Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Audibles at the Line: Week 8
Audibles at the Line: Week 8
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.

San Francisco 49ers 42 “at” Jacksonville Jaguars 10 (London)


Scott Kacsmar: London fans look thrilled now, but the 4th quarter of Jaguars games are as desolate as Fallout 3.
Danny Tuccitto: Kyle Williams w/ a fumble and two drops in the first 3 minutes of the game. 49ers score TD in spite of him.
@cptii: Kyle Williams is not playing like a guy who’s fighting for his roster spot …
Danny Tuccitto: Colin Kaepernick TD run near end of 1st quarter made possible by Frank Gore taking out two defenders with one block.
Tom Gower: Barring a shocking comeback in London, the non-Indy part of the AFC South will finish 0-for-October.
Vince Verhei: Jacksonville keeps forgetting to cover backs and tight ends. Because, you know, SF has so much depth at wideout.
Scott Kacsmar: 49ers should easily put together a 5-game winning streak that includes 31+ points and winning by 12+ points each game. Rare air.
@PigskinLover: Vernon Davis with a beautiful stalk block allowing Kaep to score his 2nd rushing TD. Dangerous when blocking AND receiving so well
@MilkmanDanimal: Chad Henne curently 10/19 for 76 yards. Kind of says it all.
Danny Tuccitto: 4 out of 5 statheads agree that Gus Bradley should not have opted for FG down 28-0 at end of 1st half. i'm the dissenter.
Danny Tuccitto: i wonder if Lou Brown attached pink slip to Kyle Williams' locker prior to halftime.
@Mclemons67: Gus Bradley calls for the FG on 4th and 4 down 28-0. Official signal of surrender?
Tom Gower: Re Jaguars kicking FG down 28-0 at end of first half, life's too short to worry about that decision.
Danny Tuccitto: What's amazing about 49ers D the past month or so is that they're doing all of this with absolutely no pass rush.
@PigskinLover: Kendall Hunter just showed some moves similar to his pre-injury arsenal. Niners deep at RB heading into second half of the season


Tom Gower: With Jacksonville losing this game, the non-Indianapolis part of the AFC South finishes 0-for-October. I don't even think there was a single contest where they (Houston, Jacksonville, or Tennessee) played with or better than the opponent and lost.

Rivers McCown: Houston-Seattle? But yeah, that's a sad, sad division right now.

The Jags are in full science experiment mode. Mike Brown has at least been a nice find, it looks like.

Tom Gower: Houston-Seattle was September 29. I had to check that one.

Scott Kacsmar: Tennessee gave the Chiefs a pretty good game on October 6, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting.

Cian Fahey: This game felt like I was watching grown men against infants ... no, embryos. It's the kind of game that doesn't sell the sport to anyone in the world, not least casual fans who may have caught it on TV by accident today in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland. You can't really take anything away from the game for the 49ers, but there were three notable takeaways for the Jaguars.

1: Maurice Jones-Drew is still an outstanding running back. He was consistently breaking tackles, making the right cuts, showing patience and was again outstanding in pass protection. The Jaguars made him a focus of the offense both as a runner and receiver, maybe as one final showcase on the trade market? There may not be a team with the need for Jones-Drew, but it will be sad if he rots away on this team for the rest of the season.

2: Johnathan Cyprien was the worst player on the field ... by far. The Jaguars have bad players who play poorly on a weekly basis. Their team also plays poorly as a unit on a weekly basis. Those are not problems. However, Cyprien is expected to be part of this defense for a long time, he won't be if he plays many more games like this one. He repeatedly missed tackles and made no impact in coverage. He is obviously very talented, but these weren't just rookie mistakes, they were worrying signs emanating from a terrible level of play. You have to reach a high mark of bad play to stand out on this Jaguars roster.

3: On the other side of the ball, Mike Brown was very impressive again and Denard Robinson showed some life. While the offensive line will need some work, if the Jaguars land a top quarterback such as Teddy Bridgewater in next year's draft, they could rebound very quickly because of the skill position talent on the offense. Marcedes Lewis only had one target, on which he fumbled, so he can't be celebrated, but Cecil Shorts (who is playing through pain), Justin Blackmon, Brown and Robinson should provide plenty of targets for (Bridgewater) that Chad Henne can't show off.

Cleveland Browns 17 at Kansas City Chiefs 23


Ben Muth: I don't want to jump to conclusions on his career yet, but Eric Fisher has been terrible so far in KC.
Scott Kacsmar: Alex Smith: "I'm just trying to do all I can to help Ryan Succop make the Pro Bowl. If he plays with me long enough, perhaps Canton."
Vince Verhei: CLE has 2 runs for -2 yards. Then a flea-flicker inexplicably works for a TD.
@THEOSU7: One play after a terrible holding call on Joe Thomas, KC records its first sack of the day. There may be correlation.
@dingerc: Absolutely brutal def holding call against Joe Haden in KC. Bowe pleaded for flag and got it late.
Tom Gower: Browns in KC territory, end up at 3&30 punt. Browns to be in KC territory after punt, muff it. Ah, Cleveland.
Tom Gower: Barkevious Mingo thinks that flea-flicker the Chiefs tried to run was cute. Blew by Branden Albert on the outside.
@dingerc: CLE’s defense keeping them in game late. Browns’ offense and special teams keeping them out of it.
@Cassieper: Getting a stop deep in Chiefs' territory down 3 and then muffing the punt with good field position is the most Browns thing ever.
@MilkmanDanimal: Jason Campbell used to look constantly shell-shocked and panicked in the pocket, but he's looked very comfortable today.
Vince Verhei: Campbell needs 80 yards in 17 seconds with no timeouts. Throws short completion in bounds. Game over


Tom Gower: I know, saying this when they're 8-0 is playing with fire, but I wouldn't bat an eye if the Chiefs finished 11-5 and went out in as desultory a wild card performance as they had in 2010. Outside of Jamaal Charles, there's just not enough there on offense for me to like. Alex Smith's "random deep ball on the sidelines" strategy doesn't work nearly as well as Joe Flacco's, and it felt like virtually every third-and-long was either a screen or a sack. Granted, they're a fine screen team and convert many more of those than I'd expect.

In my peregrinations between games, I missed Cleveland's scoring drives, so perhaps I'm getting a skewed picture. I think Jason Campbell looked like the player who benefited from Hue Jackson's tutelage in Oakland in "how to not take all those sacks," as he moved both within and outside the pocket to escape from the virtually omnipresent Kansas City rush. Translating that non-sack to actual offensive progress was a much more difficult proposition, though the Browns did manage 17 points somehow.

Aaron Schatz: I said to someone on Twitter today that the Patriots would make the playoffs and lose to Kansas City. I don't think the Chiefs are going 11-5, but a game between the 13-3 Chiefs and 12-4 Patriots would be quite a matchup of teams that weren't as good as their records.

Miami Dolphins 17 at New England Patriots 27


Aaron Schatz: In case you were wondering if the problem is Brady or his receivers, he just threw behind his best guy - Gronk - and got picked.
Aaron Schatz: that third-and-8 had really strong coverage by Dion Jordan on Gronk AND a really awful pass by Brady. Hand injury a real issue?
Aaron Schatz: Interesting to note Patriots are almost exclusively in a 3-4 look today with Ninkovich and Collins as OLB.
@pchicola: A hybrid 4-3/3-4. Forston plays 2gap nose; Vellano 3-tech over/under; Jones 5-tech; Niko Sam Elephant. Colllins Will.
Aaron Schatz: So far, Bryant McKinnie is very definitely an upgrade on Jonathan Martin at LT for Dolphins
Aaron Schatz: Vollmer likely out for year. At this point, just making the playoffs has to be considered a very successful season for Pats.
@pchicola: Want an indicator of Brady's lack of trust in WR. MIA is hi-low'ing Gronk w/ OLB & SS. And Brady still keeps looking for him first.
Aaron Schatz: Pats kneel on ball with :30 left, all three timeouts. Seems like massive vote of no confidence in offense.
@MilkmanDanimal: Brady sacked as Blount stands around wondering who he should be blocking. Saw that a lot in Tampa; Blount is just awful at blocking.
@ochocincoblog: New England games and interesting penalty calls: a tradition unlike any other. The Patriots on CBS
Tom Gower: What a terrible break for the Dolphins & Olivier Vernon. I thought he tried to corral the ball, gets called for a bat.
Aaron Schatz: I think that with the Vernon penalty, intent doesn't matter. A concept Boston fans are all too familiar with today.
Tom Gower: Per the NFL Rulebook (at least 2012, what I have on this comp), a bat is defined as intentional striking of the ball.
@pchicola: I have years watching the Pats, and Ive never seen so many slot corner blitzes as today. The closest were the SS blitzes by Rodney.
Aaron Schatz: I don't even think Brady has been that much better in 2H. Pats have dominated with run, defense, and special teams.


Aaron Schatz: Every review of this game will use the phrase "tale of two halves," but golly, this was the tale of two halves. Patriots looked terrible and lethargic in the first half, then dominated the second half. But they didn't dominate with Tom Brady. Clearly Brady is hurt, his hand was swollen, and he really wasn't much better in the second half than he was in the first. However, the Patriots stepped up running the ball, and on defense, and special teams, and that won them the game. In particular, the Dolphins front really broke down against the run in second half, leaving some big holes.

One of the problems for the Pats in the first half was not using their best players. The word in the press box is that Bill Belichick benched Stevan Ridley and Logan Ryan for their celebrations of touchdowns a week ago, and didn't bring them in until the second quarter. (Ryan didn't play much until the third). Once they came in, they were much better than the players they replaced. Ryan in particular really looked strong and I would love to see him playing over Arrington once Aqib Talib comes back.

I did think there were some impressive things for the Dolphins despite the fact that they hit a wall in the second half. The offensive line was dramatically improved. The sacks the Dolphins gave up tended to be untouched rushers or coverage sacks, and there were some good run holes too. The play design for the Dolphins today was also good. They were getting guys open all over the place -- downfield, on swing passes, a runner in space on an end around, all kinds of stuff. The one problem they had was a lack of real weapons they could use over the middle. Everything was on the outside. Even passes to tight end Charles Clay and slot receiver Rishard Matthews tended to be on the outside. And I worry about a couple of plays where I saw Brian Hartline open and Ryan Tannehill threw to Mike Wallace. I hope that's not an effect from Wallace bitching in the locker room.

What happened to the Miami run defense after halftime? I have no idea. As for special teams, someone has to explain to me why Marcus Thigpen kept making fair catches without any Patriots within eight yards of him.

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Vince Verhei: Having watched the illegal touching penalty again, I can see now what the ref was looking at when he threw the flag. It's still not plain to me that Olivier Vernon was intentionally knocking the ball backwards, but I get why the call was made. I'm still not sure, though, WHY this is a penalty, and for sure it seems like the punishment doesn't fit the crime. I guess I understand that the offense can't bat it forward, because you don't want a team intentionally putting the ball on the ground and then batting it forward. So if the rule has to be the same for offense and defense, then fine. But they don't take the ball away from the offense for illegal batting, and they shouldn't have taken the ball away from Miami here either. It seems to me that the rule should be: Miami gets the ball with a penalty marked off from the spot of the foul.

Buffalo Bills 17 at New Orleans Saints 35


Scott Kacsmar: The three major 2013 adopters of the read option (PHI, OAK, BUF) have all had injured QBs. Thaddeus Lewis down in NO.
@Broncfan07: Thad Lewis hurt on the first play of the game. This is why Buffalo can't have nice things.
@GDFar: Saints look like they don't have pass plays with Graham out of the game.
@SigurWes: Is today the day the league realizes how good the Buffalo defense is?
Andrew Potter: Five interceptions against Flacco was a pretty good hint. Alonso's a stud.
@JoshReedBTG: Jimmy Graham has to be the first-ever TE to vulture TDs.
@GDFar: Saints DB dives for Thad's stomach, Thad ducks and gets hit in the helmet. 15 yard penalty. Impossible to hit the qb.


Rivers McCown: I'm not sure what happened to Robert Woods after his really promising start. Were all of his targets just a function of Steve Johnson sitting? Just three targets today -- and two last week -- despite Buffalo never really being in a position to run clock.

On the other hand, this is what happens when Jimmy Graham is clearly hobbled: seven different Saints receivers were targeted at least three times in this game.

Dallas Cowboys 30 at Detroit Lions 31


@GDFar: Lions knew they'd go for it on 4th. 2 runs, a throwaway on 3rd, TD on 4th. Great job thinking ahead by DET.
Scott Kacsmar: Based on @pfref, Megatron TD is first time since 1999 a team converted on 4th & 2+ inside opponent 5 in 1st QT of tied game (2nd time inside opponent 10).
Mike Ridley: Detroit's front four is manhandling Dallas' offensive line on passing downs.
@toooast: Brian Waters down, grabs the part of the knee where the ACL is, then walks off. Lose him and this line unravels quickly.
Tom Gower: Matt Stafford just tried to throw one too many slants. Sean Lee recognized that.
Vince Verhei: By God, I will do my best to get Sean Lee a Madden Ultimate Card this week.
@Broncfan07: Dez Bryant, with the DB in his jersey, makes a ridiculous catch with just his left hand for the TD.
Tom Gower: Yes, that was Larry Warford 15 yards downfield taking out Sean Lee on that screen to Joique Bell. Other note from that play: Lions had both Bell and Bush in the game, Bush in the slot. Preoccupy D w/ Reggie, hit 'em w/ Joique
Rivers McCown: Calvin Johnson has 221 receiving yards. Next-highest Lions receiving yardage total: 25.
Rivers McCown: Am I too much of a Monday Morning quarterback for wondering why Detroit didn't go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 there?
Aaron Schatz: Calvin Johnson trying to single-handedly destroy FO's ESPN Upset Watch, apparently.
@scott_tanner1: shouldn't romo just take a sack there and keep the clock running? or is 7 yards of field position for the punt more valuable?
Aaron Schatz: How do you not have two guys right on Megatron when DET needs a TD from the 30 with 30 seconds left??? The Cowboys should have been playing the Bill Belichick vs. Tony Gonzalez defense on that whole drive.
@MilkmanDanimal: Dallas has 260 total yards. Calvin Johnson has 329. Just . . . wow.
Vince Verhei: Stafford fakes spike, sneaks across winning TD instead. Awesome Finish.
Vince Verhei: I can't believe people are talking about Dez Bryant after what Calvin Johnson just did.


Tom Gower: For much of this game, there was little offense to be found by either team outside of Calvin Johnson. Dallas's offensive line was simply overwhelmed, even though Ziggy Ansah, Ndamukong Suh, and Nick Fairley left the game at times for medical attention. Tony Romo played like a quarterback under a great deal of duress, throwing inaccurately and struggling to sustain an offense. On the other side of the ball, a similar story. Reggie Bush didn't help things by continuing his recent trend of spending too much time running like he did early in his career, like going forward was too simple and easy a proposition for his talents. I mostly bailed on this game at 10-7 in the third quarter, looking for a more interesting contest with more happening. Naturally, this was the cue for all heck to break out, most of which I missed.

Scott Kacsmar: Dallas basically took an easy situation that should have gave Detroit at best 25 seconds left to come back and instead gave them 62 seconds because of a holding penalty on Tyron Smith on third down. Even with the penalty being declined, the clock still stops, and that saved Detroit today. It's inexcusable for Dallas to blow that clock situation. You're better off taking three knees and punting there instead of what they did.

Rivers McCown: But how can we blame this on Tony Romo? Didn't he tell Tyron Smith to do that?

Vince Verhei: I forget who it was that pointed this out on Twitter, but the basic story of this game was: Detroit would move the ball, then their best players would turn the ball over. Dallas would then punt the ball away in short order. Repeat. Calvin Johnson had a fumble, which might knock him down a few pegs in Quick Reads this week, but I think I might move him ahead of Randy Moss on my list of "guys who are open even when they are double-covered, because they'll just outjump them and grab the ball anyway." The stuff he did today was just unreal, over and over again.

If you missed Matthew Stafford's fake spike-and-sneak for the win, it's worth going out of your way to see. One of the best finishes to a game ever, especially since most of the Lions clearly had no idea a sneak was coming. (I think the center might have been in on it, but the rest of the line just stood up.)

Rivers McCown: I don't really know why any team would play Calvin Johnson straight up at this point. The Lions have zero other credible receiving threats. If I'm running a defense against Detroit, Calvin gets the double at the line every time I've got five defensive backs on the field.

New York Giants 15 at Philadelphia Eagles 7


Ben Jones: Giants have a 30 yard punt. Phi run two unsuccessful plays then throw an interception followed by a penalty on NY. I need more beer
@Gberry523: Seriously someone block for two or more seconds, or Vick is going to get hurt again.
Ben Jones: Eli has a goattee, clearly he is now the evil Manning
Ben Jones: So far Peyton Hillis is winning the battle of 2011 Madden finalists
Ben Jones: The Giants are winning in the trenches on both O and D but can't get anything but fgs. Will this bite them?
Vince Verhei: Vick benched. Barkley in at QB Eagles.
Ben Muth: Has anyone ever seen Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley in the same room at the same time?
Vince Verhei: Poor Matt Barkley. His turnovers are always so comical.
@zgeballe: Does a turnover on downs keep Matt Barkely's streak alive?
Ben Jones: Nate Allen with a German suplex on Victor Cruz ... no flag and an injury. Wonderful.
@MilkmanDanimal: Giants are just unstoppable against bad teams starting their third QB of the season.
Ben Jones: 4th intentional grounding for Eli against the Eagles this year ... WTF
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Barkley, 1st and 10 from the 3. There is no way this could end badly.
Scott Kacsmar: Eagles working on a 7-quarter span of scoring 3 points. No one cares about "but how many plays did they run?!?!" anymore.
@MilkmanDanimal: I take perverse pleasure in bad football, but even I'm turning off Eagles-Giants at this point. Bad can be fun; this is just boring.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 at Oakland Raiders 21


@PigskinLover: Pryor just rattled off a 93 yard run for the Raiders justifying the draft choice by AL Davis who is now able to rest in peace.
Vince Verhei: All the Raiders have are QB runs. I don't know why teams aren't putting nine in the box with three spies.
Tom Gower: I still love watching Darren McFadden on the edge. Troy P was unblocked there, still gained 19 yards
Scott Kacsmar: So Antonio Brown runs out of bounds to help the Raiders have more time to score before the half.
Vince Verhei: Raiders up 21-3 at half, headed for third win of year. I formally concede they will not get the first draft pick next year.
@ptmovieguy: OAK rookie Sio Moore succeeding lately, pushed around KC's Fisher 2 weeks ago, now harassing/sacking Big Ben.
@MilkmanDanimal: Guy Whimper injured, meaning somebody even worse than Guy Whimper is about to come in. THE. HORROR.
@ptmovieguy: Didn't know Guy Whimper plays for PIT, this game is a ex-Jags tackles reunion!
Vince Verhei: Zoltan Mesko with the punt of the year. I counted seven bounces inside the 1 without going into the end zone.
@zgeballe: Wow, what in the world is Roethlisberger doing taking a TO there? 5 yards are worth WAY, WAY less than a chance to stop the clock


Tom Gower: The Raiders went up 14-0 early, before I started watching, on a long Terrelle Pryor run where Pittsburgh just didn't cover the keeper (no clue what exactly happened). Darren McFadden looked good, healthy, explosive running at times. On the whole, though, Oakland didn't do much offensively after the early explosion, but they managed to harass Ben Roethlisberger and win against a Steelers offensive line that had some success opening up holes in the run game last week. Some credit goes, as it does most weeks, to defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. Watching the defense play is way more fun than it was in 2011, when you had some Al Davis-mandated stuff still and then ended the season with Chuck Bresnahan apparently deciding being able to run whatever defense he wanted meant he literally could run whatever he wanted, regardless of whether it made any sense. I mostly bailed on this game at halftime, so I missed whatever the Steelers did better on offense in the second half.

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Rivers McCown: So wait, is pumpkin or the read option the flavor of October?

Vince Verhei: I don't think I've ever seen a team as dependent on the quarterback run as this Oakland team. Even the Michael Vick Atlanta teams had Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett to run once in a while. The Raiders have Darren McFadden, who is explosive and unreliable, and that's it.

Terrelle Pryor, by the way, went 10-of-19, averaged 4.6 yards per pass with no touchdowns and two interceptions, and had a QBR of 96.2. Don't ask me.

Pittsburgh's offensive line was completely overwhelmed today, on practically every play. Ben Roethlisberger can fight off pass rushers and throw on the run, and that's the only reason the Steelers were ever in this game.

Aaron Schatz: Like you said, you've never seen a team as dependent on the quarterback run as Oakland. ESPN's QBR includes runs. That's why this QBR is higher than any of his passing stats would be.

Vince Verhei: "ESPN's QBR includes runs."

Ah. Didn't realize that. Still ... over 90 on a scale of 0 to 100?

Scott Kacsmar: Yeah, I think the QBR does a solid job for the season, but some of the individual game results are downright funky. One of Pryor's interceptions was a dropped pass, so I wouldn't blame him on that. However, he had 28 other drop backs, his first interception was a horrible throw, and I think he had more than enough negative plays to not be anywhere close to a 96.2. Really makes me curious how they weigh things.

By the way, I'm just realizing the Steelers spent over nine minutes on a drive to start the third quarter to set up a missed 32-yard field goal. That sums up why I can't stand watching this team this season.

New York Jets 9 at Cincinnati Bengals 49


@Foosball_Wizard: Jets defensive backs replaced by uniforms stuffed with feral cats for the first two Bengals drives.
@Foosball_Wizard: Geno Smith has a hornet on the back of his uniform as he starts the Jets second drive. Ill omen.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure CIN-NYJ is the right game for anybody to be trying to stuff the ball up the middle.
Aaron Schatz: Don't give up on Dee Milliner folks. As we've noted, even the most talented CB often struggle as rookies, sometimes even into year 2.
Aaron Schatz: Gresham did slightly drag his toe there for CIN's fourth TD. Let the ass-whupping continue.
@BeccaDannysWife: Solomon Wilcots keeps saying "Klerey" instead of @JeremyKerley -- was he scared by Beezus and Ramona as a child?


Rob Weintraub: While nothing would please me more than to give a detailed breakdown of Cincy's epic destruction of the Jets, alas, I had a speaking engagement in Charleston, SC today. I was driving home, and thus missed my first game in forever.

Given the result, I will now announce that I won't be watching the Bengals play for the rest of the season...

Rivers McCown: Bengals fans, I am available to write columns scrutinizing Andy Dalton's play every week. My paypal address is...

Matt Waldman had a pretty awesome week between Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones.

Atlanta Falcons 13 at Arizona Cardinals 27


@L_Crosby: Joplo Bartu has been very close on about five tackles for ATL. And by "so close", I mean "arms on the guy and not gotten him down."
Scott Kacsmar: Matt Ryan leads the Falcons in rushing today (1 run for 13 yards). Sums that one up.

Washington Redskins 21 at Denver Broncos 45


@RobertGrebel: I love Demaryius Thomas acting like like he's ready to catch a pass as he runs the NotAPick play on Welker's touchdown.
@RyanCrinnigan: Was Thomas preempting an offensive PI call by dropping into that "throw it to me" stance after picking for Welker?
@MilkmanDanimal: RG3 has had several godawful, off-balance throws today. There's a pick-six just waiting to happen.
Rivers McCown: Jordan Reed is a matchup nightmare.
Scott Kacsmar: If you force Denver into 4 possessions and have them start at their own 1, 7 and 10, then holding them to 7 is very doable.
@TCBullfrog: Someone explain to me how Josh McCown had more points in one half vs. Redskins D than Peyton Manning does.
Aaron Schatz: @tomecurran just pointed something out to me -- what if the Broncos are the 2007 Pats (who ran out of ridiculous offense)?
Vince Verhei: At this point, I'm convinced Peyton is intentionally throwing pick-sixes just to make Matt Schaub feel better.
Aaron Schatz: Demaryius Thomas tripped on the grass. Pick-six Washington. Way to make DeAngelo Hall look good, buddy.
Tom Gower: One of the reasons I thought DEN's offensive success would be sustainable was D.Thomas/Decker could win v physical coverage. Oops.
@PigskinLover: Has there ever been a DB with better INT luck than DeAngelo Hall? Gets gifted INTs by being out of posn or dumb luck, like a WR trip.
Aaron Schatz: Aha. I see the Broncos have returned. Good starting field position is certainly a nice plus.


Tom Gower: Didn't see much of the first half. Caught most of the second half. The Redskins had one drive on offense right before the end of the first half. It included a fourth-down conversion and a 12-men penalty that turned a short field-goal attempt into first and goal and led to a touchdown. The other two scores came off a pick-6 and a fumble-sack that let them start in the red zone. I suspect Denver's defense will still rate highly by DVOA.

I think the Redskins used the same playbook Indianapolis did, physically challenging Denver's receivers. DeAngelo Hall got two picks when he just beat Demaryius Thomas in the route or for the ball. Eric Decker seemed to care more about getting the flag than making an effort to catch the ball. Wes Welker had more success getting open over the middle, but the Broncos eventually adjusted and got away from the isolation routes on the outside in what they thought were winnable matchups to pick plays, things over the middle and, of course, the screen game where they so often excel. When they did that, they were the Broncos offense we've seen much of this season. The pick-six was one of Hall's interceptions, while the fumble-sack came when Orlando Franklin, who returned today and was just okay, I think (it's so hard to evaluate offensive lineman live unless I'm really paying attention to them), got turned by Brian Orakpo. Manning threw a third pick, when he tried squeeze a seam route in a hole that didn't exist and the safety got the tip. Still, 38 straight points to end the game isn't too shabby.

Rivers McCown: I am unabashedly pulling for a DeAngelo Hall FO Madden card.

Like Tom, I spent most of the second half on this game. The only thing I'd add is that Robert Griffin got pulverized throughout the half. Von Miller's return has added more teeth to this defense, which can use Shaun Phillips in smaller bursts now. Malik Jackson also had a very good game. If Denver's defense can play along this level going forward, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picking up most of the slack from Champ Bailey's decline, I think it's hard to call anyone but the Broncos the favorite for the Super Bowl.

Green Bay Packers 44 at Minnesota Vikings 31


@GDFar: Coming into today, Cordarelle has only played 22.6% of MIN off snaps. No excuse for a team desperate for offense.
Scott Kacsmar: That wasn't Blair White, was it?
@ramdog7: These Packers reminding me of the late Manning era Colts who were plugging in any old WR/TE off the street and getting production
Scott Kacsmar: And now, the part of the game no one wants to see: the Minnesota offense.
@DownIsTheNewUp_: Before SNF - Aaron Rodgers last 10 games indoors - 248 completions 350 attempts @ 70.8% 3224 Yards with 31 TDs & 2 INT. QB rating 127
Aaron Schatz: Yes, Packers go for it on fourth-and-3, and PASS with patterns LONGER THAN THREE YARDS! That's how it WORKS people!
@itnw0628: I might be wrong, but it feels like more coaches elect to go for it on 4th and short situation so far than previous seasons.
Tom Gower: Charlie Johnson* is a better left guard than he was a left tackle. That's a comparative statement of quality, not an absolute one.
Tom Gower: The Vikings really, really, REALLY miss Harrison Smith in the back of that defense.
@nath_on_fire: Is Leslie Frazier officially giving up on the game, or did he just forget that getting a 2PC makes it a two-possession game?
Tom Gower: I vote giving up.
Tom Gower: GB drive chart tonight: TD, FG, TD, TD, TD, TD, FG, FG. Minnesota's biggest problem tonight is not QB.


Tom Gower: The Packers had to convert enough third downs that this may be just a really good offensive performance instead of "the best offensive performance of the year," but Aaron Rodgers et al. did even more against a depleted and not-good defense than I thought they would. On the other side of the ball, Christian Ponder is who we thought he was; I wish I had something more interesting to say about him than that, but he needed to be a Rodgers-level quarterback to give a defense that did not get a single stop tonight (field goals don't count in my book) enough help for the game to be really competitive. The details weren't quite how I expected this game to go (more proficient offense on both sides), but the broad-scale look, a comfortable Packer win, feels right.

Scott Kacsmar: Make that seven scores (four touchdowns, three field goals) for the Packers on seven drives. I'd call that a zero-stop night as well. Honestly, the game put me to sleep so I don't really have anything to add other than the Vikings showed us some of the worst offense imaginable on Monday night and followed it up with one of the worst defensive performances this week. Can't wait to see them again on Thursday night against Washington in two weeks!

Rivers McCown: I, too, suffered my turn falling asleep while watching Christian Ponder pretend to be an NFL quarterback.

While I thought we were a little harsh on the Vikings in FOA, pretty much every coinflip has gone against them so far this year. The offensive line play has regressed, Adrian Peterson has not been able to even come close to replicating last season, Greg Jennings has shown little (and Cordarrelle Patterson can't get on the field because ... because ... Because of Winn-Dixie?), the loss of Antoine Winfield has hurt the defense in the middle of the field, Desmond Bishop is hurt and the other possible solutions at outside linebacker haven't panned out. Perhaps most damningly, the Vikings have fallen from 16th in Adjusted Sack Rate to 29th (through Week 7), and they only sacked Rodgers twice tonight.

There are consolidation years, and then there are consolidation years where everything goes wrong. This is looking like the latter.


179 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2013, 3:25am

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

That was my favorite moment of the football day, bar none. You can almost see the decision process play across Manning's face ("ah jesus, am I really gonna have to do this? ok, here goes..."), then when he does jump on Orakpo, he's looks like me taking a piggyback ride from my uncle when I was 5 (even though Manning is 6'5").

edit: also, a holding penalty on Peyton Manning!

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Rivers, I think you meant to say "Bengals fan," singular. I've been posting on this site for the better part of a decade, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one at this point. By necessity, Bengals fans are averse to things like "logic" and "data" and "reason." Only through irrationality and blind faith have we been able to survive the Mike Brown era.

And I'm still waiting to take down your PayPal. I can also pay in Graeter's ice cream if it sweetens the deal ...

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Has there ever been a DB with better INT luck than DeAngelo Hall? Gets gifted INTs by being out of posn or dumb luck, like a WR trip."

Yes, that's some pure, unadulturated luck there. No skill or athleticism on display at all.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Aaron wrote "At this point, just making the playoffs has to be considered a very successful season for Pats."

That's got to be heat-of-the-moment hyperbole. Have you noticed the teams in their division? I watched the Giants Eagles gave at the stadium yesterday, and while that horrible affair convinces me that there is at least one division worse than the AFC East, I can't believe there is another. The Pats are solid, and the rest are very, very inept at various things. I think there are several divisions where the best team, even if it isn't a great team, would shock us if they didn't win the division and thus make the playoffs:
NFC East -- All bad, but after Dallas, all really, really bad.
AFC East -- Pats solid, but the rest are iffy at best. Look at the QB's.
AFC South -- Colts solid, but after that the teams are a nightmare.

If the Cowboys, Pats, and Colts don't make the playoffs because of the terrible rest of the division, they should be relegated to NCAA FSB.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

In terms of DVOA, coming into this week, the Pats were at 9.7%, the Bills at -1.0%, the Jets at -0.6%, and the Dolphins at -8.8%. The worst of those is only slightly worse than the Titans (-7.7%). The Texans and Jaguars are two of the three worst teams in the league (numbers withheld to protect the innocent) and the Giants between these two will surely go up this week, leaving them by themselves at the bottom (at least until the Bucs complete their utter collapse). So I think the AFC South is worse than the AFC East.

I really think the entire AFC is down this season, as a whole. I'll be very surprised if the AFC championship game isn't between Indy and Denver, with the proviso that the Chiefs probably can beat anybody at home (at least in the first round), so if they get the #1 seed there's a good chance they'll be there. The Bengals are good, but erratic. I cannot even see a sixth team that'll deserve to be in the playoffs, so one of the following will be the #6 seed: San Diego, Baltimore, the Jets??

With games at Carolina and at Baltimore in the second half, as well as a home game against Denver, the Pats will be lucky to finish 11-5.

Look at where the Falcons and Texans are right now. I think the Pats should deserve some credit for not falling apart as a result of their injuries.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Oh, absolutely. The Pats deserve a ton of credit for continuing to win. I was only questioning Aaron's thoughts that they should be happy to get to the playoffs. I think they, the Colts, and the Cowboys should be more embarrassed if they don't make the playoffs, given their respective divisions. And, I think you're right. Once you take NE and Indy out, the bottom 3 of the AFC South does look worse than the AFC East, though that Jets score this weekend makes me wonder!

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Agree the Pats should make playoffs in bad division and that a Pats fan cannot view that accomplishment alone as a very successful season. IMO, at this point there seems little realistic chance of the Pats having enough success in the post season such that this season could be counted as "very successful" by Brady-era Patriot standards. Not sure of the prognosis without the injuries, but those are part of the deal.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The postseason is a crapshoot. Any team that gets there has a shot as long as they're playing well when the season ends.

That being said, Brady is going to have to improve his game an awful lot for him to be playing well.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Exactly, when are people, even here at FO, going to wake up and see what has happened with in the playoffs over the last decade. At various points throughout the season, many of the past sb winners have looked absolutely horrid. Both NY Giants teams, the ravens last year, the cardinals in 08 came off repeat thrashings on the east coast, the colts of 06 gave up a record in rush yards allowed, etc etc. Regular season matters only from the standpoint of getting in. Once that happens, let the dice roll and pray!

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It looks serious to me. However a team gets into the playoffs, it has a real chance of going all the way. Sometimes things go the way we expect, and other times they don't. We all tend to come up with explanations for what happened, even though sometimes it's just luck.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

How else do you explain it? The ravens got "hot" at the end of the year despite getting blown out by the broncos near the end of the season and losing to the bengals in week 17 playing backups. Flacco looked dreadful at that time and the ravens themselves at that point were a mediocre offense AND a mediocre defense. There was basically nothing to suggest they would turn it around. No elite player coming back, no homefield advantage, nothing. My point was, they didn't get lucky to win in the sense that they got a bunch of fumbles and kick off returns, they simply played better in a way that they hadn't in the regular season. The fact that flacco has since reverted back to his old ways shows me that anything can happen in a 4 game sample. The playoffs ARE RANDOm. Whether completely or not is a harder thing to answer.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I don't think the AFC is down this season at all ... I think there's just a changing of the guard. We used to believe that a decent Baltimore, Pittsburgh or New England team had the ability to make a Super Bowl run based on a dominant defense and a "good enough" offense, and we believed it because we'd seen it occur.

This year, Baltimore and Pittsburgh suck. But the teams taking their place in the standings (the Bengals, Chiefs, Broncos, Colts) don't strike me as being statistically different from the dominant AFC teams of the past decade.

The 2005 Stealers were ranked 6th in DVOA, with a weighted total of 22.1%. Right now, the Chiefs are 6th in DVOA, with a weighted total of 19.6%. Cowher had never won a Super Bowl in his career up to that point (although he had been to one and lost), so there was no reason to believe that he might take his team all the way. Sound a bit like Andy Reid?

Those 2000 Ravens had a historically dominant Defense, the #2 Special Teams unit and a bad offense. The 2013 Broncos have a historically dominant Offense, the #3 Special Teams unit and a bad defense. Maybe they win the Super Bowl, maybe they flame out in the first round of the playoffs. But either way, they're not positioned any worse than the other teams we're used to seeing dominate the DVOA charts.

The AFC West is the new AFC North ... we just aren't used to these new teams being decent (or in Billick-speak, "they haven't proven themselves to be elite"), so we discount how good they really are/might be. But looking back on this division five years from now might give us a very different opinion of these teams.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Last season, I thought there were four solid Super Bowl contenders: Houston, Baltimore, Denver, and New England. Right now, I only see the Colts and Broncos at that level. I'm not sold on the Bengals, Chiefs, or Pats. And I'm not close to being sold on the Chargers.

Of course, a lot could change in two months. The Bengals and/or Chiefs could look more credible. Brady could stop looking like a has-been and start looking like the Brady of old. The Ravens could find their mojo.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If the Lions face the Seahawks in the playoffs, I think the Hawks would go straight up vs Johnson. Megatron vs Optimus Prime: The Rematch would make a great side story to the game.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It would be interesting. Last year Johnson has 3 catches for 46 yards, but on 8 targets. Certainly the kind of day that teams are happy if they surrender to Megatron. But it came at the cost of letting Young loose for 9 catches and 100yards...

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Again, there's a reason why ownership gave no consideration to extending Leslie Frazier's contract. The team is not well coached, in addition to the obvious personnel issues.

Hopefully, anybody who pondered Ponder as the 12th best draft eligible player in 2011, or anywhere close to that, will be gone as well.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Wasn't it more likely taking who the team thought was the best qb available?

Which means Ponder may have been the 42nd best player or something like that (just making up a number for discussion)

Isn't the recurring theme among the good GMs that they strongly prefer taking the best player regardless of position versus drafting for need? Or they trade up and down so that they are getting the guy at a position needed at the right value?

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

That was the draft where Gabbert and Locker both wound up going really high, so it was the year of Major QB Reaching anyways. The Vikings had a pretty significant need for QB and, rather than trying to trade back or just filling another need (like, say, somebody on the lines, which would certainly not be unwelcome in retrospect), they jumped for a QB.

BPA seems to be the approach of the good GMs. Drafting Ponder felt like panic at the time, and certainly hasn't changed much over the last few years.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Why did Shanahan give up in the running game in the second half at 21-21, when it was doing so well? Did he want to see if Von Miller could still pass rush...

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Chargers top 10 drafted players from 2008-2012 is bad:

1. Ryan Mathews
2. Louis Vasquez
3. Donald Butler
4. Corey Liuget
5. Kendall Reyes
6. Antoine Cason
7. Tyronne Green
8. Vaughn Martin
9. Vincent Brown
10. Marcus Gilchrist

Several players not with SD anymore.