Audibles at the Line

Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these 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.

New York Jets 6 at Miami Dolphins 13

Bryan Knowles: There are serious concerns about the field quality in this one. Yesterday, Miami and Duke played in heavy rain, and tore up the field something awful. It's something to keep an eye on in this one -- and it's the second year in a row the Jets have to play on a terrible field in Miami.

Dave Bernreuther: As someone who took the first-half under, I'm enjoying the lack of pocket awareness being displayed by Brock Osweiler and Sam Darnold in this one. In just the last five minutes they've each held on to the ball for far too long despite ample opportunity to throw it (and not even throw it away; people are open), looked around, panicked for no reason, and then retreated directly into a defender for an easy sack.

Up 3-0, the Dolphins just chose to attempt a field goal to extend their one score lead to one score. On fourth-and-2 from the 10. And the sad thing is that it might be enough. And it's not even the crappy field that we can blame ... it's just bad football, bad coaching, and bad quarterbacks.

Aaron Schatz: I find it harder to criticize taking the field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-2 because that Miami field goal came with just 1:15 left in the half. You don't get the benefit of going for it and failing, where you trap the other team in their own end and you're probably going to get the ball back for another drive with good field position. And if you go for it and convert, you might just end up with another fourth down, which might end with you taking a field goal anyway.

Dave Bernreuther: That's fair, as it does remove the "still more likely to score next" element. But it still feels wrong to me. Get yourself a first-and-goal and then use the rest of the time in the half.

Then again, Osweiler would probably have just taken a sack, because he's Osweiler.

Zach Binney: By my count in the fourth quarter here, the Dolphins defensive backs are 0-for-2 on possible interceptions. The Dolphins linebackers are 2-for-3.

Bryan Knowles: I've been recounting Nathan Peterman's assault on the interception record books, but let it be noted that he has not thrown the most interceptions today. That goes to Sam Darnold, the league-leader in interceptions, who has just thrown number four to ice this one, and pretty much end any chance of the Jets making noise in 2018.

There was only one touchdown in this game, and it WAS off of a Darnold pass ... just, you know, to Dolphins rookie Jerome Baker, as opposed to someone on his own team. 13-6 Dolphins victory, as they get back into the win column after going 1-4 over the past five games. Playing the Jets fixes a lot of problems, though this was more a game that the Jets lost than one the Dolphins won, per se.

Aaron Schatz: At least the fourth one came on fourth-and-10, so that one is no different from any other incomplete.

Atlanta Falcons 38 at Washington Redskins 14

Derrik Klassen: Washington just surrendered a painful touchdown drive to the Falcons. Atlanta was put into third-and-6 or more on two occasions, but converted them both. Running back Tevin Coleman capped off the drive with a 39-yard touchdown on a screen pass, scooting his way past a handful of Washington defenders on his way to the end zone.

It's going to be a long day for Washington if they can't force Atlanta off the field.

Washington's line being decimated limits what they can do on offense. Left tackle Trent Williams was already out heading into today, and now guard Shawn Lauvao and right tackle Morgan Moses are out. As a result, the run game hasn't been able to get going and Alex Smith can not reliably sit in the pocket for very long. The offense has been reduced almost exclusively to short passes, which doesn't feel like it's going to cut it vs. a speedy Falcons defense.

Calvin Ridley with the catch-and-run touchdown to finish off a Falcons two-minute drill. That score put the Falcons up 21-7 heading into the half and they get the ball to start the third quarter. If the Falcons score following halftime, Washington is almost certainly doomed.

The only thing that has slowed down the Falcons offense so far is themselves, be that penalties or miscommunication. With a smidgeon more discipline in the second half, Atlanta should have no issue keeping a stranglehold on this game.

Tom Gower: Falcons up 21-7 at the half. Only four possessions for Atlanta, with Washington's stop coming on an interception on what was likely a miscommunication between Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley. Ryan is playing very well and distributing the ball around, as five different players have multiple catches and at least 35 receiving yards. They've continued their excellent play on third down, as Washington has been able to get them there only to give up more yards. Tevin Coleman's receiving touchdown lined up as a wide receiver featured outstanding blocking by trips to that side, including Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper, and Sanu played a key role on Ridley's long touchdown that made it 21-7. From the trips set, they ran Ridley at No. 2 on a slant in behind Sanu's seam route from No. 3, and he created a ton of trash to spring the rookie completely free on one of those third-down conversions. Washington's offense has had trouble staying on schedule, with Alex Smith struggling to complete passes early in the game. He was 5-of-11 for 41 yards at some point before reeling off a few completions, the last one Josh Doctson's first touchdown catch of the season (after a couple of drops earlier in the game). But they'll have to do that a few more times, in addition to the defense finding a way off the field on third downs, to get back in the game.

Dave Bernreuther: And now Brandon Scherff is down too. That's Washington offensive line injury number FOUR.

Vince Verhei: A torrent of offensive line injuries is exactly what torpedoed Washington's season last year.

Derrik Klassen: The Falcons only just now failed to convert a third-down attempt ... midway through the third quarter. Before an incompletion on third-and-four on the last drive, Atlanta was a perfect 8-of-8 on third down.

Dave Bernreuther: Josh Norman with an intelligent but annoying play, blatantly reaching out to tackle Julio Jones after he got roasted. A first down at the 11 beats giving up the score...

Washington has given up, by my conservative estimate, a few miles worth of penalty yards today. Most of these are on their offensive line, which is a bit understandable since they're down four linemen and the next man up is a safety. Norman's penalty attached close to 50 more yards on to that total and now has me wondering about record totals for penalty yardage.

Atlanta of course goes straight backwards (in part due to penalties of their own on what looked to be a Mohamed Sanu touchdown) and tries a field goal because as always, #neverJulio.

Tom Gower: Washington avoided third-down failures to start the second half by not even forcing a third down. They managed another touchdown to keep it semi-interesting at 28-14, but never got any closer than that. Great garbage drive at the end of the game down 24, though.

Rivers McCown: Boy was this game ugly. Washington has to fight Alex Smith's inherent desire to take off or check down anyway, and then you rob them of an offensive line and all the sudden the entire offense is balls to Vernon Davis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28 at Carolina Panthers 42

Andrew Potter: The Ryan Fitzpatrick Experience (redux) looks considerably more like the Jameis Winston experience than early-season Fitzpatrick so far. Three throws, all targeting Mike Evans, none complete. Evans at least got his hands on the first one, but James Bradberry's good coverage prevented Evans from hauling in the catch. The second led Evans a little too much. The third sailed 5 yards over his head into the hands of Eric Reid, who returned it to the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. Reid's first interception as a Panthers player was more like fielding a punt than playing defense.

Bryan Knowles: Fitzmagic is fleeting. On his third pass attempt of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick's deep shot for Mike Evans is intercepted by Eric Reid. Reid nearly returns it for a touchdown himself, and the field position is good enough that the Panthers scored three weeks later. 7-0, Carolina.

Andrew Potter: The Panthers pace on offense hasn't been that slow.

Bryan Knowles: I blame Daylight Savings Time.

Andrew Potter: Norv just lit up this game with back-to-back big plays for the Panthers. On the first, he lined up receiver D.J. Moore at tailback and Christian McCaffrey at fullback. At the snap, Cam Newton faked the handoff to McCaffrey, then faked the screen right to Moore, then came all the way back to the screen left to McCaffrey for 32 yards. McCaffrey made a heck of a move to hurdle Justin Evans, but the rest of the Buccaneers looked like they didn't know what zip code they were meant to be playing in. The very next play, Newton faked a handoff to McCaffrey and handed to Moore on the end around for another 32. The next play was a SHOVeLL to McCaffrey that was well played by the Bucs, but he scored one play later with a counter off right tackle.

The Buccaneers defense struggles enough against offenses that play them straight up. I have no idea how they respond to this.

Vince Verhei: I know we've talked about it before, but man, the Panthers offense is fun to watch. Their second touchdown drive covered 88 yards in eight plays, almost totally without the benefit of downfield passing. It's all options and screens and SHOVeLLs and end-arounds. Christian McCaffrey had the big gain on the drive, a 32-yard gain on a screen where he was hurdling defenders, and then finished things off with a 3-yard touchdown run. It helps, of course, to play a defense like Tampa Bay that can't tackle anyone, but we do need to remember Norv Turner's name when it's time to pick a coordinator of the year.

Andrew Potter: The answer to my earlier question about the Buccaneers: they do not have an answer. Another end-around, another huge play for the Panthers. I can't really describe what happened after Curtis Samuel passed the first-down marker; I'll just say that he passed the marker along the left sideline, 20 yards from the end zone, but scored in the right corner of the end zone. You guys need to see what Samuel did to 11 fully grown football players, including Lavonte David, between those points.

Vince Verhei: Bucs get a touchdown, and the Panthers go back to work. Five-wide formation where the two widest receivers don't even run routes, they just stand there, but the defense has to go wide to cover them, giving up tons of room for easy slants on the inside. Jumbo set, play-action pass to a wide-open Greg Olsen. And then what is almost a true double reverse (only two handoffs, but the ball went left, then right, then left again) to Curtis Samuel, with Cam Newton as a lead blocker. Samuel weaves through traffic all the way across the field for the touchdown. Panthers' leading rushers right now are Samuel (one carry, 33 yards) and D.J. Moore (one carry, 32 yards). This is a fantastic show.

The NextGen diagram of Samuel's touchdown is awesome.

And now McCaffrey just put the game away almost single-handedly. He takes a run outside to the right and breaks four or five tackles for a 35-yard gain and a first-and-goal. (Tampa Bay challenged that he stepped out of bounds near the line of scrimmage, but lost.) With a first-and-goal, the Panthers feed McCaffrey three straight times: sweep left, shotgun handoff up the middle, I-formation plunge for the score. Panthers now up 28-7, with four touchdowns in five possessions.

I kid you not, in the time it took me to write up that McCaffrey drive, the Bucs went three-and-out, and then a fake punt resulted in an incomplete pass. Panthers take over at the 10, their third drive that started in Tampa Bay territory in the first half, and on third down Newton finds Greg Olsen for the touchdown and a 35-7 lead. The Dirk Koetter coaching regime can't have much time left.

Andrew Potter: Here is as clear a sign as anything else of how this game is going for the Buccaneers: they just tried a fake punt pass from Bryan Anger to blocking tight end Alan Cross ... from their own 26-yard line. In the second quarter. The pass was deflected and fell incomplete.

The Panthers scored, of course, and now have touchdowns on five consecutive possessions. They have eclipsed their franchise record for first-half points. There are still four minutes to go until halftime.

Bryan Knowles: So, Cam, how intimidated are you by the Tampa Bay defense?

Aaron Schatz: Carolina with a negative-ALEX special, 2-yard pass to Devin Funchess on a fourth-and-6 in No Man's Land. Wanted to throw a brick through the television.

Vince Verhei: Well this is irritating. Adam Humphries makes an amazing catch-and-run, breaking tackles to set the Bucs up with a first-and-goal at the 1. There's a Panther down, so they take a TV timeout while the player is injured. Koetter has that entire commercial break, but waits until his team is lined up and ready to go to throw the challenge flag. Couldn't we have handled that during the break?

But he wins the challenge, it's a touchdown for Tampa Bay, and now Carolina is clinging to a slim 35-28 lead with almost the entire fourth quarter still to play. Fitzpatrick has thrown three touchdowns on Tampa Bay's last four drives, and has four touchdowns total today.

Bryan Knowles: Don't look now, but Fitzmagic is a thing again. It was a 35-7 Carolina lead late in the second quarter. It is now a 35-28 Carolina lead, as the second half has been all Fitzpatrick, now up to four touchdown passes on the day after a 30-yard catch and run for Adam Humphries was ruled to have just crossed the end zone.

Andrew Potter: The Panthers just got called for a delay of game with more than ten minutes remaining because they were out of timeouts before the fourth quarter even started.

Vince Verhei: Panthers extend the lead as Samuel runs a post route out of a bunch formation. He's isolated against Carlton Davis, the second-round rookie out of Auburn, and Newton hits him to put Carolina up 42-28 with nine minutes to go.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Baltimore Ravens 16

Bryan Knowles: Quick kick alert! Fourth-and-6 from the 38, the Steelers line up to go for it ... but Big Ben pooch-punts it. When you have a quarterback who can do that, it opens up more options for your team on fourth down, so I kind of like it, theoretically -- it's better than lining up for a regular punt when you're that close to the end zone, because you're in theory eliminating the possibility of a long return. Problem is, the Ravens are well-coached, and Eric Weddle was in position to recover it and got a decent return. 27-yard punt; 18-yard return; Ravens were past the punting point one play later. Teams really should go for it more when they're that close to the end zone.

Scott Kacsmar: Hated the Ben Roethlisberger punt because it felt like giving up on the drive twice. A surprise run on third-and-10 when you're going to go for it on fourth down is decent process. But when you do the surprise run and have your quarterback punt after it, well that's just not good when it was fourth-and-makeable. The Ravens should have answered with a touchdown, but Joe Flacco never looked for a wide-open Lamar Jackson. They had Jackson motion across the field and no one on Pittsburgh even bothered to account for him. But Flacco threw it through the middle of the end zone instead. Mike Hilton also had a good pass breakup in the end zone on that drive.

Steelers convert in the red zone with a touchdown pass to James Conner. Good design on that play using Vance McDonald on a legal pick (no contact).

The offensive line helps, but James Conner just looks like a good back on his own. He's fast, decisive, and solid as a receiver too (five catches for 42 yards and a score already today). The Steelers found a good one there. Roethlisberger has had a few funky plays today with the ball getting tipped or just slipping out of his hands. I swear he has a play like that every season, but must have three or four of them this season. The "QB Release Slipped" in the charting file is made for him. He does have a broken finger on his non-throwing hand, but that hasn't seemed to diminish anything today. Antonio Brown scooted into the end zone for yet another touchdown this season. Good chance he'll end up with a career-high in touchdown catches this season, which I never would have imagined after how slow of a start he got off to with Roethlisberger.

Bryan Knowles: The Steelers have had multiple Hall of Fame receivers, so it surprised me to learn that the last Steeler to catch touchdown passes in six consecutive games was Ron Shanklin back in 1973. Brown's touchdown today tied that mark; it's the longest active streak in the NFL.

Scott Kacsmar: What a sloppy ending to the half for the Steelers, who were playing with fire on some near-turnovers. I was probably being too harsh on the "weird" plays earlier, but they just had several in the final 2:30 of the second quarter. First, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a huge drop in the open field that could have led to another touchdown before halftime with the Steelers getting the ball to start the third. Baltimore didn't capitalize. Then Vance McDonald had a tough grab for a yard that was somehow ruled a pick-six even though his knee was down and the ball hit the ground before the defender got it. Ultimately, it was a 1-yard completion. Then Conner tipped a pass that was almost intercepted. McDonald had another drop that was nearly a fumble. At that point, just run the ball and go to halftime, which the Steelers did, leading 14-6.

QB Sneak touchdown for Roethlisberger. The return of the quarterback sneak to Pittsburgh's arsenal after its absence in the later Todd Haley years is nice to see. I believe that's Roethlisberger's fifth sneak of the season, all of which have resulted in a first down or touchdown.

Dave Bernreuther: Ah, the Flacco Special ... a.k.a. the most productive play in the Ravens playbook: the badly underthrown ball bailed out by a defensive pass interference call.

With a freebie to the 1, the Ravens make a game of it again on the next play when an uncovered and untouched Alex Collins waltzes in. Down eight, they choose to kick, but it's still the third quarter, so that's not upsetting.

Bryan Knowles: Big Ben is down. He scrambled out for a nice game, but landed right on his right shoulder as Za'Darius Smith tackled him, with all of that weight coming right down on the joint. It's not looking good.

Aaron Schatz: Big Ben is fine! He came back into the game and immediately hit Jesse James down the right sideline for 51 yards on an out-and-up that totally fooled Brandon Carr.

Bryan Knowles: And, of course, because Big Ben is freaking unbreakable, he comes right back in and throws a bomb to Jesse James. Shaking my head.

Kansas City Chiefs 37 at Cleveland Browns 21

Scott Kacsmar: For people who think we hate screen passes, keep in mind we're usually talking about wide receiver screens. Running back screens are good, and doing them against an aggressive Gregg Williams-coached defense is usually great. The Browns have been victimized by a couple of big screens today. Chiefs converted a third-and-19 to Spencer Ware, and of course the 50-yard touchdown to Kareem Hunt was a screen.

Bryan Knowles: Let me sum up Cleveland's season -- David Njoku and Greg Robinson were arguing, presumably about who was responsible for blocking Jordan Lucas, as Lucas was actively sacking Baker Mayfield.

Aaron Schatz: Trying to explain what just happened in the Chiefs-Browns game ... Kansas City had the ball with 14 seconds left, and there was a penalty on Cleveland which was declined. So the ref is supposed to place the ball down, and then the clock starts, right? Well, the ref puts the ball down, and Patrick Mahomes picks it up and spikes it to stop the clock... and they throw an intentional grounding flag (?!?!). Apparently, they ruled that he tried to spike the ball before the clock started running? The TV replay seemed to show that the clock had started running before the spike ... I'm confused by what that penalty was supposed to achieve. Just let them spike the ball. Surprisingly close at halftime, 21-15.

Vince Verhei: Weirdness at the end of the half here. The Chiefs complete a pass in the field of play. There's a penalty on Cleveland, which Kansas City declines, but they still get a free timeout out of it. But then on first down, Mahomes spikes the ball to kill the clock. However, since the clock wasn't running, that's an intentional grounding penalty. The ref explained this clearly, but the announcers are still baffled and unable to process it. That penalty includes a ten-second runoff, which would end the half, and the Chiefs start to leave, then remember, wait, we have a timeout. So they call it to avoid the runoff. And after all that, Mahomes throws an interception on a quasi-Hail Mary on the last play of the half.

That's the only thing that went wrong for Kansas City's offense in the first half. They scored touchdowns on each of their three possessions before that. We can credit Mahomes and the passing game for that -- he's currently averaging better than 13 yards per pass -- but the Chiefs also have four first downs and 67 yards on only seven running plays. My favorite sequence was when they converted a third-down in the red zone on an old school speed option, then the next play Kareem Hunt scored on a fullback give out of an offset I. They have so many ways to beat you.

Browns are making a game of it thanks in part to, really, an extra possession (both teams had the ball four times in the first half, but Kansas City's last drive started with just 20 second left), and aggression -- they are two-for-two on fourth-down conversions. But that aggression has also hurt them. They have gone for two and missed after both of their first-half touchdowns. Jarvis Landry had a failed reception on a two-point conversion, which is the most Jarvis Landry thing ever.

Dave Bernreuther: I've been wondering this for two hours. The NFL loosened the celebration rules, but are they still fining people for throwing the ball into the stands? And if so, will the fine two Chiefs for it on one score after a fan threw Kareem Hunt's touchdown ball back and another Chief scooped it up and threw it into the stands again?

Chicago Bears 41 at Buffalo Bills 9

Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. For once, it wasn't entirely his fault; it went off of new Buffalo receiver Terrelle Pryor's hands before being picked. Still, Peterman continues his assault on the record books; now with 10 interceptions in 92 pass attempts.

Aaron Schatz: Oh wait, it gets better! Peterman just threw another interception. This one was a pick-six. And this one went off a receiver's Hands too! Good job, Zay Jones.

Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. It looked like Kyle Fuller leveled Zay Jones, but it was ruled not pass interference because it was within a yard of the line of scrimmage. The ball goes right to Leonard Floyd, who returns it into the end zone.

Peterman now has 11 interceptions on 94 pass attempts.

At this exact moment in time, Peterman's career interception percentage is 11.70 percent. That's the worst interception percentage for anyone with at least 94 career passes since 1949; he has just passed Wayne Clark, Chargers and Bengals backup from the '70s, for the post-merger record of 11.67 percent. This is something to keep an eye on going forward, as the Bills continue to be forced to start, uh, their opening-day starter.

Dave Bernreuther: What's funny about this game is that the Bills were willing to sign Derek Anderson and start him on almost no preparation, and now they've signed the best quarterback on their roster, started him on even less prep, and he caused an interception -- while playing receiver.

And yet, even having been responsible for one pick in 20 minutes, he's still more effective than any of the other three quarterbacks on the Bills roster.

For instance: Peterman has thrown another one. And the Bills offense thus far has had seven possessions, ending in five punts and two picks.

Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor hasn't caught anything today, but Logan Thomas has a team-high seven catches. Which begs the question: how many pass-catchers does Buffalo have who might be better quarterbacks than Nathan Peterman?

Bryan Knowles: Stop me if you've heard this one before: Nathan Peterman threw an interception. Again, this one may not have been his fault -- Kelvin Benjamin ran a terrible route and Kyle Fuller easily jumped it for Petermans' third interception of the game.

Peterman now has 12 interceptions on 116 career pass attempts, so he's actually improved his interception percentage over the course of the day.

Vince Verhei: Peterman has now thrown as many interceptions in his career as Terrelle Pryor has in his. Pryor still has him beat by about 1,500 passing yards though.

Aaron Schatz: Chris Ivory just had an 18-yard run, and yet Peterman is still the Bills' leading rusher today with 40 yards, over twice as many as any Bills running back. So hey, Peterman can do something right.

Detroit Lions 9 at Minnesota Vikings 24

Andrew Potter: Switched from the NFC South blowout to this game in time to see a rough series for Marvin Jones. On second down, Jones caught a pass short left but Xavier Rhodes ripped the ball out while tackling him. Fortunately for the Lions, the ball bounced out of bounds. On third down, Jones fell down at the top of his route. Matthew Stafford still hit him in the hands with the ball, but all he could do was knock it in the air for another near-turnover to Rhodes.

The biggest problem with the Lions offense, though, is the same as in Washington: injuries have wrecked the offensive line. Stafford has been sacked seven times, tying his career high with the full fourth quarter still ... oops, make that eight.

Bryan Knowles: I wonder how much the absence of Golden Tate has on Stafford taking so many sacks -- he was usually the guy Stafford looked to on hot routes when he was under pressure. With him in Philly, maybe Stafford doesn't have that same security blanket when the pocket collapses.

Andrew Potter: Maybe, but Everson Griffen being back has also made a huge difference to the Vikings. He and Danielle Hunter have combined for four of those sacks. They're getting pressure on pretty much every play.

Alright, that might be the worst play I've ever seen from Matthew Stafford...

Bryan Knowles: Maybe Matthew Stafford shouldn't run the option. Stafford was forced to scramble by yet more Minnesota pressure, and he had the bright idea to flip the ball back to Kerryon Johnson. I'm not entirely sure Johnson was expecting that, and Stafford's toss just falls to the floor. Backwards. Where the aforementioned pressure scoops it up and scores a defensive touchdown; 24-6 Minnesota.

Vince Verhei: Oh, Lions. They're still only down 17-6 in the fourth, and a fake punt gives them a first down, so they're very much in this. But then Stafford is pressured again and he scrambles, but then tries to pitch to Kerryon Johnson like he's Patrick Mahomes or something. But Johnson is caught totally off guard by the pitch and bobbles it, and Danielle Hunter gets the scoop and score to put the Vikings up 24-6 and pretty much ice this one. Hunter also has 2.5 sacks, a monster game for him.

The Lions followed the fumble touchdown with a 17-play drive that ate up nearly six minutes and ended in a field goal. They were down 18 so they needed a field goal anyway, but talk about running yourself out of a game.

And then the game ends when the Vikings punt and the Lions take a knee down 15 points at their own 1. Way to go down fighting, guys.

Houston Texans 19 at Denver Broncos 17

Vince Verhei: Demaryius Thomas makes a big impact on his first drive for Houston and against Denver, with catches for 31 and 18 yards to set up a first down inside the red zone. And Thomas then adds a touchdown catch -- but it's Jordan Thomas, the sixth-round rookie out of Mississippi State who had two touchdowns last week. He's turning into a red zone weapon, with three scores in only nine catches this season.

Bryan Knowles: We should have a 13-10 game at the half, as Houston was unable to capitalize on a short field after Denver missed a 62-yard field goal at the end of the half ... but Vance Joseph iced Ka'imi Fairbairn's missed 46-yard field goal attempt. Fairbairn's second effort went through, so it's a 16-10 Texans lead. Denver's 14.5% DVOA is that of a playoff contender; their 3-5 record is that of a team on the brink of effective elimination. These things usually end up correcting themselves over time; either some of those close losses become victories, or their overall performance falls back in line with their record. Watching the first half today, put me in that second category -- Joseph's play calling and situational game management have both been terrible. It's not just icing the kicker, or attempting the 62-yarder, it's botched challenge flags and weird decisions all over the place. It's their dogged insisting on not using play-action, despite it being very effective whenever Case Keenum gets the opportunity. It's the "failed pass on first, run into a wall on second" play calling that has already popped up on multiple occasions this game. It feels like when Joseph and company get out of the Broncos' way, they can do good things -- they're just not doing that.

This is pretty much a must-win for Denver if they hope to stay in the AFC wild-card race, and so far, not so good.

Bryan Knowles: A Jeff Heuerman catch with 43 seconds left on the clock is enough for Vance Joseph, who settles for a 51-yard field goal attempt to win the game, rather than try to get closer.

The field goal goes wide right. The Broncos fall to 3-6, and it would take a minor miracle for them to get back into the playoff hunt now. I will be shocked if Joseph has a job in February, and not surprised at all if he's let go this week. That was coaching malpractice, today.

Dave Bernreuther: I was wondering if anyone else was watching the Keenum show at the end of the Horses vs. Cows game. I guess the counter to Bryan's observation is that it's Case Keenum, and a turnover is a real possibility. Still, they converted multiple fourth downs and were moving the ball on that drive. I know it's Denver. But you just can't assume that's a sure thing. Ever.

Rivers McCown: Boy was this game ugly. Jeff Heuerman was the main receiver for the Broncos, and the Texans stalled out as an offense after 15 minutes. I'm not sure if that's a situational scripting thing or what, but as soon as O'Brien started calling more traditional run plays, the Texans were easy pickings.

Regardless, a huge win for the Texans, who could go in to Week 10 with a three-game lead on the entire AFC South with games remaining against ... the Browns, Jets, Eagles, Washington, and at home against the entire rest of the AFC South.

Tom Gower: Houston running backs finished with 27 carries for 60 yards. After they got 13 points early in the second, they basically turtled and got away with it, thanks in part to poor end-of-half management in both halves by Vance Joseph.

Rivers McCown: It's impossible to overstate how out-of-date the Houston offense looks on any sort of traditional rushing plays. Like a 1990s team playing in 2018.

Los Angeles Chargers 25 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Dave Bernreuther: I don't have the sound on for this one, but I can only hope that the announcers were tearing into offensive line coach Mike Solari after his charges spent an entire play wandering around like lost children downfield while the Seahawks drove.

It was a first-down screen pass from the 21. Russell Wilson did his job, selling it and placing the ball reasonably well into the hands of Mike Davis, whose first lead blocker (Duane Brown? Not sure) not only didn't block anyone, but got in the way. Davis adapted, though, and ran far enough for the first down down the left sideline, only to decide to change direction, perhaps having been inspired by Samuels' field-crossing heroics earlier. He had plenty of blocking help, but D.J. Fluker -- who also appeared to be ineligible downfield at the time of the pass -- just stood there and got turned around a bit and watched as they finally caught up to Davis and dropped him behind the line to gain. No forward progress when it's a choice like that, so the Seahawks face second-and-1 instead, then lose a yard on the next play as well. They did convert and score, though, so all will be forgotten ... but I found just about everything about that play to be awful. Good results from a bad process.

It's still the Seahawks offensive line though ... so one bad play in a drive is still an upgrade in some ways.

Vince Verhei: I put more blame on Davis for that play. If he just falls forward, it's a first down. Instead he cuts backward, which is part of why guys were standing around -- they thought the play was done! Instead Davis ends up running 5 yards backwards before eventually coming up a yard short of the first down. Seahawks had nine carries for 45 yards and five first downs on the drive, just manhandling the Chargers front. Russell Wilson finishes the drive when he has more time in the pocket on one play than he did in most games last season, and throws a touchdown to Jaron Brown where it wasn't even clear who he was throwing to. Seahawks finish that with a New Edition-style, new jack swing dance number. It was awesome.

Chargers respond with their own touchdown drive, as Tyrell Williams makes a tremendous catch on a comeback route in the end zone on the last play of the first quarter. Biggest play for the Chargers was the jet sweep -- Keenan Allen ran one for 28 yards to get Los Angeles out of the shadow of its own end zone, then Austin Ekeler ran one for 16 yards later in the drive. But the Chargers miss the extra point because CHARGERS KICKERS, and it's 7-6 at the end of one.

Without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks have been playing a lot more Cover-2 and Tampa-2 coverage lately. And ... they suck at it. Both touchdowns they gave up last week came against Cover-2. Today, on third-and-long, Keenan Allen gets wide open for 54 yards when the deep safety to that side (not sure who it was) didn't cover him deep. Next play, Melvin Gordon gets to the second level untouched, Tedric Thompson misses a tackle, and it's a 34-yard touchdown. They go for two and don't get it, but still lead 12-7.

Dave Bernreuther: I agree that the loss of the first down falls on Davis for the decision. I just thought that Fluker just wandering around looking lost was funny. And possibly an indictment of coaching. But again, it still beats their recent history.

On the folllowing series we got to see a world-class hissy fit from Philip Rivers, as they absorbed a delay of game on third-and-long after a horrible non-call on a pass interference foul a play earlier. He caught the snap and just underhand threw it up and over his head, tantrum-style. He was right to be upset, though, and they converted a third-and-15 to prolong a scoring drive. 12-7 after a failed two-point attempt.

Vince Verhei: The refs have been letting defensive backs on both teams get away with a lot. Shaquill Griffin pretty blatantly grabbed Allen's arm on the play Dave's talking about. Later, Los Angeles' Uchenna Nwosu looked like he hit David Moore early on a third-down incompletion, but no flag there either.

Sebastian Janikowski doinks a 50-plus-yard field goal off the upright, no good. Right before that, Doug Baldwin looked to have a third-down conversion, but Seattle was called for offensive pass interference on the play. And I hate it when other people complain about bad calls, but I can't help myself here. David Moore lined up wide and ran a slant, then stopped and curled, planting both feet into the ground and turning back to the quarterback. It was a pick play, but Moore was just a statue on the play. Didn't even lean into the defender. Gene Steratore agrees with me after the break. Guess it's a good day to be a defensive back in this game.

Dave Bernreuther: More tantrum shenanigans: Russell Wilson chucks one deep, and safety Adrian Phillips goes up and tips the errant pass, which causes Derwin James to JUST miss the easy interception, for which he was positioned as if he was a punt returner. James, naturally, flips out...

But it was a free play, as Melvin Ingram had jumped offside. And they had a good laugh about it.

Vince Verhei: Chargers lead 19-10 at halftime. Mike Williams had a 30-yard touchdown where he beat Tre Flowers (who was also beaten on the first touchdown, though he had good coverage on that play) on a comeback, broke a tackle, and dashed into the end zone. It sure looked to me like his heel was out of bounds, but replay upheld the play. Chargers kicked the extra point, which surprised me -- I'd have gone for two and hoped for what would have been a 20-7 lead.

Seahawks then ran an eight-play, 49-yard field goal drive that was entirely runs and short passes up the middle. Even on the last play, with nine seconds left, the Chargers were giving up easy 5-yard gains on out routes on either sideline, but Seattle was content to let the clock run to four seconds and spike it, then let Janikowski try a 44-yard field goal. He bailed them out my making that kick.

Kind of a weird half. Seattle's offense was pretty quiet outside the opening drive. The Chargers had tons of explosive plays on their scoring drives, but did nothing otherwise. So they're averaging almost 10 yards per play, but they also have two three-and-outs in their five drives.

The other story of the half is the Chargers overcoming special teams mistakes. They missed the extra point (which led to another "missed XP" when they went for two and didn't get it); they fumbled a kickoff return in the end zone and ended up starting a drive at their own 6; they lost 2 yards on a punt return; and on another Seattle punt, they had a penalty that worked out to a loss of 8 yards.

It has not been a good day for Russell Wilson. In the first half, he had Tyler Lockett on what should have been a third-down conversion, but threw way behind him. First drive of the second half, Brown is running free in the middle for what might have been a touchdown, but Wilson badly underthrows him and it's incomplete and another failed third-down play. It wasn't even that deep a throw, just 15 or 20 yards downfield. You rarely see him miss easy throws this badly.

More Chargers special teams gaffes. They get more chunk plays -- 22-yard pass, 20-yard run, 13 yards on a dumpoff -- but the drive stalls, and Caleb Sturgis misses a 42-yard field goal.

Still 19-10 at the end of three. It has been more of the same for Los Angeles, with chunk plays (Melvin Gordon busting tackles for 21 yards!) with third-down failures (they're now 2-for-7 on third downs). They're going to punt on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Seattle is running out of time to make something happen.

Carl Yedor: I forget when/where I said this, but the Brian Schottenheimer offense works when the whole "pound the rock over and over" thing is getting you enough yards that you can actually move the ball that way. When you aren't moving the ball well, you end up in at least third-and-medium a ton, which requires your quarterback to convert a lot to sustain drives. Wilson missed a throw that could have been a touchdown, but they're ending up behind the sticks too much because the Chargers know the run is coming and are devoting the appropriate resources to stop it.

Vince Verhei: Carl's point about Seattle's running game is a great one. The difference between a 5-yard gain and a 2-yard gain is just enormous for this team. The absence of Chris Carson (limited to just eight carries) has killed them today.

And then Wilson throws his second pick-six of the season, and the third of his career. No excuses for him, just underthrew an out route and Desmond King took it to the house. Sturgis missed the extra point, because Chargers, but it's a now a 25-10 lead that doesn't feel that close. Like, Seattle is only two possessions and a two-pointer behind? Really?

Dave Bernreuther: That was a really bad pick too. I wasn't as hard on Wilson earlier in the game as Vince was, but damn. King broke on that one well before it was thrown. Wilson had to see him and pull that one down. Had to.

They're moving it well on the next drive, although now Wilson is taking a beating, but time is running out.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks make it 25-17 on a bad touchdown drive. They take over down 15 points with 6:44 left. And it takes them 14 plays and almost five minutes to score. Just short completions and runs in bounds over and over again. By the time a receiver finally caught a ball and went out of bounds, it was at the two-minute warning and didn't make a difference. They convert three fourth downs on the drive, including the Wilson-to-Vannett touchdown that is important to fantasy players and pretty much nobody else.

The good news is they had all three timeouts left. Chargers recovered the onside kick but needed a first down to finish the game. They go run, run, sack, and Seattle is going to get the ball back. Chargers now 2-of-9 on third downs. After the punt, Seattle gets the ball at the 22, 1:24 to go, no timeouts, down eight. Here we go.

Dave Bernreuther: Meanwhile, a defensive pass interference in the end zone gives the Seahawks an untimed final play to try to tie. And they false start. And then one play later, Wilson *may* have been able to run it in himself; but he saw Moore running along the end line and rifled one in there. A really good throw, really ... and maybe it got tipped at the end by the diving Derwin James. Maybe. But it bounced off his hands. And the Chargers win in Seattle.

We often get stuck with late-slot woofers when there are only three games to watch. This week is making up for it.

Vince Verhei: Well that was almost an all-new level of Chargers loss. Seahawks get into the red zone on a roughing the passer call and then a big Wilson scramble. On third-and-10 though, Wilson dumps it off in bounds to Mike Davis to bring up fourth-and-2. They're out of timeouts and can't clock it, so the game hinges on the next play. Wilson desperately lobs the ball to Tyler Lockett in the corner of the end zone. Lockett almost reels it in but can't hang on -- but the Chargers also have a Michael Davis, and he's called for pass interference. Think about how blatant pass interference would have to be to draw a flag on the last play of the game. Well, that's how blatant it was.

So Seattle has an untimed down from the 1, but then a false start moves them back to the 6. (I haven't mentioned this, but there have been tons of penalties on the line today, including a "late hit" on Justin Britt where the whistle never blew.) Wilson scrambles and tries to thread the needle. Two Chargers might have tipped it, but regardless, the ball bounces off Moore's pads, incomplete, game over.

So the Chargers escape and would probably be in first place in at least five other divisions. Special teams aside, they were better at pretty much every position today, and it was only close because of the Chargers' kicking woes. Seahawks are 4-4. Not dead, of course, but it doesn't help their cause that Carolina, Chicago, and Minnesota all won today (and Green Bay might too).

Rob Weintraub: And Atlanta....

Vince Verhei: True. They are tied with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and I guess a Packers win tonight would just add them to the tie as well.

Los Angeles Rams 35 at New Orleans Saints 45

Bryan Knowles: The Saints go for it on fourth-and-1 with both Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in the game. Brees hands the ball off to Hill and, for the first time all season, Hill looks to throw it back to Brees, which would have gone some way to making up for all those "Brees is in the game, stands around" plays from earlier. The Rams sniff it out and stick with Brees even after the handoff, but Hill's able to improvise and run for 9 yards himself. Good effort by both teams there; this promises to be a great matchup between some offensive schemers.

Tom Gower: First drive by New Orleans confirms one of my pregame beliefs, that Alvin Kamara would be a huge problem for Los Angeles defenders. He capped it off with a slippery touchdown but avoided at least one would-be tackler on probably all four of his touches.

Bryan Knowles: One quarter in the books, and we're on pace for 1,100 combined yards in this one. The Saints have 138 yards and two touchdowns; the Rams have 137 yards, one touchdown, and are inside the Saints' 10-yard line. First stop wins, right?

Aaron Schatz: Quick note in response to Tom's comment about Kamara. This surprised me when doing prep for the Off The Charts podcast this week, but the Rams are No. 3 in DVOA against running backs in the receiving game. Obviously Kamara is a very special receiving running back, but that might suggest that the Rams won't have as much trouble with him as you might otherwise expect. Although I notice in the first quarter that he already has caught two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.

Tom Gower: I'm not that surprised the Rams are better than they think. They're a good enough defense that I think they can do fine against most backs, and I think they'd do fine against Ingram. But you need elite athleticism at linebacker to keep up with an elite athletic back like Kamara, and they don't have that.

Bryan Knowles: We do, in fact, have our first stop! On the first play of New Orleans' drive after the Rams' second touchdown, Mark Ingram gets hit in the arm by Samson Ebukam, the ball comes lose, and the Rams get the ball on the New Orleans' 25. Ingram looked to be hurt on the play, as well.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting decision by the Rams on that next drive. They ended up with fourth-and-4 from the Saints' 16 and they had Johnny Hekker sweep right on a fake field goal. He desperately tried to stretch his arm and the ball over the first-down marker as Craig Robertson took him out of bounds, but no dice, even after a challenge. So that's two straight stops, the Rams will turn the ball over to the Saints at the 13.

Dave Bernreuther: And the Rams run ANOTHER fake with Hekker, which at this point is just something you have to be prepared for, and the officials spot him short, even though he clearly extended his arm beyond the marker while skidding to his knees going out of bounds. And I do mean clearly. Both from the reality of anatomy, given that he doesn't have T-Rex arms, and the camera angle from across the field. Somehow, though, they ruled him short. And (even more) somehow, after McVay is forced to challenge, they uphold it. I have no idea how anyone could watch that and not conclude that he got the ball over the line.

Scott Kacsmar: I think you save the fake field goal for a bigger spot than that. A 14-14 game in the second quarter isn't that spot. Meanwhile, Rams' vertical passing game is looking better with Cooper Kupp back this week. I still think that's the way to attack the Saints like Ryan Fitzpatrick did in Week 1.

Aaron Schatz: Very little pass pressure in the Saints-Rams game. As you probably would expect, these offensive lines are strong but also these offensive schemes are often getting the ball out so fast there really isn't much time for pass pressure. But even on the Rams' vertical throws, there's not a lot of Saints pressure.

Tom Gower: Concur with Aaron on the pass rush. The Saints just got just enough on the first two plays after Ingram's fumble to make Jared Goff get rid of the ball when there wasn't anything open downfield, but aside from that there has been a nice arc around the pocket even on some of those deep throws. But they did get just enough on the third-and-13 to force a short throw and an ensuing punt, so we're at 28-14 late in the first half, or 4-2 as Steve Spurrier might say.

OK, Alex Anzalone makes a great individual play. Jared Goff sees him starting to move away and thinks he has an open throwing lane in the middle of the field. But Anzalone is able to reverse direction and make the pick, giving the Saints an extra possession, so we go into half at 35-17 after Greg Zuerlein hits a long field goal after the Saints touchdown instead of 28-17 or -21. It's going to be tough for the Rams to win if they don't stop the Saints from scoring a touchdown every drive when they don't turn the ball over. #analysis

Bryan Knowles: One day, Joe Buck will realize Malcolm Brown just managed to tip-toe down the sidelines, dive, and reach inside the pylon for a touchdown. Even as the officials were signaling touchdown and the Rams were celebrating, Buck was still working under the impression that Brown had stepped out at the 5. It was close, mind you, but there were slight context clues that maybe points had been scored.

Vince Verhei: There's a lot of announcers who say inane things or have no insightful analysis or get names wrong or whatever. Joe Buck is the only one who seems to go totally blind. Several times a game, what he says happened is very clearly not what actually happened.

Dave Bernreuther: But we're supposed to hero worship him every October when he does double duty.

Sorry, but I'm not impressed just because you took a three-hour plane ride between being bad at calling one sport in Houston and being bad at calling another sport in Milwaukee.

That touchdown was never in any doubt. They didn't huddle up and reluctantly decide to call it a score. The official looked once, confirmed with his colleague, and signaled a touchdown. And everyone in the stadium except for Joe Buck saw it. There was no ambiguity.

Aaron Schatz: We're seeing more of the Rams' tight ends than usual today. 5-of-9, 88 yards through most of the third quarter.

Tom Gower: And less of Cooper Kupp, who has 2 targets on Goff's 29 attempts to this point, in his first game back from injury.

Dave Bernreuther: And right after you say that, the Rams look to Kupp. And after he outraces everyone down the sideline, the Rams convert the two to tie it at 35.

I bet the under. Um ... whoops.

Bryan Knowles: It was a pretty little engineered pick to get Kupp wide open on the touchdown pass; Kupp lined up inline and hesitated just long enough to let the crossing route going the other way clean out enough defensive traffic for him to leak out the other way.

I'm also 90 percent sure the Rams would have gone for it on fourth down there, meaning they felt like they could gamble on the pass rather than just tossing it to Todd Gurley. Love it.

Dave Bernreuther: So we're starting to see plays with Hill lining up at tight end (dropped a checkdown pass) and motioning through the formation as a lead blocker (small gain on a give to Ingram), and all I can think of is that no matter how clever the design, the Saints are taking a more talented athlete off the field to put him out there. And while I appreciate Hill for the fact that he's willing to throw a block as often as he throws a pass, I still want to say that they should probably just keep their base offense on the field. Especially since that drive ended in a field goal, which feels like a failure in this game, and now we're getting close to "whoever has the ball last wins" territory even after they took that commanding lead into the half.

Bryan Knowles: Any thoughts on the Joe Horn throwback celebration on that last Saints touchdown? It probably would have mattered more had the Rams converted the ensuing field position after the 15-yard penalty into something, but as it is, it looks like that 72-yard Michael Thomas touchdown was the dagger.

So instead, I have to wonder -- where did Thomas find a flip phone in 2018?

Dave Bernreuther: He borrowed it from Andrew Luck?

(My thoughts: all these pre-planned celebrations are dumb and need to stop. But no one cares what I think.)

Vince Verhei: Based on what I'm reading on Twitter, I'd have a lot more to say about it if I could hear Joe Buck's commentary.

In other news, I am very happy that I am not hearing Joe Buck's commentary.

Rob Weintraub: The Saints pulling out a hard-fought battle is good for the Bengals, their next opponent. Maybe Cincy can catch them sleeping a bit. But if A.J. Green is out, forget it, of course. Only the Bengals could lose on a bye week...

Bryan Knowles: I'm looking forward to the nigh-inevitable rematch in the NFC championship game.

Aaron Schatz: One of my takeaways from this game is that the Rams really miss Aqib Talib. The secondary is a problem. Obviously, every secondary is a problem against the Saints, but in particular I think Marcus Peters is not the kind of guy who can take a No. 1 receiver out of the game. He certainly got whipped on that last Michael Thomas touchdown. Peters is a route-jumper, not an island-shutdown guy. You want to have safety help behind him so he can jump routes, and so guys don't toast him deep if they get past him.

Green Bay Packers 17 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: For the most part the Patriots have Stephon Gilmore matched one-on-one against Davante Adams, and he just slapped away a pass in the end zone on second-and-goal. But they're also mixing in some plays with Gilmore on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and then a double-team of Jason McCourty and a safety (sometimes his brother, sometimes Duron Harmon) on Adams.

And then the Packers run my least favorite play in the universe, wide receiver screen on third-and-long. There were TWO screens -- Aaron Rodgers had his choice of throwing to Adams on the left or Randall Cobb on the right. He went with Cobb. Yay, 3 big yards. Field goal. 7-3 Patriots. I hate the wide receiver screen on third-and-long so much. The point of the wide receiver screen is that it tends to be a steady way to get small gains. It's like a running play on first-and-10, that's the kind of time you run it. The likelihood you're going to break it big on third-and-long is tiny.

Scott Kacsmar: One quarter in the books, and I too am stuck on that wide receiver screen as the difference so far. Defenses stepped up with pressure to end the other drives, but the Packers settled for a screen and field goal, which is the exact opposite of how one should coach in New England. Remember when Mike McCarthy went in there in 2010 with Matt Flynn as his quarterback and tried a surprise onside kick? Almost pulled that game out. That was a time period when McCarthy was considered one of the best young coaches in the game, months before the Packers won a Super Bowl. Now he seems to be one of the most criticized, and I can't say it's not all unjustified.

Aaron Schatz: Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead was ejected for slapping David Andrews across the helmet. It really didn't seem like much more than the usual pushing and shoving after a play. That was weird.

Tom Gower: 17-10 at the half. The Rams and the Saints was the game we expected it to be. This isn't quite the game it was hyped to be, with 27 points on 10 combined possessions a good but not spectacular performance. Green Bay hasn't gotten anything deep, with a long gain of just 19 yards so far, and Rodgers has been throwing, throwing, and throwing some more, with enough misses that his numbers are not very impressive (123 yards on 27 attempts, 4.56 yards per attempt). Brady has done more, including bigger gains to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, and Cordarrelle Patterson at running back was very effective on the go-ahead scoring drive.

Aaron Schatz: Patrick Chung has definitely had trouble covering Jimmy Graham tonight, with a holding call and a couple catches earlier, and Graham just caught a 15-yard touchdown pass (with Chung in coverage) on Green Bay's first drive of the second half to make it 17-17.

Next drive: Pats make it down to the 1-yard line with a DPI in the end zone and somehow on four plays from the 1, they don't try a single quarterback sneak. James White run, Cordarrelle Patterson run (which looked like it scored and then was reversed), and two passes. I do not know why you don't try a sneak there, especially the Patriots, who use it so well and so often.

Update: Now we're in the fourth quarter, 3:48. The Patriots took advantage of an Aaron Jones fumble and scored two touchdowns in consecutive drives, including a 55-yard pass to Josh Gordon on a fake screen-and-go where Tramon Williams, covering Gordon, basically pulled an "ole" instead of trying to actually tackle Gordon. Meanwhile, the Green Bay offense keeps sending everyone deep on third-and-4 and hoping that Aaron Rodgers can scramble around long enough to make miracles happen. Which he can do, sometimes. But he couldn't do it just now on fourth-and-4.

And didn't Green Bay used to throw slants all the time? It feels like the Patriots have left that route open most of the game and the Packers have thrown a grand total of one of them. Which converted a third-and-8 to Davante Adams, so maybe do it more.

Tom Gower: The 2012 AFC Championship Game was a very even contest decided by a fumble forced by Bernard Pollard. This game likewise turned on a fumble, but it has felt to me like New England has had the majority of the play tonight in a way they didn't have against Baltimore that day. Green Bay has managed a couple explosive plays, both catches by Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but New England still has a lead in that category. Even beyond those, it has felt to me like they've schemed up a lot more yards than Green Bay has. That's probably preaching to the disgruntled Packers fan choir on Twitter right now, but this is just a frustrating team between the lack of free yards, the losses with a great quarterback, and mistakes like the slow pace on offense down 31-17, the timeouts and problems getting plays off, the roughing the punter even if it was a soft call, and auto-benching Aaron Jones after a fumble (contrast Kareem Hunt in Week 1 last year fumbling on his first touch?). But this is New England and this is Green Bay, so the surprise may be more how we got here than that we got to this place.

Comments

157 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2018, 6:06pm

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by danplatt17 // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:09am

A couple of notes about the Bears-Bills:

- I didn't think Peterman looked that terrible. He hung in the pocket, but it didn't look like there was anywhere to throw. And the picks weren't his fault. As a Bears fan, I've seen a lot worse QB play.

- The officiating was brutal. They missed two clear head slaps by Hicks on Peterman. One OPI and one DPI against the Bears were just phantom calls. And I'm not sure if the Floyd Pick-6 no-call on the DPI was really within the one-yard area, or they just were covering for not making a call there.

- And, finally, did you catch Aaron Lynch got the excessive celebration call for pulling a McCringleberry:

https://youtu.be/RGJb2iLvOKE

Hidden cell phones OK, group photos in the end-zone OK, but no pelvic-thrusting!

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8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Dr. Mooch // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:36am

I'm not going to forgive Peterman for turnover-sixes that "weren't his fault." They came from a 0 yard pass on 3rd and 9, and a 1 yard pass on 3rd and 2. Lots of disasters start with mundane bad decisions.

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128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mike B. In Va // Nov 06, 2018 - 10:15am

Yeah, I have to agree. Even if they went off the receiver's hands, why the hell are you even risking those throws in those situations? All you're doing is NOT getting a first down.

Daboll has no confidence in him throwing a route deeper than 10 yards, from what I heard on the radio - I'll be curious to see the All-22 breakdowns. Mark Kelso (former Bills safety who's their radio color guy) actually punted on the team in the 3rd quarter, since they obviously weren't even making an attempt to win the game.

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27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:08pm

I was hoping the youtube link was of the Lynch play. I already knew what the McCringleberry is!

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2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by jtr // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:14am

Here's a thought experiment I've been chewing on for a little while. Say you're given the best offensive coach in the NFL--Reid, Shannahan, McVay, whoever your favorite is. He's allowed to handpick his the very best player at every single offensive position--starting the whole All-Pro team if he wants. However, he has to play Nathan Peterman as his QB for every single snap. No other QB's on the roster, no wildcat stuff, every snap goes to Peterman. How good or bad is that offense going to be?

I'm thinking that the running game alone with the best running backs behind an all All Pro line would be enough to get them into the top half of the league, but Peterman's huge limitations keep them out of the top 7 or so.

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6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Cythammer // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:32am

Peterman has played in just a few games. We still don't really know how good (or rather bad) he is. I mean, we know he's not a good QB, but there can be a huge range of performance falling under that description. A great offensive coach might also be able to help him improve, especially since QBs who have only played a few games often get better with more playing time.

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11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by sbond101 // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:55am

This is interesting - I watched a lot of the first half of that Game and what is most discouraging for the Bills is not that Nathan Peterman is a poor QB (and he is), but that the rest of there offense played so badly that most of it's failures weren't really Peterman's fault. In the first 6 drives (24 offensive plays) while the game was close; the Bills had 5 drops (including a tip to a defender pick, and a tip to a defender pick-6 9 HB runs for 9 yards and 0 first downs, and was otherwise 4-8 for with 60 total yards including scrambles on 12 plays - pretty pedestrian for a sample excluding WR drops but not hopeless - Terrifying fact that disrupts a lot of the national media mocking - Nathan Peterman is not the worst thing about the Bills offense. Let that sink in for a minute.

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18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:31pm

The Bills have a quality defence and NFL-caliber RBs. The OL is not good, the receiving corps is even worse, and the QB situation makes me wonder how an organization so bad at the business of football fluked into getting a competent defence.

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22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by sbond101 // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:46pm

Having watched the Bills this year, I think there is a real case to be made that the group of pass catchers might be the worst I've ever seen. I'm also beginning to wonder If McCoy is done - at the very least his constant impulse to move laterally behind the line of scrimmage is a huge mistake given the quality of the offensive line.

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26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:03pm

I can only comment based on what I saw in the NE game as I (fortunately) have not seen any other Bills games this year, but the NE defence was unconcerned about the Bills receivers and crowded the line. There were no holes for McCoy to run through. Running into the line would have avoided some of the losses he took by dancing around, but 1 to 3 yard gains aren't going to cut it for that offense, and I didn't blame McCoy for extending the play and trying to find space.

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129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mike B. In Va // Nov 06, 2018 - 10:23am

Let's be fair - with that receiver group and any of the non-Allen QBs, would you be concerned?

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138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:27pm

With that group and Aaron Rodgers at QB, I'm still not sure I'm concerned.

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35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Steve in WI // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:25pm

I think that team is going to be the best team in the league. Peterman is a bad NFL QB, but he’s still in the NFL. Having the best coach and all-pro linemen, backs, and receivers would make any NFL QB nearly unstoppable.

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43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:40pm

I'll take the spirit of your question - how far can you get offensively with a sink hole at qb? The 2012 Vikings got to a wildcard birth with AP running wild and Ponder being Ponderous.

I think top 10 is possible, but like you pointed out, theres a hard ceiling somewhere and at its best, its still behind a above average pass offense. In today's nfl, the gap in efficiency from throwing is only growing wider.

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51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:52pm

The thing about that 2012 Vikings team is that they were also bad on the o-line (Charlie Johnson was a starter!), at receiver, and in the defensive backfield! 10-6!!

Adrian Peterson in his prime was pretty good.....

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73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:25pm

What's a good reverse analog to the 2012 Vikings offense? The 2010 colts come to mind, although that team was also bad on defense. I'd rather face the 2012 Vikes than the 2010 colts.

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79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:39pm

That Colts team was worse on the o-line. Both lines featured Charlie Johnson, and were thus bad, but Loadholdt was an above average rt for the Vikings, especially when run blocking, and the rest weren't terrible. The Colts started Charlie Johnson at lt, not guard, and had two other really horrid players, at guard, and Saturday was turning into a zombie.

Peyton Manning. Good at quarterbacking....

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86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:59pm

Is the requirement just a QB, with no other offensive talent?

Because that team also had peak Reggie Wayne (borderline HOF WR) and Pierre Garcon.

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93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:57pm

Receiving Talent wasn't bad on that team, but with Collie hurt and Dallas Clark on his last legs: it was a precariously thin offensive Squad.

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52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:52pm

Ponder was miles better than Peterman this year, though.

And even in the 2012 season, it was Ponder's relative success in the 1st half that got them to a 6-2 start. When Peterson went crazy in the second half, they went 4-4, again because the QB play started to deteriorate.

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57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:07pm

The were 5-3 in both halves, were 6-6 after 12, and then won four straight. I was quite surprised, because I thought the 9 in the box defenses would stop Peterson.

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58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:12pm

Yup, you're right. I misremembered, or maybe got the ordering wrong or something.

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47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by gomer_rs // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:48pm

Isn't your thought experiment just a more extreme version of the Vikings teams with Christian Ponder and prime of career Adrian Peterson?

HAHA, Theslothook had the exact same thought while I was typeing!!!
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:58pm

How far back do I get to go?

Because there were a lot of teams like that in the 70s.

1983 Packers, 1986 Bears, and 1988 Patriots might be good models.

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66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by gomer_rs // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:57pm

Well in more modern football, we're all forgeting the Rex Grossman Bears. Super Bowl Baby!!!!
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:04pm

The ceiling for profligate passing teams is rather high. The 2001 Rams turned the ball over at Grossmanian rates.

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97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mr Shush // Nov 05, 2018 - 5:36pm

I think there are very few QBs so bad that they can't succeed given excellent protection and multiple targets of the throw-it-in-their-vague-general-direction-and-they'll-probably-come-down-with-it-even-double-covered variety. I don't think the All-Peterman team is supposed to include Antonio Brown, great as he is; I think it's maybe Hopkins, Jones and Beckham, with Gronk at TE, and it's just... fairly hard to screw that up. Factor in Gurley running behind the all-pro line, with Kamara as a change-up, and I honestly think it would be the best offense in the league by a large margin.

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100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 6:18pm

The problem is - when your passing game is all gummed up, it becomes impossible to tell whos responsible. Right now, we are blindly assuming everyone on the Bills offense is moribund. Is that true?

Those seasons where a star qb gets hurt and the offense craters is a good example of just how important the qb is to making a pass offense functional. I guess a good counter argument is someone like Case Keenum last year with the Vikings.

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109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:59pm

I love the thought experiment, but "Peterman's huge limitations" are themselves a product of a dysfunctional coaching staff that underestimated his readiness to QB a playoff bound team last year, threw him into a situation where he failed, undoubtedly messing with his psyche, then failed to properly prepare him to start this year, threw him under the bus after he stumbled, etc etc

It's possible Peterman should never have been hired to play QB in the NFL. It's certain that the Bills staff somehow convinced themselves - and assumedly him - that he was ready to be a professional QB when he clearly wasn't. Now he never will be, at least not after this season ends.

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3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by drobviousso // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:21am

"The offensive line helps, but James Conner just looks like a good back on his own. He's fast, decisive, and solid as a receiver too (five catches for 42 yards and a score already today)"

And yet -13 DYAR. I hope you all do an in-depth review of him as some point, because I'm not sure who to believe, the stats or my lyin eyes. (I know his pass-catching numbers are good.)

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81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Jose21crisis // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:42pm

That's what 3 fumbles and a 3 game stretch where you don't get many rushing successes can do to you. After the first Ravens game, he started destroying defenses left and right though.

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4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:23am

A few weeks ago there was reasonable concern, from the outside, for Everson Griffin's career, so it was great to see him back to his normal enthusiasm and productivity. When he is healthy, the Vikings defense is much, much, better. On the other side, Hunter turned 24 last week. He might have 50 career sacks before his 25th birthday, so we might be looking at the beginning of a HOF career. If the bye week results in more continued good health/recovery, which persists for 7 more weeks, the Vikings will have a good chance to finish strong, even against a tough schedule. I just continue to not know what to make of the Bears, with 41 points scored on about 200 yards of offense. It helps to play Peterman, I guess.

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10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by danplatt17 // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:48am

The Bears defense is legit. If Mack comes back healthy, they are certainly one of the best defenses in the league. The offense is hard to get a grip on - they are streaky. Trubisky is still inaccurate, but his bad decisions are decreasing every week. His inaccuracy is magnified by the fact that the play designs are getting guys open consistently. The O-line is not making a lot of holes in the running game, but the pass protection has generally been good. And yet, the Bears are scoring a lot of points. I don't think the Packers are very good, and I don't envision them beating Minnesota in Minnesota, and I'd say the Bears should beat the Packers in Chicago. Things are lining up for that last game of the regular season CHI vs. MIN to be for the division crown. MIN would be the rightful favorites in that one. And I think the second-place team might slide in as the wild card. NO, LAR, PHI, MIN/CHI look like the division champs. CAR looks like the strongest wild card. And then MIN/CHI, WAS, ATL, SEA for the second wild card.

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14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:07pm

The Vikings will have a very hard time winning the 1st game against the Bears; even when they have a significant talent advantage, the Vikings find Soldier Field to be a tough place to win. The Vikings also have to travel to Foxboro and Seattle (the Seahawks are better than I expected, and remain a tough out at Safeco, even if it is not as formidable as it often has been over the past 5 years), so they definitely have a significant challenge. They need to get and stay healthy. If they do, week 17 could be a lot of fun.

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50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by TomC // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:52pm

Without full-strength Mack, I don't know that this defense is all that good. They remind me a bit of the 2012 squad, way too reliant on turnovers and no consistent pass rush without sending 5+. (DVOA loved that defense, too.) With a healthy Mack, they are legitimately excellent.

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49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Ambientdonkey // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:50pm

I'm not sure you can judge any team in a game against Peterman. The Bills offense is so bad, and so turnover prone that the best way to beat them might be to punt the ball back to them on first down unless you're already starting in scoring position.

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62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by jmaron // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:39pm

Zimmer commented that they made changes to the defensive scheme since the Rams game. This untrained eye can't tell the difference in what they are doing, but whatever it is it seems to be working. They are giving up 4.2/play since the Rams. Getting Griffen back sure helps as well.

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72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:23pm

Interesting that this improvement has occurred with Barr not playing. The guy has shown flashes, but hasn't been consistently dominant. I'm kind of doubtful that they'll make much of an effort to give him a new contract. Somebody will take a risk on that athleticism, and offer a big guarantee, and the Vikings will decide to just take the supplementary draft pick.

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74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:29pm

I thought Barr has been damn good in his career so far. The times I've seen the Vikes D, he's been a real star.

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84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:46pm

Oh, he's a jaw-dropper sometimes. Then he'll disappear for a while. Happens enough to make you wonder how many millions you want to guarantee him.

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5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:31am

I guess I should not be surprised any longer when an Aaron Rodgers offense, with more than competent blocking, turns in another mediocre performance. I don't see the All 22 of the Packers offense, so I'm hesitant to rip the coaching too hard, but something ain't right in how that offense operates, and even with less than great receiving, I suspect the coaching is holding it back. The way the offense functioned, the lack of urgency, once it became 31-17 was really odd.

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13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by PatsFan // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:06pm

Yeah. As a NE fan I was happy (and surprised) to see GB lethargically let seconds tick away when they got the ball back after NE pulled ahead 31-17.

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15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:10pm

Completely baffling, to my eyes.

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20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:37pm

I thought the fight went out of the whole Packers team after NE drove for the go ahead TD following the Jones' fumble.

I know you can't measure "spirit" and maybe I'm projecting my own feelings onto them, but when the script flipped from "we have a chance to take the lead" to "now we have to mount a come back", the Packers didn't look to me like a team who believed they were up to the task.

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28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ChrisLong // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:09pm

The lack of fighting through adversity was a charge leveled by Mike Pettine (DC) after the Vikings game. He was upset that after the Clay Matthews roughing the passer call nullified a game-clinching interception, the defense threw in the towel there also. Personally, I think that’s a function of both playing a lot of rookies/young guys at key positions (CB & WR especially) and coaches grasping at straws to find someone to blame but themselves.

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60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by RickD // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:21pm

If I were a coach, I would be embarrassed to blame my players for not being motivated. Motivating players is one thing that is certainly part of a coach's job.

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142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by JMM // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:43pm

Chuck Noll famously said; "If I have to motivate you, I'll fire you."

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145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Bright Blue Shorts // Nov 06, 2018 - 5:02pm

Which ironically is a motivating statement in itself!

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150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 06, 2018 - 6:42pm

+1 "OR ELSE"

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29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Boots Day // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:09pm

Rodgers himself, though still a very good quarterback, doesn't appear to be the miracle maker he once was. He missed his share of open receivers last night. Seems to me that we just saw the window close for this Packers team.

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61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by RickD // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:24pm

Really a waste of a great QB. We see a lot of offenses with far less talent at QB roll over team after team.

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65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:50pm

This is Rodgers' 11th season as a starter. In the previous 10, The Packers have had a top 5 by DVOA offense 5 times, although 2 of those outside the top 5 came with Rodgers only starting about half the games. When I get the chance I'd like to check how that compares with the offenses qbed by Brady, Manning, and Brees, from age 24 to age 34.

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105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dank067 // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:49pm

I think it's interesting to view as an arc. Looking at Rodgers' individual DVOA ratings here, he rose quickly to a very high level and sustained it with the consistency that's characteristic of the Brady/Manning/Brees tier—Top-10 in DVOA in six consecutive seasons from '09-'14, Top-6 in the five consecutive seasons from '10 onward, with two #1 finishes in that span. That's pretty rare. Since then, however, it's dropped off pretty dramatically—he immediately fell from 1st to 17th in 2015 and has bounced around 10th ever since. Taken as a whole it's starting to look more like Philip Rivers' or Matt Ryans' careers, which is totally, totally fine, but a significant come down from the pace he was on through 2014.

I've criticized McCarthy a bunch, but even if you want to place more blame on Rodgers (or bring the front office into it), it has to be more than clear by this point that they have been stuck in a rut for several years and it sure doesn't look like the current coaching staff knows how to get them out of it.

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110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 8:03pm

But there has to be a reason why. His highs were right up there with the greatest of all time. To see the offense wheeze about for too many drives is very very strange indeed.

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121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by RobotBoy // Nov 06, 2018 - 5:03am

I suspect that Rodgers' has been coasting a bit - something that his incredible gifts make it possible for him to do. I wonder if, like Brady, he identifies an area of weakness in his game and pushes himself to overcome that weakness in the off-season (with plenty of input from Belichick). Somehow, I doubt it. He also doesn't seem to have a coach constantly pushing him and trying to develop new schemes and approaches to a changing league as McCarthy seems to have stagnated as well.

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131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dank067 // Nov 06, 2018 - 11:24am

It's funny you bring that up because Rodgers has been quoted saying that he tries to use the same approach Brady does in finding areas in his game to improve every season. I highly doubt Rodgers has effort/commitment issues. Rather, the Packers have systematic problems with their scheme and the way they operate on offense that they haven't figured out how to fix in-house for several years now.

I think it's fine to point out (as many have) that Rodgers contributes to the problems they have, but the real point of comparison with NE is in the way that NE has not only adapted to changes in the game and their own personnel over the years, but stayed ahead of them. NE's offense had been consistently great through 2014-15 or so, and yet without having to experience any type of decline on the field that would make it seem obvious they must change, they altered their strategy with a renewed emphasis on throwing downfield without missing a beat in the past couple of years. Meanwhile Green Bay's big move on offense this past offseason was to bring back Joe Philbin as offensive coordinator.

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111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by yavimaya_eldred // Nov 05, 2018 - 8:13pm

The offense has been trending backwards for a few seasons now, and it's hard to find any logic in it. Slants? Basically gone from the offense. The trademark pick plays? Functionally dead. Back shoulder throws? Rare, and even when attempted they're almost never completed. Running back screens? Also rare, and also usually failed. This was already an offense that didn't really use common plays like crossing routes to get their guys open and there's never any innovation implemented (they haven't run any of those shovel passes yet this year that are all the rage, and probably never will). Most of their passing plays are verts and quick hitches, and jump balls thrown to Jimmy Graham. Then there's the bizarre usage of Aaron Jones, who has to be one of the most talented backs in the league, yet he's confined to rotation back duties and is banished whenever he makes a mistake. Their skill position talent is actually pretty solid, but you wouldn't know it based on results.

McCarthy shoulders a lot of the blame, and he should, but there's plenty of griping on Packers twitter directed at Rogers as well. He often checks into plays that look failed from the start, actively contributes to their awful clock management, and goes prolonged stretches in games where he just misses easy throws and holds the ball far too long. Even if they make a change at head coach, they need to get someone with enough authority to reign Rodgers in. Rodgers no doubt has these bad habits because McCarthy has allowed it, but hiring a good coach who can stand up to a superstar like that won't be easy.

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112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 8:40pm

There's universe of irony in that statement about what the next Packers coach needs to do, in that McCarthy was hired in good measure to get in Favre's grill.

I have no idea. I am reluctant to criticize depth chart decisions, because if you don't see practices, you don't know what the hell you are talking about. I will say this. If a guy screws up in practice, and you correct him, especially more than once, and then he makes the same mental mistake in a game? You have to get his ass back on the sideline. If he keeps doing it? You have to get his ass off your roster.

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137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by yavimaya_eldred // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:03pm

You're right, it is somewhat ironic, but McCarthy coming in to reign in old Favre and being Rodgers' coach for more than a decade are two different things. Rodgers has developed some bad habits over McCarthy's tenure, and McCarthy is either powerless to stop them or doesn't identify them as problems (side note; some of those bad habits are easily traceable to situations Rodgers has dealt with over the years and were reasonable in the moment, but once those situations corrected themselves he still stuck to those habits). McCarthy's accountability concerns are somewhat all over the place anyway, an example being benching Jones for the fumble while continuing to start Kentrell Brice who appears to play deep safety like he's trying to track a beach ball on a windy day while wading through the ocean.

As for Jones' place on the depth chart, it's basically confusing to everyone who not only follows the team but covers the team as well. There's never been even a whisper of Jones being bad in practice and he certainly doesn't have ball security issues, and on top of that he's insanely efficient on the field (he literally leads all running backs in DVOA). Of course, it would be tempting to say that his suspension to start the year put him in the doghouse, but McCarthy was reticent to rely on him last year even after he broke out. Jamal Williams is a fine player, but he's not close to as talented or productive as Jones. I'm fine with the suggestion that coaches generally know more about players than we do, but coaches also have unreasonable biases and do idiotic things from time to time. For example, Alvin Kamara didn't even start for his college team.

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7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:35am

Also, it might be interesting to do an analysis that compares projected offensive DAVE, to eventual offensive DVOA, while referencing projected o-line starters in July, to how many o-linemen eventually make starts.

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30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:16pm

I always just ignore DAVE, I've never seen any value in it. Would it be any different, if instead of the FO staff subjective predictions, they used ESPN's or NFL.com's or Troy Aikman's personal subjective predictions? I bet it would still be useless, but in a different way.

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38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:33pm

I can't remember; how do FO's preseason win projections match up to merely going with the previous season's wins for each team, or the Vegas over/under on wins?

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53 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by pats-fan-in-nyc // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:56pm

DAVE is a necessary evil. Imagine trying to make predictions after only one week of football. It just wouldn't work. There simply isn't a large enough sample size to make any kind of predictions after one (or even a few) weeks of football. The only options are to use some kind of projection (e.g. DAVE) or let ratings carry over year to year (a la 538's ELO work). Now that we're midway through the season, DVOA is going to be more predictive than DAVE, but that wasn't the case a few weeks ago.

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68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:08pm

I also tend to ignore the early season predictions -- well, not ignore them, but I don't take them seriously at all -- because my own subjective predictions are just as good (they're bad too).

When gambling comes to Colorado, I plan on waiting until week 8 or 9 before making any bets.

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80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Scott P. // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:40pm

By week 8 or 9 you have much better information, but then so does every other bettor. Not sure how one makes a profit in such an environment.

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85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:50pm

Only a tiny, tiny, fraction do, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are getting privileged injury information.

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94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 5:07pm

Right, the vast majority of the betting public gets their info from announcers and Sportscenter, and maybe homercentric reporting at like bleacher report or something. I'm not really worried about people having better injury info than me. I read the weekly FO injury report, that seems like enough. Having insider info would give a person an advantage in maybe two games a year?

DVOA and the premium picks already give us a major advantage over the general population.

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98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 5:41pm

The tricky thing about injury data is that you really need to have enough knowledge to place it in context, otherwise it may as easily lead you astray as it leads you to a wise choice. How many gamblers know the quality of the player in the next spot on the depth chart? How many have enough knowledge of individual matchups to make anything other than the most basic injury data useful? For instance, when Everson Griffin was hit with a nasty case of plantar fasciitis last year his burst noticeably declined, but the Vikings defensive stats did not, at least first, but it was obvious to me that in a road environment against a good team that the injury may make them quite vulnerable. Took all the way to the last game in January to become really obvious, however. You can lose a lot of money on the road to being right.

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126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by BJR // Nov 06, 2018 - 10:10am

DVOA/Premium picks do not win money. Do you think the writers of this site would be slogging away, churning out articles if they had discovered a method of pricing NFL games that was significantly profitable? (I'm not suggesting their picks are useless, or people are being mis-sold. As a point of reference, or one tool as part of a toolbox of analysis, I'm sure they can be of use. No bettor should ever be blindly following somebody else's picks and expecting to make money.)

Overall, you may be significantly underestimating the efficiency of NFL betting markets. They are heavily bet on by 'sharp' betting syndicates, react quickly to injury news, and any inefficiencies are soon ironed out. Being better than the majority of the public is irrelevant. If you want to win money betting on NFL games you had better come armed with a sophisticated handicapping method, most likely that is not already in use by somebody else. Even the most educated guessing is very, very unlikely to get it done.

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134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 06, 2018 - 12:27pm

Of course! They're tools to be used at my discretion. And while I believe I can come out ahead over a season, it's not like this is my career path. This is just fun

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143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by BJR // Nov 06, 2018 - 3:31pm

If you do indeed come out ahead over a full season betting NFL handicaps/money-lines, then hats off. You probably ought to consider it as a career path, because you have rare skill/dedication/discipline. And if you can potentially make a living betting NFL games, then why the hell not?!

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148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 06, 2018 - 6:35pm

Well, because winning money means risking money. I don't bet based on what I want to win, but based on what I'm prepared to lose. Plus, it's easy to let the dopamine rush that comes with winning get to you, which leads to less winning.

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153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ClavisRa // Nov 07, 2018 - 5:09pm

DVOA is not a predictive stat. Period. Seems like some of the commentators here understand that quite a bit better than the staff. Once people stop treating it as such it's much more useful as a tool to say what 'really' happened in the past that doesn't show up on other stat sheets.

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156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 08, 2018 - 1:48pm

Ehh, it's descriptive and predictive both. It's more on the descriptive side, but it sounds like you're saying it has no predictive value at all.

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157 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ClavisRa // Nov 08, 2018 - 6:06pm

Yep, that's exactly what I'm saying. None.

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9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Harris // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:43am

Buffalo seems like an obvious spot for the NFL's Greatest Businessman, but the Giants are going to need a bridge QB next year and Shurmur has acquired Sam Bradford three times already and he's got to be excited about watching him rupture ligaments and checkdown at every opportunity for a fourth team.

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16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:25pm

Fun Sam Bradford Fact I Just Learned; per PFR, every game Sam Bradford he has ever played in, he has started. 83 games played, 83 games started.

If the number I saw is accurate, Bradford has earned $134 million in his career, which means he has earned $1.6 million for EVERY GAME HE HAS PLAYED.

Godspeed, Sam Bradford. You will always be my hero.

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17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:28pm

Tom Condon is a great, great, agent.

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21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:44pm

Oh, and I will point out that my hero, Chase Daniel, has only earned about 500k................

.....PER PASS!!!

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24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:55pm

Yeah, Bradford is a huge slacker there, having only earned about $45,000 per pass attempt.

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106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:54pm

The thing is that Sam our Man, whatever we think of his performance, has had to actually take a beating, to obtain a mountain of cash. The Chaser, Patron Saint of Livin' Easy, has obtained a good sized foot hill of cash, while barely being in need of a shower after a day's work. THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!

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119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Yu Narukami // Nov 06, 2018 - 3:11am

It reminds me of the short-lived series Blue Mountain State (sit-com on College Football, very gross, yet very fun if you turn off your brain), where the main character has the specific personal goal of staying the backup QB on the team, getting all the privileges of the popular guys with none of the physical effort of the starters.

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55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:02pm

On the other hand, that's only $3100 per hour he had to deal with Jeff Fisher.

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12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Yu Narukami // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:58am

Packers@Pats was a tight game for three quarters, with both offenses far from optimal (Packers living by AR12 improvisation, Pats getting good things with up-tempo but bad things in the red area).

Difference was that the playcalling was far more inspired for NE, and that prevailed with slightly better execution in the 4Q.

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32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:20pm

I like the AR12. All QBs should do this! AS11, CK4, KC8, NP2, etc

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19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ajgellert // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:34pm

As far as Brady sneaks go there were 2 problems. 1 was that most of those snaps were a yard or more from the goal line and for goal line sneaks they prefer to be inside the 1 at the half yard line where Brady just has to lean and hold out the ball instead of pushing forward a yard. 2 is that GB specifically assigned an LB to sit right over Brady so there was no clear gap for the sneak. They showed this on the broadcast.

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23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by BJR // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:54pm

Apologies for repeating myself from the weekly discussion thread, but watching the PIT/BAL broadcast was the first I became aware that John Harbaugh is apparently in serious danger of being fired. Is this really true? I haven't watched BAL that closely this year, but this astonishes me - I would probably have listed him in the top 10 coaches in the league. They are still a very competitive team. It seems unlike the Ravens organisation to make rash, impulsive decisions. I'm certain his phone would instantly be ringing off the hook were he to be released.

More broadly, I honestly feel a lot of it comes down to the average football fan/talking head having no appreciation of exactly how bad Flacco has been the past 2.5 seasons. Like, worst in the league bad. There were some signs of life to begin this year, but his last two games have been putrid. Talk about a single contract crippling a franchise....

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25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 12:59pm

To me it would be extremely rash. This team has maintained competitiveness despite seeing nearly all their talent from their 2008-2014 run turn over, apart from that same QB on the same crippling contract.

Change two plays and this team makes the playoffs in 2016 and 2017 (Brown's TD lunge in 2016, the 4th down Bengals play in Week 17 last year). They still may sneak into that second wild card spot this year.

I agree if he's fired, he'll be hired really quickly.

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34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by drobviousso // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:25pm

Ozzy is stepping down at the end of the year, but he's being replaced by someone inside the building. Firing Harbaugh mid-season of his last year would be the most non-Ozzy think I could think of outside of passing up a mid-first-round Alabama prospect in the draft.

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42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by jtr // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:40pm

Firing Harbaugh now especially doesn't make sense considering that the end of this season is the natural time to re-evaluate Harbaugh anyways. Forcing the new GM to work with the old HC is usually a losing move that just results in a season or two of power struggles and bad football until one of them gets fired. The new GM should have the opportunity to evaluate whether Harbaugh is the right man to implement the GM's vision or if the org needs to look for someone else. Firing Harbaugh now would burn that bridge now for no real gain.

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44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:45pm

Yeah, he's not one to be rash generally.

I can certainly buy them wanting a fresh voice if the Ravens go 8-8/9-7 again (which probably ends up being the case), but to fire him midseason would truly surprise.

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36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:26pm

Harbaugh is obviously an above average coach, and it would be dumb to fire him, but this discussion drives home how tenuous assessments of NFL coaches are. If a Denver defensive back makes a normally easy play on a cold January day, about 6 years ago, Harbaugh's likely already fired, without much fanfare.

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39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:35pm

The thing is - outside of their sb run, this team wins in the same way every single year. Tough as nails defense, mostly incompetent passing, sometimes good running and lots of made field goals from one of the greatest kickers of all time.

Is that something we should give credit/blame to Harbaugh for? Hard to say - but since I've seen the Ravens maintain their defensive identity for nearly 2 decades, and certainly well before Harbaugh, its hard to know what to give him credit for.

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45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:46pm

I think people underestimate how much management skill is needed to just maintain excellence in any area. Harbaugh's been saddled with an expensive crappy qb, and his team has kept competitive. He's very likely an above average coach.

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48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:50pm

The missing part of your 'same way' is consistently good special teams, which Harbaugh should get credit for.

I also never think of the Ravens as a team that has issues with clock or game management, see him as generally fine on aggressiveness, etc., and has a team that is prepared to play.

I agree the defensive identity was there long before Harbaugh, but he's been able to carry it even after the players (and coaches) who brought that all left (Suggs aside). That they've been able to maintain a Top-10 defense post Lewis/Reed/Ngata (not to mention the earlier guys that were around for the early Harbaugh days) is pretty impressive.

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103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Rocco // Nov 05, 2018 - 6:53pm

Flacco was a top 10 QB in DVOA and DYAR in 2014, which was a fluke given his pedestrian 2012 and bad 2013, but still- there was reason for hope. Then he blew out his knee the next year (he was bad that season anyway) and has been lousy since. They've been stuck with him due to his terrible contract.

The Ravens last year had a bajillion injuries but were right on the cusp of the playoffs anyway before fouling it up.

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89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by JimZipCode // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:04pm

The consensus on the Ravens discussion board is that Harbaugh is GEE - OH - EN - EE. This would make four consec seasons out of the playoffs; and there's been dwindling home attendance. They're boring as fuck to watch; and this is an entertainment product.

I agree that it may not be the RIGHT decision. Harbs leadership skills are solid as a rock; and they've really only had one bad season in his eleven years, the one where Suggs and Flacco both got hurt. The staff seems pretty good; and Lamar seems to be coming along as a young passer. (5 for 5 on his last 6 dropbacks, for 58 yds and a TD, along with one scramble for 6 yds on 2nd & 3). They've NEVER had a good receiving corps since 2012; this is the first year they've had a decent one. Some personnel issues this season: they can't seem to rush the passer without blitzing, and they can't seem to cover the middle of the field; and they were missing both starting O-tackles against the Steelers, due to injury. The O-line is a donut since Ryan Jensen left town; the current starting center Skura is not good.

So: the problems with the team don't necessarily seem to be Harbs' fault; and they *do* play hard for him, and disciplined. But parting ways with Harbaugh is a defensible position. Four years without playoffs in Baltimore is a sin. And a boring team is perhaps a greater sin. It's hard to look around at the McVays and Pedersons and K Shanahans of the league, and not want some of that same. Lamar seems like an exciting young talent; maybe a conservative coach is not the right guy to build around him.

I'm a Ravens fan, and I personally don't know what to think. The odds that the Ravens can upgrade from Harbaugh, seem low. But Bill Walsh said that a head coach has about a 10-yr shelf life, and this is year eleven. It's a confusing situation. I'm not sure there's a clear answer what the "right" move is for the Ravens.

This coming offseason is the first year since the Super Bowl that the team can part ways with Flacco and actually save cap space (as opposed to being crippled by dead money). You can make a good argument that the Ravens should keep Harbaugh & staff, let Flacco go, and let it rip with Lamar. Suggs contract is ending; the Ravens could create over $40M in cap space this offseason by letting Flacco & Suggs & Weddle and a few other guys go, which would let them get a nice start on a new era. But that same argument could apply to letting Harbaugh go, and having new GM DeCosta on the search committee that finds the next head coach.

I just don't know what to think.

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101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Bright Blue Shorts // Nov 05, 2018 - 6:26pm

Won't the Cleveland Browns be looking for a new HC next season? Think they'd snap Harbaugh up and I'm guessing he'd love the opportunity to play the Ravens twice per year. Of course he'd have his choice of jobs and there's a good chance of good openings next year.

I will say that on the subject of when to fire good HCs. There comes a point where you might lose faith in the guy's ability to win you a championship. Then you have to ask what do you want from your coach? Just to have winning records and making the playoffs or actually to win Lombardis? If it's the latter then the only option is to fire him even though there is no guarantee the next guy will be any better. (Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh - you should also be thinking about this).

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102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 05, 2018 - 6:40pm

If a guy doesn't have one of the top 5 or so qbs in the league, and he consistently wins 10, or maybe even 9, or more games a year, and you fire him for not winning a Super Bowl, you really don't understand NFL football well enough to be making hiring and firing head coach decisions.

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107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:56pm

What could possibly possess you to think the Browns would be interested in hiring a competent head coach???

I suggest you lie down until that thought passes. Possibly have a loved one check your temperature.

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123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 06, 2018 - 9:46am

Harbaugh is already the coach of the Cleveland Browns.

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132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by DGL // Nov 06, 2018 - 11:30am

> the only option is to fire him even though there is no guarantee the next guy will be any better. (Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh - you should also be thinking about this).

The comments above about "four years without making the playoffs" and "ten years is the shelf life for a HC" prompted me to pull up PFR's Steelers' franchise history.

The last time the Steelers went four years without making the playoffs was 1985-1988, years 17-20 of Chuck Noll's tenure. Before that, it was 1968-1971, the last year for Bill Austin and Noll's years 1-3.

In other words, from 1972-2017 the Steelers have gone four years without making the playoffs once. In that time they have had three head coaches, who held the job for 23, 15, and 12 (so far) seasons.

Correlation != causation and all that, but it would seem that stability at the HC position is not necessarily a bad thing.

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144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Bright Blue Shorts // Nov 06, 2018 - 4:54pm

I feel like my statement has become a commandment that it's "Super Bowl or bust".

There are many factors to take into account about when to fire a HC. I thought I was wishy-washy enough in what I wrote to suggest that maybe there's lots to think about.

Were Denver right to get rid of Shanahan in 2008-09 a decade after winning back-to-back SBs?

Would the Titans have been better off to keep Jeff Fisher after 2010 when he'd only gone 13-3 two seasons before? Especially when he didn't have a HoF QB but had Vince Young and Kerry Collins and playing in a divison with Peyton Manning.

For soccer fans, should Arsenal have got rid of Arsene Wenger following 13 seasons of not winning the Premier League?

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146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 5:16pm

If a guy seems to be in significant, persistent, decline, then I'd say he has to go. For Shanny, it seemed as if getting his defensive staff in good order was really becoming a continual problem. I don't remember the particulars of Fisher's last years in TN very well. I do remember that his teams in St. Louis never looked very good.

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115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Chip // Nov 05, 2018 - 11:49pm

Hopefully BAL keeps him. JH is a top 10 coach in this league. As Will Allen said, he’s kept this team competitive at 10-6, 9-7 and in the playoff hunt every year despite crappy QB play. That is no easy task.

As a Bears fan, I felt the same way when Lovie Smith was let go after a 10-6 season. The chat rooms told me to be optimistic about Marc Trestman and the John Fox. We all know how that ended. It’s been a long half decade of total irrelevance for the Bears. Case in point, the CHI-MIN is the first SNF game at Soldier Field since 2012, Lovie’s last year as HC.

Careful for what you wish.

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116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 12:11am

I really respected Lovie's work, which is why I was so disgusted with Cutler's. When the Bears came to Minneapolis in December of Lovie's last season, Bears and Vikings tied for a Wild Card spot, and Cutler displayed all his lazy ass traits which plagued his teams his entire career, I don't think I've ever felt that way about an opposing qb who gifted a victory to the Vikings. The flat footed throws in a clean pocket. The improper placement of his feet and shoulders, despite not being under pressure. All leading to incompletions and ints, resulting in Lovie getting canned 3 weeks later.

Next, Lovie was fired in Tampa so the geniuses there could have Dirk Koetter help Jameis Winston reach his potential. Oops.

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133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 06, 2018 - 12:21pm

I think it's past time to accept that Koetter did, in fact, help Jameis Winston reach his potential; it's just that Jameis Winston's potential is "serial rapist who throws a lot of interceptions".

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135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 12:30pm

Don't forget "noted larcenous shellfish aficianado" or "unfunny blue-working sponteaneous amatuer stand up comedian"!

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91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ChrisS // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:42pm

Firing Harbaugh seems silly. Off the top of my head there are about 4 coaches who I would rather have instead of him, Belichek, Reid, McVey, & Zimmer. Others about as good as him would be Carrol, Rivera, & Payton.

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95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 5:17pm

Was Philly silly for sacking Andy? There are good reasons to fire a good coach, but ultimately it comes down to whether or not the next guy is better (or a better fit).

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117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Steve B // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:51am

No Mike Tomlin?

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124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 06, 2018 - 9:46am

Personally, I'd replace Zimmer with Pederson. I'm not impressed with Zimmer, myself.

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130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 11:16am

Well, look, it is nearly impossible for an outsider to confidently evaluate coaching performance over a sample size of less than, say, 7 or 8 seasons, except in those instances whete a team is just obviously hugely disorganized, or stops competing altogether.

Il'll say this in defense of Zimmer. He's never had better than the 3rd best qb in the division until this season, and he's had mostly bad injury luck, and he's won the division two out of his 1st four years, and his teams have bben competitive in the other two years. He's likely a well above average head coach.

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139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:38pm

On Zimmer being an above average NFL coach, I expect you're right. Putting him in the same tier with Reid and McVey and Pederson, I'm not personally willing to do. And I know I'm on dicey grounds with McVey and Pederson because we don't have enough data for this to be anything more than pure subjective bias on my part. I think the other three guys are pushing the evolution of the game and their teams are benefitting from that. I don't see Zimmer that way.

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140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:43pm

Yeah, until a guy has a sample size along the lines of a Belichik or Reid, I'm just really hesitant to make a confident statement that he is in, oh, I dunno, the 85th precentile or better.

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151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Chip // Nov 06, 2018 - 7:56pm

It’s hard to disaggregate coach from Front Office. I suspect that Zimmer is above avg - his success in MIN and as a DC in CIN point to that.

That said, putting him into the elite echelons is premature. The Defense can completely disappear for long stretches dating back to last season. GM Spielman is also above avg. as well. As a Bears fan, I’ve been consistently impressed with his drafts and FA moves. He’s accumulated draft capital well (3 1s in a draft a few years ago) and filled the QB position as best as he could given the circumstances. There are virtually no drafts from 4+ yrs ago where more than a 1/3 of the players are no longer in the NFL. This was a huge problem for the Bears at the tail end of the Jerry Angelo and Phil Emory years.

I also don’t think it’s too early to crown Pederson, McVay and probably Nagy as the more innovative offensive minds. Take a look at the Next Gen Stats Completions Probabilty model (FO links to it a few weeks ago). There is a data chart that shows the CP by separation, distance from sidelines, air yards, etc. The most innovative offenses are built to maximize the CP. Slants, pick/rub plays, motion, RPOs, mesh / wheel route combos, routes in the middle of the field between the numbers, all have higher CP than “traditional” NFL offenses that lean on comebacks, hitches, flag routes, etc. The most innovative minds are exploiting this (obviously NE before all the others). Check it out. The Next Gen CP will be revolutionary for play design and increasing offensive efficiency.

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149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by OutToLunch // Nov 06, 2018 - 6:35pm

While duly noting Chip's comment "Be careful what you wish for," as a Steeler fan, I think I'd be happy to see Harbaugh go. I used to think the same of Marvin Lewis every time there were rumblings he was on the hot seat, but recently I've been happy the Bengals keep him around.

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31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by amin purshottam // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:20pm

So Brady breaks the REAL yardage record and not a peep from anyone. Interesting.

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33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:23pm

What REAL yardage record?

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63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by PatsFan // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:46pm

The fake "record" that combines regular season and playoff passing and rushing yards.

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64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by vrao81 // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:47pm

Total passing yards, regular season and postseason.

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67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by nat // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:07pm

He's talking about the most passing yardage, regular season plus playoffs.

For some kinds of records (season totals or various rate stats), it might make sense to exclude playoff games so everyone plays the same number of games, or plays games of roughly similar difficulty. For most total career counting stats, such as career passing yards, why would you ignore playoffs? Those yards are even harder to get than regular season yards. Players are already playing different number of games in their careers, so it's in no way unfair to include those more difficult playoff games.

For positive career counting stats, the only games in makes sense to exclude are the Pro Bowl and preseason games, since those are fake games at some level. Negative career counting stats (e.g. most interceptions thrown) are weird, anyway, since they largely ding players for being good enough to keep playing. Career rate stats (e.g. Y/A, completion %, etc) are best compared separately for regular season careers and playoff careers, with minimum game or season counts to exclude small sample players.

No big deal. But yards is yards, and you can't get more meaningful yards than in the playoffs.

The "Career Regular Season Passing Yardage" record is a real record, too. So "REAL" might be a bit much. But "The Most Important Career Passing Yardage Record", while correct, is a mouthful.

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69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:10pm

I had no idea this "race to the record" was even a thing. It doesn't seem very important though

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76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:34pm

I've also never understood the interest in passing yards. There way better barometers for qb play. Even Manning was lukewarm when he broke both the regular season passing yard record and career record.

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83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:45pm

To be fair, Manning I think cared about the single-season record - especially since he left in a Week 17 game well after it was guaranteed Denver would win after setting the record by one yard.

For the career record, it was in the midst of the worst game of his career (5-20, 4 INTs), after which he was injured/bench and easily could have been a timeline where he never plays again.

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40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:36pm

I was seriously impressed with the Packers defense all night even as they gave up 31 points on long drives, especially given that they were on the road and hemorrhaging bodies. The Pats countered with some very creative play calls that were extremely well executed. The patriots continued o line competency stretching across the entire run remains an understated part of their dynasty.

As for comments about Rodgers above - I will second it. This is the fourth time I've seen the packer offense closely. It sprays in plays of brilliance with lots and lots of nothingness. I am at a loss to explain it myself, other than Rodgers has lost all faith in its down to down execution that hes almost trying to find a home run broken play every series. That may lead to spectacular plays every game, but its a suboptimal approach to offense.

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70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Anon Ymous // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:21pm

It was a valiant effort by GB's defense, though NE deserves some "credit" for it as well. They had opportunities to put at least another 10-14 that went by more due to their mistakes than anything GB did.

It may be just my imagination since I don't watch GB all that match, but are defensive injuries a perennial issue for them? I seem to recall it coming up quite a bit the past few years.

Lastly. am I the only one why thinks Brady is starting to look like his body is a tick behind his head?

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77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by TomC // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:34pm

Lastly. am I the only one why thinks Brady is starting to look like his body is a tick behind his head?

I got my mind twisted around pretty good trying to picture what you meant there. (Brady with the head of a human and the body of a blood-sucking insect, Brady with a horizontal offset in his neck, ...) Eventually the penny dropped.

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87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Anon Ymous // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:04pm

Made even more confusing with "why" in replace of "who." :)

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78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:38pm

I'm grading the Packers D on a serious curve. They strike me as a D that was already short on talent which then suffered a bunch of injuries all at once. Ne at home is notoriously tough for any defense. I was expecting Pittsburgh Steelers level incompetence.

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82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:43pm

In regards to Brady, I've been thinking this all year, but it's been pretty noticeable the last few games.

Just odd, missed throws, that prime Brady never misses. He can still sling it nicely every now and then, but I've definitely seen some drop in play - which has shown up in his good but not excellent metrics, both conventional and DVOA/DYAR given overall passing efficiency in 2018.

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90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Anon Ymous // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:10pm

Same. He's gone through rough stretches in the past, but this feels different.

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92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 4:49pm

Idk. I thought Brady was done in 2014 after a horrible stretch against the Vikings and Chiefs. Of course, we know how the rest of the year played out.

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99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Bright Blue Shorts // Nov 05, 2018 - 6:16pm

I've been thinking Brady's look a notch below his past self. But then I wonder whether that's just rose-tinted specs on how good he used to be. The one thing that does occur is that he came into this season without his favour receivers and has had to get to know them. That could also be an explanation.

In other news ... I was seriously impressed by Josh Gordon's hands. The ball just gets plucked out of the air and sticks. Don't think I've ever see a receiver with hands like that.

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113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by PatsFan // Nov 05, 2018 - 9:00pm

Saw a piece on USA Today (yeah, I know) the other day that broke down Brady's incompletions between "intentional throwaways", "drops", "miscommunication", "defense", and "off-target". The "off-target" category was non-trivially higher than it has been in past years.

It's something I've noticed too. Too many times where Brady has not been under pressure and is throwing to a familiar receiver (like White or Edelman) and the ball is a couple of feet to one side, or short in the dirt (we saw that in the Buffalo game where White could have had a near-sure TD if Brady hadn't thrown it 5 feet short with White on the goal line).

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120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Yu Narukami // Nov 06, 2018 - 3:17am

+1.

My couch's eye test also noticed that he's not longer effectively buying time in the pocket with finesse movements like the last years. There's also a new LT in town, which while playing (more than) decently, it might throw off some internal clock mechanisms.

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122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by RobotBoy // Nov 06, 2018 - 5:19am

Rather than speculate on Brady’s physical decline as the main factor for the drop in production, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at any other factors that might have changed for the Pats O between this season and last.
There certainly are several, few of them in favor of this season.
1. Gronk missed two games last season but when he was playing, he looked as good as ever. This season, even when he’s on the field, he’s obviously been hampered by something, probably the back.
2. The Pats traded away their #1 receiver. They replaced him with…a gadget player who can’t run routes, and a potential stud who the Browns gave up on and who is still learning the system. Gordon will probably not ever make it back to 2013 but he's come a long way - with the Pats, he's already gained more yards than he did in the last 3 1/2 years with Cleveland!
3. They lost Dion Lewis and his 1100 yards of production. Gillislee and Burkhead gave them almost another 1000. They’ve replaced that production with…a rookie RB who has missed half the season so far. White was also there last year.
4. Edelman missed all last season and having him back is a big deal. But he missed the first four games and he’s recovering from an ACL. He’s also 34.
5. The 0-Line has been better than expected but also plagued by injuries. Pass protection has been the weak point at various moments.
Given the above, is it surprising that Brady would get happy feet at times or seem out of sorts? He was lucky enough to have a uniquely healthy offense last season, and the numbers he put up reflect that. If guys come back healthy after the bye and he’s still struggling, then maybe it’s time to start writing the obits. Until then, TB-12 has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt. I think at worse, any decline from last year means going from MVP to say, top 8 QB in the league. Bill Belichick can probably succeed with that.
(And how about that offense last year? That group was stacked!).

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125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 06, 2018 - 9:48am

Rather than speculate on Brady’s physical decline as the main factor for the drop in production,

He's 41 years old. Age is the pole, not the mote.

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127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 06, 2018 - 10:10am

I think the main thing in NE is that the offensive scheme is designed around who they can put on the field, and how they match up against the D. I know this is true of all quality football teams, but no one does this more or better than NE.

Brady has to be given credit some credit for that, as he's been around long enough and is smart enough that the playbook's a thousand layers deep.

Our local station loves to carry Pats games these days and has for a while now, so I've seen enough Brady games over the past few years to state with great confidence that he's showing his age. That's not necessarily going to show up on the stats sheets, though, as the play calling is also adjusting.

The slant passes to Edelman are being phased out. Brady's not able to zip the ball into those spaces as consistently as he could before. He can still do it, but his variance is increasing so the reliability of that as a 3rd down play is dropping. You see a lot more swing passes out to White and a lot more calls that rely on the receiver (especially Gronk if healthy, lately Gordon) beating the defender 1-on-1. The ball is either going into bigger windows, or to places where the receiver can play defence if needed.

Brady's still very very good at identifying the best mismatch on the field pre snap. Surrounded by good players and a solid OL, that makes him still very dangerous. I'm pretty sure his release time is dropping (but I don't have data on that, and my "eye data" could easily be wrong), but his protection has been very good this year so that's rarely been an issue.

tl;dr: Brady's still the guy you'd want QB'ing a talented offensive squad, but he'd struggle to raise the performance level of a mediocre offense

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136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by PatsFan // Nov 06, 2018 - 12:44pm

I don't know that one can definitively say "the slant passes to Edelman are being phased out". He was suspended for the first four games and in any event is coming back from a blown knee. He may not yet be able to beat coverage on slants well enough (and he's getting on in years himself).

I do agree that at least to the eye (I haven't look at or charted actual stats) that there seems to be a lot more swing passes and passes to the flat. I wish (for several reasons! :)) they had a 100% Edelman to remove one variable from the analysis.

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141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by sbond101 // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:43pm

The phase-out of the slants to Edelman seem to me to be a product of Edelman's decline rather than Brady's (equally, the Pats don't seem to have recruited a comparable short-space quickness guy to replace that role in their offense). I think what can clearly be concluded is that BB is leaving the "short, quick, good option-route runner" market inefficiency behind. what's less obvious is why; either they can't find one, their too expensive, their self-scouting shows a decline in Brady's ability to use them, or the evolution of defenses has made them less effective. It's my sense that BB decided going into 2017 that it would be much more effective straining defenses vertically (with Hogan, Cooks, Gordon, & Gronk to challenge deep and swing/check-down passes to exploit the vacated coverage areas, and downhill running from Sony Michel/James Devlin to either force LB's and heavier safeties on to the field or exploit the lighter personal), and that this choice has a lot more to do with the dearth of current NLF QB's capable of taking snaps under center to maximize the power-run/play action game that the Pats are at their best when they use. The concept being that if no other teams can play that way on offense, defenses will not be built to handle it. It definitely seems to have worked well the last two years. All this has come at the expense of the option-route heavy concepts that dominated the Pats offense from 2011-2016 (remember that the pre-2011 really didn't operate that way, and if Arron Hernandez didn't implode it's unlikely that tiny white receivers + Gronk would have been the calling card of the Pats offense during that period). I don't see a lot of evidence that all this has much to do with changes in Brady - much more a cost-benefit analysis of potential available personal through the team building process.

All that said Brady hasn't looked sharp at times this year, if you want to chalk that up to his aging rather than the moving parts around him there is a case to be made for it, but don't count me among it's proponents. In all honesty I find the idea that 40 is too old to play QB in the current NFL baffling, and think it's fascinating that Brady gets the scrutiny that he does meanwhile no one seems to notice Brees showing signs of being able to play into his mid-40's without obvious decline as well. The fact that Bret Farve and PM declined rapidly in their early 40's because of decline in physical function doesn't seem to be a good argument that future QB's will. I fully expect that Brees & Brady will both leave the NFL in the next 5 years after a major injury - and that until that major injury they will continue to be effective - because arm strength typically doesn't nose dive without injury (see the vast number of historical effective 40+ year old baseball pitchers), and the importance of decision-making in QB play.

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154 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by ClavisRa // Nov 07, 2018 - 5:39pm

This is basically the right take.

Brady is not suffering a physical decline at all. There has been an incredible amount of flux in the NE skill positions this season. NE adjusts its offense by personnel so everyone is being only asked to do things they can excel at. There has been incredible turnover at RB, WR and TE (thank goodness for relative stability on the OL, at least until recently). Show me another QB that could be a productive week in and week out when the design of the offense and the personnel packages are changing so dramatically.

Don't act surprised when the Patriots offense suddenly looks like everything is clicking and Brady is playing like the MVP again. All the pieces are there, but still falling into place: Edelman getting the reps back from injury, Michel ramping up the rookie learning curve, Gordon learning the complex offense and Brady's trust, expanding Patterson's role; this offense has a ton of growth ahead of it, and it's already one of the best in the league. And when Brady has full trust in every receiver running every route on every play, that's when the real magic happens.

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155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 08, 2018 - 10:23am

If you haven't watched it yet, NFL.com's Mic'd Up on Belichick is worth 4 minutes: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-micd-up/0ap3000000985631/Mic-d-Up-Go-insid...

The non reactions to the Patriots' TDs is always amusing. The interactions with the refs was interesting. Watching him pump up and praise the D Line during the game was great to see.

But the best moment was when Brady came off the sideline after the TD catch-and-run by Gordon, the one Edelman tried to grab but was just out of his reach. This is also the TD that cements the victory.

Belichick: Who were you throwing that to?
Brady: Josh
Belichick: Okay

Ah, feel the love!

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37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by gthanet81 // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:32pm

The 2012 AFC Championship game was not a close game that turned on a fumble. At the time of the fumble in question, which came at the NE 47 yard line, the Ravens had already scored 14 straight points and were up by 8 after coming back from being behind by 6 at halftime They tacked on another TD, and outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the 2nd half to win going away. It was a beat down. To assert that that fumble decided the game is either homerism or just dumb.

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118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Steve B // Nov 06, 2018 - 1:56am

For the second season in a row, a post season game turned on a drop by Wes Welker

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41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by theslothook // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:38pm

A word on Peterman - hes probably a bad player, but it must be pointed out - every single qb back there has been beyond horrendous. You don't get cosmically bad on offense by horrible qb play alone.

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46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 1:46pm

Vince Verhei: Terrelle Pryor hasn't caught anything today, but Logan Thomas has a team-high seven catches. Which begs the question: how many pass-catchers does Buffalo have who might be better quarterbacks than Nathan Peterman?

Thomas' career is sort of interesting. He's not actually a QB converted to TE. He actually was signed to VT and spent his redshirt season as a TE before switching to QB (following Taylor). He wasn't their first throwing TE. He was actually signed to replace Greg Boone, for which VT implemented a Wild Turkey package (Wildcat with the TE taking the snap).

Anyway, his return to TE is sort of a return to his original position.

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56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:06pm

I'm not going to criticize Detroit from kneeling it out from the 1, down 15 with 0:46 left.

Buffalo is starting Peterman again because Anderson got hurt with 2:00 left down 25-6. Can you imagine Detroit's offense with a backup running it? Now that Tate is gone, Stafford is all it has.

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59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:13pm

Oh, nothing about the non-fumble call on the Brees dive?

I can see McVay being gun shy, already down a challenge and with officials and replay staff who are clearly cretins, but that's a big swing in a 10 point game when NO scored a TD on a drive where you scooped and scored a clear fumble.

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104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by milo // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:12pm

2018 Rules changes and points of emphasis explains why Brees did not fumble.

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71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by dbt // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:21pm

> Aaron Schatz: Chris Ivory just had an 18-yard run, and yet Peterman is still the Bills' leading rusher today with 40 yards, over twice as many as any Bills running back. So hey, Peterman can do something right.

22 of those rushing yards came from Peterman scrambling on the hail mary play at the end of the first half, so it's not as good as it looks.

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75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by TomC // Nov 05, 2018 - 3:31pm

Moose Johnston was trying so hard all half to defend Peterman, and after that play he gave up.

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96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by nath // Nov 05, 2018 - 5:31pm

I can think of is that no matter how clever the design, the Saints are taking a more talented athlete off the field to put him out there.

Hill's a tremendously talented athlete, for what it's worth-- not just for a QB, either. He's athletic enough to be one of the top gunners on the kicking units, and his versatility means they aren't just playing 10-on-11 when he's in, because he can run, throw, run a route, or block.

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108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Nov 05, 2018 - 7:58pm

But not catch. At least not based on a highly predictive sample size of 1.

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152 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by nath // Nov 06, 2018 - 11:31pm

That was an unfortunate lapse of concentration, but it was also his first incomplete target of the season!

(He had two catches prior to Sunday.)

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114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by t.d. // Nov 05, 2018 - 10:04pm

It's felt like a garbage team or two has snuck into the playoffs the past few years (especially in the AFC) on the back of Charmin-soft schedules, but, man does the league feel top-heavy this year. NFC South is brutal, with three legit SB contenders (and as hot-and-cold as Fitzmagic is, they're impressive for a last place team), and we're looking at Atlanta, Green Bay, Minnesota/Chicago, Seattle, and maybe Philly (but probably Washington) fighting for one spot. Even the AFC looks pretty stout this year, too, with five really solid contenders (although Miami would be an obvious candidate for a schedule-playoff berth) All four division leaders look like genuine threats, and the Chargers are living up to all their talent for a change (whoever winds up the runner-up in the AFCN will be pretty legit, too, but, like I said, it seems like the team in the Miami role ends up the second wild card lately). Should set up for the most competitive playoffs in years, but I wonder if DVOA sees the conferences as being as deep as my superficial impression of them

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147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 9

by Will Allen // Nov 06, 2018 - 6:04pm

Gosh, I've been thinking it odd since Sunday that the great Vikings pass rushers of '69-'71 never had 10 sacks in a game. I just remembered that sacks weren't counted until 1980. Yeah, it's been a slow couple of days.....

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