Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Audibles at the Line: Week 12
Audibles at the Line: Week 12
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

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

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

Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 49ers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 at Detroit Lions 21


@MilkmanDanimal: Mike Glennon continues to look disturbingly like an actual NFL QB, and I may need to send him a letter of apology.
Vince Verhei: TB using J.Banks to cover C.Johnson. Great news for Johnson fantasy owners.
@MilkmanDanimal: Stafford's 3 INTs today are just part of the issue; he's had to throwaways that landed in-bounds. Consistently, very bad decisions.
Mike Ridley: Bobby Rainey averaging 2.0 YPC one week after being named NFC OPOW.
@heygirlitsryan: Glennon to Underwood, just the way Schiano envisioned this season going.
Aaron Schatz: We may have been wrong about Mike Glennon.
Scott Kacsmar: I don't know anyone who was right on that one.
Andrew Potter: Greg Schiano.
Tom Gower: I blame the SI scribe hate jinx.
@nath_on_fire: I agreed with you guys- accuracy & pocket presence issues. But he has a gun & he's been improving every week, IMO.
@Mercurius100: The 5 teams that picked right before Glennon was taken and passed on him: Cle, AZ, Tenn, StL, NYJ.
@MilkmanDanimal: I may be a Bucs fan, but even I enjoy seeing other teams rush Tampa's victory formation. Seems appropriate.

Minnesota Vikings 26 at Green Bay Packers 26 (OT)


Andrew Potter: The spin move Scott Tolzien just put on Letroy Guion during his touchdown run has to be seen to be believed.
Scott Kacsmar: Tolzien should have did the championship belt after that rushing TD.
Mike Ridley: Matt Flynn Alert! Matt Flynn Alert!
@pchicola: Could it possible? A rematch of the 2012 New Year's High-Octane Bowl, between Flynn and Stafford for Thanksgiving ...
@nath_on_fire: The "Aaron Rodgers for MVP" campaign should be gaining steam after this game.
Vince Verhei: Meanwhile, in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers' mustache has reached Don Frye status.
Aaron Schatz: Eddie Lacy really brings the wood when he puts that shoulder into you.
Aaron Schatz: Twitter is filled with negative comments about Matt Flynn, yet he just brought the Packers within 4, 23-19 pending XP. It may have turned out Flynn isn't good enough to be a starter in this league, but the dude is better than Scott Tolzien.
Scott Kacsmar: Aaron Rodgers has 5 4QC where the deficits combined add up to 16 points. Matt Flynn trying to lead 16-pt comeback vs. MIN.
Aaron Schatz: What a play by James Jones to come back to an under thrown pass on 4th-6.
Aaron Schatz: Just saw Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines. That mustache is definitely traveling in Grill Class.
@MilkmanDanimal: Christian Ponder absolutely looks like a viable NFL QB as long as the ball doesn't need to go more than 15 yards down the field.
@BrandontheFick: 4th-and-goal from the 2 on the first drive of OT. Is it crazy that I would think about going for it?
Scott Kacsmar: I wonder how aggressive McCarthy would be here if he didn't know DET/CHI both lost. Tie still has value. Not so much if both won.
@MilkmanDanimal: Christian Ponder Hail Mary attempt upcoming. Begin playing "Yakety Sax" now.
Aaron Schatz: Because of tie in GB-MIN game, NFC North title will be thrown to the House of Representatives.


Rivers McCown: Really proud that, in Week 12, Minnesota finally made Cordarrelle Patterson a featured part of the offense. Unfortunately with Ponder under center, that offense has a range of about 15 yards, but it's something.

I couldn't believe how bad M.D. Jennings looked in this game.

Jacksonville Jaguars 13 at Houston Texans 6


@MichaelEdits: Johnny Manziel is watching Jacksonville at Houston, and thinking another year of college sure sounds good.
@nath_on_fire: 1 target to Andre Johnson so far. Was it Rivers who said Kubiak's dream drive is "get to 3rd-and-3 and hope to convert"? He's right.
Cian Fahey: Case Keenum really struggling early in the first quarter. Could see Schaub soon, already more reason this week than last
Rivers McCown: Brice McCain or Brandon Harris? The answer ... is No.
Cian Fahey: I'm not a fan of Jedd Fisch's offense.
Rivers McCown: Case Keenum should just take shotgun snaps from a punt formation. Save himself some scrambling effort.
Rivers McCown: The good news for people hoping for Texans tanking is that Kubiak is auto-tuned to always take the field goal.
@nath_on_fire: I really think Gary Kubiak coaches like he doesn't care if Texans win or lose. And yet, not even least inspiring head coach on staff.
Cian Fahey: Major concerns about Keenum based on this game.
@nath_on_fire: On the bright side, Keenum's deficiencies are making it easier to replace him with Teddy Bridgewater next year.
@nath_on_fire: Huh, what do you know? Good things happen when you throw to Andre Johnson. Eight years and Kubiak hasn't figured this out.
Rivers McCown: The most Keshawn Martin moment.
Vince Verhei: I feel the need to point out that Houston is now behind Jacksonville in the AFC South.
Andrew Potter: How does anybody possibly fail to score a touchdown against the 2013 Jaguars, never mind lose to them at home?
Rivers McCown: Watching your favorite team not score a touchdown against the 2013 Jaguars is a great way to kickstart your interest in nihilism


Cian Fahey: This was the first real game where you had to worry about Case Keenum's long-term potential. The undrafted rookie looked a bit lifeless and while it fits the narrative too well and there is no hard evidence to prove it, he did appear to have no confidence after last week's benching.

Outside of Keenum, the real story of this season is just how bad the Texans defense is. Obviously Ed Reed didn't work out and Danieal Manning isn't there, but the lack of any consistent quality around J.J. Watt and the lacklustuer displays of Johnathan Joseph on a weekly basis are causes for real concern moving into 2014.

Rivers McCown: Joseph is not up to his usual norm this year, no, but I have a hard time blaming him for anything when he's lined up next to Brice McCain and Brandon Harris. Without Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin, this secondary has gone from "exploitable by good teams" to "ick" really fast. The fact that Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed are complete zeros in pass rush against every non-Jaguars offensive line hurts, too.

I'll be a little bombastic and say that while Keenum was awful in the context of this game, I don't think he was necessarily the problem. The fact that he can't tear up the Jaguars is indicative of the fact that he's probably not a future starter, but the fact that he struggled mightily in this game is a failure of coaching to me. Jacksonville was all over the route combinations the Texans like to use. How Keenum can go from very good with a simplified offense to looking like crap without a lot of pistol concepts and more time to get "used" to what the Texans are running makes me think the Texans are running the wrong things.

Someone asked me about Rick Smith's job security on Twitter, assuming Kubiak is already canned. Rick Smith walks around with a card that says "I drafted J.J. Watt eleventh overall" on it. I'm not necessarily saying he's unimpeachable, but he's flubbed on two first-round picks since 2007, and even those guys showed some signs early in their careers. I'd like to see him get one more year. But I'm not going to weep for him if he's gone.

There, another three paragraphs spent on a team that didn't deserve them.

San Diego Chargers 41 at Kansas City Chiefs 38


Tom Gower: Alex Smith having success throwing intermediate & deep this game. Just SD's league-worst D or KC changing offensive profile?
@coboney: Both. Smith seems to be pushing it downfield more - probably emphasis after last week. And Chargers can't stop it.
Tom Gower: I've mostly gotten over Rivers looking hinky, but today watching him today reminds me of watching Dan Fouts in the Freezer Bowl
Tom Gower: Keenan Allen has 11 targets on 17 Rivers attempts. That's trust.
Tom Gower: I'm trying to come up with a better word, but Gilchrist/Te'o "coverage" on that Fasano TD was clownish. SD D still a trainwreck.
@ramdog7: Think you might have found your QB DVOA winner this week. Rivers putting on a clinic out there
Mike Ridley: Jamaal Charles just made Manti Te'o look like he was facing Alabama again.
Tom Gower: Jamaal Charles is good, in case you've forgotten. Gets a ton of extra yards with moves at the second level.
@dingerc: McCoy and Reid playing who can mismanage the clock better. McCoy doesn't call TO when he should/Reid calls one when he shouldn't. McCoy could have saved 15 secs but didn't. Reid could have taken 15 more off clock and didn't.
Aaron Schatz: The look on Philip Rivers' face as KC scored to take yet another lead. "Man my defense sucks."
@Broncfan07: The look on Alex Smith's face as SD scored to re-take the lead late: "Man, wasn't our defense supposed to be good?"
@dingerc: KC secondary could not hold up without a pass rush today. KC needs to get healthy in a hurry.


Tom Gower: I missed the ending of this game, flipping away to Raiders-Titans when that kicked off at 3:05 CT. What I saw was a Chiefs defense that had some coverage weaknesses exposed after both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston went down with injuries. Philip Rivers had time to throw, and found an awful lot of open receivers over the middle, especially on crossing routes. The Marcus Cooper, Human Target trend continued for a while, but it wasn't just him. Yes, Rivers, Quintin Demps was involved, notably on Ladarius Green's long touchdown.

Offensively, Jamaal Charles is still great, especially in terms of making a move at the second level to turn a modest gain into a longer one. Alex Smith threw downfield at the intermediate and deeper levels much more than he has in other games, including in the first half, with reasonable success though he did make one costly interception into double coverage. How much of that was a game plan specific to the worst defense in the league by our numbers, and how much was Andy Reid consciously adapting the offense after we saw last week against Denver that what they had been doing wasn't going to be enough to cut it? Something to watch in the weeks to come.

Rivers McCown: *in convulsions, remembering Quintin Demps' 2012 season*

Kansas City is sort of interesting to me because I think you can argue that outside of the Eric Fisher pick, just about everything that has happened to them so far has been from the land of best-case scenarios. A big problem I had with them going for it on the Alex Smith trade is that I just didn't think they were good enough to be a favorite in the playoffs if they managed their best-case scenario. The lack of a real receiver outside of Dwayne Bowe is glaring.

...So, seriously, can Atlanta just waive Tony Gonzalez?

Carolina Panthers 20 at Miami Dolphins 16


@MilkmanDanimal: 6 players touched that tipped pass, none of them were Tannehill's intended receiver. INT
@pchicola: For M.Wallace to get a TD, 2things have to happen: Tannenhill needs 5+ Mississippis of protection, & one-on-one coverage for #11.
Aaron Schatz: Mike Wallace just destroying Captain Munnerlyn with raw speed today.
Mike Ridley: Horrible defense by Miami, letting the #Panthers gain 29 yards with :08 left to get in FG position at end of the half.
Scott Kacsmar: Panthers' last win when trailing by 12+ points: 10/11/2009 (down 17-2 vs. WAS, won 20-17). Trailed 16-3 today.
@nath_on_fire: Ted Ginn with a great reminder of why you shouldn't use a top-10 pick on a wide receiver if you're not sure he can catch.
Vince Verhei: Panthers with a Newton run for a fourth-and-1 conversion. Go Ron go!
@WhispersMoCo: Riverboat Ron's Panthers just converted 4th and 10 from their own 20! Check for a giant pod in his backyard.
@Daniels_Ryan: RiverboatRon plays %s correctly on 4th&10, down by 3 late, w/ only1 TO left. Go for it, if fail, Miami probably kicks FG.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 at Cleveland Browns 11


Scott Kacsmar: Steelers don't have to travel far to get to Cleveland and Baltimore (Thanksgiving), but this is unusual scheduling for road games.
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers just wasted a timeout to save 5 yards after the 4th-down hard count didn't work. Blah.
Scott Kacsmar: Steelers are getting zero pass rush on third down. Browns picking things up with ease.
Scott Kacsmar: Jason Campbell slow to get up. That sound you hear from the crowd has an "AAAHHH WEEDEN!" feel to it.
Mike Ridley: Brandon Weeden's voodoo doll strikes again. Campbell being examined on the sideline.
@MulEdgeGJJ: Brandon Weeden will not go away! has there ever been a player so unwanted but keeps coming back?
@nath_on_fire: Is Brandon Weeden some kind of hypnosis/voodoo master? "You will draft me 1st round even though I'm 28" "Other Browns QBs, get hurt!"
Mike Ridley: Antonio Brown has more yards against Joe Haden in the first half (83) than A.J. Green had in eight quarters (58)
Cian Fahey: This week will say Joe Haden was roasted for the first time this season, Jordy Nelson and AJ Green (first meeting) already did though
@THEOSU7: Jason Campbell just got destroyed in his head and two officials in the backfield miss it. Drew Brees gets hit in the shoulder pads ...
Mike Ridley: Like his passes, Weeden's needle placement was off on his first attempt. Tries again, courtesy of William Gay
Scott Kacsmar: Browns run QB sneak with Weeden to convert 4th-and-1. Steelers refuse to do the same with Roethlisberger. Maddening.
Mike Ridley: Ben Roethlisberger kicks left-footed? Who knew?
@THEOSU7: I'm not particularly sure how much worse a street QB would be than Weeden. Or Armanti Edwards.
@THEOSU7: I can't wait for Quick Reads to find out how great the disparity is between Gordon's DYAR and Campbell/Weeden's.


Scott Kacsmar: Not all is lost for the Steelers when they're still able to thoroughly dominate the Browns. Troy Polamalu and William Gay forced four takeaways. The Browns never showed any threat of a running game, so while Josh Gordon finished with 14 catches for 237 yards, most of that damage was done in garbage time. Whether it was Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden (off the bench), the Browns couldn't sustain offense until it was 27-3 in the fourth quarter.

Ben Roethlisberger had another sharp and effective performance with no turnovers or sacks. Protection held up pretty well against a solid front and the running backs chipped in 96 yards on the ground. In summary, it was the best team performance the Steelers have had in 2013 (arguably the best since sometime in 2011).

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Chicago Bears 21 at St. Louis Rams 42


Mike Ridley: Tavon Austin strikes again. Fourth TD of season of 55 yards or more
Vince Verhei: Oh, look. Jeff Fisher's team is in a fight again.
@nath_on_fire: Jeff Fisher never gets enough heat for deliberately finding/drafting dirty players, encouraging Gregg Williams, etc.
@JoshReedBTG: So the fight in the Bears/Rams game is one example of why refs should call dead balls dead.
@WesMakin: You can't say the officials did a good job sorting out the chaos, when nothing would have happened if they'd blown the whistle
@ptmovieguy: CHI red zone failing + STL defensive flags = an existential exercise in goal line residency.
@pchicola: CHI inability to stop the run haunted them today. Eventually, they couldnt take so many injuries at LB.


Vince Verhei: Tavon Austin’s long touchdown will make the highlight shows, but just as important for St. Louis was the success they had grinding out yardage with Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy, especially protecting a second-half lead that was close most of the way. It seemed like every time the Rams handed off, they were gaining 6, 7, 8 yards a time. It was shocking for a team that had so many questions at running back coming into the season, and against a defense that had been at least OK coming into the game.

There was a sequence in the second half where Chicago ran about four dozen plays in the St. Louis red zone, unable to score, but kept alive by St. Louis penalties. The most egregious was a roughing the passer that negated a sack-fumble-touchdown. I guess they called it a helmet-to-helmet hit, but it sure looked like the pass rusher hit Josh McCown in the chest.

There was, of course, a fight in this game. The obvious story is that it pitted the Long Brothers against each other, like Bret and Owen Hart, but the real issue to me is that it was another case of Jeff Fisher’s team getting into trouble. It seems like they always finish near the top of the league in post-play pushing/shoving/general violence. Makes me wish we had fighting stats in football like they do in hockey.

Rivers McCown: It's less surprising when you realize that Chicago is running a complete skeleton crew on defense.

...I'm starting to worry that Josh McCown won't get a largely undeserved starting job next season that I can crow about.

New York Jets 3 at Baltimore Ravens 19


@GDFar: No amount of analysis could've predicted Tyrod Taylor read option plays or Josh Cribbs running the offense.
Scott Kacsmar: Ed Reed just broke up a Jacoby Jones TD. Has he already done more for the Jets than he did for the Houston Texans?
@alexknobel: Maybe Tandon Doss would be less hesitant to catch punts if he didn't grab them above his head.
Andrew Potter: Only seen 1 drive of BAL-NYJ, but in this drive the NYJ pass rush is making the BAL line look like 5 traffic cones.
@BeccaDannysWife: "I can't figure out which guy to throw to, so I'll split the difference" is NOT something said by any coach, ever, Flacco!
@TomKBaltimore: Ravens and Jets have apparently gone to halftime; stadium crowd being awakened to notify them.
Vince Verhei: I wrote in Upset Watch that Jets would have edge in third downs. They are now 0-for-7.
Aaron Schatz: This Tyrod Taylor option nonsense is totally the kind of thing that results in one big play and then a bunch of crap.
@TomKBaltimore: Can we PLEASE end the stupid Tyrod Taylor options plays before he gets killed?
Aaron Schatz: Hey, Ravens. The reason they are called "trick plays" is that the trick usually only works once.
Aaron Schatz: Looks like the Jets are starting to get some runs on the Ravens near the endof Q3.
Mike Ridley: Jets' roller coaster season seems to have finally reached it's big drop
Vince Verhei: Another Geno incompletion. CBS cameras now regularly showing Matt Simms on sideline.
Vince Verhei: In Geno's defense, Jets just dropped two passes, and now have five drops on the day.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets' offensive failure is a group exercise. Smith is awful under pressure, the receivers drop passes, and the OL looks awful


Vince Verhei: For many years, I really believed that Josh Cribbs was the best quarterback option in Cleveland, and that they’d be best off going to some kind of single wing/Wildcat attack full time. Now Cribbs is much slower and more beat up ... and darned if he might not still be the best quarterback option on the Jets. Still, it’s not all fair to blame this clown show entirely on Geno Smith — at one point the Jets had five drops and five receptions, which is, um, bad. But Smith had plenty of issues, and it’s clear from the play-calling that the Jets have little faith in him. Long-term, they have little choice but to cross their fingers and hope he develops in his second season. But I think there will be some temptation this offseason to grab a veteran passer and not let that defense go to waste. After all, they could still make the playoffs this year. Imagine what they could do with a guy who could pick up a third down once in a while.

Rivers McCown: Just kidding. Josh McCown: New York Jets starter.

Tennessee Titans 23 at Oakland Raiders 19


@THEOSU7: Matt McGloin has previous of me falling asleep while watching him play. He's the perfect Thanksgiving Day QB.
Tom Gower: Titans talked this week abt getting arms up to take away 6'1 McGloin's passing windows. Couple deflections on opening drive.
Tom Gower: That Zach Brown INT looked like one of his INTs v Chad Henne's Week 17 last year. QB just missed him over the middle.
Scott Kacsmar: Rich Gannon just called Kenny Britt a "waste of talent" and there's no debating that.
Tom Gower: #Titans & #Raiders came in 27th & 28th in FO ST rankings, Raiders looking better in that today, esp. after blocking punt.
Vince Verhei: Not sure Brandian Ross could have looked worse than he did on that long Justin Hunter TD.
Tom Gower: Titans been working the outside breaking routes from the slot a lot this season, both outs & jerk routes, with some success.
Rob Weintraub: Mike Munchak--all but fired last week, in the playoffs this week. That's today's NFL in a nutshell.


Tom Gower: About the game you'd expect between two defenses that are not great and two teams that are offensively challenged at times. Chris Johnson managed his usual 3.7 yards per carry gaining what was blocked. Matt McGloin looked okay at times -- the Titans didn't get nearly as much pressure on him as I thought they might, with no sacks and nary a quarterback hit either according to the early box score.

One of the themes of this game was offensive execution close to the opposing end zone, by which I mean there was damn little of it. The Titans' first touchdown came on a 54-yard play to Justin Hunter where All-KCW contender at safety Brandian Ross horribly misplayed his coverage and gave Hunter a boatload of run after catch. Until McGloin found Marcel Reece for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 19-16 lead, we'd had 10 possessions inside the opposing 40 with no trips to the end zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to march the Titans down the field and find Kendall Wright for the game-winning score from 10 yards out with :10 to play, though.

I thought Fitzpatrick had a very Fitzpatrick game. The short crossers they ran repeatedly against the Colts weren't open regularly, but they had some success with out-breaking routes from the slot, including jerk routes. The game-winning touchdown came on one. Wright went over 100 yards, as did the big surprise in the game, Justin Hunter. He of the sub-40 percent catch rate (one of three entering this weekend with at least 15 targets, along with Santonio Holmes and Kenny Britt) that caught all 6 of his targets for 109 yards. Britt had two drops today.

Vince Verhei: This feels like as good a place as any to mention this: Has anybody noticed just how awful the bulk of the AFC is? There’s the five halfway good teams that are going to make the playoffs, and then 11 scrubs, one of which is going to get a wild card berth by default. Personally, I’m much less interested in the last month of the regular season than usual, and I’m fully ready to skip December and just starts the playoffs already. It does make a big difference, though, between the three and four seed. The four seed will probably get KC, while the three seed will get the survivor of PIT/BAL/TEN/MIA/SD/whatever. And the second seed, of course, will get a bye. That means the stakes are high in the New England/Cincinnati/Indianapolis "pennant race," but even then it’s only news when one of those teams loses.

And it just hit me: the NFL won’t stop raising the possibility of an 18-game season. Can you imagine? Two more weeks of this?

So yeah, let’s just start the playoffs already.

Robert Weintraub: And the NFL is also pushing to expand the playoffs. So many deserving teams out there!

Indianapolis Colts 11 at Arizona Cardinals 40


@Shake1n1bake: TY Hilton being evaluated for a concussion, the Colts healthy, active WRs are: Darrius Heyward Bey, LaVon Brazill and David Reed.
@Shake1n1bake: Mathis (and Freeney) is so good at that chop of the QBs arm to turn a near sack into a sack/fumble
@heygirlitsryan: is chuck pagano the worst game planner in the league, the best halftime adjuster in the league, or both?
Vince Verhei: I think, at this point, I expect Arizona to make the playoffs somehow. Am I alone?
Andrew Potter: Probably need to finish above the 49ers to do it. Panthers will likely be fifth team in.
Aaron Schatz: In case you were wondering how smart Larry Fitzgerald is, he just threw it out of bounds to avoid a loss of yards on a failed reverse.
@Shake1n1bake: If someone predicted this first half of ARI-IND I'd say it was a bit too on the nose of the seasons themes to come true.
Aaron Schatz: Going into this week, IND ranked 30th in DVOA variance. Only Jets and Eagles less consistent.
Scott Kacsmar: They should move up soon since 1st half no-shows are becoming the norm in Indy.
Aaron Schatz: Next time the Colts play, let's just tell Andrew Luck it is the fourth quarter starting right at the beginning of the game.
@Shake1n1bake: Colts beat the 49ers (by 20!) and the Seahawks, going to lose to the Rams and Cardinals by 30.
Scott Kacsmar: Andrew Luck moves 16 yards closer to closing the gap on Trent 3.0 in Indy rushing yards. That about sums this one up.


Rivers McCown: So the narrative is that Reggie Wayne going down sunk the Colts offense -- and I think nobody would deny that it's made them much less consistent and easier to defend -- but they did have positive pass offense DVOA against Houston and Tennessee.

The big problem is that the pass defense has completely cratered. DVOA's over the past three weeks prior to this one: 103.7%, 70.2%, 55.5%. This is prior to Carson Palmer throwing for 8.3 yards per attempt on them. And Robert Mathis has three sacks over the last four games, so he's not exactly slowing down either. Are opponents just attacking Indianapolis smarter at this point? Tennessee certainly figured out that you can exploit the middle of that defense.

...Then I remember that their two wins since the bye were against the Titans and the Texans. Bye could very well be the most talented team in the AFC South.

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Dallas Cowboys 24 at New York Giants 21


@MilkmanDanimal: 3rd and goal from just inside the 10, Giants run a draw. Andre Brown is not Adrian Peterson, so it shockingly didn't work.
Aaron Schatz: Dear Giants, what is the point of your little flare pass to the running back on third-and-19?
Aaron Schatz: Cowboys defense 28th against the run, 19th vs pass. The first of those sure looks true today. Not the second.
@TCBullfrog: I wish the league would tell players what they ARE supposed to do when rushing the QB, instead of only what they AREN'T allowed to do.
Aaron Schatz: Quick someone tell the cowboys you have touch the guy on the ground not just look at him angrily.
Vince Verhei: Giving up a TD because they forgot to touch a guy down kind of summarizes this season for Dallas.
@heygirlitsryan: this Dallas defense might not be very good, you guys
@MilkmanDanimal: I would pay extra for a Jerry Jones cam, just so I could see the look on his face every time the Cowboys do something really stupid.
@JTuchman3: Giants needed to go for 2 down 15 on their first td so they can properly plan the rest of the game.
Aaron Schatz: Cowboys D was dead last in NFL forcing 3-out only 15% of drives... Giants the perfect cure for that, eh?
Scott Kacsmar: Anyone who writes about the NFL has a Tony Romo narrative. Some of us just to prefer to write non-fiction instead of fiction.
Rob Weintraub: Dallas third-down conversions before this drive--1. Dallas third-down conversions on this crucial drive--3.
Aaron Schatz: If you catch the ball, go to the ground, get up, and then lose it by handing to the ref, is that a completed catch? How about if the receiver catches the ball, then gets up, gives the ball to ref, game ends, goes to shower. Is that completed catch?
Aaron Schatz: I am so happy for Tony Romo right now. So nice to see him finally not follow the narrative. He's really a good QB, people.


Aaron Schatz: Early this season we were all talking about how Tom Brady was struggling because he had all these new receivers, and he didn't trust them to run option routes, and they didn't quite understand the offense, and they couldn't stop dropping the ball anyway. And then eventually after a few weeks we started asking, gee, doesn't Brady seem less accurate overall, even when we account for all these other issues? Even when the receivers do things right, he doesn't seem to be the quarterback he was the last few years.

Anyway, I had these same feelings about Eli Manning watching the Giants today. Yes, the offensive line has a lot of injuries, and Hakeem Nicks was out, and Rueben Randle seems to run the wrong route a lot of the time, but Eli Manning just doesn't seem to be the same guy as the last few years. There were a couple passes where he seemed to revert to the old Eli Manning who threw everything two feet over the receiver's head, where Bill Barnwell used to joke that there was a box above Plaxico Burress' head and if Manning could hit it with a pass, Plaxico would shoot fireballs.

And yet, the Giants somehow tied this thing up near the end, because the Cowboys defense had some major mental lapses (for example, when they forgot to touch Brandon Myers down and let him go into the end zone) and couldn't stop the run to save their lives. Andre Brown had 6.0 yards per carry, Brandon Jacobs had 8.3. Over and over the Giants would get a big run gain on first down and then stall out.

As far as the Giants' defense goes, they did a much better job against the run in the second half than they did in the first half, but they couldn't cover Dez Bryant the whole game. It looked like they were using Antrel Rolle as an outside cornerback with Corey Webster out, instead of leaving him as either safety or slot corner. I thought that was an odd decision.

Mike Ridley: From the Cowboys perspective, this game was far from pretty but should help in boosting their confidence, not to mention their chances at winning the division. The drive at the end of the game is something that opposes the usual Romo narrative, but does show he can get the job done. After converting only one third down prior to the drive, he converted three on the game winner, with a crucial third-and-7 conversion early in the drive that kept the Giants from getting the ball on the wrong side of the two minute warning. The Cowboys also have to be pleased with how well Dez Bryant rebounded on that last drive after having a fumble change a third-and-2 situation into a third-and-30.

On the defensive side, they did a great job of limiting Eli Manning, who had 174 yards after averaging 325.7 yards per games against over the last four seasons. They also contained Cruz to just two catches (one of which he fumbled), pretty remarkable given his frequent salsa dancing against Dallas. Where the Cowboys succeeded in the passing game, they failed in stopping the run. The Giants gashed them for 202 yards on just 30 carries. Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs both had wide open holes along the line all game.

On the Giants side, I can only imagine the innovative and descriptive terms Tom Coughlin will use to describe his team's penalties. Both teams had the same amount of penalties (11) for roughly the same amount of yards, but it seemed like the Giants penalties were always coming in critical situations, like erasing a Cole Beasley turnover or negating a big Rueben Randle punt return. With the added Cruz fumble that gave the Cowboys their first touchdown, I found myself thinking that if the Giants lose, it's because they beat themselves. That proved to be true for the first three-and-a-half quarters, but ultimately, Romo's play at the end turned out to be the difference.

Denver Broncos 31 at New England Patriots 34 (OT)


Aaron Schatz: Well, Ridley looked really good there for a couple carries. Fumble. TD Denver. Enjoy the witness protection program, Steve. Pats need to find whichever coach taught Tiki Barber to stop fumbling and bring him in here, ASAP.
@Daniels_Ryan: Manning is starting to understand how Brady felt years ago, winning games with dominating defense.
Aaron Schatz: Looked like Brady may have gotten hit in head on sack-fumble, but I think it was head snapping back and hitting his own OL. Ouch.
@WhispersMoCo: Broncos using the intelligent approach: the center of the Pats' run defense is non-existent right now.
Aaron Schatz: The 3 fumble thing is a bit fluky, but unfortunately for Pats you don't get a "flukiness" mulligan to reset the score from 17-0.
Aaron Schatz: OK, that's five. This is ridiculous. At least the fumble luck is now more even! (Most muff punts are recovered by rec team of course)
Rob Weintraub: Winged prediction--Broncos will rue not recovering that last Edelman fumble. Pats make game of this now.
Aaron Schatz: It's almost as if three star players right in the middle of the Pats defense are out for the year or something.
@blotzphoto: These Denver runs look unstoppable right now. It's just the same play over and over.
Aaron Schatz: Trying to figure out how Pats suddenly can keep Von Miller off Brady. Need tape. Looks like Gronk is chipping Miller a lot.
Danny Tuccitto: Love how Belichick takes the wind, and every tweet about it on my TL ends with "...interesting."
@GDFar: Between drops, fumbles, and penalties, the Broncos are the sloppiest team I've seen heavily favored for a 1-seed.
Danny Tuccitto: With the wind, Gostkowski boots FG out of the stadium a la Pat McAfee's "Breaking Madden," right?
Aaron Schatz: Proper ending would be fumbled snap on third down, then Pats hit FG to win on fourth.
Rob Weintraub: Only conclusion to draw from that weather-controlled slopfest was--get ready for the New York Super Bowl!!


Aaron Schatz: OK, I tweeted so many things about this roller-coaster that I'm not sure what I have left to say. This has to be considered one of the all-time classic games in Patriots history. Just insane.

A lot of what's going on here will require re-watching. I'm not sure how the Pats started being able to stop the runs up the middle in the second half, and then how that ability disappeared again. It looks like the breakdown of the Broncos' pass rush after halftime was in part related to DRC's injury. That had Von Miller dropping back more. When he did come, the Pats chipped him a lot more with Gronk.

The DRC injury didn't kill the Broncos at corner because they have good depth there. Quentin Jammer doesn't have much left but if Jammer is your fifth corner, that's a nice situation. However, the Broncos safeties were having trouble with Gronk. A lot of trouble. It looked like the Broncos did better when they had Danny Trevathan on him.

Also, the Broncos were just getting killed by play-action in the second half. Another element of the big comeback.

The refs really allowed a lot of physical play. Lots of plays that could have easily been holding or pass interference, and plays where I would notice holding on one guy only to have it called on a completely different guy because both players were doing it. But they were even calling penalties on both teams and they called the game consistently all five quarters.

I'll let Scott Kacsmar talk about the decision to kick in overtime and my question to Belichick in the post-game press conference. That whole thing is really his baby.

Oh, and when the Broncos went up 17-0 with the three fumbles, I was saying to the other people around me that weird stuff happens in the NFL and the game wasn't over. I pointed out the game two years ago where the Pats were down 21-0 to Buffalo and won 49-21. Ron Borges laughed at me, saying "Yeah, that's not Buffalo out there." Nope, it wasn't. But I was right. Weird stuff happens in the NFL. I was even correct when I told Borges that a Patriots comeback win was likely to involve Brock Osweiler. I just didn't know HOW it would involve Osweiler, apparently.

Scott Kacsmar: "If Bill Belichick can take the wind, I can take the wind."

I doubt that's what the other 31 head coaches are thinking now, but maybe this will help others make that decision in situations where it's applicable like last week in Chicago. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about it as I have plenty to write in other articles, but I think it's a very defensible decision.

This was probably the worst game Peyton Manning's played since a game against San Diego (or Dallas) in 2010. He didn't look up to the task of driving 80 yards into the wind for a game-winning touchdown. Of course I said the same when it was 31-24 and he pulled off an 80-yard drive with his best throws of the night, but force him to try that again while not being able to use four downs. Taking the ball out of Tom Brady's hands seems crazy on a night where he had five consecutive scoring drives in the half, but I think the wind was significant in this one and the New England defense was playing well enough to justify doing it.

It took 34 modified overtime games, but we finally have a coach who kicked off. Of course it was Bill Belichick, but isn't he the one it needed to be if we are to see more bold decisions in situations like this?

As for the game itself, it was crazy. I'm not going to overreact and I don't think much of it will help in a rematch, but I will say there are three troubling things for the Broncos:

1. Jack Del Rio still has few answers for slowing down Tom Brady's offense. That stretch of 31 points on five drives was absurd.

2. The Broncos still have major ball security issues. I know the Patriots had six fumbles (three lost) and Denver had five fumbles (three lost), so the weather was a factor, but Denver's problems have been persistent and tonight were more their own doing than good hits by the Patriots. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker also had at least five combined drops.

3. The receivers can't get separation when defenses play them tough. For all the talk about New England's banged-up secondary, those guys covered well. Just like in the Baltimore playoff loss, almost every pass Manning threw was contested with a Patriot draped over a Bronco. That severely limits YAC and makes every throw have to be perfect or else it's a dangerous interception opportunity. Even the first touchdown pass was threading the needle. On the Eric Decker interception, I saw Wes Welker get knocked down, which was probably one of the many examples Aaron was talking about in referees letting them get away with contact. For as much as Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth praised the Colts' defense a few weeks back, this looked more impressive to me, even without Julius Thomas active. The Broncos need to find legal ways to get their receivers open more, because every defense should try copying the physical re-routing concepts.


181 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2013, 1:46am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Agree that there was a ton of contact/etc, allowed last night. There was one play where one of the Brocos tackles was called for holding Ninkovitch, and when they replayed it, Chandler Jones was basically giving the other tackle a piggyback ride.

Still, it seemed to be going both ways. I'd rather see them call the game as the rules describe, but whatever, fun game to watch.

Also, I'd missed Manningface

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I also think that the game may have played out a bit differently with Fox instead of Del Rio. While Fox is a bit on the conservative side, Del Rio still thinks we're playing "3 yards and a cloud of dust" style football, and I think Fox probably would have continued scoring in the middle of the game, rather than the predictable heavy running.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Fox is the same guy who took five timeouts into the locker room against Baltimore because he thought going to overtime was better than trying to score with Peyton Manning. I don't know that we can call him more aggressive than Del Rio in any meaningful way.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I dunno about criticizing the run/pass mix. The run game 5.8 yards/att, the pass game 3.5 yards/att. Averages are not the best measure but I think they reflect that there were many more successful run plays than successful pass plays.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The one really bad referee call was the third down on the first Patriots drive of overtime, when the Denver DB had an arm wrapped around the receiver's neck (who would have easily gotten to the ball without it), and no call. Can't blame Brady for getting upset about that one, considering that Manning had two scoring drives extended (and an interception wiped out) on calls for the same level of contact.

But I do give props to the referees for calling offensive pass interference on a pick play (personally I'm sick of the pick play and wish they'd call it even tighter), and even calling intentional grounding on Saint Manning.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yes, but Talib got away with an equally egregious holding on Thomas earlier in the game, on a 3rd and 5 scenario.

My impression was that the refs were "letting them play" a little too much early in the game, then swung around later in the game and started calling the contact, then backed off again.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I didn't watch the NE-Denver game beyond the first ten minutes because I wanted to see the Boardwalk Empire season finale. I was shocked when I checked back around news time and saw that NE had come back. I do have one comment to make though. It seems everybody was slamming Ridley for his fumble but Brady's wasn't his fault. I thought Ridley lost the ball because the tackler hit the ball full-on with his helmet, which can cause even the most ball-secure RB to fumble. While Ridley may have problems with the ball, I thought that fumble was pretty unavoidable; just a really good play by the defender.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My issue with Ridley is that he was carrying the ball with one hand, relatively loosely away from the body. He didn't have it secure. And that was exactly the same thing he was doing in Carolina when he fumbled last week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the Pats' lead RB for two years without fumbling once. (And also a supporting RB for two seasons before that.) But now Ridley is fumbling on consecutive weeks.

People aren't blaming Brady because he was blindsided. I don't think you can play QB in a manner in which you're not vulnerable to losing the ball when hit from behind. That fumble is on Nate Solder, who had a number of problems with Von Miller last night.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12


Ridley's problem isn't that hes getting hit weakly and dropping the ball (he's losing the ball because guys are putting helmets on it).

His problem is that he carries the ball in traffic like most guys do in space. One arm, out away from the body, etc. Frankly, he's been doing it long enough that I think its a coaching issue.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It can't possibly be a coaching issue. Given how adamant Belichick is about this issue--he HATES fumblers-- you know that he has this guy drilled like crazy. The patriots have a very rigorous fumble drill. Benjarvis used to talk about it in interviews, explaining that all the practice is how he learned to not fumble. He started fumbling as soon as he left New England, by the way. I think Kevin Faulk had fumbling issues at one time or another and got them cleared up. Wouldn't be surprised if anti-fumbling technique comes down from the Parcells tree (another coach who HATED fumbling), as Coughlin did a good job with Tiki Barber. My guess is that Ridley is just very intuitive and disregards his coaching when dominant instinct prevails in the heat of a game. I would say that they need to drill him a lot harder...

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

BB has benched Ridley before for fumbling.

I say its a coaching issue because Vereen carries the ball the same way, and so does Bolden. Both have fumbled at a lower rate than Ridley, but the samples aren't big enough to make any conclusions.

Also, Blount has actually fumbled at a higher rate than Ridley this year.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Not relevant to Audibles, but I am posting this from ESPN Milwaukee:

NBC Sports and the NFL announced Sunday night that the Packers’ Dec. 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field has been flexed out of the Sunday Night Football game of the week and will be played at noon instead.

The New Orleans Saints (9-2) and Carolina Panthers (8-3) will be on in primetime instead. The NFC South rivals will face each other at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that night.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regarding the Long brothers being the Hart would've needed Marc Trestman pulling Howie out of the stands and locking in the sharpshooter at the 50 yard line to really make that analogy work.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Houston's first quarter must have been the worst DVOA quarter ever (not to mention first half and game).

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Lions-Bucs was basically a replay of Lions-Dallas a few weeks ago. The Lions offense was mostly moving the ball at will, but couldn't stop turning it over. Only this time, there was no crazy drive or lucky breaks at the end.

12 turnovers in the past 4 games is an alarming trend. This team looks consistently unfocused and unprepared. I will not feel good about them backing into a division title, because it would save Schwartz's job, despite the fact it looks like they haven't made much progress since 2011.

Chris Houston used to be the only reliable player in the secondary, but this season he's become a real liability.

Two of Stafford's interceptions were unlucky tips/bounces, but the other two were godawful decisions. He's still having an overall good year, but the mental lapses strike at random times.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

While Stafford is much more talented he seems to lapse ocassionally into what I call "Scott Mitchell mode" which is basically just fling it somewhere near Calvin Johnson and hope he makes a play which sadly works out more often than not. Mitchell seemed to do that with Herman Moore back in the 90s a lot and seemed to confuse people into thinking he was a good quarterback.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In a wierd way, hopefully this game will be good for Stafford, because earlier in the year, he was getting away with a ton of risky throws, but wasn't punished for it. He's lucky to have come into this game with only 8 INT's. Hopefully he'll dial down the aggressiveness without overcompensating too far in the other direction.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't think that's the problem. Many of his mistakes are on passing not intended for CJ.

I think a bigger problem is that his mechanics are wildly inconsistent. He can get away with this to a degree because he has a cannon for an arm, but not always.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Stafford was utterly terrible yesterday; I think could have easily thrown about ten interceptions. There were two throwaways in particular that landed in-bounds and near enough to Tampa defenders they could have been picked off, and any number of other passes that were flung wildly around that the Bucs could have gotten their hands on. Stafford's "thing" for years has clearly been to fling it at Calvin Johnson and let him do his incredibly athletic stuff to pull it down, but yesterday there were (A) crazy flings at people not named "Calvin Johnson", and even the Megatron ones weren't that close. That was one of the ugliest, sloppiest games I have seen a QB with talent play in a long, long time.

I just don't get how that game flowed--in the first half, Revis was doing a solid job on Johnson, and Nate Burleson was going crazy, because he was being covered by Jonathan Banks, who is a giant human target this year. Halftime, Revis goes out, and Banks covers Johnson, and . . . how does Calvin Johnson not wind up with 800 yards in the second half? I mean, Banks has been toasted by Burleson, Harry Douglas, and Riley Cooper, who aren't exactly waltzing into the HOF anytime soon.

Certainly a bunch of freak plays; the fumble was bizarre, a blocked punt for the 2nd week for the Bucs, and that last INT to seal the game where the ball got knocked away from Megatron and bounced right to Banks. Weird game.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You're right about Stafford yesterday. Him and Cutler seem to have 1-2 games per year like that. For Stafford, in 2011 it was the the 2nd game against the Bears (4 INTs, 2 pick-sixes), and 2012 it was against the Cardinals (3 Ints, 2 pick-sixes). The eternal optimist in me would hope that he got that game out of his system yesterday.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I mostly agree, but my recollection of the Dallas game is that the defense didn't play as well. Yesterday I thought it was basically just two DB breakdowns from playing pretty stellar defense. Lots of QB pressure and they had a few stops in their own end of the field after turnovers. I agree with the poster below that Stafford looked worse against TB. Not only did he make the same force throws against Dallas but got lucky, he also completely missed a few seam routes.

Don't get me wrong I'm still a Stafford fan overall, but his last couple games seem to leave a lot to be desired from a game management standpoint.

Also, so you thing Schwartz should be fired no matter what? I have this discussion all the time with my brothers. I'm not saying he's a great coach but the only way I see him getting fired is if the Lions don't make the playoffs. Even if that happens, I'm not sure if management would pull the trigger. They gave Millen a pretty long leash and he didn't even have "mixed" success like Schwartz. Plus, they signed him to an extension.

My last point is what are the alternatives? I don't see any big names out there--would they coach the Lions anyway? I would think they'd need to go with an untested, unknown. Somebody like Marc Trestman seems like their best upside, but those kind of hires seem risky to me. Anyway, I'm not really sure if Schwarz should go or not, but I'm just not sure firing him would solve any problems.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think Bill Ford Jr. has less patience than WCF. He was the one that had to push his old man to fire Millen. I don't know how much power he's actually wielding, but if it's significant, I would be surprised if Schwartz survives missing the playoffs right after a 4-12 season. As far as available "big names", I think they would give Lovie Smith a hard look. I would be okay with that as long as he agrees to ban Mike Tice from entering the team facility.

Also, you're right about the defense, the front seven had an outstanding day. Glennon was under pressure constantly, which makes his performance even more impressive. He really looks legit. Maybe, (gasp), Schiano was right about something....

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Lots of Packer fans are clamoring for Ted Thompson to break open the piggybank to have Lovie Smith be hired as the D-coordinator

No idea if Smith would accept a coordinator position. But I can understand the reasoning. The Packers D has had consistent issues for several years running

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

From what I understand, Lovie is only interested in head coaching jobs. That could change in the future if he decides he misses football too much of course. On the other hand, I think he's likely to get another shot in the next few years.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Also regarding the Dallas game, the defense actually played really well that game, too. They only gave up 1 TD after 1st and goal because of a turnover, and the other two came due to big plays after breakdowns in the secondary. Otherwise, the Dallas offense had no sustained drives at all. The continuous breakdowns in coverage are extremely concerning, and you have to wonder about coaching.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I might not disagree, but, without any stats, it seemed like TB had consistently better starting field position. Also, the continuous breakdowns in coverage point begs another question. Since the Lions' drafts have been Line heavy, does Mayhew take some blame too. Is he on the hot seat with Schwartz?

My brothers both think Schwarz should go because he should be doing more with the talent in the lineup. Personally, I'm not sure I agree because I think the Lions are selectively talented (mainly Megatron, with strong help from Bush, Stafford and a wish on offense combined with a hope-the-D-line covers the sins of the everything else on D.) I'm really not sure how much of the roster construction should be assigned to Schwartz's style versus the more general management of Mayhew.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I actually like the job Mayhew's done. After that 0-16 season, the Lions were in a worse position than an expansion team. Little NFL talent except Megatron and a handful of others (admittedly, Megatron is worth a lot), tons of dead money on the cap, terrible locker room atmosphere. He made the roster competitive again within 3 seasons.

His day two draft picks had previously left something to be desired, but this past draft was a goldmine. He's also been smart with free agency. He avoids overpaying merely above-average players, and isn't afraid to let his own players walk if another team offers them too much (Cliff Avril, Gosder Cherilus). I won't deny he's made mistakes, too (Titus Young, Jahvid Best), but they were all calculated risks that seemed reasonable at the time and are only blunders in hindsight, due to bad luck.

As for roster construction, you're right that the defense is calculated for the front seven to dominate and cover up the secondary (it's currently working for Carolina). I don't know if it's not working here due to players, scheme, or something else. As for the offense, the only big hole they have is in non-Johnson wideouts (unfortunately Broyles got hurt yet again). The offensive line has far exceeded expectations, and the offense as a whole is consistently a top-ten unit.

The bottom line is that this team has enough good players where it should be better than it's performing, and I think that's on the coaching staff, not the GM.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

When I was writing about the Lions' draft performance, I noticed they spent an unusual number of second-round picks on players who had injury problems (or in the case of Titus Young, mental problems) and that those picks haven't stayed healthy. I include Ryan Broyles, and I'm not sure about Mikel Leshoure's history, but he's been pretty injury-prone since being drafted (until now, when he's just plain scratched from the lineup). Darius Slay was injured in pre-draft workouts as well. You just can't keep whiffing on these guys.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yea, that was Mayhew trying to be too clever and snag a first-round talent in the second round. Like buying a Ferrari for 50k and then having the engine fall out on the drive home. Sometimes getting a good value for a low price is clever, but sometimes there's a good reason the price is so low.

Hopefully he stops trying to do that. Slay has struggled like any rookie corner, but it's not injury-related, and he's showed linear improvement in each game he's appeared.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was very surprised at how content the Bronco offense seemed with a 17-0 lead in the first 6 minutes of the game. If I'm Del Rio, I wouldn't rest until I had 50 points on the board with at least a 3-4 score lead.

Even leading 24-0 at halftime, the Broncos should have known they weren't safe. Those very same Broncos erased that exact deficit against San Diego last season.

Once the teams reached the middle of the overtime period, I would have played for the tie if I was in Del Rio's place. The loss hurt Denver way more than a tie would have. With a tie, the Broncos would have remained 2 games ahead of the Patriots, with no head-to-head tiebreaker in favor of either team. A tie would have been much more favorable at that point.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Agreed. I'm always complaining about how conservative John Fox is, but I would have taken him in a second last night over Del Rio. I'm not sure trying to run out the clock against Tom Brady in the second quarter is the best solution. It's the Patroits, you need to assume they are getting to 30+ points, regardless of what crazy turn of events got you a big lead in the first quarter.

As noted in comments above, lots of contact by both teams, but the officials didn't really give too many calls to one team or another. The penalty against Denver (in OT, I think) that would have otherwise left them with a 4th and 1 if not called cost us all an interesting moment. I have to assume Denver would have gone for it there.

Frustrating loss, but hard to be too upset by it. Denver got up with some luck, but their 4th string secondary players weren't up to stopping the Pats defense. Denver really needs to get their DBs healthy if they are going to beat teams with a good passing offense. Manning can't score 40 every night -- and certainly not outside in the playoffs.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Patriots dodged a bullet in last night's game when the refs briefly huddled to consider cancelling the second half because the Broncos were "uncatchable".

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

How to be Tony Romo:

1. Have a risky play style that results in extreme highs and lows.
2. Make a memorable mistake in a big spot early in your career (fumbled snap)
3. Be the QB of a perpetually media-saturated, overrated team.
4. Be the QB of the most mediocre team in football the past few years (Point differential per year since 2010: -42, +22, -24, 19) and perpetually play close games
5. Perform exactly as one would expect in pressure situations (good, but not great).
6. Have people remember only the failures and none of the successes.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Eh, not totally right. Romo's got the best QB rating in the NFL in the 4th quarter over the last 3 years, and he has led the most game-winning drives in the NFL since 2010. "Perform exactly as one would expect in pressure situations (good, but not great)" seems to understate it...unless you don't consider a top 5 NFL QB performance level (in those situations) great.

Odd that the write-ups of the Dalls/NYG game didn't mention the wind at all when talking about Romo or Eli's performance. Gametime conditions were extremely bad for throwing-- probably not the best game to make your "Eli is trending down" case on. Not saying it's not correct overall, just that passing was tough in this game for everyone.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Regardless of how physical both teams were playing, the DPI that caused Brady to rant so long a time out was expended was particularly egregious. The defensive player had two hands on the receiver, holding his hip and shoulder from the moment Brady released the ball until it fell incomplete. Manning's last TD drive featured a less egregious DPI on a third down, which the announcers suggested bailed Manning out. It was the only DPI in the game (compared to two OPIs) If DPIs are not going to be whistled to keep it fair both ways, the defenses can commit them on every dink and dunk play to cause a 3 and out. Calling it the same both ways is not enough - arbitrary calls make for arbitrary results. Every occasion a receiver is restrained attempting to receive the pass while the ball is in the air should be flagged.

And no player should be allowed to rant the way Brady did. I thought he was correct, but that type of outburst should be reserved to baseball and basketball. He should have received an unsportsmanlike penalty.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I actually thought the OPI calls were more problematic. It seemed like both teams committed OPI over and over and just dared the refs to call it. In OT there was an OPI against Denver that really swung the game that was called, but I thought was a mild version of what had been going on all game and hardly ever was called. The one OPI against NE that was called seemed blatant, as the WR ran directly into DB, and Collinsworth was stunned that it was called. The one in OT against Denver seemed much less obvious, as the WR did not actively seek out the DB but instead just stood in a spot and the DB ran into him, and Collinsworth thought that was blatant.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought the same things. I didn't really get what the flag on Decker in OT was for, given that the same exact thing goes uncalled most of the time. At least the amount of calls (and timing) pretty much evened out in the end. But yeah, WRs setting picks for each other is basically the norm right now, and the refs are sorta just calling them from time to time with no real consistency as to when.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not so sure, can't you be flagged for illegal man downfield in that situation? If so it sounds like a hell of a chance to take, there's no way Fitz could have known whether any of his blockers has released into the second level.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Either way, it's a smart play.

Once he's thrown the ball, there are two potential options:
1) incomplete pass, play goes as a net zero;
2) illegal man downfield penalty, lose five yards but replay the down.

If he simply takes the loss, he's lost yardage (greater than five? I didn't see the play), AND lost the down. Throwing the ball ensures the Cardinals either save the yardage or the down.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Question on this (or at least somewhat related). Let's say a team is out of timeouts and driving with less than a minute to go. A WR catches a 20 yard pass in the middle of the field, runs a few yards (clear possession) and then, before he is tackle in bounds, turns to the sideline and throws the ball out of bounds (behind or parallel to his position).

Doesn't the clock stop there? This has always seemed like a missed opportunity to me for teams trying to stop the clock but wanting to use the middle of the field, but I'm sure I'm missing something.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Vince Verhei: Has anybody noticed just how awful the bulk of the AFC is? There’s the five halfway good teams that are going to make the playoffs, and then 11 scrubs, one of which is going to get a wild card berth by default."

This strikes me as incredibly short sighted. Um, one of those scrubs just beat KC in KC (albeit with injuries contributing to the outcome). The notion that "scrubs" like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or SD couldn't get hot and knock out a couple of the "good teams" in the playoffs isn't that far fetched. I don't think the difference between the good teams and the scrubs is really that great, as long as the scrubs are able to improve on one or two facets of their game, either through personnel changes, injury recovery, scheme adjustment, etc.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Hopefully San Diego makes the final AFC Wildcard spot, Philip Rivers deserves it for the season he is having. Their defence is godforsaken, but the offence is top tier and it is at least interesting to watch teams with such gross imbalances in ability between their units (see: NY Jets), rather than teams that are just mediocre across the board. With Rivers playing at this level they stand a chance of making some noise against the higher seeded teams.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The problem for the Chargers is that they still have to play the Bengals, Chiefs, and Broncos in their last five games. Reaching 8-8 would be optimistic, and even then they have to worry about the Titans and Dolphins holding head-to-head tiebreakers.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

tballgame:And no player should be allowed to rant the way Brady did. I thought he was correct, but that type of outburst should be reserved to baseball and basketball. He should have received an unsportsmanlike penalty.
Brady was penalized exactly correctly for this. The refs calmly let him have his rant. Then the Patriots had to call a time out because Brady had wasted so much of the play clock fuming.

Besides, the refs got their revenge on the next play, ignoring another DPI on a pass that missed the receiver's outstretched hands by about a yard.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Packers/Vikings had the perfect outcome for illuminating modern football; two teams with crappy defenses having that fact obscured by crappy quarterbacking. The difference, of course, is that fairly soon the Packers will we aaronit out again, while the Vikings will continue to ponder their hideous circumstances. I can only hope Vikings ownership has nearly completed their work on the DeLorean, thus allowing a different choice with one of the two first round picks they blew in 2005, prior to the insurance salesman getting the phone call.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The one thing I will remember from that game is, on the last play, 60 yards from the end zone in an obvious Hail Mary situation, the Vikings threw a one-yard pass and hoped that Patterson could weave his way through the defense. I cannot think of a clearer way to say "YOUR ARM SUCKS" than that.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I often feel at a loss for how quarterbacks are handled in the NFL.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Ponder is the best QB on the Vikings roster. So for the majority of the game you want him taking snaps. Fine, do that. But if there is a situation where he obviously is not the best choices. For example, a hail mary situation, why not sub in a backup QB for just that one play? All he's doing is launching the pass as far as he can. He doesn't need to know the offense or anything.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

QBs are fragile babies and you don't want to hurt their confidence. NHL player shave no problem not being on the penalty kill, or power play, but NFL QBs must play at all time or they wither and die like the special flowers they are.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Right, but is that the perception because its true, or is that the perception because coaches are worried about monday morning fall-out when the backup doesn't complete the pass?

There are all sorts of things that NFL coaches do for reasons that don't make any on-field sense. Why should this be any different?

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If games were 59 minutes the Vikings would be 6-5 and tied for the NFC North lead.

I'm no fan of Ponder, but the wide outs had some huge drops in the the 4th quarter that combined with horrid defence led to the loss. Patterson dropped a long one down the side line and Jennings dropped an under thrown out that would have been a huge third down conversion.

As bad a Ponder has been at times this year - he's upped his net yards per/attempt by .6 yds over his previous best and his completion pct has also gone up to 64.5%. I think he's getting better, but I still see mediocre as his upside.

Thought the lb Cole looked a heck of a lot better than any other Viking lb this year. Greenway is so bad now it's truly sad.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ponder is clearly not a starter, but do you think he's put together enough non-terrible performances to stick around as a Shaun Hill-type competent backup? (I'm of course ignoring the fact that a 1st round pick was used on him...I'm not oblivious to your angst, Will Allen).

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I spent a few days at Niagara Falls last month and watched some CFL games, and I think Christian Ponder would be a great CFL QB. There's so much motion and open space that pinpoint accuracy certainly isn't required, plus there's lots of throwing on the run. Ponder doesn't have a cannon arm, but it's not like the other CFL QBs I watched were throwing 50-yard lasers down the field. Ponder has what seems to me to be a perfect mix of mobility, accuracy, and ability to throw on the run that I think he would tear it up in the CFL.

He'll probably stick around the NFL as a backup, but he's got a CFL-ish kind of skillset to me.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Marshall Newhouse continues to get embarrassed about every 3rd to 4th play filling in for Don Barclay and yet a number one pick Derrick Sherrod, who everyone claims is perfectly healthy/fit, stands on the sideline holding his helmet.

Don't understand it, don't agree with it and think if existing option really stinks then whatever risk is involved is worth it for the chance to get performance.

Because Newhouse just stinks.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Any suggestions, recommendations or insight on how GB can reduce the number of passes batted down by defenders should be directed to the Green Bay offices as soon as possible.

It's pretty clear the current coaches have no idea

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Johnny Jolly cannot come back fast enough if Raji is going to play on skates for the remainder of the season. At least Pickett can point to his bad ankle as part of the issue. Raji has no such excuse.

Hawk nailed it in his interviews after the game. Fundamentally run defense is about effort and execution and the Packers failed at both yesterday

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Miami/Panthers: The Dolphins start the game with a tip INT. Advantage Panthers. Panthers go 3 and out and blow two time outs in the process then miss field goal. Advantage Miami. Now those lost time outs would kill you unless the team you were playing went into the softest prevent ever witnessed at the end of the first half. With less than a minute Panthers drive the field as Miami apparently thinks only a hail mary can hurt them (I guess they didn't know football has two halves). Panthers take the free 3 points. The Heat are 10-3 and Dolphins are a laughing stock on late night TV and a perpetual dog to the Pats. This hasn't been missed in Miami where the stadium was half full at kick off.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Packer fans do need to appreciate the special teams yesterday. Save for the one big kick return the coverage teams were very good and Masthay punts were mostly good. Big step up from most games

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

How this game will affect Denver going forward....

1. Manning seemed to not. have confidence in his arm in the cold (just like Balt playoff game), where he looked more like Brian Griese or Alex Smith than himself. If Denver is going it do anything in the post-season, they need to hope that it's warm for every playoff game, no matter where played.

2. As many have pointed out, the officials let each team play very physical in the secondary and the calls were relatively even. To succeed in the playoffs, Denver needs the game to called much more tightly. Denver's receivers struggle when the officiating allows physical coverage (Balt, Indy, NE).

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Patriots played nickle the entire game. I'm pretty sure it was part of the gameplan.

It takes a lot of plays going right in a row to score using the running game. One holding call or stuff pretty much ends a drive. The same can't be said about the passing game.

It almost looks like the gameplan was to let them run so Peyton wouldn't get into any sort of rhythm. Pretty much the only time the Patriots actually brought in run personell was in must-run sort of situations

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I dunno, some of those throws on the game tying drive were tough to make and made impeccably. He can throw the ball no matter what. But I do wonder if he feels that he has to conserve his energies in the cold, like he couldn't make those throws all game, but he could make a few when they're needed. That seems a little silly, though, so I don't know. Definitely not his best game, that was obvious. That they almost pulled it off was more due to the 1st quarter and Moreno (which almost goes without saying).

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It isn't the cold, it's the wind. Manning has for some time been a dicey bad-weather quarterback and was never a particularly good bad weather quarterback (by Peyton Manning standards). He loses more to the wind than many NFL QB's because he doesn't spin the ball as hard or tight as most.

[See the 2010 game against the Eagles where Mike Vick outplays Manning convincingly in a rainstorm. Or the famous 6-INT Charger game, also in bad weather.]

The Broncos came in with a plan, and they executed it to the tune of 31 points in a 20 mph wind. Methinks it isn't the Broncos offense that is the problem. Both teams' offensive success had more to do with whether the officials were calling the defensive holding that was going on all over the field (and wind direction) than anything strategic.

Also, who in 2013 is surprised that Tom Brady is whining for a flag? The only thing that should surprise us is that he didn't fall over backwards and try to bump a defender with his helmet when he saw it was going to be incomplete.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Good point regarding the wind and why it affects Peyton more than others.

The Broncos WRs, Demarious Thomas and especially Eric Decker do not seem to play to their size, as press coverage throws them off. Even though Ball fumbled, I think they made a mistake giving him the hook and overworking Kniwshown.... @ KC is the big game, and was the big game even before last nights game was played.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Broncos came in with a plan, and they executed it to the tune of 31 points in a 20 mph wind.

Well, yeah, they scored 31 points. But the first seven were on a defensive touchdown off of a recovered fumble, the next seven were on a 10-yard drive following another fumble, and the next three were on a 35-yard drive that followed yet another fumble. The Denver offense, "execut[ing] their plan," had two touchdown drives that were longer than 10 yards, and punted eight times. They had eleven drives after that first quarter field goal, with two touchdowns, two turnovers (leading to Patriot touchdown drives of 30 and 32 yards) and seven punts. I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that the Broncos offense wasn't a problem last night.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You can't say "offense was not the problem" when 21 of those 31 points came off turnovers, including a fumble return. If offense wasn't the problem, and defense gave them the lead in the first place, what was the problem then?

Oh yeah, del Rio running out the clock in the second quarter.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yesterday was another day when Adrian Clayborn was good, but just that tiny bit too slow. In the first quarter he blew into the backfield twice and dropped Reggie Bush behind the line. Got one more TFL later and managed to bring down Stafford once, but I swear if that guy was a half-step faster he'd be a solid 15-20 sack guy every year. I'm guessing he has good hands or something, because he seems to have a talent for getting past the line, just not quite fast enough to do what he needs to.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

You know, saying things like: "I am so happy for Tony Romo right now. So nice to see him finally not follow the narrative" is just following the narrative, particularly with your use of the word "finally". Romo leads drives like this all the time. This season against MIN, last year against CAR, PIT, CLE, CIN. And those are just the ones where the defense doesn't turn around and give the lead right back (see DET and DEN this year).

Pretty much all QBs do this when they're tied or down a score late. They get the score sometimes and sometimes they don't. Romo is better at it than most, by pretty much all measures. He didn't "finally not follow the narrative", because the narrative is false.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Quick hits on the Bears-Rams game:

1) I feel bad for anyone who watched that game, be they Bears fans, Rams fans, general football fans, or innocent bystanders. That 10-play goal-line sequence was particularly brutal---I'm a Bears fan, and my only reaction when they finally scored was: "Thank God that's over with."

2) Jerome Boger and crew were terrible. Inconsistent on holding/contact/PI all day, then completely losing control of the game on a play that should be blown dead 100 times out of 100. (For those who haven't seen it: McCown gets hit as he throws, and the ball travels about four yards forwards and ten yards sideways, incomplete. For some reason, the whistle doesn't blow, and a Rams defender picks the ball up and starts running. All heck ensues, with the eventual result being Chris Long pulling Kyle Long off a pig pile. Three penalties are called on the Bears, one of which gets enforced. One play later, on third and a mile, the crew calls an unbelievably ticky-tack illegal contact penalty on the Rams, giving the Bears a 1st down and effectively letting them get away with intentional grounding, a major neck-twisting face mask, and fighting with zero punishment. The Bears eventually scored a TD on that drive.)

3) My touch-football buddies and I could gain a buck fifty on the Bears rushing D right now. Adrian Peterson may go for 400 next week.

4) I love Marc Trestman, but someone needs to grab the clipboard from him on 4th down. In the last four critical 4th-and-short situtaions, he's punted once and run up the middle from an I formation or similarly tight set (with McCown under center) three times. Two of the three runs have failed, and the once that succeeded only did so because Forte made a great play. I do not understand going away from the strength of your offense on the most important plays of the game.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know what the numbers state but from observation officiating crews seem to be letting teams beat the hell out of receivers more frequently. Receivers being openly held, arms being held down on catch attempts and similar type interference seem to be more commonplace.

I am not averse to refs swallowing whistles but then some truly egregious penalties have been committed without a call. The officials don't seem to be able to draw any distinction between handchecking and outright mugging.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That goal line sequence was great. It was basically two teams showing as many different possible approaches to being incompetent as they could. The refs even got into the fun of it on the roughing the passer play. Ideally, it would have ended with Bush fumbling and the Bears recovering in the end zone or something.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yesterday both GB and MN defensive backs were playing 'grabby smurf'. I think the tipping point was in the fourth quarter when a Viking db wrestled James Jones to the ground in full view of 4 officials and no call. After that there were several defensive holding calls. Though I may have that sequence off a bit.

The Viking safety (36) was seemingly effective in covering Jordy Nelson until they started calling him for his obvious holding of Nelson's jersey as Nelson tried to run a route. Which he had been doing all afternoon with nary a flag. Until late

It's just strange

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The enforcement of DPI/defensive holding threatens to spoil my enjoyment of watching the NFL probably more than anything else. A lot of the time it just seems so damned random, and results in huge swings in win probability due to the penal nature of the penalties. Marginal holding call on the opposite side of the field to the ball on third and long? Have a fresh set of downs.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In the case on Sunday, marginal holding call on a 3rd and 26 pass that was intercepted? Have a new set of downs.

On the drive with all the penalties, the Bears gained 124 yards (plus 5 yards on a Rams penalty), threw 1 interception, committed 60 yards of penalties, and still managed a 68 yard TD drive.

Thanks to various penalties they also managed a TD drive that featured 3 1st-and-goals, 4 2nd-and-goals and 1 3rd-and-goal on which they scored 3 TDs.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

My other main thought on the game was that it basically was a demonstration that a) Robert Quinn is excellent and b) Jermon Bushrod is exactly "good enough". Bushrod was beaten on (seemingly!) every passing play, but he (until the sack-fumble when the game was all but done anyway) always held up just long enough to keep Quinn a step or two away from McCown. His performance was exactly as good as the Bears needed it to be basically, without being any better than that. I can't decide whether that makes him lucky or good, but it was interesting.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Trestman's 4th down schtick is getting old. That and he screwed up the playcalling on the last possession of the first half (just run the damn ball on third down and force them to use their last timeout).

The refs were as bad a group as I have ever seen. When did simultaneous possession get taken out of the rulebook? They were awful, and to my mind heavily partisan for the home team.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's hard to be too upset about his 4th down play calling. 1) He is actually going for it and 2) the numbers say running is the way to convert it. Now he just needs to read Tainer's article which says to either run outside or spread out the defense and run up the gut.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I am holding Trestman to a standard that I think his intelligence merits, and by that standard he should already know that assuming the Bears can suddenly on 4th down get interior line push against a 10-man front in tight formations (when they don't ever get that on any other play) is dumb.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That and he screwed up the playcalling on the last possession of the first half (just run the damn ball on third down and force them to use their last timeout).

Agreed. Furthermore, the play he called had so much disaster potential (a little WR screen that was 1) almost a backwards pass and 2) tipped and almost intercepted for a pick 6). But, once again, these are small-ish complaints against a background of generally great coaching. (I should go ahead and just make that my sig.)

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I find all of the "Giants o-line stinks, but Eli Manning is really playing badly" comments to be very odd. Perhaps the former has something to do with the latter? The pass protection has been abysmal for nearly a year and a half and the accumulated hits have finally taken their toll.

The Giants' drives stalled because of Kevin Gilbride's constant need to go with 3 WR shotgun passes after successful 1st down runs. I was hoping Buddy Ryan's rocking chair would be dropped on his head during the game. Listening to the head coach's postgame comments about needing balance in the offense when the opponent showed zero ability to stop the run made my head hurt. Run until they show some sign of stopping it... how about that?

Antrel Rolle was playing CB because all of the other corners were hurt/inactive. They're not going to play him outside the numbers, so he had to cover the slot. While the Beasley play was embarrassing, the bigger issue was the total lack of pass rush on that final drive.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I asked Rivers about Rick Smith on Twitter. He's made some OK moves-- J.J. Watt probably could buy him a lifetime pass-- and has a good track record on first-round picks. However, I think his day-two picks have been subpar-- guys like Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris shouldn't be playing, he let his best day-two pick walk in Connor Barwin, and of course there was the Sam Montgomery mess this year-- and it took him far too long to even attempt to find a credible WR opposite Andre Johnson, let alone to actually get one. Plus he's responsible for bad contracts like the Schaub extension and the Ed Reed signing.

I could see the case he gets another year. I'm just worried he's still got that Texans decision-making mentality of not acknowledging or facing weaknesses until they become obvious to everyone and it's too late to fix them.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't agree at all. The second and third round is where you find solid starters. (I meant day two in the three-day format, not the two-day format, in case that was confusing.)

Obviously the success rate is still hit-or-miss: a quick glance over 2011 suggests about half of those guys ended up being solid contributors. But half is way different than "vast majority."

Smith's come up with too many guys who are subpar players, let alone guys who never see the field (Sam Montgomery, Brennan Williams as of right now although they knew that was a possibility when they drafted him).

It's also possible this is a development problem and not a drafting problem. Tough for the casual observer to separate the two.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Oh, yeah, and I will also reiterate how amazed I am that Teflon Jeff never gets any crap for encouraging dirty play and fighting. Gregg Williams is his best friend and second-in-command wherever possible, for God's sake! I think Fisher deliberately targets character questions because he wants them to play dirty-- Pac-Man Jones, Albert Haynesworth, Janoris Jenkins, and Alec Ogletree, for example-- and his favorite players are the ones who try to goad opponents into fights. Of course he gave Cortland Finnegan a big free-agent contract; he's the quintessential Fisher player-- a little weasel who has a chance at getting a better player ejected with his act every time he steps onto the field.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Another Patriots game in which the 'physical play' of the defense is indistinguishable from pass interference, holding, illegal contact and second degree sexual assault on every play.
Belichick has coached this his entire career. He knows the refs won't throw a flag on every play. When do we hit the point we either completely do away with the pass interference rules and let everyone play Belichick pass defense, or actually crack down on this tactic and start calling it every play until they stop?
As it is now, the combination of the Belichick pass defense and their constant whining when the refs miss an occasional possible interference of their receivers is what causes so many fans to loathe the Patriots.
Was there a single play in the second half in which a Patriot didn't interfere more egregiously than Keuchly did one time last week? What did Patriot fans call what Gronk did in the endzone to the Denver linebacker on his touchdown catch?
I'm curious how happy Patriots will be when their opponent in the first round of the playoffs play 'physical defense' on their receivers, the refs don't call it, and they get knocked out of the playoffs?

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The second best part of the post-millenial era of being a Patriots fan (behind the three championships, of course) is watching people like morganja lose their minds with rage, envy, and whining. It's a nice reward for the 1970s-2000 era of being a Patriots fan (I'm too young for the 1960s era.)

"Let the hate flow through you..."

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Pats made the Superbowl twice in that span of 1970-2000 so it wasn't all bad. As a Dolphins fan I have to say the division sucks right now. You can't blame the Pats though. They have a good core and it isn't their fault the rest of the division is what it is. But honestly the division was way more entertaining to watch 80s-90s when the Pats, Dolphins, and Bills made Superbowl runs and even the Jet made a Championship game. It really feels like the division is over in preseason the last 5 years. The Pats win every year. The fans in the division don't care past week 10. I know I don't. The dysfunctional Jets are the second best franchise and they couldn't win a division title which should scare people. Miami can't attract fans and could be moving to LA soon and the Bills have both eyes on Toronto. I don't think the AFCeast is going to last as it is much longer. This isn't the Pats fault, but then again you'll note it isn't as if divisional AFC east games matter like they did in the 80s and 90s. I imagine eventually this will end, but given the QB situation in Miami, NY, and Buf who knows when eventually will come.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't think it's been quite that bad. In 2008 the Dolphins won the division, and in the next two years the Jets were the last AFC East team standing in the playoffs, even if they didn't win the division in the regular season. Overall the Jets have been moderately successful in the Brady era, despite their reputation. They've made the playoffs six times in twelve years. That's slightly above average. The Patriots have certainly been the class of the division, but the idea that the rest of the division has been perpetually terrible isn't accurate.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aside from the fact that the Dolphins Jets game this week is huge for the 6 seed in the playoffs, I agree that it has been a fight for 2nd place for the little 3 in the AFC East. But a lot of this is how dominant the Pats have been in the regular season since the reign of Brady started. As far as the QB situation in Miami, NY and Buffalo, that should improve in the next couple of years. Tannehill and Manuel look like the answers at quarterback to me. The jury is definitely out on Geno, but even then the Jets may draft someone in 2014. Unless the Pats get an heir in the 2014, they will probably have a rough couple of years after Brady. Something that is also not thought about much is that Belichick is getting old, and Josh McDaniels is lined up to replace him.

The real issue is the relative strength of the organizations: the Pats have Kraft, and both Buffalo and Miami have weaker owners at the moment. The Jets owner is not as bad as most people think; their problem has been the quarterback position. Pennington should have been the guy, but couldn't stay healthy, Sanchez was a bad decision, Geno, who knows, but it doesn't look good right now.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I may be the only person in the world to think this, but it sort of kills me that Mallett is going to come and go without ever really getting a chance to establish himself as an heir apparent in New England. He has issues with short throws and touch throws, but guy has a cannon and I really like the way he moves in the pocket. Someone should give him a chance against a first team offense and I don't see how it can be NE. Just bad timing in the way his and Brady's careers overlapped.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just FYI, this is Football Outsiders, a data-driven analysis site. It's not really a stupid homer, I've-had-too-many-Coors-Lites, conspiracy rant sites. Basically, anything like "Team/Player/Coach X is the devil. The NFL is conspiring to support Team/Player/Coach X, because reasons. How long will be be blind to this huge conspiracy that only I seem to be able to see??" is going to be an object at ridicule, you'll be seen as a crank, etc. Whereas I'm sure there are at 31 team fansites where you could post about how evil Team/Player/Coach X is to your heart's delight, receiving unceasing moral support from the other Coors Light swilling doofi.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Were you responding to me? Weird. I didn't say any of those things. This is what I said:

1) The Patriots under belichick employ a 'physical defense' which is indistuishable from pass interference;
2) The strategy counts on the refs being unwilling to throw a flag every play;

The above two points are facts as acknowledged by the NFL.

Do you dispute this?
If so, you could respond to the argument rather than making an ad hominum assault, because you see, this 'isn't really a stupid homer, I've-had-too-many-Coors-Lites, conspiracy rant site'.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Hahahah, "ad hominem assualt"--OMG that rich. Lemme guess-you've got some sort of "20 Most Common Logical Fallacies" page bookmarked, right? You're slaying me here :)

Anyway, no, I'm not "assaulting" your character or whatever--I'm making fun of how stupid your comments are. Just fyi, that's a pretty naturalistic outcome in discourse if you say over the top, dumb stuff. Your claim requires us to believe that bad, bad, awful, naughty Zoot...I mean Team/Player/Coach X, benefits from a conspiracy that gives them a systematic free pass. We're used to hearing that kind of stuff at homer fan sites, in bars, from our drunk, moronic brother-in-law Mike, etc. It's really out of place here, and the hyper-consistent move of providing "links" (is there any more jejune a move in teh internetz wars than providing a "link" to support your rant?) is kind of like a cherry on top.

A kooky cherry, on top of a sundae of light-beer fueled impotent rage :)

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Not sure you really know how to correctly use the term "facts" in a sentence. Your two conclusory statements ARE facts? Or were they facts in 2004? Well supported argument. By the way, welcome to 2013...
I don't know if you are a stupid homer. You seem genuine in your admiration of the Panthers, which is great. You were even mostly less than a dick last week in assessing Carolina's victory. But I do know that when it comes to pretty much anything Patriots you appear to be totally freaking unhinged and do not in my opinion come off as making rational arguments, and your post above is right up that alley.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not sure where you disagree with me. As was mentioned in the above article, the Patriots played a 'physical defense' last night which is a euphemism for illegal contact, pass interference and holding. The Broncos stated playing the same way.
Are you stating that the defenders did not commit penalties on just about every pass play?
Or are you stating that what the defenders did is not normally flagged?
In every other football game this weekend, if defenders made contact with receivers like they did in the Broncos game, they almost always got flagged.
I have seen a few Patriot games this year and they did not employ this 'physical defense' so I'm not stating that the Patriots do this game in game out. I am stating what is perfectly obvious to anyone with a DVR, last night, especially after the half, the Patriot players, and then the Broncos, persistently interfered with the receivers.
It's absurd to debate whether it is the cold and poor spirals causing the low completion percentage when one can perfectly see that the quarterbacks were throwing the ball where they wanted to and the incompletions were because the receiver had been held, pulled, tripped, knocked down or had a defender draped over him.
So, to address the point, are you arguing that there was no pass interference, holding or illegal contact except on the plays on which it was called?
Also, besides doing the obvious and coaching your defense to do the same exact thing, what can an offense do against this 'physical defense'?

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Clever that you went to a pair of 2004 article discussing Belichek's team and John Fox's team that did not indicate: 1) the Patriots employ a defense that is indistinguishable from pass interference; and 2) Belichek counts on the refs being unwilling to throw a flag. Clayton's article did indicate that Fox's defensive backs were bragging about how physical they were with the Eagles' receivers.

The articles also seemed to note DPI was down. 271 in the first 11 weeks this year, which apparently is more than the season total for 2003 and a tad over 1 DPI/gm, so Andy Reid should be placated.

John Fox's (I recognize he was not present at the game, but I'll guess he has had his influence on them) defensive backs suffered 0 DPI and 0 defensive holding calls, so I'm not sure what this 2004 article indicates about their counting on the refs being unwilling to throw a flag, but if it indicates that was their strategy, then it worked.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"Belichick has coached this his entire career. He knows the refs won't throw a flag on every play."

I have no idea if the first part is even true, but this reminds me of Izzo's Spartans, another perennially successful team with a highly regarded coach that is known for extreme physicality (which serves them well in the tournament). In a game five years ago against Wisconsin, the refs did pretty much call a foul on every play, and MSU ended up losing a 12-point second half lead and the game and had four of their players (including three starters) foul out.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Uh huh - you speak for everyone, huh? Entitlement issues, much?

Not only am I interested in morganja's perspective - he's been here a while - he raises a valid point. Various teams, including the Patriots, play in a manner that they know is illegal, on the understanding that referees won't throw a flag on every play. Is this good for the sport?

The argument in favour is that the rules as strictly enforced give too much of an advantage to passing teams to make the league interesting. The argument against is that it leads to inconsistent games.

Or, y'know, you could just take it as a personal attack on your tribe, and respond without thinking - that's probably just as valid.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Various teams, including the Patriots, play in a manner that they know is illegal, on the understanding that referees won't throw a flag on every play.

All contact penalties, illegal contact, holding, pass interference, unnecessary roughness, etc., are subject to the interpretation of the officials calling the game. And while the NFL tries to take as much subjectivity out of the rulebook as possible (see the late-not-much-lamented "Tuck Rule"), there's always going to be some.

Do the Patriots coach their players to play "illegally"?

"We tell 'em to do business the way business is being done."
- Bill Belichick

I doubt that the Patriots, or anyone else, coaches techniques by having Talmudic discussions or Socratic dialogues about the text of the rule book. Instead, they are coached to avoid doing the things that will incur penalties. I haven't seen any evidence that the Patriots defensive backs are any guiltier, on the whole, than anyone else's. Even back in 2004, when the Colts were whining about it and the league decided to make it a "point of emphasis," I'm not convinced that the Patriots were playing any more physically than anyone else, just that they were very effective in the AFC Championship Game against a wide-open offensive team whose coach was on the competition committee's coaches sub-committee, so they became the "poster-children" for the issue.

As for Sunday night's game, I'd need some pretty compelling evidence to convince me that the Patriots defensive backs were playing in a manner which was a) illegal or b) significantly less-compliant with the rulebook than the Bronco defensive backs. Neither of those things was obviously the case to my eyes.