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

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Audibles at the Line: Week 11
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Los Angeles Rams 7 at Minnesota Vikings 24

Bryan Knowles: The Rams' early strategy against Minnesota's solid defense? Play-action, and plenty of it. No team has used play-action more effectively this year than the Rams (10.3 yards per play, the most in the league), and it helped them march down the field for a score on their opening drive. The Rams love the play-action screen play, which can be very effective against a defense that gets a ton of penetration early on. Minnesota hasn't been particularly bad against play-action this year, but they seemed a little lost on the opening drive. They'll have to tidy that up going forward.

On the ensuing drive, the Vikings start well, but a facemask call helps things sputter out, setting up a third-and-32 from midfield. That pretty much rules a first down out of the question, as they're not playing against the Giants, but you'd think a 15-yard pass into field goal range would be something worth trying, at least. Instead, Case Keenum throws a little give-up pass at the line of scrimmage, and nothing happens. Well, RIP Keenum's ALEX.

Aaron Schatz: Vikings just marched downfield -- well, not really all the way downfield; surprisingly short punt by Johnny Hekker from the end zone so it was only half the field. They finished it off with a Latavius Murray touchdown run right up the middle. I guess that's the thing about facing Aaron Donald in a 5-tech position. You let the guard take Donald all the way past the handoff, and you can just go up the middle without worrying about his awesomeness.

Vince Verhei: Very questionable coaching by both teams around that short Hekker punt. Rams had third-and-11 deep in their own territory, then called timeout with the play clock running down. Because third-and-16 deep in their own end would have been so much worse. Then they come out and give up a sack. Timeout: wasted. 

Speaking of wasted timeouts, the Vikings take over on the Hekker punt, but they challenge the play, believing Hekker stepped out the back of the end zone for a safety. And on replay, Hekker wasn't close. There were several inches of purple between his shoes and the sideline. They would get a touchdown on the drive, but still. Challenge: wasted, and timeout: wasted.

Otherwise, these look like two first-place teams. There has been a lot of bad football in 2017, but this feels like two talented, well-built, well-managed teams.

Derrik Klassen: With the game sitting at 7-7 near the half, the Los Angeles Rams just marched down the field to ... fumble on the 1-yard line. Jared Goff found rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp inside the 10-yard line, but as Kupp made his way toward the goal line, he coughed up the ball. The Minnesota Vikings defense was able to recover and keep this game tied, at least for now.

Bryan Knowles: It was a great play by Anthony Harris to force the fumble, too, keeping Kupp upright for long enough to punch the ball out. It's Kupp's first career fumble, and it comes at a critical time. Both defenses are playing very well today, and you can't leave points on the field like that.

Vince Verhei: Rams have a first-and-15 at the two-minute warning. A failed screen loses 7 yards and the Rams call their last timeout. But it's their last timeout, and the Vikings are content to run twice and punt, and by the time the Rams get the ball back there are only nine seconds left in the half, and they just take a knee and bail. Those wasted timeouts to avoid delay-of-game fouls (that one I mentioned earlier before the punt, and another with about seven minutes left in the half) cost the Rams a scoring chance there.

Bryan Knowles: 7-7 at the half in this one, in what has been a bit of a strange game. The high-powered Rams offense (that still feels weird to type) was held to its lowest first-half total of the year. Honestly, Minnesota got a little lucky there -- not only did Kupp fumble on the goal line, but the Rams were short on timeouts at the end of the half thanks to blowing two trying to avoid delay of game penalties earlier in the half.

That's not to say Minnesota hasn't been doing well -- they have had the ball for longer, with more yards and first downs thanks in large part to some success on the ground -- but they have shot themselves in the foot with penalties and a missed field goal. Both defenses have been playing fantastically, and it feels like there's roughly no margin for error. I generally prefer offensive showcases, but a hard-hitting defensive battle like this can be one of the tensest things to watch in sports. Good stuff.

Interesting note: Kayvon Webster did not come out for the second half. He had left the field in the first half, but came back in later. Now, he's being evaluated for a concussion. Webster has been matched up with Stefon Diggs more often than not, and Diggs was targeted just one time in the first half, and that might well change now. Nickell Robey-Coleman is also doubtful to return with a thigh injury, so that's a couple injuries affecting the Rams' secondary. We'll see what the Vikings do to capitalize…

Oh my, Kai Forbath misses his second field goal of the day. Still a tie game; the Vikings are going to be kicking themselves. That's 13 points combined, for both teams, left on the board.

Aaron Schatz: Vikings defense really started getting to Jared Goff more in the second half. No more clean pockets. Both Goff and Keenum have made some bad throws under pressure, but nothing has been picked or really close to it.

Oh, and the Vikings just ran another one of those pointless "Wildcat" plays that isn't actually a Wildcat play. No fake, no play-action, no jet sweep action, no anything. Just Latavius Murray in the backfield by himself, running up into the line of scrimmage for a yard. What was the damn point?

Bryan Knowles: The Rams had four first downs on their first drive. They have had only seven the rest of the way. Mike Zimmer is dialing up a bunch of different ways to get pressure, bringing guys from different positions and different angles, and it's really helping keep the Rams in check. The Rams have been very good at avoiding pressure this year (eighth in the league this year after being 21st a year ago) which has helped Goff's development. The Vikings are destroying those clean pockets, and we're seeing more awkward passes and rushed decisions from Goff, especially in the second half.

The Rams should> have had another first down, but Kupp let a long completion go right through his hands. Not the simplest catch in the world to make, but something he should have come down with. Add in his fumble at the goal line, and this is turning into a day to forget for Kupp.

Derrik Klassen: Cooper Kupp again nixing a Rams opportunity. On third-and-10, Jared Goff threads a beautiful ball to Kupp on a corner route, but Kupp could not bring it in. It hit him right in the hands. Kupp has done some nice things as a rookie, but this is not the first time he has shot the Rams in the foot this year, and not even the first time today. 

With Minnesota now in possession again, the game is 14-7 (Vikings) with 11 minutes left in the game. 

Bryan Knowles: And THERE'S the game-breaking play we've been waiting for. UDFA Dominique Hatfield lets what should be a 1-yard gain turn into a 65-yard touchdown, as Adam Thielen runs right by him! There's the other shoe with Webster and Robey-Coleman out. Backbreaker.

Tom Gower: After they went straight down the field on the opening possession, the Rams had six first downs in their next seven (real) possessions. They had more than one first down and gained more than 27 net yards on one of those, the drive that ended with the fantastic Anthony Harris strip of Cooper Kupp just short of the end zone. Todd Gurley had four carries for 20 yards; he had 11 carries for 17 yards the rest of the game. The Rams were in third-and-long consistently, and Vikings have a pass rush. After Thielen smoked Hatfield for the score to make it 21-7, this one felt, and ended up being, very over.

Washington Redskins 31 at New Orleans Saints 34

Dave Bernreuther: The Washington defense, perhaps inspired by coordinator Greg Manusky's smedium t-shirt, has been in the Saints backfield quite a bit in the first two drives, making Drew Brees move off his spot and look a bit uncomfortable. So far he has underthrown a ball to Michael Thomas that was picked; missed a wide open Ted Ginn; and made a few poor throws. The Skins also blew up an end-around to Ginn for a huge loss, a play that was doomed from the start. I'm not really sure why the Saints felt the need to get cute, as their standard running game has been doing reasonably well so far. The tackles are really getting pushed around in pass protection though.

The blocking on Mark Ingram's touchdown run wasn't even that good. The pulling guard whiffed his block, but it looked like the Skins were all in the wrong gap or something. Ingram was in the second level immediately, made a guy miss, and was gone. 

Andrew Potter: Sean Payton is often criticised for being "too cute" with his play calling -- Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have already mentioned that in the first quarter here. Sadly, it looks very much valid thus far. When the Saints simply hand off, they are getting consistent chunks of yardage, culminating in the Mark Ingram touchdown that tied the game at 10 just before the end of the first quarter. They have ended two drives, though, with frankly silly plays. On the opening drive, after a 4-yard rush, the Saints went five-wide and ran the Most Obvious Pick Play Ever -- two separate officials threw flags on Josh Hill, who threw a run block on Josh Norman 5 yards downfield. That set up the third-and-long interception, when Brees threw a duck down the left sideline to Michael Thomas, picked by D.J. Swearinger closing from centerfield. Then, on the field goal drive, the drive was basically ended by that terrible end-around to Ginn that lost 13 yards. Preston Smith had contain, never left his spot, and planted Ginn. Two self-inflicted wounds on those two drives.

Meanwhile, when they just hand off, their worst result so far is a 3-yard gain on first-and-10. They have only done that six times in their first 18 plays, because they keep putting themselves in a hole trying to get fancy.

Aaron Schatz: Does someone watching have a Marshon Lattimore injury update? We saw him go out when flipping on Red Zone but I don't know if he's come back.

Andrew Potter: It looks like a regular ankle sprain, that they showed being taped on the sideline. He's not with the trainers anymore, but isn't yet back on the field.

Bryan Knowles: Lattimore's not back in yet, but he's jogging a bit on the sideline. With Lattimore, A.J. Klein, and Kenny Vaccaro out, the Saints defense looks a little bit more like ... the Saints defense.

Dave Bernreuther: Piggybacking on what I said earlier about the Washington defense and Saints tackles, in the half-ending drive, we just saw what looked like a ball emerging on its own from a rugby scrum, as Brees somehow got rid of it while being essentially pancaked from both sides, throwing it up and over much taller men and very nearly still finding Alvin Kamara. He wasn't even visible in the traditional camera angle. 

He has been OK when given time, though, and until that play their offense was looking strong on the drive. On the following play, though, a failed completion to Ginn, just shy of the sticks, led to a field goal that has to feel like a huge letdown with the Skins taking the second-half kickoff. 

Scott Kacsmar: Redskins are only 4-5, but have played the No. 1 toughest schedule this season. Playing in New Orleans is another big challenge for this team, but the offense has moved the ball well and leads 17-13 at halftime. Washington already has road wins over the Seahawks and Rams this season. Played the Eagles (twice), Cowboys, and Chiefs tough. Seemingly starts every game strong. This wouldn't surprise me as an upset at all. It's purely coincidental since the coaching and players have changed so much, but Drew Brees has actually had some of his worst stats against Washington. In six games, he has eight touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He has been picked today, so the defense has gotten him in all seven meetings.

Andrew Potter: Halftime in New Orleans, Washington leads 17-13. For all of the concern about the defense losing Marshon Lattimore -- who has tried his ankle, but is back on the sideline and probably done for the day -- it's the running backs who are doing the damage for the visitors. Samaje Perine has a touchdown on the ground, Chris Thompson a touchdown through the air. Washington really should be further ahead, but blew their two-minute drill, working their way backwards from the Saints 32 to the 38 to turn a certain field goal attempt into a punt. That punt should have been fielded a the 1-yard line, but Joshua Holsey unnecessarily stepped back into the end zone before catching the ball to give the Saints a touchback.

On defense, Washington looks well drilled and sound. They have completely shut down the Saints' screens and misdirection game, forcing the Saints to play them straight-up. Bashaud Breeland in particular was a wrecking ball on the two-minute drive to end the half, blowing up Kamara on two of three straight targets before getting deep downfield in coverage on Michael Thomas. Ingram and Kamara have 80 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, while Brees is barely over 50 percent completions and has one bad pick, so the straight-ahead running game is still the most efficient path for the Saints offense at this point.

Dave Bernreuther: New Orleans' tackles are just getting slaughtered. Usually both at the same time too. And Brees knows it, which is affecting him because he has had open guys that he isn't seeing all of a sudden, which is not exactly his M.O. 

I can't help but think that fourth-and-3 at midfield down two scores in the fourth quarter is not an opportune time to punt, and I'm more than a little surprised that Sean Payton decided to do so. Especially given the coverage lapses their defense has shown in the last few drives, including on the previous touchdown to Ryan Grant, who was so wide open that he was still able to score on a bad pressured throw from Cousins.

But nobody listen to me ... the Saints give up 9.75 yards in three plays and get the ball back with decent field position and still plenty of time on the clock. 

A simple but very well executed play-action springs a guy named Sprinkle for an uncontested touchdown, and it looks like the Skins are going to win this. And for all I said earlier (EDITOR'S NOTE: See comments in Arizona-Houston game) about celebrations, I do have to tip my hat to Sprinkle for his sprinkling celebration. 

Andrew Potter: Washington got their second completely uncontested touchdown reception of the half here to go up 31-16, and the Saints are in trouble. For all the warranted concern about the loss of Marshon Lattimore, the absence of A.J. Klein also looks key to this performance. Washington has consistently exploited the middle of the Saints defense, where Klein is certainly the best of the linebackers. Samaje Perine has ripped off more than 100 yards on 20-plus carries, consistently gaining yards after contact and falling forward at the end of his runs -- nothing especially spectacular, but solid between-the-tackles running. Klein is also the best of the linebackers in coverage, where Thompson and the tight ends have found some success.

On offense, Dave already noted the line's struggles in pass protection. They have had much more success on the ground, but are still running passes and gimmicks twice as often as they're handing off. Sometimes, it really is worth running the ball until the other team proves they can stop it, even with Drew Brees at quarterback. That said, they just drove 87 yards for a game-tying touchdown (with 2-point conversion), and made it look easy. Ball is in the hands of Kirk Cousins with a minute to drive for the win.

Washington blew this game with their end-of-half management in both halves. Turning their own field goal attempt into punt and allowing a Saints field-goal drive to end the first half was calamitous. Depriving themselves of a game-winning field goal attempt in the last minute despite having first-and-10 at the Saints' 34 was catastrophic. Then their overtime drive went drop-sack-drop, and the Saints -- whom I have criticised for not running the ball enough today -- picked up 51 yards on two handoffs to set up a Wil Lutz game-winner on first down. This goes in the books as an eighth straight win for New Orleans, but they should be sending the opposing squad a thank-you card for this one.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at Houston Texans 31

Dave Bernreuther: Tom Savage actually led a drive where he threw accurate passes and looked competent, and it led to a touchdown on a beautiful catch and toe placement by Lamar Miller, a running back. Which they then celebrated by using the football as the baton in a relay. 

Maybe I'm just old and a curmudgeon (or maybe it's just that I grew up a Joe Morris fan), but I miss the draconian celebration rules. All these choreographed team celebrations are dumb. Act like you've been there.

Bryan Knowles: I'm pretty sure choreographed celebrations are all Houston fans have to look forward to for the rest of the season, so I'm all for them.

Aaron Schatz: I think the weird choreographed celebrations are kind of stupid. I miss choreographed dances. That's what I hated penalizing. Bring back the Dirty Bird. Bring back the Icky Shuffle.

Vince Verhei: Nah. I'm a fan of young men playing a game acting like young men playing a game. 

Bryan Knowles: I just want to see a team, when they put up a 50-burger, have some continuity in their celebrations. Like, let's see some sort of ongoing plotline and character work here! Is that really so much to ask for?

Dave Bernreuther: I'm in favor of fun and games too, but the group celebrations all just seem so lame. I suppose I should find it charming that even the world's greatest athletes can be dorks too. 

Plus at least it's not some stupid turnover chain...

The Cardinals had consecutive running plays blown up by Texans defenders that were so cleanly in the backfield that they may as well have lined up there. Adrian Peterson just gave himself up and let Jadeveon Clowney bear hug him.

Vince Verhei: In defense of Blaine Gabbert, he has never had a receiver as good as Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald one-on-one with any of Houston's corners is a mismatch, and Gabbert found that matchup for a touchdown to the left side. He had another touchdown to Ricky Seals-Jones, a highly rated recruit out of high school who never developed at Texas A&M, and whom the Cardinals have converted to tight end. Cardinals lead 14-10 at halftime on those two scores. I have two reactions.

1) Josh McCown is inactive today, which means the race for Worst Career Passing DYAR is going to be tight down the stretch.

2) As a Seahawks fan, I can't think of anything much funnier than the idea of Gabbert getting hot for six weeks and fooling the Cardinals into giving him a multi-year deal.

The Texans see your Larry Fitzgerald and raise you one DeAndre Hopkins. A big chunk of the Houston offense has been shallow crossing routes, and Hopkins finally caught one and turned it into a big gain, a 34-yard gain to convert a third-and-8. Next play, Hopkins takes Patrick Peterson deep. Maybe the NFL's best cornerback has tight, physical coverage, but Hopkins is able to fight him off and get a half-step behind him. Savage, to his credit, fit the ball into a tight window, and it's a 28-yard touchdown. That somewhat negates the tip-drill interception Peterson had earlier.

Rivers McCown: I will give Bill O'Brien credit: This offense has been revamped this week. Savage has not been asked to drop back and hold the ball very long. The run action wrinkles from the Watson days are back, to some positive effect even with Savage being a statue. The only reason the Cardinals are in this is that Savage is still Savage and popped out his league-high sixth fumble recovered by the defense. And was also picked.

Jacksonville Jaguars 19 at Cleveland Browns 7

Dave Bernreuther: Blake Bortles is playing like he wants Scott to be right in his upset pick. Is it really that cold up there, or he just being Bortles? Early in the first he threw a pass of maybe 4 air yards that looked more like a kick, end over end, than a throw, and just now he threw a screen pass off a defender's knee. 

This is the kind of game a top-tier team should win in convincing fashion. Like when they stomped the Colts. I root for their rival, think Doug Marrone is a buffoon, and their uniforms are an eyesore, but as a fan of football I really was hoping that the Jags being good would be a real thing. Like the Rams. It's pretty upsetting that they're not. And this team is almost a lock for the playoffs already. (Who's excited for January Bortles time?) Much to the chagrin of most of America it's looking like either they or whichever weak five seed beats them will essentially grant New England another bye in the divisional round. One of these days the AFC ought to actually make it sort-of challenging for the Pats to get to the Super Bowl. 

Vince Verhei: The Browns had three completions in the first half. Three. That's partly because the Jaguars defense is unreal, partly because DeShone Kizer is not very good, and partly because the Browns receivers are dropping a lot of passes. So they come out in the second half and run the ball twice -- and then pass the ball four straight times. One of those was caught, two were dropped, and the other was inaccurate. Browns punt. 

Even if the Browns do wind up winless this year, they will have a building block for 2018. This defensive front is legit. They have held the Jaguars to 83 yards on 25 carries (with 29 yards on one Leonard Fournette run). This has put Blake Bortles in plenty of third-and-longs, which has been a formula for success for an entire generation of NFL football now. They just forced a three-and-out, but Jabrill Peppers fumbles the punt return back to the Jaguars. (That's Peppers' third fumble this year, which is a serious problem.) But with the Jaguars in field goal range, the Browns front steps up again: pressure and incomplete on first down, 4-yard run on second down, and Christian Kirksey with the sack and forced fumble on third down. Myles Garrett recovers the ball to end the Jacksonville scoring threat and keep it at 10-7.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: DeShone Kizer's bad interceptions are SO bad. He had a clean pocket and open receiver on a short out route maybe 5 yards downfield, but he just air-mailed the ball over the dude's head, and A.J. Bouye, covering a different receiver downfield, snagged the ball before it hit the ground. The Browns defense is starting to wear down -- the Jaguars have run more than 70 plays now -- and they gave up a few first downs, but no big plays, and the Jaguars had to settle for another field goal. Down 13-7, the Browns can still win this thing with a touchdown, and they are driving -- Kizer hit Duke Johnson for a 21-yard catch-and-run at the two-minute warning. Browns have the ball at the Jacksonville 40 with all three timeouts left.

Dave Bernreuther: ... but they are still the Browns, and Kizer is still bad, so a sack and fumble ends any hope they had. Browns stay winless, and the mighty Jaguars are presently the AFC third seed. 

Vince Verhei: ... and on third down, Kizer is sacked and fumbles. Jacksonville recovers and should have a clinching touchdown, but Kizer was ruled down on the field. Replay reverses the call to a fumble and Jacksonville recovery, but they can't give the Jaguars the return. Browns use their timeouts and force a punt, and after the ball goes into the end zone, they take over at their own 20 with more than a minute to go. This is somehow still a contest.

... and then on first down, Yannick Ngakoue zips around left end and swats the ball out of Kizer's hand, and the Jaguars eventually fall on it and get their touchdown anyway. Two-pointer fails, but 19-7 may as well be 190-7 for this team.

Jaguars had five sacks today and now have 40 before Thanksgiving. Only seven teams had 40 sacks in all of 2016.

Bryan Knowles: So, in the race to see which team is eliminated from the playoffs first, the Browns can be mathematically knocked out if the Bills beat the Chargers in the late games. If that doesn't happen, the 49ers can be knocked out if the Seahawks beat the Falcons on Monday Night. Exciting stuff! Kind of!

Detroit Lions 27 at Chicago Bears 24

Scott Kacsmar: Chicago's front seven is impressive, but that secondary still leaves a lot to be desired. Lions used some play-action to get their wideouts wide open down the field for two big plays. Kenny Golladay, who has the potential to be another one of those mid-round studs, had a 40-yard gain. Marvin Jones got free on a double-move for a touchdown. Marcus Cooper has been around a few teams in his brief career, but not exactly a starter-quality cornerback.

Aaron Schatz: Bears just ran a hilarious defensive scheme when Lions had third-and-11 from the 13. They rushed three and had eight guys all the way back on the goal line from the moment the ball was snapped. Like Hail Mary but with only 13 yards to go.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 at Miami Dolphins 20

Zach Binney: With seven minutes left in the second quarter, the Buccaneers managed to accumulate three separate penalties on a punt return. Chop block, block in the back, and I think holding? Not sure I've ever seen that before.

This concludes your highlights from Tampa Bay-Miami. Back to you in ... anywhere else. Just go watch another game.

Dave Bernreuther: What are you talking about, Zach? Jay Cutler's three first-half picks (one on a tip drill) are also highlight reel plays. 

Zach Binney: And Jarvis Landry just fumbled (on a great hit by a Tampa defender), so that's FOUR turnovers for the Dolphins in the first half. At this point just ending a drive in a punt would be a huge victory for them. 

The Dolphins have brought in Matt Moore to start the second half. The word is that Jay Cutler is in the concussion protocol.

Dave Bernreuther: And we have a Matt Moore sighting! See, excitement in Miami! 

Somehow this team is still a playoff contender in the AFC.

Naturally he immediately leads a scoring drive and we're one Ryan Fitzpatrick miscue from a close game again. 

Zach Binney: Controversial call in the fourth quarter on a possible safety. Ryan Fitzpatrick is hit at about the half-yard line by his own lineman, driven back into the end zone, and sacked. But they rule him down at about the half-yard line (where he appeared to be hit by his own lineman), and the call stands despite a Miami challenge. To me it looked like Fitzpatrick wasn't touched by Miami until he was fully back in the end zone, but I'm not certain enough of the goal line rules to say I'm 100 percent sure that was a safety.

Dave Bernreuther: Tampa kicks a field goal with four seconds left to win it. 23-20 ... BUT WAIT. The Dolphins run a poorly planned lateral play ending in a blind heave with no time left. It lands in the end zone, the Bucs recover, and the over/under of 43.5 is passed in a 30-20 Bucs victory. 

I can only imagine how that must feel for gamblers. 

Baltimore Ravens 23 at Green Bay Packers 0

Dave Bernreuther: Was it Dennis Pitta that mentioned the one-read offense earlier this week? Thus far he's spot on. The Hide-the-Quarterback offense remains in effect in Green Bay, where the elite one is throwing short and managing an offense that has mustered six points despite two turnovers and some good field position. At 13-of-17, somehow he is still under 6 yards per attempt, and somehow that's still an improvement over his usual day.

Vince Verhei: Ravens lead 6-0 at halftime. Packers turned the ball over on each of their first three possessions -- two easy interceptions for Baltimore (one Brett Hundley threw a pass into a crowd in the end zone, one where the receiver fell down) and a Devante Mays fumble. Ravens haven't turned those into touchdowns though, mainly because Joe Flacco has thrown a red zone interception of his own, and also because his 13 completions have gained less than 100 yards. About what you'd expect between two backup quarterbacks. 

Oh, wait.

Dave Bernreuther: Brett Hundley just scrambled and ate the ball and took a sack ... on fourth down. He had all day to try to make something happen, too.

I can't be the only person surprised that McCarthy went for that one though, down 13-0 with most of a half left. Where were those balls in the 2014 playoffs, Mike?

The punt following the ensuing three-and-out is one of the most ridiculous things I've seen in a while. Baltimore punted from the 48, Sam Koch dropped it in a bucket, and Maurice Canady was there to down it inside the 1. Except he jumped to avoid the goal line and somehow managed not to touch the ball at all.

Which you'd think was a bad thing, except it bounced straight up, came back to earth, and promptly died without even a tiny second hop or roll. A second Ravens player came skidding past and also missed downing the ball (although this one appeared to be a lot more intentional) before it was finally blown dead. 

At which point they ruled it a touchback. Harbaugh challenged. It appeared clear that nobody ever touched it ... and the refs upheld the touchback. 

Who knows. This is what passes for excitement when you're stuck with Miami as the local broadcast, I guess. And/or when there have been three more punts since that one happened, just while I've been typing. 

McCarthy just went for another fourth down at the 36. Again I'm surprised. Again they fail, though, so those two results probably mean we won't see him do anything smart again for another year or so.

Kansas City Chiefs 9 at New York Giants 12

Scott Kacsmar: I remember looking into Andy Reid's post-bye week career in January, and it wasn't as impressive as the 16-2 record suggests. However, down 6-3 in the third quarter to the lowly Giants looks really bad and surprising. I saw the tipped interception on that shovel pass that set up the Giants with a short field, but the overall lack of offensive success is surprising. Have to think Chiefs get it going in the second half while the Giants really need those takeaways to pull off the upset. Then again, maybe don't call on Shane Vereen to throw a pass (picked off) the next time you have a chance to score a touchdown.

Dave Bernreuther: I know it's windy, but I feel like we're watching the old Alex Smith again. Which makes that team a whole lot easier to defend. 

They're certainly not helping things, though, by forgoing a quick shot at the end zone after Smith stupidly took a hit in bounds on a useless scramble instead of throwing it away with six seconds left. To be fair, it should have been first-and-goal on the 1, as Travis Kelce got mugged the play before, but still, that's awful awareness. The Chiefs play for the tie, and the post-bye Andy Reid team is lucky they haven't already lost to the 1-9 team that quit on its coach a month ago. 

Aaron Schatz: Well, Chiefs-Giants got into overtime and we ended up with the Giants facing either a fourth-and-5 or a 53-yard field goal into the wind. And they chose to go for it, and the Chiefs sent a zero blitz. It did not get home fast enough. Eli Manning flung it into the air right before the free blitzer got to him and Roger Lewis made a ridiculous catch WHILE being interfered with. Looks like Giants are going to win this thing with a field goal in the next minute or so.

Vince Verhei: Holy crap the end of this game. The Chiefs get the ball first in overtime but fail to score. The Giants then have a fourth-and-5 at the Kansas City 36. That would be a 53-yard field goal, and Aldrick Rosas has already missed an extra point today, so they go for it. And Eli Manning lobs it deep to Roger Lewis. Phillip Gaines tackles Lewis and it's clearly pass interference inside the 10, but Lewis makes an amazing one-handed sliding catch anyway, and gets up and runs into the end zone for what looks like a winning touchdown. He's called down on the field, and replay confirms. It looks like they blow the spot and grant New York a few extra yards, but that's splitting hairs really. Manning kneels to put the ball in the middle of the field, and Rosas kicks a field goal to win the game for New York. That was a really, really gutsy fourth-down call, putting the game in the hands of a little-used second-year guy, but it worked out for them. 

Buffalo Bills 24 at Los Angeles Chargers 54

Bryan Knowles: While we're all watching those three close early-game finishes, Nathan Peterman starts his career 2-for-5 with two interceptions #FreeTyrod

Vince Verhei: Yeah, but Tyrod Taylor can't find open receivers. Peterman can find them and throw interceptions in their direction. That's better. It's science. 

(I didn't see either of these picks but that seems like the kind of thing a lot of Buffalo defenders said this week.)

Aaron Schatz: LeSean McCoy hits runs of 37 and 27 yards for a touchdown after a missed field goal by Nick Novak. Peterman is a hell of a field goal blocker/run blocker.

Bryan Knowles: To be entirely fair to Peterman, the first interception bounced off of Patrick DiMarco's hands. To also be entirely fair, the second one came when he was about to take a safety and hurled the ball up for grabs.

Rivers McCown: That Feeling When your offense involves fullback passes in 2017.

Bryan Knowles: Hey, we're still voting for Pro Bowl fullbacks in 2017, so gotta get those stats up!

Andrew Potter: We've had one pick that goes on the receiver, and one pick that goes on the quarterback, so it must be time for a pick that goes on the offensive line. Buffalo's right tackle chooses to block an outside rusher instead of JOEY BOSA, and Bosa hits Peterman as he throws, turning a deep shot into a wounded duck that drops into the hands of Tre Boston. Boston, you may recall, was the main beneficiary of Blake Bortles' generosity last Sunday afternoon. The fourth-year safety, formerly of the Panthers, has doubled his career interception tally in his past two quarters of play, and probably won't ever see a friendlier stretch of opposing quarterbacking.

OK, seriously Buffalo, you're going to destroy this rookie in his first-ever start. That's his fourth interception in his first nine passes. Is there any way we can maybe just admit this was a bad idea and put Tyrod Taylor back in?

Bryan Knowles: The last time a quarterback threw four interceptions in the first half was 2007, when Peyton Manning did it against the San Diego Chargers. Manning turned out alright, so maybe it's not all gloom for Nathan Peterman. Right? Right?

Derrik Klassen: I honestly feel bad for Nathan Peterman. It's not his fault he is the collateral damage in this Tyrod Taylor narrative/debate. Granted, Peterman is playing as bad as he possibly could thus far, but it is magnified by how mystifying it is that he is playing to begin with. Just a weird, weird situation.

Bryan Knowles: You're right in that we shouldn't mock Peterman. All the mockery -- or, at least, 90 percent of it -- should be on Buffalo's front office for forcing this move. Peterman is clearly not ready, Taylor is a solid (if not great) NFL quarterback, the Bills were still in the playoff hunt ... this is just baffling.

FIVE interceptions in the first half. The NFL record for a game is eight. They have to pull Peterman before it gets there ... right?

Aaron Schatz: Can we just run a Week in Quotes of the things Buffalo fans tweeted at me over the last few days?

Vince Verhei: While most are wondering if Peterman will be benched for Taylor, Chargers beat writers are asking if Philip Rivers will be taken out and Cardale Jones will be put back in. Let me tell you something: if Cardale Jones throws a touchdown against Buffalo while Tyrod Taylor is benched and Nathan Peterman is doing whatever it is he's doing today, I will never stop laughing.

Bryan Knowles: Tyrod Taylor is in. Boo! I wanted to see records fall. Live with your Peterman decision, Buffalo!

Cincinnati Bengals 20 at Denver Broncos 17

Vince Verhei: Well, plenty of excitement early in this one. Broncos get great field position off a blocked punt. They turn it into a third down inside the 5, and they try the Seahawks Super Bowl pick play. If Russell Wilson couldn't make that play work, then Brock Osweiler likely can't either. Sure enough, Dre Kirkpatrick intercepts it and returns it 100 yards, but does not score -- he bobbles the ball untouched in the open field, and though he reels it in, he is brought down at the 1. Fortunately for him, Andy Dalton hits Tyler Kroft on a bootleg pass on third down for the touchdown. But obviously nothing is going to be easy in this game, and the Bengals miss the extra point and still lead just 6-0.

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C.J. Anderson doing a lot to put Denver back on top. He broke tackles in the backfield on a fourth-and-2 conversion, and then broke more tackles on a 3-yard touchdown on third-and-goal. That fourth-down conversion was set up by a third-down Osweiler scramble, where he took a big hit and still came up 2 yards short of the conversion. Bad decision there. Worse decision later in the drive -- with defenders all over him, he spun around and threw a duck of a pass very short and very high right in the middle of the field. He got very lucky that no Bengals were there to intercept it, but it was such a horrible pass the home crowd booed anyway. This game is good for some laughs, if nothing else. 

And Andy Dalton quickly answers. Deep ball to Brandon LaFell down the left sideline for 29 yards and should have been more, but LaFell stepped out of bounds. Then another deep ball to the left, and Alex Erickson beats Bradley Roby for a 29-yard touchdown, the first touchdown catch of his career. I had to look Erickson up -- that was his first touchdown catch, but he led the league in kickoff return yards last year, and leads the league in both punt returns and kickoff returns this year. Also, there's no way he's more than 10 years old.

Rob Weintraub: Erickson is the rare case where the Bengals value production over draft status or sanctified "he knows the system" veterans. Erickson just made too many plays in preseason and training camp to be denied a roster spot, and has now blossomed some beyond special teams ace too.

Vince Verhei: Brandon McManus hits from 61 at the end of the half, but dammit, Marvin Lewis iced him, and the second try is blocked. So Bengals lead 13-7 at halftime. 

Not much else to say I haven't covered already. Just two bad teams trading short gains and punts. Osweiler has officially been sacked twice but it feels like he has been under pressure a lot more than that.

Andrew Potter: With Tyrod Taylor now in the game down 40-10, and New England-Oakland a blacked-out blowout, I'm forced in the direction of Broncos-Bengals. First impression: if ever a game would benefit from the teams wearing their color rush uniforms, it's this one. There's too much orange-and-white standing out on both sides, and after the snap it gets very messy. The Bengals uniforms are naturally hideous no matter what, but Denver looked so much better with the heavy navy look of the Jake Plummer era. Sadly, their color rush uniforms double down on the orange instead of the navy.

Second impression: Brock Osweiler returning "home" this season has been about as magical as it sounds.

Rivers McCown: Andy Dalton takes a horrific sack on third down to put the Bengals out of tying field goal range late in the third quarter. One of those where he literally turned around mid-play to see if the guy behind him was free, realized he was, then promptly ate it. We knew before the season that his under-pressure stats were bad, but it seems like this year it's to the point where he's now anticipating pressure that doesn't even exist. It's been a rough watch.

Vince Verhei: 13-10 Bengals at the end of the third and I'm starting to nod off. Both quarterbacks are under 6 yards per pass. Bengals are under 2 yards per rush. Broncos have 108 rushing yards but nothing longer than 12. It's two boxers going through a feeling-out process for 12 full rounds. Paxton Lynch is active today. His presence would at least be something interesting to talk about, but aside from that one giant interception Osweiler hasn't been so terrible that he's likely to be pulled, just a soft kind of lousy.

Rob Weintraub: When the chips were down the Bengals suspended stars made plays. Vontaze Burfict forced a fumble, and then A.J. Green beat Bradley Roby for a touchdown on a nice back-shoulder throw from Dalton to make it 20-10.

Denver got a score right back on a pass from Osweiler to Demaryius Thomas, and it seemed Cincy was poised to blow another late lead on the road.

But ... Osweiler. Four-and-out and the Bengals hold on for a costly win come draft day.

Andrew Potter: The Broncos got the ball back trailing by three with two minutes left. They didn't even manage a first down, mainly because Osweiler took a lengthy, slow, cumbersome, laborious, leaden-footed, ponderous 7-yard sack on second-and-10. Despite the close score, there never looked to be any chance of Denver winning this. Even the great touchdown to Demaryius Thomas was more like something out of a Geico "surprising" skit than an actual, repeatable football play.

Rob Weintraub: By the way that's the first time Cincy has won at Denver since ... 1975. Yep, the Ford Administration.

Bengals are one game out of the playoff chase. If only they could've stopped the Titans at the end last we--

NO! Stop that train of thought this instant!

Vince Verhei: Heh. That game was November 9, 1975. I was born October 10, 1975. So it's not quite the first Bengals win in Denver in my lifetime, but it's close.

Scott Kacsmar: My apologies to Aaron for insisting that Denver should finish above Houston in projected wins this year. Not that we could have predicted things like the rise and fall of Deshaun Watson, or that Brock bloody Osweiler would be starting again for Denver, but it has been a brutal six-game losing streak for the Broncos.

New England Patriots 33 'at' Oakland Raiders 8 (Mexico City)

Aaron Schatz: Patriots are playing this game with a lot of extra injuries but we're not seeing it so far. Ted Karras has been very good in his first-ever start at center for the ill David Andrews. The Raiders don't have very good defensive tackles, so the degree of difficulty isn't too high, but he looks good. LaAdrian Waddle got hurt so the Pats are now down to their third-string right tackle, Cameron Fleming. He gave up a sack very quickly. But otherwise the Raiders just have very little pass rush. 23rd in pressure rate by Sports Info Solutions charting. Khalil Mack has 26 hurries, and nobody else is over 11. It's a one-man show. Block that one guy, and your quarterback has all the time he wants.

Bryan Knowles: Tom Brady is putting on a passing clinic for the Mexican fans. 9-for-9 on the Pats first drive leading to a touchdown. The Raiders are starting rookie Obi Melifonwu at cornerback; Melifonwu is a safety and matching him up against Brandin Cooks might be something the Patriots look at a couple times today. Just possibly.

Melifonwu has already asked to be taken out of the game, though not because of Cooks -- it's the high elevation causing him to have trouble breathing. Mexico City is more than 2,000 feet higher than Denver, which is about the only reason I can think of why the NFL doesn't play more games there; it's closer and more convenient than London and there are a ton of NFL fans in Mexico who'd love more games there.

Aaron Schatz: Two notes on Mexico City. First, it will be interesting to see when we get to the fourth quarter how much of an advantage the Patriots got from practicing all week in Colorado. Second, there's another reason why the NFL doesn't play more games in Mexico: Fan base doesn't have the same level of discretionary income. I think that's part of the reason why they don't think of putting a team there full-time. You wouldn't have the issues London would have as far as time change, jet lag, how to try out free agents during the season, and so forth. But I don't know if the fans can pay as much for tickets and merchandise, or if corporations can pay as much for the luxury boxes. Can you make up that income difference because a team in Mexico City would essentially become the home team for the entire country as far as merchandise and rights fees are concerned?

Dave Bernreuther: I can't be the only one that was rooting for the Pats to deliberately take a delay of game penalty just to attempt a 67-yard field goal instead of 62-yarder.

Aaron Schatz: The Raiders finally had a drive where they moved the ball consistently down the field, mostly with runs. The running game is breaking nice holes for the backs. But the passing game is all short stuff. Is Derek Carr even able to throw downfield to someone who is not Johnny Holton? Carr has only three "deep" passes in the first half, with only one completion (to Jared Cook) and the pick on a pass intended for Holton. Sixty-five passing yards in a half. Blech.

Oh, and that nice drive with all the runs was wasted when Seth Roberts caught the ball at the Patriots 3 and then had it punched out by Marquis Flowers.

Bryan Knowles: If Roberts doesn't fumble there, we might have had a game in Mexico City. 14-7 at the half? I could get behind that. Instead, we have a 17-0 Patriots lead. As Aaron says, Carr doesn't throw downfield, either due to the design of Oakland's offense or his own conservatism, which makes it a little hard to put together a comeback. The Raiders need the Patriots to miss a step to come back here, and they're not missing any steps today. This one feels over.

Tom Gower: The Raiders pass defense is awful against, well, most types of receivers, but including running backs and tight ends. Tom Brady has 201 yards passing in the first half, and the Patriots have 17 points on four possessions, one of which started at their own 7 with :33 to go in the first half (that one ended in a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 62 yards that would've been good from longer than that). Oakland's offense has made just enough mistakes that they haven't put any points on the scoreboard, in the manner that the Oakland offense has this season (they feel like they're not close to fourth in offensive DVOA), and thus it's 17-0 at the half despite the fine job of limiting the overall number of possessions.

Rivers McCown: I don't know that a team in the NFL has gotten less with more to work with than Oakland's offense this year. I know you have to protect Carr for him to work optimally, but he can hit deep balls; it seems like the offensive line is having a good year; the receivers are drop-prone but good at getting open … and this team is wildly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis even with all this going in their favor.

This defense is a cakewalk for Brady.

Scott Kacsmar: Make that 11 games in a row (starting with January's playoff loss in Houston) for Oakland's defense without an interception. There hasn't been a streak like that in the NFL since before World War II started. If the rest of the AFC West wasn't on the decline, I think we'd hear a lot more "Del Rio has to go" talk. Still might get to that point if things don't get better here. It's not that surprising to see the defense struggle, but this is comically bad, and the offense has been a huge disappointment.

Philadelphia Eagles 37 at Dallas Cowboys 9

Aaron Schatz: We know the Cowboys offense is going to suffer with no Zeke Elliott or Tyron Smith, but why is the Eagles offense struggling so much tonight? A couple of obvious drops, but I'm not sure what else is going on.

Carl Yedor: A big contributing factor to Philly's offensive struggles is likely that they are 0-for-5 on third down this far. On their opening touchdown drive, that situation never came into play, but since then the Cowboys have been stout in higher leverage situations. Not sure if Dallas is doing anything special or if the Eagles have just failed to convert on every third down thus far. If it's the latter, Philly fans likely have less to be worried about moving forward.

Scott Kacsmar: Thought it might be a shootout early, but a lot of inaccurate throws and pass break-ups followed. Eagles haven't really tried to get the running game going, while Prescott has had tunnel vision for Dez Bryant despite only hitting 4-of-10 targets for 26 yards.

Carl Yedor: And after going 0-for-5 in the first half, the Eagles convert two third downs on their first drive of the third quarter and look very potent in the process of scoring their second touchdown of the day. Two-point conversion is good, putting Philadelphia up 15-9.

Aaron Schatz: Dallas run defense also completely disappeared in the second half.

Zach Binney: There has been a fun little natural experiment in the second half. Unfortunately the Eagles' kicker is out with a head injury, but Doug Pederson's response has been to go for two after every touchdown and go for it on fourth down when they might otherwise kick a field goal. The results through the third quarter: 2-for-3 on 2-point conversions and a touchdown after going for it on fourth-and-5 from around the Dallas 20. Obviously it's only one team and one quarter, but it's resulted in a net gain of 5 points. So that has been fun.

Charles McDonald: How valuable is Sean Lee? I know that he's one of the best linebackers in the league, but they just completely fall apart without him. Guys are misaligned, blowing coverages, and missing tackles. It's interesting thinking about the value that we usually place on middle linebackers and the value that the elite ones tangibly bring.

Aaron Schatz: I'm Luke Kuechly and I approve this message.

Tom Gower: The Eagles have outscored the Cowboys 28-0 in the second half (now with roughly 9 minutes to play), and Carson Wentz is 1-of-3 for 6 yards on first- and second-down passes on their three touchdown drives. He has been lights out on third downs, but I always worry about superlative third-down performance when there's not an obvious scheme-related explanation for why third downs should be completely different (see Titans/Mularkey).

Rivers McCown: The Cowboys are broken.


178 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2017, 4:17pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yes, the Vikings defense played very well, and Thielen is obviously one of the best receivers in the league, but the astounding thing about the Vikings is their offensive line, now starting a rookie 3rd round pick at center, a 35 year old rg who wasn't a starter in his 20s, a heretofore decent free agent lt, an undrafted 2nd year guy at LG on his 11th or 12th start, and an undrafted 2nd year guy at rt, on about his 6th or 7th start. That bunch dominated the defensive front, with the league's best dt, of the number one by DVOA defense yesterday. I have no explanation.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think folks mistake pocket awareness for a guy who is going to take the first legit option and get rid of the ball as fast as possible. Which is a good approach and one that more qbs should take versus looking for better options.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

What I liked best about yesterday's game is the game plan. They went big way more than they have most of the year. Morgan and Ham had more snaps then Treadwell and Floyd. They just wore them down and showed up big in the 2nd half.

Gotta love a line that can be effective running and passing.

One semi related thought, this notion that heard on yesterday's broadcast and written elsewhere, that the Vikings haven't lost anything with Cook out is nuts. Cook averaged 4.8 per carry vs 3.9 ad 3.7 for the current backs, and he was way more of a threat. The offence has been good and getting better without him, but they were way better with him.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Aside from the constant injury train, they seem like a cohesive well coached unit. I know Sparano was there last year too, so its not just that but he seems to have had a handle on them, and even when missing a piece (as they were today) they still function well as a unit.

Keenum has also been really good at avoiding what pressure does come through them as well. I think Donald even mentioned that Keenum did a good job at protecting his line, which seemed an odd comment, but I took it to mean he made them look good by making the most of the protection and then sidestepping, ducking, moving up and so on, and also not panicking and still delivering throws. There was that one pass to Thielen that had no business being a successful play early on that was the prefect example of this.

But even aside from all that, they've been pretty darn good at run blocking as well.

Letting people like Clemmings go had to have helped as well, saw he was on the Redskins (and was just placd on IR).

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Watching what's happened with NO and MIN this year, and how the Pats have seemed to operate for awhile, I've come around to the idea that with O-line play and defensive secondary play, it's less about ceiling and more about floor.

Those systems are as good as their worst player. Why did Lattimore suddenly elevate NO? Because now they weren't playing Hole-in-Man as 3rd DB. Why can MIN suddenly block? Because none of the guys on the line are weak links. That doesn't make them the Legion of Boom or the next coming of the Johnson Cowboys, but simply not having a turnstile makes the rest of your fence a lot more effective.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Will, check me if I'm seeing this right, as I've watched fairly little of the Vikings:

Keenum this year seems to have turned into a high-end Acceptable Starting QB. By that I mean a guy who isn't going to go out and win you games, he's not going to elevate the surrounding talent, but he also minimizes the crippling mistakes and consistently takes whatever is available. At the high end, where Alex Smith has been for a few years and Keenum seems to be this year, an Acceptable Starting QB with a good defense can make enough plays to win the Super Bowl. There's tremendous value in reliable competence, and that's the defining trait of the Acceptable Starting QB.

A mid-range version is the Bills' Taylor, and the low-end version was Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick's Jets collapse shows the dancer of the Acceptable Starting QB: surround him with less-than-competence and his play turns ugly, fast.

157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That's about right. Keenum has below average throwing ability, but he has some positive attributes to counterbalance that, as long as he doesn't get too greedy. He's gotten a little lucky that more of his ducks haven't been intercepted. My fear is that if the Vikings defense gives up too many early points on an off day, and Keenum has to throw them back into the game, he'll try to make throws that his arm is not capable of, and the ints will be a deluge. His margin of error is pretty small.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Mia-TB I missed last weeks game traveling so man was I geared up for some football, only I'm a Miami fan:( Shouldn't there be some unwritten rule of football that if the NFL is going to put on a bad game that they at least not call a million penalties to slow down the poor action. There were 26 accepted penalties in this snooze-feast. I had to stop watching because the refs simply wouldn't let the game flow at all. How can you be in week 11 of a season and have 5 false starts at home, coaching, injuries, terrible players? On the positive note, this was the first time all season Miami's home turf actually appeared NFL ready to play on. AFCleast update 1) Pats, remember when Pat fans told you there was no way they were winning this season...3 games up with 5 hapless division games to go-hahahaha 2) Bills-the good news is no one else wants that last wild card spot either 3) Jets they still exist so I'm told 4) Dolphins-aren't AFCleast fans all geared up because the NFL stacked the division games late this year? Yeah, I'm not watching at all next week either.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

...a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 62 yards that would've been good from longer than that.

Does the kicking portion of special teams DVOA get the same high altitude adjustment in Mexico City as it does in Denver?

Is there a corresponding adjustment for passing DVOA (since the thinner air in either Denver or Mexico City should make it easier to throw the ball for distance, speed, and accuracy)?

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yes. I'm just wondering if DVOA takes that into account.

High altitude is a strange one. It clearly helps kicking. It ought to help passing, too, but only if you are familiar enough with it. A ball that travels faster on a flatter trajectory isn't going to help if you haven't adjusted for it. Otherwise, it will mostly just screw up your accuracy and timing.

If there were going to be a passing DVOA adjustment for altitude, it would need to be different for home and away QBs to work, I'd guess. The problem is that there are many fewer examples of Denver QBs in the DVOA era than there are of visiting QBs.

Hence, my questions.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

KC threw an interception on a fake option shovel pass that got Kelce creamed by JPP right as he tried to catch the ball at the line of scrimmage. That's a play they've run way too often this season, and defenses are no longer fooled. That one wasn't quite over-engineered enough, so later they split both tackles out wide Bengals-style and had Kelce try to throw a deep ball off a lateral, which was naturally intercepted.

Tyreek Hill was playing on a bad hamstring and clearly only had about 2/3 of his usual speed. Apparently his freak athleticism has been the only thing keeping Andy Reid's Rube Goldberg offense from entirely falling apart this season.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm glad it didn't happen, but the only thing more Buffalo that could have happened is Tyrod getting injured in garbage time.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It pains me to watch some of this stuff, having been a fan when this team wasn't a joke.

As I said on Twitter, Aaron, us Bills fans have Stockholm Syndrome. Having said that, unless you know something I don't the prevailing rumor is that Dennison gave McDermott some kind of ultimatum that led to Tyrod's benching, not that it cam from FO/onwership. If that's true, and he's not fired today, I'll be shocked.

Regardless, Peterman clearly wasn't ready, even if two of the INTs aren't on him.

Then again, fans are calling for Frazier's head over the rush D. Maybe they'll just fire the whole staff this week and we can go through this shitshow yet again. Or maybe the team should've lost more games after they traded most of the good players away?

Last week's game was one of the worst beatings I've ever seen a team take. Until this week.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

What we learned...

1) the Bills were are definitely tanking.

2) winning screwed up there plans on evaluation of their 5th round qb

3) they can't even tank correctly, because Tyrod to Jacksonville at the deadline would have been HUGE!

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Made comment on tanking earlier in motnh. found post and will now fix typos-

officially hate "tank" talk as it applies to any team. find it insulting somehow. do not think any team tanks going into season. there is something called rebuilding which is not tanking. tanking is purposefully losing games. major difference way I see it.
if team A is 2-10 and team B is 3-9 and team C is 3-9 and all three need a QB and obvious near lock next great QB identified late in college season, then *maybe* Team A decides, "yeah, maybe we should lose rest of season here." Problem is coaching staff and players are not programmed to purposefuly lose. There are only so many good players that can be benched. Certainly could sit regular QB and go to 3rd or 2nd QB either of which may be true bum. Maybe team can secure losses end of season with bum quarterback playing and come up with some BS thing to tell media. think bills did this in week 17 2016 season with t. taylor benching although Bills were not tanking.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

As much as "tank" might be the wrong word, there is something to getting as much actual game tape on as many possible players, while maximizing future draft capital.

And when you're doing so openly, like the Browns, perhaps you lose some of those nice luxury box customers wherw the revenue doesn't siphon into the common pool.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think GMS and front offices embrace the tank, coaches and players try darn hard to win(unless you have real enmity for your qb like McDermot does)

The bills offseason smells more like a coach who wants to get rid of players that aren't "his guys".

I truly believe the jets and browns front offices went full bore embrace the tank. The jets, by virtue of having McCown as the best qb option, all but waved the white flag on the season.

The browns have let young talent walk out the door and made trades for others and cut any and all veterans other than the inimitable Joe Thomas.

Its funny - if you look at the results, the Browns show the upside in tanking, the jets show the downside. The jets stumbled into a competent season and likely played their way out of top 2 pick contention. The browns, meanwhile, stunk so badly that they are a lock to win the top pick - though not without incurring a ton of anger and humiliation in the process.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

can't comment on Browns properly as dont' follow them closely and Browns don't even seem to know what they are doing so how could an outsider know what they are doing.

as for Jets, not one thing they did in 2017 would suggest tanking.

152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Regarding the Browns, I agree on all counts. The front office punted this season before it even began; their self-admitted plan is to just pick up as many draft choices as possible, and in that regard they've been successful. Meanwhile the coaches and players are trying to win but they just don't have the talent to do it.

I wonder however whether the front-office guys will be able to stick around long enough to see their plan through to completion. The team is losing so much, and incurring so much wrath and ridicule, that the owner might fire everybody at the end of the year. As disgusted as I am by the team's performance, I think I would prefer to give the front office a chance to follow through on their plan. My feeling is, we've come this far, we might as well stick it out and see if in fact the long-term plan these guys put into place will work. Give them another year; if there's still no progress, then it's time to reboot (again).

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

so that comment above or below (depending on where this post lands) is my taek on tnaking. also find it tough to believe tnabking team makes trade for k. Benjamin during a season.

who the heck are bills supoposed to be tanking for? if no player has been identified, then tnaking is utterly moronic. also, keep in mind Biff dioes have two first round oicks 2018 as added Chiefs one in trade for P. Mahomes. Have firepower to move up if need to do so

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Are the pro-tanking people advocating temas forfeiting games (think final score would be 1-0 if recall rule book correctly) or something else?
Little secret here "something else" I s hard to do for entire season . kif you play all young guys, they will gel as seoasn progresses and win games and ruin the tanking. if pre-season tank plan actually works, then you will have created culture of losing and if team can't win games it needs loads of players nto just one generational player at top of draft

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

weird but I know a bills fan who wasn't that thrilled with dareus after he signed big contacrt. maybe there was something behind the scenes that cause dthat trade. but, for the pro-tank/conspiracy theory people, dareus trade is great ammo

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Dareus wasn't playing very well the last two years. He ranked 82nd out of 121 interior defenders in run stop percentage when he was traded, according to Pro Football Focus. That trade also got the Bills out of cap hell, an important thing for a team trying to rebuild. I'm surprised the Bills defense went into the tank the last three weeks, and I bet PFF is as well.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't see the Bills much, so I'm no expert. I just know how hard it is to find defensive tackles with the physical tools to man the position, so a guy that young being traded for a 6th round pick surprised me. I'm not surprised that PFF may have underestimated how difficult it would be to replace him.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Here's one example where PFF is lacking.

Dareus doesn't have to make tackles in order for his team to improve its run defense. His taking up double teams and closing down gaps helps the run defense by freeing up other players to make those tackles either near or behind the line. His ability to protect his linebackers from the O-line is underappreciated. Without him in the lineup, we're seeing teams' interior linemen make it up to the second level against Buffalo with greater frequency, which in turn leads to longer runs up the gut.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Sir -

A couple of hours ago I was going to try to articulate the same points, but I'm glad I didn't as you did so far better. I'd add that while I enjoy football stats as much as the next guy, I think that all of the individual player stats are probably too context-dependent to give truly objective data, and that some positions are essentially unstatable, NT in particular.

Was Ted Washington a better NT than Vince Wilfolk? No stat will ever tell us...

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I saw a table showing how the Bills defensive yards/rush has increased dramatically since the Dareus trade, while the opposite has happened for the Jaguars. Let's's a tweet from Ian Goldsmith:

5 games with Marcell Dareus: 79.2 rush yards allowed per game
4 games w/o Dareus: 164.25 ypg

2 games with Dareus: 58 ypg
7 games w/o: 138.57 ypg

That's before this weekend.
The Chargers gained 146 yards on the ground vs. Buffalo on 35 carries.
The Browns gained 50 yards 18 carries vs. Jacksonville.

No opponent adjustments there, but the trend seems to indicate Dareus is very useful in run defense at least.

Frankly I'm baffled the Bills couldn't get more for Dareus than a 6th round pick. Did they even try?

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

When you trade a guy popularly viewed as your best run defender, and then suddenly become terrible against the run, to a team that was previously terrible against the run, and suddenly they become excellent...

The logical conclusion is not "I dunno," it's "PFF's grading of Dareus is blatantly wrong."

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

according to pff, he sucked at run defense, so im not so sure he wouldve stopped the saints and others from anything.

pass rush wise, he has 4.5 sacks in the last 2 1/2 years, the time since he signed his new contract. in the four years uner his rookie deal(2011-2014), he had 5.5,5.5,7.5,10.0.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

According to PFF.

According to the results - which are pretty easy to look up - the run D was effective in the games he was in there. It wasn't in the games he was missing. The analysis doesn't have to be deep to be correct.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

They're either tanking, or their front office and coaching staff are incompetent. Or Both.

I think its both. There's no way that any reasonable talent evaluator has watched Peterman and thought "we need to run our serviceable NFL starting QB out of town for this guy," and there's no way a competent front office doesn't trade Taylor if benching him for Peterman is a possibility.

And there's no way a reasonable NFL coach thinks Peterman gives them a better chance to win.

So either they're tanking, or they have no idea what they're doing, or both.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I honestly thought the Peterman move was a slapstick joke. Professional sports are entertainment after all, and there is a black comedy element to the Buffalo saga this year. Oh no, thought the staff and front office heading into this season, we might be okay. Let's try to see if we can be more in the spirit of things; trade some good players... still winning? Trade some more, for even less value. Not sufficiently laughable? Let's perform a social commentary skit by yanking the black guy for a wholly incompetent white guy. Are the fans laughing yet? Okay, let's poor some salt on it by yanking the white guy before he can at least reward viewers by setting the all time record for picks...

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

the bills used peterman because the jets and saints games exposed tyrod for the fraud he is. the jets and saints showed the rest of the league that if you contain the outside then tyrod cant do shit. in the past, if tyrods first read wasnt open, hed tuck and run, or dump off to a rb. hes not a good qb and the bills were right to give peterman a shot to see if he had anything. and theyre right to go back to tyrod now that its clear that peterman isnt any good.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Ah, a Tyrod hater. Tyrod is obviously not useless - he was a big part of a successful scoring offense last year - but Dennison steadfastly refuses to scheme for what he has, so Tyrod looks like a disaster. Peterman looked great being decisive in throwing right to Chargers players, didn't he? Players that were in positions like they knew what the play was and where the QB would go with the ball?

The whole things became a tire fire in 3 games, once the defense stopped generating turnovers. I don't think you can lay that on Tyrod.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

work on your reading comprehension, i already stated that peterman clearly showed he sucks yesterday.

im not afraid to call it as i see it regarding bills qbs.

tyrod and his backup both suck but tyrod is better and should start again.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

My reading comprehension is fine.

Tyrod is not, as you put it, a "fraud". He's a guy who can be successful at scoring points if used correctly, as was demonstrated last year. The current coaching staff is completely unwilling to use him in that manner..

Does he not see open receivers? Yes. Does he throw stupid picks or throw up prayers? No. He does leave plays on the field, as Romo put it, but he doesn't make stupid decisions. You can win with him if you use him correctly and your defense doesn't suck.

Unfortunately, we know the defense has sucked for the last three years.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

To be fair, he did not look wholly incompetent prior to the 1st quarter yesterday. Small sample size, but not terrible.

After yesterday, well, looks like the Chargers' pass rush is a little more ferocious than the Saints (duh), and running the same vanilla plays a.) gets the inexperienced guy nearly killed and b.) turns him into an INT machine.

I don't know if the staff has completely lost their mind, but if the Broncos can fire McCoy, the Bills can fire Dennison. I'll bet it's Frazier who gets the axe, though.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I have a theory that Kraft is paying the other AFC East owners to pull a Phelps on their own teams. Pegula's team came too close to competence, so he had to submarine it more openly.

I'm curious how much it costs him.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

If the AFC East teams are intentionally losing games in order to help the Patriots get to the playoffs, then they must suck at that, too.

Even after a bad weak, the bottom three teams in the AFC East are a combined 9-12 outside their division. Only the NFC North and South are doing better.

Who knows? As a group they have 9 more non-divisional games left. They could conceivably lose them all.

But up to now, your theory/joke sounds more like a pathetic whine than keen observational humor.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Oh, crap. I just heard Terry Glenn (Patriots, Packers and Cowboys) died in a car accident this morning.

My condolences go to his family, friends, colleagues, and fans.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The results through the third quarter: 2-for-3 on 2-point conversions and a touchdown after going for it on fourth-and-5 from around the Dallas 20. Obviously it's only one team and one quarter, but it's resulted in a net gain of 5 points. So that has been fun.

The counterargument there is that

1: It happened in a game where those 5 points didn't matter in the slightest
2: At that point in the game the Eagles offense was rolling over the Cowboys defense

So it's not exactly a great argument for being aggressive in situations where you'd actually care. If you're better than the other team, being aggressive will make the scoring margin look bigger, but likely won't change the outcome of the game. If you're not, it's not likely you're going to get enough opportunities for the odds to even out.

Personally I think they totally should've just had Krugier-Hill attempt a PAT on the last touchdown. Up 28, 29, or 30 makes no difference that late in the game, and having a linebacker kick a PAT against your division rival is just hilarious.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

How about this gem:

The GSOT Rams went 4-5 on two point conversions en route to a crazy 45-29 victory. Their kicker got hurt on his second kickoff, which was only the third play of the game due to back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns to start the game. Two of the Rams 2PC's were to Marshall Faulk, as you might expect, but somehow one was a pass from FS Keith Lyle to MLB London Fletcher. Man I wish I had been old enough to have appreciated the Greatest Show on Turf.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The NFL has issued a statement admitting the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was a mistake.

I mean, wow. That was obvious at the time.

Honestly I have no idea how the officials can make that mistake. Cousins was not under pressure of an imminent sack when he threw the ball away. He was killing the clock like a normal QB does in that kind of situation.

The officials called a fake penalty, pushed the Redskins out of FG range, and took 10 seconds off the clock to boot. That one mistake may well have cost 30-40 points of win probability or more, if you compare the odds of a FG at that location with a 50-50 shot of winning in overtime.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

There was pressure(didn't have guys draped on him, but there was a decent pass rush on the play despite the quick throw), the QB stood in the pocket and threw it to nobody. I was surprised to see it called and it probably won't be next time, but it was nice to see, as someone who is a grounding maximalist and hates throwaways. Anyway, it comes down to the ref's interpretation of how much danger the passer is in, and they could've easily deferred to the judgement of the refs there

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

what defensible about it - he wasn't under pressure, so there's no grounding

The rule is clear. From the NFL rule book:

"It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion."

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Watching live I was surprised they called it, he threw it before any pressure could develop. I was also surprised that it was a 10 yard penalty, I always thought grounding was a spot foul and loss of down. Ballsy call by Gruden on the fake punt from the Washington 15 yard line. Great comeback by the Saints / Terrible defense by Washington.

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Going to be interesting to see the DVOA numbers this week. Gotta think the Vikings make a big jump. They didn’t just win big, it was the sort of highly efficient domination that DVOA loves. Maybe the dropoff in special teams holds them back.

Then NE should get a big boost from the defense stalling the #4 (which seems utterly inexplicable, but who knows) offense. Maybe all the way to first? I could see it given how much there defensive DVOA should go down.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

NE's defense won't get that much of a boost, I think. Oakland was near or beyond the 50 a lot, and their drives seemed to contain more good plays than bad, they just had the bad appear at inopportune times.

My guestimate for NE's defensive DVOA is around 10%. Better than the season average beforehand, but not enough to make a move up the ladder.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The Raiders' passing game got 235 yards on 49 plays, a respectable (for the defense) 4.8 YPA.

The running game got 109 yards on 21 attempts, a less respectable 5.2 YPC, but a good bit of that was in one 25-yard rush by Marshawn Lynch. Lynch got more than 6 yards per carry and looked like the only respectable weapon out there.

The receivers were dreadful, dropping a lot of passes (though some of the credit for that has to go to the defense). Amari Cooper continues his disappearing act.

Also, Carr through a pick and Roberts fumbled the ball inside the Pats' 10.

If this isn't consider an above average defensive performance, something is amiss. The only teams that gave up fewer points this weekend are the Jags, the Vikings, and the Ravens (facing Green Bay w/o Rodgers). I'm not saying the Pats' D is elite, but the nonsense of having them in the bottom 3 is getting ridiculous. Compare and contrast how they played the Saints vs. what the Redskins did yesterday. But DVOA says the Redskins' D is above average while the Pats are bottom-feeders? I'm not buying it.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I've been inclined to cut Jason Garrett a lot of slack, because the team's owner in good measure renders the roster uncoachable, but he really is very mediocre, it seems to me. Until the Cowboys win about 15 games over three seasons, however, Jones, at least partially, to some degree might prefer a mediocre coach who he can treat like a valet.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

If his team isn’t loaded with pro bowlers and at full strength, Garrett is totally lost. Contrast that with good coaches (Belichick, Zimmer, Carroll, etc), who can still win when their roster gets ravaged by injuries.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Garrett exists in a weird space, though.

He needs to win enough to satisfy is his raging egotist owner, but he has to do so while maintaining sufficiently little outward competence so as to distract acclaim from his raging egotist owner.

If ever there was a situation custom-made for Jeff Fisher...

I would argue, though, that Jones' ideal world coach is Jim Caldwell. As a bonus, Caldwell has experience working with an owner whose connection with objective reality is shaky at best.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

A friend of mine (Redskins fan) notes that Jimmy Johnson only coached for 5 seasons under Jerry Jones, while Garrett is up to 7 seasons now. And has one postseason win.

His tolerance for Garrett compared to his feuds with Johnson makes for an interesting topic.

Let's just say Redskins fans are quite happy to see Garrett keep his job for as long as possible.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

GB defense played pretty solid yesterday even accounting for the quality, or lackthereof, of the opposing offense

Special teams was a huge advantage for Baltimore who leveraged field position pretty much all game.

Hundley cratered in the second half but MM owns this outcome.

A. He coached the guy for several years. If he doesn't know his limitations by now what the h8ll?
B. He is asking the guy to do things he cannot do and refusing to do things he can do. Hundley is comfortable with read-option. This never gets called. Hundley practiced with guys like Geronimo Allison and is clearly comfortable with Allison. Allison is intentionally not part of the play package apparently to force Hundley to find Adams and Nelson
C. You face one of the best pass defenses in the league and you all but refuse to run the ball? Oh but sure bring on the field a guy who has not carried the ball all season, telegraph the run, run WIDE which as a team you do horribly, and then act stunned when the play gets blown up and the veteran defense attacks the ball carrier from all directions stripping the ball

Look, Hundley played really poorly. But his head coach is doing everything but busting his kneecaps and asking him to win the 100 meters.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I wrote that Hundley played poorly. Makes one wonder how he is being coached. Or not being coached

I think the MM as qb guru has reason to be questioned. I am of the mind that if you have a guy with the arm and some intelligence you should be able to craft competency. Hundley has the arm and is by all accounts a sharp guy. That he is failing at times in spectacular fashion makes me think that he is receiving coaching that is so complicated or confusing or both he cannot process to make a decision.'

His best plays are when he is not allowed time to think. Just throw

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't see how a HC can be a QB guru once he's at that level. There's just too much other stuff to do in the day.

It's the job of the QB Coach and on the Packers that Alex Van Pelt. I couldn't even remember where he'd been but according to his bio drafted by Pittsbugh in 1993 but ended up in KC for 1993-94, Bills 1995-2003. So he got to backup Joe Montana and the Jim Kelly likely good potential for learning the secrets of the best (Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe also).

He was Bills QB coach for Trent Edwards in 2008, Tampa's in 2010-11 (Josh Freeman?) and then the Packers since 2014 (the already established Aaron Rodgers).

Seems to me like he's been around great QBs but not necessarily been able to learn or coach any of it into others.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Fair enough, I haven't followed the Packers closely.

On reflection, I guess it's not exactly hard to be the "QB guru" when you've had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers to work with. It's easy coaching people who are talented. Heck I could probably coach Tom Brady by Skype and I reckon he'd turn in good performances.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm of the school of thought that Brady has profited immensely by having Belichick as his coach. His improvement from 2001 through 2007 was quite noticeable. He didn't start out playing at Peyton's level. And it's far from clear to me that he would have climbed so far with any random coach.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Anybody who doubts this is working with a Skip Bayless level of football knowledge. You stick Brady in Phoenix in 2000, with a semblance of competent management not arriving until Dennis Green showed up until 2004, who knows what that career looks like. Cleveland? Cincy, with Mike Brown in full cheapskate mode? Along those lines, I'd guarantee that there are a number of qbs with unremarkable careers who would have thrived if they came into the league with the Patriots in 2000.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That's obviously true but at the same time, Brady showed enough to be preferred to a first-round pick, pro-bowl QB with some pretty decent numbers. There's a narrative that Brady was a 'game manager' in his first few years but if that's the case, why not go back to Bledsoe when he was healthy? Because 'he just wins' is hardly something Belichick would adhere to. Brady managed to work his way up to backup from third-string, 6th round after thought.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I would say its a bit nuanced. I don't think anyone believes Brady was better than Bledsoe when he was starting. Remember, up to that point, Belichick didn't have the unwavering support that he does now. Its entirely possible he went with Brady because the team was simply winning.

Its more likely though that Brady's style of play matched better with the profile of the 2001 patriots than Bledsoe's did. Brady wasn't particularly accurate or good thrower, but he did avoid turnovers and moved well in the pocket. That kind of play usually wins games with defensive heavy units than a long ball thrower with more variance to his game.

158 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Brady *was* better than Bledsoe in 2001, and Bill's decision reflects that. Some of the "better-ness" was attributed to style of play, as you suggest, but much more was because Brady was more efficient at simply running the plays. Bledsoe could never get in synch with Weis' short offense, nor did Drew's cannon arm have much precision/touch in those areas.

159 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Bledsoe was always easy to hit in the pocket, too, with very little ability to buy time with movement. Brady isn't and never was Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, of course, but he wasn't a total clubfoot whose best throws are deep balls, which really is a suboptimal combination of traits.

160 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The Tom Brady of 2001 and 2002 was very similar in terms of performance to the Drew Bledsoe of 2000 through 2002.

Brady threw more INTs in those years than you remember, and the 2000 Pats weren't that good, even outside of Bledsoe.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I could grant similar INT rates and the poor roster in 2000 (neither of which I contested), and my points would still stand. Bledsoe had poor touch on short passes, had poor pocket presence and wasn't good at following the reads in Weis' offense. The only area where Bledsoe was superior was deep passing... which, as Will pointed out, isn't a good match for Weis' offense or Drew's weaknesses.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

It's a bit off to compare Bledsoe's 2002 in this set, because he had entirely different personnel. But I'll include it since you mentioned it.

1999 cmp% 56.6 Y/A 7.4 Rate 75.6 TD-Int -2
2000 cmp% 58.5 Y/A 6.2 Rate 77.3 TD-Int 4
2001 cmp% 60.6 Y/A 6.1 Rate 75.3 TD-Int 0 (2 games)
2002 cmp% 61.5 Y/A 7.1 Rate 86.0 TD-Int 9 (with Bills)

2001 cmp% 63.9 Y/A 6.9 Rate 86.5 TD-Int 6
2002 cmp% 62.2 Y/A 6.3 Rate 85.9 TD-Int 14

You could fairly argue that Brady's first full year as the Patriot's starter (2002) had "similar" production as Bledsoe's first year in Buffalo, with an entirely different team. Brady's DVOA was 5% higher, so he was still the better QB even then.

But unless Belichick had invented time travel, his decision was based on Brady's 2001 versus Bledsoe's previous one or two years and a little bit of 2001. Brady was already clearly the better QB. And, despite Brady's tiny "sophomore slump", Belichick's judgment has been confirmed to the nth degree since then.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Why do TD minus INT? Why not look at the components separately, especially when one of the few statements in the post you're replying to is "Brady threw more INTs in those years than you remember"?

2001: TD%: 4.4; INT%: 2.9
2002: TD%: 4.7; INT%: 2.3

2000: TD%: 3.2; INT%: 2.4
2001: TD%: 3.0; INT%: 3.0 (on only 66 attempts)
2002: TD%: 3.9; INT%: 2.5

So it's actually fairly accurate to say that, early on, Brady was about even with Bledsoe in terms of throwing interceptions. It's actually touchdown rate where Brady was noticeably better.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"why not go back to Bledsoe when he was healthy"

Because Bledsoe had fantastic talent, but constantly made stupid mistakes, which led to turnovers - and that's the one thing BB won't put up with. Brady, on the other hand, is fantastic at avoiding turnovers.

With the early 2000 Patriots defense, you could win with a game manager - you couldn't win with a guy who'd throw a pick every time a DB baited him.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I am genuinely curious as to what a QB coach does when your QB is an all-time great like Rodgers and the head coach fancies himself as the QB guy. Did Van Pelt get Rodgers donuts or pick up his dry cleaning? Act as a stand-in for Clay Matthews for dry runs of State Farm commercials?

To Van Pelt's credit, if he was in Tampa from 2010-2011, those were the years Josh Freeman was looking to be a viable prospect as a good young QB before the Great Schiano-ing began.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

The way I look at it, the Green Bay organization had Hundley for over a year, working with the scout team and second team offense--plenty of time to carefully coach and prepare him. It is similar to the way the Indianapolis team prepared Manning's backups prior to 2011. Once the product arrives on the field, it is the net result of the coaching and time investment, and hence, you see more or less what the coaching staff intended. GB didn't give a rip about Rodgers' backup, and MM has more or less given up, and it shows. Compare to NE winning last year with Brissett. No prep time at all for rookie 3rd round pick, and the coaching staff painstakingly gameplans around the rookie's abilities and the whole team rallies...

McCarthy holds the lion's share of blame for Hundley's performance. With over a year to evaluate a backup, one should expect at least replacement level performance with a gameplan adjusted to accentuate strengths and hide weaknesses.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"Compare to NE" is unfair. The Patriots are the universal outlier.

Compare with Landry Jones, or the Vikings on their third-string QB, or the suspiciously competent displays by Gabbert and Savage yesterday: that's fair. And Green Bay doesn't come out well.

The Packers took an eternity to realize that Graham Harrell wasn't fit for the NFL. Quarterback evaluation might not be their strong point.

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I think more than anything else the Packers have failed with their offensive scheme and gameplanning going on three years now. Obviously Rodgers was helping cover up all kinds of issues, but even with him playing every game their offense was very underwhelming throughout long stretches of 2015 and 2016. Add an inexperienced, mistake-prone QB to the mix and they've lost 4 of 5 by multiple scores.

I would love to see the Packers offense get a complete overhaul, particularly with Rodgers entering what will probably be his last 5 or so years. McCarthy's contract is apparently up after 2018; maybe it's not a remote possibility.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm a big McCarthy defender, and I think that holds true here too. I was trying to be the optimist before this week, but Hundley is just very bad. Sometimes coaching can't fix a guy's flaws, and Hundley's flaws are exactly the same as on his college scouting report. ( Just no pocket presence, misses open receivers all the time because he isn't anticipating windows, but when his first read is open he can put it on him very well. He's mobile but not with any kind of actual effectiveness; most times he gets outside the pocket and throws it away.

I think McCarthy unnecessarily takes flak for supporting Hundley; that's what every coach says. It was "next man up" with the added flair of rejecting a particular alternative option. The offense has changed immensely since Hundley took over, but sometimes a QB is just bad and unfixably so.

Jordy Nelson has been propped up by Rodgers' unbelievable accuracy the past season and a half but I think should be cut next year. Davante has shown his quality these past few games. Packers top draft pick should be spent on a pass-rusher, and then after that a top WR.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I'm pretty skeptical of the whole "work on backup qb and get him ready to competency." Sometimes, a coach simply cannot assess how good a player is until he steps out on the field. Jaworski once wrote about Joey Harrington and how he could articulate everything a defense was doing in the film room or on the practice field, but come game time, he just froze mentally.

As is often the case, NE keeps getting brought up as an example of how such and such CAN be done. But outside of NE, where has this ever worked?

The Vikings are the only team I see that is effectively elevating the play of what is a very marginal talent. And even Case Keenum isn't some homegrown project that the vikings nurtured development out of.

That NE is so able to compensate for missing their hall of fame qb suggests more about Ne's coaches than it does any failing for McCarthy.

So and so is not Belichick is not a reason to fire the coach.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Are you referring to the Andy Reid Eagles?

Remember that year when McNabb got hurt, and Reid got Koy Detmer (who then promptly got hurt) and AJ Feely to look like competent starters for several games? (2002, I think?)

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yeah, the Reid+ Eagles and the Cowher+ Steelers.

The last really useless Eagles QB was... Doug Pederson.

The Cowher Steelers wandered in the desert with Tommie Maddox for awhile, but even those teams managed to rock fight their way into the playoffs.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I don't blame blame McCarthy for playing or supporting Hundley. Rodgers going down is a bad situation with few (or no) good options no matter how you slice it. Hundley has some significant flaws, but I don't think he's completely useless. Like you mentioned, he is comfortable making quick reads and throws in a quick-rhythm passing attack, especially out of the shotgun or pistol. He has lots of experience from college with zone read looks and with RPOs. The Packers have all of these things in their playbook, and McCarthy could use them as building blocks to build an effective system for Hundley to operate in.

Instead, McCarthy continues to burden Hundley with all sorts of slow-developing play action and deep drops, with limited outlets available if he can't hit his first man and/or when he begins to panic at the first sign of pressure deep behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of letting Hundley get the opportunity to run read option (and preserving the threat to pass), they bring in Cobb as a wildcat QB. I could go on. Maybe Hundley is the worst starting QB in football right now, but I don't think his coach is really putting him in much of a position to succeed.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I simply disagree. Brett Hundley had positive DYAR in each of his starts (not against Minnesota) before the disaster against Baltimore. Against three good pass D's, he looked below average but the actual success of the offense was OK. The Packers actually only went down about 3.5% in offensive DVOA after Rodgers went out. Considering the huge drop-off between the two QBs, and the other injuries, I think that is damn good coaching and not at all worthy of the huge level of criticism McCarthy is getting. When a QB has 4 turnovers that are almost entirely his doing, I think the QB is to blame, not the coach.

Furthermore, the RPO concepts and read-option stuff I do not believe are actually good options for the Packers personnel. RPOs require a good ability from the QB to read a defense and make a judgement call between two different plays. They are generally not one defender reads. I don't think Hundley can do that. Not to mention that maybe aside from Cobb, the Packers don't have anyone who can win with short-area quickness which is what those RPO routes require. Read-option is maybe a better idea but still doesn't really fit the Packers personnel; no good blocking TEs (especially without Bennett) and average at best run-blocking tackles, plus a defense loading up to stop the run because they know Hundley is garbage. And it's not like the Packers haven't been running the ball well already, #2 in run offense DVOA. What the Packers need is an NFL QB who can read a defense, anticipate routes, stay calm in the pocket, and/or do well in a scramble drill. Hundley can't do any of those things. There is some blame on the coaches, but Hundley is just bad and you can't win with a bad QB and a bad defense.

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

And MM has had this guy on the team and coached him firsthand for 3 years. And by your own assessment BH cannot do many things. ARe you not curious as to why MM did not know these things? Are you giving the head coach a pass on that front?

Just curious

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I certainly don't give MM a total pass, he does have some hand in this. But I also think that Hundley is just bad, and that a lot of what's happened can be seen in a negative light if you have negative feelings about McCarthy, or a neutral light if you take the opposite view. (There's no positivity to be had here.) Maybe MM *did* know Hundley wasn't workable, but is towing the company line in public while screaming at Ted Thompson to give him a real player (Hoyer? There were rumors there.) at QB behind the scenes. So this talk of MM being the one and only person to blame negates a lot of other factors, especially that sometimes players just are bad and there's nothing anyone can do about that.

Personally, and totally in hindsight, I would've loved to see the Packers trade for Tyrod Taylor. Athletic QB who takes a ton of time in the pocket trying to make big plays happen? Seems like a good fit. But that's just the stuff of daydreams now.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

But this is silly, he is definitely bad at the things you describe above. You even claim his college scouting report was right (I don't doubt you, I just don't care to read it). So why not put him in a position to emphasize his strengths and mitigate his weaknesses? It's much more difficult to get a player to get better at something they've been bad at for a while than it is to avoid putting them in that position. If the thing they're bad at can't be avoided, then they have no business playing the position. This is on MM, he either needed to be ready to mitigate BH's weaknesses or cut him if those weaknesses were to big to avoid.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Oh I was just saying Tyrod Taylor has similar tendencies as Rodgers so it would've been less of a transition, and he's good. Not that they should be trying to morph Hundley into that type of player. I don't think they have been either; the offense has been much more run heavy, quick passing, and two route play action stuff that suit a QB who has hard time going through is progressions quickly. They've had some RPO stuff but I don't think Hundley is very good at that.

I think what has happened over the past few seasons went like this: Hundley is probably good in the film room but not so good in the hot seat of games that count. He looks good enough in practice and preseason that they probably thought he could be serviceable, and a better immediate fix in what they viewed as a SB team than trying to teach Kap (or whomever). Based on Hundley's knowledge of the offense and physical talent he'd look like a solid backup to coaches, but in the end he doesn't have the ability to do things an NFL QB has to do to succeed.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

There may be some acclimation time once a guy gets on the field, but, gosh if a guy can't execute RPOs by his third year, that's a bad sign, either in coaching or the qb's mental facilities for the position. Nobody ever thought that Daunte Culpepper went to the Fran Tarkenton School of Pattern Recognition, but by his second year he could figure out on the line of scrimmage whether the Vikings should run or pass.Yes, Randy Moss provided large margins of error, but a guy has to be able to handle that fairly quickly.

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

These are also plays that Hundley ran in college. I know it's not the same in the NFL, but this is part of what it gets back to for me. I think McCarthy could help Hundley immensely by giving him more plays where he can make reads before the snap (whether it's an RPO or even just in "regular" passing schemes), especially since he obviously isn't good under pressure.

Chris makes a good point about how some of the Packers receivers don't have great short area quickness—Nelson and Adams, obviously. But even Nelson and the likes of James Jones have had success on WR screen-type plays in the past. It would also certainly seem like a great opportunity to get guys who aren't getting a ton of snaps at receiver right now like Allison, Davis, and (when he's healthy) Montgomery more involved going forward as well...

Maybe I'm asking too much, because Hundley has certainly made some really bad throws and decisions. I just feel pretty strongly that in these past few seasons that McCarthy's offense has struggled mightily to adapt to how its personnel has changed since its 2009-14 peak and that their difficulty in coming up with ways to help their backup QB falls right in line with all of this.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

My basic contention is that MM insists on running an offense that BH cannot support.

What worked in Chicago would work elsewhere. Run centric, controlled play action passing, feature Adams. This is not complex. But it's also not very sexy. But can be effective.

Now with McCray out that plan is likely bolluxed as McCray for his other flaws was a good run blocker and the combo of Evans/McCray regularly generated positive results.

MM for reasons unknown has chosen to make things incredibly complicated. In this scenario simplicity is better.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I know we wouldn't disagree that the offense has been worse since Rodgers got hurt, but DVOA might not be the best way to measure the drop-off because their offensive line issues were really cramping their per-play efficiency early in the season. (Rodgers was near his career low in NY/A and was on pace to take 60+ sacks heading into the Vikings game, which even for him would be a lot.)

I did some quick figuring on yards and points per drive, and with Hundley in the game it looks like they would rank about 21st in yards per drive, sandwiched bewteen Denver and San Francisco, and near the bottom of the league (30th) in points per drive. Don't have time to figure those just with Rodgers right now, but based on their current full season ranking they had to have been near the top of the league in both.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

McCoy fired as OC in Denver, replaced by Musgrave. It'll take a miracle for Joseph to save his job, it seems to me, and Elway will have used up a lot of good will via this debacle.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

thought V. joseph had potential and then after he was hired as Broncs head coahc heard about some weird sexual harassment thing he did at Colorado as assistnant coach or something and then I determined this guy probably a jerk unles s was big time drunk that night of sex stuff. (if was more than one night of mind loss, then guy is something more than just a jerk)

anyway, to keep it away form that heavy stuff, am a fan of him coaching Broncos in crappy way right now. Keep it up!

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

At some point, Elway has to look in the mirror. The OL and QB problems in Denver are all his selections. Some of the talent deficiencies on defense are his fault. The former was covered up by unsustainable defensive play in the past, but the fact is that he's missed on drafting a capable QB during his entire tenure.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Tom Gower: The Eagles have outscored the Cowboys 28-0 in the second half (now with roughly 9 minutes to play), and Carson Wentz is 1-of-3 for 6 yards on first- and second-down passes on their three touchdown drives. He has been lights out on third downs, but I always worry about superlative third-down performance when there's not an obvious scheme-related explanation for why third downs should be completely different (see Titans/Mularkey).

I feel like when a QB averages one non-third/fourth-down passing attempt per drive over three TD drives, that in and of itself is a scheme-related reason.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Yet another utterly boring Bucs game. Between the offense looking largely disinterested, and the pass defense still being garbage, this just sucks to watch. There's this mix of incredibly athletic plays like rookie Justin Evans getting a great pick or Grimes laying out to knock a pass away with the secondary forgetting to cover people constantly. You're up 10 with a few minutes left, and you give up a 60 yard TD pass? When did the Bucs sign Raheem Moore?

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Felt like a lot of it just came down to Ryan Fitzpatrick being Ryan Fitzpatrick; he makes just enough throws to keep the team in the game, but not enough throws consistently where you ever feel like it's in the bag. He's just eternally OK, and the one hope I had with him starting is he throws a better deep ball than Winston so maybe Desean Jackson got some happy time. Not so much so far.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

I could not believe NWE was missing two starters from their OLine today. TRB looked like he had all day every time he dropped back. And letting Cooks run past TWO defenders on that long touchdown? Our defense well deserves its 32nd DVOA ranking.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

"This is the kind of game a top-tier team should win in convincing fashion." (re: Browns-Jags)

That seems like it should be true, but it's really not.

The only team that blew the doors off the Browns was Cincinnati. They've been competitive in every other game. Their problems seems to be turnover rate, and a weird trend where their offense will be good or their defense, but never both.

They've actually outgained four opponents, but they've only broken even on TOs in two games.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

'Much to the chagrin of most of America it's looking like either they or whichever weak five seed beats them will essentially grant New England another bye in the divisional round.'

Ask a Patriots fan how underestimating teams run by Tom Coughlin works out in the playoffs. While you're at, stop off at Pittsburgh and ask Ben Rothlisberger what he thinks of the Sacksonville defense.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

Also, not sure why it's being assumed that Jax will be the #4 seed with KC currently in a nosedive and Jax's remaining schedule not being overly daunting.

"One of these days the AFC ought to actually make it sort-of challenging for the Pats to get to the Super Bowl."

You mean like way back in 2015 when Denver beat them in the AFCCG?

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 11

That doesn't make them not a speed-bump.

New England just crashed into it because they forgot to raise the hydraulics on their low-rider.

NE has managed to lose playoff games to the Sanchize and Flacco in non-elite mode. Going way back, they lost to the Plummer/Anderson Bronco in what history would recognize as part of the Curse of Blucifer. (New England is 0-4 in playoff games @DEN)