all the players and just decided games based on the results from weighted random number generators.

Now, I can hear you yelling that they’re not just machines, they’re people. They have feelings, they get excited, they get disheartened. We know. We’re not denying that they have emotional responses to big, exciting plays; we’re just denying that those emotional responses have an effect on the results of subsequent plays.

Again, these are not coin flips and I really don't see the logic behind insisting that they are entirely independent events unconnected from previous events.

Well, if they weren’t independent events, then that fact would show up in the play-by-play: teams would have better results than their average following a successful play(s), and worse results than their average following a bad play(s). And every statistical analysis I’ve seen has shown that that is not what actually happens.

If I move the ball with impunity all half long and the defense is exhausted and gasping for air, does that mean I have them on their heels? Does that qualify as momentum?

Have you considered the possibility that the defense just sucks? Never ascribe to momentum what can be explained by a shitty defense. Also, if it’s Peyton Manning against the Jaguars, I’d expect a long string of successful plays. It’d be kind of weird if he didn’t have them on their heels.

Why do coaches bench players for their own psychological good when opposing QBs are throwing at them over and over again if their mental state doesn't affect their performance (see Dee Milliner Week 2)?

Maybe coaches incorrectly believe that emotional momentum is important. I mean, just because NFL coaches think it works doesn’t mean it really does.

Have you ever gone on a run playing pool where you are hitting all your shots and seeing angles and making leaves effortlessly then the next game you can't get it together?

Yes, just recently, in fact.

Have you guys who claim momentum doesn't exist ever played competitive team sports?

Yes? I mean, not at a high level or anything, I wasn’t very good, but I played soccer on intramural teams throughout my childhood/early teenage years. And I played enough to know the feeling you’re talking about, where everything’s going right, and you suddenly feel more confident, like things are going to go your way from here on out.

But that feeling isn’t exclusive to sports. People who gamble in casinos get that exact same feeling when they start to win a little money at a slot machine, and they keep betting with the belief that the machine is on a hot streak or something. Casinos use this to take people’s money, because of course slot machines don’t actually have momentum. They’re run by random number generators, and casinos have programmed them to give people a string of wins that’s long enough to keep them hooked, but short enough that the casino makes more money.

So, I do know the feeling you’re talking about – I just don’t trust it.

You’ve offered the following as evidence of the impact of emotional momentum in sports:

-A subjective feeling which we know to be unreliable in other areas.

-The fact that athletes are human beings with human emotions.

-NFL coaches seem to believe that emotional momentum is important.

-Unusual hitting/passing streaks that aren’t really all that unexpected when you look at things in context.

I see no reason to abandon my skepticism of the idea of emotional momentum in sports based on that evidence.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10


Although all of that serves to show why to be skeptical of momentum specifically. It doesn't say that emotions and other human qualities don't matter. Someone's emotions, for instance, could possibly translate to faster or slower responses and a better or worse performance for a game or play. Some of that could show up in pretty random looking patterns.

But as far as the streakiness attributed to momentum, that was a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Its not even "we’re just denying that those emotional responses have an effect on the results of subsequent plays"

Its more we are denying they have an impact that is measurable or discussable in predictable consistent ways.

The past few months in my adult hockey league I have been struggling through a hernia, a pulled groin, tendonitis in my right elbow, and a lack of sleep related to just having had my first child. I definitely don't have any momentum, I start out the games apprehensive and feeling like crap.

And yet I am playing better than ever. Is that momentum? Well immediately prior to my current about 6 week hot streak I had a month of pretty poor results, and before that several months of inconsistency.

The point is no one is able to make a definition of momentum that holds up to any sort of serious analysis whatsoever. Of course players emotions effect their performance. So do 1000 other things and when we look at it mathematically it strongly looks like in most cases those 1000 other things completely swamp out any impact emotions are having.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Momentum" should show up in DYAR EPA models. The hypothesis is that a high leverage or impact play increases the median value of subsequent plays by individual players or their teammates. One could even filter out hidden variables like injuries, or dominating matchup advantages by comparing this kind of streak performance not only to what we might model a random distribution, but also looking at the performance of big plays on other units. Punt blocks, big returns, coffin corners, etc on offenses and defenses, interceptions and fumble recoveries, negative yard 3 and outs on offenses and special teams, and the like. With DVOA this could even be done with a multivariable analysis so one could even look at the effect of big plays on isolated units split out by the quality of those units.

There's a bunch of ways to look at it. One could even tackle it from a null hypothesis perspective game scripts style, where one just asserts that the above is true, and look at the time after a big play it take a team to return to their median expected value per play. That time being the duration of the momentum. Again, this can be measured per player (QBs, RBs in particular), by unit, and team as a whole. If momentum does not exist, it would follow that this distribution should be random across the board. If momentum has a endocrinological basis one might even expect a league wide correlation that proves significant across many years of data. A psychological basis would perhaps lead us to expect a significant correlation to these durations in each game, but each team independently.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"If the word literally has any meaning whatsoever, it has to be that you're saying missing on a bunch of attempts in a row means that he's less likely to complete his next pass."

Yes. I don't think it's difficult to imagine the concept existing in that manner. It's just short term swings in an individual sportsman's confidence. Are you suggesting that during the course of a sports event players don't suffer slumps or a peaks in confidence that causes their performance level to alter?

Of course it is almost impossible to separate 'momentum' from the many other variables during a contest to prove it's existence. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Edit: I would say the issue is a lot more dubious when it comes to describing momentum as a team concept.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Old-school nerd.

I conceive of momentum as something like THAC0. The more momentum I have, the lower my THAC0 goes. Eventually, you're hitting all sort of unlikely things. But there's still a chance you roll a 1, slip on a goblin eye, poke your eye out on your scabbard, and lose all your momentum.

There are clear examples of choking. It's not just in the per-possession or per-play fail/succeed stats, it's in the observable execution of the game. That something is difficult to describe does not make it cease to exist.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Can someone explain the following to me:

- Ref calls penalty (DPI) on bang bang play.
- Ref announces said penalty.
- Ref marks off penalty, spots ball, and readies for play.
- Ref changes mind, presumably after seeing said bang bang play on the jumbotron
- Crowd does collective WTF?

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That exact turn of events happened in the Colts-Rams game. A third down interference was called on the Rams. It was marked off and the Colts were about to line up for the first down. The refs then waived off the penalty and called it an incomplete pass. The Colts punted on 4th down and Austin had his 98 yard punt return TD.

Being in the stadium, it very much looked like the refs reversed the call after seeing it on the jumbotron (there were 3 or 4 replays of it shown before the reversed decision).

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

There was obviously another ref who saw the play from a different angle and they had a council and changed their mind. I would've been more angry with the result if the I actually thought the colts had a chance to win. They very clearly did not, even at that point in the game.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Somebody remind me to just stop clicking on "Week X Injury Aftermath." I had not heard that Peanut Tillman was placed on IR, and that just about ruined my week.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Similar experience with that headline in another venue. Ugh. The old "Season Over" thought is very hard to remove from my head. It is an old FO result that a team's previous season defense DVOA is not a great predictor of the current season's DVOA. Bears 2012, Bears 2013. That fade might well have happened anyway but I hate seeing injury added to insult.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Two random thoughts on announcers :

1) Why do announcers make a big deal out of how small Danny Woodhead is when he's, for instance, larger than Ray Rice, who they never seem to give the "look how small he is" treatment to?

2) Why do announcers think you have to be big to run in short yardage? The announcer in the Pittsburgh/Buffalo game claimed that the Bills weren't good converting touchdowns inside the 10 because they don't have a big, bruising running back to move the pile.