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

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Audibles at the Line: Week 12
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.

Los Angeles Rams 21 at New Orleans Saints 49

Aaron Schatz: These games are mostly lame. But there will be a big upset in there somewhere.

Andrew Potter: Jeff Fisher is apparently 5-0 in his career against the Saints, so there's that.

And on their opening play, Jared Goff hits Todd Gurley on a short completion to his left against a Saints secondary blitz from his right, and beats his longest completion from last week by 10 full yards for a career high of 31. Goff ends the drive with his first career NFL touchdown pass, to Tavon Austin on a corner route out of the slot. As is usual for the Saints, if they don't get pressure there's simply nothing behind the front line. Noteworthy in that respect, Greg Robinson is a healthy inactive for the Rams today -- Rodger Saffold starts at left tackle.

Vince Verhei: Very early here, there is big news for a bunch of Rams top-10 draft picks. It's bad news for Greg Robinson (No. 2 overall, 2014), who is a healthy scratch today. But Todd Gurley (No. 10, 2015) gets a 31-yard catch-and-run to set the Rams up in Saints territory on L.A.'s first drive, and then Jared Goff (No. 1, 2016) gets his first career touchdown pass on a deep ball to Tavon Austin (No. 8, 2013). If Goff can continue to make Austin look like a bona fide NFL wide receiver, that alone will justify his draft stock.

Andrew Potter: Rams just retook the lead on a 6-yard strike to Kenny Britt, but they owe that touchdown to Aaron Donald. Donald swatted Andrus Peat aside like he was on a hanging rail between Donald and Narnia, and Drew Brees never stood a chance. Sack, fumble, recovered by Mark Barron, and the touchdown came on the very next play.

Vince Verhei: Yes, Donald deserves most of the credit, but that still gives Goff two touchdown passes in the first quarter. Case Keenum hasn't thrown two touchdowns in the first quarter since December of last year against Tampa Bay.

Andrew Potter: An aggressive call from Sean Payton and a terrific run from Mark Ingram ties the game again, the touchdown coming on fourth down in the red zone. A fake jet sweep right and toss play left isolated Alec Ogletree against Ingram in space, Ogletree overplayed the outside, and Ingram cut inside him for the touchdown. Looks like not even the Rams offense can keep this Saints game from becoming a shootout.

Scott Kacsmar: Good fourth-down decisions and perfect quarterback sneaks at the goal line? I like some of what we're seeing today, but the Saints have especially been wise to take advantage of the sneak at the goal line with Brees. Just extend the ball out to break the plane and the play is over. Easy. Close to unstoppable.

Andrew Potter: The Los Angeles Rams had nine touchdown passes in their first ten games of the season. They have three touchdown passes in the first half against the Saints today.

How very Fisher of the Rams for the defense to utterly collapse as soon as the offense shows signs of life. Mark Ingram's touchdown catch for the first points of the second half was the easiest touchdown catch there will ever be for anybody, anywhere. There were three Saints blockers and precisely one Rams defender on that half of the field, as Gregg Williams called a big blitz off the offensive left side and Sean Payton ran a screen to the right.

Now Michael Thomas, who has broken several tackles today, beats E.J. Gaines off the line, catches the ball, sidesteps a flailing diving tackle attempt by Maurice Alexander, then powers through Gaines' attempt a recovery tackle for the touchdown. It's 42-21, and the Rams have shown no signs of getting back into this one since halftime.

Just business, nothing personal, as Sean Payton dials up a Willie Snead trick play pass deep to Tim Hightower to put the Saints up 49-21 against Gregg Williams' Rams defense. Not sure this is the spot in which I'd have used that play, but it certainly worked a treat.

This game's dead, but Johnny Hekker just had yet another mahoosive punt. It goes down as 68 yards officially, but he kicked from his own end zone and it was downed at the Saints 27.

Arizona Cardinals 19 at Atlanta Falcons 38

Bryan Knowles: Desmond Trufant is out, probably for the year, with a torn pectoral muscle. It appears the Cardinals were aware of this -- they marched 75 yards on their first drive, with Carson Palmer completing all five of his passes, including a touchdown. Jalen Collins has not proven to be an adequate replacement so far, though it's only one drive.

Scott Kacsmar: Big swing before halftime. Falcons were driving, but Julio Jones lost control of an easy completion that turned into an interception. Scott Hanson went with the "boy, you never see that from Julio" line on the RedZone channel, which is exactly what the announcer said the last time Julio had a big drop in Philadelphia two weeks ago. These aren't the only times this season either for Jones. How many times does a player need to drop some big plays that should have been easy catches before you leave that line out? The Cardinals turned the pick into a 54-yard field goal to end the half, because apparently that's not as much pressure on Chandler Catanzaro, who already cost this team with two likely game-winners missed from a shorter distance this year.

Rob Weintraub: Larry Fitzgerald with Hall of Fame level awareness -- with five seconds to go the Cards run a clear-out in the middle of the field. Fitz grabs it underneath, sprints for about 10 yards, then slides down and calls timeout with one second still on the clock. Long field goal good, Cards cut their deficit to 21-17 at the half.

Bryan Knowles: Another note from that Arizona game -- David Johnson is, once again, over 100 yards from scrimmage. That's getting to be very rarefied air; it's 11 straight games to start the season for Johnson. The only other player with at least 11 100-plus-yard games to start a season is Edgerrin James (who did it twice), and it's only the 16th time in NFL history someone has had 11 consecutive games, period. It has been quite a season for him.

Rob Weintraub: D.J. Swearinger does a great job reading Matt Ryan's eyes, gets a great jump on his seam pass -- then drops the sure interception. A few plays later the Falcons are in the end zone. Naturally.

The Cardinals stink, but don't blame David Johnson. As mentioned before he's over 100 yards from scrimmage yet again. He also scored a touchdown just now out of the backfield on a tremendously athletic play. Palmer's pass was low and away but Johnson not only went low to snag it off the grass but stayed fluid, kept his balance, and lunged into the end zone. Deceptively, a very difficult play.

San Francisco 49ers 24 at Miami Dolphins 31

Cian Fahey: 49ers just pulled the Dolphins defense apart on their opening drive that went for a touchdown. Read-option runs and designed plays to target Kiko Alonso in space made it too easy. Carlos Hyde's touchdown came directly as a result of Alonso's inability to get to him in space.

Colin Kaepernick has been outstanding so far against the Dolphins. He has run for more than 60 yards and converted first downs in difficult situations repeatedly. He has two precise throws against pressure -- one was a dropped touchdown, and the other was caught for a first down but subsequently fumbled away to end the drive.

Bryan Knowles: When the post-mortem of the 49ers is written after this season, something to note is their fast starts and slow finishes. Thanks to Carlos Hyde's touchdown reception in the first quarter, the 49ers have now scored first in eight of their 11 games. That's unusual for a team that's 1-9, staring 1-10 in the face, and is about to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Add in the fact that the 49ers have the longest opening day winning streak in the NFL, and it's really an odd pattern. The 49ers show up for the first 5 or 10 percent of a thing, pat themselves on the back, and then get blown out of the water.

A little followup to my earlier 49ers stat: The record for losses in a season when a team scores first is nine, shared by the 1990 Denver Broncos and the 2011 Miami Dolphins -- both of which were significantly better than this 49ers team. The Broncos had a -7.5% DVOA while the Dolphins were at -1.3%. The 49ers entered this week at -18.4%.

That being said, they had a nice little drive to score just now, and have moved the game to 17-14 and forced a Miami punt. Not exactly a performance befitting of the sixth-ranked team in DVOA so far by the Dolphins.

Aaron Schatz: The 49ers are trying to come back, down 31-24, less than two minutes left.

  • First-and-10 incomplete short pass.
  • Second-and-10, face mask penalty.
  • Second-and-25, Kaepernick throws the ball 2 yards downfield. TWO! With 25 to go! Carlos Hyde gets 2 YAC.
  • Third-and-21, Kaepernick throws the ball about 4 yards downfield to Hyde, although he gets 6 YAC.
  • Fourth-and-11, Kaepernick throws the ball PAST THE MARKER (!!!!) and Torrey Smith converts with 17 yards.

That Torrey Smith play bailed them out, but that is some crappy ALEX right there. It matters on first and second down too, especially something like second-and-25.

On the other hand... you can't be playing man-to-man against Colin Kaepernick on third-and-8 and leaving him tons of space to scramble for a first down. Can't do it, Miami. And then Jeremy Kerley with an amazing catch on the sidelines... originally called out of bounds but looks like it will be overturned... that leaves San Francisco with one play from the 6 to tie the game.

Sorry, did I say one play? I meant two plays. Pass to Torrey Smith tipped away by Byron Maxwell, then Kaepernick tries to scramble for the game-winning touchdown with everyone covered and gets tackled with 2 yards left to go. Miami has now won six straight games.

Bryan Knowles: Kaepernick scrambles on the last play of the game, and can't make it. Ballgame. The 49ers are now officially eliminated from the playoffs -- and they remain in a relatively tight race with Cleveland for the first overall draft pick. Excitement down the stretch!

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Baltimore Ravens 19

Aaron Schatz: Vontaze Burfict with a Bill Laimbeer special in the first quarter, draws a penalty on Steve Smith. This is Oscar-quality flopping.

Cian Fahey: I'm actually on Burfict's side. He sells it obviously, but Smith initiates the contact aggressively with his helmet and tries to do it subtly. If we swapped the players here everyone would be criticizing Burfict.

Rob Weintraub: So many dudes have drawn penalties on Burfict by flopping -- I'm happy he has been taking notes.

Aaron Schatz: Not all negative-ALEX plays are created the same. The Bengals threw a slant to James Wright on third-and-4. That pass was thrown about 3 yards downfield, and the officials gave the Bengals a generous spot to call it a first down. But I think you're a lot more likely to get that 1 yard of needed YAC with a slant, where your inertia carries you downfield towards the sticks, than with a curl or a hitch or even a crossing pattern.

Follow-up: The Ravens challenged the spot and the play was overturned, taking away the first down. This doesn't change the discussion of curls vs. slants on third down.

Rob Weintraub: Didn't help that Cincy stupidly called timeout instead of a quick snap, which allowed the Ravens to look at it and challenge.

Plenty of big-picture failings this season in Cincy, but the little dumb stuff piles up every week too.

Aaron Schatz: Halftime in Baltimore, and this one's a defensive battle. The Bengals' stats show the importance of Brandon Williams as Ravens nose tackle; Jeremy Hill has 9 carries for 20 yards. Without A.J. Green, the passing game is just Tyler Eifert plus a bunch of possession receivers right now. Ravens aren't doing much on offense either, although Kenneth Dixon is making his case to be the No. 1 back going forward (five carries for 26 yards, three catches for 28 yards). Justin Tucker has three field goals of 50-plus yards. One of them came off a drive that was seven plays for 2 yards. No, seriously. A good drive for the Ravens seems to consist of a few short runs and passes, one long gain to either Dennis Pitta or Mike Wallace, and a long Justin Tucker field goal. I think half their playbook is made up of bootlegs with a 1-yard outlet pass to Kyle Juszczyk.

Bryan Knowles: And, as a follow up from last week's Quick Reads -- Justin Tucker is 3-for-3 on 50-plus-yard field goals today, which should help the NFL's poor long field goal rate this season.

Rob Weintraub: Looking forward to the second half between two teams, the Ravens and the Bengals, seemingly incapable of adjusting at halftime.

Crappy as the Bengals have been this year, if they merely swapped kickers with the Ravens they would have a comfortable division lead.

Case in point: the Bengals open the second half by driving inside the Baltimore 40, then punt from the 38. Tucker drills a kick from there like blinking. Mike Nugent has no chance.

Scott Kacsmar: Justin Tucker should be on his way to a first-team All-Pro selection for the second time in his career, first since 2013. Only full-time kicker not to miss this year (26-for-26), and now 7-for-7 from 50-plus yards.

Rob Weintraub: Oh, and after the Bengals finally mount a drive and actually score in the red zone (Eifert, natch), Nugent misses his fourth extra point of the season.

By the way, the Bengals actually did some adjusting on that touchdown drive -- they targeted Eifert more after just two targets in the first half. He was triple-teamed on that touchdown catch but worked the back line beautifully and Dalton found him there. Also Russell Bodine was replaced by T.J. Johnson to noticeable effect. Not sure if that is a rotation thing or an injury or what. But given Bodine's spotty play it bears noting. The Bengals cost themselves points earlier when Bodine snapped it before Dalton was ready, resulting in a red zone fumble.

Bodine was indeed yanked. 2015 first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi also watched from the sidelines on that drive. Very telling.

Meanwhile the Bengals have lost two or three secondary players in this game to injury. Fortunately they drafted a corner in the first round -- William Jackson III. Oh, but wait, he's on IR. He was eligible to come off this week, as was Cedric Peerman, a fourth string running back-special teamer. The Bengals chose to activate Peerman, not Jackson, this week when both were eligible to come off (only allowed to reactivate one of course). So the Bengals flush away any snaps Jackson could get this season, and will inevitably wind up with just a couple of seasons to evaluate Jackson now before having to decide whether he's worth extending. Part of the problem when you draft for luxury.

The Bengals convert on third-and-22 thanks to a 5-yard hands to the face penalty during the ruck and maul on the offensive line. Cincy is the benefactor but I don't love that whole automatic first down on 5-yard penalty gestalt.

It doesn't help much as the Bengals are held to a field goal try which -- miracle of miracles -- is good by Nugent. 19-12 Baltimore.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, Bengals hold the Ravens on the next drive and get the ball back at their own 19 with 4:17 to go. And they're marching down the field with a really nice drive. The offensive line play is better on this drive, they're getting some yards on the ground, and Dalton just connected with Tyler Boyd for 9 yards on third-and-2. They might actually do this and force overtime. You know, for all the people begging for more Bengals-Ravens football.

The Bengals are still in this despite the fact that Dalton keeps getting his passes knocked down by the Ravens' offensive line. He's had three of them batted down on just this drive, including two by Matt Judon, but he hit Eifert on fourth-and-3 to keep things going.

Dalton has a FOURTH pass batted down on this drive -- that's four passes out of eight -- and then gets strip-sacked by Elvis Dumervil, who beats Eric Winston on third-and-10. Game over, season over.

Rob Weintraub: Gotta consider going for two...

But of course the Bengals don't have to make that call. Dumervil slips past Eric Winston, playing right tackle cause Ogbuehi can't, and strips Andy Dalton. Turnover, game over. The Ravens also batted down three passes in their territory on that drive.

Reminder: Cincy had a top-5 offensive line last year.

Vince Verhei: Ravens have a fourth down, up 19-12 with 11 seconds to go. They line up to punt -- but then Sam Koch drifts back to the end zone, and the other ten Ravens go on a holding frenzy. Flags fill the field, the clock expires, and Sam Koch goes down for the safety. The game is over either way, so the Bengals go ahead and decline the penalty and take the points. But that is an ingenious way to close out a game like that.

Bryan Knowles: John Harbaugh, former special teams coach, strikes again. With 11 seconds left in the game, and facing a fourth down, Harbaugh instructs his punt unit to cheat like crazy, tackling, holding, and generally mauling the Cincinnati punt block unit, while punter Sam Koch casually strolls back to the end zone, stepping out for a safety after the clock goes to 0. About eight holding penalties on that play with every official on the field throwing a flag, but that doesn't matter -- the game can end on an offensive penalty, so the game's over.

Rob Weintraub: Another dumb rule.

Tennessee Titans 27 at Chicago Bears 21

Vince Verhei: Titans came into the week 31st in pass coverage against running backs, and you can see why early, even if it's not all showing up in the numbers. Chicago's longest play so far has been a 22-yard screen to Jordan Howard where the running back had offensive linemen running 10 yards in front of him looking for somebody to hit. They tried it again a few plays later and it looked like they were going to get the same result, but Matt Barkley overthrew the pass (yes, on a screen). Then, in the red zone, Howard was wide-open on an out route that should have been a touchdown, but he dropped the pass.

Tom Gower: Titans up 21-7 at the half. Bears actually took the lead on a nicely-designed scoring drive after their first drive ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 33. The Titans have a couple of third-and-short incompletions, but three scoring drives beyond that. I know, the Bears are actually a respectable 19th in defensive DVOA, but the back six has been lousy today. Corner Bryce Callahan has been a particular target of some nice seam throws by Marcus Mariota, but it would probably be unfair to single him out. Mariota has looked good, most notably maybe on a 29-yard touchdown to Rishard Matthews, and the Titans have finally mixed in Derrick Henry (five carries to DeMarco Murray's eight), albeit a month or more after they should have (and I say that as even someone who wasn't a particular fan of Henry's).

Matt Barkley has been ... a below-average backup quarterback, which is about as much as you could have reasonably expected. His one turnover was a bad decision -- he forced a checkdown to a covered tight end in the middle of the field, and Wesley Woodyard took it away. Barkley has executed some of what's there, but had some misses, like overthrowing one screen and underthrowing another, plus a botched handoff to Jordan Howard (who has found space at times) they managed to get back after it was kicked away from the line (fumble recoveries are random). But this isn't a talented enough offense right now to make up for their lack of consistent execution, so they have the one drive and a couple big defensive pass interference penalties on balls that would have been defended by corners with non-Tennessee ball skills.

Aaron Schatz: In retrospect, that Chicago domination of Minnesota on Monday Night Football four weeks ago just looks cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Tom Gower: Bears actually onsided to open the second half and got to scoring territory and followed it up with some successful plays, but under pressure after scrambling to buy time on third-and-goal, Barkley puts up a back-foot duck under pressure that's easily intercepted by Da'Norris Searcy. On the next series, starting deep after a penalty on the kickoff, Cody Whitehair's deep snap goes off Barkley's head, and the Titans are starting in Bears territory up 24-7. Chicago's scoring drive is now but a distant memory.

Bad timing on my previous email. Bears offense now worked enough to score two touchdowns on as many possessions since then and have the ball at their own 35, down six with 1:56 to play.

Kind of a weird game. Titans had a couple third-and-short failures, but other drives ended in scores for a 27-7 lead . But then the Bears started converting on third downs -- all of them. Third-and-5. Third-and-5. Third-and-10. Touchdown. Third-and-10. Third-and-11. Third-and-ten, to fourth-and-two, and a touchdown there. And the Titans offense tried to grind things out, but went three-and-out twice. 27-7 to 27-14 to 27-21. And it looked like the 28th-ranked defense by DVOA would somehow blow it, when the Bears went from their 35 to the Tennessee 7 in a minute, with almost a minute to play. Dick LeBeau was bringing pressure, and the overloads were producing free rushers. But Barkley was standing in there, getting the ball out. Only Josh Bellamy dropped one in the end zone on first down. Wesley Woodyard broke up the third-down pass. Brice McCain was in better position than the receiver on third down. And Deonte Thompson, who caught the third score, couldn't make a sliding grab on fourth down, giving the Bears their tenth and final drop of the game (per Brad Biggs, who tweeted out Bellamy's was the ninth of the game; I wasn't actually keeping track).

And the Titans are aware of their cover problems, and were trying things today to fix it. "Dick LeBeau hates playing rookie corners" notwithstanding, LeShaun Sims was alternating series today, and Valentino (f/k/a Antwon) Blake was getting run even before Jason McCourty got injured late. Depth is better than it was last year, when the pass defense was Saints-tastic once Derrick Morgan got hurt, but the cover guys they need don't seem to be on the roster. Thank goodness for Chicago's current collection of pass catchers.

New York Giants 27 at Cleveland Browns 13

Vince Verhei: It's 14-6 at halftime, and the difference in the game is that the Giants have scored touchdowns on both of their scoring chances, while the Browns have settled for field goals of 20 and 25 yards (the latter kicked on second down at the end of the half). Josh McCown remains a waste of time at quarterback, producing little outside a handful of good plays to Terrelle Pryor, and narrowly missing an interception when Eli Apple failed to get two feet in. The Browns know they are outmatched here, and they're trying to out-scheme the Giants with gobs of motion, several times splitting chunks of linemen out wide and then moving them back into standard formation, hoping to catch some defenders out of position somewhere. Why, then, would you spread the field five wide and ask McCown to pass on second-and-goal inside the 5? 

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The Giants' offense has been surprisingly inept, with just one drive gaining more than 45 yards. That's in part due to some crummy Eli Manning passes, in part due to big plays by a handful of Cleveland defenders (Danny Shelton and Christian Kirksey come to mind), and in part due to Odell Beckham missing a big chunk of the first half with a thumb injury. He returned, though, catching a short cross and outrunning the Cleveland defense across and down the field for New York's second touchdown, a 32-yarder.

Browns force a three-and-out on New York's first drive and it looks like they're going to get good field position. Then Duke Johnson, back to return the punt, not only lets it bounce, not only lets it get past him, but then chases it down and picks up, getting tackled for a loss of 3 on the return. That's at least 20 yards of field position he just surrendered, and now Cleveland is starting at their own 10.

Still 14-6 early in the fourth as neither offense can get anything going. Odell Beckham looked like he had broken the game open on a brilliant punt return touchdown, but it was called back on a hold that had nothing to do with the return. Giants then go three-and-out again, but the ensuing punt pins Cleveland inside the 5. The Giants offense has been mostly a series of deep passes knocked away by Cleveland defensive backs. They have been the better team today, but they're just letting Cleveland hang around and haven't been able to put the Browns away.

And finally New York puts the nail in the coffin. Terrelle Pryor reels in a play-action bomb for 54 yards that puts Cleveland on the edge of scoring range, but then the Browns follow with a screen pass that loses 4 yards because Danny Vitale fell down; false start on Alvin Bailey for 5 yards; and then on second-and-19, McCown is hit, the ball pops up, and Jason Pierre-Paul grabs it out of the air and takes it to the house for what is officially a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown. Giants miss the extra point, so it's still 20-6, but that may as well be 200-6 the way Cleveland's offense is playing.

Or not! Browns answer by looking like a legitimate NFL offense for the first time all day, producing a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive where four of the plays were completions for first downs. The capper was a 21-yard touchdown by Corey Coleman with a great route design -- with a slot receiver running a quick out to occupy one defender, Coleman had an easy time of things faking an inside move and cutting back to the corner for the score. Giants still up 20-13, but have to be nervous here with half a quarter to go against a winless team.

Jacksonville Jaguars 21 at Buffalo Bills 28

Rob Weintraub: Bad thumb injuries are like paper cuts in the NFL. First Odell shrugs off his injured thumb to catch that touchdown pass (and he was a speeding bullet on that play), then LeSean McCoy opens the second half in Buffalo with an 75-yard sprint off tackle. He had thumb surgery a week ago. I once hit my thumb with a hammer and was curled up in bed for four days.

Seattle Seahawks 5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14

Andrew Potter: Bobby Wagner is a great player. He's not a "cover Mike Evans 25 yards downfield" player. Then on the goal line, the Buccaneers manage to get Evans one-on-one with Steven Terrell, presumably in for the injured Earl Thomas, in the end zone. Something tells me Seattle might make an adjustment or two to that defense from here on out.

Carl Yedor: Seattle is short-handed on defense today without Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, DeShawn Shead, and Brock Coyle, and it didn't take long for Jameis Winston and company to take advantage. 7-0 Tampa halfway through the first quarter.

Andrew Potter: Whoa boy. Russell Wilson is running for his life already on Seattle's opening drive. One sack for Noah Spence (revised to a half-sack shared with Gerald McCoy), and heavy pressure on the third-down incomplete as Ryan Russell came free.

Vince Verhei: I was curious to see if Seattle would play more Cover-2 looks with Earl Thomas out, but it still looks like they are relying on single-high coverage, with either Kam Chancellor or Steven Terrell playing deep. But neither of them are Earl Thomas, which is a big reason Mike Evans has two touchdowns on Tampa Bay's first two drives. 

Also missing today: Justin Britt. Joey Hunt is getting his first start at center, one of three rookies starting on Seattle's offensive line today, and it's like they're starting over and it's Week 1 all over again. Wilson and Thomas Rawls are having to break tackles every play just for the offense to function.

Seattle's defense has mostly gotten its act together after some early struggles, and thanks in part to some Tampa Bay clock mismanagement at the end of the half, they haven't given up any points since the first two drives. In fact, they've scored two points when Frank Clark was held in the end zone. But Seattle's offense is still having plenty of problems, with only three points in thirty minutes. They looked like they were threatening to score late in the half there, but Alterraun Verner jumped Paul Richardson's route and came away with an interception. Seattle's passing game has three completions for 20 yards, four sacks for 19 yards lost, 1 net yard gained, and the INT. This is not ideal. The 20 yards for Wilson is the lowest he's had in a first half in his career, breaking his previous low which came in 2013 -- against Tampa Bay.

Aaron Schatz: I've seen a lot of "Boy, Earl Thomas sure is good" tweets today and yeah, Earl Thomas sure is good, but his injury is not the reason Wilson has 20 passing yards at halftime.

Vince Verhei: With the offense as bad as it has been all year, and Tampa Bay getting a big punt return, the Seahawks desperately need a turnover -- and they get it! Doug Martin coughs up the ball, Steven Terrell recovers, and Seattle has life, down 14-5 with about nine minutes to go.

... and Jimmy Graham fumbles it right back, and Lavonte David gets a big return, and the Bucs have the ball at the Seattle 25, looking to put this away.

... and that goes awry when Jameis Winston forces a ball to a not-open Mike Evans in the corner of the end zone, and Kam Chancellor gets the interception. Cameron Brate had a touchdown taken away on the prior play on a Tampa Bay penalty. Seahawks now need a minor miracle, still down 14-5 with four minutes to go.

The Bucs get a pair of sacks to put Seattle in long yardage, and also to burn the Seahawks' timeouts. So even though they converted those long-yardage scenarios, they were still down nine points inside of two minutes, and Wilson's desperate pass to Tyler Lockett was intercepted by Bradley McDougald, and that's the ballgame. Wilson had a chance at an open Lockett on what would have been a touchdown a few plays earlier, but under pressure threw the ball too far inside. 

Wilson's final statline -- 17-33-151 with no touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and six sacks -- is going to be right up there with the worst games of his career. He did have 80 yards rushing, but just a lousy day when Seattle couldn't block anyone. 

On the upside, Seattle's defense had a very good day despite missing their best player and their best pass-rusher, among others. But really, best just to put this in the rearview, hope the injured players can return on Sunday night against Carolina, and move on.

Holy crap. I didn't realize this during the game because it never felt like they were out of it until the final interception, but Seattle's streak is over. At no point during the fourth quarter today were they within one score of tying the game. This is what blowing out Seattle looks like.

New England Patriots 22 at New York Jets 17

Aaron Schatz: Jets have shut down the Patriots' offense on the first three drives. On the last two, the Patriots attempted to go deep to Gronk on third-and-7 rather than a shorter pass with a higher probability of moving the sticks. It looked like Gronk beat his man on both of them -- Brady overthrew him on the first and it looked like the refs missed clear DPI on the second -- but at a certain point you gotta put the shot plays aside and get a good, long, consistent drive down the field.

The Patriots finally score their first points with a field goal in the middle of the second quarter. Tom Brady does not look like himself today. I wonder if the knee is a bigger issue than people realize. He's sailing a lot of passes. The Pats' biggest gain here was a DPI on a double-pass trick play with Chris Hogan throwing to Malcolm Mitchell downfield. The other issue is the Patriots' offensive line, which is getting killed by the Jets' defensive line -- the strength of that team, even with all the other things that have gone wrong for the Jets this year. On the last series of that drive, Leonard Williams was in Brady's face to force him to throw the ball away on two of the last three plays, with a run for no gain on second down in between.

In the first quarter, the Pats threw a ridiculous negative-ALEX pass behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-10. Dion Lewis almost had enough yardage to actually make the play worthwhile and convert. The Jets had to challenge to move the spot back and force fourth-and-1. Now it's the third quarter, and the Pats just threw another ridiculous negative-ALEX pass behind the line of scrimmage, this time on third-and-12, a swing pass to James White. And he got 11 YAC and very nearly a conversion, and then the Pats drew a neutral zone infraction on fourth-and-1 to move the sticks.

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It certainly seems like the Patriots are the only team that can regularly get conversions out of very short passes on third-and-long.

10:17 to play in the fourth quarter, the Jets just took the lead on the Patriots again, 17-13. The Patriots are having serious defensive problems again. The run defense has actually been reasonable, as the Jets running backs have 59 yards on 20 carries. But there's almost no pass rush, and the outside cornerbacks can't cover the Jets' taller receivers. The Jets have been catching jump balls all day, including a great catch by Quincy Enunwa jumping backwards and coming down just inside the corner of the end zone to give the Jets the lead.

Patriots march back down the field fairly easily as the Jets go to conservative zones with four pass-rushers. Did someone steal Todd Bowles' brain? Anyway, the drive stalls around the 20 and the Patriots get a field goal to make it 17-16 with 7:02 left.

Jets get stuck on their own 8 because of a penalty on the kick return, then get a sweet sliding catch from Enunwa to get away from their own end zone, around the 30. But Bilal Powell drops a swing pass on third-and-long and the Jets punt back to the Patriots, who will now try to march for a game-winning field goal.

Patriots get the ball back again, and they march down the field again. They had fourth-and-4 on the 36 and could have settled for a 54-yard field goal try but with Stephen Gostkowski shaky this year they chose to go for it... and just got it on a swing pass to James White. Next play, the zone coverage left Chris Hogan WIDE open up the seam to take the Pats to the 8. Same play happened in the previous drive. The Pats don't settle for a field goal. They go for the kill and score on a touchdown to rookie Malcolm Mitchell. Two receivers crossed on the left side and Darrelle Revis got caught two steps behind trying to catch up to his man Mitchell. He's had a poor game and wow, this season he has just fallen off a cliff. I was arguing not to jump to conclusions on Revis' decline back in September, but after two-thirds of a season it's pretty obvious.

Pats miss the two-point conversion because James White crossed the goal line with the ball in the wrong hand and went out of bounds before it crossed the plane. So Jets will get two minutes to come back and a touchdown would win it.

Vince Verhei: Could not agree more with New England's decision to go for it on fourth-and-4. Not only would that have been a long kick, but even if it had been good, the Jets would have had plenty of time to drive down and kick a winning field goal of their own.

Aaron Schatz: So much for that comeback. Patriots get a strip-sack from Chris Long. That might have been their first sack of the game, I'm not sure. Patriots run out the clock when LeGarrette Blount takes it down to the 3-yard line on third-and-2 and goes out of bounds. Game over.

Carolina Panthers 32 at Oakland Raiders 35

Scott Kacsmar: Does that really slow developing screen play ever work? Think the Patriots opened Super Bowl XLII with it. Cam Newton just threw an embarrassing pick-six to Khalil Mack on it, and he's now 3-of-12 for 18 yards passing against a defense that made Brock Osweiler look competent on Monday night.

Bryan Knowles: Not the first time Mack has made a play like that, either -- did roughly the same thing against Ohio State when he was at Buffalo.

Silver lining for the Panthers? Cam Newton got his first roughing the passer call since 2014.

Surprised Oakland threw two passes down deep in the red zone there -- drain some clock, make Carolina use their time outs at the very least. Instead, two incomplete passes leaves the Panthers with 1:45 and one timeout to make up this three-point deficit.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots game over, switch to the Raiders and Panthers. Oakland down at the goal line tied 32-32, and they threw the ball twice and didn't get into the end zone. Stopping the clock means Carolina has 1:45 to come back. But kicking a field goal means Carolina will likely play conservative, try to tie game at 35, and go to overtime instead of going for the win.

Instead, the Panthers don't make it more than half the field. Newton overthrows Greg Olsen on third down, when Olsen can't leap high enough to bring it down. Trai Turner, in at right tackle, gets schooled by Kahlil Mack, strip-sack on fourth down.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 at Denver Broncos 27 (OT)

Scott Kacsmar: This game is why ALEX exists, and it's not just Alex Smith, but he sure is going to end up plummeting after tonight at this rate. Chiefs just threw a 2-yard quick out on third-and-16. What purpose does that serve other than to limit the risk of a pick and bring out the punter? We're most likely going to be scoreless until there's a big turnover in this one. I don't see either offense putting together enough plays against these defenses to drive a long field for points.

Aaron Schatz: I saw that quick out too. I mean, if the point of short passes is to get YAC past the sticks, why throw 2 yards where the guy runs out of bounds immediately?

This game is where offense goes to die. Justin Houston's looking healthy, though.

Tom Gower: So, SNF. Chiefs just went up 16-10 very late in the third quarter. Broncos Right Tackle has been a problem against an outstanding opposing player, which is a story we have seen before. Tyreek Hill, another previous topic of discussion, has both Chiefs touchdowns, as Kansas City took the ball out of Alex Smith's hands in the red zone right there. Denver has a couple significant penalties on special teams -- two holds on punts that changed field position in the first half, and the awful illegal formation that just gave the Chiefs a first down. Denver has made some plays in the passing game because of their receivers winning. The biggest surprise may have been Trevor Siemian's Randall Cunningham impersonation for Denver's touchdown, buying time, time, and more time before finding Jordan Taylor for the score.

Aaron Schatz: Also, Siemian can hit deep throws that Alex Smith just can't. He's not going to do it often, but he can do it. He just launched it DEEP downfield to Emmanuel Sanders midway through the fourth quarter. Sixty-four yards.

Then Siemian hits Sanders for a 35-yard touchdown. That might be the difference in this game. Siemian will make more mistakes than Alex Smith, but he can also stretch the field in a way Smith can't and doesn't even try to.

Tom Gower: And Emmanuel Sanders made both plays happen, running away from the slot corner on the score and setting up and earning the yards after catch on the 64-yarder. He good.

Aaron Schatz: Siemian just hit Bennie Fowler for 76 yards down the left sideline. What on earth was Philip Gaines looking at? He's running with Fowler and then he looked back and slowed down for some unknown reason as Fowler kept going, caught the ball, and ran all the way down the field for the score.

Scott Kacsmar: Denver has let Siemian throw frequently in the four-minute offense this year. He delivers a big throw to Bennie Fowler while Phillip Gaines was totally lost in coverage on a touchdown. However, I'm mad that Kubiak didn't go for two with three minutes left to take a 25-16 lead with 3:00 left. This was the Pete Carroll decision a few weeks ago in New England, but this was probably even a better situation to do it since this game would be over with a nine-point lead. Either way, I highly doubt the Chiefs are going to put this in the end zone, but if they do, it's still a one-score game.

Aaron Schatz: Thanks for capturing this, Cian.

Bryan Knowles: What a finish to this one -- the refs stopping the clock with one second left to review a score.

I...think it's a score, because he was bobbling the ball. But man, this is close -- throw it into the end zone!

Rob Weintraub: Unlike that Seattle-Arizona game I don't hate myself for staying up past midnight for this one...

Aaron Schatz: There's no question that the change in the overtime rules has led to more ties. Every time a team scores a field goal on that first drive after the coin toss, you have a good chance things are going to end up with another field goal. Then there's just a question of whether one of the teams can score before time runs out.

Bryan Knowles: Win or lose, I think I agree with the decision to kick the field goal there. Punting (as the announcers were talking about) is essentially guaranteeing you won't win the game. If it was fourth-and-5 or something, you go for it -- but that field goal at least gave them a chance to win. Now you trust your defense.

Aaron Schatz: That defense begins by jumping offside... and even with a free play Alex Smith can't throw the ball downfield. He scrambles instead.

Bryan Knowles: A game of inches! The rare, overtime-ending doink field goal for the win!

Tom Gower: Is tonight an example of why Denver's style is problematic, because when you have a very good-to-great defense instead of a historically great defense, you end up not being able to take advantage of any of your outs -- at 24-16, on the tying two-point conversion, at 27-24 in overtime, or after the missed field goal? Or is that just too reflexive and reactive to tonight's blown opportunities?

Aaron Schatz: Gary Kubiak trusted his defense, and that defense was exhausted. It's not horrible to give up a 5-yard penalty, an 11-yard pass, and a 16-yard pass. But there was really very little leeway for the Denver defense to be less than great after the missed field goal.

In retrospect, the strangest decision was Denver calling a play with third-and-10 that had Bennie Fowler running 25 yards downfield as the first read. If they were going to try a field goal on fourth down, why not either a) a shorter pass that would at least get the field goal closer, or b) a 10-yard pass to try to move the sticks and set up a possible field goal of 45 to 50 yards instead of 62?

Rob Weintraub: The holder, Dustin Colquitt, totally thought it was no good. Had his head down in dismay. Then -- ecstasy!

Last year the Broncs would have forced a fumble in the last minute and won anyway. That karma just doesn't last. 

This has been your analytics moment...

Bryan Knowles: Interesting spit-out from Brian Burke's fourth down calculator on that late Denver field goal, with a tie counting as 50 percent of a win.

  • Win probability for going for it: 47%
  • WP for attempting the field goal: 41%
  • WP for punting: 52%.

Now, that's before accounting for Denver's altitude, so I don't know how that effects the field goal numbers, but from that, at least, it would indicate that Kubiak made the wrong call.

I'm not sure I buy into that, though. You have to take into account how specifically useful a half-a-win would be; what's the real difference in playoff odds between going, say, 10-6, 11-5, and 10-5-1. (I'm giving Denver a winning record the rest of the way, because if they start losing a bunch, the decision is moot).

Eleven wins probably gets Denver the top wild card spot, especially considering one of those wins comes at the expense of the Chiefs. That means a matchup with the weakest divisional champ, quite possibly the AFC South winner (right now, it'd be the AFC North winner, but, I mean, Houston...). It could also take the division outright, which probably means a first-round bye. Ten wins might throw you into a big tiebreaker with the likes of Buffalo and Miami, which looks like it slightly favors Denver but is highly dependent. 10.5 wins probably gets you into the six seed and a matchup in somewhere like Pittsburgh or Baltimore on wild card weekend.

So...maybe the field goal was the wrong decision for trying to make the playoffs, but the right decision for trying to go deeper into the playoffs? I think that's kind of where I'm going for at the moment. Definitely one of those high-impact calls.


155 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2016, 10:49am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

On that last play of the Ravens=Bengals game, is there anything Cincinnati could have done there? If they had realized what was going on, could they have just grabbed some Ravens by the facemask, off-set the holding penalties, and then re-play 4th down?

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't think offsetting penalties will put any time back on the clock.

(Personally, I'd like to see the penalty rules changed such that the team accepting the penalty is given the option to put the time back on the clock. And when penalties offset time would always be put back on the clock so the play would be a true do-over.)

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

you convinced me 9and am not even being sarcastic). (I was thinking more alogn lines of rule book apparentyly allows for that crap). of coruse, holding is illegal. after all, penalty can be called if it is doen.

so, yes, palpably unfair act rule sbhoudl have been applied here.

think I saw marvin lewis mouth "cheap" when wlaking to middle of field for postgame hadnshakes. or maybe that was me just seeing things.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't see this as really being too much different from a basketball player committing a foul to stop a fast break. When the rules are structured such that in certain circumstances the penalty is less than the benefit of the illegal action, I see the fault as being on the rules rather than the perpetrators. I personally don't see a problem with it as long as there isn't an effort made to hurt someone.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The clear path rule is a smart rule, though you can still stop a 3-on-1 fastbreak with an intentional foul as long as one defender gets in front of the ball. IMO the NBA has done a much better job than the NFL of changing the rules to improve the game. If intentional holds become a significant problem, the NFL would be wise to tweak the rules to disincentivize the act. This is the second one this year, with the first being the 49ers defense holding every Saints receiver right before halftime to force them to settle for a field goal.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Their only recourse was to demand the officials enforce the "palpably unfair" rule. One of the purposes of that rule is to keep teams from committing penalties solely to avoid a play's outcome: an example is a team that repeatedly commits penalties on defense to get the ball moved closer and closer to the end zone without letting any points score. Problem here is that the points did score.
There's no rule against committing intentional fouls in order to burn clock.
And yes, if Belichick had done this, it would be a top story on all the sports media as evidence about the Patriots "bending the rules" or "breaking unspoken rules" or some such thing. That Harbaugh of all people does this after whining about the usage of ineligible receivers is particularly galling.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not really sure what Harbaugh's concern that the officials were not adequately communicating to his defense which players were eligible receivers has anything to do with intentionally holding players on a late-game safety. In any case, Harbaugh employed the same strategy in the 2012 Super Bowl, which predates that Pats playoff game by 2 years.

And the fact that you think Belichick would have criticized for employing the same strategy underscores a persecution complex that has been evident for some time now. Get over it, people don't care about your team nearly as much as you think they do.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Persecution complex??

The Pats were docked a 1st round pick, a 4th round pick, and their QB was suspended 4 games for a violation that NEVER HAPPENED!

"Get over it"? No way in hell. Not until people like you admit that the NFL completely screwed over the Patriots last year. And we still have to live with the after-effects. The Pats are currently a favorite in the AFC in spite of not having their #1 draft pick.
That pick certainly could have been used to improve their currently dismal pass rush.

And that you pretend that this is my issue is ludicrous. Any time there's a story about the Patriots in national media, all the comments sections are filled with people who continue to claim, baselessly, that the Patriots are serial cheaters.

Persecution complex? Open your eyes.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I understand and basically agree with your grievance, even though I'm a Jets fan. But I should remind you that if the the 4 game suspension happened last year, my favorite team would probably have won the division instead of missing the playoffs. Todd Bowles would be on much safer ground right now. So both of us are happy the suspension didn't happen last year.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ha. The deranged 'never happened' delusion rears its head yet again.

I don't understand why fans like this don't just pretend their team wins the super bowl every year. If they are willing to take their reality distortion field that far, why not just a few steps more?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I thought that you had to commit a "palpably unfair" penalty more than once in a game for the penalty to be called. The first time results in a warning and then the officials can do something about it if the team commits the penalty again.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That is the current ruling, per tweets from the NFL.

Whether that is the correct ruling or not is a question for debate.

Under the rules as written, I think Baltimore made a genius play. Whether the rules should be ~changed~, on the other hand...

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

As I said above, the rules do not "allow" you to hold intentionally; they simply have an inadequate penalty in this instance. The act is still illegal, and intentionally breaking the rules is cheating. We should not be admiring that as brilliance.

If you do something legal that no one else has thought of, that's brilliant. If you deliberately refuse to follow the rules, that's just being a cheater.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

They don't allow you to hold, but they also don't enforce this rule if the time has expired.
Harbaugh knew this, so he broke the rules intentionally knowing there wouldn't be a punishment.
It's not highly ethical, but if it wins you a game and nobody gets hurt, then I think it's smart.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The reason there's no specific provision for this in the rule is that people who wrote the rules never contemplated that an entire team -- to a man -- would essentially give the middle finger to the rule book. So, sure, if you coach your team to do something no decent person with respect for the rules would have contemplated, you might get away with something. Whether that is "smart" or not, it's grotesque sportsmanship. It's dishonorable. It's something people that respect fair play certainly should not celebrate.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Not that I think they would change the rule like this, but the simple solution is to make a penalty on 4th down against the offense at the end of the game essentially the same as a defensive penalty: the game can't end without another play (with the other team getting the ball). In that case, the safety would have caused a free kick (and perhaps one more play, if they wanted to be really fair).

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If any of the holding actually took place in the end zone, then 4.8.2(g) would already give them exactly this recourse. It doesn't apply here because they had 20 yards of space to work their "holding magic" in without stepping into the danger zone, so the only way the Bengals could get the safety was by declining the penalty.

If the game had been so extended by a safety kick, 4.8.2(b)(5) at least forces the Ravens to give the Bengals a genuine chance to return the punt, or else punt out of bounds to extend the game by another play, and give them one crack at a Hail Mary from the 50.

154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

agreed. would be cool fi in next ravens bs bengals game, bengals have abll at end and instead of taking knee, they hold all the raevbsn and tackle them and sit on them and grab their wieners and ptu them in choke holds and figure four headlocks

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I read this as "you can commit a palpably unfair act once in a game and only get a warning," and that didn't make sense, because you can't have a guy come off the sidelines and tackle someone even once. Digging around the internet, the actual rule appears to be that intentional, multiple penalties are only classified as a palpably unfair act after one warning.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

For your example, I don't believe so because the Ravens can decline the penalty. The game doesn't end only on an accepted penalty on the defense.

My guess is this rule is changed. This isn't the first time Harbaugh did it. The Ravens very clearly did this at the very end of Super Bowl XLVII, but that time the refs didn't even thrown the flag for holding.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Ravens very clearly did this at the very end of Super Bowl XLVII, but that time the refs didn't even thrown the flag for holding.

Yes they did. Result is the same: holding in the end zone is a safety. Niners get the points either way, and the Ravens free-kick.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Rule 7.2.1 contains the provisions for declaring a play dead. The only provision that mentions anything about "no effort to advance" is the one detailing a player going to the ground untouched, such as by taking a knee, which Koch didn't do here.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Kubiak went for the FG in part because he really didn't want to fall 1.5 games behind the Raiders with 5 weeks to go. Had they made the kick, they'd only be 1 game back and they'd have a home game with Oakland in hand.

A tie would have put them 1.5 games behind Oakland and also slightly behind KC in terms of tiebreaker, since the rematch would be in Arrowhead. It would have been significantly worse than a win.

Of course a loss is much worse. They only have 4 losses and two pretty winnable games coming up, but after that they have two games against teams that already beat them, plus the Pats. They're probably out of the division race and may have to hope that Pats care about Week 17 game to stay ahead of Dolphins.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12'd never know the Falcons blew out the Cards by those comments. No love for Taylor Gabriel? Or a pass rush that woke up in the 2nd half? Very correct, however, to point out that Julio has had some bad drops this year.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Well, possibly the only position Cleveland hasn't been utterly deficient in this season is receiver. Pryor has been a revelation, and rookie Coleman has at least flashed ability.

Mostly though it just highlights how an offence with already good blocking, an elite receiver, and great QB play can make use of a talented, but atypical athlete that other more talent-deficient units might struggle to incorporate. Think of all the cast-offs who have shown up in New England over the years and suddenly looked like world-beaters.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Grey Cup interesting to watch btu not whole thing because it started dring Raiders and Pates games. recorded it though. Ottawa won whcioh was nice. good game, some better rules than NFL btu jujst not same as watching NFL ghames. doesn't seem as important. really wish there werrte still American teams in cfl and games were shown more in usa. was fan of Baltimore CFL team.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It was a hell of a game.
I'm curious how Americans feel about the CFL overtime rules - teams takes turns with the ball at the opponent's 35, try to score, if they get a TD have to go for 2, first team to take a lead with equal possessions wins.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

This sounds similar to the college rules and is infinitely better than what the NFL does. It does create a strategic disadvantage for the team that gets the ball first, but that's pretty minor and other than that the teams both get the same chance at winning.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

was fan of Baltimore CFL team.

Me too!

I live in the Baltimore suburbs, and followed the CFL Colts during the interregnum between the old team leaving for Indy and the new team arriving from Cleveland. They were quite good! Their game was interesting. At the time, I found reasons to like it better than the NFL game – not necessarily overall, but definitely parts of it. It was faster moving.

I found it a little unfair that an NFL team stepped on them and forced them to move. They were a plucky little team. I enjoyed having them.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aaron Schatz: That defense begins by jumping offside... and even with a free play Alex Smith can't throw the ball downfield. He scrambles instead.

Yeah, with a free play, Smith's idea was to scramble for a 5-yard gain. And as Collinsworth pointed out, he had an open receiver on the left side, beyond all defenders.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I am pretty sure Smith did not know there was a free play. As the flag is thrown Von Miller is in his face on the opposite side and his back was turned to the referee that threw the flag. He could not see it.
Not only that, after the play is over he was calling other players to line up for a spike proving that he did not know there was a flag.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

MIA-49ners Colin Kaepernick was pretty much the best thing on the field on Sunday. The Dolphins were spying him but he's simply faster than any of the Dolphins LBs. I don't know where he ends up next season, but someone is going to take a chance on him. Tannehill was his typical light switch self. Someone flipped the switch in the 2nd quarter and then switch it off after the 3rd. Really one or two first downs by Tannehill in the 4th qrt and there's no comeback. Miami lucks out again, but they feel to be on borrowed time. They need at least 2 out 3 of their linemen back for the stretch drive or else it will be a rather disappointing finish to the season. Without the big 3 on the online the running game is nearly totally absent and this team needs to run to win. AFCeast watch 1) New England seems to be ticking out the clock until the playoffs. The question seems to be will they get home field or not at this stage. 2) Miami-the next four are against teams they could beat, but are they healthy enough to beat them? 3) Bills-a wins, a win and something tells me the other wild card teams are all going to start dropping games so they still have a chance. 4) Jets-Pretty much the most Jets like game in Jets history. It's hard to remember, but the Jets our actually the 2nd best AFCeast team of the Brady era. Yes, that's how starved this division is for actual interdivisional-entertainment.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Agree, Kaepernick was single-handedly dragging the 49ers through that game. He'd have won it for them if his receivers hadn't let him down. He was making Rod Streater look good. Kaep is still a blockhead on the field, but he's a blockhead who can make crazy runs and passes. Maybe he just matches up well with the Miami D? But he has been looking a bit better every week.

I'm not so sure about his future on another team. By report, there's a lot of animosity toward him throughout the league for his politics, of the "fuck that guy" sort.

But yee gads for one game at least it was a relief to watch a 49ers team that was...should I say it?

P.S. Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis and Peter Schrager were a great team, Charles Davis in particular. Those poor guys were making a game with a 1-9 team downright educational.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Not to turn this political, but my biggest gripe with Kaep is how generally unaware he is about the complexity of these issues. Case in point - his whole defense of the benevolent side of Cuba. If he did even basic research, he'd realize how flawed his views are. And more broadly, if he understood how hard it is to make a dent into urban poverty - he'd be more circumspect with his views.

Honestly - I don't think he should be blackballed from the NFL, but if he really cares about these issues, like everything else in life, he should do his homework first.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Let's not violate the Prime Directive of this site, please, but in general, I think we can all agree that athletes are not the folks we should turn to for cogent political analysis of any kind, which is one one of the reasons why the Prime Directive is a good idea here.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I have very strong feelings on this subject, and they may not align with yours, but I really do respect Rule 1 on this site (the last thing anyone wants is for this to turn into someone's facebook thread), so I'm just going to agree with posters above and say it is great to see Kaep playing well and the 49ers being kind of watchable again.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm really going to vigorously ask that people avoid political commentary, especially in an Audibles thread. I know you think your comment is innocuous, and therefore not especially violative, but I think you are demonstrating an inability to empathize with other viewpoints.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm going to ask that you let the people who actually own this website do their own moderating.

As the NFL becomes increasingly politicized in large part due to its own actions it is going to become unavoidable to discuss.

If I go to ESPN (you know, the site this website is in bed with) and I do a search for the string 'NHL' I will get 1 hit on an article about NHL power rankings. During hockey season.

If I do search for the string 'Trump' I get 3 political articles on the President-Elect.

ESPN and the rest of the sports media chose to go down this path of using sports to push their political agenda, Will. And people are talking about. Because they can.

Welcome to America.

Good luck, have fun, don't suck, hedge accordingly, and always have your head on a swivel when you step foot on the gridiron or drive through a parking-lot.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I didn't know that America was about being such an inconsiderate A-hole as to ignore the plain and clear ground rules laid down by people who risked their time and capital to create this space. They have stated the first rule is "No politics". Is there something about this which is hard to comprehend? Yes, there are exceptions, like an Extra Points piece addressing an expressly political topic, and our hosts will usually specifically note the exceptional nature. Audibles is about the activities on the field. Our hosts have stated that they don't want political commentary. Why act like an ass?

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just wondering: why was it a poor reflection on Kaep for not voting? I consider myself well versed on these issues and i abstained from the presidential race because i did not want to support any of the candidates on the ballot. In some small way - i sent a message and it wasnt that i didnt care.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Kaep. claims he wants to make change. Voting is how we make change in this country. He didn't vote, ergo he's intentionally ineffectual.

If you don't have a serious problem with how things are run and you really don't want to endorse either candidate then fine. But, if you actually DO have a serious problem, then the question is policy and not people and the policies offered are VERY, VERY different.

It's just simply hard to take seriously the positions of someone advocating who doesn't vote.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Speaking for myself: I found both candidates offering different flavors of bad when it came to sound economic policy. Neither had cogent plans for addressing the US budget problems and their "solutions" to our current problems aren't going to work either. What should I have done if i wanted to evoke policy change?

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Well assuming from your comment on debt earlier, I'm going to guess that you are some flavor of Libertarian, and there is a political party for that. If they get 5% of the national popular vote then they qualify for federal funding in the next election.

If, you are some amalgamation between Republican and Democrat then there really is no party for that, but the Libertarians to the right and the Greens to the left get pretty close to covering the whole political spectrum with the Rs and Ds.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think not voting is a perfectly valid position. If I told you, you can choose whether I kick in the nuts or in the shin, maybe you won't want to choose as a form of protest. I don't think it helps, since you'll get your kick anyway, but neither does anything else.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

For one it sends the message that you disagree with both (or more if applicable).
In the Netherlands we have a multi-party system (about 10) - and I surely don't agree with any of them on all points (that would be impossible) but I do vote just to get my voice heard and I vote for the one that fits the most of my most important points at that time.
I understand why people don't vote. But I also think you should do your best to form an opinion about how your country should be ran and find the candidate that fits you best. And if 'none' is the answer, then not voting is understandable.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'd say it's hypocritical because you're both protesting and abandoning any attempt at a solution. If you're both protesting AND not voting, then what are you proposing? The end of democracy?

And if you don't agree with every candidate on every issue--who does, by the way?--there are always other things to vote for. You might not like this particular Libertarian or Green or whomever, but you can hope they get enough votes to qualify for funding so that those parties can better field a candidate you might like later on.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Ignoring the potentially dozens of other items on the ballot is what makes him a hypocrite. Abstaining from the presidential race or writing in "Mickey Mouse" or "RaiderJoe" really makes no difference to me. There's more to vote for (and more important things to vote for) than just what's on top of the ballot.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Glad the string didn't get deleted, and that no one got really mad. Just want to say I would think the Jets would sign Kaep even though Woody Johnsons' political opinions are on the other side of the spectrum. He may just see Super Bowl quarterback, and ok it. And to be honest, Geno Smith has more baggage, and he'll get signed next year too.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I have to disagree. I have never missed a vote, and rarely vote for one of the two parties for any office. But the gerrymandering is so blatant and extreme nowadays, that most people in the country are effectively disenfranchised.
Since most people this election voted not for a candidate they liked, but because they loathed the other one worse, not voting is on one level, choosing not to hate.
Isn't that what he is trying to do?

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I get what you are saying but I am not sure I agree with you. In general athletes are not less qualified than business owners, workers, engineers or any most other professions to have a political opinion and as a source for analysis. They are not more qualified by the nature of their work either.

But more specifically what you are saying that we should not listen to the political analysis of ANY athlete ever and therefore we should not care what Kaep says. This is not about athletes in general but a specific individual who happens to be an athlete. You can agree or disagree, listen or not listen to what he says. But to say that we should not listen to him because he is an athlete is something I do not agree with.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

If i had it my way, only professionally trained economists would be allowed to vote(ok I'm mostly kidding!) But I do agree that being an athlete doesn't mean you have lousy political views. I just meant, if you are going to speak publicly about your views, best to do a little research on the subject. These are topics that sociologists, political scientists, and labor economists spend their lifetimes trying to discern. A few twitter posts and t shirts getting so much pub is an insult to their work.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Two problems with that is, one, there's plenty of dissent among economists themselves. And two, not all the issues are of an economic nature. I do agree that the system is broken and has been gamed for a while. The challenge is making a change while the ones who are gaming it are in control.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"There is a fair amount of dissent among economists" - thats true. But our government has a lot of nutty policies that 99 percent of economists would do away with.

One thing that always amazes me. In their personal lives, politicians and regular people recognize that all personal spending must be budgeted for. If you borrow, it must be paid back or you are going to go through some pain. Yet somehow, they think when it comes to government, budget constraints suddenly vanish.

We make fun of silly spendthrift teams and reluctantly support the ruthless optimizers. The hard cap forces teams into rigorous cost benefit analysis and budgeting for the future. Something our country hasn't been doing for decades now.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It's just that nation-states operate on a different level than individual or business finance. The closes thing to nation-states would be a very large corporate institution like Berkshire-Hathway or GE, but even those don't quite aproximate.

1st - Nation states sell 85-90% of their goods to themselves
2nd - Nation states take out debt in a currency denomination that they control by printing press
3rd - Nation states take a set percentage of economic activity as taxes
4th - Nation states operate at such high numerical volumes that small amounts of inflation reflect real lost value
(edit) 5th - Nation states make almost all of their loans to themselves.

To illustrate points 3 and 4...

Point 3 : During the 1980s the US debt went from 900 Billion to 4.5 Trillion, the largest expansion since the Great Depression / WWII and effectively unrivaled since, but debt service declined as a percentage of the federal budget because the ratio of debt to GDP actually declined a little bit.

Point 4 : At an inflation rate of 1%, on the 20 Trillion US Debt, that debt loses an annual value of $200 Billion dollars. (Add in point 2, and governments never have to actually worry about deflation increasing the value of their debts like people and businesses do.)

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Now we're entering into a topic of economics.

First - none of your points violate basic budget constraints anyways, other than the topic of seignorage. That a government can inflate away their debt does not mean it doesn't come with its own pain. Inflations are hidden defaults. And one reason the US dollar is so strong is because of its hard won reputation for paying its debts and avoiding inflation. Zimbabwe had to abandon its currency precisely for this reason.

Whether a government takes out money it owes to itself is beside the point. History is full of countries that had intractable debt despite the fact that the major bondholders were domestic. The great inflation of the Weimar government was a fiscal crisis, where debt to the countries citizens could not be serviced and had to be inflated away.

Its true - governments can pass on debt to future generations thats more difficult to do by an individual. A child is rarely willing to take on debts accrued by the father, but even that can eventually run amok.

To your ww2 point - that debt was all temporary spending. Remember, its not just levels of spending, its about the growth and persistence of spending. Bond buyers knew that the debt was driven by temporary factors and normal levels would return back. Our debt is all long term and persistent. That bond rates are low is again beside the point. Many countries have had low bond rates in the face of huge debts...until they weren't. Much like football, economic headwinds can move against you very quickly.

All that being said, once you get passed some of the bookkeeping complexity, you find a government is subject to the same forces the individual is. Namely, everyone has to obey an inter-temporal budget constraint.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Weimar example is different because I don't think the French are going to occupy the major industrial regions of the United States and take all the tax money anytime soon. But, yes inflating away debt directly is problematic. However, the US never paid off WWII, we just inflated that debt away over 70 years, (I believe it's just short of $200 billion).

There are limits but it is still hard to think properly of the scale of government. For every 1% inflation the US government can run a permanent deficit of $190 Billion and have the total debt load on the country decrease. The Fed's target inflation rate is 2% +/-, so effective budgetary balance is an actual deficit of $380 Billion per annum.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The following is purely in terms of economics - no political motivations.

If the debt were held by the very same people who were paying taxes, then yes, government IOU's could be, in theory, painlessly defaulted away. That's not what happens in practice. Debt is mostly bought by people in their adulthood or old age and used as a primary source of retirement. The debt burden is paid through taxes levied on young adults and prime age males. A default means elderly who planned their retirement around that revenue would be effectively dislocated. Raising taxes to pay the debt means a higher burden on young and prime age tax payers. This is to say nothing of all the disincentive effects of taxation that leads to lower hours worked or ways to game the tax system. High tax rates are catnip for tax lawyers and accountants.

In fact, Italy right now is facing such a situation. Most of their debt is owed by Italians and rates are high because people don't think they will pay it back. To pay it back, they would need to raise taxes - but then high earning italians have shown a willingness to run a way. They run away to Austria or Slovenia or the US. If you try taxing land(which cannot run away) - the people vote you down because most of the domestic savings is in land.

Finally - the ww2 debt was paid through economic growth. Yes, inflation can hide the real burden of debt, but remember, interest rates are determined by real rates plus expected inflation - so the inflation rate would need to be above expectations. This has consequences for everyone as inflation is a hidden tax. And as the 1970s show, once you start fiddling with inflation expectations, you can get persistent runaway inflation along with high unemployment.

Bottom line - a government need not have a balanced budget. There just needs to be an effective management of the debt burden. Inflation is no real panacea and default is not either. Both have severe consequences and history has shown, even developed countries can face a debt crisis.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Reading this, I think we have basically the same view of the mechanics with a slightly different level of fear/concern of the downside consequences of the different positions.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I believe that young people who make a lot of money entertaining other people are, ON AVERAGE, not well suited to provide incisive political analysis. I thus default to ignoring them. Now, if someone has a background, in addition to being a successful entertainer, that would lead me to believe that they could provide analysis that I might otherwise miss, fine, but I have found those to be rare exceptions.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Grey Cup started boring as all heck, with Ottawa up 20-7 at halftime, then extending it to 27-7 before Calgary decided to show up and the thing ended up in OT.

With the Sunday night game, what was so infuriating (speaking as the husband of a Broncos fan) is Kubiak's endgame coaching seemed to be conservative when there was relatively little risk in being aggressive and aggressive when there was lots of risk. Not going for 2 made me want to pull my hair out; a nine-point lead, with three to play and KC sans timeouts would have been game over right there; the decision seemed rooted in the concept that it's really really hard to score a two-point conversion (i.e. assuming that Denver won't get it so it's better to get the eighth point, which in turn assumes that KC won't get it either). Then with twelve seconds left and one time out they don't even bother to try hucking it thirty-five yards down the field to set up a 60-ish FG attempt (reminding us of why the Scramble award is called the "John Fox Award for Conservative Coaching," albeit Fox had 34 seconds and Peyton Manning). And the the 62-yard FG attempt with a gassed defense (...literally watching Von Miller sucking oxygen on the sidelines kind of drives that home even without KC having put together two scoring drives in a row) when a loss buries you in third place and out of the WC... I really just don't understand what Kubiak was thinking there.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The number of drops by the Bears was just unreal. Meredith has been playing pretty well with Cutler in the line up too.

I don't know if they have any injuries but the Titan's secondary is complete garbage. I was only able to watch the second half, but receivers were open all day against them. They just couldn't hang onto the ball.

Would be cool if Wilson turned out to be good though.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think it's quite likely that healthy Wilson is good, but he's never been healthy, and that's unlikely to change.

I never root for my team to play badly, but my nightmare scenario for the rest of this season is that Barkley has a couple of decent starts against bad defenses, and we go into next year with him and Hoyer.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That would be very bad for the 2017 season, no doubt, but it's nowhere near my nightmare scenario. My nightmare is that the Bears use their top 5 pick on a QB who isn't worth it and they set the franchise back another 3 years at least. I don't follow college but from what I'm hearing it doesn't seem like there's a slam dunk option for them at the top of the draft. If they're going to take a chance I'd rather it be in the middle rounds where they can move on quickly if the guy doesn't pan out.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In the Denver versus KC game, although no player or coach thinks this way, it probably would have been best for Fowler to take a knee at the 1-inch line instead of scoring. Denver could've then intentionally run the ball for no gain and had 2nd down at the two-minute warning. After another no-gainer they could have tried to score a touchdown on third down with about 1:15 left or run another no-gainer and taken it down to about 35 seconds and have fourth down. At that point they can try to score again (if they get stopped KC has the ball with about 30 seconds and no timeouts at their own goal line) or they can kick a chip shot field and go up 4.

That's what I would do on Madden, but this probably is a case where the "NFL isn't a computer simulation" trope actually applies. I imagine you want your players to focus on executing the play, not trying to go through all these hypothetical clock situations in their heads.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Your estimates seem about right to me. I tried to figure it out using the pro-football-reference win probability calculator, but it doesn't allow you to set timeouts as a parameter, which in this case is a huge deal.

I don't think there is any question not scoring is the right move, but like I said, it's probably difficult for a player to keep track of things like this. If teams ever get serious about coaching clock management, then perhaps they could implement "no score" drills, where the QB adds "no score" at the end of each play call, and players are then trained to go down on the one-yard line. But given that no team (that I know of) even has a designated clock management coach, and head coaches routinely make egregious errors in managing the clock, I think it will be a while before we see something like this.

81 Not scoring 1 yard out (and other decisions)

The problem with your analysis is that it assumes that the Broncos were guaranteed of scoring a TD with 3 plays from the 1 yard line (reserving one play for the 4th down FG in case none of the plays succeed in scoring). We've seen them several times stop an opposing team from that very position--and the Chiefs' defense looked equally capable, so that seems a very risky assumption. It is even more risky when you ask them to run several no gain plays to take more time off the clock.

If they get no score, or even just a FG and have anywhere near 2 minutes on the clock, it was reasonable to assume that the Chiefs could have answered the score, which they did (yes it took more than 2 minutes, but I think the Chiefs could have scored faster had they needed to) and perhaps won the game without OT.

So, given that uncertainty, I think the player's mentality of score-first, worry about the clock second is actually quite wise in this case. If you don't score (now!), you may not score at all, and what a goat (not GOAT) one would be in that case.

On the other hand, I think attempting the 2 point conversion on that drive was a worthwhile gamble (which I am sad they didn't take), because the difference between 8 and 9 points is more than the difference between 7 and 8. I think a missed 2 point conversion would have still ended up with the Chiefs going for the tie to force OT rather than the 2 point conversion (i.e. just kicking the PAT). While in contrast, a 9 point lead forces the Chiefs to score and then successfully onside kick. And, well, we know what happens with an 8 point lead....

I have similar feelings about the last set of downs the Broncos offense played. Yes, one of those long passes if they had been successful would have nailed the coffin shut very securely and perhaps even made a statement. But, it would have been better to try at least one shorter pass (even just a 5 yarder) to make the FG more make-able (and the field for KC just a bit longer). Maybe there is something I didn't see, e.g. that the Chiefs had been more vulnerable to longer passes than shorter ones, but barring that it just was poor play calling. You need to get in safe FG range first (and 60+ yards isn't it, even at altitude), before going for the kill shot.

I will not go so far as to say the Broncos lost a game they should have one. The Chiefs are very deserving of their victory. However, I do think there were some choices that could have increased the Broncos chances of winning the game.

107 Re: Not scoring 1 yard out (and other decisions)

Nononononono. You don't try to score from the 1. You take three knees. The first one takes you to the two-minute warning. The next two take about 90 seconds off the clock. Then you take your pick of kicking the FG or taking another knee. Either way the Chiefs are screwed. 20 seconds with no TOs are not enough to do anything whether you're down 1 or down 4.

I agree with Mr. Pancake. Players are sorely missing "endgame education". They need to be more aware that you don't win games by scoring more and more points. You win by having the game end while you're ahead.

Now, clearly, no player can run the scenarios in his mind in the middle of a play. But if there were a game clock coach like Joe said, then he could send the message to the huddle with the play. In this case: "if we get a first down without stopping the clock, it's over" (it doesn't have to be at the KC 1 or anything, that's just a plus). Then that player could easily remember his coach's instructions mid-play and do the thing that wins the game instead of the showy thing that -in this case- leads to a loss.

It would take practice too, because at first players would be like, yeah, I heard what you said, coach, but I scored a TD! Isn't that even better? And then coach would go like, uh, no, Dante, it's not. I can't even.

145 Re: Not scoring 1 yard out (and other decisions)

I understand your point, and don't disagree that clock awareness and management are important things to be taught, not just to the players. However, I feel the error is not as much scoring a TD slightly before the 2 minute warning, but in not going for the 2 point conversion after the TD--that seems to have a much easier to reason about increase in the win probability. I still feel there are too many subtle things that could go wrong in playing the clock with a 1 point lead and more than 2 minutes remaining. I'm particularly amazed at what teams can do with only 20 seconds on the clock and Tyreek had already proven that he could burn the Broncos. Since we can only judge the game the way it was played, I don't expect you to change your opinion. Your basis for it is well reasoned. It just doesn't allow for enough intangibles to satisfy me.

In fact, that is perhaps my real point. If he had taken the knee after making the first down, and they had played your 3 knee strategy, but KC somehow managed to win the game in the final 20 seconds, even just a fluke play, how many fans would demand Kubiak and Elway's jobs? You have to be 100% certain you will win, to take a play where you don't score (or give the opponents a free score). That's why Belichick's taking an intentional safety (against the Shanahan Broncos) where he believed his defense would hold and his offense would march down the field from better field position to win was considered a (gutsy) master-stroke. If he had been wrong, it would have just been a bonehead move.

As for making a more enjoyable game (if any game where your team gets beat can be considered enjoyable), I think scoring the touchdown was absolutely the right decision. It definitely lifted my spirits. I'm sure it lifted the spirits of his teammates also. None of the other tactical errors the Broncos made at the end had the same positive feeling. And, in that sense, I am "happy" he made the non-game winning move. I'd rather see my team get beat while playing as hard as they can, because usually that just means the other team was too and a thing or two broke their way, and thus the other team earned the win.

Even if the Broncos end up missing the playoffs, which is clearly a possibility now. I'm not going to regret seeing that score. It was good football, even if it wasn't winning football. It makes me feel better about the Broncos as a team, in the sense that they can score when they need to. Perhaps, not as consistently as I would like, but enough to still be in contention. The close loss to the Chiefs just balances the karma from that close win over the Saints.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

What the hell was TB doing at the end of the first half? Six seconds left, ball on the 30 yard, all your time-outs left, and you let the clock run out = WTF? Maybe the coaches figured Aguayo would just miss, so spare the kid's fragile ego and forgo the FG. I was hoping Seattle would come back and win by less than 3 so the coaching staff would get the roasting they deserve. Incompetence bothers me, especially when you are being paid $millions.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

They tried a quick sideline route to get a few more yards, and K.J. Wright played it perfectly. He popped Cameron Brate just before he went out of bounds and the clock ran down. It's the kind of play every team runs without timeouts at the end of the half, Wright just read it and made a hit that kept Brate in bounds. That wasn't really mismanagement as much as solid defensive play.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Before Smith gets up, Burfict is standing over him aggressively, which is unsportsmanlike conduct if it's "prolonged and with provocation." I think it's pretty clear Burfict was trying to provoke Smith, and it was certainly prolonged more than necessary since he had to take several steps to get into that position.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Loved seeing Payton call that WR pass at the end to run up the score against Gregg Williams, and not just run it up, but do it via trick play at the end of a blowout win in which Payton's offense lit up the Rams defense over and over. You could see it on the sidelines throughout, Payton was as fired up as I've seen him in a long time.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Just when I think Seattle may be rounding into a consistently sound offensive team, they produce that pile of feces.

Let me know who is healthy in 5 weeks, and how unhealthy they are, and I'll tell you which teams to favor for playing in February.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It sounds like the Vikings center, Joe Berger may be out against the Cowboys on Thursday. I think he's been a bit overrated, but compared to the tackles and rg Fusco, he's great. The Vikings will plug in another guy who was an undrafted free agent last year. On their first possession Thursday night, they'll have started 6 guys at tackle, two at center, and, if I remember right, 4 at guard. Another projected starter at guard in the spring, Mike Harris, was diagnosed with an undisclosed illness in the summer, and never saw the field. Their starting qb blew out a knee without being touched, and their best ball handling player is on IR as well. It's been among the worst kinds of seasons; you can't even get mad at anybody. Too many guys get hurt, and there is nothing to be done.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Hopefully, for those of us who really like to see good blocking, a Dallas-Oakland game in February would plant the seed among GMs that investing draft capital and cap space in the offensive line can be a viable path to championships.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Would an attitude change about the o-line draft importance improve overall blocking in the NFL? The same guys might get drafter earlier, but they'd still be the same guys. Seems like better blocking would have to come down to coaching emphasis.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The overall blocking quality obviously would not change, but we might see teams deliberately try to become strong on the o-line, at the cost of weakness elsewhere. It was really dispiriting to me to see the Browns, before the latest diaspora, actually have very sound o-line play, and get absolutely nothing for it, or see the Cowboys struggle last year. This year, we have two HFA leaders who have consciously invested in o-line play as a priority, at the cost of weakness elsewhere on the roster, in both cases in some apsect of defensive talent. I enjoyed seeing the Broncos and Seahawks succeed with a defensive emphasis, but I always say the game is more interesting when there are more ways to construct a championship roster, so this year has been fun for me, even as the team I root for most is going over a cliff, ironically enough, because injuries have destroyed their o-line play.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I had a long discussion with a friend of mine about this. Dallas' offense will never challenge the scoring output of say the 2011 packers or 2013 broncos - teams with decent lines but awesome receivers and qb play. Even if PM were on this dallas team, they wouldn't put up those kind of numbers. Does that mean this offense is worse? Maybe not.

But the real discussion we had was this - is this a sound strategy to employ if you are starting from scratch? Think about it, the cowboys had smith and frederick for a few years and the line was never this good. It took landing another top 5 player in Martin and fielding some competency at the rest of the spots to really make this strategy shine.

In other words - to really reap the benefits, 3/5 have to be really good and not one out of the other 5 can be really bad. An injury(s) or one terrible charlie johnson like player and that advantage washes away. Its an incredibly precarious way to build a team and frankly, I think only makes sense in very rare circumstances.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Young players typically don't enetr their prime early in their careers. That the Cowboys o-line is getting better this year, compared to years past, is not surprising at all. Is the Dallas path very repeatable? No, but no path to championship roster construction very repeatable, which is why championships are so hard to come by. The Raiders path is not draft dependent, but they did use one third round pick, two pricey FA signings, and one not inexpensive FA signing.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The way to improve a team is to draft the best player available, while not drafting the same position too often. Look at the Jets; 3 first round picks at defensive end, so the team is unbalanced (plus, Wilkerson is having a rough year, but still, it's an issue when the team plays a 300 pound tackle at linebacker). There are five positions on the offensive line, so it's less likely to double up.

Spending high draft capital on pass rushers works only when those players work out, and even then they can be wasted when the rest of the team stinks. Ask Cortez Kennedy about that.

The first position a team needs is a general manager capable of discovering and grading talent. Which is why the Jets need to steal Joey Clinkscales from Oakland.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Cowboys' line bottomed out in 2010, when all their linemen turned 32 and collapsed at the same time. Smith was drafted in 2011, played right tackle, and was only okay (he was also the youngest player in the NFL). The rest of the line was still terrible: a completely outmatched Phil Costa at center, old Kyle Kosier and old career backup Montrae Holland at guard, and adequate Doug Free at LT. They had three completely different scrubs in the interior in 2012 (including a center they signed off the street after the season opened), and flipped the tackles. It's hard to overstate just how putrid the line was in those years.

They drafted Fred in '13 and Martin in '14, so they didn't have "smith and frederick for a few years" before drafting Martin. They started running all over people in the second half of 2013, before they had Martin. So I disagree that it took all of them to reap the benefits.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Dallas' offense will never challenge the scoring output of say the 2011 packers or 2013 broncos - teams with decent lines but awesome receivers and qb play. Even if PM were on this dallas team, they wouldn't put up those kind of numbers.

Hmm. I'm not sure I believe that Peyton Manning wouldn't be insanely productive with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and that O-line, along with Elliott and a smattering of Cole Beasley.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

It was really dispiriting to me to see the Browns, before the latest diaspora, actually have very sound o-line play, and get absolutely nothing for it

Ravens fan here. The Brownies O-line was excellent for a while there, and playing them was like a trip to the dentist. The Ravens would usually win, because they had more good units than the Browns did, but the games were brutal and close and difficult and annoying.

For years, the Browns were THIS close to having an excellent offense.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Is TB's defense really any good or did they just catch 2 inconsistent offenses on bad weeks? I felt better about Chiefs' loss to TB after Seahawks' loss yesterday.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The Bucs defense is not good, but has some good players. I'd rack a large portion of Seattle's struggles on offense to the fact that their new and improved offensive line was not in any way improved; Tampa was averaging something like two sacks a game, and got to Wilson six times. Part of Tampa's pass rush issues earlier in the year were a whole bunch of injuries, but Robert Ayers is back and playing well, and rookie DE Noah Spence is apparently starting to put it together a bit. Very nice to see.

Also, Roberto Aguayo can go away now The main reason I didn't really mind when Tampa mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half and then for Winston's late-game pick in the end zone is I figured those were two opportunities for Aguayo to miss field goals, and I'm basically OK with not getting angry at a kicker even if it means a chance for points goes away.

Other random observations:

I don't know what the heck was up with Mike Evans and his drops last year, but, good lord, he's just catching everything this year. He's certainly not at that level at this point, but he's reminding me of Michael Irvin in that he's not hugely fast, but he's big, strong, and is really, really good at committing just offensive pass interference to get himself some space to catch but not have it called. Watching Richard Sherman complain about too much contact on that 2nd TD pass was genuinely and completely hilarious.

I will not understand why Seattle didn't adjust the defense at all for the lack of Earl Thomas, who has to be one of the most if not the singly-most irreplaceable defensive player in the league. You can play single-high safety in Seattle's defense because Earl Thomas has the kinds of instincts and makeup speed nobody else has. Like, nobody. Yet, they started that game trying to pretend he was in there. Weird.

This did feel vaguely similar to the KC game last week where Tampa ran into what would usually be a superior opponent, but, due to injuries and just lackluster play, they got the win pretty easily.

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Milkman, I was driving during the late games, and listened to TB-SEA on the radio. The Bucs play-by-play guy seemed to be complaining continuously that the Seahawks committed a bunch of penalties (including a play where Doug Martin got kicked in the helmet after the whistle) that went uncalled. In fact, he made a statement that the effect that if the Seahawks came back to win, they could thank the refs.

Is this just blatant homerism, or is there something to his claims? I have no dog in this fight, I'm just curious in light of the disagreement between Seahawks fans and their opponents fans about who gets the beneficial calls/non-calls from the Zebras.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I watched pretty much that whole game, and I also have no dog in the fight, though I do think Seattle is a dirty team and tend to look more carefully for crap they're pulling than with other teams. I didn't see anything obvious, so my vote is for blatant homerism on the part of the TB radio guy.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That is presumably Gene Deckerhoff, who is absolutely and utterly a homer. The officiating in that game was fine; it was a very physical game, but it seemed physical on both sides of things, so seemed quite fair to me. I don't even remember Martin getting kicked, honestly. The refs were a non-issue. Just local homerism.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"I will not understand why Seattle didn't adjust the defense at all for the lack of Earl Thomas, who has to be one of the most if not the singly-most irreplaceable defensive player in the league. You can play single-high safety in Seattle's defense because Earl Thomas has the kinds of instincts and makeup speed nobody else has. Like, nobody. Yet, they started that game trying to pretend he was in there. Weird."

This is how I feel every time I watch a not-ready-for-primetime OL get whipped over and over again by a superior pass rusher, and the coach doesn't protect him with a RB, TE, moving pocket, something. Who was the left tackle Andy Reid left in against the Giants one Monday night?


46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Not sure about the Chiefs, but the Buccaneers caught the Seahawks at the perfect time -- at home, after Seattle had a Pyrrhic victory against the Eagles last week, on a day in which the rest of their division had already lost.

It seems that Seattle's OL is a non-atrocity only if their three interior guys are healthy. Without one of them (in this case Justin Britt, who is probably their best O-linemen) they turn into a turnstile. Sometimes Wilson is good enough to overcome this, but he also had a really bad game. He was running for his life and did a decent job scrambling, but he also missed some open receivers and his first INT was just a bad decision.

For as good as the Seahawks are, they lay down three to four offensive stink bombs every year, even sometimes against mediocre defenses. The defense can often bail them out, but not always.

54 Fox gonna Fox

I am usually an over-the-top-emotional, throw-stuff-at-the-TV Bears fan, but yesterday I knew the Bears had no shot and was calmly evaluating the performance of some of the recent draft picks. Until about 3 minutes left in the game, that is. The Bears drew within 6 points with 3:29 left and two timeouts. They kick away instead of onsiding, which is fine. They stop the Titans on a 1st down run and call timeout. Still fine. Then they stop a 2nd down run, and Trevathan blows out his knee (horrible but not relevant to this post). After they get Trevathan off the field, Hochuli announces that the play clock needs to be reset to 38 and that the game and play clock will start on his whistle. Fox watches as the game clock ticks down to 2:10. Titans call another run, the Bears stop it AND THEN TAKE A TIMEOUT!!! Tennessee punts, the two-minute warning happens, and the Bears get the ball back with 1:56 and no stoppages. It was one of the dumbest active time-management decisions I have ever seen; I can't dredge up any possible justification for it, no matter how flimsy.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Aaron Schatz: The Bengals threw a slant to James Wright on third-and-4. That pass was thrown about 3 yards downfield, and the officials gave the Bengals a generous spot to call it a first down....
Follow-up: The Ravens challenged the spot and the play was overturned, taking away the first down....
Rob Weintraub: Didn't help that Cincy stupidly called timeout instead of a quick snap, which allowed the Ravens to look at it and challenge.
Plenty of big-picture failings this season in Cincy, but the little dumb stuff piles up every week too.

aaron: In the first quarter, the Pats threw a ridiculous negative-ALEX pass behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-10. Dion Lewis almost had enough yardage to actually make the play worthwhile and convert. The Jets had to challenge to move the spot back and force fourth-and-1.

Of note, this was also a ridiculous spot and Brady took a timeout that allowed the Jets time to figure out how bad the spot was and make the challenge.

Brady and Belichick are great, future HoFers while Lewis and Dalton are good, non-HoFers. NE hasn't had the same run of "little dumb stuff." But everyone does dumb stuff, HoFers just less often.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"I will not understand why Seattle didn't adjust the defense at all for the lack of Earl Thomas, who has to be one of the most if not the singly-most irreplaceable defensive player in the league. You can play single-high safety in Seattle's defense because Earl Thomas has the kinds of instincts and makeup speed nobody else has. Like, nobody. Yet, they started that game trying to pretend he was in there. Weird."


They allowed 14 points. If you had told me that was all they'd allow, I'd call you a liar.

The real crime here is Seattle's total inability to run screens to their running backs. They simply cannot do it. Every time it's a loss of yards or the back gets destroyed trying to catch the ball (See Philly game). On a day in which Seattle needed to find something to limit the Tampa pass rush, Seattle had zero answers.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

14 points, sure, but that was helped by a bad pick in the end zone, a fumble, a failure to get a FG attempt off at the end of half, a missed FG, and a TD called back by a penalty. Winston completed 75% of his passes for almost 10 YPA; the Seahawks defense wasn't a problem as much as Tampa just getting in its own way for the last three quarters.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I didn't see the game, but I will say - People get stunned when Sea's offense struggles in games and every one of them gets treated as a weird outlier. Wilson doesn't throw picks, so when he does, its a rarity - sure, but I've seen plenty of games where the seattle pass offense really sleepwalks through entire games and turns it on at the very end due to a combination of smart runs, a few smart passes, a lot of defensive competency to keep the game within reach.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

In the Oakland game up popped "Next Gen Stats", "100% of Carr's snaps were from the shotgun since his injury". I am so impressed, they used counting and dividing.