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

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

During each game of the NFL playoffs, the FO staff sends around emails about the action. We share information, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about what we're watching. 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. Though unlike the regular season we will cover every game, we may not cover every important play. We watch the games as fans rather than solely as analysts, so your favorite team 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 Vikings fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every team, nor will we focus on a different team from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every team equally.

Denver Broncos 24 vs. Carolina Panthers 10

Aaron Schatz: Denver surprisingly strong moving the ball on the opening drive. Josh Norman made a bad play, holding Andre Caldwell and then letting him go so he was open. Robert McClain made a good play, nearly getting a pick-six on an out where Peyton Manning just can't get enough strength on the throw anymore. So, that's an odd switch. The Broncos eventually get bogged down and kick a field goal.

Vince Verhei: Full credit to Phil Simms for pointing out that Panthers blitzed on first two plays of that drive and gave up two completions for first downs. Then they backed off, and that's when Denver's offense stalled and Robert McClain had a (slim) shot at a pick-six. Panthers blitzed about 28 percent of the time this season, which was in the middle of the pack, but they'll be better off with a more conservative game plan today.

Panthers go three-and-out on their first drive. On second down, Cam Newton had a clean pocket and a wide-open Corey Brown for what might have been a first down and certainly would have set up third-and-short, but overthrew him. Third down, Newton hits Greg Olsen, right at the sticks, but Aqib Talib makes a good tackle to force the punt.

Cian Fahey: Von Miller spying Cam on the first third down. I'm not sure if that's good or bad strategy. Miller is probably the second best option to do that behind T.J. Ward, but he's your best pass rusher. It's a question of value and a question that's pretty hard to answer, really.

Aaron Schatz: I don't usually feel like I know enough about how players think and feel to give emotional explanations for things, but wow that overthrow of Brown just screamed "I'm nervous it's my first Super Bowl!" Calm down, buddy.

Tom Gower: Gary Kubiak often does a nice job scripting the opening drive. You may recall the Broncos scoring a touchdown against the Patriots two weeks ago on it. He's also pass-heavy, often using motion to identify coverage looks for later in the game. Kubiak 101, but not everybody seems to know it. I thought Denver would have success on their first possession, but it's whether they can sustain that on other ones that decides how successful the offense will be.

Bad miss by Cam on second down, great tackle by Talib on Olsen to hold Carolina to three-and-out. In some alternate world, Ron Rivera does go for that. In some ways, that might be a better world.

Scott Kacsmar: It was probably closer to third-and-2 than third-and-1, but surprised Denver didn't run the ball there. Carolina actually ranked 32nd vs. short-yardage runs this season. Quick three-and-out drive.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the tackles are the weakness of the Carolina offensive line. Von Miller just whipped Mike Remmers and took down Newton for a strip-six to make it 10-0.

Andrew Healy: And I'm wary of getting in the business of reading facial expressions, but Newton looks a little nervous and joyless so far.

By the way, Thomas Davis' arm seems fine so far. Made two or three nice plays already, including one tackle that stopped a conversion.

Pretty surprising how good the protection has been for Manning, late first quarter.

Aaron Schatz: The Panthers' option handoffs also look really nervous, like Newton keeps leaving that ball in there an extra second because he's not sure if he should be handing it off or keeping it.

Vince Verhei: Two bad overthrows for Newton in the first quarter, the early one to Brown and then later on a seam route where Ted Ginn had beaten his man and looked set for a big play.

Really, except for Denver's success on their opening drive, the game has gone as we expected, I think. Denver got the turnover they needed to get ahead, but it's still anyone's game.

Andrew Healy: If Newton had been able to rip that ball out of Stewart's grasp on that last play of the first quarter, he would have had a one-on-one with T.J. Ward with a big gain there for the taking.

Andrew Healy: I'm sorry, but Aqib Talib should be ejected for that mauling of Philly Brown. Just a vicious torquing with the face mask. One day that will be an automatic ejection.

Andrew Potter: That day might be next season, if the "two personal fouls and you're out" rule is added. And yeah, no question that was deliberate to prevent any chance of a broken tackle. The soccer term is "professional foul."

Scott Kacsmar: So I guess Aqib Talib would be ejected already under Roger Goodell's new rule of two personal fouls = ejection. They'll have to write that one carefully. Things like a face mask or roughing the passer really shouldn't count. You want to avoid the stuff like Adam Jones in the playoffs or the post-whistle stuff between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham, but some of these personal fouls are just tough defensive plays.

Vince Verhei: Brown gets a catch for a first down inside the 5. Aqib Talib tackles him by the facemask, yanking him violently to the ground. Obvious penalty, but it goes from first-and-goal at the 2 to first-and-goal at the 1. Honestly, probably smart for Talib to commit that foul if that's what he had to do to guarantee the tackle.

Love Jonathan Stewart breaking out the hand jive from Grease on the touchdown.

After the game, we need to chart the "average time ball spends in the air" for Manning and Newton. I bet Manning's passes spend three times the, uh, time in midaiir.

Aaron Schatz: Ron Rivera just used his second challenge and we aren't even halfway through the second quarter. I think that's a mistake. He used it to get a few yards on a sack -- and he should get that overturned, and it will be a sack -- but you have to save that second challenge in case you need it to get an important first-down conversion, or there's a turnover that the officials missed or something. A more important play than this one.

Andrew Healy: Huge that Rivera lost the first challenge on the Jerricho Cotchery catch. He'll win this challenge, but he has 2-plus quarters now with no challenges. Wouldn't have blamed him for keeping the flag in the sock there.

Would have been neat if he'd taken the penalty on the extra point, too, to go for two, particularly down early.

Mike Kurtz: The first penalty was unsportsmanlike, not a personal foul.

And the AFC Championship Game showed us that there is nothing you can do during a live-ball period that will get you ejected.

Carolina's blocking has shored up tremendously since the first two drives. If Denver can't get consistent pressure, they're in a world of trouble.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I don't think I've quite seen a punt return like the one Denver just had. The return man didn't make a motion at all, but somehow both Panthers guys convinced themselves that he had called for a fair catch, and they both held back from a tackle at the last second to try to avoid a flag... that never would have been thrown because there was NO FAIR CATCH MOTION. So instead, the Broncos get into the red zone for free. That was WEIRD.

Vince Verhei: What's that? The Panthers are struggling with turf conditions and adjusting footwear so they don't slip so much? Seahawks fans know what they're going through. (And yes, the Denver players are doing the same thing.)

What the hell happened on that long Jordan Norwood punt return? He did nothing resembling a fair catch, but the Panthers all just watched as he ran by.

Tom Gower: The gunners close to him were so worried about kick catch interference (which they might've done anyway!) they didn't bother to tackle him, and apparently everybody else thought the gunners would have him. Weird, weird play. And Denver can't get 7, settling for the field goal after a holding call negates fourth-and-1 conversion.

Ben Muth: I think the one gunner saw the other jump out of the way to avoid him and assumed he saw a fair catch. Everyone else probably thought the gunners would make the play.

Scott Kacsmar: Halftime. So this looks like a bad offense, an overrated offense, and the two best defenses in the league. In other words, exactly what we expected. I think Denver did leave some more opportunities out there than Carolina did. The holding penalty on fourth-and-1 may have cost them four points. The Manning interception likely three points, so that's at least seven more there. Carolina did a poor job of managing the clock before the half and came away with nothing. I see Newton doing a lot of running again in the second half. He's not throwing it well at all and the receivers aren't getting open. He had a 24-yard gain by extending the play in the way we looked at this week, but that was about the only big pass play. Haven't seen much of anything from Manning since the first drive. Demaryius Thomas is still struggling and I'm not sure Emmanuel Sanders has done anything. I'd lean on Anderson and maybe get the tight ends involved. They can't be hanging on for dear life for another half unless they get another return score. But I think Denver's already exhausted the return score and the long punt return, and C.J. Anderson broke his one long run, which Manning wasted. Carolina fortunate to be hanging in there and getting the ball first.

Vince Verhei: Panthers have to feel about as good as a team down 13-7 at the half can feel. Partly because Denver has done almost nothing since their first drive. Partly because the most random plays in the game (the long punt return and the two lost fumbles) have all gone against them. If they get better breaks in the second half and keep playing as well as they have, they should still win.

Aaron Schatz: The Panthers' running game was completely shut down. They finally got a couple big runs on options... and Tolbert fumbled the ball away. And the Broncos' running game has been completely shut down except for that one huge Anderson run. The coverage is tight on both sides, the pass rush is intense on both sides. It's just a lot of defense.

Tom Gower: Surprises of the first half? Obviously the two random-ish big plays, the Von Miller strip sack turned defensive touchdown and the long punt return. Much of what else has happened has gone largely to form. Denver has struggled after getting points on the opening drive, and Carolina's pass catchers mostly have been unable to defeat Denver's cover players, when Cam Newton has had time to get the ball to them. The matchup that has gone Denver's way more than I expected coming in was how they handled Carolina's run game in general and option game specifically, and you could chalk that up to Stewart's injury if you wanted to.

[ad placeholder 3]

Vince Verhei: Hey, if Gary Kubiak's script worked so well to start the game, why don't they go back to that script for their first drive of the second half?

Aaron Schatz: Boy, did Jerricho Cotchery wake up on the wrong side of the bed today. Just lost the ball when he should have had a first down, a drop/defensed where Von Miller was covering him (!) and barely got his hand in.

Vince Verhei: That Cotchery drop is a perfect example of why Newton won the MVP with mediocre numbers. Denver blitzes. Cotchery can't get open against Von Miller, but Newton makes an absolute dream of a throw, where only Cotchery could catch it. But Cotchery (who, I remind you, failed to get separation against a pass rusher) can't hold on to the ball. None of this is an anomaly. Cam has been handicapped by these guys all year.

Mike Kurtz: Kubiak is listening to you, Vince!

Vince Verhei: And the Panthers are using their first-drive strategy too of over blitzing, which is leaving Robert McClain in one-on-one coverage against Emmanuel Sanders. Which isn't going well.

(Ted Ginn lets a pass bounce off his hands for an interception.)

Cian Fahey: In my personal quarterback charting, Cam Newton had three interceptions during the regular season that weren't his fault. Only six quarterbacks had more (excluding Carson Palmer who is yet to be charted). Peyton Manning also had three.

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe Jim Nantz is on with this "Peyton Manning provided a spark in his Week 17 return" narrative. Knock it off. This is all defense. Defense, defense, defense. And a little bit special teams. And fumble luck.

And with that complaint, Manning gets strip-sacked and this time Carolina actually recovers.

Cian Fahey: Did the Panthers run power for the first time in the third quarter?

Vince Verhei: Newton hits Ted Ginn for what should be a first down in the red zone, but Ginn lets Bradley Roby knock the ball away and Panthers get a field goal instead. This after an earlier pass hit Ginn in the hands and Ginn tipped it into the air for an interception, also in the red zone. These receivers are so awful.

Aaron Schatz: I'm a little blown away by how little Manning is throwing to Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders has McClain on him, Demaryius Thomas has Josh Norman, and Sanders has also looked better than Thomas for weeks now.

Then I went and looked, and actually Sanders has six catches for 83 yards and Thomas' only catch is on a screen. So my eyes are deceiving me. This game is weird.

Andrew Healy: Can't think of a mediocre punter making a bigger difference in the playoffs than the bad Colquitt these last two games. 48.2 net on his first six punts. Tack on a couple of blocks in the back and Denver's punts have changed field position by more than 50 yards per punt.

Vince Verhei: I was arguing on Twitter that Colquitt had an MVP case, though Von Miller has pretty much changed that single-handedly here.

Aaron Schatz: Miller's strip-sack probably ends the game. Just crushing Mike Remmers tonight. Where are those seven-man protections we wrote about? They keep leaving Remmers alone and Miller has destroyed him all night. And I don't understand why Newton took a step back instead of diving for a loose ball in the FREAKING SUPER BOWL

Mike Kurtz: Rivera has really taken up the Reid-ian mantle this game. Sub-four minutes left, Denver has the ball at your 7, you wait until the second-down play to call time out. Plus the trainwreck at the end of the first half.

Also, Simms and Nantz criticizing Newton for not jumping on a pile on something that was very close to an incompletion is completely ... well, something I can't post in this column.

Vince Verhei: Panthers punt down two touchdowns with just over 2 minutes left and only two timeouts. I don't care that it was fourth-and-24, I don't care they were deep in their own end. They will not get the ball back with a chance to tie now. In fact, the punt killed the two-minute warning. Denver is actually running plays and I don't know why. Just take knees and punt and laugh.

Tom Gower: Why not take the intentional safety? 16 is still technically two scores, and onside recovery may be about as likely as fourth-and-24. I know, an All Options Really Suck scenario, but I do value trying.

Aaron Schatz: Mike, I hate Nantz and Simms too, and I'm sick of racist crap about Newton. But you've gotta go for the ball there when there's no whistle. It's the Super Bowl and if they recover that fumble the game is over. You have to go for it.

We have been writing all year about how great the Denver defense is. It's great. It's really great. And it turned the game up in the playoffs, like the Bears in 1985 and the Ravens in 2000. A reminder: the best offense in DVOA almost always is higher than the best defense. Only four years have been exceptions. This was one of them.

[ad placeholder 4]

The others: 2008 (PIT -29.0% D, DEN 19.2% O); 1991 (PHI -42.4% D, WAS 27.2% O); and 1990 (PIT -21.6% D, BUF 20.9% O).

I should add, I don't think that Newton was "lazy" in not diving for the ball. I think he likely had a weird brain freeze.

Tom Gower: The shot's there, he can dive into the pile, possibly getting his banged-up left shoulder hurt worse, and there's already a player with his hands on the ball. Could he have done better overall there? Sure. But he's probably going to get ripped more than he should in my opinion.

Story of tonight's game for me? Von Miller is/should/will be MVP, and he was dominant, and a lot of the story will concentrate on how he and DeMarcus Ware beat Michael Oher and Mike Remmers all night while the defensive backs dominated Carolina's receivers. But we all knew that was likely to happen coming in. What got me is how the Broncos, who were just a really good run defense, really shut down the league's most multiple and difficult-to-defend run game, and one I thought had an edge over the defense in the physical/power game.

Andrew Healy: I know it almost certainly wouldn't matter, but Riverboat Ron punts on fourth-and-24 down two touchdowns with 2:08 left? Man oh man.

Kind of a weird day for the Panthers all around. An oddly unenergetic Cam, who didn't actually play all that bad despite that. Cotchery with two enormous drops. OK, that part wasn't weird, I guess. The first one led to the Broncos' first touchdown. The Panthers also tied the record for penalties in a Super Bowl with 12.

Let's dispense with the fairy tale ending talk for Manning, too. Does this even count in the legacy debate? 2.3 ANY/A for Manning today. He did what he could to lose -- just a brutal interception to Kony Ealy -- and the Broncos defense wouldn't let him.

And now someone is saying "a great sheriff's last dance." Sweet fancy Moses.

Vince Verhei: So, to back up my pregame claim that Peyton Manning would be the worst quarterback to win a Super Bowl in the DVOA era:

Trent Dilfer vs. Giants in Super Bowl XXXV: 12-25-153-1-0, three sacks, one fumble.

Peyton Manning vs. Panthers tonight: 13-23-141-0-1, five sacks, two fumbles.

Obviously, Manning was playing a better defense, but let's not pretend that Peyton Manning hasn't been lousy all year, or that he was especially good tonight.

Denver's defense was superb tonight. Yes, fumble luck went Denver's way for sure. But that pass rush was just suffocating.

Big edge for Denver in special teams too. Panthers finish with 3 punt return yards, and I'm sure that's deep into the negative yardage range once you account for the penalties. Plus, Denver made its field goals. Carolina had the only miss.

Scott Kacsmar: I think some FO commentators made a good point in how Denver's defense was not just No. 1 this year, but by a pretty good margin too. And it was definitely No. 1 tonight. I thought Ealy played very well to keep Carolina in it, but Miller and company were just outstanding again.

Tom Gower: Good point by Vince, Carolina really could've used something from special teams to flip the field and make things easier for the offense. I thought special teams would likely be a bit of a wash, since neither team was great in that area, but Colquitt had a great game and the coverage was outstanding when it needed to be as well.

Vince Verhei: Let's note that the Denver Broncos just finished beating MVP Cam Newton, four-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, and two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger, allowing those three players to complete 51 percent of their passes for 6.8 yards per pass with one touchdown, three interceptions, and 14 sacks.

Rob Weintraub: Believe it or not, I had to fly to Florida during the game, making this year the first time I haven't watched the Super Bowl live since I was -- what? -- 7 years old, I think. You'd be amazed how many folks fly during the Bowl, by the way -- Atlanta airport was packed. Of course, it's always packed...

One or two thoughts to pile on:

Glad I watched on DVR -- seemed like that game would have dragged badly watching live. Denver scarcely seemed like it was trying to move the ball for large chunks of the game. Their defense was their offense.

Miller was awesome but I might have given some MVP consideration to Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, and Sylvester Williams. They dominated the game on the inside, and Carolina's inability to gain anything running between the tackles set up the perimeter nightmare. And the inside dudes got good pressure on Cam on passing downs as well throughout the night.

Clearly the key play in retrospect was the early completion that wasn't, even though replay confirmed the ball never touched the ground (right?). That set up the strip-sack touchdown, which probably wouldn't have happened if Carolina had been near midfield.

That strip-sack touchdown was a virtual replica of the one Miller had on Brady in the AFC title game, except Brady held on to the ball. On that play, Miller went to merely wallop the piss out of Tom Terrific. Looks like Son of Bum got in his ear and told him if had the opportunity with Cam to go for the ball and not the big blow, which was what happened, to deadly effect.
The recovery of their own interception by Danny Trevathan was a colossal play that was kinda passed over by the broadcast, I thought. 50-50 ball inside the 5, Panthers all around, and Denver comes up with it. That's the sort of play that proves it's your night.

Another small-but-big play -- Anderson converting that fourth-and-1, even though it was wiped out by penalty. But if he doesn't get it (and at first he appeared to be stopped before squirting forward in a nice effort), the hold is declined, Carolina gets the ball, and Denver doesn't get those three points. Turned out not to matter much, but if the game is closer who knows how it turns out?

Josh Norman had a couple of picks he could (not should, but could) have made that might well have been game-changers. He's gonna be replaying this game in his head for a long time.

My take on the "Cam gave up! See, we were right about him all along!!" play on the fumble was that at the last second it appeared the Denver defender was about to slap the ball between Cam's legs, so he had to stop awkwardly as though he was going to change direction. But then the ball skittered toward the goal line instead. There's no way he made a Deion-like "business decision" to not go for the ball -- he was wrong-footed.

I plied my columns at Sports On Earth with stats about great defenses winning Super Bowls, and teams that put up big points in the playoffs failing to repeat that performance in the following game, and all sorts of indicators pointing Denver's way -- and then picked Carolina anyway. My ass is dumb.

But you already knew that.

Comments

489 comments, Last at 11 Mar 2016, 4:24pm

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I think I recall mentioning that Ware specifically said a big part of the reason he came to Denver was to play on a team with Manning.

Peyton was apparently also the one who suggested they bring Brandon Marshall up from the practice squad which obviously worked out really well (though they likely may have done that eventually anyway).

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

1 The probability that Peyton was actually using HGH is about the same as the probability that Brady intentionally had footballs deflated for some reason last year. That is to say it didn't happen.
2 I have absolutely no clue who you're referring to here
3 Can you show me ONE single fan who roots for a player BECAUSE they were accused of a felony? That's just a dumb claim, and you're posting usi,g emotions at this,point, rather than your head. Calm down and come back this afternoon, maybe?

249 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Wow, this is getting way sillier than the original irrational thread. Almost PFT quality, and I've stopped reading that site because of the bias and stupidity of both writers (MDS excluded) and commenters.

Side note, as a longtime Manning fan, I would not be terribly surprised about the HGH thing. Basically, you are a GOAT quality pro football QB who can't feel your right fingers. You are out of football for the foreseeable future and your career--your very identity for the past two decades--may well be over. But you can grasp at straws ands try this one thing. I think trying that is just human.

And if he did, the smart money would be on him putting it just that way--hey my career was over as things stood, so it was a 50/50 chance anybody would ever care about the HGH. But I tried it and it helped. It's not like I still use it and it enhances my performance--it enabled me to heal before I turned 50 and get back on tot he field while I still had a few more productive years left.

And really, if you take steroids in a year you are out of the NFL to recover from an injury (not get all Barry Bonds physically distorted), then come back next year... I have no real problem with that. Then again, I've always felt that using those drugs to recover (as opposed to add to what you already have physically) was fine. It's the impossibility of policing the issue that makes it al all-or-nothing rule, IMO. ("Hey, I have a doctor's note that says I needed this to recover from a strained ab," says Laron Landry as his 42" biceps knock over a phone booth.)

If a guy is out for a year with an injury and requires a metal rod to be inserted into his bone... is that so different? Using medical science to try to repair something broken so you can play next year? It isn't making you better, just trying to get you back close to where you were before. Thomas Davis did that for the SB and he's lauded as a hero. If he used HGH, Manning didn't suddenly become a superstar because of it. It just enabled him to get back onto the field.

So if he took it to try to regenerate nerve growth, I find that to be wrong per the NFL rules (rules that I don't really agree with) but understandable and human. Did he really do it? He strikes me as a real Eagle Scout, plus the "big talking" pharmacist Sly recanted, so I'd say no, but it would not surprise me.

A lot of guys here find the NFL rules regarding marijuana use silly for similar reasons.

273 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

RE: HGH use

Let's say the HGH was indeed for his wife who was using it to get pregnant because of fertility issues which led to the birth of their twins that same year. Has anyone worked back the timeline of when the twins were born to when she received the shipment? Note - using HGH also increases the chances of having twins.

416 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I agree you can't get too upset using when it looked like he probably wouldn't be able to play again.

However, the timing says if he did use HGH, which I believe he did, he got a lot of benefits from it.

He comes off a year without playing and three neck surgeries at the age of 36 to have one of the best years of his career?

He continues at that level for a year and a half more and then his play falls off a serious cliff and he looks old.

Guess what happened a couple weeks before his play nosedived?
The NFL started testing for HGH. It was always illegal, but they finally started testing for it.

428 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Here is the NFL.com note. By November, Manning was looking 'old' and had obviously lost 5 (or more) mph off his fastball. You might blame injuries, except he went through the off season and looked the same the next year.

NFL will begin testing for human growth hormone on Monday

NFL.com
Published: Oct. 3, 2014 at 09:53 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 4, 2014 at 09:58 p.m.

The NFL will begin testing for human growth hormone on Monday, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer, per a source briefed on the situation.

The league and the NFL Players Association announced an agreement on a new drug policy on Sept. 19 that included HGH testing for the first time ever.

"As you know, the new Performance Enhancing Substances Policy includes HGH testing. Testing for HGH will begin on Monday, October 6th," NFLPA president Eric Winston wrote in a letter to players. "Each week of the season, 5 players on 8 teams will be tested. No testing will occur on game days. We negotiated to ensure that the methodology of testing be conducted in the most professional and safest manner for players. Importantly, after three years of negotiating, players won the right to challenge any aspect of the science behind the HGH isoforms test in an appeal of a positive test."

It also stated that any positive test violations of both substances of abuse and performance enhancing drug policies -- which includes HGH -- will be handled by an independent arbitrator.

452 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Two things:

One, the probability that Peyton actually used HGH would seem to be much higher. To believe Peyton, I have to believe his wife used drugs prescribed for her at a time when it might look to the casual outsider that her husband would be much more likely to use them. To think Brady is guilty, I have to suspend everything I know about math and science. The NFL investigation actually proved that nobody had tampered with the footballs. Then a lot of b.s. happened.

Two, the evidence against Peyton is very similar to the nature of the evidence against Brady. Which is to say that there is pretty much none. If Ashley and Peyton stick to their story and the medical records back them up (I'd bet good money that they do) then there's going to be no way to prove that he used HGH that was prescribed for her.

Given that all of this happened several years ago there's really no way to prove anything at this point.

I'm happy to give Manning a pass. I just find baffling the people who simultaneously insist Brady was proven guilty while Manning has been proven innocent. Neither is true. But I'm happy to abide by the custom of presuming innocence.

Regardless, I don't want Roger Goodell's office investigating anything. They've shown that they cannot be trusted to do any meaningful investigation of any off-the-field activity. So the best reasonably likely outcome here would be if they stopped pretending that they can do the job in a professional manner. Because they don't. They run investigations like a PR firm.

321 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I think there is a (possibly undeserved) perception that he cheated.

Also that, when he go caught, he threw subordinates under the bus.

Also that he has creepy new age views on things.

Not saying any of that is fair or unfair. The ball bounces how it bounces. Or doesn't (okay that WAS unfair).

453 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Brady didn't cheat, and this "perception" language is just a way for people to present their own opinions without standing up for them.

There is zero evidence of anybody cheating. Given that, I don't see how anybody with neurons could think Brady "threw subordinates under the bus." Usually that phrase is reserved for people who actually, actively blame people. If you want to say he was willing to let others "take the fall" that would be fairer language, but it would also be inaccurate as things played out.

[Aside: I still don't know why Jastremski got suspended. There's literally no evidence that he did anything. Punish McNally for taking the footballs into the bathroom if you like, but there isn't a single text or statement or measurement that implicates Jastremski of doing anything. All that happened was the NFL wrote a fiction that needed to somehow tie Brady to McNally, and when they saw there was no direct communication between the two, they wrote an elaborate story about how Jastremski was the middle man. Even though there's absolutely no evidence to support this.
Of course, the lack of evidence is why the NFL played the game of having the Patriots suspend him instead of doing so themselves. Everything was done in a manner to protect themselves from future lawsuits based on their own dubious acts - which they knew at the time were dubious.
]

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

It may just all spring from the thorough physical asskicking the Broncos front seven delivered, but my distinctest impression from the game (besides said asskicking) was that Ron Rivera--who I like, and who I hope gets another chance at the big one--did not have his team well prepared at all. Newton looked shaken, lost and at times confused; for the first three quarters the offense plodded along at such a methodical pace that you had to wonder if Andy Reid was involved somehow; the special teams were poor; Rivera himself wasted a timeout and burned both his challenges early in the game; the team played sloppy and turned the ball over repeatedly; the team made no discernible adjustments at halftime. (Granted that your options to "adjust" to your offensive line getting its ass kicked on almost every down are limited, as Mike Tomlin and Bill Belichick can attest, but the team didn't play any different or any better in the second half than the first.)

Cam Newton is getting the blame, and that's not wrong; there's no way to sugarcoat the fact that he sucked, and missed plays that were there to make on a few occasions that he wasn't under duress within a second of the snap. But he was far from the only part of his team that didn't seem ready.

Also, I predict Peyton Manning will not retire.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

If Manning doesn't retire, there go the chances of the Broncos repeating. Aside from his cap hit (perhaps they could shift things around, so they could still franchise Von Miller), Osweiler will be signing somewhere else then. Throw in regression to the mean on the defensive side, and the inevitable terrible quarterback play, say hello to your 2016 AFC West champions: the Raiders.

If Peyton's smart, he retires like Elway did.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

If I'm Andrew Luck's agent, I'm having a meeeting with Luck this week, to outline a battle plan to ensure he doesn't have to take another snap on a roster put together by Ryan Grigson, and one of my targets is to get on a roster put together by John Elway. The guy was able to make things function with Tim Freakin' Tebow, fer' cryin' out loud.

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Boo! Boo! Go away, you bad man, and don't give them any ideas!

I can't fault your logic, but also can't believe they kept Grigson.

I really like that Luck kid, but really like the Colts, and can't *quite* see a happy ending there unless some real philosophical changes are made. Indy's D was actually decent this year, so maybe Pagano is not totally full of shit, but Elway built a giant monstrous D in just two years, while keeping significant parts of his top O from a couple years ago--not that either D Thomas or Manning produced much in the post season. Decker and J Thomas were good, but not crucial losses.

That's magic and yes, should help with FA recruiting for a decade to come. Instead of hometown discount (or Bill Belichick discount) high profile FAs may now be taking an Elway discount. And why not.

266 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Unfortunately for Colts fans, I think we may be seeing reversion to the mean for a professional sports franchise owned by a guy with severe substance abuse problems, without any real record of accomplishment outside of one fairly obvious hire, who inherited the team from a father who bought the team with stolen money, and was hated by his own mother.

463 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Hey, I just realized that my comment may have been misinterprted as an assertion that Jim Irsay was hated by his own mother. I was referring to Robert, and that being raised by someone as vile as Robert Irsay likely left some scars. I wouldn't refer to a rich guy who shafted the taxpayer for several hundred million dollars as "tragic", but he isn't the creep that his dad was.

That's pretty damning with faint praise, however. Short of murderers, sex offenders, armed robbers, and other violent criminals, Robert Irsay was about as bad as they come.

475 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

'Hated' is a pretty strong word. One snippet of a cold-called telephone conversation with a reporter does not necessarily equal hatred. God knows I've vented worse things about miscellaneous relations at various times - all of which I've regretted and apologized for afterwards.

I agree with you on everything else about Robert Irsay, but "His own mother hated him"... it's so horrifying to me that I can't help but cringe at the mere thought of it. And if it's true... it actually makes me feel more sorry for him than it makes me loathe him.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Or maybe I'm just getting soft as I get older. As loathsome a human being as Irsay might be, everyone should have a mother who loves him - including the murderers, sex offenders, armed robbers, and violent criminals.

477 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Yeah, it would have been better for me to write "His own mother was willing to denounce him as being no good, to a complete stranger who called her on the phone". Comments sections sometimes encourage excessive brevity.

Another interesting aspect of this to me is how ownership/management frequently pries into the family relations of players, especially draft propsepcts, in an effort to determine if there is something which indicates a lesser likelihood to excel as a professional football player. The idea of a player with some power turning the tables, saying, "Jim, I've read a lot of stuff about your family which concerns me. Would you go into detail about your relationship with your father, and how he raised you, and how he interacted with the rest of your family, and how you viewed his behavior, so as to give me some insight as to your ability to successfully manage the Indianapolis Colts?", is something I find supremely entertaining.

481 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Mildly entertaining? That would be glorious.

The only improvement I can think of is if a clever agent were to start requiring reciprocal character clauses in his players' contracts, allowing them to walk away if the owner or management were to engage in certain prohibited behavior. To use a purely 100% hypothetical example whose resemblance to actual behavior is purely coincidental, if the owner were to be indicted for fraud, or get arrested for a DUI, players would have the option to declare themselves unrestricted free agents while holding on to the entirety of their signing bonuses.

410 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

If I'm Andrew Luck, I'm not asking to go to a team with a worse offensive line than the one I'm already subjected to. By the way, the Broncos' best offensive lineman, Mathis, is a free agent. Really, Luck should be talking about Oakland and it's 70 million dollars in cap room (of course, the Colts are second in cap room for 2016).

248 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Why exactly is Osweiler signing elsewhere a problem for the Broncos? I think we've established he's not the next Aaron Rodgers. His performance ceiling doesn't appear to be all that high, though even the worst-case scenario probably isn't any worse thanleague average still (barring him puling a Kaepernick, which I can't imagine happening).

I really hope Denver is looking to do better. Even on draft day I thought he was a massive reach in the 2nd round (Russel Wilson and Kirk Cousins were both still available, and either would be a massive upgrade).

362 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Brock obviously isn't Rodgers, but he reminds me of a young Joe Flacco. Flacco was a game manager at the beginning of his career who evolved into something more and that seems like a reasonable ceiling for Brock. While Brock will likely never be elite, he's better than you describe and has a chance to be a solid second-tierl QB.

He had both good (clutch comebacks vs. NE & CIN) and bad (shut-out in 3 straight 2nd halves) moments, but what else are they going to do? It all depends on what his market demand will be, if LA or HOU push his salary north of $13-14M per year then they might have to move on...

Elway has his work cut out for him.

433 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

It's not a bad thing either...

Flacco doesn't put up great stats and there are probably 10 QBs I'd take ahead of him, but he is essentially what Denver hopes for Brock to be, which is; a game manager who doesn't crap the bed in big games and has the ability to occasionally take over a game when needed.

The issue with Flacco is that he's paid like Aaron Rodgers when he should be paid like Alex Smith. Denver getting Brock for around $13M/year allows them to keep their defense together and assemble a quality offensive line.

409 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

If Osweiler signs elsewhere, who quarterbacks the defending champions? Could Peyton survive another 16 games? If he retires, who do the Broncos sign: Ryan Fitzpatrick (possible), Cousins (doubtful, Washington will franchise him), Bradford? The best chance for the Broncos to repeat is for Brock to stay put. Now, would it be a long term disaster? No, but the Broncos would be wasting that nasty and now very expensive defense.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

This adds to the back of Healey's comment(he should look up Brady's ANYA for 2001): The legacy thing is a media creation, so why is FO double downing on it? No one thinks Manning was a great qb is his last sb anymore than him being a lesser qb when he lost. Yet its brought up in both situations?

Here at FO, commenters know enough that we shouldn't be wasting our breath on this silly debate. The anti manning crowd demanded two sbs to "validate" his legacy, so he has them. They can be ignored now.

Can we please just appreciate the career and the tremendous performance by the defense. I'm not sure its the best defense we've ever seen, but that was, in my mind, the best pass rush we've ever seen. They never let loose on energy despite drive after drive requiring to shutout the opponent. Miller is a hall of fame transcendent player. Ware is still a dominant pass rusher. Antonio Smith, Shaq Barrett and Ray make up a solid rotation. Jackson and Wolfe are good too. The secondary is deep and the linebackers and safeties are good too. This a defense with top line talent and top line depth.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

"No one thinks Manning was a great qb is his last sb anymore than him being a lesser qb when he lost."

Au contraire.

The Washington Post had an obviously pre-written piece posted as soon as the game was over, arguing that PM's second ring clearly gave him the title of "best QB ever". Reportedly somebody was passing a memo around the press box referring to him as a "2-time Super Bowl MVP winner" - before the game was over.

This win is going to be used as evidence of something, even though he played at or below replacement level. The hype machine is literally incapable of giving credit to the defense instead of the QB.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

"he was as much a part of the 2001 Patriots success as Manning was of the '15 Broncos."

Utter nonsense. Brady was 6th in passer rating in 2001, and the Pats offense was 6th in points scored. Manning was tied with Mallett for last in passer rating, and the Broncos were 19th in points scored, and just 24th in points per drive. Brady in SB 36 had 5.31 anypa, and produced the game winning drive in the final minute, after his defense blew a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter. Manning was at 2.11 anypa in SB 50, and fumbled in the 4th quarter, which nearly let the other team back into the game.

If you think Manning's 2015 performance was even close to 2001 Brady, you weren't watching. And 2001 may have been Brady's worst season.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

2001 Brady in the playoffs: 77.3 rating, 5.01 anypa
2015 Manning in playoffs: 75.4 rating, 4.54 anypa

So they're close, though Brady's numbers are a little better. But Brady won 2 games that year with late GWDs, against Oakland and St. Louis, and his numbers were hurt by the fact that he got injured against Pittsburgh.

I'm willing to let it go, but Brady is comfortably ahead of Manning if you look at their full postseason careers. It's not just the raw stats, it's the specific game situations. I find that manning's advocates love to cherry-pick stats in order to make peyton look good. I just wish people in forums like this one would be a little more consistent, and when I hear these statements people make about Manning, like "he has every significant record already" and "a 2nd SB ring was the only blemish on his otherwise spotless career" (I'm paraphrasing) it shows how desperate some of these people are to make Peyton into more than he's ever been. I believe Brady is just as good as Manning all-time, and probably slightly better. Nothing that happened in SB 50 changed my position on that.

262 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Yikes, I am sorry to hear that, RickD.

I guess the argument is that "nobody with his head screwed on right" will use this win as validation....

What you describe sounds like monkeys using wrenches to bang on piano keys--they're not actually playing the piano, but they ARE making sounds that other monkeys like to hear.

456 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I feared that story would be highlighed at the Post. But even though I saw the link on Twitter, I couldn't find a link to it on the main Sports page of the Post the next day. I take that as a sign that the editors thought it was silly and didn't need to be featured.

And, FWIW, I haven't seen much of that particular argument this week. The fandom world seems to have coalesced around the much saner narrative that the Broncos' defense was responsible for the victory.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Brady's ANYPA against St. Louis: 5.31

Manning against Chicago: 5.49

And Manning was terrible against Carolina, while Brady was really good in his other SB wins. So what's your point? SB 36 was far from Brady's best performance, and he didn't deserve the MVP. But what was so special about Manning against the Bears? People were impressed by Brady's last-minute drive against the Rams. What's wrong with that?

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Do we really need to point out opponent quality on this of all sites?

Your post up above was spot on regarding apples to apples and cherry picking and one game not changing a reasoned opinion. But let's just admit that you're guilty of it too.

(It's OK. It's human nature.)

424 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

No. Its hard enough trying to compare two players on different teams w different players and coaches facing two different opponents. And to do that over a 4 game sample makes it a complete waste of time.

Why does a sb count more than any other playoff game? Its single elimination either way.

Finally...if one were going to take that approach seriously and was forced to be logically consistent, your left concluding that eli is better than tom and peyton. That flacco is better than elway and dilfer is better than marino. Are you really prepared to make such an argument?

Its also remarkable how inconsistent the rings crowd is with their rankings. Brady and montana are the best, but somehow aikman and bradshaw barely figure in despite 3 and 4 rings.

427 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Just wondering...does the fact that the colts utterly imploded with one Manning injury vs the pats still being pretty good with a first time starter(who eventually proved to be a below avg qb) not change your opinion at all about the relative supporting casts having a say in who wins??

430 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Let's be fair - there is some recency bias there. I think the 2009 and 2010 Colts were genuinely bad teams led by a great QB, they excellent (if flawed) in 2004-2006, and still pretty good in 2007-2008. It just looks worse in hindsight because age, poor drafting, and front-office ennui during that time led to the later collapse; it makes us believe it was always that bad, when it wasn't.

I'm agnostic on Brady vs. Manning, but what I find really interesting about comparing them is that Brady's most Manning-like seasons (2007-2012) all ended in Manning-like fashion (the precision offense getting ground into the dirt by a bunch of cavemen with clubs).

I don't know if it's correlation or causation, but the Pats seemed to shift back to a more balanced roster construction right around the time when they lost Hernandez. I wonder if it was a conscious decision, or it just shaped out that way, because the alt-universe Pats with the improved defense and a non-homicidal Hernandez on the roster seems like it'd be a historically great team.

444 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

One was under perfect conditions against a decent defence. The other was in horrible conditions (worst for any SB possibly) against a very good defence. Its easy to poke holes in any argument either way.

If I had to make an argument of why Brady was better, I would not point to single games but argue about the different types of offences he runs and the fact that he doesn't make as many mistakes. If I was to argue for Manning, I would say he's done it with four different coaches and subpar defences and special teams (until this year).

I prefer Manning, mainly because I think he changed the game and when he was on, he was unstoppable. There are some long passes in his prime that you could not have placed any better if you were standing by the receiver. But there's no conclusive way to say he's better over the long haul unless we had a time machine and could put Manning and Belicheck together and Brady in Indy.

353 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I grant that I'm severely biased toward liking Shaq Barrett because he played for my college, but of the bench guys, I see him around the ball, making plays all the time. I can't recall ever seeing Shane Ray on the field even once though, and while I remember Antonio Smith doing a few nice things early in the season, I don't remember anything notable from him since week 5 or 6. Is this just selective attention, or did Barrett have the best year of the three by a huge margin?

355 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Hard to compare shaq barrett with antonio smith, given the different roles. Barrett was great as a depth player.

That's the thing about this defense. I had this discussion with a friend of mine. On paper, the chiefs defense has a lot of the same kind of headline talent - hali, houston, poe, derrick johnson, marcus peters, and eric berry - all are really really good. But Denver's defense is in the stratosphere because they have so much depth.

In thinking about this Denver D relative to the other great one's of the last decade, I was surprised to learn that the 09 jets were 2nd only to the 02 bucs as the pass defense since the 2000 season. That's right, better than this denver d, the 2013 seahawks, 2008 steelers or any iteration of the ravens or patriots. And when you think about who was on that team, its hard to name that many headline players. Off the top of my head, I remember Revis, Chris Jenkins, and bart scott. Idk how the jets were so good.

412 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

The 2009 Jets may have faced weaker pass offenses (Carolina before Cam, Tampa Bay when Freeman was a rookie), but they had Kerry Rhodes at safety, as well as Harris at linebacker. Jim Leonhard was solid at safety as well. Jenkins got hurt early on and Sione Pouha replaced him at nose tackle. Calvin Pace was their best edge rusher, but they relied on Rex's blitzes to force pressure and cause incompletions, and left Revis alone to take out the best receiver. Teams hadn't figured out Rex yet that first year.

363 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Hey, you went/go to Colorado State? When? I was there 1998-2003, and my brother was there something like 2004-2009.

I thought Shaq had a good year, too, though I wasn't playing close enough attention to notice if he was more of a situational player making high-visibility plays, or was getting it done on every down.

Either way, my brother and I can't believe he went undrafted.

387 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Shane Ray flashed a few times this season, had a pretty tough injury in the middle of the season, and is a rookie (Shaq isn't). But yeah, Barrett had an extremely good season, seemed like he had more flashes than either Malik Jackson or Derek Wolfe in their second years.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I just think that if the people state and accept that he won a super bowl while playing badly, they have to simultaneously state and accept that he lost super bowls and playoff games while playing excellently. At any rate, I think the 13-12 (winning!) postseason record is a victory for regression to the mean. He's a winning playoff quarterback, no matter how you want to look at it. No more asterisks on the guy, and that's the way it should be.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Exactly. This win really puts Peyton detractors in a logical bind, because if they don't want to give him credit for this win, then they open themselves up to all sorts of arguments about defenses and supporting casts that make Peyton look *better* overall, when compared to his "clutch" contemporaries like Brady and Roethlisberger (who was probably even worse in his first Super Bowl win than Manning was yesterday).

Of course this is assuming people care about logical consistency, which is highly questionable when it comes to those who insist Manning has been much worse in the postseason than other superstar QBs.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I forgot to mention: Congrats bronco fans. Its never easy to win a sb. Never. And you don't know when the next one will be. It could be 10 or even close to 50 years before your team wins another. Enjoy it. Really...because while they hand out a trophy ever year, there are still a slew of teams who've never tasted even one. That is one reason why a championship becomes so memorable.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I still think this is the worst Broncos team of the last 4 (2012 with a top 5 offense and defense was the best) and is yet another piece of evidence that the postseason is basically random and that the best way to win a Super Bowl is just to keep giving yourself chances (see also 2012 Ravens, and the 2006 Colts who were the worst Colts team from 2003 - 2007) and hope that one year everything breaks your way when it matters the most.

As for Manning, winning a ring in by far the worst season of his career should prove once and for all how idiotic "COUNT THE RINGZ!!!!111!!" are as a measure of QB play, but I suspect most here know that already. Still, if anyone deserved to get carried to a ring, it's him.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Maybe in terms of personnel, but those first three teams were hamstrung by coaching, and there's been a real improvement there this season. I hope this season rehabilitates Kubiak for many - the commitment level of the players is responsible for a lot of the extra success they had this season, and that was a quality ascribed to Kubiak even before he came to Denver. Meanwhile, with Fox there really was this sense of disconnectedness in the big moments. It was palpable in the week before SB48, and his coaching choices in the 2012 Baltimore game were arguably as responsible for the loss as Rahim Moore's misplay. (And, I'd still defend Moore there - it was a hell of a throw at an uncommon angle.)

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Yes. I still hope, probably forlornly, that Kubiak can consider getting an OC who he lets run games (by all means use some of Kubiak's concepts, but a bit more variation & imagination at times would be nice). However his man management with all that has gone on this year seems to have been excellent in terms of keeping the team focussed and together. He even had the guts to admit after the KC debacle that he shouldn't have let Manning start I retrospect, which not many coaches do.

That said still greatful as a fan for John Fox coming in and providing a steady hand to pull things round from the McDaniels man-management fiasco (and he and his coordinators did an amazing job getting something out of Tebow). They just seemed less good at single game planning. Kubiak's scripted start giving Phillip's defence a foothold on the scorecard and the fact that the defence has been stepping up despite the offence and not giving up have been impressive this year.

176 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I'm a big Ravens fan, and even I always felt a little guilty that we stole away Peyton's best chance at a second ring in 2012. I'm glad to see him get one this year. Would have been happy for Cam too, but as a fan I'm delighted that Manning has a chance to ride off into the sunset.
(Whether he takes that chance or not, is another question.)

356 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Ha! That game hurts almost as much as the Seattle super bowl. I was so sure that 2012 squad was destined for the Lombardi. You might recall the Broncos starting 2-3 that year, and in week 6 they trailed San Diego 24-0 at halftime, yet eventually winning 35-24, then winning every game straight through (how can the football gods not reward the way that team came together?) until that damn Baltimore game. If the 2012 safeties were half as good as the 2015 unit...

304 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Excellent points all around, and I agree with your assessments of the Broncos and Colts teams. The playoffs are a brutal machine with many random elements; succeeding when the big stuff breaks your way (2015 Broncos) is an oddly cathartic way of balancing those times when the big stuff doesn't (2012 Broncos). Most teams don't get those repeated, sustained chances to balance things out, though. The machine is unforgiving.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Von Miller was fantastic. In another world where all the breaks get reversed Ealy gets the MVP - both d-lines were crushing the opposition (although Schofield didn't look like he was turnstiling people - maybe the light has come on for him?) and yards were just not there most of the night.

That first challenge on the Cotchery play was interesting to me - the only point at which I was unsure he caught it was when he was recovering it as he went down and the nose of the ball goes out of sight behind his arm. If it touches the ground there I can see not calling it a catch, but I can't believe the refs had a better view than the hi-res slow-motion replay.

Newton definitely looked like he got wrong-footed and jumped back to avoid kicking the ball (or the guy on the ground in the hand), not that he made a choice to not dive into a pile. I think the "he didn't want to hurt himself" narrative is horse puckey and smacks of ulterior motives, although walking out of his post-game press conference won't help.

I'd have to look at the tape again, but Manning seemed to have more good throws than Newton, although that absolute laser that Cotchery couldn't come up with against really good coverage by Miller might have been the best throw all night.

The best defense in the league this year went out and conclusively demonstrated they were not overrated. As was mentioned above, they beat Big Ben, Tom Terrific and Superman in three straight games, dishing out enough punishment to turn lesser players into a fine paste. Wade Phillips did a great job this year.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

On the Cotchery challenge, you are correct that we couldn't tell if the nose of the ball touched the ground when he mostly had his hand under it. Since Cotchery didn't have firm control of the ball at the time, if the nose of the ball did touch the ground then it would be an incomplete pass.

The refs couldn't tell either, which is why they said on review that the original call stands. (Note that they said the call "stands", not that it "is confirmed", which means that they were saying that they didn't have definitive evidence on video.)

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

There is enough doubt that the nose of the ball could have bounced back off the ground on the first impact (his hand was underneath towards the front, not wrapping the nose) that I couldn't see it being overturned with the rules as they are. This is as a Broncos fan who at the time said I'd be happy to call that a catch myself but it wasn't going to overturned. I think that doubt is more important to the decision than did it just touch a protruding blade of grass at the end (didn't see it do that myself).

The big thing on that play is that it was a nice pass to a guy who should have caught it cleanly and then none of this would matter. I can certainly see how it was rules incomplete at full speed, and can't see how the replay could absolutely prove that was wrong the way rules are written.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I always put replay reviews into 3 categories.

1) Obvious overturn
2) Obvious uphold
3) Not enough evidence either way so you go with the call on the field.

In my opinion, that one definitely fell into #3 so yeah, it was a bad decision to overturn it. Although I did find it hilarious to listen to Mike Carey make another bad replay call (even if he was right.)

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

It was clearly a catch. The ball didn't hit the ground. Replay official screwed that one up, giving too much deference to the on-field officials.

I have no idea why the on-field officials called that one an incompletion. But the sequence underscores that there's no substitute for having the initial calls be done correctly. Feels like officials far too often are lazy in that respect.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I think you're missing another possibility there. You couldn't see on video if the nose of the ball touched the ground.

That doesn't mean the ref who called the pass incomplete didn't see it. And I think that's what a lot of people here are missing, and it's why I think they let the call stand, like you said. You couldn't tell from video, the ref said it was incomplete, so it's incomplete.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I thought it was a catch, but if it is so close that even in super slow motion on an HD screen, reasonable, unbiased people can't really tell, then neither side has a legitimate gripe when it doesn't go their way.

On a broader, related note, one thing that bothers me about the whole "you can't tell what a catch is anymore" complaint is that people seem to want a standard that is close to 100% consistent, and you are never going to have that no matter how many tweaks are made to the rule, because there are always going to be plays like this where neutral observers see it differently. That's just how human perception works -- I think we all need to just accept that instead of thinking this ambiguity would go away if NFL rule makers weren't so incompetent.

182 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Yeah that was my immediately thought after the replay. That is a catch, but since it was ruled incomplete it is going to be hard to overturn since it is a little ambiguous.

I do think how it is hilarious how in situations like that probably 85% of DEN are positive it is not a catch and 85% of CAR fans are positive it is, and they both can't seem to get our of their own asses and do some critical thinking about the situation. But then again fandom and its accompanying tribal stupidity is my least favorite part of sports.

357 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Statwise, you could make a case. But the difference to me is the way Miller (and pals, of course) have been rattling quarterbacks, especially in the last 2 games. Whether they got a sack or not, Brady's internal clock was all screwed up, and poor Cam was so shaken up he didn't seem to be having fun at all out there. Miller has been dominating games like no one since... who else? Lawrence Taylor or Derrick Thomas? They were before my time, but from stories people tell, maybe.

Von Miller and Sean Taylor (RIP) are the only two defenders I can recall at the moment to have singlehandedly taken over games, because even when they aren't there, the offense constantly thinks they are, and end up playing scared as a resjlt.

358 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I've seen a few players do it, but it is rare. Julius Peppers vs the Vikes in 09. I thought jared Allen tore through the bears in 2010(i believe). Hell, Khalil Mack did it against the broncos this year

As a football theoriest(I like the term); I've always been fascinated by pass defense - is it pass rush or coverage. Statistically, its really hard to tease out and this defense does not help either. We all know their pass rush destroyed people, but the coverage took away brady's quick throws and they all but eliminated olsen from the receiving game. And then there was the GB game where the broncos defense covered all the receivers for 5+ seconds.

360 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Nice, I've also been studying the great pass defenses recently. I wouldn't put Khalil Mack in the same category as Miller and Taylor (and maybe the guys you mentioned). Mack dominated directly, in a way that the stat sheet reflects ckearly. That domination is no less effective, but much more commonly seen.

In contrast, I remember some Washington games (most notably against the Eagles, I don't remember the year but 04 or 05 I'd guess) where opposing receivers were literally scared to complete a pass, and instea of just alligator arming it, they would consistently pull up 2-3 steps short of the ball, just because they had beem slammed by Sean Taylor so hard and so often, they were focusing on him instead of on catching the ball. It's harf to complete a pass if you're too scared to finish your routes! You wouldn't be able to tell what happened from the stat sheet alone, you had to watch the game to understand why it went the way it did.

361 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I thought we were just talking individual games.

Its hard not to be a prisoner of the moment. Von was so dominating, its tempting to call him the best edge rusher I've seen. But then James Harrison looked so good. Demarcus Ware in his prime was scary. So was Allen. And freeney in his heyday had that spin move that would make Jon Ogden look silly.

Definitely forgetting some others. Strahan was great too.

365 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

There were some games in the past few years where Von Miller disappeared so completely I expected to see his picture on the back of a milk carton the next week. (Which could just reflect the difficulty of trying to do something that other highly-paid professionals are trying to stop you from doing -- some of those guys have transcendent games, too!) But this postseason run was one for the ages.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

This really does make me wonder about elite defenses and how hard it might be to judge how good they are when they aren't playing playoff-caliber opponents. Mostly just because, why didn't more people expect such a dominant performance by the Broncos defense? I'm not talking about fumble luck, it's more that Carolina was never really out of this game, but you just got the feeling that Denver consistently and regularly just flat-out beat that offense, drive after drive. Carolina just looked outclassed - it didn't look like the kind of game where Denver's defense would only play that way 4 out of 10 games. Maybe it has something to do with what success for a defense look like - a defense really can't play much better than simply preventing the other team from executing pretty consistently. Maybe this mutes the effects of how good a defense is in some circumstances.

It might just be as simple as using season stats when Denver had a varying level of safety quality. Ward and Stewart, Bruton and Bolden, Keo and Bush. Top-shelf, extremely solid, and street free agents. Bruton and Bolden have been out or limited for a while, so when Ward and Stewart got injured, they were basically a different defense. And then when they came back at (pretty much) full power, the defense was far better than most people remembered.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

If they played the 2013 Seahawks, it'd have been good prep for them. The 2015 version is still very good, but not at the same level.

That said, you can only play the teams on your schedule, and it's not like they snuck through the playoffs. They dominated two very good teams (I'm still calling the divisional round a dominant win, even though they turtled int he 2nd half). They just got beat by a crazy good squad this time around. It happens, and more importantly, it happens to everybody sooner or later.

359 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Even as a Denver fan, I was worried that Carolina had unique offensive personnel (QB built like an FB, plus actual FB Mike Tolbert) and a run-biased philosophy that could theoretically make Denver's edge rushers work against them. Fortunately, Carolina didn't seem to do much of anything to optimize for attacking the unique threats posed by this defense. They just did what they've been doing, and even after seeing that their gameplan wasn't going to work, they still didn't make any major adjustments.

Remember what Rivera said at halftime? The team with the ladt possession will win? Ron you're thinking of an offensive shootout. He and his offense were simply unprepared, confused, and totally out of ideas. In contrast, Phillips had his unit ready for anything the Panthers might throw at them. They weren't surprised, and they were in control. Well maybe not Talib

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I'm not sure I buy the idea that this game was mostly settled by fumble luck and a few wacky plays. Even throw out two Denver turnovers to even things up and they might've still won. The Panthers had the advantage in yards per play, but that's significantly influenced by the Broncos playing conservatively late in the game (their last four drives they were doing almost nothing but running for very short gains). Denver probably left more points on the field than Carolina too, considering how many drives got stalled out in Panther territory. A slightly more effective offense in a few places and Denver could've won quite easily.

Newton's going to get too much blame, no surprise. That's the way it is for QBs: way too much credit when they win, similarly excessive blame if they lose. He was hurt by the Panther's designed run game being totally stoned, and by his receivers being mostly incapable of getting open. He also had a couple of incompletions that were actually great plays, since just getting away from the pass rush enough to get rid of the ball was an achievement. The huge total of bad penalties and two terrible special teams plays weren't his fault either. I don't know if he played better than Peyton, though, since the Panther's defense is plenty good itself. Neither were as bad the stats would indicate.

Carolina got away with having bad receivers most of the year, but they obviously need to upgrade there a lot. It's still sort of absurd they let go of Steve Smith a few years ago. The whole time since they could really have used him.

I wonder what John Fox is thinking. It doesn't seem like Kubiak did anything this year that Fox couldn't have done just as well… Although I guess you have to credit Kubiak for bringing in Wade Phillips, which appears to have been important indeed. But Kubiak's offense wasn't a success at all under eithe QB. Overall it's remarkable how much of Denver's season was spent in crisis and melodrama mode considering how it ended.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Reasons why Carolina had more yards:

1. Starting field position.

Denver had a defensive score, and started two drives in the red zone (PR, TO).

It's hard to rack up yardage when three drives can, at most, net 20 yards. (They ultimately netted 5, and 15 of 18 possible points)

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Hmmmmm...

Averaging 17 yards per drive for drives starting in their own territory indicates that short fields didn't actually steal much yardage from the Broncos. Having two fewer drives accounts for a little bit of yardage, for sure. All told, it's maybe 30-50 yards they didn't get for those reasons.

But more likely, the reason is that the Panthers got 21 first downs to the Broncos' 11. They had more plays mostly because of that. They also had more yards per play.

The reason the Panthers had more yardage was that they were better at moving the ball. The reason that didn't ultimately matter is that fumbles, fumble recoveries, and special teams play are all part of the game, too.

But don't fool yourself about the two offenses' ability to move the ball.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Carolina actually had more 3 and outs than Denver did (8 vs 7), although both had a couple of extra 4 and 5 play drives that were basically just limousine 3 and outs.

Carolina had more "successful" drives -- 7 to 4, but Denver scored on two of their 3-4 play drives (1 FG, 1 TD+1), and one of Carolina's drives was that 8 play, 26 yard (1:55) drive where Denver was happy to trade yardage for time.

So I'm not seeing how the difference wasn't mostly field position and location of turnovers. Neither team could drive the ball, and made most of their successful yardage in single big chunk plays.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

That's really not a sufficient explanation. Denver had 11 first downs and Carolina had 21. After their first drive they simply didn't have any extended drives. They had 3.7 yards per pass and 3.2 yards per run.

Let me repeat that: they had 3.7 yards per pass! Peyton Manning finished the postseason with the fewest yards per attempt of the 12 starters. (Cam finished with the most.) In the regular season, every single qualifying QB had at least 6 yards per attempt.

Carolina had a huge advantage in terms of yards from scrimmage. The differences were in the turnovers (3 fumbles and 1 pick to 1 fumble and 1 pick) and the penalties. Carolina lost 102 yards to penalties and the Broncos lost 51 yards, almost all of which were in the three early penalties to Talib.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Denver had 11 first downs in large part because for most of the game after the first drive they didn't even seem particularly interested in getting first downs.

But I agree that that's not a sufficient explanation. Field position "robbed" them of the opportunities for more total yards, but let's not pretend that they'd have been likely to gain them even if they had longer fields in front of them.

225 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199501150sfo.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/195212280cle.htm

Were those games where TOs and field position (and offensive strategy) had nothing to do with the disparity in yardage and 1st downs? Neither were particularly close games.

These two are a hapless offense exploiting TOs and wasted opportunities by the other side. I have no idea how San Diego won that game.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199501150pit.htm
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200101070oti.htm

This one probably is a field-position game, as a result of TOs. Denver had more 1st downs, but half the yardage, and the game was a blowout.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200601140den.htm

Then there's this. Hard to argue 2010 New Orleans had a bad offense.
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201001240nor.htm

Only two of these teams were probably unable to generate more offense. The rest are a mix of unwilling and unnecessary. Those first two teams were clearly running the crap out of the ball.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Per usual,I had to do more socializing during the SB, than I normally do when watching a game, when I usually go back and forth on a lot of plays, with the DVR. As a result, I have more general impressions than firm conclusions.

I, too, think Newton was very nervous at the start, and like one of the FO writers noted above, my impression is that Shula really didn't do much to take advantage of his qb's skill set in the 1st half, which gave me the sense that Phillips was kicking Shula's ass.

As long as the Panthers were trying to knock Miller and Ware back a half step, I thought they should have been happy with a 3-3 halftime score, or even a 6-3 deficit, which means I really hated having Newton drop back to his goal line on third and long. When your opponent has one path to victory, don't help him get started in that direction.

As much as the Broncos were able to play a style of game which was ideal for them, the Panthers may easily have won, if their receivers had caught the ball, and their kicker makes a pretty simple one, or if the Panthers had simply had a little better luck.

The under was a pretty obvious play, of course.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Denver won by two scores so I don't think it had that much impact in the end but on the strip sack that lead to the defensive TD Miller whomped Newton right in the face on his way to the strip, shouldn't that have been an instant roughing call? (I'm genuinely not sure of the exact rule)

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

The refs called very little holding period -- just three total calls including zero against the Panthers O-line, which is pretty remarkable given that they were getting beat all night. There was one play -- an against-the-grain pass to Olsen I believe -- where it looked like DeMarcus Ware got flat-out dragged down and it didn't draw a flag.

Given that the game already had a lot of penalties, I'm glad the refs didn't call a bunch of holding.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I commented at the time that if the teams had been reversed and Ealy had laid that exact same hit on Manning, it would have been 15 yards. And it would have.

Hitting the quarterback in the head is by rule automatically roughing the passer. But RTP rules have always been overlooked when it comes to big strong quarterbacks that are known for being hard to sack, Newton and Roethlisberger being the most notable examples.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

I couldn't watch too many games like that, where the defenses totally dominate and the passing games go nowhere, but I did enjoy it. I haven't seen a team tackle as well as Denver in a long time. It's kind of apt that the 2016 season ends with overwhelmed offensive linemen false starting and committing personal fouls; with receivers dropping passes; and with poor clock management and dubious challenges from the sidelines. It was that kind of year.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who couldn't care less about Manning's legacy. He just became the dilferest champion of all.

So this is the payoff for John Elway's strategy of signing veterans like Ware, Talib and Daniels in order to make a push for a championship before Manning's arm fell off. It was quite a risk; it shouldn't have worked, and I don't know if it's a model that can be replicated. In any case, as a Packer fan, I'm in no danger of seeing it infect Ted Thompson's thinking.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Looked like Newton got wrong-footed on the second fumble. He looked to be ready to dive, but jumped back when he saw a helmet heading for his knee. That got him so out of sorts that the play was dead before he got back into balance. I don't think it was calculation that kept him upright, it was reflexes.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

It also looked like the ball was coming towards him and was almost too close to dive in, much hard to dive down at your feet than actually forwards a bit. I think he was trying to think what to do, and the given the battering he'd taken and the situation, quite possibly second guessing himself a bit as the moment passed.

I'd guess the John Elway knows how Newton feels as well as anyone right now... Hope to see Newton get another chance, he did miss a couple of throws high, but he was also under huge pressure - felt he was made to look bad rather being completely self inflicted, hope the narrative over the next months reflects that, the number of sacks he somehow avoided even only throw the ball away on the way down. Sometimes all you can get out of something is the least worst outcome.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Agreed on Newton not diving for the ball. It looked like her just got caught between a couple different options, either froze or tried to change what he was going to do, and it resulted in him not making a play on it at all. It didn't look like he was ambivalent to recovering it like Hillman was on the backward pass fumble in the AFCCG.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

Newton will probably get plenty of chances. The Panthers lost their no. 1 receiver from an already weak corps, signed the Blind Side guy off the scrap heap for a left tackle, had weak tackles, and went 15-1 to lose in the Super Bowl. The Saints are in cap hell, the Bucs fired Lovie Smith, so the Falcons are their only divisional competition who seem competent at the moment.

If I'm the Panthers, I draft the best player available but if Conklin, Decker or Spriggs are there, I take them.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl 50

My feeling (going strictly off memory here) was that he was too close for a dive, so he stepped back to try and slide... and then the ball got punched away from the pile.

If he dove headfirst but overshot the ball (as seemed likely), he'd get credit for the effort even if it actually hurt his team's chances more than taking a step back before trying to recover it.