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

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these e-ails 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.

Dallas Cowboys 35 at Cleveland Browns 10

Bryan Knowles: Tempers flaring already; that might happen when you're an 0-8 team. Browns starting center Cameron Erving has been ejected from the game, as has Cowboys' backup defensive end David Irving; they got into a scrap as the Browns entered the red zone. The loss of Erving likely hurts more than the loss of Irving, but it's a lack of discipline on both sides. Not even five minutes into the game!

Philadelphia Eagles 23 at New York Giants 28

Aaron Schatz: Kudos to Cian for pointing it out on Carson Wentz's first interception. When he misses, he almost always misses high.

And he just missed high again, 2 feet over his receiver's head for a second interception downfield. Two picks in less than five minutes.

The Eagles end the first quarter with a run up the middle on third-and-5 for 3 yards. It looked like the usual conservative Eagles offense, just gaining a couple of yards to try to get a slightly shorter field goal. But NO! They ran on third down knowing they were going to go for it on fourth down. The Eagles go for it on fourth-and-2! Fortune favors the brave!

I'm sorry. I meant, "Fortune favors the brave who are not also stupid." The Giants have easily read the Eagles' zone-read option plays all day. So what do the Eagles run on fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter? A zone-read option. Nobody goes with the fake to Darren Sproles, and three guys are on top of Wentz immediately.

Vince Verhei: This is basically the anti-Carson Wentz game. His hot start was marked by a complete lack of interceptions, and also a complete lack of deep passes. Aaron already mentioned his interceptions today, but he has also thrown way more deep passes in the first half than he has in most games this year. And he's completing some of them, the biggest a 58-yarder to somebody named Bryce Treggs (the first regular-season catch of his career, and he only had two in the preseason) for a 58-yard gain to set up a Ryan Mathews touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles just went for it on fourth-and-short in field goal range, again. They didn't get it, again. Fourth-and-1 from the 6, they ran power to the right, Darren Sproles did not get the first. At least that was a better play-call than the first one, but could we at least see what Carson Wentz looks like running a sneak? I mean, the dude is 6-foot-5.

On the other hand, Giants go three-and-out. All the criticism of the Eagles for going for it will not mention that the Giants went three-and-out from their own 6.

Bryan Knowles: The Giants may be holding an 11-point lead at the half, but they are being outgained 248-177. If Wentz can stop turning the ball over, the Eagles are finding room to move the ball against the Giants D, and the Giants will have to play the entire second half without Victor Cruz and Justin Pugh. This is one of the least solid 11-point leads I can remember.

Tom Gower: Giants up 21-10 at the half. The first two scores came on short fields courtesy of Carson Wentz. As Vince mentioned, this first half has been the anti-Wentz, with some risky downfield throws getting picked and some downfield throws completed for big gains. Halftime statline is 11-21 for 216, so both the yards per catch and the completion percentage look very, very strange.

If you want, you could say the difference in this game has been fourth downs in scoring territory. The Eagles have had four of them, and gotten just three points out of those possessions: the made field goal, a pair of failed fourth downs (fourth-and-2 and fourth-and-1, both good decisions to go for it paired with, as noted, some very interesting run play calls), and a blocked field goal. Give them another conversion or two there, and the game feels a bit different and closer than the 11-point deficit suggests.

Eagles defensive backs haven't necessarily been great today -- Rodney McLeod in particular got caught flat on Odell Beckham's first touchdown catch, and his second came when he just roasted Leodis McKelvin (not for the first time). The other, a safety, I believe McLeod, took out McKelvin and Roger Lewis Jr. ended up wide open.

Aaron Schatz: Giants ranked ninth in DVOA against tight ends coming into today but are having a really hard time covering Zach Ertz. Just caught his eighth pass, almost at 100 yards for the day. They keep leaving Ertz open in zones.

After those failed fourth-and-shorts earlier in the game, the Eagles just went for it on fourth-and-9 from the Giants' 46 instead of punting with 5:30 left. Jordan Matthews finds the hole between the short zones and the deep zones in the Giants' coverage and converts.

Eagles' drive stalls out with fourth-and-10 from the Giants' 21, and they kick a field goal to make it a five-point game, 28-23.

The Eagles bring it down to the 22 and have first-and-10. First play, Giants big blitz, no extra blockers, Wentz under heavy pressure, incomplete. Second play, Eagles still leave in no extra blockers, Giants big blitz again, Wentz under heavy pressure, incomplete. Third play... Do we think the Eagles leave in any extra blockers? OF COURSE NOT. Giants send seven guys, Wentz under heavy pressure, ball knocked down at the line of scrimmage. After the last Philly time out, the Giants did NOT big blitz on the fourth-and-10, but Wentz overthrew Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone and that's your ballgame.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were adamant that Doug Pederson lost this game by going for it on fourth down twice. I hated those play calls too, but that didn't lose this game. That blocked field goal was a bigger issue. Unlike failing on fourth-and-short, a blocked field goal doesn't have a chance of scoring a touchdown, and it doesn't pin the other offense back. Without that block, the Eagles could have kicked a game-winning field goal at the end.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 19

Andrew Potter: First throw of the game for Nick Foles -- whom you may have heard is starting for the injured Alex Smith today -- is a beauty down the left sideline to Travis Kelce. Second, he misses an open Jeremy Maclin over the middle. Later in the drive, he heaves the ball downfield to a wide-open Prince Amukamara, but fortunately Tashaun Gipson is there to break it up. So we have very much had the good, the bad, and the ugly on Kansas City's opening drive.

Scott Kacsmar: Just wanted to say that one of the best things about bad football is when you see something that actually makes you laugh out loud. Thanks to Nick Foles for the laugh on his arm-punt in the beginning of the game, and thanks to the Jaguars for colliding into each other to drop the interception. The Football Follies will always be precious.

Andrew Potter: Here, in case you missed it, is a video of the play:

Vince Verhei: My god, that is Jacksonville's whole season summed up in ten seconds.

Andrew Potter: Foles finally connected with a wide receiver, after four failed attempts, on Kansas City's third drive. Starting at Jacksonville's 23-yard line after Bryan Walters fumbled on a punt return, Foles threw his first incompletion to Travis Kelce when the tight end got lazy at the end of his route and bobbled the ball as he stepped out of bounds. On the following play, Kansas City stayed in 11 personnel but moved Kelce wide against Prince Amukamara on the near side, with three receivers spaced on the far side. That meant linebacker Telvin Smith was matched up against receiver Albert Wilson, which is a mismatch even with Smith being a capable coverage 'backer. The Chiefs ran a standard 999 combination and Foles hit Wilson easily on the deep over.

Jacksonville got a touchdown on basically the last play of the half when Allen Robinson beat Ron Parker in the back of the end zone and Blake Bortles somehow managed not to throw the ball to Parker. I jest, but on the previous play Parker flat-out dropped a Bortles pass thrown straight at him in the end zone, again targeting Robinson. All of Kansas City's points have come off turnovers, but the biggest play of the half might have been that one they didn't get.

That Jacksonville is even in this game is testament to its respectable defense, its surprisingly effective running game, and Nick Foles.

Chiefs finally get points that don't come off a Jaguars turnover ... instead, they came off a big punt return by Tyreek Hill. Hill then got WIDE open on a slant in the end zone, but Foles threw the ball about 5 full yards behind him. Cairo Santos added another field goal, but Foles is still proving the difference between a Chiefs blowout and a nominally competitive game.

One injury I probably should have mentioned but haven't yet: Jeremy Maclin left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury and hasn't returned. I'm not sure, with the way Foles is playing, that having him would have made much difference. Maybe as a blocker on some of the screens.

Aaand Travis Kelce has just been ejected, after having a meltdown claiming for pass interference against Prince Amukamara. He got two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls after the play, one for arguing about the call and one for flipping out about the first flag. So the Chiefs are down both of their top receiving options, and just went from third-and-4 at the Jacksonville 12 to third-and-34 at the 42.

Bryan Knowles: Been a heck of a day for ejections. Travis Kelce just got the boot, for first protesting a not-called pass interference, and then for throwing his towel at the referee.

Andrew Potter: Craziest thing is, it didn't even look like a bad call, certainly not egregious. Not sure where the meltdown came from.

Oh look, Blake Bortles is down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, 51-yard bomb to Marqise Lee.

...then on the play after the 51-yard bomb, Chris Ivory becomes the third Jaguars ballcarrier to fumble, and it's recovered in the end zone by Marcus Peters. On review, he probably broke the plane before losing the ball, but the call on the field stands.

In discussing the review, the announcers note that the officials cannot freeze the replay review -- slow motion, yes, but not freeze frame -- which would seem incredible to me if this wasn't the NFL, whose rules make such incredulous situations into every-week occurrences.

Chiefs nickel cornerback Steven Nelson has been outstanding today, and just all but ended the game by knocking away a Bortles pass to Bryan Walters on fourth-and-3. Because on fourth-and-3 the guy you want to be targeting in tight man coverage is your punt returner who has two catches all year, against a corner who has been shutting down your better receivers all game.

Kansas City needs one first down to ice the game, and gets it on a 14-yard run by Charcandrick West.

New York Jets 23 at Miami Dolphins 27

Bryan Knowles: From the "things that missed Scramble" file, I expressed incredulity that Miami was only favored by three over the Jets, while Andrew pointed out that it was a matchup of the Jets' one offensive strength -- the running game -- versus Miami's one defensive weakness. Score one for Andrew; the Jets just came out in the jumbo package they have been using fairly heavily over the past few weeks and blew up Miami's line, opening up a huge hole for Matt Forte and a 31-yard touchdown run.

The Jets have a problem at linebacker, and the Dolphins are exploiting it. Neither Jordan Jenkins nor Mike Catapano are doing anything in pass coverage today. The Dolphins are getting matchups there and taking advantage; their most recent touchdown came when tight end Dominique Jones beat Jenkins easily, and it was set up by a 20-yard reception that Catapano whiffed on.

Vince Verhei: The Jets' field goal drive on the first possession of the game included three third-down conversions, the most exciting of which was Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambling up the middle for 14 yards on third-and-9, then lateraling to Bilal Powell for 8 more yards. They're running the wishbone in New York!

Ryan Fitzpatrick has left the game with a knee injury, which means...


I admit I stopped focusing on this game as the Lions-Vikings contest captured my attention, but I can report that a lot of stuff happened:

  • Bryce Petty only stayed in the game for two passes. Ryan Fitzpatrick returned and threw what appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown to Robby Anderson, but on review Anderson was ruled down at the 27.
  • Three plays later, Fitzpatrick threw an interception in the end zone for a touchback.
  • This led to a Miami three-and-out, and then punter Matt Darr fumbled the snap, setting the Jets up at the Dolphins 18.
  • Jalin (not Brandon!) Marshall then produced an 18-yard touchdown grab on second-and-10 to put the Jets up 23-20.
  • Miami returned the ensuing kickoff to the 22, but the Jets were called for offsides. They kicked again, and this time Kenyan Drake took it back 96 yards for a touchdown to put Miami back on top 27-23.

That all happened in barely five minutes of game time, and there's still more than five minutes to go. 

Other than that, the highlights here have been Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception to 335-pound Jordan Phillips, and Ryan Tannehill trying to outdo him by throwing one to Sheldon Richardson, but Richardson dropped the pass.

Dolphins forced a punt and took over with 2:53 to go, and never gave the ball back. Against the Jets' stout run D, Jay Ajayi had runs of 9, 20, and 16 yards on the drive, finishing with 111 yards on the day.

Andrew Potter: Let the record also state that, on this day in 2016, after taking over possession in Miami down 4 with five minutes to play, the New York Jets took 2:21 off the clock ... to go three-and-out.

Detroit Lions 22 at Minnesota Vikings 16 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: The Vikings started a drive in the red zone and ended it with a punt on fourth-and-32.

  • 1-10-DET 18(12:25) (Shotgun) J.McKinnon up the middle to DET 14 for 4 yards (T.Wilson).
  • 2-6-DET 14(11:47) (Shotgun) PENALTY on MIN-T.Clemmings, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at DET 14 - No Play.
  • 2-11-DET 19(11:37) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short left to S.Diggs to DET 17 for 2 yards (T.Whitehead). PENALTY on MIN-J.Sirles, Illegal Block Above the Waist, 10 yards, enforced at DET 17.
  • 2-19-DET 27(11:21) (Shotgun) R.Hillman right end to DET 31 for -4 yards (G.Quin).
  • 3-23-DET 31(10:42) (Shotgun) S.Bradford sacked at DET 40 for -9 yards (K.Hyder).
  • 4-32-DET 40(9:56) (Punt formation) J.Locke punts 24 yards to DET 16, Center-K.McDermott, fair catch by A.Roberts.

And yet, the game is 3-3 after 25 minutes because the Vikings' defense is great. What a year for ridiculously unbalanced teams.

Tom Gower: PFR's drive finder query produced just one other drive since 1999 that began inside the opposing 20 and ended in a punt. It, too, was led by Sam Bradford, back in 2011 with the Rams against Washington.

Vince Verhei: On the same day undrafted rookie Bryce Treggs has his first career catch for Philadelphia, first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell gets his first career catch for Philadelphia. Treggs still leads Treadwell in yardage 58 to 15. Playmaker was negative on Treadwell coming into the year, but he still should have produced more than this.

Good for Minnesota: as usual, the defense, which has now held the Lions to four straight three-and-outs to open the second half.

Bad for Minnesota: Blair Walsh, who missed an extra point that would have tied the game, then had a go-ahead field goal blocked. That sets up an 8-yard drive, the fourth of those three-and-outs, but Matt Prater hits from 52 and the Lions have gone up 13-9 early in the fourth quarter.

And the Vikings follow that by reaching the red zone in just four plays. On third-and-2, Jerick McKinnon's shotgun plunge is stopped just short of a first down. The Vikings challenge the play, the logic there being they were probably going to call timeout anyway so they really have nothing to lose, but the call stands. Rather than kick a field goal that would still leave them behind, they go for it on fourth-and-inches, but Matt Asiata is stuffed. Lions have been outgained by about 80 yards and are losing the turnover battle, but they have got the ball and the lead with about eight minutes to go.

Trailing 13-9, the Vikings get a first-and-goal at the 3, and the Lions call their last timeout. At that point, if I'm Detroit, I'm letting them score to ensure I get a chance at a tying field goal. But the Vikings pass on first down (risking a clock stopping incompletion, which is insane) and then run on second, and then call timeout. On third down, they go to the tight end end-around to Rhett Ellison. At first I thought he had fumbled and Detroit recovered, but he was very clearly in the end zone before the ball came out. So the Vikings are now up 16-13, about to kick off with 23 seconds to go and Detroit out of timeouts.

... and Matt Prater, the only kicker in NFL history to ever hit a 64-yarder, who has already hit from 47 and 53 today, hits a 58-yarder at the gun to send this one to overtime.

Lions took the ball in overtime and scored a touchdown on their first drive to win 22-16. Counting penalties, Matthew Stafford converted four third downs on the drive, including the game winner: an out route to Golden Tate that should have resulted in just a first down, but Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes badly missed tackles and Tate scurried into the end zone, crossing the goal line with an Owen Hart-style spinning kick for fun. 

Vikings' offensive numbers in the first post-Norv Turner game are going to be ugly -- 16 points is tied for the fewest scored against the Lions all year. On an individual note, Stefon Diggs gaining only 80 yards on 13 catches is pretty ugly, and Cordarrelle Patterson failed to catch a ball in the end zone -- a high pass and not necessarily a drop, but definitely catchable. But really, you won't find many games like this that are won and lost mostly because one team had a bunch of big kicks, and the other had multiple misses.

One last note on the Vikings: They came into the weekend in a virtual dead heat with Atlanta and Seattle for the second first-round bye in the NFC behind Dallas. All three were favorites this weekend. Seattle doesn't play Buffalo until Monday night, but with Atlanta taking care of Tampa Bay last Thursday, it's quite possible that this loss will have the Vikings playing in the first round.

Scott Kacsmar: Honestly, I'm not sold that the Vikings are a playoff team. Defense has shown some cracks, and the offense is probably going to be a problem more often than not. A lot of this depends on Green Bay improving, and an NFC East team staying up in the wild-card race, but the Vikings don't look like much of a contender to me. A lot more faith in Dallas, Atlanta as long as Matt Ryan is playing this well, and Seattle if the offense can sort itself out.

Pittsburgh Steelers 14 at Baltimore Ravens 21

Vince Verhei: Cian promised on Twitter that this would be a slop-fest, and he has been right. Joe Flacco has a horrible interception where he rolled right and lofted a lazy pass late to the middle of the field, but he also has a 95-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace on a quick post that had about 85 yards after the catch. Steve Smith also has a 30-yard catch-and-run, so it has been a good afternoon for Baltimore's "Imagine If We Had Been Teammates In Like 2008" receiving corps.

Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger has avoided big plays either way, but he's just 5-of-11 for 39 yards.

Scott Kacsmar: We're used to low-scoring games from these two, but this is just bad football. The Steelers are 0-for-7 on third down and have more penalty yards (70) than offensive yards (67) past the two-minute warning. Ben Roethlisberger probably shouldn't have played today. His timing looks bad, he's had two dropped interceptions, and the Steelers twice ran on third-down passing situations, as if they were hiding him. Le'veon Bell has run into a brick wall all day, and this is about example 68,547 of why a wide receiver should never win MVP. You couldn't convince me Antonio Brown was playing today.

On defense, Artie Burns has been very involved, covering a variety of receivers. He got his first career interception after Joe Flacco panicked under pressure, but he was also beat by Breshad Perrimian down the field, only to see Flacco miss the throw. I'm not 100 percent sure if Burns was in coverage on Mike Wallace on the 95-yard touchdown, the longest play in Ravens history. I expected Wallace to catch a bomb in his "revenge game" against the Steelers, but I did not expect him to adjust to an inaccurate pass, break a tackle and turn on the jets for a huge YAC touchdown, the only score of the day.

This game has also made me realize that too many of Pittsburgh's best and most important players have durability issues. Talking about Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Le'veon Bell and Ryan Shazier. Pouncey has been in and out of this game today, and Shazier had a fantastic forced fumble that makes you remember just how good he can be when he's actually on the field.

Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger is totally ready to play today.

The world going down in flames.

Vince Verhei: Joe Flacco scrambles for a third-down conversion, but clutches his knee, which has a grotesque bulge sticking out to the side. At first I thought this was a Joe Theismann-style bone break, but Flacco pops up and hops off the field and into the tunnel, which indicates that's not it, and apparently his kneebrace needed adjustment and/or repair. Ryan Mallett led a three-and-out. Flacco actually returned to the field for the "try to get them to jump offsides on fourth-and-1" play, but it didn't work and Baltimore is punting.

Aaron Schatz: So, are any of you watching the Pittsburgh-Baltimore crime against offense today? Pittsburgh had one of the best offenses in the league until two weeks ago. I'm curious how much of this is Ben Roethlisberger being injured, how much is the Baltimore defense, and how much has to do with other Pittsburgh injuries? I mean, in the past when Maurkice Pouncey has been injured, the Steelers offense has never really had much of a problem.

Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh just ran the worst onside kick attempt in the history of football.

Aaron Schatz: What was so bad about the onside kick? Explanation por favor?

Andrew Potter: Words cannot do it justice. Regardez:

Bryan Knowles: Yeah. It looked like Chris Boswell was attempting to do a little bit of trickeration and backheel the ball the other direction. It went maybe an inch? Two? A wee bit short of the ten yards needed for a legal onside kick, at least.

Andrew Potter: For what it's worth, this is what he was trying to do:

Scott Kacsmar: Just all around pretty bad by the Steelers, though the defense was respectable outside of one big miscue on the Wallace touchdown. When a team loses 21-14, that blocked punt for a touchdown and dropped touchdown by Sammie Coates late in the game really stand out. Roethlisberger might not have thrown for 60 yards in the first three quarters. He got on track in the fourth, but a lot of it was backyard football and just general aggressive passing down the field. When the Steelers tried to run a conventional offense today, the Ravens had them completely bottled up. I did notice the coverage on Brown got much softer in the fourth quarter, but Ben kept this a game with some nice throws to Eli Rogers. And yes, that onside kick was the worst I have ever seen. In fact, I don't get why the Steelers (or any team) wouldn't have gone for two before that. If you're down by 14 points and score a touchdown, go for two in the last minute since you already know you'll need a highly improbable onside kick recovery. If by some chance you get it, then you can win the game with a touchdown and extra point. Not any real gamble here since your win probability absolutely sucks anyway, but at least there's a nice incentive to come from making it.

Carolina Panthers 13 at Los Angeles Rams 10

Vince Verhei: A good example of hidden special teams yardage: Panthers force a punt, and Johnny Hekker kicks a 50-yarder, which is nothing special in the NFL. Ted Ginn, though, fails to make a fair catch, letting the punt hit the ground -- where it bounces and rolls another 25 yards. And it goes in the books as a 75-yard punt with no return for Hekker.

Both teams have had the ball once now in the third quarter, and this is still a 7-0 game. That's no surprise for the Rams, but the Panthers' struggles need some explanation. First, the Rams' defense is owning the line of scrimmage -- Panthers have only 22 rushing yards and have given up three sacks. Cam Newton is also having a bad day. He looks to be side-arming everything, with lots of overthrows. He had Devin Funchess open for what would have been a 50-ish yard touchdown, and overthrew him. Carolina's offense right now is basically big catches by Greg Olsen or nothing.

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And as I type that, Mark Barron comes through unblocked on a delayed blitz and drills Newton into the ground for another sack.

Meanwhile, the Rams remain the Rams. They're going nowhere and doing nothing and letting the top pick in the draft waste an entire year of his rookie deal. It's baffling.

Case Keenum throws an interception. That leads to a long drive, but that stalls when Aaron Donald gets another sack, leading to a field goal and an insurmountable 10-0 lead. Keenum is still at quarterback when the Rams come back on offense, having scored zero points in their last six quarters. To be fair, that interception was more a great leaping grab by Thomas Davis than a terrible throw by Keenum, but the wheels in L.A. just continue to spin, with no forward progress being made.

Keenum responds by looking like a legit NFL quarterback for the first time in forever, but on third down, Lance Kendricks drops a pass at the goal line with nobody around him, leading to a field goal. Hard to be too hard on Kendricks there -- like Olsen for the Panthers, he has been clearly the Rams' best player today, with about one-third of their offense coming on his catches. Panthers now lead 7-3 with eight minutes to go.

Carl Yedor: The Rams just had a big drop in the end zone from tight end Lance Kendricks. Case Keenum hit him right between the numbers with a pass and Kendricks had it bounce off of his chest. L.A. has to settle for a chip shot field goal instead on fourth-and-goal from the 8.

Carolina then marches down the field aided in part by a really dumb horse collar tackle penalty from defensive end William Hayes. The Panthers end up using their final timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty but come away with a field goal.

It certainly seems like the Rams take a lot of cheap shots at quarterbacks when they're sliding/in vulnerable positions. This is anecdotal, but two Rams defenders launched themselves at Cam Newton after he was clearly sliding on the second-down play before the field goal. Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson can definitely relate.

Vince Verhei: That Aaron Donald sack that set up Carolina's last field goal was a similar situation. I thought it was clean, but a lot of quarterbacks would have gotten a flag on the defense there for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Cam doesn't get the same benefit of the doubt.

Rob Weintraub: Take back everything negative you say about Case Keenum! He just threw a pass left-handed to escape trouble on a play that resulted in a first down. And now the Rams are threatening with a little over a minute to play. Maybe if Keenum threw it lefty the whole game his numbers would be better.

With 38 seconds to play, the Rams on fourth down throw it from the 10 instead of kicking the field goal, taking the points, and trying the onside kick. So naturally Case throws a touchdown pass and it's 13 -10, onside kick coming.

Aaron Schatz: The announcers here can't believe that the Rams are going for it down 13-3, with fourth-and-goal from the 10 and 38 seconds left. "You need 10 points," they say, "You might as well get the 3 first." Guys, what are the odds after an onside kick that the Rams can get the ball down to the 10 again? Compare that to the odds of Greg Zuerlein hitting a field goal of 55-plus yards if the Rams can get to the 37 or so after recovering an onside kick. Going for the touchdown first was the right call given who the Rams' kicker is.

Vince Verhei: They should have kicked it once they got a first down inside the 20, leaving themselves time to get a touchdown after an automatic kick.

It's a moot point, since the Rams' onside kick is almost as bad as Pittsburgh's earlier, but for the opposite reason -- they tried to catch the Panthers napping, but the rushed kick actually bounced deep into Carolina territory for an easy recovery. Rams were also offside on the play, not that it mattered.

Rob Weintraub: The Rams onside kick wasn't as bad as Pittsburgh's, but still pretty comical. They tried the old "I'm talking to my guys -- nope just foolin' -- I'm gonna turn around and blast it as hard as I can" onside kick. I guess the idea was to ricochet one off a Panther. Instead it went about 40 yards downfield where it was easily covered by the Panthers and they will win.

Scott Kacsmar: I view the Rams' decision similar to what I said about Pittsburgh earlier in the day. When you know it's going to take an onside kick recovery in the final minute to extend the game, you might as well go for the maximum amount of points now. So I liked the decision to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal, down 13-3. However, I shouldn't say maximum amount of points, because I do agree with the extra point to make it 13-10 instead of trying to go for two to make it 13-11. With such little time left, the Rams needed to keep it a field-goal game to be realistic, or else you're hoping for a Hail Mary victory.

New Orleans Saints 41 at San Francisco 49ers 23

Andrew Potter: This is a bad, bad 49ers team. I know, the Saints offense is good enough to make decent defenses look bad, but the 49ers have once again given up more than 130 yards rushing in the first half, both Saints running backs have touchdowns, and Mark Ingram has a score through the air too. New Orleans has four touchdowns in five drives.

On the other side, Colin Kaepernick's stat line is not too bad, but the pick he threw straight to Craig Robertson in underneath coverage was dreadful. Only a DuJuan Harris yards-after-catch touchdown that punished an ill-advised safety blitz has anything remotely positive happening for San Francisco.

Vince Verhei: Last week, Mark Ingram had three carries for 5 yards and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and then he was benched. He's doing better in the first half today: four carries for 89 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, plus two catches for 13 yards and another score. In other news, Seattle's run defense is better than San Francisco's.

Here's a clip of Ingram's long run. As others have noted, this might be the slowest 75-yard run of all time. There's just no speed on the field there, for either team. This is just the third 40-plus-yard run of Ingram's six-year career. Jeremy Hill has three 40-yarders for Cincinnati this season alone.

Aaron Schatz: The 49ers' fluke Week 1 victory thing the last two years is very odd.

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Bryan Knowles: The 49ers actually have a six-game winning streak on opening day, longest in the NFL.

Teams perform better when they have that extra week to game plan; clearly, the 49ers just need an extra month or two between games for that extra strategic value.

Andrew Potter: You could apply basically the same lack-of-speed comment to the Vance McDonald 65-yarder. This Saints defense pursues worse than any other defense in the league.

Honestly, after watching the Chiefs game earlier then these two teams just now, the contrast in safety play could not be more marked if Ed Reed and Sabby Piscitelli were half-time studio guests.

Perhaps recognizing this, San Francisco literally just used the "deliberately foul every single receiver on the field, forcing the other team to settle for a field goal" approach on the Saints' final pass attempt of the half. Four receivers, every single one being held and wrestled by a defensive back:

  • (0:04 - 2nd) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass incomplete short left to T.Cadet. Penalty on SF-J.Ward, Defensive Holding, declined. Penalty on SF-K.Reaser, Defensive Holding, declined. PENALTY on SF-E.Reid, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at SF 13 - No Play

Bryan Knowles: The 49ers' defense is terrible, but they can't be blamed on that Michael Thomas touchdown. Tramaine Brock was step-for-step with him, and Drew Brees' pass bounced off his back, but Thomas made a fantastic concentration play to come down with the ball anyway and extend the Saints' lead to two scores.

Seven running backs in a row have rushed for more than 100 yards against the 49ers run defense. They have allowed at least 125 yards on the ground in each of their last seven games, the longest active streak in the NFL. David Johnson and the Cardinals host the 49ers next week after a bye week. That's going to get ugly in a hurry.

Indianapolis Colts 31 at Green Bay Packers 26

Vince Verhei: Packers trail 24-10 at halftime. Aaron Rodgers is just 7-of-17 for 77 yards with two sacks against the defense that came into the weekend next to last in DVOA. Ross Tucker has a theory on Twitter that I haven't seen before: that a big part of shutting Rodgers down is keeping him in the pocket.

So I checked.

In 2015, Rodgers was 20th in DVOA in the pocket, seventh out of it.

2014: First in the pocket, fifth outside.

2013: Fifth inside, 14th outside.

2012: Fifth inside, eighth outside.

Yeah, that theory doesn't seem to add up.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like the biggest story of this game is the surprising interceptions. Three picks so far, two by Andrew Luck and one by Aaron Rodgers. These guys are great quarterbacks but you have got a couple of plays where they just didn't see where the safeties were. If I remember correctly, the other Luck interception was an overthrow.

Colts are doing a really good job of covering the Packers' receivers today. Maybe the best day of the year for that unit. Rodgers simply can't find anyone open. He just went deep to a double-covered Jordy Nelson on third-and-6 because none of his shorter options were open.

Vince Verhei: Let's not overlook the real star in Green Bay today:

Rob Weintraub: With six minutes left the Packers scored to make it 31-19. Strangely, they went for two, and didn't get it. Now they have just scored again with a little under four minutes to play. And now of course they kick the extra point so it is 31-26 and things got interesting.

Incredible play by Andrew Luck to shrug off a clean sack attempt by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on third-and-10 and rifle a bullet for the first down. They were about to give the ball back to Rodgers but instead Indy is in good shape to hold on now as Green Bay is out of timeouts.

Scott Kacsmar: Incredible four-minute offense by the Colts to close this one out. Luck was money on two third-down throws.

Tennessee Titans 35 at San Diego Chargers 43

Tom Gower: The Titans defense was a tire fire for most of the first half, so down 19-14 is a great place for them to be after 30 minutes of play. They did a nice job of stopping a third-and-1 and held San Diego to a couple field goal attempts (Josh Lambo missed an extra point, so San Diego has two touchdowns and two field goals). Tennessee had a big drive that ended in the end zone right before halftime to get it to 19-14. The offense has looked either good (both touchdown drives) or very bad (the rest of the time), with nothing in between. Nothing in the run game (DeMarco Murray had seven carries for 16 yards), but they are finding space in the middle of the field against San Diego's "who are these guys? I thought I actually followed the NFL closely" linebackers, and Mariota has made a couple of sharp downfield throws (and another that was intercepted). For San Diego, it has been their receivers getting open and winning, against some man coverage and more zone, plus Melvin Gordon has been ripping off chunks at times.

Rob Weintraub: Mariota just got pick-sixed by Brandon Flowers, the second of his turnovers to be taken to the house by the Chargers defense. This one should wrap it up for the Bolts win.

Spoke too soon on the Titans -- they zip downfield to close within 43-35 with 2:45 left and all three timeouts left.

Announcer discussion before the kick off by Tennessee:

FOUTS: Don't think I would onside kick here, still plenty of time and your timeouts left.

HARLAN: That's good because Ryan Succop is only 1-of-19 on onside kick attempts.

Is that so unusual? Do we have individual onside kick numbers handy?

Meanwhile Melvin Gordon just pulled a Luck -- on third down he straight bulls over a pair of defenders and explodes for 47 yards. San Diego down at the 25 now, in great shape to ice this one. Gordon up to 188 yards on the ground, plus 65 receiving yards. He may well crack two bills before this is over. In a word, wow.

Aaron Schatz: The leaguewide number is something like, what, 20 percent of expected onside kicks recovered? So Succop is less successful than average, but I don't know how much that has to do with him. We would have to go back and look at all those kicks to see what his teammates were doing. It seems like a pretty small sample size to judge anything on.

Scott Kacsmar: Onside kicks have fallen off since 2010. More like 16 percent in that time, and probably a little lower when you remove the few surprises. I meant to look into those in the offseason until I discovered just how weird the NFL is with defining what actually counts as on onside kick. There's usually only about 60 attempts in a season.

Rob Weintraub: Yeah, sounded weird to pin it all on the kicker, though it was just a rhetorical device by Harlan more than anything. Meanwhile Gordon finished with 261 yards from scrimmage, the second most by a Charger ever, 10 yards behind Tomlinson in 2002.

Tom Gower: Second-half report: Titans defense still bad, Titans offense much better in shotgun pass-heavy than under center run-heavy sets. Marcus Mariota ball security still bad.

And Mike Mularkey kicks the extra point down nine with about 2:40 to play, because that's still a thing. I couldn't help myself and got into arguing about it on Twitter with a bunch of people who think eight points is always a one-score game if you kick the extra point and recognize it's not necessarily a one-score game if you try to get 8 points right there. I should probably put myself in Twitter jail.

Postscript from the box score: the Titans had 12 possessions in the game. They had six possessions that started with a play from under center and six that started with a play from the shotgun. They scored zero points on the six possessions that started with a play under center, and they scored 35 points on the six possessions that started with a play from the shotgun. It's not quite that simple, but I thought that was kind of funny and illustrative.

Denver Broncos 20 at Oakland Raiders 30

Tom Gower: Raiders up 20-10 at halftime. Oakland has 124 yards on the ground, including a pair of Latavius Murray touchdowns, so in case you missed it you can run on the Broncos this year. Denver's not finding any running room, and Trevor Siemian and the pass game had very little going early. That wasn't entirely on Siemian, with such things as Virgil Green dropping a third-and-12 pass near the sticks and other receiver failures holding him back. Overall, the macro-level surprise was Oakland's level of dominance, but the specific factors were, at least at a surface level, unsurprising.

Scott Kacsmar: Nothing like a ref signaling a fumble belongs to one team, then changing his mind that it belongs to the other team. Either way, big play by Khalil Mack (haven't said that much this year) to force a Siemian fumble. Then Derek Carr immediately tries to waste it by lobbing a dangerous pass right to T.J. Ward for an interception. Or was it? Damned if I know with the NFL's inconsistent catch rulings. Seemed like the ball hit the ground though.

Andrew Potter: When people ask why ratings are down, point them to this drive. Oakland has driven 39 yards for a touchdown on five straight incompletions, 4 yards rushing, 36 yards of penalties, and a replay-overturned interception. A bunch of bad-to-mediocre throws, but it doesn't matter because defensive backs aren't allowed to play coverage. (Yes, Chris Harris interfered. The call on Taurean Nixon was a bad underthrow bailed out by a worse DPI.)

Aaron Schatz: Oakland looks dominant tonight, but people are going to really overrate them based on this one game. Looking like the far superior team on one Sunday night at home does not mean you are the far superior team every week for the rest of the year. This is their best game of the year by leaps and bounds. They didn't have a win all year against a team that currently has a winning record, and five of their six wins were by a touchdown or less. Week 3 (17-10 at Tennessee) was their only game with DVOA of more than 25.0%.

This team from tonight -- if the Raiders can be this team from here on, they're dangerous. But I need to see it in two games before I believe it.

Tom Gower: Oakland's offense in the second half was more of the same, and it's clear the injuries, most notably the absence of Aqib Talib, have had an effect on the Denver pass defense and its ability to match up against wide receivers. The big difference from my perspective, though, was Oakland's pass rush. This wasn't last year's Oakland win in Denver when Khalil Mack just repeatedly beat up Michael Schofield at right tackle, but Siemian seemed to be under pretty consistent pressure and couldn't make the same plays in the pass game he could in the first half.

Vince Verhei: I didn't have a chance to see much of this, but the primary takeaways seem to be:

  • Oakland now has to be taken very seriously. Can't say they don't have any big wins anymore.
  • As good as Denver's pass defense still is, the Broncos never found a good replacement for Danny Trevathan, and the mediocre run defense could be a fatal flaw.
  • The NFL calls too many penalties on defenses.
  • Marquette King makes a good punt to pin opponents deep, does a little dance to make the non-returned punt more exciting, and everyone loses their minds. If a dancing punter honestly upsets you, you need to re-evaluate your life.


78 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2016, 12:53pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Pretty funny read. A lot of back-handed compliments. The real takeaways: the Raiders' OL and DL dominated, Murray and the Midgets made Broncos miss and found running lanes, and Carr gets rid of the ball quickly and challenged Harris and Roby and picked on a back-up CB here and there. The PI complaints are funny. Welcome to every week as a Raiders fan. Harris and Roby got beat and grabbed or panicked. I guess they are just used to Refs letting them get away with it. Crabby and Cooper may not be "elite," but they both made some clutch plays and drew flags by beating these two good CBs who got caught on TV. If those are not PI or if that is not how you want the game officiated, fine, just make sure it's called both ways. We see that every week as Raiders fans.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Its weird that Schatz would question the raiders at this point using the argument he did, because they are likely a top 10 dvoa team going into next week and the teams they beat prior to this (San Diego, New Orleans, Baltimore and Tennessee) are all better than their records according to his own system. He says in one hand the system measures how you are playing and quality of opponent,as opposed to simply pointing to records, and then turns and points the records of the raiders opponents.Taking both sides when convenient. I get it though. He's a brand shopper, as are a lot of advanced statistical guys are because stats say the best way to project future performance is past performance.The Raiders over the last decade have stunk. It's hard to buy a brand that has been so bad for so long that its been drilled into your mind to question they're value.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

As a Lions fan who has suffered through multiple crappy seasons in a row, punctuated by an occasional good season, I can identify with the what Raiders fans are feeling this year. My advice is, stop craving validation by the national sports media. It'll just make you crazy. Just enjoy the ride. You never know how long it's going to last.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

My favorite thing about the horrible Boswell onside kick was when he kicked it again. His trick shot only succeeded in knocking the ball off the tee. He stood there for a second like, "Well, shit," and then booted it down the field, hoping that maybe nobody noticed.

It was such a silly move that I was honestly fooled for a second, thinking, "Is he allowed to kick it more than once? Maybe so..."

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think Aaron is going to have to make adjustments to DVOA/DAVE in the future. I knew it was absurd a few weeks ago when DVOA had the Eagles and Bills at 15% to win the SB. I feel like DVOA is overrating a few big wins without regressing the results. Maybe their should be a Last years DVOA component added to DAVE to create more regression to the mean for the teams that were bad for years then have a few big wins early on.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Even in the video showing his successful reverse onside kick, Boswell's team didn't really get much value from the misdirection. You can see a defender just standing there, waiting for the ball instead of going forward to get it.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

You mentioned the Rams Defensive Line dominating the Panthers as the reason for the Panthers offensive woes, but did not explain that Oher is STILL not cleared from the concussion protocol, which meant Remmers moved from RT to LT and Williams back-fed, and Center Kalil was out this week due to a shoulder injury. With most of the line replaced/shuffled, the running game was awful and Cam did not seem to have a lot of confidence in his throws.

As to the questionable hits on Cam, it is funny that I have gotten used to refs completely missing absolute, complete violations that the ones in this game were like, "meh."

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

"The NFL calls too many penalties on defenses."

I couldn't agree more. It bigly detracts from my enjoyment of the game -- in part, because penalties slow the game down, in part, because it's way too hard to play coverage now.

Whenever I hear people say "They could call [offensive] holding on every play" I always think "Yeah, but they don't." I think a similar standard needs to be applied for pre-pass coverage on defense. Let the defenders hold and hand check, so long as they don't totally wrap up the receiver and so long as they let go when the receiver starts to disengage.

In the early 2000s the NFL put an emphasis on calling illegal conduct/defensive holding. They made things worse, in my opinion.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

To my eyes, that's the biggest problem with football today. The steady creep of rule changes since the mid-2000s and the expansion of replay have led me to expect a call on every single pass play. I'm never able to enjoy the moments as they occur, because I'm always waiting for a flag to come flying in, or a 5 minute long break for replay review. Witness the end of the Lions-Vikings game, hugely exciting touchdown to win the game, and all our excitement is diffused as we have to watch replay after replay and wait around for the game to officially end.

I'd gladly trade a few more blown calls for less waiting around, and very gladly trade more 2004 Pats-Colts playoff games (I've never really understood what the problem was here that required there to be a rule change, that the "wrong" team won? that they won the "wrong" way?) for freeing up the defense a bit. Instead, I fear that we're just going to get more and more rules creep until the game is essentially unwatchable.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The colts were not the better team, but that game they legitimately mugged the receivers down the field.

Btw, the enforcement of those rules really varies year to year and my crew to crew. Maybe that's the big issue there's just no consistency

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

That's the problem as I see it. The pendulum for DPI (and defensive holding and illegal contact) has swung so far in favor of the offense that these calls *are* legitimate, given the current standard. I'd like to see this standard change.

As an example, there was that play near the end of the game where the Broncos defender clearly grabbed the Raiders receiver jersey, but it was brief. This will draw a flag almost every time automatically, but I don't think it should. (Cris Collinsworth seemed to agree, for what it's worth.)

Another example is the Roby DPI on Cooper in the endzone. I wish that type of physical play was considered legal. I would rather watch receivers have to fight through contact to make the catches, than watch a barrage of flags -- especially on plays where the QB is basically just throwing it up for grabs.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Id rather allow more contact on short routes. Basically what tuluse said above and then be strict w dpi down the field. That would give defenders more confidence o play the deeper routes with more coverage skills instead of panicking by grabbing

11 Steelers-Ravens

Couple random thoughts on Steelers-Ravens
-Roethlisburger looked surprisingly good moving around, doing his typical climbing and escaping in the pocket. Meanwhile, he was terrible throwing the ball, and often couldn't even complete a five-yard checkdown. It seems kind of backwards that he came back from a knee injury to have a game where he looked good with his feet and terrible with his arm.
-Artie Burns' interception came off a classic Steelers fire zone, where he was one of the three underneath defenders in their trademark three-under three-deep zone. They've been running those blitzes since Flacco was in college. You would think that at this point Flacco has seen that a million times and wouldn't be fooled anymore.
-Scott is right about the Steelers depending on a lot of fragile players, and on top of that they've very shallow on defense. Shazier is excellent, as are the two starting DE's Heyward and Tuitt. Beyond those three, there isn't a lot of talent on defense, and it very much showed a few weeks ago when Shazier and Heyward were both injured. With everybody healthy, this Steelers defense might be something close to league average, but they're always one or two injured stars away from being pretty awful.
-The Steelers showed a couple of straightforward 4-3 looks in the base package this week, with OLB Anthony Chickilo lined up behind the defensive line instead of on the line of scrimmage. Interesting thing to see from a team that's been so steadfastly committed to the 2-gap 3-4.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I've been surprised to read how many people are using Roethlisberger's injury as an excuse for his performance. The Ravens seem to hold the Steelers offense to below average output quite regularly, and this is the best Ravens defense since 2011. I think Harbaugh, Dean Pees and co. simply have a good handle on what Haley is trying to do, and are often one move ahead.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think something other than the Ravens' defense was affecting Roethlisberger when he was wildly missing open checkdowns to Bell. Maybe it was the loss of practice time rather than the injury itself that really affected him, but to my eyes it looked more like lousy QB play than good defense.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

After my comments a week ago about Flacco, I decided to watch this game. This was not the classic ravens steelers bloodbath. This was a lot of awful football from both sides. Flacco wasnt terrible but he wasn't good. Ben was terrible until the ravens D started playing soft. The onside kick was AMAZING

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

" This was a lot of awful football from both sides. Flacco wasnt terrible but he wasn't good. Ben was terrible until the ravens D started playing soft."

This kind of commentary is very frequent these days. I don't understand why people think football players have somehow become much worse over the past couple years.

So Ben was terrible until the Ravens started playing soft? Then its almost as if the way the Ravens defense was playing through the first 3 quarters had something to do with how well Ben played.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I didn't say that football today is worse. I don't think it is. I think its better but that's an extreme minority view.

I said it was bad football because I didn't think Ben played well and I didn't think flacco played well either. This is a fine point, but there are games where I think a qb plays as well as he could but the defense was just amazing. Baltimore has been in that situation for me several times, including past meetings with Pittsburgh. Another classic example is the ravens 2006 playoff game against the colts. Manning tried to throw them a wrinkle by going very early in the snap count as a change up to the slow pace no huddle. It got him two interceptions for his troubles, both smart plays by a well prepared defense.

Yesterday's game was not a good example of that. For whatever reason, Ben was pretty awful with his accuracy and the receivers kept dropping passes/committing dumb penalties. Flacco was better, but still not good and he also struggles with accuracy down the field - something that at least use to be a strength of his.

Sure, the two defenses had an impact, but that felt more like offenses that failed to show up more so than defenses imposing their will.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Fair points. For what it's worth, I think Flacco has been lousy all year and has seriously regressed. He looks scarred, and has no pocket presence at all.

That 2006 BAL/IND game was an interesting affair. I thought Manning played amazing, and his stat line is 15/30 for 170 yards and 2 INTs.

I guess I reacted the way I did because Ravens games are often ugly affairs, and so many times I've read about how teams have had a bad day or didn't execute well when they played the Ravens. But if it keeps on happening, at a certain point you have to give credit to the defense for making the other team look bad. To me it was no surprise at all the the Steelers had a bad day, its been happening fairly frequently when they meet. Pees > Haley, at least when they go head to head. I'm not sure what exactly the Ravens are doing to make Ben look so bad in Baltimore, but it has happened enough time for me to assume it is not just the Steelers having a bad day.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The two best defensive battles I have seen in my, admittedly just 12-years long, time as a diehard football fan both involved the Ravens.

The first was the 2006 Divisional Round 15-6 win by the Colts, where Manning took on, and generally lost out to, one of the most stacked defensive lineups ever.

The other was the 2008 Week 15 game when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore 13-9, with incredible plays made by both teams in a ridiculous atmosphere.

Baltimore is one of the few places where the place is far more energized in that type of game.

That all said, yesterday's game wasn't close to those. It was far more bad to awful offense.

With Ben seemingly gimpy, and the Bengals with four losses already, the Ravens may be able to ugly their way to a division title.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ray Lewis talked about that game in 2006 and was just emotionally drained from the loss. That ravens D was so ferocious, he simply could not fathom that they might lose. In fact, it features my favorite pre-game montage where to a man, the ravens defense had been preparing for almost 3 weeks for the colts. Having been beaten by them in 04, they were ready.

That was the final year where Lewis, Reed, and Suggs would all be in their primes. That defense also featured a rookie in Ngata, a contract year motivated Adalius Thomas, Bart Scott, and an underrated but really good trevor price.

I don't think Manning played well mind you. He misread coverages a few different times and was skittish in the pocket. But that doesn't change the fact that that defense at home was ridiculously ferocious. In a game like that, sometimes its impressive enough that the offense can put together enough drives to move the ball and maintain field position.

I'm sure ravens fans won't appreciate that game, but it was very special to me.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I'm sure ravens fans won't appreciate that game, but...

"Not appreciate" is an understatement. That game is one of the biggest disappointments of my sports-fan life. Jamal Lewis was over 4 ypc on the day but only got 13 carries, while the Ravens attempted 29 passes, in a game where the margin never got to 10 pts. And against an opponent whose rush defense was notoriously weak. (Though much improved with the return of Bob Sanders.)

I was in the city that day, bopping around from place to place looking around for a place to hold our wedding rehearsal dinner. (I would have chosen a different day.) Every stop, I glanced at the TV to check in on the score. Unbelievable.

Year later, I guess I can say it all worked out. I had always felt Manning deserved a SB win in Indy: he got one. Billick and that whole offensive regime is gone. (Not that Balt has exactly been an offensive juggernaut since.) The Raven returned the favor in 2012 by stealing Manning's SB away from him. Life is good. But goddam, that was awful.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

...the Ravens may be able to ugly their way to a division title.

Nobody uglies like the Ravens, but that would be quite an accomplishment. Their second-half schedule is tough. The next 4 weeks include @Dallas and @Patriots. They finish up with the last two games @Steelers and @Bengals. Those could easily be losses, which would drop them to 8-8.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Roethlisberger was practicing on Monday, and practiced every day leading up to the game on Sunday. All reports indicated he looked good. I seriously doubt a 13 year vet QB needs that much more practice in order to hit a check down.

I mean, just look at his stats @ BAL. They are consistently bad. He's lost 5 in a row. The numbers he put up on Sunday are in no way an outlier.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

He's also now 2-6 as a starter after missing the previous game with an injury. The Ravens did a great job of taking away the run. I don't give them credit for Ben's inability to hit the B&O Warehouse from Eutaw Street for three quarters.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

About that horrible PIT onside kick--what happens if the ball were to move forward about one yard...and nobody touches it? It just sits there? Does it eventually become a dead ball? Could the Steelers have waited for a Raven to try to touch it, then scramble and tackle and hope to dislodge? I assume the refs call the play dead once the ball hasn't moved, and it's the penalty for not going at least 10 yards....

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The ball becomes dead after it comes to rest and no one tries to pick it up, and the receiving team takes possession at the dead ball spot (plus a five yard penalty for a short free kick). Weirdly, Boswell kicking the ball again saved the Steelers 5 yards.

Rule 6-2-5: SHORT FREE KICK. If the ball has not been touched by either team after the kick and rolls dead in the field of play before reaching the receiving team’s restraining line, it is a foul. The ball belongs to the receiving team at the dead-ball spot.
Penalty: For a short free kick: Loss of five yards.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Q: Being pedantic since the game outcome was known, but shouldn't there have been a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for the additional kick (Rule 9-7-1)?


Acquired sig: Never let your mind remain so open that your brain falls out.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Bah! I did a quick search and didn't realize I was quoting the 1999 rule book (SMH).

From the 2015 Rule Book posted at

Section 4, article 2: Illegal Bats and Kicks
"No player may deliberately kick a loose ball or a ball that is in a player’s possession."

The kicker kicked the ball after having already kicked it. Is it considered a loose ball at that point since it didn't go beyond 10 yards downfield??


Acquired sig: Never let your mind remain so open that your brain falls out.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Ok so i had to miss the first half of the packers colts and a good chunk of the third quater (thanks Diwali), so i have no idea how the colts contained the packers offense. I honestly expected this game to mirror most colts games played on the road against a good offense-namely an annihilation. How in the world did that not happen?

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Packers receivers could not get any separation. Rogers had plenty of time to throw, but no one was getting open.

As for the comment about treating Rogers like Vick. The Colts defense treats all QB's like Vick. Now, granted, that's not on purpose. It's just that they have zero ability to collapse a pocket, so there's no reason for QB's to scramble.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I think the Colts o-line struggles are a direct result of practicing against the Colts pass rush. EVery week in practice, that line probably completely stonewalls the pass rush, and Pagano has convinced himself the problems are fixed, until the next game when he can't figure out what went wrong.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

What happened was that the Packers receivers couldn't get themselves open. (Yes, against the Colts DBs!!!) And when they did manage to get open, Rodgers was frequently off-target. (See also, Roethlisberger's performance.)

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Mike Tanier "Kelce was interfered with in the end zone while attempting to catch a fourth-quarter pass. The defender looked like he was trying to climb onto Kelce's shoulders."
Andrew Potter " ... it didn't even look like a bad call, certainly not egregious". I did not watch the game, does anyone else have an opinion?

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I feel like the hook came after the ball was batted away. Obviously I can't see the angle from behind, but the point at which he jumped and batted away the pass felt completely legal. The hooking(which is definitely not legal) occurred after the play was made.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Vikings defense had yielded 116 yards passing until there were 23 seconds left in the game, and about 170 yards total. They weren't super dominant yesterday, but in general they were fine. They sumply can't block anybody however, so on any day when they get beat on special teams, they are in trouble.

I couldn't watch a lot of games closely, but what I saw with Dallas and Oakland has me thinking that this is the year where investing in offensive linemen is shown to still have value. Here's hoping.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I remember Mason Crosby was struggling mightily in 2012, and the Packers patiently waited until he got out of his slump, and now he's fine. I wonder if the Vikings do the same with Walsh, or just cut bait if this continues the rest of the year?

As far as yesterday...I still the think the Vikings are a much more talented team overall than the Lions, and the game should not have been close enough for a couple of special teams miscues to tip the balance. I was surprised at how conservative the Vikings offensive gameplan was (Diggs catching 13 passes, yet not even getting close to 100 yards says it all). I know the offensive line is bad, but the Lions linebackers/secondary are constantly leaving wide open guys in the intermediate zones (why didn't they try to get Kyle Rudolph involved more?)

I still don't know what to make of this Lions team. Despite the fact they're 1/2 game out of the division lead, my eyes tell me they're mediocre, and DVOA tells me they're a bottom-10 team. I suppose if the Packers and Vikings keep collapsing around them, it may not matter.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

170 yards allowed is pretty "super-dominant."

Since 1940, teams that allow 170 or less are 1172-181-6 (and some games had both teams doing it). That's basically a 14-2 clip.

The '85 Bears managed it 5 times (and allowed 171 yards once). So if you're going at that clip, you compare favorably on defense in that game to those Bears.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

The Viking offense is as bad as the Lions defense. To commit a "Bradford", punting after starting a drive in the red-zone, against the Lions defense takes a craptasticalicious offense. I am naming this event after the only QB to do this twice in history (or at least since 1999). The Vikings defense is fantastic and Matt Stafford is (unsustainablely?) out of his mind good at the end of games this year.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I have been waiting for some fanbase to step up and bring the 2017 FOMBC down upon their team. Oakland Raiders fans, come on down! (Sorry, RJ.)

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Got to watch Carr for the first time and, even adjusting for the fact that it was against Denver, I didn't come away as impressed as I expected to be. Not to condense the game down too much, but three plays really jumped out at me, two short passes and the near pick at the end. In each of the short passes (one a screen, I think, and the other a quick pass to the right flat) the play was obviously busted even from the TV camera angle yet Carr threw the ball anyway, leading his receivers into big hits for no benefit. The first even lost a couple yards.

The ugliness of the near pick speaks for itself, but that wasn't the first time he made a bad throw/decision on a wheel route.

Perhaps Carr had been great for the first couple months, but that wasn't remotely MVP caliber quarterbacking last night. Considering how dominant the line and backs were, and the receiving talent, "decent" is about as charitable a descriptor as I think his play warranted.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I have a different take than mehllageman56. I think Carr genuinely is going to be special. I think, simply, he didn't have a very good game, the same way great quarterbacks from Joe Montana to Peyton Manning occasionally have not-so-great games.

Where Carr really seems to stick the dagger in is his accuracy on mid-range passes (which his receivers then turn into long passes via YAC). And he wasn't doing much of that yesterday -- presumably because the running success meant he didn't need to.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I conceded that it was a single game sample against a good defense. Had Denver actually played up to their normal standard, Carr's play wouldn't have registered much. The reason it was noteworthy to me is because Denver was shoved around rather easily, so I would have expected a good QB to take more advantage. At the very least, I would expect a good QB to recognize when the primary read (and perhaps sole read) is a lost cause and not set the receiver up for an unnecessary kill shot.

To me, that suggests Carr might not be as developed as Raiders fans have been saying. Obviously, I'd need to see a lot more before this hypothesis graduates to conclusion.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Carr is not an elite player despite what raider fans believe. He is an ascending star, but it takes years to really suss out his true talent level. Elite qbs are market by consistency across years. Its why very few qbs have ever been elite. And why it will take time to say that about carr. I still dont consider Cam elite for that reason

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

So a season and a half ago the Raiders were still a laughing stock with reportedly one of the worst rosters in football having to wait until a rainy Thursday night game, twelve games into the season to scrape past the Chiefs. Even then they almost threw it away with defensive players dancing twenty yards behind the line of scrimmage at a sack while their opponent lined up for the next play.

Obviously drafting Carr, Mack and Cooper has been useful.

But it seems to me that Jack Del Rio has been a real difference maker.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

In the nfl, things can turn against you and for you very quickly. Its a lot like business cycles in that way. A good example is the horror show playing about 20 miles south.

Aside from the players you mentioned, the Raiders really scored well with their offensive line coming seemingly out of nowhere. Yes, they got Kalechi, but the entire unit has really come together and that sort of thing is hard to predict.

That said, their defense is still kind of spotty in a lot of areas that I don't really trust it going forward. It didn't get exposed this week because of who they were playing, but I don't trust their secondary at all and I don't think they have much in terms of pass rush outside of Mack. I still believe what I said about them in week 1. If you can block Khalil Mack, you can throw all over this defense.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Not trying to take away from the Raiders win, but Denver seems to be built to the Polian-model ... get leads early, forcing the opposition to pass and destroy them with the pass rush. Except the Broncos don't have a QB to do that job. Four consecutive 3&outs to open the game and the Raiders had only built a 13-0 lead off short fields.

Think New England would struggle against that Raiders o-line but they'll also have the offense to score early.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Denver can play and win different styles. They won games this year being down in the beginning. The real problem is Siemian is not a good quarterback and the run game has stagnated since its early success.

Watching that game, I wondered if Denver fans realized how lucky they were to have vintage peyton manning. Of course, the last image of him was a horrible player, but before that - he brought a level of consistency that basically made them a tough out every single week, especially on the road when injuries meant the defense wasn't good enough to keep the game low scoring.

Its the reason why pass led teams are the most consistent teams overall. Sure, if your defense is truly garbage, there is only so much someone like drew brees can do. But short of that kind of neckweight, a good pass game really does cover for a lot of flaws.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Personally I remain to be convinced by Reggie McKenzie. He took over a team that had back-to-back 8-8 seasons, chose Dennis Allen as his first coach, jettisoned players such as Carson Palmer in favour of three disastrous seasons. Time will tell ...

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

He jettisoned those players because that was a team with a bloated cap with old veterans who were about to get a lot worse anyway. Also, the 2011 team was not 8-8 good.

I can't fault him for Carson Palmer turning into a MVP-type player three years later. I realize Dennis Allen was bad, but he got rid of him in due time. The Raiders are where they are because of him. There's a reason he basically accepted tanking that team and honestly if more GMs had the foresight to understand bad things are ahead and take advantage of them, that is the sign of good leadership.

As an Atros fan, I know how not doing this can really set you back. The Astros were on the way down after a losing 2007 season, but somehow miracled their way to 86 wins in 2008. That got ownership hungry despite the foundation crumbling, and it took a full tank job unlike anything we've seen to get them resurrected.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I know the excuses for why he plunged a team coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons back into losing. It's impossible to prove he could have done it better differently. I just believe there was a middle way he could have taken whereby he retained certain talent while transitioning to a new team. He basically gutted the roster first year which meant losing became unavoidable.

He jettisoned Palmer where his leadership in 2013 could have been great. Instead McKenzie traded a 2014 5th round pick for Matt Flynn to never play, and we endured the Matt Schaub, Matt McGloin, Terrell Pryor disasters. Clearly Carr is settled as the starter now.

Then there was the Roger Saffold free agency disaster where they agreed to a 5-year contract with the guy and then backed out of it.

I think to an extent he got a little bit of luck that the 49ers blew up in 2014 so players like Crabtree and Aldon Smith came to the nearby Raiders and probably the same with Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin wanting to stay near Seattle. But that's luck of the draw.

So a lot of his decisions in the first three years I'm not convinced by. He seems very competent at managing the cap but that should support your goals as a football team, not be the be-all and end-all of running one. Time will tell.

53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I mostly agree with you with the caveat that he did take over after the death of Al and I am sure after 40 years of Al Davis being in charge there were some "dysfunction" that needed to be addressed. So perhaps after a period of adjustment he is showing his "true" ability as a GM.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

McKenzie was a well respected personnel guy before he became the Raider's GM, coming over from Green Bay. You know, a place that does well drafting. They've drafted well, picking up decent players outside the early rounds too. I might add that Joey Clinkscales is the personnel guy in Oakland under McKenzie, and he was in New York when they drafted Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Revis, etc. If I was in charge of the Jets I'd interview Clinkscales at the end of the year to be GM.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

They also put some serious work into building a good offensive line, picking up Donald Penn from the scrap heap (I didn't want him to leave Tampa and have been sadly validated) and grabbing Osemele. Add in Crabtree on offense, plus Bruce Irvin and Sean Smith on defense and they've just made some smart free agent decisions after a really long run of bad free agent decisions.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

I find it hard to regard Jack Del Rio as a "difference maker". It's unlikely he's a bad head coach; he seems good at motivating and galvanizing his teams. But I watched him get comprehensively out-coached/out-prepared by Andy Reid 3 weeks ago when the Chiefs just flat-out bullied the Raiders. Then last week they set an NFL record in penalties. That's not what well coached teams do.

Apparently he's now exactly 0.500 as HC, which just about sums up my opinion of him.

On the subject of Andy Reid, the Chiefs are now 16-2 in their last 18 regular season games. That is an outstanding coaching performance.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Completely agree, even though I don't want to. I don't consider the Raiders a particularly well-coached team. They seem to be improving, in that respect, in fits and starts, but who knows if that will be sustained.

Like, when Mack started out slow, and everyone was saying, "Well, that's just because the offense is constantly double-teaming him and chipping him." Well, ok. But wouldn't a good defensive staff figure out how to make an offense *pay* for doing that? I mean, if you're dictating the offenses moves like that, aren't there ways to take advantage of that?

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

Hey Vince, no-one has ever claimed that Mark Ingram is a fast RB, but the slowest 75yd TD run ever? I think this helps to prove you wrong: