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.
Green Bay Packers 22 at Seattle Seahawks 28 (OT)
Andrew Healy: The Packers' opening drive was going great until Aaron Rodgers decided to go after Richard Sherman with Davante Adams on first down and again on third down. On third down, Sherman comes up with an end zone interception. On that drive, the Packers mostly lined up with Adams on one side and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the other, switching the sides. They seem to have been indicating a clear willingness to throw right. They got a nice completion to Cobb out of the slot underneath Nelson's route.
Aaron Schatz: Well, they finally went after Sherman! And with Davante Adams over there rather than Nelson. First time he threw late and behind Adams. Second time, awesome pick by Sherman.
Cian Fahey: I suspect we'll hear a lot about how unlucky Russell Wilson's interception in the first quarter was, I don't buy it. He forced that pass to a receiver who was always covered. Defensive back was playing the inside from the start. A bad decision.
Vince Verhei: I say this as someone cheering for Seattle: I have no idea why Green Bay got a taunting penalty after the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interception, but Sherman didn't get one for shouting at Adams after the incompletion on the previous drive.
(Green Bay kicks an 18-yard field goal to go up 3-0.)
Scott Kacsmar: When the game is scoreless, why would you go for the field goal there? And the cute fullback dive play for John Kuhn should be saved for home games against bad defenses where the crowd goes nuts because the white guy scored. Eddie Lacy had to get that carry there. Big mistake.
Andrew Healy: The Packers play ultra-dumb-Goliath strategy as an eight-point underdog, kicking a field goal from inside the 1 on fourth down. Mike McCarthy channelled Mike Tomlin from Super Bowl XLIII there, except this one is worse.
On the last play of the first quarter, Randall Cobb came wide open in the back of the end zone when Earl Thomas collided with Kam Chancellor on dueling crossing routes. So far, Rodgers has had great protection. He needed that time for that route to develop on the Cobb touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: Hilarious to have FOX show Richard Sherman after that play looking upset. Uh, guys, Sherman doesn't cover everyone. That wasn't his guy.
I thought it was interesting on the second Green Bay field goal... on third-and-long, the Packers had the stacked receivers on the right side. I think they wanted to run something to beat Sherman in the Cover-3. But it was a screen and Davante Adams did a terrible job of blocking so Sherman tackled Cobb easily.
Early in the second quarter, Seattle's offense looks awful so far. Wilson is not having a good game. I didn't like his back-shoulder throw to Doug Baldwin on third-and-7. And where are the read-options against this Dom Capers defense? Am I remembering correctly that they didn't run a read-option once in the first quarter? I think the first one was on second-and-11 there before the Baldwin throw, and I think Wilson made the wrong read. He had the left side open to keep but he handed off instead to Marshawn Lynch (who did get 4 yards).
Also, the visual on this game is nuts, with sunshine apparently on half the field and rain on the other half, or some mix. It feels like every time they switch camera angles, the weather changes, or it's all different filters on Instagram or something.
Vince Verhei: So far this is absolutely the opposite of what Seattle has done all year. Green Bay is getting amazing field position and moving the ball, but Seattle's scoring-range defense has been tremendous. 16-0, but Green Bay should probably have another 8 points or so.
You know what would really, really help. A first down. Just one!
Scott Kacsmar: This field position for Green Bay has been incredible. Offense really didn't earn any of the three field goals. Seattle needs a drive in the worst way. Seems like every early down is a solid Lynch run, but they end up with pre-snap penalties and the tackles are struggling in protection. Wilson still doesn't have a completion.
Cian Fahey: The second interception to Clinton-Dix was the worst deep ball that Wilson has ever thrown in the NFL. It was almost so bad that Ha-Ha wasn't going to be able to catch it. He snatched it from behind impressively.
Scott Kacsmar: Wilson throws a bomb into very good coverage for another pick. The Seahawks look like the 94 Cowboys against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Dallas went down 21-0 after a ton of early turnovers. Fought back to a 38-28 loss.
Now it looks like a Rodgers pick, which could be an early game-saver with Green Bay threatening again. Not a sharp game by either team, but at least Lacy and the Green Bay offensive line have shown up.
Aaron Schatz: 1994 Cowboys also No. 1 overall in DVOA, interestingly enough.
Cian Fahey: Russell Wilson had his best game of the season last week. Through the first two quarters or so of this one he's having the worst of his career. His interception late in the second quarter, the third of the game, gave his wide receiver no chance. He simply hung the ball up for Sam Shields to pluck out of the air.
Aaron Schatz: This is awful. He's not even being heavily pressured. He's just making bad decisions and bad throws. That throw should have been to the back pylon.
Cian Fahey: I typically hate how much we discuss refereeing, but it continues to be prominent through these playoffs for the wrong reasons. A bunch of calls through the first half have either been questionable or just plain wrong as far as I can tell.
Tom Gower: Really? Aside from the missed hands to the face on Jordy Nelson, and of course that offensive holding doesn't get called in the postseason, I think the officiating has been an almost complete non-factor so far. After last week's Green Bay game, I'm happy about that.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah. I'm with Tom. The Seattle offense has been so terrible that I haven't noticed any officiating at all.
Tom Gower: 16-0 Packers at the half. It's like the first half was "every doubt I've had about the Seattle offense in the past three years comes to life all at once." Marshawn Lynch is diving forward for yards, but not as consistently as my faulty memory has him doing so in Week 1. The Seattle offensive game plan hasn't been all about the read-option like I thought it was. Seattle's wide receivers aren't winning their matchups. And of course Wilson has thrown a couple picks. The latter two were really bad (when the best thing you can say about the second one is maybe he didn't see Clinton-Dix in the sun...), and Cian rightly pointed out the first one, though off Jermaine Kearse's hands, didn't look like a good decision. Plus, Alvin Bailey at right tackle has not been a strength. While it's easy to say because of the interceptions, Clinton-Dix has had a nice game overall from what I've seen.
Offensively, Green Bay has been efficient, but I haven't been that impressed by them outside of the offensive line. Rodgers hasn't made any great plays, and it would be a bigger lead than 16 points if Nelson and Cobb had done better with some throws. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing; if Rodgers can improve the same way he did in the second half, for whatever reason that happened (and it apparently wasn't as simple as Toradol at halftime), then the Packers could be even better.
Vince Verhei: I am really, really searching for positive things to say about Seattle.
They did finally start to blitz on Green Bay's last drive, and finally started to get a little bit of pressure.
Lynch, on the next-to-last Seattle drive, showed he can still gain consistent yards and move the chains.
It's hard to imagine how they could have played much worse, and yet they're still in shouting distance.
Alice In Chains sounds pretty cool.
That's all I got.
Mike Kurtz: Officiating is a factor because Seattle's defense is designed around taking advantage of lax officiating. It's a combination of perception and expectation.
Honestly, I'm astounded Seattle is still in this game. I'm also not sure what they're going to do on offense, aside from hope Marshawn Lynch just takes over the game. Green Bay's defense is playing extremely disciplined in the offensive backfield and giving Wilson a lot of man looks. Without the ability to move around, however, Wilson looks fidgety and indecisive. The Packers drew up a hell of a game plan and we'll have to see if they can keep Marshawn Lynch contained. If they can, I'm terrified if I'm a Seahawks fan of Wilson trying to carry the team down late.
Aaron Schatz: Let my frustration about Seattle punting on fourth-and-1 be registered. Yes, own 29-yard line. But you are a power running team down 16-0.
Mike Kurtz: If any team is going to trust their defense, Aaron, I'm by far the most comfortable with Seattle doing it.
It's also worth mentioning how inaccurate Rodgers has been this game. Not nearly as bad as Wilson, but he's missing wide-open receivers.
Cian Fahey: Aaron Rodgers' most consistent flaw is showing up in this game: poor ball placement on short throws. In terms of consistent flaws for NFL quarterbacks, that is probably one of the best to have as your worst.
Scott Kacsmar: Really? Not that I buy into this narrative (for any quarterback), but Rodgers is one of the ones most praised for short-pass accuracy leading to YAC for his receivers.
Cian Fahey: Yeah, it's something I've written about at different times over the past two years. Here is the Film Room I did on him last year.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Seattle finally got offense. They actually converted a second-and-31 after a sack and penalty on J.R. Sweezy for being an idiot. That led to third-and-17, and the Packers somehow ran a zone where nobody in the short zones bothered to think, "Hey, that receiver is running behind me and nobody is in front of me." It was like all five guys thought they were spying Wilson.
Then fake field goal for a touchdown! Jon Ryan makes a great play! We are now debating here in the Pats press box if Seattle should have gone for 2 to make it 16-8. As I've pointed out, I think the case for going for 2 is stronger when we consider the strengths of the Seattle offense in short yardage.
Andrew Healy: A couple of general thoughts:
1) Amazing how open Packers' receivers have been over the middle; Green Bay has done very little on the sidelines, though.
2) Seattle's fourth down to start the second half was a quarter-yard, too. Yes, it's their own 29-yard line, but it sure would be better for the Seahawks to go for it there. And it's not a close call. Even if the Seahawks weren't historically good at running.
3) Love the fake field goal sooooo much. Jon Ryan had a run-pass option, I think, on that one. Won't even quibble too much here about failing to go for two.
4) Russell Wilson's game today is so mind-blowingly outside the expectation for him. He's within range of his career low yards per attempt (he's 0.1 yard ahead of his low, 6-of-15 for 61 yards and 4.1 YPA). On third down on their last drive of the quarter, he throws a checkdown 2 yards downfield to Luke Willson. On third-and-12. He's Russell Wilson. He runs around and buys time. Not sure what is going on.
Mike Kurtz: I don't think Green Bay has thrown a pass since Rodgers rolled his ankle. They've had successful runs, but I don't like that formula for Green Bay, especially since Seattle has figured out their counter.
Aaron Schatz: They just did. Richard Rodgers on third-and-7. We wrote about it a few times, but covering tight ends is the relative weakness of the Seahawks pass defense.
Vince Verhei: Seattle has to just start blitzing every play. Rodgers is getting way too much time to get comfortable against four, but the blitzes are at least forcing incompletions.
Andrew Healy: The Packers' defense has been good today, but this one does seem like a terrible day for a really good player. The one good completion Wilson had all day came from a pretty big letdown on third-and-17 or something when the short zone defenders failed to give ground. On their drive in the middle of the fourth quarter, a terrible throw was nearly Clinton-Dix's third pick (a terrible decision mainly). And then another poor throw on third-and-14. Where is the real Russell Wilson? He even has just 6 rushing yards. He has been so un-Russell-Wilson-like in every dimension: running, escapability, throwing, decision-making, all of it.
Scott Kacsmar: Joe Buck actually thinks Green Bay's offense has gotten the better of Seattle's defense today. This is why I can't stand Buck. Seattle's defense has been very good, if not great, in this game. The story of the game is how bad Seattle's offense has played as another tipped ball turned into an interception.
Andrew Healy: Wilson's fourth pick is not on him. That one is on Jermaine Kearse and points out Seattle's big problem on offense: not enough guys to throw to who get open. They've been part of the problem, too.
Green Bay is averaging less than 5 yards per play. If Seattle's offense played its average game, the Seahawks would have won today and pretty easily.
Mike Kurtz: If Marshawn Lynch does somehow win this game, it's all on Mike McCarthy. It feels like he's been trying to run the clock out since halfway through the first quarter.
Cian Fahey: Russell Wilson is going to be a fascinating case study for quarterback analysis. He was simply incredible for most of the 2013 Regular Season, then he won the Super Bowl while not playing all that spectacularly. During this season, he's been talked up as much as anyone else despite regressing as a passer.
Now, we have probably the worst game of his career in the NFC Championship game. I've already seen one beat writer ask if this is the end of the sub-6-foot quarterback, I'm sure many more will follow that lead. It really does feel like there will never be any sort of accurate, middle-ground consensus opinion on quarterbacks. Just all extreme.
Aaron Schatz: Holy crap. Seattle finally pulls out the read-option with 2:30 left in the game for the touchdown and the first play after they recover the onside kick.
Cian Fahey: I...don't...know...what...is...happening...
The Seahawks just recovered an onside kick. Russell Wilson then took the ball on the read-option to get around the edge and run out of bounds for a first down. This is simply unbelievable.
Seattle scores on a Lynch touchdown run, then gets a ridiculous two-point conversion.
My head hurts.
Mike Kurtz: Like I said, lots of conservative play. Four turnovers and only six points to show for them. Rodgers' inaccuracy hasn't helped, but Green Bay played not to lose for a huge chunk of the game.
Andrew Healy: On the onside kick, Jordy Nelson is the one who should be going after that ball. The backup tight end gets in his way and manages to, I think, make first contact with the ball with his facemask.
I can't believe Green Bay may give this away. This game is the Bizarro Ravens-Patriots. It is interesting, but a comedy of terrible play and decision-making. Mike McCarthy may end up taking the cake, as Mike said. It starts with those first-quarter field goals.
But this game sure is interesting now… Fun two-point conversion.
Cian Fahey: I mean, if they catch the onside kick it's over. Not sure how you can really just blame the coach.
Andrew Healy: I don't want to go too nuts on the coach. It is more than that, but even the onside kick is kind of coaching, right? How often do you see two guys back to get the ball behind the line? Shouldn't they be coached to block for Jordy Nelson to get that ball? Instead the backup tight end I've never heard of is the one to make a play on it. Seems suboptimal even if he is slightly taller than Nelson.
Big props to Randall Cobb for making a great catch over the middle on the Packers' drive to tie it. Those throws over the middle do seem like they're still there for the Packers now that they have to go for it again.
Cian Fahey: There is going to be a lot of second-guessing with various things that the Packers have done. One of the ones that is coming up is Morgan Burnett sliding to the ground after his interception at midfield in the fourth quarter. I think it's unfair to second-guess these guys because they weren't unreasonable decisions at the time.
The one truly unreasonable expectation for me is the onside kick. You simply can't plan for the tight end to drop that ball.
Either way, simply a phenomenal finish to what was largely a sloppy, uneventful game.
Tom Gower: Seahawks win in overtime. Wilson made two very nice throws, to Kearse and Baldwin, big plays, after all three of them didn't do much for the first 60 minutes.
I don't know what to say about that game. I do know I was much less thrilled by it than everybody else seems to be, though I do have a certain academic respect for its nuttiness.
Andrew Healy: Life and football narratives are all about opportunities. Wilson may be getting the chance to rewrite his story. And… he does! Wow. Nobody will remember any of what happened before because he makes two beautiful throws to win it. No, it doesn't make him clutch, but it is at least a reminder that he's a very good quarterback who had a bad day. Great throws, crazy game, seems nuts that Seattle is back in the Super Bowl. Green Bay certainly should not have allowed this to happen.
Cian Fahey: Wilson's game-winning touchdown pass was inch-perfect to be fair to him.
Vince Verhei: Hopefully, by halftime of the next game, I will be able to say something coherent about this game.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember the Seattle offense from the rest of the season? They finally found their playbook from that offense in overtime.
Scott Kacsmar: That's an all-time playoff comeback there. Not one Mike McCarthy will be able to live down short of adding another Lombardi to his collection. Really poor job. Green Bay had all three timeouts. No reason not to get in better range for a winning touchdown or at least a shorter field goal. Mismanaged so much of this game today. Hope he likes the early field goals for that 6-0 lead.
Lynch was fantastic as expected. Wilson played his worst game ever for 55 minutes or so. Then I'm not sure he made a mistake down the stretch. Great throws. The monster onside kick recovery is one that will be forgotten in the grand scheme of quarterback narratives, but that was really Green Bay's best shot to end this game. Can't flub that return.
Aaron Schatz: I'm still thinking about how the Packers had Russell Wilson dead to rights on the two-point conversion AND had two defenders right next to Luke Willson and STILL couldn't stop him from catching it.
Andrew Healy: Football just happened. Random, insane football. A testament to randomness:
Wilson stat line through 55 minutes: 9-of-23, 108 YDS, 0 TD, 4 INT, -3.6 ANY/A
Wilson stat line after that (not including the rushing touchdown): 5-of-6, 101 YDS, 1 TD, 0 INT, 17.1 ANY/A
A pretty ugly game, but that wild randomness is still part of why I love it.
Aaron Schatz: Ian Dembsky just pointed out to me over text. Wasn't it nice that we had a crazy, memorable ending that didn't include any kind of officiating controversy?
Mike Kurtz: Not to take anything away from Wilson, but my takeaway from this game is less super amazing random football and more:
- 1-10-GB43 (5:04) (Shotgun) E.Lacy left tackle to GB 39 for -4 yards (K.Williams).
- 2-14-GB39 (4:57) (Shotgun) E.Lacy left tackle to GB 37 for -2 yards (M.Bennett).
- 3-16-GB37 (4:50) (Shotgun) E.Lacy up the middle to GB 39 for 2 yards (B.Wagner; M.Bennett).
Maybe it's a me issue, rooting for a team with a infuriatingly conservative coach, but are you @#@% serious? You have Aaron @$^@$^@ Rodgers. You are up by two scores. They figured out you weren't seriously trying to score at least two drives ago. You're not any good at running, anyway! Just an absolute chickenshit game by McCarthy that allowed five minutes of great football to beat 55 minutes of domination.
Matt Waldman: Seattle fan here, so I'm sure some of you will take this with a grain of salt:
We can call this random all we want. Or, we can look at the fact Seattle outscores its opponents by a major margin in the second half of games; that in Wilson's rookie year the Seahawks nearly pulled off a comeback in the divisional game in Atlanta and a deficit against Washington in Washington a year later; and the fact that the Seattle coaching staff is a positive group that makes decisions to win rather than "not to lose," and doesn't shy away from players who make mistakes.
Aaron Schatz: It's not that Seattle came back in the second half. It's that they came back in the last three minutes!
Andrew Healy: A little tough to go too crazy about Seattle's second-half prowess when their offense continued to play terribly for 25 minutes of that second half. Anyway, I certainly agree that the Packers' coaching decisions gave the Seahawks an opportunity they should not have had. Even then, the Seahawks needed a lot of luck.
Vince Verhei: OK. It's halftime in Foxborough. I think I can talk about the game in Seattle now.
No, Russell Wilson did not have a good game. But even more so, he was an innocent bystander to Jermaine Kearse's terrible game. The first four passes thrown to Kearse were all intercepted. Two of them hit him right in the hands.
All in all, this was not a game Seattle won. This was a game Green Bay lost. How many times can one team fail to put a game away, or not even try? Part of Green Bay's red-zone struggles were due to player error, but kicking field goals inside the 2 or 3 or whatever it was, twice, was pretty unforgivable. It was 16-0 at halftime, but it probably should have been much much worse.
And then we talked about the ultraconservative play-calling, where they took the ball away from the likely MVP and ran right into a team desperate to stuff then run. They didn't even try a throw against a corner who was playing with one arm until right before the game-tying field goal.
Speaking of which: The Packers had to try a long field goal to force overtime, and not kick a shorter field goal or try for a winning touchdown, in part because of some lousy clock management. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered -- they did kick on fourth down -- but they still had two timeouts left when they kicked that field goal.
And really, the death blow was struck because McCarthy assumed Seattle would play as conservatively as he would in their shoes. Seattle had a first down in overtime at the 35-yard line, right at the edge of field-goal range. The Packers then put nine men in the box. Because, in McCarthy's mind, the only reasonable play there is to run three times and try a long kick, which would not have won the game even if successful. And as soon as I saw that formation, I thought "this is going to be a touchdown." And Wilson threw to Kearse, and it was a touchdown. And here we are.
After the game, McCarthy said it was very important to get his offense to 20 carries, which ... I give up.
So yes, I will take this win. But it goes without saying that Seattle will have to play much better than this to win the Super Bowl.
A few other random notes:
- I am tempted to go back and chart this game, for my own sake, to see the difference in Seattle's defense when they blitzed. It felt like every play with four rushers or less was a miserable failure, and every blitz got Rodgers on the move and rushing his throws. Why they didn't blitz more throughout the game, I have no idea.
- As for Kearse, it should be noted: he is not necessarily a good player (as we all saw today), but he is dangerous. Between regular season and playoffs, he has now scored nine touchdowns in his career. Those touchdowns have averaged 33.4 yards apiece, and six of them were go-ahead scores.
- I think I can explain the lack of Wilson's rushing in two words: Clay Matthews. Good god that guy is fast, and he spent a good chunk of time spying Wilson from the middle of the field. I know he was on the sideline for some plays near the finish. I honestly didn't spot if he ever returned, but that would partially explain Seattle's offensive success late in the game.
- He got the Seahawks on the board with a touchdown, but what a terrible day for Jon Ryan. Low, line-drive kicks making for easy returns. Micah Hyde had three returns for 40 yards. That's the first time any player has returned three punts against Seattle in a game this year, just the fifth time a player has had more than one, and the second time a player has gone over 30 yards.
- Finally: Can I say again how stupidly complicated the NFL's overtime system is? Every time a game goes to overtime, everyone in the room asks me to explain the rules again, and then I get texts and Tweets from people asking the same question. I believe that since they went to the new awful rules, the team that has scored first in overtime has still won every game, right? SO JUST GO BACK TO SUDDEN DEATH. It's so much easier and makes so much more sense. (Although I mentioned this on Twitter, and someone raised a good point: this is still better than the college model, which takes forever and a day to play out.)
Andrew Healy: Well, mission accomplished on getting to 20 carries, Mr. McCarthy. You made it to 30 carries for that matter. Well played, sir.
Indianapolis Colts 7 at New England Patriots 45
Ben Muth: Thought this tweet was interesting and a good example that the key to being a successful GM is stumbling into a good quarterback somehow.
The Colts' 2013 and 2014 first-round picks, Bjorn Werner and Trent Richardson, are both inactive today. Nice moves, Grigson.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 18, 2015
Cian Fahey: Grigson wouldn't be in a job if he hadn't had Andrew Luck fall into his lap. That roster isn't impressive on the whole.
It's amazing to me that Josh Cribbs is on the field during a championship game in 2015 in any capacity. His muffed punt in the first quarter is massive because the Colts might not get many defensive stops today and they only got that initial one because Brady missed an open receiver downfield.
Aaron Schatz: My guess is we're talking about the Patriots using the same coverage they did in the first game against the Colts: Revis on Reggie Wayne, Browner on Coby Fleener, and Arrington on Hilton with the safety shading to him deep to prevent deep throws to Hilton. Not sure what will happen when Hakeem Nicks comes in.
On the other side, interesting so far that the Colts have Vontae Davis staying man on Rob Gronkowski when Gronk goes out wide, rather than having a linebacker or safety motioning with him. Davis has been absolutely fabulous the last two weeks, but is he really physical enough to stay with Gronk?
Cian Fahey: My twitter followers have highlighted that the Colts have five ex-Cleveland Browns people working for them:
- Trent Richardson
- Josh Cribbs
- D'Qwell Jackson
- Mike Adams
- Rob Chudzinski
That can't be a good sign.
Andrew Healy: It looks like the Patriots are going to continue to try to run the six-offensive-lineman sets. They have done it three or four times on their first two drives. It worked well on one play. Not sure how much sense it will make to continue with that with Josh Kline playing today given Bryan Stork's injury.
On the Colts' drive after the Patriots' touchdown to open the scoring, Jamie Collins single-handedly stops a run that had some potential by stringing it out wide and then shedding the block. He is awesome.
Scott Kacsmar: Dan Herron has been catching a lot of short passes in the playoffs. Luck had him for one down the field, but a really bad drop. Patriots had a similar play and Shane Vereen caught Brady's underthrown pass even after getting interfered with by Jerrell Freeman, who never located the ball.
Almost feel like calling this one a technical knockout in the first quarter at 14-0. An all-too-familiar script playing out.
Aaron Schatz: Pats brought out the four-lineman set again. They tried to twist it off expectations from last week. This time, they used Michael Hoomanuwanui (ineligible) as a blocker on a screen pass. They motioned Gronk over there too and had both tight ends ready to block but Brandon LaFell dropped the pass.
I've got to figure there's a third iteration to come, although I don't know when, where they actually throw a backwards pass to the ineligible receiver (who can catch a backwards pass, just not a forwards pass). Of course in that case, a drop is a live ball.
Vince Verhei: Wait, they've scored twice already? I thought it was once. (Checks box score.) No you're right. I missed one. Sorry, I'm watching the game, but I'm still not able to process much football-wise.
Cian Fahey: This game has started out all too familiarly. Luck being let down by his teammates while the Patriots simply execute on a much higher level as a whole.
Aaron Schatz: Colts come out in nickel against Pats' 12 personnel. LeGarrette Blount, two runs, like 25 yards or something. Thanks for the nickel, kids.
Cian Fahey: Aaron Rodgers is much more consistent overall as a player than Andrew Luck, but I think Luck has eclipsed him for sheer eye-openingly ridiculous plays. The throw to Hilton midway through the second quarter when he evades pressure and throws a perfect pass to the right sideline was just illogical.
Aaron Schatz: The catch (and foot drag) was as illogical and awesome as the throw.
A couple of Patriots penalties to extend that first Colts touchdown drive. Plus the amazing Hilton throw-and-catch. And it all started when Tom Brady threw a pick on a throw he never should have thrown, forced into a tight space (and slightly behind) a bracketed, real-life double-covered Gronk right near the goal line. Pats should be kicking themselves that this game is 14-7.
Cian Fahey: The Patriots have kind of ruined this game for me by what they did to the Ravens last week. I'm just counting offensive linemen and trying to figure out if anyone is ineligible on every play instead of actually watching the game.
Aaron Schatz: Also, Gronk going out wide an awful lot, and the only target so far is that interception. It's almost like they are moving him out wide as a decoy to open the middle for Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
Pats go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 4-yard line, convert, and apparently the refs then suspended all contact rules. Vontae Davis was practically inside Gronk's uniform on the second down. And it makes sense. What do you have to lose if you get flagged? One yard? More downs for the Pats won't give them more time.
Andrew Healy: Not sure I agree with that. The Pats' third-down play ended at 0:13. A new set of downs gives them two more plays.
Scott Kacsmar: Down 10, New England getting the ball to start the third quarter, why not let Luck do something from his own 43-yard line after a silly squib kick? Lame call to kneel.
Aaron Schatz: I don't find the squib kick silly. The squib kick with more than seven seconds left is silly. With less than that, where the offense is only going to get one play, no chance for a real drive, just a Hail Mary or a kneel, the squib kick makes sense.
The squib kick teams sometimes do with like 50 seconds left is absurd.
Pats do in fact march the ball down the field on that first drive, with lots of broken tackles by Blount. They end it with third-and-1 and instead of Cameron Fleming (71) reporting eligible, they have left tackle Nate Solder (77) announced as eligible. You know, Nate Solder, former college tight end? Any idea what they might do now that there's a different eligible lineman? Yes, of course, tackle-eligible pass and touchdown by Solder.
Mike Kurtz: I think Belichick has figured out that there's a huge schematic advantage on plays with strange eligibles. The defense doesn't even know about the eligible until after the play's already come in, then it has to be relayed to the coaches, who then have to quickly figure out what to do with that knowledge. By the time the defense even begins to figure out what to do, the play is happening, and players who are used to things working a certain way are suddenly confronted with something unusual. They didn't even pretend to cover Solder. Sure, they "knew" he was eligible, but that knowledge was fairly useless just because of the way the defense knows.
It's perfect, ruthless Belichick. I love it. Players should not be able to change eligibility by declaration, however.
Andrew Healy: You would think teams would be prepared for the player catching passes out of the left tackle position when eligible at this point, even though the Patriots do vary how they run these plays nicely. And they are doing things differently today than last week, so you couldn't prepare just by watching last week's film.
The Patriots have mostly defended T.Y. Hilton with Kyle Arrington supported by safety help. On the Colts' first drive of the second half, the strategy works well. Arrington plays underneath Hilton and blankets him. Luck had basically nowhere to go. So far, Hilton has one catch on five targets, the one catch being that sublime throw and toe-sliding catch just beyond Arrington's arm. Seems like a strong game for Arrington so far.
Tom Gower: We needed a good AFC championship game to take the bitter feeling about the NFC game out of my mouth. Like Super Bowl 34 (STL-TEN) and 38 (NE-CAR), it was an intriguing ending that will cause people to overlook how most of the game was not dramatic and, frankly, kind of boring. With New England, the far superior team, going up 14-0 early and now about to go up 27-7 or even 31-7 and a monsoon approaching, this game has not delivered. Outside of more eligibility trickeration, it hasn't even been that interesting. Rather, the Colts' limited defensive personnel have been getting beaten up. Brady hasn't been that good, but he's done enough and only has the one mistake, so, yeah, now 31-7 and we have a Super Bowl matchup to start over-dissecting.
Cian Fahey: I've struggled to stay focused on this game. The gulf in class between the two teams is just too great. Luck can always pull out crazy comebacks, but how likely is that when his defense doesn't even know how to tackle the opposing team's running backs?
Andrew Luck is receiving a lot of flack for floating that pass on the Darrelle Revis interception in the third quarter. However, I'd give Revis more credit than I would blame Luck. Revis and his receiver got tied up with the cornerback running into the flat. Instead of futilely fighting through the traffic, Revis abandoned his assignment and ran into the flat to undercut the route.
Revis' original man was left wide-open running down the seam. It was a risk from Revis, but seemingly a calculated one because he was likely going to get blocked off through the traffic either way.
Andrew Healy: After the AFC Championship Game, I talked to a couple of cornerbacks. First, I asked Colts corner Greg Toler about defending Gronkowski on the touchdown pass, and specifically whether he was looking for the slant there. Toler said, "I'm assuming the slant's coming. You don't want to hold him. I tried to get my hands on him and break up the ball. Couldn't get it out. Just nice throw, nice catch."
And I asked Kyle Arrington about whether he was always counting on deep help against T.Y. Hilton. "In a lot of situations (yes). In certain situations, everybody just had to win their one-on-one matchup. In certain situations, Dev (McCourty) would roll over."
Even with that deep help on many plays, a great game for Arrington who I think had Hilton the large majority of the time. Hilton ended up with just that one great catch on six targets.