Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

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.

Los Angeles Rams 26 at New Orleans Saints 23 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: I'm not entirely sure "John Franklin-Meyers in coverage on Alvin Kamara" is something the Rams want to be doing.

Aaron Schatz: Well, they're stuck, right? Someone has to cover the running back coming out of the backfield. I guess they could make sure it's a safety.

I wrote a lot in the preview about how the Rams tend to leave their cornerbacks by sides, and that's what they're doing early here. Not shadowing Michael Thomas with Aqib Talib. Usual setup: Marcus Peters offensive left, Talib offensive right, Nickell Robey-Coleman slot.

Scott Kacsmar: Getting Kamara in motion definitely seemed to be part of the Saints' early plan. Maybe they anticipated something with Aqib Talib on Michael Thomas, but Kamara's already up to 35 receiving yards. He had 34 in Week 9. Drive almost ended with a touchdown, but Dan Arnold couldn't hang on in the end zone. Saints go up 3-0, but Rams played some shaky third-down defense on that opening drive.

Vince Verhei: If the Saints lose this close, we're going to remember that third-down incomplete in the red zone. Drew Brees makes a brilliant, Hall of Fame-caliber throw into double-coverage, but Dan Arnold can't reel it in. Which begs the question: why are you throwing to a double-covered Dan Arnold on third down?

Derrik Klassen: The interception was not really on Jared Goff, but he looks shook already. A little jittery, only checking down. The first throw on the second drive, the behind-the-line-of-scrimmage throw, was well behind the receiver and allowed a Saints linebacker to make a tackle for loss. Goff then proceeded to miss a wide-open Robert Woods on third down. He needs to settle down and put up points before New Orleans starts converting their drives from field goals into touchdowns.

Bryan Knowles: I still don't get putting Drew Brees on the sideline on third-down situations. Full credit to the Saints for going for it on fourth down after the failed attempt in the red zone, but honestly ... just do two plays with Drew Brees! He's pretty good at quarterbacking.

Aaron Schatz: I sort of understand, only because I'm a big proponent of read-option on third-and-short. Although a) Taysom Hill made the wrong read, and should have kept it, and b) it only makes sense to take Brees off the field on third if you are going to go for it on fourth, which the Saints did. And got an encroachment! Followed by a touchdown to the fourth-string tight end. They're dominating this game so far.

Derrik Klassen: Rams switched up their defense on that series with more following (from Marcus Peters) and man coverage, but to no avail. Michael Thomas beat Peters on a drag, Alvin Kamara still got open a couple times, and Peters collided with safety John Johnson in the end zone to give up a Saints touchdown. Does not look like they have any answers right now.

Vince Verhei: Dude. You've already kicked field goals on your first two red zone drives, now you've got third-and-4 in the red zone again, and you take Drew Brees off the field entirely? I can't tell you how much I hate that.

But then the Rams bail them out by jumping offsides on fourth-and-2, and then Brees gets a touchdown and the Saints lead 13-0.

Dave Bernreuther: Exactly. And then they came out on fourth in an obvious "draw them off" situation ... and it worked.

Although it looked like Brees moved quite a bit.

At 13-0 and Goff looking poor already this is exactly where the Saints want to be. Even with the "failure" of getting only a field goal after the turnover. There's already a bit of a sense of urgency here for the Rams.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm not convinced the Saints would have actually snapped the fourth down. Looked to draw them offsides and probably kick the field goal there. Didn't like that one bit, but Rams look shook so it's 13-0 and getting worse by the drive. Discouraging graphic by FOX to show that this is the first time all year the Rams didn't get a first down on either of their first two drives.

Dave Bernreuther: I agree 100 percent, Scott. Call it instinct about how they left the huddle.

Speaking of leaving the huddle, is it just me or did the end of the first quarter appear to completely surprise Jared Goff?

Andrew Potter: Johnny Hekker, Rams QB1.

Dave Bernreuther: Somehow people remain surprised by Hekker fake punts. I don't understand how that's still possible.

Carl Yedor: The Hekker fake punt ends up leading to three points, but I'm agreeing with Dave in that I can't believe teams still get fooled by Hekker fake punts. He was a high school quarterback before moving solely to special teams in college, so he clearly can throw (although I wouldn't give quite as much credit to his arm as Aikman did after the completion). They've been making use of him that way since Jeff Fisher was still the head coach for the Rams, though that's probably more of a function of his special teams coach John Fassel being with the Rams continuously since 2012.

Scott Kacsmar: The Rams have gone to Todd Gurley four times. He's lost 2 yards, tipped an interception, and dropped a third-down pass that probably would have been a first down if he caught it and ran. He's killing the offense so far and I'm not convinced it's injury-related unless someone turned his hands to stone.

Dave Bernreuther: Did they really just call Cooks for holding Apple and not the other way around? That's as bad as the Smith hold that Ben highlighted in his Colts article from last week. That's absolutely ridiculous.

Aaron Schatz: Nope. They called neither.

Scott Kacsmar: Goff has eight completions for 39 yards. Everything is so short, even when he goes to Woods or Cooks. You have to attack the Saints deep, but that hasn't happened yet.

Derrik Klassen: Agree with Scott. If you're going to beat the Saints defense, it'll be down the field. Have to be more willing to risk it, maybe they will in the second half.

Bryan Knowles: And the Rams finally do go deep -- I think they've hit their "biggest play of the game" four times on this drive, including a bomb to Brandin Cooks that sets up a touchdown.

The Rams, and this game, needed that.

Vince Verhei: I was also thinking the Rams needed to force a deep ball, even an incompletion, just to force the Saints to worry about the deep pass -- but then Goff finds Cooks down the left sideline for a 36-yard gain. Gurley carries it in from there to cut the lead to 13-10.

The Rams have used some no-huddle in the second quarter, which looks like it has helped with the crowd noise.

Aaron Schatz: Saints No. 32 in DVOA against deep passes this year. Since Week 8 when their defense started to improve after the Eli Apple trade, still down at 26th against deep passes. That bomb to Cooks was long overdue. Meanwhile, the Rams are 22nd against deep passes and sixth against short passes, but Brees has thrown only one deep pass in the first half, the one Arnold couldn't hold onto in the end zone.

Andrew Potter: Before that drive, I thought that if the Rams could just get a field goal, they could actually go in at halftime quite encouraged, because it's hard to see them playing that badly on offense again in the second half. Instead, it's a three-point game and they're getting the ball first in the second half. That's a tremendous result for them. I think they would have been OK knowing they would face a three-point halftime deficit with them getting the second-half kickoff prior to the start of the game, and they certainly would have if they'd known how poor the offense would be in the first 28 minutes.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't think the Rams should feel great at halftime, but it's definitely more optimistic at 13-10 and getting the ball next after the way they spent most of that half. The Saints really only had two good offensive drives out of five, and the Rams finally got two sacks on Brees (first sacks in this matchup this season). So the defense looks pretty good, and they survived those early scares with the Arnold dropped touchdown and the field position they gifted them on the Gurley tipped pick. So 13-10 isn't bad, but they definitely need to let the ball rip more with Goff. I don't think the protection has been bad so far. Also need to make a decision on Gurley vs. C.J. Anderson in the backfield. Anderson has looked better, but Gurley did look good on the touchdown run. I still think more passing in general is what the Rams are going to need to pull this one out.

Vince Verhei: Honestly, both teams need to pass more in the second half. Neither team ran for crap in the first half -- a combined 20 runs for 53 yards, no 10-yard runs. The Rams have run for four first downs, so at least they've been good in short yardage. But if this does come down to a passing duel in the second half, that probably favors the Saints on both sides of the ball.

Carl Yedor: I wouldn't be surprised if the emphasis on quick passing by New Orleans is an attempt to prevent Aaron Donald from having a big impact on the passing game through scheme rather than just by blocking him. Not sure that's the best approach, but we did see back-to-back sacks on New Orleans' last real drive of the first half so maybe the Saints are worried about their interior line's ability to hold up against the pass rush.

Tom Gower: 13-10 at the half. Minus some Sean Payton being Sean Payton, a great start to the game for the Saints with sustaining offense and taking a three-score lead. The fake punt by the Rams was obviously coming, but do you double the gunners and potentially leave a light box or not put a returner deep and double up on defense? It's too early for me to expect a team to go with that strategy, even given the Rams' tendencies.

The story of the first 28 minutes for me was how effective New Orleans was in limiting the Los Angeles pass game. A couple notes there. First, we've noted the deficiencies the Saints have had with deep passes, even with their overall improvement. And what stood out about last week's game was how effective Sean McVay was at manipulating second- and third-level defenders to create those deeper throws for Goff. That simply didn't happen early in the game. Yes, I've (privately) made my share of New Andy Dalton jokes about Jared Goff and he did look awful with the crowd noise early in the game. But aside from one Robert Woods throw, it wasn't like he was missing downfield throws early. He just wasn't being handed them (maybe they were there and another, more aggressive quarterback would have hit them; not like FOX would tell us either way like I expect Tony Romo to later today) the way he normally was. I can't help but link that to the Rams not sticking with their traditional outside zone run game. The Saints have been good at attacking that upfield this season, and I think the Demario Davis tackle-for-loss on the second Rams play of the game came from one of those outside zone looks. Without that action, their pass game doesn't create the same sort of looks for Goff, and he's not getting the same presnap coaching from McVay. But he rebounded terrifically well in the two-minute drill, hitting the big third-down throw for 17 yards once they picked up the blitz and then the gorgeous deep throw to Brandin Cooks in favorable alignment against P.J. Williams to set up the Todd Gurley touchdown. The Saints moving out in control early was more of what I expected from this game, which means I think the Rams are in terrific position down just a field goal and getting the second half kickoff.

Vince Verhei: It's funny that the narrative is the Saints have a narrow lead despite dominating the first half. The Rams had more first downs (9 to 8) and yards (166 to 138) in the game's first 30 minutes.

Tom Gower: To illustrate Vince's point using my favorite "game dominance" stat, the Saints ran 21 plays to the Rams' eight in the first quarter. Total plays through halftime were Rams 32-Saints 31, so the second quarter was basically a complete reversal of the first. The Saints just got three scoring drives to the Rams' two (granted, one of them not really a "drive" at all), and the Rams' second scoring drive, the one not requiring a fourth-down conversion by the special teams, occurred after the two-minute warning.

Vince Verhei: For the second week in a row, New Orleans' first drive of the second half gives us plenty of talking points.

  • Four catches for Kamara on that drive alone, each a productive play. He's up to 10 catches for 88 yards now.
  • Saints running game finally works -- no rushing first downs in the first half, three on that drive.
  • You want to throw a bubble screen to Hill at the goal line, that's fine. And it results in a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.

Bryan Knowles: I have, like, 90 percent of the Saints' skill position players in the Staff Fantasy League, and I can't buy a touchdown from them -- Taysom Hill just picked up his first career receiving touchdown. Keeping Brees on the field is a better way to use Hill.

That drive, though, was mostly about Kamara and Mark Ingram. The first quip in this email chain was about the Rams having trouble matching up with Kamara; they have not really found a better way to do it yet! It doesn't matter which linebacker they put out on him; Kamara is finding ways to get open and make plays. This is a problem!

Scott Kacsmar: Possessions matter, and they matter even more when you're playing a top scoring offense. The Rams had success throwing deep to end the second quarter, yet they came right out of the half going with the horizontal game again to bring up third-and-14. That was a quick three-and-out, and then Brees picked them apart with Kamara for another long touchdown drive. Now it's 20-10 and while the game isn't over, you can't just waste a possession like that against this opponent.

Vince Verhei: Rams answer that with a touchdown drive of their own. Aside from a fumbled snap at the goal line, Goff is starting to really look comfortable. Completed all six passes on the drive, including the touchdown to a wide-open Tyler Higbee. He hasn't been sacked and has hardly been pressured, and I think that protection is giving him confidence.

Tom Gower: Four of Jared Goff's five completions on the touchdown drive to cut it to 20-17 came no more than 4 yards downfield, and the other one was 14 yards downfield. The first drive stalling out was about specific plays and execution, like the big gainer to Cooks on the touchdown drive where they brought him down as the YAC receiver instead of sending him deep on a clear-out route. I think the specific strategy in the two-minute drill about throwing downfield was in response to Dennis Allen's repeated blitzes, and the game plan as long as New Orleans continues to not bring extra guys repeatedly will be to create those short throws with YAC.

Bryan Knowles: So, the field goal attempt from the 1-inch yard line (ignore the delay of game penalty). Down three, 5:16 left in the game ... we don't like that, right? It's more defensible here than it would be in the first quarter or something, but ... you play to win, not to tie. I get that your running game hasn't been great today, but surely Goff could get an inch on a sneak.

Tom Gower: Cowardly move by Sean McVay, kicking the field goal to tie on fourth-and-a-foot instead of going for it to try to actually, y'know, win the game.

Vince Verhei: Plenty of twists and turns in the fourth quarter. Saints get the ball in Rams territory with a chance to put the game away, but a penalty moves them back to their side of the 50, and Drew Brees badly misses an open Ted Ginn for what would have been a third-and-20 conversion. Rams drive 90-some yards to the 1-yard line ... and then KICK THE FIELD GOAL FROM THE 1. Are you kidding me, Sean McVay? You just set yourself up to let the Saints kill some clock and beat you with a field goal.

Aaron Schatz: EdjSports Game Winning Chance: 46.9 percent with a run, 34.5 percent with a field goal. That's a big error.

Dave Bernreuther: Jared Goff cost the Rams a touchdown twice in that sequence- first by underthrowing Josh Reynolds enough to slow him down and lead to a tackle near the 5, and then again with his indecision when he could have run it in when flushed to the left.

And then the real fun began. On third-and-goal, creative genius McVay ran into an 11-man box. Which must mean he was planning to go for it on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, right?

Even the old-fashioned football fans around me were astounded and appalled by the decision to send out the field goal unit. Playing to tie on the road against Drew Brees when you have *one of the best offensive lines in history* by ALY and need less than a yard? Shameful.

Aaron Schatz: Let the record also state that if Jared Goff hadn't hesitated on the second-down scramble, he would have had the touchdown.

Andrew Potter: And if the facemask when tackling him had been flagged, it would have been first-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of third-and-goal from the 2. Fine margins.

Bryan Knowles: Finally, Drew Brees connects on a deep pass for the first time all game and it goes 43 yards on a jump ball to Ted Ginn. And we should be running out clock, kicking a field goal, and sending the Saints to the Super Bowl from here.

Vince Verhei: Oh, man. The Saints finally hit a deep pass when the Saints blow coverage on Ted Ginn and leave him wide open ... and even then, Brees' pass hangs in the air and Lamarcus Joyner should have broken it up. Instead, he went for the interception (which wouldn't have been a great play anyway, because it would have left the Rams inside their own 20 again). By waiting for the pass to come to him instead of reaching out to knock it away, he gives Ginn a chance to make the big reception.

Dave Bernreuther: Deep ball to Ted Ginn puts the Saints in easy field-goal range at the two-minute warning with the Rams down a timeout after that ridiculous sequence earlier. Wonder if all those teams hiring McVay buddies are starting to second-guess themselves after that sequence. Another first down kills the clock, and at best the Rams might have 1:10 left to score a touchdown in New Orleans with Jared Goff at quarterback.

Oh, wow. On first down Brees THROWS. And into the ground! The odds don't improve THAT much for the Rams, but that was not optimal.

Vince Verhei: Oh, that incomplete was a huge play for the Rams. Realistic worst-case scenario, they're going to get the ball back with about 1:40 to go, down one score. A completion (or, you know, a run) would have killed another 30-plus seconds.

On third down, Nickell Robey-Coleman makes no attempt to play the ball, targets the receiver, hits him way before the ball gets there, somehow doesn't get the pass interference flag. I have no idea what the refs were looking at. That should have been a first down, which would have let the Saints kneel out and kick a field goal with seconds to go. Terrible call against the home team.

Bryan Knowles: Woah woah woah, I know this official group is among the most lenient in the game, but that third-down hit by Nickell Robey-Coleman was pass interference all day long.

Aaron Schatz: On third down, wild missed DPI on Nickell Robey-Coleman. Made contact with Tommylee Lewis before the ball was there. Really obvious DPI, and pretty shocking no-call that essentially keeps the Rams in the game.

Dave Bernreuther: Nickel Roby-Coleman de-cleating Tommylee Lewis early on the third-down pass and not being flagged was such an egregiously bad no-call that even people in Rams jerseys were screaming at the TV. Wow. That is in the pantheon of bad officiating.

Aaron Schatz: Big pass to Robert Woods -- if it had been more on the money, Woods could have gone all the way to the end zone. Instead, Greg Zuerlein comes in and hits a 48-yard field goal. Let's have some extra football.

Bryan Knowles: I don't like Kamara taking the ball out of the end zone -- rather have the extra six seconds on the clock. I REALLY don't like the Saints kneeling on it with eight seconds and a timeout; throw a 15-yard pass, call a time out, and then go for the Hail Mary.

Vince Verhei: I'm not sure I trust Brees to hit a 15-yarder, the way he has played today.

Dave Bernreuther: If (err... when) the Rams end up winning this one I'd love to be in the front row for the Sean Payton presser. Because he should be so over-the-top critical of the officials in this one that it should be daring the league to suspend him.

This game should have been over 20 minutes ago. What a travesty.

Bryan Knowles: The third-longest field goal in playoff history sends the Rams to the Super Bowl, and it sucks, because all we're going to talk about for a week is the Pass Interference Penalty that Should Have Been. It makes it feel like the wrong outcome, and that's not the feeling we should get for this exciting young Rams team headed to the championship.

Andrew Potter: I cannot believe this Saints team had its season ended by a 15-yard field goal drive, after Drew Brees threw an overtime interception on probably his worst throw of the season: a blind heave down the middle with a pass rusher shoving him backward.

Aaron Schatz: Dante Fowler hit his arm and caused that ball to go awry but I agree with you that it was a bad-decision blind heave.

Tom Gower: I'm already tired of talking about the pass interference penalty that should have been instead of, say, Los Angeles' resilience after going down early, only leading at the end of the game, how we have to stop making the New Andy Dalton jokes about Jared Goff, Sean Payton throwing on first down after the big completion to Ted Ginn, Sean Payton deciding to just burn as much time off as possible on a drive that started with five minutes left, how the game was practically even (the Rams finished with 68 plays to the Saints' 64) despite New Orleans' early control, kicking field goals the first two drives, all the wide receiver screens on third-and-medium or -long (by both teams), and, oh yeah, Greg Zuerlein murdering a football to bail out his coach.

Andrew Potter: The one stupid, worthless consolation of a great team losing the way the Saints lost last year is supposed to be "well at least it can't be any worse than that".

Dave Bernreuther: One pragmatic takeaway from this all is that even independent of the final result, had the Saints won this one, they'd still be massive dogs in the Super Bowl given the way that they (and Brees) actually played in this one.

Which would be a fitting end to the season wherein we all laughed at the AFC and assumed that six or seven of the top-ten DVOA teams would all be in the NFC, I guess.

Not that that should be of any comfort to Saints fans or Payton, of course.

Anyway, here's hoping for a well-played and well-officiated nightcap.

Vince Verhei: It's midway through the second quarter of the Pats-Chiefs game, and between the emotional finish to the early game and the fact I had to make chicken wings for guests, I'm only now getting a chance to put some final thoughts down here. We need more time between playoff games, dammit.

That said, I mainly want to echo what Tom said. The Saints spent about three and a half quarters trying to give that game away, and the Rams wouldn't take it, and finally the refs yanked it from the and almost forced the Rams to win.

That was dramatic and exciting, but a badly coached, badly played, badly officiated game.

Oh, I did want to add: credit Wade Phillips and the Rams for finally finding a way to neutralize Kamara. He only finished with 11 catches for 96 yards -- which is a ton, but it seemed like he was going to get twice that. Once he wasn't catching passes, the Saints had no reliable weapons. I think blitzing helped -- I noticed Kamara spending more time blocking and less time running routes late in the game.

New England Patriots 37 at Kansas City Chiefs 31 (OT)

Andrew Potter: One of the things that's already so impressive about the opening Patriots drive is how often the running backs are getting exactly yards-to-go plus-1. It's incredibly demoralising to watch, never mind actually play against. Just relentless.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots have rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson covering Travis Kelce in man on the first drive, rather than using a safety. They also have Stephon Gilmore on Sammy Watkins again like the first meeting. I assume that leaves a double-team on Tyreek Hill, though it's hard to see on TV.

Andrew Potter: Well at least Brees didn't throw the worst interception of the weekend.

Derrik Klassen: I can not for the life of me explain that Tom Brady interception. Maybe Rob Gronkowski was not really open, but for Brady to leave that ball so low and behind is just ... what?

Aaron Schatz: It's not quite the same as doing it at the end of a Super Bowl, but hey, now the Patriots have their own interception throw from the 1-yard line in an important playoff game.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure any team at any point has needed a big defensive play like the Chiefs needed one right there. It felt like were about to get to 14-0 Patriots lead, and there was a feeling of "oh no, here we go again" beginning to dawn ... and then Reggie Ragland catches a "what the heck was THAT?" pass for the interception. Whoof.

Aaron Schatz: I just don't think Brady saw Reggie Ragland drop into coverage.

Dave Bernreuther: Gronk WAS open. Behind the guy. Not sure why Brady threw it on a line, and a bloop-like basketball shot to the back of the end zone would have been tough (but successful), but damn. This game just went from nearly game over to game on.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots' decision to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs 42 (later the 47 after a delay of game penalty) was a bad decision: 8.5 percent Game-Winning Chance difference in the EdjSports model.

Bryan Knowles: I would like to welcome Patrick Mahomes to this AFC Championship game.

Dave Bernreuther: 8.5 percent this early in the game seems massive.

Patrick Mahomes hitting Watkins on third-and-2 to extend the drive is one of those plays you just can't defend. From the grasp of an ankle tackle while moving left, he threw behind his momentum to a previously covered receiver. That's the kind of play very few quarterbacks can make.

So of course he follows it by missing Damien Williams on a wheel route for an easy touchdown...

Bryan Knowles: Mahomes follows up that great third-and-2 with a bomb to Tyreek Hill, and everything looks to be coming up Kansas City. However, he then misses a wide-open Williams for a touchdown and takes a 14-yard sack knocking the Chiefs out of field goal range. That is, I suppose, the flipside to all those great plays where he escapes the rush and makes those crazy throws across the field to make up huge plays -- if it doesn't work, it's a huge loss.

Vince Verhei: "Average yards lost per sack" is one of those things I've always thought about studying, but never done. Is it consistent for quarterbacks or defenses? Is there a connection between mega-sacks and deep-ball attempts, or rush attempts? Or is it all just random noise?

Bryan Knowles: For the record, Mahomes lost 6.6 yards per sack during the regular season, which was right in the middle of the pack.

It looks like, among qualified passers, Ryan Tannehill was the worst, losing 8.0 yards per sack, while Joe Flacco lost a league-low 4.9 yards per sack.

Carl Yedor: Harrison Butker's career long field goal is 54 yards, so it makes sense that the Chiefs didn't attempt one there. That said, it's a killer that on a drive where you get a 42-yard deep completion and another for 12 yards that you can't even end up with a field goal try out of it. New England will likely try to drain the rest of the clock here while scoring at 0:00 to keep Kansas City from having a chance at getting a wrap-around score.

Aaron Schatz: The cold weather also plays a role in deciding not to try a 54-yard field goal.

The Patriots are really playing a super-David strategy of trying to condense this game to the fewest number of possessions possible, and running against the bad Chiefs run defense just makes that easier to do. But wow, they finally just tried the deep ball and Brady hits Phillip Dorsett on a 29-yard touchdown. A little underthrown but Dorsett comes back to the ball and makes the catch against Steven Nelson. Looks like we'll go to the half at 14-0 unless the Chiefs can do something in 27 seconds.

Andrew Potter: James White has been out of sync with Brady on a couple of screens but has otherwise had a ridiculous first half. A couple of magnificent, receiver-caliber catches in critical situations, and even his runs have been a key part of that churning, relentless ball-control offense.

Amazing that a stupid Brady goal-line interception is the only thing keeping this from being 21-0 at halftime.

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs managed just 32 yards in the first half. I would never have believed that. We all know what this team is capable of, so it's not "game over" now, but the Chiefs are being outplayed and outcoached on both sides of the ball right now.

Vince Verhei: Dorsett caught that ball despite being interfered with.

I'm absolutely gobsmacked at the way New England has just destroyed Kansas City's passing attack so far. The Chiefs have 22 net passing yards and a long gain of 42 yards -- which means their other 10 plays have lost a combined 20 yards. What is happening? This goes beyond scheme or weather. Mahomes looks horrible, panicky, un-prepared. It's just hard to even comprehend.

Scott Kacsmar: Halftime thoughts: the first game being dramatic does make it difficult to get into the next game. It's even harder when it has been a steady dose of the Patriots running backs doing what they want with a defense that was 32nd against the run. Reminds me of when the Colts would get shredded on third-down shotgun draws by Kevin Faulk for years. I don't think Brady has been sharp and his interception in the end zone is the only thing keeping this from being a hopeless blowout. Mahomes missed that touchdown to Williams, which was a huge miss, and he has been taking really deep sacks with New England's pressure again working like it did last week. We've never seen what bad Mahomes looks like in a game in the NFL, but we just got a half of it and it's really bad. Andy Reid wasn't aggressive on that fourth-and-1 too, and that's huge in a game where you just had four possessions in the half.

I don't feel good at all about the Chiefs here, but I guess maybe on the bright side, the third-highest scoring team ever can't stay shutout forever, right? They were down 24-9 at halftime in Week 6 and still got to a 43-40 final on the road. Of course, they had more positive plays than this that night. Just 32 yards of offense? It's shocking, but unless there's an epic comeback, it's just going to be another data point in NFL history that says high-scoring offenses crash and burn in the playoffs, and you can't win a championship with a defense this bad.

Tom Gower: Halftime. Patriots lead 14-0, it would be 21-0 had Brady not missed Gronk, and it feels almost like 140-0. The Patriots have run 42 plays to the Chiefs' 16. Sure, part of that is they only had a couple explosive plays, both on their touchdown drive right before the half. First was that screen to James White where the defensive lineman (don't recall which one) came oh-so-close to bringing him down quickly, but he scooted for 30 yards and go out of bounds, and then the touchdown throw to Dorsett on the double-move. The primary element of the game has been another huge dose of that great Patriots game plan, a combination of power running and short passing, which is fine when you're great at it and as effective as "going with where you have the advantage instead of what you want to be good at" as New England is.

The story I don't want to underrate, though, is just how effective the Patriots defense has been. Andy Reid may not be my favorite gameday coach, but he's absolutely one of the best Monday-through-Saturday coaches in the league and his early script was hugely effective against a Colts defense that had played much better than expected last week. This week? Three-and-out, three-and-out, a punt in "it's only 7-0, we don't need to kick or go for it already" territory, and, well, that's about it.

Dave Bernreuther: Surrounded by Patriots fans, I thought I had to duck and cover for mentioning that that was actually a bad throw, but they all actually agreed with me. It was definitely left short, but great job by Dorsett to fight through a grab to still win. As a Colts fan, I promise I am not annoyed by a Colts first-round draft pick's starring role for another team in the playoffs while my team dropped more balls than any team in history* (*- this is an exaggeration, albeit only slight). Not at all. Really.

For the second week in a row, the Patriots are mind-F-ing us by doing exactly what seems obvious and playing to their recent strengths. I thought that especially after putting the fullback-heavy run game on film last week they'd go a bit contrarian and go for more possessions this week, figuring that they're efficient on offense and the more chances they got to create a turnover by tricking the young quarterback, the better. Instead, they're doing the obvious and slowing it down and limiting possessions and keeping the Chiefs off the field. And it's working. And while their defense isn't as bad as in the past two years, it's not at all good enough that we'd expect them to shut the league's top offense down at home in decent conditions. But ... that is exactly what has happened. And with a two-score lead and no reason not to believe that they can continue to bleed the clock, it's starting to look a whole lot like we might see our second consecutive Patriots Super Bowl rematch unless Patrick Mahomes can start doing some MVP-type things.

...Which he did the exact second I hit send, bombing one deep to Watkins to set up a Kelce touchdown

Bryan Knowles: Well, that's the way to recover from a poor first half. Youch. The Patented Mahomes Bomb (TM) got the crowd back into things.

Vince Verhei: Mahomes went from undrafted rookie in the first half back to Hall of Famer in waiting at halftime.

Tom Gower: And that's what makes Kansas City so good, Patrick Mahomes' ability to throw the ball deep and make second-reaction plays outside of structure. Philip Rivers' couldn't do either last week, but Mahomes did both in the first half on their one good drive, which is how they got to the edge of scoring territory, and then you saw on the opening drive of the second half. Now if only the Chiefs can find some defense...

Vince Verhei: Chiefs start their next drive deep in their own territory after Tyreek Hill runs backwards on a punt return, and quickly punt after Mahomes gets sacked again. He has been under ridiculous pressure today. And then a bad punt gives New England the ball in Kansas City territory, but they fail to pick up a first down. Gotkowski nails the field goal to make it 17-7, but that's a win for the KC defense, holding them to a 47-yard field goal from there.

But we can add special teams to the reasons New England is winning so far.

Aaron Schatz: Mahomes is doing Mahomes things again on the next drive. Sidearm throw to Sammy Watkins with Adrian Clayborn bearing down on him, gets the ball around Clayborn and gets a 10-yard gain for conversion on third-and-3. Next play, design instead of Mahomes' personal ability, Damien Williams gets 33 on a wheel route out of the backfield. Chiefs are in the red zone.

DPI on J.C. Jackson, a good call I think, and then Mahomes finds Damien Williams and we've got a 17-14 ballgame. 14:51 left.

Next drive, fourth-and-1, Kansas City 25. Happy the Patriots went for it, unhappy they came out in big personnel and just handed off up the middle instead of spreading things out or going quarterback sneak. Great play by safety Daniel Sorensen to take out Rex Burkhead's legs.

Vince Verhei: OK, so, to recap, the Chiefs passing offense had a terrible first half and put the team in a big hole, and now in the fourth quarter the run defense makes a massive play to set them up for a possible game-winning drive.

You ever feel like watching the regular season is just a big waste of time?

Bryan Knowles: "Chiefs run defense comes up with a stop on fourth-and-1" may, in fact, be less likely than "Chiefs held to 36 yards of offense in the first half."

Football is weird.

Dave Bernreuther: Of all team,s the Patriots set our crusade back a bit by going for a fourth-and-less-than-1 on the opposing side, but stack the box and run into a 9-on-10 disadvantage and fail. Into the final nine minutes, we have a very tight game. And somewhat unusually, the team coached by Andy Reid has all its timeouts.

... which doesn't matter much after Mahomes airmails two throws and they immediately punt the ball back.

And whoa my god if Julian Edelman just touched that punt...

Wow. Even more improbably it looks like somehow he didn't ever touch that.

Aaron Schatz: He never touched it. I can't believe he didn't touch it, but it seems pretty clear he didn't touch it.

Just the act of trying to field that ball was pretty stupid though.

Andrew Potter: The fact that he even got close enough to make it a question is one the stupidest things I've ever seen a Patriots player do. Just an unbelievable, mind-bending brain fart. What was he even doing there?

Bryan Knowles: I dunno, I think it might have grazed the thumb. I can't tell.

If that bounce somehow missed him ... wow.

Vince Verhei: Holy shit, I think it brushed the strap of his glove on his left hand. If his strap is fastened, it doesn't touch. But it was loose, and I think it brushed against it.

Aaron Schatz: They called that it didn't touch him. Chiefs fans are definitely going to be talking about that if they lose.

Bryan Knowles: OK, THAT one hit the thumb. Tipped ball, interception.

Dave Bernreuther: So naturally after all that, a ball glances off of Edelman's fingers for an interception. One-half to two-thirds of America is now screaming about karma.

Aaron Schatz: It was the perfect play call too. Play-action, Edelman wide open for a first down against a zone. Brady very slightly overthrew him but that's totally on Edelman, you have to catch that ball.

Vince Verhei: Mahomes has missed the wheel route out of the backfield all night. Left a bunch of big plays and at least one touchdown out there. But he finally hits it on third down after the Sorenson interception, and Williams takes that for the touchdown, and suddenly Kansas City leads 21-17.

Tom Gower: Great design by Reid on that Williams touchdown, got him wide open with blockers in front. I kept waiting for him to slow down and use his screeners, up to the point where he strolled into the end zone without obstruction.

Carl Yedor: Beautiful throwback screen to Williams there. Got New England's linebackers flowing the wrong way and Williams coasts into the end zone. Fortunately for New England, they have plenty of time to move down the field for a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Terrible roughing the passer call against Chris Jones gives the Pats a free 15 yards on the next drive. Touched Brady's shoulder, barely if even touched the helmet. Refs would have better served calling DPI on whoever was covering Edelman on that play, at least that would have been less iffy.

Vince Verhei: And then Chris Hogan with the marvelous one-handed grab, which stands after our 93rd crazy replay review this quarter.

Dave Bernreuther: After the Williams caravan touchdown (one of the better designed behind-the-line throws I've seen in a while), the Patriots go to work from behind for the first time. It doesn't take long for our third game-delaying review of the last hour to happen, as Andy Reid foolishly throws the challenge flag on a maybe-not-quite-catch by Chris Hogan that had no prayer of being overturned. I take back what I said earlier about Reid's timeout management, as now he's down one.

Vince Verhei: Patriots finish the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel on fourth-and-1. Big blocks by the tight end and fullback on the play. New England back up 24-21 with 3:30 to go.

Per ESPN, Tom Brady has thrown 32 passes and has not been hit once.

Bryan Knowles: ESPN is forgetting, of course, that brutal hit on the roughing the passer call.

Aaron Schatz: 68-yard drive for the Chiefs, including a big 28-yard DPI call on J.C. Jackson (again). Damien Williams scores with 2:03 left. Did they leave the Patriots too much time?

Bryan Knowles: Way too much time, for sure.

Nice offensive pick on the Sammy Watkins play to set everything up. Man, if you ignore all the reffy bits, this has been a hell of a fourth quarter.

Vince Verhei: Deep ball to Hill is almost intercepted, but falls incomplete. Then Sammy Watkins gets the ball on a catch-and-run to the 2. Williams runs it in from there, before the two-minute warning. I don't think you can criticize them for clock management there. At that point, that's going to be your last drive, and then New England is going to get their last drive, and that's that. It's not like they were going to kill all two minutes.

Andrew Potter: It's absolutely nuts to say so, but the Patriots might have scored too quickly, too. 39 seconds and a timeout is more than enough to get into field-goal range.

Bryan Knowles: Like, thirty-seven things happened on that drive, and we'll wrap back to them I'm sure, but the Patriots score to take a three-point lead with 39 seconds left.

Is that too much time for Mahomes?! They wish they had that timeout back from the Andy Reid challenge earlier; just one time-out makes this dicey.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots score. This game is crazy tense. Pats get lucky when an offsides against Dee Ford turns over another interception tipped off a receiver's hands. Now we have to ask the question in the other direction. Did the Pats leave the Chiefs too much time? 39 seconds and a timeout to score just a field goal to tie it.

Dave Bernreuther: 39 seconds is never too much time to leave the other team when you are winning...

But man, that seemed like an eternity. Two quick completions and Buttkicker puts one through to tie and send it to overtime. Which I'm sure nobody except Patriots fan minds ... I, for instance, am thrilled.

Andrew Potter: It's so darn close to impossible to stop a modern offense when it knows it needs to score, rather than doing silly things like "controlling tempo" and "establishing the run," that any time that allows for more than a couple of plays is long enough for a field-goal drive.

Vince Verhei: Overtime again. This day is crazy. This season is crazy.

Bryan Knowles: First time in history both the AFC and NFC championships have gone to overtime. Here we go.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh wow. Edelman gets wide open for another third-and-long completion -- on this one he looked like he had a head of steam before the snap a la the CFL -- and the Pats are already in business in overtime's first drive.

Three plays later Gronk is wide open for a perfectly placed pass for another third-and-10 conversion and just like that we have first-and-goal.

Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs got the Patriots to three different third-and-10s ... and couldn't get off the field.

The Patriots take the opening overtime kickoff and march down the field to score. Patriots-Rams Super Bowl, and it's time to party like it's 2001.

Wow. Those last 20 minutes of game time had about ten-thousand stories to go through.

Tom Gower: Final, Patriots win 37-31. Tony Romo was on fire late in the game, especially New England's drive for the game-winning score. There's a lot to unpack about that game, which I'm going to do a little bit later. One note for now: I thought the difference in a close game might be Andy Reid making crucial game management mistakes. Not challenging Chris Hogan's catch would have given him another timeout at the end of regulation, and he had enough time to run another play before kicking a field goal with 11 seconds left after the first play only took five seconds. In a razor-thin game, there are always many situations you can point to, which is why a lot of people look at officiating like the Chris Jones roughing the passer nonsense and said "that changed the game." True, but so did what Reid did.

Vince Verhei: Patriots converted three third downs in overtime and finished 13-of-19 on third downs. They ran 94 plays to 47 for the Chiefs. This largely why Kansas City's defense was so gassed at the end there that the announcers were begging Andy Reid to call a timeout.

In the Super Bowl win over Atlanta, they went 7-of-14 on third downs and ran 93 plays to the Falcons' 46.

In the Super Bowl win over Seattle, they went 8-of-14 on third downs and ran 72 plays to the Seahawks' 53.

Even in the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia, they went 5-of-10 on third downs -- but the Eagles went 10-of-16 and the plays were close (72 for New England, 71 for Philadelphia). Still, nobody plays keepaway in the postseason like New England.

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs won the turnover margin, had fewer penalties, and gained more yards per play. The Patriots won with third-down conversions, which allowed them to have all those long, extended drives.

One other note: for much of the second half, the Patriots switched up their coverage from the first half. Now J.C. Jackson was on Watkins and Stephon Gilmore was on Kelce. And Gilmore totally shut Kelce down. Gilmore gave up that one huge pass to Sammy Watkins on the scramble play at the start of the third quarter but was otherwise phenomenal.


223 comments, Last at 25 Jan 2019, 7:36am

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

About the "roughing" call on the hit on Brady: the NFL wanted to remove judgment of severity from the officials. So they wrote the rule so that any contact by a defender to the head or face area constitutes "roughing the passer." The call on the hit to Brady shows why it's a fool's errand to try to write rules so officials have no leeway to judge severity. The pass rusher's hand did hit Brady's face mask, so by rule that's a 15-yard penalty.

Also: the notion that rules are enforced automatically is itself hard to take seriously. This was a small problem in the second game, but a huge problem in the first game when an obvious DPI was simply ignored. I do not fathom how the officials could not have called that. It was obvious, it was flagrant, and it happened at the focus of the play. The no-call felt like it was intentional on the part of a crew that had decided it was going to "let them play".

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

That roughing call was..rough. Correct or not, it fails the eye test, even to Pats fans.

But were there two different sets of refs when the offenses were out there? The Pats got called for perfect, and legal coverage multiple times to extend Chiefs drives, and a ton of yards, yet the Chiefs mauled Gronk, and other receivers up and down the field and couldn't buy a flag.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The lack of penalties in playoff games of recent years is a very real phenomenon, I’ve looked into it. Clearly we might expect the better playoff teams to concede fewer penalties, but it is very hard to get past the notion that the refs are simply deciding (or under instruction) to penalise less in the playoffs. Which is good, until an outrageous non-call literally swings a game.

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"About the "roughing" call on the hit on Brady: the NFL wanted to remove judgment of severity from the officials. So they wrote the rule so that any contact by a defender to the head or face area constitutes "roughing the passer."

That's not the rule.

"In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area (see also the other unnecessary roughness rules covering these subjects)."

You're not allowed to make forcible contact, which is why the same exact play on Mahomes in the first half went uncalled.

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Josh McD calling the same run play over and over on 1st & 10 all game long for 1 or 2 yards gains drove me bonkers. After the first two Pats drives the Chiefs condense the box and played the run and he kept giving it to them, setting the offense up for failure. And Brady and the receivers kept bailing them out. He should have been running play action over and over again on 1st down until the Chiefs started covering the rest of the field. When the Pats did face run-friendly looks, they dominated with it.

Did the Pats OL play the best game of pass protection ever in the playoffs? Two games in row now against five of the most elite pass rushers in the game?

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

My heart for the game died a little when I saw the missed P.I. call.

The NFL screws around year-in, year-out with the details of catch rules, roughing the passer, hits on defenseless receivers to the point where we're not sure what is or isn't allowed.

And then you get a play like that missed where anybody can see the defender wasn't even trying to defend the pass properly.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Two very interesting, although not well played, games kind of ruined. One by a hideous whistle swallow in the highest leverage situation imaginable. The other by a game ending int negated, when an edge rusher lines up offside.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

If randomness with big implications spoils the game for you, I don’t know how you watch football. A close game like this had tons of random outcomes that depended not on the players and coaches skill. Mahomes recovering his own fumble at the half. The ball coming off Edelman’s fingertips just right to be intercepted rather than fall incomplete. Missed calls on both sides.

The unpredictability is why sports is fun. If the team that played the best always won, or won without adversity, there would be no drama.

As a Pats fan, I still gnash my teet h over the helmet catch and the int that wasn’t right before it. Not to mention the Miami Miracke this year. But as a football fan, that makes the game exciting.

Read a Sci fi book once where football refs had been replaced by infallible robots... and the creators had to program them to randomly make at least one bad call per game, because the audience didn’t like the lack of drama from perfect refs.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

What was your comment about the Pats’ offside play that a) if Mahomes was aware of, enabled him to have essentially a free timeout and throw to the middle of the field; and b) if he wasn’t, meant they didn’t have to lose 10+ seconds rushing to the line and maybe make a game ending false start?

I suppose jumping isn’t quite as stupid as lining up in the neutral zone but they are both the kinds of plays we see many times every Sunday.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

With the exception of the roughing the passer, seemed like officiating was much better in game 2 than 1. There were some insane calls, but they seemed correct, for the most part.

I wonder how DVOA will evaluate Chiefs-Pats, because the turnovers and higher play count for the Pats would tend to suggest a lower DVOA, a la, the midseason 2011 game where New England beat the Jets. DVOA favored the Jets' few long successful drives and many 3 and outs to NE's eye-test dominance.

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

DVOA is going to show the Pats dominated the first half, even though they only got two TDs. For example, DVOA is going to reward the Pats a lot more for the drive that got them to the 1 yard line than it will punish them for Brady's interception in the end zone.

I expect the Chiefs will have the advantage in the 2nd half.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I've rightly credited the magnificent Pats offensive line performance as the most significant factor in this game, just like last week, but just like last week, some recognition needs be given a truly horseshit defensive performance by the Patriots' opponent. At least the Chargers were in Foxboro.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

1. Roughing the passer?

2. Not a catch by hogan, the tip of the ball clearly is resting on the ground with no hand underneath it. Very easy call.

3. Muff punt by Edelman, ball hits his left index finger as the ball ricochets off his finger and the ground simultaneously. There is no video evidence there was separation at this point of the play, therefore the correct call was to go with the call on the field.

Sad that there is not as much pushback for number 2 and 3

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I personally agree with you on the Hogan catch, I think without the ground the ball would have squirted out as he was squeezing the back end of the ball with his arm and they tend to pop out in my experience catching non-spherical balls. However their is a lot of assumption in that and nothing absolutely clear to overturn so I can see why it remained as called.

I don’t see the punt hitting anything after watching all the angles shown. Because they different angles all seem to show the ball missing different things. I’d love to have a split screen synced view from multiple angles to be absolutely sure, again though I can understand why the on-field decision was reversed.

Roughing the passer - completely fails the eye test and was apparently called by ref on the wrong side of to see clearly so should not have been called. Generally though officiating in AFC game was fine. KC seems to adjust really well at the half, but why they couldn’t have started making adjustments much earlier could have cost them the game. Also Mahomes playing like a rabbit in headlights for much of the first half not helping at all, getting sacked out of FG range was appalling play - but Patriots have been doing that inexperienced QBs in big games for a long time.

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

There is no assumption on the hogan play. The ball is clearly seen resting on the ground during the process of the catch. A frame by frame replay clearly shows this and it should be a very easy call for the refs.

The Edelman play is the only close one out of the three but there is one key point of the play, right when the tip of the ball hits the ground next to his left hand. It is not conclusive whether the ball hits his left index finger at this exact moment, which should rule in favor of the rule on the field. The reason this is inconclusive is because there are two angles and neither of them disproves that this is the case. This is a textbook definition of inconclusive evidence and the exact reason that verbiage is in the rule book. Incorrect call by the refs

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I'm waiting for you to bring up the pick play, since that was the one bad call that cost a team the most yards in the NE-KC game.

BTW, I know WRs now have a a really hard time separating across the board in the NFL, but the rule of being able to legally set a pick within a certain number of yards from the LOS needs to be updated to no picks on pass plays period.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The point of these plays is that if any call is in the 40-60 to 50-50 range, it will go the patriots way and the fans will fall for the oldest trick in the book “it was a coin flip that just didn’t go the other teams way.” How many coin flips are needed to admit that unfair advantages are given to one team for decades?

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Because we can see with our eyes that it is nonsense. But if you get to 13 AFC Championship games, guess what, you are going to win a few. That's the neat thing about the Patriots -- they have been to so many playoff games we can actually get a bit of a statistical sample.

In any case, the Patriots outplayed the Chiefs yesterday, it was visible on the field. Not by enough that they couldn't have lost, but by a clear margin.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The point isn't that they win a few... I agree that is inevitable. But the point is that they never lose a few. When league players, coaches and organizations have to run a fake walk through because they don't trust that the Pats aren't cheating, there is an issue. Especially because it wasn't a conspiracy theory in the past, it was true.

The Pats didn't outplay the Chiefs according to VOA, so to call it visible on the field shows a slight bias. And before you challenge with DVOA, VOA is the better indicator of who outplayed who on an individual basis for obvious reasons.

165 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Try doing some research yourself instead of just repeating what the talking heads on ESPN, etc. tell you.

NE was punished for, from the NE sideline, filming the scoreboard to establish time, down, and distance, and then filming the opposing DC making his call (this was in the days before DCs would cover their mouths with the playcard (though OCs had already been covering their mouths for several seasons)).

The whole "taping walkthroughs" thing was invented by a Boston Herald columnist who (along with his paper) ended up unconditionally retracting the entire story.

167 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Did my homework, the Eagles faking a walk-through isn't tin foil conspiracy, its true.

I love that your argument stands on the laurels of "they got caught for cheating in a different way than what the masses think." Damn I wish I could rally behind statements like that, lol.

For the record, I said that teams don't trust that the pats aren't cheating. I didn't get into specifics of spygate, that is for another discussion.

173 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I said players/coaches/organizations don't trust that the pats arent cheating. The point isn't about spy-gate specifically, the point was that others around the league are that paranoid of the patriots that they resort to bizarre behavior to try to combat it. You both are missing the point and falsely trying to put words into my mouth. Stick on topic please.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Conveniently, here is a data-supported essay from 72 hours ago by an ex-Football Outsiders writer and current Giants fan that suggests your anecdotal take is at best hyperbolic and at worst incorrect.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Not sure how hyperbolic my anecdotal take is when the link you share says the pats have benefited from the 2nd most penalties and 5th most win shares off of penalties. If anything it's odd that you call out my post with data that would help support the narrative at least slightly. Plus there are many different factors not put into play in barnwells take on brady roughing the passer and the penalties in general, so how does the eyeball test matter when there is 1/32nd league fan base claiming it's not true and 31/32nds saying it is true? And before you say thats irrelevant (I won't say its irrelevant but it is far from proving a point) just keep in mind that organizations/players/coaches are paranoid about the patriots getting away with cheating, be it refs or the pats organization getting away with shady behavior.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re: the Hogan play, the ball can hit the ground so long as it is determined that the ball otherwise stays in the control of the receiver. In this case, the ball hits the ground but doesn’t move, so it’s a catch. This is pretty straightforward and something that happens around the league with relative frequency.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Except his hand then came off the ball. So the ball hit the ground and he did not complete the catch. It's the NFLs dumb rule interpretation. If he went out of bounds and his hand came off it would never be complete.

The ball hit the ground and afterwards it was loose. It was 100% not a catch by rule.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re #2: if a receiver has control of the ball, it is allowed to make contact with the ground. The question was not whether the ball touched the ground, but whether Hogan had control when it touched the ground.
Re #3: it is very difficult to infer contact in space via a 2-d image. But it is clear from the collection of different angles that the football did not hit Edelman's hands. Any closeness in one angle was shown from a different angle to be an illusion of perspective.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"there were only two angles being shown"

There were at least four different angles on the Edelman miss. Each body part which appeared to contact the ball in one or more angles was conclusively demonstrated not to have by another. That call was clearly correctly overturned, as conclusive evidence was, in fact, provided.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

No discussion at all of the completely BS overtime rule? (see also - the TV broadcast)

It's bizarre and monstrous that you go to OT, and the team which wins the coin flip gets a chance to win without the other side even getting the ball.


28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I commented on this over in the game discussion thread. The NFL and the players association need to take a hard look at this.

I'd personally trade ties in the regular season, so the players never have to play an extra period then, for a CFL-style overtime in the playoffs where each team gets a possession and those possessions flip back and forth, A B, B A, etc., until the tie is broken. Then both teams' offenses, defenses, and almost always special teams (field goal units) contribute to the outcome of the OT. The only units that don't see the field in OT are the punt and kick return units.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The best idea I’ve heard for OT rules is to flip the coin at the start of the game so that both teams are well aware of who will receive the ball first. Peoples problem with overtime is the unfairness which there has been no great way to curb that. If you are aware of who will get the ball it would lead to different and more exciting ends to regulation while being more fair in the process

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I strongly favor a timed overtime period (and perhaps several if necessary). The action at the end of the 4th quarter around clock management is far more exciting than sudden death. I get that the NFL seems to think football is too dangerous to allow players to play more of it - but common man, it's the playoffs, let the game be decided by all the things that would normally decide a game.

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Yeah, I'd like to see a 15-min OT in the playoffs and would gladly trade no OT in the regular season to get it. I understand that all of the players are extremely fatigued after 60+ minutes of game time, but having an entire period where both teams have to execute on offense and defense would balance that out a bit.

At a bare minimum, just guarantee both teams an offensive possession and then sudden death after that.

170 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

But then, imagine that the Patriots drive down the field and score, the Chiefs get a few long passes and score, and then the Patriots just drive down and net a FG.

"Why should Brady have two chances and Mahomes only one?! Mahomes should have had the chance to respond!"

Same complaint as we see now, only we've increased the number of possessions by one.

185 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

And then when in the future, the Pats score a 2-pt straight after their touchdown to open OT, and the Chiefs match it ... we're still back at "it's unfair" ...

To be completely honest with you. As someone who is becoming increasingly casual about watching the game, I have low interest in the fairness of overtime - I don't want these things to be stretched out.

Heck, if Eli Manning and the Giants can twice hoist Lombardi's you're already dealing with an unfair playoff system that doesn't reward the season's best team. So do I really care whether Brett Favre or Patrick Mahomes didn't get to possess the ball in games that they'd already had 60-minutes to win outright. If the Chiefs had just done something, anything on offense in that 1st half; they'd likely have won.

I'd much prefer to see the game end on a positive scoring play than to watch a team lose on a failed 4th down pass, or a missed FG when they were trying to match the opponent. However much Troy Aikman and Joe Buck hype up that moment, it's not that exciting.

What seems to be forgotten is what happens when you get a team like the Jaguars making it to overtime. Does anyone really want to see Blake Bortles getting to possess the ball, purely for reasons of fairness, then failing to make even one first down after a touched back kickoff. In the meantime a good 5-10 minutes have elapsed since the winning team scored their touchdown and that moment is lost.

But, as I say, I'm becoming increasingly casual in my viewing so I'm probably the exception around here to caring.

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Look, this is nothing more than entertainment, and it grabs my attention because I find it to be a very complex blend of strategy which is compelling on intellectual level, and physical confrontation which is compelling on an emotional level. To me, then, the best o.t. rules are those which are most entertaining, which means, like you, I want to see things wrapped up. Baseball has lost me because it went from, over a few decades, games which would almost always be over in 3 hours, to frequently not doing so, and that's before extra innings. I watch much less college football because the games are too damned long. I would prefer that o.t. not be required to last an entire extra quarter, especially without a clear winner being identified as a possibility. I did dislike the old system, because the short drive followed by a long field goal is one of the more boring happenstances in the NFL.

Long td drives are interesting, and represent a fundamental success and failure, so I'm o.k. with ending an o.t. with a single instance of that. The more I think about a long t.d. drive in response, however, the more I think about a 4 hour game (it's a problem I've long had with the Super Bowl), and the less I get enamored with the idea.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I wouldn't be opposed to a new overtime rule, but I think the current one is pretty good. First-score-wins was terrible because kickers got too good, and it's too easy to get into field goal range. But having to score a touchdown is an entirely different ball of wax. If you can't stop a team from getting into the end zone, you don't deserve a chance to get the ball, is how I see it. (How about the Chiefs get a 3rd-and-10 stop?) And if your D does get a stop, the odds flip overwhelmingly in your favor.

Haven't seen the odds in a while, but last I did there was only a slight advantage in getting the ball first in OT. In fact, we saw such teams go 1-1 today.

Edit: Looks like somebody else posted the odds in the thread below 53-47 isn't a big enough advantage to necessitate a rule change, in my opinion.

99 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

You are reframing this in exactly the wrong way. It's not that it should be 50-50 between home and away team. It should be 50-50 between *winning and not winning the coin toss.* You made it 100-0.

To me, 53-47 is close enough so that I don't feel compelled to clamor for a rule change. Overall, I feel like, under the current system, the team that wins played the best in overtime, which is what I want.

This wasn't the case in the old system when teams could win with a long field goal on the first drive, when in today's NFL a long field goal attempt is often a "win" for the defense.

By the way, here's a tweak that just popped into my head: In order to win with a touchdown on the first drive of OT, you have to make a two-point conversion. Otherwise that other team gets a chance to counter. I think I'd be in favor of that.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

But especially in this climate of offense running roughshod over defense, why assume that only one of the teams is unable to stop the other from getting into the end zone?

We all saw, as we probably expected, that the Chiefs were unable to stop the Patriots from scoring a touchdown. Let's say the Chiefs had won the toss and Mahomes had driven them down for a game-winning TD; would the Chiefs then have deserved to win despite the fact that their D basically didn't have a prayer of stopping Brady and the Patriots offense? The coin flip means too much, especially when two high-powered offenses are facing off.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I've felt that the best NFL OT policy would be to not have OT during the season, and just continue to play regular football until one team wins in the playoffs. In other words, during the regular season, if the game is tied at the end of regulation, it's a tie. Then, in the playoffs, they would play a quarter (no sudden death rules) and if the end of that, it is still tied, they would play another timed period and so on. This way, you minimize the health risks during the season and allow for "everyone to get a chance" in the playoffs.

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The problem with no regular-season overtime isn't that games will end tied. It's that right now, if a team gets the ball with two minutes left in a tie game, they're going to try their hardest to score. If they can run out the clock and get a tie, minimizing the risk of a loss, you'll see this much less entertaining option on many occasions. That's why the league adopted overtime in the first place.

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

In this context, 50/50 refers to first possession and second possession. For all those claiming the OT rules are unfair (in fact, they are perfectly fair, assuming a properly balanced coin), a system where the team possessing the ball first and possessing the ball second each win about equally should be an acceptable one.

168 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

It doesn't bother me so much, but I could stand to see something better, if it's out there. The idea of the full-time quarter is intriguing.

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of a rework of an idea I think I heard about the opening coin flip: the wager. As in, each team says which line they are willing to start with the ball at, and whoever bids farther away from their goal line, starts with the ball there. So, for example, the Chiefs might say "we'll start from the 15" and the Pats "we'll start at the 10", then the Pats get the ball, first and 10 and their own 10 yard line. Sudden death from then on.

In that scenario I assume there are limits to how far back teams would be willing to bid. I presume teams would be leery of starting at their own 1, for example, for both the dual whammy of the restricted space and a punt leaving your opponent almost in FG range. If you have a game where you can be confident that an offense will score from anywhere, though, this scheme would break down....

Just a thought.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

"Tom Gower: I'm already tired of talking about the pass interference penalty that should have been instead of, say, Los Angeles' resilience after going down early, only leading at the end of the game, how we have to stop making the New Andy Dalton jokes about Jared Goff, Sean Payton throwing on first down after the big completion to Ted Ginn, Sean Payton deciding to just burn as much time off as possible on a drive that started with five minutes left, how the game was practically even (the Rams finished with 68 plays to the Saints' 64) despite New Orleans' early control, kicking field goals the first two drives, all the wide receiver screens on third-and-medium or -long (by both teams), and, oh yeah, Greg Zuerlein murdering a football to bail out his coach."

That's all lovely, but the game was quite simply 100% lost (or 98% lost) if the right call is made. You can't wish that away and pretend that the Rams won it or the Saints lost it through their play on the field. Sometime officiating is given too much significance but this is not that situation.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I completely agree. It's one thing to whiff on a call, another when the missed call inarguably determines the outcome of a game, and another thing entirely when the missed call is egregiously apparent in a championship game. Where was the league office? Why did they not intervene?
I was watching in a room full of mixed, neutral fans, and the non-DPI just completely sucked the fun out of the room for the rest of the day. It sucks knowing that one of the Super Bowl teams is coming in with an asterisk championship.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I’ve surely never seen a game like the Pats Chiefs with such an incredible number of often bizarre high leverage ‘talking point’ plays involving wild swings in win %. I’ll have a go:

Brady throws interception on 1 yard line.

Belichick chooses to punt on 4th & 1 around midfield, the Patriots run game having dominated the early stages of the game. Mind-blowing.

Mahomes takes mega-sack on 3rd down to move out of field goal range. Chiefs forced to punt.

Mahomes strip sacked right before halftime, managed to recover.

Eric Berry dropped INT.

Burkhead stuffed on 4th and inches.

Edelman muffed(?) punt.

Chris Hogan nutso 3rd down catch(?)

Dee Ford lines up offside nullifying game winning INT.

Kelce fumbles, New England recovers. Game over. Nullified by penalty.

Crazy Mahomes-Watkins completion to set up game tying FG.

Patriots win overtime coin toss, proceed to convert multiple 3rd and long.

There are probably others I’ve overlooked, and I’ve almost certainly messed up the timeline there. Point being, it was incredibly tense and exciting, where flipping the outcome of any of the above plays would have dramatically altered the course of the game. I’m deeply disappointed (even as a neutral fan) because this Chiefs team has provided me with so much entertainment this season, and I would have loved to see Andy Reid get his due. But not to be.

Anybody frothing at the mouth over the officiating, and/or particularly salty over New England winning again: take a break from football, then come back and enjoy it again next season when maybe Brady will finally decline.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

But why shouldn't the game have ended/continued with Kansas City getting the same chance the Patriots did, namely to drive against a tired defense and score a TD?

It was a massively exciting game but the NFL's dumb overtime rules robbed you of a fair conclusion. That is sickening, self-defeating and downright bizarre.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I've got very little issue with the Patriots winning in OT on a single possession. I might slightly prefer each team getting a possession, but it's not a big deal to me; a team that yields a long td drive in the 5th period is a worthy loser. I really, really, hate the fact that a guy wasn't paying enough attention to line up onside, which negated an int which would have ended the game in regulation.

I've never been a Pats hater, and am still not. I'd just like a little more variety in AFC representatives, but when it gets to the point that Pats are going to play in February again, because a freakin' guy doesn't get himself lined up, that's no reason to hate the Pats. I hate the rest of the AFC, outside of Baltimore and teams qbed by Peyton Manning.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Also not a Pats hater. What they've done over the past 2 decades is one of the great all-time feats of coaching.

I don't see any connection between that and a bizarre asymmetric overtime system.

And why is "a team that yields a long td drive in the 5th period is a worthy loser", if - had the toss been the other way round - the other team would've been just as likely to yield a long TD drive?

We know that in regulation Team B's offense scored as many points on Team A's Defense as vice versa. Why is it assumed that would not (or is not allowed to) happen in overtime?

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The earlier game went to the team that kicked off in OT. They had the huge advantage of knowing that a FG would win it for them, and played accordingly. No big deal. (At least in the OT itself).

The current system exists because just doing sudden death would be worse, and requiring the teams to get the same number of drives would be worse, too. Each way would give too much an advantage to winning the coin toss.

Here are the regular season OT stats since this rule went into effect:

Opening drives, game ultimately won or lost:
19.4% TDs (wins)
19.4% FGs
-- 13.3% wins
-- 6.1% losses
61.2% no score
-- 20.4% wins
-- 40.8%% losses

There is a slight advantage in receiving the kickoff: you win 53.1% of the the time.With a sample size of less than 100, that's indistinguishable from a 50-50 split. As much as I thought this was unnecessary at the time, I have to admit the league got this one right.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Yeah, absent an in depth film study of every officials bad call or bad noncall, on each play, I really try to avoid focusing much on officials, absent a historically bad, right in front of your face, unimpeded viewing angle, only thing the ref needs to look at, screw up, like what happened in the first game. I just can't get past that kind of mental mistake, late in the game, which negated Brady's 3rd int.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Add in the dropped INT Jonathan Jones, with 3:00 left that would have all but ended it and subsequent blatant missed OPI to on a pick play get KC to the 2 yard line. As well NE offside penalty that prevented what would have been a crazy race for KC to get 30 yards down the field and either clock it or kick in 15 seconds to send the game to overtime and I think you might have gotten all of them.

I'm mixed when reflecting on this game. On the one hand it was really dramatic and it was fascinating to watch as NE was forced to open up the offense in the 4th quarter after playing a highly conservative game for the previous 3. On the other it was disappointing to watch a masterpiece of a 1st half get erased by some randomness (e.g. the recovery of the Mahomes fumble at the end of the 2nd quarter), some serious home-cooking on the way PI was called down the stretch (compare the DPI & Holding on JC Jackson on the KC Drive beginning with 3:26 left in the 4th quarter to the way Eric Berry covered Gronk, never mind the pick 10 yards downfield later on that drive), and a couple of huge NE mistakes (the two interceptions, the 4th down stop). It made for a ton of drama, but now some of the best-coached & executed football I've seen in years will get lost in the reflections on the game.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

This is generally my position like 99% of the time - with the earlier game being the 1%, obviously. It is the rare officiating mistake that starts off terribly and ages worse with time as you see the ways that call was bungled.

(I realize this is a bit of a tangent but I’m still stunned at how bad that was.)

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

If not for the fact that a ref who is compromised would surely not wait until the final two minutes to put in such a blatant fix, I'd say the zebra's phone and financial records should be examined, because it is hard to understand how a sober and sane individual could have such an instance of poor observational performance.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

What I've heard is that the excuse from the crew on the field was they "thought the ball was tipped." If you look at the arc of the pass, this is such an obvious lie I agree that further investigation is needed. This smells like a Tim Donaghy situation.

That is literally the worst no-call I've ever seen.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Like I said, if a ref with a 3 digit I.Q. wanted to fix a game, he wouldn't do it so stupidly, so I'm not putting on the tinfoil hat yet. However, if you wanted to know why I would never, if I was on a criminal trial jury, vote to convict someone solely on the basis of eyewitness testimony, this is a good illumination.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

An idea I like instead of the overtime coin toss is that each team bids on starting field position, with the lower bid getting the ball at that yard line. Everything else the same. It would remove the kickoff, which the NFL wants to reduce anyway. It removes the randomness of the coin toss. If Reid felt the Chiefs had to have the ball, he could have bid the 5-yard line and probably gotten it, although Belichick could have made a similar choice.

Also I wouldn't mind if the NFL used the college overtime system, maybe with the starting yard line further back than the 25.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As far as officiating goes, I don't care about any one call, team or game. What I want is to believe that, over the course of the season, bad or inconsistent officiating generally isn't changing game outcomes. I have to say, this year hasn't been good.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

the brees that played today, and really since Thanksgiving, had little chance to outscore Ne or Kc. so at least the egregious call has that going for it.

im in the camp that it wasnt bad to throw on first down. 40 seconds doesn't mean much when the opposing kicker can hit 60 yarders to tie. id rather risk trying to get first down or 7 instead of playing for a 3pt lead with 60 or 70 seconds left. unfortunately brees was inaccurate.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

To me, the most important play after the Zebra Catastrophe took place with 11 minutes left, third and 17, Brees completely unpressured in the pocket, Ginn wide open 19 yards downfield. Brees just.....misses, by a significant amount. The guy still does a lot of things well, but he really looking into the void of can"t be trusted anymore.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Yeah, this was bad. But we don't know the play. Aikman said that Brees might have been thinking Ginn was just going to stop in the soft spot of the zone, which did look to be clear. Instead, he kept going which resulted in what looked like a horribly errant pass. So, it could have been on Ginn or maybe just an unfortunate miscommunication.

Regardless, as has been pointed out many times, Brees hasn't looked like an all-time great for much the latter half of the season. On one hand, he is 40; on the other, Tom Brady has gone through about ten stretches like this over the past few years, and he's got his team back in the Super Bowl in large part because he played so well yesterday.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Brady also missed a good number of passes yesterday. He did make several key 3rd down passes in OT, but even there he was only 4 of 9.

I think Brady's hit the point of his career analogous to Elway's last two years. Good enough to win in conjunction with a running game but not capable any longer of dominating a game by passing.

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Sean McVay froze badly at the end of that game. Kicking the field goal from the one inch line, then settling for a 57 yard field goal in overtime. Really bailed out by the refs and his kicker.

I’m tempted to say he won’t get away with that versus Belichick, but BB made his own utterly bizarre 4th down refusal last night. I honestly thought we were now past the point of coaches kicking in obvious go-for-it situations, but seemingly not.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I thought Brady forced balls into some tiny or nonexistent windows on a number of occasions - not much better than 50/50 balls - and got some fortunate wins. I also think he had to do it - White didn't have a lot of success and besides Edelman, it seems like his receivers generally failed to create separation from a less than stellar group of DBs. Patterson is fast but doesn't run good routes. Same with Dorsett. Gronk can't escape from safeties anymore and relies on his bulk and length (he might not even be able to outrun linebackers these days). Hogan is as slow as molasses in the freezer.
I don't understand the narrative that the Patriots would have had a three TD lead if Brady hadn't thrown the end zone INT. It's not as if events would have proceeded in the exact same manner sans the pick. Yes, the Pats would have most likely scored a touchdown, at which point it would have been 14-0. Terrible pass though.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As much as I hate that the Pats won when a guy lined up offsides in the final two minutes of a Conference Championship, there have been two really magnificent o-line playoff performances, one on the road, in the span of 8 days, by the Patriots. I think it is every bit as much a hallnark of the past 19 years(!) as Brady's presence.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

In high pressure situations, the consequences of a small mistake can be magnified greatly. The Patriots are less likely to make those mistakes than their opponents. Of course, the Patriots have made mistakes that cost them games but that doesn't change the fact the they make them at a lower rate. 'Don't make mistakes' isn't exactly coaching wizardry but Belichick seems to institute it more rigorously than almost all of his peers.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

The Pats’ dlineman actually had a bigger impact on the play at the time of the snap in that situation, as it gave the Chiefs a free play and timeout no matter what. The Chiefs’ play only had a significant impact because of the result.

I just thought of this - could Brady have seen the flag? Should have been thrown early but I didn’t see exactly when.

193 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

In Andy Reid's comments, he said that the flag was thrown at the proper time. I think there was some concern about the flag being thrown late, because the broadcasting crew didn't notice/mention it until after the interceptor was tackled.

It seems likely then that Brady saw the flag come out and treated the play like a free one.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Won't speculate on what Brady was thinking, but if you watch the replay you'll notice that most of Kansas City's sideline doesn't celebrate the interception - I didn't notice the flag in real time either, but I did notice that before the announcers/graphics said there was a flag. (In fact, since I just looked back at the replay to confirm, you can indeed see the SJ on the far sideline throw the flag right after the snap.)

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

On his weekly radio spot on WEEI, when presented with a teed-up question around some ESPN headline of "was Tom Brady lucky?", Brady was asked if he knew Dee Ford was offsides and therefore had a free play, and he explicitly shot that down. I give Brady credit for honesty (not that he has anything to apologize for).

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

As someone who has watched old quarterbacks trying to play in the cold when not coming off a week layoff what Brady did was impressive. Guy was pretty much outstanding all day. Yes his offensive line was awesome which certainly helped. But contrast that with his 40 year old peer Drew Brees playing indoors also with a really good line work and Brees was spraying passes all game. At that age rest matters.

Speaking of the Saints line man the pass blocking of Donald was incredible though it was hard to judge if it was really tremendous craft or aided by a crew that was not inclined to penalize anyone. Same with the NE/KC game though NE had the advantage as BB had more faith in his secondary holding up so willing to send extra guys to work to avoid getting tied up by blockers who had extra latitude courtesy of the officials

Lots of McCarthy type coaching by SM on that 4th down and then thinking that a 57 yard field goal attempt was an ok outcome. Wow.

And while I know the Pats were dropping 8 guys and KC had no timeouts but not taking another shot to end the game was pretty bizarre. You think going to overtime against Tom Brady with an exhausted defense is a good setup? Really Andy? You are counting on winning a coin flip to avoid TB going at your D? The playcalling the second half was at times legit special but settling is never a good idea. Ever

Full credit to both crowds yesterday. The energy was palpable. And the Saints crowd never stopped its raucous effort until the game was ended. Never a pause in keeping things jazzed.

The officiating? As noted above as the playoffs progress the officials pretty much withdraw from the action. This is not new. Which of course made the roughing call really stunning. You interject yourself for THAT officials? That is when you show up?

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

I'll defend the non-call in New Orleans because Payton threw on first down. If he was playing to kill the clock he should have played to kill the clock. But throwing twice in three downs and then demanding the zebras bail you out felt like a crime against the spirit of the game if not against the letter. To give them the penalty there basically ends the game, (assuming they make the kick) which, if they had been running, they could have done themselves. Add this to all of Brees missed throws, all of the weird playcalling, and the fact that they still had the lead and chances to win either by stopping the Rams before OT or not throwing a bad interception during OT and all this bellyaching by the Saints seems in really poor form to be honest. It would be one thing if it cost them a chance to score, or they had been trying to run out the clock themselves, but neither of these things is the case. They took the lead anyway, blew it anyway and then blew it again in OT just for good measure. Saints didn't deserve to win and there was a bad call. They didn't get robbed.

Patriots could have stopped playing after the non call on that obvious pick play, thrown an int in OT and complained in the postgame, too. Instead they converted 3 different third and longs in the extra period and didn't let Mahomes see the field. Brees could have done that to Goff. He didn't. That's all. It's gutless blaming the refs after throwing an OT interception like that one in my opinion.

Glad Tony Romo's commentary got a shout out here. He'e been doing it all year but still, I thought he was just sensational, especially his prediction of an all out blitz on cover zero and on going over the middle to Jules on the last drive. It really makes you realize how much bullshit there is about the play calls being great mysteries and puts the focus back on the execution where it should be.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Wow, K.C. offense has not been the same since releasing Kareem Hunt, he was the straw that stirred the drink, Mahomes looking for the big gain and forcing the bomb on every pass play. Receiver's weren't open often.,especially in the first half.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

Re the non-call in the NO-LA game, I was kind of ok with it. First, the replay makes the hit look earlier than it was because you can get a bad read on when the ball crosses the line of the receiver. The hit was early – no doubt – but closer than it appears when in slomo and from a bad angle. Second, if the ball is caught – if I’m not mistaken - the runner isn’t near a first down, and might actually get pushed out of bounds, stopping the clock. Really, the only good result for NO on that play is a DPI.

I was wrong about the KC-NE game, very wrong. NE looks like a different team these last two weeks. Their pass rush was excellent again, and their offensive line kept Brady miraculously clean.

While I think you have to give credit to the KC defense for getting off the field several times, especially in the second half when they had to be tired, there were some terrible individual plays, and you can see why they were so bad during the regular season. It seemed like NE had two downfield pass plays that worked. Splitting Gronk out wide, which Romo harped on, and KC didn’t seem interested in defending with safety help, and the bunch-like formation with Edelman releasing a second after the other receivers to get open quickly on a short cross. That seemed to be enough against KC, even with Brady looking very average most of the time. They converted innumerable third-and-mediums and third-and-longs that way. Terrible coaching and terrible (lack of) recognition by the players.

You could say that the Pats got lucky. Tremendous Pats luck on the Edelman non-muff. I get why he’d try to catch it, because it may roll another ten yards. But then get completely in front of it and fall on it like a grenade instead of catching it from the side. But the INT coes soon after, so that’s a wash. Then more luck on the OT coin flip. But fair play to them, and due to their domination of time of possession, they were probably more likely to score a TD anyway. Finally, the Ford offside. This, like the Tyreek Hill heroball punt return, is the kind of mistake the Pats don’t make. I wouldn’t say that’s lucky. There’s a reason the Pats win by letting other teams make mistakes.

The roughing call . . . not so fair play. I’m not gonna scream favoritism for NE, ‘cause that’s childish, but I do think there is a bit of “don’t you dare touch Tommy Brady” among some of the refs in the league. When the ref invents/imagines/makes up a call, that’s a very bad look. I think the comment by Steratore or whoever the guy in the booth was, said an awful lot. Unconscionable, especially in a game where the refs basically decided not to call any offensive holding no matter what.