Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Audibles at the Line: Week 8
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.

Detroit Lions 22 "at" Atlanta Falcons 21 (London)

Andrew Potter: Two very impressive drives from Atlanta to start this game. For all the concern about their line, they've given Matt Ryan enough time to find his receivers and Ryan has duly obliged. Seven different receivers on the first two drives, including touchdowns to Devonta Freeman on a screen and Bear Pascoe on goal-line play action.

For Detroit, the defense has struggled but the offense has been worse. Punts on every drive so far, and their line has struggled as much as we expected Atlanta's to.

Nick Fairley is now out with a knee injury, and by the sounds of it won't be back. Backup C.J. Mosley was sent home during the week, so they're down to their No. 4 defensive tackle.

Then, just as I hit send, Matt Ryan throws an apparent pick-six to Rashean Mathis, featuring an impressive 103-yard runback. The pick, however, is overturned for defensive pass interference against Mathis -- but that penalty is offset with a penalty against Matt Ryan for a "low block" during the return, so ultimately the down is replayed. (Ryan was valiantly/foolishly attempting to tackle Mathis through the legs of Cassius Vaughn.)

The penalty on Ryan makes no difference to the outcome of the drive, as Steven Jackson punches in on third down to put the Falcons up 21. Hard to see any way back into this for Detroit, whose offense is currently missing Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, their top three tight ends, and now Golden Tate is also playing hurt.

Tom Gower: Matt Ryan has looked phenomenal through the first 27-plus minutes. As Andrew mentioned, Detroit hasn't gotten much pressure. When they have, though, he's done a great job of adjusting to it, resetting, and still putting balls on the money.

Detroit looks dysfunctional on offense against a Falcons defense I don't rate highly, but they've spent a lot of time looking dysfunctional on offense against other teams lately as well. The injuries are really taking their toll, and Matt Stafford's not a quarterback who raises the level of play of those around him.

Andrew Potter: Halftime now. Detroit's final drive of the first half epitomised their dysfunction, with the one completion to Tate followed by a bad drop by Theo Riddick, an inaccurate pass from Stafford toward Corey Fuller, then culminating in an interception on which the receiver (Fuller again) fell down. Disappointed that Atlanta then sat on the ball with more than a minute left and two timeouts, but Detroit don't look any kind of threat to turn this around.

Third quarter, there's that Falcons defense you were talking about, Tom. Third-and-25, Tate goes over the top and the safety doesn't. Stafford scrambles right away from pressure, buys loads of time to wind up the throw, and hits Tate in the end zone to make it 21-10.

Everything's changed in the third quarter. Detroit has a sack-fumble of Ryan, fortunately recovered by one of Atlanta's linemen, and Matt Bosher's punt on that drive went out at Atlanta's 45-yard line. The Lions have scored on both of their drives, and Matt Ryan just threw a horrible, horrible interception straight to a wide-open Cassius Vaughn. Vaughn returned the pick to the 7-yard line, meaning the Lions start in Atlanta's half for the second time in the third quarter and, barring any crazy mistakes, will make this a one-score game here.

Scott Kacsmar: If the Butt Fumble had an interception equivalent, Matt Ryan just made it happen.

Andrew Potter: And on the next drive, another sack-fumble recovered by a Falcons offensive lineman. In addition to the interception, the awfulness of which I can't overstate, Atlanta has fumbled the ball three times in the second half and recovered every one. This second half bears no resemblance to the first.

Tom Gower: At least in the Giants game when the offensive line collapsed in the second half the Falcons could trace it to injury. This is the same five guys they had most of the first half (Gabe Carimi went out early) getting whipped by basically the same group of guys against whom they held their own in the first half.

But Matt Ryan converts a key third down late, and a Julio Jones screen pass gives them another first down. Kudos to Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter for going to the air rather than trying to seal the game by running Steven Jackson ineffectively into the line.

Andrew Potter: Strategically sound, but an inexcusable hold followed by a Julio Jones drop cost them the chance to seal it.

The Lions field goal unit: never a dull moment.

Tom Gower: We may have to give the Mike Martz Award for Mike Smith and Jim Caldwell for how they handled that contest, ugly in many respects and particularly some of the decisions late in the game.

Cian Fahey: At least Hard Knocks taught us that the Falcons are tough enough to handle these losses.

Aaron Schatz: Half the reporters in the room here at Gillette were just muttering to themselves, "I've never seen a hold on a running play." I went back and looked. The only other defensive holding call all year on a running play (not scramble) was Roy Miller of Jacksonville, declined, on a 1-yard touchdown run by Alfred Morris in Week 2.

There are going to be calls for Mike Smith's head after this game, with this season going poorly. I was talking to a national reporter after the Falcons loss about what's going on with that team. He felt like the culture was just really stagnant. Smith doesn't excite anyone and also really doesn't fit the city of Atlanta or the fan base. We came up with the perfect next head coach for the Falcons: Kevin Sumlin. SEC pedigree, hits the college fan base, creative college offensive mind to use the Falcons' quality skill players (#playtone), and unlike Gus Malzahn -- who was my first suggestion -- he also excites the league's biggest African-American fanbase.

Rob Weintraub: Talking Falcons and a possible coaching change -- a lot of run being given down here to Brian Kelly, in addition to Sumlin and Malzahn. Things may have changed, but the sense I got in some off-the-record chit chat with folks inside the organization was that Arthur Blank is leery of the hot college coach route, unless he can find a Chip Kelly who can institute a complete culture change. Apparently the Bobby Petrino scars still run deep. Just something to think about.

Buffalo Bills 43 at New York Jets 23

Cian Fahey: Whether Percy Harvin works out in New York I don't know, but his presence atop the wide receiver depth chart makes the offense as a whole look so much better. Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, and Jace Amaro all become complementary role players while Eric Decker doesn't look like a lonely starter.

Aaron Schatz: The Lonely Starter was my favorite Dan Fogelberg album.

Cian Fahey: Sammy Watkins is going to be highlighted for that really dumb celebration that cost him a touchdown in the second quarter, but he has been a major thorn for the Jets secondary so far. He drew an important DPI early on to extend the drive and on the play before his big reception, Watkins ran exactly the same route and was open but Kyle Orton missed him.

Michael Vick is doing just enough to make this game somewhat competitive, but he's also doing more than enough to remind you that he offers the franchise no future moving forward. Jets stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Andrew Healy: My insightful analysis: Geno Smith is really bad. We didn't need Percy Harvin to evaluate him. There was already enough evidence to close the book. Terrible decision on pick one. Bad decision and terrible throw on pick two. Terrible throw on pick three.

Chicago Bears 23 at New England Patriots 51

Aaron Schatz: OK, I often talk about how I'm not a psychologist and I don't understand locker room chemistry, but you think about these reports of trouble in the Bears locker room, and then you see what Jay Cutler just did on the end of the Bears' first drive... Bears go three-wide with a flex tight end on third-and-19, the guys are all in their routes, there's a nice pocket around Cutler, nobody is open yet but he's not in any danger of being sacked... and he throws the ball into the ground to give up on the play. No scrambling. No trying to make something happen. No waiting patiently for someone to get open while he sits in the pocket. No waiting for Matt Forte to get open to dump the ball off for a few yards of field position. He just gave up on the play. That was... what was that?

And to follow up, @ChiBearsAD pointed out correctly on Twitter that there was nothing else Cutler really could do. It was actually a screen to Forte and a pass to any other receiver probably draws an illegal man downfield penalty. My mistake. Still looked terrible though.

Bears 30th in DVOA covering tight ends going into today. Ryan Mundy getting killed by Gronk. Just hit a third-and-14, then a seam with Tim Jennings on him instead.

Andrew Healy: Yes, they've had no hope covering Gronkowski. Eight catches on 8 targets for 103 yards in the first half. But Brady has also been fantastic so far (and not just to Gronkowski). At least four of those throws to Gronkowski have been into small windows, including one down the right seam, one to the goal line with Brady on the move and both touchdowns.

Aaron Schatz: The Bears are just brutal today. Absolutely brutal. The secondary is completely cooked, especially with Kyle Fuller on the sidelines with a hip injury. They are mostly staying away from Tim Jennings and it is easy pickings with Ryan Mundy, Demontre Hurst, and poor unfortunate totally overmatched UDFA local boy Al Louis-Jean (Brockton High, Boston College). On top of that, the Patriots offensive line has the Bears' d-line handled. And the Bears now have to pretty much give up on the running game, which means the lack of Jerod Mayo is less of a big deal for the Patriots defense.

And as I type this, Pats sack Jay Cutler, strip, touchdown on fumble recovery. May be called back for down by contact on the recovery though.

Nope, it wasn't. 38-7. Yikes.

Cian Fahey: Only seeing bits of this game on Red Zone, but it appears that the Bears are playing like they have for long stretches this year. There's a legitimate question about whether Marc Trestman has done the worst coaching job in the NFL for just this season. Team never looks ready.

Aaron Schatz: I thought highly of Trestman's first season as a head coach, so I'm a bit surprised. I really do think that it is more of a personnel issue when it comes to the secondary. Just a ton of injuries there. But a big surprise is that Marshall and Jeffrey can't seem to get open on offense. Are they still being hobbled by their early-season injuries?

Andrew Healy: Agreed on how amazing the Bears' badness has been. Cutler even got a pick back on a Brandon Browner illegal contact. The Patriots defense has been flying around, too, and the Pats have the right five on the offensive line, so not a surprise that they're doing well, although not this well. With that snow game four years ago, the last two Patriots-Bears games in the two first halves: Patriots 71, Bears 7.

I'd also point more towards the personnel issues than Trestman given the good things he did last year.

Seattle Seahawks 13 at Carolina Panthers 9

Scott Kacsmar: Panthers seem to be controlling this game so far. Are there any injuries we can point to for Seattle after the bye week? Byron Maxwell and Bobby Wagner? Their defensive DVOA since Week 5 can't be pretty. Of course as soon as I type this Cam Newton coughs up a fumble in the red zone and the Seahawks recover. Very fortunate to not be down 21-3 again this week. Instead it's 6-3 thanks to bad red-zone play from the Panthers and a 58-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka.

Vince Verhei: Injuries to Wagner and especially Maxwell have hurt. They don't have nearly the depth in the secondary they had last year.

Richard Sherman has been shadowing Kelvin Benjamin and has limited him to a couple of catches. (Kelvin Benjamin, by the way, makes Kam Chancellor look small. He's a damn giant.) Short, quick-moving first half with on seven real drives between the two teams. As noted, Carolina should probably be ahead by a lot more. Seattle actually had a chance to take the lead right before halftime, but Russell Wilson's pass went through Marshawn Lynch's hands for an interception. So Panthers are still up 6-3.

Follow-up thought: Carolina's three first half drives all went at least nine plays, 48 yards, and six-plus minutes, and they produced a total of six points.

Lousy quarterbacking here by two allegedly franchise guys. Newton, under heavy pressure, tries to shot-put a pass while falling down, and it's an easy interception for the Seahawks. Then the Seahawks get a receiver wide-open for a touchdown on read-option play-action, but Wilson underthrows him by 5 yards for an incompletion. Seahawks kick a tying field goal to make it 6-6. James Carpenter is out with a back injury, and it turns out J.R. Sweezy and Alvin Bailey can't block Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei at all. Lynch has done nothing. Meanwhile, Seattle still seems to be using the Percy Harvin offense, with way too many screens going nowhere and barely even trying deep balls.

Andrew Healy: Russell Wilson made one of the most inexplicably bad throws you will ever see with a wide-open Cooper Helfet running down the left side all alone and maybe unimpeded for a touchdown, mid-third quarter. He almost shanked it coming out of his hand, sort of shades of Garo Yepremian (yes, that is hyperbole). And we know Russell Wilson has crazy giant hands, too, so that's no excuse.

Vince Verhei: More injury woes for Seattle. Backup center Stephen Schilling botched a snap and Wilson never touched the ball, leading to a Panthers recovery. Carpenter has returned, but at one point in this game Seattle was out all three starting interior linemen.

So Wagner is out, Malcolm Smith has been in and out all day, and now Kevin Pierre-Louis is hurt too. So Brock Coyle is now playing at linebacker.

Cian Fahey: On Kelvin Benjamin's huge reception down the middle of the field in the fourth quarter, Richard Sherman had great coverage but went for the interception instead of punching the ball away. It was third down and the field position gain would have been minimal at best. That's a really dumb, uncharacteristic play from the cornerback.

Another sign of the Seahawks' lack of discipline this season.

Vince Verhei: Kelvin Benjamin lines up against Seattle's all-pro cornerback, runs a deep post right at their all-pro safety, and outjumps them both to reel in the ball for a 50-plus-yard gain. I think he's looked better than any receiver has against Seattle this year, including Dez Bryant or anyone in Green Bay. Drive stalls after a sack and Carolina kicks a field goal to go up 9-6 midway through the fourth.

Aaron Schatz: Carolina blocking just completely breaks down on Panthers' last drive here. Two straight sacks. Newton bounces a screen attempt on fourth-and-25. Game over.

Vince Verhei: So in the end, this year's Seattle-Carolina game was a rerun of last year's Seattle-Carolina game, a low-scoring, clunky, defensive affair with a late Russell Wilson touchdown pass (to Luke Willson today) the difference. The pass rush came to life at the end, with Bruce Irvin getting sacks on back-to-back plays, though that probably says more about Carolina than it does about Seattle. Ugly wins sure are more fun than ugly losses.

Scott Kacsmar: Well, two years ago Newton had a chance to throw a go-ahead touchdown against Seattle and short-hopped it. I'd still take that result over bouncing a screen pass on fourth-and-25.

Miami Dolphins 27 at Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Scott Kacsmar: Dolphins had just nine offensive plays in the first 25 minutes. They had 11 on a field-goal drive to take a 10-3 lead. Jacksonville has put together long drives with Denard Robinson impressing again at running back, but Blake Bortles threw another terrible pass for a pick-six. At some point the "he's a rookie on a bad team" excuse wears thin when you're continuously making bad decisions.

Baltimore Ravens 24 at Cincinnati Bengals 27

Andrew Healy: Andy Dalton has been good today, but he has made two big mistakes that have killed the Bengals. First, he missed a wide-open throw in the right corner of the end zone (I think to Jermaine Gresham) that forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal. Then he tried to switch the ball to his left hand after a jailbreak on play action and Haloti Ngata forced a fumble around midfield. That leads to a Ravens touchdown the next play that puts Baltimore up 21-20 with about six minutes left.

Aaron Schatz: And in the spirit of Carolina's blocking, Baltimore's blocking also disintegrates on its attempt at a game-winning drive. Definitely noticed Marshal Yanda get whipped on second down. The only time Flacco really had time to throw, Steve Smith got caught on an OPI grabbing George Iloka's jersey and pushing him to the ground so he could catch a not-touchdown.

Andrew Potter: George Iloka did a masterful job of *ahem* bringing the official's attention to the contact.

Andrew Healy: Interesting strategic situation at the end here. On third-and-goal, Baltimore used their last timeout to stop the clock with about a minute left. It ended up working out with the Bengals scoring on fourth down. But the Bengals had all three timeouts and would have gotten the ball back on a likely conservative three-and-out with around 45 seconds left and near midfield. Not clear what the right call is, but I like what Harbaugh did since Cincy had it on the 1 and so was pretty likely to score. Unusual decision but probably a good one.

Rob Weintraub: Was with the family so I couldn't comment as the Bengals-Ravens game unfolded, but I will say without the slightest hint of bias that it was a blatant case of offensive pass interference on Smith, Sr...

Everyone complains every Sunday how the game has totally swung over to the offense, and now we don't like it when the wide receiver pushes the defensive back down to make the catch?

Houston Texans 30 at Tennessee Titans 16

Tom Gower 13-3 Texans at the half, as Zach Mettenberger's insertion into the starting lineup has failed to solve all the problems the Titans have. Drives keep getting scuppered by offensive line penalties (Taylor Lewan! Michael Oher!), receivers are winning on contested catches, and the run game is not producing enough yards to sustain drives or even get them to third-and-short. The only Tennessee points came after Dexter McCluster's first good punt return of the season.

The highlight of the first half was probably Arian Foster's 34-yard touchdown. Great jump cut, and the Titans completely lost backside contain. Derrick Morgan was supposed to have it at the line of scrimmage, I think, while Michael Griffin might have been the guy deep. Mostly, it has been a pretty Ryan Fitzpatrick-like performance, with one of the field goals coming on another possession (like the touchdown) that began in Titans territory and the other featuring three straight incompletions once they got to the red zone. The one surprise has been Fitzpatrick taking a bunch of sacks; he has done well in this area in the past, but the Titans are bringing heavy pressure and getting to him. Negative mention here to rookie left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who has had trouble locating and reacting to second-level rushers. He has been rotating with Ben Jones a lot, in past games as well as this year, but I'm suspecting we might see a lot of Jones in the second half.

Arian Foster continued to run well in the second half. The Titans offense continued to sputter, with J.J. Watt showing up again and again. Michael Oher and Chance Warmack are not solutions to him on the right side of that offensive line. Mettenberger did get a pair of touchdowns, one after his first Random Deep Ball completion, the other down three scores in the final minute.

St. Louis Rams 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 34

Cian Fahey: Via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston is on pace for 20.5 sacks. Have rarely heard him mentioned this season.

J.J. Cooper: Justin Houston's sack against D.J. Fluker and the Chargers last week was a thing of beauty. I GIF'd it for Under Pressure. He actually knocked Fluker on his butt on his way to the quarterback.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 at Arizona Cardinals 24

Aaron Schatz: Watching Philadelphia is just such a different experience than any other NFL offense. It seems like there's a read-option or fake read-option on every play. Just over and over.

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Vince Verhei: Larry Fitzgerald catches a quick slant, gets one block, breaks one tackle, and he's gone for an 80-yard touchdown. I get so happy when this guy succeeds. Their Super Bowl year, I thought he was maybe the best overall player in the league. Then he spent the next half-decade playing with some of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. He has been overshadowed a bit by his teammates now (I'm not even sure he's still the top receiver on the team), but I hope not too many people have forgotten how good he used to be.

Cian Fahey: Nick Foles with his second interception of the game and his ninth of the year. Both were unimpressive throws. I don't think anyone of a rational mind expected him to repeat what he did last season, but he's definitely pushing too far in the other direction now.

Andrew Healy: Agreed on that Foles pick to Cromartie in the third quarter. Like the first pick to Cromartie in the first half, a very poor throw. This one might have been a miscommunication, but also could have been an even worse throw.

Far from me to question Chip Kelly, but a shotgun draw to LeSean McCoy on third-and-6 inches? A sneak with the requisite presnap motion would have been so much better. A poor mark on the previous play where Chris Polk should have had the first down.

I wonder what the win probability calculator says on the decision to kick on fourth-and-goal from the two? 20-17 Philly. With a 50 percent chance of converting, I get:

  • Going for it: .50*.88 + .50*.50 = .65 (.88 is chance of winning after TD, .50 is chance of winning from own 2 after a failure).
  • Kicking: .84

So the calculator likes kicking. That .84 chance of winning after kicking sure sounds wrong to me, though.

Todd Bowles has consistently been big blitzing while ahead late in games. He did it in the Chargers game again and again, did it today. It has mostly been very effective. Philly took a long time getting down the field against it. The only really successful throw they got towards the end was one of the only times Bowles didn't blitz. He brought seven (at least) on the last play of the game. You'd think teams would be very prepared for this stuff now, but it just keeps working. Philip Rivers was totally flummoxed by it, too.

Cian Fahey: The final play of this game was a great example of why height is so overrated at the wide receiver position. Jordan Matthews is huge, but he's not a natural receiver. He sacrifices his ability to keep his feet in bounds to allow a body catch. Body catching drags him out of bounds with his momentum. A more talented shorter receiver would catch that ball with his hands away from his body, allowing him to drag his feet as he goes out of bounds.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, Arizona's defense was just ridiculously aggressive at the end of that game. I think I'm writing the Arizona chapter in FOA 2015; that might turn into a dissertation on late-game blitzing strategy.

Scott Kacsmar: Arizona has been aggressive in that situation all year. Hard to fault it when it keeps working this well. I'm surprised Foles threw 62 times in this game. Doesn't sound very Kelly-like.

Indianapolis Colts 34 at Pittsburgh Steelers 51

Aaron Schatz: Somehow Pittsburgh is ahead 21-3 near the start of the second quarter. Colts are having trouble covering. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck just had a weird completely awful read and threw a pick-six. It looked like typical Steelers Cover-3 with William Gay just sitting on Hakeem Nicks. Luck should read that right, usually.

Scott Kacsmar: Both of these teams should have tried getting big rookie wide receivers (Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant) more involved this season. They don't have another guy like that on the roster. The Steelers wasted time with Justin Brown when Lance Moore was out. The Colts have not been able to get Hakeem Nicks going all year and throwing to him today -- remember, Reggie Wayne is out -- has just been disastrous.

But you know a 21-3 lead isn't safe when it's the Colts, even if the Steelers have only blown two 11-plus-point leads since 1988 (technically three if you count the 2002 tie with Atlanta). Luck once again made up for a pick with a big touchdown drive.

Aaron Schatz: Colts were somehow fifth in the league in offensive ASR going into today's game, but it sure looks like last year's offensive line is back for the afternoon. Andrew Luck is getting killed by blitzes and stunts.

Scott Kacsmar: Luck has already thrown away a couple of passes to avoid sacks today. That was much more common his first two years, which was part of the reason for his lower completion percentage. Cincinnati pressured him well last week too, so it has been a bit of a problem lately.

Cian Fahey: I wonder if my Steelers Film Room piece from two weeks ago is hanging in the Steelers locker room somewhere. It's as realistic an expectation as any other for their recent results (they're currently beating Indianapolis).

Scott Kacsmar: I expected a competitive, high-scoring game. Definitely not a Pittsburgh blowout, but there is still plenty of time left. Unfortunately the Colts just don't have any answers on defense to make me think Pittsburgh won't run away with this one.

So in a half where Roethlisberger is 23-of-27 for 320 yards and four touchdowns, the Steelers don't let him go for it on fourth-and-4 at the Indy 34-yard line? I was happy to not see the 52-yard field goal attempt, but the fake punt is the only thing as annoying as those times when Roethlisberger tries to make the defense jump offsides when you know he's never going to run a play. A brilliant throw from Luck nearly cost the Steelers a touchdown before the half, but they held them to a field goal. Still, an interesting half to come from the looks of this one. Both offenses look fantastic, but it's going to come down to the turnovers.

Andrew Healy: Anyone know the most points given up in a game after a shutout? Five minutes left in the third quarter, Steelers have 42 a week after the Bengals had zero (and didn't get into Colts territory until the fourth quarter). After Dalton threw for less than 4 yards per attempt last week, Roethlisberger if 30-of-36 for 398 yards (11.1 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns.

In what I've seen of this game, Andrew Luck has been unbelievably good. Even with spotty protection. The throw at the end of the first half to T.Y. Hilton down the deep middle and now just a gorgeous throw deep down the right sideline for the touchdown that brings the Colts to within eight at 42-34. When you throw in his running (beautifully illustrated on the run that got the Colts inside the ten just before halftime), what is the over/under on when he's the best quarterback in football? He's getting close.

Scott Kacsmar: There's the record. Ben Roethlisberger is the first quarterback to ever have multiple 500-yard passing games. He has been even sharper today than he was on that day against Green Bay in 2009.

Andrew Healy: Indeed, and against a good defense (No. 9 by DVOA coming in).

By the way, the Colts did not come even close to the most points given up in the next game after a shutout. In 1985, the 0-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers shut out the St. Louis Cardinals 16-0. The next week they went from no points allowed to 62, losing to Ken O'Brien and the New York Jets 62-28.

Oakland Raiders 13 at Cleveland Browns 23

Cian Fahey: After watching Jacksonville-Cleveland last week, I'm glad I'm only seeing this game when it is on Red Zone.

Vince Verhei: They showed a picture during the game of Mike Pettine and Tony Sparano as assistants with the Jets in 2012. When two branches of the Rex Ryan coaching tree collide, is anyone surprised that they score one touchdown combined through three-plus quarters?

Green Bay Packers 23 at New Orleans Saints 44

Tom Gower: No punts in the first half. That's not much of a surprise from the Green Bay offense against the New Orleans defense, but this seems like one of the few times we've seen a decent version of the Saints offense this year. The success on the ground is not much of a surprise, but the Packers are sixth in pass defense DVOA coming in. Sure, some of that is injury, but still.

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Aaron Schatz: I know this shocks people, but until the last couple seasons, New Orleans' home-field advantage (the difference between their DVOA at home and on the road) really was no different than the average NFL team. But the last two years, egads.

Cian Fahey: Isn't the perceived home advantage linked to the prime time slot too though?

Scott Kacsmar: I wrote something detailed about this in the comments section to one of our articles last year, but nights like this are why the Saints home/road thing exists. They're looking to go 18-3 in prime time at home in the Payton/Brees era and we know those are the most-watched games that people are more likely to remember. Their performances have been nothing short of amazing and fairly consistent. So when they lay an egg in Seattle or St. Louis or to the Jets last year, that stands out. They also blew leads late in epic fashion against the Patriots and Panthers on the road last year. Despite having one of the best road records in recent years, this current losing streak has soured things and further created the gap with their home splits, but overall it's really just selective memory at work.

Aaron Schatz: So are they great in prime time on the road and at home, or just at home?

You really wonder... could one team really get THAT much more jacked up for national prime time games compared to the rest of the league, or is it just random chance that the Saints are so good in prime time at home, like flipping heads 18 of 21 times?

Tom Gower: Down 37-16 with 9 minutes to play, does it make sense for Green Bay to keep playing a hobbled Aaron Rodgers? His mobility seems to clearly be affected, as he isn't moving in the pocket the same way and has taken a couple sacks I'm not sure he would have when healthy. Given the deficit, the situation, and the (lack of) defense, I'd give him a rest.

Scott Kacsmar: Assuming PFR has all the times right, the Saints are 6-7 on the road in prime time since 2006. Allowed a bunch of points in the losses.

I guess if there was something "special" about it, the first game in the sample was in 2006 against Atlanta when they re-opened the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. It would be hard to watch that game and not admit there was some huge home-field advantage at work. So maybe they're able to recreate that environment at night in a way that just doesn't happen early in the afternoon. The crazies come out at night in New Orleans, right?

Aaron Schatz: I agree about that game and that environment, but... I mean, I can't think of a harder-to-duplicate environment than "our first home game after the city was almost destroyed by a hurricane."

Scott Kacsmar: Brees is up to 40 touchdowns versus three interceptions in his last 11 prime time games at home. That's insane.

Table of Drew Brees Home Primetime Stat Lines

Andrew Healy: Random chance is a better explanation, I think. If I run the math, I'm guessing this is more like getting heads 14 or 15 times out of 21 once you correct for the Saints being better and having home field. As Chase Stuart would say, splits happen.


140 comments, Last at 18 Jul 2015, 4:43am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'd take a look at the Saints on defense at home in prime time, vs. earlier starts. In a city known for being devoted to, er, enjoying a cocktail, the crowd my be significantly louder at 7 or 8 P.M., than at 12 noon, when thousands have been forced out of bed early.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This is really interesting and I think there's something to it. My parents were Saints season ticket holders for years, so I've been to a ton of games there and Saints fans are not exactly what you'd call a diehard group. There's probably a lot of explanations for it, but in the Superdome there's not the same kind of sense of the game that I've experienced in the Meadowlands and Philly, the only other two venues I've regularly attended - you used to get a lot of stuff like the crowd going into a cheering frenzy when the Saints had a 3rd and 1 on OFFENSE. I remember going to a Saints/Panthers game where a playoff spot was on the line and being shocked at the crowd's indifference. Anyway, the boozed up night games are a wildly different, raucous atmosphere...

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If someone told me that Mike Smith and Jim Caldwell both had huge gambling debts, and were trying to throw that game, I would believe you.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If you had told me that half the guys in striped shirts had action on one side, and half on the other side, I would have believed you. Or that they changed their action at halftime. Or that they were drunk.

Actually, I thought the officiating, with regard to receivers and pass defenders, was nearly uniformly very bad in every game I saw yesterday, which I viewed as a quarter here and a quarter there. How any player or coach can have any confidence in their ability to predict what will result in a penalty is beyond me; it just seems nearly completely random.

The zebras in London, however, really did seem to be completely confused in the administration of the game generally. Made me wonder if cannabis had been legalized in the UK, without anybody being told in the U.S..

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This Falcons fan thought it was Mike Smith's players that were trying to throw the game. Blowing coverage on a 3rd and 25, Ryan's ridiculous pick, the holding penalty and Julio's drop. There are many things I can critize Smith for, but yesterday his players played like they wanted to get him fired. Which is curious since too many of them are borderline NFL talent anyway.

But no, the last timeout makes no sense, unless he was thinking we could have a few seconds left after the Lions FG attempt. But I think the Lions had the ability to control that.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

But they didn't, did they? The Lions had a 3rd and 9 with no timeouts. You can't run a play and then spike. And yet, the Lions tried just that. But were bailed out by a holding call. I feel like I might be missing something here, but it seems like the Lions defintely SHOULDN'T have run a play there, and Mike Smith did a good job with that timeout, only to have that holding call come up.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think that would be a stretch to believe Mike Smith was thinking that many moves ahead. I suspect he was just trying to save as much time as possible if we were to get the ball back.

Personally, if your opponent seems content to settle for a 48-yard FG on a slippery field, I'd rather permit that than give them one more play.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This is completely true.

What's stupider is the TO the Falcon's took after the Lions spiked it. They were basically in FG range at that point. There was so much bizarre stuff going on there.

Also, did the Falcons have to take the penalty that made it 2nd and 35? I thought at the time 3rd and 20 seemed like a better option.

I should check that.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I've been rooting hard for Trestman, so I've not enjoyed the Bears problems nearly as much as a Vikings fan normally would. I do think the injuries, those that have kept guys out of the lineup, and those that have hobbled guys while playing, have hurt them. On the other hand, I suspect he didn't make a great hire for defensive coordinator, and hiring a staff is about the most important thing a head coach does.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah, I gave up on the guy a few years ago, then I had a glimmmer of hope that Trestman would have a positive effect on him, but Jay is going to be Jay, it seems. I've been taken to task in these forums for being pretty harsh in evaluating him, however, so I try to not repeat myself.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As a lifelong Bronco fan, I wasn't disapointed to see him go. Cutler is essentially a slightly more likable version of Jeff George...

I wish Shanahan would have used his two #1 picks in 2006 to refortify the OL/DL and stick with Plummer instead of trading up for Cutler.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

All these years later, I'm still furious that a team fresh off hosting the conference championship wasted such an opportunity for immediate improvement to instead undermine the starting quarterback who led it there.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Plummer was only 32 too, which isn't old at all. I'm guessing Ngata, Hali and Cromartie are the three big missed opportunities in 2006 draft by taking Cutler. Denver's main reason for playoff losses in 2003-05 was getting absolutely shredded on defense by Manning and Roethlisberger.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I have to disagree with the view of cutler before chicago. His last season in Denver was very impressive. I just think once he got to chicago, a combination of not grilling him hard enough along with a terrible supporting cast permanently scarred him. THat's just an opinion, mind you, but that's the impression I'm getting.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I don't think Cutler was a particularly bad QB (especially not for a rookie) in Denver, but the timing of his acquiring and promoting to the starter role was "less than ideal". Yes, Plumber and the offense were becoming predictable, but there was still a shot at another playoff run that was hosed by the transition. And, of course, Cutler got traded away, Shanahan fired, etc. So much for rebuilding.... It's better if you don't do that by burning your house down while still inside it.

On the other hand, we have been spared what's happened to WAS under Shanahan's watch, so maybe that pyre was simply a burnt offering to the football gods that brought us the current GM, coaches, team, etc. In that case, it might have been worth it.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I am going to be put in the odd position of defending Jay Cutler here. One of the bigger issues for Jeff George was that, by NFL qb standards, he was a bit of a physical coward, and I always suspected that a lot of his teammates despised him for it. Cutler has his issues, but he isn't George-like in that regard.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As I said elsewhere in this thread, I suspect the issue is Jeffery & Marshall's lingering injuries. Watching Cutler it seems like he's often looking downfield and dumping off to Forte. Or throwing to Marshall where Marshall is getting caught from behind. Seems like Marshall can't cut effectively. I wouldn't be surprised if Jeffery is dealing with similar issues. Ankle and hamstring issues linger for ages.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Hiring staff is also something a coach can get a few cracks at. I'm sure he has at least one more year of rope left, so if he can find people to improve the defense and special teams, it's not over yet.

The whole Cutler thing is a red herring. He's been up and down, he'll always be up and down. Would I prefer a smarter more consistent QB? Sure. He's not the one letting receivers run free and holding on every single punt return though.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The irrational Cutler-blaming is driving me absolutely crazy. He's pretty much the same guy he's always been, which is to say, somewhere around the 12th-15th best QB in the league. Personally, I'll worry about Cutler when it becomes clear that he is the limiting factor on this team. Right now, he's not even close.

It is amazing to me, after a loss in which the opponent scored 51 points, and could have easily scored more if they'd wanted to, how many people are worried about Cutler and his two turnovers on Sunday. One of which was an interception thrown on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half (in other words, one that did no harm whatsoever) and the other was a fumble on a play that should have been blown dead before the ball came out. (Admittedly, he should have protected the ball better, but still).

I have also not heard one reasonable suggestion for who the Bears should have started at quarterback in 2014 if not Cutler. (Questioning the length and amount of the contract he was given is one thing - personally, I think they should have franchised him if they were going to be taking such a huge cap hit anyway, and then decided where to go after this season). Josh McCown? Jimmy Clausen? A rookie?

Rant over. I just get so fed up at the irrational Cutler hate when out of the entire offensive side of the ball, Matt Forte is the only player who hasn't regressed this season.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

That's a fair point. I just feel like most of the criticism I hear of Cutler from Bears fans is both completely independent of what he costs and way out of proportion compared to the rest of the issues with the team.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

And there's no evidence that Cutler's contract - which is in line with Alex Smith's, Joe Flacco's, and Matthew Stafford's - has even prevented the Bears from signing or retaining players. In fact, they actually signed three of the top five or six free agant defensive ends this offseason.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As a Bronco fan, I have strong opinions on Cutler, and my opinions admittedly have a subjective shade to them. Replacing Plummer with Cutler (and the opportunity cost to acquire him) set them back years and ended the Shanahan era, but then again it's one of the events that ultimately lead to Manning's unlikely stint in Denver.

Cutlers problem is that it doesn't seem like he has progressed from his early days in Denver. He still has the attitude that his arm can overcome any coverage, it seems like half his throws are from his back foot and he still locks onto receivers...

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Got to stop you right there. Having less cap money is incontrovertible evidence you can resign and bring fewer players in than a team with more cap money What you're saying is they've been active, but with more money they could have been more active. Six or seven extra million translate into one or two potentially significant contributors.

Who, me?

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I see both of your points, but I think in the case of the Bears this past offseason it's arguable that a few million extra would not have made a huge difference. I don't recall hearing that they missed out on any big names because of money (Michael Bennett, I believe, wanted to stay in Seattle all along). The Bears were active in signing free agents in the offseason, both bigger names and contracts (Jared Allen, Willie Young, Lamarr "Eat Dirt" Houston) and smaller ones (the parade of barely-NFL-backup-caliber safeties that were brought in, as if Emery somehow thought that half a dozen of them would add up to one good safety).

Moreover, I think the real problem for teams like the Bears is that there's no real middle class of quarterbacks. You either have a cheap one or an expensive one. As I said, my main issue with the Cutler contract is the length of time that's guaranteed and the fact that they probably could have signed him for a bit less (and definitely could have franchised him for a bit less). But it's not like they were ever going to be able to get him for $8M a year or something like that.

So you can either go with a cheap journeyman and have virtually no chance of winning, or draft one who will be cheap for the first few years and may be anywhere from great to terrible. The Bears were in "win now" mode going into this year and while the execution has been terrible, I can't fault them for trying to go all-in rather than rebuild for the future. Drafting a QB (the only semi-reasonable option besides signing Cutler to some kind of contract) would have been completely counterproductive to trying to win with the team they've got.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Wow, didn't realize it was that much. That's good, I guess, if they can use it wisely.

What I really meant by "all-in" was that they weren't going to spend a first-round pick on a QB or any other position where they seem to be set for the short term. Even though Fuller was a little surprising, they intended to use him a fair amount even before Tillman was lost for the season so he wasn't strictly a "looking to the future" type of pick.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Having less cap money is incontrovertible evidence you can resign and bring fewer players in than a team with more cap money"

Players, sure, but players that will actually help? That's a trickier question to answer.

Good players are a more limited supply than cap space.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I can't speak for defense or special teams but I believe the issue with the Bears offense right now is the health of Marshall & Jeffrey. They're playing and they're not on the injury list but the type of injuries they suffered early in the year linger. Lower body injuries make it really hard to cut effectively and when I had that sort of injury it stuck around long past when I felt "100%."

I was a D3 college athlete but watching the games I see cornerbacks catching up to Marshall from behind to make plays so it looks like he's having trouble exploding toward the ball after a cut. Which is exactly what you would expect if his injuries are still slowing him down. Also last week Audibles called Marshall out for getting PI penalty trying to get separation from Cortland Finnegan. Again, same sort of thing, if he can't cut as hard as he's accustomed to, he's going to have trouble getting separation. And he probably is 100% or close to it on his straight line speed and occasionally makes good cuts. It's enough to trick you into thinking you can always do it if you just focus on getting the move right but the reality could be his body doesn't have it right now.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Over the course of his career, Drew Brees has a 2:1 TD:INT ratio. Claiming that a 40:3 ratio can result from random chance? Well I suppose it could. But it's not terribly likely. It's more like making 43 coin tosses, expecting 28.33 to come up heads, and having 40 come up heads. The p-value I'm getting for that is 0.0000412

Actually that might just be the value of the density function for 40. If so, the real p value (2-sided) is bigger, but not by much.

" If I run the math, I'm guessing this is more like getting heads 14 or 15 times out of 21 once you correct for the Saints being better and having home field"

Why would you "correct" for having home field when having home field is part of what's being tested?

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think you can do TD/Not TD or Int/Not Int but not a ratio. There is really not an event with the ratio. Binomial dist requires two events that cover the range of possibilities. Multinomial distribution would work with TD/Int/Comp(nonTD-nonInt)/InComp, assuming those probabilities don't change by opponent.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm pretty sure this is a faulty assumption (that TD:INT ratio is measurable phenomena). I'm not even sure that TD% is measuring anything other than noise. You should look at INT% and see if it changes, and then probably Y/A and/or completion percentage and see if that changes.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Well, INT% is 12/743 versus 131/5285 at NO, or 1.6% versus 2.5%. So the home+primetime result is unlikely (~7% to be that low or lower) but not crazy unlikely, and it doesn't appear to be a 'home' effect either, based on career home/away splits (also 2.5%).

The more surprising thing is that, since they're primetime games, you would've expected a *worse* split since you bias towards better teams.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Far from me to question Chip Kelly, but a shotgun draw to LeSean McCoy on third-and-6 inches? A sneak with the requisite presnap motion would have been so much better. A poor mark on the previous play where Chris Polk should have had the first down."

Why the hell didn't he challenge the spot on the 2nd down call? Polk didn't get to the end zone, but he sure as hell got the first down. Yes, the timeout could be helpful later, but that first down would've helped a lot damn more.

And then the shotgun draw to McCoy was just mind-blowingly stupid. As soon as they kicked the field goal there, I thought they deserved to lose. Getting a touchdown there should've been easy.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"But don't you worry. They'll come 'ere again. You just see if they don't. You know 'ow Germans are; they lays down systems an' they sticks to 'em. Mondays they're at one place. Tuesdays somewheres else. Wednesdays p'raps they're 'ere. Same ole round, week after week." -- Charlie Allnut, The African Queen,%20The%20%281951%29.html

Football coaches are a lot like Bogie's Germans.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It seems to me without knowing the numbers that Chip called a high number of successful 3rd and long running plays in his time in Philly, so it would not be fair to judge him on a failed one.

On a more global note that loss was a very tough one to digest for me, between the RZ turnovers, the penalties and the defense giving up 2 huge plays in what was a very good performance, I was seriously pissed off yesterday after having watched that game.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

A few thoughts on CHI @ NE...

* Don't know how the refs didn't overturn Gronk's 2nd TD. The replay from behind Gronk as he hits the ground clearly (IMHO) shows the ball lying on the ground, not in Gronk's hands.

* What got into Brady's wheaties? This is two weeks in a row he was able to make a sweet, sweet throw on the run.

* Loved the "Gronk smash" TD where he shoved down the DB and then (barely) outran everyone else to the endzone. Likewise one play where you see Chicago #47 literally bounce off Gronk.

* I still think NE is going to lose handily to DEN next week :(. If NE does win it'll be in a close shootout, but I figure it'll be at least a 10 point loss.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The replays of Gronk's 2nd TD all focused on the ball hitting the turf and his right hand coming off the ball. That looks bad, but when did everyone forget Gronk has a left hand too? The ball seemed to stay in the grasp of Gronk's left hand, ergo, he maintained control, making it a catch.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The replay didn't show "the ball lying on the ground, not in Gronk's hands". You make it sound like Gronk's hands were nowhere near the ball. Whether the ball hit the ground (it did) or not isn't the entire issue. If the receiver has control of the ball while it's in contact with the ground, it's still a catch.

Brady's actually been as good as Peyton over the past four weeks. It's just that the first month matters, too.

Yes, Gronk's smash'em, bash'em TD was epic. But it still makes me cringe when he's battling off multiple tacklers.

I don't think the Pats are going to "lose handily". They might lose, but it'll probably be a close game like last year's regular season game. I remember before that game people weren't giving the Pats much of a shot, either. But they did somehow win. Brady at home in a night game is usually very good. And the home field advantage is going to matter. The Patriots have been focused on this game in particular since January. If the line can hold up, I think the Pats have a shot.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I believe that Denver is the better team, but that doesn't mean that Denver will definitely win. I think it means that they should be favored, but this game IS in New England and New England is still a good team.

New England still has a pretty good passing offense even if their rushing offense has fallen off of a cliff, so that's probably the most rational hope. Denver's pass defense has been pretty good, but it wouldn't be an utter shock to see Brady pull out a good game.

As a Broncos fan, I'm certainly not taking it for granted that they win, but this is a HUGE game for seeding. It's hard to imagine another #1 seed with a Denver win.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Bears WR were clearly getting grabbed by NE corners early in the game with no flags. It was well into the second half before they got called. I note: Miami did the same thing the week before. Big physical WR that have lots of natural contact with corners on up for grabs tosses apparently are not going to draw flags or at least teams seem to be using the Bears WR reputation of being physical against them at this point. Honestly Forte ran for 100 yrds and Culter tossed a few tds. Had you not watched the game you'd think it was close given the Bears stats by the end :)

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Colts probably have their best special teams unit since I've been watching (since '02 or so) but we've had two weeks in a row where a jumpy field goal blocking unit has turned a 4th down into a 1st and ultimately a touchdown.

This call was particularly shoddy, as it appeared everyone got back onside before the ball was snapped, but I wonder how a FG early (can't remember exactly when this happened--late 1st/early 2nd quarter?) might have changed things. A FG there would have been considered a defensive win, given how things were going.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You have to love that Cian Fahey (even jokingly) is crediting the Steelers' offensive performance to his own article, which was largely about how Roethlisberger is no longer capable of serious accuracy. The ego on display, combined with the complete lack of professional qualifications, is wondrous to behold.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I look forward to next week when Chip Kelly benches Jordan Matthews (all-time SEC receiving leader, first team all-american, Biletnikoff semi-finalist) because Cian says he's not a "natural receiver." Whatever the hell that means.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It means that almost every time he catches the ball, it's like it's the first time he's ever seen one. Like he's confused by the very act of catching a ball. He's a rookie and has steadily improved over the course of preseason and season, but there have been several times when he looks like he does not belong in the NFL. I think he'll be good because he's certainly a specimen and by all accounts an intelligent, hard worker and competitor, but compare him to Maclin who makes catches like he was born to catch a football, like there's nothing that makes more sense in the world.

I'm not saying Maclin will definitely have a better career than Matthews will (Maclin's level of achievement is not actually thus far that high of a bar to clear) but that final botched reception where he got forced out is an example of his weird (not even bad) ball-skills where he maneuvered himself away from a very easy catch into almost-making an almost impossible one - if he comes back for the ball or goes up for it, he either makes the catch or draws a flag; by falling away from it, he flops down into a very weird spot in its arc and he does so seemingly so he can catch it against his body rather than pluck it out of the air with his hands. Add in the fact that he had zero awareness with his feet and he just looks like a guy for whom nothing about catching a ball comes naturally.

Now, being a physical beast comes naturally and the mental half of the game seems to be progressing, so I'm not trying to write him off here, but there have been more than a few moments with him where you just go "Oh God, what is this? What was THAT?" He's not to blame for that final incompletion, but I would have preferred both of the jump-ball shots that went to him to go to Riley Cooper instead, who does a good job with that sort of thing. I cringed that they forced the ball his way twice. Or maybe they could have tried going to, you know, Maclin who was killing them all game long. (The Ertz incompletion was just good coverage...)

All-in-all, I think Foles is not getting helped out this year by his WR's (who knew losing your best player by a mile in a position group would hurt that group's effectiveness?), Kelly''s attempts to get Huff involved being the most woeful. (Of course, it's McCoy that is almost single-handedly murdering the offense, but we're not allowed to mention it.)

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

First off, you point out Riley Cooper as doing a "good job at that sort of thing" and that quotation indicates, from your argument, that you think Riley Cooper is a "natural receiver." Riley Cooper had 23 catches combined his first two seasons. Jordan Matthews has 29 in 7 games.

It is rare that players come into the NFL a finished product. It takes a lot of failure, learning from failure, and implementing that knowledge into your reactions to become a good NFL player. Jordan Matthews is not Dez Bryant right now, but he is getting burn on a team that's most likely headed to the playoffs. That's a significant thing. To say he's not a "natural receiver" is ridiculous statement. He is not hopeless on a football field or someone who is only an athletic specimen. He is, if anything, held back by his athleticism (not a fast, quick twitch athlete) and he is only successful when he is doing things that a skilled receiver does. He had a record amount of receptions in one of the top conferences of the country while playing for a team that is not all that great - you don't do that by being another Justin Hunter.

Also, I have no idea what highlight package your watching that makes you think he had the opportunity to come back to the ball. Not only was it thrown in the corner of the end zone, but in order to come back to it at a point where it was actually catchable, he would be even closer to the same safety that pushed him out of bounds. But please, remain in your fantasy land where Matthews had no idea what he was doing. Making that catch in bounds would have been a miracle. If you think he should be as good as Calvin Johnson then your expectations need to be drastically reduced.

I'm not even an Eagles fan. It's just aggravating to read couch scouts call a rookie who's 7 games into his career "not a natural receiver" like he's not going to get better from this point on. It's the kind of unsubstantiated BS I could read in a Don Banks recap and it ignores all evidence to the contrary.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Please note that I said Matthews is improving and could ultimately even be better than Maclin. I said clearly I think he's getting better every game and that his mental game is progressing so you're not arguing against anything I said.

I don't think Riley Cooper is a natural receiver. His most notable skill by far is catching contested jump balls. And he's not even world-class at that. I think he's likely the worst starting #2 in the league. Matthews is already at least as good as Cooper, who more or less stinks. But they should thrown to him instead of Matthews because he is good at catching jump balls. As an Eagles, his specialty has been catching those very end zone sideline one-on-one balls that Matthews twice failed to bring in. I've seen Cooper on several occasions make the exact catch Matthews twice failed to make and which I have never seen Matthews make as an Eagle. I think my position is in that context reasonable.

As for being a natural, on the final play, if Matthews comes back to the ball, the safety who is barreling towards him with no chance of getting there before the ball let alone turning around to see it will run right through him and draw a flag. Not to harp on it, but a more natural WR would have a sense that he's in better position than the DB and know that he would draw a flag if he just stands his ground or comes back for the ball. Also, if he stops and jumps up extending to pluck the pass out of the air, rather than flop over, he stands a much better chance of coming down with his feet in bounds. He gets zero extension towards the ball and cradles it directly against his chest at moment when doing so is just about the worst move possible. He even somehow leaves his feet so the DB can easily shove him out. Watch some of his drops as an Eagles - a few are downright bizarre, things like his hand placement and body control are way off, like noticeably weird.

And finally, I'm not sure it's even an insult to say that a guy who can compete at the highest level is "not a natural." It means he's competing at that level because he's working hard, willing to learn, a dedicated competitor and/or blessed with impressive physical attributes. Also, I would say Josh Huff looks much more like a natural than Matthews but is so, so much worse as a player. So I'm not insulting Matthews. I suspect he will learn from his mistakes on the play because he's gotten better all year.

(Also, don't get ahead of yourself on the Eagles being headed to the playoffs - this is a team will real problems and a tough schedule. They've already lost to Arizona and SF, some of their most notable competitors for a wildcard spot. Also, notice that while the Eagles schedule gets a lot tougher, the Cowboys schedule gets super-creamy soft. I think the Eagles go 10-6 and miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker with SF, Seattle or GB who at that point will have already beaten them during the season.)

(Also, i hate couch scouts, too - that's why I am so glad that pros like you occasionally come down to message boards to set us all straight!)

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not a pro nor do I pretend to be one. I'm just someone who believes that 7 games is not enough information to make broad judgments on a player such as "he is not a natural receiver." It's an absurd, meaningless statement that has no substantiation outside of Matthews not making a miracle catch. You've clearly done a lot of studying about this so you can offer up obvious alternatives that Matthews should have thought of in the split second in which he's trying to keep his feet in bounds, catch the ball, maintain possession as he falls, and not get leveled by the safety (which makes the first three challenges infinitely more difficult).

Regarding Maclin and Cooper - I have no idea what your point is. Matthews may end up being better than both of them, but he's not a natural receiver? How does that make sense? Maclin was born to catch a ball, but Matthews could have a better career by... thinking of the steps to catch a ball every time he catches a ball? You've seen NFL veteran Riley Cooper make jump ball catches several times and haven't seen Matthews make that catch yet in 7 games - that statement is just bizarre. So Matthews can't because you haven't seen it yet? He could be making it in practice.

Being a "natural" takes work and there's a reason why rookie WRs rarely make a difference. Matthews is not a finished product and it will take some time for him to adjust to the speed of the NFL. That's something that happens for every single rookie. You're arguing that he is not something that has a vague definition - a natural receiver - and I don't see how that's been demonstrated in light of every piece of information we know about him as a player.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not. I would say that Jordan Matthews is probably not a good WR right now. He might be down the line if he continues to develop. If the discussion were "Jordan Matthews needs to work on XYZ" then that would be something I would agree with. But the statement was "he is not a natural receiver" and the evidence offered is that he did not make a catch that a 5 year veteran all-pro would make.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

No man, here's my case: he seems to be bad at things that come naturally to some wr's. 1) He has weak tracking skills and seems to lose the ball in flight. 2) He has mediocre hands and has dropped several passes because of weird hand placement. These are frequently on very easy catches. 3) He has exhibited a poor sense of body control (e.g. the ability to bring two feet down in bounds along the sideline, the ability to extend for catches, the ability to leap or otherwise contort towards the ball.) 4) He has no sense of the DB's around (i.e. the "eyes in the back of his head" quality that people like Maclin and Djax exhibit.)

I'm not sure if these qualities can be taught or practiced. They all can likely be improved to some extent and Matthews is a physically impressive wr who can use his size in ways Maclin cannot and seems to be getting better with his route-running, something Djax never bothered with.

My point was also that we agree: don't throw to him in that situation he faced because he's not a 5th year All-Pro, he's a raw rookie with a lot to learn. He has exhibited no Sammy Watkins or Kelvin Benjamin-esque talent for making the big play, snatching in a tough catch or turning a DB around and getting him to fall off his feet. Going to him there at the end of the game was a bad decision. Whether or not it's a matter of "natural" ability is up for debate, I guess but I'm not pulling this stuff out of thin air. I guess I could through each game and locate all his drops to prove my point, but the final two incompletions that went his way are both illustrations of what I'm talking about - the second much more than the first...

And finally, he's improving. He might be better than Maclin someday. There is no reason to write him off. But there is now evidence to avoid him in crunch time.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Regarding his "natural" ability, we're judging him at a very early point of his learning curve. Everything you listed - I guess you could chalk each thing up to some sort of innate ability, but I view them as things a young wide receiver learns over time. I guess I don't understand what you/Cian expect of him in order to show this "natural" ability - if he were able to do all of the things you list, he would be a top 10 wide receiver. Why is that expected of a second rounder drafted this year?

You compare him to Watkins and Benjamin:
Watkins in 8 games played: 38 receptions/67 targets/590 yards/15.5 per catch/5 TDs
Benjamin in 8 games played: 38 receptions/68 targets/571 yards/15.0 per catch/5 TDs
Matthews in 7 games played: 29 receptions/49 targets/273 yards/9.4 per catch/2 TDs

So he's not as good as two of the best rookie receivers in an historically great rookie class... but he doesn't have their skill set and he was never supposed to have their skill set (but his 60% catch rate isn't that awful). That's why he was drafted after them and why he was viewed as a possession receiver rather than a vertical threat. His stats prorated over 16 games would be 66 catches, 1,072 yards, and about 5 TDs. That's about a number 2 receiver in the NFL, no? How does someone in their rookie year put up those kind of numbers without being a "natural receiver"?

I guess we're just in an argument of semantics, but I think this just boils down to expectations. If you watch Jordan Matthews on a week to week basis, I'm sure that it's frustrating to see the growing pains. But so is watching Dominique Easley lose contain or Kyle Fuller get burned or Deone Buchanon miss a tackle or Teddy Bridgewater hold the ball too long, etc. I would not venture to say that those rookies are not natural whatevers.

Regarding them calling his number on the last play - if he's showing the ability in practice to get separation and keep his feet in bounds, then hell yeah throw him the ball. I don't think anyone on that team makes that catch, including Maclin, Cooper or Ertz. It was a really f'ing hard catch to make. The issue on that play wasn't Jordan Matthews - it was two Cardinals not getting blocked and coming right at Foles, forcing him to throw off his back foot.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Aaaaand due to some awful late night calculator work, I got Mathews' prorated yards wrong (would be about 640 for the year). I still believe my point stands, but I don't really care. We obviously have a disagreement over what "natural ability" constitutes and what kind of receiver Jordan Matthews is expected to be at this point in his career.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Over the course of his career, Drew Brees has a 2:1 TD:INT ratio. Claiming that a 40:3 ratio can result from random chance? Well I suppose it could. But it's not terribly likely. It's more like making 43 coin tosses, expecting 28.33 to come up heads, and having 40 come up heads. The p-value I'm getting for that is 0.0000412

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

He's meeting my expectations just fine. I'm not arguing about his good or badness. Really, I'm not. He's had games where he's been quite productive and looked very good. I agree it was a difficult catch as I've said a couple times. I also agree that Maclin does not make that catch because to do so would work against his skill set. I think Cooper probably does or at least comes closer than Matthews because it perfectly fits his skill set.

I feel like you're annoyed with points I'm not making and not really disagreeing with me on much - you seem to agree that Matthews is raw and not a straight out of the gate superstar (unlike Philly's last 2nd round wr.) I agree with you that expecting more than what he's shown is to expect him to be world-class which we both agree he clearly is not at this point.

The reason I have tempered expectations for him and don't expect him to make a difficult catch at the end of the game or hold him to standard of Watkins and Benjamin is that he lacks certain ball-skills which I associate with natural ability.

Just answer me this: you can see that certain wr's are able to make leaping catches, keep their feet in bounds or otherwise do the "circus catch" thing? You can admit that not every wr once they get settled into the NFL can make those plays like Cris Carter or Brandon Lloyd? That not every player can tip the ball to himself at top speed and not break stride like Sammy Watkins? Don't you think natural ability is a factor in those instances?

Now... imagine the opposite of Cris Carter, the guy who doesn't tip passes to himself but instead leans away from a catch when they should have leaned in and makes the easy into something awkward. Imagine a man who has the ball bounce off of his hands because he suddenly decide to switch their positioning at the last moment. Imagine a player who doesn't even appear to think about getting his feet down in bounds. Wouldn't you say he's lacking certain natural abilities associated with the wr position?

I don't even want to discuss Matthews in this context, I just need to know if you can admit these qualities exist and some players are naturally blessed with their abundance while others are not before there's any point in continuing the discussion.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not arguing his "goodness" or "badness" either - I'm arguing that he would not even be doing this much in the NFL he did not possess some of the traits of a "natural receiver."

I also don't think that Matthews is raw - I think he's a rookie, so he has a lot of maturation ahead of him, but he's not some freak getting by on his athletic talents. He has a ton of football ability and that's pretty much the only reason he's been this successful thus far. If he was a track star in a football uniform, I'd say he was raw and probably lacking football skills because he doesn't have as much experience in football. But he's not. He's a decorated collegiate player.

Also, he's probably never going to be a superstar because he doesn't have those athletic gifts. That doesn't mean he won't be a valuable player. He could be Muhsin Muhammad (25 catches his rookie year). That would be awesome.

To your ultimate question.. I guess if you want to boil down being a "natural receiver" into this one really specific type of boundary play, then go ahead. To me, sometimes WRs make those plays, other times they don't. Cris Carter had 5 receptions his rookie season. I can't say for certain if he possessed the ability to put two feet in bounds on very difficult throws at that point in his career. Brandon Lloyd had 14 receptions his rookie year - same goes for him. Yeah, those guys were great on that type of play in their prime, but did they come into the league like that? Or did they take some time to acquire that skill through repetition and practice? If we looked at them 7 games into their rookie season, what would we be saying?

I admit that some receivers are better than others. They're either more athletic, or harder workers, or possess more football intelligence, or some combination of the three. I do not agree that natural receiving ability is simply someone's skill at catching difficult boundary plays, and even if it was, it's not something that players are just born with. That's like saying Torry Holt was a natural receiver because he was such a great route runner and ignoring that he worked his ass off to become a great route runner. Furthermore, I see no evidence that Jordan Matthews can't improve on this aspect of his game. His Vanderbilt highlight package is full of him making great catches on the sideline with a CB in his face. He may learn to adapt to the speed of the game or he may not, but the end result will have little to do with whether it came natural to him.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As an Eagles fan I 100% agree with chemical burn on this one. Matthews does not look seem to possess what are most of the time "innate" skills, catching and open field visions/instincts. His hands are below average to bad, as evidenced by a high number of drops, and his open field vision is really poor too: he seems to have one screen/bubble catch per week where he takes a bad decision, such as yesterday when he inexplicably managed to only gain a yard on a bubble screen by going oob instead of gaining 3/4 easy yards by just running straight.
I also agree that if we really wanted to target someone on a jump ball, targeting Cooper(that is his best skill), or Ertz, instead of Jordan Matthews just because he is a tall WR who was matched with T.Mathieu, woudl have been a lot wiser.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Oh God - you brought up one of his worst traits that I completely forgot about, that inability to follow his blocks on the screen passes they always throw for him. In light of this discussion, I'll be generous and not file that under "natural wr abilities" but it is so frustrating to watch him zig into a one-yard gain when he could have zagged into a 9 yarder...

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Body catching drags him out of bounds with his momentum.

Sure, if you ignore the fact that Foles' pass needlessly pulled Matthews to the sideline and that there was a DB shoving Matthews as the ball arrived.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

But that's what's so frustrating about the non-catch - if he comes back for the ball, he either makes the catch in bounds or draws a flag from a diving DB who has no real chance of making a play and certainly wouldn't be able to get his head around. Matthews botched a difficult catch. It was a difficult catch, but he made a downright bizarre play on it, probably the play with the least chance of working out in his favor...

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The difference in pass rush / protection between the Colts and Steelers was as great as I can remember seeing in any game. I'm amazed at the near-perfect day Ben had (I felt like that DPI early in the fourth before the fumble cost him a legit shot at the record) but almost as amazed by how well Luck moved the ball under the distress he was under on every dropback. Cherilus was awful and Lebeau had a great game. The one time I remember Luck really having a clean pocket without having to move, he actually sailed the throw over Fleener's head. Every other time he was throwing strikes and then picking himself up off the turf from under two Steelers.

As a Colts fan I'm good with this loss. People were buying in to that defense a little too much. Any good QB with decent pass protection was still going to have his way with them; I'm glad now people (they) are aware of that again. I have no idea how they can stop Brady-Gronk, but maybe between now and then they'll figure out a way to at least move Brady around. That game will be huge for the #2 seed.

I'm sad I missed out on the good finishes live in the Seattle and Bengal wins, but otherwise yesterday was a great day to be stuck with a local feed of Fins-Jags on the day when I refused to leave my bed (to go to a bar) before 4:00.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

With regards to the Luck pick-six: indeed a strange read, but when I saw the replay, it seemed Nicks was molasses-slow coming into his break and totally telegraphed the curl to Gay. If his break was sharper, perhaps that pass has a chance of simply falling incomplete. I also get the sense that Luck in general was making an effort to get the ball to Nicks a lot early, as if to say, "We believe you can replace Reggie." That, uh, wasn't the case. Moncrief should be the WR3 now.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I thought the same thing; the ball didn't wobble or slip out, it looked to me like Luck was throwing with confidence to a particular spot on the field, and Nicks just didn't bother to try to get there. Sure, it could go either way, but, given a choice between Andrew Luck making a mental mistake and throwing to the wrong spot or Hakeem Nicks doing something without a particularly high level of effort, I know which of those seems a bit more plausible to me.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Dol/Jag - Miami's oline is starting to appear more and more like the oline of 2013. The LG position is a sore point, but Pouncey still looks like a below average right guard. Tannehill had many tipped passes in the game. The Jags were prepared for the screen and Miami's wideouts weren't bailing the team out. You have to wonder what the final score would have been if Henne started. The Jags held the ball a long time, their first five drives went deep into Miami territory, and at one point they held a 180 to 4 yrd advantage. Yet the score was 7-3 Miami. Ouch. Tannehill looks better and better running the ball and he opens the running game for Miller. The TE Sims made key plays and Landry has become the only WR whose hands don't fail him regularly. Gibson made his offensive return and didn't impress. I think he'll go right back to the coaches dog house. Lazor needs to work on having his offense "work" in the first half. Whatever he's scripting seems to epically fail on a regular basis. On a positive note: the AFC east actually appears decent this season. The Pats are naturally out classing everyone but either Miami or the Bills could get a wild card or win the division if Tom Brady retires midseason to be a Tibetan Monk.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The AFC is tough this season - good teams are going to miss out on the wild card. Only four teams in the entire conference are below .500.

I thought the Steelers might be slipping, but they looked playoff-ready yesterday. So we've basically got 6 teams from three divisions competing for two wild card slots (Miami, Buffalo, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Kansas City, and that's presuming that Denver, NE, and Cincy win their respective divisions).

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Ok, am I crazy:

Timeout #3 by ATL at 00:25.
3-9-ATL 30
(:24) 35-J.Bell left guard to ATL 29 for 1 yard (59-J.Bartu). PENALTY on ATL-96-P.Soliai, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at ATL 29.

With no timeouts, on 3rd and 9 with 24 seconds left, the Lions ran the ball into the middle of the field? You can't spike the ball, and you have like at most 19 seconds to get your FG unit on the field and kicking after you run the play, or the game is over.

Am I missing something, or did Caldwell just lose the game right there in a monumentally dumb way only to get bailed out by that holding penalty??

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You're not missing something. My first reaction to the timeout was, why is Atlanta calling timeout? Then I realized, with 25 seconds left and the Lions having 3rd and 9, Atlanta was forcing 1 of 2 outcomes*: 1) Detroit has to attempt the FG, and if Prater makes it on the first try, they get the ball with 20 seconds left. Not a lot of time ofcourse, but they do have Devin Hester returning kicks. 2) Detroit has to run 1 more play, then rush the kicking unit on the field unless there is an incomplete pass, because they can't clock the ball (assuming they didn't make a first down). So outcome 2) happens, and looking at that play, there was almost no way the Lions would have gotten the FG off. They ran into the middle, and nearly the entire Falcons defense jumped on the pile. It would have taken 20 seconds at least just for the officials to spot the ball, unless they started throwing delay of game flags. Of course, we'll never know what would have happened because one Atlanta defender decided to do something barely no one ever does.

*The way the Falcons ended the first half, I realize it's possible they didn't think of either of these outcomes and were just trying to save clock.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You're not missing anything, but there was enough time left for the FG unit to rush onto the field and kick. (The Broncos ran their last play from scrimmage at :18 of this 2007 game and still got the kick off at :01.)

It was still monumentally dumb, given the many struggles of the Lions FG unit and the fact that they didn't need the yardage.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I remember that game! Which is why I would have been ok (relatively speaking) if they'd thrown to the sidelines or somewhere in the open field, or even run a sweep. Running up the gut into the line is just asking for a pileup. I said they had at most 19 seconds, but do you even have that much time when the opposing defense can lay on top of the runner for 10 seconds bleeding time? I suppose you can get the FG unit in place while the refs untangle the bodies-- but... damn that's ballsy.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Note that the Lions couldn't get the kick off in time even with a stopped clock, hence the delay of game penalty.

I suppose, if I think about it, that the Vick-Petrino mess was objectively worse, but what's going on with the Falcons now just makes me sick to my stomach.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I too remember that game (I think). If my memory is correct, Elam didn't even have a chance a walk off any steps or really get himself set, and he pretty much just went to a spot and took off for the ball. It was pretty impressive, and not something I think a team should ever plan on being able to to do with regularity.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Elam had just enough time to step the kick off (low quality video of the last 4 seconds here).

Presumably, Prater would have 5 more seconds than Elam did, would be prepared to run onto the field, and knew generally where he'd be kicking from, especially since the Lions had a full timeout before 3rd down to prepare for the play, but who knows.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

But remember, the play before the FG in that 2007 game was a pass play to Javon Walker where a couple of guys made the tackle. No time for the defense to pile on the ball. In this case, the Lions ran straight into the line. The refs would have had a heck of a time getting the pile to clear to spot the ball.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Normally I would say that 20 seconds should be plenty of time in which to run your FG unit onto the field and kick.

But given that the Lions got a delay-of-game penalty after the first down, kneel, and spike, who knows. The broadcast showed Prater taking another practice kick into the net on the sideline after the spike, when he should have been running onto the field. Plus, this is the Lions' kicking unit - even if it's possible to get the kicking unit onto the field in 20 seconds, why would you do anything to make your kicker less comfortable?

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think much of the hand wringing over the Steve Smith OPI isn't necessarily that it was called but rather that it was called when more egregious OPI go unpenalized time and again during the course of your average game. I am not advocating for the cliche of letting the players decide the game (read: throw no flags) but you definitely don't get stricter in that instance.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Exactly... Every goal line pass play from almost every team either involves a rub, aka pick, or a push off... and that's just on the goal line. A few examples: Gronk pushes off in every goal line situation, no calls. Denver has at least one pick on every short pass play, no calls.

On the play, the DB pulled a "reverse Decker" in that he over-reacted on the effect of contact to try and draw an interference flag and it worked. Influenced by the NBA and World Cup soccer.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"The Lonely Starter was my favorite Dan Fogelberg album."

You have no idea how glad I am that I don't get this reference at all!

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

On the "You ought to get paid to watch this game" front. Vikings/Bucs had two interesting aspects. I at first thought that these two teams might accomplish the near-impossible for a Sunday afternoon game; never appearing on the RedZone Channel, until a shot of the two coaches shaking hands, after a 0-0 tie, was sent to the nation. After that hope was dashed, and two squads stumbled through 4 quarters filled with nothingness, on the 1st play from scrimmage in OT, a rookie 1st round draft pick makes the sort of play that, if made frequently enough, gets a player considered for an ugly yellow blazer about 17-20 years after the player's rookie season. It was spectacular, and one thing I appreciated about it was Barr seemed to grasp that he had just won the game for his team which was 2-5, against a team that had won 1 game. It was quite the contrast with the Bear who injured himself doing a sack dance while down 30 points.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

That was the only play from scrimmage I saw in that game. I'm going assume you're being sarcastic and the whole game was that exciting regardless of all the circumstantial (and direct evidence I'm going to avoid) to the contrary.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It really was the sort of contest where anybody who chose to stay in their seats after 4 quarters should have been given free beer. Then on the 1st play after the ot kickoff. a guy ends the game with as good a defensive play as you'll see a guy make, after a guy allowed a a pass to be completed. Weird.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The first thing I thought of when I saw the highlights of the Vikings game late were that if not for Detroit winning at the last second yesterday and the Vikings losing in the final seconds in Buffalo (after a freaking 4th and 20), they would _somehow_ be only 1 game behind first place.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm on my 15th year of NFL Sunday Ticket, which means I have paid a lot of money in order to watch that game. I actually have a two-tap kegerator in my TV room, but I was so beaten down by the sheer awfulness of that game that I couldn't even generate the energy to stand up, stick my mouth on a tap, and simply open it up until I was unconscious. Seriously, if there are literal Football Gods, that game was conceivably Footballdammerung, the end of all things.

Tampa signed three offensive linemen in the offseason, plus traded for Mankins, and, at this point, setting a pile of dollar bills on fire would probably have been a more cost-effective measure. That line is simply terrible, and Mike Glennon is apparently never going to get a chance to show he's a valid QB, because he never seems to have more than about two seconds before somebody is in his face.

Also, just like the Carolina game where Dashon Goldson dropped an easy interception, Jonathan Banks made a break on the ball on that last MN drive in regulation, and the ball clanged away. He catches that, game over.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Eagles whole red zone offense has been horrible so far this year. Sometimes, I feel like they if they get 1st and goal at the 10, they should just take 2 straight delay of games to have a better chance of scoring.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not here to discredit Big Ben's great day and he was awesome, but that was one of the most frustrating games to watch. I've had my share of years watching bad defense, but that was about as bad as it gets. The secondary was carved to bits as the blitz failed to get home time after time. It was brutal.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Indeed, most of the great passing days happen when the QB doesn't have to worry much about the pass rush. It's not an accident that Brady's numbers from the past four weeks are so much better than those from the first four.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Truly a stunning lack of pressure, against a guy who typically invites it. As someone else mentioned above, I'm not too upset. Even though our defense was a sieve, Ben still had to make all those throws and those guys had some very nice catches, including Brown(?) with the one-handed grab on the end zone fade. Really, Ben was sharp and made great reads all night. He picked apart our zones and exploited man coverage when it was there. Just a very fine day. I'm glad we kept it somewhat competitive.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I might have been more ok with it if I had seen it coming. For example, if it was last years colts or if this team was going on the road against denver again or Green Bay, then I could have easily seen them get embarrassed. Instead, Indy was coming with the 4th ranked pass defense against a team that had been very up and down offensively for most of this season.

It's one thing for ben to have a great game. Its another for him to have a career defining - once in 10 years type of game.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

To me, that's exactly what makes it so easy to move on. This kind of thing only happens every once in a while. It doesn't feel predictive. Lack of pressure, poor DB play....maybe THAT feels predictive. But I don't think there will be too many more games like this, where absolutely everything (pooch punt aside) goes right.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah I guess so. Question now becomes what to make of this defense going forward. An outlier performance is an extreme by definition, but that I don't think we can forget about it either. Maybe that's what bothers me the most. The next great pass offense we face, and there won't be many in the AFC SOUTH, could get ugly fast.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

After that game yesterday, I am not at all looking forward to the New England game. It seems like the Patriots O-Line is finally gelling, and it turns out that when Tom Brady isn't running for his life, he's still pretty good at football.

Also, if someone like me who hasn't played organized football since middle school can realize that the Colts are completely incapable of covering good tight ends, I suspect that Brady and Belicheck might come to the conclusion that throwing to Gronkowski might be successful...

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

On 3rd and long at the Dallas 30 (or so), McCoy avoids a sack (Tirico says "does a Romo spin") and launches downfield to a totally open receiver, but the pass is off. In that situation, why isn't Dallas' pass coverage paying more attention? It's 3rd and LONG! It's going to be a pass!!

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Ugh. Washington is called for what must be a ticky-tack "illegal contact" play. They way the refs are being told to call these things is ruining football.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Jesus H Christ. Just fall DOWN. He's gained a million yards and EVERYONE is trying to strip the ball.

Also, interesting note: all 5 of Murray's fumbles have been lost. Lots of bad luck there.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This game is a wonderful display of how bad Dallas' defense really is. They should be crushing here, but they are missing tackles, taking bad angles of pursuit, and blowing coverages.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Just to clarify, I wasn't for a moment suggesting Romo was being in any way 'soft'. Just that the incident emphasised the chronic nature of his ongoing back problem. I think I'd put his chances of finishing the season below 50%, and goodness knows what long term damage he is causing himself.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

While Atlanta is about ready to fire their milquetoast coach, even though the team barely has any talent---while the Atlanta GM tree is producing scintillating football in St. Louis & Jacksonville---& while Bortles has a somewhat better arm, is almost as good an athlete, & is clearly more "pro ready" than 'ol Tebow---Bortles is rocking the 68.3 passer rating, while Tebow, playoffs included, STILL sits at 80.1 (enjoying Geno's work, Rex? 66.2). I know this site is all about sharp analysis, advanced statistics, with a side order of snark, but Geno & Bortles just keep turning the ball over, which consistently loses games. Tebow generally didn't do that, & took the 2nd worst team to the 2nd round of the playoffs (with the 24th ranked defense). Bortles is taking the 3rd worst team to...(London?)

Speaking of St. Louis, any doubt Bradford gets a job next year? (79.3)

Yeah, yeah, I know. I just hate "bright & shiny" QB prospects who can't protect the ball, & who sometimes even shrink during pressure. Arrogant NFL, IMO. ("Not even if he's released")

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Gee, I dunno, if my o-line is regularly opening large gaping holes, and I have a 2nd and two in ot, I might try to avoid losing the game with three straight incomplete passes. I'm not much for ripping playcalling generally, but that was awful, and if nobody in Dallas, qb, offensive coordinator(s), or head coach, can see the benefit of an occasional max protect scheme against a team that is regularly bringing 6 or more, well, that was a bit of a surprise as well.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I only caught a few plays, but at least one the Redskins brought 7 blitzers and the Cowboys only had 3 guys running routes, but this actually worked against the Cowboys as the Redskins had an easier time covering them. A 4th guy running a route would have meant a wide open hot read.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The few times they did hit the hot read, the Redskins' tackling was just about perfect and the Cowboys only got 4 or 5 yards out of it. Also, Greeland the rookie CB did an unbelievable job on Dez Bryant and more or less shut him down in a bunch of tough one-on-one situations. Normally, you get Bryant lined up in single man coverage and it's a disaster for the opposing team - Greeland just made him a non-factor. Only Murray slipping out of the backfield seemed to give them real fits and even then they wrapped him up in a few key moments...

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah, it's unreal that in OT with a gimpy QB and in an obvious four-down situation that you wouldn't just run the heck out of the ball ("Once you're wrapped up, DeMarco, just wrap up the ball and fall to the ground as quickly as possible!") and they should be able to get another first down. And another, and another, until you either kick a FG and go for the tie (not the end of the world), or you manage to punch it in for a touchdown. But throwing when Washington has clearly come up with a defensive scheme that you can't handle on the fly and you have that aforementioned gimpy QB seems so stupid.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Furthermore, I've no idea why Romo was anywhere near the field at the end of the game, having been in such obvious distress a short while earlier. Had Weeden thrown a pick 6 or something there may have been reason to hurry Romo back out there, but he looked perfectly competent. And as you say, just run the ball.

One of the key aspects to head coaching is managing the egos of your players. And a key part of that, it seems to me, is telling them, no matter who they are, that they are not required because other players are in a better position to get the job done. Garrett completely failed at that last night.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Why, to hear your opinion, one might be inclined to believe that a back injury has a tendency to stiffen up, as you are inactive for 45 minutes following the event!

(edit) To be non-facetious for a moment, I also would not be surprised if this was instance of the idiot owner's need to be on the sideline,and and talking to all relevant parties, is, er, non-helpful. Good grief, it's gotta be hard to be a Cowboys fan, with that moron's mug showing up everywhere.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I totally agree - Jerry Jones lost that game for the Cowboys as much as any player or coach did. I think if Weeden stays in, they win in regulation and Jones clearly making sure Romo was hurried back out there the second it was possible was an awful short-term and likely long-term thing for the Cowboys...

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I thought it was truly bizarre to see Jones on the sideline during stoppages in play, talking to the players/coaches as they were trying to discuss the next play. You cannot tell me that his presence at a time like that is not a huge distraction.

Though to be fair, it sure looked like Romo was the most passionate advocate for his return...which doesn't mean he should have been allowed to return, of course.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The player will almost always be the most enthusiastic lobbyist for his return. That's why the coach gets paid a lot to say "no" when it needs to be said. Except when the owner is under the delusion that he is Pop Warner, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and Knut Rockne, rolled into one.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Ha - especially when like Garrett you are well-known to have your job on the line this season. "Hey, maybe I'll antagonize my boss who has openly considered firing me..." I wouldn't be surprised if Jones somehow had a hand in those three straight incompletions (with two yards to go for a first down!) that ended the game.

Players are almost always going to be their own biggest advocates - Garrett needs to be able to say "Hey, the offense is rolling with Weeden out there, we need you as healthy as you can have you for the rest of the season and playoffs, let's not risk anything, relax, we got this." Jones clearly is not thinking anything other than a fan-ish "Get Tony back out there!!!!"

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It will be an absolute shame if rushing Romo back out there has long term consequences and causes the Cowboys not to represent the NFC, last year's shootout between Romo and PM was a very exciting game that wasn't decided until the end.