Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Audibles at the Line: Week 6
Audibles at the Line: Week 6
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.

(EXTRA ED. NOTE: Can we please, please, please use this week's Audibles thread to discuss football games and not for a long series of complaints about the new format of Audibles that then turn into an even longer series of complaints about everything you don't like about Football Outsiders, like "why aren't you working 36 hours a day?" and "why can't you hire five or six programmers to constantly work on improving the site?" and "why does it now cost ten times as much to read Football Outsiders when you print only one-third as much content as you used to?" Thanks. -- Aaron Schatz)

Green Bay Packers 19 at Baltimore Ravens 17

Tweets

Scott Kacsmar: A.J. Hawk is pretty good at pass rushing as long as he's left untouched.

Vince Verhei: Ravens just picked up a first down on a blocked punt. May have been their best play of the day.

Ben Muth: They aren't saying Kuhn, they're saying Boo. Really dumb play touching a blocked punt past the LOS.

@RobertGrebel: After Ravens fail to score three times with 1st and goal at the 5, that *may* have been the exception to the rule on going for it. Of course, I could be blinded by the crappy play call on that 4th and goal.

@timmys24: Can we all agree the 3 TE formation at the goal line is stupid? It's making geniuses of morons who think FG on 4th & 1 is right call.

@pchicola: Is it me, or the 4th down Goal-line stops have become more common this year?

Aaron Schatz: Fourth and goal (1-2 to go): Last year 55%, this year Wk 1-5 (not incl DPI) 40%. But it is still early, small sample.

@RobertGrebel: Randall Cobb got hit in the knee on a catch over the middle and is in agony.

Ben Muth: That Randall Cobb injury is why guys would prefer to be hit high going over the middle.

Peter Koski:: Twitter rule: When talking about Randall Cobb injury, you must also mention that James Jones is already out of game.

Vince Verhei: Packers up 6-0, start second half in BAL territory after a punt return. Feels like they can win with one more field goal. Rodgers throws INT instead.

Aaron Schatz: Question for BAL fans: Does it look like something is up with Ray Rice, or is his lack of yardage all about the OL?

@RobertGrebel: Nothing like a play-action bootleg bomb for Aaron Rodgers. Safeties totally bit, and no one within five yards of Jordy Nelson. Webb was playing trail technique, expecting help over the top. Pollard and Elam bit on the play-action. Great execution by Rodgers.

Vince Verhei: As noted in FOA 2013, Jordy Nelson is not deceptively quick, he will torch your ass. Burns BAL for big TD, GB up 16-3, game over.

Longform

Vince Verhei: Baltimore's offense was a clown show for about 3.5 quarters today. They picked up a first down on a blocked punt, and that was one of their better offensive plays. They couldn't run for anything (Ray Rice was hit in the backfield over and over again), and only had luck passing when Joe Flacco could stand in the pocket for a long time and wait for receivers to find the soft spot deep in Green Bay's zone. They hit a small number of big plays late to keep it close and pad their stats, but this was not the kind of day that should inspire confidence in their fans.

Green Bay played most of the game without Randall Cobb and James Jones, which limited what they could do somewhat. But they now have a reliable running game, which set up the biggest play of the contest. Rodgers used a sweet play-fake to draw up the safeties, and Jordy Nelson blew right by Lardarius Webb for an easy touchdown.

Mike Kurtz: Much was made by the announcers about Green Bay's red zone woes, but the Packers are roughly where you expect them to be in the red zone: good at passing offense and averageish at rushing offense. The real issue with the offense in the red zone today was that the Packers were down to two functioning wide receivers fairly early in the game. The result was Jarrett Boykin, who did a poor imitation of his canine namesake by dropping everything, including a few very important third down passes.

The most interesting thing to me about this game was the excellent effort in man coverage we saw from Davon House. Baltimore targeted him early and often, and he was stellar in coverage. After Flacco got the message, it often seemed that his second read was removed, and with an injured Ray Rice that makes the Baltimore offense a really bad one-trick pony.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 at Buffalo Bills 24 OT

Tweets

Andrew Potter: That A.J. Green touchdown catch was fantastic. Covered but he extended high, both feet down as he fell out of bounds. Spectacular.

@blotzphoto: C.J. Spiller is really exploiting the Bengals on the edges. Ugly missed tackles by the Bengals not helping.

Mike Ridley: Things I never thought I'd hear during an NFL telecast: "You've got to be worried about Thaddeus Lewis …"

Mike Ridley: Jackson stopped on three straight goal-to-go situations after replacing Choice, who was running well.

@GDFar: 4th and goal from the 1 and the bills give their practice squad QB a PA rollout with a run/pass option. Needless to say, they didn't get it.

@blotzphoto: Shovel passes FTW! Helps to have the dynamic Giovani Bernard on the receiving end.

Peter Koski: Just saw the highlight of Bernard's TD reception. Wow. Impressive display of athleticism and vision, though that play will not be on Kiko Alonso's DROY campaign film.

Rivers McCown: Giovani Bernard looked so good on his touchdown catch that I may even remember there's only one n in his first name some day.

Mike Ridley: What would the Texans give for Thad Lewis right now?

Aaron Schatz: I'm going to go out on a limb here: Despite a good game today, Thad Lewis will not be a starting NFL QB in 2014. Calm down, folks.

@MilkmanDanimal: Dear Thad Lewis; don't get too excited. Signed, Matt Flynn.

@blotzphoto: No team makes scrub QBs look better than the Bengals

Longform

Matt Waldman: I've been willing to go along with the idea that Andy Dalton could develop into a solid NFL starter but as Marvin Jones has shown potential to develop into a complement to A.J. Green, the Bengals passing game is limited by Dalton's down field accuracy. Give the Bengals a quarterback with an aggressive mentality like Philip Rivers and I think the offense would be a solid step ahead of where they are today. Dalton simply waits too long as a deep ball thrower. Green can win some of these targets with his skill in tight coverage, but few receivers have that skill.

I'm not surprised by Thaddeus Lewis' play. He was solid with the Browns in a start last year and Fritz Shurmur thought Lewis flashed long-term potential in Rams' training camp. Lewis is the type of smart, solid passer with enough mobility to hang around the league awhile. Considering how many teams passed around Brian Hoyer, a player who I think the Patriots did a poor job of cutting loose for a big-armed backup in Mallett lacking Hoyer's savvy for the game, I'm rarely shocked that there are surprisingly decent quarterback performances from journeymen.

Rob Weintraub: There is no way this game ever should have gone into overtime. Cincy was up 24-10 late third quarter, and drove deep into Buffalo territory, thanks in part to a fourth-and-15 conversion (!) in the maroon zone. They settled for three, but a very dubious hold turned a made 24-yard field goal into a missed 34-yarder. The Bengals had numerous chances after that to salt it away, but a couple of odd calls from Mike Zimmer (last week's MVAC -- most valuable asst coach) kept the Bills in it. On fourth-and-8 the Bengals max blitzed Thad (deus) Lewis, leaving Scott Chandler to merely run past Carlos Dunlap, of all defenders, with the middle of the field empty for the easiest touchdown in memory. Zim often blitzes on third-and-long, but against more experienced quarterbacks. In this case, he dialed up precisely the lone defense Lewis could have beaten for a big play.

The Bengals then did the usual poor job in the four-minute offense (apparently studied by the Saints). They had fourth-and-1 on their own 46 and punted, assuming Lewis couldn't drive the field. He did, thanks mainly to another blitz call on the bomb touchdown that tied it. Terence Newman either missed the call or was hampered by an injured hip from earlier in the game, because he let Marquise Goodwin run right by him for an easy six.

So, you know, poor. But Zimmer recouped in OT, playing a combo zone that forced a three-and-out with the Bills backed up. A rare good punt return by Brandon Tate set up the winning kick.

Overall, Lewis was decent, hurting the Bengals early with his feet and a nice deep passing touch. But once the Bengals got ahead, and shut down the Bills backs, they were in control -- Lewis was tentative and wild on short and intermediate throws. He might have more success against a team with a lesser pass rush.

Good news for Cincy was the offensive balance. Lots of guys involved, and Andrew Whitworth looked healthy and nimble for the first time this year. Plus tremendous blocking by the wideouts, which was good because the tights ends had an off game blocking.

Detroit Lions 31 at Cleveland Browns 17

Tweets

Aaron Schatz: Early on, looks like DET is only using Megatron in spread sets, not in 21 or 12 personnel.

@zlionsfan: If NFL ever prohibits going for it on fourth down, Schwartz will finally be ahead of the curve.

Aaron Schatz: Browns just used a 6th OL at FB -- and had to give him help blocking Israel Idonije.

Aaron Schatz: Browns 107 yards on 15 attempts so far against DET defense that was 7th in def ALY going into today. OL opening huge holes.

@MilkmanDanimal: Dachshund races at halftime of Browns-Lions; Detroit expected to sign winner in an attempt to shore up secondary.

Aaron Schatz: Calvin Johnson on and off the field, one catch on five targets in first half... The man is just not right.

Aaron Schatz: Even when Suh makes a clean, legal tackle, whole press box gasps as if we're waiting for a flag.

Aaron Schatz: Browns OL has played great all game, finally gives up a sack on 3rd-long to end Q3. That one is mostly on Mitchell Schwartz.

Tom Gower: Buster Skrine being good is up there with Terrelle Pryor's passing ability in terms of "I did not see that coming. At all."

Aaron Schatz: @ThomasGower I'm afraid Buster Skrine being good has only been true for about 45 minutes. He's been not good most of the year.

Tom Gower: @FO_ASchatz After as much of a disaster as he was, simply being not very good was a big upgrade, I thought.

Aaron Schatz: Brandon Weeden with the lesson about why you don't just toss the ball away sidearm to avoid sack, landed in bounds, in DeAndre Levy's hands.

Longform

Aaron Schatz: Tale of two halves for Cleveland, which went into halftime up 17-7, then had 18 net yards on their first four drives of the second half. I thought the offensive line did a good job of opening up holes in the running game, and protecting Brandon Weeden. In the first half, Weeden was getting the ball out quickly, and things looked good -- for the most part. There were still plays where you could see the way he holds the ball too long. There was one play that stood out to me... Jordan Cameron was open from the moment the ball was snapped as he crossed from the right slot all the way over to the left side of the field. I just sat here saying "Jordan Cameron, Jordan Cameron, Jordan Cameron," I knew that's where the ball was going, and yet Weeden just held and held and by the time he threw it, the Lions nearly ended up with a pick. (It was simultaneous catch.)

In the second half, Weeden was suddenly back to holding onto the ball too long all the time, and the offense fell apart. It was hard for me to tell if this was an issue of Detroit just having improved coverage. The run holes seemed to close up too. And finally, when Cleveland could have maybe been driving, Weeden threw one of the dumbest passes ever. The press box people generally thought it was the worst pass ever, but I'll still go with the infamous Jake Plummer left-handed interception because at least Weeden was trying to get it out of bounds. (I can't seem to find that play on Youtube -- anyone know where a video of that is?)

Here's a gif of the Weeden pick, by the way.

Calvin Johnson was clearly hobbled and was used as a decoy for a large part of the game. (Not always, but often.) He also came on and off the field much more often than I think anyone would expect. I was surprised at just how much of a role Kris Durham plays for this offense. I also want someone to explain to me why Tampa Bay cut Kevin Ogletree, who is a perfectly serviceable depth receiver. Is Tiquan Underwood really better than him?

On a different note, for those who didn't see my tweets about this before the game ... Coming to Cleveland was a really great experience. You've got the stadium right downtown, and while the Lions aren't a rival of the Browns, you had the Michigan-Ohio rivalry so this city was filled with fans in Lions and Tigers gear. All the fans were mixing together last night, then the walk down the stadium today was great. Such a different (and better) experience than driving to Foxboro, where the stadium is out next to a mall and a bunch of cheap motels, or Philadelphia, where all the sports stadiums are out on the edge of the city. I said on Twitter that every analyst should have to go to at least one game a year just to feel the atmosphere, to remind us why we do this for a living (and of the fans whose love of football allows us to do this for a living). I'll amend that to say that every analyst should have to walk from their hotel to a game at a downtown stadium. Now I'm hoping to hit at least one each year... Chicago is like this, I'll bet Indianapolis is like this. Is Seattle's stadium in downtown? It was just a great fun morning.

Vince Verhei: Century Link Field is a half-mile from Pioneer Square, the main club/bar neighborhood in downtown Seattle. And most of that half-mile is made up of other bars and restaurants.

St. Louis Rams 38 at Houston Texans 13

Tweets

Rivers McCown: Shiloh Keo returning punts is a cry for help.

Rivers McCown: Zac Stacy doing pretty well against a stout run defense. Really like his patience and vision.

Tom Gower: I hate watching the Texans this year. Made it 1Q into that game, now onto OAK-KC.

Rivers McCown: Texans: less compelling than the Raiders.

Rivers McCown: Rams DB (20) completely bought Schaub keeping the ball on that last long Foster run.

@scott_tanner1: despite Arian Foster averaging like 10 yards a carry, Gary Kubiak continually finding ways to call other plays instead

Vince Verhei: Rams giving up big runs because they think Schaub is keeping the ball and are chasing him.

Scott Kacsmar: Somehow Sam Bradford is roughly on pace for 35 TD, 9 INT this season.

Aaron Schatz: HOU is gaining over 10 yards per play and somehow losing 17-6. It's been a nightmare season.

@GDFar: Texans got so close to a SB team. Maybe just Schaub and Cushing injuries from a SB appearance. Looks like it's about to blow up.

Scott Kacsmar: @FO_RiversMcCown Remember 2007 Titans/Texans with the crazy Sage Rosenfels 4Q? Yeah, that's probably not going to happen today.

@MilkmanDanimal: You know, you really want your backup QB to be able to fill in for your starting QB, but, uh, not quite that way, T.J. Yates.

@BrandontheFick: At what point does the Texans offense start practicing their tackling on INT returns?

@pchicola: Someone should check on @FO_RiversMcCown and give him a hug.

Rivers McCown: Things Houston won: time of possession, rushing yardage. Things Houston lost: ability to call themselves an adequate NFL team.

Longform

Tom Gower: I don't even know what to say at this point aside from, sorry, Rivers. The Texans used to be good at playing games the way they needed to to win. Now they make way too many mistakes.

Rivers McCown: I came down with food poisoning on Friday night, and somehow that wasn't the worst part of the weekend.

What to focus on that didn't really get discussed ... I think Ed Reed is the worst Texans free-agent signing in their history. He was hurt from the beginning, he actually cost more than Glover Quin, and has been a completely disinterested tackler. I've seen security guards tackle streakers with more intensity than he's shown. The Texans defense has created three turnovers. So has Quin, for the Lions. Total misfire.

This was the worst game I've seen J.J. Watt play since his rookie season.

Texans fans have gone from over-anxious rivalry creators to torching Matt Schaub jerseys, finding out where Matt Schaub lives, and cheering when he gets hurt.

I think this game was probably the official end of the Kubiak Era. I can't see Houston winning more than six games at this pace, and that's even considering they have two games with Jacksonville on the schedule. They are the 2012 Chiefs.

Oakland Raiders 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 24

Tweets

Peter Koski: It's a sack Rope-a-Dope in KC. Nick Roach's turn. Alex Smith held the ball instead of hitting hot read dumpoff to Charles.

@ptmovieguy: Nice discipline by Justin Houston, containing edge on OAK read-option. Next play, OAK forgets to block, jailbreak, sack.

Peter Koski: Chiefs have ZERO answers for OAK's blitzes. Another 3rd down sack for OAK.

@ptmovieguy: Is KC's o-line this porous? At least 2 blown blocks by guards. Not like OAK doing anything crazy, a couple stunts.

Tom Gower: Everybody watching game is saying it, but it's true-Raiders D is getting good pressure on Alex Smith & disrupting entire KC pass O

Tom Gower: Great quick slant throw for Pryor on the TD to Moore, plus the YAC. Where did the ability to throw come from after past 5 years?

@GDFar: Wow. Free JHouston stood still in front of Pryor. Pryor's legs clearly in the mind of the D. Smartly threw it away.

Tom Gower: Terrelle Pryor with a Brett Favre Dying Quail Special under pressure. Easy INT for the Chiefs, who are in FG range.

Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor with the back-foot wounded duck for INT. Thought we'd see more of that this year, honestly.

@ptmovieguy: Haven't seen DVOA splits, but eye test says OAK/Pryor play well in 1st half, not so much 2nd half.

Vince Verhei: Oakland's second-half offense is pretty much a single-wing. Nothing but misdirection built around QB runs.

Mike Ridley: #Chiefs just tied their sack total from last year. Absolutely abusing the Oakland o-line.

Andrew Potter: Oakland in second-and-37. That is one impressive series of screwups on first down. Pryor is sacked to make third-and-Missouri.

Vince Verhei: Raiders just had third-and-48. Is that a record? It fell incomplete. Ensuing punt did not go 48 yards.

@estebistec: 10 sacks of the Raiders by the Chiefs today. That is all.

Longform

Tom Gower: In the first half, Terrelle Pryor moved around well and Oakland's pressure got to Alex Smith, who struggled to do anything much when he couldn't escape the pocket and take off. I thought Oakland was the better team in a 7-7 game. In the second half, though, the Chiefs adjusted to what the Raiders were doing offensively, and Oakland struggled to move the ball with any consistent success. Pass protection behind that offensive line (Tony Pashos and Khalif Barnes was a mediocre enough tackle pairing for the 2008 Jaguars, and it's not 2008) was an issue. Pryor chucked one up off his back foot on third-and-long deep in his own territory for an easy pick to set up the score that made it 14-7, and it felt over at that point. Another Pryor pick set up a field goal for 17-7 and then a garbage time pick-6 made it 24-7. The second half was pretty much what I expected this game to look like.

Vince Verhei: Echoing mostly what Tom said. In the second half, both teams figured out that Oakland's only reliable weapons were Pryor's feet. So the Raiders went old school, using tons of fakes and counters off of QB run plays. It worked a few times, but eventually resulted in lots of long-yardage scenarios (including, seriously, a third-and-48), and Terrelle Pryor in obvious passing situations is bad news.

Carolina Panthers 35 at Minnesota Vikings 10

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Tweets

@Daniels_Ryan: Ted Ginn motions across the formation, and blocks Jared Allen on a draw to Mike Tolbert. What the hell? #BurnThatPageInThePlaybook

@BryKno: Rivera going for it on fourth-and-1! Aaaand they burn a time out.

Tom Gower: Apparently Ron Rivera is allowed to be aggressive if every other coach is being conservative

Aaron Schatz: Adrian Peterson 5 carry 12 yds start not related to his personal issues. CAR 3rd in def ALY going into this week.

@Shake1n1bake: Has there been an official ruling on whether a Mike Tolbert score qualifies as a Fat Guy Touchdown?

@Shake1n1bake: I made fun of Ted Ginn's attempt at blocking Jared Allen, but he just had a massive downfield block to spring Brandon LaFell for a TD.

Mike Ridley: Ted Ginn with an excellent downfield block to help LaFell score. #decleater

Scott Kacsmar: The Panthers basically have to have a massive fourth-quarter lead to win ballgames. 38-0 vs. NYG, 28-3 today.

@CyrisJonfs: Twice this season Rivera has gone for 4th down early. Both games became blowout wins.

Aaron Schatz: Panthers now have 3.8 Pythagorean wins, 2 actual wins.

Philadelphia Eagles 31 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Tweets

@MilkmanDanimal: The Tampa defense--making Nick Foles into Peyton Manning since 2012.

Aaron Schatz: @MilkmanDanimal TB is 3rd in defensive DVOA. I don't expect Foles to rip them up all day. The prob on that team is offense, not D.

@MilkmanDanimal: This week is reinforcing what I saw 2 weeks ago; Mike Glennon can be good when he isn't pressured. When he is pressured, not so much

Ben Jones: The eagles D is getting absolutely gashed on 3rd down. I wonder what their DVOA on 3rd down is?

@MilkmanDanimal: Mike Williams is to Buccaneer beards as Tiquan Underwood is to Buccaneer hair.

Ben Jones: Regardless of how this game ends, this has been a marvelous job of running out the clock by philly. It's best to avoid the victory formation against tb.

@MilkmanDanimal: Up 8, 3 minutes left, 4th and 2 inches, Eagles line up to go for it in obvious attempt to get Tampa to jump offsides, and they do. Dear Greg Schiano; whatever you are doing to make your team be "disciplined", IT ISN'T WORKING.

@MilkmanDanimal: For all the good talk about Mike Glennon in the next few days, I don't think he's completed a pass that went 10+ yards past the LOS.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at New York Jets 6

Tweets

Scott Kacsmar: Umm, Bill Cowher's calling the Steelers game with Simms and Nantz? Is this supposed to be therapeutic?

Aaron Schatz: @FO_ScottKacsmar CBS is doing this a lot today -- sent their studio people to be color guys on different games.

Cian Fahey: Steelers started Isaac Redman Week 1 and Jonathan Dwyer was cut. Now Redman healthy inactive and Dwyer is active. Evaluation is a worry. Furthermore, Mike Adams went from long-term option at LT to healthy inactive behind Guy Whimper and Levi Brown in weeks. And this was after they had Marcus Gilbert at left tackle and switched Adams to that spot in the middle of training camp

@laufy84: Big Ben pass just bounced off not one, but two helmets! Eat your heart out Sanchez/Tebow

@JP_Wright: @FO_ScottKacsmar Was Bill Cowher always this turned on by field goals as a coach? Half expect a Shakespearean sonnet about them.

Cian Fahey: Todd Haley only ever gets abuse, but he's called an outstanding game for the Steelers today. Creating yards through scheme

@TerrapinPrime: Cromartie is a clown. Brown beat him and dropped the td and then Cromartie showboats?

Cian Fahey: The Steelers offense looks more like it did under Bruce Arians today. Lots of third/second and long conversions. No run game

Cian Fahey: Troy Polamalu can't cover, but he still has speed running straight at the quarterback. Not sure problems are really a lack of speed

Cian Fahey: While there was play-action on the Sanders 55 yard TD reception, Cromartie never bought on it. Sanders beat him with his route

Scott Kacsmar: STEELERS HAVE A TAKEAWAY. I forgot what they looked like.

Cian Fahey: Geno Smith threw the Ryan Clark interception into triple coverage. That's the only way the Steelers were going to get a turnover

Cian Fahey: Haley will get crucified for that reverse pass call in the redzone, but it's one blemish on a perfect day

Longform

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers finally got some takeaways (two), partly through pressure and confusion of a rookie quarterback, and protected the ball on offense. Ben Roethlisberger was very sharp with the short-passing game, which helped ease up the pressure on him on a day the Steelers were down to six offensive linemen. That did not bode well for the running game against a good run defense, but it did not matter this time.

The Jets had opportunities, but Geno Smith missed Stephen Hill on a deep ball when he was wide open. Jarvis Jones had a big pressure late in the game that led to Smith's second interception. Ryan Clark dropped a pick earlier in the game. The defense played well for Pittsburgh outside of a mental lapse before halftime that led to an open receiver and three points.

Not the most memorable game, but an efficient performance and win by the Steelers. There was also only one "Fire Todd Haley" moment, when he tried to go to the trick WR pass for the second time on the day. The only other thing I would mention is CBS had Bill Cowher do commentary with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, and I did not think he had a good day. He preached on pretty much every conservative call in the book (kick field goal on early fourth-and-1, run the ball on third down with chance to clinch things, kick FG to go up 13 rather than 17 in the fourth quarter, etc.). When Simms is the voice of reason on coaching decisions, that's a scary thought.

Cian Fahey: In many ways, the Steelers' first win of the season was the worst win imaginable. It's a victory that erases that zero on the left side of their record, but it wasn't a performance that suggests they can do anything more than hurt their draft spot for the remainder of the season. The offensive line still can't create running lanes and the offense was handicapped because of that inability. Todd Haley called a perfect game except for that reverse pass in the red zone, but even at that the unit still struggled to put up points because of their offensive line. This wasn't a dominant display from a team that is set to turn things around. It was a display good enough to get the best of an inconsistent team with a rookie quarterback.

That rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, made many good plays, but he couldn't make the pivotal ones to win the game. He led three defenders to the football on Ryan Clark's interception and missed a certain touchdown when Stephen Hill got behind the Steelers' coverage. The same precision that had been on show in Atlanta the previous week was lacking this week. For the Jets and Geno, this was just a part of the development process, for the Steelers, it was technically a step in the right direction. However, that is only if the right direction is mediocrity.

Jacksonville Jaguars 19 at Denver Broncos 35

Tweets

Andrew Potter: LOVE the Jacksonville fake punt call. Probably going to lose anyway, DEN probably going to score anyway. Need to take those risks.

Andrew Potter: Cecil Shorts now questionable with a shoulder sprain for JAC. They might need a few more fake punts to have a chance. Nothing to lose.

Scott Kacsmar: The best defender at slowing Denver's offense this season: Montee Ball.

Scott Kacsmar: Another one of Denver's fake screens working for an easy TD down the middle.

@RyanCrinnigan: Knew that 2nd TD was coming the sec DEN went 3x1. JAX in Cover 2 and made absolutely no effort to disguise it. Hello Wes. Come on.

Andrew Potter: In SEA, worst possible outcome of a botched FG for SEA. In DEN, best possible outcome for JAC as next play is a Manning pick-six.

Scott Kacsmar: Dan Fouts seriously wishes he would have bet on Jaguars leading at halftime. Said it when the Jags trailed 14-12 and could only tie.

@MilkmanDanimal: Broncos fans actually booing at halftime because they're only leading 14-12. Entitled much, guys?

Andrew Potter: You are winless, have the devastating Broncos offense on third down in the red zone, and get flagged for TAUNTING? Cut on the spot.

@Broncfan07: Orlando Franklin's leg rolled up on the Moreno TD, now out with knee injury.

Aaron Schatz: We may be able to take Denver and Jacksonville off the best/worst DVOA ever lists after this week.

@ander1dw: Jacksonville trying to prove that parity is still alive and well in the NFL. Also, dumb luck.

Scott Kacsmar: If Denver gets a TD, i'd go for 2. Go up 17. Why not?

@bstage: Denver O hasn't looked right since Manning went to locker room. 2 fumbled snaps and some missed throws including pick6

Andrew Potter: Not seen full game, but appears Denver struggling to get pressure. Against tackle tandem of Bradfield and Pasztor, that's a problem. Though lack of pressure hasn't stopped Denver's D-line from tipping about a million Henne passes. Game ending INT off another tip.

Tennessee Titans 13 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Tweets

Tom Gower: Fitz with his legs and Kendall Wright positives for the #Titans early, as is a D that's playing well.

Vince Verhei: I'm happy Russell Wilson can run. But this is three games in a row now where that's been Seattle's best play.

@SeattleDoorMat: Derrick Coleman has three major blocks in the run game already, including sealing out a blitzer on the Lynch TD. Don't miss MikeRob.

Vince Verhei: Hauschka in locker room with apparent concussion. Seattle driving for score before halftime, but no kicker.

Vince Verhei: I could not summarize the amateur hour end of the half in Seattle in 140,000 characters.

@ExcessiveFarce: Well that's about as bad an outcome as one could have on your first FG attempt

Vince Verhei: Kicker is hurt. Punter becomes emergency kicker. But that means you also have an emergency holder. Chaos ensues. SEA FG try turns into opponent TD for second week in a row.

Tom Gower: #Titans needed at least one big break to get the win today. That counts, legit 10-point swing.

@robbbbbb: @FO_VVerhei Research opportunity: What happens when a team goes for it on all 4th downs instead of taking FG 'cuz the kicker's hurt.

Vince Verhei: I don't think Chris Johnson is a very good running back these days. But man, when he breaks tackles, I start to panic.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks have four fumbles early in the fourth quarter. It's a sunny, dry day in Seattle.

@AndrewLShepherd: Seahawks just caught a huge break. What looked like a fumble rec TD bounces off of defender right to Russell Wilson. Arguably two different 10-point swings in this game, one on each side.

@robbbbbb: Apparently, Fitzpatrick has not learned that throwing deep to Richard Sherman's side is a bad idea.

Vince Verhei: I'm pretty sure that Sherman's INT was the first pass thrown in his direction all day. #ShutdownCorner

@robbbbbb: That whole drive, from the INT to the Rice catch to the Lynch TD, was what I expected from the Seahawks today.

Tom Gower: Nutty catch by Sidney Rice on the sidelines, Lynch finishes off the drive, and moribund TEN O needs 10+ in 7:33. Na ga happen.

[ad placeholder 4]

Longform

Tom Gower: Surprising me not very much at all, the Titans scored six offensive points. They couldn't run the ball, of course, and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two picks, one a bad overthrow and the other a deep ball where Richard Sherman rather than his target won the jump ball. No surprise there.

Offensively, Seattle looked how I thought they'd look, except for the surprising ball security issues. Marshawn Lynch ran very hard and effectively at times, Wilson got out of the pocket, but overall they didn't do too much. If not for Steve Hauschka's injury, which resulted in the botched hold and fumble giving the Titans the long fumble return touchdown at the end of the first half, this is the sort of 23-6 game I was expecting.

Vince Verhei: Another ugly day for Seattle, their third in a row, though they somehow went 2-1 over that stretch. For the second week in a row, a field-goal try turned into a touchdown for the other team. There were fumbles, and dumb penalties, and bad clock management, and some oddly pass-wacky play-calling.

The defense got caught with ten guys on the field again, so there are still some management concerns here. And they had little interior pass rush, which gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a chance to step up and make plays with his legs. Thankfully, in almost every other way, they dominated. Tennessee held the ball for a while in the first half with small-ball tactics and converting third downs, but eventually got exposed in long-yardage situations. Richard Sherman was outstanding -- I believe he was thrown at twice, one 4-yard catch and one interception.

Due to the injuries on the offensive line, Seattle's most reliable play, by far, is the Russell Wilson scramble. That's fine for moving the ball in the middle of the field, but it's resulting in far too many stalled red-zone drives these days. There's just not enough real estate between the line of scrimmage and the coverage guys to due any significant damage.

New Orleans Saints 27 at New England Patriots 30

Tweets

@pchicola: That Brady sack inside the red-zone was more a testament to his WR inability to beat man-coverage, than a coverage sack by NO.

@pchicola: For NE, trickle down effect of losing Wilfork, is having to play Big Nickel w/ Spikes in sub. Major liability in coverage vs TE & RB

@pchicola: The year Belichick finally puts up a competitive defense, it falls apart piece by piece (Wilfork, Kelly, Talib, Mayo)

Aaron Schatz: Kenny Stills TD catch to go ahead of Pats 24-23 is extra remarkable because two defenders are right there. Dennard's hand in his face

@WhispersMoCo: @FO_ASchatz Gregory wasn't "right there." He was late and out of position.

Aaron Schatz: @WhispersMoCo No, on further view, you are right. Gregory was a step late. Dennard was right in his face though.

Matt Waldman: Good technique by Stills to keep hands on shoulder of Dennard. Keeps hands free from entanglement & gauge DB

Cian Fahey: Well, that's a fitting final drive for the Patriots offense, at least if that proves to be the final drive

Aaron Schatz: And Aaron Dobson with the straight-out drop on fourth-and-6. Not a PD.

Matt Waldman: Dobson has had hand position issues since college. Perfect example on this route. On this play, would have liked to see Dobson attack the ball rather than wait on it. Hand position was set to wait. If Dobson extends arms for ball, can make catch with palms up rather than down, and have more control of pass.

Cian Fahey: Going for it on fourth down was the only decision there for the Patriots. Still a one score game with either TD or field goal

Aaron Schatz: Pats gets ball back with 1:13 left, no timeouts. Should be time for at least two more dropped passes here.

Tom Gower: Jabari Greer doesn't defend the back corner of the end zone. Kenbrell Thompkins found it.

Aaron Schatz: Kenbrell Thompkins TD catch had Jabari Greer's hand in his face almost as bad as Dennard on Stills TD catch. Good coverage by Greer, just like by Dennard.

@GDFar: Loss falls squarely on Sean Payton's shoulders. Talent bailed him out multiple times, continued to make clock errors. If you think Rob Ryan is the reason the Saints lost, you have an already established narrative with no interest in doing analysis.

Longform

Tom Gower: I only watched this game after the Titans-Seahawks game was over, but Bill Belichick's call to go-for-it on fourth-and-6 from the 24 was unsurprising and the move I would have made. Aside from that, well, I've watched enough of Brady and the Patriots that the final comeback was not surprising. I wish I had something more insightful to say than that, but I don't, really.

Scott Kacsmar: It's amazing how offenses, including the best in the game, do not even try to do a good job in the four-minute offense to put away games so that these miracle touchdown drives never even have a chance to happen. Everyone knows about the prevent defense, but the prevent offense that practically every coach falls into where you run the ball twice and maybe throw on third down is just as much of a problem. The Saints handled those final minutes as poorly as I've ever seen.

Arizona Cardinals 20 at San Francisco 49ers 32

Tweets

Danny Tuccitto: Maybe THIS is the week Eric Reid isn't just an honorable mention for our Madden Ultimate team?

@matthew_carley: Glenn Dorsey goes down with wash at looks like a hamstring. Without their top two nose tackles, we could see Quinton Dial next week.

@Coboney: Nominating Andy Lee for Robo Punter. 58 Yard punt there to stick Peterson at the 10 - and penalty moves it inside the 5

@Coboney: Fitzgerald makes a good play to stop a pickoff by Tarell Brown - for another turn over that would have given niners ball inside 10 ... But apparently ... he was feeling that wasn't enough as he gave it to Carlos Rogers next play. Gets to the 12 - so outside the 10!

@matthew_carley: Frank Gore just missed a blitz pickup, first of the year.

@Coboney: In a weird play Arians runs a give to Patrick Peterson to go for 2. Peterson looks to throw as he's blocked nad persued by 9ers. Int

Ben Muth: Glad to see the Cards D act tough w/a personal foul in the end zone after the 49ers rammed it right down their throats all drive.

Longform

Tom Gower: That 49ers drive to make it 29-20, 18 plays, 89 yards, 9:21 was what teams built like that need to be able to do; to take a game and throttle them like that. On a side note, kudos to Bruce Arians for going for two at 22-20 in the middle of the third quarter. Knowing you'll probably need two at some point, it makes sense to do it earlier rather than later so you can plan accordingly, as we've probably discussed an nauseum by this point. Aside from that, what I saw of this game was 49ers edges on the lines bearing out, plus a couple big touchdown passes to Vernon Davis.

Washington Redskins 16 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Tweets

Scott Kacsmar: I picked Dallas, but there's really no result from this game that would surprise me. That's the NFC East in a nutshell.

@GDFar: Is it my selection bias, or does the Washington offense, even when effective, seem incredibly safe? Almost Kubiak-esque.

Tom Gower: Heck of a play by Sean Lee on that QB draw. He was blocked & still made the tackle.

@GDFar: If I was playing madden, I would've slammed my controller over that Sean Lee play and cursed how unrealistic it is.

Aaron Schatz: Al michaels: "Dez Bryant is one of the nfl's best young receivers... And DeAngelo Hall has been around a while." And is not the best.

Aaron Schatz: If you put the Cowboys and Patriots together at this point, you might almost get one entire defensive line!

Aaron Schatz: Washington really getting a lot on these short passes, but they aren't getting anything deeper.

@AlvaroIM77: Washington putting on an absolute clinic on how to most egregiously mismanage the clock.

Andrew Potter: That Romo touchdown pass to Williams was everything there is to love about Romo. Simply incredible play by the QB.

@RyanCrinnigan: Dallas covering the middle of the field well on Washington's play action. RG3 doesn't like looking outside as much off PA.

Tom Gower: Mo Claiborne, what happened to "highly-drafted CBs struggle as rookies, then get better in their second season"?

Scott Kacsmar: Cole Beasley - the last guy you expect to catch the ball in this offense.

Aaron Schatz: I criticize DeAngelo Hall a lot, but that was a great play using his speed to sprint back and slap a TD away from Miles Austin

Vince Verhei: I think Washington just ran a pistol-slash-wishbone play.

Rob Weintraub: Why even have that "you can't push your teammate into the end zone" rule? Never called, and makes little sense anyway--why not?

@PigskinLover: As unimpressive as both of these teams look, one will likely end up in the postseason this fall. Why not expand the playoffs?

Comments

226 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2014, 7:18pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Aaron--yeah, Indianapolis is like that. Good tailgating scene too, when it isn't pouring rain. My dad and brother have come out here for these last two 'Hawks-Colts games; we've been jinxed on the outcomes, but otherwise, it's a good experience. Colts fans have to be told when to make noise, and even then they aren't that loud, but they're a classy bunch.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: noise. The amazing thing was how quiet the crowd would get during the Manning administration. When the Colts had the ball, it was like watching a surgical demonstration. Dead silence, Manning calls signals, eight-yard pass, golf clap from crowd, repeat...

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That's how Peyton wanted it.

And really, I've never understood why a home fan would want to yell during the offense's pre-snap routine anyway. You yell during the opposing offense's pre-snap routine in order to prompt a false start or some other miscue. (How much of an effect it has is open to debate, but that's the theory anyway.) If you're going to yell when the home team is on offense, you do it in an orderly fashion, after whatever good thing happened and before the team gets back up to the line. So Peyton sayeth it, so it shall be done.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If this storyline was written by Shakespeare, Robert Mathis would sack Peyton and cause a career-ending injury.

P: "Hike you, now!"
R: "The way, 'tis clear! Pagano's scheme has proved true!"
P: "Alack! The backer comes unhindered!"
R: "Dare I strike my former Prince? I must, though my heart wishes it not."
P: "Oh! The sack is nigh!" [He falls]
R: "The play is done. I shall not dance. This stat weighs heavy."
P: "Damn thee, Donald!"
R: "In his pain he knows not the season. Arise, friend, that the game may go on."
P: "Oh, that I should fall in this house I built myself."
R: "He cannot continue. The mighty arm has thrown its last." [Weeps]
P: "My field days are done! Now, to coach."
[A Messenger approaches]
Mess.: "Sir Peyton, a message from Tampa!"
P: "Tampa? 'Tis warm there. [reads] Zounds! Seven zeros and more!"
Mess: "'Tis good to see you smile, Sire."
P: "Come, boy! We must make the Bay by sunrise!" [Exits]

R: "How can I continue? My traitorous act has left me undone. Who approaches now?"
[Enter Sir Kenneth]
K: "Gird yourself, friend. A new player trots nigh."
R: "I cannot read his number through my tears."
K: "It is Brock O'Swiler. A knave."
R: "Oh ho! He has no place here! Him, I shall cleave asunder. Blow thy whistle, Ref!"
[Play continues after commercial break}

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Paul that WAS sweet. I am currently reading a book called "William Shakespeare's Star Wars" ($8 at Costco!) and it's on par.
Keep in mind, though, that Mathis is a tiny little thing next to Peyton. Heavier, yeah, but if Manning put a stiff arm on RM's forehead, it would be like a 12 year-old holding off his 8 year-old little brother with longer arms. That, and 18 would never work for a guy like Schiano.
What an awesome parody.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I live in the bay area but I went to a game once during his 2006 season. When PM was on offense, everyone was silent and also made sure to "shhh" people in the crowd. I've been to a few 49er games, but its never been like that. All you heard was his cackling voice echoing through the stadium. Really strange if you didn't know why.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Not entirely accurate about the noise factor. There were complaints from some teams (cough Patriots cough) that the Colts piped in noise at the RCA dome and it was very loud there. I was at the 2006 AFC Championship game and after that I couldn't hear for about 24-hours. Lucas Oil stadium is a bit more sedate though and when Manning was playing and the offense was on the field it could be very quiet. Not so much though when the opponent had the ball, again the Welker bobble on fourth down and two in 2009 was pretty load. The Green Bay come back in 2012 would be another game I remember as being really load (at least in the second half). Colts fans are spoiled in that they never feel like they are out of a game after watching Manning and now Luck. They tend to stick around and pay attention throughout the game.

The crowd is actually pretty well-behaved and knowledgeable about when to make noise and when to be quiet. It is a nice place to bring the family to see a game.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If I had to rank my favorite/most memorable games as a colts fan...

1) OBV - AFC champ game with NE

2) Same year, at NE 2006. The pats coming off a huge blowout win vs the Vikes, the colts coming off a gutty last sec win in denver. Collinsworth predicted a blowout in favor of NE since the Indy defense was horrible again. Statistically, wouldn't even sniff manning's top 20, but this was(imo) his greatest game ever. Pass protection was spotty, receivers dropped balls, run game was a non factor, and manning had to scramble so many times to hit his receivers. My favorite performance of his ever.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Aaron, Indy's stadium is downtown. It marks the southern end of the best part of downtown. (Unless you're a connoisseur of meth. If so, go a little further south.)

You should check out a game. Most of the Super Bowl crowd liked it, and I think you would, too. There are some good restaurants within walking distance, and a saxophone-playing street performer who can play any song ever written as long as it's "When The Saints Go marching In."

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I will listen for this if I'm around the stadium Sunday. (Unfortunately do not have tickets...heading back to Indy to wander around and see if anyone accidentally dropped his/hers.)

To Indianapolis readers: When I lived in Indy I never bothered going to a bar to watch the game, but now I'm heading back this weekend (from Chi) and would like to go to the crunkiest craziest bar possible for this game. Any recommendations?

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"The press box people generally thought it was the worst pass ever, but I'll still go with the infamous Jake Plummer left-handed interception because at least Weeden was trying to get it out of bounds."

I hear the song of my people!

I realize this was accidentally a running play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHIFLNWZBfA

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"or Philadelphia, where all the sports stadiums are out on the edge of the city."

Rookie mistake. Pre-game downtown, like the locals, then take the subway to the game. That's why all the stadiums are where they are.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

3rd-and-48 isn't even a record for the last season.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/play_finder.cgi?request=1&match=summary_all&year_min=1999&year_max=2013&team_id=&opp_id=&game_type=R&playoff_round=&game_num_min=0&game_num_max=99&week_num_min=0&week_num_max=99&quarter=1&quarter=2&quarter=3&quarter=4&quarter=5&tr_gtlt=lt&minutes=15&seconds=00&down=3&yds_to_go_min=40&yds_to_go_max=99&yg_gtlt=gt&yards=&is_first_down=-1&field_pos_min_field=team&field_pos_min=&field_pos_max_field=team&field_pos_max=&type=PASS&type=RUSH&is_turnover=-1&is_scoring=-1&no_play=0&game_day_of_week=&game_location=&game_result=&margin_min=&margin_max=&order_by=yards

The Redskins had a 3rd-and-50 last year. The Vikings had one in 1999.

Cincinnati had a 3rd-and-goal from the 40 in 2005.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Question for BAL fans: Does it look like something is up with Ray Rice, or is his lack of yardage all about the OL?"

Rice does not look as explosive, but neither does Pierce, so the main culprit has to be the putrid O-line play.

It's been tough to figure out the O-line woes. Oher has been slightly worse than last year, Yanda went from dominant to average, Osemele went from good to bad, and Gino Gradkowski replacing Birk has been a horror show at C. I thought Monroe played OK last game, except he was the one who totally whiffed his block at the end of the 1st half and allow the disastrous strip sack that led to 3 points for the Packers. Gradkowski is totally clueless whenever teams run any sort of stunt, he just stood there and watched blitzers run right by him a few times yesterday.

The hope is that they are somehow able to improve the line play as they did last season in the playoffs. Maybe replace Gradkowski with Shipley, who graded out OK last year. They also have a rookie C named Jensen who broke his ankle in training camp, and the team surprisingly didn't IR him. He just started practicing, so maybe he's in the Ravens plans.

Overall I'd say the WR's for the Ravens have performed admirably. The TE's as a group are almost as bad as the O-line, though. That obviously factors into the running game issues.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I would not be too hard on the Ravens offensive line. The Packers d-line has been playing at a really high level most of the season and yesterday was more of the same. Jolly, Raji, and Daniels are just mauling the inside allowing the linebackers to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"I would not be too hard on the Ravens offensive line."

No doubt the Packers D-line played well, but the Ravens offensive line has been awful against everyone all year. I mean, the Bills stuffed the Ravens rushing attack better than the Packers

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If you want to summarize Ray Rice this season vs. last (and this is all season, not just after his hip injury), there was a dump-off pass he got earlier in the game that ended up with him one on one in the open field with a DB. From the moment he got the ball, he looked like he was going to get tackled, and then he was. In previous years everyone would be screaming "Yes, he's got an open field and a one-on-one with a DB!" and Rice would proceed to juke by him and/or break the tackle for a long gain. In 2013 even Leach would have been a bit better, b/c he at least would have plowed the DB forward 3-4 yards before going down.

I don't know if Rice came into the season injured or he's just breaking down early, but I'd almost prefer we sit him for a few weeks at this point as he's not adding much on the field. Heck, we should consider a 2 FB set that at least would give Flacco some more blocking...

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Something is definitely up with Ray Rice. He missed a game (!) a few weeks ago with the hip injury: I don't think he's 100% back. The week before that game, Bernard Pierce was on the injury report with a thigh. He came off the report right quick when there was an opportunity to start, but didn't look great. I don't think he's 100% either.

It's tough to tell with the implosion of the O-line, but I'm not sure how much 100% of Ray Rice is anymore. 4th-and-29 was week 12 last year; by late last season it seemed that Pierce was the better runner. More speed & power; though not the receiving threat that Rice is. I wonder if Rice is on the downside of his career. He's 26; and he had very high usage in college. His ypc has dropped since 2011. It seems to me that he's lost a half-step; though again it's hard to tell between the atrocious O-line and the hip injury.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I note that, thanks to Edelman, Aaron was right about there being time for two more Patriots dropped passes, despite the game-winning drive!

On the Seahawks kicker situation, I think this falls under the general heading of "The guy who is your emergency X should not himself be someone who plays a key role in the stuff that X does." An injury to one player should not immediately cause two backup guys to come in.

Denver OL line woes are starting to scare me. As are their general defensive woes.

The commentary by Cowher should pretty much scare off any GMs who are still thinking about dragging this guy out of retirement to fix their team. It's one thing for head coaches to be arch-conservative because they're putting the self-interest of preserving their job over the interest of their team winning games--sleazy, but at least results-oriented. It's another thing for the same guy, now a commentator, to not actually know the correct decisions. When you throw in the kind of play calls we do see on fourth down go-for-it attempts, and then the kind of play calls that Kubiak, etc. actually request from their offense, I am left scratching my head at how many people who are deeply involved in the decision-making side of the game of football, who spend hours upon hours analyzing game film and watching their players practice, apparently have no idea how football actually works. The disconnect between conventional wisdom and the results on the field has never been greater.

(It nearly made me lose my brunch when one color guy--I don't remember if it was Cowher, Simms, or the guy doing the GB/BAL game for Fox--out and out stated that it was important to establish the run to set up the pass, and that it didn't matter if the running plays actually worked; "it's not about yards, it's about attempts." Because y'know, it's true that your play-action game is probably more likely to succeed if the defense believes that a handoff might happen, but it might be even more useful if you didn't have to put your offense in 3rd-and-8 all the time to do it!)

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Is it some strange mystery that defensive coaches tend to be more conservative on go-kick decisions than offensive coaches? I would hazard a guess it's because they think about points differently -- seeing points allowed as a defensive failure, regardless of whether it was 3 or 7.

Or maybe Cowher's just some kind of idiot, having gone 149-90, with 12 playoff wins, and 2 SB appearances running a team constructed very much like this one. He clearly has no clue how a defense-first, offensively-limited team can function successfully.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Successful results do not imply optimal process. Hell, look at the howling over Cowher's successor, the equally-successful Mike Tomlin. Just because you win games as a coach does not make you a genius at all aspects of coaching. And "seeing points differently" implies that there are multiple ways of seeing points. Sure, if you have the 2000 Ravens defense working for you, then you know that the value of taking the FG is greater, but that's because you have specific information to work with in calculating your win probability formulas, rather than using an "across the NFL" standard that includes the Jaguars and Broncos in the same math. (It's no different than saying "go for it is a good decision--but not if you line up with three tight ends and an I formation and run a dive play into the guts of 11 in the box.)

Jim Caldwell has a pretty good career W-L record with a SB appearance, and his key coaching decision was "Start Peyton Manning when he's healthy."

And lastly, even if we concede that the totality of Cowher's football knowledge and coaching acumen made him superior to his peers at the time of his coaching, that does not mean that his perception of the game as it is played today isn't lacking. (Actually, that may be the #1 problem with ex-players and ex-coaches as studio commentators. When enough time passes, the worse among them continue to apply the anecdotal evidence of their own time in the league while failing to understand that changes in the rules and in the players themselves have occurred.)

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

There may well be other ways of thinking about points, and about the optimization of scoring decisions in the context of a particular team and its particular era. You don't play with the team you wish to have, you play with the team you do have.

While certainly true that successful does not mean optimization, a theorist is also wise to acknowledge that all theories are simplifications of real systems, and that meaningful information may have been neglected. Success certainly implies optimization, or at very least, that solutions may be non-unique.

Simple rationale is not necessarily sufficient. Cargo cults were practicing rational behavior. It just wasn't successful.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Funny, though one of those drops was on Brady when he threw a layup game winning TD 8 yards short and low. The other was a legitimate drop, though it might have helped that it was, because if he wasn't able to roll into the end zone a lot of time would have ticked away.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That was a really strange couple drives to watch. Brady was legitimately terrible for the previous couple drives. At one point they went 4 or 5 plays without throwing the ball, even running on 3rd and goal from almost the 5 yard line. There was chunk of time where his only 'completion' was a ball that bounced off the ground in front of the receiver, and the ref somehow missed it.

The receivers have dropped some balls (and the Dobson 4th-6 drop was terrible), but he has also made some god-awful throws. Besides the fact that the Int is a ball that never should have been throws, it was 10+ yards short of where it should have been, and it was pretty clear the defender made no effort of even covering the receiver because it was clear Brady couldn't hit him.

There were atleast a handful of balls during that game (and there have been some in each of the last couple of games) where one of the receivers has gotten open deep by getting behind the defense, and Brady hasn't even come close to hitting him. I know you have to throw deep occasionally to keep the defense honest, but its starting to feel like the defenses aren't even bothering to cover it.

That being said, that throw to Thomkins in the back of the endzone was a thing of beauty.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Surprised nobody is talking about how awful the Saints' defensive scheme was on that last play. Ball on the 17, no timeouts, a QB who has absolutely zero chance of running it in from there. You just defend the sidelines and the end zone. Any tackle in the field of play--game over. And Rob Ryan's scheme calls for CB to be covering the wide receiver one on one in the corner of the end zone?

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The coverage was good, it was just a fantastic throw. There's not much you can do there.

The NFL rules are such that a perfectly thrown ball to a big receiver is pretty much impossible to cover.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Rodgers used a sweet play-fake to draw up the safeties, and Jordy Nelson blew right by Lardarius Webb for an easy touchdown."

That play was a staple of the Packer offense in 2010 and 2011 but the non-threat of the Packer running game kept it from working in 2012 and I would feel reasonably certain in saying it was part of the reason the Packer's went and drafted 2 running backs. Rodgers would run that play at least once or twice a game last year and there was nobody open but add the threat of Eddie Lacy and the improved running game and the cornerback hesitates for a second and Nelson is gone.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Matt Waldman: Good technique by Stills to keep hands on shoulder of Dennard. Keeps hands free from entanglement & gauge DB"

By "Good Technique" you mean blatant pass interference, right? You can't put your hands on the DB's shoulders as you jump to keep him from being able to jump

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It would be a real tough call to make their to call OPI against a guy, because he had his hands on the shoulder pad. OPI only seems to be called when a WR chucks a guy to the ground, or is blocking downfield on screen passes.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Rewatch the play. When Gregory jumps, Stills puts his hand on Gregory's shoulder, and literally holds Gregory down. It's why Gregory appeared to have better position on the ball but got absolutely no elevation.

It's a good play on Still's part, because its tough for the referee to see, and it's a ball that he was beat on, but it absolutely is PI.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

But, I mean, would you call it? There always a lot of contact in these plays, and it's not even like it helped keep Dennard out of position. He just whiffed on the ball.

Nice gif, btw, the contact is seen clearly.

------
The man with no sig

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Well I just said it was almost impossible for a ref to see it. So I wouldn't fault the refs in this case. They're not going to catch everything, and this wasn't an egregious foul. Just have to shrug your shoulders and move on.

I disagree that he didn't affect Dennard's ability to go up for the ball, however.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It is Dennard, my bad (not Gregory).

My opinion is that if the referee is right there, it should be called. The problem is, on most of these plays the referee is somewhere around the 10 yard line because he can't keep up with the defensive back/receiver, and has absolutely no view of the play.

Which means we've got all these complicated rules about pass interference, and the referees are basically just guessing.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

A bizarrely interesting stat: in games where a player has thrown 16 or fewer passes, and 2 or more TDs, his team are 355-8*. Players with 30 or more rush attempts and at least 1 TD are 453-54. Forget run to win, if your QB throws 2 early TDs, bench him and you've basically won!

Oddly, throwing for a third TD on so few attempts hurts your chances of winning, as QBs with 3 TDs in 16 or fewer attempts are 97-4.

I just thought Sam Bradford's statline from yesterday was weird enough to look into. Obviously it makes sense that if your QB is very efficient and doesn't throw much you'll win most games, but I was surprised at just how big the margin was.

*One of the 8 losing QBs, oddly, was Walter Payton, who managed to go 2-2 for 2 TDs passing in a loss to the Saints in 1983.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Is that post merger data? I wonder how the different eras stack up. In recent memory it would seem to be difficult to lose a game where you were even allowed to get 30 rushes. Maybe back in the cloud of dust period?

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Man. Denver media and blogosphere is full of WOE, WOE I tell you over the sloppy performance of the Broncos.

It certainly wasn't a clean game, and it highlighted that the fumbling mistakes just keep on giving, but the game was never really in doubt. Denver needs to figure out what's wrong with its defense and stop giving up so many passing plays, but my goodness, with the doom and gloom some of the spoiled Denver fans act like we're going to suddenly lose out the rest of the season because Jacksonville put up a fight.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I wonder sometimes if Jacksonville is a hard team to prepare for because they're so bad. What does the coach say in the film room? "Okay, defense, on third-and-long, the Jags quarterback likes to run backwards for ten yards, close his eyes, and lob the ball into triple coverage. So be prepared for that."

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Seriously, it's one semi-bad performance where you still win by 16. Take away the pick-six (a terrible throw by Manning) and the fumbled snap inside the 10 and the Broncos might cover.

I'm still going to wait until Miller comes back (and hopefully some of these other guys like Woodyard, Ayers, Harris) to fully judge this Broncos defense. I think they can cover well for short periods, but that pass rush is so impotent at times. I think Miller will fix some of those issues, but honestly, if they can keep teams under 24, they'll win almost any game

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I was telling a friend at work last week that I wasn't looking forward to this game at all because only bad things could happen for Denver. And, no, losing the game was not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen was if Brock Osweiler was warming up in the first quarter, and sure enough that happened because Peyton took a couple of low shots to his legs and had to go to the locker room. Luckily it didn't turn out to be anything, but then later on they lost Orlando Franklin to a knee injury, and he may miss some games. That would be both starting tackles out now. One thing the game did show is that Denver's pass defense is just horrendous now. Granted, Woodyard, Ayers, and Carter were out, but Blackmon had a field day in the secondary. Von Miller better be a one man demolition crew on Sunday.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Normally though he's the master of making just enough of an effort to chase down a turnover to not be seen as loafing, while not making enough effort to actually tackle a ball carrier, or recover a fumble. I kind of expected him to jump on top of the pile or something.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, I think Manning probably took the wisest course there. It was just funny to see.

Manning actually made a half-assed effort to chase down Posluszny on the pick-six, and got a blind-side block for his efforts. He probably won't be doing that again.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Aaron, I don't know if you've used your travel quota for this year (and you've already seen the Lions in person), but a Lions home game on the same day as a Tigers home playoff game is also a great experience. Both stadiums are next to each other in an urban decay-free pocket of the city. Too bad the Red Sox visiting (if the series goes 7 games) doesn't coincide with the Lions' next two home games. Maybe next year.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"@MilkmanDanimal: Dachshund races at halftime of Browns-Lions; Detroit expected to sign winner in an attempt to shore up secondary."

Actually the secondary has been solid this year, with two functional, honest-to-goodness, NFL-level safeties in the starting lineup for the first time in years. It's the receiver corps outside Megatron that could use a Dachsund with speed (don't think their catch rate would be too high, though).

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ah, Greg Schiano. You scream about discipline! Hard work! Playing the game right! AND YOU SUCK. So, let's see, the team jumps offsides on an obvious attempt to get them to do so. Yes, that's the players, but it's not the first time it's happened this year. Your team does stupid things. Repeatedly. Please stop talking about "discipline" and set yourself on fire.

Also, you did not sign Darrelle Revis to make him play zone. HE IS DARRELLE REVIS. You have the best man corner in the league, and you make him twiddle around in zone coverage?

I cannot wait to set my DVR for the NFL Networks' inevitable "Top Ten Worst Coach Hires", just to see exactly how high on that list Schiano winds up.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

He's probably only 3rd worst on the Lions list. Maybe 4th. And that doesn't include Bobby Ross, who chased away Barry Sanders.

Hell, he could take the wind in overtime and still only wind up 2nd.

But then, a convicted coke dealer is the best Lions coach of my lifetime.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Point taken, but we claim partial responsibility for Rod Marinelli getting a HC job. I would, however, take Morninwheg over Schiano. I honestly can't recall seeing a team play this consistently sloppy and repeatedly manage to blow close games. At this point, Ron Rivera thinks Greg Schiano is a lousy late-game coach.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Around the league, how can New Orleans screw up the 4-minute offense twice. If they just play for TD after the 4 & Out, the game's over (or I guess, in this case, maybe not, but the Pats need a 2-point conversion). Brees was off a lot of the game (ended under 50% completion). The Pats defense is good, but the injuries are starting to mount. Hopefully for them the Talib & Mayo injuries aren't too serious.

Famed Colts Blogger Nate Dunlevy tweeted last week that the Texans might have had the shortest Super Bowl window ever, and he's right. They were, in my mind and FO's at the time, the league's best, most complete team in 2011 until Matt Schaub, who was playing well at the time, got hurt against I believe Tampa. They were obviously very good for most of last year, but Schaub's peak never aligned with anyone elses peak on that team outside of Andre Johnson. I don't think they built the team wrong, but were unlucky some years, overmatched others (the early years of Schaub's peak Manning was still in Indianapolis).

The Panthers need to go on a run, but I still think they are contenders for a Wild Card. Their defense can play so well, and their offense can play a lot better than they looked in Arizona. I actually think Cam is improving, and he's starting to work better with those non-Steve Smith receivers.

Quality win by Detroit, who didn't blink when down 10 at the half, and came out and played like the better, more talented team. Sure, Weeden's Weeden-ness helped them a lot, but that was a determined Lions team. Big game next week with Cincinnati going to Detroit. Should be a highlight in an average Sunday of action (bet CBS wishes they could redo that Ravens @ Steelers late double-header game), until of course the Return of the Manning.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Re: Texans

My big fear as a Lions fan is what happened to the Texans: that by the time (if) they plug up all the holes on the roster and approach being a superbowl contender, their superstar receiver named Johnson will be old and injury-prone (these last two weeks are actually uncharacteristic for him). Instead of having the Manning Colts in their divsion, the Lions are stuck with the Rodgers Packers, who will probably be favorites every year to win the division for the next several years.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Worse, really, because the Bears are good every year as well with their D, and the Adrian Peterson Vikings can be relied on to at least show up. The Texans really only had one competitor during their run.

(Thinking about the Manning Colts division play reminds me of how, year in, year out, the Jaguars would always play the Colts close and lose 28-24 or something along those lines, regardless of how good or bad the Jags actually were that year. The trend's still continuing...)

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

re: Panthers

We were talking about holes on the team, and ended up that they will have trouble peaking. By the time they fix their O-line issues, they still have Secondary and WR issues. If that takes any length of time, then other holes emerge as players age. At some point they will have to figure out how to win with "good enough" players.

The question becomes: Is the old saw about "O-Line is about gelling as a unit, and not necessarily having great skill" really true?

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yes, there's no way the Pats get three freaking chances in the last three minutes of the game. To be fair, the Brady interception happened in the first play of the drive, so it didn't run any clock off or burn any TOs, but still.

------
The man with no sig

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Green Bay was playing without Clay Matthews and Brad Jones so you had guys like James Lattimore filling in at linebacker and killing the Ravens attempts to run. The defensive linemen were tying up multiple blockers at a time so the linebackers had all kinds of room to operate which led to 10 negative plays by the Ravens on offense.

Tramon Williams was the one real negative as he seemed to be going through the motions in the second half resulting in either completions or penalties that helped the Ravens. The one long catch and run in the 3rd quarter was the direct result of Williams just refusing to try and tackle the receiver. Just really disappointing.

The Packers special teams did more good things than bad which against the Ravens return guys is a clear win. Crosby did miss a field goal but the guy for the rest of the season has been outstanding. Micah Hyde made plays on returns as well in coverage. All promising things to see.

Really impressed by how GB closed out the game. Big third down pass to Finley followed by Lacy just rumbling through guys trying to strip the ball. Just all kinds of wonderful

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I have been all sorts of impressed with Lacy this year. I think the thing that sticks out the most with him is his ability to protect the ball. When he gets in a crowd, he brings it closer, wraps it up, and just keeps his body moving.

Green Bay, while not flawless even on their best days this year, have been good enough to remain in the discussion, and I definitely think they will slowly get better as they get more guys back. Their backups, for the most part, all played reasonably well, even adjusting for the lapses (looking at Boykin).

A separate, yet understated, effect of this entire injury situation is that some of the backups get real play time. Boykin with first-team snaps for a week could be a difference maker (that lone catch-and-run was impressive). On the other side of the ball, Lattimore definitely looks serviceable and could be a huge rotational guy down the stretch and into the playoffs.

If they keep playing "good enough" football, I can see them having a 7-3 or 6-4 record by the time all of their starters return.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If there is a concern on Lacy is that boy does he take some shots. Is he running that upright to give more of a target?

I think it's a lot to ask a guy to become the centerpiece of the offense as soon as he comes off the bench. I am guessing it was because of soft coverage but other teams devise plays to get key players free. Instead there were multiple passes in a row to the guy getting his first real playing time.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

My wife even complained the few times on that single drive where Rodgers threw the out to Boykin and he just miscommunicated the route or flat out stopped it (whichever turns out to be true), and she is a Saints fan. The fact that Boykin was not yet comfortable was obvious, and I think Rodgers was doing too much to try to force him into a role for which he was not yet ready.

Lacy is a local kid, so I will ask some of the people around here if he has always run like that. I do not think he is significantly taller than the average RB (listed at 5'11"), but he definitely plays taller than most seem to.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Anyone else have a team where the secondary is incapable of effective zone coverage?

It may not be EVERY time but by inspection it sure seems like the bulk of the big pass plays against GB are when the team is trying to play zone. And the Packers defensive backs stink at zone. Shields it is well documented he just cannot get his depth correct. That and he has said he hates it because he deems it 'passive'.

Certainly the safeties continue to blow assignments in zone.

I am curious if this is something other fans experience.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That defensive scheme on that play just seemed idiotic.

Jerron McMillan does okay close to the line of scrimmage, but should not be on the field on 4th and forever. McMillan started out in fine position, and would have easily been able to stay on top of the WR if he hadn't simply fallen down trying to turn upfield.

MD Jennings would be a better fit for that play, and in any case, they would have been fine if it was Burnett in the deep middle and the other safety underneath, since Burnett makes the defensive play easily, in my opinion.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I was furious-within-reason at three plays in the Packers-Ravens game.

#1: Sam Shields - you have a Raven running past you, and your buddy in front of you covers the Raven heading shallow. WHY DO YOU NOT GO DEEP TO COVER THE CORNER-FADE IN THE ENDZONE?

#2a: Jerron McMillan falls down as a deep safety in the middle third, yielding fourth-and-21 plus about forty yards. OMFG.

#2b: Jerron McMillan fails, so I read, to get the call to cover Dallas Clark man-to-man, and yields a TD to a man a decade his senior and how much slower?

And off of these three plays, the Ravens get fourteen points in an otherwise pop-gun display of offensive "prowess". GAH. Three plays turned what should have been a near-shutout into a near-loss. If I were a Packers secondary coach, I'd be bloody livid.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

In fairness on 2b, the throw and catch to Clark on the TD was a thing of beauty, regardless of how old Clark is. I don't really think there's much fault on McMillan on that play, unless you think he should be at least 6 inches taller.

On Shields, he had a couple of plays that made me mad. The one you pointed out, where he acted like the side/back of the end zone was about 3 yards closer than it actually was, and the play where he almost gave up a completion along the near sideline in the first half. The Ravens WR went up for the ball and came down just out of bounds, but Shields simply gave up on the play once the WR jumped. All Shields has to do in that case is know that he's on the sideline and push the WR out of bounds while he's in the air, and he can guarantee an incompletion instead of just hoping for one.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think this is an indication that I need to stop taking football this seriously, but I was not just angry but offended, on a deep, moral level, by Washington's clock management at the end of the 1st half.

Also, you will never convince me that if you did an objective, thorough search for a coordinator that the best-qualified candidate would ever happen to be your son.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"Also, you will never convince me that if you did an objective, thorough search for a coordinator that the best-qualified candidate would ever happen to be your son."

I had two thoughts about this comment:
1) What if the main qualification is "ability to tolerate Mike Shanahan"?
and
2) Chris Polian approves this comment.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yes, but in a different way. When I watch the Bears, I go into fanboy mode and only care about winning and seeing the Bears make awesome plays, so the torture there was more watching a coach actively try to get the best Bears QB in my lifetime killed. It's only while watching other teams that I can turn on football aesthete mode (which I rather enjoy, so I kind of look forward to bye weeks and primetime Bears games).

Oh, and Bobman, let me guess: you have younger siblings, right?

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

For anyone impressed by Mike Glennon's numbers in his two starts, don't be; any noticeable yardage is a result of yards after the catch. I think he threw three balls even vaguely deep this week. Two were deep sideline patterns to Vincent Jackson, and both were very badly thrown out of bounds. The other was a deep seam route to Tiquan Underwood (who should not be going deep in any way, shape, or form), and was, again, badly overthrown. Glennon has looked comfortable when he has protection and is throwing short. That's it. It's easy to complete lots of passes when you're throwing four-yard curls with nobody in your face. I have very much not seen anything in Glennon that makes me think "NFL starter"; he's just dumping the ball off quickly. Sucks for Doug Martin, as I saw a lot of one-deep coverage with ten guys on-frame at the snap. Four separate times Martin broke off a good run, and holding calls made them come back. Arrrrrgh.

Oh, and Kevin Ogletree getting cut was quite welcome in Tampa. He had a series of drops, and in the Arizona game I think ran three separate third-down plays a yard short of the sticks. He did that consistently, just not going up the field far enough. It's not like Tiquan Underwood is exactly a phenomenal slot guy, but at least he knows to go to the first down marker on his routes.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Quarterbacks are atleast as responsible for YAC as the receivers.

A two foot change in placement can be the difference between a receiver across the middle slowing down to catch the ball, and getting drilled by a safety, and the receiver catching the ball in stride, beating the safety to the edge, and getting run out of bounds 20 yards downfield.

Tom Brady basically made his career on turning 4 yard throws into 12-15 yard gains.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Tom Brady also has a proven ability to actually put the ball down the field, and showed early some poise and patience. The issue with Glennon so far is a tendency to be very quick on the trigger for the dumpoff. Yes, a lot of that could be coaching, but even after the Arizona game a few weeks ago, people were talking about how Glennon had been impressive, and this is just in response to that. It's more about the quick trigger on getting rid of the ball than anything else.

Of course, being that Schiano and company have repeatedly said the offense was going to be based around power running and the deep ball and they're now throwing short passes and running Doug Martin up the middle into constant nine-man fronts, it's pretty irrelevant.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Glennon is only starting because Schiano is hoping to not be fired on the "I have a rookie quarterback I'm working with" excuse. Schiano is a terrible excuse for a coach (not to mention a terrible excuse for a human being) and is likely to ruin any potential for success Glennon has, not that there is any reason to believe he has any.

However, Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are above-average outside receivers and will reliably bail out Glennon's yardage stats by making insane leaping catches downfield.

Doug Martin is his generation's MJD.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No mention of how the Patriots NOT spiking the ball was a major reason they were able to win? They wound up needing all four downs immediately prior to scoring the go-ahead touchdown.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Seattle tried that at the end of the half too, running a play on first down instead of spiking the ball,but they committed a false start on the play and had to burn a timeout to avoid a 5-yard loss.

Then, with 20 seconds left and no timeouts, they completed a pass in bounds that nearly ended the half. They ended up spiking the ball with two seconds left to at least salvage a field-goal try.

And then disaster struck. It was an amazing series of incompetent events.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I honestly thought Seattle should have saved their Timeout and taken the 10 second runoff, where they were on the field, I don't think an extra 10 seconds would have done a whole lot, a timeout might have come in handy with how the half ended. Of course the optimal strategy would be for James Carpenter to actually not commit a penalty (which is a pipe dream).

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The five-yard loss was still assessed, but the 10-second runoff was avoided by calling timeout. The debacle was equal parts incompetence and bad luck. Russell Wilson's biggest mistake wasn't throwing to a receiver in bounds (a broken tackle and it's a TD), it was throwing the ball to the ref, who bobbled and dropped it before picking it up and spotting it, possibly costing the 'Hawks one more shot at the end zone. Then, how often does a kicker have to leave the field for a concussion test? And why did that backup holder suddenly think he was Garo Yepremian?

(For more on this game, check out my Seahawks blog: Jim Zorn's Lemma.)

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As a Wisconsin fan and thus a Wilson fan, this is the third time in the last three years that the refs have mucked up spotting the ball. Obviously there was the Arizona St. fiasco a few weeks back, and then in the Rose Bowl the ref told Wilson that there be enough time to run a final play, but it turned out not to be.

As for the play, Seattle had a similar play (fumble return TD after the opponent has almost reached the end zone) last year against San Francisco, and then another one against Denver in the preseason this year, so it balances out, I guess.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Aaron, going to a game in Seattle is a fantastic experience, especially for a Raider fan when Oakland is in town. Raider fans, in general, travel well, as they say in college, and they travel exceptionally well to Seattle where the rivalry still lingers more than a decade after the Hawks left the AFC West. I went to a preseason game a few years ago and was warmed to the cockles by the sight of a several dozen Raider fans marching to the stadium behind a black banner chanting "Seahawks suck!" They went almost entirely unchallenged.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Going to a game in Seattle is a bit weird though - if you approach from downtown alongside the water its a fantastic approach to a stadium that feels like its right in the center of town. But if you leave by any other direction it seems to be a weird trek through either an industrial park or a city made entirely of car parks leading to Seattle's equivalent of slums (which are still quite nice, I guess). Which I guess pegs it as right on the edge of downtown.

I've only visited for a baseball game though. It did seem that all the pretty women in Seattle like baseball.

I genuinely think sports generally would be much better if a geographic center for each city was determined, and any new stadiums needed to be built within a max of a mile or two from there. Trekking to out-of-town stadiums is no kind of fun in my opinion.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Century Link definitely meets the criterion in your last paragraph; there's really no way it could have been built any closer to the center of town without demolishing a bunch of office towers and blocking streets on the downtown grid. But your other points are well taken: you can't really approach from the west, approaching from the east is a bit dicey with the International District, and the south is Safeco Field and then industrial land as far as the eye can see. Coming in from the north is the only way to get a real game day atmosphere. That said, it's still pretty great.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

In my daily driving in and around Seattle I probably see five cars a week with prominent Raiders decals in their overly-tinted back windows. Even in my fancy-schmancy suburb (where Holmgren used to live, owner Paul Allen lives, and doubtless numerous Hawks with families live). Not only to Raiders fans travel well, but when they move, they proudly bring their affection/psychosis with them. I think locals look on them with detached amusement.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Glad to hear you've never had any problems attending games to the clink what with all the drama surrounding attacks on opposing fans. Makes sense though since you guys seem to carry yourselves well and stick together. I used to attend Raiders games when Seattle would come to play when still in the AFC. Always had a great time and never understood the bad rep Raiders fans had.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Side note--as I suspected, I have gotten used to and even accepted the new Audibles format. Part of it is just that natural human resistance to change. The other part of it is I'm probably just happy that two of my tweets were included. At the very least, it's a nice way to find new people to follow.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Leslie Frazier did a nice job of not hiring any assistants who can be entrusted to serve as an interim head coach, so Frazier likely will have his job until about 5 minutes have passed since the clock went to zeros in the week 17 game. When you are a former NFL defensive back, it isn't good sign that your secondary hasn't looked well coached since you arrived several years ago.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Of course.

But Dungy was a defensive back, and spent years and years in Indy with a terrible defense. And won a superbowl (with P. Manning, of course)

So why don't we just say that Leslie Frazier probably isn't a good coach because the team hasn't gotten any better? Rather than meaningless asides?

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

LOL at Kacsmar going out of his way to pretend Brady's final drive wasn't impressive. I love this site, but man was that a questionable hire, and nothing I've seen since makes me feel any different.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That's not what he said, he said the Saints did a poor job of running out the clock. The only mention of the Patriots drive was to call it a "miracle" drive, which doesn't mean it wasn't impressive, right?

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The man with no sig

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I liked the call Belichick made at the end of the first half. Fourth and 5 with 4 seconds left, Brady rolls outside the tackle box and flings a pass as high as possible out of bounds. Time runs out at the half with no chance of a blocked punt or punt return. This is the first time I remember seeing this play, anyone else remeber differently?

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I recall the Titans doing something similar in an endgame situation once. McNair ran around for a while, then heaved a high-arching pass downfield.

EDIT: Based on the two following comments at this level, it appears I'm remembering the Patriots doing it against the Titans...

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Belichick did the exact same thing on the last play of the 2003 Divisional Game against Tennessee. 4th and something, with about ~5 seconds to go, Brady went backed, rolled a bit and flung one as time expired. Pretty good play call.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I love the call and wonder why it's not done more. Though I would have preferred no pass at all--one good thing can happen, and a few bad ones. (clock stopped a half second early, INT, OPI, QB hurt as he passes, etc.). I'd rather have him run circles backwards then take a knee once it's 00:00. Curled in a rib-protective fetal ball. Seems safer to me, unless you're playing a Schiano-coached "team."

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It's amazing how offenses, including the best in the game, do not even try to do a good job in the four-minute offense to put away games so that these miracle touchdown drives never even have a chance to happen. Everyone knows about the prevent defense, but the prevent offense that practically every coach falls into where you run the ball twice and maybe throw on third down is just as much of a problem. The Saints handled those final minutes as poorly as I've ever seen.

This is a compelling question. I have had many opportunities to wring my hands over the years watching the ineptitude of the Patriots' 4-minute offense which, for example, cost them the 2011 season Super Bowl. But it seems to be not only an overlooked aspect of the game, but also a very difficult one. Seldom does one see an effective 4 minute offense out of any team. Off the top of my head I can recall one game that New England iced effectively in the past 3-4 years where they beat Miami with a nice, slow developing grind down the field, and I remember at least once when Baltimore did it in a primetime-type showdown. Apart from that, teams are lucky to get 1 first down in such situations. I would love to see numbers on this sort of thing. We have all of the new stuff coming in on "game-winning drive" opportunities and so forth, but I have never seen numbers on the 4-minute offense. Are there teams that are well-coached in this area? Has performance fallen of significantly with the advent of the high-octane passing offenses as opposed to two decades ago when running games still dominated? Are there trends with 4 minute offenses linked to quarterbacks, ie. was Montana great at this while Elway wasn't? Or is it more connected to coaching? This seems to me like a great question for future inquiry and analysis, and one integrally connected to winning close football games.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Its a playcalling/coaching issue.

Teams are way more concerned with taking time off the clock than they are with actually scoring.

In the modern NFL, there are very few teams that can't run the two minute drill well. Its not 1980 anymore, and most teams/coaches don't seem to realize. You're much better off giving the other team the ball back down 10 with 1:30 left than playing super-conservatively and giving them the ball back with 45 seconds down 3. Killing time is important, but its pretty much irrelevant if you put more points on the board.

It's like every team comes out and runs two running plays in a row into a 9-in-the-box defense, and then throws an incompletion on 3rd and 8.

Also, I agree with you on the Patriots. It's been infuriating listening to how the Patriots defense is the problem (and it wasn't good, it was PART of the problem) when almost every Patriots playoff loss of the last couple years ended the same way - the defense coming up with a big stop, with a small lead and roughly 3 minutes left, and the offense going 3-and-out.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I've written about the four-minute offense: http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/gutless-nfl-coaches-fail-badly-four-minute-offense/21718/

That includes one of the craziest tables I've ever put together, though I did find afterwards I missed one drive in a game (thanks for the interception, Carson Palmer). Still, it's nearly identical in pass/run ratio for each down from 2011 to 2012. Will update 2013.