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» 2017 Play-Action Defense

Our look at play-action pass in 2017 flips to the defensive side of the ball. Carolina was historically good, Houston was historically bad, and a long-standing question about year-to-year correlation gets cleared up.

04 Dec 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

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

Kansas City Chiefs 31 at New York Jets 38

Bryan Knowles: Andy Reid gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, and all of a sudden, the Chiefs offense explodes into life. Less than five minutes into the game, the Chiefs have roared into a 14-0 lead. Yes, it's only the Jets, but the Chiefs were getting nothing against anybody for the past six weeks. I wonder if these were part of the scripted 15 plays -- Andy Reid is one of the devotees of that practice -- and if they were, who scripted them? The early strategy is "throw the ball to Travis Kelce; the Jets can't cover him." Two touchdowns later…

Scott Kacsmar: One offensive touchdown in a little over eight quarters, but two within five minutes today. Definitely an interesting change, but had to expect it a little with how good this offense was earlier this season. The Jets also really struggle in the secondary, and it's amusing that Darrelle Revis, for the Chiefs, was made a captain today. The Jets are moving the ball well too in what could be a shootout. Nice quarterback sneak by Josh McCown on fourth down.

Rob Weintraub: Mayhem in the Meadowlands -- Marcus Peters just protested an admittedly shoddy call by taking the ref's hanky and hurling it deep into the stands. Not sure I've seen that before.

Bryan Knowles: What are the Chiefs doing?! Jets score to take the lead, but fail on the two-point conversion. The Chiefs were caught holding in the end zone, however, and were flagged. Marcus Peters than TOOK that flag, and tossed it into the stands! He then was tossed from the game, as you might expect.

There was also roughing the passer on the play, but at least that was a football play.

Rob Weintraub: Jets get it on take two, lead 38-31.

This wild sequence all started when the Chiefs committed a personal foul on a chip-shot field goal by the Jets, giving them a first down inside the 5. The Jets then ran nine plays to score with another penalty in there. The net effect was that not only did the Jets score but they ran the clock down, which means that Chiefs now have one drive to get a touchdown to tie the game.

Vince Verhei: Josh McCown hits Jermaine Kearse for a 51-yard gain on third down to give the Jets a first-and-goal at the 5. We then get:

  • Delay of game on Jets.
  • Run on first down.
  • Run on second down.
  • Incomplete on third down.
  • Field goal is good, but Bennie Logan is flagged for unnecessary roughness, so the Jets get a first-and-goal at the 1.
  • Run for a loss.
  • Run for no gain.
  • Incomplete on third down, but Steven Nelson is flagged for holding, so the Jets get a first-and-goal at the 3.
  • Run on first down.
  • Run on second down.
  • Josh McCown scores a 1-yard touchdown on a sneak. But we're not done yet.
  • Going for two, McCown scrambles and completes a pass short of the end zone. But Nelson is flagged for holding AGAIN. Marcus Peters then picks up the flag and throws it into the stands, which is a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • With the ball at the 1, Elijah McGuire runs it in from one to put the Jets up 38-31 with 2:15 to go.

Bryan Knowles: A slight update -- Marcus Peters was NOT ejected, per the NFL. He just walked off the field and back to the locker room on his own accord. That ... that might be worse.

Vince Verhei: This is your reminder that even though Peters was a first-round talent, Chris Petersen threw him off the team at Washington in the middle of the season for disciplinary reasons. He's a headcase.

Peters started to undress in the locker room, was told he was not ejected, and ran back onto the field without his socks on. This game is all kinds of stupid.

And appropriately, the Chiefs reach the red zone on a big play by Tyreek Hill, but Alex Smith's third-down pass is nearly intercepted, and his fourth-down pass lands softly on the turf with no receiver in sight, and that's ballgame.

Aaron Schatz: May have to bring back that "stupidest moment of the year" FO award for Marcus Peters without socks. Man, have the Chiefs just IMPLODED.

Vince Verhei: John Morton is clearly the Coordinator of the Year, right? Nobody wanted any of the quarterbacks or receivers on the roster. Everyone was talking about 0-16. But he's got them in the third quartile of the league in points scored and offensive DVOA, and they might even be in the top half after this weekend. Mostly he has performed a miracle with McCown, who is somehow having one of his best seasons at age 38. I mean, at this point, I wouldn't be shocked if McCown was starting somewhere in 2018.

San Francisco 49ers 15 at Chicago Bears 14

Bryan Knowles: The first interception of Jimmy Garoppolo's career comes on … a completion to Louis Murphy, to be quite frank. The throw was on target, Murphy was hauling in the pass, but Kyle Fuller came over and ripped the ball free. That one might get taken away when we do our adjusted interceptions, methinks. So far, the one word I'd pick to describe Garoppolo's debut is "fluid" -- in that it feels like the 49ers' offense is somewhat connected, with plays leading into one another quickly, rather than being a bunch of discrete plays with no relation to one another. If Carlos Hyde wasn't having a bad day -- a dropped pass, a bobbled exchange, being in the wrong location on a screen -- this would almost be an NFL offense. Baby steps.

Living in the Chicago area, I had gotten the impression that Kyle Fuller was the worst football player in recorded history – or, at least, that's what you'd think if you listened to sports talk radio. He's having a heck of a game today, though – not only did he have the big interception, which led to the Bears touchdown, but had a great touchdown-saving tackle on Carlos Hyde as well. I mention this because the rest of the Bears defense is doing roughly bupkis. After the 49ers let C.J. Beathard get nailed 52 times in his five starts, they've so far kept the pocket clean for Garoppolo today. Some of that is Garoppolo handling the few cases of pressure better. More of that is Chicago's inability to beat San Francisco's piecemeal line.

Tarik Cohen ran back a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown on a play where he ran about 161 yards. He went backwards, he reversed field, he looped around, and finally found a seam. Up to that point, the 49ers had allowed 61 punt return yards all season. Cohen's pretty good, I guess. First rookie with a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, passing touchdown, and punt return touchdown in the same year since Gale Sayers in 1965.

Scott Kacsmar: That was a sweet punt return touchdown by Tarik Cohen. I guess you still have to criticize the guy as a coach when he runs backwards like that, but when you have so much speed and talent that you can still make it into a long touchdown, the criticism should be light at best. That return combined with San Francisco's ball control that's led to field goals has only led to 16 offensive snaps in the first half for the Bears. They already came into today ranked 31st in offensive plays per game.

Bryan Knowles: At the half, the 49ers have 140 more yards than the Bears, 10 minutes of extra time of possession, and eight extra first downs … and are trailing, 14-9. Turnovers, special teams, penalties (six for 43 yards) and lack of execution in the red zone, the Four Horsemen of Bad Football Teams.

Dave Bernreuther: The Bears are actively making the third-rounder they're giving San Francisco for Trubisky worse ... by beating them in a game with a special teams touchdown and six passing attempts at the half.

Bryan Knowles: As good as Gould, and better. Garoppolo and the 49ers put together a 14-play, 86-yard drive, allowing Robbie Gould to kick his fifth field goal of the day for the win. It'd be nice if they could discover a way into the end zone, but hey. They're already carving Garoppolo's bust for Canton in the Bay Area. Not a bad debut, albeit against a pretty bad Bears team.

Minnesota Vikings 14 at Atlanta Falcons 9

Charles McDonald: Falcons have played well so far. Moved the chains effectively on their first drive (including a fourth-down conversion) and forced two Minnesota punts. Through about one quarter, they've help up their strong play from the past few weeks.

BUT! In usual Falcons fashion, penalties and drops are holding them back. Called for five penalties in the first quarter. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu each have drops.

Carl Yedor: Confusing end-of-half time management here. Minnesota runs a going-nowhere draw on first down from deep in their own end, lets a ton of time burn off the clock, and then decides suddenly that they do actually want to try and score. They run out of timeouts with 12 seconds left and the ball on the 50. Minnesota then completes the ball over the middle to get into field goal range, but time runs out well before they can get to the line to spike the ball. I understand being concerned with Atlanta's offense and not wanting to allow the Falcons time for a drive of their own. But Atlanta's ranked 26th in defensive DVOA. You're probably going to be able to move the ball on them. Hindsight is 20/20, but playing conservative cost the Vikings a shot at three points there.

Vince Verhei: I got off to a late start today so I don't have a ton to say about the first half of the early games, but I've been impressed by both teams in this game. There's a lot of bad football being played this time of year, and the team I watch most, the Seahawks, are a good team that plays ugly games. This has been what football is supposed to look like -- good defenses that are pressuring the offenses and not giving up anything easy, but offenses that are avoiding mistakes making some difficult plays when given the chance. I understand there have been some big drops and blown coverages that I've missed, but from what I've seen these look like two deserving playoff teams.

Bryan Knowles: One big positive for Atlanta: they're keeping Adam Thielen in check. Just three targets on the day, despite him being Case Keenum's most-targeted receiver this season. Michael Floyd has stepped up somewhat to fill in the gap, but Thielen has been so productive the last four weeks, and Atlanta's pass defense is only so-so, that I'm surprised he hasn't been more of a factor in this one so far. Stick a pin in it, I suppose.

I really thought this game would have more offense, in general. A good game, but a surprising one.

Really, really impressive drive by Minnesota to take the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. A 15-play, 89-yard drive taking over half a quarter; just methodically marching down the field and taking whatever they needed, ending in a Kyle Rudolph touchdown. That's more of what I was expecting; that's good football, there.

Vince Verhei: Case Keenum hits Kyle Rudolph for a 6-yard touchdown that puts the Vikings up 14-9. Drive covered 15 plays, 89 yards, and more than eight minutes of clock, and included three third-down conversions. They're now 5-of-9 on third downs today, while limiting Atlanta to 1-of-8 on third downs. (The Falcons also converted their one fourth-down try.) And that has been the story for Minnesota all year. Coming into the week, their offense was second in third-down conversion rate at 46 percent, and their defense was first at 29 percent allowed. The DVOA rankings aren't quite as extreme -- they're third on third-down offense and fourth in third-down defense -- but it's pretty clear that this is the philosophy on which they've built their team: win on third downs, and the rest will take care of itself.

Bryan Knowles: And THERE'S the Adam Thielen big play we've been waiting for. And Atlanta's out of timeouts, too -- they were using them defensively with four minutes left in the game (!), so that could end up being HUGE.

Rob Weintraub: Vikes run for a first down and it is kneeling time, which the announcers don't seem to realize.

Good tough win for the Vikings. Nothing to get too bummed about for Atlanta really, either -- played a good defensive game despite some injuries. They bit on the last third down, but overall the unit hung in there well.

Carl Yedor: Big win for the Vikings, who are guaranteed to remain in position for a first-round bye in the playoffs after their win in Atlanta today. Not a lot of points on the board for Minnesota today, but it didn't end up mattering because they were able to hold the Falcons to four field goal attempts on eight drives today. Fortunately for Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans play each other, and Seattle hosts Philadelphia. So even though the Falcons missed an opportunity to pick up ground in the division/wild card race, they will likely end up in the same position by the end of the day. Thursday night against the Saints will be a big one.

Vince Verhei: Heh. I was going to say, this is good news for Seattle. Barring a miracle comeback by Detroit against Baltimore, the Seahawks are still going to be in a two-way tie for the last NFC wild-card spot even if they lose to Philadelphia. Basically, the NFC's second-tier teams are all happy that they all keep losing.

Dave Bernreuther: After all our celebration discussions the past few weeks, it's worth noting that Jerrick McKinnon busted out the Ickey Shuffle after his first half score. Of that, I approve. 

Aaron Schatz: Wait, was Jerick doing the Ickey Shuffle or was he taunting the Falcons with the Dirty Bird? I thought the latter.

Vince Verhei: That was absolutely the Dirty Bird. 

Dave Bernreuther: Actually you're right. I'm ashamed of myself. 

Zach Binney: As a native Atlantan, oh yeah, baby, that was the Dirty Bird.

Denver Broncos 9 at Miami Dolphins 35

Scott Kacsmar: I've never been big on Trevor Siemian, but thought he could be efficient and protect the ball against Miami. So far he has a bad pick and knocked a ball out of the end zone for a Miami safety after a bad snap. It's 2-0, Marlins over Rockies.

Add a pick-six for Siemian and the Dolphins lead 16-3. Julius Thomas also confirmed his revenge game with a touchdown catch from Jay Cutler. If you think about it, this game was kind of a battle for "Worst AFC Team Not Named Cleveland." Denver seems to be in position to seize that title.

Aaron Schatz: I have a message from the Indianapolis Colts.

Dave Bernreuther: For all the worry about all those back-to-back game days with the Hurricanes (whose late-game chip-shot field goal last night amused me greatly), it's the weekend without a college game on Saturday, when the area hasn't seen rain in a month, when the field develops a sinkhole.

We naturally have the sound in here and I've been enjoying former Bronco Mark Schlereth just ripping into Trevor Siemian. It's like the anti-Gruden. Or if you gave (former Film Room writer) Cian Fahey a TV color gig. I love it.

Vince Verhei: In the first half in the last two weeks, Broncos quarterbacks have gone 14-of-29 for 125 yards with no touchdowns, three interceptions, and three sacks. That's 3.4 yards per dropback, even before we account for the turnovers. And that has come against the Raiders and Dolphins, two of the worst pass defenses we have ever measured. Just a complete disaster. Hard to say that any of the passers on the roster this season deserve a shot to be on the team next season.

Zach Binney: Checking in from America's Game of the Week with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Moments ago Miami gave up a pick-six to let Denver pull within 10, but the Dolphins get pressure and Siemian throws it out the back of the end zone on the two-point try, so it's still a two-possession game.

The Broncos followed that up with an onside kick, which I think I like except they telegraphed it and kicked it right to a backup Miami tight end.

Then three plays later Kenyan Drake breaks a long touchdown run and the Dolphins are up 17 despite being -1 in turnovers. That's fun for a historically bad passing offense.

Some more assorted stats from this game:

  • Seven different Denver players have at least one reception, but Emmanuel Sanders (whose ankle has been bothering him) and Demaryius Thomas have combined for ...*pulls out calculator* … zero catches and one pick.
  • The announcers have mispronounced at least five different player names.

Did Vance Joseph poop in Adam Gase's Wheaties this morning? The Dolphins just onside kicked (and recovered!) with 11 minutes left in the game up by 24. Gase channeling his inner Belichick to try to make sure he doesn't get fired?

Aaron Schatz: Given that Joseph was Gase's defensive coordinator last year makes this even stranger. Just really, really strange.

Update: opinion of my Twitter followers is that Gase has nothing against Joseph, but is running up the score on Elway because he thinks he should have been made the head coach in Denver instead of Gary Kubiak a couple years ago.

Vince Verhei: So to recap, both teams had pick-sixes in this game; the Dolphins had two safeties; the Dolphins were kicking onsides with a big lead in the second half; the Broncos were calling timeouts with seconds to go; and when it was all over the coaches had a totally routine handshake and moved on. What a weird game.

Oh, there was also a blocked punt in the Dolphins game. Add that to the list.

Zach Binney: The Dolphins scored 11 points on defense: a pick-six and TWO safeties on a high snap and punt-return fumble. Per CBS, this is the first time that has happened since 1961.

New England Patriots 23 at Buffalo Bills 3

Dave Bernreuther: On a two-play sequence in Buffalo, we witnessed some home cooking from the refs, which is not really something we tend to see all that often against the Pats. On second down, Tom Brady threw short of Rex Burkhead, which should've led to the shortest Flacco special ever since it led to him being mauled by Preston Brown, but no flag was thrown. On third down, Kyle Williams pitched his blocker aside by the facemask, with no call, before sacking Brady to lead to another field goal chance. The Patriots offense seems to be working well enough so far -- with one exception, which led to Brady exploding on McDaniels on the sidelines after missing Brandin Cooks -- but the score does not reflect that.

Meanwhile, the Bills have taken the playmaking athletic quarterback off the field at least twice so far to put the inferior version of him in instead, once for a useless failed Wildcat play and once for a deep pass that would've been a touchdown if the throw was slightly more accurate. There's nothing wrong with Taylor, who has been his usual unappreciated self. I really don't understand what McDermott has against him.

Aaron Schatz: At least the Bills actually tried a pass attempt in their Webb-o-cat offense, instead of just running straight ahead like every other awful direct snap to a non-quarterback that gets run in the NFL these days. Although I don't know if the Webb-o-cat counts as a "non-quarterback," since he sort-of is a quarterback, but sort-of isn't. They also got a nice big gain on one of those plays, straight up the middle with Richie Incognito paving the way. Webb has three carries for 27 yards. This whole game has just been a gigantic disappearing act from both run defenses. Patriots running backs are now at 16 carries, 125 yards. Bills have 10 carries for 60 yards from Shady McCoy, those Webb carries, and one Tyrod Taylor carry for 18 yards.

In other news, the Patriots keep taking players off the Bills roster and getting value from them. A couple weeks ago they took a defensive end off the Bills practice squad named Eric Lee. He had a big sack last week, and in the first quarter today he dropped off in a zone blitz and Taylor didn't even see him, threw the ball right to Lee for a red zone interception.

Somebody needs to send Buffalo some film of what it looks like when Tom Brady and Gronk connect on seam routes. Like, not overnight. They need to send that film last night, in a time machine. I don't think a big eight-man blitz with Cover-3 behind it is the right way to play the Patriots, especially with Gronk on the field.

Dave Bernreuther: Buffalo's halftime adjustment seems to have been to devote less coverage to Gronk, which has gone exactly as you'd expect on the first drive of the third quarter. After a Burkhead plunge this one already feels over, in a game in which Brady's line looks vaguely Flacco-esque (still more YPA though) and that was the game's first touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: We're going to get more of the Nathan Peterman experience, whether we like it or not. Tyrod Taylor was just carted off the field, towel over his head, after being hit on a couple sacks. Taylor's performance today (9-of-18 for 65 yards) was enough to get people in the Twitterverse wondering if he was going to be benched again; the injury makes it something of a moot point.

Vince Verhei: Like most of us, I think, I have been a staunch Tyrod Taylor supporter for years now. But he's having a terrible game against a terrible defense, and it was starting to become a valid question whether Nathan Peterman would get another shot at starting next week. And then Taylor left the field with a knee injury and Peterman came into the game, rendering the question pretty moot. If this is how Tyrod Taylor's Buffalo tenure ends -- wheeled off on a cart, head hung low and draped in a towel -- that will be a sad way to say goodbye to a guy who generally played well but was chronically underrated and underappreciated.

Dave Bernreuther: Did the Bills just have two defensive backs attacked after the interception, including Gronk delivering an ejection-worthy hit to the back a prone player, and somehow come out of that sequence losing 15 yards?

I guess that cancels out the home cooked sequence from the first half...

Vince Verhei: Rob Gronkowski took part in WrestleMania this year, and apparently he learned something. Tre'Davious White was face-down on the turf AND out of bounds, and Gronk ran up and dropped an elbow with all his body weight onto the back of White's head.

Legal in WWE, very much not in the NFL. Should have been an ejection, should be a fine, should be a suspension.

Aaron Schatz: That Gronk play makes me sad. He definitely should be suspended, which makes me sad. That he even did it made me sad.

Indianapolis Colts 10 at Jacksonville Jaguars 30

Bryan Knowles: Hey, Frank Gore keeps climbing his way up the all-time rushing leaderboard, passing Jerome Bettis and about to pass LaDainian Tomlinson today. Focus on that, Colts fans, and not the 16-3 deficit as Blake Bortles shreds your secondary.

Dave Bernreuther: With a hat tip to Nate Dunlevy here, the Colts are having a decent day on the ground and keeping Leonard Fournette in check. Pagano's "Run The Ball And Stop The Run" goal has finally been met!

The Colts are losing 24-3.

Vince Verhei: My god, we're all going to have to deal with Jacksonville being more than defense -- Blake Bortles really is the best quarterback in the division, isn't he?

Bryan Knowles: Best healthy quarterback. That's a major qualifier in 2017.

Scott Kacsmar: Bortles carved up the Colts in Indy too. I guess a defense that can't pressure or cover is a good matchup for him.

Aaron Schatz: As I just pointed out on Twitter, a consistently good quarterback is the best thing to have, but it is better to have an inconsistent bad quarterback than a consistent bad quarterback. There is always a chance that Bortles or Joe Flacco suddenly goes on a three- or four-game run of reasonable play in the postseason, and with those defenses, that's enough to make the Ravens and Jaguars real championship contenders. Or, either team could lose by like 23-0 with no offensive touchdowns by their opponent. Or they'll play each other and the game will feature like 27 picks.

Dave Bernreuther: CBS with the Next Gen stats [that make you weep]: Blake Bortles (who, let's not forget, is terrible) has 228 straight passes against the Colts without a pick.

So basically the Colts' pass D makes Blake Bortles into Tom Brady.

Houston Texans 13 at Tennessee Titans 24

Tom Gower: 10-10 game at the half, or a 13-13 game as each team has missed a field goal attempt. The surprise of the first half was the effectiveness of the Texans offense. Their first field goal came off a short field after a fumbled punt return by Adoree Jackson, but their touchdown drive covered 87 yards. They got a big play, a 57-yard catch-and-run to Braxton Miller where I'm not quite sure what the Titans were doing on defense. Houston's offense seemed like they would have a bad game because of a makeshift offensive line, but Tom Savage wasn't sacked in the first 28 minutes and did a good job of getting the ball out quickly when it was designed to (which was often) or otherwise not just eating it. The line woes have shown up more in the run game, where Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, and Bruce Ellington have nine carries for 7 yards.

Tennessee has given DeMarco Murray most of the work at running back this week (carries are 7-to-3 through 30), and he has looked better than he did last week. They actually came out throwing the ball early to start the game and moved the ball down into field goal range before we saw more of the normal offense (two-man route on third-and-1, with a third player leaking out after chipping). Good drive for a field goal to tie in the final 40 seconds, aided in part by Jadeveon Clowney's third offside penalty of the half. Marcus Mariota's hard count is actually pretty good.

Rivers McCown: The Titans are running the ball well and somehow (read: special teams fumble and awkward Mariota) are only tied 10-10 with the fun-and-gun Tom Savage Texans, who have spread the field wide and lost all of their receivers to injury except DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller. Andre Ellington made a few nice catches.

Vince Verhei: Just embed my Tweet:

Aaron Schatz: Again, what the heck is wrong with Marcus Mariota? Tom, do you have any idea? I realize none of us are passing mechanics experts, but egads.

Tom Gower: The Titans offense this year randomly fluctuates between awesome and terrible. When plays work, they work wonderfully. When they don't, it's ugly. They don't get open receivers unless defenses are confused because they don't have explosive players. Defenses are rarely confused. Big plays are all highly schemed and not particularly repeatable; each such play has a bunch of elements that come together. The mostly ineffective run game has put them into more third-and-longs, and Marcus hasn't been good there this year after he was awesome there last year for reasons I haven't taken the time to really dig into. Mostly frustrating, but the whole combination is actually not that bad. Throw out the six quarters of Matt Cassel, and they're around 9.0% DVOA even with a couple blah performances lately.

Rob Weintraub: Trailing by four and in Titans territory, tackle Jeff Allen false starts not once, not twice, but thrice! Don't think I've ever seen that before either. Needless to say on fourth-and-19 Houston did not convert -- or did they?!?! Diving grab by Stephen Anderson goes for 22 and is upheld on review, an incredible conversion for Houston. Win or lose, Allen better buy Anderson a Cadillac this very night.

I left out that it was fourth-and-4 when Allen went mad.

Of course Savage gets picked in the end zone on the next play, and my Texans are gonna lose.

Tom Gower: How to summarize the second half? Titans won it 7-3 for a 17-13 win in the game. They went four-and-out (defensive penalty to start the drive), three-and-out, and three-and-out (in a four-minute drill where they have sealed out some games lately) on their other drives until they caught the Texans unprepared for a toss play and Derrick Henry took it 75 yards for a clinching (and covering) score. The Texans probably had more overall success, but settled for two field goal attempts, one good and the other badly missed. Logan Ryan, who hadn't let DeAndre Hopkins annihilate the Titans (that's the baseline for success, especially after Houston scored 57 at home, granted with Watson), went out late, but Savage looked elsewhere more after that. Nuk was indeed the target on what proved to be the crucial interception, though. After the great conversion to Stephen Anderson after the triple false start by Jeff Allen, he tried to run a post-corner for the go-ahead score. LeShaun Sims, who didn't fare well in the first game, trusted his inside help on the post route and as a result was there for the pick when Savage threw the corner route.

Also, I should've noted the Texans' Spinal Tap drummer impersonation this game. They ended up losing during the game wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller; tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz; and running back Alfred Blue. Andre Ellington was playing receiver in the fourth quarter, and you could see Savage and/or Hopkins clearly directing him where he was supposed to line up on that play. Plus Jelani Jenkins and Johnathan Joseph on defense. Yes, those are just the in-game injuries.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at Green Bay Packers 26 (OT)

Vince Verhei: Jameis Winston's fumbles always result in comedy. Earlier he handed the ball right to defensive end Dean Lowry for a long touchdown. Now, on first-and-goal, the ball hits the turf and Winston has to scramble on his hands and knees like a baby to fall on it. Then an apparent touchdown is wiped out because a scrambling Winston threw the ball several yards beyond the line of scrimmage. No harm, though, because on third down he finds Cameron Brate for an 11-yard score to put the Bucs up 20-17. This inspires the Packers fan at the bar to circle the room like an animal at the zoo, muttering to himself about the stupidity of rushing three and how this is the kind of loss that should get everyone fired. I love football.

Andrew Potter: A field goal just before the two-minute warning sent us to overtime in Green Bay, then the Packers stomped all over the Buccaneers run defense on an eight-play drive for the walk-off touchdown. Six of the eight plays were runs, including one read-option that saw Hundley take off for 18 yards; five touches for Jamaal Williams; and a 20-yard score from Aaron Jones. On almost every play, the defining feature was the play-side Buccaneers defensive end laughing at the idea of outside containment -- Will Clarke, William Gholston, and finally Clarke again allowing Jones to bounce outside on the game-winner. The defensive end spots have been a revolving door all year long for the Bucs, but on that drive a revolving door would have at least slowed the outside run game a little.

Per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers are now 1-15 in their last 16 games against a quarterback in the first 16 starts of his career. The Packers, meanwhile, have done just enough to cling on to their wild-card hopes with Aaron Rodgers back at practice this past week.

Detroit Lions 20 at Baltimore Ravens 44

Scott Kacsmar: I must say, Joe Flacco threw one hell of a pretty deep ball to Mike Wallace in this half. Ravens have really been dominant on both sides of the ball and lead 17-0 at halftime. Matt Prater vs. Justin Tucker is one heck of a kicking matchup, but Prater has had an ugly miss today and it doesn't look like this one should come down to a close kick anyway. Then again, the Lions have been known for improbable comebacks before.

Cleveland Browns 10 at Los Angeles Chargers 19

Andrew Potter: The Chargers took possession at their own 4-yard line after a Britton Colquitt punt and drove 76 yards to the Cleveland 20. Then their newly-signed ex-Browns kicker hit the upright with the 38-yard field goal attempt. This is the perfect start to a game between these two franchises.

Dave Bernreuther: I can't really even see the Chargers game from where I'm sitting, but with the Chiefs handing them control of their own destiny, it would be the Chargers-est thing ever to lose at home to the Browns.

And nearing the half, they trail 7-6 and look like they're trying to do just that, before a quick drive from deep in their own territory leads to a field goal on second-and-goal that is ultimately a disappointment.

Three catches for 46 for Josh Gordon in his return so far. Not a bad start.

Aaron Schatz: Two general thoughts I just shared on Twitter.

1) The Chiefs' implosion, especially on offense, is a bit mind-boggling. But the Chargers' run since that 0-4 start is not. We knew this team had a lot of talent, especially on the pass rush, and those early losses were close. Special teams is the least consistent part of the game, after all.

2) Imagine you take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick and you hand him Josh Gordon as his top weapon and a defense led by Myles freakin' Garrett. The DePodesta/Sachi Brown experiment has a lot better chance of working than most people realize, thanks in part to Gordon getting his life together. But they need to hit on a quarterback with one of next year's two first-round picks. They don't need a great quarterback, but they need one who can be at least Matthew Stafford or non-2015 Cam Newton.

Carolina Panthers 21 at New Orleans Saints 31

Aaron Schatz: I will never, ever forgive Butch Jones for screwing with BackCAST this year by not knowing what he had in Alvin Kamara. Kamara just dominated the first Saints drive with gains of 8 and 10 yards, then breaking a tackle on a short pass for an 18-yard gain that was almost all YAC, and finally twisting away from two Panthers to get into the end zone for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 2. The dude is incredible. How on earth they did not allow this man to dominate college football, I have no freakin' clue.

Rob Weintraub: Alvin Kamara's ability to be in awkward body position yet still make defenders miss is astonishing. He makes a couple of great plays in the passing game to get the Saints on the doorstep. But then three sensational bits of goal-line defense by the Panthers brings up fourth down. The Saints go for it and pitch it to who else? Kamara. He gets slammed almost entirely back toward his own end zone while his feet stay planted in the ground, but absorbs the blow and stretches over the plane for the touchdown. Another remarkable play. Saints strike first.

Vince Verhei: In case anyone missed it, a reminder that Kamara is having a rookie season for the ages.

Bryan Knowles: And Carolina marches right back down the field for the counter. Cam had all day to throw in the pocket, and the Much-Maligned Jonathan Stewart (as I think we're contractually obligated to call him at this point) had a couple good runs there. Neither defense covering themselves in glory so far, which sounds like exactly what you'd traditionally expect out of a Saints-Panthers game. 7-7.

Bryan Knowles: Don't let all the Alvin Kamara hype make you forget about Mark Ingram, who is having a career year. On that last Saints touchdown drive, Ingram ripped off a 72-yard run on which I believe Mike Adams missed the tackle three times. The Panthers allowed 149 yards rushing against the Saints back in Week 3; a season high by a wide margin. The Saints already have 103 today.

Vince Verhei: Saints already came into the game first in adjusted line yards, first in stuff rate, first in second level yards. One of these offseasons I'll finally do that offensive line retrospective piece I keep meaning to do. I suspect this team would do well.

Bryan Knowles: Once again, when things are looking terrible, the Carolina defense makes a play. The Saints had the ball and a 14-point lead; score again, and you could start writing this one off. Instead, Mike Adams punches the ball out of Josh Hill's hands and Luke Kuechly recovers the fumble. That wakes the Carolina offense up, and they hit Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown on a little swing pass he takes 20 yards to paydirt. Phew, we still have a football game here; 21-14 Saints.

Aaron Schatz: Nobody was even close to McCaffrey on that play. The Panthers receivers were bunched on the left and all went off to the right and the Saints defenders all went with them, leaving the lower left part of the field completely wide open for McCaffrey to run through. I don't know if that would be a great play design or just a bad defense from the Saints. But as I said on Twitter before, most of this game has reminded me that when I watch Carolina I always think to myself that their offense just doesn't seem to have any creativity to it anymore. Like, it's all the funky stuff from two years ago but now it's a bit more stale, and it's not built to emphasize the strengths/hide the weaknesses of the players who aren't as good as McCaffrey.

Carl Yedor: There are few things announcers love more than quarterbacks doing traditionally non-quarterback things. Normally this is limited to when a guy makes a block downfield to spring a big run, but today, Saints third-stringer Taysom Hill has been filling in on special teams for what has been a pretty meh unit this year. Hill has been in on some plays, which Aikman and Buck have made sure everyone watching the game on FOX knows. At least Buck has mixed in a few jokes about how much they're talking about him.

Bryan Knowles: I feel like we just need the phrase "Alvin Kamara is amazing" on loop. The Panthers are a top-five rushing defense, and Kamara (and Ingram!) are just running ALL over them. No non-Saints team has run for more than 109 yards against the Panthers this year; the Saints have topped that twice, with a quarter and a half still to go.

Aaron Schatz: Panthers just went for it on fourth-and-6 from the New Orleans 12. Probably the right decision, down two touchdowns with 11:22 to go. But they called a max-protect scheme, which means they didn't even send Christian McCaffrey out on a pass route. And they threw a 5-yard out to Devin Funchess. Is that really the guy you expect to get that extra YAC, enough to convert on a negative-ALEX fourth-down pass? I was not a fan of the play call. Saints now have the ball, 28-14.

Giving the Panthers some more credit for going for it, the Saints went backwards despite the Panthers getting NZI on first down, and they end up punting from their own 5. That's why you should go for it on fourth down in the red zone. And then ... pinning the other team means nothing when Kaelin Clay fumbles the punt return and the Saints recover. So now the Saints get another drive, only they are on the Carolina side of the 50, and there's 8:55 left. Here come the running plays, kids.

Zach Binney: Christian McCaffrey hurdle with just a bit over five minutes left in the game. Watch it. That is all.

Los Angeles Rams 32 at Arizona Cardinals 16

Vince Verhei: Josh McCown starts the day with what might be his best game in one of his best seasons. Then, Blaine Gabbert's first pass of the day is underthrown by 5 yards and easily intercepted. Gabbert Watch: dead.

Bryan Knowles: Gabbert, defending his crown with the same gusto and skill he's shown throughout his NFL career. You can't take down the king that easily!

Vince Verhei: Alec Ogletree rushes up the middle and gets nowhere, but never doubt Blaine Gabbert's ability to make any defender look good. Ogletree takes a step back and Gabbert throws the ball right to him. Ogletree takes it back 41 yards to put the Rams up 16-0. (Greg Zuerlein missed a PAT following a Gerald Everett touchdown catch.) At the end of the first quarter, Cardinals receivers have three catches for 21 yards. Rams defenders have two interceptions for 87 return yards. Not only is Gabbert Watch dead, I am going go through old editions of Quick Reads and remove all references to Gabbert Watch and deny it ever existed. Oceania is at war with Blaine Gabbert; therefore, Oceania has always been at war with Blaine Gabbert.

In other news, Angry Packers Fan is still here, and Todd Gurley is on his fantasy team. You can imagine how happy he is with L.A.'s pass-wacky offense -- 14 passes, three runs in the first quarter.

Cardinals get back into things with a 1-yard touchdown run by Elijhaa Penny, a man sent to earth by the devil to punish copy editors for their sins. The drive went nine plays, 67 yards, and officially included one completed pass for 6 yards. (Another short completion was wiped out by a defensive holding call.) Otherwise it was all runs, mostly by Kerwynn Williams with spot duty by Penny. They have removed their own quarterback from the game plan.


He's not exactly right, but the last 16 Rams plays have seen one Gurley handoff, one Tavon Austin end-around, and 14 passes. Cardinals defense was fourth against the run by DVOA coming into the week and 13th against the pass, but this is still extreme.

Williams breaks off a big run for Arizona. "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T HAND IT OFF, JERKOFF!"

Dave Bernreuther: Somehow Blaine Gabbert's offense has scored two touchdowns in a half against Wade's defense, which shouldn't be possible. And just like the other L.A. team, the Rams run out of time on a first-and-goal situation and end the half with a field goal.

Vince Verhei: The Cardinals found the end zone on a pair of big Gabbert completions, the latter a 15-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, but the extra point is blocked. Rams then make Angry Gurley Owner less angry, as the running back gets four carries and two catches on the next drive. The Rams have a third-and-1 at the 4 with 9 seconds left. Jared Goff keeps the ball on a read-option and picks up the first down but is short of the goal line, and they kick a field goal to take a 19-13 lead at the half. Stunningly close game against a bad team considering they were gifted the one defensive score.

Rams' special teams are paying off. They go three-and-out (Angry Gurley Owner, sadly, has left), but Johnny Hekker booms a 70-yard punt down the sideline for no return. Patrick Peterson had no chance to field that one. Then the Cardinals go three-and-out, but Pharoh Cooper gets a 30-yard punt return. So right after punting from their own 9, the Rams get a first down at the Cardinals' 30. Jared Goff finds Sammy Watkins for an 11-yard touchdown, Rams now lead 26-13, and you can't help but think the Cardinals have missed their shot to be competitive here.

More Rams special teams: Phil Dawson lines up for a 45-yard kick to make it a one-score game, but the kick is blocked. Rams take over near midfield and drive to the red zone. Greg Zuerlein hits from 24 to make it 29-16 wait six minutes and change left. That's a lot of production from defense and special teams. Los Angeles offense has looked pretty ordinary today.

Dave Bernreuther: This has nothing to do with the actual game today, but I'm really looking forward to the upcoming matchup of Jeff Fisher's jilted ex-lovers in two weeks. I'm sure he is too.

New York Giants 17 at Oakland Raiders 24

Scott Kacsmar: Khalil Mack just stealing the ball from Smith in the red zone is the perfect ending to that half. Mack would be DPOY again if he could play the Giants every week. Good opponent to have when you're down receivers like Oakland is today. Points have been hard to come by.

Vince Verhei: Geno Smith's raw numbers in the first half (9-of-15 for 93 yards) look OK, but remember A) this is the Raiders defense, and B) sacks and fumbles count too. Smith has two of each, both by Khalil Mack, and both recovered by Oakland. The second was funnier, but more important. Just before halftime, the Giants got a first-and-goal when Oakland's punt protection failed so badly Marquette King didn't even have a chance to kick, he was just tackled for an 11-yard loss. But on second down, Mack got to Smith so quickly he didn't have to wrap him up for the sack or swat the ball out of his hands. He just reached out with both hands and yanked the ball away, then fell down in the pile. The ball never hit the ground; it was never even in the air. It just went from Smith's hands to Mack's. Raiders up 10-7 at halftime.

Philadelphia Eagles 10 at Seattle Seahawks 24

Vince Verhei: Really, really liked that first drive for the Seahawks. Give Russell Wilson the ball on a keeper to start, get his legs warmed up. Mix up short and deep dropbacks and short and deep passes (he looked deep, didn't throw it), and attack the left, right, and middle. Most importantly, limit the running back carries, because you suck at them and Philadelphia is the best at stopping them. But then on third-and-10, you run a give-up draw to set up a field goal? And still a long field goal at 47 yards? Blair Walsh converts to go up 3-0, but I wish they had been more aggressive there.

Back-to-back DPIs on the Eagles, then Wilson hits Jimmy Graham in the corner of the end zone for the score. And the front seven is getting pressure on Carson Wentz and limiting the run, and Wentz missed the one wide-open guy he had. Can't ask for much more.

Given Seattle's first-quarter struggles all year, I'm very surprised they're ahead after 15 minutes. I'm positively giddy they're up 10 points.

Seahawks take a 10-3 lead into halftime. Interesting gamesmanship at the end there. A third-down run failed to convert for Philadelphia, and the Eagles had a fourth-and-2 at the Seahawks' 46, with the clock running and under a minute to go. I think if they had sent the punt team in right away, Seattle would have called timeout. Instead the offense stayed on the field, and the Seahawks let the clock roll. Then Philly called timeout and punted, pinning Seattle inside their own 10 with just a few seconds left. I don't know, maybe they really were thinking of going for it and changed their minds -- but if that was the case, there would have been more urgency to snap the ball right?

Regardless, the story of this game is how Seattle's decimated secondary is winning the matchup against Wentz and his receivers. Eagles only had nine completions for 45 yards in the first half. No completion longer than 10 yards. Part of what you're seeing here is the greatness of Earl Thomas. Remember last year when he was out and the whole defense fell apart? Now you take out Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, and Thomas (and Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett and Frank Clark) are still playing well. Really, when it's time for Thomas' Hall of Fame debates, they should just show the tape from the second half of 2016, and that from the second half of 2017. It's a world of difference.

Though I should add, Shaq Griffin is playing very well against Alshon Jeffery. Fresh off his big contract extension, Jeffery had more holding penalties (one) than targets (zero) in the first half.

Scott Kacsmar: Feels like Seahawks got away with one after a conservative half from Doug Pederson. I think if Seattle had called timeout right away, Eagles would have punted. By letting the clock go down, actually thought they would take the small risk to go for it. After all, this is a team that had like 13 seconds against the Giants and set up a 61-yard field goal with one play. This was doable, but just not an aggressive half in any way by Philadelphia.

Vince Verhei: Philly opens the third quarter with their best drive of the game, but just when it looks like they're about to tie the game, Sheldon Richardson strips Wentz, and the ball goes out of the end zone for a Seattle touchback. Seattle's got to lead the league in goal-line fumbles forced over the past few years.

I have never done the film study to back this up, but it sure feels like Cover-Zero against Russell Wilson always results in a big play. Case in point: third-and-10, Eagles blitz everyone, and Wilson finds Doug Baldwin behind Rodney McLeod (pretty obvious mismatch there) for a 47-yard gain down to the 1. It sets up a third-down 1-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett and a 17-3 lead. Still 20-plus minutes to go against a very good team. If Carson Wentz wants to win MVP, he has a great opportunity to make a case for himself here.

My goodness Carson Wentz. Me misses a wide-open receiver for what would have been a touchdown on a fourth-down play in field goal range. But the Eagles force a punt and Wentz makes two MVP-level throws. Falling down and under heavy pressure, he somehow gets the ball deep, deep, DEEP downfield for a 51-yard gain to Nelson Agholor on third-and-13. Next two plays lose yards, and then Seattle gets pressure on third-and-long again and chase Wentz to his right. But Wentz make an amazing throw across his body, across the field, down the left sideline -- exactly the kind of throw you're not even supposed to try -- and hits Agholor again, a 27-yard touchdown on third-and-14. Agholor beat Byron Maxwell on the play. Seattle leads 17-10 with 12 minutes to go.

Aaron Schatz: With Aaron Rodgers still on the shelf, I don't know if the NFL has any quarterbacks who are better at improvising than the two guys in this game. That Agholor touchdown was a beautiful throw, and Russell Wilson just got a first down by scrambling and then flipping a lateral to Mike Davis who made it to the sticks. Apparently on replay this was a slightly forward pass, but Philadelphia never challenged.

Bryan Knowles: Philadelphia's going to really regret not challenging that, I think -- there was kind of an optical illusion of the pass going sideways because of all the movement, but replay was pretty definitive that it went forward. I'm surprised Pederson didn't just throw the challenge flag on principle; slow Seattle down if nothing else.

Vince Verhei: Wow wow wow. Wilson scrambles on third down and looks like he's going to be tackled short and the Eagles are going to get the ball back -- but at the last second he laterals to Mike Davis for 11 more yards. On replay, it looks like the lateral might have been forward, but Seattle snaps the ball before the Eagles can challenge. It's a flea flicker, but the Eagles aren't fooled, and Wilson throws the ball away. Regardless, a few plays later, the Seahawks split J.D. McKissic out wide, and he scorches a linebacker and Wilson hits him for a touchdown. Seahawks up 24-10 in their most fun game since they played Deshaun Watson and Houston.

One thought on the non-challenge: Philadelphia had already lost a challenge on the first drive of the second half, on the third-down spot before Wentz's sneak. They were probably reluctant to risk losing another challenge and be down to one timeout when they were already behind in the second half.

Regardless, when you consider the stakes, the circumstances, and the opposition, that was Seattle's biggest win in years. Like, since the miracle win over Green Bay in the 2014 NFC title game. Even in the playoffs, they were big favorites against Minnesota and Detroit (even if the Vikings game could easily have been a loss). Here, everyone, including me, figured they would get rolled and remain on the fringes of the playoff hunt. Instead, they get a surprise win and gain ground in the wild-card race, and maintaining pace with Los Angeles in the division. And it's the way they did it too -- the defense showed up big tonight. I figured if Seattle would win, it would have been a shootout. The game was closer than the final score would indicate, and I suspect the DVOA will reflect that, but Seattle tonight showed that at their best, they can still beat anyone.

Scott Kacsmar: I thought the Eagles would need a fourth-quarter comeback tonight, but still thought it'd be a close win. Seattle played really well and Wilson actually suffered fewer sacks than Wentz by the time it was over. Even without a few studs on defense, this is an impressive group for the Seahawks. Can't wait to see how they handle the Rams in that big rematch. Really bad night for Doug Pederson with shoddy game management (aggression and challenges). At least the NFC is fun with some fresh contenders. Could get even more interesting if Aaron Rodgers returns.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 04 Dec 2017

192 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2017, 12:45pm by nat


by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:41am

Along with Hundley once again playing horribly at home the GB special teams had a really good day even with a dumb penalty by Biegel on a great kickoff return. Blocked a punt. Punter helped swing field position several times. Coverage teams were very good including drawing some penalties. Crosby made all his kicks on a bad surface yesterday. Zook has taken a lot of grief and rightfully so but yesterday was a positive day for the Zookster and his crew

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:26pm

I saw players just slip on the Lambeau turf yesterday 3-4 times minimum, and I don't recall that happening regularly in Green Bay. The field conditions were completely terrible.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:00pm

Have heard they are replacing their surface next year (it's a hybrid grass/synthetic thing). I don't think it caused too many issues in the past either. Must have about reached the end of its useful life...

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:53am

On that Cohen return - there's a block in the back at the 30 yard line against #47 - which is pretty much a given any time a returner reverses field like that. Bears should have had the ball at the 20.

by Jerry F :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:04pm

Looks clean to me. Got him in the side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe4PH1_CGSc

by jinman :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:04pm

I just watched the play 10+ times to see if you were right and I honestly don't know what you're referring to. Not only is there clearly no block in the back on the broadcast, but the Bears don't even have a player rostered that wears #47.

Edit: Isaiah Irving wears #47, but he was placed on the reserve/injured list after last week's game. My bad.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:06am

I know it'll be pile on the hated Patriots today, but if any action on the field deserves a multigame suspension, it has to be deliberately concussing an opponent via a full body blow to the back of the head, while the opponent lies face down, out of bounds, well after the whistle.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:17am

Gronk should be suspended for 1 game. Typically there's just a fine for a 1st timer, but this was pretty bad.

That being said, Ndamakong Suh does this sort of thing about 3 times a game, and they never seem to get around to suspending his ass.

On the other hand, this is the Patriots, so it'll probably be 4 games, and a 1st, 3rd, and 5th round pick because of a 'pattern of poor organizational behavior'

by johonny :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:18am

He plays in Miami which is punishment enough :)

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:54am

noen of tjhat will happen. don;'t be ridiculous. tema punished a bit for illegal taping uyeras ago and for T. Brady playing around with his soft balls. Team not going to be fined or lose draft picks. Gronkowski will be fined,. Gronkowski will porobably (and certainly should be) suspended one ga,e. Pates will survive without him for one week. Chinese ladies will be in rice fields next day.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:01pm

Then Suh should get multiple games as well. This isn't complicated. The game is so inherently dangerous that it's very existence in 40 years can't be assumed. A player who adds to that danger by deliberately concussing an opponent who is completely defenseless, face down on the turf, out of bounds, well after the whistle cannot be tolerated, either on the basis of ethics or sound business practices, and a one game suspension is inadequate to the task. Frankly, after the season, the NFLPA should sit down with the owners, and demand that any further violation along these lines result in 16 games.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:29pm

Have to agree with Will on this. It was a deliberate blow to the head of a guy lying on the ground after the play was long over.

Heck, players are getting one game for hits in which it wasn't at all clear they intended to hit the player in the head during a play. Which seems sensible - have to teach players to stay away from head hits. I was one of the few Vikings fans that thought the Sendejo hit against Baltimore deserved a suspension because he led with the head.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:01pm

Yep, that Sendejo hit was a textbook one game suspension. Eyes looking at the turf, crown of helmet as projectile. The Gronk infraction is in an entirely different universe.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:01pm

Yep, that Sendejo hit was a textbook one game suspension. Eyes looking at the turf, crown of helmet as projectile. The Gronk infraction is in an entirely different universe.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:28pm

"That being said, Ndamakong Suh does this sort of thing about 3 times a game, and they never seem to get around to suspending his ass."

I would be interested to see the 25 plays from this that you've got lined up.

Perhaps one of these days the majority of fans of a team will just accept that a play is dirty without deflections and excuses but today will evidently not be this day.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:33pm

Cut the strawman shit. I said the play was dirty.

And yes, there are atleast 25 plays this year that Ndamakong Suh has hit a guy in the head after the whistle. He's an incredibly dirty player.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:46pm

No you didn't; you said the play was 'pretty bad'. Which, of course, could be said about Tyrod Taylor's play as well.

No there aren't; there is not a single play this year in which Suh has hit a guy in the head after the whistle.

Now that we've got competing bullshit why don't you actually prove your claim? No, just continue with the deflections; almost as if different hits to the head are different! What a novel idea.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:23pm

"No there aren't; there is not a single play this year in which Suh has hit a guy in the head after the whistle."

You mean this guy? The guy chocking a quarterback while people milling around?


by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:29pm

That is one, not really a relevant comparison for Gronk, now for the other 24?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:55pm

I'll not defend Suh, who hasn't been ejected nearly enough times, but there is a real difference between a hand or forearm to the head of a player, after the whistle, when that player has a chance to see it coming and defend himself, and a player lying face down on the turf, several seconds after the whistle, and another player executing a full body drive into the back of the head. If Suh has engaged in similar acts, the response has been inexcusably negligent.

by Anonymouse :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:55pm

I suppose when you said "several seconds after the whistle", what you really meant was "before the whistle"? It was a bad hit, but hyperbole cheapens your argument.


by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:09pm

Ok, I'll change it to "Two to three seconds after the defender was clearly laying out of bounds".

by Raiderfan :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:08am

What struck me most about SEA was their tackling. After watching CAR fail miserably in their game, watching the SEA D seemed a huge contrast. I doubt they missed a tackle all game. Wish someone could teach that to the Raiders.
And the KC defense is playing horribly, and has been for awhile. Liking our chances, especially with Cooper and Crabtree both coming back.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:13am

What Gronk did was definitely unacceptable and should have been an ejection. However, him running through his route with a DB flapping off his shirt tail should have been called. My feeling is that if the holding had been called, the late, suspension worthy hit would not have happened. I never played football, but I did play college soccer and I know the frustration and anger that comes with perceived bias from the officials.

I know there have been a lot of calls going against Gronk (both OPI and lack of DPI) throughout his career and they have been talked about ad nauseam. I don't get to watch all games. Are the calls against Gronk really that out of the norm?

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:16am

"Are the calls against Gronk really that out of the norm?"

Yes. Gronk very much gets the Shaq treatment. He does some pushing off on his own (some called, some uncalled), but defenders basically hang off of him as he runs routes.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:22am

Are the calls against Gronk really that out of the norm?

Yes, Gronk is getting the full Shaq treatment. His response was still uncalled for.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:02pm

His response better be a wakeup call to the league that they can't have two different rules, one for Gronk and one for the rest of the league.
The guy is a freak and if he was healthy the Pats would probably have SB wins in 2011 and 2012. Make other teams double and triple team him, not hold him and not get called for it.
In the macro, this is the league fault.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:09pm

I vehemently disagree. I can excuse frustration for the lack of calls(he gets away with his own btw, when he runs routes right into defenders and shoves off), but that hit was so beyond unacceptable. He aimed an ELBOW at his head for god sakes. It was sickening and I applaud the heck out of Gronk for owning up to it and realizing how out of line he was.

Its like blaming the kids for an abusive parent.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:10pm

"His response better be a wakeup call to the league that they can't have two different rules, one for Gronk and one for the rest of the league."

Does anyone have any evidence that this is true? Pats fans have express this repeatedly in the wake of Gronk's actions but have never shown an analysis.

Gronk seems to dare refs to call OPI. As is often the case when you live in that nebulous ground sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don't and always your opponents join you.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:33pm

Gronk seems to dare refs to call OPI. As is often the case when you live in that nebulous ground sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don't and always your opponents join you.

You seem to be implying that Gronk is only held/interfered with on plays where he initiates contact and (possibly illegally himself) forces the DBs to react. This isn't the case, which a single viewing of just about any Patriots game in the past five years would clearly indicate. Most of the time, it looks more like this:


by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:01pm

You seem to be implying that Gronk is only held/interfered with on plays where he initiates contact and (possibly illegally himself) forces the DBs to react.

The statement is that Gronk chooses to play physical to the point that he often finds himself on past the line of illegality. He often chooses to make contact with defenders, even when they have position on him, and attempts to use physicality (possibly illegally) to get open. This does not imply Gronk desires contact with defenders every time nor does it imply that he and he alone initiates contact. He can certainly run routes with the intention of avoiding contact and, in those situations, defenders can choose to engage either legally or illegally. He can also run routes with the intention of legal contact and, again, defenders can choose to engage illegally.

But, more often than many other receivers, Gronk appears to straddle the line of illegality. This does not make him a cheater. No, to do this effectively you generally need to be otherwise excellent, capable of forcing mismatches in multiple ways, or else the effect is entirely lost. Part of football is figuring out how to 'cheat', i.e., hold, interfere, etc., without getting caught. In fact, I argue that the talent that allows one to get away with this 'cheating' separates the good player from the great and the skill at 'cheating' separates the great from the stupendous.

The route (I took out a link here to the play due to the spam filter) in question actually illustrates this point. With White manning up on Gronk, Gronk chooses to initiate contact at about 5 yards, drive through White (despite the latter's strong position), and then use a one arm push off to create space. He does this here because these techniques are extremely difficult for the refs to observe in this location and now because Tre'Davious White gives up 7 inches and 70 pounds.

Most of the time, it looks more like this:

Patriots fans, of which I am, repeatedly make this claim, and, upon questioning, continue to refer to the same 2 or 3 plays. The one earlier in the game if they're feeling lazy; this one and the one against Jacksonville earlier in that year if they are not. We are on an analytic website; we should require non-anecdotal evidence.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 4:53pm

The statement is that Gronk chooses to play physical to the point that he often finds himself on past the line of illegality.

What you describe is actually standard fare for physical TEs. If Gronk dares officials the call OPI, then doing so is ubiquitous across the league.

It also needs to be noted that "disproportionate" already takes that into consideration. No one says Gronk should never be flagged or that defenders aren't going to get away with a typical amount of stuff. The complaint is that defenders are allowed to hold more frequently and, perhaps more importantly, more forcefully because Gronk is strong enough to fight through it.

You can complain about a lack of overwhelming evidence, but at least don't twist the argument.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:24pm

His response better be a wakeup call to the league that they can't have two different rules, one for Gronk and one for the rest of the league.
The guy is a freak and if he was healthy the Pats would probably have SB wins in 2011 and 2012. Make other teams double and triple team him, not hold him and not get called for it.
In the macro, this is the league fault.


Funniest and most post-2001 Pats fan thing I've read in months. Thanks for the laugh!

by Cythammer :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:38pm

I'm going to be an optimist and assume this is an intentional troll post. Good lord.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:17pm

I've never seen the poster before, so, I'm guessing it's a troll. I'm actually surprised it's a registered account.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 9:46am

Are you guys referring to me..? Or the Otis character I was quoting?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:23am

Yeah, the non-calls, as bad as they were, are really irrelevant to what the response should be to deliberately concussing an opponent in the manner Gronk did.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:31am

It's irrelevant as to whether it minimizes it, but it still has value in helping explain it.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:49am

One must ALWAYS keep his or her cool in all situations. There is no excuse. I think my point in mentioning the non-calls wasn't meant to "explain" the action. I was also wondering if the ref's take any blame or at least feel any responsibility for the outcome in a situation like this. "Man, if I had thrown that flag, none of this ever would have happened"

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:51am

Now that I re-read my own drivel - that's a lot to ask.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:22pm

I'm not sure. Football is a very violent sport, involving relatively young and immature men with enormous strength, channeling anger and violence into the pushing, shoving, body-slamming, punching, and so forth that make up the sport. When a player of such a sport is repeatedly getting targeted for unfair treatment by the officials, it seems relatively predictable that he will lash out with some form of violence. That doesn't excuse the behavior, but it was also a pretty egregiously bad day for the officials monitoring action against Gronkowski. I'm a Pats fan, admittedly, but these were not ticky-tacky. They called offensive interference where there was none, holding where it was marginal, and non-called defensive holding and serious pass interference multiple times against Gronk. He was back home in Buffalo, obviously very much wanting to shine in front of the crowd, and he felt responsible for a TB12 interception, which occurred because he was horribly interfered with and it wasn't called. His response was to try to kill someone...

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:04pm

"His response was to try to kill someone..."

I am certainly happy that White walked off; hopefully he is relatively uninjured and has a wonderful career. But I do kind of want to see the players', the NFL's and the fans' response if White hadn't gotten up.

An elbow, and its was his braced elbow, with full body weight behind it to the back of the neck certainly could do a tremendous amount of damage.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:08pm

Which is why a properly managed NFLPA should be at the forefront of disincentivizing this stuff out of the league.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:30pm

What is your vision of a properly managed NFLPA?

I am not convinced that one can exist. Careers are too short; rosters are too big; both of which contribute to a tremendously divergent disagreement in perspective and goals. The situation is akin to factory line workers forming a union with the technicians who repair the robots that replace them.

Hell, the NFLPA probably would have to give up revenue in order to get the NFL to agree to more power to fine and suspend.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:43pm

In this instance, it's pretty simple. Actions like Gronk's are pretty rare, thus there is no significant constituency to protect those actions. Nearly every player, in contrast, has a strong interest in disincetivizing that action, because getting concussed while helpless well after the play is over is extremely contrary to any player's interest. Throw in the fact that the owners don't gain anything from such actions, it becomes pretty simple.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:45pm

I agree with Will.

The aim of the NFLPA should be to represent ALL players not just to oppose the NFL on anything it can.

When StarPlayer illegally hits RolePlayer, the NFLPA should be taking the side of RolePlayer to avoid it happening again.

More often what happens is that the NFLPA sides with StarPlayer to try and undermine the NFL's authority.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:45pm

Growing up with a Hockey background where its generally considered a ref's primary job to keep a game from getting out of control - A situation like that is considered the ultimate sin of refereeing. Of course in Hockey fighting is considered a normal-course part of the game and rarely results in suspension, so obviously there are different ideas about what's "part of the game".

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:06pm

IF you are pointing out bad/terrrible/inescusable actions on a play then pointing out other bad play/non-calls by the refs on the same play is relevant. I mean the ref was right there watching the DB grab and hold Gronk and ignored it.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:11pm

No, I am pointing out medically very dangerous actions, which have no relationship to the athletic competition, which increase the threat to the business model which pays players millions, and owners billions. This is when absolute ruthlessness with regard to a disciplinary response is warranted. A few hangings tends to concentrate minds.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:31pm

The lack of calls don't excuse Gronk's action, but I think it's a real easy argument to make that loosely called games like this increase the probability of bad behavior and dangerous play.

I don't think I've ever seen a punch thrown in an NFL game where there wasn't a whole litany of examples of the referees 'letting them play' earlier in the game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:40pm

Sure, and the smart business response is to tighten that up (there really aren't enough ejections, given the number of medically dangerous hits, during the plays, which violate the rules), but the smart business move in response to Gronk's hit is at least a two games, with off season discussions between the union and owners to really bring the hammer down for future similar acts.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:57pm

The way to tighten this up is to start calling OPI every single time on Gronk when he runs into a defender ten yards down the field and extends his arms to push off the defender as he makes his break. Every single time.
Maybe after ten consecutive OPI calls, Gronk will stop pushing off every single play, and then the defenders won't have to be so physical themselves.

The thing is, Gronk was so upset because he thought the defender interfered with him that he tried to kill a defenseless player. Imagine how defenders must feel every single play that he is throwing defensive backs all over the field.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:16pm

Came here to say a similar thing. He shoves defenders all the time, and then he completely lost control when someone shoved him back. Referees have been responding to Gronk's physicality by allowing a good bit of contact to go uncalled in both directions. Apparently Gronk can't handle that even though it plays to his advantage, so they should start calling all of his pushoffs.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:53pm

Sorry guys, you are both talking out of your asses.

Gronk is already watched very closely by the refs, gets away with virtually no OPI that any other player isn't getting away with, and gets calls that most others do not. He also puts up with more holding/IC/DPI than any player I've seen in the last 20 years. But, because he's strong enough to make plays anyway, it gets ignored. The Shaq comparison is wholly warranted.

The idea that he's a bully who lashed out because he finally got stood up to is positive asinine. I expect more from the message board here.

Before anyone gets too riled up... no, none of that excuses what Gronk did and I fully support a suspension. I just don't see the need to manufacture bullshit to disparage him with. What he did is ammunition enough.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:19pm

No Patriot fan is complete without his reality-denial force field. No objective fact can penetrate it. No rational argument can dent it. If it wasn't for that sinister NFL head office and their malicious vendetta against the Pristine Patriots, they would have won twenty-five Super Bowls in the last ten years. Three more than the mini-Bears did in ten years!

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:39pm

Wow, talk about reality-denial. You win the prize!

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:04pm

Saying that officials have a double standard when it comes to Gronk is reality denial?

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 8:41pm

Your tears are delicious.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:42pm

I think it goes both ways. Hes impossible to defend so he gets the shaq treatment.

I won't say he does it "all the time", but I have seen him get away with running right into a defender and basically shoving him out of the way.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:49pm

People forget the Shaq treatment encompassed Shaq turning, while lowering his shoulder, to knock a stationary defender back by about 4-5 feet.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:17pm

Sure, but don't conflate technique with force. Just because you are stronger doesn't mean you need to temper your force so long as your technique is legal.

To use your Shaq example, it's the lowered shoulder and the charge that is illegal, not the fact that the player was moved. Likewise, Gronk gets called for a log of OPIs where the technique was legal merely because the defender was moved more visibly than normal.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:27pm

This isn't specific to Gronk or anything, but I'd like the NFL to be consistent about things like this. If you're not going to allow contact 10 yards down the field, then offensive players shouldn't be able to run into the space that the defensive player is standing in.

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:45pm

The difficulty arises though from moving players and the fact that charges exist in a certain space in the NBA.

You can't be charged if you're moving, only when you're grounded. In the NFL no defender stands their ground neutrally, to do so would be to give up too much ground and leverage and technique.

I do tend to believe that defenders should have a right to their space. This is an area where the league should look to sort something out.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:06pm

Of course, everyone gets away with stuff. I'm not immune to bias and whining when my team is hurt by a bad call, but I'm willing to admit when it is just a bad call. I'm even perfectly willing to admit when NE benefits from a bad call (as they were yesterday with a spot that was off by a full yard). In this case, though, it is systemically disproportionate. For every time you see Gronk get away with a standard push off, there's a sketchy OPI call and at least two of these:


by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:14pm

That's fine.

I'd rather say it this way. Whether or not Gronk is unfairly judged by the refs is completely beside the point in this case. I don't care that it frustrated him beyond belief. What he did was disgusting and im a bit disappointed to see some people use the refs as a partial excuse for it.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:18pm

As I said earlier, I bring it up to explain Gronk's actions, not to excuse them. He deserves the suspension.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:19pm

Every Pats fan is disappointed by Gronk's actions and no one is saying it's okay. He's fully culpable for his reaction to his frustration. But the refs are fully culpable for him being that frustrated. More than one party can be at fault.

Also, there is a very big difference between losing one's cool due to totally understandable frustration, and just being malicious and trying to hurt people in cold blood.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 5:32am

'...there is a very big difference between losing one's cool due to totally understandable frustration, and just being malicious and trying to hurt people in cold blood.'
Exactly. I don't really get posters trying to make this out as a crime against humanity. How is what Gronk did worse than guys going into games with a plan to target the knee or shoulder of a player who they know has a preexisting injury (something that happens all the time). Or a DB coolly delivering a head shot to a defenseless receiver? The justification that 'it was during game play' is a pretty flimsy one. Since the play hadn't been blown dead at that point, it's even harder to buy the righteous indignation steaming up messages boards across the land.
Those who think Gronk doesn't get the crap end of the stick when it comes to calls need to cue up some footage. Watching him get mugged as he runs routes brings to mind the good ol' days before the Colts whined their way to a new enforcement of the rules. Gronk does not get the calls that other top receivers in the game get.
That said, what he did was wrong, nasty and potentially very dangerous. I've seen him be mugged much worse than he was on this route (the safety only grabbed his jersey twice and pushed of once). I assume he lost his temper because of the Int. It was a dumb thing to do and thank god White is okay.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 9:19am

I'll help you out. It can be really tough to discern intent when looking at a player doing something dangerous, and outside the rules, while making a football play, because, well, they might be doing that thing primarily because they are attempting to make a football play. However, this is when previous acts become relevant. If a player is repeatedly outside the rules and dangerous, while attempting to make a football play, then a multiple game suspension SHOULD be on the table, even if the player is just consistently careless.

In Gronk's case, there is no football play being attempted. There is simply an intent to deliberately carry out an act which any reasonable player could envision causing significant injury. That's bad for business, period, and is behavior that sound business practices demand should be ruthlessly eradicated.

by milo :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:03pm

Defensive Pass Interference Stats
Defensive Holding Stats
Offensive Pass Interference Stats

Pats have been called for DPI, DHold, OPI: 18 times. Opponents: 24 times for net -6. (7th best in league, LAC best at -12)
Saints have been called for DPI, DHold, OPI: 23 times. Opponents: 6 times for net +17. (32nd in league).

That's a net of 2 calls per game.

The idea that there's something systematically disproportionate against NE is laughable.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:35pm

What you are failing to account for is that any call that goes against the Patriots is also a blasphemy. So each penalty against the Patriots should be counted as 2. Then the numbers come out a little better.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:05pm

Gronk should get at least a game, probably two, for his head shot. I'd be fine with a 4 game suspension. There's no room in the NFL for that. That was assault. And if any Patriots fan disagrees, what would you be calling for if it was Brady who was concussed?

And on that note, Earl Thomas (iirc) should be fined and possibly suspended for his head slap on Wentz last night.

If the league wants to survive, it needs to do whatever it can to reduce direct head shots. Some obviously are going to be accidental because of the nature of the game, but the BS that Gronk and, to a lesser extent, Thomas pulled yesterday has to be policed out of the game.

by eggwasp :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 5:13am

I dread to think how long you'd be suspended for that in rugby - multiple games.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:12am

Regarding Vikings at Falcons, Xavier Rhodes is good, and although the Falcons are bad at defense overall, they have their moments in their own stadium, so a perfect 4 minute drill, actually running off 5, ending with 3 kneeldowns inside of the Falcons 10 yard line, was a lot of fun.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:45am

That last Vikings drive was perfectly executed and the Vikings were clearly the better team. Rhodes was brilliant keeping J Jones from doing much of anything. I'm glad I watched this game instead of heading to a bar for Buccs@Packers.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:02pm

I was astonished when the game finished still almost an hour before the late afternoon kick-offs. But that's what can happen when there are zero turnovers, no dumb penalties, and just generally just good execution. I'm personally sick of games dragging on for well over 3 hours, so it was refreshing to watch such a cleanly played game.

The Falcons offense clearly isn't the force it was last year, but holding them without a TD in their own building is a praiseworthy effort indeed.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:17am

Mia-Den Miami's pass rush finally showed up. Oddly Suh and Wake weren't a big part of it which might be a good sign for 2018. Miami's linebackers still gave up 100 yrds on the ground so there's that to worry about. 5 of the last 9 passes to Parker have gone for INTs. If the dude can't play, why's he still being run out there. Time to see what Grant and Carroo have to offer. Whatever happen to Parker post injury doesn't appear as if it will be fixed this season. AFCleast watch. 1) Pats, totally and pointlessly injured a player on the field and got a 15 yrd penalty on the opponent as the result of the play because the refs totally are in the bag for them. 2) Bills, those wild card hopes seem dashed now. 3) Jets, keeping pace with Miami in the most exciting who wants to be last we've had in years. 4) Miami-no, I won't be watching Pats-Dolphins on Monday night. Hey NFL if you want ratings give fans outside of New England competitive teams for the first time in a decade and a half, and then schedule prime time AFCleast showdowns late in the season.

by James-London :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:28am

While I'd love to believe that the lights suddenly went on for Miam's youngsters, I think the lesson to learn from the Miami game last night is that Denver are beyond terrible.
I won't be taking next Tuesday of work to watch MNF on the strength of that...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:51am

Vance Joseph is as bad a coaching hire as I can remember.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:39pm

I don't know much about Joseph's coaching chops, but one thing that has been readily apparent this year is that he's in over his head. The interesting part of this is Elway tried to hire Joseph as the defensive coordinator in 2015, but Cincinnati refused to let him interview. So Denver got Wade Phillips instead.

As it appears Denver will be looking for a QB yet again (please not Eli Manning, please no no no no no no no), perhaps I can advise Elway that if you're going to draft another QB, maybe this time try to take one who was actually good in college.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:38pm

That said, the Bills might be stuck without their main QB and KC is also tanking badly so just possibly 7-9 is within this team's reach. It's worse that they win for setting up next season's draft, on the other hand it would make you feel better about Gase's future prospects if he can rally this team after a terrible middle of the season.

by James-London :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:19pm

Draft position doesn't concern me. Wherever Miami pick, Mike Tannenbaum will screw it up anyway. Much better if, as you say, Gase can get his team to finish strongly

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:49pm

Reese is on the open market now. The upside is he's GM'd a team that won its division and 2 super bowls. The downside being his last few years haven't seemed to be much better than typical Tannenbaum. He's also a New York guy and Ross is a New York guy. IDK. Little early yet, as more people will be shaken free in a few weeks.

by max :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:28am

This was Eagles first big test against a very good team with a great QB, and they failed. They've only beaten one winning team all year, the Panthers. If they lose to the Rams next week, the SB hype train will slow down dramatically, or should.


by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:14pm

You really shouldn't include the Eagles games in evaluating how bad or good their opponents are. That would be circular reasoning.

The Chargers, Cowboys, and Panthers all have winning records outside of their losses to Philadelphia. The 'Skins are 5-5 outside of their losses to the Eagles.

It's been an easy schedule for the Eagles, for sure. But that's still a mix of winning-even-lossing opponent records of 3-2-5. One more good opponent would have given them a dead-average schedule by this measure.

The Vikings have a mix of 6-0-4 for their wins. The Patriots have a mix of 5-0-5. That's one above average and average, as far as defeated opponents' records go.

Of the three 10-2 teams, the Vikings look to be the most thoroughly tested. I wouldn't call neither the Eagles nor the Patriots frauds. But neither is yet proven to be as good as the mainstream sports media would have us believe.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:17pm

Blowing out mediocre to bad opponents is very meaningful, so I agree it would be unwise to diminish the Eagles accomplishments.

by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:34pm

We weren't thinking about the scores. But, yes, the old STOMPS, GUTS, SKATES, DOMINATES analysis still applies. It's not just who you beat, but how you beat them. That's similar to evaluating teams by a combination of their record and net points.

Net Points would put the Eagles first and the Vikings last in this trio, and would give a nod to teams like the Rams, Saints, and Jaguars.

Personally, the only team with 8+ wins that I have any doubts about is Tennessee, with their negative net points. The rest look either well-rounded or very strong but flawed.

It'll be fun to see how this turns out.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:50pm

I agree that there's not much to choose between the top teams.

I do think stomps have something to do with the coaching style. I watched the Rams close out it's win vs NO, it was so different from how Zimmer would have approached a game with a lead like that. The Rams were paying almost no attention to running down the clock and were still throwing and looking to score. They weren't even running down the play clock.

I'm not sure that is the wrong strategy or not. But it does make a difference in score differential. The Vikings finished their last two games with 1 score lead and first down with 2 minutes to go inside the other teams 10 and eventually kneeling on the other teams 2 yard line. They ran the ball on every play before the kneel downs. If they score a TD they may have 14 and 12 pt wins on the road against good teams. It would have made them seem like a better team stat wise, but in truth trying to score a TD would have reduced your chances of winning.

When I watched the Rams game, I came away thinking that they weren't maximizing their chance to win. Could be wrong, but it seemed like reckless and sloppy thinking by their coach.

by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:01pm
by jmaron :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:03pm

those pt cut offs seem so arbitrary - so if a team beats 5 good teams by 9-13 pts each time - we don't look at it? I mean 9-13 pts is still a 2 score win.

But I do believe big wins over lots of bad teams means more than close wins over good teams.

Has anyone ever done a study of predictive ability of DVOA vs SRS (simple rating system - pt differential adjusted for opponent). My guess would be they have almost the same predictive ability, but would love to see actual numbers.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:36pm

Personally, the only team with 8+ wins that I have any doubts about is Tennessee, with their negative net points. The rest look either well-rounded or very strong but flawed.

I'd add Jacksonville to that. Some because they're Jacksonville, but mostly because Blake Bortles.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:26pm

The proof of your doubts about Jacksonville may come next week when the Seahawks visit. Should be a low scoring game though.

by nat :: Wed, 12/06/2017 - 12:45pm

Now that the Steelers are at 10 wins also, they belong in this analysis.

Their mix of beaten opponents is 6-2-2. By this measure, they seem slightly more tested than the Vikings. So rank them (for degree of testing) Steelers, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles.

As far as adding net points to the mix, that would make the Steelers look weakest of this set.

But really, they all seem to be for real to me.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:34pm

You should keep in mind that this was an East Coast team playing a West Coast team at night. East Coast teams have a terrible record in those games. That the game could have gone the other way with a few plays (fumble through the end zone, Wilson's 'lateral') is a good sign for Philadelphia. Several years ago the Ravens went into San Diego and got destroyed in prime time by a weak Chargers team. A few months later they held up the Lombardi trophy.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:54pm


Night games are always played at the same body clock time no matter which coast you started from. In fact, I would think playing a 5:30 PM local time game would be BETTER for east coasters than an 8:30 PM local time game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:02pm

Kickoff was 830 pm eastern which isn't too bad, but not ideal. It's much more of a problem when an east coast team plays the late Monday night game in week one, which is a 1030 pm eastern time start.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:19pm

Night games are always played at the same body clock time no matter which coast you started from.

Um, no. The Eagles would have a body clock time of 8:30 to 11:30. The Seahawks would have a body clock time for the game last night of 5:30 to 8:30. So the Eagles are at a disadvantage. If they were playing an East Coast team in a prime time game, the time of the game would not matter, because both teams would have the same body clock.

Also, West Coast teams have a serious disadvantage playing 1 pm games on the East Coast; their body clock tells them it is still morning, while the opponent's body clock time is in the afternoon. Will is correct that the 10:30 start is even worse; it may explain why the Niners kept winning those season openers the last two years when they were much worse than the teams they played.

This is also why the Patriots will do stuff like stay on the West Coast when on a bye between playing West Coast teams.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:54am

Any discussion of the dearth of talent at different positions in the NFL exhibit A has to be that Conte still has a job at safety for a pro football team. The Packers running back pushed him back 3 yards to get into the end zone yesterday. It is well known that Conte cannot cover as he is slow as an overweight bassett hound with 3 legs. So if the guy cannot cover and he can get pushed around by running backs what exactly is his role other than being better than a dead man?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:24pm

My theories involving the continued employment of Chris Conte range between "great guy at practice and willing to consistently help younger players" and "has pictures of the Glazer brothers in inappropriate situations with farm animals". Conte is awful, was awful, will be awful. He gets one or two highlight reel plays a year, and sticks around. Justin Evans is theoretically his replacement at FS and has been getting a bunch of play time, but Conte's been just terrible year in and year out. This coming draft, I'm hoping the Bucs take the best safety available, or, based on yesterday, the best offensive line prospect available.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:27pm

Just as the guy I was with was shocked when I told him Geno Smith was not only in the league but STARTING an NFL game (What?! Geno Smith is still in the pros??!!) that was my reaction when finding out that Williams TD was from plowing through and over Conte's attempt at a tackle.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:37pm

I would argue Geno Smith is more competent than the offensive tackles blocking for him and Ei. Fortunately for the Giants, there is a plethora of quarterback options in next year's draft. Unfortunately for the Giants, there are only two decent tackle prospects in next year's draft, and they will be gone by the Giant's pick in the second round. To be honest, they might not even be that great; Georgia already destroyed Mike McGlinchey, and they get a crack at Orlando Brown in the NCAA playoff game.

by Ambientdonkey :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:25pm

That's roughly how I felt when he was with the Bears, just replace Glazer with McCaskey.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:55am

"[Wentz] misses a wide-open receiver for what would have been a touchdown on a fourth-down play in field goal range"

Well, you forgot to mention that KJ Wright was about to annihilate him as he was throwing the ball. It was a spectacular high-risk-high-reward gamble by Wright that paid off. The broadcast booth did a good job of showing how Wright (correctly) realized he was going to be out of position to cover the back, so instead he just bumrushed the QB and made the play. That's not really on Wentz.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:12pm

The Lions suck so only deserve one paragraph for their game. But Stafford getting his hand stomped on (inadvertently during the course of a legal play) by a 300lb defender is probably the death knell for a season that was on life support but with a small chance of recovery.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:27pm

Sounds like it was a just bruise, and he says he expects to play next week.

Even then, the season is still dead, because the defense suddenly fell apart (they made Flacco look like a competent NFL quarterback when he looked anything but prior to this), and the coaching staff looks like they forgot how to coach (The turning point of the game was the non-challenge on what clearly looked like a Flacco fumble and then getting caught with NINE men on defense as the Ravens were rushing to snap the ball. Even before that, they looked like they were thoroughly unprepared to play, despite 10 days rest!).

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:51pm

It looked worse than that. I think "just a bruise" means "jake ruddock is horrible and Stafford throwing with a non-functional hand is better". A few seasons ago he played with an injured finger and was terrible, I expect the same at least for next week. The continued lack of pass rush really hurt them this week. And the nine-man defense is so Lions the receiver was open by at least 10 yards.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:44pm

After the Ravens scored the TD to go up by 17, they probably figured the game was over, anyway.

Coming into the season, I was worried about what they were going to do with Ansah, but he's been such a non-factor, that it's probably better to let him walk and to try to sign/draft a new edge rusher(s). The secondary has been surprisingly good, given the lack of pass rush.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:48pm

You might be able to get him at a discount. He reminds me of Pierre Paul, Robert Quinn or Cliff Avril. All good players, but not consistently great. They still have a lot of value and become terrific when part of a solid or above d line rotation. I don't know how much ansah will cost but he should be brought back if feasible.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:06pm

That would be ideal, but edge rushers are usually so overpriced in free agency, I have a feeling that somebody will offer him a contract greater than what he's ultimately worth.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:56pm

With the way he had improved through 2015 and the fact that he does not have a lot of football experience I expected him to keep improving as well. I hope it is just the injuries slowing him down and they can sign him to a reasonable contract and get reasonable performance from him next year. But after 2 injury plagued seasons of below average performance it is more likely that he will not repeat 2015.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:17pm

"One big positive for Atlanta: they're keeping Adam Thielen in check."

I think Case Keenum was keeping Thielen in check. On the 1st series Keenum forced a ball to a covered Diggs on 3rd down while Theilen was wide open over the middle. Then the next series he makes a bad throw and Thielen makes an incredible catch but is out of bounds. On the sames series Keenum doesn't throw to Keenum wide open deep - while he was staring right at him.

Keenum made the throws he had to in the 2nd half, but they didn't ask him to do much of anything in this game. Fortunately he didn't make any really bad throws, but he clearly held the offence back in this game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:23pm

I think the Vikings have a 500 point offense with a qb with just somewhat better throwing ability, like, say Matt Ryan.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:38pm

I think they might have one backing up Keenum. But what's the point of getting into that debate. They won't pull Keenum unless he really stinks up the joint and costs them 1 or 2 games. And, he's really been playing a lot smarter since the 2nd half of the Washington game. He's not throwing lollipops up for grabs.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:53pm

I think Keenum is one bad performance away from Bridgewater starting. Remember that Bridgewater started warming up after Keenum's 2nd idiotic pick in D.C..

Just hope that bad performance doesn't come in the playoffs.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:04pm

Yeah, that would be terrible

(cough, cough--insincere face)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:19pm

May your tap beer go flat.....

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:17pm

The Bucs loss in Green Bay was just so epic and awful. How do you lose a game in the modern NFL when the opposing QB goes 13/22 for 84 yards? Hundley was terrible against one of the singly worst pass defenses in the league, having plenty of time to find good receivers while facing no pass rush. All the Bucs had to do on offense was not be utterly horrible, and, well, when I saw Winston was sacked 7 times I was shocked, because I assumed it was much higher than that. The Bucs put their two best offensive linemen on IR last week and replaced them with genuine Folger's Crystals or something, because there was zero time to pass. Even with that, if Winston had pulled one of his Patented Stupid Things While Getting Sacked and just protected the ball instead of flinging it out to a 300-pound dude for a defensive TD, the Bucs win that game. Ugly.

The only positive I take is 2nd round rookie FS Justin Evans is getting play time over Chris "Don't Call Me Sabby" Conte, and had a nice pick and a really great tackle on a 3rd down short of the sticks, and is really showing some promise. First-rounder OJ Howard is already a very good blocker at TE and doing some work in the passing game, and third-round WR Chris Godwin has had some nice plays.

Oh, hey, look, it's early December and I'm already discussing draft stuff in some context. I must be a Bucs fan.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:22pm

The TB guy playing center, EDS to us folks in GB from his time here, killed your chances late. The bad snap that ended up resulting in a field goal and then the holding call after a guy had taken a screen pass for like 20 odd yards.

GB was lucky in winning the toss. The Packer defense was exhausted. If TB had won the toss the Bucs would have scored easily just by running the ball and passing once or twice to the TE which was open all game long.

It took way too many games but after I have been b8tching constantly about why no read-option Mikey breaks it out late and that allows GB to first tie it up and then help push the ball down the field in overtime. Jes7s Mike, ask your qb to do the things he CAN do versus what he cannot. Hundley is good at the read-option. Let him do it. Why is this so hard??

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:24pm

I was wondering if Evan Smith was actually the Manchurian Lineman, and was actually a deep cover agent for the Packers. Bad snaps, holding calls, missed blocks. He was more valuable to his old team than his current team.

As for Hundley, I'm not sure that he's good at the read option as much as it's the only thing he's not terrible at. Pittsburgh game aside, Hundley has been consistently awful.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:18pm

If Antonio Brown doesn't play tonight I think that is the right course of action for him and the Steelers. By all accounts Vontaze Burfict is literally aiming to get a hit onto Brown pretty much because Burfict is a worthless piece of sh8t who has nothing better to do than try and hurt opposing players and the league won't intervene until after the fact

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:28pm

Is stupidity in the NFL at an all-time high? 1.)Marcus Peters throwing a penalty flag into the stands then temporarily ejecting himself. 2.) Houston OT Jeff Allen false starting 3 times in a row on 4th and four. 3.)Gronkowski hitting/elbowing a defender as he lay on the ground after the play was over. 4.) The KC defense committing 4 penalties over 9 plays (inside the 5 yard line in the last 4 minutes of a game with a 1 point lead) to gift the Jets 5 points. 5.) The Lions trying to play defense with only 9 players.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:35pm

2 and 5 were beyond great. I wondered if the tackle would eventually get pulled, and when
The 5th consecutive false start? The 7th?

Similarly, at what point do the Lions defenders notice? 7 guys on the field? 4?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:40pm

Vikings Atlanta was my first full viewing of the Vikes. It was also easily the most well played game of the year. Don't let the score fool you, Atlanta defended well most of the game, but Case made some great in space, drive extending plays. Thielen was great and the o line held their run blocks when they needed to. It was only 3 big drives, but they made them count.

On the other side, Atlanta moved the ball well. Ryan saw the field well too, but the difference came down to penalties and some high throws. That was the difference in the game. Vikings have a ton of athletes who make plays in space, and yet Atlanta still made those plays. They are an unconventional offense in that it's based on one major receiver and running backs, but it's well conceived.

Very very well played. It's a rare pleasure to watch games like that.

by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:41pm

Idiotic play by Gronk, but if he got a suspension, Pats can still lost the next one (@Miami) and be in full control of HFA by winning last three (@Steelers, Bills (you might want to have Gronk disqualified in this...), Jets).

Hope also for a Bengals win tonight and Steelers winning vs. Ravens next one. Yeah, now they lost Smith and Flacco is still below competence, but I don't want to meet them in PO (JAX gives bad vibes too with good D and Coughlin running operations).

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:44pm

That last goal line and 2 pt conversion for the chiefs Jets was lunacy. It was text book how to screw yourself end of game. The Jets kept getting more and more chances to score, which is bad in of itself, but doing so bled time off the clock and used up all of the chiefs time outs. It must have been sickening as a Chiefs fan

by RickD :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:48pm

It wasn't fun to watch as an anti-Jets fan. I imagine Chiefs fans were losing their minds.

Seriously, what the h*ll is going on there? How does a defense shoot itself in the foot so many times in a row?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 1:54pm

Vince: "I mean, at this point, I wouldn't be shocked if McCown was starting somewhere in 2018."

I have been on record saying Mccown will be on a roster by 2020 and may even have started a few games. I've been saying this since his implosion against the broncos back in 2015.

Also yes, the o coordinator for the Jets deserves major plaudits.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:43pm

McCown actually fits that team well; he throws a decent deep ball, and his receivers (Kearse and Anderson) get open deep. They're also able to snatch balls away when he throws into double coverage deep. They should bring him back so they can keep the young guy they draft this year on the bench until he's ready, but not spend too much. Mason Rudolph fits that team well too; good accurate deep ball, reads defenses well. Like McCown, he's not that accurate in the short passing game, but unlike McCown he doesn't turn the ball over much at all.

by are-tee :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:12pm

And Mike Mccagnan deserves plaudits for signing Robby Anderson as an UDFA last year, and trading Sheldon Richardson for Kearse AND a 2nd round pick.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:45pm

Aaron Schatz: That Gronk play makes me sad. He definitely should be suspended, which makes me sad. That he even did it made me sad.

One thing no one has noted yet, is that Gronk was on the sideline when the next Patriots drive started. Seems to me, Belichick wasn't going to put up with what Gronk did either. That's something to be proud of, Aaron.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 2:57pm

The one time I can remember Belichik being a moron ( what Kraft called a schmuck) was the nonsense he engaged in regarding the recording of opposing sidelines. Other than that, he's been as consistently anti-idiocy as any coach I recall, so his response didn't surprise me.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:45pm

The videotaping of opposing coaching signals was commonplace before 2007. Belichick was just the last guy standing after the music stopped.

The really stupid thing was thinking that it matter that his interpretation of the rules differed from the commisioner's. Even though a plain reading of the actual rules would have supported Belichick, that ended up not mattering.

Oh, and it's not good when your boss calls you a "shmuck".

by Scott P. :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:03pm

Well, recording opposing sidelines is still legal.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 8:34pm

For a long time there was (maybe still is?) a clip on YouTube from some 1992 NFC game with Madden announcing and he talks about teams videotaping the sideline signals.

by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:31pm

Regarding illegal forward passes that look like backward passes (but maybe aren't):

The NFL rules define a backward pass like this:
It is a Backward Pass if the yard line at which the ball is first touched by a player or the ground is parallel to or behind the yard line at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand.

This may be something where the letter of the rule and the practice differs for historical reasons. Early in football's history, backward passes (so called laterals) were much more common. They were ruled on by looking at the throwing motion. If the player threw the ball sideways or backward relative to his own body, it was ruled a backward pass regardless of the actual flight of the ball.

Here's a rugby rules video explaining that distinction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=box08lq9ylg An extreme case shown is a player throwing a pass backwards over his head while running forward. In rugby, that's a backward pass, even though it is caught a full two meters forward of the throw.

Now despite their shared origins, the NFL is not rugby. But the lateral fests at the end of games (and occasional other plays) seem to be treated more like the rugby interpretation of throwing motion relative to the thrower's body than like the NFL's literal interpretation of movement in relation to the ground.

I can imagine either ruling being made if such a play were challenged. It depends on whether the "throwing motion" aspect of the throw outranks the "yard line thrown and caught at" aspect. The written rules themselves are clear. But this might be one of those cases where the actual rules (and "case law") are different from the words in the book.

[edit - I've now seen at least one case where a replay ruling used the literal rules interpretation. Has anyone seen a case that goes the other way - following the "relative to the thrower (and throwing motion) side of things?]

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 3:42pm

Just because it was so cool at the time here is the all time best use of a designed backwards pass


by Sakic :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:25pm

Man, I completely forgot about that play. I remember an interview with Randy Wright a few years back (the QB) and he said it came about when he realized with a tight spiral and the old Camp Randall astroturf he could consistently bounce it. I'm not sure if it was actually necessary but it sure looked cool at the time.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:40pm

My understanding is that Coach McClain reviewed the play in advance with officials to make sure nobody blew the play dead when the ball hit the turf or something like that

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:10pm

I can't imagine the NFL using "relative to the thrower" as the rule, mainly because it would be hell to review. Yesterday it was easy, since Wilson clearly threw it behind him relative to his motion, but what if he threw it laterally? What are the refs supposed to do, measure the ball's forward speed and compare it to the passer's? It's infinitely simpler to look at the ball's trajectory alone.

by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:33pm

Hell to review? Not really. If the ball comes out behind or even with the thrower and remains behind or even with the thrower until touched, it's a "backward" pass. That's easy to call in real time and would be easy to call on review. It's only difficult if the passer is tackled and so stops moving forward. Only then would you need to judge the throwing motion relative to the passer.

No, this distinction is arbitrary. Rugby does it one way. American football does it the other (in reviewed plays) and generally appears to follow rugby's approach for live calls.

The official league statement is that such a backwards-relative-to-the-passer throw would be an illegal forward pass.

Interesting, isn't it? Will we ever see a ref try to make such a call in real time?

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:54pm

Considering players generally only lateral when they're about to be tackled, that possibility is high enough to muck up reviews.

Or they could change speeds before and after the toss, and Wilson looked like he did this; he slowed down a bit to make the pass, then sped up afterwards.

Anyway, the one thing I got out of this was understanding how hard it is to make an accurate yet legal lateral/backwards pass while running. All the legal laterals I've seen have been when the passer is at a complete stop.

by TimK :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:49pm

I really wish rugby didn't do it that way. It certainly wasn't refereed like that when I played at school, and to me part of the skill of the rugby pass is getting the timing right and enough backward momentum on the ball. But it seems it is a lost cause because it makes for some spectacular tries, and the general thing about games with funny shaped balls seems to be to change emphasis to favour more scoring ;)

Of course it is also easier to be sure in American Football because there are a lot more lines on the pitch making absolute pass directions easier to spot precisely.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:13pm

I believe it's meant to be as the rulebook says.

The Music City Miracle is probably the NFL's best example. There was a lot of discussion as to whether it was a lateral or illegal forward pass. The yardage lines are present to help but there is a question of exactly where the extended arm/hand released the ball rather than where the thrower was standing.

There's also a question of parallax for the viewer/refs/TV cameras distorting the actual path of the ball.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_zg-J0q42M is worth watching to the end for the computer simulated proof!

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:17pm

The rule "It is a Backward Pass if the yard line at which the ball is first touched by a player or the ground is parallel to or behind the yard line at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand." makes sense when the passer is standing still. But when running the ball has forward momentum which needs to be factored in, leading me to favor the rugby version. I think the reason lateral fests are interpreted as you describe is because refs can't readily make the determination of the relative yard lines unless they are lucky and are perfectly positioned, but they can see the motion of the throw.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:33pm

1 game for Gronk. So he gets the same penalty as some guys get for actually trying to make a football play. That's crazy.

by nat :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:05pm

It's a first offense. He immediately apologized. The league has never (I believe) given a multi-game suspension for a dirty or late hit or even fighting unless there is a history of bad behavior.


It would have been crazy (and pretty much confirm bad motives by the league) to break with precedent to suspend him for more than a game.

As it is, I like that he's been suspended. Even if he had good reason to be frustrated with the poor refereeing in that game, that's never a reason to hit a player who takes advantage of the referees' poor game. Any player would do that when the chance presents itself. Gronk needs a game away from the team to get his head straight.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:26pm

I don't understand why an apology should make any difference, in an deliberate attempt to inflict a concussion, completely divorced from making a football play. I won't speak to the previous disciplinary decisions, because it is such a mess, but I wish the unions and owners would agree that any deliberate attempt to inflict significant injury, divorced from making a football play, would result in 8 games, or maybe even 16.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 5:29pm

I would much rather suspend a guy 4 games for deliberate and dangerous acts of violence than a PED or deflated footballs.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:19pm

The problem with that point of view is that it makes no sense for the league. PED's & deflated footballs (like continuous missed DPI calls while on the subject) threaten the integrity of the experience of a competitive on field experience for the fan. If that experience is called into question (like it has been for the NBA regular season for example) it's a one way ticket to irrelevance and the associated financial losses for the league. Deliberate acts of violence pose a much less significant threat to NFL revenue (the loss of a few players for a few games, maybe some bad press over player safety). Protecting the NFL product is orders of magnitude more important for the NFL than protect players - Its just business.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:41pm

I would much rather see a player suspended in accordance with the precedents of a situation, based on exactly what he did, as opposed to being punished based on unsubstantiated accusations that are never backed off from by people who, for their own, inexplicable reasons, preferred to falsify evidence rather than admit making a mistake.

(And yes, I'm calling the Exponent report 'falsifying evidence'. As a statistical analysis, it's a sham designed to mislead readers about the nature of the scientific case against the Patriots. I call that lying. It's much simpler and captures the essence of the report far better than the phrase "tortured analysis" does. Exponent can sue me for slander if they like.)

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:03pm

RickD; Take a step back. I know the "deflate-gate" evidence was non-sense. The larger point I was making is that allegations that threaten the legitimacy of the sport in the public mind (like the black socks/eight men out, the NBA officiating scandal of the 90's, and to much lesser the way DPI/OPI is called on Gronk, and snowplow FG) threaten the sports financial future in a way that an individual dirty hit never could. For this reason they always should garner disciplinary attention that makes the Gronk hit seem irrelevant; this generally is, and should be, reflected in the disciplinary actions that go with those incidents. The statement I would rather see the NFL discipline for what Gronk did... in thinking it would make sense for a hit like this to garner a long term ban are missing the larger truth about what the NFL is, and should be, interested in.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:03pm

The problem with your suggestion of course is that it depends on determining a player's intent. For some reason you're totally convinced that Gronk was trying to concuss the other player, even though just looking at the tape gives no reason to believe that. He slammed his body into the other player's body; there's no reason to think that the contact between his shoulder and the other player's head was intentional. I've seen dozens of plays where it's much more obvious that one player was intending to injure another one, but that can't really be used as a standard.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:16pm

The replays show hes leading with his elbow...and I'm pretty sure Gronk's apology after the fact was a realization that he'd completely lost himself and knew what he did was wrong.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:27pm

It was an egregiously late hit, with he certainly did know was wrong. That is not the same thing as intentionally trying to hurt someone.

You didn't watch that replay very closely because he did not hit that player's head with his elbow.

by milo :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:20pm

His right arm. Please account for his right arm.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:28pm

You mean his right arm that never made contact with the other player?

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:23pm

I absolutely love that fans have gone all the way to pointing out the epistemic issues with intent.

No, no, no, you can't say that he was deliberately attempting to injure, you can't even say that he intended on the forearm shiv to the back of someone's head! He may simply have been trying out his new dance move and the opposing player came out of nowhere!

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:29pm

Did you people even watch the play? His forearm was nowhere near anyone's head!

Maybe you should check into whatever your agenda here is, because it is not an objective review of the facts.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:38pm

If your contention is that Gronkowski lacks the athletic ability to make it highly likely that he hits his completely stationary target, from a few feet away, or that he is too stupid to grasp that such a blow carries with it a reasonable likelihood of concussion, or other significant injury, we will just agree to disagree.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:37pm

Every Sunday there are literally hundreds of hits that carry with them "a reasonable likelihood of concussion, or other significant injury."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:41pm

Again, your inability to discern between those actions which occur in the context of attempting to make a football play, and one which had nothing to do with attempting to play football, is extremely puzzling.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:42pm

Out the hundreds, how many occur out of bounds, with the play long over and the opponent lying on the ground?

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:41pm

Many occur egregiously late. The fact that he was out of bounds is only relevant in this case because there had not yet been a whistle to stop the play.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:09pm

Thank you for agreeing that it is relevant when a player is lying out of bounds for multiple seconds, prior to a player who is not running at full speed deciding to launch his entire body into the upper body of the player prone on his belly, out of bounds.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:52pm

Of course, just as relevant as any other time a player hits another player a couple of seconds after the play is over.

Absolutely no one is saying that it was not an egregious hit. It's your over the top suggestion that he be suspended for an entire season that I am taking issue with.

And still more hyperbole from you. Gronk took two steps from a standstill, which is obviously not "running at full speed". I'd say again, you may want to check your own agenda here.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:32pm

You need to read more carefully. It is the fact that Gronk was NOT running at full speed which makes the act so egregious. He was not required to pull back from a sprint to avoid the injury causing act. He took two plus seconds to view a player lying face down, out of bounds, and then launched himself in a way that any reasonable person could envision causing serious injury. The sound business practice is to ruthlessly eradicate such behavior.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 6:39pm

If your contention is that Gronkowski lacks the athletic ability to make it highly likely that he hits his completely stationary target, from a few feet away, or that he is too stupid to grasp that such a blow carries with it a reasonable likelihood of concussion, or other significant injury, we will just agree to disagree.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:38pm

That is quite obviously not my contention. I specifically said that he did intentionally throw his body onto the other player. He clearly intended to cause some pain, something that occurs on literally every play. It some cases, as in this one, the hit is egregiously late and should absolutely be penalized. He should have been ejected, as he essentially was by Bill Belichick.

That is all still very different from intending to seriously injure someone. Given the NFL's inability to make judgment calls consistently, if you think it's a good idea to ask refs to change a team's entire season, or a player's entire career, based on their judgment regarding a single act, then we will agree to disagree about that.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:15pm

Yes, a single act of deliberate violence, clearly, obviously, outside of any conceivable attempt to execute a football play, which resulted in significant injury, an injury which anybody with an i.q. larger than a kicking tee's could forsee as a expected outcome.

Sounds like 8 to 16 games, for business operators who wish to minimize intolerable idiocy.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:00am

Insisting that NFL officials or the NFL front office affect teams' entire seasons and players' entire careers sounds more like maximizing intolerable idiocy.

According to your criteria, there would be at least 5 to 10 players each season subject to an 8 to 16 game suspension, and yet to my knowledge you have never advocated for this before. Why?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:13am

You need to recognize the limits of your knowledge. If you want to suppose that actions like Gronk's are not amenable to behavior modification via disincentives, go ahead. I disagree.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 11:53am

Well that's an idiotic non-sequitur from any of my comments. WTF Will, you're normally very rational on here.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:16pm

The entire point of suspensions is to effectively modify behavior which is bad for the business model. That's it. This isn't a morality play. Now, you either think that adding significant injury risk, via actions that have nothing to do with making football plays, is very bad for the business model, or you don't. I think it is, and I have hard data to back that up. If you disagree, I'd like to know why.

If we accept that an action is very bad for business, then a question is prompted, namely, what is to be done about it? I merely propose that it be ruthlessly eradicated via multigame suspensions, because I think players will respond to such disincentives.

by aces4me :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 3:28pm

If that were the standard punishment for that offense then Gronk should serve it. I suspect that if that were the standard I doubt he would have done it. So making it the standard punishment would limit that behavior. No way the players union allows it to happen even though it would be in that best interest of the vast majority of their players.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 3:38pm

And that is the most damning thing that can be said about the NFLPA.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:17pm

Don't be morganja, Will. You're better than that.

Instead of assuming deliberate malice, apply Hanlon's Razor: Gronk was pissed, and in the heat of the moment, he acted like an idiot. He's a huge guy, and so is more likely to injure another player when acting stupid, which is what happened.

The apology is relevant because it was immediate, and it was direct: he manned up, instead of trying to weasel out of accountability. Combine that with a first offense, and the maximum punishment (based on precedent) is set: one game suspension.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 10:18pm

I don't find idiocy to be a mitigating trait in people paid large sums of money. Quite the opposite.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 11:59pm

That's by far the stupidest comment so far on this subject! There was no malice intended in Gronk's action? Just wow. Seeing all these comments from the Patriot fans excusing what Belichick himself called a BS act proves what I have been saying for years about Patriot fans.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:06am

Who has excused it? Everyone has said that it was an egregious hit deserving of an ejection in the game, and probably a suspension.

What we're arguing is whether he maliciously intended to cause a concussion and there is no reason to think that he did. There are a dozen plays a week where malicious intention looks more likely than in this case.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 9:24am

He maliciously intended to engage in an action that any reasonable player could envision causing significant injury, which had exactly nothing to do with playing football.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 11:14am

He didn't mean to break her jaw, he was just trying to teach her a lesson. She brought it on herself by not doing what he wanted her to do.

by ssereb :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 1:57pm

What other possible intention could he have had?

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 4:55pm

Watching the Eagle's offense in the first half, I was thinking, is this the 2014 game all over again? There were so many short passes to the outside for minimal gain, even on third down.

2014: 3rd and 10 at PHI 8: M.Sanchez pass short left to J.Matthews to PHI 14 for 6 yards (B.Maxwell).

2017: 3rd and 6 at SEA 11: C.Wentz pass short right to J.Ajayi pushed ob at SEA 8 for 3 yards (B.Maxwell).

Throwing it short eliminates any chances of picking up DPI or holding calls, and plays right into Seattle's strength in open-field tackling. Apart from the individual bad decisions by Pederson, his initial offensive gameplan was baffling.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 7:30pm

" Gronk ran up and dropped an elbow with all his body weight onto the back of White's head."

The video shown is of an angle that doesn't capture things entirely. If you look at more angles you can see he actually landed on White's back and shoulders. So, no, not "all his body weight onto the back of White's head."


The truth is bad enough. We don't need to amend it.

Oh, and ESPN labeling notwithstanding, that's not a body slam. This is a body slam.


A body slam requires a person to fully pick up the person being slammed.

Also, this is not a pile driver.

This is a pile driver.


Terms matter. When you use the wrong terms, people who trust your words develop a misunderstanding of what actually happened.

by AwesomeDan :: Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:11pm

Is there anyone still under the illusion that Tyrod Taylor is a viable starting QB? Biggest game of the season and he can't even crack 100 yards passing. That offense is terrible and it starts with Tyrod.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 10:02am

So you're advocating Buffalo should start Webb or Peterman for the rest of the year? Or bring in some outside QB?

by GwillyGecko :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 2:27pm

i think hes saying the bills are screwed this year and should not even think of bringing tyrod back. btw, you seem to have a history of being a bit of a village idiot.

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 3:13pm

What is with the ad hominem attack here?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 4:11pm

I'm really not sure why you're attacking me GwillyGecko.

I saw your comment in the Open Game discussion where you suggested I should stop reading the Hot Takes on Tyrod Taylor. That's a massive presumption because I couldn't begin to tell you what they've said about Taylor. I actually like the Bills franchise and had them as my 2nd team from about 1986.

As for being a village idiot, I have a sense of humour - you may not get it but I don't take myself too seriously. I will occasionally try to get to the truth of matters but mostly I take life lightly. In the end, it's only football.

by AwesomeDan :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 6:51pm

I'm saying that Tyrod Taylor is not a viable option for any team that hopes to go anywhere. If you want to be 7-9 every year, have fun with that. The Bills had plenty of non-Tyrod QB options before this season, before last season, and before the season before that. The proof is in the pudding. Don't understand the Tyrod love-fest here. The Bills could have easily signed Josh McCown if they had cut Tyrod like they should have. Or drafted Deshaun Watson or Mahomes. Or traded up for a QB the year before. Or the year before that!

by BJR :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 8:48am

Last night's Steelers/Bengals game was just hideous. I expect to see heavy punishments to be dished out by the league, including to the coaches who have repeatedly failed to control their players during these encounters. There also urgently needs to be rule changes so that players can be immediately ejected for dangerous play. Having a player catch a pass two plays after hospitalising (and taunting) an opponent is a very, very bad look for the league.

I was also exasperated by the TV coverage. There was the gushing every time Burfict made a play. Yes he's a good player, but we all know his history; there is no need to lionize the guy. Then the grandstanding from the commentators towards the end of the game about how awful all the penalties were, having spent the entire pre-game hyping up how intense and bitter the rivalry was. Hypocrites.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/05/2017 - 2:58pm

I loved, loved, loved that 49ers win. The best part was that Robbie Gould singlehandedly outscored the Bears (who are, incidentally, on their 4th kicker since they parted ways with him). It was also the first time in Bears history that they lost a game in which they scored two touchdowns and allowed none. That's a really special level of suck.

I've basically decided to root against the Bears as long as the McCaskeys own the team, because every time they clean house and briefly raise hopes it turns into a dumpster fire. John Fox should have been fired weeks ago, but he'll get to stay on until the end of the season.

Fox, incidentally, said that he didn't allow the 49ers to score at the end of the game and then get the ball back needing a touchdown with almost two minutes left because he thought they had a good chance of blocking a 24-yard field goal. Somebody on Twitter pointed out that field goals of that length are successfully blocked about once per season across the whole NFL.