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

Audibles at the Line: Week 8

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these 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.

Washington Redskins 27 "at" Cincinnati Bengals 27 (OT; London)

Aaron Schatz: I think this may be a statement about how tired we all are of these 9:30 a.m. Eastern London games. This may have been the best game in the entire 10 years of the London International Series. These are two teams that made the playoffs last year, neither is a terrible team this year. They played a close game that actually went into overtime. We have an entire staff of football writers, two of whom actually live in the British Isles. And yet, with 4:11 left in overtime, none of us had submitted a single thought about this game for Audibles. Myself, I've only watched little pieces of it. I think we're all just a little tired. The idea of watching four games in a row is tiring.

But one thought I did have during this game. I'm not a fan of the Bengals' "Chaos" formation because I've noticed they are now running it without a running back in the backfield. The Emory and Henry, which the Bengals ran last year, has three guys on each side and then three in the middle plus the quarterback and running back. The Chaos seems to be four guys on one side and two on the other, with four offensive linemen in the middle and the quarterback. With the Emory and Henry, you have four options: screens on either side, plus a zone-read option where the quarterback can hand to the running back or keep. In the Chaos, all you have are the two screen options. Without the running back, why would you keep more than a couple defenders in the middle of the field? You know that you don't need to really rush the passer because the passes would be fast screens. There's no running back to look out for. You just need a couple of spies to make sure Dalton doesn't run with it, and everyone else can cover the screens. So there's almost no yards after catch on those. It doesn't work without the run option.

Tom Gower: I actually forgot this game was on and didn't tune in until almost an hour after kickoff, so I missed most of the first half and didn't send my usual halftime email.

Also, I didn't have much I wanted to say about the game. The game was fairly clean and without too many major errors, though Andy Dalton had a howler of a red zone throw. Mike Nugent missed an extra point and a 51-yard field goal, which is part of why we went to overtime. Washington missed a game-winning field goal. A.J. Green is good. So is Jordan Reed, especially against Cincinnati's unathletic linebackers. I have to keep revising my opinion of Jamison Crowder upward, probably because I don't raise it that much when I do.

Bryan Knowles: It was a good game, from what I saw between getting everything else set up for the day. I thought Washington had it late, but the dreaded scourge of icing the kicker reared its ugly head once again.

So. Two ties in less than a week. Hasn't happened since '97. At least it happened in England, where they're a little more used to draws in their football games.

Andrew Potter: On the tiredness point, I think it's the consecutive weeks and the even earlier start (our daylight savings ended last night, so the game started at 1:30 p.m.) that did it for me. For all the closeness and the "best game in London, ever" statements, I really didn't enjoy the game that much. It felt like the reverse of Sunday night, where there were quite a lot of points and scoring drives but the offenses didn't have to be great to get them. Cincinnati's secondary looked to be a problem, which I hadn't expected coming into the season. Washington's is too, Josh Norman aside, but the Bengals didn't have the ancillary receivers to quite take advantage of that the way Jamison Crowder could on the other side. Both quarterbacks left a lot of plays on the field, to borrow a cliche. The special teams weren't great here either, with both kickers having bad misses on field goals and extra points.

Any positive comment I have would simply focus on how much better these offenses are with their top tight ends back, which isn't exactly revelatory. Jordan Reed would be pretty clearly in the conversation as one of the league's best non-Gronkowski tight ends if he wasn't so frequently injured. Maybe he's there anyway, I'm not sure, but he missed a lot of games in the first three years of his career, and has already missed another two this year. With Gronk, you can overlook that as he's so utterly dominant when he's on the field. Reed's very, very good, but not quite at that game-changing level. Maybe with a better quarterback...

Tyler Eifert is the receiver the Bengals offense has been clearly missing as a second option behind A.J. Green. Their offense is much better for having him back healthy.

Rob Weintraub: Actually, from a personal schedule standpoint, I'd prefer the Bengals play at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday. But yeah, the ennui is overall systemic of pigskin fatigue.

Chaos is just unnecessary trickeration to compensate for the Bengals' lack of consistent execution.

This game was reminiscent of the Cincy 37-all tie with Carolina in 2014. Shoddy tackling, Nugent the easy goat, lots of offensive highs and lows. Also a team coming off a division title that clearly took a step back (mainly to injury then, to personnel and coaching turnover now). The Bengals found a way to a wild card spot that season -- not sure it can be replicated this time. Would be a token appearance regardless.

Cian Fahey: Been going through this game while the afternoon games are on since there are only two. Dalton was lucky not to come away with six interceptions. He was just as bad as Blake Bortles was on Thursday night.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at New Orleans Saints 25

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends in New Orleans with Seattle up 7-0 on an Earl Thomas fumble return for a touchdown. So in six quarters now against Carson Palmer and Drew Brees, the defense has scored more points than it has surrendered. Both front sevens are dominating. Seattle's offensive line, which has been lousy all year, is even more hamstrung with Bradley Sowell out. Your starter at left tackle: George Fant, who hasn't started a football game since junior high, and didn't play football in high school or in his first three years of college. The first Seattle drive ended after he committed a clipping penalty; the second, after he committed a false start.

Seahawks go up 14-3 on Christine Michael goal-line touchdown. They are now 8-of-8 passing -- 7-of-7 by Russell Wilson, and 1-of-1 by Tanner McEvoy, who hit C.J. Prosise for 43 yards to set up Michael's score. That's one blocked punt and one long pass for McEvoy in his last three quarters.

Carl Yedor: In response to New Orleans' field goal drive, the Seahawks offense scores its first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the game against Atlanta. Most of the yards came on a 43-yard double pass from Tanner McEvoy to C.J. Prosise. As the broadcast team made sure to point out, McEvoy played quarterback at Wisconsin, meaning he is well-equipped to carry out those types of trick plays. I'll be interested to see if they incorporate more gadget plays given McEvoy's varied skill set.

Vince Verhei: Saints get a 50-plus-yard field goal and it's 14-6. I haven't done the math, but it feels like they have completed at least 90 flat routes today, and nothing more than 5 yards downfield. Seahawks were blitzing a ton early, perhaps to cover for the absence of Michael Bennett, but seem to have played more conservatively here in the second quarter.

Russell Wilson throws his second interception of the season when he doesn't see Nate Stupar in underneath coverage. That leads to the longest 37-yard touchdown drive of all time, as Drew Brees' sneak on third-and-goal finally caps off the nine-play, four-plus-minute drive. With 41 seconds left and no timeouts, the Seahawks actually get into position to try a 58-yard-field goal, but there's a bad snap and the half ends with Seattle up 14-13.

I have never been a big time of possession guy, but man these Seahawks are asking a lot of their defense. They played 90 snaps last week, and have already played 43 today. In those same two games, the Seahawks offense has run 57 and 19 plays.

Remember the halcyon days of last year, when Seattle had a very good rushing attack? Today, at halftime, the Seahawks have three carries for 3 yards. Against the Saints.

Andrew Potter: A Saints defense, incidentally, that opened the game in a 4-2-5 alignment against the Seahawks' 11 package, with safety Kenny Vaccaro covering Doug Baldwin in the slot. Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, and Vonn Bell were all on the field full-time during the first half -- well, as full time as you can be in only 19 plays -- which may be a response to Seattle's line being bad and Jimmy Graham at tight end being more of a receiving threat than a blocking one.

Dannell Ellerbe got the start, but it was Ellerbe's replacement -- special teamer Nate Stupar, who has played a ton of defensive snaps since James Laurinaitis got hurt -- who got the defense's biggest play with a pick of Russell Wilson.

Vince Verhei: So, naturally, Seattle takes the ball first in the second half and runs it seven times in a row (for 45 total yards) on their first drive. Then they go incomplete, run for a loss, short completion, but they're close enough to tack on a field goal and push the lead to 17-13.

Heck of a lot going on on the Saints' last drive. Seattle looked to have a stop near midfield, but DeShawn Shead was called for the ticky-tackiest of holding calls, just briefly placing a hand on Michael Thomas' pads, but it was enough to draw the flag. From there, Saints run a flea flicker, and Brandon Coleman beats Richard Sherman for a 38-yard gain. A Coby Fleener completion gives New Orleans a first-and-goal at the 1, but from there they still can't punch it in. The biggest play was Ahtyba Rubin stuffing the runner for loss on third down, which didn't just stop that play but also took away what might have been a fourth-and-inches try on the next snap. The number of plays Seattle has made at the goal line the last two weeks is just ridiculous. Saints kick a field goal but still trail 17-16.

Another Seahawks three-and-out, another Saints red zone possession, and this time they finally cash in, with Brandin Cooks scoring on a pick play. Seattle still stuffs the two-point try on a shovel pass, so New Orleans leads 22-17. At some point we should consider adding two-point conversions to offense and defense DVOA, because that was kind of like another goal-line stop for Seattle, and they should get some credit for it.

Rob Weintraub: I haven't seen pick play this proficient since Stockton-to-Malone.

Meanwhile, Seattle has to burn its last time out when K.J. Wright slams a receiver out of bounds yet somehow the referee winds the clock.

Vince Verhei: Well, I didn't want to bring it up, but since Rob did: Seattle's defense has been called for every possible hold today. Saints' wideouts haven't been called for any of many possible OPIs. And yes, the last play was the worst, when the receiver very clearly went out of bounds and the refs wound the clock, forcing Seattle to call its last timeout. 

And yet, they hold New Orleans to yet another field goal, and Seattle is going to get the ball back with no timeouts but nearly two minutes left, down 25-20 and needing a touchdown to win.

Seahawks get one play inside the 10, but Wilson's pass to Jermaine Kearse in the corner of the end zone is thrown too far, and Kearse can't come down in bounds, and the Saints win. 

Fant was barely noticeable aside from those early penalties, so that's a plus. 

Really, this was a weird game -- Seattle had by far the more explosive offense (6.6 yards per play to 5.2), got all those red zone stops, and even got a defensive score, and still lost. They had big problems on third downs on both sides of the ball -- 5-of-11 conversions on offense (and 0-for-1 on fourth down), while the Saints converted 9-of-15, and had at least two more on holding penalties. 

Sucks to lose, but I don't think we learned a ton about either team. Saints have a Hall of Fame quarterback who's still playing great and a defense that is much better than last year, but still gives receivers too many chances to make YAC plays. Seahawks have maybe the best defense of the Pete Carroll era, especially in scoring range, but also maybe the worst offense, and they suck at 1 p.m. games.

Seahawks defense has now played 162 snaps in the last eight days and it really sucks that they have already had their bye.

New England Patriots 41 at Buffalo Bills 25

Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady just hit Chris Hogan for a 53-yard touchdown pass, almost all in the air. It's remarkable how much Brady's deep ball has rebounded since the middle of last year. It was the weakest part of his game for a couple years there. On the play before, Brady hit Julian Edelman for what would have been a 47-yard gain, but that was less of a beautiful downfield pass and more of a weird rainbow heave by Brady under heavy pressure with Edelman just totally open -- Edelman had to sit and wait for the ball to come down. Play got called back for an ineligible man downfield on the Patriots. Bills brought a lot of pressure on Brady on the second drive.

As for the Bills' offense, they're starting Justin Hunter at wide receiver. No, really. Hunter's third team this year. Tyrod Taylor started 2-for-7 with no receptions by wide receivers because he basically has no wide receivers today. There's a good amount of full house going on with three backs plus Charles Clay at tight end and only one wide receiver.

We complain a lot about how many of the league's top teams right now seem to have bad offensive lines, but hey -- Buffalo actually seems to have developed a reasonable offensive line! Cordy Glenn looks good despite playing on a hurt ankle, Richie Incognito has been really good this year, Eric Wood is good, John Miller has developed well at right guard. The Bills are getting run blocking, and the pass blocking is pretty good too. The Pats keep sending five and the Bills keep picking them all up. Some of that is the fact the Pats don't have a very good pass rush, of course.

Oh, and a slight edit on my previous note regarding the Bills' wide receivers. They don't have NO wide receivers. Robert Woods is playing today. He's usually a good No. 2 guy, but he's playing on a foot injury.

Bills give up a huge kickoff return to Danny Amendola to start the second half, which quickly becomes a Julian Edelman touchdown catch to make it 31-10.

But hey, at least something is going right today. On the next drive, the Bills go what should be three-and-out but punter Colton Schmidt botches the snap... and then picks it up and somehow runs 16 yards on fourth-and-15 to keep the drive alive. That's the second time this year that an aborted punt has turned into a first down instead of giving the opponent great field position. Marquette King of the Raiders had the other one.

Bryan Knowles: Reggie Bush almost made a terrible mistake. He was running a halfback option, which the Patriots had well covered. As they were tackling him, however, Bush whirled and tried to throw backwards back to Tyrod Taylor as he was falling to the ground. The backwards lateral bounced around, fortunately right to Taylor, who was able to cover it. That's the issue with option passes like that -- you're making players make decisions they're not really used to making. Bills dodge a bullet.

Oakland Raiders 30 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 (OT)

Cian Fahey: Sloppy game for the Raiders early on in Tampa Bay. Michael Crabtree essentially ended the first drive with a dumb taunting penalty before the second drive saw Derek Carr fumble when he never felt pressure in the pocket. Jameis Winston took advantage with a precise touchdown throw.

If you drank a shot every time Jameis Winston overthrew Mike Evans this game would be awesome.

Early in the second quarter and the Raiders offense gets a kickstart from Jamize Olawale. The fullback was left wide open for a 68-yard gain because Chris Conte played man coverage while the rest of the defense played zone.

The Buccaneers defense is there for the taking if the Raiders offense can stop sabotaging itself. A handful of penalties and a few panicked plays from the quarterback have limited them to three points at the half despite having four 20-plus-yard plays.

The NFL has a major DPI problem right now. Raiders get to the Tampa Bay 1-yard line because the cornerback tries to play the ball in the air and is taken out by Amari Cooper, who is drifting away from it. The cornerback could literally do nothing except wait for Cooper to catch the ball and hope that he dropped it.

At some point in his career, Jameis Winston has to realize that he can't just throw the ball at his receivers and hope they make a play on it. He's constantly missing the wide-open and huge Mike Evans. Whatever he needs to do, be it mechanical, repetition based or whatever, something has to change if he's ever going to live up to his potential.

Aaron Schatz: He's not going to learn the lesson if the Bucs get all "#QBWinz" because the Raiders do stupid things. They just got a 12 men on the field penalty to hand the Bucs a conversion on third-and-1 in the red zone. Apparently, that's 150 yards of penalties on Oakland today, the most on any team in the league in a single game this year. And the Bucs run it in two plays later to make it 22-17, pending the two-point conversion try.

Cian Fahey: On that drive they gained four first downs because of penalties that the Raiders defense gave away.

Rob Weintraub: Pretty blatant head-to-head shot by Karl Joseph on Evans goes uncalled on third down, so Carr gets a shot at a dramatic moment. Or should I say "another dramatic moment."

Aaron Schatz: Raiders just hit their 20th penalty of the game in overtime, moving themselves back out of easy field goal range after a great catch and run by Michael Crabtree (and terrible tackling by Vernon Hargreaves). That gave them third-and-21 on the Tampa Bay 34, and they threw a pass to Andre Roberts 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage. WTF, Oakland? What kind of sub-ALEX nonsense was that? God forbid you throw a 10-yard pass into easy zone coverage to get into better field goal range. So of course, Sebastian Janikowski missed it from 54 yards out, his second miss of the game.

Oakland just received its 23rd accepted penalty, which is apparently the new all-time NFL record. This would be even more hilarious if the Tampa Bay defense didn't keep giving the yardage back with bad tackling. Amari Cooper had a 20-yard reception to put the ball at the Tampa 46 and then Oakland moved back: minus-1 yard run, 5-yard illegal formation penalty, 4-yard sack (with declined penalty), and then a 13-yard catch-and-run with a 10-yard illegal block in the back penalty from the spot of foul. That turned third-and-20 into third-and-17, and the Raiders got a few yards on third down and then punted.

In the end, we are spared a second tie game in one day when Tampa Bay, once again, can't tackle at all. What should be a pass to Seth Roberts that puts the Raiders in long field goal range instead becomes a game-winning touchdown. Derek Carr is apparently now in the all-time NFL top 10 for yardage in a single game with 513 yards today, but he also threw the ball 59 times. FIFTY-NINE!

Tom Gower: What a game. What a country. An NFL record for accepted penalties. A pass game that kept making plays at key times, even with some misfires (the defensive hold right before the touchdown that tied it at 24 covered up a not so good throw by Derek Carr on fourth). In a different era, with two different teams, we'd be talking about this as one of the all-time memorable games. Now it'll get some decent air time on Football Night in America and mostly forgotten outside of the diehards unless Oakland goes and wins the Super Bowl or something.

Rivers McCown: Tampa has really created an impressive blueprint in that they have two of, I'd say, the most well-regarded defensive players in the league in Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy. And yet, they surround them with terrible players and defensive coordinators, and they haven't had a good defense since 2013.

Vince Verhei: Is anyone else constantly re-checking the standings to make sure Oakland is really 6-2? Or is it just me?

New York Jets 31 at Cleveland Browns 28

Aaron Schatz: Brock Osweiler and Josh McCown would like you to all know that opponent adjustments are a thing.

Vince Verhei: That also goes for Ryan Fitzpa -- Wait. Fitzpatrick is playing the Browns and still looks terrible. Oh well.

Scott Kacsmar: Quincy Enunwa has had a pretty strong day for the Jets. On his touchdown catch, he made one of the finer individual efforts you'll see this season in regards to making moves after the catch. In fact, plays like that are why I wish someone would track the yards after catch that comes after the moment of a broken tackle. This would help differentiate from YAC that is simply a function of a guy running fast after catching a pass in stride vs. someone actually making moves and making people miss.

Kansas City Chiefs 30 at Indianapolis Colts 14

Tom Gower: Flipped to this game after the conclusion of the tie, and the team with the better quarterback play is winning. Naturally, that's the Chiefs, up 17-7 at the half. Andrew Luck, after playing very well against the Titans last week, has missed a number of throws. I haven't formally counted, but a number of them seem to be down to errant placement, mostly behind the receiver. That included a couple of middle-of-the-field throws for T.Y. Hilton and, costliest, a short out for Donte Moncrief right before halftime that was intercepted. Alex Smith, who left the game before I flipped it on for a concussion evaluation before returning, hit Jeremy Maclin for a touchdown. At the time, the Colts were down their top two corners -- Vontae Davis took some friendly fire on Nick Foles' earlier touchdown to Travis Kelce (nice route) and went for a concussion eval, and Patrick Robinson was not on the field for some reason. Indy's defense is problematic at best when those two are on the field; without them, they're in deep doo-doo.

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Two further notes:

1. Right tackle Joe Reitz hasn't been good, with some notable misfires, but I believe it would be a mistake to blame him or the line for Luck's misses.

2. On the play where Davis was injured, the Colts were flagged. After the penalty, Andy Reid chose to kick onside from the 50. The Colts were ready for the possibility and got the ball back, but trying that (or the pooch to the 5- or 10-yard line and hope for good coverage) makes so so so so so much more sense than kicking the ball through the uprights now that a touchback sends the ball to the 25.

Scott Kacsmar: When Alex Smith was feared to have a concussion early, you think maybe Andy Reid wouldn't call a designed quarterback keeper when he came back into the game? Not like Spencer Ware doesn't have a fantastic matchup here or anything. Now Smith is gone for the day with a concussion, but the Colts can still make anyone look their best this season. Nick Foles has had some easy big plays and it's up to Andrew Luck to lead another big rally in the second half against the Chiefs. Luck had a bad pick before halftime, but from what I've seen, he has generally played well today.

Tom Gower: Luck wasn't as errant in the second half, but the Colts' overall problems manifested themselves still. The defense wasn't good, the line isn't good (even though I will still say it's not as bad as too many people say it is), and a key defensive stop is largely a thing of myth and legend outside the head of Chuck Pagano. Nick Foles was mostly useful and hit some downfield throws, but also missed some shorter ones. Obviously Andy Reid deserves a lot of credit for that, especially with Spencer Ware like Alex Smith (hit in the head a second time) out with concussions.

Arizona Cardinals 20 at Carolina Panthers 30

Aaron Schatz: I can hear the voice of Paul Maguire now: "You don't have a lot in the playbook for third-and-44."

Green Bay Packers 32 at Atlanta Falcons 33

Vince Verhei: You watch Aaron Rodgers throw off his back foot and hit Jordy Nelson in stride 40-some yards downfield, and it's hard to believe Green Bay's offensive struggles in the past year and a half actually happened. 

Rodgers finishes the drive with a touchdown to Nelson to put Green Bay ahead 7-3.

Aaron Schatz: Not only does Aaron Rodgers look good today, but the Packers are getting some great plays out of some receivers nobody has ever heard of before. Trevor Davis is a fifth-round rookie, he's got 24 yards and a touchdown. They also have a four-yard touchdown from a guy named Geronimo Allison. That is an actual person.

Falcons respond with a touchdown on a slot screen to Devonta Freeman, making it 21-19. Really nice block on the outside by Mohamed Sanu on Micah Hyde, plus Jake Ryan totally overran the play before Levine Toilolo could even take him out. We don't talk a lot about wide receiver blocks -- certainly a hard thing to quantify and not something you pay much attention to on a broadcast -- but it is one of Sanu's quiet skills.

Tom Gower: This is the best Aaron Rodgers has looked since at least the last time I said "this is the best Aaron Rodgers has looked since ___." What has stood out to me is that he seems to be getting the ball out better within the timing of the base offense, instead of deciding to wait for something better and buying time by scrambling. He's still doing that, of course, but he now is throwing the ball quickly.

Vince Verhei: This game, after watching the last two Seahawks games, is like something out of an Arena League highlight reel. We haven't even mentioned Matt Ryan's laser-guided missile to Taylor Gabriel for a long touchdown.

I see a Falcons running back slip a tackle in the backfield, pop through a hole at the line of scrimmage, and juke out the safety for a big run, and I check to see if it's Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman, and it's... Ward? Who the hell is Ward? How many good running backs does Atlanta have?

(To answer my own question: Terron Ward, second-year player out of Oregon State, had 95 rushing yards last year, making his 2016 debut because Coleman is out today.)

Freeman finishes that drive for Atlanta with a 1-yard plunge. Cian, you'd be proud -- needing 1 yard, they spread the field, tean ran an inside trap against Green Bay's six-man front. Julio Jones lined up wide to the left, and the Packers threw two guys wide to that side to cover him. Not one corner head-up and a safety lined up back and to the middle of the field -- two corners head-up on Jones to make sure he didn't beat them. And he didn't, so way to go Green Bay.

So this is interesting. After Freeman's touchdown, the Falcons kicked the extra point to go up 26-24 with about three minutes left in the third quarter. I didn't think much about it at the time, but in the closing minutes of the fourth, Green Bay was driving, and I realized that the Packers only needed a field goal to take the lead. As it turned out, they got a touchdown and two-pointer, so they're up 32-26. So I don't think, in all the various possibilities of what might have happened, that's going to matter -- no matter what had happened on the extra points earlier, the Falcons were going to be in position to win with a touchdown right now. 

Packers got a third-down conversion on that drive when Nelson caught a pass right at the line of scrimmage, but gave up ground and was tackled behind the line. However, Green Bay challenged, and won the review when it turned out they had pulled off the Aaron Rodgers special: snapping the ball while the defense was substituting and catching them with 12 men on the field. 

Scott Kacsmar: Matt Ryan was really on point today. The touchdown pass to Taylor Gabriel was as good as any throw in Week 8, and Mohamed Sanu stepped up on the game-winning drive when Julio Jones wasn't 100 percent. By the way, it sure seems like Jones is hurt quite often. Mike McCarthy did the Falcons a favor by not calling a timeout, leaving his offense only 31 seconds to answer.

San Diego Chargers 19 at Denver Broncos 27

Vince Verhei: Scary scene in Denver as the Broncos get a pick-six. Upfield of the play, there's a sideline collision, and Wade Phillips goes down hard. The game is stopped for several minutes as he is tended to. Eventually he's strapped to a board and carted off, talking and wagging one finger. Hoping the best for a speedy return.

Tom Gower: Best wishes for Wade Phillips.

What we saw of Paxton Lynch wasn't good enough for people to clamor to see more of him, so Trevor Siemian can keep playing not particularly effectively as long as he doesn't make too many big mistakes. It does help with defenders keep dropping your passes, as San Diego did a few times in the first half.

Vince Verhei: Interesting play in this game when Trevor Siemian lobbed a pass downfield. Emmanuel Sanders was tracking the ball, running straight towards the end zone, while Dwight Lowery was zooming over to break it up, heading straight for the sideline. A massive collision seemed imminent, but at the last second Lowery slammed on the breaks, fearing a head-to-head hit and the penalties and fines that would go with it. Sanders made the diving catch and was touched down. Chargers got the ball back on a sack-fumble a few plays later, but that's the first time I can remember a defender flat-out stopping on a play to avoid a headshot like that.

Scott Kacsmar: With only two games going, I thought it was poor of the RedZone channel to not show a full-screen shot of the Wade Phillips injury. They probably did later, but not anywhere close to within minutes of it happening. Don't see why we needed the double box to show what was going on in Atlanta-Green Bay when this was a serious situation at the time. Some felt that Gary Kubiak's absence in the first San Diego matchup was costly for Denver. We'll see if Phillips' absence leads to any second-half miscues for the defense, but as a tipped pick just happened, we know this game is really about Trevor Siemian and his flirtations with turnovers. He gets away with quite a few, but had a big fumble today in the red zone.

Vince Verhei: Denver's defense in a nutshell: They just almost got a sack, but Philip Rivers was able to get the ball away. And it almost was intercepted, but it bounced out of the defender's hands -- into the hands of another defender. They had three guys with opportunities to make big plays on one snap there. Playmakers all over the place.

Tom Gower: I'm typing my reply that this defense is missing Aqib Talib, normally the kind of loss you'd expect a defense to notice against a good quarterback like Philip Rivers, and their interceptions have mostly been on tipped passes, and T.J. Ward is in the right place when Griff Whalen is not and the Broncos have great field position again, this time up 17-7.

Vince Verhei: Following a Denver field goal, the Chargers take over at their own 25, needing a touchdown and two-pointer to tie. And they get into scoring range quickly -- eight plays later (including penalties), they have a first-and-goal at the 2. Melvin Gordon had a 17-yard run on the drive, and is over 100 yards on the day. So what does San Diego do with four plays from the 2? Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete, incomplete. The good news is, they saved enough time that they could get the ball back, but I'd rather run for a chance to score there.

Aaron Schatz: The Chargers just got down to the 2-yard line, down 27-19, and they threw the ball four times instead of trying any runs. I don't understand why NFL teams are so reticent to spread things out and then run at the goal line. Have these people ever played Madden?

I also think that the question of going for it or kicking the field goal on fourth-and-goal is interesting here. If the Chargers only need seven points, it's pretty obvious to go for it. However, needing eight points, their odds of tying it up depend on not just scoring from the 2 but also hitting the two-point conversion. And then, that just ties the game. On the other hand, if you kick the field goal there and get it, you kick back off to Denver with 2:30 left and three timeouts. If you stop the Broncos, yes, you still need to score a touchdown -- but you don't need a two-point conversion, and that touchdown WINS the game, instead of sending it to overtime.

I mean, let's say that the touchdown is guaranteed, and let's say that we know Denver can't march down the field to kick a game-winning field goal with the 2:30 they have left. Even with those stipulations, San Diego only wins the game roughly 25 percent of the time! They only get the 2-point conversion roughly half the time, and they only win in overtime roughly half the time.

Detroit Lions 13 at Houston Texans 20

Rivers McCown: God, what a snoozer.

Did you know wide receivers played in the NFL? If this was your introduction to the game, you might think of them as bit parts. Matthew Stafford spent the afternoon dumping to Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron. The Texans went down to three healthy receivers at one point, and spent much of the afternoon featuring C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin.

I haven't watched much Lions football this year, because the suits decided to put the Bears on in prime time approximately 900 times this year instead, but I don't think they make MVP cases out of dumpoffs to Theo Riddick. So I am confused.

Philadelphia Eagles 23 at Dallas Cowboys 29 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: They used to say that Denver could just pick up any running back off the street and that guy would get 1,000 yards in the Mike Shanahan offense. Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, whoever. And I always said, "OK, fine, but there's a difference between those schmoes and what somebody special like Terrell Davis or Clinton Portis can do in that offense."

That's Ezekiel Elliott. Yes, the offensive line gives him a ton of opportunity, but he's doing more with it than most backs would. He's not definitely not just some schmo.

Rivers McCown: People love to talk about creating hard and fast draft heuristics like "never draft running backs before _____" but sometimes you wind up with a high pick and a running back is the best player on the board. Woe is you.

Tom Gower: Kind of a weird matchup, strength against strength and weakness against weakness. Eagles up 13-10 at the half. The obvious Dallas strategy is to use their excellent run-blocking line to overwhelm and beat up the Eagles. That has been standard operating procedure against Jim Schwartz defenses for quite a while, for obvious reasons. Naturally, Ezekiel Elliott had eight carries in the first half (granted, Alfred Morris did have three more). One thing if Dak Prescott had been efficient, but he's been more the opposite of that (5-of-13 overall, including 3-of-3 to Elliott and Dez with the only completions), including a costly red zone interception. Carson Wentz has been his usual self, completing many of his passes (17-of-21) for not very many yards (107, long 12).

Aaron Schatz: If the Cowboys move away from Ezekiel Elliott down 20-10 in the third quarter, they are making a big mistake. It's not that big a gap. Just run your offense, guys. It has done pretty well this season.

Cris Collinsworth also pointed out that the Cowboys have yet to throw to Cole Beasley tonight. And they just had a third-and-5 and somehow Beasley wasn't even on the field. They converted it with a pass to Terrance Williams, but still -- why would you not have your ace chain-moving slot receiver on the field on third-and-5?

[ad placeholder 4]

Well, OK then. We're going to overtime yet again today. Quite a day for extra football. Great play by Carson Wentz at the end, somehow holding onto the ball when Orlando Scandrick came up behind him to strip it.

Dak Prescott had only one interception coming into this game, but if he keeps chucking it up for grabs under heavy pressure instead of taking a sack, he's not going to finish the season with only two or three of them.

Ezekiel Elliott balls out in overtime. Why weren't they using him more earlier in the game? Then Dak Prescott twists away from pressure and finds a wide-open Jason Witten on the scramble drill. Touchdown, Dallas wins. I'm guessing that the Eagles may stay at No. 1 in DVOA though... this is going to be one of those games where both teams end up positive thanks to opponent adjustments.

Bryan Knowles: So, as it stands at this exact second, the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Minnesota Vikings would get byes in the first round of the playoffs. Just as we all predicted, right?

Aaron Schatz: The funny thing is, it wouldn't have been the strangest prediction about Dallas or Minnesota... before the quarterback injuries in the preseason.

Tom Gower: Doug Pederson has two chances, both at least somewhat risky, to increase his team's chance of winning. He eschewed a 54-yard field goal attempt that would have given his team a 10-point lead, and he didn't call timeout after Connor Barwin's sack late in regulation, letting the clock expire. His team then lost in overtime.

Scott Kacsmar: If the Eagles are still No. 1 in DVOA, then that probably just says more about the overall down level of play this season than anything else. The Eagles had some dominant wins when they were 3-0, but have fallen off over the last four games since the bye week. I have a little theory for this split in performance, especially in regards to how Carson Wentz and the offense have played. Their wins were against Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Well, Doug Pederson came from the AFC with the Chiefs. He prepared for the Steelers in each of the last two seasons and they met in this year's preseason too. The Chiefs also played the NFC North last year. Cleveland, as we know, is just handing out wins to everyone so far this season.

The Philadelphia losses have been against Detroit, Washington and Dallas. The Detroit game was winnable in the end, but Wentz broke his tendencies by forcing a deep interception. Washington ran all over the Eagles, and Dallas had some up-and-down success tonight while severely limiting Wentz in the passing game. Since these were division matchups, the staffs of Jay Gruden and Jason Garrett seemed to have the upper hand over a rookie coach in Pederson in his first divisional games. Maybe none of what I said has actually mattered, but I like to think it at least played some part in the preparation for their games so far.


110 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2016, 9:29pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Vince soft-pedaled it, but the officiating in the Seahawks-Saints game was atrociously one-sided. The Seahawks secondary played admirably given the conditions, but they had little chance to slow down Drew Brees. The refs let the Saints run blatant pick plays on crucial third downs (Snead wasn't even trying to disguise it; he was flat-out blocking during the pass), and they didn't call Michael Thomas for repeatedly pushing off. Yet they called the Seahawks secondary again and again for defensive holding. (Shead's was the worst.)

I know bad officiating happens and complaining about it is futile (and annoying), but as a Seahawks fan, that was brutal to watch. And contrary to popular belief the data suggests this happens more frequently to the Seahawks than to other teams. For some reason, year in and year out they are among the league "leaders" in fewest opponent penalties. I don't know why this is.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I should do some checking but I'll just state here that it would be nice to know more clearly what the rules are for when the refs keep the clock going and when they stop it. At the end of the game (and I think this was the play referenced in Audibles), it seemed pretty clear that the clock should have stopped (based on my own superficial understanding of the rules) and yet the ref motioned to keep the clock running.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If they determine the runner's forward progress was stopped before going out of bounds then they wind the clock, otherwise it stops.

In the case at hand, the ref must have decided the runner's progress was stopped for like a millisecond before he was pushed out of bounds, because the tackler immediately drove him out upon contact.

I didn't like the call, but I had much less of a problem with it than I did with the calls in the passing game.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"I know bad officiating happens and complaining about it is futile (and annoying), but as a Seahawks fan, that was brutal to watch. And contrary to popular belief the data suggests this happens more frequently to the Seahawks than to other teams. For some reason, year in and year out they are among the league "leaders" in fewest opponent penalties. I don't know why this is."

Most likely, because the Seahawks pretty unabashedly pull a lot of crap, and referees' typical responsee to that is to cravenly let them, so they try to even it up by letting their opposition do it as well.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It doesn't seem like referees do let them pull a lot of crap though. They are always among the most highly penalized teams every year (despite their opponents always being among the least penalized).

You could always argue that they should be penalized even more. I've never seen any data to confirm or refute this, but it seems more likely to this admittedly biased fan that people just say the Seahawks always get away with a bunch of penalties, when in actuality they don't.

Just like Mark Twain said, "Give a man a reputation as an early riser, and he can sleep 'til noon."

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Most likely that's your perception and not reality, but even if it were true not calling multiple OPIs and letting the clock run when it should be stopped would be egregious efforts by the officials against ANY TEAM IN THE NFL. It's the referees' job to call the penalties, not attempt to gift a team with a Win.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I didn't see this game, but this post crystallized for me that the officiating is my least favorite thing about the NFL. So many games are decided by subjective calls, to the point that in 99% of close games you can say "If that call had gone differently, we might have won." Worse, I don't get the idea the NFL thinks it's much of a problem, and even worse worse, I don't know how they'd fix it if they did. American football is just a game with a butt-load of rules. There's no way to change that and still keep it American football, and more and more that bothers me. You'll often hear announcers say something like "They could call offensive holding on every play if they wanted to." Well, if they could, that's proof of a poorly-designed game.

Maybe it's time to check out rugby. Or, where calls are measured by computers to an accuracy of a few millimeters.

(Or. It could be that my disillusionment is that I'm lucky enough to be a 49ers fan.)

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

This is the consequence of a game where the typical score is remarkably close, within the margin of one score (or less).

In baseball, scoring is periodic and umpires rarely make rules-violations calls.
In basketball, games often aren't close.
In hockey and soccer, scores are close, but shot percentages are low, due to goalies. Instead, these guys catch the blame.

Unfortunately, football has close scores, a running clock, frequent rules violations, and no goalies. Thus, the referees are really important to the result. So without being objectively worse than in the other sports, their incompetence is magnified.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The subjectivity of so many of those rules is also at fault. More and more I think American football is in fact objectively worse, because it's so easy to "break" a game with a single bad call. It's a fragile thing, this game. It reminds me of an English bulldog...carefully tailored to look a specific way, but a way that makes for an unhealthy breed.

Or maybe, like I said, I'm just is a bad mood.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Only possible to "break" a good game (i.e. a close game) with a bad call. Many coaches (correctly) say that if you don't want to gripe about the officials, play better so you're not in a position to let one call sway the game.

For example, the officiating in the Pats-Bills game was horrible. But it didn't matter because the Bills were more horrible.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah, that's a brittle sport, where a bad call can cost a game. Where non-calls happen all the time that could change the game drastically. Some other sports are just more robust.

I don't understand your advice to avoid close games. They're going to happen, right? If they don't, it's not much of a game.

As for basketball, it gets my vote for worst officiating of any sport I've seen. Makeup calls are commonplace, committing fouls is a part of the strategy, write-us about playoff series routinely factor in that the game will be called differently when the series is close than when it's not. That is not the sport for me.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The difference in officiating between football and basketball officiating...

Football - you could call holding on every play, but it was away from the ball and the call could not have impacted the play

Basketball - you could call a foul on every play, the play is meaningful, but it's Michael Jordan

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I can't think of any sport where a single bad call can't ruin the game.

Soccer: one missed hand ball
Baseball: one missed safe/out at home
Basketball: a missed foul or imaginary foul on the final shot
Hockey: I don't actually watch this, but someone else can chime in

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yes, more or less every soccer post-match interview/press conference is devoted to losing coaches whinging about penalty kicks they should have been awarded, or opposition players that should have been red-carded.

Soccer is a lot easier to officiate than football, and the rules a lot easier to understand for the average fan. As a result there are fewer 'blown' calls in soccer, but the impact of those blown calls in a sport with such a low number of scoring events can be enormous.

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It's not just whether single calls can ruin a game, it's the frequency with which they occur.

Baseball can miss safe calls, but they're rare. Baseball is a pretty robust sport that way. In football, bad calls or bad non-calls that significantly affect the game are common.

I don't watch soccer. If what BJR says is true, it sounds bad.

Basketball: the problem isn't so much with single calls, it's with the sheer weight of constant calls and how they change from game to game, crew to crew, player to player.

As for sports that don't suffer much from single bad calls, they're not hard to find. A lot of one-on-one sports are that way. Tennis, sumo, boxing, etc. Other examples would be almost any kind of race. I'm not a baseball fan, but like I said it's a pretty robust sport...cases where bad officiating decides a game are uncommon.

Football's my game, but more and more it bugs me how brittle it is, how many broken games are scattered around over a season.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

It only ruins the game if the players and coaches don't trust the Referee.

In soccer, like BJR said, post-match interviews are ALWAYS about the referee (the other guys are just assistants). And that 1 referee doesn't get any video help - yet. And most games end in 2-1 or something, so 1 goal means a lot.
So it's "it was a penalty kick" or "it was offsides" to the point where it ruins the game.

In Football, a ref can call a DPI or not or miss a holding here and there, but rarely it's the difference maker to decide who's the better team.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I haven't done or read a formal study, but I'd be willing to bet that basketball games and football games are "close" about as often.

I think the difference is just confirmation bias. Basketball games are on pretty much every day of the week, and so you see a lot of all kinds of games--if the games on a given night are all lopsided, you'll see a lopsided game.

Football is all played at once, and the networks only show the games expected to be "good".

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Penalties called on Seahawk opponents 2013 (Least), 2014 (Least), 2015 (Least), 2016 (2nd Least). At least two of those years Seahawk opponent(s) as a team had a full game less penalties called then any actual team.


The real answer is to have (1) penalties be reviewable; (2) winning a challenge doesn't cost a [challenge] (edit).

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I've noted this phenomenon before and it is somewhat puzzling. The best I could come up with was that Seattle passes less than almost any other team (which is true), and offensive pass plays are most likely to draw opponent penalties (I don't know this - I am hypothesizing).

Otherwise, it's difficult to come up with a logical, fair explanation for Seattle's opponents being penalized so little.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Seattle has made a strategic choice to play closer to the line drawn by the refs, the result, they have been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL over the entire Pete Carol era.

The idea that the NFL is missing a greater percentage of the Seahawks fouls doesn't seem to pass scrutiny.

Sometimes Sherman doesn't get called for PI when his back is screening the ref, sometimes Shead gets called for jamming a receiver inside the of 5 yards. It's the nature of the game.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Football purists like to bang on about the delights of offensive line play with regard to the running game, but for the first half at least GB-ATL was a clinic of pass protection. Both defenses rushed only three or four, relying on a variety of stunts; both offensive lines picked up whatever was thrown at them. That's how receivers like Sanu, Trevor Davis, Ger-on-i-mo! and the Falcons tight end came to have such productive games. There were hardly any big pass plays, and not a great deal of YAC, but lots and lots of eight-to-15 yard completions that were right on the money.

For once I thought McCarthy's apparently bizarre decision to go for two to give Green Bay a lead of six points, rather than five, with 3 minutes to play was a good one. He had more confidence that his offense could convert a 2PC than that his defense could stop one. In a shootout, he was right.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The 2-pt call did not seem bizarre to me. With 3 minutes left, there's a difference, however small, between a 5-pt and a 6-pt lead. There's essentially none between 4-pt and 5-pt (would need a GB safety for it to matter), so he had nothing to lose.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'm not sure about that. Every Packer fan on this forum would have expected Atlanta to score a touchdown on its next drive – we've seen plenty of those late-game defensive wilts with way better cornerbacks on the field; the only question was how quickly it would score, and how much time the Packer offense would have. Assuming the Falcons kicked their extra point, the difference between a 2-point and a 3-point deficit would be significant. With a 2-point deficit there is effectively no point trying to score a TD, as a figgie wins the game.

I doubt this was McCarthy's reasoning in going for two, however, as he continues to have supreme confidence in his end-of-game defense, despite all evidence.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

OK, I'll comment on the London game, having accidentally seen the very tail end of it. I can't believe how coaches so cavalierly yield yards prior to a field goal attempt at the end of games. It is a stupid idea to deliberately turn a 27 yard attempt into a 35 yard attempt, like Gruden did yesterday, or, hell going back to last week with Arians, turn a 18 yard attempt unto 23 yard attempt, because you aren't organized well enough to get your kicking unit on the field in a timely manner. Coaches, repeat after me. 35 yard attempts are not sure things. The less confidence you have in your kicking unit, the more hesitant you should be to give up yardage prior to kicking.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Similarly, I feel that they should have a game-winning field goal default yardage number, and as soon as you cross that yard line, you kick. Then you don't risk the fumble, the holding call, the personal foul, whatever...

If you believe your kicker WILL make at form the 43, you kick from the 43. No more damn draw plays, please.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Anything beyond the equivalent of an old extra point yardage has risk with said risk increasing the greater the distance. Any pro coach who settles for a field goal beyond 35 yards is foolish and with college coaches anything beyond the extra point range is equally if not more foolish. In the WI/Nebraska game Paul Chryst settled for a 45 yard field goal attempt to win the game in regulation and I was truly dumbstruck that a seemingly intelligent person thought this was a good course of action. (Not including the fact that his kicker only became the regular guy due to injury and prior to this season had attempted ONE field goal kick. In HIGH SCHOOL)

I do not object to kicking being part of the game. But my lord coaches are dumb about employing kickers.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

If the ball's at the 43, the kick is from the 50, and it's a 60-yard FG. Nobody is automatic from that range.

If you mean the kick is from the 43, it's a 53-yard FG. I wouldn't call that automatic for anybody.

Five yards of territory makes a lot of difference for most kickers, so I would keep pushing the ball forward until I ran out of time. Certainly I wouldn't ever go backwards 5 yards just to move the ball 3 yards to the right or left. Which is what the Redskins did.

I replied because I really dislike the concept of a binary "FG range". It doesn't work like that.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Hey Rick -

I just picked that distance randomly. I'm sure everybody would make a magical 100%-sure line way nearer.

Regarding "FG range", I suspect that, like many very complex equations, coaches and even the kickers themselves are forced to create decision-making thresholds in order to accelerate and simplify choices.

I shoot groundhogs in order to reduce the odds of horses and cattle breaking their legs. Every shot is different. Wind, certainty of range data, and quality of firing position are biggest, but not only, variables. But we make simple rules to inform our shoot / no-shoot decisions, if only to tell us whether we should make the effort to get closer to the target. I can see coaches doing much the same thing.


41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

My assumption was that he meant a 43-yd FG attempt, meaning LOS about the 25, though I agree with not giving up yards at all. And did Cousins actually retreat EIGHT yards to center the ball? The hashmarks aren't much farther apart than that. I thought it dumb when I once saw Brady give up 2 yards doing that.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As a Jets fan, thought it was interesting that Enunwa was brought up and the spectacular play he made for touchdown.

While that was a great play, it was not the most important play he made. On the first drive on the 3rd quarter, while the Jets were down 20-7, and after a half where Fitzpatrick was 3-14 for 30 yards (basically as bad a 1st have a QB can have without turning ball over), Enunwa may have saved Fitzpatrick's job (at least in the short term).

Fitzpatrick through a god-awful short pass that should have been picked off, Enunwa essentially ripped the ball out of the DBs hands.

I firmly believe (especially if Cleveland scored from midfield on the ensuing drive), that Fitzpatrick would have been benched and the Jets would have lost. Instead the Jets score TDs on their next 3 drives and win the game. There's no real accounting for a play like that in the score sheet, but really one of the best plays of the week.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The Packers offense in the second half was undermined by LG Lane Taylor getting overwhelmed by 99 from ATL multiple times. No idea what adjustment was made but Taylor, who has been mostly ok as the Sitton replacement, was suddenly being tossed aside or walked back. Rodgers had multiple passes spoiled by this interior rush.

The positive of the receiver injuries is that it forced McCarthy to consider different approaches versus the same routine that teams very clearly know how to defend. Davis for example has way more speed than the rest of the receivers but was rarely getting on the field because....................well because. Or as Packer fans answer most questions, McCarthy.

Pretty clear that Jordy Nelson has lost a half step, or more, due to the injury. He struggles to get separation and when he does make a catch he is not running away from defenders. He still has the great body control so down near the goal line he's valuable. but in the open field he is too easily covered on most downs.

Given the ATL offense thought the defense mostly did its part though at key junctions poor tackling allowed the Falcons to gain yards too easily. And prior to this game tackling had not been an issue.

On the officiating front Jones was allowed to pull down the Packers DB and get an PI call which even the FOX announcers thought was terrible.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Watching the game it was definitely a different (much-much-much worse) GB offense in the second half. I was not watching closely enough to figure out why, thanks for pointing this out. Seems like this type of OPI should also be a loss of down as opposed to the OPI which is essentially a pick play.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I thought for sure the Cowboys lack of talent on defense would have lost them more games by now, but they don't do stupid stuff that magnifies that lack of talent, and the Cowboys offensive line just controls games. That drive in ot, consumed more than 8 minutes, I believe. Dallas, and to a lesser extent the Raiders and Falcons, are really showing that the First Football Commandment, in the Church of Gibbs, still has utility; Thy Quaterback Will be Made to Feel Comfortable in Thy Pocket, Forever and Ever, Amen.

I thought the Packers defense, given the injuries among the dbs, and Matthews inactive, played the Falcons offense pretty darned well. The Falcons don't have much talent on defense, but where Greeen Bay still showed their offensive issues when they had to get 50 yards quickly.

I didn't relaize next spring's incoming qb class was ranked so poorly. That's gonna make for some tough decisions for a few teams.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

>[Seattle's] starter at left tackle: George Fant, who hasn't started a football game since junior high, and didn't play football in high school or in his first three years of college.

How is Seattle constantly so short on guys who could even plausibly be competent offensive linemen? It seems like every o-lineman on the roster is a project who's being converted from tight end or defensive line or something. A team with a solid line can get away with drafting a "lump of clay" type player every once in a while and stashing him on the bottom of the roster as they try to develop him behind the established starters. But this team has consistently had a lousy O-line, and they keep trying to fix it with weird longshot draft picks instead of just grabbing some bland three- or four-year college starter in the middle rounds like a sane team would do. It's the roster equivalent of Rex Ryan's offenses in his last Jets seasons, where they couldn't consistently complete a normal forward pass but they had every possible variant of the Wildcat ready to go every week.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

You might be right. Although word on the street was that they were going to cut him anyway, because he was too expensive.

You can't pay everybody, and for the Seahawks those people who are getting paid are not the offensive line for some reason.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Resource allocation. They don't pay anybody on the O-line big money (or even medium money), which allows to keep their stellar core in tact on defense and pay guys like Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham, and Doug Baldwin on offense.

It works out quite well when Wilson is healthy and they have Beastmode (or healthy Rawls) at tailback. It doesn't work out so well when Wilson can barely run, and they have a mediocre (at best) tailback.

Also, it's worth noting that their offensive lines tend to play better as the season goes on. Will they "gel" again this year? Maybe. But I'm skeptical.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

They haven't. But to be fair, we don't know what would have happened if he didn't suffer that horrific leg injury. He was terrific in the regular season game against Carolina and would have been an asset in the playoffs.

I was ambivalent about the trade at the time. But if they were really going to cut Unger anyway, then I think it was a decent roll-of-the-dice.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I understand their desire to not spend money on the position, but you can put together a cheap O-line by drafting a starting college tackle in the fourth or fifth round each year. It might not be great, but at least you'll have guys who know how to play the position.
This guy Fant is an undrafted rookie whose entire body of work in high school and college was two games at tight end for Western Kentucky. You can certainly get players more likely to succeed at OT than that without spending any more money than the rookie minimum.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Th reason why the Vikings signed Andre Johnson from the Bengals for good money is because the 2015 4th round draft pick didn't inspire much confidence, and is now killing them, with Johnson on IR.

It's really, really, hard to find non-terrible tackles in the 4th round or later.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think the point he's making, is that the answer to your point is NOT to put in a high school tight end in at right tackle. But, you know, some guy who played in college for a few seasons and at least knows what he's doing.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

As a Colts fan, I'm going to argue strenuously against this point. The team has tried the cheap "plug anyone in" route, and the Colts have not had a terrible o-line for the 5 years Luck has been there. That has lead to him being the most sacked QB in the league.

They finally started using some draft picks on lineman in the last couple of drafts, and while the results aren't apparent, I think they have enough young talent to be solid in the next couple of years. The question is whether Luck is still alive at that point.

I will certainly agree that you don't need all-pros across the board for your o-line, but after watching the Colts over the years, I think you need continuity and competency across the board.

When Manning was the QB, the talent wasn't fantastic, but it was at least NFL caliber at all the positions, and didn't change much year to year. With Luck, there has always been at least one guy who shouldn't be in the league. Just one bad player can sink the whole line play. The fact that the Colts then tried to plug in different guys each year to fix the weak-links also led to zero continuity, which also kills o-line play.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

>The team has tried the cheap "plug anyone in" route, and the Colts have not had a terrible o-line for the 5 years Luck has been there

I'm not saying it's a great plan to just plug anyone in. I'm saying that once you've committed to plugging in random guys (as Seattle has), they might as well be actual offensive linemen rather than undrafted tight ends who played way more basketball than football in college.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Err, that should have been "they have had a terrible line". I don't know how that "not" got in there. I''m going to blame autocorrect.

My argument is that random OT from Diirectional State Polytechnic really won't be any better. Random athletic guy will get beat because he doesn't know what he's doing. Random OT will get beat because he's not athletic enough for the NFL. I don't see the difference.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'd differ with the idea that Charlie Johnson was NFL caliber. Maybe, just barely, at guard, but at left tackle? No way. He started about 30 games as Peyton Manning's left tackle. That Manning dragged an offense-oriented team to the Super Bowl (and may well have won it, if Hank Baskett fields an onside kick at the beginning of the 2nd half) with Charlie Johnson starting 12 games, and the playoffs, at left tackle, is one of the better arguments for Manning being the GOAT. I can still scarcely believe it.

Charlie Johnson beat out Tony Ugoh, if want some sense of how bad Ugoh was. I think one of the worst things done to Luck may be an expectation that he might be able to compensate for terrible o-line play in the manner of premium Peyton Manning.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I'll give you that Johnson wasn't NFL caliber. At least they kept him at the same position for the most part. I guess I can amend my stance to be you have to have 5 NFL worthy starters unless your team has one of the top 5 QB's of all time playing for it, then you might to be able to get away with 4, but you won't win a Super Bowl

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I have a few theories about offensive line play.

1) when you have 5 competent o linemen and three are really great - you can field an outstanding offense even without needing great qb play or a ton of talent at receiver - see Dallas, 2012 SF, 2002-2004 Chiefs.

2) When you have a hall of fame qb and good receiving talent but generally poor talent at o line - you can still field pretty strong offenses. See 2012 Packers, 2008-2010 Colts, 2015 Patriots.

3) When your offensive line is an active sieve(meaning 3 or more players are guys who should not be in the league) - you enter what I call toxic shock syndrome. It means, no matter what kind of qb you have or what receivers you have, your offense is going to be bad. See 2014-2015 Chargers. 2016 Seahawks, and 2009-2012 Bears.

4) And for everyone else - I'm not sure there is a whole lot to distinguish between teams that have pretty good o lines and mediocre qbs and teams with mediocre o lines and mediocre qbs. Its why O line feels only noticeable at the extremes.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Wait, Vince Verhei bitched about the Seahawks not getting calls? Dude. They have a lot of that coming, you know.

I'm surprised by how mediocre the Pats' defense is. After hearing how they were going to have a big pass rush this year, they've proven to be a very average, soft, no-playmaking defense. If you're not going to be able to get stops routinely, you need to make a play now and then - a turnover, or at least a sack or something to put the offense in 2nd or 3rd and long. As soon as the Pats meet up with a D that can stop their offense once in a while, they'll be in trouble in the playoffs. I still think they're probably the favorites in the AFC, but their defense is not impressive in any way.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I think a Pats/Cowboys game would be a interesting game as each offense played hyper efficiently, keeping the ball away from the opposing offense, while scoring on the vast majority of possessions. Get Romo healthy (Bryant, too, of course) to relieve the rookie, if Darth performed his Sith mind-tricks, and you'd have a fascinating matchup.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

The "soft" defense had a 21-point lead early in the 3rd quarter and never let the Bills get closer than 2 TDs.

So, before the game was out of reach, the gave up 10 points. I'm OK with that.

"I still think they're probably the favorites in the AFC, but their defense is not impressive in any way."

Would you believe they've given up the fewest points of any AFC team?

No, it's not an elite defense by any stretch of the imagination, but it's hardly "mediocre". It's certainly much better than the defense was in 2011 when they went to the Super Bowl (and Eli shredded the secondary, which was somehow Wes Welker's fault). They have a bad tendency to let long drives persist, but they also have a knack of tightening things up.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I have no idea what to make of the Pats this year. It seems like they're experimenting with lots of different personnel and formations.

On offense at least they have Brady, Gronk, etc. I don't think their defense has been tested all that much, and may not be until the playoffs which is somewhat disconcerting for me.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Wait, Vince Verhei bitched about the Seahawks not getting calls? Dude. They have a lot of that coming, you know.

Seahawks are still well under .500 historically in games decided by poor officiating. Well under.

On the plus side, we shouldn't have to hear any more this year about the Seahawks-Atlanta game.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Here's a more objective stat. Since the beginning of the 2014 season (39 regular season games), Seahawks opponents have been called for 2+ penalties ABOVE their average 3 times. (Average being accepted penalties per game with games against the Seahawks removed.)

Seahawk opponents have been called for 2+ penalties BELOW their average 20 times.

This is an extreme imbalance.

I don't know what the standard deviation for penalties is, but this seemed like a good separation point.

Most Seahawk fans aren't complaining about the fouls called on the Seahawks. They're complaining about the ones not called on their opposition.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Well, given the quality of the Seattle defense over that period, I am sure teams ran a lot fewer offensive plays than normal and also that Seattle (while on defense) was in position to decline more penalties (because the outcome of the play was better for Seattle) than the average opponent. I'd like to see the numbers in terms of penalties, whether accepted or not, per play.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

They haven't lived up to my expectations, but it is hard to hold a team under 20 when a DB is penalized 63 yards on two plays where neither warranted a flag. In the second it was rather obvious that the WR had grabbed the DB's arm and was holding it down to create a space for the ball to land.

It won't cause an uproar because it was the Pats and the game was out of reach early, but that is a referendum on why pass interference needs a complete overhaul. I can't imagine how I would have reacted if that final TD gave Buffalo the win.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Something I haven't seen discussed much: at the end of OT in London, the Redskins were facing a 4th and 11 from the Bengals 48 and still had a timeout left. So, what did Jay Gruden do? He allowed to clock to drop down to 2 seconds, called a time out, and had Kirk Cousins try to throw a futile Hail Mary 50+ yards down the field.

This strategy shows a disproportionate aversion to losing. Gruden was sitting on a tie, and decided to push the probability of losing down to zero, clearly hurting his probability of winning.

A better strategy, in my opinion, would be to run down some of the clock, but leave enough so they could have called a timeout after a 20-30 yard completion. Had they had more time, and with the timeout they had, they could have threatened to get into FG range and kick a game-winning kick. This might have increased the probability of losing, but in my opinion the probability of winning would have increased far more. After all, they were at the Bengal 48, which would have meant a NFL-record (by far) 69-yard FG.

And, really, such a strategy would have increased the expected value of the result of the play call. Keep in mind that a tie is worth half a win. So the coach should be trying to maximize the value of 2*Pr("Win") + Pr("Tie") (+0*Pr("Loss")).
But coaches are used to thinking only of wins and losses, and get thrown off when faced with three possible results. If you are used to only thinking of two possible outcomes, then maximizing Pr("Win") is the same as minimizing Pr("Loss"). But with three possible outcomes, a coach should prefer any strategy in which the positive change in Pr("Win") is greater than the positive change in Pr("Loss").

Yes, the reality is that the coach isn't trying maximize his team's expected value, but rather to maximize some kind of coach-specific personal value function, and losing a game that could have been locked down as a tie might be more personal damaging by far than finding some strategy that increased the probability of winning. His personal failure for losing might be much, much more than his personal reward for winning.

It just irritated me at the time - even though I knew Hopkins had already missed a potentially game-winning FG try, I disliked the thinking that pre-emptively dismissed the possibility of letting him try again. Also, if they'd snapped the ball with 10 seconds left, that would have forced the Bengals to cover both mid-range and deep targets, and it might have made the probability of a TD pass increase.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

In that situation I have to question the value of maximizing winning. At that point, minimizing losing seems like the right call. I probably would have went further and just let the game end. They're currently sitting 2nd in division with the 5th seed thanks to that tie.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

I was actually shocked to see Kubiak make the aggressive play when faced with a similar situation at the end of the half yesterday. Fourth and six from the Charger 46, with just enough time that failure would (and did) give San Diego a chance to run one play to set up a field goal attempt of its own. He's normally the type of fraidy cat I'd expect to punt in that situation.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Nick Foles makes no sense to me. I didn't pay any attention to him his one good year in Philly, so I've only seen him be terrible for the Rams. Is he just an extreme example of the "excels in perfect situations, disastrous if anything goes wrong" QB type? Or does he have a good deep ball and nothing else? It just seems odd that a player would have stretches of production as high as his peaks but be terrible overall.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Thanks for calling out Trevor Siemian's tendency to put the ball in position for interceptions. It drives me crazy. He's always throwing just a little bit behind his receiver, making them slow up or twist back and giving the defender an opportunity. (The long completion to Thomas near the end of the game was a notable exception.) It seems like that's the sort of deficiency that can be overcome in practice, but here were are at the half-season mark and he's still at it.

I will say, though, that his passes are often very pretty: nice tight spirals with a graceful arc. If only they were made a split second earlier!

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

"Derek Carr is apparently now in the all-time NFL top 10 for yardage in a single game with 513 yards today, but he also threw the ball 59 times. FIFTY-NINE!"

If Aaron Rodgers can take 56 passes to reach 326 yards against the Bears and get "back in MVP form" articles written about him, I'm comfortable with Carr getting plenty of praise for this game.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

One of Trent Green's "Keys to the Game" yesterday for Denver was "Get Booker 25 carries." Well, Denver failed on that front, but they did have 25 rushing attempts as a team, which got them 57 whole yards. But they won! So, um, Trent Green is on to something here, right?

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Couple of randomish thoughts:

1. Will someone channel their inner Dickens and write "A Tale of Two GMs" about
McKenzie and Grigson?

2. Assuming my memory isn't playing tricks on me, it seems like Prescott's rookie
season and Big Ben's have a lot in common - not intended to be used, came
came in for injured starter, had solid team around them.
I must emphasize I am talking about rookie season ONLY, with no intent
to do a career projection.
Was wr

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Good comparison. His performance is similar to Russell Wilson's rookie year too. I'll go out on a limb and say that Prescott's performance so far bodes very well for his future. Being a highly efficient passer in a run first offense is a good sign of future potential as a highly efficient passer period.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Yeah because 6-0 vs teams .500 or worse and 0-2 vs teams over .500 screams #2 in power rankings. This may be the best Raiders team in over a decade, but they are in 1st because of a weak schedule and not yet having a bye. A 26-10 home loss to a division opponent is bad - and worse when that opponent had just lost 43-14 to a barely decent Steelers team.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 8

Re: Rivers's comments about Texans-Lions, and specifically Stafford:

I'm the chief Stafford apologist around here, and even I was puzzled by all the hype he was getting this season from ESPN,, PFF, etc. I always thought he was underappreciated before, but this year has, at times, seemed weirdly overrated.

Yes, the passing game and specials teams are literally the only things working right for the Lions, but MVP talk was foolishness (and not just because Brady is running away with it). His mechanics are much, much better this year. His accuracy, while better than before, is average. His pocket movement could still use some work. He still throws a 1-2 interceptable balls a game, and has lucky to only have 4 INTs so far. Overall, he is good enough to win with some help, but not good enough to carry a team by himself. That's obviously not an MVP candidate (the game-winning drives notwithstanding), even if you ignore the fact that most QB MVP candidates are on teams that are clear conference contenders. This team seems destined for 8-8.

As far as yesterday's game itself, Stafford didn't attempt many throws to wideouts because the wideouts were getting zero separation. The few passes he did try to squeeze in there were contested be a Texans defender sitting in the receiver's hip pocket. There were a couple drops in there, too. Ebron and Riddick were the only guys getting open consistently, but the Texans did a great job tackling well, and limiting YAC.