Audibles at the Line: Week 4

Audibles at the Line: Week 4
Audibles at the Line: Week 4
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Rivers McCown and Andrew Potter

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

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

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

Baltimore Ravens 20 at Buffalo Bills 23


@fhyrew: Fouts just said Manuel was "doomed" on a Suggs sack. Maybe wanna save that call for Dumervil?

Aaron Schatz: I want a gif of Aaron Williams' post-interception dance in tomorrow's Audibles SO BADLY.

@fhyrew: About ready to declare this the Ravens' annual road egg-laying against an inferior team.

@GFarri1: Marlon Brown boxing out 2 defenders and holding on. Just no defense against that size. Hit him and hope he drops it.

@AMSportsLive1: Manny Lawson came in totally unblocked on that sack of Flacco. Ben Muth must be having a conniption.

@pchicola: Upset watch alert. Both BUF and CIN pulling the upsets...

Andrew Potter: Did I hear that right? Ravens' first running play of second HALF with 5mins left in Q4?

Aaron Schatz: Edge Manuel just almost handed game to Baltimore, juggling ball on read option keeper. WTF?

Andrew Potter: Kiko Alonso just caught Flacco's FIFTH interception of the game. Alonso's second pick. Great diving catch to pick it.

Scott Kacsmar: Tony Romo's so much better at throwing 5 INT against Buffalo than Flacco.

Aaron Schatz: Kiko Alonso making his case for DROY - I mentioned him playing really well even back in Week 1 vs. Pats. INT on Flacco ends game

Aaron Schatz: So far, it looks very clear that Joe Flacco is still the inconsistent QB of regular seasons past, not the awesome Flacco of January.

Arizona Cardinals 13 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10


Tom Gower: The first two touchdown passes of Sunday come from Mike Glennon & Matt Cassel, because of course they do.

Vince Verhei: Man, Mike Glennon is REALLY tall and skinny.

@AMSportsLive1: Hell of a pick from Johnthan Banks. Read Palmer's eyes all the way and timed his jump perfectly.

Andrew Potter: Lost a bit in all of the QB nonsense: this Buccaneers defense is really good.

@MilkmanDanimal: Awful Palmer throw under heavy pressure, wings it at Fitzgerald and Revis picks it off. That's the kind of bad throw Tampa QBs make.

@MilkmanDanimal: 11 minutes left, Glennon has already thrown the ball 35 times. Way to protect your rookie QB, Schiano.

@MilkmanDanimal: Josh Freeman on his worst day would not have thrown that ball to Patrick Peterson with 3 minutes left in the game.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, nobody bothered to tell Mike Glennon about what happened in Houston five minutes ago.

Aaron Schatz: Then Larry Fitz makes Revis his bitch with an awesomely tight post corner post move. TD, tied game.

@MilkmanDanimal: Glennon inexplicably threw at Patrick Peterson three times within the last 3:30. Two picks. Simply terrible decisions.


Vince Verhei: I just want to say that for the one half I saw, Mike Glennon looks exactly like what the scouting reports said: very tall, very skinny, and very prone to throwing balls that have a good chance of being intercepted. By the way, I watched the first half, not the second.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 "at" Minnesota Vikings 34 (London)


Aaron Schatz: Clearly MIN saw something on tape about PIT's defense playing off WR early; two quick passes to an open Jerome Simpson for 1st downs.

Scott Kacsmar: @FO_ASchatz When you say tape, I think you literally mean VCR tapes as Steelers have done this for LeBeau's last decade.

Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar Yeah, but still, teams don't often start with such QUICK passes right off the bat. Those were like 1-step drops.

Aaron Schatz: On one hand, it's ridiculous that CBS is showing two 0-3 teams as their main 1pm game because it is in London. On the other hand, that's the game I'm watching, so what does that say about me?

@AMSportsLive1: Nice job by Cordarrelle Patterson to break up that Ike Taylor INT. Very underrated aspect of a receiver's job.

@AMSportsLive1: Awful tackling by the Steelers on that Jennings TD run. Very poor angles.

@matthew_carley: Pittsburgh can't tackle, Jennings makes entire steeler defense miss, on the sideline Ponder throws his arms in the air and misses.

@GFarri1: Tomlin won't be happy about rookie Bell flipping into the endzone down 10-0.

Aaron Schatz: Steelers just blew another couple tackles in a TD run by Peterson. Their tackling is worse than their OL today.

@antonio_arias: Adrian Peterson killed it - que corridón de 60 yardas

Aaron Schatz: Loved PIT play call. They had been running WR screens all day, then just faked one on 3-12 to go downfield.

Scott Kacsmar: How you know it's not your year: Cassel fumbles and Vikings still recover for a first down on third down.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Robinson not having a good day. He's given up a number of catches and just got hit with a huge DPI after A.Brown beat him deep.

Aaron Schatz: Great blocking on AP TD. RG Fusco pushes Hood way over, creates big hole, then hits 2nd level while Loadholt pushes Hood even further

Aaron Schatz: Aha. Looks like somebody reminded Everson Griffen that he is in a contract year. Strip sack, Vikings win.


Aaron Schatz: I thought this game was a great demonstration of each team's strengths and weaknesses. And it may have been the best game the NFL has sent to London so far, even though the poor British fans did have to witness some pathetic tackling by the Steelers defense. A game like this shows you why the phrase "Any Given Sunday" exists. Even two 0-3 teams have some major strengths: Antonio Brown, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Troy Polamalu, to name four guys who looked really good.

Of course, no team wins with only superstars. You also have to have solid players in between, guys who do their jobs well even if they don't get a lot of attention. If I ever do an all-star team of "guys who do their jobs well but don't get a lot of attention," Chad Greenway is going to be on that team. (This team of course would have no quarterback, because there is no quarterback who doesn't get a lot of attention. Well, maybe a backup quarterback, like Tarvaris Jackson or Kyle Orton or someone.)

As for the weaknesses... The Steelers really don't have the depth they have had in so many recent years. You could see that in secondary when the Vikings went with extra receivers, or in the play of Vince Williams, the sixth-round rookie forced into the lineup for the injured Larry Foote. And of course, the offensive line. The Steelers offensive line didn't look half-bad today on run blocks, and I also thought Le'veon Bell had a couple plays where he looked really good at following his blocks and patiently waiting for holes. But oy, the Steelers line on pass plays. They have to figure out a way to get Mike Adams off the left side. Rookie struggles are one thing, but by the second year, a highly-drafted left tackle has got to be better than this.

The biggest Vikings weakness is the secondary. Josh Robinson was abysmal today, and gave up tons of catches (particularly to Antonio Brown) and a huge pass interference penalty. The Vikings pass rush looked better today, though, as did the weaker parts of their offensive line. I think Matt Cassel made a very good case to replace Christian Ponder permanently. Ponder can't hit the long pass, and Cassel did a much better job on those today. You want to have a quarterback here who can go deep when the opponent brings their safeties up to stop Peterson.

One other note: The past Wembley games were known for really messy fields, lots of slipping. Didn't see that today.

Scott Kacsmar: I thought Ben Roethlisberger's pocket presence was exceptional today -- he was avoiding a lot of sacks early, but was not able to find many receivers on those scrambles. Bell's first touchdown was a very nice run and he finished the game healthy (to my knowledge), so that's a positive debut for him. But the red-zone offense continues to struggle and that ultimately killed the team today. Throwing a fade to a split-out wide Heath Miller is just not the way to go about things. What happened to Derek Moye after his fade score in Cincinnati? The short wideouts are just not much of a threat down there and obviously the pressure on Roethlisberger on the final drive was too much to overcome. Still, you like to see him go down throwing instead of fumbling in the pocket. I also do not understand the spikes on that last drive with over a minute left. I've seen Roethlisberger do this enough to the point where it must be his decision and not the coaching staff.

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Defensively, it was one of the poorest games I've seen from Pittsburgh. Way too many missed tackles allowed for those big plays to Greg Jennings and Adrian Peterson. Ike Taylor not only failed to complete a few interceptions, but he had a big missed tackle on Peterson's run. You just know it's not your year when you force Matt Cassel to fumble, but the ball still gets recovered by Minnesota for a first down on third down no less. The lack of turnovers continues to be the big story, forcing a shaky offense to drive long fields and be nearly perfect, which it just cannot be right now when you have mismatches like Mike Adams against anyone.

Now at 0-4 for the first time since 1968, I can officially say this is the worst Pittsburgh team I have ever watched. They really need this early bye week.

New York Giants 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 31


@ptmovieguy: Back-to-Back fumbles in Chiefs-Giants game. All NY games this seasons will be accompanied by Yakety Sax.

@pchicola: I'm just switching over from CHI-DET to NYG-KC. Can anyone tell me what's been the story of this game so far?

Andrew Potter: Eli on a deep ball finds a wide open Will Demps. Not a Giants receiver on the screen when Demps catches it.

Andrew Potter: Dwayne Bowe failed his quarterback on Rolle's interception for the Giants. The type of unlucky pick Manning usually throws.

Ben Jones: Why aren't the Giants bringing pressure on punts? Colquitt was shaken up on a block earlier, and they haven't tested him since.

Andrew Potter: That Dexter McCluster punt return touchdown was a thing of beauty.

Aaron Schatz: Watch NYG. Notice what happens to an offense w/great skill players and terrible OL. Now prepare to watch ATL play NE tonight.

Aaron Schatz: If Giants suffer their usual November decline, will they be worse than Jaguars? Egads.

Indianapolis Colts 37 at Jacksonville Jaguars 3


@AMSportsLive1: Andrew Luck steps up into the pocket, dodges two Jaguars, and runs for seventeen yards. Pocket awareness is unbelievable.

Peter Koski: So, you trade for Trent Richardson and have 1st&Goal on JAC 4 and you pass three times?

@RyanCrinnigan: Luck seems to tip off play action in the red zone with his straight-arm handoff fake.

Scott Kacsmar: Donald Brown with a 50-yard run. Richardson sitting at 53 yards on 19 carries as a Colt. Just saying...

@AMSportsLive: Jags have gone thirty straight first half possessions without scoring a TD.

Rivers McCown: Jaguars result should surprise no one. You can argue they were better off when they were an expansion team. Testament to Gene Smith.

@Shake1n1bake: Pretty rough 1st half for Andrew Luck. If not for a TD for INT and Donald Brown breaking a 50 yard run this would be a hideous game

Scott Kacsmar: Colts are looking for back-to-back road wins by 20+ points for first time since 2009.

Aaron Schatz: Worst 0-4 team in DVOA history is 2001 Washington at -71.6%. Jacksonville will definitely challenge that.

@Shake1n1bake: I feel bad for Gabbert. It's not like he's played well today, but all three of his picks were off his WRs hands, tipped right to a DB

Scott Kacsmar: I checked with Bill Polian and Trent Richardson's 3.0 YPC is still okay because 3+3 = 3rd & 4 and Andrew Luck can convert those too.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at Houston Texans 20 (OT)


Peter Koski: Ben Tate with a nice run up the middle v SEA. Tate has looked as good as I've seen him in the NFL this year.

Rivers McCown: Andre Johnson definitely getting some plays off early as they try to compensate for the shin.

Rivers McCown: Seattle playing a little more zone than I thought they would early.

Peter Koski: Whitney Mercilus, living up to (exceeding?) his SackSEER projection for Houston

Rivers McCown: Texans are taking more deep shots this week. That's a step in the right direction.

Rivers McCown: Greg Jones had a nice (illegal) block to spring Arian Foster on his touchdown reception

Rivers McCown: Seattle's offensive line is playing a Jacksonville-quality game today. Marshawn Lynch has 60 yards just before halftime. Just about every one of them his own doing.

Tom Gower: Not a surprise, but today is a good example of how good Matt Schaub can be when he isn't facing pressure & how bad he is when he is

@CyrisJonfs: Announcer points out Texans 44-5 when they rush more than 30 times...still work to do.

Rivers McCown: So many "Brian Cushing wasn't on the field" tweets in a row that I think we need to consider how many Middle Linebacker Wins he has

@AMSportsLive: Wait, the Seahawks have rallied from a 20-3 deficit? I thought they weren't built to come from behind!

Tom Gower: The Seahawks just showed why you should sit on the bootleg against the Texans. Clemons with pressure, Sherman beats Daniels, pick-6

@robbbbbb: The Force is with us. Perfect blitz on the rollout, and Richard Sherman jumps the route for the pick-6.

@MilkmanDanimal: Considering the score and time left in the game, that Schaub pick is one of the singly worst INTs I have ever seen.

@AMSportsLive1: Yep. That's Matt Schaub for ya. He had to toss that one up for grabs because taking a sack would have made too much sense.


Rivers McCown: I'll be longer later, after the binge drinking ... three consecutive games with pick-sixes. Three. All while watching the quarterback I wanted the Texans to take in the 2012 draft spend the entire second half avoiding sacks left and right.

It's not a fun time.

Sean McCormick: Now is the time for Houston to trade for Mark Sanchez. He'll clean that right up...

Tom Gower: When Matt Schaub had time to throw, you saw why Ron Jaworski would put him in the top ten in his quarterback countdown. He repeatedly found open space in the middle of the field, often to tight ends. Andre Johnson also did a good job of winning his one-on-one battle against Richard Sherman, and the Texans took a 20-3 lead. Seattle really did almost nothing offensively in the first half as their makeshift offensive line was terrorized by J.J. Watt.

Matt Schaub under pressure, though, was a completely different story, as it so often is. This was true from the first drive of the game, when Chris Clemons beat Ryan Harris (filling in for an injured Duane Brown) to the end of regulation (as much as I say). The worst moment was his back-breaking pick-6 to Richard Sherman. The Texans were in the four-minute drill and called a bootleg on third down. The Seahawks stayed at home, which they did a couple times, and Schaub chucked up an off-balance throw Sherman beat Owen Daniels to and then took to the house. Russell Wilson's escapability (if you can stand that word) was a key part of Seattle's comeback, as he made plays, often with his legs, when he was pressured and flushed behind that makeshift offensive line.

If you want a theme for this game, it's that owner Bob McNair criticized Houston's mental toughness and resilience in the offseason, and those are still issues. The late defensive struggles were aided by the loss of Brian Cushing, and Ed Reed's leadership skills were not much in evidence. They didn't show up like, say, his attempts to tackle Marshawn Lynch, who had his normal share of hard running, did.

Vince Verhei: I'm not even sure what to say about this game. The Seahawks were missing three offensive linemen, including clearly the best two, against the best defender in the league and his friends. They were predictably impotent for a half. Marshawn Lynch had a couple of big plays, and they got a big defensive pass interference call, but otherwise it was a string of random Houston linemen meeting Seattle ballcarriers in the backfield ad nauseam. The second half improvement, such as it was, was mostly a result ofWilson's mobility, either by design or by necessity. They never really got unhinged, and had some bad turnovers, but somehow they managed make more big plays with fewer mistakes than the opposition.

The defense played a lot of soft zone in the first half. I expect to see the words "short middle" next to the majority of Matt Schaub's completions. Garrett Graham's touchdown came on a seam route against what looked like Cover 3. On the other hand, it also resulted in defenders pointing and shrugging at each other, so who knows. In the second half, they switched to a lot more blitzing and man coverages, and that's when Houston started to have serious problems.

Still, though, you look at the box score, and you see Houston with enormous edges in plays (88 to 58), total offense (476 to 270), and first downs (29 to 15), and considering the were only -1 in turnovers, and it doesn't even make sense that the game was close.

Rivers McCown: I used my press box seat to focus on Richard Sherman and Ed Reed. I think I'd score the Sherman battle about 60/40 to Andre Johnson when he was on the field, but the Texans mostly kept Johnson away from Sherman. I was perplexed by how often Seattle was using zone early in this game when they clearly had the horses to go man-to-man with Houston's skill position players.

As for Reed, it was hard to tell what kind of difference he was actually making because Wilson was under siege. I'd be watching Reed and then the play would be over in the backfield before he had a chance to do anything. That tackling though ... he definitely dogs it on plays when he can. He's smart about angles, but that's about the only thing working in his favor right now.

In the grander scheme of things, separating Schaub from Kubiak is a problem. Sherman said after the game that the Seattle scout team ran the exact same play the pick-six came on in practice on Friday, and he picked that one off too. I'll be honest here and say I thought Schaub would play worse than he actually did in this game. I think part of that was Gary Kubiak accepting that the Texans would need to open up the passing game more. But as soon as the 20-3 lead was in hand (and Ben Tate, you do not escape blame for that fumble), he morphed right back into generic Kubiak land, replete with checkdowns on third-and-long and plays the defense sees coming a mile away.

Being a Texans fan is a very strange state right now. These are all problems I saw coming a mile away heading into the season, but the defense and run game are still good enough to carry the team to victory if Captain Pick-Six over there stops sending games to overtime. This is year eight of Gary Kubiak. To illuminate how long that is: Ron Rivera has been on the hot seat for almost a year and you can almost fit three Rivera tenures into Kubiak's. I've reached the point of learned helplessness when it comes to this team's weaknesses. They stem from the head coach and the quarterback. Even though they got smacked around today, watching a team like the Bears make a bold hire with Trestman and fix their offensive line is really empowering. ...And then you realize it took Bob McNair five years to quit David Carr.

I need another drink.

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Cincinnati Bengals 6 at Cleveland Browns 17


@AMSportsLive1: Josh Gordon is quickly turning into one of the best WRs in the game. Great acceleration, fantastic hands, and can outjump Cbs.

Andrew Potter: Dalton just underthrew Sanu on a flea flicker where the WR was wide open. Bad throw bailed out by DPI when the corner clattered Sanu.

Andrew Potter: Following the underthrow to Sanu, Dalton's lucky not to be picked twice. Fourth-and-1 around the 11, Bengals go for it but BJGE fails.

@AMSportsLive1: Hoyermania has overshadowed how good the Browns' front seven has been.

Andrew Potter: Only seen clips of CIN@CLE on RZ, but boy does it look like Dalton's had a rough first half. Missing throws, taking sacks. Concerning.

@THEOSU7: Buster Skrine just flagged for unnecessary roughness on a player obviously out of the play for hitting... the intended receiver

@graham020: That Cleveland trade looking like a good move. They could be a force next year if they draft well. They probably won't though

Aaron Schatz: We can talk all about how CLE has shown they don't need a big name RB, but bigger question: What happened to Bengals today?

Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz What I saw of it, Dalton had a very poor game. Missing throws, lucky not to be picked several times, hard time in pocket.


Rob Weintraub: Just a horrendous showing by the Bengals offensive line in particular and the overall offense in general. On several plays, half the unit went one and the other half went the other way. There was zero inside push, Cleveland maintained pressure without blitzing, and the Bengals sustained zero rhythm all game. Center Kyle Cook had a few bad snaps, including one that became a fumble recovered by the Browns, and another crucial one that the Bengals recovered. Cleveland also stuffed the Bengals on fourth-and-1 inside the 10-yard line, which was the game in a nutshell. The Browns were way more physical from start to finish. Bengals receivers could not find any openings, and got punished when they did. Joe Haden shut down A.J. Green, got in his head early and stayed there. Andy Dalton didn't help by continuing to be inaccurate with deep throws, but in fairness he was under duress. Kiki Mingo was very active off the edge.

Brian Hoyer will get all sorts of love now that he's 2-0, but he's only marginally better than Weeden, and can't throw it as long. He is poised, and effective on medium-range touch throws. Cameron is so frigging huge, but with excellent balance and footwork, that he'll make Hoyer look good. But let's not make Hoyer into anything more than what he is -- a marginal QB. The Bengals were down two secondary starters, and a rotation cornerback, and it's not like Hoyer took much advantage. With luck, he'll win a few too many game for the Browns to draft a true franchise quarterback.

I fully expected a hangover game from Cincy, and got it, in spades. I would have liked to see the team get beyond this kind of thing, but looking around the league, it's not like anybody else save Denver is immune from it.

Rivers McCown: I think the real issue in Cleveland's improvement is that Josh Gordon is back in the lineup. There's a big difference between having one good NFL receiver (Jordan Cameron) and having two.

Chicago Bears 32 at Detroit Lions 40


@AMSportsLive1: What's worse; Jim Schwartz not going for it on 4th and 1 from the 6 or the announcers effusively praising him for it?

@pchicola: @MattBowen41 @Andy_Benoit CHI sticks to 2-deep shells. DET countering by going Bush-heavy early on. Pick ur poise approach.

@pchicola: On Bush TD, it was the 4th time today DJ Williams got sucked to the wrong hole and Briggs got man-handled on backside

Andrew Potter: That's the Reggie Bush we thought we were getting out of USC. 37 yard TD run, Detroit crushing Chicago.

Andrew Potter: Stafford misses open WR on deep route with 30s left in Q2. Next play, strip-sacked and CHI recovers. 1F/D, FG. 10pt swing in 30secs.

Scott Kacsmar: When I talk about Jay Cutler padding his 4QC/GWD record by not keeping it close enough, today is a good example of that.

@MilkmanDanimal: That fumble was Cutler's fault; held the ball too long and very loose and let Suh have enough time to get to him.

@AMSportsLive1: Well, it looks like this is just one of those games for Jay Cutler. He has at least two or three of them every year.

Tom Gower: I shouldn't be, b/c it's clear right move, but I'm a bit surprised & happy Marc Trestman is going for 2 down 18 with 4 mins to play.

New York Jets 13 at Tennessee Titans 38


@AMSportsLive: Now that Guy Whimper and J'Marcus Webb have been put out of their misery, is Vlad Ducasse the worst starting OL in the league?

Tom Gower: Big break #2 for the Titans as Geno Smith coughs the ball up and they start inside the 30.

@AMSportsLive1: "Turnovers and penalties are killing the New York Jets." Why do I feel like I've heard that before?

@calesgreen: What's with the terrible camera man for the Jets-Titans game? Shouldn't the guy with the ball be on screen?

Vince Verhei:Locker throws up a lob to a well-covered WR. Never should have been thrown. Hunter reels it in for TD. #badprocess #goodresults

Tom Gower: 3 turnovers, 3 conversions into 21 points. Walls should've tackled Hunter there & taken DPI.

Tom Gower: One of these games it will matter that the Titans are giving many carries to an RB with a low-40s success rate averaging 3 ypc

@PigskinLover: Watching the Titans give to Chris Johnson repeatedly for no gain helps me grasp why they would be the team to overpay S. Greene

Vince Verhei: Botched screen play for Jets turns into sack, maybe a safety (challenge pending). I think Geno is getting worse on this team.

Aaron Schatz: @FO_VVerhei I believe QB getting worse because he's on a bad team is called "David Carr disease."

@calesgreen: Jets get cute on 4th and 1, run counter pitch, get stuffed. 4th and 1 should be a dive, a sneak, or Spider 2 Y Banana.

Tom Gower: Geno Smith mistake #4, #Titans touchdown #4.

Vince Verhei: TEN gets pressure up middle. Geno tries to tuck ball behind his back. Leads to sack-fumble-TD. He's getting worse in front of me.

Tom Gower: Recommendation for the Jets: stop calling screens from the 20, because Geno keeps retreating when they result in pressure.

Tom Gower: Another break for the Titans, another touchdown. Like the Lions game last year. When it's your day, I guess it's your day.


Tom Gower: Geno Smith intercepted, Titans start at the Jets 18, converted for a touchdown. Geno Smith fumble, Titans start at the Jets 26, converted for a touchdown. Geno Smith intercepted, Titans start at the Jets 46, converted for a touchdown. That's your 24-6 halftime lead and about all you need to know in this game aside from Jake Locker's injury.

Vince Verhei: The most surprising thing to me about Jake Locker's improvement this season is that he's become an entirely different player than I expected. Watching him pass through the University of Washington and into the NFL, I saw a big-armed, mobile, mistake-prone quarterback and figured his ceiling was something like a more mobile Jay Cutler. Instead, for four games, he's become a take-what-the-defense-gives-you, keep-the-chains-moving, efficient checkdown game manager guy. Of course I expected him to be a complete bust in the pros, so any improvement is a good thing.

Rivers McCown: Has he really? I didn't get a chance to watch this game, but that's not consistent with the guy I watched the last three weeks. This is going to be a fascinating watch when I go through the AFC South Tuesday.

(Addendum: Locker will be out four to eight weeks with a hip injury.)

Washington Redskins 24 at Oakland Raiders 14


Andrew Potter: RZ switches live to WAS game. First clip, OAK ball carrier breaking Skins tackles. Typical Skins D. Play 2, Flynn-Moore deep. Ditto.

Andrew Potter: RZ switches to show Holliday return TD. By time they get back to OAK, OAK has scored. Skins defense playing true to form so far.

Scott Kacsmar: Redskins just ran the league's favorite new play. "The Avery"

Andrew Potter: With the way the WAS defense is playing, I'd be going for 4th-and-goal from the 2 without slightest second thought. 14-3 OAK now.

@toxic: Fake punt in Oakland was almost too easy. Any play engineered to make Washington complete an open-field tackle is going to succeed.

@ptmovieguy: After "gutsy" fake-puntrickeration earlier in drive, Raiders end up punting on 4-n-2 in WAS' territory. Touchback.

Scott Kacsmar: RGIII's awareness on that 4th-and-3 play might be close to 0.

@toxic: Paulson's fumble = still no first downs in the 2nd half of OAK/WAS. And these teams aren't exactly defensive powerhouses.

@ptmovieguy: WAS tackling as advertised. Raiders LOS dumpoff to R. Jennings, breaks 3 tackles to gain 10 yards for first down.

@ptmovieguy: RG III just pulled a Houdini vs untouched blitzer, dumps off to Helu, who hurdles a Raiders defender. One play later, TD.

Tom Gower: Interesting that Raiders went for it on 4th down down 2 scores with less than 4 minutes to play. I know it was 4&1, but still, kick.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Denver Broncos 52


Ben Jones: The eagles can't go for fg's in the red zone. They should go for it on 4th and 4.

Scott Kacsmar: Trindon Holliday: the new best return man in the NFL.

@AMSportsLive1: Can we start mentioning Trindon Holliday in the same breath as Dante Hall, Devin Hester, and Eric Metcalf?

@pchicola: The key for PHI will be to stick with the running game, no matter how far behind they fall. Otherwise, they are doomed...

Ben Jones: Through no fault of their own the Eagles stopped the Broncos.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not seeing much of Welker getting involved in the DEN offense today. Is that Brandon Boykin playing well?

@PerlStalker: @FO_ASchatz Welker is leading Den in catches and yards but Den's been in 2TE sets a lot, too.

@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz For some reason, Welker wasn't on the field during the no-huddle series which lead to Moreno TD's.

Danny Tuccitto: did chip kelly really just decide to punt on 4th-and-6 from the DEN 36?

Ben Jones: With the Eagles down by 15, they shouldn't settle for anything less than a TD unless there is a long way to go

Scott Kacsmar: Streak's alive. 21 consecutive games scoring 10+ points in 2nd half for Denver.

Scott Kacsmar: Aikman highlighting Chris Clark's block. Could Ryan Clady have done any better?

Scott Kacsmar: This performance hasn't had the obligatory Denver fumble yet.

Scott Kacsmar: Wes Welker has 6 TDs, or as many as he had on 118 catches last season.

@PerlStalker: Dear Eagles, Thanks for playing. Signed, Denver.


Scott Kacsmar: Here's what I love about Denver: in a league where most teams are up and down from game to game (or quarter to quarter), they play at the same level consistently each week. Everyone expected Peyton Manning to slaughter Philadelphia's defense, and that's exactly what happened. The few stops were more about Denver stopping itself than any plays made by the Eagles. Trindon Holliday continues to impress as a return specialist. The defense continues to play well without Champ Bailey and Von Miller. Philadelphia didn't have a ton of mistakes like against Kansas City, but it was not a productive day by any means for Chip Kelly's offense. I said before last week we could see Kelly take the quickest fall from grace since 2009 Josh McDaniels. At 1-3, that praise for his tempo in Washington feels like a season ago. You have to be able to coach defense too. Surprising that 52 points is the Denver franchise record. It could have been worse if the Eagles made it more competitive.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it's not just about *coaching* defense. You also have to have the players, and they don't really have the players -- in the secondary, at least.

As for the Broncos, their ridiculous outlier performance on third downs seems to finally be fading. They allowed conversions on 8-of-16 third downs today. But the defense is still pretty good on first and second down, and the offense is so good that this defense only needs to be average for the Broncos to easily be the best team in the AFC.

Scott Kacsmar: The Philadelphia defense was fine last year before the bye week, but Juan Castillo was an easy scapegoat ("hey, this guy's an offensive line coach, he can't possibly coach defense, and we need to deflect blame away for the 17 turnovers by the offense!) so they got rid of him. Enter "The Todd Bowles Movement" and the worst six-game stretch of pass defense in NFL history, and the Eagles have never really recovered on that side of the ball.

Dallas Cowboys 21 at San Diego Chargers 30


Cian Fahey: Terrance Williams continues to impress in limited time. Makes sense why trade rumors exist RE Miles Austin

@AMSportsLive1: Great TD catch from Dez Bryant. Insane athleticism required to go up and get that ball; Dez is one of about five WRs who can do it.

Scott Kacsmar: Blessed are the sick, children shiver ... watching Philip Rivers. (Props to those who get the reference).

@AlvaroIM77: 3rd and 1. SD comes out in empty backfield shotgun. No one bats an eye. This is today's #NFL

@pchicola: In-series adjustment by SD. After Witten burned Butler twice (completion and PI), they are hi-low'ing 82 w/ OLB Walker & SS Gilchrist

@ptmovieguy: Hey look, a late-game red zone fumble w/ DAL and SD involved

New England Patriots 30 at Atlanta Falcons 23


Aaron Schatz: I'm so glad the Patriots got rid of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick so that they could have a UDFA back up Wilfork. #notglad

@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz Only Deaderick is currently on a roster. Love, Pryor and Brace are Free Agents, in case some familiar faces are required

Aaron Schatz: Sam Baker down. The Falcons need another OL injury like... like... well, like the Patriots need another WR/TE injury. Lamar Holmes in at left tackle. ATL RB gonna start making more chips than a Ruffles factory.

Aaron Schatz: I like Mike Smith's guts to go for it on fourth-and-2. I like the playcall, Roddy White was open. The pass from Matt Ryan was garbage

Tom Gower: Sprint Left Option with a right-handed QB is approximately my least favorite play in the world, and the Falcons just showed why again

Aaron Schatz: He's still overthrowing guys too often, but this is definitely Brady's best game of the season.

@itnw0628: Bill Belichick's decision to kick a FG at opponent's 4yard line makes me sad.

Aaron Schatz: On one hand, how on earth does a defense allow the other team to convert third and freaking 19??? On the other hand, that penalty on William Moore was total B.S. Thompkins ducked into Moore's elbow. It's another example of how the NFL is trying to legislate against the laws of physics. How on earth is Moore supposed to avoid that?

Aaron Schatz: Robert McClain had awesome charting stats last year. I've learned not to get crazy over one great year of nickel charting stats.

@pchicola: Don't look, but the rookies are getting more comfortable in NE. Gronk & Amendola are eventually coming back. Defense is looking good.

Andrew Potter: If this is anything to go by, this is going to be one scary offense when it gets Gronkowski and Amendola back.

@WhispersMoCo: @bighairyandy I literally forgot about those guys watching tonight. Wow! Thompkins and Dobson are going to be good.

Aaron Schatz: Odds on the Patriots blowing two snaps on sneaks in one season? Astronomical, right?

Scott Kacsmar: Ha, Brady NEVER botched a snap in this situation before this season. Twice now. I'm taking credit for SI jinx.

@L_Crosby: Tom Brady is The Greek God of QB Sneaks and he didn't get it. I'm STUNNED.

Aaron Schatz: Somewhere, Marshall Faulk saw the defense the Pats were playing on Tony Gonzalez and nodded. "Yeah, I remember how that is."


Aaron Schatz: Our preseason projections are never perfect. I certainly didn't see the Giants collapsing, or the Chiefs improving quite this much. But I feel like this game should have been included as a DVD, stapled into the Atlanta chapter of the book. This was everything we thought was going to happen with the Falcons. The "skill players" are still awesome, and Tony Gonzalez is the best to ever play his position, but you can't get the ball downfield to Julio Jones and Roddy White if you can't stay in the pocket. The offensive line is mess, partly because of injuries but also because they cut Tyson Clabo and made no attempt to bring back Todd McClure. Meanwhile, the defense is really not good. There are some good players, sure, but the pass rush isn't doing much and the rookie cornerbacks look like rookie cornerbacks. And how did the Falcons end up starting a rookie UDFA named Joplo Bartu at weakside linebacker. I seriously have no clue who that is.

As for the Patriots, pretty much everybody said after the Jets game that it would get better as the receivers got experience and improved their timing with Brady, and in fact, it has gotten better as the receivers have gotten experience and improved their timing with Brady. When Rob Gronkowski comes back, and if Danny Amendola can actually stay healthy for a week or two, this is back to being a top ten offense. And the Patriots now have a top ten defense to go with it -- unless Vince Wilfork is seriously injured. He's the second-most important player on this team behind Brady. They can't lose him.

Addendum: I wrote those comments when it was 30-13. Obviously, the game didn't end 30-13, but a fluky onside-kick recovery, a bobbled fourth-down Ryan Wendell snap (which may or my not have been a sneak) and one really amazing awesome catch by Julio Jones downfield don't change the general problems of the Falcons offense.

Although, wow, Julio Jones. When Matt Ryan does get some blocking, Julio Jones is a MAN out there.

(Second Addendum: Wilfork is done for the year with a torn Achilles. This is not a good thing for the Patriots.)

Tom Gower: Among other things we saw from this game was why teams like to have a really good corner when playing teams with great individual players. Aqib Talib wasn't absolutely perfect, but on the whole he was really darned good and came up big for the Patriots when they needed him most.

Scott Kacsmar: Matt Ryan certainly needs better blocking, but he still went 34-of-54 for 421 yards. What Atlanta needed was better play in the red zone. That fourth-and-2 earlier in the game was just a horrid pass by Ryan to an open Roddy White. Then that has to be really disappointing to have another drive come up short in the red zone when only a touchdown will do. You'd think a guy like Harry Douglas would always get single coverage and could do some kind of double move in that situation. There's always traffic around Tony Gonzalez, White's not 100 percent and Julio is obviously going to draw a lot of attention. Must draw up some more plays down there, and not the sprint-right option (or sprint left this time).

Rivers McCown: The sneaky problem there is that Harry Douglas isn't actually any good.


256 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2013, 6:22pm

#1 by DrunkenOne // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:06am

@ptmovieguy: RG III just pulled a Houdini vs untouched blitzer, dumps off to Helu, who hurdles a Raiders defender. One play later, TD.

This was one of the first times that RG3 well... RG3ed so far this season. The pocket collapsed but he felt the pressure and was able to avoid multiple defenders en route to a perfect pass to Helu. Almost every other QB in the league takes a sack there.

On the flip side, watching Matt Flynn gave me cancer. He felt completely flat in the pocket, would drop back and just stand there not feeling the pressure at all and seemingly never stepped up into the pocket. After they noticed this, Kerrigan and Orakpo were just speed rushing to the outside and destroying the Raiders OTs for seemingly free sacks/pressures/fumbles every single passing play. The rare instances that Flynn felt the pressure and stepped up he did so directly into Barry Coefield. All 3 of them had 2 sacks and surely dozens of pressures and hurries.

Points: 0

#2 by RickD // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:30am

It's really not debatable regarding the expansion Jaguars vs. the current Jaguars. The expansion Jaguars were much better. By Year 2, they had beaten the Broncos in Denver in the playoffs to make the AFC Championship game. They remained a top AFC team for the rest of the 1990s, including a 14-2 regular season record in 1999.

Depressed to hear about Wilfork's injury.

Points: 0

#3 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:34am

Oh Cutler. I'm not too worried by the offense, it was just one of those games. But, uh, the defense. I'm more than a bit scared. Not "start Bostic" scared, but scared nonetheless. The Lions are good, but I honestly think this was more a bad performance by the Bears than an especially fantastic performance by the Lions.

Other impressions: The Jags may be the worst team I have ever seen play, the Giants have the worst O-Line in the league by a significant margin, I feel smug about saying the Seahawks offense isn't as great as people seemed to assume (it could, however, be a product of 3 O-Linemen being out,) the Jets are still really bad, the Patriots might not be terrible. The Broncos are still going to win the superbowl.

Points: 0

#18 by Pottsville Mar… // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:18am

This might be the first time it has been necessary to describe a 4-0 team as "not terrible."

Points: 0

#41 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:08pm

Before this game, the Patriots: almost lost to the Bills, "beat" the Jets, and beat the steadily unraveling Buccaneers. I didn't see any win that made me think "this team is good."

Points: 0

#48 by RickD // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:14pm

So the first win is an "almost list" and the second win is a scare quotes "beat."

Did you think the Patriots were a bad team?

It just seems like "not awful" is too low a comment given prior knowledge of the team's offensive capability.

Points: 0

#88 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:36pm

The Patriots, before last night, had played one game that could have gone either way, one game that they not so much won as didn't lose, and one good game. Their opponents were not especially good, and they did not play especially well against those opponents. Terrible is hyperbole, but they did not look like a very good team, and I'm still not certain that they're anything above mediocre. Perhaps DVOA will see it differently.

Points: 0

#94 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:49pm

"one game that they not so much won as didn't lose"

What does this even mean?

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#106 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:11pm

The Patriots were really bad. The Jets were worse. There was a winner in that game, but it seemed more by default than by any skillful play by the patriots offense.

The phrasing is used to imply that both teams were really bad, but one team was worse.

Points: 0

#111 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:31pm

" but it seemed more by default than by any skillful play by the patriots offense."

You do realize the Jets have a defense, right? And it actually might be pretty good?

Points: 0

#116 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:39pm

The Patriots receivers couldn't hold on to the ball at all. They were very bad, even independent of the Jets defense.

Points: 0

#133 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:14pm

Receivers are much more likely to drop the ball when they've got good defensive backs in their face. They're also more likely to drop the ball when QBs are throwing off target balls because they're hurried.

NE Def DVOA -18% #4
NYJ Dev DVOA -29% #2

These were two of the best defenses in football.

I know defensive football can be ugly sometimes, and you may not prefer it, but defense does matter.

Points: 0

#208 by Noahrk // Sep 30, 2013 - 8:32pm

I didn't see Jets defensive backs in the Patriots receivers' faces, I saw a bunch of rookies dropping easy catches and looking much like the Jets offense. They looked like a completely different team last night.

The man with no sig

Points: 0

#230 by RedDawg (not verified) // Oct 01, 2013 - 7:14am

Have Dobson or Thompkins catch one or two of the longer balls against the Jets, and what do you say then? Completely different game? Completely different team? Silly.

Points: 0

#219 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Oct 01, 2013 - 1:30am

I'm a Bears fan, if I didn't like defensive football I'd have gone insane by now. The Patriots receivers dropped the ball with or without any input from the defensive backs.

And trying to conclude anything about the strength of a defense before any opponent adjustments have come in s kind of iffy.

Points: 0

#236 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 01, 2013 - 11:12am

Sometimes Oakland beats the Jaguars. Oakland is terrible, but at least plays professional football.

Points: 0

#97 by DEW (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:52pm

Well, they get the Dolphins twice, the Texans, the Bengals, the Ravens, and the Panthers, as fellow members of the "this team could be good or not, and I'm not sure if I believe in them" club on the schedule, so a few of those games should sort out whether they belong in that category or a solid step above it. Only Denver and N.O. look like genuinely good football teams (...subject to tonight's result) on the upcoming schedule, and the Pats get both at home, which says positive things about the Pats' expected record.

I have to consider the Patriots to be in the upper echelon of the AFC yet again and a virtual lock for at least a wild-card spot in a weak conference. It's just that their play and their schedule thus far haven't really been decisive in the way, say, the Seahawks' play has been.

Points: 0

#110 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:28pm

The Seahawks who have played the:

1-2 Panthers (18.4% VOA)
2-2 49ers (-30% VOA)
0-4 Jaguars (-90% VOA)
2-2 Texans (-7% VOA)

Yes, some of that VOA/Record is losing to the Seahawks.

I think its kind of silly to try and assertively claim who is good at this point, especially by looking at Strength of schedule this early.

I mean, just last year we were talking about how the Patriots at 3-3 looked really weak. Turns out that two of their losses were to good team we just didn't know were good at the time (@SEA, @BAL). ARI still sucked though.

NYG looked like a tough spot on most teams schedules...not any more. Same with Pittsburgh. KC looked like a doormat. Who even knows what the Packers and 49ers are.

Points: 0

#118 by Arkaein // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:44pm

I know most of us expected the NFC to be the stronger conference this year, but as it stands now the AFC is collectively 9 games above .500.

If the playoffs started now (I know, I know) the two Wild Card teams from the AFC would be the undefeated Chiefs and Dolphins. The NFC Wild Cards would be the 3-1 Bears and the 2-2 49ers or Cardinals.

Points: 0

#25 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:35am

The Bears constantly getting gashed for 10-15 yards straight up the middle by Reggie Bush of all people is cause for much concern.

4 games in, and I really miss having two pro-bowl level linebackers.

Points: 0

#104 by Eddo // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:05pm

Yes, though Melton had not been playing well up until his injury. The middle of the defense has been soft all season.

Points: 0

#62 by RoninX (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:43pm

The Seahawks offense hasn't been consistent at all this year, but playing 3 of the top 5 d lines in the league (2 on the road, at 10am -if you buy into the 10am start bugaboo-) while enduring offensive line injuries probably has a lot to do with that. Next week vs. the Colts should tell us a lot about both teams.

Of course I thought the same about this week's Seahawks v. Texans game and came away still unsure what to think about the Texans as a whole and the Seahawks' offense.

One thing I did figure out is that the Seahawks need to stick to playing man. 334 yards allowed in the first half (well over 200 of them in the second quarter) while playing mostly zone, and then only 124 yards allowed in Qs 3&4 with another 47 allowed in OT. I'm not sure why Carroll and co. thought the Texans were the team to break out their zones on, but at least (from the Seahawks' perspective) they adapted, even if it took a quarter of evisceration to prompt the reversion.

Points: 0

#102 by TomC // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:04pm

Going back to the Bears part of this post: Oh, Cutler, indeed. I honestly believe that with incremental maturation and brain development (and better qb coaching) that Cutler will have fewer of these games, but the difference now is the bears defense is not good enough to overcome it, so this bears team will lose every one of those games.

Points: 0

#105 by Eddo // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:11pm

True, but the offense (both talent and coaching) is better, so Cutler is more likely to adjust in-game and potentially overcome the bad plays (as he kinda sorta did against the Lions). You only have to go back to the Vikings game for an example of this - some killer turnovers by Cutler (and Forte), but the offense didn't completely collapse.

Points: 0

#144 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:36pm

I take heart in the fact that at least one of the interceptions was due to a poor throw not a poor decision. I can live with a pass just sailing on him once every 30 attempts, but poor decision making will always bite you against quality opponents.

That said, he looked confused all game. Not trusting what he saw. Trying to fit passes into really tight windows, locking onto a single target, and just standing there dumbfounded. It was not a good game.

Points: 0

#253 by Steve in WI // Oct 02, 2013 - 1:44am

My thought after Sunday's game is that the Bears defense might not just be not good enough to overcome a bad offense, but not good enough period. Cutler's performance doesn't worry me because I know there'll be a couple of games like that each season, but so far after four games, the defense hasn't looked good once.

Points: 0

#217 by formido // Oct 01, 2013 - 12:27am

So generous of you to grant that Seattle missing 3 offensive lineman, including a reigning All-Pro and Pro Bowler, might have some impact on offensive efficiency when facing the best defensive player in the NFL. Sucks to only have scored the 6th most points in the NFL and have the second biggest point differential.

Points: 0

#220 by Jon Goldman (not verified) // Oct 01, 2013 - 1:34am

It was a joke, jeez. I'm wary about how good the Seahawks offense really is, given that they've now played 2 games where they were bad (against likely good defensive teams, mind,) 1 where they were serviceable, if not fantastic for long stretches (against San Fran) and then a game against Jacksonville, which I refuse to consider a game until the Jaguars can score an offensive touchdown in a close game.

Points: 0

#4 by BroncFan07 // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:37am

"@AMSportsLive1: Can we start mentioning Trindon Holliday in the same breath as Dante Hall, Devin Hester, and Eric Metcalf?"

And Tamarick Vanover. Don't forget Tamarick Vanover.

Points: 0

#5 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:44am

The Cardinals beat the Bucs 13-10, not 31-10.

Points: 0

#8 by sundown (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:50am

Might as well of been 31. Because when your offense is doomed to never top 10, the opponent's final score doesn't matter much. A shame, too, given Tampa's D is very good.

Question now is whether Schiano can utterly ruin Glennon and have him out of the league for good by the end of the year. I didn't think much of that pick originally, but Schiano isn't going to be the guy to help this kid develop. If he somehow makes it, it'll be in spite of anything Schiano does.

Points: 0

#13 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:54am

Schiano is doing to the Buccaneers offense what Stalin did to the Red Army with his purges in the 1930s. It seems to him that proving he's in charge is worth gutting his team's season. He's once coach I will definitely not feel sorry for when he's inevitably fired.

Points: 0

#14 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:58am

Yeah, that'd be great, and . . . oh, sorry, I read "set on fire" instead of "fired". My version is better.

Glennon is utterly hosed; Josh Freeman is clearly a guy with huge piles of talent who needed good coaching to develop further. Suffice to say, that coaching was not there, and Freeman's mechanics got sloppy (at best) and his decision-making went into the toilet. Glennon has far less talent than Freeman and has an even greater need for good coaching. He's not going to get it in Tampa. It's not like Glennon was exactly a shining star who was screaming "FUTURE NFL STAR" anyways, but the kid has zero chance.

I want my team to start Dan Orlovsky.

I'm going to go take a shower now.

Points: 0

#16 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:01am

As a Detroit Lions fan, who during 2008 was hoping for Dan Orlovsky to recover from his injuries so he could replace the corpse of Daunte Culpepper....I feel your pain.

Points: 0

#63 by Ben // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:45pm

At around 0-8 in the Colts Suck for Luck year, there were a lot of fans calling for Orlovsky (myself included). When he finally did start, he managed to keep the Colts from going 0-16...

Points: 0

#99 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:54pm

Unfortunately for the 2008 Lions, their savior didn't heal fast enough to "save" the season.

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#127 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:01pm

Still amazed that Painter is collecting an NFL paycheck. The main difference is that way back when, Indy put him in when they were up by 30 in the 4th. Now the Giants put him when they are down 30 in the 4th. (Cue my entire Giants-loving family pelting me with stones)

Points: 0

#198 by herewegobrowni… (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 7:23pm

The Manning brothers both love the same very-marginal backups...Orlovsky, and Battleship Lorenzen.

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#199 by herewegobrowni… (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 7:26pm

Very hard to believe that their other very-marginal backup in Painter had more in-a-season college passing yards than Brees.

Points: 0

#20 by drobviousso // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:22am

I have to believe that Bruce Arians is looking at what Schiano is doing with Freeman and is just licking his chops. Freeman's probably not Ben, and he's no Manning, but if he can be had as a free agent while Fitz still has some gas in the tank...

Points: 0

#27 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:37am

The ideal situation for Freeman at this point is IMO a two- or three-year contract as a backup to somebody with an older QB where some solid coaching is available. Arizona, possibly, but I've been wondering whether Josh Freeman is Peyton's backup in Denver next year. Gets a chance to learn from one of the best, plus, if there are concerns with his attitude, it's hard to find a better guy to emulate. He spends a couple years getting things right, then has the opportunity to take over for a team with some talent.

The worst situation would be going somewhere like Oakland or Jacksonville; the last thing he should do is decide he wants to be a starter regardless, and wind up on a bad team where he's expected to carry the load. He needs to rehab both his image and his mechanics, and he's not going to do that while starting for a bad team.

I really hope it turns out for the guy; I openly proclaimed for the last four years that I had a Freemancrush. It sickens me to see that somebody who was getting that good wound up both falling apart and getting crapped on by this @#$@!! coach, and I want him to succeed. I live in MN, and my son wore his Freeman jersey for both his 4th and 5th grade school pictures, and it sucks having to explain to him why this giraffe-necked putz is now starting for the Bucs instead of Freeman.

Points: 0

#43 by drobviousso // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:10pm

>I live in MN

Me too. If you are in Minneapolis and want to grab a beer with someone you barely know only as a screen name, shoot me an email to this username @

Points: 0

#229 by Jerry // Oct 01, 2013 - 5:43am

How unhappy were you (before seeing the game) that the one Steeler appearance in Minneapolis in eight years was moved to London?

Points: 0

#68 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:54pm

" but I've been wondering whether Josh Freeman is Peyton's backup in Denver next year."

I know the Colts didn't really draft any of them high, but all of Peyton's backups have been awful. I don't think sitting behind him is actually a good thing.

He seems like one of those guys who can do things that almost nobody else can, and doesn't understand that not everyone is like him. IE, the sort of transcendental talent that makes for terrible instructors.

Points: 0

#91 by bernie (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:39pm

I think the problem is more the fact that Manning's backups get almost zero reps in practice, and very few in training camp. Manning insists on taking every single rep possible, and how easy is it to play NFL caliber ball with hardly any practice reps? UNless they're the kind of people who can learn just from watching film, then they're hooped from the get go.

Points: 0

#95 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:50pm

Right, but this is true on almost every team. Matt Cassel got almost no reps behind Brady, but he atleast managed to look like an NFL player for a while. Painter and Sorgi, on the other hand....

Points: 0

#100 by DEW (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:54pm

Hey, Sorgi made All-Pro as a clipboard holder for six years in a row!

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#128 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:04pm

Sorgi did well when he played most extensively in 2004 (something like 8-10 quarters at the end of blowouts). Since it was garbage time, the opponents stacked the box and Jim was "forced" to pass, and did well. But as other comments here note, when you get zero reps unless you are the scout team QB for the D, well, you can't really develop.

Points: 0

#157 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 4:32pm

Right, but how is this different than any other backups?

Even with the 2007 Patriots, Cassel only made 7 attempts (and played maybe 15 plays). Backups don't get any real playing time, other than situations where teams aren't sure who actually is the backup.

This isn't something unique to the Manning era colts.

Points: 0

#212 by D2K // Sep 30, 2013 - 9:29pm

Matt Flynn duped 2 teams for draft picks with this same exact model.

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#214 by BJR // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:00pm

After Flynn put up huge numbers in a week 17 start for the Packers a couple years back, this very site proclaimed that his career floor would be as a pro-bowler. So he duped a lot of people.

Conclusion: great performance in meaningless week 17 games can probably be thrown out.

Points: 0

#231 by Sakic (not verified) // Oct 01, 2013 - 9:15am

Flynn also had a very good game in 2010 against the Patriots in Foxboro late in the season in primetime when Rodgers was out with a concussion. Yeah, it was a loss but they had a chance to win and that game really put him on the map as a backup with starting potential.

Points: 0

#139 by sundown (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:28pm

The Broncos seem to like Brock Osweiler, who looked decent during the preseason. I'm still intrigued by him being Alex Smith's backup in KC. Reid seems to do marvels with QBs and he shares some similarities with McNabb and Vick.

Points: 0

#21 by Will Allen // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:24am

Hey, now, a little fairness please; Stalin may have murdered millions, but he never told his team to try to force a fumble when the opponent was in victory formation!

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#130 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:07pm

Let me know when they start stacking up frozen corpses to use like sandbags in Tampa. After that, it's just a matter of times before the Bucs start playing their games in a train station and a tractor factory. And 27 million Floridians will have to die before the Bucs declare "victory" with a 9-7 season.

I know they say history repeats itself, but that seems a little "out there." Then again, the browns ARE in first place after a month, so anything can happen.

Points: 0

#177 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:26pm

This analogy has gone off the rails a bit, but I can't resist:

The Browns being in 1st place is like Finland kicking the Soviet Union's ass in the early stages of the Winter War. I'm not sure it will last.

Points: 0

#77 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:13pm

Well, Stalin purged the army of a huge number of its experienced officers due to paranoia and general insanity before reinstating them once the Germans were rolling through Soviet lines; if the Schiano analogy is to hold, Freeman's going to get reinstated partway through the season, right?

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#121 by JIPanick // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:47pm

No, he found new officers who had military ability. It's not possible to reinstate men you have had shot.

I don't think there's any way for the Schiano analogy to hold, unless we can convince ourselves Tebow is Zhukov.

Points: 0

#156 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 4:15pm

Now, now, he didn't shoot all of them, some were just sent to work camps or prison, and were dragged from prison, had their old military uniforms thrown on their emaciated bodies, and their command restored. Most shot, yes, but not all.

Tebow can't be Zhukov; Zhukov was genuinely good. I'd say choose some well-intentioned Soviet general who couldn't lead an army worth a crap, but knew how to really repeat the right rhetoric.

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#176 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:24pm

Tebow would be late-war Mussolini. He has a small group of fanatical supporters, while everyone else on earth knows that he's not any good at any of the things he wants to do.

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#237 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 01, 2013 - 11:19am

Zhukov is more like Brees -- the competent guy no one recognized and was sent to Siberia for a couple of years.

While in Siberia, he repelled the Japanese in their only serious incursion into the USSR. In doing so, he developed the basic strategy he implemented at Stalingrad to envelop the German army.

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#155 by Led // Sep 30, 2013 - 4:08pm

For those that missed the reference:

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#6 by spujr // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:48am

someone beat me to the comment

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#7 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:48am

Oh, Vince, if you only watched the first half of Mike Glennon, you said the "good" version. Glennon started off completing a high % of his passes, because he was throwing slants and short crossing patterns, and nothing else. It was dumpoff after dumpoff, and it was successful until the Cardinals realized he was too utterly terrified to actually throw anything more than 6-7 yards past the line of scrimmage. At one point in the first half, he was 13/19 for 87 yards. That is (A) way too many passes, and (B) 13/19 for 87 yards. I would make a comment about that, but it seems unnecessary.

Anyways, at halftime, Arizona's coaches did this thing called a "halftime adjustment", and started sitting on the shorter stuff. I think there were about 14 people in the box on every down and, being Tampa was kind of enough to run Doug Martin up the middle on more than half the first downs (I did a rough count in the play-by-play; Tampa had 30 plays on first downs, Martin up the middle was 17 of them), it's not like there was much challenge. Seriously, guys, try a toss or sweep on occasion, just to mix things up. Or, maybe, a QB capable of playing in the NFL. Mike Glennon is nowhere near ready to play in this league. He hasn't had enough practice reps, and he falls to pieces the moment pressure happens. Actually, before pressure happens. He was playing against an Arizona team who couldn't generate much of a pass rush and he still managed to check it down almost constantly, and, when they face a team with a real pass rush, it's going to be even uglier.

I didn't even realize Vincent Jackson was playing in the game until I saw the back of his jersey as he high-fived Glennon after Mike Williams' TD pass; I was pleasantly surprised that Glennon was doing the smart thing, and throwing the ball away from Patrick Peterson. That's what you do as a rookie, avoid the great CB. So, late 4th quarter, throws three passes towards Peterson total, and two of them are picked off. Seriously? Seeeeriously?

So, we now have a team that has blown three late-game leads and decided to start an obviously unprepared and bad rookie QB four days after naming him starter, and I am, shall we say, very much looking forward to Greg Schiano going anywhere else. Soon. Quickly. When a team is this sloppy and undisciplined, yeah, it kind of starts at the top.

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#55 by Zieg (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:23pm

My guess is Schiano is cooperating with the owners to try to get attendance to completely bottom out so they can try to move the team. Either that or they're already playing for last to draft a new quarterback. After the preseason he knows Glennon's not the answer and doesn't want it to be Freeman. So rather than risk Freeman salvaging a middling record out of the year at some point and costing us an early pick, they're just letting Glennon run the season into the ground. And to make sure Martin doesn't accidentally give us a win or two, they make sure they run him in the most predictable situations posible. This also has the side effect of killing his stats and decreasing the likelihood he'll be targeted for a trade or salary renegotiation so he'll still be around to help the *real* quarterback we get next year. I find it depressing that these are the best scenarios I can think of for my team.

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#76 by MilkmanDanimal // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:11pm

Uh, no. Teams don't leave because of attendance issues, they leave because of stadium issues. Ray Jay is only 15 years old and is still a very nice facility, and, even more telling, the Bucs got a ridiculously good deal from the county. They city and county pay for upkeep, the team keeps all the profits, and they're making money whether or not butts are going into those seats. They're not going anywhere, and they're not sabotaging the season intentionally. This is a professional sports team, not a football-based re-enactment of Major League.

No conspiracy theory is needed here; the Glazers have clearly been hoping to find a hot young coach, so they took a flyer first on Raheem Morris (who was well-regarded as a HC prospect), and then on Schiano (which I will never understand, except he and Belichick are apparently friends and, uh, magic by association or something). Let's face it, the team looked good for a while last year, and then fell apart. Schiano is just another college coach who's used to running teams exactly how he says so. He's like a pettier version of Nick Saban, or Steve Spurrier without the entertainment. I have no doubt the guy can coach at the college level where he can abuse and insult players who have no choice but to suck it up or lose their scholarships. The guy can't coach professionals, who have the balls to tell him to shove it.

I think Schiano wants his own QB, and Freeman was Morris' QB. It's not a conspiracy, it's just yet another tale of power and arrogance.

Also, he's a dickwad.

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#143 by sundown (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:35pm

He wasn't even all that great at the college level. He took them from the cellar to that one great 11-2 year in 2006, but then lost 4 or more games in every season after that. He won his bowl games, though, so I'll give him that. But I never saw a single thing that made me think he was going to take the NFL by storm.

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#9 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:51am

I guess I should be happy the Lions are 3-1, but this was one of the least satisfying blowout wins I've ever witnessed (despite Chicago's late run I was never really worried the game would go to overtime). That was as inept a "4 minute drill" as I've ever seen.

A lot of sloppy play so far this season, with the Lions being lucky that their opponents are being even sloppier. I don't have faith that this coaching staff will work hard to fix it. The saving grace is that an out of division schedule against the NFC East and AFC North doesn't seem as daunting now as it did before the season.

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#61 by Chappy (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:40pm

I watched the very end of the 2nd quarter as well as the second half. I honestly have no idea could have gotten to that point given the play that I saw. I'm a Lions fan and it seemed like both Stafford and Cutler played pretty badly. To me the biggest takeaway is that the defense is somehow managing to look pretty good. I find this surprising given that it isn't that different of a defense. Why? Did Suh and Fairley (who looks like he's put on 50 pounds) make a leap? Slay? I don't really get it, but they look much better to my eye.

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#92 by zlionsfan // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:39pm

I don't get it either, unless maybe it's the difference in DEs ... not Avril, because he was fine, but no KVB. Still, they weren't getting pressure from any rotation. It's not like they're doing better against the pass, but they've improved (so far) against the run, which is putting offenses in bad second- and third-down situations, although granted, they've faced some questionable offenses so far.

In the first half, the difference was so great that Stafford could make three or four significant overthrows and the Lions still got 30 points. The Bears tightened things up in the second half, but even so, it was pretty much like the other games so far, I think, in that the Lions made it closer than it should have been.

I agree with Piano that I'm not sure we can expect this to be corrected. The difference this year, so far, is that the Lions are outplaying their mistakes. I don't think they can count on doing that against better teams (Chicago may or may not be better, hard to say at this point) or on the road.

It's kind of fun to watch, but a more careful team would have been a solid 4-0 and looking forward to beating Green Bay. This team, I don't know.

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#96 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:51pm

As far as the increase pass pressure, Suh has gone from very good to JJ Watt level so far this season. Even when he's not getting sacks, he's causing bad throws and completely wrecking the interior line on running plays. Look at last week, he didn't register any stats but he was constantly in RGIII's lap, and disrupting the Redskins' zone blocking.

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#109 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:20pm

"It's kind of fun to watch, but a more careful team would have been a solid 4-0 and looking forward to beating Green Bay. This team, I don't know."

5 of the last 6 games between the Lions and Packers have been close games, so one would think that going into Lambeau with a better team than prior years would give them a chance....but the Packers are coming off a bye, knowing that loss would dig them in a huge hole, and are probably mad at how they pissed away a win over the Bengals. This is probably the worst possible time to play against the Packers.

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#93 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:46pm

Stafford played less bad than Cutler, which is...something, I guess, but for being his worst game 1/4 through the season, it's not that bad. The lone int was just plain bad luck. He stayed in the pocket way too long on that fumble, though. Reiff has been so good at left tackle I think he got a little complacement.

As for the defense, I agree with you that they look way better. But one thing you're wrong about: The personnel is definitely different than 2012. It is impossible to overstate what an upgrade a healthy Delmas, and Glover Quinn are over the practice-squadders and replacement-level castoffs the Lions lined up at safety last year. Also, Ansah and Young are big upgrades at DE over a washed-up VandenBosch. I also thought Avril underperformed (although he looks good in Seattle right now).

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#107 by Eddo // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:11pm

That win for the Lions was like a vintage Lovie Smith Bears win. Three touchdowns off short fields, thanks to turnover and punt returns, plus a defensive score.

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#108 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:16pm

What worries me is that it would just as unstainable, which is what got Lovie Smith fired.

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#149 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:45pm

Lovie Smith got fired after a 10-6 season, with 3 losing years out of 9. He had his faults to be sure, but sustainability didn't seem to be one them.

Unless Lions fans would be disappointed in a 9 year stretch with 3 losing seasons.

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#158 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 4:37pm

Lovie got fired because he couldn't get the offense to not be terrible. He's clearly a very good defensive guy, but just doesn't have the offensive know-how or talent (or ability to pick people to do that).

Seems a lot like a less obnoxious Rex Ryan.

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#174 by Independent George // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:22pm

I have a lot of respect for Lovie. It drives me nuts living in Chicago and listening to people rip on him. I'd love for him to succeed Coughlin as the Giants' HC (though not in the ignominious manner we seem to be headed for).

He has his weaknesses, particularly on offense, but his teams were always disciplined and prepared. That automatically puts him ahead of 2/3 of the HCs in the league.

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#172 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:18pm

I was speaking only of Smith's 2012 season, when the Bears got out to a 7-1 start, benefiting from things that eventually regressed to the mean, leading to a 3-5 finish, and contributing him to get fired.

I agree that taken as whole, his career in Chicago is one a lot of coaches would envy.

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#190 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 6:26pm

Similar things happen to Tom Caughlin's teams, but he has Eli Manning, who is both very good and never gets hurt.

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#10 by Independent George // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:53am

Oh, the Giants. Nothing you do will remove my memory of Super Bowls 42 & 46. And they have the option of drafting Clowney or trading down to the Browns(!) to pick up some offensive linemen.

Has Lovie Smith been hired anywhere yet? He was always my favorite to be Coughlin's successor, as long as he doesn't bring Mike Tice with him.

On a more positive note: 76 Bucs, 08 Lions, or 13 Jags? Let the debate begin!

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#15 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:59am

When doing a DVOA analysis of the worst teams of all time, Tanier damned the '08 Lions with the faint praise of "They're the Cadillac of winless teams." They at least had year 2 Megatron. The current Jaguars, on the other hand...I can't think of a single player on their team that would make me flip to a Jaguars game for even a second.

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#39 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:58am

76 Bucs were an expansion team, so they at least have some kind of excuse.

For my money, these Jags look worse than the 08 Lions. Granted, we're only a quarter of the way into the season, but the Jags have yet to play a game where they even had a CHANCE to win in the 4th quarter. The 08 Lions at least played some one-score games (4 in a row at one stretch), and even held the lead in the second half of some games. So they never won a game, but they could have.

These Jaguars, I can't imagine how they would go about winning a game. They're horrible at running, passing, defending the run, and defending the pass. I'm forced to envision scenarios involving multiple return TDs, Denard Robinson playing QB, or some playoff team resting its starters in December. That said, they'll probably win one somewhere along the way. Everybody wins one. Well, almost everybody.

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#238 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 01, 2013 - 11:25am

2008 Lions.

The Bucs were an expansion team, and the Jaguars, even when successful, weren't a popular team. The Lions at least had a following and some sort of legacy to honor.

Unlike the 1976 Bucs and the 2013 Jaguars, they lost in public.

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#11 by rageon // Sep 30, 2013 - 10:54am

Maybe it's just me, but it felt like the long-form portions were longer this week, which is appreciated. The section for Houston/Seattle was very helpful.

I'm still hoping for analysis on Denver's defense that amounts to more than "they seem fine without Miller and Bailey" and "it might be moot anyway." Unfortunately, I'm sure I don't read anything about the defense for the same reason I can't get a good handle on it -- they aren't playing many close games.

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#22 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:26am

Here's my take on Denver's defense: They are trying to run much of what they ran last year, but without Miller or Dumervil the pass rush just isn't there. The Broncos corners are still really good as a group, but they can cover forever (we saw that a lot the last two weeks, when pressure didn't get to Pryor or Vick, and they rolled out and finally found some - or took off).

With Miller back, the pass rush should improve by itself and fix some of those issues.

The Broncos rush defense is still really stout. I don't know if he's playing particularly well, but I liked the signing of Terrance Knighton in the offseason to make that beefy line even beefier. The Eagles ran better than any other team had, but they have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.

In the end, their red zone defense has been decent, and that is all a great offense needs most of the time (see New England, 2010-2012). It would be nice if they stopped giving up a garbage TD a game, as that would make their overall PA total a bit lower and more appealing to the eye, but I don't think they are anything less than an average if not slightly above average defense without their best player who happens to be one of the 5 best defensive players in the NFL.

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#34 by jonnyblazin // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:51am

Do the Broncos expect Miller to come back at the same level he played at before? If reports are correct that he was systematically cheating drug tests through the relationship he had with the collectors, there's the possibility that when he comes back his performance will not be as "enhanced" as before.

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#47 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:13pm

Well, we only know that he failed and was trying to cheat a substance abuse test, not a performance enhancing test.

Sure, he might be worse than last year, but chances are he was going to be worse than last year anyway because he was incredible last year.

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#183 by Gorilla Graham (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:53pm

It was for weed, not PEDs, it's been fairly well understood. You're a Ravens fan, right? Thanks for taking Dumervil off our hands. Has he made a tackle yet this year?

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#200 by jonnyblazin // Sep 30, 2013 - 7:38pm

Who reported that he was initially suspended for weed? What was the source? I'd like to learn more about the situation, to be honest, but there isn't a good way to get the facts. The first reports were that it was weed related, and then it turned out that he was cheating by colluding with the collector, so he never tested positive for anything obviously. I thought people around here knew better than to trust what players/agents say that they were suspended for. Like anyone who thinks there was an Adderall epidemic on the Seahawks last year, I've got a bridge to sell you...

And Dumervil has been a fine pass rusher for the Ravens, thanks for asking! Still bitter, huh?

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#204 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 7:46pm

He tested positive for weed before the combine I believe (or maybe after). This scheme with the collecter was for a substance abuse test. Any reports on this incident have always maintained that it was a substance abuse test.

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#216 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:30pm

I believe that was the first time that collector was used with Miller.

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#255 by jonnyblazin // Oct 02, 2013 - 3:47pm

From what I've read, that was definitely NOT the case. But these are internet reports...

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#251 by Gorilla Graham (not verified) // Oct 01, 2013 - 8:47pm

Bitter? Not really. It is kind of galling, though, to see how mediocre Flacco is as a QB, and realize the Broncos lost to this hack on a freakin' hail mary. Oh well. The total blowout of the Ravens a few weeks ago was fun.

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#252 by jonnyblazin // Oct 01, 2013 - 9:35pm

Man, what did Flacco ever do to you? If he's such a hack, how did he manage to outplay P. Manning so convincingly in the playoffs? Frankly the Broncos were lucky to be even in that game, if it wasn't for 2 return TDs it wouldn't have been that close.

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#69 by RoninX (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:56pm

"It might be moot"

It might indeed. I was actually was just wondering when we'll find out if Denver's offense is actually an all time offense or just a good NFL offense, and we may have to wait awhile. I count 2 games vs. the chiefs (maybe) the Pats (maybe) and the Texans (I think) as the only teams on their schedule that (might) have legitimately good defenses.

In any case, looking at their schedule its hard to imagine that they lose more than 2 games and hard to believe Manning won't set the TD/yards records this year, unless he starts sitting through most fourth quarters.

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#83 by EricL // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:23pm

Agree - things felt longer and more informative this week.

I, personally, am looking forward to seeing Seattle face a defense that falls between "has a case for best front 7 in the league" and "Jaguars, lol".

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#17 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:06am

"@AMSportsLive1: Nice job by Cordarrelle Patterson to break up that Ike Taylor INT. Very underrated aspect of a receiver's job."

Jerome Simpson failing to do that in week 2 on Chicago's pick-six cost them that game.

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#19 by Will Allen // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:19am

Let the 800 post, irrational, Cassel vs. Ponder, with a sprinkling of Joe Webb Illuminati conspiracy, thread begin!! Seriously, watching Cassel, as limited as he is, once again makes me wonder again how many bloody marys were being served in the Vikings draft room the day they decided to pick, in the top half of the first round, a qb with little zip in his arm, to best compliment Adrian Peterson. Oh, well, at least The Ponderous One makes up for it by being slow and incomplete in his reads.

It was nice to see the Vikings show some aggression on the line of scrimmage, but it should be noted that putting Mike Adams in the set known as "NFL left offensibve tackles", with Joe Thomas, is kinda'a like putting the Geico Gecko in the same set as Godzilla.

In other breaking news, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady remain good at football.

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#28 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:41am

I remember when arm strength is overrated was the mantra of many a smart football fan. During the halcyon days of Chad Pennington, it seemed you just needed a smart QB who could play within his abilities and make accurate throws. It turns out that Ponder is neither smart, nor especially accurate. I think Pennington was probably the anomaly because I think both QBs and offensive coordinators have trouble making an offense run with severe restrictions on what routes the QB can actually throw.

On the other hand, this is the same league where Jamarcus Russell and Tim Couch were drafted #1 overall, which makes Ponder's selection seem down right brilliant.

I think the lesson to be learned is to not let Brad Childress make personnel decisions, and especially not QB decisions.

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#31 by Will Allen // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:47am

Sadly, The Chiller cannot be blamed. He was gone by the time The Ponderous One was picked. It remains a mystery.

You can get by without good arm strength, but you need accuracy, and the ability to pick the right receiver very quickly. Alas, the only talent Ponder has ever shown is some footspeed when he can't find the receiver.

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#42 by Independent George // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:10pm

Pennington's arm strength really wasn't terrible until after his second shoulder injury. He never had a cannon arm, but it was sufficient.

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#50 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:19pm

What was crazy was that he was still effective after that second injury. He was basically unable to throw an out route, and was still in the top half of NFL QBs.

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#57 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:30pm

Before the shoulder injuries, Pennington was a quarterback with slightly below average arm strength, fantastic accuracy, fantastic ability to read the field, and a very quick release. Basically he was Tom Brady with a little less pocket awareness, and a little more accuracy.

A 26 year old Chad Pennington playing his first year as a starter was a better QB than the 26 year old Peyton Manning (starting his 5th year). He was a better starter than the 25 year old Tom Brady in his 2nd year as a starter.

The point is, nobody with a weak arm should be compared to Pennington without proving that they have several other abilities at an elite level.

After the multiple shoulder injuries, he just couldn't throw the ball hard enough to keep an NFL level DB from closing before it got there.

Chad Pennington with a good shoulder would have been a hall-of-famer.

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#36 by bravehoptoad // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:54am

Arm strength over-rated? Pshaw. Druckenmiller just needed another chance, and Boller, too.

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#56 by Insancipitory // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:27pm

I think it can be. But if the QB doesn't have the arm, they have to have touch, accuracy and anticipation to make up for it. I think anticipation goes a very long way, and that the trend to huge freakishly athletic WRs paired with QBs with big arms is a way to replace it due to its ephemeral nature. In the case of the WRs and live arms, at least they can be reliably measured.

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#98 by mawbrew // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:52pm

Really unfair to lump Couch with Russell. Couch was clearly a disappointment as a #1 overall pick but he eventually became an above replacement level player and led the 2.0 Browns to their only playoff appearance. His arm injury ended his career before we could see if he developed further or not.

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#191 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 6:27pm

Both were QBs who had obvious flaws that should never have been drafted early, but GMs talked themselves into it.

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#170 by shah8 (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:07pm

*ahem*, my cue.

1) Why do I harp on Joe Webb? Because he has natural arm strength and is a good natural passer. I fully recognize that he's raw and his mechanics are bad/inconsistent, and that he probably doesn't read the defense with any depth. OTOH, when you compare with either Ponder or Cassel (who basically was himself, don't you fear--Steeler's defense is just about the most unlucky-terrible I've ever seen at getting turnovers)... At least Cassel will make the easy throws, on time throws, etc. In any event, I think it's pretty obvious that the coaching staff values him, because I do think other teams would give up at least a late pick for him. Since I also watch the Eagles, I have to watch that waste of WR space Riley Cooper, and do you know what? I don't think there is any chance Chip Kelly wouldn't be happier with Webb at WR, even though Webb can't run any routes. Capable of nasty blocks, much faster for the size, has better hands capable of highpointing in the red zone, and is insurance at QB in the offseason.

2)Be fair to Chilly. He consistently had better QBs than the post Chilly era. TJack is a billion times better than Ponder--bad QB vs Not-A-QB. Gus Ferrotte is a better backup QB, etc, etc, etc. He had Bevell, and in general had a decent staff. Chilly had his issues with autocratic behavior, but Schiano makes it clear just how much worse it could all be.

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#175 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:23pm

You may well get your wish this season! I wonder if anything less than mark sanchez level would get you to change your mind.

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#23 by BJR // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:30am

There was probably nothing Chip Kelly and his staff could have done to prevent heavy defeat yesterday; they just don't have the personnel to slow the Broncos offence (does anyone?). But man, when you are going into the Lion's Den, show a little courage and gumption. Settling for an early field goal on 4th & 4, then punting on 4th & 6 from midfield with 2 minutes left in the half is just terrible, weak-minded coaching.

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#26 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:36am

BTW, I get that the game was basically over, but what was the point of the field goal down 49-13?

Yes, it was 4th and like 25, but that field goal doesn't helped you. I loved the karmic response of Henery missing the kick.

The only possible explanation I can think of is you want your kicking unit to get more in-game practice.

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#40 by BJR // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:04pm

I do think in-game coaching decisions can be overly scrutinised, and I can often sympathise with coaches taking the seemingly conservative choice when a decision is marginal. What does really upset me however, is a coach who will not play aggressively knowing that his defence is horribly overmatched. Its just delusional, brainless.

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#49 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:19pm

"Yes, it was 4th and like 25, but that field goal doesn't helped you."

It helps you more than turning the ball over on downs, which is what happens in 4th and 25 the vast majority of the time.

I'm all for being aggressive when behind, but it only makes sense if there's some possibility of success.

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#58 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:32pm

Brings you a tiny bit closer to winning than being down 39 does.

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#66 by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:53pm

In reality, it does nothing. In theory, I think there are some playoff tiebreakers way down the list that involve point margins.

Also, there's probably something to be said for allowing your players to experience SOME type of success on a drive in an otherwise brutal game. If you're completely guaranteed to lose either way (which they were at that point), I suppose you might as well take the points.

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#80 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 1:16pm

It's not *that* far down the line - it's 7th, right after strength of schedule. It hasn't ever been used since strength of schedule/strength of victory schedule were inserted above them in 2002, though.

Deepest the NFL has ever gotten with the current format is still 2 above it, though.

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#148 by sundown (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:44pm

I think psychology comes into play a bit. You're not going to win the game but you want to take something at least semi-positive away from it going into the future. Going for it on every 4th down, especially crazy distances like 20+ yards when in field goal range, can pretty easily turn into the sort of disaster where the team starts questioning the coaching, themselves etc.

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#227 by David // Oct 01, 2013 - 3:37am

I think this is underrated, certainly at the moment. The psychological effect on math/stat geeks who understand game theory may not be the same as the effect on 53 athletes who have years of prior experience in how things are *supposed* to go

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#239 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 01, 2013 - 11:29am

What does getting 7 points down 32 do?

NFL rules still don't allow you to quit after the 3rd quarter.

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#103 by Edge (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:04pm

I understand why scoring three wouldn't help much, but scoring seven or eight doesn't help either, so I don't see how it was a bad decision in any way.

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#180 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 5:47pm

And turning it over helps even less (and thats the most likely outcome of going for it on 4th and 25)

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#24 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:35am

Interesting day for QBs. I think there may have been more interceptions yesterday than in any single Sunday over the past few years. I believe league-wide passer rating dropped a good ~2 points yesterday alone (down to 84.8 - it's been creeping down every week after being like 88 after Week 1). Flacco looked awful, Cutler looked like Bad Cutler (I thought he was only nice enough to bring that out against Green Bay in the AFC North), and Ben Roethlisberger had a brilliant Ben v. 2009 performance, where he would put up stats like no ones business in a desperate attempt to get back in the game and come close to doing so before some terrible failure.

One note I want to watch: how long can Manning, Rivers and Romo keep their completion percentages above the NFL record. Manning's 75.0% is absurd, but Rivers is basically just as insane at 73.0. Romo's is my favorite because he has averaged just 9.2 yards per completion, which puts a little damper on that 72.4%. I wonder how long he can stay below 10 (btw, Brady was below 10 until last night).

Sure, I'm a Manning lover, and a Colts fan who firmly believed keeping Manning was the better option, but this is like watching Michelangelo paint, or Eddie Van Halen play guitar, or Roger Federer circa 2005 play tennis with Manning right now. Every ball is well thrown (how about that 52 yard strike to Decker, which not only was accurate, but was his prettiest spiral since like 2006), every play is well created. Every play he changes protections, changes routes, and seemingly everyone knows what is happening. I still think Peyton was more incredible in 2004 just because of the amount of deep throws he hit that year (back then, people still thought blitzing him was a good idea), but this is definitely better.

In totally unrelated news, what the hell happened with Cincinnati. I have no idea what to think of them. I can totally see them beating New England by a TD next week and I could totally see them losing by 20. Who knows?

Points: 0

#33 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:50am

I agree with you about NE-CIN next week. I'm looking forward to seeing it, not because they're two great teams (they're both good, but flawed), but because there's so much variance in the possible outcomes.

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#45 by BJR // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:13pm

I get the feeling Gronkowski, and to a lesser extent Amendola, were held out yesterday knowing that next week's game against the Bengals could be very important in terms of playoff seeding.

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#37 by rageon // Sep 30, 2013 - 11:56am

Agreed on Manning. It just seems like on 80-90% of all plays, he knows exactly where the defense will be and precisely how he needs to adjust to exploit it. It's like he's just thinking at twice the speed of everyone on the field right now. Through 4 games, we're watching the 07 Patriots with even higher level QB play and a third good receiver.

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#44 by Andrew Potter // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:11pm

07 Patriots had a third good receiver in Donté Stallworth.

This Broncos offense is incredible. It's freakishly efficient. Really does seem like Manning can do anything he wants, any time he wants.

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#46 by Independent George // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:13pm

Let's be fair, though:

1. Baltimore was the best defense he's faced this season.
2. They're still playing in good weather.

It's still freakishly good, but it won't stay that way forever. Eventually, it'll just turn into just another record-setting season, instead of God Mode. But damn it's fun to watch, even in a blowout.

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#52 by dmstorm22 // Sep 30, 2013 - 12:21pm

That Baltimore defense has given up just 38 points in their next three games, and just 770 yards in total. They aren't exactly a bad defense, they just got Peytoned (and if Danny Trevethan doesn't fumble the ball before the EZ, the Broncos probably turn it off after that, and Peyton doesn't get that last TD).

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#134 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:21pm

That will be a problem, so far as individual and team passing/offense records are concerned. If the DEN D plays well and the score margins stay in the 30 pt. range at the end of third quarters, there will be no need to put 18 on the field in the 4th quarters, like late 2004, and many potential records (meaningless anyway) will get passed up.

Has anyone ever seen John Fox giggle like a schoolgirl at press conferences before. This guy must get facial cramps from all the smiling he's doing these days. If they are 14-0 I wonder if they'll go super conservative to protect player health" like Indy in 2009 (any backfiring on them was fan anger, not postseason effectiveness) of if they keep the pedal down, like NE in 2007. Maybe it depends on their healthy at that point. Too much speculation, 11 weeks down the road, anyway.

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#150 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:49pm

I like this Denver team a lot, would be cool to see them finally shutting up the 72 Dolphins.

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#194 by Scott Crowder (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 6:59pm

Seattle vs Denver, both undefeated going into the Super Bowl. Unlikely? Of course. But if Seattle can go into Houston with an oline that had ONE YEAR combined NFL experience, vs that defense, inexplicably play zone a full half while getting trounced for it, then turn around and beat them when the FINALLY go back to playing their game, then who CAN beat them? The oline woes are only temporary. Harvin has yet to join the squad. They've been up against three teams who can argue which has the NFL's best front 7.

I think these two teams will be our Super Bowl this year and it will be epic.

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#195 by Thomas_beardown // Sep 30, 2013 - 7:02pm

I don't like Pete Carrol, so I can't root as hard for Seattle (also same conference as the Bears).

However, I do like watching Marshawn Lynch bowl people over and I love smothering defenses.

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#112 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2013 - 2:32pm

I was going to say his 2013 self is better now, but then I looked up his 04 td percentage, which was at an ungodly level. That team's point totals were massively understated given how few possessions they got and how many games manning sat. I think if they had the NE 2007 mentality, THAT QB could have gotten 60 plus tds. This years Manning isn't the same in throwing, but the mental facets are incredible. Brandon Boykin was saying, they made checks and every single time he changed the play. Chip kelly said on the decker long pass - we actually had the right defense for it called because we suspected it, but when he still threads that, it was heartbreaking.

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#131 by Jake (not verified) // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:13pm

It seems people forget about how much Manning sat (and how few possessions Indy had) when talking about greatest QB seasons, and specifically when comparing that 2004 season to Brady's 2007. Like FO saying Brady's was the best in DVOA history .... except Manning had a higher DVOA in 2004. He had 44 TDs through 12 games that year! Good grief.

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#135 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:24pm

Manning sat out most or all of 10 quarters that year--I believe he had just two passes in one series week 17. You really can't compare those two seasons because of that--they were essentially playing the same position in different games with different internal team rules governing their actions.

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#146 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2013 - 3:40pm

It goes deeper than that. I remember in the baltimore game, he respectfully took a knee even though he was chasing the record. There were also little things. Against the jaguars in their first meeting, I think pollard dropped a td. They then ran for it and got it. Silly I know to quibble about such things, but since TDS have become the new mass-media measuring stick for qb play, its instructive to think how perception of Manning vs brady would be if manning still owned the td record.

I will say, comparing the 2004 colts to the 2013 broncos - its interesting. The key with these broncos is all of their receivers are very flexible, not specialized in the way GBs are. That means, they run the entire route tree. None are elite(though you could make a case for DT), but they all can be audibled into routes manning likes and that means hes far more able to adjust well when a defense takes away certain pieces. The advantages the 2004 colts had was their receivers were unparalleled. Harrison and Wayne and stokley were a powerful trio. But here's the biggest difference, the 2004 colts could run the ball better than these 2013 broncos can. Also manning was better physically in 2004(though mental manning makes it a wash probably). All in all, I'll favor the 2004 colts.

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#240 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 01, 2013 - 11:32am

"I will say, comparing the 2004 colts to the 2013 broncos - its interesting. The key with these broncos is all of their receivers are very flexible, not specialized in the way GBs are. That means, they run the entire route tree. None are elite(though you could make a case for DT)"

Seriously? Is it all because Welker is white?

He's like the Warren Moon of WRs.

Points: 0

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