Audibles at the Line: Week 11
compiled by Andrew Potter
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 turn 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 Steelers 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.
Minnesota Vikings 13 at Chicago Bears 21
Cian Fahey: The Vikings' play calling on offense has been maybe the most conservative I've seen this season. Although, Matt Kalil's play may justify it as he continually looks to be getting beaten by Jared Allen. Kalil's drop-off for the Vikings has been one of the biggest surprises of the season for me.
Matt Kalil needs to be benched. Allen is destroying him without being asked to do too much. Kalil looks slow, weak, and unbalanced. You'd never guess he was a high draft pick a few years back.
Mike Kurtz: Minnesota's conservative play calling is one thing, but apparently Teddy Bridgewater has been coached to never stop going backwards. Every single passing play is a 10- to 15-step drop, usually followed by a dumpoff to a tailback who is already 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. There is nothing about the Vikings' offensive performance from planning to execution that makes any sense. I believe Bridgewater has had two completions to wide receivers and a whopping 40 yards of passing offense. It's just fundamentally broken.
Sorry, Bridgewater had one (1) completion to a wide receiver in the first half.
To add to the comedy, the game clock at Soldier Field is borked. The side judge is keeping the game clock on the field. It is basically impossible to keep an accurate game clock on the field. Good times.
Cian Fahey: Designed quarterback sweep at the goal line with Jay Cutler on fourth down. Part of me thinks Marc Trestman is trying to be fired. Another part of me hopes he's trying to be because otherwise he's just plain dumb.
Mike Kurtz: From the 4-yard line, Bridgewater drops back to the back of the end zone, panics, and throws the ball out of bounds like 10 yards in front of Cordarrelle Patterson. Officials really stretched the definition of "in the area."
Houston Texans 23 at Cleveland Browns 7
Vince Verhei: Every once in a while -- not all the time, and not even often, but sometimes -- I'll look up at this and see J.J. Watt going one-on-one with Joe Thomas. Just that the Browns would trust Thomas in a scheme like that says a lot about him, and he looks like he's holding his own. Watt's moving all over, so it's not an every-down thing, but it is the kind of thing I'd like to go back and watch more of later.
Atlanta Falcons 19 at Carolina Panthers 17
Rob Weintraub: Panthers go super conservative at the edge of field goal range, with plenty of time left, and of course Graham Gano misses by a hairbreadth.
Calling it now -- Falcons go 6-0 in the division, finish 6-10.
Andrew Healy: This decision was even worse because of the time left. Even if Gano hits the kick, the Falcons would have had about 1:30 to win it with a field goal, anyway.
Aaron Schatz: Sigh, the research article I've always meant to do and haven't had the time yet: showing just how tiny the chances of a turnover are in those situations, and why teams need to be more aggressive in long field goal range.
Rob Weintraub: Thanks to a pair of hook-and-ladders, the Panthers actually got into position for a 63-yarder at the gun. Of course, it was blocked. Falcons win, lead division at 4-6.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 at New Orleans Saints 10
Rob Weintraub: Jermaine Gresham catches a pass near the goal line, and predictably, in fighting for the stripe, he fumbles. But he manages to fall on it for the touchdown. The announcers go on and on about how Gresham kicked the ball to himself to make the play, which is ridiculous -- he couldn't possibly have seen the ball. He got lucky. Good opening drive for Cincy and Andy Dalton after the debacle last week. 7-3 after one quarter.
Scott Kacsmar: Trent Green is all about that "Take the Points" life. Said it at least twice this quarter. I think he was right in this case with the Bengals, but I liked the Saints going for it. Just didn't like the call of a flat pass short of the sticks to Erik Lorig.
Rob Weintraub: I liked that call a lot...
Bengals up 10-3 with seconds left, run the give-up handoff, and Jeremy Hill busts it for 62 yards, cutting back into the middle of the field in what could have been disaster. But Cincy got the timeout with 1 tick left, and kicked the field goal to go up 13-3 at the half. Easy to get on both Hill and the Saints defense (Trent Green wondered why they "didn't hold him up for another second") but we're not the ones running fill tilt. The players can't see the clock, let's remember. It was similar to the accusation of Gresham kicking the ball to himself -- announcers and fans tend to ascribe way too much awareness from their catbird seats.
Also one injury note -- Zach Streif out with a concussion.
Bengals roll down a short field to take a 20-3 lead on a pass to Gresham again. Now two touchdowns today for the man the locals call the "Villain" after zero in the first nine games. After he scores Gresham goes to toss the ball to a pretty lady in a Bengals jersey, but a Saints fan yanks it away with an elbow to her grille on top of it. Classy.
Saints cut the score to 20-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cincy, on its first play of the drive, gets set behind the chains when A.J. Green is called for OPI, wiping out a 13-yard gain. But on third-and-19, with the Dome howling for the first time all day, Dalton lays in a perfect ball to a streaking Green for 40 yards. He then hits him for 15 on third-and-1, and then for a touchdown pass on another gorgeous ball into the corner. Having a healthy Green makes something of a difference -- this is the closest he's been to that since the opener.
Developments on the "Terrible Fan" front -- in the best effort from a sideline reporter in years, the Saints fan who took the ball from the Bengals fan was interviewed, and said he had "no plans" to return it. Nice. But it appears the Saints responded well (on this lone front, given the fact they were blown out 27-10) and got the lovely lady a replacement ball.
Sideline reporter was Evan Washburn, by the way. Credit where credit is due.
Dalton's passer rating was 143.9. So that's a jump of 141.9 from his last effort, which if it isn't a record has to be darn close.
I'm not in the least surprised. Thursday last was an anomaly, even by Dalton prime time standards. Whole team appeared to realize they were actually scheduled to play at about 4:30 that afternoon.
Denver Broncos 7 at St. Louis Rams 22
Cian Fahey: The Broncos will probably win this game by 500 points or something close to that before it concludes, but these recurring slow starts can't be encouraging for the franchise as a whole.
A massive stand before the end of the first half by the Broncos defense. Giving up a touchdown already down 10-0 is huge compared to giving up a field goal with Peyton Manning on the other side. 13 points against this Broncos offense can disappear in a hurry.
Scott Kacsmar: Shaun Hill just completed a pass to himself, but Kenny Britt has been the man today with four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. This is like a 2009 flashback. I was anxious to see Hill this year and he didn't make it to the third quarter in Week 1. He has always played pretty well when given a shot and the Rams are surprisingly up 13-0. With Julius Thomas out, Denver's just not the same when Jacob Tamme is playing almost every snap. There's also not any faith in the running game right now. Without a score before the half, this next drive is crucial.
Aaron Schatz: Do the Rams lead the league in obscenely blown coverages this year? Egads. Remember when they let Brandon Lloyd go 80 yards in the last minute of the first half? They just somehow left Emmanuel Sanders with nobody within 10 yards of him for a 40-plus-yard touchdown on third-and-10. The Rams defensive backs were arguing with each other after. Guys, try figuring out coverages in practice, not during the game, OK?
Scott Kacsmar: Can't forget the Dez Bryant touchdown the Rams gave up too. Always someone in their secondary arguing with a teammate on these plays. Pretty bad it's still happening in Week 11.
"Fox-ball" is a real thing, and it's dangerous. Fox could have used his timeouts on second-and-10 and third-and-4 to get the ball back with a minute left in the first half. He waits to call timeout with 23 seconds left and Denver takes a knee after the punt. It's as if he still thinks he has Jimmy Clausen at quarterback sometimes.
Vince Verhei: Rams appear to be using a heavy dose of the Seahawks' Super Bowl defense, inviting short completions over the middle, begging for them, then popping the receivers when the throws arrive. And it's obviously working: Broncos dropped four passes in the first half. And then, they're the Rams, so the Sanders catch happened.
It also seems like the Rams are throwing more deep passes with Shaun Hill than they ever did with Austin Davis or Sam Bradford, though that might say more about Kenny Britt than it does about Hill.
Aaron Schatz: Start of the fourth quarter in St. Louis, and the Broncos have lost Emmanuel Sanders to a concussion, Julius Thomas to an ankle injury, and Montee Ball to the groin injury that he was just coming back from in the first place.
And it turns out that Peyton Manning's communication with C.J. Anderson and Andre Caldwell is not going to be the same as his communication with Ronnie Hillman and Emmanuel Sanders. Broncos blow some sort of option route thing on third-and-4. They go for it on fourth-and-4, down 19-7, at the St. Louis 28. Rams send five and Orlando Franklin and Will Montgomery fail to properly trade off a stunt. Sack, Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald. Turnover on downs.
I think that Denver's road struggles this year are a prime example of "splits happen," but golly, this split sure is happening, ain't it?
Tom Gower: It's not just the injuries to Denver's pass-catchers, but it seems like the injuries to the offensive line have gone a little under the radar. That was bad news against the Rams defensive front, notably when Robert Quinn came unblocked on a loop rush past center Will Montgomery (playing due to injury). Field position was also a major issue, as they didn't start a single possession beyond their own 25-yard line.
Seattle Seahawks 20 at Kansas City Chiefs 24
Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs offensive line that got crushed by Buffalo a week ago is easily pushing around the Mebane-less Seahawks. It helps that they have almost entirely given up on pass blocking. It seems like their offense is all runs and screens. Between Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch, there is a lot of tackle breaking going on today.
Vince Verhei: Chiefs lead at halftime 14-13, but their offense has been a lot more dominant than that. They only had three drives in the first half: two 80-yard touchdown drives, and a "three-and-out" where they appeared to have a first down, but replay showed that Travis Kelce fumbled and the Seahawks recovered. Chiefs wideouts have just one target and no caches, but Alex Smith has been able to throw to his backs and tight ends because Seattle's pass rush hasn't been much to get excited about. I really miss the 2013 defense. Remember, everyone, defense is less consistent than offense.
Mind you, Seattle is moving the ball very well too, until they get to the red zone, anyway. It's not as dominant as last week, but they already have 118 yards on the ground, including 41 by Russell Wilson on four carries. At one point they called eight running plays in a row, which you rarely see these days. Together, the two teams have more first downs rushing (17) than passing (eight). Quite a nice little throwback game as we get close to Thanksgiving.
Tom Gower: The first half was a fascinating example of "just how effective can offenses be without having a wide receiver-based passing game?" With explosive players at other positions and running backs who get a lot of yards on their own (or in the case of Seattle a quarterback who does so much with his legs), the answer is "really, really effective." Vince noted Kansas City's offensive success, and Seattle has been inside the 10 on their three possessions after starting the game three-and-out. I can't decide if, aesthetically, this is great or awful.
Vince Verhei: As a football fan, I think it's wonderful. As a Seahawks fan, it's pretty frustrating. It also occurs to me that the Chiefs' offense, in a lot of ways, is the offense the Seahawks want to run, but can't. They're using DeAnthony Thomas the way Darrell Bevell wanted to use Percy Harvin, and their wide receiver screens actually work, unlike Seattle's, which are usually drive-killers.
Seahawks recover a Jamaal Charles fumble to set up a go-ahead touchdown to ex-Chief Tony Moeaki, but the Chiefs drive down the field again and take the lead back on a Charles touchdown. It's 24-20 in the fourth and the Chiefs still haven't punted.
Earl Thomas has had a hot and cold day. He has run down DeAnthony Thomas in space a few times, which is no mean feat, but he has also missed a handful of tackles.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not a big fan of Seattle's decision to throw a corner fade to Doug Baldwin on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but I think Sean Smith totally got away with DPI bumping Baldwin in the back right after the pass was thrown. Unless the ref decided not to throw the ball because the pass was uncatchable -- it wasn't the best throw by Wilson.
Vince Verhei: OK, now I'm pissed. After the failed fourth-and-goal play, Seahawks force their first punt. They then have a fourth-and-1 in Kansas City territory. Now, I'm not sure Seattle has thrown a deep pass all game, so Kansas City crowds everyone up on the line, effectively running an 8-0-3 formation. There are corners covering the receivers, but there are no real safeties or linebackers, just everyone pressed up to the line. Also, Max Unger is out again. So what do they call? Read option? Bootleg keeper? Quick slant? Nope. Straight handoff to Lynch up the gut. Nobody is fooled, nobody is beaten, the play loses yardage. That play probably fails 99 times out of 100. That's a much worse call than the goal-line fade route.
Hawks force a three-and-out, so they're getting the ball back with nearly three minutes left and things are definitely not over. But my God have they been outcoached today.
Seahawks got one first down on the final drive thanks to a couple of good plays by Wilson, but the way Kansas City's pass rush was eating Seattle's linemen alive there at the end, that drive never had a chance. They were all over the quarterback every play at the end there.
I'm trying to mitigate the damage here in my mind. Seattle still plays two games each against Arizona and San Francisco, and if they take care of business there they'll still take the division. And if they don't take care of business there, well, that will be the reason they miss the playoffs, not so much this non-conference loss.
Still, though... GRRRRRR.
Oakland Raiders 6 at San Diego Chargers 13
Scott Kacsmar: Watching some of the passes Derek Carr has forced the last few weeks, you wonder if his brother had a better idea in just taking a lot of sacks. Last week he had the play where he threw to his lineman, who fumbled. Today he floated one to the running back, who wasn't even looking, and Dwight Freeney almost made a spectacular play on the ball. The Raiders are barely hanging on here in San Diego, but I'm not seeing much progression here. Unfortunately, the Chargers are worried about their quarterback now with Philip Rivers hobbling around after a low hit by Khalil Mack at his knees. It wasn't dirty or anything, but not what you want to see if you're a San Diego fan. We know Rivers has played on a torn ACL, but no quarterback can be effective in that situation.
Tom Gower: Holding on to a 13-6 lead at the two minute warning, San Diego has been moving the ball just well enough to not do anything with it. In its own way, it's just as inspiring as Kansas City and Seattle's offenses earlier today. Oakland has done very little on offense most of the game, nor have they come close to doing many things. They had three first downs until matching that on a single possession that began, as I recall, late in the third quarter. The run game finally showed some life when Latavius Murray got carries rather than Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Imagine that.
Khalil Mack is still really impressive, by the way.
Scott Kacsmar: Raiders should have had time for one more play, but the shadiness of NFL clock operators strikes again. That play was dead with a second or two left.
Detroit Lions 6 at Arizona Cardinals 14
Vince Verhei: Exactly halfway through the first quarter, the Cardinals had a first down in the red zone. Larry Fitzgerald lined up wide, came in motion towards the formation, and just drilled the edge defender with a crackback block to set the edge. It was almost primal how he eyeballed his target so intently, like a cat watching a bird before pouncing. That was better than some of his catches.
Andrew Healy: For Arizona's first-drive touchdown, Drew Stanton threw up a jump ball, perhaps thinking it was a free play with Detroit apparently offside. The penalty actually wasn't called and it might just have been a terrible pass. But with a good result. Michael Floyd comes back to almost fair-catch Stanton's punt-like pass.
On Arizona's next drive, Robert Hughes catches a pass on third-and-8 for 49 yards that was one easy third-down conversion. Hughes lined up wide left and just ran a slant. Completely uncovered with Detroit playing zone on that side of the field. After a nice throw on an out to Floyd off trips right, Arizona is quickly up 14-0 on the No. 1 defense.
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The Lions get a piece of good field goal luck! Matt Prater's 50-yard kick clanks in off the left upright. Their curse apparently gets lifted if it's not a 40- to 49-yard kick.
Tom Gower: Down 14-0, on fourth-and-2, I would have liked to see Jim Caldwell go for it there, but luck bails him out, or something.
Andrew Healy: Todd Bowles needs a head coaching job and a desirable one. Just love what Arizona is doing on defense. They blow up a wide receiver screen on the drive after the Stanton interception with great anticipation, forcing Matt Stafford to not even throw the pass.
Fourth-and-a-half-yard and Jim Caldwell kicks a field goal to cut the deficit to 14-6 with :30 left in the second quarter. He gets a smidgeon of credit back for at least trying to draw the Cardinals offsides before chickening out.
Andrew Healy: Great stop by Arizona on third-and-less-than-a-yard, brings up fourth down and the same distance from the Detroit 45-yard line at the end of the third quarter. Caldwell has to go for this one, right? And he punts. Man is that a brutal decision.
Arizona gets it back up 14-6 and is past the spot of the punt within two minutes. Now they have their own fourth-down decision. They punt on fourth-and-5 from the Lions 36-yard line. Don't like that either, but not as bad with their fourth-quarter defense and the lead. Then a very interesting play. The Cardinals bat the punt back into play from the goal line and then a great decision by Jeremy Ross to pick up the loose ball at the 5-yard line with no potential downside. He takes it back past midfield.
Aaron Schatz: Uh, never mind. That play got reversed. Mike Pereira seems to be quite annoyed at the officials' interpretation of the rule, and it just cost the Lions 49 yards of field position.
Vince Verhei: I've been watching football pretty religiously since the Reagan administration, and I don't remember seeing a return like that. I know the Seahawks tried it a few years ago and I lost my mind, thinking they had fumbled the ball away, but there's a weird rule there where once the kicking team touches the ball, the fumbles by the receiving team don't count.
Speaking of not counting, now that whole mess is wiped out by the loosest definition of possession ever and the Lions start at the 1-yard line.
Andrew Healy: Oh, wow, and it's overturned as possession at the 1-yard line before he threw it back. Huge play. And probably a bad call by Jerome Boger. I agree with Pereira, although I won't claim to be sure. He certainly seemed to be intending to throw that back the whole time. Have to check the wording of the rule.
Then on third-and-7 from their own 4-yard line, Joique Bell goes airborne, hurdling the safety. Then another third-down conversion off a corner blitz. Like the play calls on each of those plays. Really good one there with the throw in the flat to the vacated area.
Arizona threatens the blitz on fourth-and-2 from the Arizona 47-yard line (a particularly believable threat for them) and then drops off. Stafford goes for the quick out to Johnson and there's really no room for it. Arizona ball up 14-6 under 7:00 left.
Cian Fahey: If anyone can explain the 2014 Arizona Cardinals, they deserve a Nobel Prize in Football Analysis.
Aaron Schatz: I realize that the Arizona defense is good but Detroit has to figure out what is going wrong with its offense. Things haven't gotten any better since Calvin Johnson's return. Detroit has put up negative offensive DVOA in six of nine games and I'm guessing today will be the seventh out of ten. Offensive line seems to be some of what's going on, and Stafford's accuracy is also an issue, but that's just my first impression only from watching parts of today's game.
I'll probably look closer at similar teams for the DVOA analysis, but I don't think that the Cardinals are that hard to figure out. Sometimes, good-but-not-great teams just win a lot of close games. It's a combination of luck and good coaching. (I can't prove it, but I feel pretty confident that at least some of the difference between Arizona's record and DVOA rating is coaching.) I agree that it's surprising to see the defense playing so well despite the players they lost in the preseason -- Daryl Washington, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham -- but it does seem to be a lot about the scheme and a lot about Calais Campbell. Meanwhile, the offense really hasn't been that good. It's been just good enough to help them win. Drew Stanton threw picks today and I expect him to not be as good as Carson Palmer in the long run.
One team that might provide a good comparison for Arizona is the 2010 Chicago Bears. That team did it all with defense. The Bears went 11-5 despite being only 14th in total DVOA (28th offense, fourth defense, first special teams) and not getting the advantage of an easy schedule. The Bears were 7-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
Vince Verhei: My takeaway from the Arizona game was, holy cow, the Cardinals have a really good secondary. Different from last year's Seahawks, because Seattle's scheme was mostly about press coverage and never letting guys get open in the first place, while Arizona asks their guys to break on the ball and make plays to break up passes. But man, the way they can zoom in and make plays is impressive.
Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Green Bay Packers 53
Andrew Healy: On Green Bay's third offensive play, Aaron Rodgers with that throw that only he and Peyton Manning seem to hit almost every time, dropping it in a bucket deep down the right sideline.
Aaron Schatz: The Packers laugh in the face of your third-and-longs. Just went up 10-0 with a nearly seven-minute drive that included conversions on third-and-18, third-and-10, and third-and-9.
NFL Matchup show suggested that the Packers would try to get at Mark Sanchez with a lot of blitzes, since that's what Dom Capers loves and the Panthers didn't blitz much last week. And so they are. Just took Sanchez down on third down with a nice overload blitz that had four guys coming after three linemen from left tackle to center. Micah Hyde then returns the punt for a touchdown. 17-0 Green Bay and we aren't at the end of the first quarter yet.
Packers play fakes are really bringing up the Eagles linebackers today. It's pretty.
Scott Kacsmar: Must be due to that awesome running game in Green Bay. Oh, wait. Eddie Lacy has seven carries for 21 yards. Just business as usual. Defenses biting on the play-action fake out of instinct.
Andrew Healy: The Packers keep getting pressure on Mark Sanchez. Towards the end of the half, they're getting home with four after earlier using the blitz to get at the always shaky-under-pressure Sanchez.
New England Patriots 42 at Indianapolis Colts 20
Aaron Schatz: So the Pats come in 31st in run offense DVOA, then spend the first drive completely stuffing the ball down Indy's throat with six-offensive-lineman sets and run after run. (Colts were 22nd in run defense DVOA, so at least that part makes some sense. Plus, they employ Erik Walden.)
Andrew Healy: The Colts are only 18th in pass defense, too, so surprising the Pats came out running. Looked like last year's playoff game, the last time I remember the Pats running like that.
The Pats got the Colts to settle for a field goal when a Jamie Collins blitz up the middle forced an errant throw from Luck. Those Collins blitzes have been effective all year.
Aaron Schatz: Given the struggles the Colts are having against tight ends this year, I'm surprised that a) Rob Gronkowski hasn't done more in the first half and b) we're not seeing more of Tim Wright on the field.
Scott Kacsmar: Colts are also 32nd in DVOA against running backs, so I'm waiting for the screens. Really, the running back position in general has had a huge impact on this game. Led the way for New England's first touchdown, and the Colts are killing themselves with seven carries for 6 yards and a big dropped pass by Ahmad Bradshaw.
Andrew Healy: Like I said in the preview, the Patriots will dominate the Colts on the ground, averaging about 9 yards per carry. After Jonas Gray's second touchdown, the Patriots have 15 carries for 138 yards (9.2 YPC). They're getting a huge push from the middle of the line (Stork, Wendell, Connolly) on some of these runs.
It's mostly the line, but Gray (already at 95 yards on 13 carries) looks really good, too. Really, you do not need to draft a running back.
Cian Fahey: Weird game so far. Colts fan feel aggrieved by a couple of calls from the refs in terms of illegal contact for Patriots and against them, but their real issue is their inability to stop the running game. Was asked on Twitter and couldn't think of anyone, has an offensive line ever turned it around so quickly and so emphatically like this year's Patriots?
Luck has been somewhat jittery. Rushing plays from relatively clean pockets more than once and making some simply stupid decisions with the ball.
Tom Gower: If you're including turnarounds from one season to the next, Baltimore's O-line is miles better than it was last year. Just in terms of in-season turnarounds, it's probably more common than you think. I know the Titans improved a lot during the season in both 2006 and 2009 (the second half wasn't ALL Chris Johnson).
Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady has been off tonight. But wow, not as off as he was on the audibled play-action pass near the end of the first half. The guys up the middle blow their blocks and a pressured Brady makes a terrible, stupid throw while falling backwards for a pick that put the Colts right into scoring territory. Yikes.
Andrew Healy: On third-and-a-half-yard, no less. The Colts weren't lined up super-tight to stop the Brady sneak, either. Surprised we didn't see it.
Aaron Schatz: I'm sure Brady thought he saw one-on-one coverage on Gronk and decided to take a shot. I don't think the audible was that bad a move. Gronk was open downfield. You could have a big play there... if the line doesn't allow pressure. But once the pressure was allowed, there's no way Brady can throw that in that way.
Cian Fahey: Brady has done that a lot over the past two years, not with the same awful results as that, but the protecting himself against impending hits. It's understandable considering how old he is. Manning does similar, but he often just drops to the ground for the sack instead of risking the throw.
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Andrew Healy: Jamie Collins with a great tackle on Coby Fleener in the flat. Collins is in the running for the most underrated defensive player in football. Collinsworth loves him, but maybe that's a name thing.
Such a bad decision to kick the 53-yard field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 35-yard line. Vinatieri makes the kick to make it 21-13.
Aaron Schatz: SackSEER loved Collins back when we were considering him a defensive end. If I remember correctly, he played safety, linebacker, and defensive end at different times at Southern Miss.
This whole game can just be summarized as "the Colts can't stop the run." Usually pass defense is so much more important than run defense, but the Colts are a giant exception right now.
Andrew Healy: Yes, he did great on explosiveness, if I remember. Not surprising when you watch him in the rush or in coverage. That Southern Miss team went 0-11, I think. I wonder how many players as good as Collins won no games their last college season.
Cian Fahey: In their previous meeting, the Patriots running backs rushed 43 times for 235 yards and six touchdowns. I'm not sure what the Colts coaching staff is doing over there, but it certainly isn't working.
Scott Kacsmar: Best game I've ever seen from Coby Fleener. He was pretty good in his last outing too against the Giants. Extra important with Dwayne Allen's injury tonight. Brandon Browner just doesn't seem cut out for getting physical within 5 yards and actually staying with the receiver. If he's not continuing to grab he's getting beat. Probably has given up near 100 yards already tonight.
Aaron Schatz: In case anyone was STILL wondering whether the running back or the offensive line is more important to the running game, I present to you Jonas Gray. Undrafted, came off a practice squad a month and a half ago. Four touchdowns tonight.
Actually, make that "the offensive line and the lack of run defense is more important than the running back," not just the line.
Cian Fahey: It's hard to watch the Colts. They're so awfully put together and coached. They feel like the Bengals in the sense that they're settling for slightly above average except they're doing it in the opposite way: with a great quarterback and average everywhere else.
Andrew Healy: Yes, the game ball goes to the Pats' line. Kind of amazing that the group includes Cameron Fleming. They came up with a scheme to get one of the previously-disastrous offensive linemen back on the field all night and it comes up aces.
Tom Gower: Man, that Rob Gronkowski touchdown to make it 42-20...
Running the ball was basically the only thing the Patriots weren't doing well offensively. That made this unexpected, yes, but it also makes it a statement about what could be going forward if this isn't just a one-off.
Cian Fahey: This is the kind of game they played when they were at their best last season. Against the Colts and the Ravens the running game was outstanding. Once Broncos stopped it in AFC Championship game, the offense faltered.
161 comments, Last at 20 Nov 2014, 7:26am
#1 by PatsFan // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:32am
Can anyone explain exactly why the botched kickoff return in NE@IND was not a safety?
And no saying "by rule..." without pointing to the actual rule.
The ball had come to a complete rest, and then when the Colt player tried to pick it up he knocked it into the endzone.
So why isn't that the Colts providing the impetus that put the ball into the endzone?
I agree that if the ball was still moving from the kick and doinked off a Colts player and went into the endzone that would properly be a touchback.
#5 by nat // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:53am
Home field advantage? Refs who don't know the rules?
The rules generally attribute impetus to the kick in this situation. But there is an explicit exception for a ball that is at rest or nearly at rest and then muffed into the end zone.
Rule 3 section 15 article 3:
The Impetus is attributed to the offense except when the ball is sent in touch through a new momentum when the defense muffs a ball which is at rest, or nearly at rest, or illegally bats:
(a) a kick or fumble;
(b) a backward pass after it has struck the ground;
(c) or illegally kicks any ball (12-4-3).
Unless there is some other exception to this exception. Anyone?
#6 by PatsFan // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:57am
Given that, and that the ref on the field started his "explanation" with "By rule...", that leads me to believe the refs thought the ball had never stopped moving from the kick and somehow didn't see that the ball had stopped before the Colt made contact with it and knocked it into the endzone.
#65 by PatsFan // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:04pm
Saw this on a Pats discussion board:
I am a high school official and I can tell you the high school rule which I believe is the same as in the NFL. The kick isn't over until either the ball goes out of bounds, the ball goes 10 yards and is recovered by the kicking team or the receiving team gains POSSESSION of the ball. The play last night was a muff because the receiving team hadn't gained possession of the ball until it was in the end zone which means it is a touchback. So officially the kick didn't end until possession was gained by the receiving team in the end zone which means it is a touchback. I don't like the rule either but that's what it is and I believe the ruling on the field was correct.
#74 by nat // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:58pm
My bad. It's Section 16, not 15. The NFL doesn't maintain its cross references well. In case anyone is looking.
Also from 11.5.1 of the definition of a safety (an example):
The impetus is always attributed to the offense, unless the defense creates a new force that sends the ball behind its own goal line by muffing a ball which is at rest or nearly at rest, or by illegally batting or illegally kicking a ball (3-16-3).
B1 muffs a punt on his 5-yard line. In attempting to recover, he forces the ball (new impetus) into his end zone. See 3-15-3.
a)where he recovers and is downed there.
Other than being a punt rather than a kick off, this is almost exactly what happened in this game.
#70 by Joshua Northey // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:48pm
Well to start off the ball definitely had not come to "a complete rest". If you are seeing that you are as blind as the refs. It definitely was not moving much further, maybe a few more inches at most, but it was not at all at "complete rest".
Overall you are correct though. It was just a missed call by the refs. They probably forgot that section about kicking.
#2 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:37am
Not that I think the end outcome would have been different from a W/L perspective,
but the Eagles got jobbed hard on 2 H2H hits that sanchize took early on that killed drives and put them in a big early hole.
the inconsistency of officiating those hits on a game-game week-week basis is maddening and further puts Goodell's Player Safety BS in shame.
The standard is the standard!
#7 by big10freak // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:58am
In both cases Sanchez ducked his head to brace for impact. Are you suggesting that the defender needs to somehow in a nanosecond account for the qb moving his head?
This is EXACTLY the type of call that drives fans nuts. Guy comes in to make a clean tackle, qb (or other offensive player) goes into fetal position to absorb hit and ref throws the flag on defender.
I know in this exchange I am considered biased given I am a Green Bay fan, but I think I am on firm ground. That seems pretty crazy to me.
Neither defender was even remotely hinting at hitting the head until the qb invited the contact.
#24 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:38am
As a Steeler fan, over the last 5 years I've lost count of the number
of times when a Steelers defender hit a player who ducked his head at the last minute
(several of them have become quite "infamous" hits), and seen flags, fines, or both.
Meanwhile, BigBen gets pawed in the face (broken nose) and that chinshot a few days ago and nothing.
Either touching the qb's head is a foul-across the board- or it isn't.
Take the subjectivity out of it.
The standard is the standard!
#71 by yoyodyne // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:55pm
1:10 in. Couldn't be a more obvious penalty.
The QB is allowed to move his head six inches without giving the blitzer free rein to spear him in the head.
#79 by thebuch // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:11pm
If the QB tackles himself when he's about to get clobbered, there's no way starting to fall should turn a sack into a 15 yard penalty because he put himself in position for a helmet to helmet hit. The defender was going for a clean hit, and Sanchez put his head in the way.
#25 by PhillyFred // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:40am
But as we've seen time and time again, intent doesn't matter. Head-to-head contact against a defenseless player/receiver is supposed to be penalized regardless of intent, and I think a QB in the pocket is pretty much always considered defenseless.
I for one hate the rule and feel there should only be a penalty for intentional head-to-head contact. I just hate the inconsistency - either call it every time it's obvious or change the rule.
#26 by Sakic // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:44am
As a Packer fan it is a bit tricky trying to write a neutral comment so the best thing I can say is that if it was Rodgers on the other end of those two sacks I wouldn't have wanted a penalty called either.
While the roughing the passer rules have become more and more vague I think it's the one penalty where the intent of the hit needs to be taken into account. On the Matthews sack you'll notice that he came in unblocked with a full head of steam so I don't think it's fair to penalize a defender when a QB ducks his head at the last second. Two bodies in motion and sometimes they both zag at the same time and collisions happen...that's football.
#73 by yoyodyne // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:55pm
Um, I don't know what game you were watching, but you are completely wrong.
Sanchez did not duck his head at all on the first one. Lineman burst through the A gap and lowered his helmet, striking Sanchez in the face with the crown. At least 1 if not 2 penalties. You can never lead with the crown, remember?
And he injured Sanchez' neck in the process, to boot.
The 2nd Sanchez reflex ducked a bit and blitzer still lowered his head to hit him in the helmet.
Awful botched calls. Neither was particularly close to being a non-call.
#86 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 17, 2014 - 3:53pm
I'm used to hits like that being called. I don't agree that they should be called, but they have been called for a few years now. So yes I think the Eagles got hosed on both of them. I also think that I would be prefer that hits like that be called the way they were in the game, had Rodgers been hit like that and there was no flag I would have been surprised, but pleased, just as I was with the way things worked out.
I actually like how the NCAA handles some of that stuff, throw the flag but do a quick review to see if contact was made, or if the offensive player was the main reason for the contact. Of course that leads to more flags and more potentially slower games, but the NFL makes billions of dollars, they can hire and train people to quickly watch replays of every flag thrown and get in the ear of the ref and in some cases you might not even know it was reviewed with how long it can take for an announcement to happen anyway.
#3 by oaktoon // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:49am
No one ever said this site was a democracy-- but two huge intra-conference matchups with major playoff implications-- both blowouts- one gets 4 brief comments and the other 21.:) Can't say I'm surprised! Nice to have the Pats-Packers week after next so somebody at FO would actually take the trouble to analyze my team...
OK-- assume no injuries or stumbling this weekend-- Pack at Minnesota; Patriots host Detroit. Assume both GB and NE win-- what will the spread be in Lambeau on Nov. 30?
I'm going with GB -5.5 4 consecutive home victories by an average of 32 points means something to Vegas, I do believe...
Tomlin, you are right: but to be fair, in both cases Sanchez ducked into the hits... But the calls are hardly consistent on those plays.
#11 by RickD // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:04am
Everybody watches the Sunday night game. The Packers game was going against two other games, both of which were more interesting. Sorry, but there really was little of interest going on in Green Bay. The Eagles, minus their starting QB, got thoroughly stomped by the Pack.
#27 by oaktoon // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:46am
I could go with a long rant on your "little of interest" comment-- it is ridiculous on so many levels. All I'm saying is that if the Pats and Packers games had been reversed in terms of schedule, maybe the ratio of comments would not have been 21/4 but we know which blowout would have gotten a lot more attention here.
Listen-- for no other reason than we are two weeks away from the first-ever matchup between two of the 5 greatest QBs of all time, the GB game deserved more scrutiny. But I'll leave it at that.
#38 by RickD // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:01pm
Sorry, but the Packers were way ahead of the Eagles early in the game and I doubt even Mark Sanchez's mother thought he had a prayer of leading a comeback. I was watching the three games simultaneously on RedZone, and I cringed everytime they went to Green Bay. Which they did often, since they cover every touchdown. The interesting game was Cardinals/Lions, but it got less coverage since the scoring stopped early.
Do we really need to point you to the third paragraph of the article? Just look for the part in bold. There is no pretense here of covering all games equally. Go read Mike Tanier's column for more discussion of Eagles-Packers. You'll see that it has an Eagles' slant to it, but it might make you happier.
#87 by Mr Shush // Nov 17, 2014 - 3:56pm
You're that confident Brady and Rodgers are 4 and 5? The way I see it, the identity of the top three is clear-cut (Manning, Montana, Unitas), though the order isn't, but beyond that it's a huge free-for-all, certainly featuring both of those two, but also at a minimum Tarkenton, Young, Marino and Brees and that's just off the top of my head.
#100 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:18pm
I think you missed one QB plenty of people would argue was #1 all time in Elway.
Also, putting Brees in and leaving Favre out of your list is strange to say the least. I doubt you even intentionally did it, but I could come up with about 15 QBs I'd put ahead of Brees in the pantheon.
#106 by Lance // Nov 17, 2014 - 6:01pm
Yeah. As much as I'm in awe of Manning and loathe Tom Brady because he continues to be so good, I feel like we need to rein things back when looking at modern (the last 10-15 years?) QBs. Their numbers are remarkably inflated because it's just so easy to pass now. Brees has great numbers, but does he really put up those numbers if he's playing 1985-2000? I'm a big Romo fan, but if I'm drafting an all-time Cowboys team, Romo is coming after Aikman and Staubach.
Well, unless we are drafting a team to play according to the NFL's modern incarnation of the rules, and then I don't know what I'd do. DPI is common and we all know that for any incomplete pass over 15 yards we ALL look for a flag. That didn't happen in the 80's and 90's. QBs get the benefit of the doubt with hits. Tom Brady is practically crying every time he's on the ground after a pass. I don't know if he'd last playing against the New York Sack Exchange twice a year in the early 80's.
Point is, Tom is great, Rodgers is quite good, and has thrived in amazing ways in the modern NFL. Nevertheless, I don't think one can say with out equivocation that a match-up of the two right now is an all-time top five match-up. Sorry.
#152 by Mr Shush // Nov 18, 2014 - 3:01pm
I in no way intended to definitively exclude Elway (or Staubach, or Favre, or anyone else you might plausibly care to suggest). I just picked the first few guys who came into my head as clearly reasonable candidates for the discussion, by way of illustration.
My view is that Manning > Unitas, Unitas > everyone else except arguably Montana, and Montana gets a sort of asterisk because depending on your criteria you could reasonably rank him ahead of Manning or behind not only those two but several others as well.
#112 by Karl Cuba // Nov 17, 2014 - 8:10pm
Yes, just consider if history was turned in its head and the Pats teams that won the Superbowls had Marino at qb instead of Brady. I think they'd have won at least as many if not quite a few more.
And while Rodgers has had a few seasons where he's played as well, if not better, than anyone I've ever seen, he still has to finish his career before being mentioned along those names.
#122 by amin purshottam // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:36pm
Have to strongly disagree and no way in hell is Manning number 1. All those stats piled up in that dome under perfect conditions with great WR's surrounding him every year even now, while Brady plays outdoors in snow and brutal winter conditions throwing to scrubs for a large part of his career. Give me a break. Brady > manning and it's not even close. That goes double for Bree's also. He has piled up his stats in SD and under the dome in NO, again perfect conditions. I can guarantee you if Brady had Faulk, the Edge, Harrison, Wayne, and now the guys in Denver, Brady would easily have 500 TD's.
#146 by Karl Cuba // Nov 18, 2014 - 1:48pm
I haven't said that Manning is number one but he's right up there and to be honest I struggle to think of more than a couple of guys in the conversation. However, I wouldnt put Brady in that conversation, I'd put him just inside the top ten or so.
#116 by anotherpatsfan // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:14pm
Oaktoon's confidence in Rodgers is second to none -- number one stan. I believe he may be the reincarnation of PaulW (not verified).
He's certainly entitled to his opinion. While I am a Brady fan, from a statistical perspective, IMO Manning a top 5 all-time guy (and likely closer to 1 than 5). I think Brady somewhere in the middle of the next ten guys. Don't think Rodgers quite there yet career-wise but certainly could be in a few years.
#31 by oaktoon // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:51am
To Raiders-Chargers?? Please.... No-- there was some analysis of a game of equal importance-- Detroit-Arizona-- which while hardly exciting or memorable-- was at least close. But that was the only distraction from PHIL-GB-- not 7 other games as in the early window. I can only conclude that Rodgers-- and possibly the Packers-- are so good that they stifle all discussion. :) And obviously that is not true-- so what gives? I think the writers were eating dinner.....
#33 by dmstorm22 // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:53am
If it is 5.5, I'm betting the Packers. They've basically become the new Saints.
Other than a win in Chicago (that had some luck elements in terms of not giving up more points) and a close win in Miami (that had a lot of luck elements), they've played three road games and lost by 20, 12 and 21.
But in their home games, they've beaten the Jets by 7 (finishing the game on a 28-3 run), then laid hell to every other team to go to Lambeau.
vs Minnesota: led 42-0 (28-0 at halftime)
vs Carolina: led 38-3 (28-3 at halftime)
vs Chicago: led 45-0 (42-0 at halftime)
vs Philadelphia: led 39-6 (30-6 at halftime)
None of those teams is as good as New England, but what they've done is essentially become the Saints from 2011, absolutely annihilate teams at home.
Should be an interesting matchup.
#37 by oaktoon // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:58am
agreed... and the only caveat about the road record is that they were in pretty good shape in New Orleans until Rodgers tweaked his hamstring... The defense was poor from then on, too, so that's hardly a strong excuse-- the Minnesota game may give a better indicator if they have also turned the corner on the road. The previous road game was Good/Bad vs. the Dolphins-- defense excellent in first half; but lousy in 2nd....
As for Brady, he will hit a lot of open receivers that Sanchez missed yesterday. And I'm not sure how the Packers defend Gronk... I'm not sure I would give the points-- I see 38-35...
#46 by dmstorm22 // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:14pm
I definitely think NE keeps it a whole lot closer, but that team at home is awesome. Rodgers is playing out of his mind right now.
I don't know how they defend Gronk, but I don't know how anyone would (the Colts did a reasonable job, actually, until the TD). It is more important to get pressure on Brady, which the Packers can do a whole lot better than the Colts did yesterday.
#51 by Lyford // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:27pm
"I don't know how they defend Gronk, but I don't know how anyone would (the Colts did a reasonable job, actually, until the TD). "
I'm not sure that the Colts' approach to defending Gronk ("play horrible run defense so that they don't bother throwing to him") is really much of a model for success in the long run...
#54 by nat // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:37pm
It's funny, but I had been thinking that was exactly the right plan for the Colts. The Patriots had been terrible running the entire season, and had a backup at RB. So just ignoring run reads until you were absolutely certain the back had the ball sounded like a good idea. Sure, you'll be a step out of position on running plays. But how bad could that be?
Turns out I was wrong. But it did keep the game close for a half.
The Patriots used a similar plan against the Broncos last year in the regular season. It worked - barely.
#49 by justanothersteve // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:23pm
The national feed switched to the Lions-Cards sometime in the third quarter because it was a blowout. As a Packers fan living in Missouri, I was disappointed but still ok with this decision. Colts-Pats was at least still competitive at halftime. The only issue with Pack-Eagles was what the final score would be.
#104 by PaddyPat // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:33pm
Schatz lives in Massachusetts. What's so terrible about him paying a little more attention to the Patriots? In Audibles, the writers for this site comment on the games they watch and personally care about.
#4 by xMRNUTTYx // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:51am
RE: Cutler keeper.
After years of failed goal line hand-offs, I'm okay with Trestman's attempts at getting a little more original in that area (the fake end-around play with Jeffrey earlier in the season should be taught in play-design school). So I wasn't hating the call but the execution- particularly by Bushrod- was terrible. He swung outside, Cutler's only lead blocker, got to his man (Xavier Rhodes, a SAFETY) and managed to do nothing. Rhodes made the stop.
How are you a left tackle in the NFL and not getting that block?
#77 by Roch Bear // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:01pm
I saw it that exactly the same way. Okay call, horrible execution by Bushrod. Bushrod has been pretty bad all year, giving up a lot of pressure in pass blocking and (as usual) not powerful in run blocking.
#8 by Harris // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:58am
If it's true that poor performance on third down is an indicator of improved performance in the next season, the Eagles defense is going to look like their 1991 predecessors in 2015. They are incredibly, shockingly, inexplicably bad on 3rd-and-long. Billy Davis's stubborn insistence on playing cover-one with mediocre-to-terrible DBs on a day when they're getting no pressure at all is just as frustrating as watching Juan Castillo's feckless incompetence of Sean McDermott's mad tinkering.
#9 by turbohappy // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:00am
It seems like the Colts have done better covering TEs and backs since Freeman came back from injury. Or is that just my perception? Gronk seems to be almost impossible to cover though, not including him.
#10 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:00am
Obligatory Bucs comment, even though I don't blame anyone for skipping Tampa-Washington; Mike Evans is really, really good.
RG3's pocket presence is really, really bad. Well, when he actually had a pocket, which wasn't that often.
#12 by RickD // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:08am
When Trent Williams went down, the Redskins lost their only decent lineman.
Griffin continues to devolve. This is going to play out poorly. Snyder is such a fanboy he'll continue to inappropriately lavish attention on Griffin, and that will stand in the way of his further development as a player.
Mike Evans vs. the Redskins' secondary is an unfair matchup. I still wonder how they beat the Cowboys.
#42 by RickD // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:07pm
But it wasn't that long ago they shut down Dez Bryant. It's a mystery how they could win in Dallas and then lay such an egg in a home game against the Bucs.
I don't think the RG3 issue is over by a long shot. In a normal situation, he would be well on his way to losing his job. But the Redskins aren't a normal situation.
#75 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:59pm
Was also Evans' third straight game with 100+ yards and a TD. I recall the potential knock on him was his college production was a matter of his an Manziel's athleticism basically allowing them to run around and just eventually get open. He's turned out to be a good route runner with nice hands, the ability to make a tough catch and drag his feet, plus he's a competent blocker. He's had at least four catches every game, so he's been a solid performer as a rookie even before the explosion of the last three games.
Also, this year has been godawful, so at least I have one positive thing to talk about.
#13 by Pottsville Mar… // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:09am
The egregiously blown call by Jerome Boger on the Ross punt return was mentioned. But Boger's crew blew at least two other critical calls.
The punt return is here - evidently this is "possession" by Arizona #28 despite the fact that it would never be called a catch, had this been a pass attempt: http://i.imgur.com/zcn3YvS.gif
Just before halftime, the Lions threw a pass to Eric Ebron on third down, who was ruled short of the first down despite clearly going past the marker: http://i.imgur.com/uO2MbKb.jpg
And on the Cardinals' last drive of the game, the officials ruled that Larry Fitzgerald had the first down, despite never exceeding the line to gain: http://i.imgur.com/gFsOEn1.jpg
I'm not a ref conspiracist, but even Jeff Triplette thinks Boger called a terrible game, and those three calls together put a significant dent in the Lions' chances of winning. Searching for "Boger" on Twitter is fun this morning.
#17 by dbostedo // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:21am
I think it was "possession" in that he chose to throw it forward. He could have held it and fallen into the endzone, so he had possession; And probably could have held it had he thought that reception rules applied. Clearly though he thought he had to keep it out of the endzone regardless.
And actually, I'm not sure if reception rules apply. If he falls back into the endzone with possession and two feel clearly outside the endzone, is it a touchback or not?
#119 by LionInAZ // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:53pm
It seems to me thar it's time to revisit the rules regarding downing of punts. By rule, it's an illegal touch when the punting team downs a punt, but there's no actual penalty accrued. Maybe there should be a 5-yd penalty warded to the receiving team. Why should a punting team be rewarded for committing a supposed infracton?
#121 by Eddo // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:25pm
Are you aware of what technically happens on a downed punt?
1. The ball is loose and quasi-live.
2. By recovering the ball, the punting team gains possession.
3. But, since they committed the infraction, the punishment is they give up possession to the receiving team at the spot of the foul.
Basically, you're arguing for a punishment for a technical rules violation, when, based on the technicality, they are already punished.
I don't see the reason to change anything on downed punts.
#15 by Peregrine // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:12am
Falcons, baby. Falcons.
With just four teams in a division, it's obviously not impossible for all four teams to be weak in any given year. Personally, I'm not in favor of contorting the playoff system to preclude a division winner with a losing record from hosting a wild card team with a winning record.
I expect the Saints to pull out of whatever swoon they're in, and the Falcons' schedule is pretty brutal the next four weeks.
#23 by herewegobrowni… // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:38am
Falcons would be considered favorites at a neutral site against the Browns (line is -3.5) - the bookies think that little of the Browns after yesterday's disaster.
Interesting stat is that at least a few weeks ago, the current Browns receivers had far less drops per game than Gordon did last year (granted, a lot of that had to do with Weeden's complete inability to put touch on passes.) Hoyer also currently has the worst completion % in the league, and is slightly worse than Jason Campbell last year (although DVOA likes him a lot more than conventional stats, and he still hasn't had many turnovers.)
#39 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:03pm
It goes back further than yesterday as far as the way the bookies think of the Browns. The Browns have been out gained in 4 of their last 5 games and three of those games came against arguably the three worst teams in the league (Jax/Oak/TB).
They ran into an above average defense yesterday that exposed the Browns offense for what they really are... bad. Clevelands defense will continue to get gashed by teams that run the ball as well and now that the weather is changing the Browns are going to get a heavy dose of the ground game, in which they have proven they cant stop.
I would be surprised to see Cleveland win another game this season.
#50 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:27pm
Four Cincy turnovers (-3 differential) pretty much gave that game to the Browns. I think everyone on this site realizes the calamity that TNF is.
Where do the Browns get another win with their upcoming slate? @ Atlanta in the dome? Matt Ryan on the road is a solid fade but in the dome, I think they crush the offensively deficient Browns. @ Buffalo the following week. The offensive ineptitude should even out, but the Buffalo defense behind the home crowd is going to be too much for Cleveland. The Browns wont be able to score with Indy and the Cincy game that follows will be on a full weeks rest this time. @ Carolina may be a spot that the Browns prove me wrong, but Carolina at home against mediocre to bad teams is a tough spot for Cleveland. @ Baltimore to end the season will have implications for Baltimores seeding and the Browns wont get it done there either IMO.
I just dont see how or where they pick up another victory.
#52 by TacticalSledgehammer // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:33pm
Perhaps it's not likely, but I could easily conceive of the Browns going 4-2 through that stretch. If we've learned anything this season, it's that any team (except the Jags) can win at any time. See: Rams-Broncos
#58 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:45pm
I dont think the result from the Rams/Broncos game was all that surprising to be honest. There are a couple of reasons for that.
1.) Denver hasnt been the same team on the road. All three of their losses are outside of the high altitude Mile High (@ Seattle, @ NE, @ STL) advantage. The Broncos were on their 3rd consecutive road game, and looked sluggish in the first half of the Raiders game the week before. Only the Rams have a much better defense - especially defensive line/front 7 - and an offense capable of driving into field goal position regularly.
Now the big reason IMO...
2.) Dating back to their AFC South days, Jeff Fisher has coached against/game planned Peyton Manning more than ANY other coach in the NFL. Manning isnt showing Fisher ANYTHING he hasnt already seen and Fisher has a defense in STL that can flat out stymie opposing offenses, especially at home.
This game had "trap" written all over it.
#55 by herewegobrowni… // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:39pm
" The Browns wont be able to score with Indy and the Cincy game that follows will be on a full weeks rest this time"
The Indy team that has the same record as the Browns, and Pitt hung 600+ yards on?
Both teams had the same rest for Cincy, and the turnovers didn't just come out of nowhere.
Still think Gordon *could* change the complexion of the offense completely and am not ready to give up yet.
#62 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:56pm
I dont want to tell you to give up or lose the hope, but Cleveland just lost to a dome team from the South, traveling to a cold northern venue, with a QB making his first career start and without their stud RB. Blue ran for 156 on that defense and that game was really never in doubt IMO.
Would we not agree that Gordon was in for a regression anyway, even if he played the entire season? He wont be an afterthought for teams this year and defenses will scheme to take Gordon out of the game. Who does Cleveland go to in that scenario for offensive production?
And anytime a team loses a pro bowl caliber center like Cleveland has, there is bound to be some serious problems on the offensive line.
#29 by BJR // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:49am
The irony of the current NFC South situation is that it is headed directly towards a team from that division without a winning record hosting a 5th seed from the much stronger NFC West in the Wild Card round; the exact opposite of the 2010 playoffs when the 7-9 Seahawks hosted the 11-5 Saints (and defeated them). It could very well end up being the same teams again with mirror image records.
The lesson is that things change very quickly in the NFL, and there's no need to mess with the current playoff system as what goes around can very soon come around.
#34 by oaktoon // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:53am
Not sure how direct that line is, actually. Seattle is a mess with a brutal schedule ahead and huge internal problems spilling over-- SF could be that team, but so could Dallas or Philly or Detroit-- all of whom have better records than the two NFC West teams and would thus become the 5 seed and have to play the South winner....
#80 by thebuch // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:25pm
I use the unbalanced schedule argument as a reason against an automatic playoff berth for division winners. If no team in a division finishes above .500, then each team played an easy schedule with at least 6 losing teams on their schedule, and you're comparing them to a team that finished second or third in their division with a much better record who, in all likelihood, played a much harder schedule to get that better record. If a division beats up on another division, that division deserves more playoff teams. If it was up to me, division winner is in as long as they finish above .500, and if the wild card team has a better record than the division winner then the wild card team hosts. If the division winner is .500 or lower, assuming there's an above .500 team in the conference, that team takes their spot and travels to a playoff game.
There's no way a sub .500 team is worthy of postseason play.
#136 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 18, 2014 - 8:16am
I get what you're saying, but why the arbitrary (.500) cutoff, other than asthetics? There have been plenty of lousy 8-8 and 9-7 teams that won their divisions, and made the playoffs, over more worthy teams that had the bad luck of being in a tougher division.
This problem will come up again and again, as long as we have so many divisions with so few teams each. While we're on the subject hypothetical rule changes that will never happen, I wouldn't mind seeing the NFL going back to six divisions. Is it really such a big deal to have 6 teams in two divisions, and 5 teams in the other 4? From 1999-2001, the AFC Central had six teams, and the world didn't end. Fewer divisions with more teams would drastically reduce the probability of a bad team winning the division, while a winning team gets left out in the cold.
#139 by intel_chris // Nov 18, 2014 - 11:22am
While I the to throw a wet towel on this idea, there are problems with changing the divisional structure.
The main problem I see with 6 teams/division is that you would have to give up the home-and-away nature of the way inter-divisional games are played or have most of the season be divisional games. With 6 teams in a division and home-and-away games for each divisional foe, you would tie up 10 games each season (5 divisional opponents, 2 games each). You would only have space for 6 other games per season, unless the teams played more games, which if I understand it, the NFLPA opposes. The current setup has a pretty nice balance of games: home-and-away games for the division, two sets of divisional opponents, one from the same conference, one from the opposite, and games against similarly ranked teams from the previous years. In doing so, it sets up natural rivalries, the divisional foes, and guarantees that those teams play each other both home and away, and also play against a relatively large set of common opponents, so that the best teams in the division will tend to be selected as the divisional champions. The two divisions where the teams are relatively unsorted (the AFC North and NFC South) seem to have relatively matched teams in strength, where there are no clear winners.
If you were really trying to send "only" the best teams from each conference and to honestly evaluate that, it would seem that each team in a conference would have to play every other conference team, and well that would use up 15 games per season. You would still have issues as there would be loops where team A beat team B which beat team C who beat team A. Moreover, unless you did that both home and away (30 games per season now), you would also have teams getting boost from some teams playing their tougher opponents at home and weaker ones away, inflating their number of wins.
Actually, the same problem has been explored in voting, i.e. direct elections v. the electoral college. Surprisingly, the electoral college can be shown to better represent non-majority interests than direct elections and thus be more "fair". Small districts (and small divisions) give the widest variety of chances to be winners. The same reasoning applies to football. The divisional structure does allow weaker teams to get to the playoffs, but by doing so ensures that a wider variety of teams gets to play in the post season. Do you really want each and every playoff year to be essentially Cowboys, Packers, 49ers, Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Steelers (listing the teams that I recall as generally tending to be in the playoffs most often)? I think it is really nice that the Browns are currently contending. Yes, perhaps a particularly weak division sends one team, but stronger divisions do get a reasonable chance of sending a wild-card team.
The current divisional alignment and schedule does something that can be argued is valuable. Most teams have a shot at the playoffs (and therefor something to play for until late in the season), so far only the Raiders have been eliminated from playoff contention and that is due not only to their record but also due to the fact that the other teams in the division have relatively good shots at a playoff slot. In contrast, the NFC North could possibly only be decided the last game of the season. The various wild-card spots are also likely not to be decided until late in the season. Thus, the season has meaning in football, it isn't just a long warm up to the playoffs. Teams really need to try to win every game. How many games in baseball, basketball, or hockey can a team afford to lose in the regular season before one is out of the playoffs? That single victory of the Patriots over the Broncos, significantly altered the playoff landscape in the AFC. In what other sports does a single game (particularly a single regular season game) have that importance?
#142 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Nov 18, 2014 - 12:31pm
get rid of current divisions
2 conferences (16 teams per)
15 conference games
rotating schedule of home and home teams from conference
rotating schedule 2 team from other conference (cycle every 8 years)
align conference to maintain as many current (and or past) rivalries as possible.
top 6 teams from each conference advance to current structure of playoffs (top 2 get byes, etc)
problem solved with respect to weak division winners getting in.
The standard is the standard!
#145 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 18, 2014 - 1:43pm
Which kills off all the traditional rivalries that help make football fun. Bears-Packers, Cowboys-Redskins, Steelers-Ravens, loads of others. I miss the days when the Raiders were good because games against the Chiefs and Broncos were always extra-entertaining. I'd much rather get my two 49ers-Seahawks games per year than care about the one time every 10-15 years an 8-8 or worse team gets into the playoffs and hosts a game. This isn't a common enough occurrence to care about. Weird stuff happens occasionally.
#160 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 19, 2014 - 7:32pm
I don't buy his argument in the first place.
Rivalries are born from playing a team often and having them crush your dreams (or vice versa). Reducing chances for that to happen makes them just another team.
#161 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 20, 2014 - 7:26am
Yea, I agree with all that. Getting rid of divisions completely is using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. I think reducing the number of divisions is a reasonable small step to reduce (not eliminate, of course) the probability of a terrible team making the playoffs in place of a much better team.
#90 by Steve in WI // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:29pm
I agree completely - a division winner who is 8-8 or worse is a team that by definition had a pretty easy schedule, because 6 of their games were against opponents even worse than them. (I suppose in theory there could be a division where all 4 teams finish 8-8, the winner is decided on tiebreakers, and the winner went 6-0 in the division while going 2-8 outside the division to the 10 very best teams in the NFL...but that's not likely).
The only real fix to the problem, IMHO, would be to get rid of divisions (at least from a playoff perspective) and have the top 6 teams in each conference make the playoffs. That'll never happen. However, a much simpler fix would be to at least make it so the team with the better record hosts. A 7-9 division winner should never get a home playoff game against an 11-win wild card team.
#93 by dmstorm22 // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:41pm
I agree with the last point. I think Home Field in the playoffs should be decided entirely on record. Division winners can get automatic berths, but if you 7-9/8-8/9-7, no home playoff game for you.
Just went back to check the last few years, and how the playoff seedings would have been different. Generally, it isn’t a big difference, but there’s a couple huge ones.
2013: AFC: No Changes; NFC: 49ers get the #3 seed, host Green Bay (they won anyway); Saints get the #4 seed, host New Orleans (they won anyway)
2012: AFC: Colts get the #4 seed, host Ravens (maybe BAL loses that game – everything is different); NFC: Seahawks get the #4 seed, host Washington (they won anyway)
2011: AFC: Pittsburgh gets the #3 seed, hosts Denver (that’s a big change); NFC: Detroit & Atlanta move up to 4-5; Giants get #6 seed and travel to New Orleans (where they probably lose badly)
2010: AFC: Two Wild-Cards switch with #3-#4 seeds, we get Ravens hosting Chiefs, Jets hosting Colts, both won anyway; NFC: Saints get the #3 seed, host Seattle (no Beast-Mode), Green Bay gets #4, hosts Philadelphia
2009: AFC: No Changes; NFC: Green Bay moves up to #3, hosts Arizona (we lose an amazing game in the process)
2008: AFC: The big one, the Colts get the #2 seed; Pittsburgh drops to #3, hosts San Diego. NFC: Atlanta moves up to #3, hosts Arizona (maybe the Cards run never starts).
The biggest change here is the 2008 Colts would have gotten the #2 seed if seeding was not based on division winners getting seeds #1-4.
I doubt this ever gets solved.
#130 by beargoggles // Nov 18, 2014 - 2:15am
Interesting. I always thought that if the Saints beat the Niners in 2011 that they would have slaughtered the Giants. Match-ups are a funny thing. I can't remember the exact thought process.
I agree in principle that rewarding a mediocre team for their mediocre division doesn't sit well, but I'm not exactly sure where to draw the line. With parity as it is I think we just have to accept that the best team usually doesn't win, playoff seeding arbitrariness being one of the reasons.
#150 by bravehoptoad // Nov 18, 2014 - 2:28pm
...and sometimes it's not a mediocre team in a mediocre division, but a division that collectively had a tough schedule.
...and if it's a mediocre division, wouldn't the team that wins it by definition be better than mediocre?
#158 by BDC // Nov 19, 2014 - 2:15am
"...and sometimes it's not a mediocre team in a mediocre division, but a division that collectively had a tough schedule.
...and if it's a mediocre division, wouldn't the team that wins it by definition be better than mediocre?"
I mean, not really. They could all be equally mediocre. *Someone* has to win the division though.
#96 by jebmak // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:02pm
I'm not following on the fewer wins means easier schedule. That seems to be the opposite of what I would logically expect.
If you play two really good divisions, you are way more likely to have more losses than if you play two really bad divisions.
#102 by Eddo // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:27pm
Let's take an extreme scenario:
The East division in each conference contains four teams of quality 100 (will beat a lesser team 100% of the time, another 100 50% of the time).
The West division in each conference contains four teams of quality 0 (will beat a greater team 0% of the time, another 0 50% of the time).
The North and South divisions all consist of four teams of quality 50 (will always lose to a 100, always beat a 0, split with other 50s).
If the NFC North plays the NFC East and AFC East as its full-division schedule, each team will finish 4-12 (split the games against each other and against the NFCW and NFCS teams they play, lose all eight against the East divisions).
The NFC South - which by definition, has the same quality of teams as the NFC North - plays the West divisions in full, and will have each team finish 12-4 (split the games against each other and against the NFCW and NFCN teams they play, win all eight against the West divisions).
The NFC East will see each team finish 13-3; they'll only lose games against each other. The NFC West will see each team finish 3-13; they'll only win games against each other.
In that scenario, the NFC North and South teams will have wildly disparate records, yet that wouldn't reflect team quality at all. The NFC North will appear closer to the awful teams in the NFC West, when in reality, they're equal to the NFC South teams; the NFC South teams will appear to be as strong as the NFC East teams, when in reality they are nowhere near that.
This is obviously a very convoluted scenario, but it does show that records by themselves don't mean that the teams are better.
#19 by johonny // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:31am
Wow- The Pats look Super bowl ready. Too soon as their next 4 could be tough but the Pats are just a machine right now. They find people, use their strengths, and get them rolling post week 8. They do it year after year... The AFCeast isn't even bad this year and the Pats are rolling in it. I know Colin Cowherd has a Mark Sanchez crush but can we all agree that Rex Ryan was not "preventing" Sanchez from becoming great. He just isn't a great QB. It the Lions can find some offense that Green Bay Detroit should be super fun to watch.
#36 by BJR // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:57am
Sánchez isn't a great QB, and anybody who claims he is is a loon. But I'm not attaching much blame to him in a game where the defence and special teams shipped 30 points in the first half. He wasn't the reason the Eagles were blown out yesterday.
#88 by Scott Kacsmar // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:15pm
It was 30-3 after 28 minutes. In that time, Sanchez had taken three sacks and had three incompletions: one bad pass (3rd-and-13 to Sproles), one decent pass that was defensed (Hyde) and one good pass that was dropped by Matthews (on 3rd-and-6 at the GB 48 too).
I don't know if you could find many games where a QB was less to blame for a huge hole than this one.
#97 by jebmak // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:04pm
Last week when everyone was blaming Cutler for the opposing team throwing 6 TDs in the first half?
Hmmmmm, there is some connection there...
Green Bay, making mediocre QBs get blamed for even more shit than they usually do, since the beginning of November.
#20 by Will Allen // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:31am
Either Kalil just forgot how to play tackle, or he really has suffered a series of injuries, ranging from back to knee, which has prevented him from playing at the level he displayed his rookie year. Either way, if the Vikings aren't confident that he can get back to where he was, they'll need to go get a left tackle again. Oh, well.
I expected the Vikings to lose, because they never play well in Chicago, and the Bears were likely to rebound a bit. Even so, Cutler endeavored to make a game of it, what with two ints and a fumble that was mistakenly whistled dead. Those two teams are in real battle for last place.
With the exception of one year, it has been a decade since the Vikings could throw downfield like a normal NFL team, and i guess it isn't surprising that it might be the worst 10 consecutive years in the the history of the franchise, even worse than the 10 years that started as an expansion team. One might be tempted to say that drafting a HOF caliber running back early in the 1st round, in the era of easy passing was an error , but drafting that guy wasn't what caused an early first round draft of Troy Williamson and Christian Ponder, trading up to grab Tavaris Jackson at the end of the 2nd round, and other unfortunate decisions. I started reading FO about a decade ago, so I choose to blame Aaron.
#32 by rageon // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:53am
Aside from the obvious issues with Kalil, what else is going on that's preventing the Vikings from really even trying to throw downfield at this point? It's hard to say Norv Turner doesn't know what he's doing, so I assume there has to be an actual reason for the conservative play calling. Has Teddy already shown he's too limited to do so, or are they just anticipating him either not having any time or the receivers not being there?
#44 by Will Allen // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:12pm
I don't know, not having watched much all-22 on them. They are a very typical Vikings team since Moss was traded, and Culpepper shredded his knee. They simply are unable to go downfield, and without a running back who is a legitimate threat to score every time he takes a handoff, they really are just helpless against any defense which is approaching competency on that day. Given the Vikings defense, outside of a couple ints and a forced fumble, played poorly yesterday, it is amazing that they had a legitimate chance to tie the game in the last minute.
If the Vikings defense plays like that against the Packers next Sunday, they might get 60 or 70 hung on them.
#21 by Andrew Potter // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:37am
Cian Fahey: Was asked on Twitter and couldn't think of anyone, has an offensive line ever turned it around so quickly and so emphatically like this year's Patriots?
2012 Ravens? Didn't they improve substantially once they got everybody in place toward the end of that season?
#22 by tballgame // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:38am
Saw somewhere that Pats used a sixth offensive lineman 37 times last night, but not once in the playoff win against the Colts last year. When was the last time a team used an extra lineman on that many offensive plays in one game? That element of the running game makes me think this will be a one-off and succeeded only because the Colts never effectively adjusted and a team with time to prepare for this wrinkle will not be burned as consistently.
#81 by Dave Bernreuther // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:29pm
What sucks is that there's a really strong chance these two teams meet again in the playoffs and we'll have to spend a week hearing about the last two Pats games and Belichick and his game planning, yet chances are they'll come out with a totally different game plan attacking the Colts up the seams with TEs and destroying them with Gronk.
(Not that preparing for that necessarily helps. Especially when you employ D'Qwell Jackson.)
This game was a great example of why narratives sucks. I'm sure Bayless is gloating all over ESPN today about being right in his whole anti-Luck article the other day (I'm ashamed to admit I actually read it). Nevermind, of course, that Luck actually outplayed Brady for the most part... The later part of the game was a different story, but boy was Brady off last night. He even McNabbed a few screen passes. I don't think I've ever seen him do that, not even outdoors in strong wind. If you're lucky enough to catch a HOF QB on an off night, you need to take advantage. Instead, the Colts got blown out. (Because Brady just wins!)
That non-safety seemed really unfair to me. And I still think zebras are mostly just guessing about illegal contact, given that the Colts were flagged on a few that were less intrusive than Arrington on Hilton (I think) early in the end zone and literally every single play in a late-game NBC montage about the incredible Revis. Gronk got mugged a few times to, I think by Adams. Not that it mattered...
Oh, and for my money the fat guy touchdown was actually an illegal formation. Looked like Wayne was on the line more than Castonzo was.
#117 by Tim F. // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:23pm
I've never seen a team do NOTHING to adjust to it. Literally nothing. So it tells me more about the Colts D than the Pats O. If a team is giving you a free 6 yards every play, you're gonna take it 40 times if you can!
I love Jonas and do think the Pats O-line is improving immensely, but I can't imagine there are many half-competent (or even fully incompetent but NFL-capable) teams who would face 6-man (and occasionally 7-man!) fronts and obvious running plays over and over and not once adjust to the run game and stop a run, or merely turn a 6-7 run into a 1-3 yard... But that's what the Colts did defensively... NOTHING.
#41 by Travis // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:04pm
I wonder how many players as good as Collins won no games their last college season.
The best recent player to go winless his last college season is probably John Abraham, who was on an 0-11 South Carolina team in 1999. (Ignoring guys like Reggie Bush who had all their wins vacated due to NCAA violations.) Antwan Barnes (2006 Florida International) is another one.
#48 by zlionsfan // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:19pm
I actually think Caldwell's decision to kick down 14-3 was a good one in this context. So close to the end of the half, there's no upside if you fail to convert - instead of starting a drive inside their own 10, the Cards will simply kneel to end the half, so your next possession doesn't start in favorable position. Also, the Lions' short-yardage offense has looked pretty bad for quite some time now, especially given Caldwell/Lombardi's insistence on running so often when the running game is garbage. They'd already struggled some on third and short; while other situations might call for a play, the kick here was probably a good idea IME.
The reason Ross could return that kick with no fear is that on any punt, when the kicking team touches the ball, they're guilty of illegal touching, and the penalty for that is possession for the receiving team at the spot of the foul ... which makes it kind of like offside in terms of having a free "play". (Other than the possibility of a penalty during the return, that is.) Bryan McCann returned a punt 97 yards for a TD against the Lions in 2010 in part because of this rule, in a scenario basically just like this one: John Wendling kept the punt in the field of play, which meant illegal touching, so McCann could pick it up and advance with little risk. (Naturally, he stepped out at about the 30, but Schwartz didn't challenge because ... never mind.)
Overall, I do think injuries on the line have been part of the problem. I'm not sure the right side has been healthy all year, and losing their primary backup for the season hasn't helped ... but it's hard to unpack exactly what the problems have been. Caldwell definitely seems to want a conservative approach, which I think is a huge mistake with the personnel the Lions have. The running game is garbage, which means Stafford is seeing a lot of long-yardage downs that allow the DL to tee off. Lombardi likes empty-back sets with TE-ish guys, which basically paints a target on Raiola saying "PLEASE BLITZ HERE". There don't seem to be a lot of plays that are designed to stretch the defense vertically, but I guess if you have no running game and poor pass protection, you're not going to get a lot of time to throw anyway.
Certainly against weaker defenses, the Lions have been able to move the ball when they're allowed to throw it, but it's hard to say how much of that was the change in playcalling and how much of it was the defenses playing soft. (I'm not the second-half charter for any of those comebacks, so I don't have the same eye for them as I would if I'd charted them.) I can't help but feel that this is another season where the schedule makes the Lions look better than they actually are. The defense has certainly done a good job - they turned things around fairly quickly after their abysmal start on the first two drives yesterday - but this sure doesn't look like a first-round-bye team to me. I didn't think Detroit was 2-3 players away from that kind of season in the first place, so maybe 10-6 and a playoff game or two is really where they ought to be, but it seems a shame to waste the kind of defensive effort the Lions haven't had since 1970.
#53 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:35pm
I normally hate cliches like "coaching scared" and "not playing to win", but if they ever fit anybody, they fit Caldwell. On the road against a good team, I think you have to gamble in every high-leverage situations (like 4th and short in opponent territory) to maximize your chances of winning. It's almost like Caldwell's strategy was to try to keep it close into the 4th quarter and hope to show up in Scott Kaczmar's column again.
If they don't learn to adopt the "David" strategy in New England next week, I don't think they have a chance.
#78 by ChrisS // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:03pm
I think the OL problem is being made worse by the absence/injury of Pettigrew, who is a terrible receiver but a very good blocker. During the game I was yelling "Quit running so d--- much and throw it" since the Lions two best players are Tate and Johnson. I realize this is problematic given the poor pass blocking.
#123 by LionInAZ // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:38pm
The TE situation is a mess right now. Ebron isn't contributing in the pass game and doesn't even block well. I also wonder why Stafford is starting under center so much when the protection is not up to par, especially considering how bad the run offense has been.
I've also been dismayed by the number of penalties on offense. I thought Caldwell was supposed to bring discipline in that area. It seemed that every time the Lions made progress against the Cards they would get a drive-killing penalty. Not good against a premier defense.
#134 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 18, 2014 - 7:27am
Ebron might be able to contribute more in the pass game if Stafford actually targeted him on routes more than 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. But yeah, he's still a rookie learning the position.
If missing Brandon Pettigrew's blocking has this much of an impact, maybe it was worth all the money they paid him! (I'm only being partially facetious).
The penalties on offense were frustrating, but that Julian Stanford taunting penalty was worse. I mean, WTF!! I guess I should be happy the personal foul penalties are way down.
#56 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:41pm
The Detroit offense's problems I think can be traced to the Oline being atrocious this year. Stafford's accuracy isn't consistent enough for him to dink and dunk his way down the field. He needs big plays to maximize his biggest asset (arm strength), and the line couldn't hold blocking enough for downfield routes to develop most of the time. I was also disappointed they didn't try to utilize Tate more in the 2nd half.
As far as how the rest of the season turns out, I don't think they win in either New England or Green Bay (the defense will probably be just good enough to prevent them from turning into 50+ point blowouts, but I see them losing by 24-6 or 20-10 type final scores). That leaves 3 home games against opponents with losing records, and one road game in Chicago. They will likely have to win all 4 of those to get a wildcard at 11-5 (or hope the Packers stumble a couple of times and win the NFCN on tiebreakers). I don't think 10-6 makes the playoffs this year.
#82 by David C // Nov 17, 2014 - 2:30pm
They're in a 4-way tie with Green Bay, Dallas, and Philadelphia for the 2nd highest winning record, so things aren't that bad. Dallas and Philadelphia both have tougher future schedules, and even though they're not the favorite in either of their two difficult games, they are favored to win at least one of those games. Seattle should improve their record going forward, but they're a game behind right now. I'd put my money on either Dallas or Philadelphia melting down.
#57 by Sakic // Nov 17, 2014 - 12:44pm
Minor note of interest...but did anyone else notice that the Bears-Vikings game was being carried on CBS yesterday? I thought that CBS had the "AFC package" so a NFC team vs NFC team game should've been carried on FOX. Have the rules changed or did the bye weeks just screw everything up?
#110 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 7:18pm
The NFL is selling offense. Which means prime time games are going to focus on teams that can score a ton of points, i.e Pats/Broncos/Colts/Saints/Packers. The casual fan, for whatever reason, wont STAY tuned in if they are consistently putting on 13-6 "slobber knockers". The casual fan would consider that boring. But when the casual fan turns on a game and teams are scoring at will, it becomes a different experience all together. #OffenseSells
#126 by dbostedo // Nov 18, 2014 - 12:18am
Actually, offense plays a role, but I'd say the NFL is much more catering to big markets and popular teams to get ratings. Here are the team-by-team appearances in prime time over the last 400 prime time games (back to mid-2005) :
San Diego being that high is actually the most surprising thing to me.
#133 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 18, 2014 - 7:21am
"San Diego being that high is actually the most surprising thing to me."
That speaks to what a dynamic offensive team they were to watch from the mid-aughts onward. It's a shame they never really came close to winning a championship (Norv'ed!!!).
#154 by David C // Nov 18, 2014 - 3:23pm
The top 2 are big markets and the bottom 5 are small markets, but things get a lot murkier in between. Looking at just the rest of the top 10 markets, the highest rated is Washington at 13, and the lowest is Tennessee at 27. It seems to be a combination of winning percentage and market size. If you assume LA is half Raiders and half Chargers, then San Diego is a mid-sized market, but Indianapolis and Green Bay are both definitely small market teams.
#68 by big10freak // Nov 17, 2014 - 1:43pm
Was impressed by GB getting a return TD and forcing a fumble against one of the best special team units in the league.
Less thrilled on the missed kicks and blocked punt.
Talk about lurching between great to awful
#83 by Dave Bernreuther // Nov 17, 2014 - 3:02pm
With the rules seemingly always changing, I've forgotten some stuff, and I think these are all former but outdated interpretations of rules... can someone tell me for sure that I'm wrong that it's not illegal contact anymore if the QB leaves the pocket? And what are the current rules about launching/targeting/defenseless receiver?
The two de-cleating hits to Sanders and Caldwell in the Broncos-Rams game are the types of hits that I definitely remember groaning about after "defenseless receiver" flags in the past. But the flag for the first one wasn't described as such and all anyone on the broadcast or twitter talked about was that he didn't make contact to the head. So is the defenseless thing antiquated and now it's just head shots that are illegal? Caldwell was equally "defenseless" too, and no flag was thrown.
I think both hits are textbook and with the exception of helmet to helmet stuff I side with the angry defensive players about the rules shifts in the last ten years... but I thought both of those would draw flags. So it seems obvious that I'm not up to date with the rules any more.
#94 by Dave Bernreuther // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:43pm
I've googled, but that PDF is what I really wanted but hadn't read. Thanks.
OK, so I'm not crazy. Which means I've seen some things flagged that shouldn't have been, but more than that, I have seen lots of opportunities where DBs really ought to just beat the hell out of receivers on teams like SEA and SF but don't.
#98 by dank067 // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:09pm
For what it's worth, I do think defensive players are largely aware of this. For example, the same contact rules for when the QB is out of the pocket apply to a tipped pass; last week, after a screen pass by Cutler got deflected off Kyle Long's helmet, AJ Hawk grabbed and held Matt Forte, allowing Casey Hayward to run up for the easy INT. But doing things like this in real time, to receivers who are usually not stationary and in fact running away from you toward open space, isn't easy.
#120 by dank067 // Nov 17, 2014 - 11:07pm
Right, I didn't mean held in the sense that it was illegal, just that it was an alert play. Just pointing out that it's usually not so easy for defenders to become aware of those situations and just take receivers out of the play.
#101 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:21pm
Yes that's true, illegal contact cannot be a penalty outside the pocket. I remember an awesome play Urlacher made one time when he just shoved a fullback right to ground after the QB rolled out.
However, pass interference and holding still apply.
#92 by Mr Shush // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:32pm
"In case anyone was STILL wondering whether the running back or the offensive line is more important to the running game, I present to you Jonas Gray. Undrafted, came off a practice squad a month and a half ago. Four touchdowns tonight."
I don't disagree with the conclusion, but this line of argument is pretty bad. Sure, he was undrafted; that doesn't mean he isn't good, or that some of the improvement in the Patriots' running game wasn't down to him. Back in 2009, a team with a terrible running game handed over the Week 17 starting duties to a rookie UDFA they'd recently promoted off the practice squad, and he ran all over the Pats. Clearly the improvement was all about the line finally coming together, and unrelated to the random scrub the Texans plugged in to replace Chris Brown, Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton. Whatever happened to that guy anyway?
#153 by Mr Shush // Nov 18, 2014 - 3:11pm
Again, I'm not really talking about Gray or the Patriots, or even disputing the general hypothesis that effective running games are by and large more dependent on blocking than running back play. I'm just criticizing the argument itself: the premises are true, the conclusion is true (provided the conclusion ist just that lines are more important, not that backs aren't important), but the argument is transparently invalid, and the implied premise that would make it valid if we added it ("no undrafted rookie running back is good") is plainly false, as demonstrated by the Arian Foster example.
#118 by Tim F. // Nov 17, 2014 - 10:39pm
In fact, many Notre Dame, Miami Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens (maybe not, they may not have saw much of him on practice field/reporting, Miami got to see him in preseason) fans were probably well aware of Gray. His injuries heading into the NFL and not being able to crack a starting lineup didn't prevent anyone from seeing he was a capable power back who could be really scary if he got healthy, developed a fuller game, or landed on a roster lacking in complete RBs. Ignorance is rarely proof of anything but your own ignorance.
#95 by D2K // Nov 17, 2014 - 4:57pm
SO I took the day off today because... reasons. While mindlessly flipping through channels I end up on NFL Live (the first time I have tuned in to this drivel in ages) and I hear Trey Wingo and crew harping on the fact that Dick LeBeau defenses feast on rookie QB's historically, which is true, something to the tune of 16-2 since 2004. Then they begin to deliver the most insane, free of context stat I may have ever heard (hyperbole surely, but work with me). Wingo: The only rookie QB's to beat LeBeau were a Troy Smith led Ravens team in 2007 and Brandon Weeden in 2012. The whole set laugh and thats it.
No mention that the Troy Smith win came in week 17 where the steelers were resting starters for the playoffs or the fact that in the Weeden game Big Ben was OUT and Charlie Batch was the starter. Unreal.
Mike Munchak homecoming tonight, rookie QB v. LeBeau, no pass rush from Titans, Steelers off of a loss = Monday Night/Primetime Bloodbath.
#99 by Steve in WI // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:12pm
Thoughts on the Bears game:
1. In general, I thought yesterday's outcome was pretty much the worst possible one for the Bears: a thoroughly unconvincing win that is going to net them a slightly worse draft pick. It really made me question the Vikings and Bridgewater more than it gave me any confidence in the Bears' players, coaches, or management.
2. I couldn't agree more with Cian: "Part of me thinks Marc Trestman is trying to be fired. Another part of me hopes he's trying to be because otherwise he's just plain dumb." I don't understand the playcalling and I definitely can't comprehend the clock management. Take the drive at the end of the first half: the Bears got the ball at their own 26 with about 1:05 left and one timeout. You would think they would attempt to at least get into field goal range, right? First play is a Forte run for 7 yards, after which the team huddled and showed absolutely no urgency in getting to the line. The next play was a 15-yard Forte run, at which point there were about 20 seconds left and Trestman apparently realized that his team was at midfield and he should try to score before the half, so he took the timeout. With 15 seconds left, the only thing the Bears can do is try to complete a pass and get out of bounds, and Cutler throws an interception.
I look at everything Trestman has done as far as in-game decisions, and I think, this is the guy everyone thought was an offensive genius?
3. There was a really weird explanation for the ruling on Cutler's fumble-that-wasn't-a-fumble-at-first - did anyone else catch this? Basically, Cutler got hit as he was about to throw and it initially looked like an incomplete pass, but you could see on the replay that his hand was empty as it was coming forward. The ball fell at the feet of about half a dozen guys, from both teams, and initially no one did anything. After a few seconds, a Vikings player fell on it.
It was ruled that Cutler fumbled, but there was no recovery by either team so the Bears got to keep it. Now, the way the referee (and the announcers) explained it made it sound like the reason the Vikings were not credited with the recovery was because once the majority of the players gave up and stood around, the play was dead. That's absurd, right? I can understand that if the officials incorrectly blew the play dead before the Vikings player fell on the ball, then they can't be given the ball (and maybe that's in fact what happened), but I thought the explanation was bizarre.
4. I thought the CBS announcers for the game (whose names I don't even remember) were awful. They referred to Marquess Wilson as "newly signed" at least twice - um, yes, this is his first game of the season, but he's been on the team since he was drafted in 2013. He was just on short-term IR up until this point in the 2014 season. Also, at one point they mentioned Chris Williams' return touchdown last week against the Packers and then said that the Vikings were wisely keeping the ball away from him since he's such a threat. Um, this is the guy who except for the return TD in garbage time last week struggles to get the ball past the 15 on most of his kickoff returns.
#103 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:27pm
So similar to the famous Cutler fumble against the Chargers that got the rule changed so that obvious recoveries could happen post snap. I guess the refs decided there was a time limit on that.
#105 by Arkaein // Nov 17, 2014 - 5:49pm
For #3, had the whistle blown?
The old rule was that if the whistle blew because a ref thought it wasn't a fumble then not even an immediate recovery could overturn the original call.
The new rule mainly applies to cases where the whistle blows but players are still scrambling for the ball. If none of the refs blow the whistle, then play usually continues until some player figures out what's up (see Jarrett Boykin in Packers @ Bears last year, though I'm sure you'd prefer a different example).
In any case, I can see why the refs would award a ball to a player several seconds after the whistle was blown. The rule regarding fumble overturns on replay is a lot better than it used to be, but will never be perfect.