Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Audibles at the Line: Week 14
Audibles at the Line: Week 14
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones

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

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

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

Indianapolis Colts 28 at Cincinnati Bengals 42

Tweets:

Robert Weintraub: Frigid, windy and sleeting in Cincy. Over/under on Andy Dalton completions set at 11.
@RyanCrinnigan: Colts punt returner fields kick as if the ball were an infant inside a Faberge egg
Scott Kacsmar: Andrew Luck is throwing passes to Jack Doyle, Da'Rick Rogers and Weslye Saunders. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Robert Weintraub: Cincy runs textbook Student Body Right with Gio sliding behind Smith, pulling center Cook, and Sanu for 14 yds. Old school football!
@RyanCrinnigan: Colts get stop on 3rd and goal under 2 min, no TO. No faith in O. Offensive issues approaching "self-fulfilling prophecy" status.
Robert Weintraub: But Jeff Triplette's review seems to indicate he missed, and GE stumbled on his own, and bounced into EZ. Gift. Triplette!
Andrew Potter: Jeff Triplette doesn't need your stinkin' job security.
Robert Weintraub: Re my over/under of 11 Dalton completions--he has 12 in the first half.
Robert Weintraub: Per @joereedy Indy is now 5-40 on third down over the last 6 games. 0-6 today.
@BryKno: The Bengals just had the worst display of tackling in the history of the NFL, football, and possibly society
Tom Gower: Just saw the Lavon Brazill TD. Have to re-watch to be sure, but think you could get 5 or 6 missed tackles out of that.
Robert Weintraub: Insane--the one thing the Bengals do well consistently is tackle. And now that's what has let a sure win turn into a nail-biter.
Robert Weintraub: AJ Green vs Darius Butler has been an utter mismatch all day. Every man situation Cincy has gone to #18. TD this time, 35-14.
@RyanCrinnigan: "Hey I know let's put our nickel corner on AJ Green in the red zone." -- dumb people, and Greg Manusky
@Shake1n1bake: Jeff Triplette claims on the overturn for a TD in IND-CIN he didn't even look as to whether BJGE was tripped up in the backfield

Longform

Rob Weintraub: The final score was deceiving, as except for a three-minute montage Cincy put together for Mike Zimmer to be able to demonstrate how not to tackle, and a couple of Colts garbage time touchdowns, this was a Bengals rout.

Once again, Andrew Whitworth moved inside to play left guard, with Anthony Collins at left tackle, and it's crystal-clear this is a much better set up. Clint Boling is a try-hard guy, but weak. Collins is certainly a starting-caliber tackle, and with Whitworth at guard Cincy is stronger up the middle and more multiple in play calling. Whitworth is athletic enough to pull, effectively sprint to the second level on screens, and can flip to the right side when needed so the Bengals can go power. Meanwhile, Robert Mathis was shut out completely by Collins, and the pocket in front of Andy Dalton was clean all game -- hence his big day.

Basically, the Bengals offense did what it wanted, when it wanted. 42 points without the benefit of a turnover translates into offensive dominance. Good Andy was on display -- decisive, accurate long and short, and hit receivers in stride. A.J. Green was a total mismatch for Darius Butler, and any time he was isolated they went right to Green. When the Colts rolled coverage over, Marvin Jones was beating his man. And Gio was Gio, pinballing everywhere for yardage, a few times on Student Body Right or Left tosses that were effective every time.

As for the BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown call, which seemed to be epically bad, it actually is somewhat questionable when watched closely. The big issue is that it was called short of the stripe on the field, and there isn't any defensible way to say there was compelling evidence to reverse it. Meaningless in the picture, as it happens.

Andrew Luck had nowhere to go. The Colts couldn't run, nor go deep, so it was a matter of stringing together enough flat passes to work down the field, and it's tough to win that way. Had Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill not turned slants into video games, it would have been far more difficult to score. Rogers, in particular, was impressive. His body and speed are elite, though he ran the wrong route or did it just poorly enough to see why he isn't quite ready yet. But when he learns to play, and if he can keep his nose clean (which wasn't the case in college), he can be a difference-maker. Reminiscent of Josh Gordon, who wasn't polished as a rookie either. And every time the Colts defense made a play, it was undone by dumb penalty or sloppy angles or just mismatch. Tough to see them winning a playoff game, regardless of opponent, even at home.

Only down note to the afternoon were the miracles the Ravens and Pats pulled off. Where is the damn wooden stake when we need it? When the Bengals have to host the Ravens in the first round, and (if victorious, inshallah) travel to Foxboro in the divisional round, remember this day.

Rivers McCown: Ah c'mon Rob, that's a little off. It was a bad call. They looked at the wrong thing. I'm not here to complain for Colts fans, they have their own sites for that. It wasn't important in the long run. It was a bad call.

The interesting thing about this game to me was the insertion of Rogers and Brazill, meaning that after 14 weeks of dropped balls, we're finally done with Darrius Heyward-Bey. They were "fluky" touchdowns, certainly, but I'll take fluky over what they were getting from Heyward-Bey. If those guys can give the Colts a third intermittently effective receiver, it'll go a long way towards Luck being able to make an impact in the playoffs.

Buffalo Bills 6 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Tweets:

@Mercurius100: Buffalo D obviously unprepared for playing in this weather. Weather being 80 and sunny.
Cian Fahey: It really is incredible that Greg Schiano is 1: Going to keep his job 2: No longer getting any attention for being a [CENSORED]
@MilkmanDanimal: Revis hammers Robert Woods and the ball pops to Lavonte David. Shades of Megatron at the end of the Detroit game.
@MilkmanDanimal: Missed the first half driving home through snow, Bucs played great; per Bud Light commercials, I need to move further north.
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa's pathetic tackling on a 83-yard Spiller run gets bailed out by a dumb downfield holding play.
@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa has 7 sacks, and has hit Manuel repeatedly. Considering his lack of protection, a 4-pick day isn't shocking at all.

Detroit Lions 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 34

Tweets:

@nikhilb: I need to download "Yakety Sax" so I can play it whenever the Eagles-Lions highlights come on today.
@robbbbbb: Fox just rolled out CGI yard lines and numbers. Awesome. It's very well-done.
Ben Jones: As much as I'm enjoying this game it has absolutely no predictive power going forward
Rivers McCown: The Lions and Eagles should get to use Calvinball rules for this game.
Tom Gower: Record for fumbles in a game (total) is 10. #Lions have 6, by my count, less than 18 minutes into the game.
Rivers McCown: Foles has been very slow on the delivery today. Not that I blame him since he probably can't feel his arms.
Vincent Verhei: DeSean Jackson may have stepped out before catching that TD, but honestly, who the hell can tell?
Tom Gower: Shady's done a good job of adjusting his cutting to go more forward instead of laterally. Could see it on TD to make it 14-12(+2)
@Mercurius100: Eagles-Lions prove that not kicking does not lead to the end of the world.
Rivers McCown: Jeremy Ross is making honorary Redskins out of the Eagles special teams.
Tom Gower: Strategy! Lions false start on conversion, Schwartz calls TO to give his players time to clear area for XP attempt. & it's blocked.
Ben Muth: Watching this DET-PHI game really makes you appreciate how impossible Vinateri's kick in the Tuck Rule game was.
Tom Gower: It was like Nick Foles couldn't believe how much running space he had & stopped in amazement.
@MilkmanDanimal: Why the hell did Philly go for 2, up 8, in the 4th quarter? Throw your cool ideas away and make it a two-score game, Kelly.
@MilkmanDanimal: *flips over to Philly-Detroit game* Oh, THAT'S why they went for 2. #nevermind

Longform

Tom Gower: Snow games are great fun to watch, but Matthew Stafford might disagree with the proposition they are fun to play in. Early on, the Eagles were doing absolutely nothing offensively while the Lions were dominating the game aside from Stafford's inability to handle the ball and some horribly inaccurate passes.

Eventually, the game turned. LeSean McCoy seemed to adjust his cuts to not move laterally, which wasn't working in the snowy conditions. Once that started to happen, he found space against the formerly stout Lions run defense that our numbers rated so highly. Once that started to happen, it kept happening. Detroit, meanwhile, found the game tougher sledding, though Jeremy Ross kept them in it with touchdowns on both kickoff and punt returns, until the Philadelphia offensive machine simply overwhelmed them.

Bonus from the game: Aside from one try by David Akers, after a false start, there were no place kicks attempted in this game. All of the other seven touchdowns were followed by two-point conversion attempts, and the Lions had the offense out before that false start. Yes, that included one by the Eagles in a tie game.

Rivers McCown: This game was great fun to watch. It had three different phases. The first one involved heavy snow and a lot of flubs. The Lions had more success in this phase, and most of it came on short dumpoff or screen passes. They didn't score much, though, because of the preponderance of fumbles.

The second phase, with lighter snow, involved the Eagles actually making some progress with the ball. The Lions held their lead because of Ross. As Tom noted, both teams eschewed kicking. I'm sure that's a Kacsmar column in and of itself, but it was a lot of fun to watch the swings happen.

The third phase involved the Eagles offensive line just bending the Lions front seven to their will. LeSean McCoy and Chris Polk had a ton of free space and exacerbated matters by getting the Detroit secondary to blow tackles left and right. Almost all of the 299 rushing yards the Eagles had came in the fourth quarter.

Oakland Raiders 27 at New York Jets 37

Tweets:

@MichaelEdits: If you're watching the Raiders at the Jets in person, you have my condolences. If you're a guy, wear three socks.
@Foosball_Wizard: Geno Smith pass to the right is incomplete to a wide open Charles Woodson.
@Foosball_Wizard: His next pass is complete to linebacker Kevin Burnett.
@legion: Love the Raiders platooning QBs. Which one's Don Strock?
@Foosball_Wizard: Sheldon Richardson is something. His acceleration and hit on Rivera on the Raiders 4th down TD pass was impressive.

Longform:

Rivers McCown: The first time since Week 4 that both Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes were able to play. Say this for the Jets: it was the Raiders, and it was ugly, but they did actually have a competent passing game.

I don't really understand why Matt McGloin is playing. The Raiders need stars, and he isn't going to be one. There's obviously a very low chance of it if he's getting benched for McGloin, but Terrelle Pryor might be one.

Atlanta Falcons 21 at Green Bay Packers 22

Tweets:

@Mercurius100: Atlanta beating GB in the snow, because of course they are! And Matt Flynn.
@pchicola: Watching M Flynn in 2013 only makes me wonder how bad were the Pat's D in 2010 and DET's in 2011 that made him look like a ProBowler

Longform

Rivers McCown: He took five sacks to do it, but Matt Flynn delivered 8.0 yards per attempt. This is game 13 of Atlanta's 16-part series, "Why you don't let your only good pass rusher leave in free agency and start a rookie cornerback."

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Cleveland Browns 26 at New England Patriots 27

Tweets:

Aaron Schatz: Pats have gone away from their usual CB by sides and have Talib moving around to cover Josh Gordon.
Aaron Schatz: Jason Campbell is one of the most underrated QBs in NFL history, in that people are convinced he sucks but really he's very average.
@GDFar: Josh Gordon took four and a half steps OOB with control before falling and dropping the ball. Incomplete. No logic to this rule.
@pchicola: Ray Horton's D always make it tough for Brady and McDaniels. Remember last year vs ARI. Docket & Campbell had a field day vs Brady.
Aaron Schatz: Alert Julian Edelman's agent: Browns seem to have decided Edelman is Pats' best WR and generally have Joe Haden on him.
Scott Kacsmar: Second drive in a row Browns get stuffed on third-and-1. Not taking advantage of NE's no-show offense.
Aaron Schatz: Through Week 9, Jerome Boger's crew had called Illegal Contact just 1 time. The apparently don't know it exists.
Aaron Schatz: Jerome Boger Illegal Contact update: Actually has called two: Week 3 and Week 12. (Call on Talib with :40 left was holding not I.C.)
Aaron Schatz: Josh Boyce dropping balls and breaking tackles today. One of those things is good!
Aaron Schatz: Did the Browns just basically leave the middle of the DL completely open on a fourth-and-1? They don't know Brady can sneak?
Aaron Schatz: And WOW. Pats go Cover-0 and Campbell hits Gordon on a quick slant. He takes it all the way, 80 yards, TD. Perfect off play call.
@MilkmanDanimal: Gostowski so excited after the onside kick recovery I'm wondering if Martin Gramatica knocked him unconscious and put on his uniform.
Tom Gower: Did I hear Steve Tasker call that a "pretty sorry call" of DPI against the Browns? If so, I concur.
@nath_on_fire: That pass interference call is a ton of fuel for any "NFL protects the marquee teams" conspiracy theorists.
@henriknakskov: Should the Patriots play scrimmage against scout team right before kickoff? Or does the injury risk outweigh the chance of fast start

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Chalk one up for the theory that Ray Horton knows how to game-plan for the Patriots. The Cleveland pass rush had the Pats offense completely discombobulated. Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly why, as I spent most of the game watching cornerbacks so I don't know whether the Browns had blitzes going on, or stunts, or what in specific. I do know there were sacks and lots of pressures. Tom Brady was inaccurate, although it didn't help that a few of his good passes were dropped. The running game was good, as were the dumpoffs, but there was really nothing going on downfield. (The main exception was the third-quarter touchdown drive, when Shane Vereen lined up on the outside and sped down the field. Yeah, Craig Robertson is not as fast as Shane Vereen. That was not a good matchup for Cleveland.)

You really saw today how the Browns have the pieces to put an excellent defense on the field: Joe Haden, D'Qwell Jackson, the pass rushers like Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard. They need to improve some of the connecting pieces, like Robertson and the corners other than Haden.

I came into the game determined to watch the Josh Gordon-Aqib Talib matchup closely, and I was surprised how few yards Gordon had in the first half. Gordon was open a few times and Campbell just wasn't looking at him. I kept waiting for the big pass play, and waiting, and waiting ... On Twitter, people were joking with me, of course Jason Campbell can't throw the deep pass. That's ridiculous, and just another example of the fact that Campbell is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in NFL history because people can't accept the idea that some players are just average. A lot fans think every player has to either be "elite" or "suck." But real life isn't like that. Anyway, it wouldn't even matter if Campbell couldn't get the ball 25 yards downfield because some of these plays where Gordon looks open are just 15 yards or so. And it isn't that Campbell was checking down to a two-yard dumpoff. On some of these, he passed to another downfield receiver, it just isn't Gordon.

Gordon did finally get his big play, but it was almost entirely YAC, when Campbell found him on a quick slant and the Patriots were in Cover-0 with no safeties back. Easy open field for an 80-yard touchdown. (On further review, probably not. I asked Matt Chatham about it, former Pats/Jets player who does a lot of film analysis in the local media. He said the Pats almost never play Cover-0, which certainly corresponds with my viewing. I did see a safety on that side jump down to cover a tight end man-to-man, which was what led me to believe that there were no safeties back. It probably was Cover-1 with Devin McCourty as the deep safety. However, he wasn't as deep as he should have been, and because the Browns were set up 3x1 with Gordon as the "1," McCourty was shaded to the side of the three and that meant he couldn't get back to stop Gordon once Gordon turned inside and caught the pass with Talib on his outside.)

The air just completely went out of the stadium when T.J. Ward slammed right into Gronk's knee midway through third quarter. It was a legal hit, exactly what the NFL wants: guys going low instead of high. Looks like Gronk is probably done for the season. It's amazing that the Patriots have played so well this year given all their injuries, not to mention the loss of Aaron Hernandez, and things were finally setting up for them to maybe even make the Super Bowl because Denver was starting to suffer a ton of injuries too.

When you see the media pull out numbers about how Brady struggled so much the first half of the season without Gronk in the lineup, remember he didn't have Shane Vereen either except in Week 1. And Shane Vereen has been a big, big part of the game plan the last couple weeks. Nonetheless, despite the presence of Vereen, it's hard to see them winning an AFC Championship without Gronk, especially on the road at Mile High. And you've got to think that Jack Del Rio is going to be watching film of Ray Horton's defense in this game, along with every other defensive coordinator who has to face the Patriots the rest of the year.

As far as the end, with the Defensive Pass Interference call in the end zone...

1) I noted a couple of times on Twitter that Jerome Boger's crew had only called Illegal Contact twice so far this year. He missed a number of really obvious Illegal Contact penalties during the game. Then, when the chips were done, they call an extremely iffy DPI. Weird.

2) I wish there was some way to have a formula that didn't put the ball on the 1 for DPI in the end zone, but still made DPI a very long yardage penalty. I don't know, maybe something like when DPI takes place inside the 20, you put the ball either halfway between the 20 and the spot of the foul, or halfway between the LOS and spot of the foul, whichever is closer.

3) Of course, that call led to the usual crazy Patriots hatred all over the Interwebs. People, there is no pro-Patriots conspiracy. It was a bad call. Officials make bad calls. They make them for every team. Did you see the Cincinnati game? Do you think there's some sort of NFL pro-Bengals conspiracy that had Jeff Triplette give Green-Ellis that touchdown on review? Or is it more likely that maybe he made a bad decision because of either a) random chance or b) the subconscious factor of home-field advantage? Remember when the flag was picked up at the end of the Panthers game? That one was in Carolina. This one was in Foxboro. I don't think that's a coincidence.

People are always far too quick to declare conspiracy when the much better explanation is usually just plain ol' incompetence.

Scott Kacsmar: I'll bite my tongue on the ending for now, but I'm just shocked the Patriots had the longest active drought without recovering an onside kick

Rivers McCown: Ah, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis used to be a Patriot! Conspiracy!

Nothing the Patriots do surprises me, no matter who they lose. They're just some kind of not-losing-too-much football team at all times. I'm sad that we're at the point where a player like Gronkowski just can't stay on the field, because he makes football fun.

Minnesota Vikings 26 at Baltimore Ravens 29

Tweets:

Vincent Verhei: Just watched Tannehill, Flacco, and Campbell rip off long runs. Do QB runs work better in cold weather?
@fhyrew: The Ravens' midfield logo, now brought to you by Jackson Pollock
@alexknobel: At what point are the Ravens a sufficiently terrible short-yardage rushing team to change 4th-and-short calculations?
Aaron Schatz: Worst-ever run DVOA entering Wk 14: 1991 IND, 2013 BAL, 2005 ARI, 2013 JAC, 2002 HOU, 1991 PHI.
Robert Weintraub: Gerhart! That was a snowbound TD if ever there was one.
Andrew Potter: Day has been nuts for kick & punt returns. Now Jacoby Jones takes one back despite the kick being pooched high and wide.
Scott Kacsmar: Ending to MIN-BAL one of the craziest ever. EVER.
@MilkmanDanimal: With 45 seconds left in Ravens-Vikings, there's still time for like seven more TDs, right?
Rivers McCown: Cordarrelle Patterson taking a big dump on Playmaker Score
Aaron Schatz: @FO_RiversMcCown I don't think 254 yards through 12 games counts as "a big dump." Don't go crazy over 1 long TD.
Robert Weintraub: So was that 5 TDs in the last 2 minutes in Baltimore? Unsane. And I'm sweating a 3-TD lead in Cincy.
@BeccaDannysWife: If contractions are like this #Ravens game, I don't ever want to be pregnant.

Longform

Rivers McCown: I'll defend my Cordarrelle Patterson assertion here: I subjectively think he's a good bet to beat his Playmaker Score. His talent is very evident, and the fact that it took the Vikings 10 weeks to figure out that he needed to be more involved is probably part of the reason Leslie Frazier is going to get fired.

The ending of this game was phenomenal. I cut over late from Philadelphia and Detroit, so I didn't watch most of the buildup. But when a game produces win probability graphs that move like lie detector tests, that's a good sign it belongs in the Game of the Year discussion. All of the big plays in the last few minutes, outside of perhaps Dennis Pitta's touchdown, were amazing feats of individual skill too. Toby Gerhart broke some tackles on his run, Patterson broke a whole field of tackles, Marlon Brown made an outstanding toe tap on the game-winner. Awesome game.

Kansas City Chiefs 45 at Washington Redskins 10

Tweets:

Andrew Potter: Redskins special teams sighting! 48-yard punt return has the Chiefs starting deep in Washington territory.
@toxic: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor the unique form of DC slush can keep the Redskins defense from giving up 24 points in 19 minutes.
Aaron Schatz: Remember Thurs night when I suggested HOU might be going "Full Kotite?" WAS seems to be one-upping them, going "Double Full Kotite."
Andrew Potter: Washington special teams sighted again. This time, McCluster scores himself. KC crushing WAS.
@fbgchase: After today's game, I have to assume WAS ST will be among the worst in DVOA history.
Aaron Schatz: @fbgchase Already were 5th worst ST of all time. Likely would move to 2nd worst, but 2010 Chargers have a healthy "lead"
Aaron Schatz: If Washington allows one more return TD on ST, the 2010 Chargers may be able to pop the champagne and celebrate.
@nath_on_fire: Those reports from Washington were mistaken: Mike Shanahan was planning to quit on the team right before this game.
@UpsideOfSports: Washington leading the "all important" time of possession...and down 31-0.
Cian Fahey: The Washington kicker has seemingly just moved out of the way of two TD returns today
Andrew Potter: You have got to be kidding me. Washington special teams failure AGAIN. Kickoff return touchdown for Demps. 38-7 KC.
@RavenBerns: Only Chiefs players tackling Chiefs returners...in the end zone in celebration.
Aaron Schatz: Washington now on Triple Full Kotite with a 1/2 Lutz Kotite Twist.
Robert Weintraub: FedEx Field looks like the White House during a presidential transition.
Vincent Verhei: I'm pretty sure that Washington is tackling even worse than Cincinnati today.

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Miami Dolphins 34 at Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Tweets:

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger doing a Harlem Globetrotter handoff there. Funky.
Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger has played the Dolphins after a hurricane (2004), on the worst field in NFL history (2007) and now a snowstorm.
Scott Kacsmar: Move over Terry Bradshaw. Roethlisberger sets franchise record with 213 TD passes. Has one in team-record 26 straight games.
Cian Fahey: Cortez Allen on Mike Wallace there. That's preferable for the Steelers instead of Ike Taylor
Scott Kacsmar: Philbin is a joke. Should have called timeout immediately after Brown catch was short.
Scott Kacsmar: Dan Fouts said Todd Haley told him he wants to "target Antonio Brown between 12 and 13 times today." Okay.
Scott Kacsmar: Polamalu with the pick-six he should have had on the first drive of the game. But I think he was out on live-action.
@Mercurius100: Brian Hartline is now 1 for 1 on challenges.
Scott Kacsmar: Polamalu with a bad missed tackle on Clay. Would have brought out the punt team. First down instead on thrid-and-8.
Robert Weintraub: Ravens, Steelers need TDs w/no timeouts. Both will get them because football.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: I wanted to ask our resident Steelers fans, esp. Cian and Scott, if they have any particular insight on how/why Ike Taylor has declined so much this season.

Scott Kacsmar: Cian watches the cornerbacks closer than I do, but Ike Taylor's basically been one of my whipping boys on the Steelers for a decade. He can't catch so he rarely gets interceptions and leaves critical plays on the field. He'd have a good game or two against Chad Johnson, safety help or not, and people would give him a lot of credit, but as he's aged he's just continued to get beat down the field more often. I think in a season like 2011, he was just fortunate receivers would drop the pass or the throw wasn't quite right. I remember a Curtis Painter throw that should have been an 80-yard touchdown in Indy.

This year the plays are being made on him and it's obvious he's not No. 1 caliber anymore. The use of big cushions by Dick LeBeau also leaves him vulnerable to giving up a lot of short completions, but that's been a decade-long scheme problem and failure to adjust to a short-pass heavy NFL. To make it worse, Taylor expects safety help at times where it just doesn't come because of the freelancing nature of Troy Polamalu. I've never seen a Pittsburgh team allow so many 50-yard plays as this one. They gave up a crucial 55-yard run on the game-winning drive today and Ryan Tannehill even had a 48-yard run on a simple zone-read option. It's the same thing that worked for 93 yards for Terrelle Pryor in Oakland against this defense.

With the Steelers at 5-8, it's basically a fitting end to the competitive portion of the 2013 season for them. All three phases of the game failed today. The special teams had a blocked punt. The defense did get one pick-six from Polamalu, though he dropped an easier one to start the game. Ben Roethlisberger had a big fumble early, but played very well right up until the final two drives when he really needed to come through. Usually the Steelers scoring 28 points at home is a win, but not this season with this defense.

Pittsburgh had an interesting end to the first half with Polamalu getting the Alabama-Auburn play started by returning the missed field goal. The gamebook's not even uploaded yet for this one -- must be trying to figure out that last play -- so I'm not sure how far the lateral ended up going, but it was a decent attempt.

Then of course you get one on the last play of the game. I'm not sure if Roethlisberger had a forward lateral or not, but it was his throw that made this really possible with Antonio Brown going down the left sideline. Running as fast as he was, I can understand momentum carrying him out of bounds, but the more I watch it, the more I think he should have been able to score instead of stepping out of the bounds (barely) at the 13 or so to end the game. It would have been one of the all-time game-winning plays in NFL history, assuming the Steelers didn't pull a New Orleans and botch the game-winning extra point. Still, it'd be in overtime at the very least.

"Almost Classic" for this one.

Cian Fahey: Troy Polamalu probably had his best game of the season yesterday. He should have had a pick-six early in the game, but he dropped a pass that he broke onto underneath. When he did get his pick-six late on he caught the ball after initially lining up as a defensive tackle. Polamalu worked backwards so that Ryan Tannehill never saw him.

Cortez Allen appeared to spend a lot of time on Mike Wallace, but he wasn't tested very often. What Allen did do was let Charles Clay beat him down the sideline. It's been a somewhat disappointing season for Allen who had shown lots of promise during his first two years in a smaller role. Clay exposed many of the Steelers flaws. He scored a touchdown when there was a blown assignment in the red zone for the second week in a row and was able to break two tackles from a disadvantageous position for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau appeared to be overplaying his coverage to stop Mike Wallace. LeBeau often focuses on taking away the opposition's best weapon, but it was done to the team's detriment here.

Tennessee Titans 28 at Denver Broncos 51

Tweets:

Tom Gower: Titans taking packaging to extremes on D today, going from 4-2-5 nickel w/ Fokou/Gooden to 3-3-5 w/ Brown/McCarthy/Ayers
Cian Fahey: The level of talent around the QB in Tennessee is incredible
@LambertScouting: The argument for Cutler begins. RT @Cianaf: The level of talent around the QB in Tennessee is incredible
Tom Gower: Ongoing battle today: Denver players versus catching the ball. Couple drops in end zone by Thomas, Welker, plus others.
Vincent Verhei: Five 63-plus-yd FGs in NFL history. Three of them in Denver.
@Broncfan07: On Prater's record kick, DEN's OL did a reverse Alabama by immediately fanning out & running downfield in case of return
Vincent Verhei: @Broncfan07 That was actually beautiful to watch.
@nath_on_fire: If Goodell cared about player safety, he'd severely punish repeat offenders much worse than he is now. NFL practices Safety Theater.
@Broncfan07: Bernard K. Pollard leads with shoulder, crunches Eric Decker, gets UNR call because, well, BKP.
Vincent Verhei: Denver. Thy defense sucketh.
Tom Gower: I must be dreaming-both deep passes by Fitzpatrick to Justin Hunter have been pretty accurate.
@nath_on_fire: What on Earth was Chris Johnson doing? He ran like he thought the field had rotated 90 degrees.
Scott Kacsmar: So Peyton has six good games in freezing weather, three in bad, yet people only want us to remember the bad and the losses.
Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar Are you counting 04 (Jan 05) AFCC game as a good or bad? That game was blown by receivers fumbling and lack of run.
Tom Gower: Broncos have scored 9 times on 11 possessions (6 TD, 3 FG). Punt on 4&1/TEN45 and 4&3/TEN40 on non-scoring possessions.

Longform

Tom Gower: The Broncos are really good on offense. The Titans are not that good on defense. Peyton Manning just eviscerated them -- not with many big plays, but with consistent success after consistent success. 550 yards of offense, 39 first downs, scoring on 9 of 11 possessions. It wasn't even like they were just picking on Roc Alexander the whole time, as the Broncos dominated. There are some reasons to be concerned about the Denver defense -- the Titans don't score 28 points every week, even if it did require Ryan Fitzpatrick hitting the random deep ball lottery twice and a kickoff return to the 3 -- but San Diego on Thursday should be the more interesting test of that. Long-term, the other concern to come out of this game is Wes Welker's second concussion of the second just before halftime. They moved the ball just fine without him today, though.

Fun fact: The Broncos ran 10 plays from the Titans 1. The Titans ran 5 plays in Broncos territory.

Scott Kacsmar: Montee Ball was stuffed on a third-and-1 and dropped a pass on third-and-3. Those were the only times Tennessee was able to keep Denver off the scoreboard. It was another impressive showing for this offense against a Tennessee defense which had yet to allow a 300-yard passer and only eight touchdown passes this season. I never would have expected Manning to throw 59 times in this one, but the play disparity was huge (88-41 and that's even being generous by taking out three Denver kneel downs) and it's hard to recall the Titans ever getting close to a sack.

The Titans hit on some big plays, but generally the Denver defense did enough in this one with some splash plays from Von Miller. Any time the offense can get 39 first downs in regulation, it's probably going to be a day where a team can get by giving up 28 points. Still, it would be good to see Denver clamp down on some of these long passes that seem to work every week now.

Matt Prater's 64-yard field goal does not deserve an asterisk, but it's hard to imagine that would have been good in other stadiums on Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks 17 at San Francisco 49ers 19

Tweets:

@MilkmanDanimal: I'm watching the SF defense and thinking Mike Glennon doesn't exactly have Russell Wilson's escapability. Next week will suck.
@toxic: That non-call for pass interference in SF/SEA makes me wonder if the officials think the Patriots are on the field.
Aaron Schatz: Coming into today, SEA and SF were No. 2 and 3 in DVOA vs. TE. SEA defense doing their job. SF not so much.
@Mercurius100: You are Seattle. SF has 3rd and goal. Who do you cover and make sure he can't beat you? Seattle chooses not Vernon Davis. Oops.
Aaron Schatz: Yep, now Vernon Davis gets his vs. the SEA defense. Prob was gonna happen eventually.
Aaron Schatz: Zone read REALLY doesn't seem to work for SF this year. @ESPNStatsInfo nums agree, only 3.35 yd/carry on zone reads entering today
Aaron Schatz: By the way, SEA on zone reads entering today: 5.24 yards, almost 2 yd/carry more than SF.
@PigskinLover: "Sherman got away with a on that play" is being said often in San Fran. True though.
Aaron Schatz: Great play on the ball by nickel corner Byron Maxwell for pick in SF-SEA. Got greedy on return, tho, nearly ended up in end zone.
Aaron Schatz: I'm really feeling the healthierness of the Seahawks OL today. Not sure that's actually a word.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Joe Staley is not infallible. Just got completely whipped by Chris Clemons spin move.
Aaron Schatz: Everytime I look over, I feel like the Seahawks are outplaying the 49ers, yet game is within 1 point. So much for subjective viewing.
Danny Tuccitto: Harbaugh/Roman just went to fullback give for the third time today in short yardage.
Vincent Verhei: LET THEM SCORE.
@matthew_carley: As a 49er fan watching this win what I take away is that Seattle are a very, very good football team. Great game

Longform

Vince Verhei: It sucks when the team you're cheering for loses. It sucks more when they lose a really close game, and it really, REALLY sucks when they lose largely due to your personal pet peeve: The wasted timeout to prevent a delay-of-game penalty when you're already in long-yardage. Late in the third quarter, the Seahawks had a second-and-25 at their own 23. As the play clock wound down, Russell Wilson stood up and turned to the ref. I thought he was just going to take the penalty, but he called timeout at the last second. (The game clock was stopped after an incompletion, so when he called the timeout is largely irrelevant.) Because Lord knows, second-and-30 is so much worse than second-and-25. After the timeout, the Seahawks got a 2-yard Wilson scramble and an 8-yard Golden Tate reception, then punted. So because they called timeout, Seattle had the privilege of punting from the 33 instead of the 28. Yeehaw.

Fast-forward to the end of the fourth quarter. Seattle called their last timeout with 3:24 left in the game. San Francisco had a third-and-7, already in field-goal range. Colin Kaepernick then picked up the first down on a Tecmo Bowl-style quarterback sweep. They then ran three basic runs into the line and kicked the winning field goal with 30 seconds to go. Wilson's final play was a desperation heave deep that was intercepted when his receiver fell down.

I have seen enough Russell Wilson comebacks to like his chances to pick up a field goal with about 1:15 to go, no timeouts. Maybe I'm being optimistic. Maybe if Seattle did have another timeout at the end of the game, the Niners might have been more aggressive and passed for a touchdown or something. And maybe if they had stopped Kaepernick on that third-and-7, or not given up a 51-yard run to Frank Gore right before that, then maybe none of this would have mattered. But man, I hate to see timeouts go to waste like that.

Strategic nitpickery aside, the game was largely what you'd expect. Two really good, physical teams, both playing largely mistake-free. Both teams got field goals off big special teams plays (a blocked punt for San Francisco, a Golden Tate punt return for Seattle). Early on, Seattle was able to isolate Luke Willson on Patrick Willis for a big touchdown, but Willson largely disappeared after that. Meanwhile, Seattle iced Vernon Davis out of the game early, but he played a big part later on, especially after K.J. Wright left the game with a foot injury.

Michael Crabtee's helps San Francisco's offense, raising their viable receiving options by 50 percent, but it seemed like Seattle still feared Anquan Boldin more. Richard Sherman spent most of the day covering Boldin, even moving into the slot to cover him at one point. Boldin managed to outmuscle Sherman for a 27-yard catch, even though Sherman was holding him on the play. It wasn't the best day for Sherman, or for Earl Thomas, who took a terrible angle on Gore's long run at the end of the game.

St. Louis Rams 10 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Tweets:

@Mercurius100: Unsportsmanlike conduct on the Rams. I am shocked.
Cian Fahey: If I'm one of the higher seeds in the NFC, the last team I want to play is the Arizona Cardinals

New York Giants 14 at San Diego Chargers 37

Tweets:

Scott Kacsmar: Hakeem Nicks with the completely meaningless 44-yard Hail Mary grab before halftime.
Aaron Schatz: Somehow it took the Giants nearly 35 minutes to score vs one of the 5 worst defenses of the past 20 years.

Carolina Panthers 13 at New Orleans Saints 31

Tweets:

@scott_tanner1: hines ward just said luke kuechly is the "best defensive player no one has heard of"
Scott Kacsmar: Mike Tolbert is the non-Detroit version of Jerome Bettis.
Andrew Potter: Thomas Morstead should be due a sizeable fine after that facemask on Ted Ginn. Punter or not, can't tackle like that.
@nath_on_fire: No, Cris and Al, the offside and defensive holding penalties weren't the same. One resulted in 1st and 5, the other in 1st and 10.
@nath_on_fire: I've been saying Sean Payton #totallylookslike Damian Lewis, and that Nick Brody pinch-face he just gave the camera is your proof.
Scott Kacsmar: I would have saved the timeout there. Not sure why Sean Payton used one.
@itnw0628: Another stupid, meaningless run play right before halftime. When will coaches learn?
@TickleMittens: Does the FO Mike Martz award come with some sort of cash prize?
Vincent Verhei: Can we stop calling Jimmy Graham a tight end? He's a wide receiver who sometimes puts a hand on the ground.
Tom Gower: Drew Brees' pocket movement has been very good tonight.
Andrew Potter: Michaels and Collinsworth sound like they expect Rivera to go for it on every fourth down, not just fourth-and-short.
Andrew Potter: The Panthers might want to try covering Marques Colston. Bit late for tonight, but a good idea to consider for Week 16.
Aaron Schatz: Honestly, if they let Jimmy Graham get franchised with a TE number and not a WR number, it's insane.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Well, that was disappointing for those of us who've been driving the Carolina bandwagon for months. I think the most disappointing units were the offensive line, which couldn't hold up to the Saints' pressure, and the secondary (specifically, second corner Melvin White and the two safeties).

Although, I don't know if I really believe in that classic concept of a team that "isn't built to come from behind." Michaels and Collinsworth said that about the Panthers in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers' offense coming into today ranked eighth when down by more than a touchdown and 11th when either tied or down by 1-8 points. Didn't they come back from being down 16-3 to Miami just two weeks ago?

Scott Kacsmar: I guess I'm riding in the trunk of the FO Carolina bandwagon? Thought we'd see a little more competitiveness tonight, but that was another New Orleans rout in prime time. The moment this was flexed the Panthers needed to be worried. Drew Brees is up to 54 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (17-3 record) in these home prime-time games in the Superdome. It was not a surprise he would attack this secondary the way he did. The protection was much better for him than it was for Cam Newton.

Did notice Al Michaels dropping that line about not playing catch-up offense in Carolina. Historically, there's truth to it. That 13-point comeback in Miami was the first for Carolina since 2009. I do not recall what the score was when he said it, but if it was 24-6, then there are few teams capable of making a competitive game out of that situation on the road in the fourth quarter. What I think Michaels is looking at is the lack of receiving weapons and that Newton's not putting up big passing numbers. When it's a run-heavy offense, that's easy for the broadcaster to figure this team has no shot of stringing together long scoring drives in a hurry.

That's pretty special that we can go into a game, expect Brees to carve up the No. 1 scoring defense and he does exactly that. Not a performance to take for granted. A lot of Twitter talk about how he can't do it on the road, but he shouldn't have to until the Saints return to Seattle. This game was bigger for Carolina in terms of winning the division and it could not have gone much worse.

Tom Gower: Here's the question going forward -- it seems like Carolina has focused on having Cam Newton play a much more controlled, defined passing game, taking him away from the week-to-week struggles of the previous two seasons. Did tonight tell us, like it did the Chiefs against the Broncos, that there's a good chance that won't be good enough to win in the postseason? Carolina already has shifted their offensive identity, it seems, once this season. Will they do it again? Can they? Should they? Something to watch going forward.

Comments

237 comments, Last at 13 Dec 2013, 12:21am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"GDFar: Josh Gordon took four and a half steps OOB with control before falling and dropping the ball. Incomplete. No logic to this rule. "

The rule is very damn clear, and very logical. If you're contacted catching the ball, and you go to the ground, you have to hold onto the ball as you hit the ground.

You clearly don't have control of the ball if you can't hold onto it.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I didn't see the play, but if a player catches a ball with a defender on him, takes 4 steps out of bounds, and then has the ball stripped without going to the ground, it counts as a completed catch.

The rule makes some sense to me if the player only takes two steps before going down and losing the ball, but it seems like 3 or more steps with possession of the ball should count as possession. Again, if a player catches the ball in bounds with a defender on him and takes three steps, and then the ball is stripped, it will count as a fumble, so while I understand the rule I don't think it's entirely consistent.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You're not in possession of the ball until you finish going to the ground if you're contacted in the act of making the catch.

Its very simple, and I have a hard time believing that Gordon doesn't know the rules. Which means he dropped the ball because he didn't have control of it.

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It is a shorthand expression, easier to say than something like "if the runner is down by contact with an opposing player, and the ball -- by virtue of either it or the runner hitting the ground -- becomes loose at the instant the runner is down or thereafter, the play is dead and there is no fumble." Many people who say it probably know it is not an absolute, but it is a somewhat time honored phrase despite its exceptions (like "i before e except after c"), and it is the type of thing that Dan Dierdorf can remember...

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The problem comes when people forget about or never know the exceptions and seem surprised (or accuse the refs of getting it wrong) when an exception occurs. I recall this happening; maybe it was Dierdorf, even.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

IMO that's not correct -- the key is whether the player (not the ball) is down by contact (his knee or shin or thigh or butt or elbow etc hits the ground). If he is down, and the ball comes loose because either the ball hit the ground or the player hit the ground (think about a guy landing on his elbow as he is stretching and the ball popping out of his hand at that instant), it is not a fumble. If a guy is in the open field and trips over his own feet and the ball hits the ground first and it squirts out of his grip, that is a fumble, caused by the ground.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm no expert on the Panthers or their offense, but I think I understand where Collinsworth's coming from with his "can't come from behind" comment. There just don't seem to be too many designed plays for short to medium gains in the playbook. From the sideline angle of the telecast, it looked like receivers were all streaking 10+ yards down the field, leaving Cam to squirm in and out of the pocket to avoid various blitzing Saints. It looked like they wanted to capitalize on the man coverage and hit a big play, but the pocket never stayed clean, and I'm not sure they considered chipping away down the field.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Actually, that is how they have been playing lately - runs and short passing, creating long drives. The first two drives seem typical, minus the fact they ended in Field Goals...

DVOA has really liked them because of their consistency, but last night they found themselves in Third and forever too many times.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

They have what I like to call the "Patriots Offense Problem".

Essentially, teams that are built on consistently completing short yardage/high success rate plays are extremely efficient, until they're not. The problem with an offense based on 5 yard gains is that a 10 yard penalty is something that you really can't overcome. A sack is a drive killer. A dropped pass puts you in 3rd and long.

When a dink-and-dunk offense doesn't work, its ugly. When it does, its beautiful. The more "explosive" offenses on the other hand, I feel like have less volatility. They're not going to score as many points as a finely tuned running dink-and-dunk offense in the best of time, but they'll break the occasional long play to score even when things aren't working, and they're much better at converting (but more likely to get into) third and 15.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tom - do the Panthers have much choice but to have Cam focus on the short game? They do not have the Oline to throw really deep passes, so using run and short passes (at least early in the game) is necessary.

4 Prater's Kick

Is the altitude in Denver not somewhat mitigated by the cold temperatures? The ball wasn't flying nearly as deep as it usually does on Prater's kickoffs.

50 Re: Prater's Kick

In reply to by BjornD (not verified)

I found a calculator that includes humidity here http://www.baranidesign.com/air-density/air-density.htm . Water vapor is lighter than air so higher humidity means lower density. And, of coarse, colder air is higher density than warm air.

This says the conditions in Denver yesterday (15F/-9.5C, 70% humidity) considering air density only (ignoring ball temp) were equivalent to sea level at 102F/39C, 100% hum or to KC (889 ft el) at 91F/33C, 70% hum.

So it was equivalent to a really hot and muggy game at sea level (not unheard of) or a pretty typical September game at Arrowhead. And remember, this doesn't consider ball temp. This is not a dismiss-able kick just because it was in Denver.

126 Re: Prater's Kick

In reply to by David Stienmier (not verified)

Air density at Denver during Prater's 64 yard kick:
Conditions: -10 C, 60% RH, 1600 m altitude
Air density: .06897 lb/ft^3

Air density at New Orleans (Tulane Stadium) during Dempsey's 63 yard kick:
Conditions: 18 C, 60% RH, 0 m altitude (Figures from almanac.com)
Air density: .07534 lb/ft^3

This shows a difference in air density of almost 10% between the two events, which I would consider significant. If we just look at altitude, the difference would have been 20%, so, yes, the effect is somewhat mitigated by temperature.

Taking into account wind, ball temp, etc and trying to convert this to effective yards is left as an exercise to the reader :)

230 Re: Prater's Kick

In reply to by Supadome

An important question here, once figuring the ~10% difference in density, is how that difference in density affects the length of the kick. Gravity still pulls on the ball with the same force* regardless of density, so the time in the air would be the same (assuming the same force of kick, angle, etc.). Less density would mean less air resistance, so the ball would maintain its initial horizontal velocity more easily, and therefore travel further within the same time interval. I doubt that air resistance is the main factor determining where the ball hits the ground, but it would be interesting to investigate.

*As long as we're being technical, consider that a football weighs more in Denver than in New Orleans because the value of gravitational acceleration is greater in Denver! (But not by much. See Wolfram Alpha Gravitational Fields widget.)

215 Re: Prater's Kick

In reply to by David Stienmier (not verified)

Nice find, thanks for that, I asked similar question in the game discussion thread.

5 Prater's Kick

Is the altitude in Denver not somewhat mitigated by the cold temperatures? The ball wasn't flying nearly as deep as it usually does on Prater's kickoffs.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Rivers:

I don't really understand why Matt McGloin is playing. The Raiders need stars, and he isn't going to be one. There's obviously a very low chance of it if he's getting benched for McGloin, but Terrelle Pryor might be one.

Obviously this is prior to the game on Sunday, but it's not like McGloin played terrible against the Jets, and his DVOA prior to this was 14.5% - 9th in the league. I can't imagine it's going to be seriously negative after the Jets game.

Even if, by the end of the year, McGloin's DVOA is in the -5% to 5% range, why in the world wouldn't you play a QB like that? That's a competent enough quarterback to turn you into a playoff team, and it's way above what Pryor's shown (at -40.8%!).

And jeez, he's a rookie - a rookie QB that the team barely invested any effort in, and he's playing like an average to above-average NFL QB. On the Raiders - he's not exactly throwing to upper-level NFL receivers. I can't understand why the Raiders wouldn't try to see what he's capable of.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The only game I saw him in this year (a few weeks back), he looked very poised and capable. He moved around the pocket to avoid pressure, made some decent throws, and if I remember correctly, had only one interception. For a young player, his average game stat line is around 59% completion, 2 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 18/30 for 225 and 7.5 YPA. That is very good for a rookie, much less an UDFA.

I would put this one in the "wait and see" column.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It's not only good for a rookie, it's great for a rookie on the Raiders. I mean, who does he have around him? Their leading receiver is a second year undrafted rookie. They've got no receiving threat at RB or TE. The fact that he's even average, as a rookie, is really impressive.

But jeez, even if you end up with average quarterback play, that's worth keeping around until the rest of the team gets much better.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I absolutely agree, but I am not really certain if there is a better situation for him than the Raiders (as silly as that sounds). The team is bad, so it should give him plenty of opportunity to throw and make the rookie mistakes without much criticism or negativity surrounding "throwing away a playoff run."

The organization seems to be doing better as a whole, surrounding him with "best talent available" given the organization history. The running game has been mostly solid since McGloin has been playing, giving him plenty of space in the passing game. I would not discount their receivers; while they are not (currently) on track for the HoF, they are able to make plays with their legs, letting McGloin work all sorts of routes, all of which he appears to be capable of throwing.

I like him, and "serviceable NFL quarterback" may not actually be his ceiling. I do not get the "Pryor is better" talk...

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The current stats on the site:

Player Team DYAR Rk YAR Rk DVOA Rk VOA QBR Rk Passes Yards EYds TD FK FL INT C% DPI
Pryor OAK -454 43 -423 42 -39.7% 43 -37.8% 30.6 39 258 1,344 663 6 3 1 10 59.3% 1/7
McGloin OAK 114 23 190 21 1.8% 18 10.4% 62.3 11 146 990 870 6 2 0 3 57.1% 1/21

On Sunday, Pryor went out and immediately took a timeout because that is what he does. The game is still much too fast for him. McGloin is much less confused in the huddle and during the play. Imagine if he had been treated like a first round pick instead of like a UDFA.

If McGloin turns out to be another Jon Kitna he will be the best QB the Raiders have developed themselves in forever. I don't know why Rivers does not think that is enough. Pryor should be in the Wildcat package with McFadden, though. Give McGloin and Jennings, the players who have massively outplayed the 'starters', a rest.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The Dolphins coaching staff needs to burn all their 2 minute tapes for the season. This game featured a terrible long field goal to end the first half decisions and then an odd goal line give up series when they could have ended the game with a TD followed by the odd terrible ruby scrum. The highlight positive for the Dolphins was the play of Tannehill that minus two horrible passes, looked good now for several weeks in a row. Daniel Thomas was supposed to be done for the year 3 weeks ago. He came back, gained a hundred yards and had a run that no one thought was in him at the professional level. The Dolphins are now 4-2 since Incognito left and frankly Dolfans crying for his return...why? Miami has now reached the dreaded Ireland 7 game barrier for which the team never seems to pass.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"Here's the question going forward" "Something to watch going forward." "As much as I'm enjoying this game it has absolutely no predictive power going forward" Well, it won't have predictive power going backward either.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I try not to criticize the writing in Audibles, as it's hard to avoid cliches and grammar issues under that kind of a deadline, but I do have to admit that's one of my least favorite phrases, too. It's a classic example of linguistic "empty calories", the test for which is to remove the phrase and see if the sentence loses any meaning.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

" It was a legal hit, exactly what the NFL wants: guys going low instead of high."

Channeling Brandon Meriweather, eh? That it is legal doesn't mean that it wasn't dirty, or that it was the kind of hit that the NFL "wants". DBs who consistently target knees are going to cause knee injuries. Not on every play, but often.

And really, isn't there plenty of room between the crown of a helmet and the knees for a tackler to hit? Saying helmet-to-helmet hits are dangerous and against the rules isn't identical to saying "go after the knees".

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Not really. It's pretty damn hard to aim your body at a very specific location on another person's body. When you talk to players, they seem pretty clear, you either go low or high, it's hard to go middle unless it's going to be an arm tackle, and that's the kind of tackle that Gronk will break easily.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The only real solution is probably to take off the hard plastic, go to soft helmets and pads, and require rugby tackling rules. You've then got rugby league and / or Aussie Rules football with forward passing and snow.

Now, combined with Canadian sized fields and rules, that might be a hell of a lot of fun to watch and play. I'm not sure it would be American gridiron football anymore, but it might cut down on the concussions and blown knees.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You can't have rugby style tackling and still call it football. You can't have rugby style tackling and still have the 10 yards gets you new downs mechanics. The current style of football tackling is a product of having to stop players before they gain significantly more yardage.

Rob Gronkowski could (and has) drag a cornerback 20 yards downfield if you tried to tackle him via rubgy technique. The only way to take down big players like that is to use a ton of momentum to knock them down.

Also, the soft helmets are a canard. The NFL used to have soft helmets. There's a reason they don't anymore. Hard helmets are a big part of why modern NFL players live much longer than NFL players from decades ago (while still living shorter lives than the rest of us)

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Has it bee established that NFL players live shorter lives than the rest of the population? I'm sure they live shorter lives than other men who earn a few million before turning 30, but I was under the impression that it had not yet been established that NFL players don't live as long as men as a whole.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/08/18/why-everything-you-hear-about-the-deadly-game-of-football-is-false/

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

They definitely live shorter lives than men as a whole, and that article admits that.

What we're not sure of is whether they live shorter lives than other gigantic human beings who get the finest healthcare, nutrition, and exercise in the world. It's really impossible to judge though, because there's no real groups to compare them to.

They live shorter lives than people with similar healthcare to them (IE, other rich people), and we know that healthcare/wealth affect lifespan positively.

They live similar lives to other 300+lb people, and we know that being that big negatively affects lifespan, but at the same time there are some correlation effects where poor people (who have worse healthcare) tend to be more likely to be heavy.

There's just so few groups of enormous rich people to compare them to. Maybe you could compare NFL Safties/Cornerbacks/WRs to MLB Centerfielders/shortstops/2B, or something along those lines, but I'm not sure where you'd even start looking for data for that.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm pretty sure he didn't mean soft helmets as in those stupid leather skullcap things they used to wear, but the same type of helmets they have now, just with additional soft padding on the outside. They do exist, and studies have shown them to be safer.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm glad someone has brought this up as i believe hard plastic is causing so many of the injuries the players are getting, both to the head and other parts of the body.
I would love to see a study of leagues with soft plastic uniforms and their injury rates. Kevlar helmets could be used.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

With modern technology it is possible to make a soft helmet there also prevents skull fractures.

The current helmet is perfect at preventing skull fractures, problem is it then causes more concussions and other injuries.

The easy solution is already in place:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2013/07/30/concussions-college-football-nfl-guardian-caps/2601063/

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I don't buy this explanation. Here are some highlight reels for Ronnie Lott:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVKVHvMJKT8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtsV_2JAe1s

He almost never goes helmet to helmet or hits the other guy's knees.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

If Ward cannot tackle Gronkowski without diving for his knees, why is he in the NFL? I know Gronk is big and strong, and Ward is small and weak. That doesn't mean he should be allowed to use tactics likely to lead to injuries.

On the play in question, Ward could have tried to make a tackle in the waist area. But he ducked his head in order to bring all of his momentum to Gronk's legs. And yes, that makes it easier to tackle. But it's not the only way to tackle, and it's riskier for the target.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I don't see that. This season we've already lost Rob Gronkowski and Randall Cobb to the exact situation in question, and someone else commented that Dustin Keller was lost to the same thing as well. I would argue that Gronk or Cobb are comparable in fame and fan appeal to Megatron, and Gronk and Cobb and Keller combined are a much bigger deal. If we're not getting it now, we never will.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It'll never happen, but I'd wager going back to limited substitution, single platoon football, would make the game safer, in that there would be less disparity in the size of players. The 300 pounders would mostly go away, because they wouldn't be able to stay on the field, due to cardiovascular issues. The really little guys, if forced to go both ways, with little break, might just get to beat up.

Expand the league to 64 teams, with, I dunno, 26 man rosters!

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"On the play in question, Ward could have tried to make a tackle in the waist area. But he ducked his head in order to bring all of his momentum to Gronk's legs. And yes, that makes it easier to tackle. But it's not the only way to tackle, and it's riskier for the target."

When the guy who you are trying to tackle weighs 40+ lbs. more and is coming full speed, the tackler would be risking injury to himself by going anywhere other than high or low. The DB would certainly risk separating his shoulder if he met Gronk directly at the waist or torso area. So while going low is riskier for the target, going middle is riskier for the tackler, not to mention that the tackle will likely be unsuccessful. And unsuccessful tacklers usually aren't employed for very long.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Before this injury, the most likely AFC title game was NE at DEN; now its CIN at DEN. Any guesses on the ratings/revenue dropoff between the former and the later? Successful shows do not kick the stars off the stage, so a hit zone from the shoulders to above the knees makes a lot of sense money-wise. Yes, TJ Ward has no chance of stopping Gronk with a blow to the torso, but a big guy would. So the composition of rosters and the deployment of players would change. But a hit zone is not at odds with the nature and rules of Football.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I looked up some numbers to make a guess at the difference in ratings/revenue between a NE/DEN and CIN/DEN AFC title game - call this the price of TJ Ward's knee-shot on Rob Gronkowski. 2011 playoffs: HOU/CIN - 13.5 rating/22.0 mil viewers; DEN/NE - 18.5 rating/34.1 mil viewers; 2012 playoffs: HOU/CIN - 14.4 rating/23.6 mil viewers; HOU/NE - 21.7 rating/37.7 mil viewers (NE had a 1st round bye in 2011 & 2012; CIN lost in 1st round both years. CIN game was lowest rated of all 1st round games both years. CIN also received the Sat. afternoon time slot, reserved for the least-ratings-friendly game. HOU is the 2nd-largest AFC media market and the 10th largest nationally, so I am not sure why a HOU game would be considered a TV dog. (The CIN market is #35. The media market for NE is Boston and Providence, RI, the largest AFC TV market and the 4th largest in the country.) The 2nd round draws about 6 mil more viewers, so for this (small) sample, NE is worth about 7 million viewers.) In addition, NE played DEN last year on Sunday afternoon drawing 24.5 mil viewers. The audience for their recent Sunday night game was 26.5 mil. (CIN will play PIT on SNF this upcoming Sunday.) The 24 most-watched TV programs of the Fall are all NFL games; NE played in four, DEN in nine and CIN in none. So star-power matters. (And it looks like Manning is the biggest star. Any surprise?) Sunday Night Football gets the biggest number for a 30 sec spot in TV, $593K (from Advertising Age). #2 is American Idol at $356K. SNF draws 22.2 mil (live) viewers. AI has no numbers (yet), but it usually draws more than 20 mil (live) viewers, sometimes topping 30 mil. (There is a premium paid for "live" programs.) There are about 25 spots in an NFL game. (Ad Age also has a page devoted to the buyers for the upcoming Super Bowl with 25 30 sec spots disclosed and 2 advertisers, GM and Kia, who did not disclose their buy.) For an average night, SNF generates about $15 mil in ad sales with an audience about equal to a low-rated 1st round playoff game. So how much cash leaves the table if CIN makes the title game? 30 seconds on SNF costs about $27000/million viewers. (The price for the Super Bowl is about $36000/million viewers; $4 mil/30 sec spot with 111,000,000 watching in 2013.) If NE increases the title game audience by 7 mil, they add $189K to the price of a 30 sec spot, or about $4.8 mil to the take for the game. From the point of view of the NFL, that is not a huge number, but it is not nothing. Now if CIN beats DEN, a lot of money gets left on the table ....

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"And really, isn't there plenty of room between the crown of a helmet and the knees for a tackler to hit?"

But the rule doesn't just say you can't hit the head. The rule says you can't launch in an upward direction, which means if you leave your feet, you have to hit the guy below the waist. There isn't a lot of room below the waist that doess't have the risk of injuring a knee.

That being said, given the improvements in surgery over the last decade, a torn ACL may be a significantly better thing than a concussion.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Hey, he still got his team all the way to Mordor. If he gets a little fumble luck at the end, so what? Every team has some good fortune.

More credit needs to go to Coach Gandalf though. The wizardry of his defensive schemes were just enough for his ragtag defense to slow down the opposition and allow his team to have a chance. After years of never living up to his potential Aragorn finally had his breakout season, and veteran Elrond decided to stay around for one last season, when he could so easily have retired to the West. Legolas was a valuable contributor though he still needs to learn how to take a hit – I've never seen a player so eager to get out of bounds. Kind of a pretty boy.

The league is changing, though. I don't think elves and dwarves will ever be as big of a factor in the game. That's been a long time coming – it ain't the Second Age anymore.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

My thought exactly. There must be 4 feet between Gronkowski's knees and helmet. "Had to hit him low" is a cop-out for defenders who can't or won't tackle properly. Head or knees is NOT and either/or proposition, no matter how many times it is said by players or written by media.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Well when a runner is coming right at you and decides to lower his head/shoulders at you, there isn't all that much more than head or knees. Some more, but certainly not 4 feet.

That's not always true, especially if you're tackling from the side, but face up it could be.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

exactly. when a ball carrier anticipates contact, what do they do? they 'make themselves small' to give the defender nothing to hit. this means they are dropping their shoulders (and by extension, head) into the strike zone. I think there should be a strike zone, but also offensive players should not be allowed to drop their heads into said strike zone. expand the trent richardson rule that gets called approximately never

12 Ravens Run game

I knew the Ravens' running game was bad, but hadn't realized it was historically awful. Take a look at the records of the teams on that list:

91 Colts: 5-11
13 Ravens: 7-6
05 Cards: 5-11
13 Jaguars: 4-9
02 Texans: 4-12
91 Eagles: 10-6 (best Defensive DVOA in history)

Not sure how this team is winning, but they sure do play a lot of close games. Running stats are unlikely to improve this week vs. Detroit's outstanding D line.

91 Re: Ravens Run game

Damn straight! Walking out of the NYC office one January 1992 Friday night (I was a lower level functionary) the international corporation's CEO was following me down the hall--apparently the last two guys in the office. He sees my blue hat from behind. "Is that a Giants hat?" he calls out conversationally. I turn around, big smile on may face and point at the horseshoe.
"Colts?" he asked with dismay. "Did they even win any games this year?"
I held up one finger. "Beat the Jets." And for just a sliver of a moment, all was right in the world.

174 Re: Ravens Run game

In reply to by Bobman

I was at that game with a college friend, a Giants fan. When the Jets scored to open a 14-0 lead, I foolishly told him the Jets were certain to win, since the Colts had not scored more than 13 points all season.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I picked a lousy day to be driving home in snow, because I missed a whole bunch of awesome football played in snow. Hadn't even turned to Detroit-Philly, saw on the play-by-play on my laptop that Philly had scored to go up 8 and was going for 2, and I just assumed Chip Kelly was being cute. Holy @#$!!, what weather. I wound up watching a terrible Tampa-Buffalo game, at least until that point. Speaking of which . . .

Good lord, what a crappy game. Tampa blew the Bills out, and Glennon didn't even have 100 yards passing. Take away Rainey's 80-yard TD run on the 2nd play of the game, and Tampa had less than 150 yards total. At one point midway through the 4th quarter, CBS showed a graphic that Tampa had at that point -7 yards in the entire second half. Fortunately, Tampa's defense is actually finally playing up to its very-talented level, and Lavonte David was again himself. I glanced at his stats this morning, and, on the season, he has six sacks, five picks, ~115 tackles, 9 PD, and a safety, and . . . is tackles for loss not an official stat? I'm curious as to how many of those he has, as it seems like a lot. He and Gerald McCoy have simply been amazing this year.

I felt bad for EJ Manuel; he got the holy snot beaten out of him. No matter what he did, somebody was knocking him down very, very hard. Just painful to watch. Add to that a bunch of penalties and Tampa's offense didn't even need to vaguely show up. Buffalo really stomped themselves.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Is it just me, or does it seem like the Best teams in the AFC are getting killed by injuries to some of their players who are among the best in nfl at their positions....

Patriots: Wilfork, Gronk...plus numerous key players affect run defense (Kelly, Mayo)
Broncos: Clady...plus numerous key players that affect defense (Vickerson, Moore, Bailey, Wolfe)
Bengals: Atkins
Colts: Harrison... Haven't been same team w/o him

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yes, the Rodgers injury shows just how much they depended on him. I'm a Bronco fan and it reminds me of the '92 Broncos who lost Elway in week 9 or 10. In 92 Denver, like Green Bay, was a SB contender (not the conference favorite but a legitimate contender) and then became a non-playoff team when their QB went down. As for Cutler and the Bears, I think McCown has played andhas been as consistent as Cutler.

The point I was making is that one of these teams most likely Denver or New England is going to be playing Seattle or New Orleans in the SB with extreme flaws exacerbated by injuries. The Rodgers injury effectively ended any realistic GB Super Bowl run, and likely a playoff berth.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I don't think the poster was speaking exclusively of the Rodgers injury.

Belaga has been out for the season meaning the Packers had to play a rookie at left tackle

Cobb has been out since the Ravens game

Finley has been out since the Browns game

Casey Heyward played I think two games in the middle of the season but otherwise is out with a bad hamstring.

Mathews missed 4 games. Perry has missed that many games and been used about half the time since his return.

Various offensive linemen have missed various games

So all told that is five of the best players on the team (not counting Rodgers or Perry) who have missed a huge number of games.

A team has to be REALLY deep to be able to cope with that AND one of the 3-5 best players in the league missing 6 games and counting

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That being stated I think the coaching staff has not demonstrated much during Rodgers absence. GB had a schedule where sneaking off with a 1-2 wins was certainly plausible and instead went 0-4-1

That to me is the major takeaway for Ted Thompson

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The injury woes on the Bears are on the defense, not the offense (with the exclusion of Cutler, who is most certainly better than McCown.)

Here's a list of Bears defensive players who are injured/have been injured.

Lance Briggs - Starting linebacker. Out for a while.
DJ Williams - Starting inebacker. Out for the season.
Charles Tillman - Starting Cornerback. Out for the season, potential return.
Kelvin Hayden - Starting Nickleback. Out for the season.
Henry Melton - Starting DT. Out for the season.
Nate Collins - Second String DT. Out for the season.
Stephen Paea - Starting DT. Assorted injuries, has been in and out.
Shea McClellin - Rotational/Starting DT. "Minor" injury.

That's around 6 or 7 starters who have been out for a fairly significant length of time.

The results:

2 rookies starting at linebacker, a DE starting at DT, rookies in the DE rotation, rookie at DT, bad free agent at DT, formerly injured Jeremiah Ratliff at DT starting last week, 3rd cornerback starting.

I believe there was a point at which the defense looked like this (it might have been slightly better.)

Peppers - (UDFA - DE)/Free agent - 7th Round Rookie signed from Oakland
Anderson - 2nd Round Rookie - 4th Round Rookie
3rd Cornerback - Conte - Wright - Jennings
Backup at Nickleback.

Or, in words: 2 starters out of 7 in the front 7, 3 starters out of 4 DBs, backup Nickleback.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Very funny, but the Colts haven't been the same since Edgerrin James went down in 2002 or Manning in 2011. Losing your top TE, top two RBs, top OG plus HOF WR and starting DB for half the season... bah! 'tis nothing, but a flesh wound.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I am glad this thread came up. It's so easy for each of us to chronicle the injuries on our favorite team (As said, Colts are down 5 offensive starters including best three skill positions after the QB, all gone for the year on IR, and the D is out their #2 CB, so 6 starters in all, and a 7th was out yesterday for the game but should be back). It is amazing. I know Aaron talked about it with NE, but almost every team is dealing with the same, or worse. Think of translating the Colts' injuries to your team:

#1TE
#1WR
#1 interior lineman (and perhaps best offensive lineman) on a really weak group
#1 RB, #2 RB (and then trade a #1 pick to try to fill that whole - agh!)

All gone for the year, not coming back, no chance.

Then sit #2 CB for 6 weeks running on a team that wants to play man defense and was doing so pretty well until that injury, and then lose #2 DL for this game.

Every team has a similar sob story, and the league thinks it would be good to go to an 18-game season, just to honor Peyton's number? That 18 talk has got to be just a bargaining chip.

20 Thoughts on NE/CLE game

NE future this season: They're done. Most likely will lose to MIA and BAL and beat BUF for 11-5, the AFCE crown, and the #3 seed, but will then go one and done. Defense is too porous, losing Gronk will hurt the offense too much, and the passblocking issues that they've been able to skate by on will do them in. I think their best bet is to hope Thompkins and Dobson get healthy really fast and then hope they can coach them all up to play in some 4WR offense because especially with Hooman injured they have total scrub TEs.

The pass interference at the end of the game: I think there definitely was no pass interference in the end zone. If the call was going to be made it all, it happened between the 8 and 5 yard lines. There was a little contact, but I think it was a ticky-tack call that NE fans would have blown a gasket on if it were called against a NE defender. That said, I'm happy to take it after the endings of the Carolina game and the 2nd Jets game.

Gronk knee destruction: Still processing it somewhat. First, though, it was definitely NOT helmet to knee. It was a shoulder, and I don't even think it was the top of the shoulder. Second, it was not on the knee but rather a couple of inches above the knee (which of course, obviously, can still cause lots of damage). So I'm a lot less convinced than I was before that it was a dirty play. Consider this -- take a planted leg. I bet you could hit fairly high above the knee and still cause significant knee damage (especially if it was a hit from the side). Do we really want the NFL to say no hits on ballcarriers (say) below 6 inches above the knee? I don't think it's as simple as saying "that's a dirty play -- no hitting low!"

Gostkowski onsides kick: Loved that type of kick. Only wish he had recovered it himself (a friend of mine found some YouTube video of Gostkowski executing and recovering an onsides kick when he was in college).

23 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Come on PATS FAN, the Patriots season is like a Terminator movie. It doesn't really get interesting until you think the titular character has been stopped.

27 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Are the Patriots ever likely to lose to Miami? They might lose to Miami but Miami are something close to 5-15 against them in the last 20 match ups. So I won't be holding on to my seat during the game expecting that loss :)

31 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Future: I'm a little more optimistic than that, but only just. I think they can win 2 of the last 3, and have a non-negligible chance of winning one playoff game. When given time to scheme around it, Belichick has shown the ability to cover for even a lot of injuries (remember a secondary highlighting names such as Hank Poteat, Troy Brown robo-CB, and Earthwind Moreland stopping Peyton Manning in the playoffs?). Having Gronk out for the beginning of the season was compounded by also having Vareen AND Amendola out at the same time. If Thompkins and/or Dobson comes back soon, and Vareen and either Edelman or Amendola stays healthy, and if Ridley stops fumbling, I think they can still be competitive, at least with the likes of Miami, Baltimore, and whoever ends up with the #6 seed. On the road in Denver or Cincy...not so much.

PI: Ticky tack, yes, and the Pats haters (I'm looking at you, morganja and CoachDave) will be livid of course. But a couple of things--1: as you pointed out, the Pats are now 1-2 when it comes to "winning" on ridiculous bad calls or non-calls heavily shifting win probability right at the end of the game. Sucks for Cleveland, yes, but they weren't making the playoffs anyway. 2: Even in the context of this game, the Pats were "due" for some bad calls to go their way. Up till the final drive, I was livid at the refs for calling the whole game Cleveland's way. There were at least four highly questionable big calls or blatant non-calls that went the Browns way (early whistle negating a Cleveland fumble, missed illegal contact on Amendola when he was bodychecked to the ground 10 yards beyond the LOS on a 3rd down that ended a Pats drive, holding call on Talib when the Browns were in 3rd and long when Talib barely breathed on Gordon, and a blatantly missed IG call when Cambell slung the ball down the field to no one as he was being sacked...still in the tackle box). Bad calls happen--some were against the Pats, and one against the Browns. Of course, everyone's only talking about the one at the end because it a highlight.

Gronk: The NFL needs to figure something about about tackling in the secondary, because their choice now seems to be to mandate high hits and risk long term health of the players, or low hits and have a high occurrence of season-ending injuries to stars (which will hurt the game brand). It's not just Gronk--Cobb was knocked out for the season on essentially the same type of hit. I'm sure there are other stars who were as well. Don't know what the answer is...but I wouldn't be opposed to having a "tackling zone" from the thigh to the shoulder, just like there is on a QB in the pocket. It will encourage sound "wrap up" tackling instead of "Jacked up" sportscenter highlights.

64 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

It's not just Gronk--Cobb was knocked out for the season on essentially the same type of hit. I'm sure there are other stars who were as well.

Dustin Keller was IR'd in the preseason on the same type of hit.

The Pats are now 1-2 when it comes to "winning" on ridiculous bad calls or non-calls heavily shifting win probability right at the end of the game.

2-2 if you count the no-call on Nate Solder's hold on the game-winning touchdown against the Saints.

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/08/patriots-part-of-controversial-late-penalty-call/

74 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

It used to be the QB's responsibility not to put his WR or TE in a position to get hit. In older cases it was the helmet-to-helmet type of hit that was to be avoided, but now it's the knee shot that is dangerous. Running receivers up the seam and over the middle with crossing routes is a risky play, QB's need to keep that into account.

131 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

True in general, but not really applicable to the current issue of Gronk. Gronk had caught the ball in stride with no defender barreling towards him and was running down the field when he was hit. If I recall correctly, the contact that injured his knee took place a good 10-12 yards or so after the catch, at least (and was in the process of being tackled by another player). The only thing Brady and/or the playcall could have done to prevent that injury would have been to throw to someone else, or to run the pattern right near the sideline so the defenders would have an easier time pushing him out of bounds. But unless we decide to get rid of throws over the middle entirely, I think that safeties will still dive at the knees of players.

176 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

I just saw the replay actually, I would say he took about 2.5 strides within about 5 yards after catching the ball before the hit occurred. He was probably not considered defenseless at that point, but I he was really taking long strides after reaching up and catching the ball. He certainly left himself exposed. I wouldn't put the injury on Brady at all, because Gronk had time to prepare for the hit.

148 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Not saying the non-call on Solder was correct by the letter of the law, but if you're going to complain about every instance of uncalled holding by an offensive lineman in the NFL, I hope you've got a lot of time and an extra large stockpile of outrage on your hands.

170 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Bill Barnwell argued eloquently a few weeks ago that the right call at the end of the Panthers game should've been a hold. That would've given the Patriots one last chance, but they still would have been much more likely to lose than win.
The call in the Jets game was correct. Arguing that it's a rare call and so should've been ignored is one thing, but it wasn't wrong. Not to mention the game would still have been tied. Reversing that call doesn't automatically give the game to the Patriots. They'd already had one failed drive that overtime.

194 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

"The call in the Jets game was correct."

I'm not aware that anyone has disputed that. It was clearly correct.

It was also unique, rather than rare - it was the only time in the history of the NFL that that call has been made, despite the fact that it happened multiple times, even in that game. It was never made before that missed OT field goal, and has never been made since.

228 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

It's new rule only instituted before this this season. Saying this was only the time it's been called in the history of the NFL is true but also misleading and irrelevant. Come on.

58 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Another thought:
When did Brady become unable to step up to avoid outside pressure?
There were a few occasions when the Browns got good outside pressure but the middle of the line was wide open, yet Tom took a sack instead of stepping up and unloading. Not a good sign.

PS: I'm never happy with J.B.'s officiating. It seems his crew misses obvious calls and then adds in some ticky=tack calls later because they haven't called enough penalties. I didn't like the personal foul call after the Pats TD before the onsides kick.

104 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

" When did Brady become unable to step up to avoid outside pressure?"

September, 2008.

It seems to me that, since he lost an entire season to an ACL injury, he's basically decided to cave under pressure rather than try to be a hero on any particular play. He's never been mobile, but he's approaching glacial speed.

Having said that, he does pick his spots. I won't go as far as to say he never steps up to avoid pressure. But he does tend to fold quickly. Take the sack and keep playing rather than expose the knees.

117 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

Not sure I agree.

He's definitely been less steady in the pocket since the knee injury, but I think hes been much worse this year about stepping up than before. He looks terrible right now with that, and just 2 years ago he was doing a good job ducking and stepping.

its too bad, because it was one of the things he was best at.

201 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

In the SB against the Giants, pressure was coming from all sides. I don't expect Brady to elude pressure when it comes up the middle.
However, when it comes only from the outside, he used to duck or step up. His sense of outside pressure was one of his great attributes. It no longer seems to exist.
It has been so long since I've seen Brady attempt a duck, I had fogotten he used to be good at it.

66 Re: Thoughts on NE/CLE game

New England is a still a huge threat in the AFC, maybe not for a Super Bowl win. As Denver fan my feeling is that as long as Brady is playing they have a great chance...

IMO The Wilfork, Kelly and Mayo injuries hurt them more than losing Gronk because they effect almost half of their front seven which was the strength of their defense. With Vareen, Edelman and Amendola healthy, they can overcome losing Gronk even though it will be tough.

19 "Troy Polamalu probably had his best game of the season"

I'll admit that I only watched the second half. But Polamalu missed two pretty easy tackles of Charles Clay that make it hard for me to agree that this was his best game all year. They both were awful, and one cost the team a TD.

The shame of it from a Steelers fan perspective is that who knows, this may be his last fully healthy, high-caliber season. But there are so many holes at other positions that it's sort of wasted ...

25 Re: "Troy Polamalu probably had his best game of the season"

Polamalu is getting by on experience and guile. The speed isn't there so he can't recover on plays like he did circa 2010, etc

Was a great player. But he's about another half step from being a complete liability on defense.

Saw the same thing with Charles Woodson. It was tough to watch.

46 Re: "Troy Polamalu probably had his best game of the season"

This is probably colored by being a Patriots fan, and watching Brady destroy Polamalu atleast once a year, but I think hes been a liability for a while.

My feeling is that if you can't beat Polamalu, its a failure of your coaching staff. He bites on everything, and he follows the QB's eyes, so hes very easy to 'look' into the wrong place. When he was younger he was fast enough to get back into the right place, but he hasn't been in a couple years.

The Patriots gameplan against the steelers the last couple of years has basically been:

1.Tom Brady looks at Troy Polamalu.
2.Tom Brady looks to the left.
3.Tom Brady throws the to the receiver who Polamalu is no longer covering.
4. Goto 1

120 Re: "Troy Polamalu probably had his best game of the season"

Oh, clearly. Its one of the little things that Brady does well.

But its something that most coaches could do a better job at, even so far as running plays where the read progressions go something like Seam/UnderneathLeft/Outside Right.

A lot of teams don't seem to gameplan to any more complexity to "they're bad at defending the pass, so we'll throw", which strikes me as a bit ridiculous. He's the center of Pitt's defense, and he has a very clear weakness, and its strange seeing teams not try to attack that.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I have watched multiple Seahawks games this season and if anyone wants to claim conspiracy they can start with why Sherman is not called more often for defensive holding. Yesterday were the first holding calls against Sherman all season (3 DPIs and two roughness penalties). And frankly, that's ridiculous

The guy is already clearly very good. But his performance is accentuated by officials letting him mug receivers at will. It's the opposite treatment to the bust cornerback Ahmad Carroll who while certainly NOT very good at his job was also driven out of Green Bay because even the slightest contact by Carroll would get called by the refs. The guy got a rep early and that was that.

I understand the Seahawk fans here will likely tell me I am an idiot, etc. But I just think it's weird. The guy is a really good player. Who decided at what time that he gets to commit holding calls with impunity? (Until yesterday)

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Well, first remember that just grabbing onto the receiver's jersey doesn't constitute holding by itself; you have to impede their progress as well. On top of that, I think Sherman has a good idea of where the refs are, and will try to shield line of sight of the holds with his body. The counter to that, then, is for the receiver to suddenly change direction when they feel they're being held, to make sure the ref sees it, and Boldin was doing a lot of that yesterday.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think there is a fair amount of logic to that statement as I was noting the same thing. Charles Woodson was another player who seemed to get away with a lot of holding and then all of sudden he'd get called for it 2 or 3 times in one game. I wonder if that had anything to do with receiver adjusting himself so it was more blatnant.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I wonder how much Woodson learned from Al Harris. Woodson's career was going down until he went to GB and was paired with Harris. Harris was the master at getting away with subtly grabbing jerseys and did anything he could get away with.

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A variation of this is what I was telling my 49ers-fan bud while watching the game. The refs are never going to call DPI or holding or illegal contact (or whatever on a DB) every time because, although perfectly within their pervue, it would make the game unwatchable (the same way calling O holding "legitimately" would). And in that context, it's a friggin' genius strategy for SEA (or any other team) to employ.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

There's no doubt that it's a smart, if cynical, strategy but won't it lead to teams holding more and more?

It's worse in big games, there a boneheaded trope that 'games are ruined when the refs throw too many flags', which just means that game can be ruined by too many uncalled penalties. Maybe I'm a naive idiot but I'd rather see a flag thrown when there's a penalty as long as its a good call and let the teams committing the penalties adjust. It would only take a couple of games with a blizzard of yellow dusters before they corrected themselves. I think this is better than allowing them to get away with holding for an entire season.