Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Four Downs: AFC West

There's a serious need for defensive help in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. In Denver, meanwhile, the Broncos must determine whether or not Case Keenum can really be a long-term solution at quarterback.

18 Nov 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

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)


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.


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


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


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.


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


@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


@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


@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


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


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.

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


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.


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


@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


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.


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.

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


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.


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


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?


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.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 18 Nov 2013

201 comments, Last at 21 Nov 2013, 12:43pm by Jimmy


by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:02am

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.

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:10pm

Cutler is this generations Jeff George.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:20pm

Unfair to Cutler. Cutler has been a far tougher player than George. George never would have lasted with the Bears line of the past few years. He would have packed it in out of protest.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:32pm

Agreed. I thought this narrative died sometime in 2011.

by georgebowles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:25pm


by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:03pm

Cutler is this generation's Jake Plummer?

Jim Plunkett?

by JIPanick :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:36pm

"Jim Plunkett?"

No, Eli Manning is this generation's Jim Plunkett.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 12:43am

Eli Manning is much less injury prone and better at his job.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:14pm

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.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:54pm

I've mentioned this before, but McCown often seems to be skating by on the verge of disaster. I feel like he has been riding a streak of good luck the few games he's played for the Bears.

by nath :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:25pm

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.

by bobrulz :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 7:30pm

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.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:42pm

It probably helps that McCown has not one but two beasts now catching passes from him. Like to see what he would look like throwing to those KC receivers for a few weeks.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:10am

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.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:37pm

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

by Byrk (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:43pm

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.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:13am

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.

by dank067 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:30pm

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.

by N8- (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:37pm

It's finally reached the point where the Packers are ignored on "Audibles". That's bad.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:58pm

The Packers have been ignored in Audibles before. Never before have I been grateful that they were ignored.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:32pm

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.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:17am

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.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:33am

Agreed. Heaven forbid anyone on Twitter let the facts get in the way.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:16pm

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.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:32pm

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.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:08pm

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).

by Rivers McCown :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:00pm

I see the sarcasm on that line did not come through as hoped. Noted.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:22pm

Ah. Sorry.

Emoticons. Clearly we need emoticons.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:58pm

Sarcasm. Sure.

by Rivers McCown :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:39pm

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.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:48pm

It's fair to put some blame on Tucker. Even before the injuries really kicked in a few weeks ago, the Bears D wasn't looking good. They were getting plenty of turnovers but hemorrhaging yards.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:18am

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.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:29pm

Sounds like that car at the NASCAR race last night that was doing well until
its tire caught fire and exploded.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:37pm

Yep, that's basically what metaphorically happened in the 2nd half in Pittsburgh. Sometimes that happens and the defense plays well enough to eke out a win. Yesterday was not one of those times.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:23am

"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.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:03pm

This describes Seahawks fans' feelings between 2006-2011

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:27am

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.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:38pm

I thought it was revealed recently that Tannehill isn't allowed to audible? Seems like there wasn't much to do.

by rageon :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:28pm

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.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:02pm

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.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:47pm

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.

by Llamaherder (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:07pm

You both described the exact same thing, so I don't think he's confused.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:55pm

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.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:02pm

Did 'adjusting the pass protection' fall under this definition?
I mean telling the back to 'block that guy instead of inside out' is hardly an audible.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:30am

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.

The man with no sig

by rich006 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:51am

People who think it was a legal hit are probably seeing that Brooks's hand hit Brees's shoulder pad. I think the penalty was because part of Brooks's arm hit Brees in the neck.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:24pm

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.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:05pm

I do understand the defender's challenge in dealing with a player so much shorter. It's hard at that speed to recalibrate and not inadvertently make contact with a head where you are so much taller.

by rturb (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:27pm

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.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:40pm

Since full speed is the actual real speed, I'd rather say it looked a lot better than it was in slow motion.

The man with no sig

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:41pm

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.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:54pm

"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.)

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:37pm

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

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:45pm

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:

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.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:21pm

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.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:27pm

I don't understand why people are questioning the Kap non-grounding call, he was outside where the tackle lined up. There isn't much more to say.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:37pm

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

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:52pm

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.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:08pm

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.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:54pm

I agree about the Gore drop. It's been killing the niners recently. I think they've dropped ten passes in the past two weeks, which is far too many for a team that doesn't throw very much.

by Chill (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:31pm

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.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:35pm

I thought that drive only led to a field goal. So unless I'm misremembering, even if that's not called roughing, the likely scenario is overtime, rather than a 49ers regulation loss.

by ChuckC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:20pm

If roughing wasn't called, it would have been 49ers ball. Brees fumbled and the 49ers recovered. They were up 3 and there was about 3 minutes left. Worst case there is they go to overtime.

by zzyzx :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:27pm

"Brees grounding was 100% true and obvious."

I didn't think so for one reason. At the time of the pass he wasn't in imminent danger. I'm not offended by the call, but wouldn't call it 100% true and obvious.

by dbirtchnell (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:35pm

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.

by theslothook :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:47pm

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.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:50pm

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.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:57pm

It certainly was close. If the penalty on Brooks hadn't been called, the 49ers would have had the ball and the lead with about 3 minutes left.

We've reached the point of the season where everybody has key players banged up.

by milo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:36pm

"swinging their heads at defenders"


by Some Random Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:10pm

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!

by Tim F. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:34pm

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.)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:41am

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.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:49am

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.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:16pm

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.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:22pm

Absolutely. Green Bay is very pleased with Mike Daniels, also of Iowa

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:02pm

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?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:20pm

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.

by Sander :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:53pm

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.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:01pm

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.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:51am


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.


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.

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:13pm

Kap... Perhaps a more talented Tebow.

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:21pm

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.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:12pm

It was a problem with Smith too, though it might be a little worse with Kap.

by greybeard :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 12:46am

Come on now. A little bit worse? You shouldn't hold giving the credit to Kap to taking it a whole new level by causing what 3 timeouts a game to avoid delay of game penalties?

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 1:41pm

My point is that I can remember the exact same thing under Smith. Sando wrote articles about it back in 2011. Yes, Kap is else at it than Smith but when it's been two different qbs it's more likely to be a system thing.

by greybeard :: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 12:28am

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..

by beargoggles :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 2:28am

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.

by coremill :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:32pm

Late in the 4th quarter, SF had to burn a timeout on first down coming out of a commercial break following a change of possession. Totally unacceptable.

by milo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:38pm

Earwitness here. It was really loud.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:15pm

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.

by milo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:27pm

They did give him a play. By the time he got back to the huddle, you couldn't hear someone shouting into your ear.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:42pm

A really fast Derek Anderson isn't really any worse than a new Matt Cassel.

The Chiefs are winning in spite of Smith, not because of him. He's not a good quarterback.

by Chill (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:40pm

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.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:40pm

"The vast majority of teams would be better off with [Alex Smith] than with their current starter".

I wouldn't say a majority, let alone vast. Some, sure.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:02pm

He rates 21st in DYAR and 22nd in DVOA. Between Brady and Griffin, both of whom are having poor seasons compared to last year.

I agree, I wouldn't say majority. It's closer to a third.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:34pm

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.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:03pm

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.

by greybeard :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 12:40am

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.

by nath :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 4:45am

Being efficient on low usage doesn't make you a better quarterback than a guy you can build a team around. Saying Alex Smith is better than Roethlisberger is preposterous.

by theslothook :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 5:18am

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...

Tampa Bay
St. Louis
NY Jets

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.

by greybeard :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 10:54pm

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.

by theslothook :: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 4:08am

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.

by greybeard :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 11:24pm

Double post.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:11pm

"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.)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:16pm

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.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:51pm

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.

by Dennis :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:53pm

Regardless of whether he was in the pocket, he wasn't in the endzone so it wouldn't have been a safety anyway. It still would've been a big loss, but the Saints and fans still wouldn't have gotten the safety they wanted.

by Dr. Context (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:16pm

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.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:39pm

Ike has the be the all time career leader in dropped interceptions at this point. I'm always so surprised when he doesn't drop one that I do a double take.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:47pm

His birth certificate lists his last name as "Taylor Wasn't Able To Hold Onto The Ball."

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:12pm

His gravestone will be topped with a carving of hands.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:34pm

But isn't it only unforced forward fumbles that are spotted at the place of the fumble?

by DGL :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:38pm

"...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.

by Dr. Might Have Missed a Rule Change (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:45pm

Did the rule change after the 1995 San Diego-Miami playoff game?


by Travis :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:29pm

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.

by Dr. Context (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:16pm

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.

by EricL :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:18pm

I thought the re-spot was only when the fumbling team recovered it?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:28pm

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!!!"

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:35pm

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?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:41pm

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.

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:47pm

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.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:48pm

Exactly. The question probably should be, with the game on the line, why didn't they toss it up to Megatron on 1st and 2nd down beforehand?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:58pm

"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.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:45pm

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.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:51pm

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.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:50pm

For reasons that are unclear to me, Pittsburgh has been pulling a left-defense side defender off the LOS and running him to the defensive right backfield on field goals. I saw them do it at least once earlier in the game.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:35pm

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?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:44pm

"Am I wrong?" Very probably. The huge disparity in their records has to come from somewhere.

The man with no sig

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:59pm

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.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:09pm

BUF was also missing it's best corner, best safety and best QB for the majority of the season. With all healthy I think I would take them over the Chiefs.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:44pm

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

by Bevo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:01pm

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.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:11pm

"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.

by D2K :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:03pm

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.

by Rick S (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:21pm

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

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:58pm

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.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:58pm

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.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 12:59pm

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.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:31pm

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.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:37pm

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.

by copronymus :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:13pm

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-explain...

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:49pm

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.

by TomC :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 12:03pm

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.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:10pm

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.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:46pm

"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.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:08pm

Back in playoff contention? They're still in contention this year, somehow.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 8:41am

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

From http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5085451-74/roethl... :

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.”

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 9:20am

"On a scale of 1 to 10, it's like a minus-1 million."

Can I see the calibration sticker on that scale?

by georgebowles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:24pm

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%.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:37pm

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).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:13pm

At Cutler's current health level, yes McCown is better. But when Cutler is totally healthy, you can't seriously think there's a comparison. As another poster noted, Cutler's play tends to be more high variance, but low variance =/= "good" (see Smith, Alex).

by georgebowles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:28pm

every season the Lions get a chance it seems like they find ways to blow it... after that Steelers game, it seems that this is not going to change this year, even with the Bears and Packers having severe injury problems.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:56pm

Being a Lions fan is like being Icarus. The second you dare to dream, the Lions fly too close to the sun and their wings melt off.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:31pm

I know it's hard to think this way when you're a Lions fan, but: 1) there are basically no long-term consequences to yesterday's loss (it was a non-conference game, and Detroit still has all the tiebreakers); 2) your team is still the odds-on favorite to win the division and has the talent to make some noise in the playoffs. Games like yesterday's are frustrating, but they don't necessarily mean that much.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:07pm

On an intellectual level, what you're saying makes sense. But on an emotional level, I'm having flashbacks of the mid-1990's Barry Sanders teams that would consistently make the playoffs, and just as consistently get unceremoniously bounced in the Wildcard round.

After the 27 point 2nd quarter yesterday, I was dreaming about competing with New Orleans for the 2nd seed. Two sloppy, scoreless quarters later, I saw Jim Schwartz slowly morphing into Wayne Fontes.

Oh well, at least it's better than the Millen years.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:09pm

Wayne Fontes *is* the most successful Lions coach since Joe Schmidt.

He was often good for a late season 5-1 stretch against an easy schedule, though. Detroit could use one of those right now.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:25pm

Don't get me wrong, I would definitely take 11-5 and a division title, but yesterday's game was a harsh reminder that I should limit my expectations.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:17pm

They won't hold tiebreakers over the Packers unless the Lions win their game together on Thanksgiving. The problem for the Lions is that as soon as Rodgers comes back, the Packers are quite likely to win all or close to all their games down the stretch. The Lions should be hoping to build up as much of a lead as possible before that.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:04pm

As a Packers fan, one of my big concerns is that the Lions will finally figure out that they have as much talent on the roster as the 49ers do and then start playing at that level. Then I remember the owner doesn't like to make changes to bad coaches or front offices, and I feel better. The front office seems fixed. Can't say the same for the head coach.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 1:47pm

The only positive of Green Bay continued struggles is the absence of the resident Packer nuisance in the Audibles. I am legitimately torn between GB enduring more ugliness to their season or having to suffer through his inevitable return once GB wins again.

Yes, he's that annoying. At least to me.

by Nut Job (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:46pm


by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:49pm

If you go back several weeks of Audibles you will find of whom I write. It's obvious.

I suspect that if I name a poster outright the admins will be displeased

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:10pm

I'm a Packers fan and I feel the same. I have called him out by name in past years too, but the message never gets through. I've not posted topics that I wanted real discussion on in the past because I figured I would get his response and it would degenerate rapidly.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 2:16pm

Alex Smith to Donnie Avery is the new Elvis Grbac to Lake Dawson.

Best line of the entire column.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:08pm

I think it is quite likely that GB right now is the Worst team in the league. Right now, a strong chance exists that they will lose @home to MINN next week unless Rodgers returns. Only prob Jax and ATL could possibly stake a claim to being worse

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:17pm

That might be overstating it just a tad, and overreacting to two bad games.

Put another way, do you really think if you put a healthy Aaron Rodgers on Atlanta and Jacksonville, they would have been 5-2 after 7 games, given a similar schedule? I mean, he's great, but not superhuman.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:21pm

It's possible. While New York has a better run defense than MIN, GB has to have a running game because Tolzien will turn the ball over again, even if he does connect on a few 25+ yard plays as well. The defense is going to give up 20 points and a turn over or special teams mistake is going to give up 7 more. So GB needs to get to 30 points to have a chance at winning a game without Rodgers (and heck even with him). While MIN has a very erratic passing game, and the running game hasn't been great, GB's run defense has collapsed and they do still have Peterson.

I would pick them over JAX, ATL, and probably HOU still but that's about it. As others have pointed out, the porous D, and game management issues of the coach have been covered up by Rodgers for years. If the coach is going to run the ball into the line twice, even when it's clear that they have no run game, then expect a QB in his first start ever to convert on 3rd and long, well that's a game plan issue, and it's typical McCarthy. It used to show up when they were trying to run clock off at the end of games but failed to convert a single first down, when all they needed were one or two to seal the game. Rodgers could sometimes convert those anyway.

I had hoped that the loss of Rodger's would help the more obvious flaws get fixed but that was clearly just homerism.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 3:54pm

I have a hard time imagining them beating any team currently:

-Their Offense I do not believe can score 20+ They just played 3 average-bad Defenses and failed to hit 20 pts in any game (In the CHI game 3 pts came from a Rodgers Drive). They have yet to even reach 14 pts the last 2 games

-Their Defense cannot hold teams under 20 and also almost never forces Turnovers.

-Their ST's are OK.

It is possible that maybe they could beat Jax or ATL if they have given up hope on their season but both could be highly debated

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:00pm

If they play the Jets on the right week, they'd blow them out even with Tolzien's back-up, whoever that is.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:12pm

So you're saying if they catch the Jets on the the right week, and Tolzien gets injured, Matt Flynn could parlay an impressive performance into another huge contract, only to lose his job to Johnny Football in training camp next year.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:16pm

Especially since the Jets would sign him to compete with both Geno and Johnny Football.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:11pm

"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."

Really? Because only four teams gave kept Denver within 10 points, and only SD didn't start the week in 1st place.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:56pm

I didn't read it as Aaron saying the Chiefs are terrible. He said they're not as good as a 9-0 record would ordinarily imply.

As for the "they are who we thought they were" bit, I was actually struck by just how much that game went exactly as expected. Oftentimes, you should expect the unexpected in this situation, but not in this game. The Chiefs' D kept them from getting blown out, but they never threatened to win the game. I think the spread was 9, and they lost by 10. By that account, they were who we thought they were.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:35pm

Know what the difference was for Kansas City's offense in this game versus the first nine? They failed to score 3 or 7 off the gift fumble Denver handed them. That's when the fullback fumbled. So the Chiefs probably put up their usual 20-24 points had they capitalized on that like they have all year.

But the subpar offensive line, lack of big plays and Alex Smith's general mediocrity (being kind even) were par for the course.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:31pm

"and only SD didn't start the week in 1st place."

Wow, that's quite some spin to pretend Dallas is a good team; Denver's schedule has just been chock full of cupcakes as Kansas City's.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:02pm

There's only a handful of great teams this year, and Dallas is like a rich-man's Jets this year -- Denver beat the good version of Dallas.

It's not like KC played badly. Indy "held" them to 33.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:11pm

Aaron, I think you are overreacting to one game about Austin Howard. According to PFF, he's been their best lineman this year, not D'Brickashaw or Mangold. Yes, he played terrible yesterday, as did the offensive line, Geno, the secondary, etc. But their bad sack numbers are pretty much Geno's fault. His Lewin projection aside, I'm starting to think that he's not the guy.
Perhaps I'm just impatient, since the Jets really haven't had consistent quality quarterback play since Namath, while your team has pretty much had that since Bledsoe got drafted. It's been two good years for Todd, an amazing year and a half for O'Brien, two years of good Vinny interupted by a season ending injury in the first game in 1999, about 3 to 4 good years from Pennington if you take away the time missed to injuries. Even when the team picks someone good, he's only got a couple years before the arm falls off. I had a lot of hope for Geno, but man he looks bad right now. It's hard to have any hope right now.

by theslothook :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 4:56pm

I think a big part of Danny's frustration is born out from failed expectations. 2 years ago, the 49ers were the current chiefs. So naturally, the next year they were expected to regress big time. But they didn't, instead they progressed and kaep burst onto the scene and was sensational. The general impression I was getting from 49er fans wasn't paulm hyperbole, but there seemed to be view that harbaugh was the next bill walsh and kaep the next steve young. I hate to bring up old Danny posts, but his ordered universe essentially suggested that the 49ers could only lose by being jobbed by the refs. That implies to me that the 49ers are on paper a better team than just about anyone and their talent can overcome every bad bounce except poor reffing. Well, this 49er team is a far cry from that, so I can understand where Danny is coming from.

As far as the game, I have to admit, this is the first time I have serious doubts about Kaep's long term potential. I know his o line had its poor moments, but I just kept seeing kaep playing fast, staring down receivers, refusing to take checkdowns, etc. Are those all things we should expect him to correct? I'm not ready to write him off by any means, but it does raise an interesting question of what direction the 49ers go in. Initially, idea was the 49ers had their hands on a bright star and should build around him offensively as much as possible. If he's more alex smith than drew brees, then maybe its wiser to build a better run game and defense instead.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:07pm

Hehe. Yeah, please don't ever bring up old Danny posts. Stream-of-consciousness writing ages like bread, not wine (http://youtu.be/MgbmySfhFFI). But, no, I think you have me figured out about right. I'd just state it slightly differently.

My frustration boils down to a few things that have a difficult time coexisting in my brain:

1) For all that's gone wrong at certain times, far more has gone right in the Harbaugh era. I just hate playing the "fire Roman" or "Kaepernick sucks" game when the situation was so, so, so much worse 4 years ago.

2) Against good teams, it's baked into Harbaugh's philosophical cake that he's going to try to eke out close victories. Off the top of my head, I can't remember them blowing out an upper-echelon team since he's been the head coach, and all of these NO-esque matchups look incredibly similar in terms of game flow. Considering the 49ers' success over the past three seasons, it's reasonable to conclude that his philosophy has been vindicated. Therefore, fans are on shaky ground criticizing it, and hence I revert back to #1 above. Do I think it's optimal strategy to amplify the importance of every play such that a random crappy call by a referee or a random miscue by a player sabotages a win (or a Super Bowl berth or a Super Bowl title)? No. But who the hell am I to judge?

3) And yet, I still can't shake the idea that, if you're going to make a conscious, philosophical choice to play these games close to the vest, and put victory in the hands of randomness or decisions outside your control, then you absolutely cannot squander situational value over and over and over with respect to things within your control. You can't botch challenges. You can't waste timeouts. When it's 4th-and-1 at the Carolina 2-yard line, you can't kick a damn field goal. You can't telegraph plays to the point where even I know you're running on second-and-long. If you choose to play with a slim margin for error between the lines, then you have to maximize that margin outside the lines. They're not doing that, and I think it's worthy of scorn.

by coremill :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:52pm

"Off the top of my head, I can't remember them blowing out an upper-echelon team since he's been the head coach."

Your memory is not that good. They destroyed Green Bay in the playoffs last year. They also routed a good Chicago team (finished 6th overall in DVOA) on Monday night in Kaepernick's first start. That's two. They've had plenty of blow-out wins over mediocre/crappy teams teams (they won five straight earlier this year by 25, 31, 12, 14, and 32). The idea that the team is flawed because they don't consistently blow out upper-echelon teams is silly. Nobody in the NFL is good enough to consistently blow out upper-echelon teams. The Niners have problems but not because their philosophy is preventing them from blowing out good teams.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:06pm

I would not call the GB game a blowout or say GB got destroyed in any way.

1)GB Had the Lead after the 1st Quarter- No Blowout Yet

2)SF had a 3 Point Lead at Halftime-Still Very Close

3)GB ties the Game and then SF scores a TD, SF leads by 7 after 3-Still Very Close

4)SF goes up 14, then scores a TD to go up 21 to put game away, SF wins by 14

GB got torched by SF's D, but a game that is tight through 57 Minutes and ends with a 14 Point Loss is definitely not 1 team getting Destroyed

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:09pm

*Meant to say GB's D got torched but it was still a very tight game throughout the vast majority of the game"

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:02pm

I was at the GB/SF playoff game and by halftime I knew GB was going to lose as did everyone in the stands. The Niners were so obviously better in every way to GB it was baffling to think that GB was a playoff team. The gap between the two teams that day was enormous.

However it looked on television it was magnified 100 times in person. Watching BJ Raji spin his wheels in the middle of the line, watching the offensive line with their ole blocking schemes with only Rodgers slithering keeping him from getting killed and then of course the topper being a bewildered Walden looking north as the runner goes that day was no contest.

by coremill :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 9:54am

The first half was close, sure. But SF scored on the first play of the 4th quarter to go up by 14 and never trailed by fewer than that the rest of the game. SF also out gained GB by more than 200 yards and it was clear in the 2nd half that GB had no chance of stopping them. It was not that close.

by coremill :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 9:54am

The first half was close, sure. But SF scored on the first play of the 4th quarter to go up by 14 and never trailed by fewer than that the rest of the game. SF also out gained GB by more than 200 yards and it was clear in the 2nd half that GB had no chance of stopping them. It was not that close.

by AJ (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:54pm

I think what Danny means to say is, harbaugh's philosophy has always been do what we do regardless of the opponent. Ie...establish the run and play good defense regardless of what the opponents strength and weaknesses are. Obv, context within the game can change that, but the pre game philosphies, with regards to the offense, never seem to change. This seems to be the opposite of the Ne approach, whos philosophies are very matchup based. Remember that mon night game vs the vikes and the famed.Williams wall? Bb didnt.even try to run and just threw and threw. Harbaugh instead might be content to play a slug it out game anyways and expect to win. A wins a win but is that really being optimal? I think Danny izls saying no.

by coremill :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 9:48am

This isn't accurate either. SF came out throwing a lot at the start of the year. It worked against Green Bay (a game that looks increasingly bizarre 10 weeks later -- how on earth did this offense have 400 yards passing?) but backfired miserably against Seattle and Indy. At that point, most of the fan base was mad that they weren't running the ball enough and that Gore wasn't getting enough touches.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 11/19/2013 - 11:03pm

If my (bad) memory serves me correctly, the Bears had Jason friggin' Campbell at QB that game. That's why I didn't mention it. As far as the GB playoff game goes, the score was tied 24-24 midway through the 3rd quarter. I'll agree that they blew them out for the final 22 minutes of the game, though.

But more generally, I didn't say they should consistently be blowing out good teams. And my point wasn't that their philosophy is preventing them from blowing out good teams. In terms of the issue I'm concerned about, whether or not they blow out good teams is largely irrelevant (though certainly welcome, of course). Just brought that up as an aside. My point was that, if you're going to have a philosophy predicated on playing low-variance strategies against good teams, thereby giving yourself a small margin for error, you can't be screwing up no-brainer game management stuff.

Here's an analogy:

If I'm playing poker heads up for a WSOP bracelet, and I think my opponent is also very good, but slightly worse than I am, I might very well choose a low-variance strategy, prolonging the matchup as long as possible so that my superior talent/skill/whatever wins out in the end. In that situation, it's perfectly fine given the randomness of the game if I lose because I made a bad read or ran into a cooler or took a bad beat or got outplayed or anything like that. It is an absolute disaster, and absolutely unacceptable if I lose because I misread the cards on the board three times.

by Ryan D. :: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 10:48am

"Hell yeah, give me the bracelet and the money! I've got a STRAIGHT FLUSH!


I thought those were spades on the table. Those were CLUBS!?!?!?!


by coremill :: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 12:36pm

The Bears did start Jason Campbell at QB, but they also had the #1 DVOA defense bya huge margin. SF ran up a 27-0 lead with only 3 points off turnovers and 4 scoring drives of 60+ yards. They thoroughly dominated the best defense in the league.

I understand your main point, I just think your premise is wrong. I just don't buy that Harbaugh follows an especially low-variance strategy. At a big picture level, certainly starting Kaepernick over Smith last year was an extreme high-variance move. They played more low-variance in 2011, partly because that suited Smith's skill-set (his most valuable skill is avoiding turnovers), partly because they just didn't have the weapons on offense. But in the 2011 playoffs, they weren't playing especially low-variance. And since then, I don't see it at all. If anything, I think their passing game is too high-variance because it over-emphasizes lower-percentage down-field throws. Kaep has consistently had a low completion percentage but high Y/A and high Y/C (this year he's 31st in Comp %, 16th in Y/A, and 6th in Y/C). The same was true last year. This suggests a more boom/bust approach rather than a risk-averse low-variance strategy.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 11/20/2013 - 2:30pm

That's fair. You make good points in paragraph 2 about the bigger picture. I'd just say that kicking a FG on 4th and 1 at the CAR 2 in a 6-0 game is about as risk-averse as it gets. And, in fact, there's a stat I mentioned to Barnwell after his TYFNC column earlier in the season where Harbaugh has chosen FG 9 out of 9 times SF's had 4th-and-short in the red zone during the first three quarters. If you expand that out to the opponent 30-yard line (http://pfref.com/tiny/cDUBg), he's gone for it 2 of 16 times, both in about the most "duh" situations you can imagine:

1) At home against one of the worst teams ever (2013 Jaguars)
2) On the road against one of the best offenses ever (2012 Pats)

by Jimmy :: Thu, 11/21/2013 - 12:43pm

The Bears used the dumbest defensive gameplan I ever saw in the Lovie Smith era. Man free all day, an infant could have read that defense that day. Then simply throw to Vernon Davis as the Bears linebackers couldn't run with him.

That fact that the coaches locked the players in the locker room for a players only meeting after the coaches had gotten thoroughly schooled is amongst my reasons for why the deserved to be sacked after going 10-6.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 5:41pm

I find it amusing that almost all of the "experts" who were hyping RG3, Wilson, and Kaep in the Offseason barely mentioned that a large portion of their success was at least to some degree built around a semi gimmicky offense than many teams had no idea last year how to defend. Now, when having to make reads/progressions/accurate throws from the pocket they are struggling mightily.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 6:24pm

RG3, Wilson, and Kaepernick all had good seasons last year. They collectively represented half of the NFC playoff teams.

Can't speak for the 49er or Seahawks offenses much, but I've seen a lot of RG3 this season, and the problem there isn't that a "gimmicky" offense has been exposed. The Redskins still have a run-first offense. And it works best when RG3 is one of the options in addition to Morris or Helu. For the first month or so, RG3 wasn't a credible option and defenses could focus on stopping the lead back.

Having said that, RG3's passing has been off. But the problem isn't either that the offense is too "gimmicky" or that he cannot read through his progressions. It's simpler: his accuracy sucks this year. This may relate to his difficulty planting his left leg with the massive knee brace on it. Or it may be a deeper problem. In any case, his accuracy is off from where it was last season. During the course of the game, he missed wide-open receivers at least three times. And the game-ending interception was supposed to be a throw out of the end zone. At least, that's what he said after the game, and given the lack of any Redskin in that area, I believe him. But he threw it off his heels and got no strength to the throw.

He's completing 59.7% of his passes, compared to 65.6% last season. And he already has twice as many picks (10 to 5). But I really think this comes down to his physical condition and not to any intrinsic flaw to the offense. And it's not that defenses have "learned how to stop them." The receivers were wide open several times yesterday and he missed them.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 9:00pm

One reason he appears less accurate is that is WR's are no longer running wide open as much compared to last year and there is far less to fear blitzing him, which is why he has been blitzed way, way, way more often.

Unless one assumes his injury is making him less accurate (which then should return) the other seemingly plausible explanation i that he has tighter windows/less time to throw the ball which is making him appear to be less accurate

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:08pm

Foles is running that same offense. He's your DVOA leader.

RG3 likely still has a gimpy knee. Ask Palmer how those go. I also noticed the conspicuous absence of Russell Wilson from your list. Kaep... Kaep it seems was riding the back of a really good team and has been exposed as a Flynn.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:16pm

As a Seahawks fan I can only hope that a 105.1 QB Rating, 8.6 yards per attempt, 20+% DVOA passing offense, and 10-1 record represent a "struggling" Russel Wilson.

He's still below league average in inches of height, but there aren't too many other statistical low points to pick on in his game.

by formido :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 7:22pm

Wilson is "struggling mightily"? I believe after yesterday he has the 4th best passer rating in the NFL and much higher year over year to this point.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:57pm

He has definitely struggled compared to last year. His DVOA last year was close to Rodgers, this year it is only slightly ahead of Bradford and has dropped from 6th in DVOA to 11th.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 8:36pm

"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."

To put it another way, the Bills are in 14th place in the AFC now… which puts them only 1.5 games outside of a playoff spot. It's going to be entertaining seeing how that race shakes out, particularly since so many of the contenders have games against each other. Normally I would say whoever gets that sixth spot would be almost irrelevant because it would mean an immediate dismissal in the playoffs, but this year the Patriots, Colts, and Bengals are all close enough to mediocrity and inconsistent enough that there could be an upset. Anyone got any predictions as to who gets that final spot?

by Alternator :: Mon, 11/18/2013 - 11:59pm

Florida State.