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

Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Audibles at the Line: Week 2
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

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

Houston Texans 17 at Carolina Panthers 24

Rob Weintraub: Ryan Mallett makes a tremendously athletic play just to flick away a backhand incomplete pass and not take a sack, which keeps Houston alive against Carolina. They have one more chance for the end zone. But alas he overthrows Nuke Hopkins at the back in the end zone and Carolina hangs on to win.

Tom Gower: Ryan Mallett attempted 58 passes, completing 27 of them for 244 yards. I don't even know what to say about that statline, aside from that Houston is clearly still searching for answers. The offensive line woes didn't help, with Derek Newton out and his backup Jeff Adams getting carted off during the game, but at some point you need to do a better job throwing the ball. But I'm not sure how much of this is a surprise, really. Kony Ealy did what he could to help the Texans out on the final possession, getting flagged for roughing the passer on a third-down incompletion and jumping offsides on third-and-4.

San Francisco 49ers 18 at Pittsburgh Steelers 43

Scott Kacsmar: 49ers had a pretty bad challenge on a sideline catch by Antonio Brown. He controlled the ball all the way even after taking a big shot, so I have no idea what the 49ers saw to challenge. 49ers have snuffed out two screens so far -- not that I have any idea why you'd run a bubble screen to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Steelers are committing a lot of penalties to get to third-and-26, where Ben Roethlisberger is not on the same page with his receiver. It's a sloppy start.

Steelers can't buy a takeaway after their challenge fails. Anquan Boldin caught a pass facing Colin Kaepernick, got two feet down, turned upfield and was stripped. They ruled incomplete on the field. Steelers challenged it was a fumble and lost. I hate these plays. When you can see the guy actually change direction with control of the ball, how is that not a fumble? This "bang-bang play" standard is too strict.

DHB seeing a lot more targets than expected so far due to the Martavis Bryant suspension. He actually hauled in another deep one for the second game in a row. After a Heath Miller touchdown, Roethlisberger hurries up the offense to go for a two-point conversion. He found Brown for two points. I'm shocked they actually did something they said they would do this offseason by going for two in a most unconventional game situation.

Vince Verhei: There are times when I think a three-man rush makes sense. Second-and-goal inside the 10-yard line is not one of those times, and Ben Roethlisberger has an easy touchdown to put the Steelers up 6-0 in the first quarter. They then go for two because why not, and convert that too for an 8-0 lead. That's the first time I've seen a team go for two when they never, ever would have under the old rules.

Scott Kacsmar: I want to say that was the ninth time since 1994 an offense went for a two-point conversion in the first quarter (no fake or aborted XP). We haven't seen it since the Titans tried one against Baltimore in 1998. And yeah, that's the impact of the new rules.

The single-season record for successful two-point conversions is six (1994 Dolphins and 1997 Vikings). The 2015 Steelers are 3-for-3 and should obliterate that record. Josh Scobee just missed an extra point and may be another miss or two away from losing his job. He missed two field goals last week. At least this could lead to the Steelers just going for two almost every time. This opportunity came after DHB actually made a nice catch on a great throw from Roethlisberger. 49ers look outmatched on both sides of the ball. [Insert circadian rhythm comment about Pacific team playing an early game in the east.]

Sterling Xie: Niners just ran nine plays in the red zone and ended up with zero points. Pretty much sums up their day. Hopefully the Carlos Hyde injury doesn't turn out to be a big deal.

Scott Kacsmar: "Two 17-play drives net you three points" sums up the 49ers quite well today.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 at New Orleans Saints 19

Scott Kacsmar: Saints gave themselves a shot at the end, but how far has this team fallen if they're losing at home to the Buccaneers? These things used to only happen on the road for this team. The defense has almost always been suspect, but even the offense isn't reliable anymore after losing too much talent. Jameis Winston played a much cleaner game after that ugly debut.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, the Saints' home record was always a bit of a myth. They were undefeated at home in 2013, and of course there were some amazing games back in 2006, but otherwise their home-field advantage was never greater than the usual NFL home-field advantage.

Of course, even with the usual home-field advantage, you aren't supposed to lose six straight home games. And now they have.

Scott Kacsmar: Saints at home against a bad team were pretty safe. I think it's wise to assume the 2015 Buccaneers won't win nine-plus games, so this is four straight home losses for the Saints against teams without a winning record. They had a 25-4 stretch dating back to 2008 before this current streak.

Tom Gower: What about the New Orleans offense concerns you right now? Any of their individual players? About all I saw of this game beyond the odd highlight was the Saints' failed final possession, but I don't know what the answer is.

Detroit Lions 16 at Minnesota Vikings 26

Cian Fahey: Adrian Peterson doesn't look like peak Adrian Peterson, but he's a far cry from the incompetent player who was wearing his jersey in Week 1. Huge for the Vikings.

Vince Verhei: Matthew Stafford's bad day continues. He throws a pass 2 yards behind Calvin Johnson that is intercepted, but the play is wiped out by a Vikings penalty. Next play, Justin Trattou sort-of rushes off the edge, but holds up. Stafford tries a pass to the flat, but it hits Trattou right in the chest for an easy pick.

Aaron Schatz: So, Ameer Abdullah has less than 10 yards against the same Vikings defense that let Carlos Hyde run all over them last week? Once again, proof you shouldn't try to predict anything in football on a week-to-week basis unless you are willing to accept extreme amounts of variation.

Actually, serious question for Vince and anyone else watching Detroit-Minnesota. Has Detroit just given up on running the ball? Does the Vikings defense look that much better than last week? Matthew Stafford is the Lions' leading rusher today, for crying out loud.

Vince Verhei: The Lions were never terribly interested in running, and in the second half the score virtually took the choice out of their hands. If I'm doing my math right, they had four drives and 30 plays after Minnesota went ahead 23-10 midway through the third quarter. Only two of those plays were running back runs, and one of those was fumbled away.

Arizona Cardinals 48 at Chicago Bears 23

Vince Verhei: Jay Cutler's career neatly summarized in one half: He starts off 8-of-8 for 120 yards and a touchdown. Then on his next throw he throws a pick-six that stretches the Bears' deficit from 21-14 to 28-14. Worse, Cutler injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle, and the Bears are down to one healthy quarterback: Jimmy Clausen.

Cian Fahey: Running a flea-flicker to Larry Fitzgerald at this stage of your career is football's alley-oop to yourself.

Tom Gower: It was a hamstring injury to Jay Cutler, not a shoulder. Totally. Really. The Bears even said so. I don't know why you would possibly claim it was a shoulder injury.

Aaron Schatz: I guess they're saying Jay Cutler was clutching his hamstring after that attempted tackle. It looked like shoulder to me too, but hey, I'm not a medical expert by any means.

New England Patriots 40 at Buffalo Bills 32

Aaron Schatz: Patriots' run defense looking like a definite problem as the Bills march down the field easily for a touchdown on the opening drive. Also, I would advise a spy against Tyrod Taylor.

Sterling Xie: New Engalnd's run-pass ratio today is probably gonna resemble its playoff game against Baltimore from last year. Eight passes, no runs on that Patriots touchdown drive ending in an 8-yard Julian Edelman touchdown. Impressed by how much time Brady has had in the pocket, at least so far.

Aaron Schatz: Nobody is better than Edelman when it comes to agility in small spaces. They had a safety and a linebacker on him there on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and he still got wide open with a little whip route.

By the way, on the drive before that, it looked like Rex Ryan was trying to challenge the idea that Tyrod Taylor ran out of bounds for a sack instead of throwing the ball away. This would have been the difference between fourth-and-9 and fourth-and-15. The refs apparently told him this was unchallengeable, or something. It was hard to tell from the broadcast. But wow, what a silly challenge that would have been.

After one quarter, the Patriots lead 14-7 and the Bills have drawn three flags for unsportsmanlike conduct. That's two personal fouls for fighting after a play (on the same play) and then a taunting penalty after the Patriots kicked an extra point. Yes, that's correct. As Nick Goss from NESN said on Twitter, only a Rex Ryan team would draw a flag for taunting after GIVING UP a touchdown.

Sterling Xie: Pats extend their lead to 21-7 with Rob Gronkowski's fourth touchdown of the season. Score came on the same formation that led to two touchdowns against Pittsburgh last week, with Gronk and Scott Chandler split out to the left side of the formation. Body language of Buffalo defenders seemed to suggest a miscommunication, and I think I remember Pittsburgh also having a coverage breakdown against that formation last week. Really tough situation to defend.

Scott Kacsmar: It should be an automatic double team on Gronk any time he splits out wide inside the 5-yard line. If a defense is confused, call timeout, especially in the first half. No one seems to do any of that though.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots defense is switching things up on the Bills. After the first drive when the Bills scored the easy touchdown, the Patriots came out with three defensive tackles. Then the last drive, they came out with rookie Malcom Brown at defensive tackle plus four defensive ends. Doing something different each drive. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the usual complicated Rex Ryan blitzes. Haven't seen a lot of the crazy stuff from last week against the Colts, like Kyle Williams coming from wide.

Sterling Xie: I believe it was Andy Benoit who mentioned this on Twitter earlier this week, but Brady is so much better throwing the deep ball to his left. 39-yard wheel route to Dion Lewis was placed on a dime.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go up 34-13. I understand that Rex Ryan tends to go against his usual blitzing ways and rush only three or four against Tom Brady, but still, the talented Buffalo defensive line should really be getting more pressure than this considering that the Patriots are starting a UDFA rookie at center and another rookie at guard, and had their backup right tackle playing for about 20 minutes while Sebastian Vollmer was in the locker room with a finger injury. After 40 minutes, Tom Brady has only been sacked once for zero yards. Brady is getting the ball out quickly, which has something to do with that. But even on slower-developing plays, there isn't as much pressure as I would expect.

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Sterling Xie: I do remember the Jets having a lot of success off blitzes in the Week 16 game against New England last year, so it's a little surprising to me to see Rex move so far away from that. Patriots have also gotten especially timely pass pro on a few third-and-long situations (like that third-and-7 conversion to Aaron Dobson on that last scoring drive). David Andrews and Josh Kline have combined for four penalties, but I think the Pats would gladly take that given how mostly solid they've been otherwise.

Aaron Schatz: If you name any two players from this game, they've probably combined for four penalties. Buffalo got an unsportsmanlike penalty charged to the entire bench. The refs are feeling a little frisky today.

Somehow, while I was flipping over to watch the ends of two close games on FOX, the Bills scored 18 points on the Patriots and turned New England-Buffalo into a 37-32 game. So the Patriots have a four-minute offense drive to try to kill the clock and end this. And... Tom Brady goes deep to Dion Lewis for a 22-yard defensive pass interference gain. It's almost as if the Patriots thought, "Hey, this officiating crew seems to want to throw a flag for every single little possible thing, let's go get an easy DPI gain." And then it happened. Egads, has this game had a lot of penalties.

And then an insane diving catch from Danny Amendola. Wow. That catch was so good it merits a Vine.

Apparently the penalty on the Bills' bench was on Rex Ryan. He said in the postgame press conference. "That was mine. The guy's got rabbit ears. I don't know what to tell you." So I guess he swore at one of the officials or something.

Andrew Healy: A couple of postgame thoughts:

1) The pass rush looked very good from the Patriots, but Chnandler Jones' three sacks were mostly on Cordy Glenn playing very poorly. But those Jamie Collins/Dont'a Hightower A-gap blitzes are just hard to deal with.

2) Tyrod Taylor threw a couple of nice deep balls and that looks to be a strength, but there seemed for much of the game to be little intention to have him throw more than the occasional pass in the middle of the field beyond 5 yards. That needs to change if the Bills have aspirations to be a serious contender. They took a chance on going with Taylor, which they had to do because we know Cassel/Manuel aren't good enough. Soon they have to take the chance to give Taylor more than screens and deep shots on most plays.

3) On a day when Brady looked very much in eff-you mode, three awesome catches for the Patriots, only one of which counted for Brady. The late one to Amendola, a Swann-ish catch by Gronk where he touched down out of bounds, and my favorite was Malcolm Butler's diving pick. Amazing he kept that from hitting the turf.

4) Bad Idea jeans tactic of the day: Leaving Bradley Fletcher mostly on an island to cover, well, almost anyone. All that changes is the uniform and the opponent he's flailing hopelessly after on another go route. Today it was Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins.

San Diego Chargers 19 at Cincinnati Bengals 24

Robert Weintraub: Jeremy Hill has one bugaboo, and that's ball security. He fumbled twice and was benched Sunday, one of them just a flat drop. Fortunately, the Bengals have a pretty good alternative in Gio Bernard, and he appeared back to his 2013 self. His key fumble against SD in the wild-card game in 2013 set Gio on a downward spiral -- hopefully a good game against the Bolts allows him to put that behind him.

Collision Low Crossers was a great book by Nicholas Dawidoff about life in the NFL. It's also a defensive concept, and clearly, it was a priority for the Cincy linebackers, as they were very active in rerouting those shallow crossers and pick plays the Chargers love to run.

SD rolled up a ton of YAC last week -- keeping that to a minimum and tackling well were keys for the Bengals. Adam Jones for the second straight week was very active in said tackling, and provided his usual sticky coverage. Dre Kirkpatrick had a crucial miscommunication (expecting safety help that wasn't there) late but otherwise did a good job tackling as well. Keenan Allen had 2 catches for 16 yards. 'Nuf said.

Allen also muffed a punt early that led to Cincy's first score. He was only back there because Jacoby Jones was inactive. Tough day for Allen.

D.J. Fluker was also inactive, and he was sorely missed inside. Geno Atkins ate Chris Hairston's lunch all day. Orlando Franklin wasn't very good, either.

Melvin Gordon looked very tough and energetic, getting a ton of yards after contact.

The 2-point play at 24-19 was critical. SD went with a smoke screen to Allen, a play they love on the goal line and scored on a couple of times last year. But one of Leon Hall's particular strengths is sniffing out and stuffing WR screen actions, and he blew this one up. Did it twice against OAK last Sunday.

Hue Jackson Pandora's Box alert! Tackle Jake Fisher is eligible so often it's become a drinking game in Cincinnati, but for once he was the intended target. He caught a 31-yard pass, and really should have scored but was unable to juke Eric Weddle, the big stiff. Apparently it's the second-longest reception by a tackle since 1950 (Brian Baldinger has the record), but that's unofficial.

Cincy looks good early, particularly the o-line, which has certainly played better than Dallas' vaunted front in this short sample. Now everyone will have them whaling on 0-2 Baltimore next Sunday. As we all know, that's the signal for the Daltoncoaster to crest the big hill and the Bengals to chalk up an L.

Tennessee Titans 14 at Cleveland Browns 28

Tom Gower: Browns lead 14-0 eight and a half minutes into the game. The Titans offense has looked bad so far, going three-and-out once and the second drive ending short of midfield with a Terrance West fumble. Johnny Manziel found Travis Benjamin for a 60-yard score on the first drive, beating Coty Sensabaugh in coverage, and the second ended with Isaiah Crowell taking it in from 11 yards out. Week 1? Looks like it never happened, for either team. Titans have not run any packaged play looks yet, for the curious.

Cian Fahey: Even if Johnny Manziel collapses in on himself over the next three quarters of this game, he's shown enough in the first quarter to make it an illogical decision if they move back to Josh McCown.

Vince Verhei: It was an illogical decision when they signed McCown.

Aaron Schatz: The football commentariat seems way too quick to write off players who struggle as rookies and even quicker to write off quarterbacks who struggle as rookies, as if no players are allowed to have a learning curve going from college to the NFL anymore. But on top of that, we all knew Manziel's biggest issue was his off-field activity. I've been told some pretty remarkable stories about just how far gone Brett Favre was in his rookie year in Atlanta. Rehab really does have value for some people.

Cian Fahey: Marcus Mariota's accuracy has been spotty today but he has shown off aspects of his skill set that critics said he didn't have. That showed up on an early third-and-long conversion when he came off his first read, stepped up in the pocket and delivered an accurate pass downfield under pressure.

The Titans' roster was clearly better than the Buccaneers', but it's clearly worse than the Browns.

Tom Gower: 21-0 at the half. The Titans' defense stabilized after the early scores, stopping the Browns after they had good field position around midfield a couple times and shutting down a Manziel sneak on fourth-and-1 in the red zone (at 14-0, I wouldn't have hated the decision to kick the 37-yard field goal there as much as I would normally have). But the Titans offense still hasn't done anything of note, and Travis Benjamin got a punt return score late to make it 21-0. The game still doesn't feel quite that close, but it's more reflective of the difference in quality of play than 14-0 would have been.

Cian covered Mariota some, so I'll limit my notes. I mentioned on Twitter his imperfections last week have become failings this week. He's still a rookie, and rookies don't read the field or process defenses as quickly as veterans. That's resulted in some pass pressures today, including the sack at the end of the first half. That's probably also part of what got him on a couple throws that haven't been on target. He's still done some good things, but not enough to elevate the quality of play around him. Oh, yeah, and Chance Warmack also got carted off; his mostly underwhelming career to date notwithstanding, I'd rather have him starting than Jamon Meredith.

Vince Verhei: Browns are using the most wonderfully old school attack today, relying on deep passes, power runs, and kick returns for their offense. They've got 16 runs and 11 passes at halftime, and most of those runs have come from classic under-center formations with 21, 12, or 22 personnel. Up 14-0, they turned down a 36-yard field goal to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the 19. Like that decision, hate the play-call of a quarterback sneak. Johnny Manziel is not Cam Newton, and if you're going to ask him to run, give him an option look and let him attack the edge. That drive finished with nine plays for 51 yards, but just one pass, which gained 9 yards.

And the fourth-down failure doesn't much matter, because the teams go on to trade punts for a while, and then Travis Benjamin returns one 78 yards for a touchdown. Benjamin also has a 60-yard touchdown catch. Josh Gordon, you are not missed.

Tom Gower: The second half for the Titans offense this game is just going to be the Browns' edge rushers teeing off on rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and fill-in right guard Jamon Meredith. If the Browns had a functioning offense, this game would have a chance to get really ugly.

I issue that forecast of impending doom, and the Titans go drive for a touchdown. Most of the drive was spent on the ground, some place the Titans didn't find success earlier in the game or even in last year's contest in Nashville. Mariota did cap the drive off with a nice touchdown to Anthony Fasano.

Since he started off playing well, Manziel hasn't done much at all. A couple fumbles on third down sacks, neither lost, and some missed throws downfield. The Browns should probably play him over Josh McCown, just because he's not Josh McCown, but if they think he's not ready, then it's not obviously a horrible decision.

Vince Verhei: A few observations from Tennessee's second-half rally:

  • Contrary to prediction, Mariota has been largely unpressured in the second half.
  • Dexter McCluster is having a career day with 10 carries for 98 yards. His best day in five years in Kansas City was 12 carries for 61 yards.
  • Charlie Whitehurst is roaming the Tennessee sideline in a baseball cap, sleeveless t-shirt, and his uniform pants. Not many men could pull this off, but not many men are Clipboard Jesus.

Atlanta Falcons 24 at New York Giants 20

Aaron Schatz: Just switched over to the last two minutes of Giants-Falcons. Great pass by Matt Ryan to give Atlanta the 24-20 win, maybe even better acceleration by Julio Jones to get away from Prince Amukamara. The Falcons held on and prevented the Giants comeback attempt after that but I must say I'm scratching my head a little bit that the Falcons aren't using Desmond Trufant on Odell Beckham. It's Dan Quinn now as Atlanta head coach and this was the way it was in Seattle, of course, leaving Sherman on one side almost exclusively no matter where the opponent's best receiver was. Except with Atlanta, I think the value of putting Trufant on the opponent's top receiver is even stronger because you don't have the quality safety to help on the back end of the defense.

Miami Dolphins 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Cian Fahey: The downfall of the Miami Dolphins is going to be their coaching staff. They refuse to use Lamar Miller or even run the ball consistently with another back. He has three touches into the second quarter while Ryan Tannehill has 11 pass attempts.

Vince Verhei: I tuned into this just in time to see Allen Robinson's 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put Jacksonville up 17-6. Robinson lined up in the left slot and ran a slant-and-go. Dolphins were in a Cover-2, and the safety to that side totally bit on the slant and let Robinson run right by him for the score.

Since then, it's mostly been Tannehill throwing to guys in the seams between Jacksonville's zones. He doesn't have a lot of touch on these throws and they're coming in high, forcing receivers to jump for them, which is limiting their YAC opportunities. They got one touchdown and missed a field goal to pull within 17-13. Jaguars then got a DPI just before halftime that put the ball at the Miami 40-yard line, and Jason Myers ended the half with a 58-yard field goal to put Jacksonville up 20-13.

Tom Gower: Joe Philbin was screaming at the officials at halftime about that 58-yard field goal, and he had a real point. The field goal just barely had enough range, and I'm not sure how they spotted the defensive pass interference where they did. The infraction appeared to be a couple yards further back, and unless Jason Myers has extra range on command that mistake gave the Jaguars 3 points.

Rob Weintraub: Heroic play by Dolphins lineman Jason Fox. Tannehill was strip-sacked at the goal line with three minutes left in a tie game. Fox recovered at the stripe and positioned his body so he wasn't safetied. Miami punts but could be losing.

Rob Weintraub: True, "heroic" in the way Forrest Gump was a hero.

Tom Gower: And since he's Jason Fox, playing for an injured Branden Albert, that he gave up the strip-sack to Jared Odrick in the first place was no surprise.

Jacksonville hasn't done a danged thing on offense the entire second half. The only first down in their last four possessions came on an illegal hands to the face penalty on Miami on a failed third down. ... and as I type that sentence, the Jaguars in the two-minute drill in a tie game complete a pass for a first down.

Vince Verhei: This game turned into an ugly slugfest in the second half. For Jacksonville, it was the usual mix of bad play from Blake Bortles (he often looks like he's completely confused out there) and drops from his receivers. Miami has had more luck moving the football, but they've stopped running pretty much entirely, and every few plays an unblocked rusher gets through to sack Tannehill or force an incompletion.

Tom Gower: What a drive. Just heroic stuff by Blake Bortles. As many run plays as they could manage, and Olivier Vernon makes the field goal 15 yards closer and extends the drive with an awful post-play shove. Maybe Clay Harbor flopped a bit, but I never mind seeing dumb actions like that result in negative consequences. And after Miami can't get a first down , even with :40 to play and no timeouts, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in first place in the AFC South.

Baltimore Ravens 33 at Oakland Raiders 37

Rob Weintraub: Third-and-inches for Baltimore. Joe Flacco keeps and runs right behind Marshal Yanda -- one of the best linemen in the league and the best on the team. And he gets blown up in the backfield. Maybe things are different in 2015.

On fourth down the Ravens think better of challenging the middle of Oakland's line and pitch it to Justin Forsett, who just barely gets the first down out wide.

Aaron Schatz: You gotta love the Ravens going for it on fourth-and-1 from their OWN 29-yard line.

Rob Weintraub: One series after throwing an awful lame duck pick, Carr responds with a brilliant game-winning drive to beat the Ravens at home. Nice job by the kid. Terrible job by the Ravens defense who clearly missed Terrell Suggs from what I saw.

Dallas Cowboys 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 10

Aaron Schatz: Both offenses in the Dallas-Philly game have been stagnant through the first 20 minutes. Jordan Matthews hasn't gotten a pass yet. The Eagles running game is doing nothing: DeMarco Murray has 1 yard on his first five carries. As for the Cowboys, they absolutely missed Dez Bryant in the red zone when they discovered Gavin Escobar simply doesn't have the same kind of catch radius that Bryant has. I've also been underwhelmed by the Legion of Room. They're giving Romo lots of time to throw but they are nowhere near as strong on running plays as they were a year ago. Some of that might be Mackenzy Bernadeau and La'el Collins taking turns subbing for Ronald Leary at left guard, but Doug Free at right tackle has also been mediocre, and none of the three Pro Bowlers have made you say "oh, wow, great block" either.

Vince Verhei: I think the first half of Dallas-Philadelphia was worse to watch than the first half of Minnesota-San Francisco on Monday night. At least the Monday night game had funny fumbles and quarterbacks bouncing into their own linemen to keep me entertained. This was just gross incompetence all around. Let's review the closest we got to a touchdown: Gavin Escobar is tackled to make it first-and-goal from the 1. Jason Garrett challenges that he scored, because he has no confidence in the NFL's best offensive line to get 1 yard. He loses the challenge (and a timeout, which would have been useful at the end of the half), then a first-down run is stuffed for a loss of 1. And because of that one failure Garrett loses confidence in the NFL's best offensive line, calling a back-shoulder fade to Escobar on second down (I swear) and a play-action pass on third down. Both fall incomplete, and Garrett goes for the completely spineless field goal to go up 3-0.

And that's the team that's winning! They got another field goal at the end of the half on a drive that produced five first downs via Eagles penalties.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have run 16 plays over five drives with nothing longer than an 8-yard gain (on second-and-9 -- I think that's their only successful play), and their one first down came on a Dallas penalty. This is first quarter of Hall-of-Fame-game-level football.

Oh my God. Eagles open the second half with an actual first down on a pass to Agholor. Then Murray is hit in the backfield and loses 6. Then Murray is hit in the backfield and loses 5. Philadelphia's O-line isn't even touching these guys. Eagles run a give-up screen on third down, but then the Eagles' protection results in disaster for the third time in four snaps, and the punt is blocked and returned for a touchdown. Worse, Donnie Jones was wiped out by a block on the return, so the Eagles, who figure to be in a lot of fourth downs going forward, might be down their punter.

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DeMarco Murray now has seven carries for -10 yards. He has lost yardage on four of his seven carries.

Aaron Schatz: Philadelphia reporters are saying that Kiko Alonso is going to be done for the season, which is bad. Tony Romo just left the game clutching his left (not-throwing) shoulder after a sack and fumble, which may be even worse.

Scott Kacsmar: Curse of 370 is off to a good start, but this is really nothing more than piss-poor blocking by the Eagles. There's a guy on Murray in the backfield as soon as he gets the ball. The Eagles had issues last year up front, but we just passed it off to injuries and suspensions. What's going on with this group?

Vince Verhei: Murray got another carry. He lost 5 yards again. He's got to be threatening some kind of terrible record.

Still, the Eagles are driving for what might be a critical score, mainly thanks to more Dallas penalties, but then Sean Lee intercepts Sam Bradford in the end zone. And now it's Brandon Weeden time!

I'm telling you, Tennessee-Cleveland was a much better-played game than this.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like Joseph Randle is making most of the Cowboys' rushing yards himself with broken tackles. But at least he's getting enough blocking to get to the line of scrimmage before he meets defenders. Unlike DeMarco Murray. Oh, and Ryan Mathews has ONE carry with 20 minutes left. So, good thing the Eagles paid for two starting running backs.

Sterling Xie: Dan Bailey with an unsportsmanlike conduct while trying to say hi to DeMarco on the sideline? That's gotta count for like -100 Loser League points, right?

Vince Verhei: Third quarter ends on a perfect note. Eagles are getting something with Murray as a receiver in the flats. He hurdles Brandon Carr (an amazing play) and runs out of bounds, where he gets tangled with Dan Bailey. As Murray tries to run back to the field, Bailey grabs his arm and won't let go. This results in, yes, a 15-yard penalty due to UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS ON THE KICKER. Looked like he might have just been messing around with an ex-teammate and not doing anything malicious, but dude, that's not the time or place.

Byron Maxwell forces a Gavin Escobar fumble and the Eagles recover to give Philadelphia life. Very next snap, Eagles snap it before Bradford is ready, as guys are in motion all over the place, and the Cowboys get the ball right back -- and promptly get called for holding on their first play.

With a third-and-long up 10 points with less than five minutes to go, Brandon Weeden hits Terrance Williams for a 42-yard touchdown. Just a slant-and-go route against Byron Maxwell, who put forth one of the most half-assed efforts you'll ever see from a cornerback in an NFL game. He could not have given any less of a damn there. Probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, but that was appalling.

Seattle Seahawks 17 at Green Bay Packers 27

Aaron Schatz: Biggest difference in the first half of this game is that the Packers offensive line is good, and the Seahawks offensive line is not. It seems like the best Seattle offensive plays are bootlegs and other things that will get Russell Wilson away from worrying about the blocking. Marshawn Lynch has six carries for 3 yards through 20 minutes because how many tackles can you expect the guy to break, a million?

Tom Gower: Packers run defense got gashed last week. The Bears' line did a good job of letting Matt Forte attack the second- and third-level defenders of Green Bay, who didn't tackle well. Green Bay's defensive front has done a much better job and is making life much more difficult for Seattle than it was for Chicago last week, and we haven't seen the same missed tackles outside of, oh, Morgan Burnett, who didn't play last week, not bringing Lynch down on the reception.

Aaron Schatz: You know, it's not just Seattle. It feels like offensive line play is struggling around the NFL this year -- Dallas-Philadelphia being the most horrible example -- and there have been so many penalties. Those two trends have combined to make a lot of this year's games just feel like a slog to watch.

Vince Verhei: Seattle traded a Pro Bowl center for a Pro Bowl tight end. As a result, the line can't block anyone, the tight end has one target (and no catches) in the first half, and they've got nothing left except "chuck a deep ball and pray."

Richard Sherman is also giving up a ton more plays this year than he has before, but that's a separate issue entirely.

Aaron Schatz: The first touchdown was really a Cover-3 beater, right in between Sherman's area and what should be Earl Thomas' area. Hard to blame Sherman for that. But that's definitely not the only time. He had the penalties on consecutive plays, too.

Scott Kacsmar: Seahawks have had a lead in all 57 games in the Wilson era. Tough task tonight with the way this one is going. Their best offense may be Wilson going sandlot ball with Graham, Baldwin, Kearse and Lockett on the field.

Aaron Schatz:

Seattle pass protection has been much better since halftime, and it's enough for the Seahawks to march 54 yards on four passes and a Russell Wilson keeper, to take a 17-13 lead.

Vince Verhei: Wilson to Doug Baldwin puts Seattle ahead. Scott, I think you're onto something with that whole sandlot idea. Let your $20 million quarterback free!

Scott Kacsmar: I left Lynch out of the list of players to put on the field, but that was only to imply he was the fifth skill guy. I'm surprised how much of this quarter's success has come with Lynch on the sideline.

Aaron Schatz: At least the Seahawks seem to have finally remembered that hey, the Packers defense has a history of struggling against the read option.

Tom Gower: Yes, I was thinking this felt like the playoff game against San Francisco from a couple years ago. Julius Peppers has seemed to be a particular culprit lately, or at least I've just noticed him on the edge as Wilson runs successfully a couple times. Bad exchange by Seattle creates a fumble as it's 17-16, but Mike Pennel lined up on the wrong side to negate the call. Bad time for that mistake.

Aaron Schatz: Seahawks get super frustrated after Russell Wilson throws an interception on an attempted screen pass, great job of awareness by defensive lineman Jay Elliott on that. A couple plays later, things are getting super chippy between the Packers and Seahawks, and K.J. Wright gets himself ejected for ripping Richard Rodgers' helmet off by the facemask. Reminds me a bit of how angry the Seahawks were after the Immaculate Interception in the Super Bowl. They need to teach their players not to let their adrenaline overcome their common sense.


278 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2015, 10:42am

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I wonder if the kid Elliott will receive more snaps after last night's contributions? That interception of the wilson screen pass is not the type of play you can coach. That is just an instinctively great play, something the Packers typically only get on defense from Matthews. And Peppers to a much lesser degree

Elliott has already shown pass rush ability. Maybe GB has something.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I imagine he will. The coaches usually reward that sort of production. And Peppers seemed to have a pretty poor game (constantly getting sucked in too far on play action to the left and subsequently having no chance to contain Wilson on the bootleg back to the right). Peppers' snaps need to be carefully limited.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Completely agree on Peppers' snap count. He played over 70 percent of the defensive snaps last season come December he was gassed. He played great with a week's rest against Dallas but then disappeared again in the second half against Seattle.

Peppers needs to be in the 60 percent of snaps range if GB hopes to see the best of him come playoff time

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Reading about and watching games this week it seemed like there were lots of highly penalized teams. And there sure were. This week there were 8 teams with penalty yards >100 and another 5 exceeding 90. Last season there were 32 teams with penalty yards>100 and another 29 teams > 90 (and less than 100). I hope this is random noise, because it is ugly (in week 1 it was 2 teams>100 and 1 team between 90 and 100).

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

What would be telling is the breakdown of the nature of penalties? Because last night both teams (Seattle/GB) were either jumping offside on defense or false starting on offense. Both of those penalties are automatic and not subjective like say PI.

And really the refs could have called more than what was assessed. Both defenses were offsides or encroaching a lot of the time.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

This week was a punch in the face to all those know-it-all commentators who had Balt and Buff in top 5, even waste 3 newspaper lines on the Giants, and who have proclaimed Chip Kelly the latest genius.maybe its not that he hates blacks, but loves AF players who can't play. In the meantime you waste 10 inches here on a team that is headed right for the bottom (Cowboys) and another that probably has the worst coaching staff in the league (Miami). Just last week, ESPN was asking what will come first, a JAX won or a Mia loss. Really? That second half, the entire Phil-Dal game, and the Clev-Tenn game put football back 10 years.

And for your Dalton dig, the man has won 42.5 games in 4+ years and has been in the playoffs 4 yrs in a row. meanwhile first rounders like Bortles, Tannenhill, Ponder, Locker, Weeden, Manziel, Alex Smith, Vick, Manuel, Bradford, Sanchez, RG !!!, , etc. are either out of the league and sitting on a bench somewhere. Can he be wildly inconsistent? Yep. But then he makes that pass to Eifert in a tight hole for a needed TD and you have to admit, he wins. Frankly, while Flacco manages to always throw that 60 yd TD that puts them in the lead, the team we crushed at their home just ran up 450 yrs against the Ravens and ran for 5 yrs a clip. And unlike the Raiders, there will be a pass rush. We beat them twice last year and we were worse and they were better.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"meanwhile first rounders like Bortles, Tannenhill, Ponder, Locker, Weeden, Manziel, Alex Smith, Vick, Manuel, Bradford, Sanchez, RG !!!, , etc. are either out of the league and sitting on a bench somewhere."

Bortles, Tannehill, Manziel, Alex Smith, and Bradford all started yesterday. Weeden will be Dallas's starter until Romo comes back. That's about half of your list. Yeah, there have been whiffs in the 1st round at QB, but there are better ways to make that point.

Dalton slipped to the 2nd round, which seems appropriate. He's the third best QB in his division.

I do agree a lot of bad football was played yesterday.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I will admit that I was tempted to say "fourth".

Johnny Football is intriguing. I wrote him off while he was at A&M and he did a lot more than I thought he could. Certainly he has a higher ceiling than Dalton.

But that's not saying all that much.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yeah, that's what gets me. The Steelers had all summer to prepare for the Pats and somehow they came up with "leave Gronk uncovered".

Sometimes I think Belichick's genius consists largely of "don't do anything stupid".

At least not until draft day. :)

(Actually I think he drafts pretty well, but he's had some notable whiffs.)

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yeah, that's what was so crazy about that game, it's not like Belichick tricked them - it was just like, "there's Gronk standing over there. Oh well, I guess no one will cover him." It's not like "oh no, who is this Dion Lewis guy, we weren't prepared for this at all!!!" It's the best TE in the game and the focal point of the Patriots offense!

It was probably the worst coaching job I've ever seen by a team with pretensions to contending for a championship.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

There was a story once about how when Belichick got to New England he designed his offense around what he hated to see as a defensive coordinator. All those short routes, "picks" and getting stuff going horizontally came from that (doesn't hurt when you have one of the best QBs of all time at throwing that stuff).

I think a lot of NFL coaches are more about trying to impose the (perceived) strength of their team/scheme on the opponent than attack their opponents weaknesses. It's almost like Belichick is able to take his ego out of gameplanning in a way most coaches are not.

Of course the other way works sometimes, see: Ryan, Rex, playoff upsets.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The opposite of Belechick letting his team flow into what it needs to be to best take advantage of the opponent each week is Carrol, Pete, who will bang his head against the wall for 3 Qts trying to play within his scheme before just letting his team play, if for some reason the first approach is not working.

Sometimes for Seattle game planning seems to be something they do before the game, and maybe install at halftime if they're down by two scores, otherwise standard pre-season offense on 3!

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I would hope that no one really believes the plan going in was "leave Gronkowski uncovered". The staff does deserve criticism for having Antwan Blake in the slot even though he'd never played there, a problem that was corrected yesterday.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Really? Are you sure that wasn't the plan? I mean, no one here would be using hyperbole to comic effect to make fun of their total ineptitude in implementing whatever useless, ineffective, utterly botched plan they had actually thought they had.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Report is Romo does not need surgery and will be out eight weeks. Regarding Romo . . .

I pop on Facebook last night, and this Cowboys fan I know posts something like "Well, maybe we can move on and finally end the Romo era, he sucks and he's hurt all the time." So, feeling confrontational, I post his numbers from PFR as to games/games started, point out he's statistically had a phenomenally good run, isn't a choker as much as he's blamed for the mistakes of the entire team, and that Dallas would have been one of the worst teams in the league over the last decade if he hadn't been carrying Jerry's terrible roster on his back most of the time. Oh, and that they're now stuck with Brandon Weeden and get to see what life is like with a crappy QB now. His response?

"Weeden was 7/7 and it's really all about the offensive line anyways."

I screencapped it and expect to be posting it every week to his Facebook wall until he blocks me. It'll be worth it.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Eagles fans. Hands down.

I used to think all of the stuff about Eagles fans being violent morons was overstated, but I've had to be back down in Philly this year more than I have been in the past 15 years and they're really the worst. It makes me respect the sports fans in NYC a million times more - imagine if Eli had been the Eagles QB.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

To be fair:

1. Eli did get his share of abuse from 2005-2007
2. His poor reputation in those years was largely deserved
3. Two Super Bowl wins over the hated Pats buys a lot of slack

He's been a very good, if inconsistent, QB from 2008 onwards, but he really was quite bad through the 2007 regular season.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Deserved abuse like Eli got in 2005-2007 is one thing. Actively and vocally despising the best QB in your team's history is another thing altogether. And that's way more common than not with McNabb in Philly.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It pains me to admit this, but I would call Romo the 5th best* QB of the last decade. And yes, I'm putting him ahead of Roethlisberger and Rivers, who both had better supporting casts for most of that time.

*with the caveat that Stubbleface only lasted until 2010, and had a couple bad years thrown in, while Kurt Warner returned to his home planet in 2009.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Eli was so other-worldly good at the end of the 2011 season that it created unrealistic expectations in me, even after I accounted for his frequently crappy teammates. I expected him to compensate like his brother has been known to do.

201 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The NFCCG against San Francisco remains one of the gutsiest QB performances I've ever seen. Justin Smith just destroyed that OL, and Eli kept getting hit, but he kept at it and didn't turn the ball over despite being on the run during the entire second half.

I've given up on knowing what to expect from Eli. He'll thread the needle forty yards down the field while under pressure, then throw a pick six right into the chest of a linebacker for no reason whatsoever.

It's funny, but on the field, Eli really is as inconsistent as Cutler, but for some reason, it never feels quite as bad.

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

He's way more durable than Cutler. This matters a lot. The Bears in 2010 lost a one score game to Packers with Cutler hurt for the NFCC. In 2011, they were 7-3 with Cutler and 1-5 without him. 2012 they missed the playoff on tie breakers losing a game Campbell came in 6-13 and the only game Campbell started 7-32 (Campbell threw for 107 yards on 22 attempts, but the defense also got abused).

I think Eli's highs are higher than Cutlers too. He also seems smarter when the games are competitive. That last one might be confirmation bias though.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Eli is really smart, it's one of his biggest virtues - he's great at reading defenses, anticipating coverage, audibling into better plays, hot reads, I think he's actually succeeded more on those strengths than on his innate ability to chuck the ball around. His terrible mechanics and iffy control are the source of his interceptions and struggles more than his decision-making.

209 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I think Eli's mechanics are fine, though I'm hardly an expert. He's got a very consistent overhand motion, a quick release, and is rarely caught flat-footed. I think that Eli's skillset, like everything else about him, is really weird.

He throws an absolutely beautiful deep ball... but is often wildly inaccurate on shorter throws that are supposed to be 'easy'.

He's great at pre-snap reads and audibling based on what he sees... but often gets target-locked based on what he anticipated rather than what actually happens on the field. I've lost count of the number of times he's thrown a bad interception straight to a LB because he expected different coverage.

He has incredible pocket awareness, a quick release, and is unafraid to take the hit (see 2011 NFCCG)... who nevertheless takes way too many hits because he likes to wait on the deep ball (see points 1 and 2 above). Anecdotally, I think he gets strip-sacked a lot more often than he should.

204 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Peak Cutler is a small mound compard to the summit of Peak Eli, and the latter makes inconsistency rather more tolerable. That throw to Manningham in the Super Bowl might be the greatest pass in championship game history.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Dude, they boo J-Roll, the likeliest HOF Phillies player of the past three decades and a guy who brought home a ring, because he doesn't run out the bases in meaningless games. He's a figure on controversy in the city. Same with AI - he's hated by a significant portion of the fanbase. It's unreal. Basically, being very good at sports is a great way to be hated in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Buddy Ryan is a Legend.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Any clue why this is? Best I can figure is 1) there isn't much of a sense of humor surrounding Philly sports and 2) there are unrealistic expectations with most of Philly teams (realize this could be said by most/all fan bases). Take this year when Eagle fans had talked themselves into this team finishing with a 15-1 in August. Now they're looking at 9-7 at best.

The difference between the two most unrealistic fan bases that I've come across, Washington and Philly, is that a Washington fan believes they're gonna go 16-0 and when they don't, they start blaming the coach and then planning next years 16-0 team. Eagle fans expect the Birds to go 15-1, and when they don't, they get mad at the players and things get ugly fast.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Truthfully? I think my answer would actually violate FO's no politics rule to analyze the fanbase. I do think the complicated race relations of the city play a factor in its relationship to players it perceives as "thuggish" or "lazy" like AI and Rollins. I mean, the whole "can a black guy even BE a QB?" question was distressingly open when McNabb took over and the idea that he won with his athleticism and not his "brains" hung over his whole career in a very uncomfortable, dog-whistle-y kind of way (it is no coincidence Rush Limbaugh chimed in on the subject.)

The morning radio shows, especially the one on WIP, play hard against this dynamic and play to the blue collar Italian side of the equation - they sports radio in Philadelphia is closer to shock-jock controversy-baiting stuff than it is to the relatively anodyne stuff you get up on the NYC channels (I have no idea in general if sports radio across the country plays as much like a bunch of Opie and Anthony rejects as the shows in Philly do - in NYC, because they have to make so many different, competing fanbases happy it tends to be very civil.)

I know this gets very close to dredging up the (I believe ridiculous) "Chip Kelly is a racist" stuff, but the city has been more supportive of Cooper than they ever were of DJax, who again fits the mould of "lazy, thuggish and wins with his athleticism, not brains." McCoy, too.

A less charged reading might be that it's a city that loves "lunchpail" and sees itself as hard-working and blue-collar... but I think most fanbases are that way. I'm not sure that's enough to account for their burning hatred of guys that were excellent. I used to think it was about rings (or lack thereof), but the "so long and good riddance" send-off Rollins just got made me change my mind.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I still wonder what separates Philly from other similar fan bases. There are plenty of rust belt lunch pail and broad shoulders with a undercurrent of racism cities in the US who don't get quite so psychotic about their sports heroes.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It would be interesting to compare sports radio across regions. My knee-jerk reaction is to scoff at the description of NY sports radio as "anodyne" but looking back at my years in Jersey, I'd say that it usually is pretty civil. Certainly a level above Philly. Boston sports radio is notoriously run by trolls, but I haven't listed to it since I was a kid decades. DC sports radio is pretty civil, as long as the Cowboys aren't involved. :) Philly and DC both have longstanding droughts, but the Philly radio is a bit nastier.

I think the most abusive sports radio I've heard was on vacation in Florida.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

New York radio can't get too foaming at the mouth because you have both Yankees AND Mets fans listening, Knicks AND Nets fans, Ranger AND Islanders AND Devils fans, Giants AND a Jet fan - it's just too easy to alienate a chunk of your audience to you pull the crap they pull in Philly.

I think the Philly radio does go out of its way to have everyone imitate the WIP morning guy, who's this middle-aged Italian crypto-racist who had a personal stake in the failure of Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid. Everyone else is kinda chasing his popularity, so you get everyone pushing it further to say bad things about successful players. I just find the city in general to be an exceptionally unpleasant place.

Boston is an interesting comparison because those dudes are trolls, but Boston has had so much success there's no unhappiness in the fanbase to stoke. Same thing with New York where its a city with a great deal of championship success and a place people really love to live (even if you hate it because you don't live there or left.) There's less unhappiness and frustration to stoke. I suspect most people living in Philly are pretty unhappy. I'd certainly be on suicide watch if I had to be there any more than I have to.

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I am seriously concerned what will happen with the Packers fan base if they have a series of bad years like most of the 70's and 80's. I remember the crazy stuff about Dan Devine after Lombardi (though the killing his dog story didn't happen). Starr and Gregg got a pass because they had links to the Lombardi teams and by the time Infante showed up the fan base had pretty much given up on any return to glory.

But now they've had over 20 years of really good teams with likely back-to-back HoF QBs. Early last year before the R-E-L-A-X statement, some radio idiots were already saying the Packers needed to look for a new QB because Rodgers was getting hurt and was never going to be like he was in 2011. Having lived the last 27 years in either St Louis or Virginia, I'm more aware of how hard it is get to - much less maintain - a high level of quality for an NFL team. Packers fans have gotten unbelievably spoiled. (Note oaktoon's complaint for one.)

242 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Do you remember the whining of Niners fans during the Jeff Garcia years? Those teams were very good, but no longer great, and therefore wholly unacceptable.

Then came the dark period, which I personally found very satisfying because I still haven't gotten over that stupid playoff game where the Niners beat the Giants by cheating like rotten cheaters.

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Niners fans have also recently gone through the agony of watching a great squad assemble and disassemble, whilst all the time falling marginally short of winning a championship. Ok, that's a lot different to watching a perennially awful team, but painful nonetheless.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Am I mis-remembering that Randall Cunningham was hugely popular in Philly? I was in college then, and all the Philly guys loved him. And of course...Tecmo Bowl.

Tangent: Are the Cunninghams the most under-appreciated brother duo in NFL history?

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Sort of - he was like Michael Vick in that he was huge in terms of marketing and media visibility but too injured and ultimately inconsequential for the fans to care. No, what makes Philly fans really unique is that they seem to hate the players that are very good, successful and productive. It'd sorta be like if Dolphins fans hated Dan Marino or Patriots fans hated Drew Bledsoe.

Cunningham's early career was also handled in insane ways - Tanier I think once wrote about the Jaws/Cunningham sub-packages that they used early in his career that were just a bonkers way of handling a young QB. Cunningham was also seen as being the final piece of the puzzle to help the great defense to a championship - when they collapsed, the fanbase at that time did what any normal fanbase does: they channeled their hatred into the opposing team that shattered their dreams, the Dallas Cowboys. The change in the city really happened sometime in the McNabb/Iverson era...

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I always thought of the stereotypical Philly fan as valuing projecting an image of gritoughitude (shut up, that's a word!) above and beyond anything else; being successful is a nice bonus, but ultimately a secondary consideration.

Iverson? Buddy? Philly. McNabb? Lindros? Not Philly.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Your reference to Iverson is interesting, and I think he complicates your assessment up in comment #151. From what I can tell as an outsider (I roomed with a huge Iggles/Sixers fan in the late 90's AND stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night)), Iverson was beloved in the city. And he was more DJax than DJax.

191 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

When he was playing, he absolutely was loved. And so was DJax - but now that they're gone, they're both persona non grata. I mean, you won't catch AI at an event in Philly and he gets hammered by the media - he's also had a pretty sad/self-inflcited terrible post-career life, which complicates it. He's definitely nobody's hero, even those who loved watching him play. He's not really a human that can be beloved, just as a person - he inspires pity and sadness and frustration and outrage.

Plus, 76er fans are kinda broken at this point though - the whole Hinkie situation is an even weirder and wilder case of Stockholm Syndrome than what's happening with Kelly. It's genuinely like talking to cult members who honestly believe they've got the secret and you don't - that the Sixers are the best run team in the NBA and making fools of the competition.

272 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The Hinkie love is definitely the weirdest part of Philly fandom. Reid+McNabb led the most successful period in Eagles history, and they were HATED for it. Hinkie comes to the Sixers and installs a program of LOSING ON PURPOSE and Philly can't get enough of it.

275 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

You're exactly right - even the Kelly love is predicated on his winning. Hinkie has gotten people to believe that being bad is the best thing you can be in the NBA. I said it before, but it's genuinely cult-like. You can't even have a conversation about it, their logic is too bizarre - so many of them believe he has been RULING the system with his trade machinations and sly deals and injured soon-to-be stars, it's just so weird. I feel like he could field the worst team in the league for a decade before people gave up on him. (But by then he likely would've lucked into "the next LeBron" and they'd still be on board.)

The Phillies are funny because you can FEEL people wanting to spew that typical "not. good. enough!!!" hate at players like Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, but they won a championship, so it just sorta comes out in frustrated, subhuman noises.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

This would apply to a number of cities though, and you don't see it to such an extent in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and as far as I'm aware, Cleveland. I'd throw Boston in there, but as pointed out, they've won too much over the last 15 years to complain about anything in any sport. It's not that these cities are different in their thinking (as far as I'm aware, e.g. there are plenty of Bear fans that wanted Lovie fired).

I'd never thought about the sports radio angle though. It's a good point. Probably has more influence over the sports mindset of a city than I realized.

183 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Wanting to move on from Lovie was non-insane. I disagreed with the move, but I understood why people wanted to do. Almost no one thought he was a bad coach, just that it was time to move on.

More specific to players though, every Bears loves Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Lance Briggs when he was still around likewise with Tillman, Mike Brown, etc. None of these players who range between very good to great got the McNabb treatment which is just an insane view to have of a great player who was by all accounts a nice person too.

195 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I never know what to make of Fox. I think he gets his team ready and they don't make an embarrassment of themselves, but it's tough to pinpoint any specific personality shared by his teams, the way I could say about Andy Reid's teams always have great o-lines, Pete Carroll knows how to field a secondary, Shanahan knows zone-blocking or Dick LeBeau knows what he's doing when it comes to linebackers. When Fox coaches team, they're capable but often have a significant weakness.

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

The crazy thing is, you'll hear negativity about Jeremiah Trotter or Asante Samuel, which I just don't even know what to do with. Samuel made the Pro Bowl 3 of his 4 years in Philly and led the league in interceptions one year and he gets talked about as being a bust and a waste. The players that are like "Ring of Honor" sub-HOF type players in Philly are the ones most likely to get ripped non-stop.

Westbrook and Dawkins are really the only two Eagles (from the past 20 years) I can think of that are universally beloved. Even Tra Thomas recently got the fanbase to turn on him. Oh, and people love Duce Staley, which is a real "what the hell?" I actually think its because he went to the Steelers and all Eagles fans secretly wish they were Steelers fans.

It's weird, though, there's definitely a change: if you go back, Willie T. and Seth Joyner and Eric Allen and of course Reggie are all universally beloved. Even guys like Charlie Garner and Mark McMillan get spoken of with an affection typical of a less warped fanbase. I don't know what happened.

203 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yeah this is odd. Maybe they've never forgiven the loss to the Bucs in the NFC Championship Game? That was the Eagles team that should have won the Super Bowl in hindsight. And I guess that's the flip side of this argument, Eagle fans haven't forgiven (and never will) the Reid/McNabb teams for not winning it all.

205 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I used to think that, but it's an attitude that has infected the fanbase across all sports - that's why I find the Jimmy Rollins hate so jaw-dropping, this guy DID win it all and they still hate him.

(As far as the 2002 Eagles, I always am dubious of the foregone conclusion that they would have beat the Raiders if they made it to the Superbowl. That was an excellent Raiders team and the kind of short-passing attack that always gave Jimmy Johnson fits - the Bucs only made them look incompetent because Gruden had all their signals, which Callahan had notoriously failed to alter. The Bucs knew every play as it was coming. According to DVOA, those Raiders were a better team than the Eagles - so I'm not sure that was it.))

(The team that should have won it all was the 2008 Eagles who botched the NFCCG - they would have KILLED that Steelers team who were just a perfect match-up for them. That 2008 team and the 2009 team were the best of the Reid era, the most balanced, the best defense, the best passing attack with the most efficient rushing attack. Their 2009 collapse in back-to-back loses to the Cowboys is really the one I can't get over. Win their final game of the season and they go to 12-4 with a first round bye. Gah - now I'm really sad.)

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Yes at the time he was let go. But in 2008 or 2009? I can't count the number of times that an idiot caller would say that "Lovie doesn't yell enough" or "he treats the players too nicely". Like all Bears coaches, you're better off yelling a lot and losing, than winning a good amount and appearing to be passive.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Was that ever a significant portion of the fan base, though? And for all its faults, that mentality never made it to the management side. They stuck with Lovie, and when he was eventually let go, they kept the defense together as best they could without overpaying, and brought in an innovative offensive mind and QB guru from the CFL.

I thought it was a good outcome for everyone at the time, and still defend it as the right direction to take (even though it obviously didn't work out). To me, it indicated that management was very aware of Lovie's strengths and weaknesses, and made the best decision they could under the circumstances.

Fox is a very good choice. The Bears aren't going to be title contenders in the near future, but he will get them back to being a professional-level ball club. Sometimes, that's the best you can hope for, and frankly that's not a bad place to be while you're waiting for the next QB prospect.

262 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It's hard to gauge what viewpoints are commonly shared by large portions of the fanbase and which viewpoints are shared by only a few nuts. This week I heard someone call in to a radio show to opine that the Bears should sign Tim Tebow and start him on Sunday over Jimmy Clausen, but that doesn't mean that all Bears fans are crazy. (Masochistic, yes, but not crazy).

Regarding the Bears in general, it is definitely a fan base that conforms to a lot of the blue-collar, tough-guy stereotypes but that seems to come out more in a bias toward outmoded football thinking ("you gotta run the ball down their throats!!!") rather than racism. I can't think, off the top of my head, of a black Bears player in recent years who got treated poorly by the fans arguably because of race. Briggs and Marshall got criticized quite a bit for the way their tenures ended last season, but it seemed to be pretty honest criticism based on their behavior rather than anything based on race.

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Honestly, I think this applies to most fan bases. Why assume bigotry when stupidity is in such great supply? Not that their Venn diagrams don't intersect, but sometimes I think we read too much into things. As far as I can tell, Chip Kelly isn't a racist; he's just capricious.

270 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

You're probably right. At the micro level, however, haven't you ever spoken with people who love the term "coach-killer" for a quarterback? And how all the coach-killers are always the same race? I know I have, so I assume that bigotry exists in at least a small percentage of the fan base.

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I'm going by my experience. It's anecdotal, which is why I said it's a very small portion, but it does exist.

Bring up Cutler or George with the people I've talked to, and they won't say the same thing. But Cam Newton, RGIII, even someone brand new like Teddy Bridgewater, they're "coach-killers".

278 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

You ought to question who you are talking to, then. Teddy Bridgewater a coach-killer? That's ridiculous. Number one in that list has to be Cutler or George. RGIII was not a coach-killer, he was killed by his coach, which is an entirely different thing. And Newton seems to be fine.

Who, me?

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I know such a thing cannot occur here, but I think there could be fascinating discoveries if someone were to undertake a thorough analysis of fanbases' politics and how it affects their fandom. It could even be a really interesting area of actual psychological study, in certain aspects.

233 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

That would kind of awesome, actually. It would also be interesting in the context of like the Atlanta Hawks, where the owner was caught in internal e-mails trying to make the crowds less black and appeal to white suburbanites more. Even now that I think of it, Mike Vick's acceptance in Atlanta is a sort of interesting subject through this lens - has there ever been a long-tenured "team leader" (i.e. HC coach or QB) in the NFL from the more conservative areas? (Off the top of my head, there hasn't been one I can recall from Texas or Missouri, but Nashville had Steve McNair and Vince Young.) It'd be kinda interesting for someone to do an actual study of this... I think it's as much about the self-image of fans as anything else, but who knows, it's a very amorphous concept...

246 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Go one quarterback earlier with the same franchise. Warren Moon was in Texas. I don't know enough about how fans reacted to him to say whether he was really "accepted," but he spent a decade there. There are also parts of Texas that are definitely not conservative, but discussing that further is probably getting into rule 1 territory.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

A former girlfriend of mine is a Broncos fan from Pueblo. She and her brother (and probably the rest of her family) are adamant that they should have kept Tebow. I know them too well to even try to persuade them otherwise.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I hear people say it in terms of keeping him as a backup behind Manning and Osweiler, but I've never heard it in terms of *instead* of Manning. Although as much as I'm a Broncos fan, I still see Manning as a Colt, so this whole period of time with Manning as QB has been kind of weird - easy to appreciate in a detached sense, and worth it if we get a super bowl, but I see the Kubiak/Dennison offense (when it starts clicking) as being more Broncos style football. I'm probably too conditioned by TDavis, Alex Gibbs, and the super bowl teams.

229 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I hear it once a week.

And after that Super Bowl, I couldn't go an hour for the next month without hearing that "Tebow would have won."

They don't just think Saint Timmy should be on the roster. They think he should be starting and Manning should never have been considered.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

It's not really about Cowboys fans or not. Casual or not at all statistically minded football fans in general all think Romo sucks. Anyone who spends a lot of time watching football and actually thinking about it on anything beyond the superficial level knows otherwise. Honestly, I hear far more of the 'Romo sucks and the Cowboys will always suck with him' from fans of other teams than I do from Cowboys fans.

263 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I think the Bears merit an honorable mention. Not because Cutler is that good (he's nowhere near as good as Romo), but because they are a historically QB-starved team that knows all too well what godawful quarterbacking looks like and still insists that Cutler is terrible. And has had multiple chances due to injury to make an apples-to-apples comparison of Cutler vs. the backup (Hanie, Campbell, McCown, Clausen) and notice the difference. Yes, I included McCown, as his performance since leaving the Bears makes it obvious what an outlier he was in relief of Cutler

I have heard multiple people suggest this week that the Bears will be better with Clausen or that the Bears should start David "not good enough to get off the practice squad" Fales so they can see if they've got someone better than Cutler. Spoiler alert: they don't. For all of his many flaws, QBs who are better than Cutler don't just magically appear.

265 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I largely agree, and yet Cutler will always be an enigma for me. What if the Bears had drafted o-linemen better, back when they were taking the likes of Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi? What if Lovie was better at hiring offensive assistants, like, oh, I dunno, Scott Linehan, who has bounced around, but always has been solid? Hell, I think Trestman is a good assistant! Is Cutler just such a tremendous woodhead that he is impervious to good coaching, and thus was never capable of breaking thorugh the ceiling he aways bounced up against? The guy is really unique in some odd ways. The comparison has been made to Jeff George, but I don't think that is quite right. Jeff George was the closest thing to a physical coward I've ever seen in a NFL qb, and Cutler, all nonsense aside, was always plenty tough, but tough in the most damnably stubborn, counterproductive manner I've ever seen. He made Favre look like Steve Young, in terms of willingness to adapt, in order to advance his career. It had to be hard to root for the Bears all these years, and see this guy never quite get with the program.

276 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

"tough in the most damnably stubborn, counterproductive manner I've ever seen"

Considering that this is the second time he's injured himself trying to tackle a defender who intercepted his pass, I think this is a pretty good description of him.

I do wish that in some bizarre world, I could see what Cutler would have developed into with some of the things you mentioned, namely a decent offensive line for the majority of his Bears career. It's quite possible that he never would have become better than he is, but I really wonder.

Also, I'm stealing this from something I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago in a discussion of bad quarterbacking in general and the unpreparedness of rookies entering the league, but one thing to Cutler's credit is that for having had to learn like 5 new offenses while he's been in Chicago, he obviously has the football intelligence to at least know what's going on and adapt to each of them. He still makes the same bonehead throws in every offense, true.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Rodgers is very smart to throw it deep whenever the defense jumps offsides. However, on both occasions last night, the plays should have been blown dead because GB offensive linemen moved before the snap in response to the offsides. Each play, in my view, should have been whistled dead and resulted in 5 yard neutral zone infraction penalties on the defense.

223 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Not for the last 5-8 years. If the defense moves towards the LOS, it's a neutral zone infraction and 5 yard penalty...even if the offensive lineman jumps in reaction.

If the offensive lineman reacts way before the snap, the official can blow the play dead, although he's not required to. But usually the movement happens way too close to the actual snap to make that realistically possible. In fact, if the quarterback is under center, most centers will snap the ball as soon as he sees the defender move forward.

255 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I've never seen it called on the offense. I guess in theory, if an offensive lineman lines up ahead of the ball, he'd be guilty. Neutral Zone Infraction is like offsides, but instead of crossing the line of scrimmage, the defender moves into the neutral zone.

216 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

No the key is that GB finally decided to exploit Seattle for instructing their linemen to jump the snap. I'm surprised nobody has done it before. In the second half Seattle had 0 jumps and even got GB to jump attempting to draw them.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Each year I swear it might be different and I'll give the FO crew a chance to show some respect for perhaps the best QB in the history of the game, and certainly one of the three best these days and one of the 5-6 best in history-- and each year we get this: War and Peace on Patriots-Bills (I get it. Aaron's a fan. Rex made this game a story. So did Deflategate.. they are defending champs-- fine, we can live with all the excess)-- but then, in a game between the two co-favorites in the NFC, a rematch of a pretty noteworthy conference championship game, a "rivalry" that while it has no natural geographic basis has produced increasingly fascinating and important story lines, the FO crew goes to bed with the Seahawks ahead 17-16, the Packers struggling with the read option, and some chippiness on the field.

with no discussion whatsoever of Rodgers winning and clinching drives where he was 9-9. Against, Chancellor or no Chancellor, the best defense in football these past few seasons. With pretty vital home field stakes...

I guess he's so doggone great there's nothing left to say. See you in February.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Do you understand that Rodgers really doesn't need to be validated by the writers of FO, and that you are free to write a 10,000 word dissertation on the greatness of Aaron Rodgers, noted theologian and football colossus? That people who read this piece also tend to read all the comments, meaning your summation of the singular greatness of Aaron Rodgers would likely be consumed by the FO community?

When it gets to the point that you have years-long disappointments with the content of FO, in their inadequate recognition of The Blinding Brilliance of Football Hero Aaron Rodgers, you really are taking the game too seriously.

213 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

Does anyone besides content starved packer fans want to see FO devote an entire thread to the greatness of Aaron Rodgers? Or do you feel a sufficient number of readers are missing this critical piece of NFL knowledge, that aaron rodgers is really really good?

I get that you're enjoying the experience. As a fan, you absolutely should. But its a bit arrogant to expect that the rest of us(including the FO writers) to also be discussing/reveling in this topic as well.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

This really does call for a cousin of the Smokin' Jay Cutler tumblr........Awesome Aaron Rodgers, in various scenes from history/art.........Rodgers standing in a small boat, in Packers uniform, crossing the Delaware.......nude Aaron Rodgers hand outstretched, touching the finger of The Almighty.....

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

God obviously likes Kam Chancellor more than Aaron Rodgers, but with Kam out, God likes the Packers better.

Wouldn't that make Kam Chancellor the greatest football player ever? I see Rodgers, clinging to a sinking boat, as Kam Chancellor watches with binoculars from his Uboat. nude Aaron Rodgers hand outstretched as Kam Chancellor bats down the pass to God Almighty...

I think Wilson likes to take all the credit for how much God loves the Seahawks. Sunday proved God just loved Kam Chancellor, now he's a Packers fan. Woe to the rest of the NFL.

226 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

I want to say that if there is a thread devoted to the greatness of Rodgers, there should also be one on the greatness of the Packer's FIRST greatest-quarterback-ever, ME, Arnie Herber!

(Or, us Packer fans could just read both articles on Packer fan sites.)

239 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 2

There's a typo in Andrew Healey's comments about the NE-BUF game; it says "Chnandler Jones" but I think he meant "Chanandler Bong."