Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Audibles at the Line: Week 6
Audibles at the Line: Week 6
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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 10 at Cleveland Browns 31

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have started with eight runs on nine plays, which is about as anti-2014 offense as you can get. I know big Phil Taylor is out, but they've tested the edges a lot as well. The Browns have a few nagging injuries on defense. Joe Haden is playing, but he's not locked up with Antonio Brown. Buster Skrine just gave up 24 yards on pass interference trying to cover Brown. And on cue, another injury for the defensive line.

I can't explain why Steelers extended Cortez Allen this year. He couldn't keep up with Jordan Cameron on a play-action pass that went for a long touchdown. This comes after Brett Keisel chased down Cameron on another big play earlier. Steelers wasted a lot of time with the run in the first quarter and only got three points because of more bad red-zone execution and a bad hold on a field goal. Now the passing game will have to find a rhythm, down 14-3.

Cleveland's offense feels more like the one Kyle Shanahan was calling in Washington in 2012. Brian Hoyer isn't as mobile as Robert Griffin, but he can do the bootleg and play-action stuff well enough. Good running game and they have done a great job of getting receivers open down the field. Three pretty solid running backs and it definitely helps to have Jordan Cameron back. Alex Mack left with a serious injury, but you couldn't even tell on Cleveland's third touchdown drive.

There's not a single positive thing I could say about Pittsburgh's performance in this first half. Failure from every unit.

Browns fake the run, then fake the end around to set up another big pass play that Cortez Allen can't defend. Ike Taylor is actually missed at this point. A rare pressure on third down stops the bleeding for now.

Mike Carey gets another one wrong for CBS. Ben Roethlisberger's pass is tipped at the line and intercepted by Skrine. I actually think Carey's explanation was fine and the ball did appear to hit the ground first, but the ruling on the field was a pick.

New England Patriots 37 at Buffalo Bills 22

Cian Fahey: Early in first quarter, on third down, Kyle Orton threw what appeared to be a perfectly placed and timed deep ball down the left sideline. Unfortunately, the receiver, who I believe was Marquise Goodwin, ran the wrong route so the ball fell to the ground.

It's noteworthy though because Orton isn't supposed to be able to throw the ball down the field as well as that and he did complete a similar pass last week.

Aaron Schatz: Moose Johnston seriously just suggested on this broadcast that people don't give Tom Brady proper credit for the Patriots winning so many games.

Cian Fahey: The most annoying thing in football these days for me is the short-yardage, tight formation philosophy. On third-and-1, the Patriots use that approach running off left tackle. Multiple defenders meet the back behind the line of scrimmage before he can sniff a first down.

Of course, the Bills beat themselves with a personal foul penalty after the play.

Andrew Healy: Could not agree more. Maybe a bad call on that personal foul, too. Pats offensive line holding up well again in pass protection. Better play call on the last third-and-1, handing off to James Develin. Where have you gone, Bill Belichick? Field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 13-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: That personal foul penalty wasn't the Bills beating themselves. That was the officials beating the Bills. I think they penalized Jerry Hughes for celebrating with a teammate because it looked sort of like he hit Stevan Ridley on the helmet because of the angle the official was looking from. Or something.

Then the Pats get stuffed a minute later on another short-yardage, tight-formation run. And miss a field goal after a false start.

Cian Fahey: Kyle Orton is so much better than EJ Manuel.

All Duke Williams needed to do was turn around and he'd have a chance to intercept the ball. Instead, he pushes Julian Edelman down on the most blatant pass interference move you will ever see. Incredibly poor.

Every time someone mentions how offensive tackles are safe picks at the top of the first round during draft season, we all need to remember Matt Kalil and Nate Solder.

Aaron Schatz: That seems needlessly negative. Solder has been a pretty good player. He's struggled this year at times, but he's been a pretty good player. He also was 17th, which isn't exactly "top of the first round." If you are going to criticize offensive tackles taken early in the draft, there are some much, much more obvious examples than Solder, or even Kalil. Remember Jason Smith? Big Mike Williams? Robert Gallery?

Andrew Healy: Jordan Devey is back in with Josh Kline. Patriots pass protection last two plays not good. Brady makes a great play to Rob Gronkowski on third down, anyway. It doesn't stand up on challenge.

The Patriots appear to have five, and only five, competent linemen. At least in terms of how they play together, since I want to say the second down sack came over Solder. Jordan Devey is playing over there, though, so may bear some responsibility for that, too.

Now, Devey, Kline, and Marcus Cannon are all in, late second quarter. Cannon gets called for a hold. And poor pass protection on third down. No first downs with this line this drive and with Devey/Kline the last one. If this is the line the rest of the game, what is the over/under on Patriots second half points? Seven?

Cian Fahey: A DPI that should probably have been an interception, a fumble in a situation where there was no reason not to protect the ball at all costs, losing the turnover battle by three....yet the Buffalo Bills are still in touching distance of the New England Patriots at halftime.

The Bills defense is being led by its dominant offensive line, but the limitations of the Patriots offense are being highlighted more than anything. Brady has thrown very few passes down the field.

Vince Verhei: I know injuries are playing a big part, but I don't remember seeing a team rotate offensive linemen like this year's Patriots. It's Week 6 and it seems like they're still settling training camp battles.

Cian Fahey: You must have missed the Pittsburgh Steelers from the last six or seven years, Vince.

Vince Verhei: Also: I know he's not lighting the world on fire today, with a couple of turnovers, but Kyle Orton was retired two months ago, and at this point would any of us be surprised if he finished the year as the highest-rated quarterback in that division? That's pretty amazing.

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers would mostly change linemen due to injury. I'm pretty sure the Patriots have benched a healthy Vollmer and Solder at times this year. That would never happen in Pittsburgh. They'd keep Jonathan Scott in there all game, Roethlisberger's health be damned.

Cian Fahey: Perfect drive to start the second half for New England. A rare Brady deep ball that connects for a touchdown. Brian Tyms showed that off a lot in the preseason, now doing it when it counts.

Jamie Collins asked to cover Robert Woods in man coverage with seemingly no help. Obviously very easy win for Woods, but I'm not sure Collins ever has a chance in that situation and it's unfair to expect him to.

Andrew Healy: Really surprised by how well the Patriots line has held up with Devey and Kline both in there in the second half. Brady’s had time for that beautiful deep throw to Tyms and now one of those super easy short passes to Brandon LaFell for the touchdown that puts them up 16.

Cian Fahey: It appeared that Duke Williams was out of position for the long LaFell touchdown in the fourth quarter. He's had an absolute nightmare today either way.

Also, Brady has been OK today. Best thing he did was not turn the ball over. Receivers have seemingly been open all day while Patriots offensive line gave him better protection in the second half. I guess they must have got a new supporting cast.

Carolina Panthers 37 at Cincinnati Bengals 37 OT

Rob Weintraub: Welcome back Vontaze Burfict -- highly questionable roughing the quarterback call keeps Panthers drive alive, score on fourth third down conversion of opening drive. Bad vibes all around on this game. Cincy without three top pass catchers, and suddenly can't stop anyone. Feel the home winning streak coming to an end.

Who needs A.J. Green? Dalton connects with Jermaine Gresham and Brandon Tate, the two whipping boys of the week (and much more) in Cincinnati, twice each on Cincy's opening drive, including a nicely executed play where Tate went in wide motion and caught the jet screen in full gallop and dove to the pylon for the tying touchdown.

7-7, early second quarter.

And by the way Cincy, 0-fer on third down versus New England, was 4-for-4 on that drive, all on passes to four different receivers.

The Panthers lined up in that formation on third-and-1, then wisely threw a quick screen out to Kelvin Benjamin one-on-one with Adam Jones. But Pacman Jones foiled the stratagem with a tremendous tackle on a guy twice his size, and forced Carolina to punt.

Meanwhile, Burfict went out again on what looks like his third concussion of the season. May be lost for 2014.

In better news, Gio just went 90 yards off tackle for a touchdown.

Few will be surprised to hear that it was Thomas DeCoud who took a bad angle and failed to hold Gio to a far shorter run. 89 yards officially, for what it's worth. Gio thus almost certain to become first Bengal to crack 100 yards in 22 games.

Spoke too soon on Burfict -- he's back out there after returning from the locker room for tests. Naturally Rey Maualuga gives him a welcome back! headbutt ...

Game-changing play by the Panthers defense -- Bengals driving for points, and Tate broke wide open for six on a double move. But a Panthers defensive lineman (sorry, couldn't quite see who it was from here) deflected Dalton's elbow at the last second. Flutter ball picked off and returned deep into Bengals territory, and the Panthers punch it in. Instead of being up two scores, it's now tied at 17-17.

Penalties, poor run blocking, penalties again, and that one big turnover. Bengals now trail by a touchdown, and with the big play guys out, gonna take a miracle to pull this out.

Aaron Schatz: No matter who is injured, honestly, it never will take a miracle to make up a seven-point lead with more than a quarter left. A 38-3 lead, on the other hand ...

Rob Weintraub: Right on cue -- Dalton overthrow, interception.

I'm not talking regular NFL here. This is the Bengals, and I've seen enough of these to sense it slipping away.

Andrew Healy: Riverboat Ron lives. I was worried he might be less aggressive after the fourth-down failure in the playoffs last year. Tied 24-24, he goes for it on fourth-and-2 from the 37-yard line, defying announcer unwisdom. Cam Newton gets the slant to Benjamin. Leads to a touchdown that puts Carolina up seven with five minutes left.

Really interesting situation at the end here. Carolina had third-and-1 with 17 seconds left and no timeouts, down 34-31. A completion in bounds makes it pretty complicated. They get a three-yard throw and it would have been close to get another snap off, but a Bengals injury bails them out. Probably would have gotten the spike, anyway, but it would have been close. Field goal good, 34-34.

Aaron Schatz: Bengals having huge problems with Cam Newton keeping on the read option in overtime.

Scott Kacsmar: Not much more pisses me off than a tie. Thanks for nothing, Jerricho Cotchery (game-winning touchdown in his reach) and Mike Nugent (missed game-winning field goal from 36 yards away).

Vince Verhei: That's funny. I like ties. Or at least, I like ties on the field more than I like ties in the standings. We probably won't have to worry about tiebreakers for Carolina or Cincinnati for the rest of the year.

Andrew Potter: As a European, the common American aversion to tied games is a never-ending source of amusement to me. Over here, we probably wouldn’t even play overtime until the playoffs.

Looks like this is the highest-scoring tie in NFL history, and third-highest ever including the AFL. Highest ever is 43-43 between Oakland and Boston in 1964.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Tennessee Titans 16

Tom Gower: In the immortal words of Terry Tate, office linebacker, "When it's game time, it's pain time."

Titans lead 10-7 at the half in roughly the sort of game you'd expect. Neither team has been able to find consistent running room, which tells me more about the offenses than it does about the defenses. Jacksonville got a big play, to Clay Harbor, to set up their score on the opening possession of the game. Charlie Whitehurst has made a couple decent throws, though, to lead the Titans to scores. With Jacksonville's safeties and Paul Posluszny, the middle of the field has been fairly open, and Delanie Walker in particular has taken advantage of it. The one big surprise to me has been the Titans' pass rush; they sacked Blake Bortles three times in the first half, or three times as many sacks as they had in their three previous games combined.

Matt Waldman: How has Bishop Sankey looked? The box score doesn't look particularly impressive. What are the play calls going to Sankey?

Tom Gower: Sankey has actually gotten carries from under center today, something that hasn't been a regular part of his workload since Week 1. The Jaguars are playing an extra safety in the box, though, and he hasn't had much running room. Could he be doing better with the yards he has? Maybe. And as I'm typing this, he more than doubles his yardage with a 22-yard gain, coming free through the line and making a cut in the open field to avoid Josh Evans and pick up about 15 extra yards.

The Jaguars saw the same thing I saw in the first half-they can't protect Blake Bortles long enough to run a consistent offense. That's led them to throw entirely too many screens, of many varieties, in the second half, with only modest success. This is a really bad offense right now. Of course, considering I just saw something that looked like a Charlie Whitehurst zone read give, I may just be hallucinating right now.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Miami Dolphins 24

Mike Kurtz: Ryan Tannehill has been cover-your-eyes awful. He has exactly one read on every play, and doesn't just stare down his receiver, he's staring at them from the snap until the ball is knocked down by a defensive back. Miami's defense has been getting great pressure on Rodgers and it's being wasted because Miami's offense is such a joke.

And then they punt from around the Green Bay 45-yard line with 30 seconds left in the half. They're in it to win it!

Vince Verhei: To be fair, I'm not sure anyone on the Miami offense is having a good day. Tannehill has been under pressure a lot, and has made the worst of those bad situations. The running backs can't even find breathing room. Mike Wallace is dropping passes. Brian Hartline didn't do much to break up an interception down the sideline. (Of course, I have no idea WHY Tannehill threw a deep pass to a blanketed Brian Hartline down the sideline.) Charles Clay caught a first down pass, so I guess that's your first-half MVP.

The only reason this game is close (10-3 at halftime) is that Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon are destroying Green Bay's tackles and setting up house in the Packers' backfield.

Mike Kurtz: In all fairness to Tannehill, he has had some great throws on broken plays or in the face of pressure. A few of them were drops, but his touchdown was a nice touch pass on the back foot, and he just pulled a Roethlisberger, got to the sideline, and found the hole in the secondary throwing across his body. I think Miami needs to start having him roll out, because at least this game he's been far more effective improvising than straight drop back, stare down receiver, pass defensed.

Vince Verhei: He has been MUCH better in the second half, and his 40-yard gain on a zone-read keeper was Miami's longest play of the year.

Cian Fahey: I haven't been watching this game, but from what I have seen, it appears that Aaron Rodgers is playing brilliantly and the Dolphins are still tied approaching the fourth quarter. If that is the case, it's very telling about the quality of the Green Bay Packers roster as a whole.

Mike Kurtz: Rodgers has been playing well enough but Miami's pass rush has forced a lot of bad throws, including a panicked intentional grounding. Brilliantly is probably overstating things.

Vince Verhei: I will say that on more than one occasion, Rodgers has had time to throw, found nobody open, scrambled, still found nobody open, and thrown the ball into the turf. Probably safe to say that the Dolphins' defense, as a whole, is playing brilliantly right now

Down seven with four minutes and change left in the game, the Packers have fourth-and-6 at the Miami 12-yard line. If they go for it and don't get it, they need a touchdown to tie. Instead, they kick a field goal, so they're down by four and still need a touchdown, although now it will give them a lead. I want to say this is a terrible decision, but without the numbers in front of me I'm not confident in that.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm OK with the field goal by McCarthy. This is small sample, but sure feels like Joe Philbin has been very aggressive in the four-minute offense in his career. Calling any pass play on first or second down is extremely aggressive compared to the rest of the league in this situation. Didn't run the clock out though and Green Bay will have a shot to drive for the win.

Andrew Healy: I didn’t like it. I did it with the win probability calculator and got pretty much a wash, which surprised me. That depends on how you do it, though. I think the decision Miami made to run it on third-and-9 to give it back to Rodgers with 2:20 instead of 2:50 is pretty clearly bad.

Mike Kurtz: My gut says it's a toss-up.

Scott Kacsmar: Miami should have thrown on both downs if it thought the pass was their best option to get a first down. Having over two minutes left and needing 60 yards is an eternity for Rodgers. Thinking a safe run to kill 35 or 40 seconds is helping is foolish in that situation. Just means the go-ahead Green Bay touchdown could come 35 or 40 seconds later, leaving Miami less time to answer.

Vince Verhei: Finish to that game was nuts, even by last-minute touchdown standards. Packers had a first down at the Miami 20-yard line with 30 seconds left, but the clock running and no timeouts. First down, Rodgers throws a quick hitch to the left for a 4-yard gain, but the Dolphins quickly make the tackle inbounds. That's a bad play. Second down, they do the fake spike, but throw another quick hitch to the right side, again inbounds, and that should probably be the end of the game. Cortland Finnegan, though, falls asleep, and rather than make the tackle, he lets Davante Adams get by him for good yardage and nearly into the end zone, before the Dolphins finally push him out of bounds to stop the clock. With six seconds left, Rodgers hits Andrew Quarless in one-on-one coverage in the end zone for the winning score.

Scott Kacsmar: I think a radical approach to pass defense in the final seconds is to just grab every receiver in the end zone if you think the ball's even going to be slightly close and don't let them catch the game-winning touchdown. Yes, you'll get flagged for interference, but at the 1-yard line with time for one more play, that shrinks the options for the offense. Maybe they think they can run it in and you get a stuff. Maybe they try a low-percentage fade. What the Dolphins gave up was too easy and they should have known it was going to be a quick pass into the end zone.

Detroit Lions 17 at Minnesota Vikings 3

Andrew Healy: Lions miss their ninth field goal this year and Matt Prater’s first. They’re on pace to beat Paul Hornung’s record of 26 missed kicks in ’64. Assuming they won’t quite get there.

Aaron Schatz: This is ridiculous. Does someone want to dig an old straight-ahead kicker out of cold storage or something? What's Pete Gogolak doing these days?

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Matt Waldman: Teddy Bridgewater getting little time and Ziggy Ansah is playing excellent football. Ansah made a tackle for a loss in the open field while reading a screen and later strip-sacked Bridgewater with a diving reach around the corner. Bridgewater didn't read the safety on a throw in the red zone that resulted in the defensive back cutting off the post for an interception to end a drive. Overall, Bridgewater has been uneven. He threaded the needle on a couple of passes that should have been big plays, including a third down out to Chase Ford in tight coverage that was dropped and a quick slant to Jarius Wright, who slipped during his break.

Vikings finally dial up the middle screen against pressure and get a big play from Matt Asiata to midfield inside of a minute. Then Teddy Bridgewater executes a fine pump fake and then opts for the check down, but Asiata lets the ball go through his hands into Tahir Whitehead's mitts to foil a shot at a half-ending drive to tie it up.

Scott Kacsmar: Haven't been watching this one today, but Mike Zimmer punted on fourth-and-1 from his own 29-yard line, down 17-0 with 10:26 left. How many possessions does he think he has left? Defensive coaches seem to be the worst at this, but it wouldn't surprise me to see most NFL coaches make this mistake and punt there. Coaches are afraid to lose by a bigger margin instead of doing what's smart to try to come back and win. What do you have to lose there? A touchdown still technically keeps it a three-score game, even if it's the comeback that has never been done in NFL history (three touchdowns and three two-point conversions). A field goal, which shouldn't take as long since you'd be giving them great field position, makes it a 20-point game. So you're talking about needing three touchdowns instead of being able to kick one field goal. Oh well. Then there's the fact that you have a pretty good shot of converting in the first place and extending your drive, down 17-0. But I digress ...

Denver Broncos 31 at New York Jets 17

Cian Fahey: It appears that the New York Jets are highlighting one of the most overlooked things in the NFL: The fragility of the Denver Broncos offensive line.

Andrew Healy: The Jets are staying with Denver early. They fumble a punt, the defense stops Peyton Manning again. Then Geno Smith makes two dangerous throws that fall incomplete. On third down, his terrible decision to throw the underneath crossing pattern to a blanketed receiver (who would have been three yards short of the first down even if it wasn’t picked) is perhaps bailed out by a bat-down at the line. Feel so bad for Rex Ryan.

Vince Verhei: I know that picking on Peyton Manning's arm strength is getting pretty cliche, but man he throws some ugly completions. His passes hang and wobble in the air, but they still seem to get where they need to be most of the time.

Jets have been getting a lot of pressure on him, relatively speaking. They've sacked him twice in the first half. He was sacked twice in a whole game only five times last year, including the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens 48 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Andrew Healy: If Baltimore scores on this drive, Tampa will have been outscored 101-0 across phases of the Ravens and Falcons games. When was the last time that happened?

Rob Weintraub: Georgia Tech against Cumberland?

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Ravens and Falcons games were not consecutive... there have been teams that got blown out multiple times in a season before. The worst team in DVOA history is the 2005 San Francisco 49ers.

Week 2: outscored by Philadelphia 28-0 before halftime
Week 7: outscored by Washington 35-7 before halftime and 49-7 by end third quarter
Week 14: outscored by Seattle 24-3 before halftime and 38-3 by end third quarter

Tom Gower: 2009 Titans lost to the Colts 31-9 a week before losing 59-0 to the Patriots. 90-9 in consecutive weeks is about as bad as you get, I'll guess.

Andrew Healy: Just curious what the biggest combined shutout run to start two games in the same season. At the end of the first half, we've got 38-0 here and 56-0 three weeks ago against Atlanta. So that's 94-0 for Tampa in those two games. Yes, this is an obscure record to think about.

On the positive side of the ledger (and a little easier to think about), the 1976 Steelers won three games in a row by a combined 95-0 margin.

San Diego Chargers 31 at Oakland Raiders 28

Scott Kacsmar: So was Dennis Allen that bad of a coach, is Tony Sparano that much better, or are the Chargers just giving us a "hold on, contender" game? Derek Carr certainly looks better than he has all season today. The running game has been working too, so I like to think Sparano having the bye week to improve the offense is having a big impact on this one.

Aaron Schatz: One game. Don't jump to conclusions on one game, especially one home game.

Cian Fahey: I'm such a big fan of Jason Verrett. I don't care about his height at all. He's 5-foot-9 and it was a much discussed aspect of his game during the draft process. A divisive aspect. Some said he'd be top 10 if he was an inch or two taller, others said he was too small to be effective in the NFL.

Tom Gower: No idea what happened in this game, as I watched four Chargers possessions and saw them score 24 points. I am available for being paid to watch games, by the way.

Verrett's game-ending interception was phenomenal. Unlike Cian, I do care about his height, even if he beat out the much taller Brice Butler that play, and about his injury history.

Scott Kacsmar: Carr didn't need to force that pass. Rookie mistake. If he was a veteran, it'd be a gunslinger flaw.

Chicago Bears 27 at Atlanta Falcons 13

Vince Verhei: I'm not paying a ton of attention to this game, but every time I look at it, it seems like the Falcons are throwing another skinny post, and either the Bears safety knocks the ball free, or the receiver gets alligator arms and drops it (and then gets hit anyway).

Scott Kacsmar: Does anyone know why David Diehl is calling this game with a high-school kid?

Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know why David Diehl is calling any games, period?

Andrew Healy: Antone Smith alert. Another 40-plus-yard touchdown. It can't keep happening at this rate, but he really can fly. He catches these short passes and gets to that top speed so quickly. Perfect play call there with pressure coming.

Antone Smith stats this year:
Running: 12 for 124 (10.3 YPC), 2 TD
Receiving: 9 for 220 (24.4 Y/R), 3 TD

Since he was targeted 10 times, the Falcons intended to get the ball to Antone Smith on 22 plays, and have averaged 15.6 yards on those plays. Maybe he should touch it more?

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Matt Waldman: Based on the context of those Antone Smith plays, there's a decent argument that he's touching it an optimal amount. Atlanta's strategy, which is working, is to vary formations with personnel often in less predictable situations. The play before Smith earned the screen for a touchdown, he was split wide in an empty set. Atlanta is doing a good job mixing formation and personnel to keep opposing defenses off balance. Smith is earning his plays in space rather than between the tackles. Get too predictable about when and how often you feature a player in space and Atlanta then has to deal with Weeks 2 to 5 where it wasn't effective with Julio Jones on wide receiver screens to the level it was Week 1. This week, they finally got Jones free on one of these plays, but they used Jackson in the backfield with play action and pulled a guard to do it -- a different look compared to what I've seen in September when it comes to the screen.

I understand the desire to use Smith more because of the big plays, but it's not like he's tearing through the line of scrimmage and wearing down defenses to achieve these plays. He has been a fantastic counter punch. Unfortunately, we all have the tendency to think that Smith deserves more time when an argument could be made that he's doing what he's supposed to do in his role at a fantastic level of efficiency.

That said, I'd like to see him take over Jacquizz Rodgers' role and see what he could do with it ... ha!

Andrew Healy: Great point. Note that if Smith is in the game, defenses just might want to: A) avoid big blitzes and B) be looking for screens.

Rob Weintraub: Hashtag "PlayTone" -- it's big down here.

Dallas Cowboys 30 at Seattle Seahawks 23

Scott Kacsmar: Week 2, 2012: Seattle takes a 10-0 lead after blocking a Chris Jones punt for a TD with 10:23 left in first quarter.

Week 6, 2014: Seattle takes a 10-0 lead after blocking a Chris Jones punt for a TD with 7:13 left in first quarter.

You have got to be shitting me.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks get their first touchdown on a slick blocked punt. Doug Baldwin lines up wide, then sneaks inside right before the snap, with another defender dropping from the middle to cover the gunner. Baldwin comes in off the edge unblocked and smothers the punt, and the Seahawks scoop and score.

Aaron Schatz: I know, I know, people hate when we complain about officiating but ... they just called a tripping penalty on Richard Sherman. The only "tripping" he did was tackling Dez Bryant by grabbing his leg after Bryant caught the ball. And even stranger -- I figured it would be "penalty declined" but I guess tripping is technically a dead ball penalty so they handed the Cowboys half the distance to the goal, an extra 10 yards.

Vince Verhei: Not for nothing, but the ref for today's Seahawks game is Bill Leavy. You might remember another Seattle game he reffed once upon a time.

That is not, however, why Seattle is down 17-10 at halftime (and it feels like about 28-0). The Cowboys are physically dominating and beating up Seattle on both sides of the ball like I haven't seen in who knows how long. The Seahawks scored on a blocked punt and got a 53-yard catch from Jermaine Kearse to set up a field goal, and otherwise have 30 yards on 16 plays. Dallas, meanwhile, has cranked out 15 first downs. Seahawks came into the game not allowing a 40-yard rusher all year; DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle both went over the 40-yard mark in the first half. Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile, has two carries for 8 yards. There's a lot of football left, but man, that was an ass-kicking.

Aaron Schatz: Dwayne Harris drops an attempt at a fair catch on punt return. Seahawks recover, and with good field position score easily. Great block by Luke Willson on keeper touchdown by Russell Wilson. Seattle's only in this game right now because of special teams. How kooky is that?

Scott Kacsmar: Even the Washington special teams finds this performance embarrassing, Dallas.

Aaron Schatz: For those who didn't see us discussing it on Twitter... halfway through the third quarter, the Seahawks ditched their "keep cornerbacks on sides" strategy and instead had Richard Sherman following Dez Bryant around the field.

Cian Fahey: Seems it's because Byron Maxwell went out injured. He did the same a few years back when Brandon Browner was suspended.

Aaron Schatz: In the second quarter, I don't think he was doing it. I remember seeing that whoever had replaced Maxwell was on Dez Bryant a couple times. I think they didn't switch it until the third.

Andrew Healy: I wasn't watching that game much in the first half, but it looked like Sherman shadowed Bryant across the field on that play where he got called for that ridiculous tripping penalty.

Vince Verhei: So much to say about Seattle right now. On the Dallas drive following the Wilson touchdown, Sherman moves to the offense's left to cover Bryant. It hardly matters, though, because two plays later Tony Romo isn't ready for the shotgun snap (and even if he had been ready, the snap hit him below the knee) and the Seahawks recover to set up a go-ahead field goal.

You know in They Live, when Roddy Piper gets the glasses that let him see the aliens? There are times when I think everyone sees Percy Harvin as a great football player, but I've got the special glasses that let me see that he's really not very good (and I edited that from something harsher several times). I know he had a bunch of touchdowns called back on Monday night, but by and large, when he gets the ball, nothing good happens. But everyone still talks about how great he is, and defenses keep keying on him like he's Red Grange or something.

Marcus Burley is in for Maxwell, and with Sherman on the left, Dallas is going right after Burley on the right.

Matt Waldman: Regarding your Harvin thoughts: Roddy White had quite a movie career.

Falcons game on the brain. Maybe Piper saw White in Hollywood with those glasses and freaked out.

Andrew Healy: Murray went over 100 yards for the sixth straight game with the touchdown that puts Dallas ahead 27-23. Those last two runs were great displays of blocking. The first featured some great Murray running in traffic, the second had an awesome cut left to avoid Earl Thomas.

Aaron Schatz: We thought that given their personnel losses, the Cowboys would be an exception to the general rule that says defenses regress towards the mean much more than offenses do. It turns out they are not. Rarely does a team have a defense as bad as the 2013 Cowboys for multiple seasons.

Andrew Healy: Given the context in which it happened and the fact that Dallas looks like they'll win, that pass from Romo to Terrance Williams on third-and-20 is probably the play of the season so far. An incredible escape by Romo, a very good throw, and then an unbelievable catch by Terrance Williams. Does Romo get clutch credit here?

But hold on. A holding penalty means the Seahawks will have 1:09 instead of a little under 0:30. That penalty was very Cowboys from recent years. You have to coach your guys not to commit a penalty there.

Vince Verhei: So here's what Percy Harvin did today: three carries for -1 yard, three catches in four targets for zero yards. He also had a 28.4-yard average on five kick returns, but he ran all five out of the end zone, getting tackled inside the 20 on three returns and reaching the 21 on a fourth.

Percy Harvin stats this year:
Running: 11 for 92 (8.4 YPC), 1 TD
Receiving: 22 for 133 (6.0 Y/R), 0 TD

He has been targeted 25 times this year, so he's averaging 6.1 yards on those plays.

Antone Smith > Percy Harvin.

Washington Redskins 20 at Arizona Cardinals 30

Scott Kacsmar: From what I've seen of Carson Palmer today he looks good. Ball's getting out just in time to avoid sacks and usually on target with solid velocity. Always a scary thing to hear "nerve damage," but he more or less is looking like the guy who directed a win over San Diego in Week 1.

New York Giants 0 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Scott Kacsmar: Ben McAdoo is like a perfect combo of an aged Randal & Dante from Clerks.

Aaron Schatz: I have no idea what the Eagles offense is doing differently tonight compared to past weeks. It's the same backup linemen. They're using misdirection, but they always use misdirection. They're going fast, but they always do that too. Yet LeSean McCoy is getting huge holes.

Tom Gower: First half thoughts on SNF: Man, the Giants have problems on the offensive line. That was expected to be a problem heading into the season, but it had been under control in recent weeks. Not so tonight, and Justin Pugh seems to have been the worst, or at least the most noticeable offender. I haven't exactly been impressed with Andre Williams' work in the run game tonight, and the negative down-and-distance situations the run game has put them in have just magnified the pass protection issues.

I think Cian commented about this on Twitter, but the Giants do not have quick linebackers. The Eagles have taken advantage of that at times tonight, as Shady has been able to take advantage of the space. I think they're also not playing with as heavy a box as the Eagles have been used to facing lately. Nick Foles has also hit some nice deep throws downfield, which is an area he's really struggled with this year. Yes, I wrote about his deep ball struggles this week; this is what happens when you write about things, as Werner Heisenberg could tell you.


169 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2014, 11:53am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Thomas Dmitroff gets a lot of play in the media for being a GM Wunderkind, but outside of the skill positions, that Falcons roster does not look very good. I guess that'll happen when you trade an entire draft for one player.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The perspective of most Falcons fans I know is that it was expensive to get Julio, but on the other hand he along with Ryan are the two best players on the team. Dimitroff made far more egregious mistakes. The list of OL and defensive front seven players picked by Dimitroff is simply pathetic, plus throwing money at the likes of Ray Edwards and Dunta Robinson in free agency.

The offense is hampered by all the injuries on the OL, but there's no excuse for this defense. I feel personally insulted by it, to be honest. I think Smitty is gone at the end of the year, which is a shame, because I think he's a pretty good coach who has been given some sub-standard ingredients. Unfortunately, the coach doesn't get to fire the GM.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Great Calvin Johnson catches, and 49-35 victories were pretty fun in 2011, but I'm having even more fun watching the Lions win with smothering defense.

I'm also more worried about the offense than I am the kicking game (I think Prater will be fine once he shakes off the rust and starts kicking indoors). 185 yards on 33 pass attempts are the kind of stat lines my namesake would put up.

My Bear fans friends always say that during the Lovie Smith era, they would be excited to see the defense and punt return unit on the field, while simply hoping nothing bad happened while the offense was on the field. Watching this Lions-Vikings game, I know exactly how they felt.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The only time the passing game was effective was on quick tosses. If Stafford waited for more than 2 seconds to get rid of the ball he was getting hammered. The DL was dominant just crushing the Vikings OL. Is Darius Slay good or just living off of the DL pressure?

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Slay, and, amazingly, Rashean Mathis have both been great. A good chunk of the Lions sacks have been coverage sacks. The Lions secondary this year compared to last year is a study on what a big difference good coaching and scheme can make.

It was a pleasant surprise this year to see Lions CB's not biting on double moves/pump fakes, and actually turning their heads back to look for the ball. Having two assignment-sound (if unspectacular) safeties has been a huge plus, too.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

>> My Bear fans friends always say that during the Lovie Smith era, they would be excited to
>> see the defense and punt return unit on the field, while simply hoping nothing bad
>> happened while the offense was on the field.

That's exactly what being a Ravens fan was like, 2001-2007.
And last year.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm still miffed about the Dolphins loss yesterday. The coaching was awful.
A penalty gives you 4th & 2 at the GB 40 with 30 seconds left and you punt?
Then the shocking decision to run on 3rd & 9 at the end of Miami's last possession. A 1st down ends the game, and you threw on 2nd down, so why run off-tackle in to the teeth on a run blitzing front on 3rd down. Pass the ball, or, maybe try a QB keeper with your speedy mobile QB. Anything except a give up run, which was no better than taking a knee at that point.
Finally, GB get tackled inbounds with no timeouts, setting up 4th and game, and you call a defensive time out???

Joe Philbin is a Cretin.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I like the new signature. When the Dolphins had 3rd and long before that last GB drive, I and all my friends watching agreed - they will lose this game. No question about it. It's exactly the kind of soul crushing defeat we've gotten used to over the last 15 years.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Philbin is going to get killed in the press for game time decisions so long as he keeps losing. He's going to keep losing because I'm not sure Miami is all that good a football team. Philbin has weird passive/aggressive cycles in games that never work out for him. I hate their play calling, I didn't understand using Moreno who clearly was still injured and ineffective. I don't understand why they spent so much on Hartline who doesn't seem to fit the new offense. I don't understand why Landry, who doesn't have top end speed, returns kicks. Does Miami have any other option at head coach? Philbin is the coach because no other candidate would even take Ireland's phone calls. Ireland is gone but the owner that hired him is still there. Miami is in year one of the new GM and offensive OC. Do you blow everything up after 5 games? Once again what is the plan and where is this team going long term. Only Stephen Ross seems to know. Remember Miami is the GOOD Florida professional team. Tampa and Jacksonville would kill to have Miami's talent :)

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yup, bad decisions all (one thing you gotta give Philbin, though, is how disciplined the team is -very few penalties). Even so, if Finnegan takes the outside instead of the inside on the next to last play or if we recover the strip-sack... that's the way it goes and when Rodgers in on the other side, you're going to lose more than your fair share of these.

Who, me?

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Need to mention this somewhere: both Denver and Arizona pulled off improbable covers yesterday with Pick-6's with under 30 seconds left.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Talib's TD put the Broncos up by 14 with less than a minute left, so it wasn't a horrible play -- but had the score been closer or more time remained in the game (or the opposing QB been better), he should have just downed the ball inside the 5 so the offense could run out the clock. No sense in giving any NFL opponent control of the ball and the clock in desperate situations.

(Gregg Easterbrook now returns control of my keyboard to me...)

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If the opposing team has no timeouts left then yes. Kneeling out and then kicking a field goal will give them the ball back with less than a minute left to drive the field for a touchdown, kick an onside kick, then get into field goal range again (about 90 yards plus a 50-yd field goal). Scoring a touchdown gives them 3 minutes to drive the field twice (about 150 yards). The difference is 1.5 yards per second versus 0.8 yards per second.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That requires too much awareness from the players. If we have to sit down and think about the calculations -which are already assuming a certain number of time outs-, I would in no way want my players to make those kind of decisions on the fly.

"Goddamn it, Donald... you missed a zero!"

Who, me?

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mia/Gb - Can I request this week scramble for the ball have a rerunning of the classic Jason Beattie Cartoon: Dave Wannstedt bitter beer face. No words can better describe the state of professional football in the State of Florida. Sure feels like it is heading to be a 6th year without a play game despite there being three teams in the state. There's bad, there's sad, and there's whatever it is the Dolphins claim to do.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Dallas has the o-line, to pair with a talented qb and receivers, to make Seattle's defense look less than dominant. Fortunately for the Seahawks, it is very unusual in a league with a hard cap, and rules that heavily encourage passing, not too many offenses are built in that manner. It'll be interesting, as Bryant gets to his 2nd contract this year, the two young o-linemen start approaching their 2nd contracts (like Tyron Smith did this summer), and Murray's rookie deal runs out, to see what compromises have to be made. Right now, my enjoyment of old fashioned physical offense is outweighing my enjoyment of seeing Jerrel Jones' face as his team loses.

The Vikings offense is pretty helpless in the face of a defense with any talent. I'll note again that anybody who thinks Adrian Peterson was overrated in years past is pretty ignorant.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Is the Dallas defense subpar? If so then the Seattle offense is truly inept

Because they were schooled yesterday. Rod Marinelli had that d-line creating all kinds of issues for Seattle. Russell Wilson was constantly moving to evade rushers

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Seattle's offense is definitely overrated, and it really isn't rated all that highly rated to begin with. They kind of remind me of the Dallas offense before Stephen Jones gained enough influence over his dad to start drafting o-linemen in the first round; way, way, too dependent on a highly mobile qb's ability to improvise under duress.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Well, their o-line does have 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders starting, so it hasn't been completely neglected. But their recent draft choices have been questionable, and they've done zero in free agency other than bringing in minimum wage vets on their last legs (Eric Winston). I think Tom Cable is too in love with coaching up projects.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, I'd be tempted to credit the Cowboys for drafting well for the o-line, and castigate the Seahawks for the opposite, if not for the fact that with each passing year I become more convinced that drafting results are largely random, like with the Seahawks and dbs. I do think there is quite a bit to be said for a coaching staff which teaches well, however.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That night and day difference is probably mostly due to confirmation bias. The 2012 draft produced exactly 1 useful player: Alshon Jeffery. 2013 has 2: Long and Mills.

Both those drafts included top 2 round picks who are actively hurting the team. McClellin and Bostic.

*Kaseem Greene might be useful, jury is still out.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

How do you really know if you are seeing a night and say difference, when dealing with tiny sample sizes, as opposed to pure dumb luck? Is there some difference between the best and the mediocre drafters? Sure, but the more I look at it, the more I'm convinced that the difference in talent on the field is pretty small. What needs to be avoided is surefire wasting of draft picks, which usually indicates the meddling of a owner. The Roy Williams for a first rounder sort of lunacy.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6


One of the reasons I'm neither as quick to get down (or up) on Belichick the GM as others, is that the talent is close and differences are really hard to identify, especially where there is any kind of growth projection required.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, Dallas is only going to have about $2 million next year in cap space, and they should be at the point where they can't re-do Romo's contract anymore (besides, I guess, doing more in guaranteed money but not extending the length of the deal?). They can work with Tyron Smith and Doug Free, I guess. But I don't know quite how they're going to sign Dez and Murry (who will likely lead the league in rushing this year) without getting into trouble.

The real issue is Romo: His cap hit goes from $12 million to $28 million next year. It does drop after that, but that won't help trying to re-sign two of your biggest offensive stars (and key cogs to their current success) now. I hope they have some tricks up their sleeve, but I am not confident.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Enjoy the ride this year. They control the line of scrimmage well enough on offense to give them a decent chance in January against anyone, regardless of their defensive issues. Like I said, they are really an old-fashioned dominant offense, and are really fun to watch.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I saw Dallas for the first time yesterday, and their O-line looked really good, especially in pass protection. Romo had all the time in the world. That looks like a team that needs a 'good enough' defense and nothing more

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

When you see an offensive line close out a game like they did yesterday, in a very difficult road environment, against an excellent defense, you have the basis for beating anybody come January. On that last td drive, they were simply overpowering the competition.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'll admit that I'd trade another Super Bowl for letting some big players go. I feel like Randle is underrated as an RB and behind that line he could have success. Dez would be harder to replace, but maybe the Jags will cut Blackmon and Dallas can sign him for cheap once he gets his act together? It would be like Oklahoma State '09-'10 all over again!

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

"The Vikings offense is pretty helpless in the face of a defense with any talent. I'll note again that anybody who thinks Adrian Peterson was overrated in years past is pretty ignorant."

As you mentioned in the previous paragraph about Dallas, good offensive line play can do wonders for any team. What on earth has happened to Matt Kalil? I'm not sure who was worse yesterday, him, or the Fox announcers for that game. I could make no judgement about whether or not Bridgewater is any good, because Fran Tarkenton in his prime would have had a tough time with that much pass pressure.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

If you told me that Goldberg's "illness" was a stroke, I would believe you. I counted at least 5 times where he couldn't keep the players/coaches from different teams straight. At one point he referred to Greg Jennings as Golden Tate (both wear #15), and at another he said that Jim Caldwell was enjoying working with Norv Turner this season.

7 Re: Philbin Follies

The third and nine, run the ball, milk the clock and punt approach and give the other team a chance to win is certainly a boneheaded,but thoroughly by the book tactic that Phibin resorted to.

More questionable is the final Packer play. Packers lined up on the six with Quarles split wide right. The Dolphins called a time out. Following the break, the Packers lined up in the same formation. With a zero percent chance of a run, the Dolphins had a linebacker on the field who was forced to split wide to cover Quarles. Why on earth did the Dolphins not have DBs filling the end zone? It was a gimmee play.

95 Re: Philbin Follies

Zero-percent chance of a run? Earlier in the game Rodgers converted a 3rd and long on a designed keeper, if you give them the middle why wouldn't he take it?

Who, me?

106 Re: Philbin Follies

Are you on Philbin's staff? Go back and look at the defensive formation on the QB draw, and compare it to the defensive formation on the goal line. Then look at that big 0:06 on the clock. That translates into one run only, but two possible passes, should the first one fail. Let's put the chance of a run at 0.00001 percent if zero percent is too definitive.

111 Re: Philbin Follies

I haven't looked at the formations, I'm just saying it's naive to assume Green Bay can't run the ball in that situation. If you give Rodgers an open middle he'll take it and laugh all the way to the endzone.

Who, me?

128 Re: Philbin Follies

On point, I actually think that's what happened on that one play in the first quarter because none of the O-linemen released downfield or anything, Rodgers just saw how wide open it was and ran.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Just curious what the biggest combined shutout run to start two games in the same season. At the end of the first half, we've got 38-0 here and 56-0 three weeks ago against Atlanta. So that's 94-0 for Tampa in those two games.

The 1923 Rochester Jeffersons lost their first two games 60-0 and 56-0. Ignoring them and other soon-to-be-defunct teams of the 1920s and 30s:

99: 1961 Raiders (first two games of season, shut out in both; early AFL team)
94: 2014 Bucs
93: 1963 Jets (early AFL team)
90: 1958 Packers (hired Lombardi the next year)
89: 1940 Redskins (one of these is the 73-0 Championship Game loss)
89: 1960 Cowboys (scored late TDs in both games to avoid shutouts; first year of franchise)
89: 1964 Bears (won the NFL Championship the year before)
89: 1976 Falcons (shut out in both)
87: 1969 Bills
86: 1967 Broncos
86: 1989 Oilers (made playoffs)

The 2008 Cardinals had games in which they trailed 47-0, 34-0, 28-0, and 21-0. They nearly won the Super Bowl.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Awesome, Travis! Thanks for this. An obscure record, but neat that the 2014 Bucs are breaking new ground, at least post-merger. Amazing that the Packers were in the championship game two years later after the Scooter McLean debacle and that the Oilers had those 0-34 and 0-52 starts against two teams Kansas City (8-7-1) and Cincinnati (8-8-1) that didn't make the playoffs.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

So I have many times this season half jokingly asked the Bears to cut all their linebackers. Well they just played a game with all backup linebackers, and for once they didn't look two steps behind every play.

This might reflect the ability of the Falcon's backs, tightends, and offensive line more than anything, but still it was nice to see at least the occasional play made by a linebacker.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That was deeply bizarre. I had been following the Bears injury report all week, and I fully expected to see Williams, Bostic, and C. Jones out there. I didn't even know Sharpton was on the roster. He really didn't look too bad, especially in pass coverage---it's been a while since I've seen a Bears LB 20 yards downfield breaking up a pass to a WR. Any Texans fans want to comment on whether he's a real option at MLB? Seems unlikely, but...

It was a strange game overall. The Bears passing game looked legitimately good, but it's hard to make any judgments on the defensive side of the ball because Atlanta was so determined to give the game away. The performance by their TE and WRs was just inexcusable. I believe the official number of drops was seven, but there were many more times when (as Vince points out), there was either a decent-but-not-huge hit from a Bears DB or LB jarring the ball loose or a receiver giving up on the ball. Then there were the weird officiating decisions (including the pick-up of the flag on the h2h hit that Pereira agreed with for reasons I cannot fathom) and the sight of the Bears D amping up the crowd and forcing Ryan to take a timeout---in the Georgia Dome. All in all, not a good day to be a Falcons fan.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Again, it's unclear to me how much effect the Falcon's offensive line had, but it seems like Jared Allen still has plenty left in the tank and is the Bears best defensive lineman (and probably best overall defender). A week after literally not getting any pressure, the Bears were consistently pressuring Ryan with a 4 man rush.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

A week after literally not getting any pressure

Are you really referring to last week? The Bears did have 2 sacks (including Young's strip & recovery), and they hurried Newton several other times in the first half. Second half, not so much, but "literally no pressure" seems an overstatement. If you actually meant the Packers game, I'm 100% with you. (Also, Allen played last week but not the week before, which also makes me think you're referring to the GB game.)

And if the GB game hadn't happened, I'd say your statement about Allen was crazy, because I've been watching him closely all year and have been incredibly frustrated to see him blocked one-on-one week in and week out. But the fact that Young didn't get a sniff the entire GB game (and neither did anyone else) makes me think that I'm somehow missing the effect Allen is having on the rest of the line. I couldn't believe it when the announcers mentioned yesterday that Paea has 4 sacks this year.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Lions' kicker woes are the Curse of Kickalicious. They had him in camp. He hit everything (and is awesome). They cut him. And ever since, they're cursed. Should've kept him!

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Philadelphia sports fan community stays classy. Right after Victor Cruz suffers a probably season-ending knee injury and is carted off the field in tears, with both Giants and Eagles players surrounding him in support, a Philly sports radio host sends a tweet mocking him.

"Hey Giants fans,” Mike Misanelli of 97.5 The Fan said. “Victor Cruz is over. Dance to that."

Ah, the city of Brotherly Love.

(He later claimed he didn't know Cruz was injured and was just mocking him for dropping the pass. Yeah, right. Twitter is a great tool for prying jaws open and bending feet up to insert in them).

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

What I took away from the Patriots-Bills game:

* The Bills front seven is really good. Swarming to the ball, shutting down the running game, getting decent pressure on the QB (helped, of course, by the fact that Josh Kline and especially Jordan Devey should never, ever, be playing O-line in a regular season game), they did all they could to help the Bills win.

* The Bills secondary is not very good. They seemed to either lack the talent, or perhaps simply had a terrible game plan, for dealing with Gronk and Edelman (and LaFell did some good too).

* Brady has definitely slipped but is still good enough to play well as long as either his receivers can get open or his line can give him time (one of the two at least kept happening in this game).

* The Patriots still suck at covering tight ends. Scott Chandler? Really?

* When is Fred Jackson going to finally get old? He was hitting holes and driving piles just as well as he has always done. Wasn't enough, in the end, though.

* Mayo and Ridley out for a long time. Done for the year? That really sucks, especially Mayo.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mayo is the only LB they have who can cover anybody decently. With him out, the coverage of TEs is going to continue to suck.

Yes, Mayo is far less replaceable than Ridley. But Ridley will be missed, too. With Blount gone to Pittsburgh, Ridley was the only guy the Pats had who could break through a hole with authority. We pretty much know Bolden is limited. Vereen is great at what he does, but he's not a North-South runner. We'll likely get to see what White and/or Gray can contribute. (Yes, the Pats have two RBs named after colors.)

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I can't even agree that Bolden is great at what he does. I think sometimes he is average at what he does. Fans have mentioned picking up BJGE, but I think he must be all done if no one has given him a sniff before this.

However, I am excited to watch Tyms. I would be nice to have a real stretch-the-field receiver.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Is Jamie Collins not good in coverage? I was thoroughly impressed with his playoff game against the colts, so much so, that I thought they had found themselves a really great player in the making.

As it is, if there are two places I feel like they have the depth to withstand injuries, its at linebacker and running back. In the former, I i suspect their nickle will be hightower and collins.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Mayo and Ridley out for a long time. Done for the year? That really sucks, especially Mayo.

My Pats SB hopes hinged on them playing their best at the end of the year and no season ending injuries to any starters. So much for that.

I think they can manage without Ridley with RB by committee, but losing Mayo is just brutal. Maybe they'll get lucky with Mayo and it's only a severe sprain, but probably not.

For a minute I though Duke Williams was playing for the Pats with that PI call on Edelman. It's nice when it's the other team's DBs making bad plays instead of your own.

The pass to Tyms was impressive, and I'm happy for him. He's had a hard luck life so I hope he makes it in the NFL.

22 Eagles Offense

The scheme gets all the publicity, but it's all about execution. It worked against the Giants because the execution was there, it didn't work in previous weeks not because Chip Kelly was calling the wrong plays or because the defense was so great, but mostly because the offense wasn't executing properly, from the OL to Foles and even McCoy. The all 22 analysis I follow indicated the Eagles had plenty of chances in the previous weeks, but couldn't actually get it done due to poor execution.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, I'm not sure how that's possible.

He got injured one second after dropping the pass, and the NBC crew picked up on it right away. Unless he turned away to tweet after the ball hit Cruz's hands, then he had to know that Cruz was injured (and badly, based on his reaction on the field).

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Looked to me in multiple replays that he got hurt before dropping the easy pass (and that was the reason for the drop) or maybe it was simultaneous. No idea how it happened, but the split-second the ball bounced off his hands, they shot down to clutch his busted knee, while his body was still falling. Never saw that before.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm reliably informed that the injury Cruz suffered (torn patellar tendon) is considerably more painful than a ligament tear. That he even concentrated enough for the ball to hit his hands before clutching the knee is remarkable, assuming the injury occurred before the ball arrived (which seems likely).

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

That tripping call on Sherman was soul-crushingly dumb. I thought the announcers were joking about it until they stepped it off. Ref must have had a senior moment.

Speaking of senior moments, I think Chris Myers has late-stage Chris Schenkel's disease. He's always 5-10 seconds behind the play. Ref gives first down sign, sticks move, Myers says,"they're probably gonna have to measure." Etc. Like dozens of times a game. Also, he's afraid to call FG kicks, like he has no depth perception. Absolutely brutal. Is it so hard to find people who can call games?

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Something to keep in mind about the Miami/Green Bay game is that I am all but certain there was not a single offensive holding penalty called on either team. And there were certainly chances TO call that penalty on both teams. The most egregious example was the backup Miami right tackle dragging Nick Perry to the ground on a 3rd and 10 with Miami driving. If that is called maybe Miami has to settle for a field goal.

But that also speaks to the power of the first steps of the Miami ends who were able to blow by the GB tackles before they could even pretend to grab jersey on most plays.

And did playaction pass pinch McCarthy's mom on the backside or something? The Dolphins were playing the run so hard on first down the situation was begging for a play action pass. The Miami safety was regularly playing next to one of the ends on first down. Just really odd that MM wouldn't try at least ONCE

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I thought I saw them try play action, max protect, look deep (like the ones they've hit to Nelson vs. NYJ and MIN) at least once or twice yesterday. Couldn't tell you if they tried it on first down though.

Still concerned that they can't get anything going in the run game. There was a lot of press after the Vikings game about how getting Lacy out of the shotgun and going downhill sparked him. Sure, he looked great vs. MIN, and he does appear to be hesitant and side-stepping too much on draw plays, but he did great work out of the shotgun last season. I think Packers O-line has just been getting overpowered too often this year.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I'm calling this. Go back and look at GB's second TD (The one where Rodgers is rolling right. I'm not sure if Bhaktiari is trying to block his defender or f*ck him. I'm' astonished that wasn't called

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Doug Free got hurt and was on a cart on the sideline, but then had his ankle taped and was on the field for the end-of-game kneel downs. On the first play Free was out, they ran for 15 yards behind his replacement at RT, Jeremy Parnell. I was pleasantly surprised. Parnell is a good swing tackle depth guy, but I don't think you'd want to have to start him for any sustained period of time, and CERTAINLY not at LT.

Frederick did not suffer any injuries.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

And I know the Miami players live in the heat every day but still impressive that despite the Packers having the ball for 37 odd minutes that defense was still flying off the snap late in the game.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I hope this will be the last we hear about Kirk Cousins being a viable starting QB over RG3. Right now he reminds of a young Jon Kitna. Makes a few exciting plays that are more than overshadowed by how much he turns the ball over.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yes, I agree that if Griffin can't stay on the field, Washington needs to find a new quarterback. I'm just saying that Cousins has shown nothing to suggest that he's the long term answer to the Griffin question (like some in the DC media have suggested).

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Health is not a skill, but it might be a trait or a quality.

Redskins fans are fairly depressed about Griffin's durability these days. Is there any precedent for a player who had many injuries early in his career who later became more reliable in that capacity? His most recent injury was bizarre - it wasn't even the result of contact from a defender.

Maybe Snyder will decide that FedEx field deserves an improved playing surface. But the recent rumors are that he's declaring FedEx (a whopping 13 years old) to be obsolete. He's trying to get Virginia to provide him with a publicly financed stadium.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It's shorthand in the analyst community regarding athletes who can and cannot stay on the field of play.

I have read that same phrase any number of times and thought folks here would have as well. Wasn't working to offend the King's English moderators

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Matthew Stafford couldn't stay healthy his first two years in the league, missing 19 out of 32 games, and suffering a total of three shoulder injuries (the third was a re aggravation of the second). People were saying he was the NFL version of Greg Odin.

Since then he's started 53 straight games, and played at an above average level. Now I'm not saying he's played at the level of what was expected of Griffin, but there's definitely a precedent for someone being labeled "injury prone" being consistently healthy afterwards. I believe Phil Simms fits a similar category early in his career.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It's all very random. Robert Smith looked to be a running back with chronic knee problems who would never fulfill potential for his first couple years with the Vikings, and then he became a very reliable and special ball carrier for the balance of his career, who probably left 15-20 million on the table when he decided he'd had enough.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I think there is an extremely good chance that he's going to avoid a felony conviction, which means he'll be back next year, with someone other than the Vikings, who will have to cut him, given his cap number.

It isn't crazy to think that the Cowboys decide to let Murray get a big free agent contract elsewhere in 2015, and then sign Peterson at a discount.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Now, now, the Redskins started playing in their current stadium in 1997, back in the Mesozoic Era.

It does seem odd that the design and siting for a football-only facility was so poor, in the mid '90s. It is obscene that Snyder and the NFL are seeking aid from the taxpayers to fix their mistake.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I know nothing on the subject, but why not blow up RFK and put up something superior? The location is good, no? Or am I wrong? My job will take me to the DC area in a few years and while I'm a Cowboys fan, it would be cool to have access to a stadium right in the area and not in the 'burbs.

I also understand that the DC United stadium idea has stalled, unfortunately...

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

They would have to negotiate use of another facility for 1-2 seasons while a new stadium is built if they did that, just as the Vikings are doing now. The most likely option would be the U-Md stadium. I think it would be fitting if they got stuck using UMBC or Howard U.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Thankyou for pedantry. I think people understand the different between a skill and a trait/quality. It's a colloquialism for "injuries are not necessarily random events and players that are frequently injured are likely to continue to struggle to stay healthy." Oh hey that sounds a lot like a colloquialism for "health is a trait or quality."

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Regarding the Broncos

If Ware and Miller can stay healthy, Denver looks like a team that can win even if their QB doesn't play well, which hasn't been the case the last two years.

Their O-Line hasn't been good at all. Awful run blocking, too many penalties and in pass protection they look better than they are because they are bailed out by Manning's release.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Anyone else see the concussion that Miller was able to shrug off in the 1st half? He tackled Ivory near the sideline, and the announcer made a point to highlight how Miller tackled with his head on the opposite side of the runner's body, just as you're taught to do. Except in this case as Miller was down in the tackle form Ivory just lowered his head and hit him with the crown of his helmet in the ear-hole.
Miller staggered as he was getting up and was wobbly walking off the field just as the camera cut away. They showed him with the trainers on the sideline, but that was the last I heard of it until later when they were speculating it was a shoulder injury or something. I call BS as a totally uneducated observer -- he got his bell rung with that hit and was able to "pass" the concussion protocol so he could get back on the field.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This audibles already has references to "They Live", "Clerks", Chris Schenkel, and Georgia Tech versus Cumberland. Best audibles ever!

Trivia the afore-mentioned Georgia Tech versus Cumberland game (GT beat Cumberland 222-0) who was the head coach of Georgia Tech?

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

On the Rodgers fake spike, that just seems like a stupid play on Rodgers part. It worked out well in the end, and it's cute that it was the "Marino play" against Miami... but doesn't he need to throw that ball into the end zone for it to be worth the risk there? The odds aren't terrible that the receiver could have been tackled in bounds, especially considering it was an impromptu play, without any discussion in the huddle. The receiver wasn't completely uncovered, and if he gets tackled in bounds, the game is over.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The DB was 10 yards off the receiver and then you watch that the receiver played "outside leverage" (I know that's a DB term, but the best description I can come up with) so he could get out of bounds as soon as he was at risk of being tackled. I think it was smart as it gave them a chance for 2 quick shots at the endzone instead of 2 longer one if they spiked it.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Both Rodgers and Adams spoke to this after the game. Adams stated specifically that he received a hand signal from Rodgers to be ready for the ball and Adams then glanced at the clock to know how much time he had. Both spoke to seeing the db playing back as you describe.

Philbin gave the Packers a gift with the timeout. And throwing to Cobb who was tackled in bounds was a bad play. But given how clearly Rodgers and Adams spoke to the play and in Rodgers case immediately afetr the game I think this was something where both players assessed and knew what had to happen.

Adams game awareness for a rookie is pretty impressive

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It was a totally ballsey decision and after reading MMQB it is even moreso. I thought it was something that Rodgers and Adams had worked out in advance but apparently Rodgers was trying to make eye contact with Adams before the play and couldn't do it but went with it anyway...I give the rookie Adams credit for reacting the way he did. In any case, by the time the ball was snapped Finnegan was 11 yards off the line so Rodgers must've thought he could get it out to Adams with enough time to get a few yards and get out of bounds. Until I saw the replay I didn't realize how close he was to being tackled in bounds...

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Here are Adams comments on the play:

"He does what he does," Adams said, carefully keeping his answer vague. "It's little, subtle signals and things like that. We have a million of them. You've just got to see the right thing."

Adams caught his quarterback's signal, and he interpreted it correctly.

With no timeouts and the clock ticking under 20 seconds, Rodgers motioned to kill the clock as he approached the line of scrimmage. Under 15 seconds, he took the snap. Somewhere in between, and ever so briefly, the MVP quarterback flashed another sign to his rookie receiver.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Did the hand signal include, "Priority #1: Get out of bounds after catching the ball, unless you have a clear path to the end zone." That message wasn't received, because Adams fought off a tackle for a few extra yards, rather than go immediately out of bounds. Then he got pushed out of bounds by the safety. Fortune favors the bold, I suppose... still, I'd rather have two certain shots into the end zone from the 15, than take take a chance with that play.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

More Adams comments from

"As soon as the ball was snapped and I caught it, I saw how far (Finnegan) was off, and I looked up at the clock for a second and ran and got as much as I could," Adams said. "I tried to stretch out, move the ball as close to the end zone as I could. I took what was available.

"You can't be greedy. You might get into the end zone, but if you don't, the game is over. So you have to make sure you can take what you can and get out of bounds."

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I perceive you are determined to frame this as the Packers getting lucky.

I grant there was some luck involved but based on all of the comments from the players within moments of game end this play was the outcome of players having practiced scenarios and understanding game conditions.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Not so much "lucky" as it wouldn't have taken much bad luck for that play to have been a game-ending disaster. The payoff from that play (5-10 yards closer to the end zone was a likely outcome, even with the cornerback playing off coverage) was not worth the risk in that situation, IMHO.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The fake spike was a huge play. The chances of success in two shots from the five are significantly greater than two shots from the 18 yard line. The odds of scoring from the 18 on a run or scramble are nil; from the five there's a chance on a scramble. Odds on a five yard completion are much higher than a throw into the end zone from 18 yards out. The fake spike had a very high probability of success based on the DB's distance from the line and the play certainly increased the Packers chances of winning in the final six seconds.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

With the Cowboys and Eagles both at 5-1 is it a reasonable assumption that both these teams will make the playoffs?

Which leaves only one other wild card, making it much harder for quite a few 'contenders' to make the postseason. Carolina, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay, Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco are likely to only have the division titles and the one wild card available, not great odds.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

No matter how well the Cowboys appear to be playing right now, I think history tells us that betting the mortgage on them making the playoffs is a recipe for living in a cardboard box. The Eagles had not looked impressive in any full game until last night, and Foles has regressed even more than most people expected this year, so I'm not sold on them either. All that needs to happen for either team to miss the playoffs is for them to lose six (or even five) of the next 10 games.

That said, I agree that many of the teams you mention in the second paragraph have a tough row to hoe. But not because they are good teams who have been very unlucky. The Saints and Bears---and to some degree the Niners and Seahawks---are in trouble because they have played bad football a lot of the time.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Romo was a good qb with crap blocking for him. With the kind of blocking he's getting now, with defenses having to respect Murray's ability to gash them, Romo is going to have a very easy time of it, unless, as with all NFL teams, injuries intervene, or the defense reverts back to last year's abomination.

The time span of any NFL roster is short enough that looking at history doesn't do much good. This offense really shouldn't be looked at through the lens of anything prior to last year.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

It's not an unreasonable assumption, but definitely not one I would make. Three of the Eagles' wins have been against Jacksonville, St Louis and Washington, and they did not dominate those games. Their schedule gets a lot harder for pretty much the rest of the season. Dallas and should probably be favorites to win the division, but I'd say Philadelphia is more in the divisional/wild card chase than assumed to make the playoffs.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The Eagles still have to play the Packers and the Seahawks. Cowboys only have the Eagles to be wary of in the future. The Seahawks have to be the favorite in their division. And even though Atlanta is 2-4 right now, the rest of their division is so weak that I don't see them not winning it. Whoever doesn't win the division between Detroit and Green Bay should take one of the wild cards as both teams have easy schedules. I think it's a toss-up between Arizona, San Francisco, and Philadelphia for the 6th spot.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

How so? Other than quarterback, the Cowboys have decent depth everywhere on offense. Wide receiver is not overly deep, but you've got lots of receiving options at TE and RB that could help if you suffered a WR loss.

Defense has suffered quite a few injuries already (most at LB, plus Claiborne and Scandrick's suspension at CB) and is acquitting itself better than anyone expected. I'm not saying they've got studs at backup positions, but I don't think we would have said they had studs in the actual starting lineup either as of ~6 weeks ago.

Yes, there are a few injuries that could cripple this roster (Dez, Romo, Tyron Smith, maybe Travis Frederick, maybe Carr), but isn't that true of every NFL team?

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

I don't think 5-1 is quite enough to think about guaranteed (or even likely, i.e. probability about 50%) play-off spots yet. It would be nice if someone did a table with x-0, x-1, and x-2 records showing the odds of making the play-off of getting such a record. For example, I suspect every 14-2, and 15-1 team has made the playoffs. How about every 13-2 team, or 12-0 team? It seems possible (if unlikely) that a 12-0 team has ended has ended 12-4 and missed the playoffs. By the time you get back to 8-0, I can easily envision that such teams could end up 10-6 and missing the playoffs. Thus, backing up to 5-1, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the mean final record was 10-6, with about a 50% chance of making the playoffs.

With two teams in the same division at 5-1, I would think there is about a 50% chance that only 1 of them makes the playoffs, especially given that they still have to play each other twice and that means that there are eventually two losses (or ties) to add into those records. If they split those games, they have 6-2 records. If one team sweeps we have a 7-1 and 5-3 record, the loser having a much tougher road to the play-offs.

Last weeks playoff odds report gave them each a 9.7 mean wins and a roughly 60% chance of making the playoffs. My intuition says that means the lesser of the two teams actually has a less than 60% chance of making the playoffs (with 50% seeming like a good swag at the probability).

If they both get to 6-1, I think the odds begin to swing in favor of them both making the playoffs.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

This link doesn't make the postseason connection, but if you want an idea of what average record a 5-1 team finishes with (answer: 11.2 wins), here's a resource:

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Yeah, I'd agree here-- 5-1 doesn't make it likely that both Dallas and Philly are in. But it is very likely that one of those two gets the division. Washington is almost certainly out of it and just playing spoiler now (they're 1-5, 0-2 in the division and 0-4 in the conference). New York could turn things around (wouldn't be the first time!) but it would have to happen fast. Even if Dallas splits with the Giants and loses to Arizona, but wins against Washington and Jacksonville, then they're 8-3. New York would, by definition, be at best 7-4 in that same stretch. And I think imagining New York going 4-1 while playing Dallas twice, (at) Seattle, San Francisco, and the Colts is a bit of a stretch.

So the NFC East will likely come down to the two late-season Dallas-Philly games (my Philly girlfriend and I have tickets in Dallas for Thanksgiving!). This leaves the question of if the other NFC East team can clinch a wild-card. The West is likely to suck up at least one WC, and the fight looks now to be between a) another West team; b) a North team (?); and c) the loser of Dallas-Philly.

Makes for an interesting rest of the season!

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Lots of football left, and injuries always play a role. Eagles haven't played great, but they haven't had most of their O-line starters since week 1. Both Dallas and Philly's defenses have played better than expected. Could go either way, but I'm hopeful that once Kelce and Mathis get back we'll get back to last year's offensive numbers.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

As far as the weakness of the Broncos' offensive line, the Jets have pretty much shoved around every line they've faced this year. Teams have been able to run on them the last two games, probably because Ryan is leaving the box fairly empty; I might also add that several holding calls could have been made against the Broncos on running plays, in addition to the ones the officials made. Part of the Broncos' problem is that Manning becomes ineffective once you force him to run around. The Jets hit Rivers just as much, if not more, but Rivers just killed them.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Regarding Scott's idea about pass interference in the end zone at the end of games: Probably not a good idea in the NFL since the other team gets it at the 1. In college though, it definitely should be done.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

The idea is to reduce the number of snaps where the offense can throw a pass into the end zone when that's the only realistic play call. Say, 7 seconds left, no timeouts, ball on the 18 - holding gives the offense one pass from the 13, while non-holding gives them two passes from the 18. It's not a strategy for the very last play of the game.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Did you ever see this leak from one of Buddy Ryan's old playbooks years ago? Similar idea. (And as noted in the article, he did kind of used a special teams variation of it once.)

Incidentally, this page seeing the light of day is why defensive 12 men on the field is now a pre-snap penalty. The type of situation you guys are talking about would probably be similarly addressed after the fact, but it would be interesting to see what happened if someone tried it.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Ahh yeah, I had completely forgotten that actually (albeit unintentionally) happened in the Super Bowl. That was the same year that playbook leaked too, so you had writers drawing parallels between the two:

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 6

Well two things. One, what your describing is basically pass defense in the 1970s. Receivers still occasionally caught deep passes. So you're not guaranteeing a broken up play.

Two, if the qb throws it, that holding turns into dpi since the ball is in the air I believe. I don't know if this would matter since you're planning on doing it right at the LOS anyways.