Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

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.

Mike Kurtz: Clay Matthews just got a sack while he was lying on the ground. Joe Webb, ladies and gentlemen.

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.

OK. They did something. Long screen pass to Rice. Vonta Leach pushes everyone in for a touchdown. Let's hear it for "fullback run" over "pass to fourth receiver Tandon Doss."

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.

Vince Verhei: Doug Baldwin, breaking up what would have been an interception in the end zone by Reed Doughty on that snap, may have just made Seattle's best defensive play of the game.

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.


225 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2013, 3:34pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Bengals have had pretty good quarterbacking I think. 45 year history has 15 years of Ken Anderson, 8 of Esiason and around 3 years of good Palmer. Even Jeff Blake made a pro bowl!

That seems pretty good to me, and certainly not miserable like Browns og Lions or Bears or something.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I decided to investigate. I searched PFR for seasons where any QB had > 15 AV for team X and added them up. I did the same for 10 AV. 15 AV seems to be an "elite" year and 10 AV seems to be around "solid".

QB seasons with AV > 15 since 1968 (or whenever team entered the league) / QB seasons with AV > 10 since 1968.

ARI 1/19
ATL 5/23
BAL 1/6
BUF 1/20
CAR 2/8
CHI 1/11
CIN 11/26
CLE 1/15
DAL 8/32
DEN 6/28
DET 4/19
GB 11/22
HOU 2/6
IND 16/22
JAX 2/11
KC 4/17
MIA 8/28
MIN 8/29
NE 10/28
NO 7/21
NYG 3/24
NYJ 2/22
OAK 6/25
PHI 9/26
PIT 4/26
SDG 11/25
SF 23/28
SEA 4/19
STL 5/22
TB 0/10
TEN 6/19
WAS 7/20

So Bengals are three-way tied for 3rd in AV > 15 division and three-way tied for 7th in AV > 10 division.

So the "By Bengals standards, it's enough to make him a pantheon quarterback." -line is a bit unwarranted. (Unless you want to stick to using wins as a metric of QB quality).

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Interesting. Just for the hell of it, here's the same list, ordered by most seasons with a 10+ AV QB instead of alphabetically (and noting the teams that joined the league after 1968):

DAL 8/32
MIN 8/29
SF 23/28
NE 10/28
MIA 8/28
DEN 6/28
CIN 11/26
PHI 9/26
PIT 4/26
SDG 11/25
OAK 6/25
NYG 3/24
ATL 5/23
IND 16/22
GB 11/22
STL 5/22
NYJ 2/22
NO 7/21
WAS 7/20
BUF 1/20
TEN 6/19
SEA 4/19 (since 1976)
DET 4/19
ARI 1/19
KC 4/17
CLE 1/15
JAX 2/11 (since 1995)
CHI 1/11
TB 0/10 (since 1976)
CAR 2/8 (since 1995)
HOU 2/6 (since 2002)
BAL 1/6 (since 1996)

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

That was kind of fun--Colts (well, Manning plus a little Unitas, Jones and maybe Harbaugh) come in at #2 behind Young+Montana (and maybe some Garcia) for the >15 years. For all the years we wandered in the desert in the 80s and most of the 90s, we did have some bright spots.

201 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

More than 15 AV points

Rk Player Draft From To Tm Count
1 Peyton Manning 1-1 1999 2010 IND 12
2 Bert Jones 1-2 1975 1977 BAL 3
3 Earl Morrall 1-2 1968 1968 BAL 1

More than 10 AV points

Rk Player Draft From To Tm Count
1 Peyton Manning 1-1 1998 2010 IND 13
2 Bert Jones 1-2 1975 1981 BAL 5
3 Jim Harbaugh 1-26 1995 1996 IND 2
4 Earl Morrall 1-2 1968 1968 BAL 1
5 Johnny Unitas* 9-102 1970 1970 BAL 1

68 is right at the end of Unitas' career - didn't contribute much to these rankings.

Garcia had 3 +15 seasons btw.

FO should really figure out a way to post tables in the comments. (or tell us how)

205 Re: just testing a table-posting idea

Getting closer. It seems that letters, spaces, punctuation, etc. take up varying numbers of pixels width-wise, but numbers and underscores are all the same as each other. If you can label columns similarly and put row labels on the right (since the comments left-justify), you can force it too look OK with some monkey work. I wonder if going all caps would help...



If the 3 lines above line up well, then going all CAPS would indeed help.

221 Re: just testing a table-posting idea

Use the code tag, it gives you a fixed width font (so every character takes up the same number of pixels). You still have the issue of html only rendering one space at a time (and removing all others) and I haven't found a way to force a non breaking space (the &nbsp in simple HTML code) to work so you are forced to pad numbers or use . or _ but you can make simple tables

Start the < code > block

Only using spaces
NAME RANK Whatever
Joe Dude 0001 A Guy
Mister Guy 0003 A Dude

Artificial padding
Joe Dude . . 0001 . A Guy
Mister Guy . 0003 . A Dude

End the < / code > block

I do this all the time for posts on here. Sometimes I'll take a spreadsheet copy and paste the data into UltraEdit (or other text editor) and do some quick search replace to get proper padding where spaces are concerned.

2 the old familiar sting

Ah, I remember this. Feels like the playoff loss against the Eagles after the 2008 much hope, such an inept team.

Time to make Mike Wallace an offer he can't refuse.

-Vikes fan

44 Re: the old familiar sting

Well, let's not get too carried away. That 2008 team, with just average qb play, might well have won the Super Bowl, because they might well have been the best team in football on the line of scrimmage, by a significant margin. This team has it's very strong elements, obviously, but it is not nearly as good as that 2008 team.

My one, strong, "What coulda' been" thought, from this era, was if Stubbleface had gone full A-hole in the summer of 2008, and, precluded a trade, by forcing his release from the Packers, so he could travel a few hundred miles to the west. That team, which was much better on the line than the 2009 version, with really good qb play, would have destroyed the opposition with great frequency.

125 Re: the old familiar sting

I hadn't had that particular fantasy, but it certainly is something fun to sit and consider. With a younger Pat Williams and with Matt Birk still on the team, that would've been a pretty fierce combo of line play and QB leadership. I do often comment that I think if Birk had stayed in Minnesota one more year he'd have gotten a ring, but of course we will never know.

It makes me sad to think that Green Bay may have prevented Minnesota from getting its first SB victory by putting the NFC-North clause into the paperwork of the trade with the New York Jets. Freaking Jets. I hate them and Rex Ryan, but they don't even make the top HALF of the league for my most hated teams.

List of teams I hate, in order of fiery passion:

16 St Louis (playoff loss in 2000, although I like Warner - maybe the Jets get #16)
15 Indianapolis (Manning then Luck? That's not fair)
14 Philadelphia (playoff loss in 2008, McNabb, many playoff losses)
13 Carolina (injured Culpepper)
12 Arizona (Josh McCown to Nate Poole)
11 Kansas City (SB loss - bonus points for trading Jared Allen to MN)
10 Miami (SB loss)
09 Oakland (SB loss - Moss trade)
08 Pittsburgh (SB loss, stole Tomlin, SIX? quit hogging the Lombardi you a-holes)
07 Dallas (pushoff, Herschel Walker)
06 Washington (injured Adrian Peterson, NFCCG in 88, many playoff losses)
05 Chicago (many reasons - division rival, can't stand Cutler)
04 New York Giants (41-0, I don't care for Eli)
03 Atlanta (98/99 - then embarassed themselves against Denver)
02 New Orleans (bountygate, cried about Katrina a few years too many)
01 Green Bay (I won't be happy 'till there's blood up to the horses' bridles)

Bonus: Dimitrius Underwood, Fred Smoot, Troy Williamson. Tarvaris. Grr.

129 Re: the old familiar sting

Eh, I really have contempt for Jerry Jones, and some obvious miscreant players, but I don't really hate any franchises. Last year, some cheeseheads were really obnoxious with the belief that the 2011 version of their heart's favorite invented football, so I enjoyed it when the Giants smacked them up side the head, but there has not been much of that this year, so it wouldn't even bother me if they hoisted the trophy again. That could change, of course.

132 Re: the old familiar sting

My list is more about negative memories triggered at the site of the jerseys. I rather enjoyed Favre as a Packer and I like Brees, as examples, so "hate" maybe too strong a word.

That said, if the Vikings go 2-14 in any given year and I get to pick the teams against whom the victories come, I know who I'm going to pick every time.

Also, I wouldn't feel one ounce of sympathy if the Saints go 0-16 next year.

134 Re: the old familiar sting

Probably a silly question but- which game was harder to swallow? the 09 nfc champ game or the 1998 one? Dvoa seems to suggest 1998 vikes weren't all that great that year while 09 vikes were pretty mighty.

Still not sure how the hell the vikes blew that game, other than just ridiculously bad luck all around. Bad luck with dropped ints, bad luck with all the fumbles, especially on drives that would've led to direct scoring. Bad luck with idiotic timeouts by chilly. Bad luck with the flags to the end of the game in ot.

Sorry if I've ripped open old wounds. If it makes you feel better, as a colts fan, I've had my share of gut wrenching playoff losses.

136 Re: the old familiar sting

To me, the 09 game was harder to take than the 98 game. The Falcons really played the Vikings pretty evenly, missed short field goals and underthrown long passes to Randy Moss aside. In the 09 game, the Vikings travelled to the Superdome, and in front of tens of thousands of screaming Saints fans, administered a complete and total ass kicking, from a physical standpoint. To lose that game because of the myriad of reasons you list was really awful.

138 Re: the old familiar sting

I rewatched that game recently and it was even more one-sided than I remember. The two Saints TD drives in the 2nd half were 40 yards and 9 yards. I believe the Saints had 7 three-and-out's that game.

Also, maybe it is because I know of bountygate, but the hits Favre took really seemed far more injurious than I remembered.

153 Re: the old familiar sting

Vikes :: Saints
31 first downs :: 15
7/12 on 3rd down :: 3/12
310 pass yds :: 189
165 rush yds :: 068
5 penalties for 32 yds :: 9 for 88
36:49 :: 27:56

Minnesota dominated, but lost 3 fumbles and threw 2 INTs. New Orleans lost 1 fumble. They never touched the ball in OT. Even if everything else went the same, the new OT rules likely would've changed the outcome.

156 Re: the old familiar sting

Yes, that's how I was hearing your comment. I was just highlighting the numbers that support this hypothesis: if they play that game 10 times, Minnesota wins 8 of them. Would've been very easy for the Vikings to fall on one of those fumbles and/or for the Saints to have dropped one of the INTs.

191 Re: the old familiar sting

Hell, the Vikings dropped two, maybe three passes from Brees which were complete floating ducks, far easier to catch than anything Stubbleface threw. One of the persistent aggravating aspects of that game is how people harp on the ill advised pass at the end of regulation, while neglecting how thoroughly Brees was outplayed in that game.

152 Re: the old familiar sting

The 09 game was tougher.

The 98 team was high flying, but I'm not convinced Minnesota would've beaten Denver. I do think the SB would've been more exciting to watch though, with a closer final score.

Dennis Green taking a knee before halftime was upsetting. Gary Anderson missing was upsetting. But the team had a chance to be pretty good again the next year, and it was a well-played, fair game. Eventually I could take my hat off to the Falcons.

09 was worse because it felt like the window was closing (indeed it was), Minnesota blew their chance at homefield advantage, the Vikings dominated the game in every category but turnovers (and, of course, the score), the now-obsolete OT rules didn't do both teams justice after a game like that, New Orleans seemed unsportsman-ly malicious toward Favre, on and on. And I'm sorry to say this to a Colts fan, but I believe MN would've won that SB. And I don't think I'll ever truly feel that the Saints deserved to go to the SuperBowl that year.

There were so many little things in that NFCCG game where any one of them go differently and the result could've flipped. Any one of the turnovers, any one of the injuries, the 12th man, the coin flip... (sigh)

169 Re: the old familiar sting

Hard to say, but probably would've favored the vikes. Its really kind of amazing how that 09 team won so many games in the first place. The receivers were good enough(depending on your opinion of garcon and collie along with clark), but the rest of the team was pretty mediocre to horrible. Those o tackles were as horrible a pair as I can remember(how did charlie johnson work out at tackle for you as Min fans?) and the interior got zero push. I believe the colts were also the last ranked rush offense in football.

On defense - no one mentions this, but the freeney injury was huge. He was the most valuable non peyton player on the colts. Just a back breaking injury. Aside from bathea(who is really only decent or slightly above), mathis, and freeney, the rest of the colts defense was already pretty lousy. Two rookie corners, backup safety in bullet, just a mixed bag of suck at linebacker and d tackle. Ugh, sometimes I wonder how Polian managed to avoid blame for so long.

189 Re: the old familiar sting

(packer fan smiling at this entire discourse. warms my heart, particularly any mention of Brett's final pick in 2009)

You see, we hate the Bears. We utterly disprespect Schwartz and his punk excuse for a football team (Megatron excepted).

But the Vikings and their silly Dome and goofy horn? Sorry, can't get it up. We just smile and laugh... and then smile and laugh some more....

198 Re: the old familiar sting

I smile and laugh at people who think about poured concrete and fabric roofs in that manner. It's a poorly designed building, because when it was built on the cheap, private enterprises hadn't perfected the means of using cartels to extort tax revenues from the public trough. From the standpoint of ethical public policy, it is a better building than 90 percent of the stadiums used by NFL teams, and it will be better than the next Vikings stadium.

(sorry about the slight prime directive violation, but comments about stadiums prompts that response from me, given that stadium politics are the reason that I don't root for a particular team in the fashion I used to)

195 Re: the old familiar sting

Football is an entertaining sport and all, but it grows strangely pale and dim in comparison to the truly important things in life. I feel total peace and joy concerning the things that matter, and no fan of any team can say anything to change that. I truly hope you've found meaning beyond cheering for a group of strangers that happen to be more successful than the group of strangers for which I cheer.

222 Re: the old familiar sting

The Packers were nearly disbanded 30-odd years ago and exist only because they have a special dispensation from the NFL to operate under a different business model. Packer fans should be grateful they're still allowed an NFL team instead of looking down on eiveryone else. Perhaps if every other team were permitted public ownership, or if the Packers had to be run by a Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder type personality they wouldn't look so great.

223 Re: the old familiar sting

That stock sale was in 1950. The NFL was much different than it was today. No money from national television contracts. Several owners coached. It wasn't unusual for teams to fold. Players would quit the game because they made better money from their other job.

The NFL was trying to survive. It's not that they necessarily wanted to have a team in Green Bay. They just were trying to avoid a situation like the NY Yanks or original Baltimore Colts.

194 Re: the old familiar sting

I remember noticing the Freeny injury and the wilting of the defense happened to coincide, but I wasn't familiar enough with that team to know the level of causation there.

I thought Garcon and Collie were good (particularly Garcon), but it's becoming more and more clear that Manning was carrying that team to a further extent than I previously thought.

I do believe the 2-14 Colts were what they looked like last year (I disagree that they were tanking to draft Luck, in other words) and that this year's story, while very nice, will yield some regression next year. I see Indy returning to 6 or 7 wins in 2013 - and, I should add, Minnesota ought to be right in that mix also. 7 or 8 wins, perhaps.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Which is worse; a team which decides to forgo having a 2nd string qb who can perform the most basic function of the position, or a team which invests considerable value in drafting such a player, has that player play a big role in a regular season victory, and then leaves him on the bench, while the starter, who has been acquired via a huge financial and draft value commitment, has no burst, and has greatly diminished accuracy, due to an injured knee. I vote for the latter. Yes, folks, a player who is limping around while large people try to tackle him is at significanty greater risk of further injury, due to a diminished ability to protect himself.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend much as I harbor personal resentment towards teams who fail to acquire a competent backup (cough cough Caleb Hanie), I have to agree with you. I also think the need for a decent backup is more acceptable to ignore when your starter is arguably not NFL starter material in the first place. But the bottom line is that Griffin was not only at first for further injury, he was demonstrably less effective in yesterday's game. The presence of a decent backup QB who had already shown himself to be competent even as a rookie just makes me more sure that RGIII should have been taken out (though from a long-term standpoint, you could certainly argue that he should have been gone even if the Redskins had, say, Caleb Hanie as their next option).

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

And then there's the team that gets derided by the media for bringing in a FA for $10 million and turning around and handing the starting QB job to a 3rd round pick who's "too short to play in the NFL."

If Wilson goes down, will the Hawks miss a beat with Flynn to back them up?

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Yes. Flynn is a good backup, but there is a huge difference between their offense with Wilson or Flynn. Given a whole offseason to prepare for a switch to Flynn would make the difference smaller, but Wilson is a better QB without taking into account the ridiculous intangibles he brings.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The fact that the switch from Christian Ponder to Joe Webb didn't affect the point spread at all sums up what you need to know about Christian Ponder as a QB.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The line went up like a rocket.

Also, the total dropped like a rock.

Basically from the time Webb was rumoured to be the starter, GB went up by 3 points and the total dropped by 3. That's a huge move in the NFL that late, especially since the number passed the 10 point barrier.

5 Re the soon to be irrational Shanahan v Player Safety debate

The players job is to play, to want to play, to fight to play. No one can fault a player for doing so, even when it's clearly not appropriate.

The head coach's job is to first and foremost believe their lying eyes, then decide who plays what when. After the second score, the series where RG3 caught his leg in the inexcusible field, they should have replaced him with Cousins at somepoint soon after that.

Then really this is all Snyder's fall for running such a terrible, embarrassing operation. In no particular order, Roy Helu, Chris Clemons, Adrian Peterson, RG3. If the players file for workers comp, the state should come after Snyder, the players should go after him, the NFL should fine him, maybe take picks away from teams who can't acquire facilities suitable for the NFL, everyone and anyone should be hounding him into a cardboard box under the overpass. I don't advocate this out of a sense of simple human decency, but just in the economic interests of increasing market efficiency through player safety.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

It always amazes me how many people become medical experts when a player gets injured.

This sort of thing always feels like its outcome based, rather than process based. If RG3 stayed out there and managed a gametying drive (and remember, the Redskins were only down by 7 when he got hurt) we'd be talking about one of the great gutsy performances, not a crippling injury. And in terms of the process, how much more can the Redskins do? They have *the* knee specialist on their sidelines (althought whether they use him or not is a matter for conjecture) and Griffin was medically cleared to play.

If they think that a hobbling probable Rookie of the Year QB is a better option than their late round rookie QB against one of the best defences in the league, and he's medically fit to play, then he should play.

Also, somewhat randomly, whose to say that the final injury he suffered was even related to the first? Same knee, sure, but could it have happened even if he was 100% healthy? I mean, it seems likely that it was caused at least in part by his existing injury, but what if the snap had been low and the other way, and he'd hurt the other knee trying to recover it?

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

You don't need to be a medical expert to observe greatly diminished speed, and significantly diminished throwing accuracy, to reasonably conclude that the two are related. If you can't run, and can't put the ball where it needs to go, you don't belong on the field.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

But if they think he can still do that better than Kirk Cousins, surely they are entitled to think that keeping him out there gives them their best chance to win the game? I think they are reasonably allowed to conclude that if they want to, given that the "they" here is a combined brain trust of well paid and experienced football coaches.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

That's a fine description of group think divorced from observable evidence. That's also how space shuttles blow up, to pick a far more horrible outcome derived from the phenomena.

I saw the player. He couldn't run, and couldn't throw accurately. That's a guy who belongs on the bench, and I said so at the time. This isn't a case where I am declaring my judgement superior to a coach who has seen practices that I haven't. I saw exactly what Shanahan did. Shanahan was plainly in error.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The Seahawks saw it too and that should have been enough to open Shanahans eyes. Even on Audibles, they talk about how the linebackers were lined up too wide and Morris was ripping them apart. Why line up wide? To stop RGIII. After the game, Carroll acknowledges that once they saw that RGIII wasn't mobile, he told his guys to not worry about it and just shut down Morris. They adjusted their scheme and from that point on, the Skins offense vanished.

Carroll saw it and adjusted. Shanahan should have seen it and pulled Griffen.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RGIII has been successful based on his superhuman athletic ability. The injury made him mortal which meant he would need to play quarterback more like the regular merely exceptional athletes who play the position for most other teams. There is no evidence he can play the position with merely mortal skills.

Playing him beyond the point just before they went up 14-0 can't be justified. He couldn't perform the most basic tasks required of a competent NFL quarterback any longer. He looked like Joe Webb in the final 3 quarters.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

RG3 would be fine as a normal pocket passer, but thats not what the injury made him.

It turned him into somebody with Chad Pennington's arm strength, Tom Brady's scrambling ability, and Jamarcus Russel's accuracy. He couldn't scramble, he couldn't move in the pocket, he couldn't even plant to throw.

Those last 3 quarters, RG3 was MUCH worse than Webb was.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

It seemed pretty clear that RGIII was hurt and less effective way earlier than the play in which he was taken out of the game; I believe the Redskins were still up 14-0 at that point. (I'm thinking of the play where he ran the ball toward the left sideline and was visibly in pain and limping, although maybe that was later in the game...but it was definitely when the Redskins still had a lead).

Putting Cousins in with a lead has to give him a better chance of being effective than putting him in down 10 points in the 4th quarter.

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

There is also the responsibility Shanahan has to prevent his player from being more seriously injured. I'm not simply talking about the knee but all of the ways Griffin was more exposed to injury due to his lack of mobility. That, more than anywhere else, is where I think Shanahan failed.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I am not talking about you specifically, but the tone of the conversation generally, which has thousands and perhaps millions more participants than you. Last night at my hockey game people were talking about it in the locker room, on public radio this morning people were talking about it.

My point is a lot or even most of those people would have been signing a different tune if it had turned out differently. I admit you might not have.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Maybe it's not post facto reasoning, or transference. But I'm still yet to be convinced by the argument that RG3 deep in the grey area between hurt and injured is definitely worse than a healthy Kirk Cousins.

The issue isn't "was Griffin injured", it's "was Griffin injured to such an extent that he was no longer the Redskins best QB", and I'm not convinced that was the case for much of the game.

All this being said, this is an NFL team that thought John Beck was a legitimate NFL starter, and that still employs Rex Grossman, so maybe their evaluation of QBs is as bad as mine!

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Your stats lack context. Cousins played one game against the Browns, one throw (I think) against the Ravens and an ugly quarter against the Falcons.

There's a world of difference between racking up yards against the Browns and playing the Seahawks.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"But I'm still yet to be convinced by the argument that RG3 deep in the grey area between hurt and injured is definitely worse than a healthy Kirk Cousins."

For one thing, RG3 wasn't in any grey area. He was limping around the field. He was injured.

Also, it was fairly obvious by halftime that the injury was hurting the Redskins' ability to move the ball. If not by halftime, then certainly by the end of the 3rd quarter. You don't have to be convinced that Cousins is better to recognize that an injured RGIII isn't good enough. He wasn't going to pull some miracle out of his butt that would justify leaving him in while he was injured.

The reason for bringing in Cousins isn't 'we know he's better'. It's 'we know RG3 is injured, and he's not helping the Redskins win.'

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Also, it was fairly obvious by halftime that the injury was hurting the Redskins' ability to move the ball. If not by halftime, then certainly by the end of the 3rd quarter. You don't have to be convinced that Cousins is better to recognize that an injured RGIII isn't good enough. He wasn't going to pull some miracle out of his butt that would justify leaving him in while he was injured.

Yet, the Redskins were still ahead at this point, and would remain in the lead for more than half the 4th quarter.

While they were being dominated, they were still ahead, and the defense was doing just enough to keep the Seahawks out of the end zone. In addition, the Washington coaches must have known Houshka was also hurt, hampering the Seahawks' scoring ability.

If the Redskins' center could have snapped the ball better (on more than one occasion), there might have been a completely different end to that script.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

The Redskins were still ahead because, after driving the entire length of the field, Marshawn Lynch fumbled the ball inside the 5-yard line. Meanwhile, the Redskins couldn't move the ball at all. You'd have to be delusional to think the Redskins could win the game based on the trajectory that was in place at the time. They'd already lost 13 points of their 14 point lead, had shown little ability to stop the Seahawks' offense, and couldn't move the ball at all themselves with RG3 under center.

Really. This didn't come down to a few bad snaps from the Redskins' center.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

" I guess my default position on this situation is to defer to the player's judgement. "

I don't think I've ever heard a player who isn't retirement age say "Coach, I don't want to play. I'm injured today"

You have to remember, this is the same group of people who lie about concussions to get back on the field.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

That was my thought as well. The player will always say he can play unless there's a bone sticking out of his leg. The coaches and doctors are supposed to be the ones who decide who plays.

In this case, it was both an injury issue and an effectiveness issue. I'm with Aaron's opinion, that whether or not Griffin was playing hurt, it was obvious that his being out there was hurting the team's chances of winning. He should have been pulled from the game well before the final play that left him laying on the field.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Think about the apoplectic reaction the media world had to Cutler when there were rumors about how he was healthy and you can see the incentives to never be percieved as a "quitter". Especially considering how much of a QB's earnings are earned from media endorsements.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

This was the first full Packers game I've seen in a while. A few comments:

1) Rodgers taking the checkdown was probably a coach's decision. Both Rodgers and Favre have been burned by the Tampa-2 type defenses when trying to go deep. I expect to see the same strategy against SF if Willis and Navarro play deep.

2) While I normally prefer teams to go for the TD when it's fourth and goal at the one or two, I think McCarthy's decision to kick the FG was the right one. If the Vikings keep the Packers out of the end zone, it would have given the Vikings a big emotional lift. It put Minnesota down two scores when they already had no confidence in their offense. Plus, it gave Crosby a gimme FG and Crosby needs all the confidence he can get.

3) While Woodson is not the C-Wood of three years ago, he seems to give the entire defense a lift when he plays. He also seemed a lot more energetic with the last two months off.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"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?"

I've always assumed that when it is that type of fumble (pile of players falling on the ball with no clear recovery) that the recovering team is whoever has the ball when the official can visually confirm possesion not who comes out of the pile with the ball at the end.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I love this:the backup quarterback syndrome: that the backup quarterback does not have the starting quarterback's flaws, so the team should start him

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

It's not even that. It's "the backup quarterback *may* not have the starting quarterback's flaws, so the team should start him".

It's similar to how late round rookies should always be played over uninspiring veterans because the rookie may be better (but almost certainly isn't)

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Lots of things told me all I needed to know about Simmon's football acumen before this. He lost a season-long football picks contest to his wife, who does not follow football. (May have been twice that that happened, I can't remember.) I beleive he also lost a similar season-long picks contest to a dog.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I'm not denying he's entertaining. I listen to his podcast all the time. He has a fun back and forth with Cousin Sal, and I love it when he has Schatz and Barnwell on. But he says some head-slappingly stupid things when it comes to player/team analysis.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

My thoughts on the Vikings/Packers and Seahawks/Redskins:

-Green Bay's Offense in the 2nd Half was Classic McCarthy. GB scores on 4 out of 5 possessions and then once up by a few TDs they go in to "clock killing run mode" which results in 3 and Out after 3 and Out.

-Thought it was lunacy of Washington to keep playing Griffin:

1. During all the Primetime Redskins games this year, Gruden and company always showed lots of examples how Griffin had Huge Windows to throw in to due to his run threat/read option. Now, with him injured and huge windows gone the chances were remote of him being able to drop back and move the ball against one of if not the best secondaries in the NFL.

2. You have a QB who has cost you your Next 2 1st Round picks to acquire, he is limping around the field and far less quick/elusive than normal against a team with very good pass rushers. (Add this to commeents by the most famous doctor in the country who had stated his concern about Griffin playing and this was before the injury during the 2nd Drive)

3. Even if injured Griffin pulls out the win, Wash's chances of winning it all are remote considering the quality of opposition they would have to play, all away from home

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Eh, it is really difficult to obtain any judgement of how the Packers played, given they were playing a team with a Sun Belt Conference quarterback. Regarding the Vikings, Fusco's production went over a cliff in the 2nd half of the seaspn, early in the year, against opponents like the Niners, he really showed promise. Given competent qb play and receivers who can get open, the o-line would be more than passable, obviously. That ain't a given, unfortunately.

They obviously need to draft a qb, whatever their evaluation of Ponder is, and it really has been a mistake that they have drafted qbs so infrequently over the past 6 years, and when they have drafted them, they have been reaching.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Will, I'm not rubbing it in here. The statement below pointed out just how bad the Vikings QB depth is (from PK's MMQB column, no less):

The backup quarterback for the Vikings Saturday night was McLeod John Baltazar Bethel-Thompson, who played 12 games in three seasons as a part-time player for the Sacramento (Calif.) State Hornets.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Clearly, the Vikings could've used a Sage Rosenfels or similar on the roster last Saturday. Some decent play calling and receiving talent couldn't have hurt, either. This team was doomed the moment Ponder went down, which is so strange and depressing to say that I think I may cry.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Frankly, that might be why they decided they couldn't have Webb run by design 20 times; if he gets nicked, they are reduced to playing with a high school qb.

Hopefully, their failure to draft qbs in adequate numbers has been a function of their disjointed lines of authority with regard to personnel since the Wilf's bought the team, prior to Spielman being naed GM. Unfortunately, Spielman's career track record of qb prospect evaluation is not a cause for optimism. Grabbing at straws, I'll note that nobody has a large enough sample size of qb picks to have any idea whether their performance is mostly a function of skill, or random chance. Here's hoping they win the Lotto.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

And Billy Martin was a better World Series hitter than Ted Williams. Do you understand how large a sample size is needed before you can say, with confidence "It's not chance"? Here's a hint; hardly anybody had made enough draft picks in total, to say nothing of qb draft picks, to know that their results are not mostly due to chance. Lemme know when somebody has made 5000, or even 500, qb draft picks.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Just because we're at a stats site doesn't mean everyone understands the concepts of signficant or even directional findings.

The biggest difference between the lotto and drafting QBs is that a team increases its odds of getting a franchise player (in a meaningful way) by buying more tickets (or drafting more QBs). Any mathematician worth his weight in rice will laugh at the notion of buying multiple lottery tickets as opposed to one, but drafting a value QB each year isn't a terrible idea.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Well, I am a mathematician, actually, and there's no doubt that buying more lottery tickets increases your odds of winning. If your goal is to win the lottery, then you should spend every spare dollar on lottery tickets in order to increase your chance of winning. Your chance will never get very good unless you have a LOT of money to spend on lottery tickets, and in that case you won't make much (if anything... you might even win the lottery yet lose money). Of course, winning the lottery is a terrible goal. If making lots of money is the goal, then the lottery is a poor way to get there.

Getting a franchise QB is nearly necessary to having a top notch football team, and about the only way you can do that is to draft one (cause, you know, not many teams trade away or fail to re-sign franchise QBs). So if you want a really good football team, you HAVE to spend draft picks on QBs. Every year? Probably wouldn't if I already had an elite guy. If I don't have an elite guy, then I'm taking a shot every year. Never know when you'll get a Russell Wilson in the 6th round. They don't always pan out, but you don't want to be in Minnesota's situation, and I think that is always avoidable (maybe can't avoid Ponder, but can certainly avoid Webb).

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

You're a mathematician? I'm a statistician. You probably have more formal education than I do, but I believe we only disagree semantically here.

I wasn't saying buying more lotto tickets doesn't increase one's odds, but that it does not increase one's odds in a meaningful way. (perhaps I should've explicitly stated that I was talking about a relatively small quantity of tickets - buying 1 ticket or 20 tickets both give you virtually the same chance of winning, which can accurately be described to an acceptable level of precision as "non-zero") I'm confident we agree that spending $20 vs $1 is a poor trade off to increase from 1/175mil odds (0.000000%) to 20/175mil odds (0.000000%).

Back to football - I liked Wilson quite a bit in the draft and snagged him as my last round flier in a couple fantasy leagues, but I also liked Kellen Clemens coming out of college, so what do I know? If the Vikings had drafted both, though, they'd be better off than they are right now. This brings us back to the lotto tickets - there's a good ROI on drafting a relatively high quantity of QBs.

Outside of the draft, I often wonder if Minnesota should grab a young-ish FA that has shown promise but isn't currently a starter anywhere. If I could have my choice, they'd obtain Matt Moore this offseason. Would he be a Wilson or a Clemens? Who knows - but they've got to get someone else behind Ponder.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Mostly, I was being silly about the lottery tickets, and agreeing with your point in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.

As to QBs, you probably can't do anything to make sure you get a HOFer on your roster. But I think you can always avoid guys like Webb. It's probably possible to get guys like Kyle Orton all the time (whether through draft or trade or FA), and I think you could almost always have a guy as good as, say, Joe Flacco if you make it a priority (and do some reasonable scouting).

I think the Redskins are a good example. They mortgaged the farm to get RGIII, and it paid off. They also hedged with Cousins, and if they had Webb instead, they would not have made the playoffs.

Seattle is another good example. They went and got Flynn, then drafted Wilson as well. Which ever one becomes starter, you gotta figure the other guy won't get you killed. Just seems like the smart thing to do. Even if Wilson had ended up being mediocre, they could have started Flynn and given Wilson a few years to see how things played out.

225 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

If you mean drafting a guy like that then I agree. Seems there's almost always a guy like that not starting somewhere (like now, e.g., when Orton isn't starting), which makes it likely you could trade for him. I think with a combination of drafting QBs frequently, trading for whoever is decent and available, and grabbing the occasional FA, it can be done. Maybe I overstated my case a bit though.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"(cause, you know, not many teams trade away or fail to re-sign franchise QBs)"

Other than, you know, Peyton Manning.

BTW, this isn't to say the Vikings, or any other team should wait for future HOFers to go on the open market, but again to reiterate PEYTON F. MANNING was a free-agent last year. I still cannot believe this actually happened.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Yeah, but none of those were sure things when they were traded or cut, which is I think what his point was, that you can't get an already established player. Warner and Brees had success, but Brees came with as serious injury concerns as Manning, and Warner was awful in his time in STL in 2002 and 2003, and wasn't much better in 2004 with the Giants.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Kurt Warner had experienced a big drop off in production, before he was traded, then traded, and then rose again. Brees had a nice short career before major injury, but nothing spectacular. Favre's first trade was when he was an unknown, his second came after his replacement had been with the Packers a couple years, so the Packers were very familiar with his replacement. Steve Young was a great athlete and mediocre qb before Walsh coached him up. Gannon wasn't anything special befire he was well into his 30s. Peyton Manning, although coming off injury, had never had a bad season, and his replacemnet had never been under contract with an NFL team. Denver's two previous starting qbs were Orton and Tebow.

I'm not saying the Colts did not do the right thing, and I said so at the time. I'm saying Elway's decision was about as difficult as ordering breakfast, and it was a really weird circumstance which made him a free agent.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Peyton Manning was a 36 year old QB with a possibly crippling neck injury. He'd just missed an entire season due to that neck injury, and been told by his doctors that playing wasn't a good idea.

Yes, he's a fantastic quarterback, but he was risky as hell to sign.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Of course, Manning is the obvious exception. But it took a number of weird circumstances for it to happen; it's not like Indianapolis just arbitrarily decided to move in another direction. The nature of his injury made it questionable that he would be able to perform at a high level again, and the Colts were so bad without him that they had a chance to draft a guy who stands a good chance of being their next franchise quarterback. If the Colts had gone 9-7 last year with a better overall team, or if Manning's injury had seemed less risky, it might have been a different story.

I'm not sure he's a franchise QB, but Jay Cutler is another example of at least a decent QB who surprisingly got traded away.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Well, I did say "not many." Denver hit the jackpot, no doubt. But it isn't something you can count on. I'd say the rest of the ones mentioned (Brees, Warner, Favre) are examples of guys who may or may not pan out, but they're worth taking a chance on. You should probably always have a couple of those guys unless you have a HOF QB on roster.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

BJ Raji had a poor first series and then proceeded to blow up the Vikes line the rest of the game. After missing about a dozen tackles last week the secondary missed maybe one Saturday and were far more aggressive on breaking on the ball. Granted, they didn't have to think too hard out there given the qb situation.

TJ Lang was dreadful against the Vikings and right now one might point to him as the weak link on the Packers offensive line. Barclay at right tackle continues to require less and less help while Newhouse battled Allen to a draw. Sitton is awesome and the center Dietrich-Smith is a mauler in run blocking who does ok in pass sets.

Lang was getting beaten on almost every running play and whiffed on multiple pass blocks only to be saved by his center or a running back.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I need to watch the coaches film for the last few games (thank you NFL Rewind) to see if it was more than flashes, but Finley looks like he learned to block at some point. He isn't just catching passes again, it looks like he is playing like a TE. I know the chip where he blew up defender got a few replays, but I seem to recall him staying in and blocking and doing well.

I've had mixed feelings on that guy for years, but I was always OK with letting him take his distractions elsewhere, even when his pass catching talent was working without a hitch, because the team had other options for that and he would ole block so frequently that he didn't really offer anything that would surprise a defense. But if he has actually learned to block, you might have a middle class Gronkowski. Someone who you have to account for as a blocker or a receiving threat when lined up on the end. As opposed to, oh yeah, Finley is there, he might chip you a bit but you really just need to beat the tackle to get Rodgers, he's just a big body that we have to worry about in the pass coverage.

I'm wondering if Barclay looking better each week is also a bit of, hey Finley is actually playing like a real TE, not a really big WR lined up tight.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Yeah I mentioned that. But that isn't really the important bit beyond showing that he actually put some effort into that chip. It was a great moment, don't get me wrong, but anyone that big could do that to another big dude if they are a bit off balance. What I'm thinking has happened is that Finley has gotten consistent in actually blocking, and is finally putting effort into blocking. The great chip, did show effort, but I seem to recall seeing him consistently making his chips count, and the few times he stayed in the whole play maintain effort. It's been a big knock on him his whole career. Lack of consistency in, well frankly every aspect.

It's fairly straight forward to cover the weakness of a single offensive lineman. As you pointed out, the Packers have more than one weakness to cover. Newhouse needs help at times, Lang was playing serviceably until he was moved to tackle when Bulaga went down. He was very bad at tackle and he hasn't seemed to recover to the serviceable level since moving back inside. Barclay is an undrafted rookie, and plays like one at times, even with improvement he needs help.

So getting Finley to be consistent as a blocker would be huge, but Rodgers is still getting sacked at least 3 times a game without more improvement at other spots. Of course he could save 1 or 2 of those if he would throw the ball away. At times it feels like 08-09 again in that regard. I suppose I just need to accept that he is going to eat a sack instead of risk a throw, or throw-away, it's not really going to change much, there might be a few more years like the 10-11 years in that regard, but it's his nature.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Rodgers was under pressure almost every pass play. Not all Newhouse fault, but that is why he continued to dump off so much.

I have severe concerns about the packers defense because there were clearly receivers (if you can call the Vikings players that) open behind the safety multiple times in the game. Fortunately Webb was not good enough to complete the passes or even make them close. If Ponder had completed 2 of the 5 times I saw players open deep...the game would have been quite different. Not sure if the packers can survive a game at SF with that same execution because what I have seen from Kapernick is that he CAN make those throws.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I don't know if I can condemn Shanahan for this one.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but RG3 was obviously gimpy before the coin toss. Once you let him start, I don't see how you can bench him until he's on the turf* and can't get up.
The die was cast days ago. Once Shanahan made the decision to let him start the game instead of Cousins, he had to let him play it out. Plenty of games have been won by quarterbacks with bad knees.

(*painted mud)

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Is there a scoreboard / team summary page for the Playoff Challenge somewhere? I can't remember whom I drafted! But I feel confident I did very well.

33 Webb's future in the league?

It will be interesting to see if Webb ends up with a different team next season or not, and at what position if he makes it. He's not a QB and apparently he's got awful hands and can't play WR. I mean, if Minnesota won't let him play WR, why would anyone else?

It's too bad - a tall fast athlete like him ought to be able to do SOMEthing good in this league, but darned if I know what that could be.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

It is a great overstatement to say Shanahan "had" to let him play it out. RG3's passing accuracy significantly decreased as his knee grew worse, and his running ability greatly decreased. Shanahan gets paid a lot of money to make hard decsions. He does not have to leave a qb out there who can't throw the ball where it needs to go, and has lost his burst.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I don't quite get the hate for FG's attempted on 4th and goal, esp. the one taken shortly before the end of the 1st half in the Texans game.

Look, if you're down by 1 point and you can score a FG on 4th down, you should. It's very important to understand the difference between the scoreboard and the expected value of the ball position. It doesn't really matter if going for a TD will result in an expected value of 4.5 points (or whatever the number is) over a long period of time. The expected value only matters if you are going to repeat the given sampling process many times.

In this particular game, the play was being dominated by the defenses. The difference between a 1-point deficit and a 2-point lead is much larger than it would be in a high scoring game. And with the amount of time on the clock, it was very unlikely that a turnover on downs would have led to the Texans getting another shot at the end zone.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I agree. I'd always hold off criticising a coach for taking a virtually guaranteed 3 points, especially early on in what is likely to be a low-scoring game. As you note, points on the scoreboard count for more than expected value of field position. Punting the ball away on 4th down around midfield is a different matter.

What I will say is that it will be interesting to witness whether Gary Kubiak's 4th down strategy changes next weekend when they are facing the Patriots' offence rather than the Bengals'.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I was also mystified about the critique of the FG at the end of the first half. It's 4th and 3 from the 4-yard line, what is the actual point expectancy if you go for it? You certainly cannot look at all 4th and 3's. This is the 4-yard line. It's more like a 4th and goal from the 3. For the point expectancy to be 3 points, there has to be at least a 3/7 chance of making it(43%). Since 2-point conversions are slightly less than 50% from the 2-yard line, I think it would be a close call on whether 4th and 3 from the 4 is greater than 43%.

That, plus the FG has a good chance of giving you the halftime lead. Plus it's a sure thing. Take the 3 points.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I was also mystified about the critique of the FG at the end of the first half. It's 4th and 3 from the 4-yard line, what is the actual point expectancy if you go for it? You certainly cannot look at all 4th and 3's. This is the 4-yard line. It's more like a 4th and goal from the 3. For the point expectancy to be 3 points, there has to be at least a 3/7 chance of making it(43%). Since 2-point conversions are slightly less than 50% from the 2-yard line, I think it would be a close call on whether 4th and 3 from the 4 is greater than 43%.

That, plus the FG has a good chance of giving you the halftime lead. Plus it's a sure thing. Take the 3 points.

211 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

In spite of the statistics this is one (and maybe the only) area where I tend to agree with John Madden (the announcer, not the coach...the coach was a genius, the announcer was mostly incoherent). When you have a chance to get points, take them. I've seen many evidences of a team in a tough situation late in the game because they went for the touchdown or the 2-point conversion instead of taking the sure points.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

wow - never thought I'd see a QB make Christian Ponder look really good.

It's a shame that he got injured - it would have been nice to see if he could play up to the level he did the previous two weeks.

Wonder if they will make Webb a WR again? He sure can run and he's almost small TE size.

All in all I was very happy with the season as a Viking fan. Best draft in years. I was about 99.9% certain Ponder couldn't play. Watching the last two games of the season and another QB trying to run a pass offence with this bunch...I'm now only about 75% that he can't play.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

Did anyone see Griffin during the Dallas game last week? Seemed like his knee was nearly the same... difference being that he didn't have to throw. At that point you would have to ask "Why not go with Cousins?" last week as well... but I suppose it's better than the lame Jay Cutler comparisons we'd be having if he was standing on the sidelines during the 2nd half... ("lame" because I thought Cutler was unfairly maligned).

Everyone saying he should've been taken out... the only difference between last week and this week was the result...

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

"Mike Shanahan, what are you doing? You mortgaged the future of your franchise to get this player. And now he's been injured"

Mike Shanahan isn't responsible for clearing players to play. He is coach not the team doctor, and if the teams structure does not grant the team doctor enough authority to overrule the coach that is ownerships problem not the coaches.

"because your offensive scheme seems almost designed to break him into two (and keep in mind RG3 is not Cam Newton-sized)"

Most of the value of Griffin is the result of the very offense you are complaining about.

"forced out of multiple games as a rookie"

What does that have to do with anything?

"on your team's terrible field"

Also not Shanahan's fault.

"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."

Another way to look at it is that RG3 realistically has a really limited shelf life anyway, so benching him this year so he can be fully healthy when he gets injured in week 3 of next year is kind of silly. A player like him is going to have to play hurt or not play much at all.

On top of that the NFL owners/fans have made pretty clear what their incentives are to coaches/GMs. You will win and you will win now. You don't get a few years to enact some long term plan, you need to succeed immediately. And if you succeed than MAYBE you will be cut some slack if you make decisions that aren't focused on the next 3 or 4 weeks. But maybe not. Asking Shanahan to coach with a 5 year time horizon in mind when he is evaluated on a month to month time horizon is a fools errand.

I think people are way overreacting to what is an extremely common occurrence in the NFL (players playing when they medically should not).

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

How about faulting Shanahan for leaving a guy on the field after he has demonstrated that he cannot physically perform the tasks, as well as the next guy on the depth chart, needed to optimize the chance of winning? By the 2nd half, RG3 had lost his burst, and could no longer throw as accurately as Cousins, due to injury. He should not have been playing.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I got angry with Shanahan when he decided to mention his conversation with RG3, as if the player's desire to play has anything to to wih the evaluation process. The coach should just say he has the responsibiity for that decision, that he made the decision he thought was best, and leave any conversation with the player out of it.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Wild Card Weekend

I agree with that. Shanahan shouldn't hide behind "he said he was ok to play, and the doctors said he was ok to play", because neither of those are expected to evaluate the quality to which he can play. Shanahan is.

But just because he didn't say he thought about how well RG3 might be able to play injured compared to Cousins healthy doesn't mean he didn't think it. Doesn't mean he did, either, I guess.