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

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these 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 solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Green Bay Packers 25 at Tennessee Titans 47

Bryan Knowles: Tennessee coming out feisty today, with a surprise onside kick on the opening kickoff! Green Bay easily recovered it, but I appreciate the effort.

Scott Kacsmar: I like a surprise onside kick from an underdog, but the Packers aren't good enough this year to justify doing that against them to start a game. And halfway through the first quarter, they certainly don't look good today. The Titans have ripped off huge plays, including a 75-yard touchdown run by a supposedly ailing DeMarco Murray, and Aaron Rodgers has been sacked twice on third down already. Murray even threw a touchdown to Delanie Walker on another trick play if you want to call it one, which is something that Mike Mularkey built a reputation for under Bill Cowher many years ago. Remember when Green Bay had that impenetrable run defense early in the season? Yeah, that was built on the schedule, but it also doesn't help that Clay Matthews is out again today.

Bryan Knowles: Great stat from Paul Kuharsky here, regarding Taylor Lewan's ejection -- Lewan was ejected for shoving an official after a scrum. Jeff Triplette and his crew have had six of the 11 ejections so far this year, so they're clearly a little more sensitive to that sort of thing, whereas other officials might let a little player-referee contact go.

The Titans scored touchdowns on their first four drives of the game. That hasn't happened since 2014. That's not what I would have expected from a Packers defense which came into this week seventh in DVOA.

The Titans have yet to throw an incomplete pass, now two-thirds of the way through the second quarter.

Tom Gower:

Aaron Schatz:

Tom Gower: Titans up 35-16 at the half. Holy smokes, the Titans are up 35-16 after 30 minutes of play. Second-most points in a (first?) half in franchise history, behind only a 1990 destruction of a 2-10 Browns team that ended 58-14.

Offensively, everything was working for Tennessee and not working for Green Bay's defense for the first ... 25 minutes or so. DeMarco Murray went 75 yards with relatively few problems (bad pursuit). Murray threw a halfback pass to a wide-open Delanie Walker (bad coverage). Marcus Mariota found a ton of open receivers from relatively clean pockets (started 10-for-10). Mike Mularkey tried a lot, and a lot of it worked, while Dom Capers didn't seem to be winning anything. Delanie Walker stiff-arming Packers defenders to the ground made things even uglier. First four possessions ended in touchdowns, fifth in a muffed punt that was ruled to be a Titans recovery, and they scored off of that as well.

Packers' offense early looked as bad as their defense did. Trying to run. Failing to run. Holding penalties negating good plays. Aaron Rodgers holding the ball forever, then going down. Just imagine most of what we have seen since October of last year and you get the picture. 26 yards in the first quarter.

Then, the quick game. Rodgers started getting the ball out after his third step, and the Packers started moving the chains. Bang-bang-bang touchdown. Only a holding penalty on first-and-goal at the 9 and a busted screen courtesy of Jurrell Casey on one series and a Mason Crosby missed extra point kept them from getting 21 points on their second-quarter possessions. Titans offense may need to keep it up in the second half.

Not sure what to say about a second half that the Titans won 12-9 to come away with a 47-25 final. Key was Tennessee's offense answering Green Bay's score after their initial stop to get the lead back to 19 points. Two big plays that drive: Mike Daniels with a personal foul that gave Tennessee a first down on what would otherwise have been third-and-8, and yet another "why should we cover him?" play, against Tajae Sharpe for a 33-yard touchdown. Titans did better against the quick game, Richard Rodgers dropped a fourth-down pass and stopped running on a third-down deep throw so that it ended up going right to Perrish Cox with no Packer in the area, Tennessee got a couple field goals, and it was all over bar some more botched explanations by Jeff Triplette.

Denver Broncos 25 at New Orleans Saints 23

Andrew Potter: Saints first drive: punt after one first down gained on the ground, very tight coverage on two consecutive incomplete passes forcing the punt.

Broncos first drive: 13 plays, 71 yards, Trevor Siemian to Jordan Taylor for the touchdown.

These defenses are so far exactly as advertised.

A lot of A.J. Derby and Jordan Taylor on that Broncos touchdown drive, with Derby involved both as a receiver and as an H-back on running downs. Siemian was inaccurate early, but his receivers made several good catches on poor throws. The touchdown was initially ruled out of bounds, but rightly overturned on challenge. Delvin Breaux almost ripped it out, but Taylor clutched it at the second attempt.

And now, on the second drive for the Saints, a Drew Brees deep ball on a corner route toward Travaris Cadet is intercepted superbly by single-high safety Darian Stewart.

Saints have gotten to Siemian a couple of times, but if the front four don't get pressure there's absolutely nothing behind them.

... and now only a diving Mark Ingram tackle prevents Darian Stewart from scoring on his second interception of the game.

The Saints have had four drives and so far their top receiving trio of Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Willie Snead have all put up doughnuts. Brandon Coleman has one reception, but Darian Stewart has caught more of Brees' passes than all of the Saints wideouts. Denver's coverage is absolutely smothering, and the young Saints receivers cannot get free. Bradley Roby has been particularly excellent, while I don't think Brees has even bothered trying to attack Chris Harris. The Broncos are putting on a man coverage clinic.

Sterling Moore picked off Siemian deep in Saints territory to give the Saints possession on their own 38 with 30 seconds before halftime. Denver softened up its coverage, so the Saints immediately went 40 yards in two plays taking all of ten seconds off the clock. A Wil Lutz field goal makes it 10-3 at the half, a scoreline that very much flatters the Saints.

Vince Verhei: Drew Brees just offered a reminder, like it was needed, of how quickly he can turn a game around, even against a great defense like Denver's. Two deep crosses, one a third-down conversion, and a bomb down the sideline to Brandin Cooks, and the Saints get a 7-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. (The actual touchdown was a 3-yard Brees-to-Willie Snead scoring strike.)

Andrew Potter: For all the praise I have heaped on Denver's defense in that first half, the Saints have now scored on three consecutive drives -- a field goal to end the first half, then touchdowns on the first two drives of the second half -- to take the lead.

First touchdown came when Denver failed to pass off a slant-flat combo, both defenders going with the slant and leaving Willie Snead wide open in the flat. Second came after Trevor Siemian threw a horrible interception to Kenny Vaccaro, giving New Orleans the ball on the Denver 38. Four plays later, Drew Brees hit Snead again in the end zone -- this time the receiver was tightly covered but made the contested catch.

Denver's secondary is still very good, but the defense on the whole is not as good as last year and, at least today, isn't quite good enough to make up for this level of bad play from the offense -- specifically the quarterback. Even the passes Siemian is completing, he's missing but the receivers are adjusting. Damned if the defense is going to give up the game without a fight though. Darian Stewart just picked up his third turnover of the game, this time on a fumble that never hit the ground after the ball was knocked out of the hands of Michael Thomas by the excellent Bradley Roby. Broncos ball on the Saints 25.

Vince Verhei: That's the fifth turnover in that Broncos-Saints contest. It has been a fun kind of sloppy.

Andrew Potter: It has been exactly the contrast I expected. Denver's defense is forcing turnovers with tight coverage and great range from the safeties, pummeling the Saints receivers into submission. New Orleans is getting turnovers from bad decisions and bad throws by Trevor Siemian, though they're causing some of that with pressure -- most commonly from Cameron Jordan and Nick Fairley. The Saints are also hurling secondary blitz after secondary blitz at Siemian, and they're getting rushers free with regularity. They did so again on that Demaryius Thomas touchdown, but Siemian had already identified the matchup and the ball was gone before Paul Kruger or Kenny Vaccaro could get there. Thomas was able to make the catch over the top of Delvin Breaux.

Brandin Cooks just made one of the plays of the year to catch a 32-yard bomb between T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby, to theoretically put the Saints up 24-23 ... EXCEPT the extra point was blocked, and might have been returned for two to win the game for Denver. However, Will Parks might have stepped out completely unnecessarily on the return, meaning it would be 23-23 with the Saints about to kick off. The play is under review right now.

Bryan Knowles: New Orleans drives down the field in fantastic fashion, eating up huge chunks of yards to score a touchdown, and tie the game at 23, pending the extra point...

...which is BLOCKED, and returned for two points by the Broncos. It's being reviewed, but if it stands, what a turn of events.

Aaron Schatz: The Saints just tied the Broncos 23-23 on a touchdown heave to Brandon Cooks with two Broncos defenders draped all over him in the end zone. And then the Broncos blocked the extra point and returned it for a two-point conversion. Except the guy returning it may have stepped out of bounds.

Not enough evidence to overrule. Broncos now lead 25-23 and Saints will have to onside kick.

Andrew Potter: Ruling on the field stands. A stunning, stunning turnaround. Saints fans are having all kinds of John Carney flashbacks right now.

Aaron Schatz: Broncos recover onside kick, game over.

Vince Verhei: So much going on at the end of this game.

Michael Thomas fumbles the ball away and the Dolphins recover. It was Thomas' second fumble in four catches, the first time a wide receiver has fumbled twice in a game this year. I think we have our Least Valuable Receiver of Quick Reads clinched this week.

Broncos, though, go three-and-out and kick a field goal. This leaves them up 23-17. That sets up the Cooks touchdown everyone else described. Then the game-winning extra point is blocked Bobby Wagner-style by Justin Simmons, and turns into a game-winning defensive runback. I think it's a good thing the returner there was wearing white shoes -- it was impossible to see precisely where his foot was. Based on body position, I think there was probably an 80 percent chance the guy was out of bounds. But since he wasn't wearing black or blue or orange shoes, I can't say for sure.

Rob Weintraub: At some point teams are going to have to employ some kind of blocker near the center to prevent that leap over play. Not sure how to make it legal but the counterattack has to come.

Andrew Potter: The Saints were the first team ever to return a blocked extra point for two after the NFL introduced that rule. I just feel like I should throw that out there while I try to process what just happened.

Los Angeles Rams 9 against New York Jets 6

Bryan Knowles: The announcers criticized the Rams, who had four shots at the end zone from the Jets' 1 and didn't let Todd Gurley touch the ball once, settling for a field goal. At the moment, though, Gurley has seven carries for 6 yards, so it's not like anything they're doing is particularly efficient at the moment.

Vince Verhei: Late start this morning, missed the first quarter (or more) of most games. Look up at the Jets game, and the first thing I see is New York running a hook-and-lateral for a 5-yard touchdown. These are the lengths to which the Jets must go to convert in the red zone.

Rams kick a field goal to tie the game 6-6 late in the third. Unlike the 6-6 tie between Arizona and Seattle, there is no debate as to whether this is good football or not -- it's definitely two lousy defenses playing soft zones and bend-but-don't-break schemes, and two quarterbacks playing to take what the defense gives them and nothing more. Bryce Petty's overall statline (14-20-128) looks decent enough, but 50 of those yards came on one deep play to Robby Anderson from his own goal line, and he overthrew a wide-open Anderson on what should have been a big play on another pass. On the other side, Kenny Britt is having his own share of big catches (101 yards on only six grabs already), but the Rams can't run at all (Todd Gurley has 33 yards on 15 carries). Both teams have moved the ball OK up to about midfield or so, but neither has been able to do much of anything at all in scoring range.

Johnny Hekker just had a 78-yard punt. He had a 75-yarder last week, and a 60-yarder the week before that. As others have said, he has probably been the Rams' second-best player this year behind Aaron Donald.

Here is Hekker's 78-yarder. The 75-yarder last week got a good roll after Ted Ginn failed to field it. This one went 78 yards and was caught on the fly. That's insane.

Dumb Moments in TV Coverage: Bryce Petty has an almost-fumble ruled an incomplete on third-and-10, leading to a punt. Camera cuts to Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline. Now Petty is having a crummy day, and I don't think he'll ever be a starter, but for god's sake, Fitzpatrick was benched twice in the past four games for a reason. He's not coming in to lead a comeback here.

Atlanta Falcons 15 at Philadelphia Eagles 24

Aaron Schatz: Eagles defense dominating Falcons offense early except for one really awesome 29-yard Julio Jones catch with basically no more room before running out of bounds. Eagles scored a touchdown on their opening drive with a lot of runs and picking on Falcons depth corner Jalen Collins. Desmond Trufant is missed. 7-3 early in the second quarter.

Bryan Knowles: I love these sorts of matchups: the unstoppable force, in Atlanta's top-rated offense, versus the immovable object, in Philly's top-rated defense.

So far, the Object is leading the Force, 10-6, thanks in large part to its third-down performance. The Falcons have converted just one of six third downs so far, though they had the chance to take a lead when Matt Bryant missed a 53-yard field goal. On offense, the Eagles are doing just enough not to beat themselves, running the ball very well -- they're averaging 6.3 yards per carry. That steady run game -- something they have been lacking in recent weeks -- has helped Carson Wentz settle in, and play the sort of safe, short passing attack that he's better at.

Hard to keep Atlanta bottled up for an entire game, though, so the Eagles will probably have to score some more points if they are going to pull this one off. Very entertaining game so far.

Rob Weintraub: Philly gets about an inch shy of the goal line on the last play of the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth they lose two on third-and-goal. Yet another field goal makes it 13-9.

Little doubt the Falcs steal this one late -- just too many missed opportunities by the Iggles.

Aaron Schatz: The Falcons' defense actually ranks better against the run (17th) than the pass (21st) and their best cornerback is out, but you wouldn't know it from this game. The Eagles are gashing them on the ground. Of course, the problem with gashing a team on the ground is that at soon as you have a bad run or two, you are stuck in a third-and-long that your passing game can't necessarily convert. And that's a big reason why it's now 13-9 Eagles in the early fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense absolutely looks like the No. 1 defense in DVOA, and that rating is going to get even better given how they have shut down the strong Falcons offense. I mean, you can't prevent Julio Jones from getting his with awesome catches, but other than that and a couple of nice dumpoffs and swings to Devonta Freeman, it's all Eagles defense.

Whoops. And right after I emailed that comment, the Falcons finally hit a big play, an 80-yard touchdown where Taylor Gabriel completely destroys Leodis McKelvin with a double-move. Now it is 15-13 Falcons (missed extra point). So, hey, we're on track for another close Eagles loss that won't drop them out of the top spot in DVOA. Yay.

Rob Weintraub: Yeah make that steal it early fourth quarter -- blown coverage, Taylor Gabriel wide open for long touchdown, 16-13 Atlanta.

Bryan Knowles: Julio Jones just dropped a wide-open pass on third down that would have kept Atlanta's drive alive. The Falcons are now 2-for-10 on third down in this game, which may end up being the difference.

Aaron Schatz: Leodis McKelvin decided that one good turn deserves another and bobbled an interception that would have heavily shut the door on Atlanta.

Rob Weintraub: So the Falcons lose, but they still win -- the Saints and Panthers get nipped at the buzzer. It's just Atlanta's year so far.

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Washington Redskins 26

Cian Fahey: The Vikings defense dictated the play to their opponents with their speed in the front seven early in the year. Since then everything has been slow. For Kirk Cousins' second touchdown pass, he underthrew Vernon Davis on the tight end throwback, but Anthony Barr still couldn't catch up to Davis. That's the type of play Barr should make.

The Vikings got to the 1-yard line and to the surprise of nobody came out in a heavy set to run up the middle three times. They scored the touchdown (eventually) but this philosophy is a major problem. They're not built to run over teams. With Norv Turner gone and this philosophy remaining for successive games after he left, it's safe to say that this is a Mike Zimmer philosophy.

The Vikings pass protection held up on the last two drives and both were turned into touchdowns. This is not a coincidence.

Bryan Knowles: Blair Walsh just missed another extra point. They tried out kickers last week, in an attempt to "light a fire" under Walsh. It has not appeared to have helped.

Rob Weintraub: It did light a fire under Walsh -- in the manner of Joan of Arc.

Cian Fahey: The one time the Vikings put a wide receiver on the field at the goal line they score a touchdown by throwing to said wide receiver. I know that's not really a fair full measure but the options need to be used and that play is a good example of why.

Commentator on this game just said Kirk Cousins is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL and then reiterated it. Man, I can't wait for this season to be over so I can put the Quarterback Catalogue together.

Houston Texans 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 21

Vince Verhei:

Andrew Potter: Good work, Jacksonville. Your franchise quarterback is now the living embodiment of a punchline to a Mick & Paddy joke.

Aaron Schatz: Life on the red zone channel:

"Ok, with that Vikings touchdown, let's go to the team that's closest to the red zone, and that's Jacksonville."

Jaguars immediately botch a handoff, then Blake Bortles one-hops his receiver on third-and-long.

Rivers McCown: Don't watch either of these teams. I'm done with Brock Osweiler and Bill O'Brien as a marriage. Maybe Osweiler's best attributes can be brought out with different coaching, or maybe he's a total dud. Either way, this needs to end. I'd feel more comfortable with any number of other quarterbacks in various states of unemployment, and even Tom Savage

Randomly, in the middle of this game, Rich Gannon started talking about how Blake Bortles told them in pregame meetings he "doesn't consider himself a natural thrower of the football." Uhh, that might be a trait you want your franchise quarterback to feel he has. (For future reference, if anything at this point.) Bortles missed about three or four huge downfield plays in the structure of his offense today, including one pass so underthrown that a beaten Andre Hal was able to catch up to it. Jacksonville's receivers deserve so much better. Myles Jack caught Lamar Miller from a step behind to prevent a touchdown. Maybe he should actually be playing, I assume the next coaching staff will learn.

Chicago Bears 10 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36

Bryan Knowles: Holy cow! Jameis Winston was just chased a good 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage, retreating all the way back to his own end zone and weaving around defenders, before uncorking a 50-yard pass to Mike Evans for a big first-down completion. That's just how you draw it up, with the exception of the lack of Yakety Sax.

And then they follow it up with a 43-yard touchdown on the very next play. That was... that sure was something

Rob Weintraub: An incredible bit of Tarkentonia from Jameis, who avoids several sack attempts, cedes about 30 yards, then heaves one that Mike Evans jumps up to snag. Considering Evans ' involvement it was quite Manzielesque, actually.

For an encore Jameis hits Martino for another bomb, this time a touchdown.

Scott Kacsmar: I'll admit I was rooting for Jameis to take a safety on a sack there just so we could have a definitive example of the worst sack anyone has ever taken, but he had the stamina to make a huge play out of that one. Fun to watch.

Vince Verhei: Both quarterbacks have had huge lucky plays today. Jay Cutler and the Bears get a 50-yard touchdown to Cameron Meredith on a deflected Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Then in the third quarter, Bucs have a third-and-10 at their own 23. Jameis Winston scrambles back to the left, back to the right, straight back, and suddenly he's having to dodge tackles in his end zone to avoid a safety. But he does, and lobs up a deep pass to Mike Evans, who is not especially open. But the defender misreads the ball, and Evans is able to make a leaping catch for the first down. Next play from scrimmage, Winston hits Freddie Martino (one career catch coming into the game) for a 43-yard touchdown.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Carolina Panthers 17

Bryan Knowles: Panthers driving in a 17-17 game with less than a minute left, but Marcus Peters wrestles the ball out of Kelvin Benjamin's hands for a huge turnover, moving the ball into field goal range!

However, in his celebration, Peters punts the ball into the stands. That's a 5-yard penalty, and a pretty big mental mistake when the Chiefs need a field goal.

Dallas Cowboys 35 at Pittsburgh Steelers 30

Carl Yedor: Steelers march down the field and cap the drive off with a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Le'veon Bell after a Dallas turnover. Steelers then go for 2 and the play call is a goal-line fade to Ladarius Green, which falls incomplete. I don't love goal-line fades, but I do like that Coach Tomlin was willing to be aggressive after a touchdown early in the game.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, but he's so infuriatingly random about it! Coming into today, they had kicked the point 21 times in 23 touchdowns. I'm surprised by that -- it seems like Tomlin goes for two a lot more than that. Last year they kicked the point 34 times on 45 touchdowns. If you like your odds to pick up a two-pointer, you should do it every time, unless you're down by one or tied in the fourth. And if you don't like your odds, then you never should unless you're down by two in the fourth. With Tomlin it's like every once in a while he remembers the two-pointer is an option, and gets a wild hair and goes for it when it's not necessary.

Scott Kacsmar: Tomlin is random about it, which is why I'm shocked he went for two again with the score at 12-3. Usually he'd just kick an extra point so we could complain about his two-point randomness. This attempt also failed after Dallas did a good job on the receivers in the end zone.

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Aaron Schatz: Dez Bryant just burned Ross Cockrell to put Dallas up 22-18. Dak Prescott really launched that thing. Obviously he is getting a lot of help but plenty of rookie quarterbacks have gotten a lot of help and not looked anywhere near this good.

Vince Verhei: Steelers are about to run a spike in the red zone with 40-some seconds left and I'm screaming at them not to spike it -- and it's a fake spike to Antonio Brown for the touchdown!

Only three afternoon games today, but they have all been entertaining.

Bryan Knowles: This is a game to remember at the end of the year for the "best games" category; it's been almost nothing but entertaining.

do have to wonder, though, what the record is for failed two-point conversions in a single game; there have been five attempts and five failures so far today in this one.

Aaron Schatz: Ronald Leary and Travis Frederick just completely bowled over the Steelers linemen in front of them. Huge hole. Ezekiel Elliott touchdown. Wow.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, the most important result of this game: The Cleveland Browns are still alive for a playoff spot!

Rob Weintraub: Best play of the day -- I hit pause on the Red Zone around 7 so I could read to my kids. Then I watched the trifecta of denouement!

Pitt losing of course was key for us Bengals fans but they played well -- took the co-rookies of the year to best them...

Scott Kacsmar: Classic game there, and I'll bite. In the draft, Dallas was basically forced to choose between Jalen Ramsey and Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 pick. As much as I hate taking a running back that high, the talent of Elliott combined with that offensive line was a dream combination that was justifiable to make happen. Now after watching Elliott this season, I can't imagine Ramsey ever making this kind of impact on the team, and it was definitely the right move for Dallas. Even though I still think it's harder to find a top-tier cornerback, getting a workhorse running back in this era is also really difficult. Elliott's impact has been huge, and Prescott obviously looks like a keeper. If the Cowboys ever get anything out of Jaylon Smith when he gets healthy, then this could go down as one of those all-time draft hauls.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not going to make a huge argument here, but I am still against taking a running back that high. Just because a big gamble paid off doesn't mean that the gamble was a wise decision. But man oh man, did it pay off. Now when we list all the recent first-round running backs who weren't worth it, there will be two names on the top of the list of first-round running backs who really did end up being that good: Adrian Peterson and Elliott.

(Todd Gurley is TBD.)

Rivers McCown: What a wonderful game this was. We talk a lot about the Dallas offense because of Elliott and Dak/Romo is a lightning rod, but the Dallas defense is secretly kind of amazing. Remember two years ago when publications were wondering aloud if they were the least talented defense in the NFL in years? Everyone had a grim view. They get some help because the offense controls the ball so well, but they legitimately looked like a good defense in this game. I was crestfallen about Anthony Brown's pass interference call on Antonio Brown in the end zone, because I don't know how you play it much better than that. Rod Marinelli really deserves a lot of kudos for the job he does.

San Francisco 49ers 20 at Arizona Cardinals 23

Vince Verhei: At the end of the first quarter, 49ers have three three-and-outs in three drives. Five of their offensive plays have gained yards, none more than 6 yards, while four (one sack, two runs, and a completion) have gone backwards. On the last play of the quarter, Jeremy Kerley returned a punt 25 yards to at least give the offense a chance -- but then he fumbled the ball away and Arizona took it back.

49ers' fourth drive goes much better. Colin Kaepernick picks up a first down on a quarterback keeper to the right. Vance McDonald then gets open across the middle for a 36-yard catch-and-run, and Kaepernick finishes the drive with a 17-yard touchdown to Kerley. 49ers ran a corner-out combo, and two defenders covered the out guy, leaving Kerley open in the end zone. Cardinals still lead 14-7 on two David Johnson touchdowns, one rushing, one receiving.

Bryan Knowles: Larry Fitzgerald continues to claw his way up the all-time charts, passing Terrell Owens for the sixth-most receptions in NFL history. It's been a pretty amazing career, considering he's had to put up with the likes of Josh McCown, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Matt Leinart as his quarterback for extended periods of time.

I'm surprised San Francisco is still hanging around, but they're only 10 points down. They had almost literally nothing going in the first quarter, with a whopping four net yards, but have woken up since then. A big pass to Vance McDonald, and a wide, wide-open Jeremy Kerley got the 49ers a touchdown, and a 15-play drive gave their defense a chance to rest, even if it only ended up in a field goal. Nothing really out there to indicate the 49ers could actually win this one, but it was looking like another historic blowout after 15 minutes, and sometimes, you have to give credit for terrible teams at least holding their heads up high.

Vince Verhei: 49ers' defensive front is keeping them in this game. First, after giving up at least 127 rushing yards (and up to 313 rushing yards) in each of their last seven games, they have held the Cardinals to 51, midway through the third quarter here. Second, after the Cardinals hit passing plays of 21 and 33 yards (the latter a flea flicker to Fitzgerald), Arizona had a first-and-goal at the 7, looking to put this one on ice. But then DeForest Buckner got a sack on first down, and Eli Harold got a sack-fumble on second down, and Buckner recovered the ball. Kaepernick got one big pass to Quinton Patton, but then the drive stalled. Still, that led to a field goal, and somehow this is a one-score game, with Arizona up 20-13.

The 49ers haven't done a damn thing on offense, but the Cardinals can't put the game away, mainly because Carson Palmer keeps throwing interceptions -- one that bounced off J.J. Nelson's hands, one where he just sailed a pass over his receiver.

49ers finally get a sustained drive, going 57 yards in seven plays. Kaepernick had a 19-yard run on the drive on a scramble down the sideline, and also scored on a 2-yard run. And somehow we are tied at 20.

Hours later, I realized I had never finished my recap of this game. Well, there wasn't much to say -- Arizona quickly and easily moved into short field goal range and got the kick at the buzzer to win. Very anticlimactic.

Miami Dolphins 31 at San Diego Chargers 24

Tom Gower: First half in a nutshell: Did Antonio Gates catch the ball? If yes, San Diego moved the ball and maybe scored points. If not, Miami got a defensive stop. I'm kind of shocked this defense looks as good as they are by DVOA because whenever I watch them they look like they have a bunch of replacement-level players in the back seven. Ryan Tannehill did hit a nice deep ball to Kenny Stills to make the score 10-7 through 30.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't know what kind of game he's had overall, but Ryan Tannehill has made some of the best plays I have ever seen from him today. First, the 39-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills was a perfect bucket throw of 50-plus yards in the air under pressure. Now, he just escaped a sack and scrambled for 18 yards on third-and-11. This probably means he'll bomb his next game out because he's been that inconsistent, but for today, some really great stuff that keeps the "this is the year he puts it together!" narrative alive in Miami.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah. Sone good throws, but over the long run he just is what he is. Jay Ajayi is putting it together for him.

Vince Verhei: I know, right? Tannehill finished third in both of the explosive metrics I looked at in Quick Reads this week, and that's not even considering that what might have been his longest play of the year was dropped in Week 1 against Seattle. Most of the time he looks like a fringe starter, but he does just enough to flash and tease and keep you interested. Maybe the league's most frustrating quarterback right now.

And then Miami's Jakeem Grant muffs a punt he never should have touched -- he had to sprint across the field to catch a ball inside the 10. A high-risk play with no reward. Chargers recover and get a first-and-goal at the 5, and then a first-and-goal at the 2 after a hold -- and then Philip Rivers overthrows a double-covered Tyrell Williams in the corner of the end zone, and Tony Lippett gets the interception, and after all of that Miami is just going to get the ball at the 20 like they probably should have anyway.

Tom Gower: Matt Bowen had a great point on Twitter. That was the same route combination -- outside receiver drops like he's getting targeted on a smoke, run the slot seam fade -- that the Chargers used successfully against Denver. Outside cornerback Tony Lippett (the converted receiver) played it perfectly, not falling for the action in front of him.

Rob Weintraub: But now with four minutes and change to play, Rivers drops one in a bucket for Williams on an incredible throw. Williams had just messed up the play before when Rivers expected him to come back for a ball. Rivers went right back to him for the go-ahead touchdown. Then Tannehill answers with a bomb of his own despite getting the forearm shiver to the skull. Miami threatening to retake the lead.

Vince Verhei: Rivers has thrown two bad picks today, but pretty much all of his completions have been tremendous throws, precise passes to downfield receivers. Not a lot of "swing pass with 20 yards after the catch" in his numbers. And his last completion put San Diego ahead 24-21, a 51-yard crosser to Williams. 

And then Tannehill answers that with a bomb of his own, a 56-yarder to DeVante Parker. (He also had a 41-yarder on the prior drive called back on a penalty.) The drive ends in a game-tying field goal. I'm starting to think there is something to what Adam Gase could do with this kid.

Bryan Knowles: Make that three bad picks for Rivers, who may have just thrown a game-winning Kiko Alonso, Alonso perfectly undercut Rivers' route, and returned it all the way to the house.

Vince Verhei: FOUR! Tony Lippett cuts in front of Williams, and the Dolphins are in victory formation.

This San Diego season is just the stuff of legends. San Diego's last five drives today: interception, interception, touchdown, pick-six, interception.

Seattle Seahawks 31 at New England Patriots 24

Aaron Schatz: Patriots march up the field easily on the first drive of the game, helped a bit by defensive pass interference on a pass to Gronk that looked uncatchable unless we're playing with CFL end zones.

Reader Ajit Kirpekar brings up an interesting question to me in Twitter: Are the Patriots the only team to run their pass offense not through their outside receivers? Maybe Kansas City/Philadelphia? I did point out to him that it's an interesting question partly because often Gronk *is* the outside receiver. Thoughts?

Vince Verhei: You mean this year, or ever? Because there have been plenty of passing games that have focused on tight ends and running backs. The Rams, for most of Jeff Fisher's tenure, come to mind.

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Aaron Schatz: I think we're saying this year. As for the Rams, is it possible to have a passing attack run through incompletions? No, in all seriousness, I do think they applied in past years when things seemed to go through Jared Cook and Tavon Austin, before Gurley showed up and things became more run-focused.

Vince Verhei: I think Cook and Lance Kendricks were the Rams' top two receivers some years. But no, that is nothing like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez/Martellus Bennett.

Aaron Schatz: ... and Edelman/Welker.

Interesting development in the first quarter with the Patriots defense, as Jabaal Sheard seems to have been demoted at right end in favor of 2015 fourth-round pick Trey Flowers.

Vince Verhei: The red zone failures are frustrating, but Seattle's offense looks good, getting two long field goals on its first two drives. The offense this year has usually looked very good when they get any kind of blocking at all. New England came into this game dead-last in Adjusted Sack Rate, and as Aaron pointed out, their leading sacker just got benched.

That's three long drives in three possessions now, this one capped off by a short touchdown by Doug Baldwin on what I think was a triple-move route. The scoring issues continue as the extra point is blocked, but so far New England's only hope on defense has been "leave Jermaine Kearse open and hope he drops it." And it has worked, but you can see how much the Pats are trying to force Wilson to lean on Kearse -- he's up to six targets already. Nobody else on the team has more than three.

Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady just threw his first pick of the year halfway through the second quarter. He scrambled with Ahtyha Rubin bearing down on him and then heaved it wildly downfield. It had the feel of Brady entering the "trying to do too much" zone. Terrible throw, weak duck. It was first down. Just throw it away and live to fight another day, man. Patriots defense isn't doing anything to slow down the Seattle offense tonight so anything that gives the ball back to them is a problem.

Vince Verhei: Two thoughts on New England's tight ends:

1) Gronk goes to the sideline after the big Earl Thomas hit and as a fan of the other team, you're thinking "OK, we don't have to worry about the tight end now." Then they just put their other top-5 tight end on the field and beat you with him anyway.

2) The play-action throwback to Bennett that gave New England a first-and-goal at the 2-minute warning in the first half -- I could just see that coming a mile away and knew there was nothing Seattle could do stop it. That play has given Seattle problems all year. Only way they could stop that seems like would be to see it coming and blitz from the back-side.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots defense is not making Belichick's decision to trade Jamie Collins look good. Seattle just marched upfield at the end of the second quarter in less than a minute. Wilson can ramble around behind the scrimmage as long as he wants to find guys. The Patriots looked like they were trying to keep Seattle in field-goal range and then Doug Baldwin somehow got into the end zone and Patrick Chung is standing 5 yards in front of him with no idea there's anyone behind him. They somehow lost Seattle's best wide receiver despite dropping nine into coverage and rushing TWO. Chung's been very good this year but, uh, not on that play. 19-14 Seattle at halftime.

Vince Verhei: Welp. Healthy Russell Wilson is scrambling and making plays again. Coverages are breaking down. Touchdowns are happening.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think his ankle looks much better. The Pats just aren't getting any pass rush. Or even trying on some of those plays to end the half.

Vince Verhei: That clockwise-spin-out-of-pressure-and-slip-out-to-the-left move? That used to be something he did all the time. Haven't seen it in weeks. 

Patriots actually rushed two three times on that last drive. One resulted in a wide-open receiver (Tyler Lockett, I think) but Wilson made a horrible throw. Second time resulted in a deep completion to Lockett in the same spot. Third time resulted in the touchdown. Yes, that tactic failed. 

Seahawks also have had their best running game in forever. 67 rushing yards at halftime. Haven't run for 100 yards as a team since Week 3 (and that was against San Francisco, so perhaps it shouldn't count). C.J. Prosise is running his ass off and dishing out as much contact as he's taking -- surprising, for a guy who started as a receiver in college. And, as others in Seattle have noted, Christine Michael looks like he's running for his job out there.

Patriots' touchdown drive to open the second half included lots of runs to the perimeter, with the fullbacks and tight ends getting key blocks. I don't think they have done much up the middle tonight, but looked much better to the outside.

Another field goal for Seattle puts them back on top. The red zone issues will probably end up costing them this game, but considering the competition, this is probably the best this team has looked all year.

Aaron Schatz: Next drive, the Patriots are having success with those one-cut zone outside runs again.

Vince Verhei: And there's Julian Edelman collecting the big conversion on third-and-long that DeShawn Shead seems to give up every week.

Aaron Schatz: That's OK, the Seahawks come all the way back down to the goal line on the next drive. Big play was a 38-yard pass to C.J. Prosise that he caught while diving parallel to the left sideline with two Patriots defenders basically inside his uniform. The receivers are underrated, Wilson is so good, the backs are good... what would this offense be like with an actual NFL offensive line?

Vince Verhei: Well, it doesn't matter, because we get a lost challenge on a run on second down, and an incomplete swing pass on third down (that probably wouldn't have scored anyway) and it's Steven Hauschka to kick ANOTHER field goal to go ahead. In all these failed red zone drives, by the way, has there been one pass to Jimmy Graham? I don't remember any.

Aaron Schatz: No, but a ton of Doug Baldwin. Seahawks score after stripping the ball from Julian Edelman. Amazing move by Doug Baldwin at the line of scrimmage, just worked himself open instantly. Logan Ryan covering him, I believe.

And then the Seahawks actually go for two up seven! I feel like I have seen a unicorn. They don't get it when Wilson overthrows Baldwin in the back left corner.

Scott Kacsmar: Wow, I'll have to check later, but I think this might be the first time a team ever went for two up seven in the fourth quarter. I have been pushing for this for years, and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to try it. The Seahawks didn't get it, but it was worth the shot. Defense still has the same goal of keeping them out of the end zone here.

Vince Verhei: Can't believe people on Twitter are critical of that decision. If they get it, they're up two scores and the game is over! Now they missed it, but they're still up seven, and the worst case scenario is that New England comes back to tie.

Sometimes I think people don't realize that two-point conversions are basically coin flips. They're not rare.

Aaron Schatz: I will note this tweet from Brian Burke regarding the expected score
analysis here:

Carl Yedor: We're definitely going to be hearing about that two-point conversion call a lot tomorrow. Suggests that the Seahawks trust their offense more than their defense, which while understandable considering the opposition is a stark contrast from recent years.

Aaron Schatz: This game has featured some really incredible offensive plays by both teams. Now the Pats have marched all the way back and Brady just dropped it over the top to Gronk to put the Patriots at the 2. While Gronk was probably being interfered with by DeShawn Shead.

Vince Verhei: This whole damn season by Seattle is nothing but a never-ending string of amazing goal-line defense.

Aaron Schatz: I do think we could have a hell of a debate about this picture and I'm
not even sure what side I would be on.

Vince Verhei: Gronk initiated contact and tried to push him over. Chancellor only grabbed him after he was already falling down. If anything, it's an offsetting foul.

Tom Gower: I thought that was a good no-call.

I wish I had more to say about the game, but last time these two played I had a much better feel for the matchups and the "game within the game" stuff. I haven't watched either team in enough granular detail to say too much interesting about them this year, so I have just been watching with interest and letting y'all comment.

Vince Verhei: Tonight was the first time we got to see a healthy C.J. Prosise and what he can do in this offense. And I am giddy. Seattle hasn't had a really good receiving back since Ricky Watters. He brings an element they haven't had in the entire Carroll/Schneider regime. As Aaron said, this team, when healthy, is right there with the Falcons, Patriots, and Cowboys for the best fantasy position talent in the league. 

But yes, in a season full of mediocre games between mediocre teams, that might have been the first game I have watched all year where both teams seemed like worthy Super Bowl contenders. Just excellent football by all involved. 

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots defense looks like a problem. But honestly... I'm not sure if it looked that much worse without Jamie Collins than with Jamie Collins. Yes, Elandon Roberts got beat on that deep pass to Prosise, but he did have pretty good coverage, and Collins was traded in part because he was getting beat on plays like that. Yes, the pass rush didn't look great, but it hasn't looked great in the past few weeks, and they did get a couple of sacks so it wasn't totally absent.

I think the Seahawks learned that if Russell Wilson's ankle will heal gradually, they might be able to overcome that offensive line when it is time for the postseason.

For the playoff picture, this win means a lot more to the Seahawks than the loss means to the Patriots. With Atlanta and Minnesota losing, Seahawks are now clear favorites for the No. 2 seed with a shot at No. 1. On the other hand, Patriots still have a better than 50 percent chance to be the 1 seed. Their schedule the rest of the way is just monumentally easy except for that trip to Denver and a Week 17 trip to Miami that might not even matter. Seriously. They play the Rams, the 49ers, and the Jets TWICE.

Scott Kacsmar: Seattle finished that one the way you're supposed to: don't give up the touchdown so the two-point conversion isn't even an issue. That's still the goal on defense whether it's 31-24, 32-24 or 33-24. There is way too much importance placed on the conversion, and not enough on the extra possession lead you would gain by converting the two. Even if we think New England is more likely to convert than Seattle, is it really that high of a difference to deter you from trying to go up nine? It's not like I'd give New England a 55 percent chance and Seattle a 35 percent chance. Both offenses are probably closer to 50/50. But wow, that goal-line stand, which I think was helped by some odd Brady sneaks (he's usually at his best there in the open field rather than at the goal line where he didn't even take advantage of the leap-and-stretch tactic).

Another classic game. Dallas-Pittsburgh and Seattle-New England really delivered.

Vince Verhei: Oh, and obviously, Seattle's non-blowout streak continues.

Scott Kacsmar: The only thing I'm not really confident at all about is deciding when it makes sense to go for two up seven (assuming your offense is good enough that you think you'll convert). I think eight minutes would be too early, but four and under seems right. Anything hovering the two-minute warning (by say 30 seconds) should be a no-brainer decision.

Vince Verhei: I'm seeing some surprise that Brady tried two sneaks on the goal-line at the end there. He had five runs tonight, I believe all sneaks. This article is a year and a half out of date, but the point stands: Tom Brady is awesome at sneaks, and it's pretty much never a bad play to call.

Rivers McCown: One thing today taught me, with both the Prosise goal-line non-touchdown and the rule-out on the Saints extra point, is that instant replay is worthless. We slow down game after game and are we really any closer to getting every call right? It's becoming asinine. Give the refs some more technology, give them full-time status, try anything but more replay. It's killing the watchability of these games for little benefit.


148 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2016, 4:29pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

1) I'm OK with the no-call on Gronk on the 4th down play. He initiated contact -- easily could have been OPI. If that had been flipped and it was McCourty covering Graham and a flag was thrown I'd have been royally pissed.

2) I do NOT like the playcall (and not just because it failed). With the way Blount was playing they should have either gave it to him or faked the handoff to him and done play action.

3) I haven't been sold on the NE defense for weeks, despite their hyped points-per-game number, and this certainly doesn't help.

4) (Related to 2). Much like the end of SB49, I don't think the decision to pass was particularly wrong. But the choice of pass chosen was dumb. Why not a slant to Gronk, for example? But fade when Chancellor is matched up on him?

5) Brady said the first sneak was an intentional don't-score play. I know the NE D sucked, but you can't throw away 25% of your scoring chances.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I bet in the future Brady and Gronk will have some sort of audible for when the DB covering the fade takes an advantageous position like Chancellor did on that play.

Gronk said he wasn't expecting him to play the technique that he did and how he lined up pre-snap, and now that he's seen it I'm sure they'll adjust in the future and do something different. Maybe even audible to a slant like you're suggesting.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

1) I'm OK with the no-call on Gronk on the 4th down play. He initiated contact -- easily could have been OPI. If that had been flipped and it was McCourty covering Graham and a flag was thrown I'd have been royally pissed.

Thanks for that, PatsFan. I too thought no-call was the best choice. And IF there was a flag, it would likely have to have been OPI.

Whoever Will Brinson is has an odd understanding of "literally". Since the ball was already in the air at the point that snapshot was taken, it "literally" could not have been called holding.

5) Brady said the first sneak was an intentional don't-score play. I know the NE D sucked, but you can't throw away 25% of your scoring chances.

Wow, Brady actually said that??? That's a legitimate strategy in a tie game but when you're behind you have to score when you can. Not smart football.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I dunno. As a Seahawks fan I thought it was a great move. Sacrificing 25% of your scoring chances to effectively remove all scoring chances for the opponent - especially from the 1 yard line seem like a good deal. Of course, I felt the same way and didn't want lynch to score on the play that took the Seahawks to the 1 in the Superbowl... soooo I could definitely be on the wrong side of this issue.

Still, I'm guessing most NFL teams gain 1 yard most of the time with 3 plays.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

In a similar vein, I was super happy as a Cowboys fan to see the fake-spike play work. It seemed like the Steelers were destined to score a TD on that drive, and having 42 seconds and 3 TOs left to kick a FG made me feel pretty confident.

I was only worried that they'd take too long to score, so seeing that fake spike work was excellent.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

"Not smart football."

I don't know. Negating a counterattack matters a lot. Plus, Brady *did* advance the ball making a touchdown more likely. I'd love to see an analysis done on this one. As best I can tell following the winning-probability graph at pro-football-reference, the Pats odds decreased about 1% after Brady's 1st-down sneak. But if you factor in the opposing offense and the timeout situation (is that already factored in?), it might have been a good move.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Non-call was definitely the right move there. Even offsetting penalties would have bailed out the offensive player who initiated the contact. If refs call that on the defense, it's an almost impossible situation for the defender. Chancellor *has* to hold his ground there. If he tries to "take the charge" and the refs don't call it, it will be an easy TD.

Somewhat ironically, if Gronk just boxes out and doesn't try to bullrush Chancellor, he's in better position to make the catch. It just wasn't a great route by Gronk.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't know. DB's and WR's aren't supposed to contact each other or hold each other or interfere with catching. When there's THAT much intentional contact, I think the refs HAVE to throw a flag. This wasn't incidentally handfighting. Gronk ran into Chancellor, and then Chancellor dragged Gronk to the ground.

If you think Gronk was trying to push off, you have to throw an OPI flag.

If you think Chancellor intentionally pulled Gronk to the ground, you have to throw a DPI flag.

If you think both happened, throw offsetting penalties and replay the down.

In this case, I would have been OK with a flag on either or both, because I think Gronk did try to push off illegally, and Chancellor did grab and pull Gronk down while the ball was in the air, illegally.

But I could understand just one flag on either. But do something to indicate that that kind of play is OK.

Especially after the end of SEA's game last week, where they got away with illegal contact and/or holding and/or PI on 4 of 5 eligible receivers on the final critical play of the game.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Here's the problem I have with a flag on Chancellor, I believe he fell down do to contact initiated by Gronk, I don't think it's possible to not attempt to catch yourself as you are falling. If you flag Chancellor for DPI there than any receiver with a size advantage can initiatate contact and for a DPI at any time.

I'm not sure it was OPI, it definitely can't be DPI, otherwise pass defense is just pointless.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

If you think both happened, throw offsetting penalties and replay the down.

As already mentioned, off-setting penalties benefits the offense much more than it does the defense in this situation. It's already bad enough that DPI is called 3x as often as OPI, offenses don't need another advantage.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

think the fade was dictated by the other coverage, there was a linebacker in there attacking the Brady's passing lanes off that edge. Anything inside, or low and outside towards Gronkowski is threatened. That guy Brock Coyle iirc is pretty athletic. If he tries to float it over Coyle to Gronk at the goal line Kam Chancellor the touchdown canceller is going to get a running start at it.

And how often does that fade to Gronk work? Almost always? I thought it was a good call well defensed.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'd love an explanation of Burke's Tweet (not saying I disagree, I'm just not seeing the math).

Isn't the calculation much simpler? If you think your odds of converting a two-pointer are greater than your odds of stopping them from converting a two-pointer, then you should go for it.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I don't want to think too hard about the maths.

Just seems to me that the worst case scenario of attempting that two-pointer was that New England *might* score and take the game to overtime if they can manage the not-so-automatic extra point. Highly improbable that they would have gone for two in a winner-takes-all move.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

And I think that's the math. The home team most likely won't play for the win when they can take a tie to OT, so being up 9 becomes vastly more valuable than 8, and the consolation of 7 is an acceptable loss.

Wandering through PFR, I can only find three examples since 1994 of teams going for 2 when already up 7, at any point in the game.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Last night was the first time any coach has ever actively made the decision to go for 2 up 7, since those three plays were:

1996 Colts-Jets: An error in PFR's data. There were three missed 2-point conversions in the game, but the Colts kicked the extra point up 22-15.

2000 Rams-Falcons: Jeff Wilkins injured his quad on the opening kickoff. After he decided he could no longer kick, the Rams went for 2 after their final five touchdowns.

2008 Chiefs-Chargers: A bad snap from center on the extra point led to the holder throwing a desperation pass.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I'm pretty sure the PAT odds are relevant.

If your odds of converting a 2-pointer are 2% and of hitting a PAT are 100%, and your opponent's odds of hitting a 2-pointer are only 1%, while their odds of hitting a PAT are also 100%, you should clearly go for the PAT.

I have no idea what Burke was thinking, but he clearly oversimplified things.

Burke said "Only way that makes sense is if Carroll believes his chance of converting 2 is better than .95 * NE's chance." That's clearly not enough.

Your argument is a bit better. I think it might be adequate, though overtime win probability has to be factored in somehow. (Yes, it's simplest to just assume that's 0.5 for each team but I could see situations where a coach felt that his team in such a situation would be greater than or less than 0.5.)

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Plus, remember that the Seahawks had already had an extra point block in the game, and now have had 3 blocked on the year (I believe only 16/19 on extra points). All of which reinforces the key point that Burke's comment was way to simplified. Surely this is the first time such a thing has ever happened on twitter!?

76 Quick and dirty attempt to figure this out

Go for one = 95% of being up 8. If Seattle is up 8, New England must score a touchdown (whatever that probability is) and convert a 2 (which last I knew was 50%.) In other words, by going for one and forcing New England to conclude their drive with a two point conversion, you halve their chances of tying the game. In no at-all-likely scenario can New England win in regulation, and so their best bet is to force overtime.

Go for two = 50% chance of being up 9 and 50% chance of being up 7. If Seattle is up 7, New England must score and kick an extra point, and so the Pats are still at 95% of their expected chance to tie. If Belichick is feisty, Seattle can still lose in regulation.

When Seattle scored the touchdown (and unfortunately this probability gets grouped in with the failed conversion) their win probability was 84%. So, a touchdown plus an extra point should halve that, given the logic above, and shrink NE's WP to just 8%. Seattle had a 95% chance of shrinking that WP to just 8%. If it converts the two point, it shrinks the WP of NE to like 1%, or something fractionally more than 0%. But it only had a 50% chance of achieving that.

So, do you take a 95% chance of shrinking the WP to 8%? (7.6%)

Or a 50% chance of shrinking the WP to ~0%? (~8%)

By that quick calculation, either decision seems defensible.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It took me a minute, too, but he's saying that the extra point is 95% likely, not a certainty. Hence the difference.

Most people are also assuming that the Patriots, down 1 at home after scoring, would kick the extra point rather than go for the win in regulation. (They probably would, but given the game so far, would you rather take your chances with an offensive play for the win - especially with Brady and Gronk - or with an extra point *and* stopping Seattle on D again?)

Put another way, since it only matters if the Patriots score a TD with no time left (otherwise if they leave time for you to get a FG, the math changes again), you can kick the extra point and 95% be up by 8, 5% up by 7. Or you can go for two, and sometimes you'll be up by 9 and the game will be over, and sometimes you'll be up by 7 and you still have to stop them from scoring a TD, just like the first case.

The problem with these choices is not the math, it's the downside. When you deviate from The Accepted Scripture of NFL Decision-Making and lose the game, the downside isn't losing the game, it's getting pilloried in the media and sometimes getting fired. When you stay within the orthodoxy and lose the game, you just lose the game. Thus the risk-averse will stay within the orthodoxy because the downside risk isn't worth the few percentage points you gain by going with the math.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Unfortunately Blake Murphy's Twitter-Vine of Jacksonville seems to have been removed by copyright holder. Or perhaps it's just inability to access it from England.

Any explanation of what actually happened? Or an official NFL highlight?

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Thanking you.

I remember seeing Tom Brady throw an interception off the foot of a WR backs in his 3rd season so quite possibly Bortles has a storied career ahead of him ... or maybe not.

Does anyone else remember how excited Jacksonville were when they picked Bortles having kept their desire and lust a secret in the run up to the draft?

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I didn't know that but I guess if he outscored all the others then he must have been the best ;-)

Think it was some version of this article I read ...

Awesome title!!

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Both sea and ne got away with so many pick plays this game. Its become a continuing sore spot for me. I didnt notice them used so much in the ARI SEA game, but maybe that was a function of Sea's o line being overrun.

Btw, between Den No, Pit Dal, and Sea Ne, i saw a lot of high quality qb play. A welcome sight finally.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Remember it is only a pick play if there is contact WR to the DB, so the play where the DB ran around Kearse to was 100% legal. AND, it's legal to block within 1 yard of the LOS so the pick on Sherman was 100% legal.

Neither of these teams was New Orleans.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

AND, it's legal to block within 1 yard of the LOS so the pick on Sherman was 100% legal.

I appreciated Collinsworth's explanation of this play. And, yeah, Snead's blocks were about 5 yards downfield. Not even close to the same thing.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Seattle is specifically designing route combinations where the non-targeted receiver's route causes himself (or the guy covering him) to get in the way of the guy covering the targeted receiver. No contact, just forcing a re-route, and when you only need a handful of yards, it's very effective against non-press man coverage.

Plays similar to the pick on Sherman are very effective for similar reasons, just better implemented against press coverage.

Both are legal, both look illegal.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

This. They are legal but imo they should not be. If you are going to legislate proper db play is through straight coverage rather jams at the line, then its a two way street. Pick plays are all about freeing receivers from effective coverage without having the receivers use clever route running.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I agree with this. The Pats and Broncos have been the pioneers in terms of "legal" pick routes for year. In an era when defensive players already are so handicapped, allowing these kid of shenanigans (and asking refs to determine on the fly distance of 1 yard to the LOS) is absurd. But the NFL think high scores drive ratings even as their ratings dip in the face of increasing scoring.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The rule you seem to be proposing could very easily legislate out the "stick" and "mesh" concepts out of the game, which are routes run legitimately to get open, but also have the effect of picking defenders.

I actually thought Kearse's route was a legitimate "stick" route because if the defense response by swapping coverage it could lead to him being wide open in a blown coverage. Something he could do by not contacting the DB.

I think the refs should just be better at calling the actual pick plays. What NE did to Sherman should be play-calling risky, and NO should basically have half their short yardage offense called back.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I can understand ruling out the direct pick on Sherman, (i.e. remove the 1-yard exception) but you're going to have a very hard time ruling out the other case. You're basically saying "a player is entitled to the space he occupies unless it's in the way of a guy defending somebody else" and that feels very wrong.

And then what about the routes designed to get the defenders in each others' way? I just can't see that happening.

It's effective play design, and defenses have to figure out a way to handle it. You just can't execute it like New Orleans does.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

MIa/SD If you wanted to see a ref throw a flag for holding then this was the game for you. Wall to wall holding flags. I'm going out on a limb to say that someone complained about Miami holding prior to the game because the refs appeared to be looking for it early and often. If Miami didn't set an NFL record for holding penalties it is only because half were declined due to another holding penalty on the play. I think right about now Miami is feeling better about the Eagles trade. Maxwell is playing tolerable at corner and Alonzo is playing like the sideline to sideline MLB Miami thought they were getting. A brutal December of multiple divisional cold weather games would appear to dampen my playoff spirit, but this team is better than I thought. For the record, is Miami the only team in the NFL with such a stupid divisional split? 3 cold weather teams and one team in Miami. I know it is traditional, but these days it feels downright goofy.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

did not love 2002 realignment. felt Baltimore should eb with jets, pates, bills. dolphins should be in division with jaguars, titans, Texans. how is it tghat three florida tweams are in nfl and rarely play oen another? at leasrt two should be in same division. especially these franchises wirth their crappy fanbases (don't take offense. just making comment on attendance). jags vs doplgins two tyimes a year- fun for fans. or Bucs vbs Dolphins teice a year or Bucs against Jaguars. Point is, two any two, should be in same divison.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

That wasn't as bad as the other missed IG on Rivers. In the tackle box, in the grip of a defender, ball got nowhere near the LoS. Apparently Gates being in the Greater San Diego area meant he was "in the vicinity"

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

The most enjoyable Miami game of the year. Not just the result, but a fun game to watch.
It was also comfortably Tannehill's best game of the year- brave (as always), decisive, accurate, and some God Mode thrown in. More of the same please.
The D still scares me. The had no answer for Antonio Gates, and frankly, if the rush doesn't get home the back 7 are bad.
How the smouldering, crispy corpse of Tony Lippert made that final INT I'm not sure. I swear they could take him to LA in an ashtray.
Assuming Miami don't go full Dolphins against the Rams, they might be favoured in every game next month (49ers, Ravens, Cards & Jets). They'll need to win all of these plus one against Buffalo or NE to sniff the playoffs however, and I don't see it happening. Given I thought they might be picking top-5 a month ago it's better than I imagined, but this team needs secondary, linebacker and Tight End help before they can think big

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

129 Miami favored?

Miami wouldn't be favored against Baltimore or Arizona.


Both have defenses leaps and bounds better than the Dolphins, and in the case of Arizona, a better team overall.

What makes you think Miami would be favored over Arizona on any field?

137 Re: Miami favored?

In reply to by DIVISION

Miami are at home for both games, and neither Arizona or Baltimore are particularly good. I don't think either are nailed-on wins (Miami has NO nailed on wins), but at home and given the current performance of all three teams, I'd favour Miami in both games. Arizona are a bad team and a really bad offense. Given I wanted to see Fitz pull a Manning and ride of into the sunset with a ring, I hope they turn it round, but at present they're a bad team.
Now watch Miami lose to LARM

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

147 Re: Miami favored?

Thanks. That might alter things, not least based on the weather. In a vacuum I think Miami's a slightly better team but Baltimore at home is tough.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Regarding Denver's return of the blocked extra point... the only people that came close to forcing the returner out of bounds were other Broncos players. I've often wondered why teams on similar returns (fumble, interception, blocked kicks, etc.) prefer to form a convoy of bodies rather than actually turning around and blocking someone. Watching the replay, #36 for the Broncos could have blocked at least one Saint very easily and made the returner's job much easier.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's probably giving them more credit for forethought than they deserve, but convoys don't incur holding or illegal block penalties, whereas blocking back occasionally does.

Also: defensive players are terrible downfield blockers.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Well, now we're staring 4-6 and a losing season straight in the eyes. BigBen calling the coaching out.

We do what we do!

The standard is the standard!

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

I was surprised that of all teams to pick to come out firing on 2Pt conversions, Tomlin chose Dallas. The defense has been fairly average overall, but going into last week was the #1 defense in the league in Goal-to-Go situations. They have an actually good run defense, physical safeties, and tall DBs that can be very grabby (which is less often enforced close to the goal line).

Basically the only time you wouldn't want to challenge the Dallas defense is on 2 point conversions. Weird.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Only the first one was a real choice right? I guess you can argue the 2nd one he could have kicked the XP to go up 10, but I think that was to make up for missing it on the first TD.

The 3rd and 4th attempts were no-brainers, right?

On the 3rd try, they were up 24-23 trying to go up 3.

On the 4th, they were up 30-29 trying to go up 3.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

3rd and 4th were more or less by the book.

1st and 2nd were optional, and if you follow the dictum of "do what the other team doesn't want you to do", I was totally ok as a Cowboys fan for them to go for 2 both times. I wasn't necessarily confident, but not worried either.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

On Vince's commment at the end of DEN-NO
"Michael Thomas fumbles the ball away and the Dolphins recover."

And Andrew's
"The Saints were the first team ever to return a blocked extra point"
Both should be Broncos.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Some in Miami don't feel Tannehill needs to "pull it all together", he only needs the players and coaches around him to continue to pull their own weight.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Im somewhat of a closet chancellor fan. Thomas and Sherman and Bennet get all the headlines, but he was the first player from that defense to be good and his role is unique as far as safeties go. Frankly, hes the best matchup against gronk as you will find in the nfl. The man made so many great plays last night. An amazing player

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Chancellor was the player of that game. He not only defensed Gronk, he made the game saving tackle on Blount, and was the player that stepped forward to kill the running game in general.

He's also the first consistent, "just jump OVER the center and block the kick" guy.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

" helped a bit by defensive pass interference on a pass to Gronk that looked uncatchable unless we're playing with CFL end zones."

The ball landed on the white boundary of the end zone. It was not as far out as Aaron makes it to be. Certainly a tight end that is six and a half feet tall could catch that and easily stay in bounds...if he could reach it. If Gronk couldn't reach it, it was because he was in the process of being brought down by a defender.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Vince wrote:

> One resulted in a wide-open receiver (Tyler Lockett, I think) but
> Wilson made a horrible throw.

In real-time, that's definitely what it looked like. When NBC showed the replay from the camera behind the offense, however, it looked like Wilson expected the receiver to cut to the sideline rather than upfield. It still may have been Wilson's error (and an incompletion), but the mistake seemed more understandable.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Jeff Triplette's officiating crew is easily the worst in the NFL and a huge reason (to me, at least) why the NFL has become painful to watch. The Packer game went nearly 3:36 due to all the penalties called (and botched explanations) and the game was never really that close. This was the second game I watched of his this year (Jacksonville versus Oakland being the first) and it was the same crap...ticky tack penalties and unexplained unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Did not see anything that warranted the ejection of the Titans player...Clinton-Dix got a roughing the passer when Mariota gave himself up and in order to avoid hitting him he leaped over him but his leg grazed him and he got flagged and then there was some sort of bizarre "pulling players from the pile penalty" where the Packers player was untangling himself from the pile and got flagged. I have to agree with Belicheck that the way to officiate a game is to let the players play and call the penalties you have to.

Also, the NFL should completely outlaw the leaper play on field goals and extra points. I know the rule is that it isn't a penalty if the player doesn't hit the center but there is virtually no reason why a team shouldn't try it when they are facing a win/lose situation like what happened in New Orleans yesterday.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

the NFL should completely outlaw the leaper play on field goals and extra points.

I didn't want to be that guy in Audibles and come across as salty because the Saints lost, but I considered saying this very thing. The leaping blocks need to go, and I think they'll be made illegal. The problem with it is simple: the most effective way for the line to block the leaper is to stand up immediately and basically put their heads in his way. It's a major neck injury waiting to happen.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Or their arms. Come on. The leap is one of the most exciting plays in football right now, and the physical forces involved are WAY less (one player just beginning to accelerate) than those involved in many down field in which both players are running at full speed.

The original concern with leap plays and "landing on players" had to due with cleat-based injuries, especially from metal spikes which aren't used anymore. If we are legislating the leap out due to potential neck injuries than it is just time to shut football down as a sport.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Then I'm glad that not what I said. I said this play does not seem particularly likely to result in injury, especially when compared to other routine acts in this sport.

Please explain to me what makes this particular play MORE unsafe than a RB (or TE as we've seen recently) hurdling a tackler in the open field, and should that act be banned as well?

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

No but an open field tackler is moving quite a bit faster, and often is in a position where a thigh or knee could make incidental but excessive contact with the crown of the head, deliver exactly the kind of impact the NFL is trying to prevent in its revised tackling rules. In a snapping position the chin is to the neck. Any undue flexion (such as is a leaper came down very early) on the neck head would at least occur in the direction the neck is better able to sustain.

Why is bent over "especially vulnerable?" Who knew I was taking my life into my hands during those games of leap frog as a kid.

I shouldn't kid, because I'm actually trying to understand the position that you are taking.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Who knew I was taking my life into my hands during those games of leap frog as a kid.

If you were playing leap frog with 300-pound guys, looking behind you until they started their run-up, and actually trying to block them as they leapt over you front-to-back, then yeah that probably wasn't the wisest idea you've ever had.

The problem isn't the fact that the guy's facing downward at the snap, it's that he's in the process of standing up to block following the snap as a 300-pound guy he doesn't know for sure is there tries to hurdle him.

We played bulldogs as kids without injury, but the NFL outlawed kickoff wedges on safety grounds. We're talking about completely different levels of collision here than you get with kids in a playground.

You evidently disagree with me, and that's fine. It's not up to us. I'm just saying I think there will be a push to make hurdling the line illegal this offseason, and I think safety will be one of the reasons cited for doing so.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

Then we end up with countless slow motion replays, looking to see if a cleat grazed a jersey. No thanks. I'd much rather see the goalposts narrowed 3 yards, to disincentivize kicking to begin with, and let the center snap the ball without someone rushing/leaping over him

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

It's no different than when teams blow up the long snapper after the snap, like the Patriots did yesterday for the extra-point block. Having a cleat graze your back is 100% less dangerous than being bullrushed onto your back while having your chin tucked into your neck.

Maybe the NFL should just go college rules and make the long snapper a protected player that you can't touch regardless?

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 10

All those quirky rules would be awesome. More simply, make the air space above the long snapper up to 100 feet a no-fly zone. Unless the leaping player touches the long-snapper. With his hands. That would leave open a loophole for players to cartwheel over the longsnapper to block the kick. That is something I'd pay to see.