Audibles at the Line: Wild-Card Round

Audibles at the Line: Wild-Card Round
Audibles at the Line: Wild-Card Round
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

Kansas City Chiefs 30 at Houston Texans 0

Scott Kacsmar: Of course Knile Davis returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown against the 32nd-ranked special teams, but that was not the strength of the Chiefs or the weakness of Houston this year. I was actually going to mention Knile Davis being the only return threat left with De'Anthony Thomas on injured reserve, but I figured 400 words about special teams were enough in our preview. Davis' longest kick return was 54 yards this year, but like I said, Nick Novak gives teams opportunities for returns with his bad kickoffs. The punting mismatch was the real focus, and the Chiefs would have had another good return to midfield if not for a penalty.

Sterling Xie: Ironically, kickoff coverage was supposed to be the best part of Houston's otherwise horrid special teams. Texans were 1 point above average during the regular season.

Aaron Schatz: The Texans' running game is going nowhere and is going to go nowhere against this Chiefs' defense. There's going to be a lot of third-and-longs. The Texans get in one early and... Brian Hoyer throws a pick. But, no, why shouldn't Alex Smith throw one of his own on the immediate next play?

That being said, I would much rather have Alex Smith slightly throwing behind his receiver for a deflected pick than Brian Hoyer's "I have no idea what I'm looking at here" pick that went straight into the arms of Eric Berry, nowhere near the intended receiver.

Vince Verhei: I was very excited for the game to start because it meant the terrible regular season was finally over. Then in the first quarter we got:

  • Completely blown kickoff coverage where no Texan got within diving distance of Knile Davis.
  • Alex Smith in a clean pocket completely overthrowing Albert Wilson on what should have been a long touchdown pass.
  • Brian Hoyer throwing an interception right to Eric Berry with no receiver in sight.
  • Smith throwing late and behind his man, leading to another interception.
  • Hoyer fumbling when blindside tackle Chris Clark was bullrushed into his back. I mean, it wasn't technically an unforced fumble, but no defender touched Hoyer on the play.

It's like the regular season is still going!

Andrew Potter: Seriously considered suggesting J.J. Watt as a tight end for the playoff fantasy competition, for exactly that kind of madness. Jonathan Grimes direct snap, Watt on offense -- all we're missing now is a Cecil Shorts pass attempt.

And this isn't a special something the Texans have pulled out for the playoffs, a la New England against Baltimore. This is Houston's regular offense.

Tom Gower: I don't know quite what to say about that Texans goal-to-go sequence, with J.J. Watt taking a direct snap that had basically no chance of working and Brian Hoyer trying to force a throw through two defenders short of the goal line on second down, but none of it is good. I don't have an issue with their direct snap plays, since the run game was working and it had just worked, but that didn't feel like a play to run down 10-0 when you were having some actual success.

Cian Fahey: I don't rate Bill O'Brien as a head coach, and this need to appease J.J. Watt's vanity is a reason why. That play call at the goal line was disgustingly bad. It wasn't even a misdirection play, O'Brien put Watt in a situation where he needed to show off the burst of a running back to get to the line of scrimmage. Amateur.

Scott Kacsmar: Boos for Hoyer and I really don't know how O'Brien can justify keeping him in the game. He looks lost, not all of the turnovers were even a result of pressure, and several of his completions were just great catches by DeAndre Hopkins. If it wasn't for the kickoff coverage to start the game, I would say this is as close as it gets to a player single-handedly blowing a game for his team.

Aaron Schatz: Through the first half, the Chiefs just look better than the Texans in pretty much every way. The holes for the running backs are bigger, even though Alfred Blue did have that one really long run for Houston. The receivers seem more open, though Alex Smith can't always hit them. The pass rush is better. The special teams are better. Honestly, Alex Smith's limitations are the reason this team only has six points on offense, but his limitations are nothing compared to Hoyer's limitations.

Still, if I'm a defensive player for the Broncos or Patriots, I'm really not very worried after watching that first half.

Scott Kacsmar: Smith even broke some of this third-and-long ALEX tendencies, but missed both throws by a small margin. Still, this reminds me a little of his only playoff win against the Saints in 2011. Got spotted so many turnovers and the offense is still barely limping around. You expect to score more than six points if you get four takeaways in a half. 13-0 looks daunting, but Houston has really shot itself in the foot today, and that's just kind of how Kansas City has been playing during this streak. Take advantage of the other team's mistakes.

Vince Verhei: And seven of those 13 points came on special teams! Take away turnovers and special teams and it has been a very even game.

It's hard to find much to say here that isn't really obvious. Chiefs should be killing Houston, but they're 1-of-6 on third down, and that's not just Smith -- they have failures in short-yardage runs too. But the Houston offense has been such a disaster. Their best chance to win is just pick the quarterback with the strongest arm and lob 20 deep balls in the second half, because they're not putting together multiple long scoring drives.

Tom Gower: Kansas City Chiefs finally make it to the red zone (their field goals were both 49-yarders), and Chris Conley finishes the drive in the end zone despite Kareem Jackson contesting it. At 20-0 in the third quarter, this really does feel over.

Aaron Schatz: Houston's offense is so bad that even Jon Gruden is basically limited to just saying "Houston has only one good offensive player and they really should try to get him the ball."

Scott Kacsmar: Welp, we're at the point where Jon Gruden, a coaching candidate in the eyes of some, is talking about "did he win?" as his first step in evaluating a quarterback. Then he asked what the 49ers have to be thinking right now since Alex Smith almost took them to a Super Bowl. Never mind the fact that Colin Kaepernick actually did take them to a Super Bowl and another NFC Championship Game one year later. I would still take Kaepernick over Smith going forward.

Andrew Healy: Since the merger, only three quarterbacks have put together ratings lower than Hoyer's 15.9 on at least 30 attempts in the playoffs:

Like the 1982 Dolphins or 2000 Ravens, the opposition explains a big part of the offensive meltdown for the Texans. (The 1993 Dolphins, oddly enough, were only 21st in defensive DVOA in a 28-team league.)

Love when the Mud Bowl comes up. Still drives middle-aged Jets fans crazy.

Scott Kacsmar: Even in a regular-season context that was a major dud of a game from Houston. Only real concern for Kansas City was the Jeremy Maclin injury that looked serious. Travis Kelce will have to come up huge again. Albert Wilson is not a bad receiver, but rookie Chris Conley might have to be the guy who steps up the most for this offense. Also believe Spencer Ware is the best running back on this roster.

Vince Verhei: Somebody suggested on Twitter that Watt's injury didn't make an impact, so I did the math. Chiefs averaged 4.7 yards a play before Watt got hurt, 5.7 after.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 at Cincinnati Bengals 16

Andrew Healy: After one very tentative carry, I feel pretty good about mega-locking Fitzgerald Toussaint under 57.5 rushing yards:

After a second much better carry, maybe we need a bigger sample.

First, what a great double-spin play by Tyler Eifert to get a first down on third-and-11 on the Bengals' second drive. Would have been a great statement for Marvin Lewis to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Steelers' 38-yard line. Beating a dead horse, of course.

And the Steelers have 50 rushing yards after one, in a victory for the proponents of running back fungibility. Both Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint look more than good enough. Great energy so far on both sides.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't think Vince gave the 2015 regular season enough appreciation if these five quarters of the playoffs are any indication of what's coming. Then again, questionable AFC playoff field playing like this is not so surprising.

Toussaint has looked pretty good when he's not getting crushed in the backfield. Jordan Todman also looks pretty explosive. Maybe the Steelers can just run their normal offense -- get some play-action shots in there -- instead of this "get Hines Ward to 1,000 catches"-looking screen game.

Vince Verhei: Well that was a fast first quarter. Steelers look terrified of Cincinnati's pass rush. They have four completions that gained 5 yards or less, and a 27-yarder to Toussaint that had about 22 yards after the catch. Not even trying middle- or long-range passes.

And then Ben Roethlisberger gets sacked early in the third, so they had good reason to be afraid.

Andrew Healy: And one of the Bengals' best players goes down on that sack, with Reggie Nelson getting the sack by hurting his leg when he stepped on Vincent Rey. Big play forcing a Steelers punt, so a potentially big injury on a big play for the Bengals. Echoes of 2005.

If Nelson is out, that is huge. The Bengals were far and away the best defense against the deep pass, which may be why the Steelers haven't been trying to do it. If Nelson can't go, and it didn't look good, that all changes.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, but it's not just that the Steelers aren't trying 20-yard patterns. They're not even in the 8- or 12-yard range. It's just screen, slant, flat, screen, slant, flat…

Aaron Schatz: I wish I could see better what the Bengals were doing with the safeties. Maybe that explains all these short passes.

Vince Verhei: Unless they are playing six safeties, there is no excuse for this play calling.

Sterling Xie: It seems fitting that the two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in this game have come from people who weren't even on the field of play. Mike Munchak got one for grabbing Reggie Nelson's hair when Nelson made a borderline late hit out of bounds, and now Domata Peko apparently ran onto the field (in one of those massive capes no less) and shoved a Steelers player.

On the next play, a Markus Wheaton fumble gives us our first drive that doesn't end in a punt. What a game from two top-five DVOA offenses.

Aaron Schatz: And then A.J. McCarron underthrows a rainbow deep for a pick. I know part of that was probably a wet ball slipping a little in his hand, but still, that throw was brutal.

And hey! Actual downfield pass to Antonio Brown on the next drive! 23 yards on second-and-25!

Andrew Healy: And Shawn Williams was a beat late on that throw. Very possible Nelson stops that one.

By the way, that McCarron interception was the Bengals' only deep pass so far. It was a terrible throw and it's raining, but that's still both a Bengals strength and a Steelers weakness. Always possible it won't work, but the Bengals' best chance is hitting a couple of those. I think they still have to try it.

With the Bengals being great against deep throws and the Steelers pretty bad, this rain is much better for the Steelers.

And they try what I think was their second throw going over 15 yards in the air on the next drive. A.J. Green was wide open and McCarron missed a pretty easy throw. Just Green's second target in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of Shawn Williams, oh man, the 15-yard penalty on him for hitting a defenseless receiver. Twitter blew up, and rightly so. I feel bad for the officials because the game is going so fast that they end up penalizing hits that were actually clean. But that one... Markus Wheaton actually had time to brace for the hit and put his head down, which is why it looked like Williams hit him in the head when he was leading with his shoulder the whole time. What an awful flag. Luckily, it didn't make a huge difference in the game, just the difference between a 45-yard field goal and a 30-yard field goal. That's a difference, especially in the rain, but it would have been worse if that 15-yard flag had led to a touchdown.

Heck, it almost meant absolutely nothing because Ben Roethlisberger threw an awful interception that Vincent Rey flat-out dropped. I guess he was throwing it to Antonio Brown behind Rey in the end zone, but he totally missed Rey sitting in the middle of the field.

Scott Kacsmar: If a hit looks and sounds like it really hurts, you almost expect a 15-yard flag today, and that's very unfortunate. I hated that call on Williams. I also had no idea what the Steelers were doing with a second-down run, a timeout and that third-down decision by Roethlisberger.

Both offenses could stand to open things up a bit more in the second half. I'm most surprised at the productivity of the Pittsburgh backs, but that's a testament to the work Mike Munchak has done with an improved offensive line. It just seems like the Steelers haven't really adjusted to the fact the run is working. Need to see fewer screens and more play-action passing.

Tom Gower: Halftime. Steelers lead 6-0. The Bengals had two first downs in the first half, both of them on the same possession. I don't know how they're going to move the ball, unless they get a fluke on defense, special teams, or even on offense. Sure, A.J. Green and Marvin Jones can play heroball, but that requires a baseline level of performance from A.J. McCarron against a defense that will try to pressure him and in rain that's likely to continue. And of course the lack of a pass threat means Pittsburgh will play heavy up front and shut down the Cincinnati ground game. Frustrating to watch as a neutral fan hoping for a good game, especially with Pittsburgh's unwillingness for most of the first half to try to attack downfield, plus their Michigan State-like insistence that first down is a running down.

Andrew Healy: Finally 22 yards to A.J. Green in the hole in the zone behind William Gay on the left sideline with 9:00 to go in the third quarter. McCarron may not be good enough in these conditions, but these throws are there and they have to try.

Aaron Schatz: At least Pittsburgh's insistence that first down is a running down seems to be leading to yards on most plays. Cincinnati has that one long run by Jeremy Hill but otherwise Hill's at six carries for minus-1 yard.

Tom Gower: Yes, the problem isn't the odd play like the Green completion, or even the completion earlier in the drive to Mohamed Sanu after scrambling, or even the completion to Marvin Jones, I believe, for a first down. It's the need to string enough of those together to score the nine points necessary to force overtime, as we saw when McCarron held the ball too long (a common failing of inexperienced and/or bad quarterbacks) and coughed it up for a touchdown that was not soon thereafter.

Andrew Healy: At least there's one thing I called right in the preview. The Bengals should run on first down as little as possible. Six carries for -1 yard on first down so far, halfway through the third quarter.

Martavis Bryant is the man of the match so far, with that big run and that very sick touchdown catch.

So sad to watch this seemingly happen to the Bengals again. The Nelson injury, Dre Kirkpatrick, Wallace Gilberry, even the weather. If ever a team deserved some good luck it's this one, but they just can't catch a break

Scott Kacsmar: The alien made that catch harder than it needed to be, but what an amazing display of skill on that touchdown. Given some of the plays he didn't make this year, good for Bryant after the blown-up story of Roethlisberger calling him out this week. And good on Mike Tomlin for going for two to try to make it 17-0. Didn't work, but I liked the thought. Don't assume you're done scoring, and make it as hard as possible on an offense struggling with its backup in the rain.

Aaron Schatz: It looked to me like Roethlisberger had the space to scramble into the end zone on the two-point conversion.

Tom Gower: You like the decision to go for two up 15-0 that much? I'm not sure I do. 16-0 is roughly a 75 percent chance of being a three-score lead anyway, and 15-0 v. 16-0 is a pretty significant difference. The Krasker chart, which obviously is based on old data and antedates the new XP rule, has the break-even with 21 minutes to play at 49 percent, which says it's a toss-up. Adjusting for playing McCarron in these conditions, my intuition isn't quite sure how to adjust the numbers -- any three score lead seems almost insurmountable, so the appeal of 17-0 is obvious, but I guess 50-50 may be about right.

Aaron Schatz: Just to give a further example of how the game is going too fast for the officials, the Ryan Shazier hit on Giovani Bernard near the end of the third quarter. This one, it looked to me like Shazier launched at Bernard and hit him helmet-to-helmet. And yet, this one had no flag.

Andrew Healy: Absolutely. He hit him in the chin with the crown of the helmet there. I almost don't care if that hit is legal under some interpretation. That's exactly the kind of hit that needs to disappear from football in all circumstances. This wasn't an accident. Shazier threw his helmet into Bernard. It's much less important given what can happen to a human being with that kind of hit, but the Steelers even get the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, Cincinnati finally found an offense. Thanks, defensive pass interference!

Tom Gower: Bengals touchdown. Two first downs on the drive, including the short touchdown run. That's the right number of plays they could execute and be successful.

Aaron Schatz: And then Roethlisberger gets hurt. We're down to Landry Jones against McCarron, so this is a ballgame again. It's amazing to think all six NFC teams have used the same quarterbacks all year, because the AFC playoff teams have been destroyed at the position. Only Alex Smith and Tom Brady played all 16 games, and the final three AFC teams eliminated from the playoff race (Jets, Colts, Bills) also had quarterback injuries at some point.

Andrew Healy: These first-down passes to Jeremy Hill work so much better than the first-down runs. Two quick and easy first downs on a screen and then a dumpoff. With one more first down, the Bengals are close to midfield down 15-7 with 9:00 left.

And the downfield throws are working. Eifert was wide open for a 25-yard gain and dropped it. Not a great throw from McCarron, but good enough.

Aaron Schatz: Eifert made up for it with a diving catch to convert when the Steelers big-blitzed with seven defenders.

At this point, I can't think of why the Steelers would not double-team A.J. Green on every single play.

Bengals will kick a field goal to make it 15-10 rather than going for it on fourth-and-3 from the 17.

I don't agree with the Bengals kicking a field goal so that instead of a touchdown, they now need... a touchdown. Yes, it would be to win instead of a tie, and it means they won't need a two-point conversion, but still, what are the odds McCarron can get the ball down near the red zone again?

Although, hey, surprise!

Tom Gower: As I mentioned on Twitter, it would have been really convenient if the Bengals had gone for two after their first score and been down either 15-6 or 15-8 so they know if they need two scores and kicking the field goal makes perfect sense, or if they should probably go for it on fourth-and-3 because they just need one score.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't mind the Bengals kicking the field goal. Have to trust with Landry Jones in the game that you would get the ball back and can drive for the winning touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Hate the corner blitz by the Steelers on fourth-and-2* where the Bengals hit Marvin Jones to convert. Mostly because of the coverage behind it. They ended up somehow with three guys to cover two receivers on the right side, and Jones wide open in the middle of the field.

(* The broadcast said fourth-and-1, but that was pretty obviously 2.)

And then... I don't understand how the Steelers defenders were caught coming off A.J. Green. He's the best receiver on the Bengals. You need to cover him. Touchdown, and this game that looked over is now 16-15 Cincinnati.

Sterling Xie: Michael Johnson just made an unbelievable play, slapping down Fitzgerald Touissant's ankle from his knees to prevent what would've been a first down. Not sure how far Touissant could've gotten, but it appeared he had a lot of room in front of him.

Andrew Healy: What an awful, awful hit by Vontaze Burfict on Brown. My friend here was feeling terrible for Jeremy Hill, but none of this matters with Brown on the ground.

Tom Gower: A lot in this game to digest, which I'll add later (maybe in the morning), but that was a ridiculously unnecessary and idiotic hit by Vontaze Burfict, and Adam Jones then adds on his own heaping dollop of idiocy by not calming down and turning a makeable field goal into a pretty straightforward one.

Mike Tomlin then immediately kicks the field goal with :18 left. With a quarterback who may not be able to hit the end zone from that distance and no timeouts left, I get why he made the decision. But that doesn't mean I love it.

Andrew Healy: She summed it up well, "I feel bad for Hill, not for those idiots who were behaving unsportsmanly. Are games usually this depressing?"

Aaron Schatz: I have no idea what to write. That game went completely insane at the end. I guess the one thing I don't understand: why is it OK for a Steelers assistant coach, Joey Porter, to be on the field arguing with Bengals players, and why did Adam Jones get a 15-yard penalty for arguing back? The Burfict penalty I totally understand. I don't get the Jones one.

Scott Kacsmar: Had some flashbacks to the 2005 Steelers-Colts playoff game there. And I know the Steelers had all three timeouts after the Landry Jones interception, but I'm seriously pushing this kneeldown strategy from now on. Don't risk a fumble, and that's exactly what Hill did on first down. You don't expect it, but you don't even worry about it if you take a knee.

Also, that two-point conversion attempt by the Bengals was horrific and not a good look for Hue Jackson as the most latest thing on his resume. Always talk about how big those are to take a three-point lead, since we would be in overtime now if the Bengals had converted, but that little dump pass never had a chance.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Jones is pretty angry about it. (WARNING: Audio is VERY unsafe for work.)

Andrew Healy: With a little more time to process that insanity, some final thoughts:

1) The downfield throws worked so well for the Bengals in the second half, you wish they would have tried them more in the first half. Except for that one perfect throw to Eifert, the Steelers didn't require McCarron to make great throws. Receivers were either wide open (Eifert drop, Green touchdown) or could have been thrown open (DPI to set up Bengals' first touchdown).

2) Where's BenJarvus Green-Ellis when you need him?

3) I feel like Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were a bit colored by the perceptions of the franchises. They were all over the Bengals and the fans for booing Roethlisberger. Fair enough. But you've got Mike Munchak pushing players and Porter, so the criticism didn't seem particularly equal-opportunity. Both sides deserved it, although I think the Burfict hit was worst of all. Hill's fumble turned Tez from big-time hero after the pick to a goat. We might remember him in 2025 like Kimo von Oelhoffen as the reason for more Bengals pain.

Vince Verhei: I was at a party watching that fourth quarter, and I didn't want to say anything about it until Sunday morning so I had to process it. So it's Sunday morning... and I still don't know what to say. I've got to imagine, considering the decades of history, that loss was worse for Bengals fans than the Super Bowl was for Seahawks fans, or the NFC championship game was for Packers fans. The win was right there, and their own guys quite literally gave the game away. I do blame the officials for allowing things to get out of hand -- when you've got coaches grabbing players by the hair and guys running off the bench to cheap-shot opponents, you need to start ejecting guys to lay down the law. As it is things went crazy, and while that is the ref's fault, it is the Bengals' fault they lost their minds at the worst possible time.

Tom Gower: After I doubted Cincinnati's offensive productivity, they went and scored three times in a quarter-plus. One of those drives started at the Steelers' 46 and had a 42-yard pass interference penalty. The field goal drive didn't have any particularly big plays -- the longest was Eifert's 18-yard completion on third-and-9, a nice diving catch. The other touchdown drive started at the Steelers' 45, required a fourth-down conversion, and included the 25-yard touchdown to Green where William Gay failed to reroute him the way he needed to in the Cover-2 it looked like the Steelers were playing (something he'd also screwed up earlier in the game, so maybe it was coached and they were daring McCarron, not sure unless he spoke about it postgame).

Rob Weintraub: I imagine that the three or four of you who care about my well-being after last night's Bengals debacle are awaiting my two cents. Most of it went to Twitter in real time, but a recap:

Yes, I am alive, if numb. I joked pre-game that I may have to watch the game in a Sudafed-induced stupor. I stayed sober, yet the second half still played out as though I was narcotized. Still don't quite believe it wasn't a product of opiates.

Last night was simply the encapsulation of 40 years of the Bengals versus the Steelers. Everyone always blathered on about the Ravens, and yes, there were some tough encounters for a few seasons, but this rivalry has been far angrier for far longer. Pittsburgh has been cheap-shot happy at Cincy's expense literally since the '70s. It was said for years and years that the only chance the Bengals had to challenge Pittsburgh's hegemony was to fight them with the same edge-of-the-rulebook violence. I choose that word deliberately, as assault and battery is the name of the game, and certainly that's what has been perpetrated on the likes of Ken Anderson, Pat McInally, Keith Rivers, Carson Palmer, etc., etc., etc. So the Bengals have tried to answer fire with fire for the last decade -- and the apotheosis came last night, when it all blew up in their face.

What's particularly sickening is that the Steelers hardly stopped their usual BS. David DeCastro has been taking shots at Burfict late and dirty all season, aiming to get Tez to blow his loosely-battened-in-the-best-of-times cool, and last night after a play he drove him 10 yards and to the ground. Of course that somehow turned into Burfict's fault, and wasn't penalized. But the inciting incident was the Shazier hit on Gio, an unquestionable penalty augmented by Shazier dancing around while Gio was still insensate on the ground. Jeremy Hill ran out to stop them from doing that, and the storyline from Nantz and Simms was "the Bengals are losing control." That sequence was, if anything, more blatant than the end-game double flags that decided the game, but nothing was called, and the Bengals lost a scoring chance on top of it. With the score and rain and years of frustration building to a spear point by then, small wonder the Bengals and their fans lost their minds.

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A couple of historical notes for context -- Joey Porter, the Steelers defensive coach who came out when Antonio Brown went down solely to agitate and should have been penalized but of course wasn't, once organized a posse and jumped Bengals lineman Levi Jones at a Vegas casino. Granted, he was on the Dolphins by then, but it all stemmed from his Steelers days, when he was an inveterate taunter. And Burfict, while clearly a semi-hinged dude, was threatened with murder by a couple of Steelers scrubs after the Le'veon Bell hit that tore Bell's ACL. Call it empty blather on social media if you like, but these guys took it seriously, believe me. No excuse for the lack of composure, but there is more than garden-variety trash-talking going on.

The game was lost as soon as Burfict performed his Usain Bolt down the tunnel after his interception, though. An entire fanbase face-palmed at that moment. If I could have tackled him at the 35, I would have.

The irony of course is that both Vontaze and Jones owe their careers to Marvin Lewis. Far from "embracing bad character guys and reaping the whirlwind," Lewis gave them both hours upon hours of counsel and guidance and love, not to mention jobs. Mostly, it has been hugely positive. And yet in the biggest of moments, this is how they repay him. He won't be fired, but I wouldn't blame Lewis for quitting in disgust.

All the tut-tutting from the media about the "disgraceful fans cheering Roethlisberger's injury," etc. -- these people have not been in the stands much, apparently. I was there for the 2005 game, and trust me when I tell you that the Steelers fans in attendance were cheering lustily when Palmer was writhing on the ground. A friend who went to the game where Andy Dalton broke his thumb told me there was similar cheering that day. ESPN and the like do their best to stoke the animosity to a fever pitch -- and then get high and mighty when it is acted upon. Spare me.

Good news dept.: At least the loss prevents what would have been a noxious week of "Dalton or McCarron?" hyperbole.

Jeremy Hill was benched earlier this season for fumbling, and seemed to have regained his confidence the last few weeks. Naturally, the issue resurfaced at the worst possible time. That is the essence of Bengal-dom. Kneeing it out and trying a field goal would have been a disaster in the making -- all we ever do is get on coaches for the conservative approach, so trying to win the game with a first down was clearly the approach. Just can't fumble, for pete's sake.

Which is why I was sensing the defeat as surely as a buzzard senses carrion, even as the comeback unfolded. That Roethlisberger would return from his third cart-off of the season (nothing suspicious there, he's just tougher than the rest, I guess...) to kill Bengal dreams was utterly predictable -- the suspense was in how it would happen. That it wasn't the garden variety deflected pass off a Bengals defensive back or 40-yard draw by a fifth-string running back against Cover-2 was the only surprise.

Just hard to believe Roethlisberger comes back time and again, yet Cincy's season essentially ended on a harmless-looking dive at Stephon Tuitt's legs by Andy Dalton. "What Might Have Been?" is after all the Bengals theme song. Dalton cut way down on his bad picks this year, but of course that's how his season ends prematurely.

I think it's time to petition the NFL to prevent further bad blood by switching the Bengals to the AFC South for a while, and move the Colts to the North. Indy is north of Cincy, after all. I know I could use a respite from this constant agita.

Enough grousing. Go Broncos.

Seattle Seahawks 10 at Minnesota Vikings 9

Aaron Schatz: Love Minnesota's decision to go for it on the first drive of the game, fourth-and-1 on their own 47. Especially love the "fake fake" where the Vikings made it look like they were just trying to pull the Seahawks offside with Teddy Bridgewater's cadence, then actually ran a quarterback sneak for the conversion.

Andrew Healy: Ditto on all of that. Even more perfect as a clear underdog.

Scott Kacsmar: Good overhead shot from NBC on the sneak. You can see the hole available that makes the sneak so obvious to run. Also not sure why it wouldn't be automatic in that situation for a linebacker to come up and fill that hole to influence the quarterback to not sneak it.

Vince Verhei: Vikings up 3-0 at the end of one and have outgained Seattle 63-23, but it doesn't feel like they're playing that well, they're just getting every third-down conversion you can. Christine Michael's 11-yard run on Seattle's second drive was longer than any play Minnesota has had so far, and the Vikings only got their field goal because of the bad snap and/or fake punt that gave them great field position.

Andrew Potter: Looked pretty clearly like a bad snap to me. Jon Ryan fielded the ball on the ground. He then went to punt it, realised it would probably get blocked, and panicked. I actually thought he had time after sidestepping the would-be blocker to get set and punt the ball like I've seen some college guys do, but I concede it's a completely different speed of game at this level.

Vince Verhei: The fact that Ryan sidestepped the first guy was what made me think there might have been a fake on. After that dodge he had plenty of time to get a kick away, and he's a 10-year vet, it's not like he's never handled a bad snap before.

Andrew Potter: True. Indeed, "fake punt" and "bad snap" aren't mutually exclusive possibilities. Seems like the former would increase the likelihood of the latter.

Vince Verhei: Seattle having trouble getting plays called, and uses their last timeout with 12-plus minutes left in the second quarter. That's no good.

Andrew Healy: Could see going the other way, but I don't mind Mike Zimmer challenging the spot on the Jermaine Kearse catch. He was probably given an extra half-yard and even a smidge more of a missed spot and they might have overturned it. Spots almost never get overturned, but I think either decision there would have been fine.

Maybe it got mentioned pregame, but this is just Russell Wilson's second game in below-freezing temperature. The other one was that 24-20 loss to the Chiefs last year (3.2% DVOA, 5.6 YPA).

Hard to understand having at least two guys running 5-yard patterns on fourth-and-13 and the Vikings sitting in a very predictable zone.

Scott Kacsmar: This team ran all go routes on a fourth-and-7 to beat the 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. How do you not go deep on fourth-and-13, or at least to the sticks? Worthless play and a waste of a drive. They're in trouble if a 47-yard field goal is deemed to be too hard today.

Vince Verhei: Agreed. If that was the fourth-down call, A) why run a similarly conservative call on third down?, and B) I'd rather just punt into the end zone.

Tom Gower: With two low snaps, I'm not sure they trust the punter, and I'd rather try to convert with a short pass that may give Minnesota the ball at the 20 or 25 and gives me a chance to get a new set of downs.

Vince Verhei: Vikings lead 3-0 at halftime, and the obvious story is the way Minnesota has neutered Seattle's passing offense so far. From what I've seen, they've used a lot of Seattle's own defensive scheme, with a single-high safety in the middle and corners taking away the outside deep balls. The one time they went to a Cover-2, Doug Baldwin got open for what should have been a long touchdown in the corner of the end zone, but Wilson underthrew the pass and the Vikings had time to get over and knock it away. The only good plays Seattle has had in the passing game were a flagrant DPI on Xavier Rhodes covering Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin getting wide open on a play-action bootleg. The weather has certainly been a factor, but not as much as I would have thought -- no fumbles by either team.

Aaron Schatz: It reminds me of the Jets' upset of the Patriots in 2010. The Patriots had beaten the Jets 45-3 in Week 13 -- ironically, the same week the Seahawks beat the Vikings this year -- but the Jets came out in the playoff game and ran a completely different defensive scheme, with seven defensive backs much of the time and everyone dropping into coverage instead of the usual Rex Ryan blitzing.

Vince Verhei: Apparently the Vikings only went 2-for-7 on third downs in the first half. Sure felt like more than that.

Seahawks get yet another fourth-down failure, and this was almost as bad as that dumpoff on fourth-and-13. Fourth-and-3, and you take your best wide receiver and motion him deep into the backfield, then run him out for a swing pass? What on earth?

Aaron Schatz: Not to mention, how many timeouts are the Seahawks going to blow trying to avoid delay of game penalties? Why can't they get their guys up to the line and set in time? I know they apparently had communication problems in the first half but that doesn't explain why everyone is so slow getting ready for the play. It's a mess. They should have just taken the delay of game on their first second-half drive and punted on fourth-and-8 instead of taking the timeout and going for it on fourth-and-3. I liked going for it, but not as much as I like having three timeouts saved for the end of the game if you need them.

Andrew Healy: Love everything the Vikings are doing on defense. Awesome how they're keeping Wilson contained in the pocket from the back. And great job by Cris Collinsworth and NBC pointing that out.

The Vikings are averaging 3.3 yards per offensive play late in the third quarter and lead 6-0. Since 2000, only two teams have averaged so little and won a playoff game (Washington vs. Tampa Bay in 2005 and Baltimore vs. Tennessee in 2000).

Vince Verhei Seahawks down 9-0 at the end of the third quarter. I'm stunned by this. Last way I would have imagined this game going. I figured if Minnesota was in the game at this point, it would have been a shootout. But the defenses have been outstanding, very few missed tackles, and I'm stunned that nobody has fumbled yet.

Aaron Schatz: This defensive performance by the Vikings is outstanding and unexpected. They really were not as good as the conventional wisdom says this year. They were 14th in defensive DVOA, although that's 11th without considering the Week 1 loss to San Francisco. They were 15th in yards allowed per play and 19th in turnovers. The conventional wisdom seems to mostly come from the Vikings ranking fifth in points allowed, but that's partly because they played at a slow pace so they faced fewer drives than most defenses.

Scott Kacsmar: We have a fumble, and of course the athletic Wilson picks it up and turns it into one of the biggest plays of the game with a backyard football completion to Tyler Lockett. We have a game again at 9-7, but would you expect anything else with Seattle?

Aaron Schatz: And then another fumble, by Adrian Peterson. But that only turns into a field goal because... I mean, is the Seattle offensive line even blocking on some of these plays? The Vikings pass rush is completely dominant. I keep thinking back to the run tackle-for-loss on third-and-1 where Sharrif Floyd split two guys who were trying to double-team him and didn't even touch him, I think J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam. And these last couple Seattle drives, they scored 10 points with Russell Wilson running for his life on what seemed like every pass play.

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On the other hand, for the Seattle defense... get one sack on Bridgewater and it seems like the series is done. With 4:27 left in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater has thrown a grand total of ONE deep pass all day, an incomplete to Jerick McKinnon in the second quarter. Everything he throws is short.

Rob Weintraub: I thought Collinsworth was overdoing it a bit with the "black sleeve" causing Peterson's fumble. He just was stripped on a great play. Adrian may have had a better grip, but let's not overdramatize.

Meanwhile, is there a more maddening player to root against then Russell Wilson and his eel-like slipperiness? Nothing so demoralizing as thinking you have the quarterback trapped for a loss, and having him elude disaster, time and again. Wilson is unquestionably a Hall-of-Famer in that part of the game.

Vince Verhei: After the Seahawks kicked a field goal to go up 10-9, they got a sack to put Minnesota in third-and-16. They rushed two on the play, and really almost one with a spy, and Minnesota still got one-on-one coverage downfield. Fortunately for Seattle, Jeremy Lane was still able to knock the ball away from Stefon Diggs to force an incompletion and a punt.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm waiting to rewind it, but thought the Vikings were offsides on Seattle's third-and-short incomplete pass that was a dropped interception. Then on the other side, timely blitz took down Bridgewater and thwarted that drive. Now we'll see if Wilson can end this one without giving the ball back. Use those legs here.

Andrew Healy: Collinsworth might have gotten a little too excited about an Eric Kendricks breakup in the first half (very nice play, but maybe not the best play by a linebacker this year). But that play that got the Seahawks the ball back got no love and that might have been even better. Didn't get a replay, though.

Rob Weintraub: Any special teams maven knows the laces affect direction only when faced left or right from the kicker. If you kick the laces it affects length, not accuracy.

Aaron Schatz: The end of that game... this year has had so many ridiculous endings. That was a ridiculous ending.

I feel like we need to share the tweets of former Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko for anyone who did not see them.

Rob Weintraub: Aha! Vindication via a man named Zoltan! My time on earth has not been wasted!

Man, Zim couldn't decontaminate that Bengals postseason stench in time. Gutted for him -- but more for Cincinnati.

Andrew Healy: The Vikings did everything right schematically and strategically, but just like you would have been nervous if it had been the Bengals attempting that kick, somehow it felt queasy with the Vikings, too. If we had a stat for snakebittenness since the merger, the Vikings are probably No. 1 overall, but in weighted snakebittenness, it's probably the Bengals.

Smaller note: Not sure there's been a dumber player of the game co-winner than Kam Chancellor. He gave up the DPI and the following reception that should have lost it.

Scott Kacsmar: Well, Blair Walsh joins some names like Scott Norwood, Lin Elliott, Mike Vanderjagt, and Billy Cundiff when it comes to being remembered for all the wrong reasons in a playoff game. I thought he would have no problem with a 27-yard field goal. He hit his longer ones fine today, but this was the most important one, and kickers are one of the positions where the mental game might even be bigger than what little they have to do physically.

Tom Gower: The third-down run was designed to go to the right. Adrian Peterson cut it back to the left, so the ball was on the left hash instead of the right hash. I did wonder before the snap if Vikings were going to run an actual play, or just have Teddy Bridgewater dive to the perfect position for Walsh. Like Mike Zimmer/Norv Turner, I thought "nah, they're in easy field goal range enough that it doesn't matter, try to get the first down to avoid the kick altogether." And, well, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Vince Verhei: I am annoyed at the notion that Blair Walsh cost his team the game. Anyone who says this didn't watch the game, the long kicks he made, and his (and his coverage unit's) excellent performance on kickoffs -- three touchbacks, one returned to the 17. They get shut out if not for Blair Walsh. If he makes that kick, he's the MVP of the game. So he misses one, and that makes him the only reason the team lost?

Overall, I thought that was clearly the best game of the weekend (pending the Green Bay-Washington game). There is a difference between bad offense and good defense. I thought most of what we saw from Houston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati was the former, but Seattle and Minnesota was definitely the latter.

Tom Gower: Concur completely with Vince's point re: Walsh. I was thinking before the kick if he made it he's the MVP of the game. Kickoffs were great as well, important in the weather and with such a dangerous return man back there. What's the expectation, in those conditions, for the four kicks he attempted? 3.0? 3.5? I know, they're all inside 50, no kicker should ever miss a kick like that. But it happens sometimes, and the long kicks are difficult. Going back to the Tennessee-New England playoff game in 2003 (another one of those really cold games -- kickoff temp 4, wind chill -10), Adam Vinatieri hit a game-winner from 46, but he had earlier in the game missed very, very badly from 46. Walsh hit from 47, a distance Seattle didn't even try from earlier (yes, other direction, etc., etc., etc.). Unfortunate time for that kind of mistake, but some perspective.

The question we'll never know the answer to is, what that game would have looked like in more normal conditions. Would Seattle's offense have looked more like it did in December? Would Minnesota have tried to throw downfield some? Or would both teams have let it play out much like it did, given the offensive line vs. defensive line matchups weren't favorable? We'll probably get some answers about Seattle next week, but not for the Vikings.

Rob Weintraub: I never liked the term "snakebit" to mean ill luck. That demeans the rattler or puff adder who did a good job getting his prey.

I do like "weighted snakebittedness" however.

Vince Verhei: Two more thoughts on individual Seattle defenders: Michael Bennett was awesome today, probably the best player on either team. Might have had more snaps in Minnesota's backfield than Adrian Peterson did. And Kam Chancellor -- and this is really more a comment on media coverage and public perception than Chancellor himself -- but it's funny how much his image changes based on the results of that kick. Walsh missed, so the story is that Chancellor is a big part of the win because he forced Peterson's fumble. If Walsh had made the kick, the story would have been that Chancellor let Minnesota move down the field with blown coverage on the DPI (which I thought could just have easily been OPI, but whatever, you're not allowed to play defense in the NFL anymore) and the long completion. Just funny to me that he goes from goat to hero based on what happened on the kick.

Green Bay Packers 35 at Washington Redskins 18

Aaron Schatz: So, the Packers are starting their fourth left tackle in four games, with J.C. Tretter, and it turns out that it isn't great moving a center out to the tackle position. Preston Smith beats him easily to sack Aaron Rodgers for a safety in the first five minutes of the game.

Wow, Jordan Reed really playing well in the first half. Packers were No. 4 in DVOA against tight ends but Micah Hyde seems unable to cover him. He has gotten open a number of times and also had the great one-handed catch that not only gained yards but prevented what looked to be a likely interception for Casey Hayward, who was right behind him.

Cian Fahey: Dom Capers is normally derided in the playoffs but he should be celebrated so far. He has called a great game. Green Bay is waiting for bootleg play-action and jumping on quick outs from the slot. Staple plays for Washington.

Aaron Schatz: Quinton Dunbar is a really good story for Washington, a UDFA rookie wide receiver from Florida who was moved to cornerback in training camp. I will admit to not watching much Washington this year but he has actually looked pretty good tonight. Of course, a guy playing his first year at corner is going to make some zone mistakes. After the wide-open touchdown by Davante Adams to make it 17-11, Aikman suggested on the telecast that Dunbar made a mistake by coming up to play a receiver in front of him and leaving the space behind him open. On replay, I'm not so sure... it might have been Cover-2, in which case Dunbar is supposed to move up and the safety should be in the end zone -- and a corner route like Adams ran is likely to be open anyway, though at least you would think the safety would have been closer to it.

Vince Verhei: Love that Green Bay keeps catching Washington's defense trying to substitute and getting free plays. The touchdown where, when the ball was snapped, Rodgers and several of his linemen were all looking backwards over their shoulders, and then several Washington defenders were trying to call timeout rather than rush the passer, was a thing of beauty. Washington needs to just start playing 15 men on the field if they're going to substitute that late. Sure, it's a penalty, but that's better than giving up a touchdown.

Tom Gower: Halftime. Packers lead 17-11. Despite the 11 points, I mostly like what Green Bay has done defensively. Washington is a bad running offense, so no surprise that outside of the 25-yarder by Chris Thompson they've barely gotten anything going there. Jordan Reed has gotten some yards, which was inevitable. The seam throw down the field for the touchdown to him was a good throw by Kirk Cousins, but on the other hand he coughed the ball up twice on sacks, Jordan Reed saved him on a pick-six, and he has done OK on some shallow crosses. The big story, and the big variable since about the bye week, has been Green Bay's offense and whether it would ever start working again. Early signs were bad, Rodgers was 1-of-8 and got safetied in the first quarter, but the illegal substitution penalties seemed to get him out of his torpor and into an effective tempo, plus Adams actually caught a couple balls.

Or maybe I'm just over-reading things and this is our third straight game massively affected by weather -- rain in Cincinnati, cold in Minnesota, and now wind in The Place Formerly Known As Raljon, as Washington with the wind starts the third quarter by quickly crossing midfield.

Aaron Schatz: Love the call to go with Kirk Cousins' quarterback draw at the goal line, especially how Washington drew away the attention of the Green Bay defense by lining up a diamond formation on one side, with Jordan Reed on the other side -- a red zone threat who also happens to be Washington's best player this evening.

Andrew Healy: That fourth-and-1 Eddie Lacy run on the Washington 45-yard line made me think for a second of John Riggins on fourth-and-1 against the Dolphins in Super Bowl 17. It was a different kind of play with both teams in goal-line personnel then, but the run went off the left side with a power back and he looked like he might have broken it.

The Packers' passing game problems are not solved with that breakout in the second quarter. We're still seeing hopeless deep throws with no breathing room. One to James Jones and one to Randall Cobb in the third quarter. Almost couldn't believe that Davante Adams made that catch in the second quarter. Had to be his best play of the entire season. Four catches on four targets for him. While he looks better, his much larger sample of below-replacement-level play suggests his loss is not a big deal if he can't return today.

But as the third quarter ends, one big improvement for the Packers lately is the pass protection. Perfect pocket for Rodgers to step up into on the in to Cobb that ends the third quarter. Looked like maybe they kept seven in to block there. He doesn't need much separation with that kind of protection. And he's smiling and relaxed like it's a State Farm commercial.

Tom Gower: How much of Rodgers' shakiness early was really the pass protection, and how much was him feeling the pressure because of the Packers' inability to execute with rhythm and timing in the pass game the last 6 to 10 weeks of the season? Because it looked an awful lot like the latter. Then he went to the sidelines, realized the pressure wasn't really getting that close to him, and kind of moved his mental clock a little. Since then, we haven't seen quite the same errant passes, and the offense has scored on four consecutive possessions, looking soon to be five as James Starks takes the latest carry down inside the 5.

Vince Verhei: For those keeping track, Green Bay finished their go-ahead drive with five straight carries for 54 total yards, then went ahead 32-18 on a drive that ended with five straight carries for 46 yards. They're just a locomotive right now.

Andrew Healy: Yeah, kind of unbelievable how the running game is rolling. The receiver group isn't fixed and probably won't be, but with the line playing this well opening holes and making Rodgers comfortable, that's enough. At least against this defense.

Aaron Schatz: This just in: opponent strength matters. The Washington defense is not good.

Scott Kacsmar: Green Bay was good against tight ends, bad against No. 1 wide receivers, which is basically what Jordan Reed is in this offense. He's playing very well today. Should have had a bigger gain after rolling over Randall's body, but officials whistled him down. Washington probably in four-down territory rest of the way, because they can't have faith in the defense to get stops right now.

Aaron Schatz: From what I understand from Packers fans on Twitter, part of the issue is that the Packers usually had Quinten Rollins covering tight ends for much of the year. With Sam Shields out, Rollins has to cover outside receivers and Micah Hyde is on Reed. Although Hyde has been good in the past in that safety/cornerback hybrid role the Packers use. It doesn't seem like he should be much of a downgrade.

Andrew Healy: By the way, last five rushes to the left side for the Packers as of the drive that made it 32-18: gains of 22, 4, 30, 11, and 9 yards. This isn't going to come close to happening against any of the other three NFC opponents, but still have to say that the left side of the line is doing better than we ever could have guessed.

Scott Kacsmar: Washington definitely lacked a reliable defense, but nothing from Green Bay over the last 13 games suggested a 35-point day on the road. Redskins cost themselves five easy points early in the game with DeSean Jackson not stretching for the touchdown and a missed extra point. Biggest difference was really in the pass protection. Cousins was pressured a lot more than Rodgers today.

Andrew Healy: And that fourth-down stop of Cousins pretty much ends the game with about five minutes to go.

I could have said something a bit more clearly earlier: The question going into next week is how much you want to believe this breakout carries over. You could make a positive case here with the protection improvements and those consecutive scoring drives starting in the second quarter. But they still averaged 5.8 yards per pass for the game. I've got them at two completions in eight deep pass attempts for 54 yards. And that's against the No. 24 defense against deep passes. Their problems were hidden today because the No. 22 rushing defense couldn't stop them, but despite the hopeful signs on the line, this formula probably isn't sustainable when they face the No. 2 rushing defense next week.

Scott Kacsmar: It's too late to matter, but another fumble in a run-out-the-clock situation. Never seen as many as I have this year. Up 17, just take three knees.

Andrew Healy: One last thing: Liked the creativity McCarthy showed in getting the ball to Cobb on running plays. First time in his career getting at least five carries. Used a bunch of different sets on those running plays, too, I think.


319 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2016, 1:54am

#1 by Willsy // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:13am

While it was gut wrenching to lose as a Vikings fan I could not be more proud. Talk about playing with pride and skill, they were great. Walsh took his lumps like a man, no excuses, and he put them in a position to win. The Peterson fumble In many ways was bigger as they get the first down and we're moving. Anyway off to the weight room and OTA''s, the show must go on.

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#127 by Otis Taylor89 // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:36pm

The Vikings loss was a team loss - tough to blame the guy that scored all your points solely. Vikings D really stepped up and I thought Teddy played well enough against a really, really good defense.
Would have liked to see how far that Viking defense could take them, although they were one more DB injury from being mediocre.

And David Bowie passing has me in a bad mood...

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#297 by nickd46 // Jan 12, 2016 - 2:53pm

As a Seahawks fan, I couldn't be more impressed with the Vikings, and feel the Seahawks were "lucky" too. Not for the oft-stated reason that the opposing kicker missed a chip shot... because that was at the very end of a long game in newsworthy conditions, when extremities will be painful, and I wonder if Carroll has a point that Sherman's previous near miss was possibly a factor. But because it was such a close loss... many other plays of the game, Hauschka's field goal, Wilson's Houdini throw, the fumble recovery, could have gone the other way and changed the result.

And yes, considering he scored all of the Vikings points, and still managed to kick the frozen bricks past Lockett on kick-offs, so I'm hoping the Vikings fans will see Walsh's kick in context.

Best of luck to you and the Vikings, see you in the playoffs next year?

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#2 by Willsy // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:14am

Bud Grant in a short sleeved shirt for the coin toss!

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#3 by galerus // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:36am

As a Steelers fan I'm totally understand mr. Weintraub's opinion though it paints Bengals all-white and Steelers all-black. But, Ok, I get it. Fan's love and all.
But let's get ONE thing straight. There was not cheering the injury of Big Ben what makes other people said the word "disgracefull" (after all this is why every team want's to play home - fans booing opponents). But this time Cincy's fans were throwing objects in Ben's direction, and camera actually caught one hitting him. And that is just BS and really disgracefull.

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#18 by Fierydemise // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:02am

This seems like an awfully convenient line to draw since Palmer was injured at home, not on the road. I have very little doubt that if the 06 game was at Heinz Field things would have been thrown at Palmer.

Fan bases are all pretty much the same, a couple years ago if Kaep was carted off at Qwest or Wilson carted off at Candlestick they'd have gotten stuff thrown at them too. Fandom is that little bit of joy in the pit of your stomach when the opposing player goes down, you shouldn't be happy, this is a person, probably not a bad person either, getting injured but you can't help yourself. The rowdy elements of your fan base are no better than the rowdy elements of your rival fan base. To think anything else seems self-aggrandizing at best.

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#43 by galerus // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:49am

I see what you are talking about but it is all hypotetical. "What if", "What could've been" etc. I saw so many rough Steelers-Ravens games throughout this century and never any of those fanbases' hatred escalates to that degree. That was just WOW!
And look, I'm not telling you that Steelers fans are so much better then anyone else (far from it) - I'm trying to tell that this type of behaviour was just incredibly idiotic and shamefull. If any Steeler fan would do it I would've said the same.

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#316 by Mountain Time … // Jan 14, 2016 - 12:21am

"Fan bases are all pretty much the same"

Whoa, no. Not even close. For example, can you imagine fans in Boston cheering an opposing player's injury, let alone throwing trash at him? Or fans in, say, Jacksonville?

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#319 by Jerry // Jan 14, 2016 - 1:54am

Can you imagine fans in Foxborough acting so awful that they wouldn't play Monday night games there? That was the case for years.

Every fanbase has jerks in it. Even the ones that you and I are part of.

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#58 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:16am


Yeah, seriously none of the guys noticed the garbage being thrown at Ben as he was carted off? How convenient (and unsurprising). Hey, Rob, next time just type "I hate the Steelers" instead of that novel you submitted.

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#184 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:00pm

The whole discussion is ridiculous and anti-Steeler in general.

The refs missed at least 4 non-judgement level ejection worthy events in the game, and they were ALL in the Bengals direction.

I know the guys are busy and all, but pay SOME attention.
Case in point, start with the comment about Peko.

The standard is the standard!

Points: 0

#200 by LyleNM // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:37pm

Your definition of "all" seems to differ from that of the non-biased observers inhabiting this board.

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#286 by gomer_rs // Jan 12, 2016 - 12:36pm

Considering that I watched 20mins of that game and saw two uncalled hits by Shazier, against Eifert in the 1st and the one against Bennard in the 4th, that should have been ejection/fine/suspension worthy. Not sure I agree with you.

And the Bengal fans were throwing things on the field in response to the no-call/fumble/not-incomplete pass against Bernard. Roethlisberger was hurt on the ensuing drive.

Since a receiver is a defenseless player and a runner is a player that can protect themselves and a catch is a catch when a receiver transitions from receiver to runner, I think the refs intentionally got the fumble/no-catch call on Bennard wrong to cover up the blown flag on Shazier. If they'd ruled it incomplete then that would admit that Shazier SHOULD HAVE BEEN FLAGGED.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

Points: 0

#301 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 12, 2016 - 3:34pm

those are judgement related calls.

bumping officials isn't.
running into a group of officials while throwing punch-like motions isn't
coming off the sideline and striking an opponent isn't

ps, you're dead wrong about throwing things on the field

The standard is the standard!

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#223 by Rocco // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:22pm

I like how Weintraub thinks that all the bad blood started with Shazier on Bernard. It's not like Burfict racked up 70k in fines in their last meeting or anything by fighting repeatedly and trying to take out Big Ben's knees.

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#224 by Rocco // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:22pm

I like how Weintraub thinks that all the bad blood started with Shazier on Bernard. It's not like Burfict racked up 70k in fines in their last meeting or anything by fighting repeatedly and trying to take out Big Ben's knees.

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#309 by DRohan // Jan 12, 2016 - 11:09pm

I can't believe that he can question the toughness of a QB who once had his nose broken on a 3rd down sack and was back on the field for the next series, not missing a snap. Not to mention he was already playing with a broken foot. I think Ben deserves the benefit of the doubt on his toughness by now.

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#4 by Pen // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:54am

Wilson threw the interception that lost the Super Bowl. He put it behind him. He's leading his team this year. I hope Walsh and the Minnesota fans can put that kick behind them. There will be a next year.

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#5 by Kevin from Philly // Jan 11, 2016 - 5:14am

Hey, what happened to "The Week in Quotes"? Didn't see it this past week and I don't recall seeing it the previous week. Hard to believe no one in the NFL said anything stupid for two weeks.

Points: 0

#6 by taips // Jan 11, 2016 - 5:15am

PIT before the second half. 3 TO in the pocket.
1-10-CIN 12 (:52) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short right to 84-A.Brown.
2-10-CIN 12 (:47) (Shotgun) 33-F.Toussaint right guard to CIN 12 for no gain (97-G.Atkins).
//////////////////Timeout #1 by PIT at 00:42./////////////////////////////
3-10-CIN 12 (:42) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short middle to 84-A.Brown (57-V.Rey).
4-10-CIN 12 (:37) 9-C.Boswell 30 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-60-G.Warren, Holder-4-J.Berry.
That immediate timeout is unfathomably stupid. They have to throw on 3-10 from the 12 anyway, they have 3! TO left in case they get the first and not the TD. In any other contingency, letting some time run out is strictly preferable.

At least now Tomlin can donate 2 first half TOs to charity.

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#7 by SFC B // Jan 11, 2016 - 5:47am

I'm fairly certain that the "kicker with a poorly-timed miss" Walsh was immediately associated with is Gary Anderson.

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#8 by Raiderjoe // Jan 11, 2016 - 6:16am

It would have been gerat for Joey jerk porter to eb flagged 15 yards and then have putt miss field goal and porter woudl be huge goat

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#59 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:21am

Would've been even better to see Burfict ruled not down and two points awarded to the Steelers after that display following the interception.

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#67 by Raiderjoe // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:35am

well, no becuauee thaty would have made it look further like officials gifted steelers a win. burfict was clearly down as soon as caught ball. is allowed to run into tunnel. we had seen r. sahzier run around like buffoon an hour or s o earlier.

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#69 by Raiderjoe // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:37am

do get why u say it would have been funny.

myself, am saying it would be horrible becuause would havbe been terribly blown call. bengals would have thrown red flag though,.

but yeah if burfict caught it while standing and ran other way, yes- hilarious

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#72 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:41am

lol @ "gifted a win for the Steelers". Burfict should've been thrown out the game by the end of the third quarter.

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#87 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:12am

He shouldn't have danced after the hit, but you're talking about one incident vs. Burfict being out of control all night.

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#102 by Insancipitory // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:34am

It's extreme even by heightened contemporary standards, but he went to spear Hill with the crown of his helmet. If the refs called the game consistently, I could live with an ejection after a play like that. That probably would have gone a long way to calming the game down. I could also live with an ejection for Munchak grabbing the hair. The hair might have been accidental or incidental, but what's he doing grabbing a player and pushing towards the Steelers bench? The refs and the teams were warned, no one in that game took control of anything. In retrospect that lack of official commitment to safety put people's health at risk. Whatever people think of draconian proposed solutions, the status quo is reckless, and increasingly distasteful.

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#121 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:22pm


How often have you seen a player ejected after a play similar to that? I don't think that would've calmed things at all. As far as Nelson and Munchak, it looked to me like Munchak was trying to slow Nelson from running into the Steelers' bench and accidentally got tangled up with Nelson's foot long dreads in the process.

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#124 by Raiderjoe // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:25pm

That is really seeing things through black and yellow goggles. Mm munchak clearly pusjing Nelson cause had flashback to oil/tit career, forgot for moemtn he is coach and should act liek one. But then again coching under m. Tonkin who will try to trip opposing players during action

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#251 by Noahrk // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:28pm

Your interpretation doesn't seem like what happened to me at all. Munchak was clearly trying to provoke Nelson.

Who, me?

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#262 by Noahrk // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:30pm

If you look at the guy's hair in the play, it's long but very well groomed. I don't see how you could get tangled up in it without a concentrated effort. Also, when you are trying to untangle yourself from hair you do not close your fist like Munchak did. When he opened his fist, he was instantly untangled. The video evidence does not leave much room for interpretation.

Who, me?

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#317 by Mountain Time … // Jan 14, 2016 - 12:58am

"he was clearly trying to get himself untangled from Nelson's mile-long dreads."

You don't have to squint too hard to see this position as racist, at least when it comes to players on the opposing team. Even if it's not racist, I don't see how any non-biased, rational observer could see your position as anything other than blaming the victim.

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#145 by optown55 // Jan 11, 2016 - 1:20pm

And I suppose the fact that Nelson shoved Munchak, who is twice his age and not wearing pads, was justified? At least Munchak was penalized. Nelson given nothing. Big surprise that players would get physical with Porter later, regardless of what he was doing. Also lets not forget the fact that there were two separate instances where Bengals players left the bench and came onto the field to start altercations. Only one was even flagged. If this was any other league, both guys would've been tossed immediately and received suspensions. I am from Pittsburgh, I admit I have some level of bias, but bottom line is, those officials were horrendous and had no control of that game from the coin flip.

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#151 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 1:32pm

Glad I'm not the only one who saw what looked like non-incidental contact initiated by Nelson there (video link with timestamp posted a bit below here).

I'm willing to give the benefit of a doubt to the guy who's 1) already in the Hall of Fame, 2) not on a massive adrenaline rush from running around and hitting people, and 3) not pumped full of every manner of not-yet-illegal performance- and mood-altering drug almost certainly in use by current players

Of course, I'm hideously biased here, since my opinions on football-player hair pretty much match Abe Simpson's. (

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#183 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:00pm

Nelson was originally flagged, too, on that play, before the refs changed their minds. Huge gap with no people on the sideline and he goes right for a coach's face?

Anyway, we're talking about a 55-year-old man vs. a known associate of Aaron Hernandez.

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#110 by justanothersteve // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:04pm

It has nothing to do with the dancing. It was how Shazier hit the RB. He clearly used his helmet as a weapon going in head first. It was his decision to do so. It is also what really escalated the violence in the game when the referees did nothing to penalize him. That the refs let it go is what led to everything else. From my POV, Shazier should be suspended for the next game. If the Bengals had won, I'd feel the same about both Burfict and Jones.

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#130 by Herr Gauss Markov // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:46pm

This is spot on. I was watching after the fact on Game Preview (without knowledge of the outcome), and as soon as the Bernard hit happened and went unpenalized, I could viscerally feel the tone of the game change. It doesn't help that Simms and Nantz were just despicably uninterested in talking about the hit on Bernard with the same finger-wagging tone they took with the earlier hit on Wheaton. I'm not happy that Burfict and Jones lost it, but like Rob said, given the long fractious history and the blatantly irregular officiating, I get it.

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#187 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:05pm

wait, so you feel suspensions should be determined based on the outcome of the game?

Also LOL that nobody is talking about how Burfict bumped an official. this is on video and indisputable!

The standard is the standard!

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#203 by justanothersteve // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:41pm

No. You're putting words in other people's mouths in order to justify an appalling act. I think it should be the next game regardless. It's just that Burfict and Jones would be their first game next year.

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#207 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:47pm

"From my POV, Shazier should be suspended for the next game. If the Bengals had won, I'd feel the same about both Burfict and Jones."

how else can this be interpreted. 'if the bengals had won... I'd ....'

The standard is the standard!

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#252 by Noahrk // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:32pm

And what was Mike Carey on when he said the Shazier play was legal? He was not defenseless so that means you can ram him with your helmet to his?

Who, me?

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#185 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:03pm

down or not, he and his teammates celebrated together-excessively- and furthermore delayed the game, 45 yards could legitimately be penalized considering the tiny infraction Bud Dupree got after the Willie Gay celebration.

The standard is the standard!

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#140 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 1:06pm

I finally went back and watched the replays more times than any sane person should (

On the Bernard fumble, guess who runs right on the field and starts mixing it up? Burfict! (3:18) Dude was in such a hurry he forgot his helmet, and had to bump his own teammates out of the way.

On the Munchak hair-pull (0:44), it sure looks an awful lot like the dreadlocked gentleman delivered a deliberate shoulder first.

That final penalty debacle was somewhat reminiscent of that "Bart Scott throws the flag" incident from Ravens/Patriots, where there's no seemingly logical reason for assessing stacked penalties other than to deliberately influence the outcome of the game against the team continually committing conspicuous acts of buffoonery.

And, of course, Pacman comes out today and accuses Brown of faking the concussion! As though the video rant weren't already enough to earn him some unpaid vacation.

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#214 by PatsFan // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:55pm

In the Bart Scott meltdown the additional penalty didn't affect very much. The first penalty (which was richly earned) would have put the kickoff spot at the 50, from which Gostkowski could easily blast it out of the endzone. The subsequent penalty putting it at the BAL 35 was gilding the lily.

That said, I'm still annoyed at Belichick for not attempting a game-clinching onsides kick on that kickoff, since if BAL held onto it that'd have it at their own 25 vs. their own 20 on the inevitable touchback. And if NE recovered the game was over.

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#221 by Travis // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:11pm

I was disappointed he didn't at least have Gostkowski aim for the sideline, because the rules specify that the next spot be at the out-of-bounds spot OR 30 yards from the spot of the kick, with no option to force a rekick as long as the kick went 20 yards. At worst, he could have pinned the Ravens inside the 15 with little trouble.

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#229 by duh // Jan 11, 2016 - 5:18pm

You're right this would have been awesome! The meltdowns that would have followed would have been something to behold.

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#240 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:20pm

Travis, you're exactly the person who probably knows this (or how to find it quickly):

How often does the "additive personal fouls" phenomenon come up? These two are the only ones that come to mind.

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#244 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:04pm

Cases where one team commits multiple penalties, and therefore get penalized >15 yards. Like the Bart Scott flag throw and Burfict/Pacman combo. I haven't seen any others, personally.

Basically, the exceptions below:

Section 4 Choice of Penalties
If there is a multiple foul (3-11-2-b) by the same team during the same down, only one penalty may be enforced
after the Referee has explained the alternatives. The captain of the offended team shall make the choice.
Exception 1: If one of the multiple fouls is a foul against a game official, then both fouls are enforced.
Exception 2: If the defensive team commits a personal foul that is also pass interference, then both fouls are

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#245 by Travis // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:30pm

It happens every so often. In 1974, the Bears' Craig Clemons picked up 3 consecutive 15-yard penalties, a personal foul followed by two unsportsmanlike conducts.

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#314 by lofistew // Jan 13, 2016 - 6:40pm

Wow, I watched that game as a little kid and the memory has stuck with me ever since. That was in the days when the officials would actually walk off all penalties, instead of just placing it at the new spot like today. That ref just kept going and going and going. Stupid Bears.

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#246 by jtr // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:35pm

billsfan, the answer is that fouls that happen during a dead ball don't count as happening during the down. So this gets marked down as a personal foul on Berfict on 1&10, which is assessed, then there's a personal foul on Pacman in between that play and the next one. You could commit an indefinite number of personal foul/unsportsmanlike penalties between one play and the next and they would all count.

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#270 by billsfan // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:56pm

I don't get that from my reading of the rules (excerpeted above), which only make explicit multiple-foul exceptions for personal foul DPI and abuse of official. The Bart Scott flag throw was clearly the latter, as was Travis's historical example. I'm guessing the Pacman penalty must have been against an official, ergo propter hoc.

Can't direct-link the rulebook PDF from my phone, but it's section 14-1-3, a/k/a 3-11-2-b. If Vladimir Nabokov were a patent lawyer, even he couldn't produce something this convolutedly self-referential.

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#276 by Jerry // Jan 12, 2016 - 6:28am

Maybe Jones' penalty, as others have suggested, was considered to be after the play. There has to a mechanism to make sure that one personal foul isn't a license for teammates to go nuts.

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#279 by jtr // Jan 12, 2016 - 7:45am

As I interpret the rules, as soon as the play is over the refs consider the penalty to be assessed. So anything that happens after the play happens on the new 1st and 10 awarded on the penalty--it's no longer the same down, so a new penalty can be applied. Plus, Pacman seems to have gotten called for shoving two officials to try to get at Porter, so the fouls-against-an-official rule also applies.

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#283 by billsfan // Jan 12, 2016 - 9:04am

Found it. Isn't in the PDF of just chapter 14, but is in the whole rulebook PDF. "Dead ball" and "between downs" are different times. Anyway:

ARTICLE 9. DEAD BALL FOUL AND FOUL BETWEEN DOWNS. A Dead Ball Foul is a foul that occurs in the continuing
action after a down ends, or a taunting foul that occurs at any time. The penalty for a Dead Ball Foul is enforced from the
succeeding spot, and the down counts.
A Foul Between Downs is a foul that occurs after the end of the down and after any continuing action resulting from the down,
but prior to the next snap or free kick. The penalty for a Foul Between Downs is enforced from the succeeding spot, and the
down counts, but it cannot be combined with a Live Ball Foul or a Dead Ball Foul to create a Multiple or Double Foul. A Foul
Between Downs is always enforced separately from any other foul.
A foul against an official, regardless of when it occurs, is
always treated as a Foul Between Downs. See 12-3-1-h-pen.

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#318 by Mountain Time … // Jan 14, 2016 - 1:07am

That video takes the Nelson-Munacheck incident way out of context. Edit the video differently and Nelson isn't the bad guy

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#9 by Raiderjoe // Jan 11, 2016 - 6:19am

Horrible weekend. None of temas was rooting for to win won., don't like any of remaining afc geams or pakces or seahawks

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#10 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 6:30am

Cobb has been used out of the backfield pretty regularly all season as a 'change of pace' typically in the second half. But once Starks began fumbling and Lacy still not hitting holes aggressively MM has gone to Cobb sooner in games.

The Packers defense lives and dies with the play of the line. With Raji back and healthy, Daniels playing well, and Pennel coming on strong GB was able to free up the linebackers to rush effectively.

Micah Hyde freely admits that he struggles covering bigger guys. Meanwhile Rollins is about the same size as Hyde but holds his own mostly because he is one tough SOB.

Nick Perry has one pass rush move, the bull rush. Any blocker who isn't ready for that from Perry clearly has not studied the film at all. Perry does the same move each and every time.

Julius Peppers is 500 years old but boy is he still active on the rush. He must have set up 3 of the 6 sacks by whipping his guy and getting Cousins to move. And Matthews was his usual hair on fire self.

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#11 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 6:37am

I am truly sorry for Viking fans. I have no sympathy for the Vikings. I despise teams playing Marty ball at the end of games (referencing to Schottenheimer always settling for field goals). Minnesota had all the time in the world to try and put it in the end zone. Yes I know that MN got Seattle to use up their timeouts, blah, blah, blah. I remain adamant that you go for the end zone. HOw you can go for it on 4th down from your side of the field and then just slam into the line to entrust your season to a kicker baffles me.

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#19 by jmaron // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:04am

I think there is a big difference settling for a 30 yard of less FG than a 40+. I think the odds of winning were much better getting Sea to use it's timeouts than say scoring to go up 6 and leaving them with over a minute and some timeouts.

Minnesota has been wretched inside the red zone all year, particularly passing. I had no problem with the strategy.

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#22 by Will Allen // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:29am

Peterson came within a half yard of converting the 3rd down. They aren't a good red zone team. It was the smart play, and sometimes the smart play doesn't work.

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#45 by jmaron // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:49am

I did notice that they were trying to run right that whole series. Pretty sure they wanted to get Walsh to the right hash as that is where he kicks converts. Peterson saw a hole left and went for the 1st down. Guys need to make 27 yarders from either hash, but I'm thinking that made him just a little less confident.

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#93 by LyleNM // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:22am

It occurred to me some time after the game that it's possible that Sherman's near block of the third FG might, just might, have had a small effect on the last kick. Probably not, though. Anybody know if Walsh got asked that question?

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#298 by nickd46 // Jan 12, 2016 - 3:02pm

Pete Carroll says so: ; I'd be interested to know if Carroll's assertion that the last kick "was kicked much faster than their other kicks" is true.

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#12 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:06am

Steelers were penalized 10 times for 142 yards. Wasn't like officials gave them a free pass

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#311 by DRohan // Jan 12, 2016 - 11:46pm

The Bengals were only penalized 79 yards, meaning that before the final meltdown they only had 49. This has to be the first game I've ever seen referees hand to a team by penalizing them at nearly a 3-1 clip over their opponent.

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#13 by JMM // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:08am

Regarding Porter on the field....

As the trainers carried Brown from the field, Porter walked behind them. I guess he thought he might be needed to be one of the two bodies necessary to support Brown. Two trainers were all that was needed.

As they carried him out with Porter walking behind, one of the Bengals stepped in to bump the shoulder of the trainer arm in arm with Brown. That's when the"huddle" of Bengals formed and Porter addresses them. It was Jones insistence on confronting Porter pushing teammates and an official out of the way that led to a flag.

While Porter might not have been needed and arguably should not have been there, he clearly was not looking to cause trouble. Jones and another Bengal or two should be disaplined for their behavior as Brown made his way to the sideline.

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#46 by Pat // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:50am

The problem is that Porter shouldn't've been there. At all. The officials later said that Porter was allowed on out of "real concern for Brown," but that shouldn't've extended to Porter going over and basically sneering at a bunch of Bengals.

Don't get me wrong, obviously none of that excuses Jones for going after him. But for me, the obvious answer there should've been a pair of offsetting penalties, one against the Steelers, one against the Bengals. Really, my biggest problem in the game was that the officials didn't call enough offsetting penalties. I *hate* that officials don't throw multiple flags when things get out of hand, because it just encourages things to get *more* out of hand.

I mean, you don't think Porter was standing there thinking "hey, these guys are pissed off, let's see if I can tempt them into doing something stupid"? With that look on his face, and standing where he was?

Again, that's not to vindicate Jones but seriously, if you're the officials, you've got to let guys know that instigating things is just as bad as reacting to them.

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#50 by Will Allen // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:02am

If you are going to have a loophole for an assistant coach to be on the field, instead of a hard and fast rule of "Any assistant coach who enters the field of play during the game will result in his team being penalized 15 yards", much like the black and white rule for NBA bench players stepping on to the court, then you are going to have situations like this. There is literally no good reason to allow an assistant coach on the field.

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#56 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:16am

It would not surprise me to learn that Porter was hired specifically for this game to be the Irritation Coach

I cannot imagine what other role he could fill

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#57 by Pat // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:16am

Yeah, exactly. Which is why I thought that the officials - or the *league*, mind you, considering they're at least in contact with the officials on game day now - absolutely should've thrown offsetting penalties. I mean, if Porter says "I'm just seeing if Brown's okay," clearly, by the time Jones shoved him, he'd shown that he was lying, so throwing a flag on both of them makes sense.

To me that's absolutely the thing that the league's officiating crew should've grabbed them and said "hey, no, you absolutely need to throw flags on both sides there. Do it. Now." I mean, the NFL's going to fine Porter, so obviously they don't agree with him being on the field either. It's a playoff game, you can't allow something like that to decide the game.

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#189 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:09pm

If you're going to bitch and moan about it, bitch and moan about the precedent that allows it

how about 150 yards for the Bengals coaches. ?
The standard is the standard!

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#196 by Will Allen // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:25pm

Who's bitching and moaning? I'm just saying that they should have a hard and fast rule, that they now lack, of no assistant coaches on the field, period. If you disagree, explain why, instead of imagining that I care enough to be bitching and moaning. I don't.

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#202 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:41pm

I wasn't really trying to single out or imply you were, sorry if it came out that way. My point was everyone is "PORTER PORTER PORTER" and ignoring that he is hardly the only one who engaged in this "activity" of being on the field during an injury.

The standard is the standard!

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#206 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:45pm

People are complaining about Porter because the Bengals coaches being on the field didn't affect the game in any meaningful way.

But also, as far as I can tell everyone is complaining about the refs losing control of the game.

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#312 by DRohan // Jan 12, 2016 - 11:59pm

The guy who reached out to Brown was Burfict. I think it's a reasonable response to try to keep him at a distance there. And Porter was not trying to escalate anything, he was helping separate Burfict from the Brown contingent, and doing so in a non-threatening manner. Gilberry came up from behind, bumping his chest into Porter's back, trying to be an intimidator, and thrusting Porter into the group of other Bengal players. (I feel Gilberry is a prime instigator of this situation and he's not getting enough blame for it.) Porter may have been talking crap, but if he was, it was in a Larry Bird-like fashion, doing it on the sly. His body language was muted the whole time. If you know anything about Joey Porter, that certainly isn't his way.

Regarding coaches being on the field, have you seen the pictures of what I believe to be when Bernard was hurt? There are about 9 Bengals coaches on the field. Porter being on the field wasn't an issue until the Bengals players made it an issue.

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#61 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:26am

And a lot of people here and on other outlets are spinning it as Porter walking on the field and making a beeline to a group of Bengals to start shit talking/instigating, which isn't what happened.

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#89 by Pat // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:14am

It doesn't matter. Coaches and players don't have the same 'rights' on the field. Was it OK to let Porter on after Brown was hurt? Maybe. My gut says "yeah, it's OK, you can't be heartless on that."

But once he wasn't focused on Brown, and over at the Bengals players, that's not OK. It doesn't matter if the Bengals were taunting him. It doesn't matter what the Bengals were doing (prior to Jones). At all. And there were officials right there, so I'm positive that the officials were saying to Porter "hey, you need to clear out of here, stay by your own guy." But once Jones charged at him (through an official, which is what they claimed they flagged him for), they should've flagged Porter as well, because clearly Porter was pissing people off more than helping his own man.

The only reason Porter went over there was to get a Bengals player to react, since once they let him out there, he knew he'd be able to push the boundaries without getting flagged right away. So worst case it's offsetting penalties and it doesn't matter.

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#95 by TTP // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:23am

The problem is that the referees allowed this crap to go on all game. For example, after the Shazier hit, half the Bengals roster was out on the field looking for a fight, led by Jeremy Hill and Burfict. The coaches were out there too. No flags. The referees had zero control of this game and it started from the very beginning. Yes, they should have gotten Porter out of there but they screwed this type of stuff up the entire game. So, I'm not surprised they screwed up the Pacman-Porter incident too.

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#101 by Pat // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:33am

Yup. Totally agree. To me, though, what I'm most surprised about is the league office not jumping in. I mean, they're planning on fining Porter. Fining him! Which is really their way of saying that he should've been flagged.

Now, if the Bengals hadn't been flagged on that play, I would've said "meh" and it's not a big deal, since it wouldn't've affected what happened on the field. Except the Bengals did get flagged, so it did affect what happened.

Joey Porter probably netted them a 20-30% chance of winning by doing what he did. And that's what I'm amazed the league office didn't jump in and tell them to fix. Because the biggest problem with what Porter did is that any other team, looking at that, will immediately think "hey, screw it, we can do this too."

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#100 by JMM // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:32am

The point of my post was that Porter wasn't focused on Brown because while Brown was being walked off the field, a step ahead of Porter, a Bengal stepped into the path of the trainer assisting Brown and bumped him. Porter said something to this player and a cluster of Bengals formed around them. This is what Jones tried to push through.

Again, the rule is loosely applied when a serious injury is being attended to. But assaulting a trainer as he does his job is outrageous.

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#108 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:01pm

That was Burfict. He went over to say something to Brown (maybe consoling, maybe not) and the trainer pushed him away. Porter saw this and that's when things escalated.

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#137 by Herr Gauss Markov // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:59pm

Here's video of the interaction between Burfict and Brown as Brown is helped off the field: Of course, whether you see that as consolation or something more sinister probably depends 100% on what you assumed before you saw it.

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#313 by DRohan // Jan 13, 2016 - 12:03am

Gilberry is the one who "escorted" Porter into the thick of it. Nothing was going on before that (aside from Burfict's unwelcome attempt to get to Brown). And even then, what did Porter do? Talk? Maybe. Nothing else. His hands were in his pockets the whole time. A very threatening pose, indeed.

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#172 by Blykmyk44 // Jan 11, 2016 - 2:25pm

Ive watched the video multiple times. As Brown is walking off the field Buerfict goes to tap him on the shoulder and the trainer throws off Burfict's arm. At that Brown is no point is Porter walking with them. He is standing there next to the Bengals players (and ref) for no reason at all.

It is shocking to me that any unbiased fan can defend Porter's presence in this situation. He does not need to be on the field and was not doing anything on the field that was necessary. So...what is the Pittsburgh LB coach doing there? Have to go with the obvious answer.

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#181 by optown55 // Jan 11, 2016 - 2:57pm

This is a joke. I'm sure he was the first positional coach to ever be on the field after an injury to a player. Whether he had a right to be there or not doesn't justify anyone getting physical with him. He wants to talk then talk back. You get physical then you cross the line. It's pretty simple really.

And if you really wanna throw this much outrage at Porter being on the field while a player was hurt, then don't leave out Jeremy Hill and Burfict who ran onto the field at Shazier 40 yds away from where Bernard was hurt. Btw, no penalty on either of them for that move, which was a lot more inflammatory than anything Joey Porter could possibly have said.

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#193 by Steve B // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:21pm

Honestly, from the clips I've seen it doesn't look like Porter did much of anything until the interaction between Burfict and the trainer. Really, even if he was talking prior to that, there's no rule that the Bengals have to say anything back beyond pointing at the scoreboard.

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#199 by Pat // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:34pm

No, but there is a rule that an assistant can't be on the field. He was let on out of concern for Brown, not to be allowed to mouth off at opposite-team players.

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#210 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:50pm

He's a linebackers coach, not medical staff. He's got no business being on the field when there's an injured receiver.

IF it was a linebacker hurt, I could see letting him out there, but there's no real good reason for him to be out there during that game.

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#215 by Will Allen // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:56pm

That's why you need a hard and fast rule that is enforced 100% of the time, like in the NBA. You can't saddle the refs with thinking about which unit a guy coaches. There is no player safety value in having an assistant coach enter the field. Tell them to stay off, and that a penalty is a 100% certainty if they don't.

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#219 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:07pm

I just have to point out while the NBA has a hard and fast rule, it is not consistently enforced. If you recall during the infamous Suns bench leaving game, there were clips of Spurs players leaving the bench area earlier in the series with nothing done.

Also, in the epic Bulls-Celtics round 1 series the Bulls players left the bench area several times with no penalties.

That's just playoff games too.

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#248 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:52pm

There is a hard and fast rule - it says that only attendants and training staff can enter the field of play during a play stoppage.

Its just not enforced. (and yeah, I'd like to see these things be enforced in a draconian way - nothing is more aggravating than when the refs decide to enforce something that they haven't been enforcing all day)

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#266 by PatsFan // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:58pm

It actually says that during a team timeout (no matter which team takes it) aside from attendants and their helpers no non-player can come on the field without the permission of the Referee. It doesn't address officials' timeouts (which that was since it was an injury when PIT had no timeouts left). I looked through the rulebook at and was unable to find an analogous rule for officials' timeouts. I suppose there's probably something in the Game Operations Manual that covers it.

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#198 by Duff Soviet Union // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:33pm

"While Porter might not have been needed and arguably should not have been there, he clearly was not looking to cause trouble."

I'd have an easier time believing that if he wasn't Joey Porter.

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#14 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:11am

That end zone stand after Jackson's error was really something.

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#15 by PackerPete // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:20am

Russell Wilson a hall of famer for throwing balls away under pressure, or simply a beneficiary of a rule change allowing this? If the rule is to protect quarterbacks from big hits outside the pocket, maybe the rule should be adjusted because it is bailing out offenses too much. I'd suggest that if the QB is outside the tackles and not in contact with a defensive player, the QB can throw the ball away. However, if the QB is being tackled by a defender, intentional grounding should be called if the QB's throw doesn't get within a yard or two of a receiver. These throws are blatant intentional grounding, and solid defensive plays are being negated by this rule.

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#16 by big10freak // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:23am

Agreed. But to be clear Rodgers does the same thing

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#17 by joe football // Jan 11, 2016 - 7:43am

Just eliminate the tackle box distinction and passing plays become more interesting and balanced from a risk/reward perspective

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#37 by Joshua Northey // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:32am

I agree completely. Honestly given how the game has evolved I would love to see a rule change where on an incomplete pass you get the ball from the spot the pass was made. Would bring some balance back to offenses, and would allow you to have some more safety focused rules that hurt the defense (no more hitting period).

But that is all very radical. Definitely you have to penalize the QB for throwing the ball 2 yards in front of him in the ground while being sacked.

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#42 by Flounder // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:45am

That would be a horrendous rule change that would provide a huge disincentive for low percentage throws deep down the field. Everyone would dink and dunk, and to make sure passing offense could still function, the rules on holding, interference, etc would get even more tilted in favor of the offense than they already are.

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#90 by Joshua Northey // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:14am

Why are low percentage deep throws down the field good? They create a lot of rule problems related to pass interference?

Football today looks nothing like it did in 1950. There is no reason it won't look completely different in 2050. WHy assume the football you are familiar with is the best football?

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#92 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 11, 2016 - 11:20am

That's not actually true though. Football today looks very much like football in 1950. If you said 1930 or 1940, you'd be right, but the thing is I don't want to watch 1930s football. I like football generally as it is, and I only want small tweaks to improve it.

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#227 by blan // Jan 11, 2016 - 4:39pm

Re: 37

"No more hitting period."

You know, if you don't like to watch hitting, there are plenty of non-contact sports for you to enjoy. There's no need to hope that a contact sport becomes a non-contact sport.

I recommend tennis. Because of the layout of the tennis court, there's almost no chance that the players will collide.

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#39 by rj1 // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:37am

"However, if the QB is being tackled by a defender, intentional grounding should be called if the QB's throw doesn't get within a yard or two of a receiver. These throws are blatant intentional grounding."

YES!!! This is a loophole in the rulebook that needs to be fixed. That "pass" where he was getting sacked and threw it down 5 yards in front of him was disgraceful. If that is not intentional grounding, there's no reason to have an intentional grounding rule.

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#51 by Sakic // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:04am

Personally, I think Wilson was more lucky than good on those two throwaways. He wasn't out of the pocket on either of them and unless he was trying to set up a screen on one of them he got extremely lucky that there was an eligible receiver standing right there. On the sidelines throwaway he didn't even look when he threw it (which is why it seemed so blatant) and there just happened to be a guy nearby.

But to agree with the original post that's not how the throwaway rule is designed to work. A QB being allowed to throw the ball away once outside of the tackle box was put into place to allow a QB to avoid excess punishment not to get out of sacks. Once a QB is in the process of being pulled to the ground the throwaway the rules need to be tightened in order to curb that sort of behavior.

Of course, situational rules interpretation is why none of understand what a penalty is anymore. :-)

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#296 by gomer_rs // Jan 12, 2016 - 2:33pm

Well a smart QB throwing the ball out of bounds would realize that a intentional grounding call results in a sack and getting lucky and randomly throwing over the head of where a WR might be results in an incompletion. There is no disincentive to throwing the ball to where a WR might be to avoid a sack.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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#119 by Scott de B. // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:20pm

Didn't there used to be a rule about a QB being 'in the grasp' of a defender? Such that throwing the ball away still counted as a sack?

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#120 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:22pm

In the grasp technically still exists but refs don't call it anymore because fans wanted to watch Cunningham and Elway break tackles and get away from defenders.

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#139 by Sakic // Jan 11, 2016 - 1:05pm

Yeah, back in the 90s there were playing being ruled "in the grasp" despite breaking free from a tackler. Nothing like seeing a sack being called and the quarterback running free.

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#49 by RickD // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:58am

Wilson's early flip was definitely intentional grounding, and the reason it wasn't called as such is because the NFL thinks that it's preferable to try to codify all possibilities with elaborate language, rather than simply trusting referees to make judgment calls. The elaborate language ends up simply moving the point at which judgment is required (as is seen often with the current state of the "what is a catch?" rule).

The officials said there was a "receiver in the area" but it sure didn't seem like that, given that the "pass" traveled only about two yards.

Far from the most important thing in the game, but it does get annoying.

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#79 by jacobk // Jan 11, 2016 - 10:49am

For some reason the network broadcast focused on the replay that was zoomed in tight on Wilson. On that replay the only guy in the same zip code was a lineman. If you zoom out a bit there was a tight end that Wilson was facing when he began the throwing motion. The defender slung him around so that the ball didn't really land close to the tight end, but refs tend to be generous on intentional grounding "player in the area" calls when the flight of the ball is affected by the defense.

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#149 by zzyzx // Jan 11, 2016 - 1:27pm

The ref even specifically said that (whoever it was) was in the area.

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#308 by LionInAZ // Jan 12, 2016 - 10:31pm

Exactly. The TE Coffman was in the area to Wilson's right when he threw. It was plain to see in the live shot, but Coffman wasn't visible in the replay. It was most definitely not grounding except to the people who weren't watching closely.

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#20 by jmaron // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:24am

regarding Blair Walsh - going into the game he had the 3rd lowest percentage inside of 40 yards, so it wasn't a complete shock, he's shanked quite a few. He was also horrible in pre season. Even so Walsh actually seemed to turn around a declining trend this - his ranking in FG/XP by FO

2012 - 2nd
2013 - 19th
2014 - 26th
2015 - 10th

He's a great kickoff guy - but I would definitely bring in another kicker to challenge him. Missing a kick like that could really ruin someone, and realistically he's probably pretty average anyway.

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#27 by Pottsville Mar… // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:46am

This year Walsh was 9-9 inside 30 yards and 22-24 inside 40 yards. Even with the cold, I'd take those odds any day.

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#28 by TomC // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:52am

He missed 4 XPs this year, which people I was chatting with brought up before the kick, but I do still generally agree that it was a sound strategy to not push too hard for the TD. I even questioned Peterson's attempt to get the first down, given his immediate and long-term fumble history.

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#31 by Fierydemise // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:07am

Seahawks fan here so obviously I'm biased but I was similarly wondering if Peterson stretching out for the first down was worth it. I guess you could call it a high risk, high reward play but a 27 yard field goal is probably a 95% chance in good weather and even in those conditions probably 85-90%. I suspect with the game on the line almost all of us would take those odds rather than risk a game ending fumble or interception.

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#128 by Andrew Healy // Jan 11, 2016 - 12:37pm

Mentioning the interception there got me thinking of one more parallel that popped into my head yesterday: Red Right 88. Another crazy cold day where a dangerous wild card should have lost. There they threw because they had missed two FGs, had another one aborted, and had an XP blocked, and it was a very different time for kicking, so the analogy doesn't apply on several levels. But that was a wide open year like this one. And the Raiders took the gift and ran with it. These Seahawks certainly could, too.

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#21 by jtr // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:24am

>At this point, I can't think of why the Steelers would not double-team A.J. Green on every single play.

Because they have to bring five men on a zone blitz every damn play, just as they have for more than a decade now! Never mind that everyone knows it's coming, or that six men back in coverage is not enough when they're Pittsburgh's lousy DBs. I had hoped that pushing LeBeau out would lead to some fresh ideas for their defense, but I think Butler is married to all of the old LeBeau ideas, no matter how stale.

>last night after a play [Decastro] drove [Burfict] 10 yards and to the ground

That didn't look like a dirty play to me, it just looked like an ass-kicking of a block. I don't think it went any further after the whistle than blocking always does, it just might look worse since Burfict got buried so bad on the play.

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#191 by Kellerman // Jan 11, 2016 - 3:11pm

It was an obvious hold that resulted in the defensive player being driven into the ground. Not flagged (and blamed on the defender by the telecast). Yes I am a Bengal homer. watch it for yourself. As many others have said, the main problem with the game was that the officials should have thrown MANY more flags MUCH earlier in the game. The perceived inconsistency of plays such as the Wheaton hit being flagged and the Bernard hit not being flagged (as pointed out by our own outsiders above) is maddening to any fanbase and likely is to players as well. I have no problem (and would have had no problem) with ejecting any player or coach (or any other person) who entered the playing field in an improper manner. Granted, not always easy to tell when a player enters the field improperly in this game of free substitution, but when he's still wearing his raincoat, that's a pretty easy call.

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#25 by Will Allen // Jan 11, 2016 - 8:36am

In all the focus on Walsh's miss, and Peterson's fumble (which really was more of a case of two Seahawks making tremendous plays), Captain Munnerlyn's failure to maintain rush discipline on the snap past Wilson should be mentioned. You know for a fact that it was a point of emphasis during the week, that when you rush Wilson from the outside, you have to make sure you keep him inside, and if Munnerlyn does that, the likely don't need Walsh at the end of the game.

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#48 by jmaron // Jan 11, 2016 - 9:56am

great play by Wilson though, he picked it up - didn't panic, checked to see if lineman were downfield (it was a run play)....someone in the secondary must have screwed up - all of them ran to the right side of the field.

Might have been Harrison Smith or Robinson - not sure which but someone had to stay with Lockette.

That play reminds me of fumbles by kick returners that turn into tds sometimes, everyone overreacts because they see the opportunity to make a big play, and as a result holes open up in the defence.

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