Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Audibles at the Line: Week 11
Audibles at the Line: Week 11
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones

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.

Baltimore Ravens 20 at Chicago Bears 23 (OT)

Tweets:

Scott Kacsmar: Jim Nantz just called Dallas Clark "Pitta." But then said he really meant "Dennis Clark."
Mike Ridley: Ray Rice's 47-yard run equaled the total of his last two games combined.
@TCBullfrog: With the wind going nuts in Chicago, ground game is probably going to be doubly important. #Ravens killing #Bears on that right now
Robert Weintraub: Ravens-Bears is weather-delayed, by my count the 4th such delay this season.
@RavenBerns: Bears not even attempting to pass in this weather.
@Shake1n1bake: Either it's still very windy in Chicago or Flacco has a filthy breaking ball
Scott Kacsmar: "Dallas Clark with the tough catch" is the reason why every easy drop is met with "you never see that!"
Scott Kacsmar: I'll admit I've hardly seen any of this BAL/CHI game, but this might be a tie game alert with these conditions.
Scott Kacsmar: I do hope BAL gets a FG so we can see that extreme rarity in the NFL: a team playing 4-down football in a one-score with no time constraint.
‏@BeccaDannysWife: Watching the Ravens this year is like an endless loop of TheExorcist -- "Joey, why you do this to me? Joeeyyyyyyy..."
@MilkmanDanimal: The Bears-Ravens game was fun; I propose the NFL drench all fields and set up giant fans in all stadiums for future games.

Longform:

Rivers McCown: I pose this as a question, as I can't possibly be unbiased about this due to certain name-related factors. Is it possible that Josh McCown is just better than Jay Cutler at this point in their respective careers? Better yards per attempt. Lower sack rate. Zero interceptions. I know Cutler played hurt last week, but still...

Oh, and nice to see Ray Rice get going for the first time all season against Football-like Unit That Once Resembled The Bears Defense. Mel Tucker, what have you wrought?

Cleveland Browns 20 at Cincinati Bengals 41

Tweets:

Robert Weintraub: Pain is seeing the score go from 6-0 to 12-0 on the Red Zone scoreboard and feel the Haden pick six in your bones. Sure enough.
Robert Weintraub: I've lost count on the number of out patterns to AJ Green that have been picked off this season, mostly due to throws too far inside
Robert Weintraub: Eight picks in last nine quarters for Dalton, hard on the heels of winning AFC Player of the Month. Unreal.
Robert Weintraub: Of course penalty wipes out the pick six, so Bengals. If they score now it will be a miracle. In total reverse on offense.
Scott Kacsmar: Good throw by Dalton to Gresham, but that's pathetic tackling near the goal line by the Browns.
Vincent Verhei: James Harrison's tackle-busting pick-six would have been year's best TD if clipping penalty hasn't wiped it out.
@BryKno: If your quarterback is struggling, have your receiver throw the pass.
Robert Weintraub: Mo Sanu throws a pass to set up the TD, then catches the TD to put Cincy up 14-13.
@pchicola: CLE shows lack of respect for Dalton. Play base on almost every down & Cover1-man under vs Green. Daring CIN to beat them through air
@pchicola: Haven't seen good replays so far, but it seems that both CLE's blocked punts came from missed assingments at the right C-gap.
@matthew_carley: The Ohio derby, where the bloodied corpse of offensive execution is on display for a sold out stadium. And the bad weather awaits...
Robert Weintraub: This bengals turnaround no accident. Team with wind advantage has scored all 41 points thus far.
Robert Weintraub: Bengals haven't scored 28 points in a quarter since 1989. Boomer!
@waitinbythelake: The Real Jason Campbell is here. He waited for hope to arrive, saw hope open downfield and chucked the damn ball into the Ohio River.
Scott Kacsmar: Jason Campbell is who I thought he was.

New York Jets 14 at Buffalo Bills 37

Tweets:

Aaron Schatz: Egads. Austin Howard just nearly got Geno Smith killed. What a horrible non-block on Marcel Dareus.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets' DL is really good. Strength, athleticism, AND awareness. Plus: Youth.
@RyanCrinnigan: Dee Milliner: "As long as I'm running, like, next to the guy, it's considered good coverage, right? I mean, I was in the area."
Aaron Schatz: Geno Smith sack and fumble. Score for Bills FB Frank Summers, the fourth Summers brother. His mutant power: vulturing TDs.
Mike Ridley: Apparently the Jets bye week didn't double as their down week.
@MichaelEdits: Considering how effusively the CBS team praised Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, this really was inevitable.
Aaron Schatz: Antonio Cromartie is a good player, but he just doesn'thave the speed to keep up with a guy like Marquise Goodwin.
Scott Kacsmar: That's very impressive the way Marquise Goodwin separates at the end.
Aaron Schatz: Second pick by Jarius Byrd completes Geno Smith meltdown. Bad decisions, bad pressure, and bad decisions under pressure.
@nickpcomedy: So after this week there will be 8 teams in the AFC on either 5-5 or 4-6, plus the Bills on 4-7. All competing for 6th seed.

Longform:

Aaron Schatz: My first takeaway from the Jets-Bills game is wow, is Austin Howard bad. Just horrible. Run plays, pass plays, the guy is continually beaten easily. It's part of a generally poor Jets offensive line. D'Brickashaw Ferguson has declined, and the Jets lost the two veteran guards this offseason, so Nick Mangold is the only guy playing at a high level at this point.

Howard's crappy play was part of the general pattern of this game, which was: defensive lines good, offensive lines bad, cornerbacks bad, safeties good, and receivers surprisingly good adjusting to balls caught up in the wind. The big difference between the two teams is that Geno Smith just completely wilted under the Buffalo pass pressure while EJ Manuel played well. He had a couple of long bombs, like the one where Marquise Goodwin beat Antonio Cromartie deep, but he also had a lot of short dumpoffs under pressure and he found the guys Smith couldn't find, going 20-for-28 with no picks.

Rivers McCown: Why do I feel like Buffalo is the sixth-best team in the AFC right now?

Atlanta Falcons 28 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41

Tweets:

@L_Crosby: This is getting stupid, y'all. Gerald McCoy's collecting rent from Matt Ryan right now. THREE SACKS.
Robert Weintraub: Falcons 2014--draft Clowney, sign Michael Johnson, a GA Tech alum, and suddenly they have a pass rush again.
Mike Ridley: With 2 trick plays already, the Bucs have officially entered IDGAF-mode
@MilkmanDanimal: Falcons currently playing so dumb I'm beginning to wonder if Schiano wandered over to their sideline by accident.
@MichaelEdits: Do the Atlanta Falcons know it's too late to suck for Luck?
@MilkmanDanimal: Down 18 with a terrible offensive line, Falcons apparently want to "establish the run" with a 30-year-old RB. What could go wrong?
Scott Kacsmar: Mike Glennon would break some rookie passing records if he got to play this Atlanta defense every week.
@MilkmanDanimal: Just because I'm enjoying this blowout doesn't mean Greg Schiano still isn't a douche who needs to be fired.

Washington Redskins 16 at Philadelphia Eagles 24

Tweets:

@MilkmanDanimal: Eagles' TDs are Brent Celek outrunning the defense and Nick Foles powering through a tackle. Wow, does the Redskins defense suck.
Robert Weintraub: Nick Foles gets drilled like a wisdom tooth by London Fletcher, even harder than RG3 was nailed by Barwin earlier.
Robert Weintraub: And crap, Shady McCoy just went down grabbing his hammy.
@GDFar: No protection or complexity to this Redskins offense. Either RG3 can handle a full offense or he can't, but this isn't working.
@Shake1n1bake: Washington's defense doesn't appear to be very good at covering, or tackling, or getting off blocks, or football.
@toxic: Redskins game is so bad, local TV has cut to 2nd half of DET/PIT. Steelers uniforms may be worse than Skins defensive performance.
@WhispersMoCo: Really terrible, terrible decision by RG3 on that interception. Finds wide-open defender. Game over.

Arizona Cardinals 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Tweets:

@MilkmanDanimal: My son's comment seeing Jacksonville having 14 points; "they got 7 safeties, there's no way they could score two TDs."
Andrew Potter: @MilkmanDanimal Has he seen their defense? Without Poszluszny they'll be lucky to make 14 tackles, never mind score 14 points.
Scott Kacsmar: Not sure how ("Jags" is probably a good answer), but Carson Palmer has 417 yards and the running game has 21 carries for 17 yards.
Vincent Verhei: ARI takes over up by 13 w/about 3 mins to go. They then go run-pass-pass. What?
@JXPrime: @FO_VVerhei running game kinda non-existent for both teams today.
Scott Kacsmar: Jags and Cardinals finish with 46 combined rushing yards -- 2nd fewest since 1950 (2005 SD/PHI had 45).

Detroit Lions 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 37

Tweets:

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers using no-huddle to start game and Ben's having his best 1st quarter of 2013. Of course they wait until they're 3-6 to do it.
@RavenBerns: Meanwhile, the Lions are acting like Antonio Brown has some sort of horrible disease which is passed through tackling.
Scott Kacsmar: Stafford has now missed on 3 potential TD passes (think Bush had the space), though I'd put a little of the latest one on Pettigrew.
Mike Ridley: When all else fails, fling it to Megatron 55 yards downfield
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have lost two games (both at Bengals) when leading by 11+ points since 1988. Led 17-3 today and now down 24-20.
@MilkmanDanimal: @FO_ScottKacsmar Come to Tampa, where losing after leading by 11+ points is pretty much what we call "Sunday".
@RyanCrinnigan: Tune in to the DET-PIT game for a free seminar, "How Not to Run the 2-Minute Drill." Continuing ed certificates signed by C. Cameron
@ptmovieguy: Tomlin just chickened out of a 4th-and-short, opting for FG down 7 late 3rd Q.
Aaron Schatz: When discussing fake FG, remember it often isn't as much about "the numbers." It's about exploiting a ST weakness you saw on film.
Aaron Schatz: On the other hand, yeah, you know. Rookie kicker. Or punter. Whichever guy it was. Not very trustworthy in the rain.
Aaron Schatz: TERRIBLE DPI on Lions. Worst thing they could do now is give Steelers more downs/time, take time away from Stafford comeback attempt.
Aaron Schatz: One other note about DET fake FG: You really shouldn't expect your defense to allow a 97-yard drive. That's the real failure.
@pchicola: PIT's half-time adjustment: Playing more Cover-1 Robber shells on secondary to avoid getting burned by Calvin on crossing routes.
Danny Tuccitto: and whadyaknow? horrific game management/play-calling gets rewarded again for PIT!
Cian Fahey: Todd Haley has called many, many good games for the Steelers this year. Narrative is way too harsh on him

Longform:

Aaron Schatz: Most of the discussion about this game is going to be about the fake field goal that didn't work. I'll let my earlier tweets stand as my opinion on that. But that's not what lost this game for the Lions. Part of the decision to go for that fake field goal is that you know you'll pin the Steelers back at their own goal line, even if it fails. The expected next score with the Steelers at their own 3 is for the Lions to actually score next, not the Steelers. You're supposed to be able to trust your defense to prevent the other team from marching 97 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. When your defense then lets the Steelers throw another touchdown on third-and-5 when the Steelers are supposed to be running out the clock, that's even worse. It also doesn't help when Dick LeBeau figures out your offense and you can't complete a single pass to Calvin Johnson in the second half. Given the way the Steelers and Lions played in the fourth quarter of this game, how can you trust that the Lions would have been able to keep the Steelers from tying the game, even if they had kicked the field goal to go up seven? The fake field goal did not lose the game.

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Scott Kacsmar: Not going to say too much about the ending since this may be my top game this week, but that was a strange second half. We don't get the All-22 until later in the week, but I'd be surprised if the Steelers changed a lot of what they did to defend Calvin Johnson as Mike Tomlin said they wouldn't. You come to expect a lack of adjustments by now, but Stafford did finish 19-of-46 passing and he missed some great opportunities in the first quarter.

This game, which was played in rain, was really about dropped passes for both teams and both sides of the ball. Johnson dropped a fourth-down pass early. Ike Taylor, who was god awful against Johnson in the first half, dropped two interceptions. DeAndre Levy dropped an interception. Brandon Pettigrew had a high pass he couldn't bring down in the end zone while Heath Miller couldn't hold onto one. Antonio Brown bobbled a score away. Most of these were not difficult catches, but make the balls damp and this is what could happen.

Last year when the Steelers wore these awful bumblebee uniforms, the Redskins dropped at least 10 passes. Fun coincidence, but an indictment of outdoor Pittsburgh weather in the fall.

Even with mistakes from his receivers, this was probably the best game Ben Roethlisberger has played in quite some time. He took the trade rumors and "not cerebral" criticism this week very well, even getting to open the game with the no-huddle offense. I'm still not sold the Detroit defense is anything more than mediocre at best, but Roethlisberger had solid protection and receivers were open as Brown had another huge game.

Detroit's definitely going to have to look at where all that offense in the first half (27 points in the second quarter alone) went. The drive ending with the fake field goal was really the only scoring opportunity they had after the half. When you take away Johnson and Reggie Bush's not playing that well, it's a very limited offense with a quarterback who can be careless with the ball. Some weeks those bombs into coverage for Johnson work, but this week it was a bad interception and the Steelers, unlike Dallas a few weeks ago, made Stafford pay for it with a game-clinching touchdown.

Oakland Raiders 28 at Houston Texans 23

Tweets:

Vincent Verhei: Case Keenum with a "This is why I went undrafted" INT out of his own end zone.
Scott Kacsmar: Houston's been so competitive early against teams like SEA/KC/IND/ARI, yet down 14-0 at home to Raiders w/undrafted QB. The NFL...
Cian Fahey: Keenum looks more and more like a young Romo every week
Rivers McCown: Actually pretty impressed by McGloin so far. No deep strikes or anything, but crisp throws. Hurt by drops.
Tom Gower: It's going to take a while for me to wrap my head around this McGloin being the same guy I saw at Penn State in 2011.
Tom Gower: Oh my. Rashad Jennings trucked D.J. Swearinger 8 yards downfield, then outran the Texans D for the other 72 on a wildcat play. Ouch.
Vincent Verhei: Rashad Jennings quietly on one heck of a three-game roll.
@Shake1n1bake: hmm... what?... but... My god, THAT'S Matt Schaub'S MUSIC!!!
Cian Fahey: I'm not as down on Schaub as everyone else, but that decision from Kubiak reeks of him not understanding the state of the franchise
Tom Gower: Understand why #Texans made move to Schaub, as blitzing Keenum was having too much success, but doesn't feel like right move.
@ptmovieguy: I don't understand HOU's motion Tate wide, 7 yards behind LOS, formation. Seen it at least 3 times today.
@nath_on_fire: I don't know what the Texans will do on 4th-and-short, but it feels destined to fail. Hey, if Keenum was in, rollout would look nice.
@nath_on_fire: The fact that there was a question as to whether Andre Johnson would be in on this play is a succinct indictment of Kubiak's tenure.
@nath_on_fire: "Slant that comes up short of the sticks, but bailed out by own false start" is the Platonic ideal of a Texans 4th-and-short play.
Rivers McCown: Andre should just keep walking home to Miami until he gets the call that Kubiak has been fired.

Longform:

Tom Gower: Matt McGloin looked okay this game. He was dinky-dunky the first half, but it didn't matter because the Raiders started two drives at the Houston 16 after miscues. He had a bit more downfield success in the second half, but on the whole I don't think he was much better than average. Of course, Terrelle Pryor has really, really struggled as a passer of late, so even average looks like a big improvement if it's sustainable.

The big news out of this game is the Texans finally got tired enough of Case Keenum's limitations they put Matt Schaub back in despite no health issues. Schaub looked like Matt Schaub normally does, minus the pick-6 thing. The Raiders got the stop in the red zone at the end of the game by covering Andre Johnson. That Johnson and Schaub had words on the sidelines after the fourth down failure may end up overshadowing the "Schaub is un-benched" news, or, more likely, become part of it.

Both these teams are not very good, by the way.

Rivers McCown: I'm not going to write out my thoughts about everything that happened here for two reasons. 1) I'd just be rehashing material from the first ten weeks of the season and 2) you're smart football fans, I assume, if you're on this site. You don't need to guess at my reaction to Matt Schaub coming back in.

That said, if Kubiak is back next season, the Texans essay in FOA 2014 will be as long as the Federalist Papers.

I can tell I'm really getting big -- Gary Kubiak just left me a message on my phone. Let me play it for you:

San Diego Chargers 16 at Miami Dolphins 20

Tweets:

@dingerc: Impressive stop of momentum by Keenan Allen on a curl route, then stupid taunting penalty on same play.
@dingerc: Wow, Teo's tackle whiff on the MIA TD to Clay was amazing. Don't think Teo even touched him.
Scott Kacsmar: Down 20-16, San Diego punted on 4th & 12 at the Miami 36 with 3:58 left? That's very questionable.
Scott Kacsmar: Tannehill just pulled a Glennon by running out of bounds to take a sack. These QBs make me sick in the 4MO.
@pchicola: God Rivers. Spike the ball. Took him 10 secs to get the play called at the line...

San Francisco 49ers 20 at New Orleans Saints 23

Tweets:

Danny Tuccitto: kudos to FOX for giving us the ultra-zoom, ultra-slo-mo look at greer's leg achieving macroscopic supersymmetry.
@matthew_carley: Jim Harbaugh WASTES both of his challenges early on in NO. Clearly no one in the booth has a view of a television, or any sense.
@cptii: That Baldwin no-catch is a pretty good example of why Kap doesn’t trust anyone but VD or Boldin.
Tom Gower: Oh my Drew Brees. Holds, holds, holds, waits, Jimmy Graham releases, throws, & Ahmad Brooks makes the leaping INT.
Aaron Schatz: Rushing just three against Drew Brees just doesn't seem like a great strategy to me.
@Golfer07840: got an INT w/ 3 man rush RT @FO_ASchatz: Rushing just three against Drew Brees just doesn't seem like a great strategy to me.
Aaron Schatz: Got me there! Over 8 yds/pass in 2011 vs 3 rushers. In 2012, same stats as he had vs 4 rushers @Golfer07840 got an INT w/ 3 man rush
Danny Tuccitto: really wish NFL kept data on what play clock is at start of play/timeout. SF seems to waste ton of TOs this way, but more than most?
Scott Kacsmar: Wow, violent collision on Brees, but I still hate the penalty. That's a lost fumble in crunch time for Joe Montana.
Danny Tuccitto: corrente: illegal careless whisper, number 55, defense. 15 yards. automatic first down.
‏@Coboney: That was a stupid penalty! Grabbed him on the shoulder pads - momentum moved Brees head. The "strike" zone is knees to shoulder
Aaron Schatz: @Coboney Just another example of the NFL's attempt to outlaw the laws of physics.
Aaron Schatz: That's grounding on Kaepernick. The 49ers OL just crumpled on two straight plays. Miss Iupati that much?
Aaron Schatz: Wait, how on earth is three steps to your right "well outside the pocket"? Maybe it is "slightly outside." MAYBE.

Longform:

Tom Gower: Kudos to the 49ers defense for playing better than I thought they would. Drew Brees was under some pressure, and the ground game wasn't as consistently effective as I expected it to be (and yes, my expectations were lower than what the Saints did against Dallas last week). Yes, Jimmy Graham's continuing injury and Darren Sproles getting banged up during the game were probably part of that.

On the other side of the ball, I struggled with San Francisco's offense in the game. The run game hasn't been working consistently, especially with the non-Gore backs, and the passing game is still too reliant on Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. Maybe I'm underrating NO's contribution to these, but I don't think so. This is not new, of course.

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Some weird stuff in this game -- the whole Corey White interception/was he down/did the fumble go out of bounds, Jim Harbaugh utterly wasting both his challenges on complete no-hopers, Sean Payton kicking the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3 in the fourth quarter to get within 3, and of course the whining about some (correct) late-game calls. Garrett Hartley hit the field goals, though, and the Saints came away with the win in regulation.

Danny Tuccitto: I've been meaning to write something like this for a while, but there's never seemed like a right time until today, so here goes...

I don't know about everyone else on staff, but as time has gone on, I've become more and more tortured by maintaining the dual role of (D-list) NFL commentator and rabid fan of an NFL team. I feel like there are thousands -- possibly millions -- of 49ers fans out there who watched today's game that, either during or immediately after the game, were calling for Greg Roman's head or Jim Harbaugh's head or (newly minted replay guru Eric Mangini's head). They want Kassim Osgood to take the next Greyhound back to Detroit (or worse). They think Tony Corrente is the most biased referee since Danny Davis. Today, I was one of them. Every week, I watch 49ers games with one of them. But at the same time, I consciously realize that these men play the game, coach the game, and officiate the game; whereas fans (including me) are (mostly) nobodies who have never been in their position, and aren't privy to half of the information they're trying to process when making their decisions. Who are we to judge so harshly in circumstances like this? It's for this reason that, at earlier depressing moments this season, I've fought my heart with my brain, giving people the benefit of the doubt.

And today, Vance McDonald dropped another third down pass. But c'mon, he's a rookie! The Saints defense was playing with eight men in the box and man-to-man coverage behind it. But c'mon, the 49ers currently don't have the personnel to counter it! Osgood made an awful special teams blunder. But c'mon, The Naked Gun parody of Queen Elizabeth waved more forcefully than Sproles did on his fair catch signal. Corrente's call on Brooks killed them (among other mysterious calls). But hey, he was judging things in real time! (In slow motion, there's clearly no contact to the neck or head, but he's not making calls in slow motion. Of course, what is Brooks supposed to do as he's running by Brees? Whisper sweet nothings in his ear? Pull his towel out, and hold it up to the referee to signal a captured flag? See how torturous this kind of cognitive dissonance can become?)

But see, then my mind doubles back on itself. "Wait a second, these guys are getting paid millions of dollars, and some of these mistakes are just totally unacceptable to anyone with two eyes, regardless of whether they're an outsider or not." Fans (and D-list NFL commentators) may not know the inner workings of NFL strategy and tactics, but there's just no excuse for bungling three -- not two; three -- challenges in one quarter: The two no-hopers that they failed on, and the awful third-down spot in favor of New Orleans that Harbaugh didn't challenge because, presumably, he was gun shy after the first failed challenge. Then there's the 49ers' consistent inability to get plays called in a timely fashion. Is it Roman's fault? Harbaugh's fault? Kaepernick's fault (or Smith's fault before him)? Who cares? It's three years now, and that stuff is still happening -- constantly. Fans don't have to be in on team meetings to know that it's a performance worth the X of Great Shame.

As I continue to mull this sort of cognitive dilemma, I come closer to realizing that we're on much better footing as fans (and D-list NFL commentators) if we focus on these game management failures more so than the seeming, "What the f*** kind of play call was that?" failures. You want to say that we don't know what we're talking about in terms of strategy, tactics, and the rigors of a physical profession? Fine, guilty as charged. But don't tell me that, any number of sentient humans couldn't have been sitting up in the booth today, and gotten those three challenge situations right. Don't tell me that there's no way, after three years, you can't devise a method for calling plays more quickly.

And yet, as I say that, all of this remains a constant struggle.

Vince Verhei: The San Francisco offense mystifies me. Sometimes they look unstoppable and sometimes they can't stop shooting themselves in the foot (the constant struggles to get plays off in time are a good example here.), and you never know which is going to show up from drive to drive or even from play to play. They're much scarier, I think, than their numbers will indicate.

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Seattle Seahawks 41

Tweets:

Mike Ridley: Jarius Wright burned Richard Sherman. Never thought I'd type those five words.
@robbbbbb: My wife, re: Marshawn Lynch: "Maybe he greases himself."
Vincent Verhei: Power is out in Seattle, so my review of everything right now is __________.
@UpsideOfSports: Ponder one-ups his earlier underthrown slant with the more rare undertossed pitch
Vincent Verhei: Power back just in time to see SEA score in 50 seconds.
@robbbbbb: Huge Percy Harvin return sets up extra TD drive at end of 1st half. I was shocked Carroll sent him out for it.
@UpsideOfSports: #Vikings, #Texans need a checkdown challenge. Ponder and Schaub can always find a way to throw it short of the sticks.
@robbbbbb: 2nd Ponder INT in as many series. Walter Thurmond baits the throw, and a pick-six results.

Longform:

Vince Verhei: Give Russell Wilson his three starting linemen back, put him at home against the 26th-ranked (by DVOA) pass defense, and hey, look, he has his best game of the year. He was sacked on the first drive, and then rarely pressured the rest of the day, getting plenty of time to find receivers downfield. Percy Harvin also shined in about a dozen total plays, getting a big kickoff return to set up an end-of-half score and a 17-yard catch to convert a third-and-10.

Richard Sherman had one of his worst games of the season. Cordarelle Patterson drew a DPI on Sherman to set up one Vikings score, and Jarius Wright, of all people, burned him deep for a touchdown. (I actually missed that play due to a power outage, but everyone on Twitter filled me in.) There were reports that Sherman was suffering from a bad hip today. For what it's worth, I don't think he was targeted in the second half. And it's not as if Minnesota didn't have plenty of passing opportunities, trying to catch up.

Last year, Seattle was an awfully mediocre team for half a season, then caught fire after Halloween. This year, Seattle lost only one game in the first half of the year, but some of those wins (Houston, St. Louis, Tampa Bay) were pretty ugly. Now they've stomped two bad teams in a row, Wilson topped 10 yards per pass in both games, and the defense is starting to smother opponents. If they continue to improve in the second half this year like they did last year, this could get scary.

Rivers McCown: I kind of like Wright. It's not his fault he plays with Christian Ponder and Minnesota inexplicably is playing Jerome Simpson ahead of him and Patterson.

Kansas City Chiefs 17 at Denver Broncos 27

Tweets:

Aaron Schatz: Should we just count the number of plays where Chris Clark gets away with holding on Tamba Hali?
Scott Kacsmar: Alex Smith to Donnie Avery is the new Elvis Grbac to Lake Dawson.
Scott Kacsmar: Lost Dumervil, but I think Shaun Phillips has been a fine emergency replacement this year.
Scott Kacsmar: I think I picked too many points (43) in this game. Then again, slow starts are the Denver way. Last week was an outlier.
Aaron Schatz: Bad news for fant players: Peyton Manning will be credited with fumble. Good news in IDP leagues: He also gets a tackle!
@csoandy: The Chiefs receivers appear to have borrowed the early season Patriots receivers’ gloves.
Tom Gower: Arm extension by Dwayne Bowe. OPI is called, what, 10% of the time it happens? Most of the time picks rather than push-off, though.
Tom Gower: You don't normally see Peyton miss a wide open TD the way he didn't see Decker on that fake screen there.
@StanSellsBoats: Welker has great SBFAR (successful begging for flag above replacement)
@itnw0628: Denver O is really struggling after halftime. So, great halftime adjusment was on John Fox after all?
Aaron Schatz: Alex Smith read option fake 1, NBC cameraman 0.
@hscer: I don't care. Whatever the reason, I don't care. Punting down 14 with 12 minutes left on 4th and 7 from the opp 41? Just no.
‏@nath_on_fire: "So down two TDs at their 40 in the 4th, you thought you'd punt to the league's best offense and win that way?" -My dream reporter.
Aaron Schatz: In the end, the Chiefs simply are who we thought they were. Very good defense, mediocre offense, not as good as W-L record indicates.
Scott Kacsmar: Wes Welker concussion? Crap, he's probably going to line up with New England's defense next week.
@StanSellsBoats: A truly pathetic last-minute effort by KC. They may as well have taken a knee — why risk injuries if you don't care to win?

Longform:

Tom Gower: Aaron mentioned this on Twitter during the game, but this felt more or less like the game we expected. Kansas City got their 17 points, but never looked fluid or particularly good offensively. I think Denver's protection was a little bit better than I thought, but I thought the offensive gameplan and Peyton's work, both of which seemed to concentrate on getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure, had a fair amount to do with that. I thought the key matchup for this game was whether Denver would be able to run the ball with six against six. They did so with reasonable success at times and less success at other times. I wasn't sure just how good Marcus Cooper was, and it didn't surprise me to see the Broncos go after him and continue doing so after they had initial success with it. One thing that separates this Denver offense for me is the bigger bodied receivers in Julius and Demaryius Thomas, and I think they both showed well tonight, or at least better than they (particularly Demaryius) did in the loss to the Colts.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, I guess one of my takeaways from this game is maybe we should all take a step back before we jump on the Marcus Cooper bandwagon. We've done Brice McCain and Robert McClain, and I'm generally ready to stop freaking out about young undrafted or late-drafted nickelbacks who have a single excellent season of small sample size. (And honestly, I don't even know how Cooper is doing in our charting stats so far -- I just know he's getting written about a lot as some kind of revelation.)

However, I will give props to Chris Clark for playing better than I expected, and no, he didn't have to spend the whole game making uncalled holds on Tamba Hali. However, I agree with Tom, I think a lot of what limited Kansas City's pass rush was Peyton Manning getting rid of the ball quickly.

Rivers McCown: Don't take that step back too close to Brice McCain; you'll beat him for a touchdown.

Scott Kacsmar: That was a wire-to-wire win for Denver and frankly nothing at all surprising. I had 27-17 on my podcast the other night, but changed to 27-16 for some reason. It wasn't a blowout, the Chiefs had a few good chances -- just not to the extent Cris Collinsworth believed. I thought Andy Reid was too conservative against a historic offense on the road. The field goal in the second quarter was a poor decision, even if the Chiefs did stop Denver from scoring on the drives before and after the half. I also thought there was a bad punt in the fourth quarter when down 14 and I would have onside kicked after the touchdown. They were likely going to need one anyway.

I expect we'll see a different game in Kansas City when Manning will have to call the shots with crowd noise and the Chiefs can make some adjustments on their coverages. But I thought he played a smart game tonight by mixing in the run and not putting it all on his shoulders with the ankle sprain. He still had 40 attempts, but got rid of the ball very fast to neutralize the rush. He can still do that in Kansas City, but plain and simple the Chiefs need to find more offense than this to get past the Broncos. Alex Smith tried some deep shots, Donnie Avery dropped a big one early, but I just didn't see much from them. There were way too many tipped balls. Even Jamaal Charles seemingly only had the one really good run.

Aaron Schatz: You know when would be a good time for Alex Smith to try throwing the ball down the field? Like, when losing by 10 in the final minute. That would be a really good time to try one of those.

Comments

201 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2013, 11:43am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

No McCown isn't better than Cutler. He plays very safe but he leaves a lot of plays on the field (eg both Marshall and M. Bennett were open in the end zone during the Bears pitiful seven plays from goal to go sequence). He isn't all that accurate either. He does seem to know the system and keeps his head from play to play without getting flustered. He is a good backup but that is all. Cutler is the significantly better QB.

The Bears run game seems to have stepped up over the last few weeks, to me that is the bigger difference in how the team is playing with McCown. This is still the Bears first year running this system, to an extent everyone is still learning it might be tempting to award the improvement to the QB change but probably misleading. In yesterday's game the McCown led Bears only scored 20 points in regulation because David Bass picked off a swing pass for a TD.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Agreed. McCown is playing pretty well, but I think a lot of that is Trestman's gameplanning - the offense seems tailored to McCown (and after years of "boy I hope this offense works, regardless of who's playing", it's quite a feeling as a fan).

A good example of where Cutler's still the better QB: Jeffery's game-winning touchdown against the Packers. Cutler is great at throwing the back-shoulder route in the end zone, but McCown isn't as accurate, so Jeffery had to fight the DB for the ball instead of getting an easy, uncontested catch.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I heard someone describe it this way: McCown and Cutler's average performances are pretty close in terms of overall value and efficiency, but Cutler's talent and occasional brain lapses make his performance much higher-variance. That is, he's much more capable of having a killer game or making the big play when it's needed-- just as he is also much more capable of blowing the game with a ridiculous pass or a fumble after a sloppy job securing the ball.

Cutler is the guy you want in the playoffs, because if you get lucky and he puts together four games in a row playing up to his potential, you can win a Super Bowl. (See: Flacco, Joe.) McCown doesn't have that upside.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

As an admittedly bitter Denver fan that hates both Joe Flacco AND Jay Cutler, I think Cutler still has significant questions to answer about the intangibles ie leadership and not pointing fingers when he plays badly. His attitude has never impressed me, and he doesn't put in the effort to really improve his mechanics. He has some of the best physical talent in the league, but has never cared enough to truly take advantage of that like he should. I don't think he's a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback primarily for that reason, which is the difference between him and Flacco.

If anything, Cutler is a poor man's Brett Favre. Favre's arm and improvisational abilities were so good that he could get away with sloppy mechanics most of the time.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't think it's surprising when the 49ers struggle on offense. When SF has to face a solid defense the offense struggles because it has limited receiving options and the offensive line is not playing as well as it did last season. When it's a subpar defense the qb can move around and do things to free up other people. Solid defenses limit that freelancing.

That's my gut reaction sans checking the stats before posting. So if my gut is wrong I guess I will accept being mocked.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I actually think that the offensive line is very mediocre, and all the Greg Roman insane calliope of power runs and read/option stuff was hiding it's ineffectiveness. Good defenses do not get confused any more by this, and the passing game cannot punish a team with 2 real CBs for overplaying the run.

I haven't the time or expertise to review the all-22 on Kaepernick's GOOD passing games (of which there are more than a few going back to last year). The current meme is that he *never* progresses past his 1st read. I guess that's possible but you think it would have taken fewer than 10 games to figure that out. What seems more likely (no evidence) is that Kap is fine if correctly diagnoses the coverage pre-snap. But when defenses confound him, he can't get past his first read. But it's a team game and he is certainly not getting a lot of support from his OL or receivers (with an eyebrow raise to Greg Roman).

Also Harbaugh should give the challenge flag to a flunkie. He is horrible, always challenging the most emotional plays no matter or probability of getting a reversal. At least they are (usually) high-impact plays.

The most important question (as a fan ) is sadly one we will never really get an answer to. Obviously the offense (passing game) has real problems. Harbaugh and Roman are not idiots, they can see this. But is the problem that they are misdiagnosing the cause, or simply that they don't have the personnel/time to execute the correct cure. Let's say the obvious solution is to drop the compressed fronts and come out in a shotgun spread with 11 personel (can't leave vernon davis on the bench). Do they:
a) not realize this at all.
b) realize it but refuse on philosophical grounds
c) realize it but don't have the people or cannot change the entire offense mid-season

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't know that the line has always been mediocre and somehow was just found out this year. Take a look at the Word of Muth articles from last year on the 49ers, and it seemed like the O-line was more just having their way with defensive plays instead of any trickery. The o-line has looked pretty bad the last few losses, with a lot of pressure on passes and little run game. I will say that Kap needs to step up into the pocket more often, he appears to get happy feet too quickly which leads to trying to escape the pocket and a sack.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

A great line by Packer beat writer Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel:

Not only did Tolzien not lose the game, he kept the Packers afloat amid the mélange of slovenly play everywhere else.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Agreed. As a Packers fan it's a funny situation to be in. Seems like normally when a young QB is forced into a near-hopeless situation and flashes some promise, even if the team is still losing you at least get the consolation prize of watching him learn his way through the game, giving you some hope for the future. Except in this case Tolzien has no future with the Pack. And, even with all of the injuries, one would have hoped the rest of the team would not be quite this bad.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Game was blacked out for me, but it seems that a pick+6 down by 7 is kind of losing the game...based on the drives it looks like the pack had a chance to win but either the QB couldn't execute, the game plan sukked, or the 'D' was unable to get a stop/turnover. These are consistent themes that Rodgers has been bailing them out of for 3 years now because he can put up a few more TDs than the average QB and not throw INTs. Same packers, exposed for who they really are.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Oh, and nice to see Ray Rice get going for the first time all season against Football-like Unit That Once Resembled The Bears Defense. Mel Tucker, what have you wrought?

I am so angry at Mel Tucker, too. I can't believe he broke his best player's shoulder bone, tore his next best player's triceps muscle, tore the ACLs of his two best D-tackles, tore the hammy of one starting DE, knocked his starting MLB out for the season, and, subtly but no less important, accelerated the aging process of his highest-paid player (and other starting DE). Just a terrible coaching job.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm with you, Tom. Especially because Tucker's basically running the exact same defense as Lovie Smith did (obviously there are minor differences, but you know what I mean).

The defensive collapse is due mostly to players either underperforming (Conte, Wright) or getting old (Peppers, Tillman), but injuries have been a big factor, too. I can only assume Emery will make a youth movement a big part of the offseason.

One bright spot: Corey Wooton, who's been a monster all year, it seems.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think the safeties under-performing (and both Conte and Wright seem worse to me this year, it's just more of a drop for Conte) should be laid at the feet of the coaches. It's their job to prepare them, and they seems like players who need coaching more than some.

I'm indifferent towards Tucker. There's nothing about this defense which makes me think he is a good coordinator, while there are plenty of extenuating circumstances to explain why he might not be a bad one.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Fair point on the safeties, and Tucker in general.

That said, I'm OK with the defense having regressed some; we knew this would happen when the Bears fired Lovie Smith and brought in an offensive-minded head coach. And for the record, I do like that decision still (although I was also a bigger Lovie supporter than most).

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Oh sure, a sarcasm detector. That's a real useful device.

Seriously though: I realize that the Bears defense has had a lot of injuries and regression this year. I realize that Peppers hasn't been very good, and that Tillman is now out.

I do think Tucker has to own the safety play not being very good, because that was a solid pairing last season. And I wasn't really impressed with him in Jacksonville. But yeah, claiming he's the cause of it all is silly.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Watching the Lion's offense is like watching a mechanically unreliable race car. It looks fast and impressive at times, but it either stalls out or blows up at the most inopportune times.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"I'm still not sold the Detroit defense is anything more than mediocre at best"

Are you kidding me? I would take consistently mediocre in a hearbeat. The offense scores enough points to win most weeks if the defense could just be mediocre. It's the wild and seemingly random swings between okay and godawful that are the problem.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Typical Dolphins offensive play. Tannehill in the spread. The corner shows blitz. No one on Miami does anything. No adjustment by Tannehill. The back doesn't shift. The ball is snapped. The corner runs in free. Tannehill isn't even looking to quick throw to the man he is supposed to be covering. Tannehill sack. The faults in Miami go beyond the Oline talent. They need the QB there to see and adjust to the blitz.
Miami's undersized dline can't stop the run. It is odd in the pass happy NFL why more teams just don't go smash mouth on Miami. When the Chargers would get close they'd forget the run and pass, pass, pass. The result was a lot of game saving field goals.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I hear this about various coaches/QBs from time to time. Is it really true that some coaches won't let their QBs audible?

And more importantly, has there ever been a no-audibles QB situation that ended up producing a great offense??

Seems to me like a QB incapable of calling audibles shouldn't playing, or alternatively, it would seem that a coach too stubborn to allow a capable QB to do so is probably in need of being replaced.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I seem to recall that either Norv Turner or Cam Cameron's offense for San Diego didn't have audibles in the playbook for Rivers and they did well. I believe the idea is that every play has a built in "in case of defensive look X, switch to Y" component. You have problems when receivers and QBs don't see the same thing.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think you may be getting two concepts confused. A traditional audible entails the QB changing the play at the line and signaling it to the rest of the offense. The receiver doesn't have to read anything at all; he's just running a different play than what was initially called in the huddle. Now, some offenses/plays require the receiver to read the coverage and adjust his route accordingly. But that is part of the offensive design from the outset and doesn't have anything to do with whether it is an audible or not.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It isn't clear you need to audible at this point. The QB and WR need to read the coverage. Instead it appeared Tannehill's primary receiver was to his right and he never studied the left side of the field presnap. In the boxscore though it looks like the oline gave up the sack but really a good QB reads the blitz and gets the ball off. Miami has enough Oline problems they need to do things like correct presnap reads to help the line out.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

On the Brooks penalty, I think the slow-mo replay lies. I think it was a penalty. Also, Brees was bleeding from the face after the play.

As to actually hitting a guy full on the throat like that, wouldn't that be a potentially life-threatening blow? You'll usually get him in the chin and upper chest unless it's a karate chop.

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The man with no sig

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Brooks hit the top of the shoulder pads and then Brees' neck whipped into his upper arm (this is when his helmet got hit too). It's the effect of a big, strong linebacker hitting a tiny quarterback. It shouldn't have been a penalty but Brooks also should have hit him lower so there was no chance of that happening. I can understand why the ref threw the flag after watching the play in real time.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Disclaimer: Saints fan here.

In all, it's a borderline call, especially on a slow motion replay. However on the field at full speed it looks a lot worse than it was. But the refs are going to call it every time a QB goes down like that. Ahmad Brooks is a veteran, and he should know that. I'm afraid that the "Brees is short" excuse doesn't fly either. It's not like he shrunk six inches on the field yesterday. He's been short all his career.

Should it have been called, on reflection? Probably not.
Will it get called again? Every single time.
Should Brooks have known better and hit six inches lower? Yes.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't understand why everyone discussing this is only talking about the initial hit. The penalty was when Brooks followed through on the hit by flinging Brees to the ground with his facemask. This was shown repeatedly during the game, but the announcers were somehow unable to notice it and so too, apparently, every subsequent analyst.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"The penalty was when Brooks followed through on the hit by flinging Brees to the ground with his facemask."

This didn't actually happen.

Feel free to say he wrapped his arm around Brees's neck. You'll find plenty of photo evidence to support you. But "flinging Brees to the ground with his facemask" simply did not happen.

(Google "Brooks penalty Brees" and look at the images to see what actually happened.)

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yes, it did. Consult the :22 mark of this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owmvwVyP0nM

You can argue that my phrasing overstated things, but his hands were on Brees' facemask as he followed through on the hit. That sort of thing draws a penalty

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Also, I did my best to follow your advice and came up with this, which looks like the sort of thing that is pretty commonly penalized:
http://images.ftw.usatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/USP-NFL_-San-Francisco-49ers-at-New-Orleans-Saints_002-742x1024.jpg

I do admit that Brees did crumple so quickly that it would surely be hard to hard for Brooks to pull away, and yet that seems to be the way the rules are working with just about every hand-to-the-head penalty, most of which are much more ticky-tack. And in this case, it really doesn't look like he tried to hold up at all, but instead followed through even as his arms slid up from the head to the neck to the facemask.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I've seen several roughing penalties at least as dubious already this season. It's just the way it's called nowadays.

Brees was called for grounding a couple of plays later which, whilst probably the correct decision, smelt at least a little bit like a make up call. And then the non-grounding call on Kaepernick in his own end zone (which would have effectively sealed the game) - it was hardly as if the Saints got all the marginal calls.

On the drive prior to the Brees roughing penalty, Frank Gore dropped a swing pass straight into his lap with only open field ahead of him. If there was one play that killed the 49ers it was that.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I haven't seen more than two or three replays, but it seemed far from clear he was outside the pocket. That being said, in an unclear situation no call is the way to go.

The Brees grounding call was clearly correct, though. No doubt.

------
The man with no sig

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I questioned it because he was inside the right hash mark. And then on the replay I saw that the right tackle had also lined up inside the hash mark, since the ball was centered on the left hash mark.

I still think the referee was exaggerating greatly when he said CK was nowhere near the tackle box. I thought he was at best slightly outside the tackle box. But it did look like a correct non-call.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yes, it was clear that he was just outside where the tackle lined up, but it was close close. I think the ref's hyperbole in saying "well outside the tackle box" spurs a lot of the questioning. NFL refs: wrong even when they are right.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That roughing call is not made by any competent ref. He clearly , in full speed, the first time through, and every time thereafter, hit him in a completely legal way. This lie of a call is the only reason the Saints didn't lose there and then. It wasn't at all marginal.

Brees grounding was 100% true and obvious.

On replay, Kaepernick was nowhere near grounding.

There were no marginal calls late in the game, only completely obvious ones, one of which they royally screwed up.

Gore screwed up, but without that horrible call, it doesn't matter. The refs made the Saints win. There is no real doubt about it. Sure the niners could have put the game away earlier, but they still earned the victory. They just didn't get it.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The hit on Brees was completely legal huh? So you missed the bit where Brooks' arm was wrapped round his neck and Corrente's explanation that the hit was "to the head and neck"?

You do know that hits "to the head AND neck" are illegal, right? Think you may need to go re-read the rulebook there buddy.

And the Niners earned the victory?! What, by being outrushed by a team that supposedly can't run the ball or stop the run? By being outgained pretty much 2:1 in yardage? By having 10 less first downs and 10 minutes less of possession? The only reason the Niners were even in the game were because of Moore's muffed punt and White's fumble through the endzone on the interception return. Without those it probably isn't even close.

But yeah, apart from those points they certainly earned the whine, sorry, win.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

All fair points, though I think the real story was the failure of the 49er offense. Strange to say for a team that was leading up until the final moments, but the 49er offense was probably as bad as it was against the Panthers in many ways. Kaep once again threw for under 200 yards(despite 31 attempts) and the run game, outside of one solid run by Gore, was poor.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I disagree about the hit on Brees. It was a bad call. The hit was to the shoulder and chest. As Brees fell down, he folded up and dropped his chin into the wrist of the defender. The rule presumably is not intended to include offensive players swinging their heads at defenders. It was a good clean hit and should not have been penalized.

I agree with the rest of the analysis. New Orleans was the better team, and it wasn't close. A healthy Jimmy Graham probably would have caused a rout. As it was, he could get open but couldn't catch anything.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I am so sick and tired of people saying that the refs gave this game to the Saints. This is the same exact crew of refs that jobbed the Saints hard in the New England game a month ago. There were so many no calls and bad calls in that game that I was ready to hit the streets with a sign claiming that the NFL was well and truly rigged! Don't believe me? The photo and video evidence is all out there for the googling.

Then, to turn around and claim that same crew "gave the game" to the Saints is beyond farcical. This crew is just plain bad. Follow the crew through the season and check the game comments after, they've gotten a lot of complaints.

Which means they'll get the nod for the Superbowl for sure!

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

To me (neither a Saints or Niners fan), this hit looked like the poster child for "Hit which is definitively illegal in every conceivable way (real-time, slow mo, etc.) and even if it weren't, the kind of hit that the league is interested in cutting back on with future rule changes (but not in this case because it is definitively against the rules) because it is clearly dangerous and could be unnecessary with some coaching and accepting that that is the reality of the NFL now... and yet many ex-players, commentators, bloggers, and fan will say exactly the opposite."

Brooks hit him high on the shoulder, bringing the full impact ultimately into the helmet... at the same time, his arm was around his neck and head and followed through all of the way (not a face mask, but clearly hand in the face area), as Brees went to the ground, essentially using the initial hit to take Brees off his feet and then following through the entire way with his arm to lever him down (with Brees's head&neck being the fulcrum!).

But what do I know. (I like the violence of the old game, but I accept where we're going — I still have hope that we can have a violent but safer game if EVERYONE would just accept the changes. I'm not as optimistic that the officials will be able to make the correct calls on the closest, fastest, seemingly most violent hits, but hey, they're humans and it's a game. I do understand that brain trauma is far worse than a shortened career even if you are a dumb meathead athlete who won't realize it for 30 years.)

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Can we just send the right half of Tampa's offensive line to the Pro Bowl now? I mean, Davin Joseph looked really lousy at the start of this year; he missed all last year with a preseason injury, and clearly needed some time to get his legs back under him. Now? It seems like they're running behind him on most of their plays, and he's simply steamrolling defenders left and right. He's got power, he's pulling and consistently getting to the second level to pancake LBs . . . he's really playing great. I'm trying to imagine how this line would be performing if Carl Nicks' foot wasn't being eaten by MRSA and could actually, you know, walk and all.

I have to admit I am becoming disturbingly comfortable with Mike Glennon at QB; his first few games were an exercise in utter panic, but he's apparently gotten used to the pass rush and looks really comfortable. He still has a pretty lousy deep ball, and the two deep completions he had yesterday were entirely due to Vincent Jackson's ability to adjust to the pass and bring it in. Glennon's mid-range stuff has been quite accurate, so I'm hopeful he'll be able to start finding the target on long balls.

Also, if Adrian Clayborn was about one step faster, he'd have a good 15 sacks this year instead of 3. He beat the holy hell out of Matt Ryan yesterday, seemingly getting there just a fraction late over and over. Somebody get him on a treadmill in the offseason.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That was Clayborn's history in the Big Ten as well only he played against a lot of guys who only had collegiate first steps so he wreaked havoc. When Clayborn played a Wisconsin or Ohio State he was mostly neutralized because as you saw, he was ALMOST there. But not quite.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yeah, I recall; I'm an Iowa fan, so I saw him in college a fair amount. That being said, I have no objections to Clayborn's performance, he still strikes me as worthy of being pick #20 in the first round. He's not dominant, but he's disruptive, gets in the backfield, is solid against the run, and I'd call him a good player. Tampa could really use a stud pass-rushing DE on the other side to help with things, but Clayborn fits into my category of "pretty good", and that's OK with me. Not awesome, not a flop, but certainly productive.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I didn't get to (wasn't forced to) watch any of the Bucs' game, so maybe you can answer this question. How is it that, the deeper the Bucs go into their depth chart, the more productivity they're getting from their RBs? I say this as a fantasy football owner who took Doug Martin and watched him be unproductive for the first part of the season until he went on the IR, who then picked up Mike James, who was more productive before his season-ending injury. And now they have some 3rd string scrub/walk-on/baggage carrier walk in and be the most productive RB in the NFL on Sunday?

Or is this a case of the Falcons' rush D being extraordinarily weak?

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Rainey did impress me somewhat with his patience and vision; there were a few times the obvious direction of the play was plugged up, and he was able to stop, find a new hole, and change direction. Some obvious ability to break tackles and he's aware enough in the passing game that I saw him pick up a blitzer who would have annihilated Glennon. In other words, Rainey is pretty much the anti-LeGarrette Bloutn.

I chalk most of the success up to the fact Tampa's offensive line (particularly the right side) is playing very well. Davin Joseph has been simply great, Demar Dotson at RT has been a road grader, and the rest of the line in general is simply blowing the defensive line off the ball. My semi-casual watching says a lot of those successful runs are heading right behind RG, so Joseph should be getting a pretty healthy chunk of credit here.

Also, the Falcons lines (offense and defense) really suck.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

They changed/tweaked their scheme three weeks ago (more Power O to the right, counter, traps and no more outside zone), inserted Jamon Meredith at left guard and Davin Joseph has started to finally play better (he was a real disaster most of this season, now he's just average). Also, playing the Falcons helps.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I dropped my NFL Rewind subscription this year so can't review, but Joseph has struck me as better than average the last few weeks, or at least the holes on his side of the line have been much larger. And yes, playing the Falcons and Dolphins helps; curious to see how they play against the Panthers in a couple weeks. That will clearly be a much larger test.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

49ers-Saints:

I don't remember the 49ers having this problem with false starts under Alex Smith. I think they may end up regretting having let him go when Kaepernick turns out to be a really fast Derek Anderson.

Broncos-Chiefs:

They are who we thought they were. The Broncos are the 2005-2007 colts, at the height of their powers, and the Chiefs are the 2005 or 2007 Jaguars: A fairly good team with a suffocating defense which everyone knows is hopeless until Peyton Manning gets out of the division.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Seems like the bigger and more unsettling issue to me is the consistent delay of game/play-calling situation. Stunning how many timeouts Kaep STILL has to burn to get the play and adjustments called completely before the snap. Acceptable as an issue in Week 13 last year; unacceptable now.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Sando looked at the delay of game penalties. Yes, Kap does not have many delay of game penalties even this year. That should tell you how much insight looking at the delay of game penalties gives you. Not much.

I don't disagree this scheme of line up and motion 15 times so you can confuse ( not anymore) and read the defense (not with Kap) plays very big role . But you would think the QB would be more cognizant of that and watch the clock a little more carefully. Not with Kap... It is so bad that -I believe in Tifans game- the WR took a timeout thinking that Kap would not get the play on time..

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I agree. Slightly worse now, but ultimately a coaching issue.
Works fine when you have the lead, except the blown timeouts. But I think the same issues infect their attempt to run a hurry-up offense at the end of halves. If you have to score in 1 minute with 1 timeout (ignoring the horrible pass blocking), it's just not going to get it done, as we've seen the last 2 weeks. And it is very difficult to win a Super Bowl without an effective 2" drill. The offensive complexity which helps the running game, may hinder this--they need a simple 2" package with simple reads (and real 2nd and 3rd wide receivers, for that matter).

Lest I come off as a Kaepernick apologist: he's been getting away with some dropped INTs, let alone the Pick-6 that turned into a touchback. Also, running out of bounds on the 3rd down play before the punt was inexcusable.

The defensive performance the first few weeks was definitely shaky, a hangover from late last year. Now they've been excellent for 2 months, a shame to waste this. If (a big "if"), Aldon can come back and generate a pass rush, the Niners passing game will merely need to be adequate.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Didn't see that happen, but unless he tried to change the play at the last second, that would almost have to be on the coaching staff. Did they not have a play called and given to him during the break?

But timeouts on first down are almost always a bad idea. Unless there's something really risky called, like a trick play and you see the defense positioned to destroy it, you're probably better going with the play even if it doesn't really work. Most any running play ends up being a relatively short loss and the QB can just throw it away if a pass isn't there.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That is not at all the correct read on the situation. Smith gets very little help from his wideouts, and his line doesn't hold up that well. I only watched about half the game, but in that time the wideouts left over 80 yards on the field on drops of perfect throws. In the same time, Smith made one throw that was incorrectly thrown, and one or two mildly incorrect reads. He showed zip, he showed poise, he showed accuracy. He was damn good. He wasn't as good as Peyton, but who is? The vast majority of teams would be better off with him than with their current starter.

Additionally, Smith is the perfect fit for Andy Reid, because Reid is the most pass happy risk averse coach in the entire league. Smith doesn't make mistakes, which is the primary qualification for Reid's plans to work. Reid wanted Alex for a very good reason, and the Chiefs would not have won more than maybe five games at this point without him, despite the good defense. He is miles better than the Chiefs previous quarterbacks. The two second rounders was a very good price for them.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Let's see!

1. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

2. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

3. Case Keenum, Houston Texans [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

4. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

6. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

7. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

8. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

9. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

10. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

11. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

12. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

13. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

14. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

15. Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

16. Eli Manning, New York Giants

17. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

18. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

19. Andy Daulton, Cincinnati Bengals [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

20. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

21. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

22. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

23. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

24. Geno Smith, New York Jets [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

25. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

26. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

27. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

28. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

29. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

30. Seneca Wallace, Green Bay Packers [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

31. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

32. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills [Would be better off with Alex Smith]

That's thirteen "YES" votes. So not a majority at all. And I'm being kind to Alex here and giving him the edge over Dalton, Glennon and Flacco, even though those decisions are kind of questionable.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I wouldn't put him above Kaepernick, and I don't think it's clear he's better than Campbell, Henne, or Foles either (Foles currently has a 40% DVOA).

If one really wanted to, he could probably make arguments that Matt Cassel is better than Smith (and is on the Vikings roster, so adding Smith to the team probably wouldn't change anything), and EJ Emanuel is likely to be better in the future, so the team is better off with him than Smith even if he produces worse than Smith would this year.

PS Jake Locker is hurt and done for the year, so it would be Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Edit: I think I would put Carson Palmer below him though.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I do not know about Foles or Glennin (never watched either), but Alex Smith of the last three years is better QB than Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Tannehill, and possibly RG3 ( though I watched his play only this year and not last year, so when gets back to his old self he may be better).
I am sure I will be blasted for this comment. Better than Big Ben and Eli?, both of which has been crappy football the last two years but have built good reputation over longer time. So they get a pass. Cutler? Impresses everyone with arm strength but is one of the worst decision maker in the entire NFL.

This list is not really logical anyway. You have take into account the pay. Would you rather have Alex Smith and the extra 10 million dollars vs Flacco? Absolutely. No question about it. Would you take Alex or 5 million and Andy Dalton, I would go with Dalton.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I have no idea what alex smith you've been watching, but alex smith only looks good when you twist the context in his favor. Luck has allowed him to go from one loaded defensive heavy, run game oriented team to another, neither of which were ever even above average at passing the football. What's more, a cursory examination of smith as a qb leaves you with a player who's good pre-snap and has good movement, but is risk averse to a fault, has poor accuracy, and prefers check downs even when they are well short of the first down marker(hello Vernon DAVIS!!!) This kind of play is fine when you're defense keeps you in games and scores on its own, but fall behind and you're pretty much toast. Yes, I know his supporters will point to that NO playoff game, but by that same logic, we ought to be extolling tebow and his passing potential based off that one playoff game against Pit(while conveniently ignoring all of the other train wreck performances weeks earlier).

If this season has taught us anything its how much worse you look when your o line is a sieve, you can't trust your defense, or your receivers are either injured or sucking. Its a prime reason why Flacco, Ryan, Roethlisburger(this week notwithstanding), Eli, Kaepernick and Brady(at least over the first 6 weeks) have looked like shells of themselves. DO we really believe if you put smith on the steelers or ravens that he'd be an improvement? I highly doubt it. In fact, I envision smith to follow a similar path that Cassel took when he signed with the chiefs. One great season followed by a dud, followed by a disaster and a rebuild where smith's starter days are over and he is cast off as a backup. I suspect this plays out this way 2 years from now.

If I were forced to choose between smith and the incumbent starter, the only teams I could conceivably see smith as a definite upgrade would be...

Oakland
Tampa Bay
Minnesota
St. Louis
NY Jets
Titans
Jaguars
Texans
Browns

And that's it. About 9 teams, of which, 3 have rookie sarters and another 3 are starting backups. And even with Smith, I doubt any of those teams would experience more than a 1 game improvement with Smith at the helm.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

To answer your question, yes I watched Alex Smith. I watched every game 49ers played since 2002, except for the first four games in 2007 when I was out of country.. I watched most of them twice and a lot of snaps multiple times in slow mo.
I thought he was a bad QB until the Eagles game in 2010 and I thought he got better after and became a very good QB since then. I kept an open mind a out him and changed my opinion. I thought he deserved great deal of praise for the 13-3 2011 season, but never got that because the defense was good and all the credit went to them. I thought the offensive talent around him was not very good he had to deal with the Rachal, Davis pair and his best receiver was Josh Morgan who got injured -Crabtree was injured initially and after emerging towards the end of the season , disappeared in play offs - watch the Saints game- and VD admitted that he did not understood the play book until later in the season-. I thought he played great in 2012 except for the Giants game, the game that seems to have shaped your entire opinion about Smith.

I know you think thou are the resident Alex Smith and 49ers expert because you are living in the Bay Area and watch 49ers games, but unfortunately your insights about 49ers lack substance. This is not specific to anything you say about Alex Smith, but in general you seem to first form an (either unoriginal: "Alex Smith sucks" or somewhat controversial and asinine "running QBs cannot be successfull" ) opinion and then find proofs by selective memory and perception that fits your opinions.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Let's see, i never came out and specifically name called any of your points.

Let's start with Kaep. I don't really think what I believe is all that controversial. In fact, people like Greg Cosell and even Steve Young have intimated that running can adversely affect your pocket skills. Its why I think Rg3 has struggled this year and why Mike Vick never developed as a passer or why Vince young ultimately flamed out. Pocket skills, like everything else, take time. The reason why people like manning, brady, brees, etc can get away without running is because they have developed great reading ability and accuracy to compensate when first reads are taken away. In essence, necessity has forced them to learn these skills. And these skills tend to be far more consistent over time than running is. That last bit is normative, but I feel comfortable stating it.

Let's turn to Alex Smith. We're likely never to agree because any stats I throw at you will likely be rebuffed with your out of - he never had x amount of talent that other great qbs have had. Fine, but again, by most statistical measures, smith can be charitably described as average or even below. This isn't just my view, its held by many 49er fans. Andy benoit 1 year ago noted how much of a system driven player he was and Danny Tuccitto basically concurred. There's a reason why Kaep overtook Smith last year. Compare the dvoa of the 49ers offense before and after Kaep and you get a very clear idea of why this took place.

Let's look at qbr.
Ignoring prior years before 2010( the year you referenced above) Smith's qbr has been :

2010 - 38.6(ranked 26th out of 32)
2011 - 47.3(Ranked 21s out of 34)
2012 - 69.4(Ranked 8th out of 36)
2013 - 44.2 ( Ranked 26 out of 36)

Now, I suppose you could point to his 2012 year as the true standard of alex smith, but honestly, considering that year was so out of character to the other 3, I suspect his true value is somewhere in the 20s, basically right around below average.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"Aaron Schatz: Wait, how on earth is three steps to your right 'well outside the pocket'? Maybe it is 'slightly outside.' MAYBE."

The Twitter outrage over this was ridiculous to me (King Kaufman went especially nuts). Sure, the referee (Corrente) did say Kaepernick was "well out of the pocket", which wasn't exactly true. But, you know what? Kaepernick was out of the pocket. FOX showed a replay where the right tackle was lined up about two yards inside the right hashmark, and Kaepernick was standing about two feet from the right hashmark when he threw.

Harping on the "well outside" phrasing seems weird to me, when I got the distinct impression Corrente only included the modifier to shut up a very loud Superdome crowd.

(Note: not a Saints or 49ers fan; in fact, I was rooting for the Saints a little bit.)

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Corrente had a nice game in terms of his calls. I also like, when giving the review of the Pick-Fumble-Touchback that "all the calls stand" or something like that.

Nice to see a defense actually play the Saints well at home. They did it by doing essentially what teams do to limit the Saints on the road: stop the run, make Brees throw short and tackle. Until the last two drives, where their failure admittedly undermine my point, Brees was well under 10 YPC, which is a hallmark of many of their outdoor losses. It will be interesting to see if Carolina can do the same to them.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm not going to beat the ref up over it, but it does seem like he brought it on himself a little bit by injecting unnecessarily discriptive language. Especially since, as you mentioned, the question of whether Kap was "well" outside of the pocket is meaningless. It serves only to introduce an element of subjectivity, opening the door for anyone so inclined to question the ref's impartiality, judgment and/or eyesight. I'd also think the NFL would coach referees not to do this, for exactly this reason.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Steelers fans know it doesn't take rain for Ike "Hands of Stone" Taylor to drop two interceptions!

Also, bad call by the referees on the fake-FG fumble; when a runner fumbles the ball at the 7-yard line ON FOURTH DOWN and the other team recovers at the 3-yard line, the ball should be spotted at the 7-yard line, not the 3-yard line.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"...when a runner fumbles the ball at the 7-yard line ON FOURTH DOWN and the other team recovers at the 3-yard line, the ball should be spotted at the 7-yard line, not the 3-yard line."

The ball is only placed at the spot of the fumble if a player on the fumbling team (other than the player who fumbled) recovers the ball. If the opposition recovers the ball, the opposition takes possession at the spot of the recovery. 8-7-5(c) only applies "If the recovery or catch is by a teammate of the player who fumbled..."

Yes, this means that if a player other than the DET holder had recovered the ball for DET, the Steelers would have gotten possession at the DET 7, whereas by recovering the ball themselves, the Steelers lost four yards of field position. These are NFL rules. They don't have to make sense.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

As ruled that day and in the official gamebook, Means went out of bounds at the 1 on his 4th-and-goal carry before fumbling into the pylon.

However, the NFL did have an old rule that a fumble that went through the end zone unrecovered was not a touchback, but instead was given to the defense at the point of the fumble. I believe this rule was changed sometime around 2001.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Steelers fans know it doesn't take rain for Ike "Hands of Stone" Taylor to drop two interceptions!

Also, bad call by the referees on the fake-FG fumble; when a runner fumbles the ball at the 7-yard line ON FOURTH DOWN and the other team recovers at the 3-yard line, the ball should be spotted at the 7-yard line, not the 3-yard line.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Jim Schwartz is getting killed in the local media for the fake FG call and the "reckless" playcalling, specifically the long bomb down the field picked off by Clark.

Aaron is spot on about the fake FG. Your defense should be able to get the ball back when you have the other team pinned inside their own 5 yard line. As for the long pass, it was a 3rd and long, so it should be the equivalent of a punt if it's intercepted, but it was badly underthrown, so Megatron couldn't contest for it and do Megatron things, and the Lions did a terrible job tackling on the INT return.

Lions fans have been screaming all year "BE MORE AGGRESSIVE!!!". Now when they were aggressive and it blew up in their face, they're screaming, "WHY ARE YOU BEING SO AGGRESSIVE!!!"

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The fake FG--whatever. It looked like the kid was going to pick it up.

That deep pass on third and long though...not sure when it was a great idea to toss up a semi-punt on third down in a competitive game. Yes, Johnson makes some crazy catches in triple coverage...but considering he's triple-covered, doesn't that mean someone--anyone--else is open?

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Probably, but that's never stopped Stafford before. I can't imagine how somebody would think a long bomb to Calvin Johnson is a risky move; it's that a large part of Detroit's offense? The guy's always covered and always seems to make the catch. Not sure how the heck this is all that different than usual.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

A few things.

a) for some reason, I don't mind this as much when going into the end zone. I can't really explain why and there might not even really be a reason.

b) I also wouldn't have minded that throw on first or second down. Third down though....SOMEONE else has to be open with three guys on Megatron.

c) I'd have to go back and look at the play itself, but as I watched it live, I recall saying to myself "oh, no" as he let go. I don't even remember what the PIT defensive call was there. It just didn't....feel right.

Okay so none of this was real analysis but whatever.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"but considering he's triple-covered, doesn't that mean someone--anyone--else is open?"

If the Lions had any competent, healthy receivers other than Johnson, yes, that should be the case. But with Burleson still out (he was playing really well until he was viciously attacked by a pizza), and Broyles injured again, the Lions have a bunch of secondary receivers who probably couldn't make the roster of 25 NFL teams, much less consistently beat single coverage.

That being said, I have no problem with the playcall. Stafford either has to not underthrow it, or not throw it there at all. A sack/incomplete and punt would have kept the Lions in the game.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I questioned the fake field goal at the time. I had no problem with not kicking the field goal, but running a fake with your rookie punter (kicker/3rd string QB?) instead of throwing it up and letting Megatron do his thing? Maybe they saw something on tape that made them think it would work.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I agree with you there. If it was 4th and 2, that's one thing. In this situation, however, I think the probability of converting with your standard offense is higher than the probability of your punter gaining 5 yards.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

With Bills getting players back on defense, I would take BUF over KC. Similar defense, but one team have a moble QB would is at least capable of throwing the ball down the field to decent receivers who don't set the world on fire vs a team with with a moble QB who is not cable of throwing the ball downfield and even if he was his receivers are probably bottom 5 in the league.
Am I wrong?

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Going by DVOA, Buffalo has a good defense, but KC has a better defense. KC has a weak offense, but Buffalo has a weaker offense. And Buffalo has poor special teams, while KC's special teams are pretty good.

Even the highly-touted EJ Manuel is rated lower than the much-maligned Alex Smith.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

So, you're saying Buffalo is a top 10 team? KC was 8th in DVOA before yesterday. And Manuel's DVOA has been terrible, very similar to that of Lewis.

I really don't think so. The Bills, at best, are a 8-8 team right now. I'd compare them to the Jets rather than the Chiefs.

------
The man with no sig

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'd have to say that you're wrong here. If you'd watched KC @ Buf game, you'd know that Buffalo ran at will against them; suffocated the KC offense; and generally outplayed them. The only reason KC won the game is because the Buffalo was playing their 3rd string QB who threw a pick six when they were on the 1 yard line. If even Thaddeus Lewis is playing KC loses to Buffalo.

The difference in their records can be chalked up entirely to strength of schedule and injury to their starting QB.

To me, Kansas City is no better than teams like the Jets, the Bills, the Ravens, the Browns, and the Dolphins. They probably get a nod against most of those teams because Alex Smith is a veteran who won't lose you the game so they are more consistent.

As a Bears fan, KC reminds me a lot of some of our teams that relied on defense and special teams to win games with an obviously sub-par offense. There just isn't room for much error and if a team plays solid football against them, they're going to struggle. Sure, they've feasted on weak teams with young QBs and back-ups playing who have turned the ball over, but against playoff caliber teams who won't shoot themselves in the foot, I can't imagine the Chiefs winning a game.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"The difference in their records can be chalked up entirely to strength of schedule and injury to their starting QB."

9-1 vs. 4-7?

+94 point differential vs. -37 point differential?

I don't think EJ Manuel has shown quite enough to justify this claim.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

You have to consider that the Bills best QB is a rookie, who before he was injured was 2-2 with wins against 6-3 Carolina and early season, projected division winning, Super Bowl champion Baltimore and losses vs NE (last second FG) and @ NYJ that the Bills are much better than their record indicates. With 4 weeks of QB musical chairs where we saw the Bills start practice squad champion Thad Lewis and UDFA Jeff Tuel against KC as it were really muddy the waters WRT to the Bills playoff hopes.

The defense getting healthy has been pivotal (Byrd has 3 INT's in 2 weeks) and getting Manuel back is key for this team if nothing more from a development stand point. The Chiefs were lucky they left Buffalo with that victory as the Jeff Tuel led Bills were on the verge of going up 17-3 if not for Jeff Tuel realizing he was Jeff Tuel and throwing a pick 6 on the 1 yard line while a WIDE OPEN Steve Johnson sat in the back of the endzone. This in a game where the Chiefs had not, and eventually did not score an offensive TD.

Disclaimer, I am a Bills fan, but I do believe that if we met KC again the Bills would win the game. After the Bye the Bills have Atlanta in Toronto, then they play all 3 Florida teams in succession (@ Bucs, @ Jags, home against Miami) before finishing off with the Patriots in Foxborough. Barring anything health related, we should know just how "ready" Buffalo really is in the next month or so.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

KC should would have lost to Buffalo, if not for Tuel starting. If Cleveland had Hoyer when they played KC, that game could have been a loss too.

I predict KC finishes 12-4… Two losses to Denver, one to SD and a loss to Indy.
Denver 14-2… Loss to Indy and NE

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yesterday was partially due to Geno Smith, and then the wind. Willie Colon mentiioned during the week that the Bills play like the 85 Bears at home. On the road, not so much. Kansas City just held the Broncos to under 30 in Denver. I doubt the Bills would do that.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Come on. The conventional media narrative that the Chiefs are one of the absolutely best teams in the league was wrong, but this goes just as far in the other direction. The EJ Manuel injury isn't an excuse since That Lewis was about as good as Manuel in relief anyway. I'm a proponent of the Bills and think that they are probably better than a lot of the teams that have slightly better record (the Jets, for one), but the Bills have still lost to the Jets, Browns, and Steelers. Those teams are all bad. The Chiefs may have been clearly second best last night, but a ten-point loss on the road to the best or second-best team in the league isn't actually a poor result. If anything it showed that the Chiefs are a good, solidly above-average team – pretty much what anyone willing to look beyond won-loss record already believed.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I was quite disappointed with Marc Trestman's in-game tactics yesterday - and he's been very good all year.

First, there was the fourth-and-a-foot at the Ravens' 44, with five minutes left. This would seem to be an obvious go-for-it situation, but the Bears punted.

Then, as the Ravens reached field goal range with between two and three minutes left, the Bears should have started calling timeouts. Instead, both coaches decided to let the clock run all the way down before the tying field goal was kicked.

I'm hoping this was just an off day for Trestman, and not an indicator that he's getting worse tactically.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yes. (I was going to write nearly exactly this post.) Given the weather and how Flacco had been throwing the ball in the 2nd half, I was ambivalent (maybe 60/40 negative) about the 4th-down call, but the clock management on the ensuing drive was inexcusable. By not using his timeouts once Baltimore got inside the 10, Trestman was effectively conceding the game if the Ravens scored a TD, which of course they damn near did. Even if Trestman had some magical foreknowledge that Baltimore would have to kick the FG, why go to bed with the timeouts instead of using them to give McCown a shot to win the game in regulation?

But instead of staying mad about that, I'm just going to continually replay in my head that play in overtime where the O-line completely stones the BAL pass rush, and McCown throws a 30-yard laser to M. Bennett, who then knocks over two defenders to get inside the 20. It never gets old.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I have been wondering about Trestman's late game decision not to use his time outs. I was screaming at the TV at the time but I now think he might have been right. If he calls the time outs it would have given the Ravens a clear signal that they needed to score a TD, given the state of the Bears' defense they may well have managed it with the extra time they would have been afforded, and there is no guarantee that they would have left the Bears with enough time to score.

I don't really know, just playing devil's advocate.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

His reasoning was that it was pretty unlikely that they'd score a touchdown, they'd only end up with around 20 seconds even if they'd used them all, and he preferred to limit their playcalling by keeping the same personnel on the field. He went into his thought process in a fair bit of depth: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/chi-trestman-explains-time-out-ravens-20131118,0,7332934.story

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

So I still don't think I agree with him(*), but damn it, I love that he puts this much actual thought into things. Holy crap.

(*) Is there a fallacy at play here? Trestman (correctly, I assume) states that drives beginning at the 16-yard line only result in TDs 13% of the time. But as soon as they've gone down the field, that 13% is irrelevant, I think. But even then, there might be Bayesian probabilities at play...

And he has a great point about wanting to keep them in their two-minute offense personnel. (That's why Harbaugh should have called a timeout, I think. Harbaugh was more wrong than Trestman.)

You know what? I might just be willing to concede that Marc Trestman is smarter than me. In this case, in all football cases, in probably everything.

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Unless he is quoted out of context here, then he is not smarter than you about probabilities. You are correct that, once Baltimore has already driven into the red zone, the probability that they would have scored starting from their own 16 is almost completely irrelevant. And the way the Tribune piece quotes him, it sounds like Trestman doesn't understand that.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I only watched Pittsburgh for the first time this season yesterday, and Big Ben played very well. Perhaps it was the trade talk that galvanised him, but I simply can't fathom why Pittsburgh would want to trade him. I get that some extra picks would be handy to help out a defense and O-Line that clearly need rebuilding, but as long as they have a good QB and talented receivers they stand a chance in a weak division/conference. We've seen consistently that team defensive performance can vary markedly year-to-year with relatively subtle changes to scheme, personnel and luck. What is very difficult for team to change is the lack of a quality QB. It wouldn't surprise me a great deal if Pittsburgh were back in playoff contention next year as long as Roethlisberger is still around.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"I simply can't fathom why Pittsburgh would want to trade him."

If it's just a matter of keep him or don't, I agree. But per PFT, Ben's contract status may be a factor. He's in line for a new contract, and if he wants more than Flacco got, you've got to weigh that against his expected future production. Yeah, you can make the playoffs with Ben, but is he worth 20% of your salary cap as your team enters a rebuilding phase? Reasonable minds can disagree on the answer to that question. Personally I'd keep him, simply due to the lack of a viable alternative.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

While the story is floating around, the actual people involved are categorically denying it.

From http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5085451-74/roethlisberger-ben-sunday#ixzz2l5v7Rf6k :

This was Art Rooney II's two-word response: “It's ridiculous.”

He bit off each syllable as angrily as you'll ever see from a Rooney.

This was Roethlisberger's response when I brought it up away from the pack: “There's no truth to this. I mean none. On a scale of 1 to 10, it's like a minus-1 million. It's crazy, honestly.”

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

is it possible that McCown is better than Cutler? anything is possible, but it is probably a coincidence of the offensive line coming into their own and Cutler being hurt. McCown does not have Cutler's arm... he may be able to avoid the sack better though. Maybe they should mix and match them until Cutler is 100%.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

McCown does have a much better arm than I ever gave him credit for (displayed nicely in the throw to M. Bennett I was mooning over above), though not quite Cutler-level. But as others have pointed out, I think a bigger difference between the two is field vision. For example, McCown forced a short pass to Jeffery yesterday when Marshall was wide open in the deep middle, and there were a number of missed opportunities at the goal line (again, as noted somewhere else on this thread).