Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Audibles at the Line: Week 3
Audibles at the Line: Week 3
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

San Diego Chargers 22 at Buffalo Bills 10

Cian Fahey: Brandon Flowers continues to remind his doubters that he was injured and miscast last year. Been fantastic for the Chargers so far this season and has made another good start to this game.

At halftime of the Bills -- Chargers game, I'm left wondering if there is a better quarterback in the NFL right now than Philip Rivers. Definitely leading the MVP race to this point and I'm not sure anyone is actually close to him.

Vince Verhei: Pending Peyton Manning's game against Seattle later, I agree with Cian: Rivers is having perhaps his best season and is the clear leader for MVP right now.

Aaron Schatz: Did anyone watch BUF-SD and know if a particular cornerback shut down Sammy Watkins?

Cian Fahey: A particular cornerback? No. A particular quarterback? Yes. Watkins was open, EJ Manuel couldn't find him.

Dallas Cowboys 34 at St. Louis Rams 31

Scott Kacsmar: We know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are lousy on defense, and we expected Dallas to be terrible, but I'm liking what Austin Davis is doing for the Rams, now up 14-0 after a Brian Quick touchdown.

According to Cowboys fans, DeMarco Murray has fumbled on the opening drive in each game this season. He's having a strong start overall, but not with ball security.

Dallas struggles to cover tight ends, but Jared Cook struggles to catch the ball. Dropped an easy touchdown. Get ready though, it's Tony Romo in a 4-point game in the fourth quarter. Then again, not many people are watching this game so the reaction may not be as strong as usual.

Too much failure in the four-minute offense for me. Dallas and Cleveland both could have iced these games without ever putting the defense in a position to lose. Ravens just kicked the game-winning field goal.

Ben Muth: The Rams jumped out to 21-0 lead after a great first drive of the game and two Dallas turnovers. After that Dallas looked like the better team, though if Jared Cook catches an easy touchdown it is a different game. I know Chris Long is hurt but the super-hyped Saint Louis defensive line didn't do much for me today. Gregg WIlliams felt the need to blitz get pressure and Dallas' offensive line did a great job picking up those blitzes. Also, Murray had another 100-yard game so kudos to the Dallas O-line.

Austin Davis is OK. He looks down the field (more than most unheralded young quarterbacks at least) and is accurate underneath but I don't think he's a long-term starter, doesn't make any plays, just kind of takes what's there. Even when what's there is a shove from Jared Cook on the sidelines right after the highly paid tight end's touchdown drop.

Oh, and the game ended with a Morris Claiborne interception. Just wanted to get that on the official record because I'm not sure we'll ever be able to say that again.

Washington Redskins 34 at Philadelphia Eagles 37

Andrew Potter: Washington just gave up yet another touchdown on special teams. They have to be approaching some kind of record.

Vince Verhei: I feel like I'm watching a replay of last weeks Seahawks-Chargers game, with one team dominating time of possession to a ridiculous degree. Washington ran 45 plays in the first half, while Philly only ran 23. The game was 36 real-life minutes old before the Eagles ran an offensive play. The difference is that a couple of Washington drives have ended in field goals, and the Eagles have added a kickoff return touchdown, so Philadelphia is actually ahead 21-20 despite never having the ball. Kirk Cousins has looked very sharp on short throws, which is good for controlling the clock, but he'll probably need to hit more big plays if Washington is going to score consistently.

Cousins has started hitting those big plays he couldn't find in the first half. DeSean Jackson got wide-open for his long revenge touchdown, but the throw into a narrow window between cornerback and safety for a 43-yard gain to Pierre Garcon was a Real Man Throw.

Eagles' last drive was quite newsworthy. Foles appeared to throw an interception, and on the runback he got wiped out on a cheap shot by Chris Baker. That led to a huge brawl, and when the smoke cleared Baker for Washington and Jason Peters for Philadelphia were both ejected. And after all that, the interception was (correctly) overturned on replay anyway. A few plays later the Eagles were saved on replay again, when a third-down incompletion to Jeremy Maclin was (again, correctly) reversed to a catch and first down. Foles hit Maclin on a seam route for a go-ahead score at the end of the drive.

Washingtons next drive ended with a Cousins overthrow that was intercepted, and one more score here could ice it for the Eagles.

Houston Texans 17 at New York Giants 30

Rivers McCown: Watching this Giants-Texans game is like watching the 2014 Texans play the 2013 Texans.

Turns out Ryan Fitzpatrick's hot start was more about game scripts than Bill O'Brien turning him into the best quarterback in the league.

I know, I know. Try to act surprised.

Tennessee Titans 7 at Cincinnati Bengals 33

Rob Weintraub: Cincy drives easily into the red zone, then settles for three. This is a recording.

Sanu! Another touchdown pass, this time a throwback to Andy Dalton of all things, who skies to make the catch, bounces off a tackler, and sprints to the pylon and dives in for six. That's 4-of-4 with two touchdowns as a quarterback for Mo, and one way to score a touchdown in the red zone. 10-0 Cincy.

Andrew Potter: Andy Dalton just had a touchdown reception. I'm posting this in case Rob fainted.

Rob Weintraub: Fortunately, a man here knows CPR...

In case anyone is interested, the last quarterback to catch a touchdown pass was Tyler Thigpen.

Aaron Schatz: ... and it was the worst day of Herm Edwards' life.

Rob Weintraub: In fairness, the play probably should have been a pick-six the other way, but the defender (I think it was Wilson) pulled off and decided to neither go for the ball or the man.

Rivers McCown: Yes, this was not Blidi Wreh-Wilson's finest moment.

Rob Weintraub: Terence Newman drops what would have been an easy pick-six. Then Ryan Succop misses his second field goal of the half. As a way to pay to tribute to Rob Bironas, it leaves something to be desired.

Margus Hunt with a great first step on an end zone punt by Tennessee, and gets held in the paint for a safety. Unfortunately, he also limped off -- hopefully OK, he's really coming along well for a guy speaking football as a second language.

Actually it looked like the hold was called on Cedric Peerman's man, though Hunt was grabbed and spun as well. 12-0 either way.

Breh-Wilson's nightmare continues. After a deflected interception by Robert Geathers (who dropped into coverage on the patented double-A gap zone blitz) set up Cincy deep in Titans terrain, Breh-Wilson never turned around on an otherwise sure A.J. Green touchdown catch. Pass interference, ball at the 1, Gio takes it in, 19-0 Cincy.

Literally the only way back into this game for the Titans was a turnover by Cincy. Sure enough, with less than a minute left, a safe screen just to run out the half bounces off Gio for an inerception. First Cincy turnover of the season. Fortunately, a personal foul penalty on Michael Oher sets Tennessee back a bit, then under duress Jake Locker throws into the middle of the field, where Reggie Nelson intercepts to preserve the first-half shutout. 19-0 Bengals at halftime.

By the by that is now 15 of 19 games dating back to last season in which the Bengals have led by double-digits at some stage.

Tom Gower: Positives in the first half for the Tennessee Titans:

1. Nobody seems to have been injured.
2. The defense had a couple stops in the second quarter and only gave up points on a short field.
3. Their players are getting valuable learning experiences.

It's 19-0 at halftime, but it feels more like 19-(-24). The Titans did have a couple decent drives, but Ryan Succop has missed a pair of field goals to keep them off the scoreboard. Jake Locker has ranged from completions to Delanie Walker over the middle of the field to completely uncatchable passes. One of his interceptions was not his fault -- dislodged when Walker was hit by George Iloka to set up Cincinnati's second touchdown. The other was a throw I'd shake my head at and mutter about if a high schooler did it -- late, across his body, to the middle of the field, basically screaming "pick this off" to a safety.

I thought the only way Locker had a chance of getting benched was if he cost the Titans multiple winnable games. I don't think they would've won against Dallas last week if he'd had an average (for him) game, and I don't think they'd have won this week, but his past two first halves are making it a question you can't easily dismiss.

Vince Verhei: I mentioned last week, I'm a big Locker denier, but barring injury the Titans are not benching Locker for this guy.

Rivers McCown: Whitehurst looks like Hank Hill.

Tom Gower: I think if any quarterback costs you multiple (two to four) otherwise winnable games, and you're not committed to him after the current season, you think seriously about making a change. I'd put that counter for Locker at 0 (even after today), but it's a conversation. N.B., this is Ken Whisenhunt, who started Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer in 2012, and only Kolb's benching was other than 100 percent performance-driven.

Rob Weintraub: The Titans had a spark of life at the beginning of the third quarter, mainly thanks to Bishop Sankey, who showed some nice burst, wiggle, and power all in a four- to six-play period. But a long gainer was wiped out when Geno Atkins, with perhaps his best first-step burst of the season since last year's ligament tear, forced a hold on Andy Levitre. Then on third-and-long, Carlos Dunlap turnstiled "Not Blond Side" Oher for a sack. Dunlap has more than grown into the main pass rusher role vacated by Michael Johnson thus far this season. Cincy then rammed it 80 yards for a touchdown. 26-0, Bengals late third quarter.

Of course, "Not Blonde Side" is a movie about Michael Oher's botched dye job....

Yes, the Titans just punted on fourth-and-10 from the Bengals 48 down 26-0.

Tom Gower: At least Whisenhunt did go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 35. Really, though, I don't get exercised over decisions down four scores in the fourth quarter.

Rob Weintraub: I agree -- generally the only thing that happens is your quarterback gets hurt.

Another long drive through a finished Titans defense makes it 33-0, and officially time to put all starters on the bench. As it is, A.J. had gimped off a couple of times, though on one of them it appeared he took a shot to the family jewels.

Bengals offense is still rather squeezed to the margins without Jones and especially Eifert out there, but for the defense to play this well without Vontaze Burfict today is a good sign.

Baltimore Ravens 23 at Cleveland Browns 21

Cian Fahey: Joe Haden has been awful during the first three weeks of the season. That contract from the off-season is actually looking even worse, which is something I didn't think was possible.

Green Bay Packers 7 at Detroit Lions 19

Luke McKenna: Game tied at 7-7 in the second quarter. Matthew Stafford throws an interception to Davon House who was down at the 1-yard line. Next play, Green Bay runs the ball and DeAndre Levy makes the tackle for a safety. Not sure that can work out much better for Detroit. Interestingly Rodgers threw on first down in a very similar situation last week vs the Jets.

Andrew Potter: Stafford had another pick earlier on a third-and-14 arm punt. He doesn’t seem to have played well, but his mistakes are coming in relatively good spots. Green Bay’s offensive line is being eaten alive by Detroit’s D-line, which I bet nobody saw coming…

Luke McKenna: Nate Freese missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt to end the half (Detroit leads 12-7). That puts his record through three games at 3-of-6. I'm reliably informed Jason Hanson had the exact same record to start his Detroit career.

Scott Kacsmar: Incredibly, the Lions had two kickers for a span of 33 seasons: Eddie Murray (1980-1991) and Jason Hanson (1992-2012). The replacement search hasn't gone too well and missed kicks definitely having an impact on them this September.

Andrew Potter: Thus ends the Stafford streak of turnovers-which-weren’t-so-bad. Peppers with the sack, forced fumble, and recovery, with the Lions at the Green Bay 13-yard line.

Indianapolis Colts 44 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Scott Kacsmar: A week ago, Ahmad Bradshaw had three touchdown receptions in 88 career regular-season games. Since Monday night, he has caught three touchdowns in five quarters. Receiving touchdowns for running backs are always tricky to predict, but this is an especially unforeseen development. Not surprising is Jacksonville getting beat up at home by the Colts. In the Luck era, most of their big leads have come against the Jaguars.

Gus Bradley threw a challenge flag inside of two minutes of the second quarter. Isn't that a personal foul on the sideline? RedZone cut away from the game so I'm not sure what they said.

Cian Fahey: It used to be, but they changed the rules after that game in Houston. It was always a dumb rule.

Scott Kacsmar: I actually don't mind a penalty for throwing a challenge when you're clearly not allowed to. Bradley actually helped his team get a review there by delaying the game with a challenge he's not allowed to have. Indy could have quickly got to the line and ran a first-down play.

The problem in that 2012 Houston game on Thanksgiving was the officials blew the call, Schwartz should have known they would review it (all scores are reviewed now), but he challenged anyway. The dumb rule was that because he threw the flag, now they wouldn't review the score. Coaches should know better about when to throw the flag, but we shouldn't stop reviewing plays when they don't. Thankfully that particular rule was removed.

Vince Verhei: Chad Henne was sacked three times in the first half. That's 13 sacks in his last six quarters and 16 sacks in 2 1/2 games this year. Peyton Manning was sacked 18 times in all of 2013.

Blake Bortles in for Jacksonville to start the second half. Colts are up 30-0, so I guess it goes in the "why not?" category.

Oakland Raiders 9 at New England Patriots 16

Aaron Schatz: I'm live above Gillette Stadium for the Dennis Allen Scapegoat Bowl!

Patriots came out on their first drive and had an inaccurate pass, a miscommunication pass, and then a third-and-long screen. I hate third-and-long screens. This may be my new crusade. Stop the third-and-long screens. I went back to run some numbers off 2013. This is third down only, not fourth. Conversion rates:

To Go WR screen RB screen Other Pass Draw Other Run
8-15 16% 20% 29% 20% 9%
16 7% 5% 11% 0% 0%


1) Maybe those third-and-long draws aren't quite as stupid as we think.
2) STOP THE THIRD-AND-LONG WR SCREENS!!!!! Just stop it already. Everyone. Every team. Stop.

A couple of interesting early depth chart changes here. I'm a little shocked that James Jones seems to have fallen down the Raiders depth chart from "big free-agent signing" to "WR No. 2B." Patriots taking Jamie Collins off in nickel situations but leaving Donta Hightower on. And Nate Ebner is playing a lot of defensive snaps today and even covering guys man-to-man. It's rugby-licious!

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Cian Fahey: Jones has probably been their best receiver through two weeks as well, despite that infamous double-fumble play. He is the kind of receiver who really helps a rookie quarterback with his catch radius.

Aaron Schatz: I have to admit to being a little dumbfounded when the Raiders pulled Khalil Mack off the field on third-and-2, Patriots on the Oakland 6-yard line. "Maybe he's tired," I thought. Then the Patriots called timeout, so Mack got his rest... and still, Kaluka Maiava is on the field instead of Mack. In fact, I think both Maiava and Burris were on the field, no Mack. I have no idea why you would do that.

Not necessarily because of Mack being on the sidelines, but touchdown pass Rob Gronkowski.

Cian Fahey: Aaron, I believe that's because they're the Oakland Raiders.

Aaron Schatz: And now, the latest from Foxborough: No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible. No. 71 is eligible.

J.J. Cooper: Patriots survive it, but they botched their time management in the final two minutes of the first half. By being a little too cavalier with running down the clock, they found themselves facing a third-and-goal situation with eight seconds left and no timeouts. It was fine as long as Tom Brady wasn't sacked on the final pass attempt, but a bad snap made that very dicey. Brady just managed to scoop the ball up and throw it away, but he came a few tenths of a second away from being sacked to end the half.

Aaron Schatz: Thoughts on the second half in Foxborough.

Derek Carr was really impressive in the way he handled pressure. Escaped the pocket, and not only didn't take sacks, but was able to get yardage on dumpoffs instead of throwing the ball away. Showed promise. Offensive line also a little better than expected, at least on pass blocking.

On defense, I think you saw a combination of three things. First, the Raiders do have a reasonable pass rush, it's just a problem that most of those guys are on the downside of their career so there's no future development. Second, Kahlil Mack. There's your star and your future development, kids. Looked great. Third, Patriots offensive line still looked iffy. Nate Solder in particular had a bad game. Things got better in the second half when rookie Bryan Stork (last year's Rimington Trophy winner) came in and kicked Connelly to right guard with Jordan Devey sitting down.

I'm a little surprised that the Patriots offense seems so out of sorts with both miscommunication and inaccurate Brady passes, given the way they improved in the second half of last year. Obviously, as a Pats fan, I am hoping for a similar improvement as this year goes along, especially as Rob Gronkowski gets healthier and Tim Wright learns the offense better (and Brady begins to trust him more, which will in turn mean Belichick uses him more). Christopher Price and I were talking about this at halftime, but it's pretty clear that Brady (or Belichick, or both) has really lost faith in Danny Amendola. He just never seemed to quite learn the offense right, somewhat similar to Chad Ochocinco. Still has plays where it doesn't seem like he's lining up right. So Brady just always looks at Edelman first, then Vereen and Gronk second and third. As for Brandon LaFell's complaints to the Globe that he's mostly being used as a blocker, that was a popular subject of ridicule in the press box today. No duh, Brandon. Although hey, they did throw him a few passes, and he even caught a couple of them.

One other thing that I mentioned on Twitter... If you want to follow the idea that the Raiders are living in the past by assembling the 2008 Pro Bowl roster, I will also point out that they are the only team in the league that regularly has two fullbacks active on game day. (Apparently the Lions and Saints also have two fullbacks each but usually only one is active.)

Wait... looking back on the thread. Did I forget to mention that Darrelle Revis had a bad game? Man, Revis had a bad game. Usually covered James Jones, was giving up completions in man coverage all day long.

Interesting trivia question on the Pats post-game notes. Patriots are 82-15 at Gillette Stadium now, best winning percentage of any team at one home stadium since 1970 (minimum 25 games). Can you guess the rest of the top five? Hint: only one of the other four team-stadium combinations is still active. In fact, two of the other four teams have played in two different stadiums since.

(Note: answers at the bottom of the page.)

San Francisco 49ers 14 at Arizona Cardinals 23

Aaron Schatz: I think a few years ago in the book, Ned Macey wrote an essay showing that coaches seem to have less success after age 55 or 57 or so. But the three oldest head coaches in the league right now are Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, and Bruce Arians. When you see how Arians has won the last couple years despite talent deficiencies, and how he's got the Cardinals still contending right now despite losing three of their four starting linebackers and now their starting quarterback... man, how did we wait this long to give this guy a starting job?

Denver Broncos 20 at Seattle Seahawks 26 (OT)

Scott Kacsmar: Broncos have to stick with the running game, but Seattle's making it awfully hard to do that with these minimal gains. Ball has eight carries for 19 yards, and his longest gain (9 yards) was the drive-opening fumble.

Vince Verhei: Awfully weird first half in Seattle. Russell Wilson's raw numbers look phenomenal (11-of-13, 145 yards, two scores), but for the first four drives he did nothing as a passer, as their only first down came on a Jermaine Kearse-to-Wilson pass. (Apparently it's "Throw Passes to Quarterbacks Day" in the NFL.) Then he put together a couple of touchdown drives at the end of the half. Right before halftime, Russell Okung went to the locker room with what appeared to be a painful arm injury, so it looks like he's his usual fragile self.

Meanwhile, the Broncos had success moving the ball despite good pressure and coverage, because Peyton Manning has done Peyton Manning things, usually to Emmanuel Sanders. They have thrown at Sherman a few times, without substantial success. They've had some problems on third down, though, including a pair of draws on third-and-long that led to punts. I mentioned that on Twitter and people suggested Manning audibled to those calls, and that he doesn't have the arm to complete "deep" balls. But man, if you have literally zero faith in your own ability to pick up a third-and-10... well, it's going to be a long day.

Tom Gower: Macro-level question I struggled with in the offseason, and this game is bringing back up again: is what Seattle is doing anything different than what other teams have tried to do, and they're just a lot better at it because they're really good on defense?

Related point: This Broncos offensive line doesn't look much better than the one in February. Seattle can give run-favorable looks and still prevent the Broncos from getting many yards, which has long been an element of the "stop Peyton" blueprint.

Aaron Schatz: My impression of things: It's not that much different, but it is based on three things. First, Earl Thomas makes it all possible. Earl Thomas roaming so much ground in the deep middle allows the cornerbacks to play much tighter and allows Kam Chancellor to play up at the line to stop the run much of the time. Second, the Seahawks realized a couple years ago a market inefficiency where everyone was looking for shorter, faster cornerbacks and not bigger, physical but not necessarily as fast cornerbacks. Having Earl Thomas allowed them to take advantage of this inefficiency by finding Richard Sherman in the fifth round and Brandon Browner in the CFL. (Even now they're getting their cornerbacks in low rounds. They've got a guy today named Marcus Burley who was a 2013 UDFA. But he's not a tall guy, so he doesn't quite fit the mold.) Third, just great drafting and free-agent signings. Drafting Mebane and Wright, signing Avril and Bennett, and so on.

And if you want to see what this all looks like without Earl Thomas – I mean, without a lot of the talent, but especially without Earl Thomas -- watch the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Scott Kacsmar: Thought it was pretty clear Wes Welker was interfered with on third down earlier this quarter. Now the Seahawks were clearly offsides on a third-and-1 run and again a no call. Why can't they make something like that challenge eligible? Ridiculous that they missed it.

Cian Fahey: The Broncos have obviously been better in this game than they were in the Super Bowl last season. Sanders has made a much bigger impact than Decker did, but the same problems appear to remain. The offensive line needs to be better so they can establish the run and the receiving options as a whole need to be better at the catch point.

Scott Kacsmar: Phil Simms keeps complimenting Denver's pass protection, because after a certain petition last week, he can't possibly speak badly about Denver in this game. But scoring margin aside, it really does look like the Super Bowl in multiple ways. All offseason I couldn't think of any way Denver could really get better prepared for this defense that didn't involve a better running game. That's "physical football" in other words. And just like the Super Bowl, or maybe even worse, there's been absolutely nothing on the ground. So forget that. Then when Denver tries to throw, there seems to be a Seahawk defender draped on every receiver. They definitely got away with some penalties today, but you have to expect that in their building. Sanders has been better than Decker, but Demaryius is still struggling and Julius hasn't been a factor.

The only other way Denver had a chance here was for its defense to be better. They have stepped it up in this second half, so after a Wilson pick, we'll see if the offense can get in the end zone and make this an interesting finish.

Aaron Schatz: Here's what doesn't look like the Super Bowl: the Denver defense looks much, much better. They have Chris Harris, they have T.J. Ward, they have DeMarcus Ware, and they're not getting taken to the cleaners.

Any time you can feed Bryan Walters the ball four times on a must-have late-game drive, you gotta do it.

Oh, Peyton. You had Julius Thomas open when you tried to hit Welker and hit Kam Chancellor instead.

Vince Verhei: Many, many, many things went badly for Seattle in that second half. Wilson forcing a ball into triple coverage for the interception. Wilson holding the ball forever to take a sack to set up the safety. Harvin running a ball out of the end zone and getting tackled inside the 10-yard line. (That may have set up the safety too, I'm not sure right now.) Harvin, perhaps because of the kickoff return, getting benched and forcing the Seahawks to go to Brian Walters. And then on the last two drives they rush three and drop a defensive tackle to take away the crossing route, but that gives Manning time all day and he burns Maxwell over and over and over again.

Tom Gower: Heck of a drive by the Broncos to tie it. I guess they found something they liked with those route combinations on the left side, since they ran it a couple times pretty successfully (assuming my memory works). Great recovery after the potentially back-breaking Chancellor interception. That play seemed to me like Manning forced the throw in anticipation of pressure coming from the right side. Chris Clark had struggled a lot, I think, and the Seahawks had gotten good pressure from the alignment they showed presnap earlier in the game. Quick throw = dive and close.

Seattle's final drive, well, the Seahawks are hard to defend when they use the edges with Wilson and then hit you between the tackles. I think the Broncos would have done better with Danny Trevathan -- the Seahawks definitely got after Brandon Marshall and Nate Irving in space at times, and you can't really cover for both of them without making yourself too easy to exploit elsewhere. A heck of an ending after a first half that, while interesting, was kind of dull.

Vince Verhei: Denver's last drive included a lot of pick-play concepts that seemed to leave Seattle confused about who to cover.

It is funny how smooth and efficient Seattle's offense looked in overtime. I assume that they are telling Wilson only to keep the ball in must-win scenarios, because he rarely keeps the ball on zone reads anymore, but he kept it repeatedly in overtime. I understand why -- you don't want your small franchise quarterback running if it's not mandatory -- but they were so much more dangerous with that weapon unleashed.

Speaking of weapons, the secret MVP of the game was Jon Ryan -- net average of 47.7 yards on six punts, five of them downed inside the 20, plus the 80-yard free kick. (He had a punt last week too that traveled nearly 80 yards on the fly from his foot to the returner.)

Kansas City Chiefs 34 at Miami Dolphins 15

Cian Fahey: I do understand why the constant context for Ryan Tannehill's numbers are being called excuses at this stage, but the reality is that the supporting cast isn't suddenly getting good. I had one eye on this game so wasn't fully focused on it, saw bits on RedZone too, but it again appears that Wallace doesn't know where he should be half the time and he had at least one drop.

Jarvis Landry added another wide-open drop, while Charles Clay remained a muted figure in this offense. At this stage, it appears the Week 1 display said more about the Patriots defense and that heat rather than the offensive line. Lazor is doing the right thing with the philosophy of the offense, but I question his play-calling on gameday.

Worryingly for Philbin, the defense looks worse than the offense.

This unit is a bit like the Carolina Panthers defense, in that it is almost completely reliant on its defensive line to be dominant. However, even when the defensive line is dominant, the linebackers and secondary can still find a way to beat themselves. The off-coverage approach just makes it too easy for teams to move the ball on them and it neutralizes the impact of one of the more talented cornerbacks in the NFL, Brent Grimes.

Forgot to note, Lamar Miller looked very good. His fit in this offense is perfect and his vision appears to be improving the more he plays.

Rob Weintraub: I'll say this for Tannehill -- at least three times this season, and twice against Kansas City, he has thrown strong, accurate passes while being sacked, including an amazing completion. Not just with guys hanging on him, Roethlisberger-style, but while being driven hard to the ground, milliseconds away from hitting the turf. Incredibly athletic plays, for what they are worth.

Pittsburgh Steelers 37 at Carolina Panthers 19

Scott Kacsmar: I look forward to crediting all these broken tackles by Le'veon Bell. Otherwise, not much going on here. Oh, Todd Haley did have fullback Will Johnson targeted out there on a wide receiver screen. So that happened.

I haven't kept up with the penalty stats, but these "points of emphasis" seem like a load of crap to me, especially the penalties for defensive holding and illegal contact. Steelers looked to have a touchdown with Markus Wheaton, but they said he stepped out of bounds and was the first to touch the ball. First, I'm not even sure his foot was on the line. Second, the reason he stepped out was because of Melvin White forcing him out of bounds. That contact was more than 5 yards down the field, so there has to be some penalty there. The level of calls in the preseason was absurd, but how about at least calling the obvious ones that are impacting plays?

Aaron Schatz: Steelers keep getting to Cam Newton with a three-man rush. I don't think any of us expected that kind of power from their defensive line.

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Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers have a takeaway.

Brian Hartline caught a touchdown.

Morris Claiborne made a huge interception.

Peyton threw more interceptions than Eli.

Trent Richardson averaged over 4.0 yards per carry.

Week 3 is opposite day.

Tom Gower: Wasn't that always going to be the issue with Carolina this season, that by replacing their receivers and some key offensive linemen they'd struggle to move the ball with any consistency? It's 16-3 right now, which isn't the even scoreline I expected, but it's been more or less the game we expected, no?

Cian Fahey: Ron Rivera is a professional coach. Not just a professional coach, an NFL head coach. He is amongst the 32 people who are considered to be the smartest football minds in the whole world. Yet, against the Steelers, a team that has proven through two weeks that it can't stop the run in any form, he calls four runs for his running backs in the first half.


This genuinely bemuses me. How can you watch your opponents tape leading up to this game and think it's best to completely avoid attacking their greatest weakness? How can you be so inept that you play the game from the start in the way that gives the opposition the best chance to win?

I understand DeAngelo Williams is out. I even understand that you may not completely trust your offensive line. But this Steelers' front seven doesn't have a nose tackle, doesn't have quality defensive ends, doesn't have resilient outside linebackers and two safeties who have a proven affinity with missing tackles.

This is offensive malpractice from the Panthers coaching staff. As I type this, Antonio Brown has caught a touchdown pass at the start of the third quarter. Now the Panthers are in a situation where they will likely just go completely pass-happy.

Tom Gower: Ask Bama fans about Mike Shula sometime to see what they think of your evaluation of Carolina's coaching. Naturally, Jonathan Stewart got hurt on about his fifth carry.

Darin Gantt said it in 140 characters: "Ben Roethlisberger is pretty much a healthy Cam Newton. With blocking. And a stud receiver. And a running game." Kelvin Benjamin's been a much better player as a rookie than I thought he'd be, but he's not nearly the same quality of receiver as Antonio Brown.

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger is 10-of-10 passing to Brown tonight. This game is pretty much "Carolina's Weaknesses Exposed" as a NBC Sunday night special. The receivers outside of Benjamin and Olsen aren't doing anything. Newton's not sharp, and might be more hurt than we're led to believe. The running game's not there, because the offensive line isn't very good. The secondary can't cover Pittsburgh's receivers too well. Bell is making people miss a bunch of tackles, though to be fair he would do that to many defenses right now. We'll see if the last touchdown can do anything to make this interesting at 23-13, but the Steelers are usually good at holding those leads. This is one of the more complete games they have played in years. Balanced and efficient.

Aaron Schatz: Really loved what the Panthers did with that momentum after they scored the Greg Olsen touchdown and then forced the Steelers to go three-and-out. Momentum: it totally means something!

Scott Kacsmar: Aaron, Ray Lewis just told us momentum is very important, and he won two Super Bowls. He must be onto something.

Cian Fahey: Do you have a similar lack of belief in the idea of confidence?

Aaron Schatz: Lack of belief in the idea of "athletes with a lack of confidence" is really Danny Tuccitto's territory. But short version: I think it is very likely that almost all professional athletes are very confident at all times. You have to be to build your career to that point. There are probably some exceptions, but it's a smaller issue than most commentators seem to indicate. I do think that you can have frustration about what your game plan is, or what your coaches are doing. Tom Brady certainly seems to have lost confidence in Danny Amendola. But never in himself.

Rivers McCown: I enjoyed the juxtaposition between them talking about Greg Olsen's kid and then putting the camera on him after that fumble as he said (lip-reading): "fall on the fucking ball!"

JJ Cooper: I love that Le'veon Bell's 81-yard run gives us a Frenchy Fuqua reference (longest Steelers' run since Fuqua in 1970). That Fuqua run was in the Steelers-Eagles' game where Mean Joe Greene supposedly picked up the ball and threw it into the stands in the fourth quarter before walking off the field. I saw supposedly because I've never been able to find a contemporary report from then that mentioned it, although it pops up all the time in NFL Films' pieces on the '70s Steelers.

Tom Gower: Worth including because of the Bell run: the longest non-scoring plays in NFL history.

J.J. Cooper: Hey Cian, it's Week 3 so it's early, but you were right, I was wrong. You thought the Steelers' running game would take a big step forward this year. I thought they would make marginal improvements. With 200-plus yards tonight and a 50- and 81-yard run, I think I'm just an idiot.

Scott Kacsmar: The running back talent definitely helps. Bell was not that impressive last year. He's lost weight and now he's making guys miss like crazy. Blount's usually been good for breaking tackles like he just did on that touchdown run. These guys aren't completely dependent on the blocking like some of the past seasons' backfield depth.

Tom Gower: Yeah, there's a big difference in how Bell moves between now and how he moved at Michigan State. I thought he'd be just a plodder in the NFL when he was coming out, but he's more than that.

J.J. Cooper: He's not Marcus Allen, but I liked Collinsworth's allusion to Allen for Bell. They do have similar start-and-stop styles. I can't really think of another current NFL running back who runs like him, as on most plays he waits and waits and waits before hitting the hole. Former Steeler Willie Parker always took the hand-off and hit the line at full speed, whether there was a hole or not. Bell is his antonym.

Scott Kacsmar: Blount's hurdle will never get old. Might want to give Antonio Brown some tips so he doesn't kick a guy in the face again.

J.J. Cooper: This is the first time the Steelers have had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Earnest Jackson and Walter Abercrombie did it in 1986. Frank Pollard and Abercrombie did it in 1985 as well. Rocky and Franco did it three times as well. That's it for two Steelers' 100-yard rushers in the same game.

Trivia Question Answers:

New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, 82-15 (.845)

Miami Dolphins, Orange Bowl, 101-22-1 (.819)

Minnesota Vikings, Metropolitan Stadium, 64-23-1 (.733)

Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, 76-28-1 (.729)

Los Angeles Rams, Memorial Coliseum, 53-20-2 (.726)


151 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2014, 1:15pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Dolphins looked pretty much the same three weeks in a row. They couldn't do anything in the first half. The defense missing key linebackers eventually fell apart. When they run they move the ball a little, but the coaching staff is allergic to the run. Andy Reid was more patient with his running game than Miami and that isn't praise. The Dolphins scored thanks to timely defensive turnovers and a safety. Basically the Dolphin defense needs its offense to stay on the field for more than three snaps or it will give up 34 points. Ryan Tannehill looked dreadful. There were a few drops but mostly it was Tannehill throwing bad passes, Tannehill not going through his reads and missing wide open receivers, Tannehill tossing balls to KC defensive backs, or he just doesn't throw the ball at all. The number of times Miami called a play Kansas City knew at the snap or read Tannehill eyes out numbered the times they didn't. The corners were running the Dolphins routes. The only time he looks good is when Miami moves his feet in a roll out or once in a while when he remembers he can run. It wouldn't surprise me if Matt Moore is starting at QB after the bye week. Tannehill has become Mark Sanchez. The fans dread seeing him on the field. They boo him. They can't understand what the coaches see in him. It isn't that Matt Moore is a good QB but man Tannehill can't play a lick at the moment. Miami took away his security blanket college playbook this off season and it is clear he can't run the pro style offense the new OC is asking him to run. The Jeff Ireland stink is all over this team and an offseason purge feels likely. I feel bad for London for having to watch this hot mess next week.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

This was a strange loss for Miami. Tannehill played much better than in the first two weeks. The crazy lack of accuracy was gone. The RBs had several good runs. The defense made many plays: sacks, turnovers. There were even some big plays on special teams.

And the end result? A home blowout. I think you're right, they weren't patient enough with the running game and the defense alternated great drives with very weak ones, and eventually crumbled. Also, the offensive line struggled with pass protection and the receivers had key drops and failed to get separation. The KC defense deserves a lot of credit, most had given them up for dead and they had a very strong game.

When assigning blame for this particular game, Tannehill would be one of the last players I'd turn to.

Who, me?

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Aaron Schatz: I think a few years ago in the book, Ned Macey wrote an essay showing that coaches seem to have less success after age 55 or 57 or so. But the three oldest head coaches in the league right now are Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick, and Bruce Arians. When you see how Arians has won the last couple years despite talent deficiencies, and how he's got the Cardinals still contending right now despite losing three of their four starting linebackers and now their starting quarterback... man, how did we wait this long to give this guy a starting job?

I think what's interesting is how old NFL coaches are. Average age slightly over 53. The oldest average ever. Mike Tomlin is in his 8th year and he's still the second youngest head coach. Jeff Fisher (56) is in his 20th season and a quarter of the coaches in the league are older than him.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I wanted the Jags to keep Bortles out the whole year. Gabbert looked like a decent prospect for a couple of starts very early on (they lost a crazy game to the Vikings, and beat Andrew Luck in his second or third start, but Gabbert looked promising) before he started taking David Carr-type punishment behind an atrocious line, and bad habits set in (for years I've wanted David Garrard to get a shot somewhere else because he was a decent quarterback behind an unspeakably awful line without any receivers). I'm convinced that throwing a quarterback out there to take beatings can permanently lower his horizon. Jay Cutler seems to have a lowered ceiling from years wasted behind Jamarcus Webb and company though I never watched Denver closely enough when Cutler was there to know if "dumb" was always part of his makeup. It doesn't make sense to throw Bortles out there in reaction to Henne sucking- they already knew Henne sucked, and they just cut a starting guard- unless Bradley was concerned that starting another season as poorly as the Jags did last year would permanently affect his credibility, and if that's the case, it's an example of terrible process. The Jags knew their offense would take some lumps this year, that's why they re-signed Henne. It feels like a bad organization repeating mistakes

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Bortles is a much better prospect than Gabbert, though. Gabbert wasn't ruined because he wasn't any good to begin with. Another example of scouts being fooled by pretty tools over performance. Bortles has both.

That said, I expected them to sit him the entire year, as well. I guess Henne has been so bad that they figure they might as well start developing him.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Bortles looked much better than Henne and not nearly as green as I thought he'd be. I don't know how you keep him on the bench. Sure, he might develop bad habits, but there's no guarantee he'll have a better situation next year, so might as well get on with it.

Who, me?

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

They can control the situation he's walking into. The line is particularly bad on the interior, and you don't need to spend a lot of draft capital to get centers and guards. At least he looks downfield, which crappy young quarterbacks are averse to doing

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yeah, he doesn't look scared. I think that's more important than the state of the line. If a QB is scared to begin with, you can be sure he'll develop some bad habits even if he has protection. Fear makes for impressionable minds. I don't think one season of running for his life will break Bortles as long as it's only the one.

Who, me?

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

2nd week in a row Brian Hoyer has thrown to a wide-open WR so badly the WR fell down. Last week it didn't matter, because there was a game-winning FG on the next play. This week I believe it led to a blocked FG. He reminds me at the moment of a slightly less mistake-prone Josh McCown, whose ability to make plays is countermanded by his ability to do bad things in the wrong situation.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think Hoyer is quite a bit better than McCown but I'm not exactly thinking of him as a franchise QB.

What gets me as a Browns fan is that every website I visit, people keep saying that Browns fans should be encouraged. Really? We've lost two-thirds to three-quarters of our games every year for 7 years in a row, including this year's total so far (two-thirds of our games have been losses). Joe Flacco has beaten the Browns 12 out of 13 games now. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm having a real hard time feeling encouraged about that. Maybe if, you know, they actually started winning some games, say like half of them ... yeah, I know, I need to stop dreaming.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

They've played three of their hardest games of the year, and won one more of them than even some of the more optimistic expected. They have a stretch of @Jacksonville, Oakland, and Tampa Bay coming up in which they should be pretty clear favorites in each game, and they arguably have at least 50-50 odds against Pitt at home and @ Ten.

The schedule gets harder after that, but @ Baltimore, @ Atlanta and @ Cincy, and maybe @ Buffalo, are the only games where it's a sure thing they will be overwhelming underdogs.

Likewise, I know Fahey is one of Haden's biggest critics, and the big money man has not looked good, but let's see how he does against the more plebian #1s around the league before we get too down on him. Antonio Brown, Jimmy Graham and Steve Smith (even at this age) are tough matchups for everyone.

This isn't even getting into how having Gordon for the last 6 games (barring another bong hit) is going to drastically improve the offense's vertical reach.

Granted, things could get tough if the team unravels mentally as it has in some recent years, and the current run of no turnovers is unsustainable.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Huh? Are you talking about the 70 yard pass to Gabriel in the 4th quarter? Hoyer hit the WR in stride, and he fell down. Had nothing to do with Hoyer's throw.

Hoyer was 19/25 for 290 yards with 1 TD. Not sure why you're on his case.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It's interesintg that no one is mentioning the Seahawks were playing a prevent
on that last drive, virtually guaranteeing Denver would get that last touchdown.
While I know that playing the regular defense would not guarantee a stop,

(% chance of regular defense getting a stop) >> (% chance Peyton Manning does not carve up a prevent like a Thanksgiving turkey).

EDIT fixed logic error.

Was wr

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If playing a prevent allows the opponent to get gains of 42 and 26 yards, then Seattle failed catastrophically; a prevent defense is supposed to limit large gains in favor of giving up small ones. Seattle simply got beat by the same route combination over and over and failed to adjust.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The definition of prevent defense appears to be that the defense uses at least 7 DBs, and Seattle did not, so they weren't in prevent. They had a DL dropping back into coverage, and I think only 5 DBs were ever on the field for most of the plays.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Seattle lost three games last year (@Indy, @SF, AZ), and in all three they led in the 4th quarter. They also almost blew the lead at St Louis but saved the game with a goal line stand after allowing a 90-yard drive. And they came somewhat close to blowing leads late in both playoff games at home last year.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

They definitely weren't in passive mode against SF (a long Gore run did most of the damage), Arizona (Palmer scrambles and a miraculous catch by Floyd) or Indianapolis (Luck continually scrambling and hitting receivers right before he got hit, and receivers making some amazing catches with defenders draped all over them). They were against new Orleans, but it worked out there considering New Orleans had less than 30 seconds after they scored their TD; they didn't expect to blow the onsides kick coverage. And SF in the playoffs was just good execution by Kaepernick until the final play.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Minnesota Vikings, Metropolitan Stadium, 64-23-1 (.733)

Who would have thought a team playing outside in frequently brutal winter conditions would have some kind of home-field advantage? Considering the number of dome and/or warm-weather teams the NFL has, I'm glad the Vikings have continued to use their local winter weather as an ally and not be stupid enough to play indoors and thereby wipe out a significant advantage.

Right? Right?

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Little discussed fact: in the glory days of Met Stadium football, maintaining ticket demand for the really cold days was an issue, and Met Stadium had substantially more really cold days than even Lambeau In my very misspent youth, I was able to scalp even playoff tickets on the coldest days for less than 10 bucks, in the parking lot, 10 minutes prior to kickoff. For pretty decent seats, when the blackout rules were ironclad even for sellouts.

In addition, the Wilfs thought about going the outdoor route in the new Taj MaZyggi, but they soon found out that getting half the thing paid for with direct taxpayer subsidies was going to be a much harder sell without a roof, since going that route would have meant no Final Fours, and fewer other big events. 500-600 million billion taxpayer bucks for a facility which is useful 12 months a year was an easier sell than 400-500 million taxpayer bucks for a facility that becomes even more focused on 10-12 Vikings games.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Gophers really wanted to be on campus, and the Vikings were having none of that, if they could put the squeeze on the taxpayers. The jackal politicians were only too willing to oblige, of course. I also think the Gophers had some trepidation of trying to fill a stadium with 70,000 seats. So now the Twin Cites will have two modern football stadiums seating 125,000, about 4 miles apart, and two modern arenas seating almost 40,000, about 10 miles apart, and the University, I predict will, soon try to get another new arena seating 15,000-plus, built between them.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

To be fair, playing in a dome can be an advantage, too, right? Certainly I feel like it was one that the Vikings have taken advantage of in the past.

I wonder--given that they play in a division with 3 other cold-weather cities, I wonder if having a dome would be more beneficial than playing outdoors. This argument obviously works less because the Lions play indoors too. But I mean, it's not like you would definitely have an advantage over Green Bay and Chicago because of the weather--they're at least somewhat used to playing in cold weather themselves. But they're less accustomed to going into domes.

On the other hand, the more I think about this, I wonder if differentiating against non-division opponents is more useful. After all, even if you have a dome advantage against Chicago and Green Bay, they have a cold weather advantage over you at their home--and the fact that they're division rivals means that your benefit is split, presumably negating itself.

On the third hand, the same split happens with the cross-division games (you might host Carolina and New Orleans, but travel to Atlanta and Tampa Bay), so maybe it cancels itself out. Thinking is hard.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't think playing in a dome's as big an advantage, because the conditions that are most unlike all other conditions in the league are outdoor conditions in very bad weather. All teams are used to playing in broadly favourable conditions; some teams are much more used than others to playing in freezing temperatures, high winds and heavy precipitation, and those things happen pretty frequently around playoff time, when you want the edge most.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Obviously there are ways you can build to advantage yourself at home regardless of the specific conditions, but I think teams like the GSOT and the Payton-Brees Saints badly need to avoid the cold weather playoff road games against teams with good defenses in a way that isn't so true for teams like the Steelers for most of the noughties, who might be advantaged at home but were still perfectly capable of going on the road and beating good offenses in a dome.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm a little surprised that the Patriots offense seems so out of sorts with both miscommunication and inaccurate Brady passes, given the way they improved in the second half of last year.


Aaron, you did notice the NE OL being beaten like rented mules yet again, right?

The did have that one nice drive (which IIRC ended with Gronk dropping a (tipped) TD pass) where things actually clicked. That was when they put in Stork at C, moved Connelly to RG, and benched Devey. That gives me some hope that this offense will be able to execute if the OL can get its heads on straight.

Kraft -- call up Scar and give him an offer he can't refuse!

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think it is fair to say that Seattle has a historically great defense, although I still wouldn't put them at the top of the list of great defenses since the merger. When I see such a defense, I start thinking of offenses of the past 25 year I'd like to see go against them, adjusting for generally improved athletic standards, of course. The type of offense we just don't see anymore, since the salary cap has taken full effect, are those with superior offensive linemen at every spot, like the '91 Redskins, the '92 and '93 Cowboys, or perhaps the Bronco (and cap cheating) Super Bowl champ teams. It'd be interesting to see a team with good to great quarterbacking, and a very physical, very sound, both running and pass protecting, offensive line play this defense, but those teams just don't exists any longer. The 2003-2004 Patriots come closest, I suppose, in the last 15 years. The great Rams offenses would be intriguing as well, but I think Carroll would easily get the better of Martz. With Vermeil in charge, however, things may be different.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It would be an interesting game. The '05 Seahawks were very good, but played a soft schedule. I do believe they would have beaten the Steelers 6 or 7 times out of 10 had that Super Bowl been replayed.

Still, that Seahawks line would have slowed the '13 Hawks pass rush a lot. Jones and Hutchinson were incredible that year. Matt had a good rapport with his receivers. That Seahawks defense was pretty underrated as well (led the NFL in sacks).

I think the '13 team was better, but not by that much that I would pick them to crush the '05 version.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yes, the 05 team had a much better offensive line. But Matt Hasselbeck throwing to Darrell Jackson/Bobby Engram/Joe Jurevicius/Jerramy Stevens against the likes of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman would be a mismatch bordering on comical.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That seems like an overstatement. That's not appreciably worse than what the Chargers have right now, though Rivers is better than Hasselbeck then.

It's not like this Seattle group is perfect. I still think they would win, I just think it would be a 23-16 type win, not 34-13.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well, sure. It's not like the 2005 squad was a bad team, and that was their biggest strength. But seriously, if you match up the starting 22 of the 05 team and the 13 team, the 05 team is better on the offensive line, RB is pretty close to a wash, and if you want to be generous you could say the receiving corps are pretty close. But the 13 team is pretty clearly superior everywhere else on the field. It's kind of funny this is even a debate.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Clearly superior everywhere else?

First off, Hasselbeck in '05 was better than Wilson. He has sizable leads in both DYAR (770 vs. 1,357) and DVOA (15.6% vs 33.2%). Wilson did have a ~100 lead in Rushing DYAR.

Also, the '05 Seahawks D-Line was arguably better. They have a slightly higher ASR (7.9% in '05, 7.6% in '13), but a pretty good lead in ALY (3.50 in '05, vs 3.73 in '13). The '05 Seahawks D-Line was Top-5 in Power, Stuff Rate (and 2nd Level and Open Field - but that is more to do with their linebackers), while the '13 group was in none of these things.

I think there is only two areas where the '13 group was clearly better, the secondary and WR/TE.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Sean Locklear was not a superior offensive tackle, nor was Chris Gray a superior guard, and Gray was 35 years old.

(edit) To illuminate, I like the line of Mark Tunei, Nate Newton, Kevin Gogan, and Erik Williams a lot more. As well as Joe Jacoby, Mark Schlereth, Jeff Bostic, Raleigh McKenzie, and Jim Lachey. When Joe Jacoby is your 2nd best tackle, and Russ Grimm plays in 16 games but only starts one, that's a roster that can block some people.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

No defense that I've seen is thoroughly impregnable against any kind of offense. SEA's is clearly designed to destroy today's type of nfl team, but the vintage hogs would likely be a poor matchup. But then, you take the hogs and throw them against that 2000 ravens run stuff front and I think that o line gets stymied. But then the 00 ravens probably aren't equiped to handle todays spread teams.

I think Seattle needs to be judged by the era they are in. And considering how so many people keep screaming that defense is dead, Sea continues to sustain their dominance.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It'd be a helluva matchup, of course, but I like the chances of the '91 Redskins offense against the double aught Ravens defense, because they were so balanced, and because the Ravens defense would be on the field all day, likely with many short fields, as the Ravens offense screwed the proverbial pooch against a good Redskins defense.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

You can get a pretty good idea of how the '91 Redskins would fare against a historically-great defense since they did, you know, play two games against the greatest defense in the DVOA era. And I suspect a game between the '91 Redskins and the '00 Ravens would look very much like those 1991 'Skins-Eagles games.

Overeducated Layabout

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The type of offense we just don't see anymore, since the salary cap has taken full effect, are those with superior offensive linemen at every spot

I think an even better Vermeil team would be the 2003 Chiefs, L-R: Roaf, Waters, Weigmann, Shields, Tait. Tait was probably the weakest link although he was much better at RT than LT. Weigmann was the 2nd weakest at age 30 and he went on to start 16 games in each of the following 8 years. Waters was all-pro the next two seasons and Roaf/Shields are/will be HoFers. Plus a Pro Bowl FB in Tony Richardson who was a good blocker. Add in a HoF TE, plus Priest Holmes and Trent Green at their peaks. The WRs (Kennison/Morton) sound pedestrian, but they were effective enough (Kennison was 19th in DYAR and 22nd in DVOA, Morton 31/27) considering they were the 3rd and 4th options in the offense.

Plus the defense was terrible so the game would be very entertaining when the Seahawks had the ball. On on ST, whether the Seahawks scored a TD and kicked off or punted, Dante Hall was fun to watch too.

Those Chiefs were a flawed team but I'd stack that o-line up against any cap-era line.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

At this point, I have nothing but shock, awe, and extreme deference for this defense. They've basically shut down every single successful pass offense there is. The SD game feels more like an aberration due to weather and a long road trip than any kind of real weakness. DVOA seems to agree. But more importantly, this will be three years in a row they have been a great defense. How many teams can really say that?

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Interesting. It is said around here that defenses don't last but offenses do. Anybody know the average year to year correlation coefficient (DVOA or rank order) of defense, offense and STs over the last 5 or 10 or 15 years?

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It depends on how you define great. The Ravens had a top-6 by DVOA defense for 13 straight years, bookending that run with the #1 rank (1999-2011).

Tampa Bay was in teh Top-5 from 1999-2003, which included their #2 All-Time DVOA era defense in 2002.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Fine, but this the only defense I can remember that keeps routinely defeating otherwise powerful offenses. I probably need to give Baltimore more credit. In fact, for fun, any ravens fan wish to chime in on which defense they thought was their best over this run?

I guess the 00 one, but I always felt the 2006 one with Mcnair was ultra powerful. Trevor Pryce was awesome. Their linebackers included Suggs, Lewis, Bart SCott, and Adalius thomas(when he was motivated). The backfield had the last vintage years of C.Mcalister and Rolle, along with Reed in his absolute prime.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That 2006 one was the scariest I've seen.

You had Pryce (13 sacks), and Ngata (rookie) flanking Kelly Gregg. You had four monsters at Linebacker in Ray, Adalius (before he turned into a bust in NE), Scott and Suggs all in their prime. Then you had Rolle and McAllister who were still very good, and you had a nice Thomas/Chancellor type pairing with prime Reed and Landry.

That was terrifying. Their performance against the Colts in the 2006 Divisional Round was one of the better defensive performances in a loss of any I've seen.

You can make solid cases for the '00, '03 and '08 versions, too. But nothing combined the primes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, with teh ridiculous other talent quite like 2006.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

What exactly happened in 2007? Their pass defense completely collapsed, although it's impressive that they still ended up 5th in Defensive DVOA. I guess opponents were content to salt away games by running into the line for 2 yards for the entire second half, because they didn't fear Baltimore's offense at all.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

My memory of 07 is that there were a bunch of injuries in the secondary but Rex Ryan kept on dialing up exotic blitzes that didn't work. Rex really was only a good coordinator 2 out the 4 years he coached the defense, the two down years (05 and 07) he kept the run defense good but couldn't find ways to compensate for a lousy secondary. Although my memory is a bit hazy.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

A ton of injuries clustered in the secondary, esp at cornerback. Ravens were signing guys off the street, and playing them at CB in games.

It's not so much that Rex kept dialing up blitzes. He tried a variety of things – blitzing, laying back in coverage, everything in between – but nothing really works when your CBs just aren't NFL caliber. And then at some point they stopped competing. It looked like they gave up on the season – perhaps a reasonable response to watching Kyle Boller run Brian Billick's offense. (McNair got hurt.) They were 4-3 coming out of the bye, and then they laid down and died in Pittsburgh, and never recovered. They let Josh Cribbs beat them almost single-handedly in Baltimore two weeks later (I was at that game).

They only showed up for one game after the bye: the Monday nighter against the Imperfect Patriots. Great game, of course. They would have won that game if the offense under Boller could have mustered even *ONE* first down in the closing 4 mins. But no. If anything, the Ravens effort in that game just underlined how completely they were mailing it in during every other game. The only signs of life they showed was when Billick gave Troy Smith the start at QB in the season finale. Otherwise, pfft.

Billick was dead man walking, I think after the Steelers game following the bye. The Ravens organization really had no choice. The team imploded week 1 against the Bengals, and then re-imploded periodically all season long (except for the Patriots game), until the finale. The whole season was like long-protracted death throes.

Enter Harbaugh & Flacco. :-)

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm actually a big fan of the 03 defense, just because it was incredibly dominant but improbable.

The D-line was K. Gregg (in only his 2nd season as starter), Anthony Weaver, and Marquis Douglas - seemingly a mediocre group of players. Gregg turned out great, but as an undersized NT in a 3-4 he was unheralded. They made up for it with insane LB play (Boulware, A. Thomas, Hartwell, and rookie Suggs around Ray), a young E. Reed at SS, and Chris McCalister who had IMHO the best season at CB I have ever seen. Then he got paid.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Gus Bradley threw a challenge flag inside of two minutes of the second quarter. Isn't that a personal foul on the sideline? RedZone cut away from the game so I'm not sure what they said.

The announcing team was terrible, but I think what happened is that Jax was automatically charged a time out for throwing the flag inside of two minutes. Throwing the flag didn't guarantee a review, but it a gave the booth a few more minutes to think about it.

Now, what would have happened if the Jags didn't have any time outs left and they did that, I don't know...

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Thoughts on Packers-Lions:

1)Both offensive lines were atrocious. Josh Sitton got eaten alive by the Suh-Fairley combo. The Lions platooned their 3rd string and 4th string right tackles, but neither could handle Julius Peppers, who got the redzone strip-sack basically untouched, and hurried a bunch of other throws.

2)After a quite frankly bad rookie year, Darius Slay is damn good this year. He was in Jordy Nelson's pocket for most of the game. 75 year old Rashean Mathis is holding his own too. It was because of them that the Lions could get away with their 4th and 5th string nickel back against Randall Cobb (also Jarett Boykin is not good). The Lions secondary may have gone from "total mess" to "we can live with it".

3)Nate Freese is 3/7 on field goals (not 3/6), with a long of 28. I'd be surprised if he's not cut by the end of the day. Sadly, according to the beat writers, Rob Bironas was going to be the first phone call they made. Guy was eager to get back into the league according to his family, but he dies right before it would have likely happened.

4)I know the competition at linebacker in the NFC is tough, but DeAndre Levy needs to make the Pro Bowl this year if he keeps playing like this. As early as 2012 I thought he was a bust, but he's really come into his own.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think that was Lang giving up the most pressures but point taken on the Packers offensive line. It was dreadful.

The Lions were defending the run with 6 and sometimes just the four defensive linemen while everyone else dropped in coverage. The Lions had Nelson and Cobb manned up and then the remainder took a zone. Anyway, there were many Lions in pass coverage as teh Lions dared GB to run.

Green Bay did run and had some success when Starks carried the ball because Starks is a one step plant and move runner. Lacy was spending WAY too much time moving side to side allowing himself to be mauled by multiple defenders. For reasons not explained Starks was benched for Harris who is similar in style to Lacy.

The running call out of the end zone was truly bizarre given the results of running to that point with non-Starks running backs. And the Lions were clearly expecting it not just the run but the direction as they had mutliple guys flashing across teh line in that direction at the snap. Lacy had no chance.

Rodgers was clearly jittery and has been all season. He was a nervous nellie in both games last season after he came back. Hate to say it out loud but did a simple broken collarbone make him concerned about hits? If so then why does he keep holding onto the ball forever? Favre in the last five years would fling it away at every opportunity to avoid contact. Meanwhile, Rodgers is bailing out quickly or tippy tapping on the balls of his feet versus being in a good throwing position and as a result sailing too many passes.

The defense was very solid. Along with Peppers the coverage wsa pretty good. The defense ran out of gas at the end thanks to the offense not doing anything but for 3 quarters more than held their own. Lattimore is way better than Jones and it's crazy that Brad Jones was taking snaps from this guy.

Special teams from GB also decent.

Who figured that the offense would be the problem? And not just a problem but a PROBLEM.

Mikey better put on his thinking cap.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Regarding Rodgers, he went through a similar three-game stretch early last season (@ CIN, vs. DET, @ BAL) where he was jumpy and inaccurate. I don't know if it has anything to do with the collarbone (he took a ton of hits vs. the Jets but still made some great throws in the second half), I think it's just a tendency he reverts to when he has trouble finding open receivers and starts pressing.

The Packers have lost a lot of depth at receiver and tight end the last few years. Nelson is awesome, but Cobb may not be good enough to handle the attention he's getting right now, and they're not getting much from anyone else. Combine that with Rodgers holding the ball, which he's done his whole career, and you can see why he's been struggling a bit.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

No worries that Rodgers is developing David Carr Syndrome--or rather, Jay Cutler Syndrome, which is specific subcategory?

I feel like that line has been pretty awful for a few years. Rodgers has been able to compensate, but it wouldn't be beyond the realm of belief that he starts to get affected by a lack of protection.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

After being a strength last year the OL is disappointing. The DB does look almost good, I was expecting major disaster. Freese has been cut, they signed Alex Henery. Whatever happened to Kickalicious. Levy definitely has the wheels and plays hard.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Re: Kickalicious: He's a bit on the old side, and after the Freese Experience, I can see why they wanted a vet who's been successful in the NFL already (although I guess Henery's accuracy has been tailing off in recent years, and he had an atrocious preseason... but anything's better than Freese, I suppose).

And Tulloch's injury is the most Lions thing ever. Unbelievable. Levy will pick up some slack (it would make sense for him to take over the Mike spot), and Whitehead has been surprisingly good, but this now means more Ashlee Palmer, which is never a good thing. I'm not expecting anything from Van Noy by the time he's off short-term IR.

I hope the OL will be better once Waddle is back, but I don't know if he'll be 100% Rob Sims hasn't looked that great, either.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The MVP of the Oakland/NE game was the ref who threw the ghost holding flag on Jackson nullifying McFadden's tying TD run with a minute to go in the 4th.

If you are going to completely change the outcome of a game with an interior holding call, you better be damn sure it was an obvious call...that was neither obvious, nor holding.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Zebras have too much influence on games. It amuses me when they show # of penalties and yardage out of context to create an illusion of fairness when they've helped turn a close game into a beating.
Sometimes I even trip myself out.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

At this point, holding in the NFL is like traveling in the NBA. By the letter of the rule, it happens on every play, but it's only called when it's egregious and/or directly affects the outcome of the play. Asking whether a play has the "ingredients of a hold" is rather meaningless when there appears to be an understanding that a certain amount of holding is allowed.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I didn't want complaints about how Audibles is filled with complaints about the officiating, but yes, the general impression from other writers in the press box was that the holding call was a "make-up call" for the ridiculous DPI on the previous play that really should have been either OPI on Andre Holmes or maybe offsetting penalties. Or nothing since the ball was way past both of them.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If there's one thing the Pats aren't due, its a make-up call at home to the Raiders. The first four series of each Brady drive should contain an automatic holding penalty, and it still won't make up for the last fourteen years.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Patriots are 82-15 at Gillette Stadium now, best winning percentage of any team at one home stadium since 1970 (minimum 25 games). Can you guess the rest of the top five? Hint: only one of the other four team-stadium combinations is still active. In fact, two of the other four teams have played in two different stadiums since.

Great question. Unfortunately, I don't know the histories of other teams and their stadiums (stadiua?). But here's a go (in no order)

1) Cowboys (Texas Stadium). They played in Texas Stadium until Jerry world, and from 1970 to 2012 (or whenever the new stadium opened), there haven't been too many losing seasons, but quite a few winning seasons.
2) 49ers (Candlestick). I don't know where they played early on, but I assume it's all been Candlestick until this season. That means a boatload of wins in the early 70's, all of the 80's all the way to the late 90's. There have been some bad seasons here and there, but I have to imagine the Montana/Young/Garcia years more than make up for them.
3) Seattle (CenturyLink). I feel like they have had 25 games at their new stadium, and I recall hearing someone say that they have like one home loss in the last 3 years. So for the life of Centurylink (or whatever it's called), I bet it's a high percentage?
4) Hmmmm. Baltimore (M&T Bank)? They have had quite a bit of success and have played most of their games (if not all-- I forget when Memorial Stadium closed up) in PSINet/M&T Bank.
5) Now I'm stumped.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Giants at the Polo Grounds? The first couple of years at Century Link weren't that dominating, so I imagine Baltimore has a better record than Seattle and they're probably the only other active one. The other team also has to have played in two stadiums since so it's probably some team that was good ages ago and only played at the stadium when they were good. Where did the Lions play back in the Mesozoic?

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I got two of the four. Originally, the 25 games wasn't specified so I got Tennessee Oilers (6-2 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium) and guessed M&T instead of Heinz Field. Steelers at Three Rivers are also just outside the top five -- just an incredible home record overall for that franchise.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Now that I see the answers, the Steelers in their new stadium makes perfect sense. The Vikes is a surprise-- they were obviously good in the early 70's, but the Metrodome didn't open until 1984 or something. I guess when it's December and you're used to playing in the absolute freezing cold, there's an advantage. Miami is also a bit surprising to me.

I'd love to see the full list-- winning by stadium. I feel like I'm not crazy with some of my picks, but maybe I am.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

From 1969 through 1975, the Vikings had a great, great. roster (qb excepting from '69 through '71), and were extremely well coached, and just happened to meet historically great teams in the Super Bowl 3 times. The '76 team was rapidly aging, and after that they were getting by on guile from players and coach.

(edit) The Metrodome opened in 1982.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The all time top 5 (min, 100 games) (no 1970 cutoff):

Orange Bowl (110-38-3) .743
Heinz Field (76-28-1) .731
M&T Bank Stadium (94-36) .723
Three Rivers Stadium (169-67) .716
Wrigley Field (212-91-20) .700

CenturyLink is at 98 games and Gillette at 97 so I could just wait until Nov. 3.

The Factory of Sadness has the worst record 45-77.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well, so were the Cowboys, which is why I assumed that their stretch of 20 straight winning seasons (starting in 1966 and going to 1985, and I know Aaron's list started at 1970), plus their success in the 90's would have been enough to put them high (assuming they were winning more in Texas Stadium than away). Just checking now, and they were in Texas Stadium from 1971-2008 with a 197-94-0 record, for a .677 winning percentage. I guess some bad late-80's years, and some bad years in the early 2000's bring down the number.

That's a bit below the 5th place team (the Rams at the Coliseum at .726). The 49ers were just .620 (205-124-2).

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"2) STOP THE THIRD-AND-LONG WR SCREENS!!!!! Just stop it already. Everyone. Every team. Stop."

But doesn't this analysis need to go a little deeper than just conversion rates? I assume coaches know a WR screen is less likely to convert, but figure since the odds are against them anyway they want to avoid a turnover. I'd love to see the numbers, but you'd think going for a deep pass on 3rd and long when pass rushers are free to "pin their ears back" is more likely to lead to a strip-sack or interception, as both of those negative outcomes are unlikely possibilities with screens.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The one effective long-yardage WR screen is the one where four receivers go 5-10 yards downfield and immediately start blocking whichever DBs they see, and the fifth runs a drag underneath them. So long as the refs don't start calling offensive pass interference on plays like that, which they probably should, it's an effective play against a defense that is giving the receivers a cushion.

I first saw this play last year in Chiefs games, when Andy Reid would make up for having a QB with a noodle arm and no good WRs by having Alex Smith throw this downfield screen to Donnie Avery pretty much every time the Chiefs had a 3rd and 15+. The Broncos ran it a few times to Welker against the Seahawks last night, too.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Do we not also need to check that there isn't a selection effect here? I mean, a somewhat rational coach is going to be more inclined to call for a play with higher chance of both success and catastrophic failure if the pass is going to be thrown by Peyton Manning or caught by Calvin Johnson than if insert-McCown-here is looking to hit Inanimate Carbon Rod.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The reffing in the 49ers-Cardinals game was pretty atrocious on the whole.

There was a phantom false start on a kickoff that was called (on the cardinals even).

The 'roughing the given up QB' personal foul got panned by *mike Periera* chief guardian of refs in the media for not being a good one.

The personal foul on Boldin.... we see that type of thing every week without penalties there.

The Roughing the PAsser on Stanton I can't recall much so can't comment on it but there were other calls like this that were throughout the second half. The 49ers on some of them could have played smarter but the penalty calling was rather atrocious in general as at times there were plays where nothing could happen due to the refs.

It very possibly decided the game I felt watching it.

Also - when they were calling ticky tacky penalties - why wasn't Drew Stanton penalized for taunting for spiking the ball after his kneel down? Thats a penalty but the Refs who spent the 2nd half either inventing, exaggerating or looking at anything just were like 'so what' there.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't know what games you've seen, but in the games I've watched a headbutt gets a flag every time. Boldin deserved his flag.

As for the others... the Niners delivered not one, but three shots to Stanton's head. They're lucky they only got called once. Everyone talks about how 'dirty' the Lions defense is, but I haven't seen another team aim as many shots to opponents' heads as Harbaugh's 49ers D.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Eh? No they didn't. The Skuta shot was shoulder-to-shoulder. The Willis tackle was text book. As for Boldin -- it wasn't even a head butt. It was a facemask mash. (Still pretty stupid. The refs were obviously in a flag-throwing mood that afternoon.)

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

So I guess we've got an answer to the question of whether Washington is just that good or Jacksonville is just that bad. With their getting completely torn apart three weeks in a row, is Jacksonville en route to being one of the worst teams of all time?

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That team was so bereft of talent when Bradley took over though. Under the circumstances it is hard to imagine Bradley lasting through next season, but if the ownership group doesn't give him (at the least) the opportunity to work into a third year than that would be a shame... though hardly without precedent.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

What I find amazing about them is that they're non-competitive in the worst division in football - it's not like they're out in the NFC West where of course a bad team would really look awful, they can't even hang with the Titans, Texans and Colts? I guess that's how they didn't end up with the first pick in the draft last year by beating the Texans twice, Titans & the Browns. But this year it's hard them to imagine them beating any team, even the worst of the worst - I mean, I don't think anyone even sees them taking the Browns game this time...

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Pretty much no one saw them taking the Browns game last time this far out, and this time they get the game @ Jax.

The Jags were basically the 2009 Browns last year; worst-of-all-time caliber bad early in the season, but ok towards the end of the year, and flipped between two bottom-tier quarterbacks. Wonder if we see them get it together again as the season goes on.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

No one saw them taking the Browns game decisively, of course not, but no one was surprised that they were competitive with that Browns team. That's not the case with this year's Jags team. Seriously, I'm not sure if you've watched a game (because why would you have unless they played against the team you root for) but there is almost nothing they do at the NFL level. Their defense might as well not even be on the field and their offense is putrid - Gerheart and that o-line are literally the worst running game I've ever seen. Of course there's no passing attack in existence that the Eagles' secondary can't make look occasionally impressive, but Alan Hearn is probably not legit. Their just ok-ness last year came against a 2-14/30th DVOA ranked Texans team, a 4-12/28th ranked Browns team and their heroic upset of a 7-9/21st ranked Titans team. A good QB can change everything and maybe Bortles is that guy, but the team they fielded for the first 3 games couldn't have beaten a 4-12/28th DVOA ranked team without every lucky break falling entirely in their favor (even then...)

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Broncos fought back valiantly, and the defense played really well in teh 2nd half (and really all game apart from two drives), but beating Seattle in Seattle will take a really great performance and that was not it.

Still, I think they showed they can hang with that team. I would still pick Seattle if they played the Super Bowl tomorrow in Glendale, but I think the Broncos have found areas of success. Overall, the Broncos run game has to get better. The offense is starting to look like the '08-'10 Colts offenses in their run blocking and run game.

Manning loses out on his chance to get a win in Qwest/CenturyLink Field. He last played there in 2005 Wk 16, in a rest-o-rama loss to the Seahawks. He'll never get another chance (next scheduled game between the two in Seattle is 2022). Oddly, Tom Brady is winless in his one game in Seattle.

There's not many stadiums where Manning has not been a winning QB in. Outside of Seattle, the only other two stadiums that he's played at least one game and not won in are Lambeau Field and Texas Stadium. He'll never get the chance to win in Texas Stadium, and the Broncos won't play the Packers until 2019 in Lambeau.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I thought Denver's defense played very well yesterday. Even the long Td pass had good coverage on it. In many ways, Denver's defense is still not built to take on a team like Sea. Denver prefers to play 1 true linebacker and 6 dbs, but SEA will not let you play that way. So the broncos were forced to play traditional base with 2 additional linebackers. Even still, they held up so well. Aaron was right, every new player on the defense showed up in a big way. Ware and Von were terrific. TJ ward was awesome, so was Talib and Harris.

In the end, it's so hard to defense SEA. You can't traditional rush wilson because of the contain issue. Marshawn is a serious beast and represents everything trent richardson should be but isn't. Harvin may not have been much of a factor today, but he still causes the defense to freeze. I'm not sure I've seen anyone run this kind of offense before, being so effective with three types of runners. I think a good stout d line and a great set of lbs can take it away, but how many teams have that? SF at full strength and Carolina perhaps.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Denver has some of the personnel that could, but Carolina seems like the best fit (then again, after watching them yesterday, who knows?). Detroit maybe? I'm not ready to be a believer there but they look good. Arizona defensively can match up reasonably well.

It's good that Von is getting better each week. Assuming they don't get as injured as last year, this could be a very good defense by year's end. The Broncos are still, to me, the best team in the AFC, or 2nd best after Cincinnati.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Lions actually beat the Seahawks in 2012 (an otherwise miserable year), and they did it even though Megatron had only 3 catches. Their main weapon? Titus Young, of all people. Of course, Wilson, Sherman, and Thomas were all much less experienced then.

Detroit has a D front that is capable of shutting down Lynch and bringing pressure on pass plays without a lot of blitzes. It's easier if you force Wilson to beat you by himself.

On the other side, Seattle has a much better pass rush now than two years ago. And the Lions have no more running game than Denver. Stafford can't have one of his flaky games, and they'd have to depend on Tate and the TEs to win, not Calvin.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That loss was pretty much entirely on Detroit's offense getting the better of Seattle's defense, and Sherman in particular. Lynch tore up Detroit on the ground, and Wilson had a great game overall.

As for the running game, San Diego showed that you don't actually need it to beat Seattle. For that matter, Detroit wasn't very impressive on the ground that day either. Also, I wouldn't take Johnson's three catches that day to mean that he would necessarily have a poor game; with Young doing so well Johnson simply acted as a decoy and didn't need to be targeted.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Lynch had one 77 yd run, and 28 yds on 11 other carries. Not exactly tearing them up, and I think the Lions run D is better now.

I agree that Calvin is a very fine decoy, as long as the other receivers are doing their jobs. We have yet to see that this year, especially with the RBs and TEs.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Seattle's offense always makes you feel that they're not using everything in their arsenal. Yesterday, for instance, they faked the jet-sweep several times but never ran it, even though the subsequent handoff to Lynch was consistently unsuccessful. A disciplined defense doesn't really move that far out of position to a fake like that.

Also, the overtime was a mirror-image of the overtime against the Bears two years ago, and you have to wonder why Wilson doesn't scramble more decisively like that more often. I'm pretty sure he didn't get hit a single time on the drive, which takes that excuse out of the equation; it's not like Manning was getting hit less in the pocket.

Finally, Wilson often rolls out to the right, and then keeps going, and rolls some more, and eventually throws the ball away. They need to bring back the Lynch leakout to the left side; they say it's very bad to throw back across the field, but not when there's no one within 15 yards of you, and the last time they tried it Lynch gained around 40 yards out of it. They had a somewhat similar play to finish off a two-minute drill against the Saints, when Wilson rolled to his right then threw to a completely uncovered Baldwin who had run a shallow crossing route into the left end zone; if the opponent thinks they only have to defend half of the field when Wilson rolls out Seattle needs to exploit it.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Personally, it was the dline that really changed the game yesterday. I thought Denver's o line was absolutely terrible, in both pass and run. In the run game, it's not even just that the running backs got stuff, there were 2 seahawks in the backfield right at the handoff. That's inexcusable. Peyton was ok, but man he had to play awesome to overcome that kind of heat. Oh, and Kam was everywhere. Yes, Earl is Early, but Kam really needs to be appreciated more for his effectiveness in coverage. He absolutely owns middle half of the field.

58 Vikings Saints

I was very excited to see Bridgewater play. I thought he did pretty well. Cassel looked scared in the last two games - which given the blocking on the left side of the line is understandable but not ideal.

Bridgewater seems pretty accurate as a passer in the little I've seen of him, time will tell on that front. He moves well, and he moves to pass before he runs. When he does run he looks to be safe - a very underrated skill. But more than anything his poise is what strikes me. He seems un-flustered with pressure around.

As for the game it sure looked like a blowout early so I was happy to see the Vikings fight back. I heard a lot of Viking fans complaining about the penalty on Munnerlyn for roughing the passer, but that will be called almost every time. It was a dumb play. Turned out to be a huge play. But overall I thought the better team on the day won. Brees is really good.

84 Re: Vikings Saints

In reply to by jmaron

They are gonna be quite credible on defense, leading me to believe that I've been right to think that the defense hasn't been well coached since Tomlin left, until now.

If their running back hadn't been such a crappy father, it probably would have been an extremely interesting season. As it is they'll have chance to play meaningful games in December, if Bridgewater has a Rookie of the Year season from here on out.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Anyone know why there was no roughness penalty levied against Earl Thomas for the shot he put on Welker immediately after the Chancellor INT? Does defenseless receiver not apply with the change of possession? Or was it just missed?

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Once a ball is tipped you can hit receivers, right? Chancellor clearly had at least "tipped" the ball before that hit* (and of course he caught is cleanly). The hit itself didn't look to me to be at all illegal (shoulder to chest) but this morning I've seen vociferous arguments and Zapruder-like breakdowns that attempt to argue otherwise. Maybe there is an angle that clearly shows helmet to helmet, but I haven't seen it.

* For reference see this image:
Now I get to play Zapruder-decoder. Heh. Chancellor already has the ball and Thomas isn't even in the picture yet.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The clip I saw showed a shoulder hit into the approved tackle zone. Not a problem with head usage or targeting.

However, this is the kind of hit that lately has drawn "hit on a defenseless player" penalties. I was mildly surprised to see that hard hit on the replay and NOT see a flag.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Oh, Peyton. You had Julius Thomas open when you tried to hit Welker and hit Kam Chancellor instead.

I'm not so sure about that. On the replay it looked that way but if you freeze frame it while Peyton is in the process of throwing it*, you see:

a) uncalled illegal contact at the top of the screen (shocker)
b) the LB and safeties are already reacting to the throw going to the seam, which is what leads to the green grass around Thomas.

* (the link below contains exactly that frame)

Chances are if Peyton starts to throw to Thomas, that linebacker has him covered. Even if completed, it'd be a stop shy of the sticks. Not that 4th and short in that situation is that awful an outcome, of course.

I think it was an OK (but not great) read/throw with the fault being that it was going to get Welker killed (as we saw). The INT seemed to me like it was more just an awesome play by Chancellor, as he really elevated to get it. Bowen calls it a poor read as well because it's not like the 3 Buzz is an uncommon D for them to play, but I really think the call and read were sound and they simply expected to be able to get the throw over Kam.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Kam Chancellor said in his post-game press conference that he broke responsibility on that play when he saw where Manning was looking to throw, and was surprised when he still threw it.

That said, if the ball's six inches higher, it's probably a completion.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Eh, a dangerous decision is one that requires incredible skill and a little luck to pull off - and that wasn't the moment for a dangerous decision. Granted, Manning has for most of his career had the skill to pull off those extremely dangerous throws and the Seahawks make a lot of simple decisions dangerous, but I just don't see how he ever could have dropped it in there. It was doomed the moment it left his hand: if it's not picked, Welker has to make a great catch and hope the two guys converging on him whiff. Julius Thomas was probably more open, especially considering Manning's talent for throwing guys open and my doubts about an LB staying with him in that context but I agree that he was not wiiiiide open. Throwing to Thomas was certainly less dangerous on a number of levels... but I can also understand the argument that you've got to make some dangerous throws against the Seahawks if you hope to beat them.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I would agree that in that context against the Seahawks just about everything is dangerous. I think Manning has made a career of throwing balls over one defender and in front of another, but usually it's a linebacker, not someone as athletic as Chancellor. I'm not a fan of those types of throws that have tended to get guys concussed (even dozens that guys like Clark and Collie used to pop right up after always made me cringe) so I didn't like it either, I just doubt it was a situation where he misread the coverage.

That same article talks about the route combos that they were using successfully at the end, and when you see them work they make perfect sense: of course, you move guys toward the center of the field and throw to a more open boundary to a guy with the best matchup! But I'd love to also see film examples of where the same thing was done but when it was defended successfully, and what's different about it. (Actually I guess I know what'd be different, but I'd like to see it, because it seems like it really asks a lot of that outside corner.)

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That same article talks about the route combos that they were using successfully at the end, and when you see them work they make perfect sense: of course, you move guys toward the center of the field and throw to a more open boundary to a guy with the best matchup! But I'd love to also see film examples of where the same thing was done but when it was defended successfully, and what's different about it. (Actually I guess I know what'd be different, but I'd like to see it, because it seems like it really asks a lot of that outside corner.)

Well, looking at that second picture, if it was Sherman instead of Maxwell he'd be fluid enough to rotate back outside and possibly even intercept it; Maxwell is simply too slow to react there, which is also why he keeps getting beat on comeback routes. Besides, he should've realized that when his man is running his route towards Thomas it's a decoy route, and should've broken off much earlier.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

a) uncalled illegal contact at the top of the screen (shocker)

They weren't calling much of anything involving receivers either way on either team, so there's no need to pretend that the refs were favoring Seattle or anything.

As for the pass itself, I don't actually think Seattle would intentionally allow several passes to Welker just to bait Manning into throwing to him yet again and have Chancellor jump the route, but the end result played out in that fashion.

Also, the pass was to that soft spot that the Cover 3 usually allows, which is the part of the field between the numbers and the hash, so it's good to see that Seattle has developed a counter to it.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

They weren't calling much of anything involving receivers either way on either team, so there's no need to pretend that the refs were favoring Seattle or anything.

You're joking right? Russell completed most of his passes so there wasn't much to call against Denver. On the other side of the ball the refs missed the foul on Welker as noted by Scott Kacsmar which killed that drive, and an obvious offside penalty that killed the next drive. There were also debatable missed-DPI against Sherman on Sanders.

I wouldn't go as far to say these oversights would have changed the end-game results. Seattle did very well and the last drive speaks volumes. However, to say "officiating was fair" is a bold statement at best.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Sounds like you viewed the officiating entirely through what the commentators pointed out. Of course the refs missed calls in favor of Seattle as well, but if you watch the game again, you'll see multiple instances of Denver DBs hooking Seattle's receivers, as well as a pick on Welker's first catch on Denver's penultimate drive. The commentators generally root for a close game, so they'll point out calls favoring the winning team and gloss over calls favoring the losing team.

To give another example, other than the uncalled OPI against Sherman and the judgment call on that scramble by Wilson, you don't remember any missed calls against Denver in the Super Bowl, do you? Here are two of them:

First, #53 Smith is getting held by one of #76 Franklin's hands and pushed from behind by the other.

Second, at 1:07 of this clip, watch Harvin being illegally contacted 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. You can say that this sort of thing wasn't being called last year anyway, but the contention was that Seattle's DBs were constantly getting away with it; it turns out that everyone was.

Both of these were successful plays, so it didn't matter, but it doesn't mean that calls weren't being missed.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Been watching a few games and the "establish the run" mantra seems back after a little absence.
Apparently the Lions, the Panthers and the Cardinals really need to run early so the linebackers creep up...
John Lynch fully agreed.

I think that the networks see that less people tune in, so they advice the announcer to 'dumb it down'. Because oh my, what a pile of horse shit did I hear this weekend.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Dude - did you see the Eagles game? Kelly would not abandon the run and kept ramming McCoy in the line for 1 yard gains, these horrible, go-nowhere plays... and the announcers were praising Kelly's commitment to running the ball.