Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Audibles at the Line: Week 14
Audibles at the Line: Week 14
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails 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 emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 33 at Cincinnati Bengals 20

Aaron Schatz: Coming to you live today from the Aria Sportsbook in surprisingly chilly Las Vegas. I'm watching Steelers-Bengals on a TV which might be 10 feet tall.

Scott Kacsmar: The NFL decided to stuff 11 games into the 1 p.m. slate, yet at least three of us will be focusing on Pittsburgh-Cincinnati, which is by far the most important game of the day. These comments should be fun.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder sometimes if Hue Jackson outsmarts himself. I love the Emory and Henry and all those crazy formations. But he keeps moving Andre Smith around today. He had Smith over at left tackle on an early running play and Smith got blown up by Jarvis Jones, Jeremy Hill tackled for a loss. (Aside: How about Jarvis Jones finally maturing into a starting-quality NFL player this year? Nice.) Then he had a play where the offensive linemen all shifted around with a six-lineman set and for some reason Smith ended up at left guard. That play got Hill tripped up in the backfield also. Maybe it would make sense to just leave Andre Smith at right tackle?

Andrew Healy: On the Bengals' first drive, out of the Emory and Henry, Andy Dalton finds Tyler Eifert down the seam and Eifert makes a great diving catch. 15 yards get tacked on what looked like a dubious defenseless receiver call on Mike Mitchell (didn't get a good look, though, so I may be wrong). Then Eifert rumbles inside the red zone on a little middle screen, looking very Bavaroesque.

But people everywhere who doubt Dalton get an early piece of evidence. On another middle screen, this time to Giovani Bernard (I think), he flips it to Stephon Tuitt, where it sure looked like he should have seen the danger. First-and-goal becomes Steelers' ball and it's still 7-0 Pittsburgh with 5:00 to go in the first quarter.

Note that Jeremy Hill looked explosive on a couple of early runs, too.

Scott Kacsmar: The shootout in Cincinnati may again have to be put on hold. Bengals were ready to answer Pittsburgh's opening-drive touchdown, but Andy Dalton threw a pick on a middle running back screen in the red zone and may have injured his throwing-hand thumb on the tackle attempt. CBS also tried to show a replay of an earlier play on Dalton, but it didn't look like much there. He is out and A.J. McCarron is warmed up. I have always wanted to see him in a significant NFL game, but talk about a tough situation to take over. Ben Roethlisberger hit all nine of his throws in the first quarter and has the Steelers driving again. With Adam Jones out, Antonio Brown is just running free through this secondary.

Aaron Schatz: Steelers look like they're using a lot of unbalanced line with three linemen to the right of the center. Interesting, not sure the strategic reason for it.

Hill may look explosive when he gets free but mostly it looks like the Steelers' defensive front is just killing the Bengals' offensive line. He had that 12-yard run but otherwise, two of his five carries were stuffed for no gain, and a third was a loss of 2 (the Jones beating Smith play I wrote about).

Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams is slicing the Bengals' defense with some very nice cuts.

Andrew Healy: On a couple of plays just now with the Steelers up 10-0 midway through the second quarter, Domata Peko just got dominated on successive Williams runs, one where he was blown off the ball and one where he kind of gave up on the play.

Scott Kacsmar: Tyler Eifert out with a concussion now. Brutal day of injuries for the Cincinnati offense, but the defense has shown very little resistance, allowing 13 points on three drives. Roethlisberger is 13-of-15 passing with a throwaway and a pass Martavis Bryant should have caught in the end zone. A coverage sack on third down led to the last field goal.

But credit to the Bengals for not playing it safe with McCarron in the game. Throwing on early downs and the plan remains the same: feed A.J. Green. He just caught a bomb over Antwon Blake and an awful tackle attempt by Mike Mitchell cleared a path to the end zone. Game still on, but the Bengals need to show something on defense.

Andrew Healy: Nice throw by McCarron but pretty awful defense by Antwon Blake on Green. It was a weird stutter-go with Green doing the stutter a couple of yards off the line and Blake not coming up from about 8 or 9 yards off. But Blake still couldn't recover even with the cushion.

Cian Fahey: A.J. McCarron wasn't a very good quarterback at Alabama, but those 'Bama teams were so dominant he was always put in positions to succeed. In many ways, the Bengals offense is that Alabama unit. They won't need McCarron to be great to be an effective offense.

Scott Kacsmar: McCarron was late on a screen and William Gay had another easy pick-six. He somehow has as many of those for Pittsburgh as Rod Woodson did. Tomlin had a chance to go for two and make this a three-score game at 24-7, but nope. He kicked the extra point. Guess he prefers his conversions to make a two-point lead a four-point lead.

Andrew Healy: The screen even more on Andrew Whitworth than McCarron. He just completely whiffed on James Harrison, which caused the throw to hang up for Gay.

Aaron Schatz: That play was awful. Was it even a screen? I don't think the other Bengals receiver even blocked. Gay was not fooled and didn't come off his man at all. Just sat there and waited for the ball.

Andrew Healy: I can't figure this play out on replay. Mohamed Sanu appears to be looking for the screen, but it's so far wide and there's no blocking out there. Hill runs behind a left guard pull and that would seem to just be a fake except Whitworth's odd little push on Harrison up the field fits that more than a screen to the wide left. Very confusing.

Vince Verhei: Looked to me like a plain dumpoff where McCarron didn't bother to check if his outlet was actually open.

Aaron Schatz: Sort of an odd aside, I notice Steelers left guard Ramon Foster gets out of his crouch and checks with Big Ben before every snap. I wonder if he's the one making the line calls instead of center Cody Wallace.

Cian Fahey: Roethlisberger is making all the calls as far as I can tell. They're likely just using Foster as a go-between because it's easier for him to turn towards the quarterback in his stance.

Scott Kacsmar: The interceptions really told the story for Cincinnati today. Steelers weren't great on offense, settling for too many field goals. The defense wasn't very good at covering or tackling, but the first interception kept sure points off the board and led to Dalton's injury. The Gay pick-six from an inexperienced backup just made the hole too big to climb out of. And yet the Steelers are still going to have an uphill battle to make the playoffs with the Chiefs and Jets continuing to win. We'll see how the news on Dalton's thumb shakes out.

Aaron Schatz: One thing I will say before we know the news on Dalton's thumb: Remember that backup quarterbacks play better with a week of practice as the starter. McCarron will be a lot more prepared if he has to play next week -- or the rest of the season -- getting the No. 1 reps.

Rob Weintraub: Yeah, I hate sports...

75 and sunny in Atlanta today in contrast to Vegas, so I missed the game live to be out and about with the kids. Not sure I'll be able to stomach to watch the recording.

Scott Kacsmar: Feel bad for Marvin Lewis if it's true that Andy Dalton is out for the season. His best teams were 2005 and 2015. He had his quarterback playing his best ball in those seasons. Both times, in a big home game against Pittsburgh, that quarterback was seriously injured on the first drive of the game. That's just incredibly bad luck.

Rob Weintraub: Tell me about it. It's why I need an Ambien prescription (note -- need healthier perspective on life).

Buffalo Bills 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 23

Sterling Xie: The Philly special teams strikes again! Marcus Thigpen just flat dropped a punt that would have put Buffalo near midfield. After going three-and-out from inside their own 10 yard line, Eagles get a huge break to flip field position.

A couple big passes have been the most exciting plays in an otherwise dreary game full of slow-developing perimeter sweep runs. First, Sammy Watkins burned Byron Maxwell on a straight fade for a 47-yard touchdown. Probably the most predictable outcome of the day so far. But then Nelson Agholor came up with the first score of his career, beating the safeties on a post route for a 53-yard score. The deep ball is there for Philly today: Riley Cooper should have had a huge play to move the Eagles into the red zone on their first play, but dropped a well-thrown pass down the sideline from Sam Bradford. On the other hand, Philly's safeties have been better helping over the top on subsequent deep balls since the Watkins touchdown.

Andrew Healy: Saw one other throw earlier that Taylor missed to a wide-open Watkins down the deep middle, too. Guessing they adjusted after that, but also guessing that Maxwell is in over his head with Watkins.

Sterling Xie: Apparently Kiko Alonso Revenge Tyrod Taylor scramble on third-and-13 extended the drive earlier, and the steady hammering away from Buffalo's running game has broken down Philly. Bills now up to 138 yards on 25 carries (5.5 yards per carry) at the end of the third quarter.

Andrew Healy: The Bills ended up with their second game of the year with 15-plus penalties. There had been only three other such games this season.

Still kind of amazed that the Bills' defense has been so poor. For last year's No. 2 defense by DVOA, for them to be No. 27 this year is shocking with Rex Ryan. Given the talent in Buffalo, you'd think it was the longer-haired and still-large Ryan with that level of performance. They've certainly had their share of injuries, but how is that defense 30th in adjusted sack rate? After getting paid, Marcell Dareus has just two sacks this season.

So the game ended on Tyrod Taylor's first interception since Week 4, but it's just another week where the defense failed to do enough. A 41-yard catch-and-run to Zach Ertz on a rub to the left flat on the drive that produced the winning points stood for what this defense isn't. First, Ertz bowled over Leodis McKelvin. Then he stiff-armed Duke Williams and carried him for 15 extra yards. Before the season, you might have guessed that this defense would be buzzing around Sam Bradford and the Eagles' No. 27 offense, but no. Against all expectation, this is looking like the worst defense of Rex Ryan's career as a defensive coach.

Seattle Seahawks 35 at Baltimore Ravens 6

Vince Verhei: Good start for Thomas Rawls as his first five carries each gained at least 5 yards. Unfortunately, the sixth resulted in a stuff in the red zone, and worse, he stayed down afterwards as both legs got twisted awkwardly underneath him on the tackle. He did eventually walk off the field on his own, and Russell Wilson finished the drive with a touchdown to Tyler Lockett.

Seahawks get to face Jimmy Clausen today for the second time in 2015, on a different team (they shut out Clausen and the Bears in Week 3). I'd imagine the list of quarterbacks who have faced the same defense twice in a season, on different offenses, is pretty short. Did Kyle Orton do it in that season he played for Denver and Kansas City?


And they just announced that Rawls is out of the game with an ankle injury.

Because it's 2015, the story of this game must be injuries. Seattle has more red zone woes when second-string tight end Luke Willson drops a wide-open pass in the end zone. Next play, fourth-string running back DuJuan Harris fumbles the ball away and the Ravens recover. Kam Chancellor is also out for the game, and perhaps because of that, the Seahawks have played a lot of very soft zones. This has given Jimmy Clausen time to pick them apart, and I didn't think that was possible. Ravens have six points on two field goals that easily could have been touchdowns -- one came on fourth-and-1 at the ten, the other on first down on the last play of the half.

End of the half was crazy. Javorius Allen fumbles the ball away deep in Ravens territory, and Wilson hits Doug Baldwin for a touchdown with less than 40 seconds left, and it looks like the Seahawks are going to take a 14-3 lead into halftime. But then Kamar Aiken burns DeShawn Shead for 37 and 21 yards on back-to-back plays to set up the second field goal.

Seahawks have also struggled with drops -- Willson's in the end zone, Baldwin on what would have been a third-down conversion, and Fred Jackson had one that was thrown behind him, but I have seen more difficult catches than this made in my life.

Thinking about this, it seems like almost every serious Super Bowl contender has had at least one serious injury. The only one that comes to mind as coming through mostly unscathed is Arizona. Have their been some critical Cardinals injuries I've missed?

Andrew Potter: They're down to their third-string running backs, as Chris Johnson's on IR-Designated with a leg fracture and Andre Ellington has turf toe.

Andrew Healy: Chris Johnson was a major starter, but the rookie David Johnson is probably just as good.

Vince Verhei: Jimmy Clausen has never thrown for 200 yards in a game. He has 178 at halftime.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm going to miss that Jimmy Clausen 200-yard stat. Was a good one. Baltimore becomes the sixth team this season to start at least three different quarterbacks.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks gonna Seahawk, and that means running the ball no matter who the running back is. Harris had five carries in the third quarter, and Fred Jackson had three more. Wilson did manage to hit Baldwin for another touchdown to put Seattle up 21-6.

Clausen, by the way, had four completions for 16 yards in the third quarter and hasn't hit 200 yet. There's still hope!

First play of the fourth quarter, Wilson hits under-the-radar rookie-of-the-year candidate Tyler Lockett for a 50-yard touchdown to end the competitive portion of the game. That's 16 touchdowns and no picks for Wilson in his last four games.

Andrew Healy: In Rawls' absence, the Seahawks haven't had much success running. Both Jackson and Harris are averaging under 3 yards per carry.

But Russell Wilson continues to light up the stat sheet, with five touchdowns for the second time in three weeks. With nine minutes to go against Baltimore, his stat line over the last four weeks: 9.92 yards per pass, 75.4 percent completion rate, 16 touchdowns, no interceptions.

Vince Verhei: Ravens defensive back falls down, Wilson-to-Baldwin, touchdown. Speaking of hot Seattle players, that's Baldwin's third touchdown of the day, and he now has 515 yards and nine touchdowns in his past five games.

Broken ankle for Thomas Rawls. Out for year. Bummer of an end to a Cinderella season. Still led the team in rushing today despite playing just the one drive.

Andrew Healy: So sad to hear that. Loved watching him run. Really thought he was a top-five back these last few weeks and was likely to continue that.

Detroit Lions 14 at St Louis Rams 21

Andrew Healy: There's few more effective plays in the NFL right now than a Tavon Austin run. After a 20-yard run on a reverse, they run him up the middle for 13 more. He came in averaging 9.1 yards on 35 carries.

Tennessee Titans 8 at New York Jets 30

Cian Fahey: Early in the second quarter and the Jets should be winning this game by four scores but Ryan Fitzpatrick is levelling the playing field somewhat. The Jets have one touchdown but have otherwise settled for three field goal attempts, missing one.

The Titans leave Brandon Marshall alone for a 69-yard touchdown. 305-pounder Jurrell Casey made a great effort to run him down though. Titans fans should just start debating Tunsil/Bosa/Treadwell/whoever at halftime.

Sterling Xie: Jurrell Casey being the only one who knows what's going on is pretty emblematic of the Titans defense in general the last few seasons. As the announcers said, it was the first play of a Jets drive with under 2 minutes to go, yet no one knew where the hell to line up. Marshall was totally uncovered at the top of the screen, and Casey started sprinting back at the snap because he realized what was going on. The safety might have been able to catch Marshall had he taken a better angle, but right now the Tennessee defense is probably like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Tom Gower: Thanks to the "let's not cover Brandon Marshall" 69-yard touchdown for giving us a highlight that sums up the Titans' first-half performance as they barely resisted the Jets en route to 27-0. Then again, the best summation highlight may be a two-play montage, where Marcus Mariota's angle route to Dexter McCluster on third down was intercepted by Buster Skrine, who disrupted McCluster's release, versus the Jets' second touchdown, also a delayed angle route to the back (Bilal Powell) on third-and-long, featuring some pretty pathetic "tackling attempts" by the Titans' secondary. At least they did force the Jets to attempt three field goals -- fine, Ryan Fitzpatrick missed open receivers on I believe all three of the series that ended with the attempts, but those still count. And Mohammad Wilkerson only has two sacks on plays where they didn't bother to block him at all, and one of those was a filthy cheating stunt and it's not like you could be expected to pick up one of those or something.

On the plus side, I was thinking the Jets would win easily, highly likely by double digits, so all this is hilarious instead of insanely frustrating.

Well, the Jets didn't do much on offense in the second half, only getting a field goal. Titans didn't really do much either, save a 41-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Mariota. Because why not put your quarterback out to run a route and maybe get beat up when you're down 27-0 and looking awful? Calvin Pryor played off and slipped, and Mariota was wide open for the score. I feel SO MUCH BETTER that that game finished 30-8 instead of 30-0.

Indianapolis Colts 16 at Jacksonville Jaguars 51

Scott Kacsmar: The Colts' 16-game winning streak in the division is over. The Jaguars are just the third team since 1980 to score at least 42 points in the second half. The Patriots did it to Buffalo in 2012 and the Chargers did it to Cincinnati in 2006.

Andrew Potter: That's also the first time in franchise history that the Jaguars have scored 50 points. Incredible to think that it's THIS Jags team, rather than one of the good sides of the '90s or mid-2000s, which has set both that mark and the franchise record for passing touchdowns (broken by Blake Bortles last week). Though both of those numbers probably says more about this AFC South, as the AFC South in the mid-2000s (the last time Jacksonville was good enough to merit a win like this) was possibly the strongest division in the league.

San Diego Chargers 3 at Kansas City Chiefs 10

Vince Verhei: I was half-watching this game to see what DVOA saw in Kansas City and, well, I still don't see it. To be fair, there's a terrible rainstorm in Missouri which is ruining things for both teams, but even still the Chiefs' offense has looked much like its reputation: a ton of dumpoffs that usually go nowhere, then every once in a while they break a tackle and reel off a big gain. Here we are well into the fourth quarter, and they have only five passing first downs on 18 dropbacks. They've had a lot of big runs, but haven't done much of anything in the red zone. Their only touchdown came on a 44-yard gain where Albert Wilson gained about 8 yards on a slant, the Kansas City corner fell down, and Wilson had 30-plus yards of empty space to the end zone.

Smith did throw an interception in this game, but it wasn't a terrible play. He had Jeremy Maclin one-on-one against Jason Verrett and tried a deep ball, but Verrett had tight coverage and beat Maclin to the ball. The result of that, though, was pinning San Diego deep, so not the end of the world.

Aaron Schatz: What DVOA saw in Kansas City was mostly explained in the ESPN Insider article I did last week but is also well-explained by the other half of that 10-3 score over San Diego. That's no touchdowns allowed to a team that still has an above-average offense according to DVOA, and without Justin Houston healthy.

But yeah, their overall DVOA and offensive DVOA are going down after this one, only able to score 14 points against the Chargers defense.

Washington Redskins 24 at Chicago Bears 21

Aaron Schatz: While we were all busy celebrating the crazy out-of-nowhere arrival of Gary Barnidge, we seem to have missed the crazy out-of-nowhere arrival of "The Other" Zach Miller. Just caught a beautiful wheel route for 30 yards, covered by Mason Foster of Washington... who was actually in Chicago in the preseason but cut at the end of camp.

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This game actually got interesting at the end. Washington had the ball up 23-20 and was trying to run out the clock, but they got aggressive on a third-and-6 with 4:06 left. Kirk Cousins launched it downfield to Jordan Reed and the ball got tipped to Matt Jones for the first down. Jones just flipped the ball away because he thought he was touched down by a defender for the end of the play... except he was actually touched by Jamison Crowder, his teammate, so Jones just fumbled for no reason. And then he got lucky when the ball bounced off a Bears defender and right back into Jones' arms. Eventually Washington made it down to the Chicago 41 before punting with 2:11 left.

The Bears came back with a big pass downfield when Alshon Jeffery got open deep, but Robbie Gould missed a 50-yard field goal. That's a kick to win and a kick to tie, both missed by Gould over a two-week period. Pretty long odds on that.

Chicago could have gotten the ball back with a few seconds left for one last try, but the Bears could not stop Matt Jones from getting a first down on a third-and-7. That inability to stop a running back from gaining 7 yards on a play where you know there is 0 percent chance of a pass is like the platonic ideal of the 2013-2015 Chicago Bears defense.

Atlanta Falcons 0 at Carolina Panthers 38

Cian Fahey: NFL official misses a blatant offensive pass interference on Ted Ginn's long touchdown. If you can't see a play that is that egregious, you shouldn't be working at this level.

I wonder if it's fair or unfair to criticize the fitness of officials because I couldn't help but notice how severely out of shape the one who missed that call was.

Vince Verhei: It's actually worse than that -- they threw a flag on the play, but on Robert Alford for illegal contact. You're just not allowed to play defense in the NFL in 2015.

Andrew Healy: Only saw a little of this game on RedZone, but the passes I did see from Cam Newton were gorgeous. There was an easy-to-catch bullet through a small window to Greg Olsen to set up the Panthers' first touchdown and then two perfect deep balls to Ginn. He will be a deserving MVP and he'll be continuing a consistent rise up the DVOA rankings, too.

New Orleans Saints 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Andrew Healy: Brandon Browner got his 22nd penalty in the first half. He is getting close to pulling a Wilt Chamberlain and setting a record that nobody will ever touch. It's the most penalties since at least 2001 and he has three games left.

Haven't seen a minute of this game, but Jameis Winston's stat line in the early fourth quarter (5.6 yards per pass on 26 attempts) against that defense is one of the least impressive of the season.

Oakland Raiders 15 at Denver Broncos 12

Aaron Schatz: Brock Osweiler completes his first ten passes, although slowdown in the red zone means Denver is up just 6-0. You see the whole point of the Kubiak offense with him. The play-action and the way the patterns fit together just make life easier for the quarterback. Guys get open. Vernon Davis is like Osweiler's best friend now.

Scott Kacsmar: Charles Woodson picked off Peyton Manning twice in Oakland this season. Dropped an Osweiler pick on third down in the red zone today. Vernon Davis also had some interesting wrong-way YAC choices on that drive.

Vince Verhei: How dominant was Denver's defense in the first half? The Raiders had four possessions and ran 14 plays... for minus-11 net yards. Their longest play from scrimmage is 4 yards; their real longest play (and their only first down) came on a 5-yard penalty for illegal contact. They have two completions, have given up two sacks, and have also fumbled twice (though neither was lost).

And yet they are very much in this game because Denver can't get a touchdown. Osweiler is now 22-of-29, but it's still only 12-0 because three red zone drives have failed to reach the end zone. That includes Osweiler overthrowing a wide-open Virgil Green in the end zone.

And then Oakland gets a fifth possession and kneels down to end the half. That's officially minus-12 yards of offense in the half.

Aaron Schatz: According to the broadcast, lowest net yards total in a first half since 1991. I'll go look for what the last time was.

Vince Verhei: Raiders' offense finally gets a good play when Derek Carr hits Mychal Rivera on a deep cross out of a six-lineman set... and of course one of the six linemen (Austin Howard) is hurt on the play and has to leave the game.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, they got the whole drive. They scored the game's first touchdown... Twice. First a run by Latavius Murray got called back by a false start. Then a pass to Seth Roberts, lined up wide left with Bradley Roby on him, post-corner route and just dropped in the bucket in Roberts' open arms. 12-7.

Vince Verhei: On third-and-goal, Seth Roberts runs a slick in-and-up against Bradley Roby, and Derek Carr drops an A-plus, thing-of-beauty touch pass right in the bucket in the back of the end zone for the score. And for all Denver's statistical dominance in the first 30 minutes, we have a one-score game.

Aaron Schatz: Earth to Derek Carr: third-and-1 at the 32 is not a good place to take an 11-yard sack.

Scott Kacsmar: Hard to get into these games. All two of them (thanks, NFL). How good could that matchup be next week between Pittsburgh's offense and Denver's defense?

Vince Verhei: Heh. Clive Walford makes a catch on the sideline, but it looks like the toe of his shoe came down out of bounds. Raiders are rushing to the line to call a play when suddenly Von Miller goes down grabbing his leg. Dan Fouts outright says that Miller is faking a cramp to buy Denver time to challenge the play, which they do. About 30 seconds later, Fouts apologizes and says he did not mean to suggest that Miller was faking an injury, when in fact that was not just what he suggested, it's what he flat-out SAID. So Miller walks off the field, Denver wins the challenge, the pass is incomplete, and it leads to a Raiders punt. And I bet we'll see Miller again soon.

The only area (and I do mean the only area) where Peyton Manning is better than Brock Osweiler these days is pocket presence. Manning was sacked 15 times in his nine starts this year. Osweiler was sacked three times in his relief appearance, and now 11 times and counting in his four starts. The most recent was Khalil Mack swatting the ball out of his hand in the end zone, leading to a Broncos recovery and a safety. Broncos still lead 12-9 in a drunken bar fight of a football game, but I'm kind of enjoying it.

Aaron Schatz: Michael Schofield vs Khalil Mack is not a fair fight. Oakland safety, 12-9.

Vince Verhei: Remind me, when this Broncos game is done, to post the drive charts for both teams. They are amazing.

Aaron Schatz: Who wants to ask "why was Oakland going for two up 15-12?" first?

Scott Kacsmar: Forget Mike Tomlin. We'll have to award Jack Del Rio with the most reckless use of the two-point conversion this season. He just tried to make a 15-12 lead a 17-12 lead. Uh, just kick the extra point and make Denver think touchdown, something it has been unable to score all day.

Vince Verhei: Broncos' second-half drives: three-and-out, lost fumble, three-and-out, safety. What would have been their fifth possession was a fumbled punt by Emmanuel Sanders. That set up a Carr-to-Rivera touchdown on a fake bubble screen, and suddenly Oakland is up 15-12.

And the score remains 15-12, because the Raiders go for two and Carr's pass is incomplete. Announcers are beside themselves, confounded as to why the Raiders didn't kick to go up four early in the fourth quarter. And, honestly, it is a good question.

Tom Gower: Per the Raiders radio broadcast, long-snapper Jon Condo was injured on the Emmanuel Sanders punt fumble.

Aaron Schatz: My mind is blown that the Raiders don't have an emergency long snapper designated. Do they now go for it on every fourth down? What if the game is tied 18-18, they can't try a field goal to win? How can you not have a backup offensive lineman who has practised long snapping?

Tom Gower: Reserve tight end Lee Smith, who is active today, is listed as their backup long snapper on the unofficial depth chart. Maybe with the extra point occurring just three plays later he wasn't ready or they didn't want to risk it. Giants lineman Geoff Schwartz mentioned on Twitter, "I was the backup long snapper for 3 years in college. I'd need time to cut off all my tape, take off gloves, in that situation. Takes time." But, yeah, I'm with you.

Aaron Schatz: Condo was practicing on the sideline and did return to the game for a punt when Oakland went three-and-out on its next drive.

Scott Kacsmar: Oakland did catch a break with Denver barely missing the field goal, but I could point out one positive of the failed two-point conversion. It makes it less likely Oakland will lose in regulation since the Broncos will stay conservative in trying to tie the game instead of winning it with a touchdown. But the way this game has gone, I'd still have liked to kick the extra point to lead 16-12. No running game today and Demaryius Thomas has had some killer ball security issues. Just dropped a third-down conversion to end a drive.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Denver just went for it on fourth-and-5 from their own 38, despite having two timeouts and 4:00 left. Brock Osweiler had his new best friend Vernon Davis WIDE open up the seam... and Davis completely dropped it, just a horrible, horrible drop right off his hands. BRUTAL.

Vince Verhei: And the weirdest game of the day gets weirder as Denver goes for it on fourth-and-5 on their own side of the field with nearly four minutes to go and two timeouts. Vernon Davis, who I tried to tell everyone was washed up, gets wide open for a big play, and flat-out drops the ball.

Scott Kacsmar: Never should have been in doubt, but the Broncos need to get a healthy Manning back at quarterback. This defense is too good to be losing a 15-12 game at home to Oakland. It's one thing if he cannot physically cut it anymore, but if he's healthy enough, they have to go back there. This offense is going to have its issues with either quarterback this season, but you have to go with the experience and pocket presence to deal with this bad offensive line when the better defenses will be coming in the playoffs.

Tom Gower: Quick and dirty numbers: after today, Brock Osweiler has 17 sacks and 170 passing attempts, a sack rate of 9.09 percent. Peyton Manning has 322 passing attempts and 15 sacks, a sack rate of 4.45 percent. Same line (mostly), same head coach, same offensive coordinator, same teammates. Sacks are still primarily a quarterback stat.

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Denver's final play was the most egregious. Oakland only actively rushed two players, but Osweiler was so rattled he rolled left directly into the only players who were rushing (!!) and had to chuck the ball away under pressure. Exasperating to watch, and I say that as a fan of good football.

Aaron Schatz: The statement "the Broncos need to get a healthy Manning back at quarterback" assumes that a healthy Manning is a thing that can still exist and at age 39 would be recognizable to us as "a healthy Manning." I have serious doubts.

Scott Kacsmar: The old Manning is gone. Denver's not getting that guy anymore, but if it can get back the guy from the comeback in Kansas City through the game in Indy, then with this defense, that's a combo they can win with. Manning had his best games of the season against Green Bay and Indianapolis, then he got more banged up with the foot and rib injuries. He played against the Chiefs when he shouldn't have, as did Emmanuel Sanders, because he felt the team was shorthanded with some injuries and Aqib Talib's suspension. He played his worst game ever, yet what is so far fetched about him getting right back to the level he was at before that game? Give him about six weeks off and see where things are at in Week 16 or 17. Kubiak and this offensive line have done more to ruin this offense than anyone this season, but Osweiler's lack of pocket presence is so glaring right now. They just put up 22 points in eight quarters against the Chargers and Raiders.

Vince Verhei: As promised, drive charts. First, Oakland. Touchdown drives of 80 and 11 yards, a 22-yard drive that ended in a missed field goal, and nothing else longer than 7 yards.

And now, Denver. A mix of long field goal drives and complete buffoonery.

Aaron Schatz: I can't seem to find this game that the announcers in Oakland-Denver were referring to, when they said the last time a team was at worse than negative-11 net yards at halftime was 1991. I've looked in 1990, 1991, and 1992 play-by-play. Has anyone seen what game is being referred to with this statement? Should I put out a call on Twitter for people to tell me if they know what game is being referred to?

Scott Kacsmar: I think the stat was for any half since 1991, so it's possible they meant a game's second half.

Also, the stat is "since 1991" because that is the year a lot of NFL stats started getting tracked weekly like third-down conversions and I believe YAC. So I'm guessing the previous half with less yardage than that happened before 1991.

Aaron Schatz: So, STATS Inc., has data back to 1991 and says that no offense had ever come out of the first half with less than the minus-12 net yards Oakland had in the first half against Denver today. I've now looked through our PBP from 1989 and 1990 and I also looked through our almost-complete parsing of PBP from 1986 through 1988 and I can say with some confidence that no team since at least 1986 has ever come out of the first half with less than minus-12 net yards. And yet the Raiders won. The NFL is wacky.

Andrew Potter: I'm very late to this conversation, but I can't believe nobody mentioned what happened the last time Jon Condo was knocked out of a game for Oakland. Or even the James Harrison long-snapping disaster in 2008. Long snapping isn't quite as simple as subbing a guy in and getting on with it, and with two-point returns now being part of the equation there's a good chance the two-point attempt was the safer play.

Dallas Cowboys 7 at Green Bay Packers 28

Vince Verhei: Fun play design on a screen pass for the Packers' first touchdown. Aaron Rodgers lines up in the shotgun with "split backs" -- Randall Cobb to his right and James Starks to his left. At the snap, Cobb crossed in front of Rodgers and faked a run. Meanwhile, Starks swept behind Rodgers into the flat in the right. Aaron's pass was nearly a lateral, but Starks caught it 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and followed the blocks of center J.C. Tretter and right guard T.J. Lang into the end zone. The two receivers to that side of the field both ran slant routes into the middle to clear space.

Aaron Schatz: Dallas just got back into it with a four-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that could be described as either a clinic by the Dallas offensive line or a pancake breakfast.

Vince Verhei: Packers take over with 11 minutes and change to go at their own 16-yard line and a narrow 14-7 lead, and ice the game with a drive that would have made Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg proud. Twelve plays, 84 yards, running 6:34 off the clock, including eight called runs, five of them gaining at least 8 yards, the last a 30-yard touchdown on second-and-25, a lead draw by Starks to put the game away.

New England Patriots 27 at Houston Texans 6

Aaron Schatz: As Cris Collinsworth just pointed out, Patriots are using the same strategy on Houston that they used on Indianapolis last year. They have their top corner (now Malcolm Butler rather than Darrelle Revis) on the No. 2 receiver (Nate Washington in this case) on an island while the No. 2 corner (Logan Ryan tonight) is on the other team's best receiver (DeAndre Hopkins now, T.Y. Hilton last year) with safety help over the top.

Butler gets killed when Washington goes on a double-move, and gives up a huge gain that puts Houston into field goal range, but their offense isn't doing much else tonight and the Patriots pass rush is really overwhelming the middle of the Houston line. 7-3 so far.

Patriots offensive line looking much improved tonight. Things are stable now with Sebastian Vollmer at left tackle and Marcus Cannon at right tackle. They're running away from J.J. Watt with pretty much every carry, but once they take care of double-teaming Watt they seem to get some nice running holes. Tom Brady is also getting better protection with much less pressure than recent weeks.

I would like to give kudos to Bill O'Brien for two quality challenges on the Patriots' first drive of the second half. He was correct that both plays were not complete passes by the Patriots, and he won both challenges to get a third. I also like the decision to go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Patriots' 15 down 20-6, based on the idea that field goals aren't going to get it done against the Patriots -- even at home, and even with the Patriots' offense hurt by the absence of Julian Edelman. Leonard Johnson knocked it away from Ryan Griffin, but it was a good idea to go for it.

Derek Newton's Third Law: For every good block by Duane Brown, there is an equal and opposite blown block by Derek Newton.

Tom Gower: Newton's much improved from the player he was in past seasons. I think. Really.

New England's offense has expected sputtered at times, but my commentary on this game has been limited because it was hard to see a winning strategy for Houston. Through three quarters, I still don't see one, which is why, like Aaron, I was a big fan of going for it on that earlier fourth-and-4 where O'Brien did in fact go for it.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I think the best strategy for Houston was to hope its best players just overwhelmed the Patriots: either a ridiculous performance by Watt and Jadeveon Clowney that led to a couple of Tom Brady sack-fumbles, or a one-man show from DeAndre Hopkins. They've gotten more of the former than the latter. Great job by Logan Ryan on Hopkins. Ryan has some plays where he just seems totally lost in coverage -- most obviously against Chris Matthews right before halftime of Super Bowl XLIX, but also at times this season -- but I think that overall he has been much better than expected as the second starting cornerback for most of the year.

Also, to completely go against my previous nice comment about Bill O'Brien, what the heck is up with all the Wildcat nonsense, especially since the Houston Wildcat is not actually the Wildcat in any way except the direct snap part? They just ran Cecil Shorts into the line on a direct-snap quarterback sweep that didn't have the unbalanced line of the original Wildcat, and didn't have any kind of play-fake or fake jet sweep action... nothing. It was just a direct snap running play to a wide receiver. What is the freaking point?

Tom Gower: Yes, I was asking that after the previous direct snap plays, where is there something to make it anything other than an obvious direct snap of the sort that hadn't worked the previous couple times they ran it? See above re lack of a plan for winning.

Andrew Healy: A few thoughts at the end of this one:

1) Jabaal Sheard was a force and so was Akiem Hicks. Two sacks, three more quarterback hits for each of them. A total of six sacks and ten quarterback hits. The defense was flying around tonight.

2) The plan to deal with Hopkins (doubling him with Ryan and a safety, leaving Butler to guard Nate Washington) was predictable and very effective. Hopkins' lowest target total this year was eight coming in. He had just six tonight.

3) The plan to deal with J.J. Watt was also predictable and effective. He was often double-teamed, but you still would have expected more when the primary blocker was Marcus Cannon. Surprisingly, Cannon held up well. No sacks or quarterback hits for Watt.


182 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2015, 7:06pm

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

52.9 seems way too high, but Seattle did leave several receivers fairly uncovered for him to throw to, and the drive right before halftime was pretty good. It felt like Seattle's gameplan was to guess who the primary receiver was, bait Clausen into throwing at them and pick the pass off, without thinking that maybe he would throw to the open receiver on the other side of the field instead. He had better protection than Seattle anticipated, which allowed him to scan the field.

Edit: Seattle having only 10 men on the field and leaving a receiver entirely uncovered also helped him:

2 Re: final sentence in thing

Watt did take down t.Brady in first half and got flagged for unnecessary roughness.,that does not count as quatervack hit?

I honestly do not know.

4 Re: final sentence in thing

Was it roughing the passer? If the writers are relying on the box score for confirmation, a lot of times a play like RTP where the result is negated by penalty is removed completely from the box score stats -- so Watt wouldn't get credit for the sack or QB hit, while the o-line isn't debited for allowing them.

Which is slightly weird, in the case of that particular foul. Leads me to wonder whether RTP on sacks is included in line statistics, and indeed whether it should be. The offense still allowed the sack or hit, and the defense still got them, even if the defender fouled the QB in the process of executing it.

9 Re: final sentence in thing

The flag doesn't wipe away bruises and QB hits still count when the offense gains yardage, as a measure of bad a beating the QB takes it should be counted.

As a measure of how well the defense plays it would have to be balanced by giving up 15 yards and a first down.

38 Re: final sentence in thing

Tracking Sacks/Hurries/Hits isn't about tracking how many bruises the quarterback gets.

It's about tracking how often the quarterback is having to alter his mechanics because somebody is in his personal space - this tends to correlate highly with negative outcomes on plays.

Watt's RTP play was called RTP because he hit Brady significantly after the ball had been released - he was a non-factor on that play.

24 Re: final sentence in thing

Does the RTP play itself get wiped out? Or does the play count and the penalty gets tacked on? I.e. if there was, say, a pass that went for 2 yards and an RTP on the play, does the pass still count and the penalty yardage gets tacked on? Or does the penalty wipe out the pass?

Because if it doesn't wipe out the play, then shouldn't the sack still show up in the stats?

33 Re: final sentence in thing

I believe the penalty wipes out any stats related to the play unless it's an "added to the end of the run" which can often happen on a completed pass and RTP penalty. Although in the case of roughing the passer where the QB is sacked
it probably shouldn't since regardless of the penalty the offensive lineman got beat and the quarterback got sacked...the fact that he was taken to the ground too roughly does not mean that it wasn't a successful play for a defender.

86 Re: final sentence in thing

I wasn't saying there was a sack. Just trying to understand whether or not plays get counted and logged when an RTP penalty occurs. The case of a sack, you could say the sack gets wiped out by the penalty because there was no other part of the play other than the sack.

So I tried to come up with an example where the RTP might wipe out something else, just to clarify.

40 Re: final sentence in thing

yes, roughing the passer is what was meant.
never got into what actually counts at hits amnd what doesn;'t .

usually when a quaretvback is getting slaughtered, TV will show x # of sacks, hurries, hits.
while, the watt play doesn't count in that it was a penalty, tom bardy still hit on play and had to add to his pain. So, maybe the league or Elias cannot count it as a "hit", it still had an affect. Maybe is sorta like own teammate accidentallty bumps into brayd running to sideline after a play. brady is still hit but it shouldn't count as a stat.

so thanks to all who responde.d

58 Re: final sentence in thing

It was a pretty silly RTP penalty, I think because Brady had already thrown the ball. Watt made a textbook tackle, and Brady was looking at the officials (as per usual) before anyone had any idea what happened to the ball.

71 Re: final sentence in thing

The refs normally give the defensive player a step. Watt took 2 or 3 steps after the ball was released before he hit Brady. That is going to draw a call every time.

73 Re: final sentence in thing

You do mean silly RTP penalty on the part of Watt don't you?

Watt went through Brady full force, never even tries to avoid hitting him as hard as possible.

He's got a good view of what Brady's doing and from the moment the throwing motion begins, Watt takes three steps. Every ref in the league is going to call that RTP when the player isn't even trying to avoid the hit or let up.

Edit: he actually takes 3 steps from when Brady's motion begins and only 1 step from when the ball is released. But Watt can see exactly what's happening and therefore to ease up.

98 Re: final sentence in thing

Aren't defenders allowed one step after the ball has been released? Don't quarterbacks sometimes begin a passing motion and then not release the ball?

106 Re: final sentence in thing

I don't have the option of replaying that call but I know in real time it looked like one of the more egregious late hits on a QB I have seen recently. It isn't like protecting quarter backs from hits is a new special emphasis this year.

110 Re: final sentence in thing

QBs do pump fake and certainly it used to be that defenders got one step.

But in the current climate of protecting QBs he should know better than to hit the QB full force at full sprint. If he'd been pulling up on that last step, been seen to be moving to the side a bit as he hit, he might have got away with it.

134 Re: final sentence in thing

"Brady was looking at the officials (as per usual)"

This should tell you how seriously you need to look at the post - Brady is near the bottom of the league for RTP calls despite getting hit a ton, and he's been near the bottom of the league for a couple of years.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Clausen with 2 starts vs Seahawks with different twams also done by oroton as mentioned and Chris chandler,, jack kemp Nd kerry collinz who got 3 starts vs falcs.

Reminds of 1978 when Alan page started 4 times vs Tampa bay buccaneers.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

RaiderJoe - five comments so far on the thread yet none of them about the performance of the Raiders and Mack's 5-sack performance.

Is it that you're speechless after all these years they've finally turned it around?

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

well, p[icked Raiders to win. Not major surprise they won. Also, bubble burst a littile afgter loss to Cgiefs and fact raiders are 2 games out of playoffo spots. Unless jts and steelers lose to turd teams soon (one is playhing cobwouys, other is p;aying Browns sson), then Raiders will nto make playioffs even if 9-7. So now is just about winning and gearing up for 2016 AFC West championship run

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

If someone can explain why the Bills' interception was not overturned I'm all ears.
On Tavon Austin: no one has a higher yards/carry average than Tavon Austin in history with that many carries (39+).

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I was stunned that wasn't overturned. I didn't have the sound on so I didn't hear what the talking heads had to say about it. Did they agree with the on field refs after review? The ball was obviously moving and hit the ground first.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

People raving about the laser throws by Cam Newton but the catch that Ed Dickson made on his TD was ridiculous.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That's also the first time in franchise history that the Jaguars have scored 50 points. Incredible to think that it's THIS Jags team, rather than one of the good sides of the '90s or mid-2000s...

Yeah, I heard the announcers cite that. Those 90s Jaguars team did score 50 points in a game (they got over 60 in fact), they just didn't do it in a regular season game. They did it in a playoff game (Dan Marino's final game fwiw):

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

At one point during the game, after a Jags kickoff following a score that made it 55-7.... the sprinklers went off in the end zone. According to some accounts the sprinklers drenched the Dolphins huddle, but I think that is urban legend, as the only video I can find of it shows the crowd near the end zone being drenched, not players.

The worst part was, immediately following a Fred Taylor 90 yard td run (still a playoff record), the Jaguars then caused a Marino fumble, and Tony Brackens recovered it, then the Jags started celebrating the recovery with high fives all around... then partway through, just as he was about to spike the ball, Brackens realized-- or someone told him that the ball was still live and were still able to rumble for a score. The Dolphins just stood there (or lay there) and watched it all unfold. Unreal.

I think it was also Jimmy Johnson's final game as a coach.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I can't imagine how much crap Calvin Pryor is getting from his teammates today for falling down trying to cover star WR Marcus Mariota.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Anyone think the Panthers break something like this out for Newton during the playoffs if they need a spark? (They may never lose a lead and hence never need it but they have sure been playing "fun" and with "momentum")

As soon as I saw the highlight I was like: "who do the Panthers have that can also throw?" I think that's my only question, who is the Panthers gadget player? I guess I could go back to the emergency qb extra point from a few weeks ago but I'm too lazy.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm kind of with Tom G about that one - it seems like a useless risk to your new franchise QB, just for a few 'flashy' points.

But at the same time - I guess he's better off possibly getting hit by 210-lb. corners and safeties, then by 290-lb. ends.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

lol @ saying Jarvis Jones is NFL quality. He makes 1 maybe 2 plays a game, vultures a punch of pile ons, and otherwise gets exploited about 75% of the snaps. There's a reason that (when healthy) Harrison/Moats/(rookie) Dupree leave him riding pine most of the time.

The standard is the standard!

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

the officiating in the Steelers-Bengals game warrants its own column. One of the worst things I've ever witness in any pro sporting even.

The standard is the standard!

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

We kind of make a point of trying to limit the amount of comments we spend discussing referees and their decisions, otherwise it can dominate (and has dominated in the past) the column.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think it would be interesting if FO did a weekly xp or column on officiating where the topic could be contained like the irrational Qb v. Qb thread (glad to hear the site is intentional with not trying to focus on referee decisions if it's not actually tackled head on - or is that shoulder to shoulder).

Further, this could get into the syntax and semantics of the actual rules and how they should be applied rather then just conjuncture about what we think the rules say.

Lastly, maybe the discussions could be a jumping off point for the league to create revised rules. Or maybe it's just a fun diversion for us.

Personally I've always been fascinated by the different suggestions and analysis of overtime strategy/rules that have been put forward here by other commentators.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

punting the ball into the stands was terrible, the egregious personal fouls and cheap shots, etc...

but seriously, can anyone explain how the ref in plain sight misses this blatant DPI?

The standard is the standard!

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I thought Watt looked extremely limited by his hand injury (relatively speaking). He should just start smacking guys across the head with his cast like JPP, since that appears to be legal now. That said, great job by the Pats in doubling and otherwise managing him. Brady was particularly sharp, although the raw numbers won't show it. Even with Watt at less than 100%, that defense is legit.

Also, Hoyer stinks. He's just too inaccurate to win with. The Pats defense played well but Hoyer left a lot of plays out there -- at least 2 sure TDs lost because the passes were grossly underthrown. The one game I watched Yates, he was better.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

@Aaron Schatz,

Gotta check out the Westgate Sportsbook. I was there in November and it is absolutely amazing now. They told me they spent $6million on renovating it.


19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"He was correct that both plays were not complete passes by the Patriots..."

He may have been correct. I didn't think that there was sufficient evidence to overturn either of them. Amendola's thumb could have been under the ball when it bounced, and White's heel may not have actually come down on the line. I thought that they were bad overturns, because I don't think that there was definitive proof that either call was wrong. (If they'd called them the other way initially, they couldn't have overturned them either, of course...)

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

That's about where I was - they were overturning things that were a little iffy.

The Amendola one definitely wasn't a catch though - one of the views the ball clearly hits the ground in front of his hand. It was only one of the views that you could see that though.

The White play is just complete nonsense - at the resolution they're looking at, with blur from the player being in motion, the camera angles not being straight on, etc, there's just absolutely no way to tell anything on that play - bad overturn.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think it's safe to assume that no starting nfl skill player has a shoe size less than a 6 or 7. Which is about what the parallax error would allow for.

The standard is the standard!

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think the argument is that his heel never came down on that step -- it looked to me, based simply on physiology, that his heel was probably 3/4 of an inch or so off the ground. I certainly didn't see any indisputable evidence (if that's even still the standard) that he was out.

On the other hand, Jeff Tripplette.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I was troubled by the abandonment of the "indisputable visual evidence" standard and by the fact that Collinsworth and Michaels confidently declared that both rulings would be overturned even before the review process started.

Sorry, but I didn't see the ball on the Amendola catch hit turf. The argument that it "bounced" doesn't mean it bounced off the turf as opposed to Amendola's hand. I felt the second review was more tolerably since I didn't see how the receiver could have his foot in bounds. But on top of those two reviews the Texans won at least one automatic review on a turnover. I was getting pretty cynical until the Patriots got the 14-point lead, at which point Michaels and Collinsworth acted like this was somehow a disaster for them.

Plenty of fodder for conspiracy theories there. Not that I believe in such theories, but the hostility between Patriots' fans and the NFL is going to continue.

178 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

NBC showed a slow-motion replay after the Amendola catch was reversed that was enough to show (to me, anyway) that the ball had indeed hit the ground. Screenshot here, from the 1:02:53 mark in the Game Pass broadcast. (The ball bounces up just afterwards.)

I do not know whether Triplette had access to this camera angle when he made the call.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yeah, the Amendola catch seemed clear enough to warrant overturning to me. I thought that not only could you see the ball hit the ground, but you could also see the little chunks of fieldturf flying as the ball hit, similar to what you see when a receiver drags his foot.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

One of the angles on the Amendola catch looked to me like there was a clear separation between the ball and his hand.

That being said, you're absolutely right about the White call - we're looking at an image of a blurry foot along a blurry line (because 1080i/720p just isn't high enough res for this) from a bad angle, from too far away. There's just no way to tell from those images whether or not he was out of bounds - that should have stayed however it was called.

As far as the angle - the problem is that it's from above, and further into the field than the play, which means that even when there is a small space between the foot and the line, you're not going to be able to see it because of parallax/viewpoint compression.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

To be a little more specific, 1080 is probably plenty of resolution. But the blur you get from players or camera moving is caused by the frame rate (generally 24 frames per second or fps), combined with the length of exposure of each frame (typically 1/50th of a second).

You could use very fast exposure times at 24 fps, but the video looks odd and jerky when you do that. (Exposure time rule of thumb is half the frame rate for good looking video.) You actual need the blur to make things look smooth.

Or you could use much faster frame rate and shorter exposure, and play it back at 24 fps and get really good clear slow motion.

But you can't get clear individual frames of moving objects with the typical video setup.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think it depends on the broadcaster, but it is either 1080/60i or 720/30p. In other words, 1080 is broadcast at 60fps interlaced (50% frame per 1/60 sec), and 720 is broadcast at 30fps progessive scan (whole frame per 1/30 sec). I believe a lot of sports are broadcast at 720/30p in order to maintain whole frames for smoothness and replay purposes, at the expense of resolution, but I could be wrong.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

When I say there's not enough resolution, I don't mean "there aren't enough pixels" (there still aren't) - to get circular - resolution is the degree to which objects in an image can be resolved. The fact that the exposures are too long leads to lower resolution in the image.

As to the pixel thing, we're talking about at most 5% of the 1920x1080 image being relevant to telling whether his foot is out of bounds or not - it's just not good enough to resolve things unless they're really obvious.

As an example of the absurdity of the NFL - they've been filming in 4K (on FT-ONE cameras capable of doing 900fps) since 2013 - but the referees only get access to 1080p24.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A couple of notes regarding the Patriots@Texans game.

With White's catch along the sideline Travis and I in the slack thread debated being in bounds and feet being down. I advocated the position that if White's left foot was the second foot down and he had his town down first that he would be in bounds and then out of bounds had he completed the catch to the ground. If however this was the first foot down and he had his heel go out of bounds before the second foot was down (toe or heel), then he would be out of bounds, would be re-establishing in bounds but would not be a valid receiver. Travis disagreed and he quoted some box score play record that stated a ref did in fact see things as I described but that a foot isn't down until a heel is established in bounds as well.

To me this is problematic and unlike other sports. It's problematic because we constantly see WR's make toe taping catches (think Santonio Holmes in Steelers Superbowl) and they are ruled in without their heels ever coming down. Second, in most other sports toes can be in bounds and if the heel is not down out of bounds, even if it is over the stripe, then it's an okay play. I'm particularly thinking of a play where I saw a San Antonio Spurs player with his heels over the boundary line but his ties were in bounds and his 3 pt shot was ruled good (think the game was in 2005 playoffs, I don't remember which game).

Does the NFL want to start a problem by saying that a a toe in bounds is not good enough to establish possession, even should the heel then come down (if it is 2nd foot). Or am I splitting hairs that the league generally should just leave as a judgment call.

The second commen t about the game was the non-fumble by Hoyer. It definitely seemed like he was pulling the pass down and then lost possession. When Micheals said that Hoyer had just accidentally dropped the ball and then it should be ruled incomplete I was beside myself. A pass that is pulled down and dropped is not a pass! It's a fumble. It's accidentally losing possession, it's not a forward pass that then is incomplete as it misses it's target. Anyone else have a reasoned thought process behind why it was ruled not a fumble once Hoyer's hand was actually tucking with the ball?

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It's not that a foot isn't down in bounds until the heel comes down; it's that if the heel comes down, it too has to be in bounds. (The alternative would be a toe drag/toe tap.)

From the rulebook approved rulings:

A.R. 15.100 Heel/toe

Third-and-10 on A30. A2 controls a pass and gets his left foot down in bounds at the 50. As his right foot comes down, the heel hits in bounds and in the normal motion of taking a step, his toes hit out of bounds. Officials rule complete.

Ruling: Reviewable. A’s ball fourth-and-10 on A30. Incomplete. Adjust clock if wound prior to review. If any part of the foot hits out of bounds during the normal process of taking a step (no drag or delay), then the foot is out of bounds.

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

You got it from the regular, general public NFL website? (As opposed to the special media-only site, like where rulebooks used to be before the NFL actually made them truly publicly available?). Because right now nothing currently available on the NFL website has any A.R.s in it.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Interesting. They must have swapped them out at some point.

I've looked back at some downloads I have. I have two copies of the 2013 rulebook, both downloaded from the NFL website but at different times. One doesn't have any A.R.s at all. The other has the A.R.s "inline" with the text of the rules (as opposed to being in pages of just A.R.s at the end).

So I bet at one point they put up the 2015 rulebook with A.R.s, which you downloaded, but since then put the no-A.R. up in its place.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Anyone got any idea about the non-fumble?

Or when Hoyer was twisted down and the play was blown dead (when Ninkovkch ran it in for a touchdown, not the later fumble when Hoyer was also twisted down).

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

A dropped pump fake has always been an incompletion. The tuck rule extended the throwing motion by rule until the ball was tucked, but here the ball came out as Hoyer tried to stop his throwing motion so no tuck rule was necessary to make it an incompletion.

Not sure if it is the Ninkovich play you are talking about, but one play was blown dead when the Houston ball carrier was being thrown backwards rapidly (and horizontally). Although the ball came out, his forward motion was definitely stopped before that.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

The latter Ninkovich play you refer to is another example of poor officiating.

You don't need to whistle forward progress dead if a player is wrapped up in a tackle and being taken to the ground. but anyway you didn't hear a ref's whistle on the broadcast until the ball was 5-yards away being recovered by a Pats player.

Meanwhile earlier in the game there was a Texans run where it looked like football from the 1930s with a group of Patriots defenders pushing in one direction while a group of Texans players pushed from the other direction with a ball carrier sandwiched between. If ever there was a time to blow a play dead that was it.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I totally agree with your latter point. The refs ought to be quicker with the whistle in many instances. As a result, I think the Ninkovich play was properly officiated. But the whistle was definitely quicker than one often sees these days so I can appreciate why a Pats fan would be frustrated.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Not in any meaningful sort of way. They clarified a little

Rule 8 Section 1 Clause b
When a player is in control of the ball and attempting to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass.
(b) If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, the passer loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body, it is a forward pass. If the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.

The only thing they really changed is the clarification that if the ball is fully tucked against the body, the pass attempt is over.

Arm started forward, and ball came out before arm was pulled back down against the body - pretty straightforward.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Not sure of your source. Mine is "2015 OFFICIAL PLAYING RULES OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE" in pdf form.

I see Rule 3, Section 22, Article 4, Item 2. Passer Tucks Ball. If the player loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, or if the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.

Also Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1, Item 1 Forward Movement of Hand. When a player is in control of the ball and is attempting to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass.
(a) If, after intentional forward movement of his hand, contact by an opponent materially affects the passer, causing the ball to go backward, it is a forward pass, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground, a player, an official, or anything else.
(b) If, after an intentional forward movement of his hand, the passer loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, it is a fumble.
(c) If the passer loses possession of the ball while attempting to recock his arm, it is a fumble.

So, by rule, the refs must determine whether this was an attempt to either recock the arm or to bring the ball toward the body. I guess they decided it was something else, perhaps a legitimate attempt to pass or the forward motion part of a pump fake.

It seems a stretch. It clearly wasn't an attempt to pass. And his hand wasn't moving forward when he dropped the ball.

Basically, they goofed. They applied the old "Tuck Rule" criteria or something like it. Or they thought they saw something that wasn't there. It's a hard thing to get right. But under the current rules, the call should be "fumble" unless the hand is moving forward in a real or fake attempt to pass.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

His hand was going forward:

This isn't even a close call. Not even close to a close call. It's an incompletion 100% of the time.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Right you are. He tries to stop his hand, which causes the ball to come out. But up to that instant, his hand was clearly going forward, and the ball never stops going forward. That's a good replay.

So it was me who saw something I didn't actually see. :-) I remembered that he had transitioned to moving the ball (forward and) down toward his body before dropping it. I was wrong about that.

It's a very, very close call, though. Imagine this happening with no defenders around. Would he be allowed to pick the ball up and continue the play because he wasn't passing the ball but dropping it? Or would the refs blow the play dead the instant he dropped the ball?

I can imagine it going either way.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Michaels' senile comment notwithstanding, that always looked like an incomplete pass to me.
Hand was moving forward. Ball kept moving forward. Bad forward pass, but certainly a forward pass. Seen plenty of plays like that, usually when the QB is hit while in the passing motion.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

And 80 of those yards came on one drive. It's unreal the bad situations the offense has put the defense in this year.

Osweiler threw a couple of interesting passes yesterday that didn't garner much attention from the announce crew because they were blatant drops. One thing Tim Tebow (you remember him) was very good at was throwing balls that were just close enough to the intended target that the receiver could get his fingertips on it. Then announcers would predictably react that the receiver let Tebow down by dropping the ball when in reality it wasn't remotely catchable. Yesterday. Demaryius Thomas dropped a ball at the goal line that was right in his mitts and Vernon Davis dropped the 4th down pass mentioned above. Yet, the interesting part is on the pass to Thomas, Osweiler did not lead him to the goal line. He threw short, forcing Thomas to stop his pattern and squat for the ball, which led to the possibility he might have been tackled short of the end zone had he held on to it. On the Davis drop, Davis admitted afterwards he got excited and took his eye off the ball. Davis was running uncovered in the seam, but had to pause in his pattern to let the ball catch up to him. If Osweiler hits him in stride, maybe he has less time to think about it?

Both passes should have been caught, no question. But when you're a points challenged offense, slight imperfections in the delivery can add to the struggle.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

His accuracy hasn't been great. He badly overthrew both Green and Sanders while putting a few other balls in dirt or having them batted down. I think he's been playing okay and I certainly wouldn't put the blame of the loss on him. The coaching also needs some more innovative play calling and to adapt in the second half when your OLine is being completely dominated.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Re: fewest net yards in a half. Funny that Aaron confirms nothing fewer since 1986 because drop back one game and the Patriots were held to -19 in SB XX.

That was my first full year of watching football and I didn't realise just how impressive that was at that time.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

And yet the Patriots scored first! But apparently that was a 0-yard scoring drive after a turnover. (Walter Payton fumbled!)

A moral from that first half: if you've been a running offense all season long, don't try to become a short passing offense for the Super Bowl just because that's how the Dolphins beat the Bears. Because Tony Eason isn't Dan Marino.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It's not like the Bears would have let them run at all, the 46 was designed to stuff the run and pressure the quarterback. The Pats were doomed in that game when Fryar was injured (Hasselbeck getting hurt did not help either). Also, the Dolphins didn't beat them with a short passing offense, they threw deep plenty, it's just that Marino's release and pocket presence didn't let the Bears get to him.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

IMO, that was the most utterly dominant performance in SB history. (And Eason's 0-for-6 plus some sacks the worst QB "performance") However, the Pats did something none of the other two Bears' PS opponents could do - score. And not just the gift FG, but a long drive to a TD while the score was only 44-3.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Any idea why "the NFL decided to stuff 11 games into the 1 p.m. slate" or is any attempt at understanding TV scheduling a bad idea for this non-American?

And, apropos of nothing at all, I am suitably jealous of Aaron watching the NFL on a 10 foot high television... a life-goal for us all I feel...

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Short answer: The 4:25 PM slot has become about as coveted by networks (if not more) than the SNF slot. For CBS and FOX, this is their best opportunity to get a massive number. Because of that, they have essentially pressured the NFL into making the main 4:25 game as exclusive as possible, and limiting the games on the other network at 4:05.

That's why we've seen a lot of weeks with one 4:05 game, and a primary 4:25 game and a back-up. I don't know if it has ever been this skewed, but this is probably a direct result of FOX pressuring the NFL into giving them no real competition for Cowboys @ Packers, which in the pre-season seemed like a potential ratings monster.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

It's never been this skewed. Weeks with 2 or fewer late-afternoon games, 2002-2015:

2002: 0
2003: 0
2004: 1 - Week 6 (Steelers-Cowboys, FOX had an afternoon NLCS game)
2005: 0
2006: 0
2007: 0
2008: 0
2009: 0
2010: 0
2011: 0
2012: 2 - Week 7 (Giants-Patriots), Week 8 (Giants-Cowboys)
2013: 1 - Week 1 (49ers-Packers - CBS had the US Open Final)
2014: 2 - Week 1 (49ers-Cowboys - CBS had the US Open Final), Week 13 (Packers-Patriots)
2015: 4 - Week 7 (Cowboys-Giants), Week 8 (Seahawks-Cowboys), Week 12 (Steelers-Seahawks), Week 14 (Cowboys-Packers)

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Because we (collectively) will still keep watching 'random football game' on TV even if it's teams we don't give a rat's arse about.

I have a dream that, by the time of my children's children's children, the Cowboys will have wallowed in mediocrity long enough that the American public (and media) will have finally moved on.

Of course, Jerry Jones will somehow still be alive, grinning like a rictus.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Jerruh is starting to look a bit Al Davis ghoulish. How does a (multi?) billionaire not able to afford better cosmetic surgery and hair treatments/pieces.

The standard is the standard!

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

They are the most liked/disliked team in America. Almost as many people want them to lose as want them to win. No other team consistently has that many people interested in their fate. While the current most liked/disliked team is probably the Patriots, that is a relatively recent phenomenon and may well end as soon as Belichick hangs up his hoodie. The same national level love/hate exists with a few other teams (e.g., Packers, Steelers, Redskins, Raiders), but none to compare to the Cowboys who've held the title ever since they called themselves "America's Team."

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

"They are the most liked/disliked team in America. "

Is this even true anymore though? I'm in the mid-Atlantic (where we've got the Eagles and Redskins close by) - so there should be some divisional hate - and nobody even seems to give a crap about the cowboys one way or another around here. There's some Tony Romo specific stuff, but the Giants seem to be the current "Team to hate" around here. If you look at the national TV ratings, they're 3rd in their own division (behind NYG and Philly)

I mean, it was clearly true in the 90s, but they've been irrelevant way too long.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I think a lot of this has to do with the decline in on-the-field animosity (or if you want to call it 'improved sportsmanship') with players often helping opponents up after a tackle, trading jerseys after games, blah blah. Around here (I'm kinda close to Philly) the local sports radio is actually pretty lit up (old school menality) about it, but even a lot of the die hard listeners/callers don't seem to give a crap, so it's probably fair to guess the fanbase as a whole doesn't. Maybe it was easier to build up some 'hate' when the cowboys were both "good" as well as able to routinely cheapshot/injure players. I know I remember a good chunk of the Eagles fans cheered when Irvin went down.

Thanks, Goodell!

The standard is the standard!

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I wonder if that's because of free agency and the cap. Players move around a lot more, etc., so perhaps they don't get as caught up in the hateration because they are no longer stuck with their team potentially forever.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

In the DC area the Cowboys are still loathed. Maybe not as much as they were in the '70s or '90s, but it's still real.

And they're still a marquee draw for the networks. They still consistently do very well in terms of TV ratings.

They're hardly "irrelevant". They won in Seattle last year and were a dubious "catch rule" call from making the NFC championship game.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

For the GB-DAL playoff last year, even if the Cowboys make the two point conversion, the Packers were still very likely to drive down and get a field goal. So it's a tie or a Packer win. Packers drove into field goal territory just running out the clock.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Tell me who is injured, come mid January, and I'll tell you who likely wins a game in February. I'm trying to decide which is more affected by injury, in terms of determining the champion, the NFL or the NBA, and I just don't know.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Despite the Steelers not gaining any wins over Jets/KC this week, the results of yesterday should help their playoff chances. They won what was their hardest matchup in their final 4 games, facing a top DVOA team on the road. If the Steelers go 10-6 or better, they'll hold the tie breaker over the Jets unless the Jets go 2-0 vs the Pats and Bills, and the Jets-Pats game is in NE.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Pates vs Jets week 16 game ins in new jersey. temas aready met in newe enlgnaf ths season. was pretty good game. jets could actuaklly beat pates in couple weeks. will stilkl probably pick pates to win game though.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Actually, if the Steelers lose one more game and the Jets only lose the Dallas game, the Jets make it and the Steelers don't, because the Jets win the conference record tiebreaker. The Steelers can clinch with wins the next two weeks and a Jets loss to New England. If the Jets lose to Dallas but beat New England, the Steelers can't clinch until week 17. So that Jets/Dallas game this Saturday is almost meaningless. Of course if the Jets lose that one, and the Steelers win out, then the Jets stay home because they lost to Dallas, but it definitely means less than the two conference games they have left.

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Because of the NFL's policy of back-loading divisional games, there are actually a number of other quasi-meaningless games for playoff hopeful teams this week. PHI/WAS/NYG for example. I haven't been through the permutations, but it doesn't seem to really matter what happens to each of those teams this week; it's all going to come down to the h2h clashes in weeks 16 & 17.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Cle/49ners With Miami losing Monday night ... I mean playing I went down to the sports bar where I could see all the morning games. For some reason I ended up on this game. Miami blew 7 million stealing Cleveland TE in the offseason and the Browns easily found a replacement more effective than the guy Miami stole this year. This game seems to indicate instead of trying to teach "lessons" to Manziel off the field they should let him play on the field. He is fun to watch particularly against a game (bad) opponent that let him do his thing. The Browns went out of their way to fumble, miss kicks and give this game to the 49ners, but the 49ners are not capable of taking games even from the Browns! San Francisco probably wants to reconsider that power struggle they had with Jim Harbaugh because they suck without him in epic ways. Oh and Whoa is this a fluke Jacksonville result or is that team going to be for reals next season? AFCeast update Everything went right for the Pats on Sunday. The best news for them is the Steelers may not be there to face. JETS They still need to survive a Bills-Pats back to back but they are in control of choking away the playoffs. Bills pretty much choked it away at this point. About they only thing left is to hurt the Jets chances. Miami didn't lose on Sunday.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I pity you for watching the Niners-Brown's game. Yes the niners do suck but they were 8-8 with Harbaugh last year and then half the team retired, they probably wouldn't be winning with him this year. They'd be better than this rabble though, at one stage the Browns had out gained the niners by just under 400 yards.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14


-Tampa was lousy on third down, the Saints were excellent. Tampa's a very mistake-prone team, and it seemed like all the drops and notably bad penalties were on third down.
-Kwon Alexander is a rookie with some coverage issues, but he's still just plain fast enough to roam around the middle of the field and be effective. The combination of Bruce Carter and Danny Lansanah are not fast enough to do the same.
-Tampa's pass rush regularly got to Brees in the first game this season. Didn't happen yesterday. I think Simeon Rice was the last effective edge rusher Tampa has had. This is more than somewhat depressing.

I think that game is perfectly encapsulated by Tampa's final drive. On first down, Winston throws to Evans in the middle of the field; the ball is definitely high, but possibly catchable. Call that one a 50-50 think on him and Evans. On second down, Charles Sims gets free and is streaking down the left sideline with Danell Ellerbe a good five yards behind him, and Winston overthrows him. That is an easy, game-tying TD, and completely overthrows him. Why? Because Winston can put the ball 30 yards down the field on a proverbial frozen rope and hit a guy right in the hands, but, when he has to put air under the ball and throw it deep with touch he's just terrible. The guy can't throw a bomb at this point. To be fair, if he did, Evans would probably drop it.

Anyways . . . on third down, Winston hits UDFA Dontae Dye perfectly in the hands on a slant for the first down, and Dye just drops it. Punted it away, never saw the ball again. The only thing that would have made the drive even more appropriate was a stupid, unnecessary penalty of some sort.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Scott Kacsmar: I think the stat was for any half since 1991, so it's possible they meant a game's second half.

It's going back to 1979, but the Seahawks had -13 yards in the second half of this game against the Rams. This followed a 6-yard first half with no first downs.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

What's scary about Cam Newton is that he's a very deserving MVP this year, on a team that really doesn't have a lot of great offensive personnel elsewhere, and Newton still has a lot of untapped pontential. If he cleans up some stuff, and the Panthers obtain a top level receiver to go with Olson, it's gonna be borderline unfair.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I wouldn't add the modifiers "very deserving" MVP. He's playing well right now but Carolina is still a defensive team first. I don't think Newton is the best player on his own team.

But if the Panthers go 16-0, he'll win the MVP as "QB on best team". Which is really what the award has morphed into half of the time.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I remember watching a lot of that game at a Sears while my mom shopped. Net -7 yards for the game, 1 first down. Classic.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I watched the 1st half of Packers-Cowboys and was struck again by how much variance there is in Dez Bryant's performance, from play to play. It'd be interesting to see him with a well managed, well coached, team.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

How much more can you expect in terms of output overall? The guy is one of the best receivers in the league when healthy. Is the expectation that he would be the best? That seems like a tough standard.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yeah, I don't want to saddle him with the expectation that he'll make a ridiculous circus catch on every ball in his radius, especially when Matt Cassell is slingin' it, but there are just balls that would seem to be catchable for him which he doesn't grab, in contrast to the absurd catches that he often makes. That longish one in the 1st half was just stupid good.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Effort seems to be a common concern in freakishly gifted athletes pretty often. I do wonder if it's really just that they're much better at judging what can be caught and what can't than the fans are.

As a Red Sox fan, I'm reminded of JD Drew, who most red sox fans will tell 'didn't care' - he was supremely athletic for a right fielder, and made a lot of really rangy plays look really easy - almost never had to dive. As a counter example, Red Sox fans loved Trot Nixon, who wasn't nearly as good, but dove at pretty much everything and always looked like he was 'giving 110 percent'.

With TV angles it's often to tell exactly how close the ball is - and it may be the case that not diving at a ball that's a foot out of reach shows more skill than diving at it and not getting your hands on it (but fans don't see that)

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Oh, I really didn't mean to imply that Bryant doesn't care, in fact I think winning football games is a lot more important to him than it was to Randy Moss. My perception, and it may purely be my perception, is that he just has a lot of variance in his ball skills.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I didn't mean to imply that you...

What I'm (poorly) suggesting is that NFL athletes are capable of doing some pretty ridiculous things - and two passes that look identical to us may look very different to Bryant - 2" may be the difference between a catchable and uncatchable ball, and he may be able to tell that very quickly - whereas we can't tell at all on the TV.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Passing conditions were difficult yesterday, but that was about as bad as it gets from Cassel. On the occasions the ball didn't flat out slip out of his hand his passes looked like they were in slow motion. I couldn't possibly evaluate the Dallas receivers with that level of QB play.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

...As bad as this year has turned out to be for Buffalo, every time I see Dallas (which is a lot since I live in an NFC East town) I give a sigh of relief. Cassel has been even worse than he was in training camp for the Bills, where he was not very good and afraid to throw the ball more than 10 yards.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I hated the Nixon/Drew divide. Drew was consistently a much better OF but Nixon was loved because he acted like he was giving full effort all the time. Of course he would show up for Spring Training out of shape. There was no aspect of playing baseball where Drew wasn't better than Nixon. Except perhaps showmanship.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Fans will give you a lot of slack if you look like them. No-neck, everyman, white. Of course Drew was white but you catch my drift. And players with long loping strides like Daryl Strawberry never look like they are trying, but of course you can't change your biomechanics. "Scrappy" managers like Larry Bowa also hate people with different personalities than themselves, which of course gives you an automatic F in management in almost any other field. End pointless rant.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I know the Steelers qb has plenty of arm and what makes that even more apparent is that he throws a ball that seems to just float like a screen pass but goes however long it needs to go. It really is quite remarkable.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Yeah, it's always been kind of weird with him. He rarely throws a pass where I think "Man, was that ever a bullet!", but I don't ever recall thinking "That shoulda' had more zip on it", which tells me that he really has unbelievable touch.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I wonder if you saw any Mike Wallace symmetry in the Thursday Night game. Wallace caught a TD pass (imagine that) and Nantz/Simms noted it was his second of the year. The play was one where he lined up on the right side, dragged left across the linebackers, while Bridgewater drifted to his right, then threw back across the field where Wallace was wide open in the end zone. Wallace's only other TD on the year? The exact same play design against Denver in October. The Vikings ended up losing the game to Denver 23-20 and their last offensive play was a sack/fumble of Bridgewater. The Vikings of course lost the game of Wallace's second TD to Arizona by a score of 23-20 where their last offensive play was a sack/fumble of Bridgewater.

These are the kind of dumb things I notice.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

I'm not if I understand the tone of the headline in general. The Steelers control their own destiny, the Jets do not.
If the Jets win out, they still miss the playoffs if the Steelers and Chiefs win out (assuming neither wins their divisions).

I'd say there is a high probability of the Steeelers and Chiefs winning out right now with the way the Steelers and Chiefs are playing and the rest of their schedules. With the current state of Bengals/Broncos, I wonder if the more likely scenario is on where the Jets best chance of making the playoffs (knowing they have to be 11-5 to have a chance, and beating NE, however unlikley) might be Denver losing to Pitt and Cincinnati.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

it's a really complicated advantage though if both win out

The standard is the standard!

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

Was amazed to learn over at that Wilson became the first QB in history to have a passer rating of 138 or more in four straight games and joins only Peyton, Rodgers and Brady as the only QB's to throw 3+ TD's with 0 INTs for four straight games and that he's the only QB in history to do so while sporting a 70%+ completion rate. He's been really on fire.

Losing Rawls really sucked. He was a big upgrade over Lynch, incredible as that is to say. He was the feel good story of the undrafted rookie who makes it big. Hope he's still the same player next year and this injury isn't something that hurts him long term.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 14

He should be fine next year. It's bone, not ligament, and those tend to heal up pretty well (frequently better). Especially since he's still in his early 20s (and has a top-notch medical and PT staff helping him along).

I just hope Beast Mode can read the tea leaves and hang up the cleats, rather than embarrassing his legacy. He'll probably also appreciate being able to walk unassisted into his 40s.