Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend
compiled by Rivers McCown
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means 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.
Saturday, January 5
Cincinnati Bengals 13 at Houston Texans 19
Rivers McCown: The Texans are mostly keeping Johnathan Joseph on A.J. Green so far, even when he motions to the slot. That's something they haven't done much of this year, which makes me think either Joseph is in better physical shape or that they just don't trust Kareem Jackson to cover someone with that kind of speed.
Aaron Schatz: I don't watch enough Andy Dalton to know, but has he always had a habit of throwing a screen even when it is completely covered? A couple of times today, he's thrown a screen pass which was pretty much a guaranteed loss of yardage instead of throwing the ball away (i.e. at the receiver's feet) or looking elsewhere for a receiver.
Vince Verhei: Really, both teams have failed miserably at screens, but they keep calling them. Just for the sake of stubbornness, I guess.
Ben Muth: Just as I was wondering how Cincinnati could score, Leon Hall gets the pick-six. Every time I see a quarterback go through a progression to make a throw that shallow (maybe one yard past the line of scrimmage) and that wide, I hold my breath. Those flat/arrow routes, particularly in short-yardage situations, seem to be open immediately or never. Both quarterbacks have been pretty bad so far
Andy Benoit: The interesting thing about Hall’s pick-six was that it came with him in an unexpected sub-package linebacker type alignment. That’s the same thing that happened on the pick-six Hall had a few weeks ago at Pittsburgh.
Rivers McCown: Annoying bird, I am the great Leon!
Yeah, this is about the kind of game I expected: a sloppy defense-first match-up. The Texans are having more success on the ground than I imagined, though.
Aaron Schatz: At least based on this game, you definitely can see the argument for why the Texans needed to give Arian Foster a new contract instead of handing the job to Ben Tate. Foster has looked much better, especially when it comes to vision and cutting properly through tight holes.
Danny Tuccitto: In the AFC preview, Aaron talked about the statistical anomaly that is Cincinnati's poor up-the-middle Adjusted Line Yards despite the presence of Geno Atkins. And sure enough, it does seem so far that the Texans' inside zone runs are working better than their stretch plays. Weird.
Rivers McCown: I hate that field goal with the fire of a million suns.
Aaron Schatz: We should point out Rivers is talking about the field goal on fourth-and-3 from the Bengals 4 with 2:30 left, which made the score 9-7, Texans.
You hate that field goal, but when have you ever known Gary Kubiak to be super-aggressive on fourth downs? He even brought out Shayne Graham to try a field goal that's usually too long for him (48), although Graham did manage to hit it.
Rivers McCown: Oh I saw it coming a million miles away. I just wanted to be on the record about it. Kubiak gets the most out of his players and has a very impressive offensive system, but I don't know if he knows what "game theory" is, let alone it's repercussions on football.
Tom Gower: That the field goal was not in the least bit surprising does not mean it was a pleasant move.
Tim Gerheim: I actually think the field goal Rivers hates was defensible. I agree that Kubiak is maddeningly conservative, but game situation makes a big difference. In my mind, you go for it at that field position when you're left in a good spot even if you miss it. You're likely to get excellent field position since they're starting a drive inside the 5, but with 2:30 left in the half, you're not likely to get the ball back with enough time to take advantage of that. Better to bank those points. Not so much a lot of the time Kubiak calls for them.
Rivers McCown: I can see your point, but the way the Texans defense was playing in the first half, I think they had a good chance of getting the ball back quickly.
And, on cue, a weird timeout left the Texans spiking the ball on third down and trying to pick up a fourth-down conversion at midfield during their two-minute offense, which didn't succeed because they had no choice but to throw for the sidelines with the lack of time remaining on the clock. Classic.
Aaron Schatz: This game has been a masterpiece of missed opportunities for Houston.
When I said that Houston was much better at covering No. 1 receivers than covering No. 2 receivers, I didn't think that meant they could use mind control to prevent their opponent from throwing to the No. 1 receiver entirely.
Rivers, I know you had said that you thought Connor Barwin didn't really play that well this season ... he's definitely playing better tonight, yes?
Rivers McCown: Remember what we ran about Kamerion Wimbley in FOA 2012? That he has big games, but is really inconsistent? That's Barwin. Even last season, I think he had a four-sack game that was basically built on Guy Whimper's carcass. I guess I kind of see him as a second-tier rusher; a fine second banana (and better than he's shown this year), but not somebody you want leading the charge.
J.J. Cooper: Many pass rushers have had great games built on Whimper's carcass. Was kind of nice to see him back out there blowing blocks in Week 17 for the Jaguars. Felt like 2011 all over again.
Danny Tuccitto: Because Foster's touchdown to make it 16-7 went behind right guard, I took a look at the play-by-play to see if there's been as much of an inside/outside dichotomy as I mentioned earlier. Here's the breakdown of his 20 carries so far:
Center/guard = 13 carries for 63 yards (4.84 ypc), 69.2 percent success rate
Tackle/end = 7 carries for 36 yards (5.14 ypc), 28.6 percent success rate
So, no difference in terms of ypc, but a big difference in success rate. Also, two of his three "power" carries were behind center/guard, and he converted both (including the touchdown).
Aaron Schatz: Dalton's third quarter interception is on Green, I think. Green's not even looking for the ball when Dalton throws it.
Rivers McCown: He was probably not expecting the ball based on the sample size of this entire game minus one drive.
Tim Gerheim: It's hard to tell. Green and Dalton obviously weren't in-sync on the depth of the route. Green did turn, but the ball was on him as he turned his head because he'd pushed it a little further upfield. It could have been either of their faults. If I had to guess I'd put it on Green since there was a big blitz and he was probably hot. But I don't think we can know from the film alone.
Ben Muth: J.J. Watt quick swimming out wide on that fourth-and-1 was interesting. Opened up a pretty big hole for the linebackers to try to fill.
Aaron Schatz: I think the biggest story out of this game is how well Houston defensive backs have played. Joseph finally looks like himself again.
Vince Verhei: The Bengals call timeout to avoid a five-yard delay-of-game penalty on third down. Then after the timeout they false start and lose five yards anyway. I hate the timeout to avoid a penalty.
Aaron Schatz: When I was looking at the charting data, preparing the preview on this game, I think Shiloh Keo was listed with one pass in coverage. One. Is it a little strange that he's in the game on such an important third-and-11?
Rivers McCown: He's out there because Quintin Demps has been terrible, not because he's earned it. Or, to paraphrase a conversation I had with a friend about this: Keo wakes up every morning thanking his lucky stars he's on the same team as Demps; Demps wakes up every morning thanking his lucky stars he's not Keo.
Looking forward to Rob's take on this "rivalry" game.
Aaron Schatz: Well, throw another check in the column for "end-season momentum doesn't matter." Although it's hard to say that the Texans' offense tonight was back to playing as well as it did in the first half of the season, except for Foster.
However, I do think the Bengals' pass defense (first in the league since Week 9, remember?) did continue to play well. They just couldn't stop Foster, and Dalton was lousy.
Vince Verhei: Foster after the game: "I'm not a big believer in momentum." Perhaps he's a reader.
Andy Benoit: Foster took over in the second half. It'll be interesting to see how he does next week against the Patriots. From what I’ve seen over the years, it doesn’t seem like running backs that get over 30 touches in a playoff game (Foster had 40!) have much gas in the tank the following week. (Remember Lamar Smith, with Miami, against the Colts in 2000? Next week he had eight carries for five yards.)
Rivers McCown: Vince, you must have missed his TWIQ appearance this week: "I don’t really watch TV that much. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. They don’t have any opinions on the Texans."
Andy Benoit: This game went almost exactly how we thought it would go in Film Room. The Bengals receiving targets were unable to get open against Houston’s tight man coverage. (Glover Quin owned Jermaine Gresham; Jackson owned Marvin Jones.) Dalton continued to struggled in his progression reads and left a lot of plays on the field. Dalton also had trouble throwing the deep ball, something he had improved on this season after having a terrible time with it as a rookie. It’s too bad the Bengals had a solid defensive performance nullified by bad offense.
J.J. Cooper: So I want to ask what everyone else thinks about Dalton. I'm not talking about just his poor play today, but in logging the sacks this year, I haven't been all that impressed with his run through the progressions. He picks up a lot of extremely long sacks, but also seems to have plays where he finds his initial read covered and quickly takes off.
Rivers McCown: I've always felt a large portion of his success was Green-enabled and that he was more of a game-manager-type asides from that. But I might be biased because I felt that way about him when he was coming out.
Aaron Schatz: He's not the best with the deep throw, I think we can at least say that with some confidence.
Rob Weintraub: (heavy sigh)
I'd be more inclined to really start hating the Texans after two playoff defeats at their hands if I felt the Bengals played well enough to win in either game. But they were feeble both times, so all anger is turned inward. And anger turned inward, as Freud taught it, equals depression. Which is where I am today. Sure would be nice if, sometime in my adult lifetime, my team actually showed up and played a good game in the playoffs. But, alas, the wait continues.
I can assure you that Dalton has played far better than that, but the pass protection problems the team has encountered the last five-to-six games seems to have given him a mild case of the Gabberts. And this season he seemed so determined to show the critics that he didn't lack arm strength that he overthrew too many deep passes to count. It's always been the accuracy, not the arm strength.
That said, Cincy's running game was awful save for a three or four game stretch against weak defenses, Gresham continues to be unreliable, and there still isn't much opposite A.J. to strike fear in defender's souls. Mohmamed Sanu's injury really took away from a lot of the offense's flexibility -- it's no accident that production plummeted when he went down. Jay Gruden has established that his last name is why he is a hot coaching candidate -- I would be ecstatic if someone hired him away. So, with those handicaps, Dalton's guiding the team to 19 wins in two seasons and consecutive playoff appearances ain't bad. By Bengals standards, it's enough to make him a pantheon quarterback.
Which of course he isn't. My fear is that he'll be just good enough to remain in place for the next decade, topping out as a wild-card quarterback, but never really getting the team anywhere special, thus wasting the prime of a potential Hall of Fame wideout.
I'll feel better if the team can draft some more speed this April -- Tavon Austin, for one, would look really good in stripes.
Minnesota Vikings 10 at Green Bay Packers 24
Tom Gower: Impromptu road trip to a playoff game? Yep, impromptu road trip to Lambeau.
Ben Muth: I have to give props to the Vikings organization for keeping the Christian Ponder injury under wraps for so long. I have to imagine Green Bay would have prepared differently for Joe Webb than Ponder. Don't think it'll make the difference, but it's still a nice accomplishment in 2013.
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J.J. Cooper: I may look like an idiot three hours from now, but I don't think having to go with Webb will really hurt the Vikings all that much. It gives the Packers some different things to worry about with his mobility and it's not like Ponder is a quarterback teams fear.
Mike Kurtz: I think the problem with Webb is that he makes the offense very
predictable. You have a pivotal play coming up, and while Ponder may not scare you that much, he is an actual quarterback and he is capable of beating you. I'm not so sure about Webb.
Vince Verhei: Webb had a -24.7% DVOA on 89 passing plays in 2010, and a -13.8% DVOA on 63 plays in 2011. If they're behind in the second half, they're screwed. However, if they become literally an option team with about 60 runs and a half-dozen passes, they could be very entertaining.
Ryan Grant picks up 11 yards on a screen pass. Bengals and Texans fans say "Oh, THAT'S how it's supposed to work."
Tom Gower: Vikings playing a lot of 2-deep early, and it's leaving the underneath middle wide open for the backs. It's like the 2006 Colts.
Andy Benoit: Why did the Vikings drift away from the read-option after having so much success with it in the opening series?
J.J. Cooper: Wow. I'm already regretting my previous email about Webb.
Ben Muth: As an offensive lineman, I admire Webb's attempts to throw the ball away with men hanging off him. As a football fan, I am shocked and horrified by these attempts.
Andy Benoit: I can’t say for sure without seeing the coaches film, but it seemed like several times the Vikings asked Webb to drop back and make progression reads from the pocket. That’s something they rarely even ask Ponder to do. Surprised the Vikings didn’t use more rollouts and half-field play-action concepts.
The Vikings need at least two new wide receivers next season. The guys they have now simply can’t beat man coverage.
Tom Gower: Mike McCarthy's decision to kick the field goal on fourth-and-goal to go up 10-3 is rough. The Vikings are looking inept on offense, do you really think Webb is dropping back and throwing a 99-yard touchdown? Unthinking decision, at best.
Aaron Rodgers has been very willing to just take the checkdown for most of the first half, rather than waiting for deeper routes to come open. He's adjusted for the two-minute drill.
Vince Verhei: Every time Webb passes on first-and-10, Leslie Frazier (or whoever's calling plays for Minnesota) should be kidney punched.
Tom Gower: Charlie Johnson has been an issue tonight.
Danny Tuccitto: This is one of those games where the recap could have been written during warmups.
Vince Verhei: I was very, very excited for playoff football this morning. This is not as much fun as I had hoped for.
Did Minnesota just punt on fourth-and-2 down 21 points in the fourth quarter? Jesus Christ. They're just trolling the country now.
Tim Gerheim: Tomorrow should be better. Seahawks-Redskins was always going to be the most fun game of the weekend.
Aaron Schatz: There really isn't much to say about a blowout, is there? It's tough when there are two teams on the field and only one quarterback.
Mike Kurtz: I will say that NBC needs to be a bit less overwhelming with their praise of Green Bay's defense. Yes, it's a blowout, but Minnesota is not fielding a real offense tonight.
Andy Benoit: I don’t know how anyone can argue that a running back, even a superstar like Adrian Peterson, is more valuable than a quarterback. We saw how the Vikings offense utterly fell apart with Webb playing for Ponder. In all seriousness, if Webb had been playing for an injured Peterson and had gotten 30 carries, the Vikings offense wouldn’t have been dismantled like that. It’s a quarterback league. Running backs are ancillary weapons. We just saw this in a boring, totally noncompetitive Saturday night wild card contest.
Rivers McCown: Boy, I would say that nobody actually believes that running backs are more valuable than quarterbacks, but then I remembered we have this sea movement of people trying to give Peterson the MVP this year. It feels like when baseball writers try to get a relief pitcher to win the Cy Young.
Tom Gower: Now that it's the next day and I'm home, some additional thoughts. I missed the Webb discussion pregame, as I was on the road to Green Bay, but the love for him I heard in general seemed very symptomatic of the backup quarterback syndrome: that the backup quarterback does not have the starting quarterback's flaws, so the team should start him. You've heard it all before. The nadir of it may have been in Tennessee in 2010, when some fans wanted Rusty Smith to start, a wish rapidly cured by Rusty's injury-forced start against the Texans. When Dan Fouts on pregame radio compared Webb to Cam Newton, I about drove my car off the road, or would have if I actually took what Dan Fouts said seriously. Instead, I saw a quarterback who couldn't throw and certainly couldn't function in whatever passing offense it was the Vikings tried to run last night. That they have the league's worst receiving corps (clearly, with Percy Harvin on IR) certainly didn't help matters, but Webb missed guys downfield and did the bad mobile quarterback thing of running into sack after sack after sack.
I noted Johnson's play during the game. I'd have to rewatch the all-22 to be sure, but I think the Packers defensive line really did a nice job. I'm not sure anybody in particular stood out from my vantage point, but Johnson seems to have the most issues on the offensive line. He's a much better fit at left guard than at left tackle, obviously, but still seemed to be overwhelmed multiple times. I'm not sure Brandon Fusco (I think he played most/all of the snaps) had a great game at the other guard spot, either, plus the Packers seemed to do a really good job of setting the edge.
Offensively, the Packers were good, but I was less impressed by them overall than I was the defense. I noted during the game Rodgers' willingness to take the checkdown. The Vikings were doing a good job of getting their linebackers far downfield, but Rodgers missed some guys and seemed very willing to take the checkdown rather than wait for routes to develop. Part of this may be a general lack of trust in the offensive line. I didn't keep any formal count, but I'd be curious to really see just how many five- and seven-step drops in the pocket the Packers used, especially in comparison with when the offense was humming last year. When they do try to take a shot, it seemed like they also try to get Rodgers outside of the pocket.
It didn't much matter, as I thought the game was over at 17-3 and it was definitely over at 24-3 barring extreme weirdness, but the Packers did very little the rest of the second half. DuJuan Harris runs hard, but the run game is a function of how teams protect themselves against the pass game, not a sustaining force in and of itself. I thought the non-competitive nature of the game was very much a result of the Vikings' offensive struggles, and actually like the Packers to come out of the NFC less than I did, unless it comes out that the defense played more of a role in Minnesota's offensive struggles than I'm giving them credit for right now.
Rivers McCown: I think Fusco's next good game will be his first.
Sunday, January 6
Indianapolis Colts 9 at Baltimore Ravens 24
Aaron Schatz: OK, so, asking about the Ray Rice fumble in the first quarter -- what's the rule on when a fumble is officially recovered by one team or the other? The Ravens guy came out of that pile with the ball, but at some point in that pile it was Colts ball, and the officials called it Colts ball. But we know that under a lot of those piles, the ball goes back and forth between a couple of guys. How do you decide when one team or the other recovers it, and why in this case does it not belong to the Ravens when Marshal Yanda walks out of the pile with the ball?
Danny Tuccitto: Sorry, I'm still peeling myself off the floor after that pass interference call on Cassius Vaughn.
Mike Kurtz: Aaron: one of the short wings (probably the head linesman) saw the Colts with possession and down by contact before the ball came out and was grabbed by a Ravens player. The play was over at that point, even though action continued.
Ben Muth: Colts sub out Winston Justice for Bradley Sowell after the Paul Kruger sack-and-fumble. On the first third down of the next series, Sowell misses a blitzing linebacker he should be sliding to that forces Andrew Luck to scramble short of the first down. Right tackle has been a disaster for Indy all year long, no matter who they have out there. My current theory is that the position is on top of an Indian burial ground.
Aaron Schatz: Two words: Jeff Linkenbach.
The Ravens' strategy of heavily blitzing Luck is interesting given the numerical splits. Luck was super on third-and-long this year, as I pointed out in the preview. And he was very good against blitzes: 6.9 yards per play vs. four rushers, 6.6 vs. five rushers (not much worse) and 7.6 vs. six rushers. But he was only at 4.5 yards per play against DB blitzes. I'll have to look to see how many of these are DB blitzes.
Numbers courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, of course: Saving FO Game Charters Time since 2012.
Mike Kurtz: That jump cut that Corey Graham performed en route to half-sacking Luck was absolutely amazing. I just want to watch it over and over again.
Vince Verhei: Colts used a weird play to pick up a third down in the middle of the second quarter. Reggie Wayne lined up wide and ran a slant route. Donnie Avery lined up in the slot and ran, well, I don't know. He just came off the line straight ahead at about three-quarter speed and never turned around for the ball. He was only there to clear space for Wayne. Wayne caught the ball and almost collided with Avery. It was a strange kind of half-screen, half-pick hybrid. and not illegal because Avery never actually hit a defender.
Ben Muth: Dwayne Allen looks really good today. Getting open, running after the catch, just generally looking the part. That Colts field-goal drive at the end of the half was built on his yards after contact.
The Colts line is a different story. Anthony Castonzo's whiff on the defensive back blitz was shameful. Not just the result, but how slow and unathletic he looked. It's the kind of play that looks so bad it makes you wonder if he has the lateral movement to play on the left side.
Rivers McCown: Yeah, Allen has been fantastic down the stretch. Really has validated Matt Waldman's opinions on him coming into the draft about how he was better than Coby Fleener. And he's extremely versatile as well.
Aaron Schatz: We're near the end of the first half here and the Ravens only have three points. Against this defense, that is pathetic. I know they are really only an average offense, but come on already. Andy Benoit is always writing about how their receivers can't win against man coverage and they need to try stacked releases or bunches. NFL Matchup is always talking about how the Ravens' receivers can't win against man coverage and they need to try stacked releases or bunches. So where are the freakin' stacked releases and bunches???? For crying out loud, do SOMETHING.
Vince Verhei: After that touchdown, the Ravens have 16 runs and 12 passing plays. It feels like they're passing a lot more than that.
Aaron Schatz: Hey! Actual good clock management by an NFL head coach to get a chance at an end-of-half long field goal despite his quarterback taking an intentional grounding. Yay, Chuck Pagano! If we're going to always criticize coaches for this, we should compliment them when they get it right.
Let me add that while Pagano ended up with a timeout left, that's not a problem. He needed that timeout in case T.Y. Hilton wasn't able to get out of bounds, to set up the field goal attempt. I don't think that play was designed for Hilton to make it out of bounds.
Tom Gower: John Harbaugh just cost the Ravens three points. At the end of the half, the Colts elected to take the 10-second runoff on Luck's intentional grounding penalty. Following the ready for play, the clock would have started. The Colts, who were huddling, were not ready to snap the ball. With only 12 seconds left, the Colts would have been forced to use their last timeout or left the half run out. John Harbaugh called timeout before the clock started, letting them run a play and kick a field goal they likely would otherwise have had to eschew.
Aaron Schatz: There are just too many free rushers here for the Ravens. It looks like an issue of blocking scheme, not personnel. They just aren't picking guys up, obvious guys sometimes like Terrell Suggs on the outside.
Andy Benoit: The Ravens did a great job of isolating Cassius Vaughn in solo coverage outside, even when there were two safeties back deep. They did it primarily with tight-end seam routes.
Mike Kurtz: What was that Aaron said about the Ravens' defense having success when they're aggressive? Nothing like a team trying to string out a 15-point lead.
Tom Gower: The Suggs play was just a bootleg where he didn't bit on the run action, like Robert Mathis's big sack on Joe Flacco the previous drive. The latest sack, Kruger, was just Sowell, and, well, Ben noted the Colts right tackle play earlier.
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Anquan Boldin is good at making contested catches. That is all that this game should and perhaps will be remembered for. And Indianapolis Colts receivers are bad at making uncontested or partially contested catches. That seems to be the other half of the ballgame.
Aaron Schatz: Except Reggie Wayne, of course.
Ben Muth: I officially have no idea what is and isn't a catch anymore.
If Luck had been hit as he was throwing, that fourth-down drop by Vick Ballard would have been the perfect play to end on.
Aaron Schatz: If Luck had been hit as he was throwing because of a blown block by the right tackle Sowell, leading to a dropped fourth-down pass by Ballard, THAT would have been the perfect play to end on.
Rob Weintraub: Most Ravens wild-card games are unremarkable and dull...
2000 beat Denver 21-3
2001 beat Miami 20-3
2003 lost to Tennessee 20-17 (outlier)
2008 beat Miami 27-9
2009 beat New England 33-14
2010 beat KC 30-7
2012 beat Indy 24-9
Throw out the Titans game, a punishing encounter, and you are talking 155-45, or 26-7 average.
Andy Benoit: I was surprised how dedicated the Colts were to running the ball in this game. Ballard played well enough, he showed better all-around quickness off his redirects than he has at times throughout the season, but 22 carries is a lot for someone who isn’t a game-changer. And it’s not like the Colts made tremendous use of their play-action game.
The Ravens did an outstanding job with their blitz packages on third down. It was clearly the backbone of their game plan. Dannell Ellerbe’s downhill speed as a blitzer stood out all game. There was great variety to the blitz packages, including some extremely well designed slot concepts. The Graham sack comes to mind --- not often you see an inside linebacker (Ellerbe) pick up the slot receiver behind an inside corner’s blitz like that. Luck struggled mightily at times with blitz identification. I thought his pocket mechanics were a bit loose in the first half, too, particularly on the second series sack-and-fumble where he didn’t stay within the confines of a three-step drop.
Seattle Seahawks 24 at Washington Redskins 14
Vince Verhei: Washington's first touchdown drive was distressingly easy. The Seahawks were getting pushed around. There wasn't even a third-down play until the touchdown itself.
Ben Muth: The big problem with first Seattle drive was how wide their outside linebackers were trying to set the edge. On both the big Robert Griffin run and the Alfred Morris run that took it down to the 3, the Seahawks outside linebackers took on a block four-to-five yards outside of the end of the line of scrimmage. So, they kept contain, but left a huge alley off tackle. They have to try to squeeze that space and take on blockers as close to in-line as you can without getting reached.
Aaron Schatz: I thought the other surprise was that it was almost all pistol
handoffs, rather than read option or non-pistol formations.
Danny Tuccitto: At 14-0, all I can think of right now is that Seattle home/road split in pass defense DVOA.
Aaron Schatz: That, and the game the Patriots lost to the Jets two years ago after going into the playoffs with the highest weighted DVOA of any team at the end of a season, ever.
The Seahawks defense just looks asleep out there, which really makes me wonder about Chase Stuart's idea that it isn't a bigger home-field advantage for the Seahawks, but rather a bigger road disadvantage. But seriously, I know it is a longer flight than from a place like St. Louis, but it's only an hour or two longer. It's not like they spent 25 hours on a plane.
Vince Verhei: All I can think about is their first half/second half split in rush defense DVOA:
Weeks 1-9: -16.5% (6th)
Weeks 10-17: 2.7% (26th)
Tom Gower: If you figure out what Kam Chancellor was doing on the touchdown pass to Logan Paulsen to make it 14-0, please let me know. Paulsen ran a stick to become the third receiver on a side of the field where the Redskins already had two receivers. Three receivers, two defenders, pretty good chance at least one of those players is open.
Aaron Schatz: I would also like to know why Russell Wilson didn't just try to scramble on that second-and-7 near the goal line when Washington had everybody covered, instead of trying to force the ball and nearly throwing a pick.
Aaron Schatz: I said earlier that the first drive was a surprise because there wasn't any read option, but it's clear by now that Griffin's foot injury has ruined the idea that this game would match two similar offenses. The Seahawks seem to be doing very well with the read option in the second quarter, and the Redskins simply can't run it today.
Danny Tuccitto: In the NFC preview, I mentioned that Seattle is only the third team to be No. 1 in total DVOA and then have to go on the road for the first round as a wild card. I had also looked up non-division-winning teams with No. 1 weighted total DVOA or No. 1 weighted offense DVOA, so let's dump that information here!
No. 1 weighted DVOA, didn't win division:
2003 TEN -- won wild card game 20-17 at BAL, but lost in divisional round 20-17 at Super-Bowl-bound NE
2004 BUF -- missed playoffs
2008 PHI -- (mentioned in preview)
2009 GB -- lost wild card game 51-45 at ARI in overtime
No. 1 weighted offense DVOA, didn't win division:
1991 SF -- missed playoffs
1996 BAL -- missed playoffs
1997 JAC -- lost wild card game 42-17 at Super-Bowl-bound DEN
1999 OAK -- missed playoffs
2000 IND -- last wild card game 23-17 at MIA in overtime
2004 KC -- missed playoffs
2008 NO -- missed playoffs
Aaron Schatz: Weighted defense?
Tom Gower: 2012 Bears -- missed playoffs
2011 Bears -- missed playoffs
2009 Jets -- beat CIN 24-14, beat SD 17-14, lost to IND 30-17 in AFCCG
2005 Panthers -- beat NYG 23-0, beat Bears 29-21, lost to SEA 34-14 in NFCCG
2004 Bills -- missed playoffs
2001 Redskins -- missed playoffs
1999 Ravens -- missed playoffs
1998 Dolphins -- beat BUF 24-17 at home in wild card, lost to SB-winner DEN 38-3
1995 Chiefs -- missed playoffs
1992 Saints -- lost to PHI 36-20 at home in wild card
1991 Eagles -- missed playoffs
Danny Tuccitto: All these weighted No. 1 units missing the playoffs make me wish we could do a simulation of what might have happened had they made it.
Aaron Schatz: Heh. We could always put the best teams that never made the playoffs into the Monte Carlo to find out the odds of each of them beating each other, but that's not the same as a simulation, because it doesn't look at all at the specific strengths and weaknesses of each team and the matchups between them that might lead to upsets.
Ben Muth: The teams with number-one defenses would all have won the Super Bowl since "defense wins championships." Duh, everyone knows that.
Mike Kurtz: Washington's defense looks lost on every play. You'd think they would have a pretty good scout team for this offense.
Aaron Schatz: I'm always amazed by games like this, where the performance seems to completely turn around at some point in the game. It's one of the reasons I do attend games when I can. I wish I was in the press box above this thing so I might have a better idea of how the defensive backs are playing and whether something changed at that point. I know Griffin's injury is important, but that doesn't explain why the Seattle run defense improved so much in stopping Morris after the first quarter, or why the Seattle offense suddenly works after it couldn't get out of its own way the first quarter.
Vince Verhei: I don't know if he's this good every week (I assume not) but Doughty has looked really good today. Making plays all over the place.
Aaron Schatz: He's not, but you know how it is. Safety is the most difficult position to judge with either film or advanced stats.
I think the Seahawks made a mistake by going for the touchdown on the second-and-9. I think with the kicker injured, it's best to try to get all the yardage in shorter chunks, knowing everything is really four-down territory and you can't even think of trying a field goal until you get really close.
Danny Tuccitto: Honestly, I don't think Seattle is doing THAT much better against Morris. It's just that Washington's offense only ran 17 plays in the second and third quarter, so it seemed like he disappeared when it was actually the entire unit. In Morris' six carries during that stretch, he did have three successful runs.
Aaron Schatz: I think something is up with Griffin's ability to step into his passes, too. He looks awkward, and some of these are really sailing.
Vince Verhei: I think Wilson just set a rookie record for most touchdowns blocked for.
Ben Muth: Zach Miller with the block of the year on that Marshawn Lynch touchdown. Inside Zone Slice concept and Miller just decapitated the outside linebacker. Then he catches the two-point conversion. Huge day for Miller.
Rob Weintraub: Retrospect biggest play of playoffs? Miller turning the third-and-14 underthrow from an incompletion to a badly-needed first down way back at 14-0. Settled Seattle down, they played their game the rest of the way.
Aaron Schatz: And the game basically ends with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter. First, you've got Griffin taking a huge sack because he can't move well on the bootleg and can't set his feet to throw. Then you have a blown snap recovered by the Seahawks, and Griffin is down with even further injury.
Andy Benoit: When RG3 was hobbled, Washington’s entire offense -– including the base run game with Morris –- got tripped up. The Redskins had tremendous success running Morris to the strong side on the edges early on but we saw little of that in the second half. What also stood out, not surprisingly, was the inability of Redskins receivers to get open early in the route. The quick-slants off play-action were the top feature of Washington’s offense all season long but I don’t think we saw any of them in this game.
Vince Verhei: DO NOT LIKE two incompletions before that field goal to make it 24-14. Just run it three times, kick a field goal, and make Kirk Cousins score 10 points in about 4 and a half minutes.
Also, in Audibles or something, we need to run Seattle's offensive DVOA in this game for the red zone and for the rest of the field.
Andy Benoit: Loved the way Seattle brought multi-level blitzers against Cousins, especially on the fourth-and-14. Cousins clearly wasn’t read for it (most quarterbacks wouldn’t be). Plus, it takes advantage of how the Redskins receivers weren’t able to win early in their routes.
Mike Kurtz: Shanahan has ruined his team's chances to win this game and possibly dealt fatal damage to their long-term prospects by playing a terribly-injured player and forcing him to re-aggravate a serious injury. What a disgrace.
Vince Verhei: I really, really don't want Griffin to be the second coming of Greg Cook.
Aaron Schatz: I want to make sure I understand correctly. James Andrews apparently did not clear Griffin to return to the Baltimore game due to this injury, but he did clear him to play in this game, correct? This is not an issue of Shanahan overruling the team doctor, right?
Tom Gower: Okay, I'm going to try to control myself.
Mike Shanahan, what are you doing? You mortgaged the future of your franchise to get this player. And now he's been injured, forced out of multiple games as a rookie, because your offensive scheme seems almost designed to break him into two (and keep in mind RG3 is not Cam Newton-sized). You keep playing him in a playoff game, a wild card game, even though your backup quarterback has shown he's capable of performing at least somewhat competently in controlled circumstances and he's clearly a long, long way from 100 percent. And now he just goes down awkwardly, on your team's terrible field, and may have a serious injury of the sort that could have serious long-term repercussions for some of the special skills that made you want to give up three first-round picks to go get him.
Whew, managed that without expletives.
And I get it. This isn't Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler was medically not cleared to play. I can deal with that. RG3 was medically cleared to play, and so Shanahan put him out there. I'm questioning the wisdom of doing so, when he was clearly injured in a way that was hampering not just his special ability to run around but his ability to do other things, like throw the football effectively. Putting Cousins in the game when you're down two scores with five minutes to play is putting a bullseye on him, and the Seahawks did what you'd expect.
Mike Kurtz: Griffin is standing on the sideline. He just collapsed trying to bend over. WHY IS HE STANDING ANYWHERE?!
Danny Tuccitto: I obviously agree with the boneheadedness of having had RG3 out there long after -- as Aaron alluded to much, much earlier -- he couldn't even make throws because of the knee affecting his mechanics. However, I'm not on board with this whole "Re-injury has disastrous, long-term career implications!" worry. It's 2012. Adrian Peterson superhumanity aside, guys routinely come back from knee injuries no worse for the wear. Should Shanahan be excoriated for greedily sacrificing his young, franchise QB in the name of a win rather than making the proper "adult" decision? Of course he should be. Am I worried that we're not going to see RG3 qua RG3 again because of it? No, I'm not.
Mike Kurtz: Players routinely come back from knee injuries when they receive
proper treatment for the injuries, not when they play on them and aggravate them.
Aaron Schatz: I don't understand the idea that Shanahan overruled the team
doctor tonight. Griffin was cleared to play in this game. The criticism has to be that Shanahan should have removed Griffin because the injury was keeping him from being effective, not because there was danger of further injury.
Mike Kurtz: I don't see how it can't be both, especially after they took him to the trainer's room to check him out in the middle of the game. Cleared or not, he was a lame duck for most of the game and it just got worse and worse as the game wore on.
Aaron Schatz: Well, I guess we don't know. We don't know if Shanahan overruled Andrews in the middle of this game. What I do know is that Shanahan overruling Andrews during a game four weeks ago doesn't indicate that he did so again today.
Tom Gower: Mike Shanahan: "I talked to Robert, and he said to me there's difference between being injured and hurt." He says RGIII told him was "hurt."
Rivers McCown: I guess my default position on this situation is to defer to the player's judgement. I do agree that management has to be especially protective of this SPECIFIC player due to his abilities and his proclivity to get hurt, but I don't know if I feel completely comfortable saying whether he should be on or off the field based on the publicly-available facts.
Rob Weintraub: Lest everyone forget, RG3 missed a year at Baylor to a knee ligament tear, and came back fairly well from it.