Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round
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 Seahawks 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.
Minnesota Vikings 10 at San Francisco 49ers 27
Bryan Knowles: The Vikings open, surprise surprise, with a rush. Right at the returning Kwon Alexander, which is a smart call; test that injured pec early. So far, everything seems fine there. The Vikings go run-run-incomplete pass and have to punt.
I said in our preview that the 49ers' running offense was overrated -- not that they're bad at it, per se, but the offense really flows when Jimmy Garoppolo is dealing. And, indeed, on the first drive, the 49ers rush two times for 4 yards and throw five times for 57 yards, with Garoppolo hitting Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Sanders, and George Kittle for chunk plays, and then hitting Kendrick Bourne for the touchdown. Garoppolo's one incomplete pass bounced off of Kittle's hands, too. A 7-0 start for San Francisco early in the first, and they couldn't have scripted that much better.
Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember last year when the Rams roasted the Vikings and they kept getting inside wide receivers lined up on Anthony Barr? The 49ers do.
Bryan Knowles: Barr's a pretty darn good coverage linebacker. As an emergency default slot guy to make up for the Vikings' injuries at corner, he may be a bit out of his depth.
Aaron Schatz: Hey Bryan, did you say something in your preview about the Vikings picking on Akhello Witherspoon?
Scott Spratt: Why does every quarterback bit use the magician comparison?
Bryan Knowles: And, game on.
The weakness on the 49ers' defense is Ahkello Witherspoon on the left -- watch that all game long. On that last drive, he was called for pass interference, gave up a 12-yard pass to Adam Thielen, and then fell over and let Stefon Diggs go for a 41-yard touchdown. I would not be at all surprised if Witherspoon is pulled before the game ends. Vikings tie at 7.
Bryan Knowles: There's a reason the 49ers pulled him against Seattle two weeks ago, Aaron! I was a little surprised that he was starting this week!
Dave Bernreuther: Ahkello Witherspoon is pretty clearly the weak link in this otherwise stout defense. Rather than stifling the Vikings drive early, he gave them a first down via DPI, and just now, on a pretty horrible short heave by Cousins, he misplayed it terribly, allowing Stefon Diggs to waltz in for the tying touchdown. The Niners are going to need to get him some help, fast.
Scott Spratt: According to Sports Info Solutions charting, Witherspoon is allowing 7.8 yards per target with a 54% coverage success rate. Meanwhile, backup Emmanuel Moseley is allowing 6.3 yards per target with a 63% coverage success rate.
Derrik Klassen: I honestly think Jimmy Garoppolo was throwing that third-and-10 pass to Kyle Juszczyk but got too much air on it because he got hit. A bit fortunate someone else got under it. Still impressive he got that ball out at all, though.
Aaron Schatz: Yeah, quite a catch by Kendrick Bourne to save them from the run for 0 on second-and-10.
Bryan Knowles: Garoppolo did not look good on that second drive -- the wounded-duck catch, a near-interception defended by Kittle, running out of bounds on third-and-forever. Nice recovery by the Vikings defense, getting plenty of pressure and bringing Garoppolo to the ground a couple times. Danielle Hunter versus Mike McGlinchey may be a mismatch.
Bryan Knowles: And yup, here comes Emmanuel Mosley. Thought Shanahan might give Witherspoon one more series, but you can't blame him for the quick hook.
Vince Verhei: I thought Not-Sherman Corner was going to be a weakness that would haunt San Francisco all year, but they did OK there for the first 15-and-a-half games. I guess it took nearly a whole season for teams to figure that out.
Dave Bernreuther: Arik Armstead obliterates Cousins on the opening play of the next drive. He made that one look far too easy. I expected a lot of that in this game, so that got a whoop out of me.
Scott Spratt: Huge play there for the Vikings to force and recover a fumble on a Deebo Samuel run. It may get overturned. But the important thing is that Jimmy Garoppolo pancaked Anthony Barr on a block. Incredible.
Dave Bernreuther: Oh man, what a bad job on that reverse by Deebo Samuel. He had all sorts of room with blockers in front of him but was indecisive as he started to turn upfield. He's Deebo Samuel, though, and impossible to tackle, so running straight into a crowd instead still shouldn't be a bad choice, but he did it slowly and got stood up a bit. Just as things were starting to look good for the 49ers again, the Vikings get a takeaway.
Bryan Knowles: It is indeed overturned -- nice job by the linebacker to get back up after the Jimmy G pancake to make the strip, but Deebo's knee was down.
Carl Yedor: Garoppolo just had a very awkward, slow-motion pancake of Anthony Barr on a reverse to Deebo Samuel, which probably happened more because Barr looked like he was off-balance and trying to change direction while being blocked than because Garoppolo laid a punishing blow. It would have been much more exciting had Deebo Samuel not temporarily fumbled (overturned on review), but I hope Collinsworth gets to point it out soon so that it doesn't get lost to history.
Vince Verhei: Two details on the Deebo Samuel end-around that was originally ruled a fumble:
1) Kyle Juszczyk taking the handoff to the right, handing off to Samuel coming back to the left ... and then faking the pitch to the tailback. Awesome.
2) Jimmy Garropolo pancaking Anthony Barr.
Jimmy G vs. Anthony Barr did NOT go as expected. pic.twitter.com/Tds7zw6oUB
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) 11 January 2020
Dave Bernreuther: Now THAT is the Deebo Samuel I was expecting to see on the non-fumble play. Catch at the 10, needed three guys to take him down at the one.
Two plays later, Coleman gets in mostly uncontested.
Vince Verhei: Tevin Coleman scores on a dive to put the 49ers up 14-7. One thing that's clear, the 49ers are the more physical team today. They're gang-tackling and stopping guys in their tracks, but their own runners are dragging defenders down the field. That's probably in part due to the bye and the week of rest, but the quarterback is getting involved too -- the block on the end-around, and the attempted sneak on first-and-goal. That tells me it's at least somewhat a mindset and attitude thing.
Bryan Knowles: And then Deebo catches another pass for 10 yards, and nearly zips into the end zone. If he stretches the ball out, it's a score, but you can tell ball security is on his mind, and he tucked it into his body instead. Fair enough.
Garoppolo fails on the Patented Brady Sneak the next play, but Tevin Coleman scores the next play (with Juszczyk paving the way), and it's a 14-7 49ers lead.
Vince Verhei: Physicality. The Tweet mentions Kittle but every 49ers blocker here wins his matchup.
lol Kittle completely washes out Griffen pic.twitter.com/HdL08H7upn
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) 11 January 2020
Derrik Klassen: Feels like Minnesota is going to end up in "Kirk Cousins has to play exclusively from dropback" territory. 14-7 isn't insurmountable by any means, but four minutes is plenty of time for San Francisco to score before this half closes. If San Francisco scores here and forces Minnesota to get into more clear pass looks, I don't like Minnesota's chances to get back into it.
Bryan Knowles: Ah, there's the Weekly Mandated Inexplicable Jimmy Garoppolo Interception. He just completely missed Eric Kendricks dropping back into zone coverage. He does that all the time!
Derrik Klassen: OK, well, Jimmy G decided he didn't want to run away with this game just yet. Second time today he has thrown right at Eric Kendricks, got deservedly picked off this time.
Rivers McCown: Eric Kendricks picks Jimmy Garoppolo by paying zero respect to the play-action game. You love to see it.
Dave Bernreuther: Imagine how good this 49ers team would look if their quarterback wasn't determined to throw the ball to the other team.
As noted, they're dominating everywhere else. The pass rush is making Cousins have to sprint backward for his life just to throw short screen passes, which really feels like playing with fire. The tackling is good, the non-Witherspoon coverage has been good, the offense has been 10/11 good ... and yet the Vikings are knocking on the door of a tie game going into the half.
Bryan Knowles: I wonder if the 49ers didn't make a mistake not calling a timeout after the first-down stop. The defense holds, Minnesota kicks a field goal, and the 49ers have 31 seconds to respond with one timeout left.
Typically, Kyle Shanahan has gotten conservative in these situations this year, so we may just be going into the half at 14-10. The 49ers get the ball to start the second half, so that might influence the call.
Bryan Knowles: Yup, it's the knee.
NBC flashed Garoppolo's next-drive stats after an interception -- 36-for-39, 419 yards, two touchdowns. That's great -- but it's not the statistics that's worrisome; it's the sample size.
Carl Yedor: Would have been tough to really mount much of a drive with how little time was left, but I would have liked to see San Francisco at least try to take a shot downfield to see if they could eke out a field goal before half. If nothing's there, Garoppolo can always take a sack in that situation because the alternative approach (kneeling) has the same effect of running the clock. If it gets to second-and-10 with a stopped clock and about 20 or 25 seconds left, it's unlikely that Minnesota would have actually had time to do anything too. Obviously, they're getting the ball again, but I do feel like it might have been worth the minor risk of a turnover there.
Vince Verhei: Vikings have a first down in the red zone after the interception. They go: screen pass for a loss, missed throw on an open Stefon Diggs (on the left side, of course), third-down sack, field goal, and it's 14-10 at the half.
It feels like the 49ers are dominating this game, and the numbers back that up: they're outgaining Minnesota 159 to 83, and crushing them in first downs, 14 to four. But three or four mistakes have hurt them severely, leaving us with a one-score game.
Vince Verhei: 49ers at the half are averaging 3.5 yards per carry but have already run for six first downs. That includes a sneak by Garropolo right before his interception -- I don't remember the last time I saw a team use two QB sneaks in the first half.
Bryan Knowles: 41 of Minnesota's 83 yards came on the Diggs catch where Witherspoon fell down rather than try to make a tackle or something. Minnesota's basically in this right now because of two huge plays, but they are still in it.
NBC's halftime show is saying that the Vikings need to stick to their game plan and keep feeding the ball to Dalvin Cook. That seems like a terrible idea; it's not working. If Minnesota's going to come back, it's going to be Cousins with play-action passing finding some holes deep.
Scott Spratt: Beyond just not seeing Eric Kendricks on a couple of throws, Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown some really inaccurate passes in the middle of the field in this game.
Bryan Knowles: Mmm, not a fan of Shanahan kicking a field goal on fourth-and-2. It goes through, and the 49ers do extend their lead to 17-10, but that was a chance for a knockout blow there instead of just a jab.
Rivers McCown: Bryan: "If Minnesota's going to come back, it's going to be Cousins with play-action passing finding some holes deep."
Kirk Cousins: "What about one more screen or checkdown to Dalvin Cook on each drive?"
Bryan Knowles: I'm also not a fan of Kirk Cousins throwing at Richard Sherman. He was targeted just once in the first half, and on his first target in the second half, Sherman picks him off. It looked like there was some miscommunication between Cousins and Thielen, but man. Don't challenge Sherman!
Rivers McCown: Raheem Mostert playoff fantasy football owners are on tilt as Tevin Coleman scores again to put the Vikings in a big hole. 24-10 with roughly 20 minutes to play.
Bryan Knowles: Eight straight runs after the interception, and the 49ers plow into the end zone again. I stand by my point that the 49ers' run game isn't as good as the standard statistics would have people believe but, uh, that was an impressive imposition of will. The Vikings look exhausted -- some of that's the five-day rest, some of that is just the 49ers running forward over and over again.
49ers are up 24-10 late in the third. Game's not over yet, but the Vikings have to get on their high horse right now.
Bryan Knowles: The Vikings immediate response drive: decent pass to Thielen; screen pass that goes nowhere; Cousins throwing the ball away rather than scrambling for the first down; punt on fourth-and-4.
Yeah, I think this one is more or less over.
Carl Yedor: Well, Minnesota had somewhat of a chance after quickly forcing a punt from San Francisco, but Marcus Sherels muffed it, giving the 49ers the ball on the doorstep. They only get a field goal, but a) it's now a three-score game and b) San Francisco was able to bleed some more time off the clock in the process.
Aaron Schatz: The Vikings are still calling runs and screens. This offense is clearly not designed to come back from being down 17 in the fourth quarter.
Bryan Knowles: Kevin Stefanski might be calling his way out of a head coaching job today, especially with Robert Saleh a candidate for the same job.
Vince Verhei: San Francisco's fourth sack -- and it feels like a lot more than that -- forces a punt with nine minutes and change to go.
Vikings are now up to 41 yards on the Diggs touchcown, 40 yards on their other 32 plays. They have not picked up a first down in the second half, and now trail in that category 20 to four.
49ers were clearly the better team in the first half, but they made all the big mistakes so Minnesota was still in it. They have also been clearly the better team in the second half, but now the Vikings have made all the big mistakes, and the score shows that.
Cris Collinsworth compared the 49ers to a pro wrestling team and name-dropped Gorgeous George. While I appreciate the nod to history, could we get a more current reference? Look at George Kittle's shoes for god's sake!
Big love and gratitude to my boy @gkittle46, "The People's Tight End" for rocking these electrifying custom ROCK's made by @MACHE275. @49ers #bloodsweatrespect #bringit pic.twitter.com/GLdm0ZcEdv
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) 11 January 2020
Bryan Knowles: And, of course, Nick Bosa getting up after the wind was knocked out of him and posing is definitely Hulking up.
Rivers McCown: Nothing epitomizes this game more than the Vikings running on third-and-1 with less than 3 minutes left, down 17, and not getting it.
Derrik Klassen: Minnesota ended up in "Cousins can only go dropback now" territory and it went about as well as expected: awful. Sacks, hits, errant throws, things of that nature.
Was expecting (and hoping) this game would be a bit closer because I don't expect Baltimore vs. Tennessee to stay interesting for very long. Hope I'm wrong and Tennessee can stay in it!
Bryan Knowles: That 49ers defense is something else when it's firing on all cylinders.
Garoppolo will need to play a bit better to win in the NFC Championship Game, but hey, that's a problem for next week.
Vince Verhei: Game effectively ends when Irv Smith gains 21 yards on fourth-and-22. He could have picked up the first down but Jimmie Ward lays him out with a big hit. A fitting end. San Francisco won for lots of reasons, but largely because they were the bigger, stronger, tougher, more violent team. Which is refreshing.
I really don't know where Minnesota goes from here in 2020. It'll likely be the same roster coming back, maybe with a new offensive coordinator. They'll just have to hope everyone plays just a little bit better.
Bryan Knowles: They also really, really need to rethink their run-first philosophy. Dalvin Cook's a good player, but they are so much more dangerous when running the play-action pass than they are when they're handing off on first down for the Nth time.
Tom Gower: So I got home with less than five minutes to play and per the box score saw almost half of Minnesota's first downs for the entire game? Reading over this thread, that seems like how the game went.
Rivers McCown: I mean if you're the Vikings you've got to consider trading up for a quarterback if you can, right? I don't know how deep Zimmer influences play calling but even if I think Cousins is a solid-to-good quarterback, we've got to admit he limits their ceiling to some extent. They clearly didn't feel comfortable asking him to air it out, and that was what they needed to do to win the game.
(Nothing will change because NFL teams generally shy away from risk.)
Bryan Knowles: I don't think Minnesota has the juice to trade too far up without killing drafts in future years; it's a hard sell to go that far all-in on any one player, especially if you can't get to the top of the draft.
I wouldn't be shocked if they grabbed a falling Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason, though. Surprised, but not shocked.
Dave Bernreuther: Re: rethinking run-first philosophies ... they employ Gary Kubiak and are guaranteeing money to a quarterback that's not very good. That's not happening.
Which is a shame, because I have always been a huge fan of the players on that defense and of Zimmer. But it really does feel like they've reached their ceiling.
Tennessee Titans 28 at Baltimore Ravens 12
Bryan Knowles: The Titans probably need a few lucky bounces to have a chance here, and they get one on Baltimore's opening drive. Lamar Jackson's pass is a tad high, but Mark Andrews is playing on a bum ankle and can't elevate for it. It's tipped into the hand of Kevin Byard, who not only has a nice runback, but gets 15 yards tacked on after the Jackson tackle. It looks like Baltimore's defense is going to stiffen up and keep Tennessee to just a field goal after Earl Thomas comes through absolutely untouched on second-and-goal from the 4, but on third-and-long, Ryan Tannehill hits Jonnu Smith -- an incredible catch, barely getting half his butt down in bounds -- for the touchdown. A 7-0 Titans lead late in the first.
Vince Verhei: Let's all just ignore the part where Dan Fouts asked, during a playoff game, "Can you split the cheeks?"
Bryan Knowles: Look, if a quarterback throws the ball so hard it lodges in his receivers' posterior and he scores a touchdown, it's the greatest play in NFL history. Fouts is just on the cutting edge of posterior play calling.
Vince Verhei: I was so focused on whether or not Smith came down in bounds that I didn't appreciate how great his one-handed snag-and-juggle was.
Jonnu Smith with an unreal one-handed grab to put the Titans up 7-0! pic.twitter.com/FEy9J2X87G
— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) 12 January 2020
Aaron Schatz: Props to the Tennessee defensive interior, which just stopped the Ravens on a fourth-and-1 for the first time this season by stuffing Lamar Jackson up the middle.
And the Titans follow it up with a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Kalif Raymond, who is almost exclusively a return man. Raymond had only nine catches all year.
Bryan Knowles: Wow. What a time for the Ravens to get stuffed on a fourth-and-1. The broadcast says it's the first time they've been stuffed there all season long.
And, striking while the iron is hot, the very next play sees Tannehill hit Kalif Raymond on the deep shot for a 45-yard touchdown. 14-0 Titans, and I don't think ANYONE saw that coming.
Vince Verhei: Lamar Jackson stuffed on fourth-and-1 on the Ravens' side of the 50. If the Titans go up 14-0 here, we might not see a fourth-down try in 2020. Great play by David Long knifing into the backfield for the stop.
And sure enough, Titans go play-action and Ryan Tannehill finds Kalif Raymond for a 45-yard score.
Scott Spratt: Wow, what a shocking turn. The Ravens fail to convert a fourth-and-1 for the first time all year, and then with the resulting good field position, Tannehill connects deep with Kalif Raymond for a touchdown. 14-0 Titans.
Rivers McCown: Anti-analytics hive is gonna rally around that fourth-and-1, I fear.
Scott Spratt: The EdjSports team is saying that going for that fourth-and-1 improved the Ravens' Game-Winning Chance by 6%.
Carl Yedor: One of the best ways to neutralize a dominant rushing attack is to take a sizable lead that forces that team to pass instead. There's plenty of time left, so Baltimore doesn't have to completely stop rushing yet. But if this 14-point lead holds, Baltimore will likely be less able to turn to their bread-and-butter run game in the second half. With all that said, Baltimore is more than capable of putting up points in a hurry throwing the ball. It isn't panic time yet.
Rivers McCown: What if Seth Roberts decided to catch a football?
Aaron Schatz: Good play so far by the Titans cornerbacks, who have straight-out slapped away a couple of passes to receivers. Ravens forced to kick a 49-yard field goal when Jackson gets bottled up on a keeper and then Willie Snead drops a pass slightly behind him. 14-3 Titans.
Bryan Knowles: Man, drops are going to kill the Ravens. Three drops already, and the Ravens have to settle for a field goal. Still 14-3 Titans midway through the second.
Vince Verhei: This feels lazy and cliched to write, but the Ravens just look flat. They pick up a couple of first downs to move into Titans territory, but then on third down Jackson throws a negative-ALEX pass to Willie Snead, who would have been tackled short of a first down even if he hadn't dropped the ball. Justin Tucker bails them out with a 49-yard field goal. He remains their most reliable player.
Scott Spratt: Interestingly, Bryan, the Ravens and Titans had 18 and 16 drops in the regular season according to Sports Info Solutions, the second-fewest and fewest in football. Obviously, run rates influenced those low totals, but the Ravens' 4.1% drop rate was still eighth-lowest in football. They picked a bad week for this.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens have to call timeout there with all three left and less than a minute left in the first half. They need plays to score a touchdown here.
Carl Yedor: Yes, griping about announcers is low-hanging fruit, but with about a minute and 40 seconds left in the half, Tennessee getting to keep one of their two timeouts would not have made much of a difference. Running the ball on third-and-16 is essentially giving up on the drive. There was more than enough time for Tennessee to score with about 1:25-ish to play given that they would likely have gotten good field position on the ensuing punt had Baltimore elected to run a give-up run play.
Instead, Baltimore converts the third down and ends up driving all the way down to the 5 before kicking a field goal, which has the added benefit of keeping the ball out of Tennessee's hands before halftime. No touchdown, but definitely better than conceding the drive to Tennessee and potentially a field goal the other way. Plus, Baltimore gets the ball again to start the second half as well.
Aaron Schatz: Most teams would wuss out on third-and-16 from their own 9, they would run a draw and punt. Baltimore knew they couldn't let Tennessee get another scoring drive in and they went for the whole thing and converted.
Most teams would get conservative on third-and-14 from the opposing 42, try to just get a couple more yards for a long field goal. Not Baltimore. They went deep and Hollywood Brown made an outstanding catch.
Ravens couldn't get it in on one shot at the end zone, though, so chip shot field goal with three seconds left, 14-6 Titans.
Bryan Knowles: Disappointing that they only came out of it with a field goal, but Jackson made some insane passes to drive the Ravens down the length of the field. That Hollywood Brown one-handed catch is one of the best I've seen.
Still, the Titans will take 14-6 at the half all day, every day.
Bryan Knowles: So, the drops. Are we blaming them on Baltimore sitting their starters in Week 17? I don't think it has really affected Jackson much at all, but the receivers aren't exactly in Jackson's league. I tend to think Tennessee's lead is more about the Titans secondary playing well than anything else, but could two weeks off have affected Snead and Roberts? That seems to be the narrative going around the Twitterverse at the moment, and I don't think I buy it.
Vince Verhei: If the Ravens win this thing, that drive is going to be a big reason why. If they punt from their own 9, the Titans take over near midfield and probably tack onto their lead. Instead Baltimore very nearly gets a touchdown, settling for the field goal to cut things to a one-score game.
I'm having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around this game. Kind of feels like Tennessee got lucky to get their lead. Kind of feels like Baltimore is still lucky to be in it. I have no idea who I think is going to win.
Vince Verhei: Average starting field position in the first half:
Baltimore: BAL 18.0-yard line
Tennessee: TEN 38.4-yard line.
One of the reasons this game is so perplexing. So many of Baltimore's yards have just gotten them out of a hole without even entering scoring range. Their field goal drive at the end of the half covered 91 yards. You get 91 yards, you're supposed to get more than three points.
Scott Spratt: The broadcast camera was a little behind that first pass of the second half, but I think Nick Boyle dropped that one. That would be four for the Ravens today.
Scott Spratt: And now Nick Boyle is down clutching his ankle. With Mark Andrews already out of the game -- anyone know what happened to him? -- the Ravens' normal battery of tight ends is down to just Hayden Hurst.
Bryan Knowles: To Vince's point: there were 78 drives of 91-plus yards in 2019. Only six ended in a field goal, the rest were touchdowns.
As for Andrews, he was coming in with a bum ankle, and I think he's at least on a limited snap count today.
Scott Spratt: Andrews is back in the game.
Scott Spratt: The Ravens have converted a third-and-16, a third-and-14, and second-and-17 on their last two drives.
Bryan Knowles: Wow, ANOTHER fourth-and-1 stuff by Tennessee. If the Titans hang on to this one, that's why.
Going for it on fourth down is the right call over the long term; it maximizes your chances to win. Coming up short multiple times in one game, however, is a massive swing...
Vince Verhei: Hayden Hurst did not have a target in the first half. He catches an 8-yard gain on second-and-10 and screams at his coaches to throw him the ball.
And then Gus Edwards is stuffed on third down and Jackson is stuffed on fourth-and-1 again. Ravens' last three drives: 39 plays, 208 yards, six points.
Bryan Knowles: Derrick Henry runs, Derrick Henry throws, Derrick Henry caries the Titans on his back.
After Henry rumbles 66 yards to bring Tennessee inside the 10, the Titans offense bogs down. They put Tannehill on the sideline on fourth down and snap it to Henry, and he throws a perfect little jump pass to Corey Davis for the touchdown. 21-6 Titans, and the Ravens are on the ropes...
Scott Spratt: This is stunning. After another fourth-down stop and forced turnover on downs, Derrick Henry breaks one for 66 yards and then throws a touchdown on third-and-goal. 21-6. This is dire for the Ravens.
Bryan Knowles: If this score holds, it would be the 18th time in NFL playoff history that a 9-plus-point favorite lost. The last time was the Ravens, beating the Broncos in 2012. Depending on exactly when you got your money in, this could be the biggest Vegas upset since the Chargers beat the Colts back in 2007.
And now Jackson fumbles, and Tennessee takes over again!
Aaron Schatz: Henry's yardage seems a lot more about him breaking tackles tonight than it did last week when it was some dominant offensive line blocking.
Scott Spratt: That makes sense, Aaron, since the Patriots defense was second-best in allowed broken tackle rate (7.8%) while the Ravens are 24th (11.5%).
Bryan Knowles: That might be the ugliest option touchdown I've ever seen, but Tannehill punches in, and the Titans are piling on. 28-6 with 4:16 left in the third? I think ... even with how good the Ravens can be ... I think that's pretty much ballgame, ladies and gentlemen, with the way both teams have been playing today.
Vince Verhei: Did I think the Titans had a chance to win tonight? Sure. Teams worse than Tennessee have beaten teams better than Baltimore before.
Did I think they would take a 28-6 lead at any point in the game? Not a chance in hell.
Carl Yedor: And now, a strip-sack! Tennessee comes up with it! Even more dire for Baltimore now. Baltimore was a dominant team this year due in part to them maximizing edges where they had them by taking calculated risks (like going for it). Today's a good example of what happens when those small edges you can use to stack up a big advantage over the course of the season go against you all at once. Tennessee has managed two fourth-and-short stuffs, snagged a tipped interception, recovered the only fumble to this point in the game, and scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone opportunities. That's everything you're looking for if you're trying to win as the underdog. Now, they just need to hang on with a 22-point lead.
Scott Spratt: The Titans led football by scoring a touchdown on 75.6% of their red zone trips in the regular season. Six offensive touchdowns in, they've yet to settle for a field goal in the playoffs.
Bryan Knowles: Already seeing the "See? This shows your computers and numbers are all useless!" takes on the Twitters.
I mean, this would be (...is?) one of the 20 biggest upsets in postseason history. Upsets happen, and it's what keeps us coming back to this stupid game year after year.
Bryan Knowles: The ball bouncing off of Hurst's chest as he doesn't get his head around in time just sums up this entire game for the Ravens. This one ain't Jackson's fault.
Scott Spratt: And that Hurst drop was the Ravens' sixth of the day. Again, they had just 18 for the entire regular season.
Bryan Knowles: Fill in the blank: the Titans' upset is the biggest since ___________
I'm going with Jets over Patriots in the 2010 divisional round, the last time a No. 6 beat a No. 1. Patriots had a 44.6% DVOA and were going to roll; Jets were a top-ten team but not all that high and had just lost 45-3 to New England in Week 13. Five sacks of Tom Brady and three Mark Sanchez touchdown passes later, and it was clear the Team of the '00s was done. Or something like that, anyway.
Vince Verhei: I would say both Giants-Patriots Super Bowls were bigger upsets. The first one needs no explanation; the second, remember that in 2011 the Giants actually gave up more points than they scored in the regular season. This Tennessee team has been undeniably good for half a season now -- five of their last six wins have been by 14 points or more, counting tonight. I'm not sure they're not the best team left in the AFC. I mean, since Halloween I've been preparing for a Baltimore-New England AFC title game, and in the end neither of them even got there because Tennessee beat them both.
Aaron Schatz: That 2011 Patriots team wasn't anywhere near as good as in 2010 or this Ravens team ... their defense was close to the worst in the league. So yeah, this reminds me of the Jets-Patriots 2010 except that these two teams didn't meet in the regular season.
Vince Verhei: Brilliant point by Ross Tucker about how the last three weeks have unfolded perfectly for Kansas City.
The Dolphins got the Chiefs a surprise bye and the Titans just got them a surprise home AFC Championship game.
They went from 3 games including two on the road to two home games without doing anything.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) 12 January 2020
Aaron Schatz: Heh. It will only unfold perfectly if we run these Audibles on Monday morning with Kansas City having won on Sunday.
Carl Yedor: By DVOA difference alone the Beastquake game between Seattle and New Orleans in 2010 was a slightly larger upset than Jets over Patriots that year, but Seattle did have the benefit of playing that game at home. That game was more of a matchup of good (NO) versus pretty bad (SEA) as opposed to dominant (NE) versus pretty good (NYJ) though. I wonder whether the latter strikes people as a more massive style of upset than the latter. I'm inclined to lean with Patriots-Jets though.
Bryan Knowles: Talking about poor teams over good teams, I thought about saying the 2008 divisional round game where the Cardinals (-5.0% DVOA) upset the Panthers (18.0%), but I think those Panthers felt more like a fluke, and Jake Delhomme throwing five interceptions feels less like an upset and more like a meltdown. They were 10-point favorites, though!
It has been a while, I suppose is the point.
Tom Gower: 28-12 win. I'm still not sure how to process this game emotionally. The Titans franchise hasn't had many playoff wins in many years, and the playoff wins they have had have all been close. Their most recent playoff wins before this game were the 2017 game against the Chiefs when they trailed 21-3 and didn't take the lead in until just over six minutes left; the 2003 game against the Ravens when they won on a field goal at the end; and the 2002 game against the Steelers when they won in overtime. Not since Derrick Mason took a safety kick back 80 yards in the AFC title game against the Jaguars has a Titans playoff game felt in hand when the fourth quarter began. Heck, if you go by final margin, that and tonight are the Titans/Oilers' only playoff wins by more than since points since literally the 1978 postseason (when, naturally, they didn't win a game by more than seven points in the regular season before winning two playoff games by eight-plus).
A couple of things in particular stood out about this game. Derrick Henry is Derrick Henry, but I'll mostly let other commentary serve on his individual exploits. The Ravens have a good set of defensive linemen, and I thought the Titans might struggle in this game because of their difficulty blocking Michael Pierce, Brandon Williams, and company. That absolutely was not a consistent issue tonight. I thought their interior defensive front might do OK against Baltimore, and they did more than that. What I worried about primarily was how the outside linebackers and other players would handle edge runs and whether they'd get consistently gashed for 8 and then open up inside lanes compensating for that. Lamar can do the spectacular as a runner, and did a couple of times tonight, but it wasn't that bad. Obviously Baltimore had their share of self-inflicted mistakes in the pass game, and you saw the good (ability to hit tight inside windows) and bad (consistency outside the numbers) with Lamar passing tonight. But structurally, these are both largely run-oriented teams and the Titans won the critical matchups in both areas.
Field position was quite significant in this game, I thought. Three of the Titans' four scores came on drives starting in Baltimore territory. The fourth included Derrick Henry's 66-yard run, and only one of their other seven possessions starting in their own half made it into Ravens territory. Baltimore, meanwhile, dealt with long fields all night long. Their best starting field position came at their own 26, and that was the drive that began with Seth Roberts' drop, what was it, 20 yards downfield? But just when I thought Baltimore had the chance to take charge in a game that still hung in the balance, they got stopped on fourth-and-short.
Beyond the Titans' control of both lines of scrimmage, I was interested by how the Ravens chose to play this game on defense in particular. A week after New England's defense played well enough to win spending an awful lot of time playing two-high and being relatively content with Henry getting short gains, Don Martindale and company stuck to their normal pressure-oriented style. Looking at the deep shot to Kalif Raymond that made it 14-0, it's easy to criticize that decision. But I also look at that whole "seven points on long fields" thing and wonder just how much criticism he should get. Baltimore still tried to run the ball plenty, I thought, and they had opportunities in the pass game that just weren't executed. I thought the pass game stuff was more about execution than scheme. That's definitely an area that can and should be upgraded next year, assuming some normal level of non-zero development from Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and whatnot, and maybe not having to rely on Willie Snead and Seth Roberts for big roles. The penalties on punt returns also didn't help, making long enough fields even longer.
Houston Texans 31 at Kansas City Chiefs 51
Scott Spratt: Wow, Kenny Stills was way wide open on that 54-yard touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: They ran a fake bubble screen to Will Fuller and everyone on the Chiefs jumped on it. Great play design by Houston.
Bryan Knowles: Right tackle Chris Clark hobbles off the field on the Texans' opening drive; that leaves Houston's tackle depth chart pretty stretched with Tytus Howard already on IR.
But at least for now, it's OK -- the Chiefs defense loses Will Fuller entirely, and he races for a 54-yard score. The Texans faked a third-down bubble screen, everyone on the Chiefs bit on it, and Fuller was left all alone.
Dave Bernreuther: One play after Chris Clark goes out, I see where on the field the Moo Cows are, turn to a friend, and say "if this was anyone smarter than Bill O'Brien, they'd call a shot play here knowing they'd go for it on fourth down, but it's BOB, so they w-"
Uncontested touchdown for Stills, and I'll just be over here chewing on my shoe.
Carl Yedor: Play was very similar to the one that iced the game for Seattle last week in Philadelphia. Fake screen was set up to the left this time instead of the right, but the end result was still a fast guy (Stills today, Metcalf last week) wide open downfield on a third down.
Scott Spratt: Wow, I know Tony Romo predicts plays and all, but he had just finished explaining how small moments like Travis Kelce's third-and-6 drop could end up being the reason a team loses, and the Texans immediately block the punt and return it for a touchdown to go up 14-0.
Bryan Knowles: Remember the Titans getting a tip-drill interception against Lamar Jackson early yesterday, and then turning that into immediate points? Yeah, Texans working to the same beat today. To beat a favorite, you've got to get early breaks and take advantage of them. So far, so good for Houston.
Scott Spratt: I love that you unintentionally started that comment "Remember the Titans," Bryan.
Rivers McCown: Folks,,,,,
This is fun and new for an AFC divisional round game.
Scott Spratt: And the Chiefs lose another would-be first-down conversion on a drop, this one on a throw behind Demarcus Robinson that he nevertheless should have caught on third-and-5. Anyone here good at spread math? What would a money-line parlay of the Titans and Texans pay if the Texans end up with the upset win, as well?
Vince Verhei: The Ravens were upset last night in large part because their receivers could not catch the football.
The Chiefs' first two drives today when their receivers dropped what would have been third-down conversions. The first by Kelce, and just now by Demarcus Robinson.
Bryan Knowles: Scott: If the numbers I'm looking at are the closing lines, Tennessee was +342; Houston +350.
That's a payout of $1889 on $100.
Lots of time left, of course.
Scott Spratt: Wow, that's crazy. I just don't remember this happening to a conference approaching its championship, assuming as you said Bryan that the Texans can pull this off.
Aaron Schatz: 2008 had a fourth seed and a sixth seed make the NFC Championship Game. The lines of the divisional round games were Panthers -10 (Cardinals won) and Giants -4 (Eagles won).
Scott Spratt: Ugh, Aaron, don't remind this poor Panthers fan. I tried to block that Jake Delhomme collapse out of my memory.
Meanwhile, Tyreek Hill just fumbled a punt and now the Texans have the ball on the goal line to go up three scores. Insane.
Vince Verhei: Special teams are butchering Kansas City. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and now Tyreek Hill fumbles a punt away inside the 10-yard line ... and Deshaun Watson makes it pay off with a touchdown to Darren Fells.
The Texans have three touchdowns. The Chiefs have two first downs.
Carl Yedor: The Patriots got eliminated and then everything turned to chaos in the AFC. Kansas City gets a stop but then muffs the punt inside the 5. Houston quickly punches it in. 21-0 before the end of the first quarter. Looks like we get back-to-back days of young quarterbacks trying to lead massive comebacks between Patrick Mahomes and Jackson.
Dave Bernreuther: I am a fan of an AFC South team. I have long said that it is/was, top to bottom, a better division than anyone ever gave it credit for. So this should amuse me to no end...
But I have ZERO desire to watch a Titans-Texans AFC Championship Game. None whatsoever.
It's 21-0 Texans. In the first quarter. In Arrowhead. WHAT IS GOING ON?
Bryan Knowles: Scott, the last time two underdogs won in the divisional round (in one conference) was in 2011, when the 49ers beat the Saints and the Giants beat the Packers -- the 49ers were at home, but the Saints were considered the better team by Vegas. The 49ers were just 3.5-point underdogs, though; not exactly the same level as what we're seeing here.
In addition to 2008, as Aaron pointed out, the other times we've had two underdogs win in the divisional round in the same conference:
- 2006: Patriots over Chargers (-5), Colts over Ravens (-4)
- 1987: Redskins over Bears (-4.5), Vikings over 49ers (-11)
- 1982: Dolphins over Chargers (-1.5), Jets over Raiders (-3.5)
- 1979: Rams over Cowboys (-8.5), Buccaneers over Eagles (-4.5)
- 1970: 49ers over Vikings (-7), Cowboys over Lions (-3)
So, not only is this uncommon, but the scale of this double-upset would basically be unprecedented.
Scott Spratt: By the way, the Chiefs were the No. 1 team in weighted special teams DVOA this season. The Texans were third.
Vince Verhei: OH MY GOD. The Chiefs come out down 21-0. Mecole Hardman muffs the kickoff, but recovers it. They promptly drop passes on first (Damien Williams) AND second (Robinson again) down. A third-down pass hits Hill in the hands but is knocked free by a Justin Reid hit.
GUYS. YOU ARE PROFESSIONALS. ACT LIKE IT.
Scott Spratt: Is this a good or bad time to bring up Marlon Humphrey's choke comments after the Ravens loss?
It's easy to see the randomness play in small sample sizes with things like the Ravens' failed fourth-and-1 attempts. But when they and now the Chiefs are dropping a bunch of passes, what do you guys make of that?
Bryan Knowles: I think that if the Chiefs do lose, it will hopefully stifle some of the "Ravens shouldn't have rested their starters!" talk.
I don't know how a pair of teams which have been so good, both in general and specifically at catching the ball, could have so many drops in their biggest game of the season. It's bizarre. Sports are strange.
Rivers McCown: I would have a lot of desire to watch an AFC South Conference Championship game and I bet Tom would be as well.
Bryan Knowles: For the record, the last time a team overcame a 21-point first-quarter deficit was in 2011, when the Patriots beat the Bills in Week 17. Started 21-0 Bills, ended 49-21 Patriots.
This is not an easy situation to dig yourself out of.
Bryan Knowles: I swear, if we get Rivers vs. Tom and Vince vs. me in the championship games, I am going to explode.
Bryan Knowles: Oh, Bill O'Brien, no no no. Fourth-and-a foot, maybe, inside the 20. The Texans line up to go for it, but then call a timeout and kick the field goal instead. Has to be the wrong call. Just has to be.
Vince Verhei: Bill O'Brien gonna Bill O'Brien. Fourth-and-1 at the KC 13, and he keeps the offense on the field, then panics, calls timeout, and sends out the field goal team. One, obviously, pretty much every team should go for it on fourth-and-1 in the red zone every time. Two, if you're going to kick a field goal from that close, just take the delay of game! Taking the timeout there indicates that you think your kicker can hit from 31, but not from 36, which ... yeesh.
So Houston is down to one timeout, which is bad, but they are up 24-0, which is good.
Scott Spratt: The funny thing about that is that the 21-point lead probably makes any strategic mistakes pretty minor. The Texans went from very likely to win this game to also very likely.
Vince Verhei: Of course it was, though I admit the difference is slighter than I would have expected. Of course, when you're up three touchdowns going into it, nothing will change your GWC much.
Bill O'Brien had the right idea initially, then had a change of heart.
Houston's pre-snap GWC kicking the field goal was 2.5% lower vs. going for it.#WeAreTexans #ChiefsKingdom #HOUvsKC
— EdjSports (@edjsports) 12 January 2020
Bryan Knowles: The first 20 minutes of the game notwithstanding, if you had to come up with a scenario where a team comes back from a 24-point deficit, is there anything you'd pick over "Patrick Mahomes throws for a zillion yards?"
Carl Yedor: In that situation, if you are going to change your mind and kick the field goal, just take the delay of game! Obviously not particularly likely to matter, though -- either way 24-0 and 28-0 are both massive deficits.
The good news for Kansas City (beyond the fact that it's a 24-point margin instead of 28), is that Mecole Hardman just ripped off a big return. Good field position on the first drive of what would be an epic comeback if they can miraculously make it happen.
Scott Spratt: To Bryan's point, the Chiefs do seem much better equipped to overcome a multi-score deficit than the Ravens were. They have a ton of big-play threats while the Ravens are built for 5- to 15-yard gains.
And I definitely wrote that before Damien Williams went in for the first Chiefs' touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: *Player 2 has entered the game*
Mecole Hardman returns the ensuing kickoff for 58 yards, and Lonnie Johnson goes out. Tony Romo points out that Johnson's the one covering Kelce, and yup, the very next play, Mahomes hits Kelce for 25 yards. And then on the very NEXT play, Mahomes hits Damien Williams for 17 yards and a touchdown.
Gotta go for the kill when you have the chance, Bill!
Rivers McCown: I am at peace with whatever happens from here.
Vince Verhei: Houston's 24-point lead lasted for one minute, three seconds. Houston still has a big lead, but you can't defend a big lead against Kansas City the way you would against other teams.
Bryan Knowles: Ack, I had forgotten that the Texans went for it on fourth-and-1 last week, failed, and the Bills tied it and went to overtime. How much do you want to think that influenced Bill O'Brien to kick that field goal?
Scott Spratt: I'm stunned that O'Brien faked a punt in its own territory. I don't know why you'd go for the highly variable choice with still a big lead.
Bryan Knowles: Hard to make "kick a field goal on fourth-and-inches" and "fake punt deep in your own territory" work in the same logical framework, though I like the call. Great play by Daniel Sorensen to stop the Texans short.
Vince Verhei: But then they try a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from their own 31! It doesn't work -- Daniel Sorensen makes a great open-field tackle on Justin Reid 2 yards short -- but I love the call!
Dave Bernreuther: I liked it too, because I always like aggression. But it also feels a bit like too much of a risk of giving them hope and putting life in the stadium.
That said, even if the Chiefs get another quick touchdown here, they're still going to be down two scores. So it's not a catastrophe that it failed. And it would've been demoralizing if it had worked, which it very nearly did.
Kelce just had another drop. Yeesh.
Aaron Schatz: I know you run a fake punt based on things you see on film, and the Texans saw something to believe that the up-back sweep would convert for a first down. But it seems like being up 24-7 in the second quarter is a weird time for a fake punt. It's a David strategy, something you use when you are losing, not winning by a lot. On the other hand, it would have worked if not for a great one-on-one tackle by Justin Reid on Daniel Sorensen.
Bryan Knowles: And now it's 24-14, thanks in large part to Lonnie Johnson interfering with Travis Kelce on a shot play.
I assume the Texans GWC is still floating around 60%, but man oh man oh man.
Carl Yedor: Pretty strange timing for a fake punt from Houston. If you're going to be aggressive, go for it on fourth-and-1! Additionally, you're up 17 points. Yes, it's way too early to turtle up and try to take the air out of the ball given that you're playing Mahomes. Houston's defense isn't amazing. But if that's the case, maybe run-run-pass isn't the right way to approach that. Maybe it's a 4D chess strategy to try to convince the opposing team into thinking that you're going to play conservatively and then be aggressive? I'm not sure. Even still, Sorenson had to make a heck of a play to stop the conversion from happening, which he definitely did.
With the benefit of excellent field position again, Kansas City quickly punches in another touchdown. Only a 10-point lead for Houston now.
Bryan Knowles: For the record, the largest first-quarter deficit ever overcome in the playoffs is 14 points, most recently done by the Saints over the Eagles in last year's divisional round.
Vince Verhei: Shortly after the Kansas City touchdown to make it 24-14:
Kansas City is a live favorite on Bovada right now
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) 12 January 2020
And then Houston fumbles away the ensuing kickoff return and Kansas City has first-and-goal. Sorenson forced the fumble! He's the MVP!
Dave Bernreuther: And there's that special teams luck starting to even out...
This game is bonkers.
Bryan Knowles: And now it's 24-21, as Mahomes finds Kelce for his second touchdown of the game.
And now, GWC favors the Chiefs again, because they're the better team.
Oh my oh my oh my.
Scott Spratt: What's the record for the biggest deficit overcome still in the first half haha?
Carl Yedor: "The Patriots got eliminated and then everything turned to chaos in the AFC." Yes, I'm quoting myself. A fumble on the kickoff sets the Chiefs up with goal-to-go. This game has made no sense whatsoever and we haven't even hit the two-minute warning. Kelce picks up another score, and it's 24-21. If you had told me this morning that it would be 24-21 Houston halfway through the second quarter, I wouldn't have been stunned. Houston and Kansas City are both capable of explosive drives throwing the ball deep down the field. But the sequencing has been completely bizarre.
Bryan Knowles: Scott: Believe it or not, 21 points. Done three times, most recently by the Steelers last season ... against these Kansas City Chiefs, back in Week 2.
Dave Bernreuther: Somewhere in the bowels of Arrowhead Stadium is a fan that went to the bathroom down 24-0, got stuck typing a text or something, and just missed ALL of that.
Three touchdowns in 3:24 of game time, and not too much more in real time. Unreal.
So, with the reset button hit ... let's see if Deshaun Watson can do Deshaun Watson things and avoid putting the ball back in Mahomes' hands again too quickly.
Vince Verhei: They're reviewing it to see if Mahomes was across the line, but for the moment the Chiefs have taken the lead with maybe the craziest play yet in this game. He threw that pass DOWN to Kelce. The ball was released at head height and started descending immediately.
Bryan Knowles: 28 points in a quarter, and the Chiefs have the lead. What an incredible quarter -- what an incredible half.
And there's 44 seconds left. By not running once, the Chiefs have left time on the clock for the Texans to do something here.
Vince Verhei: Big pass to Hopkins to the edge of field goal range. Bet Houston wishes they had that timeout from the earlier field goal now.
Bryan Knowles: So! Uh. That was a half of football that definitely happened.
I suppose if you told the Texans they'd be down just four points at halftime, they'd have taken it?
Dave Bernreuther: That second-down escape by Watson is one of the best incomplete passes I've ever seen. Saved them a chance to kick this field goal.
51 yards outdoors in January is still a dicey proposition, of course. And it's not even close. Oh well. Still a great sequence there by Watson to get them that chance.
Vince Verhei: Pro Football Reference puts that half into perspective.
The #Chiefs are the third team since *1940* to trail by 21 at the end of the first quarter and take a lead into the locker room at halftime https://t.co/6tB7fiYV4d pic.twitter.com/sE6ktAa8iH
— ProFootballReference (@pfref) 12 January 2020
Roger Goodell needs to step in and extend halftime to 45 minutes. We all need to catch our breath.
Dave Bernreuther: I'd assume that depends on when you told them, Bryan...
Carl Yedor: This game has the chaotic feel of Chiefs-Rams from last year. No defensive touchdowns so far but plenty of points. Fairbairn's end-of-half field goal misses wide right, but it's still 28-24 at halftime. Honestly the only surprising thing that could happen in the second half would be if the game ended at 28-24. Everything else is on the table.
Vince Verhei: Checking in on some insane halftime stats from a insane first half:
- Patrick Mahomes has four touchdowns in 12 completions. He is 12-of-22; I believe the Chiefs have dropped five passes, three by Robinson.
- Kansas City running backs have three carries for 1 yard, all by Damien Williams.
- Mahomes has 35 yards on two carries. His career high is 59, against the Chargers in L.A. in November.
- Travis Kelce: 10 targets, eight catches, 83 yards, three touchdowns.
- Houston leads in plays (38-28), total yards (237-174), and time of possession (almost two-to-one), but Kansas City leads in first downs (13-11) and on the scoreboard (28-24). Each team has one turnover and is averaging 6.2 yards per play.
Dave Bernreuther: Last night we saw some bad luck ignite a lot of bad takes online about aggression because the Ravens failed on two fourth downs.
Today, then, isn't going to help, after the way the Chiefs came on after that fake punt. Even more ammunition for the naysayers.
But the real error O'Brien made was that ludicrous sequence where he wasted a timeout before kicking a chickensh-t field goal on fourth-and-inches when he had them on their heels. That was the opposite of aggression AND a major tactical error wasting that timeout to boot.
The ease with which the Chiefs have scored ever since they stopped dropping things shows exactly why the Texans need to be MORE aggressive, not less.
Naturally, most of twitter seems to be defending the field goal and attacking the fake punt. Which would've worked if not for a great play by Sorensen, who is having a heck of a game so far.
Rivers McCown: Well. This is certainly Houston Texans football.
Scott Spratt: The Texans can't afford for DeAndre Hopkins to be hurt, but he apparently suffered a rib injury at the end of the first half. He did just jog back from the locker room to the Texans sideline during the Chiefs first possession of the third quarter.
Aaron Schatz: Mahomes with 56 yards rushing on four scrambles. Houston playing almost entirely man coverage, Mahomes taking advantage of the big holes with the scrambles. But where is Travis Kelce in the second half?
Bryan Knowles: And we pick up right where we left off, with Mahomes running for big gain after big gain against the Texans' man coverage. Wouldn't have called Mahomes having more rushing yards than Watson at this point, but the Texans are uninterested in stopping him at all.
Damien Williams finishes the drive in the end zone, the Chiefs take a 35-24 lead, and the Texans really need to score now.
Bryan Knowles: Oops, 34-24. Missed PAT. Teaches me to assume things.
Dave Bernreuther: Did the Texans have the option of accepting that taunting penalty on the PAT?
I was suggesting to a friend that they should have, rather than getting 15 yards of field position, but that was made moot when Harrison Butker missed from the normal distance. The KC 12-minute run of good fortune has ended!
Vince Verhei: This is my new favorite dots play ever.
Frank Clark's third down sack on Deshaun Watson took 10.8 seconds from snap-to-sack, the second-longest sack this season.@TheRealFrankC_ traveled 42.2 yards of in-play distance, the second most distance traveled on a sack.#HOUvsKC | #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/mIXHegNvFM
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) 12 January 2020
Thanks to a pair of holding calls on Houston, Kansas City gets a first-and-goal from the 5, and Damien Williams runs it in for the score. Chiefs have scored touchdowns on six straight possessions. Texans have done barely a thing this whole game to stop them -- two of Kansas City's punts were set up by third-down drops, and the other by drops on first and second down.
Bryan Knowles: Texans go three-and-out, Chiefs march right back down and score yet another touchdown; it's 41-24, and this game is basically over.
This seems like the game that will be the focal point of a potential America's Game: The Kansas City Chiefs.
Scott Spratt: The Chiefs mascot, K.C. Wolf, changed shirts after the rough start. Rally shirt???
Bryan Knowles: Football Perspective is all over this one with the cool stats today.
The Chiefs are the 11th team to score 41 unanswered in the postseason, and it's the fourth time a Houston team has allowed 34-plus unanswered, although the first three were obviously Oilers teams.
The Chiefs are now just the 11th team to score 41 unanswered points in a playoff game.
Also, this is the fourth team a Houston team has allowed 34+ straight points in a playoff game.
Here's all 29 times a team has scored 34 consecutive points. pic.twitter.com/VmiUhKG4pO
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) 12 January 2020
Those streaks will end there, as Houston has found the end zone, making it 41-31.
Aaron Schatz: One thing that I think is a little silly is people on Twitter pointing out that the Chiefs' comeback came after Bill O'Brien decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1. As if all the good play from the Chiefs since that decision was solely based on some kind of momentum shift and not, you know, Kansas City being an excellent overall offense that wasn't likely to keep dropping passes all game.
Dave Bernreuther: Right. The field goal call didn't start the comeback or change the momentum or anything. It was just dumb because the Chiefs can score a lot of points, so to beat them you should score as many as you can.
Case in point: Blake Bell goes in for Kansas City's seventh touchdown of the day. With almost 14 minutes left. This is like a Big XII game.
Rivers McCown: Bill O'Brien belongs in the Big XII so that's an apt comparison.
Scott Spratt: The Chiefs have 48 points and 45 offensive plays.
Bryan Knowles: Fourth-and-4, on the Kansas City 42, 12 minutes left, down by 17. Obvious, obvious go-for-it situation.
Bill O'Brien uses a timeout to think about it.
Aaron Schatz: Why Houston had to use a timeout in order to know to go for it on fourth-and-4 down 17 points is beyond me.
Rivers McCown: No it's not. You know why they had to do it. If nothing else can come from the scars I will wear forever it's that the emperor has no coaching staff.
Vince Verhei: The Texans are going to lose because their defense couldn't stop Kansas City even one time. That's more important than any of Bill O'Brien's goofy decisions. In the long run, O'Brien's goofy decisions are going to be irrelevant.
But man some of them are GOOFY. Calling a timeout because you had sent the punt team out on fourth-and-4? Down 17 in the fourth quarter? IN CHIEFS TERRITORY?
Bryan Knowles: At this point, I think that Texans fans have to be rooting for O'Brien to make enough goofy decisions that the owner gets the hint and moves on. That's the win at this point.
Vince Verhei: A stop! A stop! The Texans made a stop! Damien Williams gains 4 yards on a third-and-6 screen, and Kansas City is FORCED to settle for a Harrison Butker field goal and a 20-point lead!
Carl Yedor: The Chiefs did not score for the first 20 minutes of this game.
They have 51 points.
Vince Verhei: Pretty simple to write the postmortem on Houston. They spent an entire offseason dismantling their defense, which was lousy all season and then shredded in the playoffs like wheat before the reaper . Now they have to rebuild it without first- or third-round draft picks. In a division where Tennessee has found their way and Indianapolis isn't going away. Good luck guys!
Vince Verhei: Organizational-level swag.
Oh my god the Chiefs ran out of TD fireworks pic.twitter.com/Q8nMvmmkQJ
— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) 12 January 2020
Seattle Seahawks 23 at Green Bay Packers 28
Vince Verhei: Anyway, there's another football game today, and Seattle got some good injury news: Duane Brown is going to play at left tackle, his first game since meniscus surgery in December. His backup, George Fant, who played in his place last week, is also available. There was concern he would miss the game with a groin injury.
The bad news is that Ezekiel Ansah and Mike Iupati are both out.
Bryan Knowles: Meanwhile, everyone on Green Bay has the flu.
Slight exaggeration, but it's been going around and around, and has Bryan Bulaga on the sideline. Something to watch for.
Bryan Knowles: Pretty easy start for the Packers on their opening drive. Lots of gashes on the ground, capped off by Aaron Rodgers hitting Davante Adams for a 20-yard score. Pretty bad busted coverage; easy throw-and-catch. 7-0 Packers, early.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks move Jadeveon Clowney around a lot anyway, but he spent most of that opening drive at left end, probably to exploit Bulaga's replacement, Jared Veldheer. And it worked on second down in the red zone as he knifed into the backfield and hit Aaron Jones for a big loss. On third down, though, Packers ran a simple mesh concept to the left side. Tre Flowers and Ugo Amadi both covered the inside man, leaving Davante Adams wide open on the fade for the touchdown.
"Cover Davante Adams" seems like a good adjustment Seattle should make.
Carl Yedor: On Seattle's first play, they go play-action, and Wilson hits Jacob Hollister for what would be a first down. However, he fumbles the ball going to the ground, and the play is ruled down by contact on the field. As a result, they have to overturn it on review, but there was no visible camera angle of the Packers clearly recovering the ball (somehow), meaning it's still Seattle ball. Seattle will take the break and manages to avoid adding to its league-leading six fumbles lost on completed passes this season. The next set of downs goes nowhere though, so Green Bay gets the ball back but loses a substantial amount of field position.
Bryan Knowles: Hey, Jordan Roos is playing center for Seattle. That had been Joey Hunt's role, which he was really floundering in replacing Justin Britt. So that's yet another combination for the ever-changing Seattle offensive line.
Aaron Schatz: It has only been two drives, but I'm surprised how much pass pressure Seattle is bringing so far, given their poor pressure rate this year and Green Bay's low pressure rate allowed.
Vince Verhei: A lot of that penetration is just guys being unblocked, or barely blocked. Green Bay's protections looks out of sorts.
Hunt is back in for Seattle. He dislocated his finger, and they snapped it back into place and sent him back out there. Hope that doesn't affect any snaps going forward.
Seahawks go three-and-out with three Marshawn Lynch runs. Because why would you ever want to give Russell Wilson a chance to make a play when you can hand off to a guy who has already retired twice instead?
Dave Bernreuther: I saw an awful lot of "Seattle needs to get 20 carries out of Lynch as their game plan" chatter today. Which is ludicrous of course, but also sounds like exactly something Brian Schottenheimer would do.
Carl Yedor: After the first run gained 8, I thought that maybe Carroll would be satisfied with their run establishment for that series. Alas. I don't exactly hate the run on third-and-1 in a vacuum, but not letting Wilson throw the ball once in a series doesn't play to this team's current offensive strengths.
Bryan Knowles: There was some pre-game talk about which corner the Packers would use to try to keep up with DK Metcalf. Jaire Alexander is better than Kevin King (by a not insignificant margin!), but he's just 5-foot-10 compared to King's 6-foot-3. Metcalf's also 6-foot-3.
So far, it has been mostly Alexander from what I've seen, and it's working so far, but there has to be a way that Seattle can take advantage of that 5-inch difference at some point. Metcalf isn't going to beat Alexander by his still-poor route running, but he has the physicality advantage.
Seahawks drive down with a big pass to Tyler Lockett, but they stall out and settle for a field goal. 7-3 Packers at the end of the first quarter.
Vince Verhei: First quarter ends with Green Bay up 7-3. Seahawks got into field goal range on a brilliant sideline grab by Tyler Lockett on a pass that looked way overthrown, but the drive stalls after Hollister drops a third-down pass (and he may not have had the first down anyway).
I enjoyed the pinball game earlier, but it is comfortable to be watching a football game again.
Aaron Schatz: Hint: The Packers are going to throw to Davante Adams.
Tom Gower: Following that jet pass to Adams, here are Green Bay's targets by intended receiver on Rodgers' 12 passes:
- Adams: 6
- Thrown Away: 2
- Other Players: 1 each, by 4 players
Carl Yedor: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman mentioned on the broadcast that Seattle's six-lineman personnel groups help their blocking. I don't know the split for their pressure rates, though I imagine that this is true. However, the end result is that there are normally fewer receivers downfield running routes, which can sometimes lead to Wilson sitting there forever with no one coming open.
On Green Bay's side, they've picked up a number of chunk plays on their two touchdown drives, taking advantage of some pretty large swaths of space in Seattle's defensive backfield. Jadeveon Clowney has been in and out of the game with the core injury he has been nursing throughout the season, and when he's off the field, Seattle's defense is offering little resistance. The bright side for Seattle's offense is that one would think they can't afford to keep establishing the run down 14-3.
Bryan Knowles: Don't underestimate Pete Carroll, Carl.
I have no idea if Aaron Jones actually crossed the plane there. Couldn't see a dang thing on replay.
Vince Verhei: Officially, we are up to seven targets for Davante Adams, and six first downs. The only one that was not was the dropped SHOVeLL pass at the goal line.
Scott Spratt: Possibly a big call with the refs ruling a Jadeveon Clowney tackle a grasping the helmet opening penalty to turn what would have been a minimal gain on second-and-10 into a new first down in the Packers' red zone. But beyond even the uncertainty of whether the Clowney tackle qualified as that specific penalty, I'm pretty sure Jace Sternberger stepped out of bounds before the tackle. Could easily be the difference between a two-score Packers lead at halftime and a three-score lead.
Bryan Knowles: And, indeed, the Packers eventually, after five plays inside the five, turn the Clowney penalty into an Aaron Jones touchdown. It's 21-3 Packers, with 1:30 left in the second.
I think the Seahawks have to score before the Packers get the ball back -- either here coming off the kickoff, or to start the third quarter. It's time to open the "let Russell Wilson play" portion of the playbook.
Vince Verhei: Clowney badly misplayed that one. I don't know how you over-run a guy at the sideline so radically. What was he going to do, make a tackle 10 feet out of bounds?
It leads to another Jones touchdown and a 21-3 lead. Green Bay is just crushing Seattle in ball control. Their three touchdown drives have each covered eight plays or more. Seattle only had one drive with eight plays, and it ended in a missed field goal.
Bryan Knowles: And Bobby Wagner was hunched over and had to come off after the PAT, and now another Seahawks' offensive lineman is out ... they may be running out of warm bodies.
Vince Verhei: Oh good, Jamarco Jones has left with a head injury, so Seattle is down to third-string guard Phil Haynes next to backup center Joey Hunt. Sure enough, Green Bay promptly gets a sack right up the middle.
Aaron Schatz: One problem with the first half is that Seattle didn't convert a third down until the pointless last drive, with a quarterback draw right before the Hail Mary. (NFL seems to be calling it a scramble, but I think it was a QB draw.)
Bryan Knowles: Instead of playing short and going for a field goal, the Seahawks throw to the end zone. Incomplete, and we go into the half 21-3.
Sometimes, we sit here and we scratch our heads and try to figure out what it would take for the trailing team to come back -- what delicate offensive strategies, what defensive adjustments, what clever trickery is needed to turn a huge deficit into a close game.
I don't think there's any question for the Seahawks. Cover Davante Adams, and then Let Russ Cook.
Vince Verhei: Seattle gets into Hail Mary range, but it falls incomplete. 21-3 at the half. I still think Russell Wilson can turn things around, but they need to give him a chance. Marshawn Lynch has six carries. He should not get a seventh, unless they hit short yardage.
However, I don't know about their defense. Adams has gotten most of the focus, but pretty much everything else Green Bay has tried has worked too. I guess you go blitz-happy with lots of press coverage, but that goes against their philosophy and seems dangerous when Aaron Rodgers is sharp tonight.
They for sure need to play better on third downs, on both sides of the ball. They have converted only one of five third downs. Packers are five-for-seven.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know if a Seattle second-half comeback is as simple as "let Russ cook." The Packers are covering guys really well, he doesn't have the open receivers.
Carl Yedor: Wilson hasn't looked 100% dialed in today, which is a bit of a problem with all the offensive injuries they've had to manage entering the game. If Myers hits that 50-yard field goal, it's still technically a two-possession game with Seattle getting the ball to start the second half, but banking on making that long of a kick in the freezing cold is not a recipe for success. The Seattle offense for the last few weeks has felt a lot like it did in 2017, when a shoddy offensive line resulted in most running plays going nowhere, forcing Wilson to carry the load entirely on his own. The non-Wilson Seahawks players who have received carries have 20 rushing yards this week, which counts as a slight improvement over last week but obviously won't turn into many points if you continue to hand the ball off. Green Bay is three-for-three converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns while Seattle hasn't even made it that far, due in part to their third-down issues. Now down 21-3, it's looking pretty grim for Seattle, but I personally don't see either of these teams going into San Francisco and upsetting the 49ers next week.
Bryan Knowles: I hear what you're saying, Aaron, and you too, Carl, but I've seen this script from Seattle far too many times to be comfortable if I were the Packers. And, indeed, here we go -- 22-yard scramble, 24-yard toss to Metcalf...
Bryan Knowles: And, with the Seahawks now required to go for it on fourth down, they convert inside the 5, and let Marshawn Lynch plow in from the half-yard line to score their first touchdown of the game. 21-10...
Vince Verhei: Lynch gets three carries on that drive, for 5 yards. His comeback is now up to 60 yards in two and a half games ... with three touchdowns.
Bryan Knowles: Davante Adams. Wide open. Touchdown.
This is not a replay.
Vince Verhei: And Green Bay scores again, easy-peasy. Another third-down conversion, this one to Jimmy Graham. Another big catch by Adams, burning Tre Flowers for a 20-ish-yard gain, then burning him again for 20-ish more yards after the catch and a touchdown.
Green Bay has really fixed their protection problems. Seahawks can't breathe on Rodgers anymore.
Aaron Schatz: What I noticed was two plays before, third-and-6. If that was man coverage, I don't know why K.J. Wright hesitated a little bit before running with Jimmy Graham. That allowed Graham to catch a 27-yarder up the seam, and that led to the Adams touchdown.
Carl Yedor: The biggest reason that I was pessimistic about Seattle's chances was not necessarily because of Wilson's ability but because the defense has been giving up chunk plays for most of the night. Wilson very well could put up some serious points in the second half, but Green Bay has been able to consistently create favorable matchups in the passing game (Jimmy Graham against K.J. Wright running down the seam, Davante Adams against pretty much everybody). They extend the lead to 18 again on another big play to Adams. Seattle's season-long pass rush problem is rearing its head again. Green Bay's up to 6-of-8 on third downs tonight.
Aaron Schatz: I think Jaire Alexander has been on DK Metcalf most of the game, but he was just on Lockett on the goal line but slipped as they were hand-fighting and Lockett was open for the touchdown to make it 28-17 Packers.
Aaron Schatz: Amazingly, Seahawks make it downfield again and give it to Marshawn Lynch twice inside the 5 to make it 28-23. They blow the two-point conversion with a great play call by the Packers, a cornerback blitz by Jaire Alexander that Wilson never saw coming.
Bryan Knowles: After the Lockett touchdown, the Packers go three-and-out real quick, and then the Seahawks march right BACK down the field, basically all of it on Russell Wilson's arm until they get inside the 5, where they give the ball back to Marshawn Lynch for yet ANOTHER touchdown. The Packers have no answer for the Russell Wilson version of the Seattle offense.
The two-point conversion is no good, so it's still a five-point Packers lead with 9:33 left.
This is EVERY Packers game -- jump out to a big lead, watch it dwindle away, and hold on at the end.
This is EVERY Seahawks game -- fall behind, switch away from their run-first offense, and come back for a victory. Would we expect anything else out of this one?
Vince Verhei: Packers are running out of pass-rushers. The game stopped twice to deal with injuries, and the guys on the field look gassed.
Scott Spratt: The math isn't super complicated down five points after a touchdown, but I'll throw in that the two-point attempt improved the Seahawks' odds of a win by 1.4% over an extra point kick attempt.
Carl Yedor: One thing that you count on the Seahawks for is compelling television. They always seem to find a way to make things close in the fourth quarter, even when their trademark frantic comeback attempts fall short. Particularly when those comeback attempts seem to defy logic with how the game has gone up to that point. Green Bay already has a nice little drive here, though, in Seattle territory.
Scott Spratt: Haha, can the audible "yellow weasel" become the new "Omaha?"
Vince Verhei: Seahawks finally get a third-down stop as the Griffin twins come through on an elaborate play with Shaquill coming in on a corner blitz and Shaquem stunting from the left end up the middle. Seahawks take over down five with less than five minutes to go. Whatever happens the rest of this game, that was such a great moment.
Bryan Knowles: One thing they need to fix this offseason is the "repeated false starts to drain the clock" sort of thing. The Packers only did it once, thankfully, but man, it's compelling television to watch people stand around for a minute and a half with no intention of running a play.
Aaron Schatz: It also made no sense as a strategy because the Seahawks have plenty of time to get downfield and score even with that time taken off the clock, and Green Bay wants to leave time in case they need to respond to that (hypothetical) score.
Carl Yedor: Wonder if Seattle was alerted to a run to the left there by the fact that the words "yellow weasel" have a combined three L's in them.
Bryan Knowles: If so, Carl, we should all watch out for "orange ferret" next week.
Scott Spratt: I would say Malik Turner just Julian Edelman'd that catchable throw on a first-and-10, but that phrase probably has a different meaning after Edelman's vandalism arrest today.
Vince Verhei: But Preston Smith quickly kills that drive with a third-down sack. Turns out leaving your third-string tight end one-on-one against a quality edge rusher is a bad scheme!
Bryan Knowles: Germain Ifedi touched no-one on that third-down sack of Wilson.
I'm a little surprised the Seahawks are punting. Or, rather, I think I would have gone for it there, rather than trust my defense in this situation. I know Pete Caroll thinks otherwise.
Aaron Schatz: EdjSports has an 8% GWC error on Seattle punting on the fourth-and-11. That was a really bad sack for Wilson to take, because fourth-and-5 is a lot easier than 11, but with the blown block he had no time to do anything else. And I'm guessing Pete Carroll punts on fourth-and-5 too.
Vince Verhei: Packers gift the Seahawks a timeout with a second-down incompletion, but then hit their 400th third-down conversion when Adams burns Ugo Amadi for a big gain. That was enormous.
Aaron Schatz: How did they end up with Amadi on Davante Adams on a must-have third down?
Bryan Knowles: Adams went to the slot, which I don't think he has done much of this game. But there is no way you let Amadi try to single-cover Adams on third-and-almost-game.
Aaron Schatz: I don't get the single-high safety on the Jimmy Graham catch on third-and-9. Who cares if you get beat deep? Anything past the sticks is the ballgame.
Vince Verhei: Well, that's game. Two more third-down conversions to kill the clock. The Seahawks trusted their defense to make a stop rather than trusting Russell Wilson to convert a fourth-and-11, and the defense let them down. Too many big errors in critical situations, asking Hollister to block Smith and asking Amadi to cover Adams. Seahawks were outcoached for sure tonight.
Aside from not getting to watch Russell Wilson play football for eight months now -- which sucks -- the Seahawks obviously need major-league defensive help. A pass-rusher, a pass-rusher, my kingdom for a pass-rusher.
And it would be nice if they would embrace their quarterback and just let him play four quarters instead of two, but I've given up on that ever happening.
Carl Yedor: Green Bay finishes the game 9-of-13 on third down while Seattle only ends up 3-of-9. That right there is probably your story of the game. Green Bay was able to get Adams lined up in favorable one-on-one matchups all night, primarily against Tre Flowers and, crucially at the end, Ugo Amadi. On the point about converting fourth-and-11, you still have the chance to try to stop the other team if you don't get it. Ironically, Seattle won last year's matchup with the Packers in part because Mike McCarthy elected to punt on a fourth down and never ended up getting the ball back. Carroll returned the favor one year later on a much bigger stage.
Bryan Knowles: Unsurprisingly, in his post-game press conference, Pete Carroll said he gave no thought to going for it on fourth-and-11. Punting was always the move from there; the odds were to great to pick up a first down at that distance.
I wonder what he thought the odds of getting a three-and-out defensively were.
181 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2020, 2:05pm
#1 by Jetspete // Jan 13, 2020 - 6:39am
I understand the numbers, but it is hard for me to rank a game featuring division opponents as high as Balt vs Tennessee. The Jets had already beaten the Patriots during 2010. As a fan, the previous year's upset in San Diego was much more surprising. The Giants over the Packers is the game that compared most to this one for me. Someone mentioned above how the Giants had a negative point differential for the season, and they were taking on the defending champ and expected MVP on the road. Much like Saturday, the underdog Giants looked like the better team and despite only being down 1-2 scores you never got the sense GB would win
#5 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:00am
Although the Jets had beaten the Pats early in 2010, they also lost the second regular season game 45-3 as the Pats offense clicked and went on record-setting pace for second half of the season. It's a bit like how dominant and unstoppable the Ravens offense had seemed in the 2nd half this year. Of course while Harbaugh rested his starters in week 17, Belichick 'rested' Welker for the first series for his foot comments interview and the Pats started flat.
Someone, somewhere mentioned the 1987 Vikings over 13-2 49ers. That was a shocker and pretty much the game where Bill Walsh alienated his players. That may sound strange given they won the following years SB win, but it came with the 49ers scraping into the playoffs at 10-6 and lots of calls for Young to be started over Montana etc, etc.
#15 by CandlestickPark // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:41am
I thought about the 49ers-Vikings game too, but a few small corrections/history lesson: the 49ers didn't scrape into the playoffs, they were the 2 seed and rested their starters in their last game. The NFC was weird that year, the Bears won 12 games, Minnesota won 11 (but got a wild card for the 2nd best record and by far the best PD in the conference), and five teams were at 10-6 with the Niners and Eagles winning their divisions, LA picking up the wild card, and the Giants and Saints on the outside looking in.
The calls to start Young over Montana were from Walsh himself, he was obsessed with Young. If anything, that actually alienated the players more than anything, they'd ridden with Joe and didn't want to change a winning formula. Some accounts have the turning point for the season being a conflicted Walsh asking Mike Holmgren what to do, and Holmgren flatly stating to start Joe Montana. It's telling that one of George Seifert's first moves as 49er coach was to end the quarterback controversy and go with Montana, although Joe was brittle by then so Young got considerably more snaps than your average backup (he actually passed for a thousand yards that year).
In any case, they were 6-5 at one point in 1988 and had lost a stinker at home to the Raiders 9-3, a game which personally affected Walsh greatly given that Al Davis gave him his start in pro football. So things were definitely not going well.
The Viking loss clearly still bothers some of the 49er players and executives to this day. It got discussed this week due to the matchup and Brent Jones still repeats, like a mantra, "Somebody cover Anthony Carter, somebody cover Anthony Carter." Walsh got put on not-double-secret probation, getting stripped of his title of club president and being warned personally, and I suspect publicly as well, that anything short of a Super Bowl in 1988 was going to lead to dismissal. Walsh was devastated, and it probably led as much as anything to his retirement after the 1988 season due to personal exhaustion.
#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:29am
As a Lions fan, I have to admit it must be nice that a single fluky playoff loss in the midst of a 3 titles in 6 years stretch which involved a controversy between your two HOF QBs and your two highest winning % coaches, was considered to be your franchise's nadir.
#36 by CandlestickPark // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:00am
It wasn't the nadir (that's Dennis Erickson, HC) or even the most traumatic loss (your Lions, 1957) in franchise history, but it was a big shock.
The DeBartolo 49ers set incredibly high standards: he paid you well, he treated you like a son (he paid for much of Dwight Clark's medical care, for example), but the standard was Super Bowl or bust. So to get your butt kicked at home by a team with five fewer wins than you, with a point differential of 1 vs 206, was a big failure.
#100 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:51pm
1987 Divisional round was definitely a huge upset, but not as much as the 5 game win differential would make you think. Remember the Vikings replacement players lost all three games, and the 49ers replacements won all three. It was more like 8-4 vs. 10-2, and #1 DVOA vs #12.
The bigger surprise was Wade Wilson outplaying both Montana and Young.
BTW, bringing up that 49ers loss the the Lions in the playoffs is a sad reminder that 1957 was the Lions' last road playoff win as a franchise.
#104 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:55pm
I live in Maryland. As I witness Ravens fans in mourning, I'm reminded that the upside of rooting for a team that rarely makes the playoffs is that you don't have to suffer emotionally devastating playoff upsets.
#106 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:59pm
Lol. I will say, when you watch your team win the sb...its a very sublime feeling. Of course, unless you are the Patriots, the number of gut wrenching, kick to the gonads type feelings outnumber the sublime so its on net a terrible tradeoff.
#161 by jonsilver // Jan 13, 2020 - 3:39pm
That 1957 24 point rally (Detroit was down big at halftime) over the niners in a playoff game made necessary by their tie at the top of the Western Division, followed by the absolute crushing of the powerhouse Jim Brown-led Browns in the title game are still the two greatest wins in Lions history...both were behind backup qb Tobin Rote, subbing for Bobby Layne and his broken leg...Rote threw 4 td passes in the title game...the final score was 59-14 (Brown accounting for both Cleveland's scores)...
#84 by mehllageman56 // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:59am
As I commented on another thread, the 2010 Patriots' DVOA strength was almost entirely on offense; their defense ranked 22nd, and would have been much worse without all the turnovers. That Jets team had a DVOA over 18%, 10 points better than the current Titans team, although the Titans have a much better weighted DVOA of 20%, while that Jets team's weighted DVOA fell to 15% or so. Comparing the Titans' upset with the Giants' takedown of the defending champions Packers makes sense with all the drops by the favorites in both games, but even then the 2011 Packers were unbalanced, like the 2010 Patriots, with a poor defense.
#34 by Eddo // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:54am
I think there are a couple conflicting points that make the 2010 Jets' upset hard to judge.
The first, in favor of it being a huge upset, is the fact that the Jets have been pretty bad in the nine seasons since. Therefore, it's easy to think, "Wait, the JETS beat the PATRIOTS!?"
The second, in favor of it not being a huge upset, is that I don't recall the 2010 Patriots at the time to be considered an all-time great team. In fact, it's really only DVOA that I've ever seen tout that. So to people who don't follow FO, that was just a run-of-the-mill top seed getting upset by a divisional foe - think the 2008 Giants, losing to Philadelphia.
#52 by dmstorm22 // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:52am
I agree DVOA really loved that Patriots team but by the playoffs they were universally seen as the best team in the NFL. Had the best record, had won eight straight, most in dominant fashion. Brady hadn't thrown a pick in 10 games - before such streaks became more common.
To me that was more stunning in the moment than super bowl xlii given we had just seen the giants play them close
#2 by Raiderjoe // Jan 13, 2020 - 6:49am
Tho7ght ar the time that punting there was tough choice. Yes, jf fail to g et 1st down, GB has short field and could get field goal to make it 31-23. Also thought if punt, then may never possess ball again. Well, seahawks punted and never possessed ball again.
#3 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jan 13, 2020 - 6:53am
Of course the Chiefs running out of TD fireworks is as much about the four they allowed as the seven they scored
Fun game. I'm reminded that the Patriots held Mahomes to 3 pts in the first half of last year's AFCCG and then had to hold off a furious 2nd half comeback where the Chiefs scored 24 pts in the 4Q. Yesterday really shouldn't have come as such a surprise
#4 by acr // Jan 13, 2020 - 6:56am
The Texans fake punt was bad. The Chiefs are an excellent offense and maybe they would have just gotten it together but the momentum/psychology thing is real. The Chiefs were making mental mistakes, dropping balls, playing disastrous special teams. Their crowd was quiet and out of it. O'Brien had just screwed up with the field goal call not being aggressive.
It felt like the Texans lost control of the game when they failed on the fake punt. They could have lost control of it anyway, but instead of making the Chiefs feel like they had to climb up a hill and drive the ball down the field. They gave Patrick Mahomes a short field to put his team back in the game.
I know analytics sites hate to talk about emotions and joke about this kind of talk being player psychology. But if you look at chess, which is competitive and 100% analytical, sometimes players win or throw their opponent off by playing a quantitatively unsound move that is surprising and the surprise is unsettling. Human emotions screw with our ability to perform at a high level. Failing at that fake punt took the Texans foot off the throat of the Chiefs and gave the Chiefs an easy setup to make the deficient more manageable. Immediately after the Texans failed to be aggressive in a far safer situation to be aggressive in.
The whole sequence was insane to me.
#6 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:26am
If doing the "quantitatively unsound move" occasionally to surprise your opponent can be useful then isn't that making the case for ordering the fake punt in your own territory? No-one would have expected that after passing up the 4th&1 in FG range.
What surprises me about the 4th&1 is that a team with one of the best running and passing QBs in the league doesn't have a creative play call for it. You only have to look what the Pats have been doing this year with Brady's reduced skills (e.g. the yelling at Edelman jetsweep touchdown last week). And yet the Texans can't find a way to spread the field and getting their athletic QB a few inches?
#99 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:48pm
Nope. You don't try to "set someone up" to be surprised later by sacrificing something of *more value*. That's like saying, oh, we ran the ball on 4th and 7 in field goal range so that you'd be surprised when we did a play-action pass on 1st and 10 deep in our own territory. Even if they had converted the 4th down on the fake punt, they'd likely still be on their side of the field. That's still a neutral situation. You're risking a negative situation to gain a neutral situation, versus a neutral situation. That just doesn't make sense.
#107 by mrh // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:01pm
The wasted timeouts throughout the half set up a situation late in the half that BOB could not challenge any calls, including a possible DPI by the Chiefs. I don't think the call would have gotten over-turned, but there is a reason to keep a timeout besides stopping the clock.
#110 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:04pm
The wasted timeouts and situational decision making highlighted that BOB is such a terrible decision maker, I believe game theory as a subject is beyond his capabilities.
I also agree with Vince. His gm decisions led to this result on defense; something I am sure he will lay at the feet of Romeo Crennel.
#114 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:09pm
I actually don't have a problem with the wasted timeout. I think people are misunderstanding that one - if O'Brien looked at the situation and said "wait, this isn't going to work," the timeout's the right call, regardless of what you're going to do. Failing on the 4th down conversion isn't super-bad, but it is still like, 2-2.5 points. Timeouts aren't worth that.
#148 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:27pm
Oh, it was definitely a "go for it" decision. What I'm saying is *that's* the mistake (not going for it), not calling the timeout. If you called the timeout to save ~3 points, it's a win regardless of how you choose to do it. According to O'Brien, he got confused about the situation (thought they had gotten the 1st down) and they didn't like their 4th and short chances. If that's true, the problem isn't that he called the timeout, it's that he didn't like their 4th and short chances. Plus that he got confused, but stuff like that happens.
#125 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:20pm
Lucky I wasn't saying that then Pat
Unless BoB had a crystal ball, he's doesn't know that he's getting a fake punt opportunity on the next series so clearly he didn't give up the 4th&1 for that reason.
Others have commented that if they'd converted the fake punt, the runner had 30yds of open field to run to. I don't know the truth of that but it suggests there's decent positive if you make it
#7 by Yu Narukami // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:46am
If you are a road underdog, with a surprising lead, you want to avoid giving quick scoring drives to the opponents, and instead let them eat the clock with soft completions.
Therefore you have the Texans doing in the span of 4 minutes:
a) FG on 4th and 1 from the opp13. You stick to 3 possessions lead instead of going to 4 possessions lead
b) Returnable KO against a team full of speedsters (I am not sure if Texans' kicker had the leg to touchback it but...)
c) Forking fake punt from their own 31
d) KR trying to get some inches by colliding into a pile of Chiefs and lost the ball (I don't remember if he started from the endzone)
a) and c) are the ones that give me more headaches: totally inconsistent and random aggressiveness. Coaching staff going tilt.
#24 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:11am
1. Know your opponent. Reid is not a huge fan of chasing 8 points early. 24 points was a 4-score lead.
2. How long should an underdog continue David strategies? Is the 2nd-quarter too soon to revert to top dog or bear strategies?
#30 by sbond101 // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:35am
"How long should an underdog continue David strategies? Is the 2nd-quarter too soon to revert to top dog or bear strategies?" - This is a really interesting question, and one that doesn't have a clear statistical answer; That said, when your up 21-0 (regardless of the time in the game) you are definatively no longer an underdog and should not behave as such. If I was coaching the Texans, at 21-0 I would have transitioned to a reduced-variance strategy appropriate for a strong favorite early in the game (i.e. reduced risk but not Marty-ball; kind of like how the Ravens should have played rather than how they did play).
"Know your opponent. Reid is not a huge fan of chasing 8 points early. 24 points was a 4-score lead." - Putting this aside, the second quarter is way to early to think about leads in terms of number of scores. At that point in the game the thinking should really just be about maximizing expected points vs. the variance in the decision from your position as a favorite. In my view there are too many things that can still happen in the game for couting possessions to matter more than counting points (since you still expect to score a few more times at that point).
#32 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:45am
I thought PFR used to track GWC in playoff games, but I don't see it on their pages. Looking at ESPN:
Houston's win odds peaked on the 3rd-9 at the KC 21, up 21. By the time of their fake punt (at the 3rd-4), their odds of winning were less than KC's odds at the beginning of the game. I would argue the FG attempt was the wrong choice, just based on field position and opponent agnostic, but the fake FG was just a poor result as opposed to a disastrous choice. The game was still sufficiently close for David tactics.
#25 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:15am
I'll say this for Pete -- he eventually gives Wilson the keys. Zimmer never took Cousins out of the garage.
I get it and I don't get it. He doesn't trust the offense in a pass-first mode. And given their health and their O-line's inability to reliably pass block, I get it. But their best season in a generation was Case Keenum unleashing his inner Favre. Sometimes that turns into a Delhomme, and Cousins can Jake with the best of them. And they didn't have Cook then.
But...passing wasn't why they lost that game. It seems Zimmer took the wrong lesson from it.
#35 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:58am
It would be a mistake to use Keenum's one good year as something that illuminates anything. It was the purest luck that he didn't throw twice as many interceptions than he did that year, and, really, the luck ran out in the 2nd half of the divisional game against the Saints, requiring the worst tackle attempt in the history of football to allow the Vikings to win on the last play.
Cousins does not have the mobility to play well while under nonstop pressure. Very few do. They had to know this when they signed him. They have to block better.
#86 by mehllageman56 // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:12pm
I don't get the Cousins hatred in the audibles above. My take is that everyone in the NFL needs to draft linemen this year (there are a lot of good prospects) to save themselves from being eaten by the 49ers, who now have 4 1st round picks playing on their defensive line. Of course they're destroying running games and take no quarterbacks for prisoners, that's what Bosa and co. should be doing. Eason or Gromm wouldn't have a chance against those guys any more than Cousins did, or Rodgers did in the blowout loss earlier this year.
#126 by jmaron // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:27pm
QBs always get the heat when they lose. Cousins is a middling guy - probably top 15 in the league, and that's not awful. If you switched Cousins and Garoppolo in that game I suspect Garoppolo would have fared even worse and Cousins would have had a pretty big day.
Zimmer never had a top flight QB, so he has done pretty darn well producing one of the best records in the NFC over the last 5 years. Losing Bridgewater was huge, because while Cousins may be better, there probably isn't much to chose between them, and they would have a lot of draft capital and cash to spend in the last few years that they had to spend replacing Bridgewater.
SF is just better than other teams in the NFC. I think Jimmy G is a negative and may well cost them a SB in the next 2 games.
#37 by MJK // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:03am
You mean like when you are facing 2nd and goal from the 2 with under a minute left in the SB? :-)
seriously, in a similar way that Belichick’s famous failed 4th and 2 vs Indy broke him a bit, I think that SB broke Carroll a bit.
#176 by tictoc // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:46pm
Ever since Carroll arrived in Seattle he’s had a run first, play good defense approach. It makes sense when you have a great D. This year has amplified his inability to adjust to his teams strengths and weakness.
Not that I totally disagree with his approach, they were in most games this year; even with a lackluster D and an O-line that was hobbled by injury. At times in the first half (vs GB) they seemed to open up the passing game but Wilson, while having ample time, didn’t have anyone open. Or it so seemed on the tv view.
#9 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:53am
At this level all these guys are really fast and ridiculously strong. But the SF d line seems SO strong and fast it’s alarming to watch. The defense as a whole is thrilling to see as a football fan. Not sure what GB can find as a way to get the ball down the field even a few times the game
As a Wisconsin Badger fan I heartily endorse the Titans team identity. Run the ball. On defense force the opposing to string plays together and avoid the big play. No turnovers. This approach gets you mocked on social media nonstop but it works
The Chiefs offense man, holy f7ck.
What you did not see from GB yesterday. No pointless challenges. Team kept trying to run the ball. Competent special teams. Look I appreciate everything Mike McCarthy did in GB. But the above were all trade makes of MM coaching. MLF is no savant. But he clearly believes in being pragmatic.
And how was it not obvious that Sullivan recovered that fumble? What the heck?
Full credit to Audibles to not be filled with griping on how the refs let both offensive lines hold nonstop. It was pretty glaring (seeing the Seahawks center suplex Kenny Clark was particularly impressive) but since it went both ways as a fan you had to be ok with it versus seeing nonstop flags
Kudos to both Wilson and Rodgers. That was some damn good work last night by both qbs.
#26 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:19am
I can absolutely see Derrick Henry rushing 50 times for 250 yards against KC's comically inept rush defense.
I know the tendency of these playoff teams to pound the run has been mocked repeatedly on FO, but there is something to exploiting market efficiencies. Like the Pats running to down Indy's throat until they choked on it, no one spends any money anymore trying to stop opposing rush attacks, and perhaps this habit has swung far enough than you can win by explicitly attacking that.
That said, Houston had more plays, more yards, and a 7:5 advantage in time of possession. And lost by 20.
That said that said, so did Baltimore.
#39 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:12am
you absolutely nailed it. With teams playing so much nickel and dime, linebackers with speed at the sacrifice of some heft being in vogue and tackling form in general being acknowledged as in decline for multiple reasons a team willing to hunker down and go all 1975 can gain a real edge.
#88 by mehllageman56 // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:20pm
"no one spends any money anymore trying to stop opposing rush attacks"
That's true, except for the Jets (they keep drafting interior linemen in the top ten), the Buccaneers (Todd Bowles had the #1 run defense this year, beating out the Jets, with both staying home for the playoffs), and San Francisco (4 1st round picks on their 3 man defensive line). With the 49ers, the run defense is supposed to be the weaker part of their defense, but tell Dalvin Cook that.
As far as Tennessee, at least they spent money on offensive linemen (Lewan, Conklin, et. al), unlike the Seahawks who try to run you over, but don't have the linemen or running backs to do so.
#108 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:01pm
Teams don't do *anything* specifically to stop rush attacks. You're not saying "hey, you, on rushing plays make sure you tackle the guy, but on passing plays you can just stand around and do nothing." You're drafting players to win near the line of scrimmage. The fact that that shows up as a "good rush defense" is just a side effect.
I don't know why people persist on thinking of football games in terms of "pass" or "rush." That's just a silly label on NFL game books. You have a good rushing defense when you have good players near the middle of the field and near the line of scrimmage. This gets a lot of arguments around Philly where people look at Jim Schwartz and say "why are you selling out so much to stop the run," but that's not really what's going on. They're selling out *deep* to stop *shallow* because deep plays are already low-percentage to begin with.
If you've got a linebacker who can't cover because he's not athletic enough to move laterally well, he's going to be just as much of a liability with wide running plays, too. And if you've got light interior linemen who have good pass rush skills but can get moved around easily, they'll get washed out by plenty of blocking schemes, too.
#111 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:06pm
True but people still mitigate those liabilities by plugging in players for situations. If its 1st down or an obvious run situation, you will put in the big nose tackle. Similarly, if its a likely pass situation, you will likely put in your pass rushing linebacker who would get destroyed in the run game.
#122 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:17pm
Yeah, but again, that's not actually targeting the run game or the pass game. It's targeting an area of the field. In obvious run situations, you're defending near the line of scrimmage more than far away. In obvious pass situations, you're defending *far* from the line of scrimmage more than close in.
If you've got a big nose tackle who can't be moved easily but isn't quick enough to get pressure on a quarterback in passing situations, he's a limited player. If you've got a pass rushing linebacker who's too light and gets washed easily on runs, he's a limited player. And teams don't spend money on limited players.
That's what I mean by teams aren't actually spending resources to get a run defense. They're spending money to get complete players, and when you've got a bunch of complete players near the line of scrimmage, you're going to be a good run defense - not at the *expense* of a pass defense, because you'll also be a good pass rush team, too.
#124 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:20pm
There are still tradeoffs at the margins. Some defensive ends will be superior run players to pass rushers and coaches/gms.
Player A: Hes a B+ Pass rusher and a A- Run defender.
Player B: Hes a A pass rusher and a C+ Run defender.
There are some gms who will prefer player A over player B and vice versa and it will affect their free agent and gm decisions. Bill Polian is a good example of this.
I also suspect teams have varying notions of how to cobble a good defense together. Some might prefer a dominant set of edge rushers and then sacrifice for bigger run stopping dtackles.
#144 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:07pm
Of course there are tradeoffs at the margins. But it's not "pass rush" versus "run defense." Guys aren't just like "oh, it's a run, I'm going to fall flat on my face and suck now." If a guy's a good pass rusher and a crap run defender, it means he's not strong/heavy enough to win against a strong offensive lineman. Which means there are plenty of *pass* plays they're going to suck at, too, or you can just stick a strong TE near him to chip him a bit before heading out, and hey look, suddenly he's a non-factor.
There are definitely different ways to cobble defenses together. Totally agree there, which is the entire point with Kansas City here - KC's not a 'bad run defense, good pass defense'. They're a very athletic line that can get shoved around easily coupled with a good back 7. You'd expect them to give up runs primarily close to the line, but be able to tackle well in space, which is exactly what happens.
If you look at Baltimore's Defensive Line rating vs Kansas City's, you'll see part of what made Baltimore's "we're not afraid to tackle Derrick Henry" comment hilarious - Baltimore's *29th in the league* in open field yards (and way high in broken tackle rate, too). It's like, uh, yes you guys are afraid to tackle running backs. Their rushing yardage was like, bipolar this year. You either got under 50 or over 100. And a lot of that is likely situational - if games had been closer, I wouldn't've been surprised to see Baltimore's rush defense ranked even lower.
Don't get me wrong, Kansas City's not a *ton* better in open field yards, but they are better (don't know about broken tackle rate). So it's not exactly fair to say "look at KC, Henry's probably going to run for a billion yards" - yeah, he'll probably rush really well, but it's not crazy to believe that Kansas City might actually contain him better.
#92 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:26pm
But to paraphrase the Brad Pitt/Billy Beane character said in Moneyball, if TN tries to compete against KC by playing like everyone else then TN will lose. TN's unorthodox offensive approach is its one advantage.
I have written this a few times, but the Barry Alvarez approach works for the team with lesser 'great' talent. You hold that ball you limit the possessions. You limit the possessions you place a premium on each existing possession. So each stop is that much more of a step toward victory. Any turnover has MUCH more importance.
Can the more talented team still the beat the sh8t out of you? Yup. But if you play YOUR game and they make just the normal mistakes that happen in the course of the game you can steal that win.
#177 by barf // Jan 14, 2020 - 9:26am
The Chiefs score - a lot.
Regarding the defense - Henry very well may run for a ton of yards, but the Chiefs are good in red zone defense, and have been much better towards the end of the season. Case in point - Sunday, they spotted the Texans 24 due to a blocked punt return for a TD, a muffed punt inside the 10 yard line, and lots of dropped passes that gave Houston a short field. From the start of the second quarter to the end of the game, the Chiefs held the Texans to 7 points and scored 51 on offense. If that first quarter had been more normal (no drops, no special teams errors) they may have scored 60+. That was an offensive explosion that won't probably be repeated against the Titans, but I wouldn't bet against them scoring 35+. I don't see Tennessee scoring that many points even if Henry has a huge game.
#160 by Harris // Jan 13, 2020 - 3:38pm
That depends on what you mean by "works." They've never won a national championship and haven't won the conference since 2012. Their style keeps them competitive with more talented teams, but the same is true of the Air Raid.
#165 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 5:23pm
CFB reference has the undefeated 1912 Badgers as the best team that season.
#10 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:59am
Um, guys, with regard to the Vikings, it really isn't all that complicated. Football remains first and foremost a contest of efficiently inflicting violence on the opposition, and the Vikings offensive line hasn't been good at that since 2009. Anybody who thinks Cousins, despite his shortcomings and cap number, is their biggest issue, has lost sight of what this sport is. Now, if Cousins expects to maintain his cap ranking after next year, that might have to be addressed, but if he'willing to let his cap percentage drift downwards in 2022 and 2023, he's viable. Going out and getting a young guy who has to run for his life when playing good defenses, and hoping to get lucky in finding the next Russell Wilson, ain't exactly sound strategy. Hey, here's a thought! Why not block somebody?
#45 by Pottsville Mar… // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:34am
I think that the Kubiak style of offense - building everything off the zone running game, and using a lot of play action - can do well with a reasonably smart QB making a lot less than $28M. Cousins might not command that cap number for his next deal, but he'll still be north of $20M by virtue of being a solid QB. If I were the Vikings, I might be willing to let him walk, invest that money in the offensive line and defense, and draft a college QB in the first or second round.
Of course, Cousins still has a year left on his fully-guaranteed deal. I wonder if there are any teams who consider themselves a QB away from contending... the Panthers, maybe, if they (stupidly) move on from Newton? The Bears, if the Vikes are willing to trade within their own division?
#56 by BJR // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:01am
PFF did a good piece this week attempting to quantify what Brady’s below market contract has been worth to the Patriots over the past decade. They came up with a figure of around 1.5 team wins across the enitre decade. Now, clearly, any analysis like this involves several methodological leaps of faith, and should not be taken as gospel. But it does suggest that the notion of saving cap room at the QB position in order to build a stronger overall team is perhaps a little overblown.
To relate this to the Vikings, I’m not sure I believe taking an almost guaranteed short-term downgrade (and probable long term downgrade) at QB, in order to save money for elsewhere on their team, would be a beneficial move.
#90 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:21pm
GB fans were aghast when the GM drafted Jenkins in the second round. Nobody is complaining now.
GB fans were rolling their eyes when Thompson drafted David Bakhtiari in the fourth round years back. Same with Corey Linsley in the fifth round in 2014.
I don't think it's a terrible approach to get those extra picks so every year you can draft at least one offensive and defensive linemen.
#95 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:40pm
The inexplicable Bridgewater knee explosion had a cascading effect, forcing the team to try to save the season with the Bradford trade (which I will defend forever), which cost a ton of draft value, then forced a ton of cap space consumption in signing Cousins, which I also will defend forever. All of this had an effect on investing in other positions.
The impact of injury on NFL history is an underrreported phenomena.
#180 by justanothersteve // Jan 14, 2020 - 1:58pm
I'll admit I'm one of those who thought the Jenkins pick was a waste. I got that one totally wrong. However, I don't remember anyone hating the Bakhtiari pick and my reaction to the Linsley pick was they've finally figured out to draft a real center rather than converting another LT and teaching them to play center.
#93 by mehllageman56 // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:27pm
This coming draft seems to have a bunch of good tackle prospects; I think I would take a chance on one of them ahead of either Eason or Gromm. Honestly, the only quarterback in this draft who could possibly be mobile enough to deal with the pressure Cousins dealt with this weekend is Tua, and he's injured. Now, if no one takes him in the first round... but that's not going to happen.
#153 by mehllageman56 // Jan 13, 2020 - 3:16pm
Herbert is mobile but not a runner often. He's also big: 6 ft 7inches, and 249 pounds. I think he'd work best in a quick passing attack, and honestly, I think he's the one most likely to succeed in the NFL. But he has an injury history, and he's not going to deal with the Niner pressure that great either. The guys who would are in the AFC- Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahommes.
By the way, Hurts is mobile and a probable second round pick. It is a fairly deep draft at QB, WR and O-line, although the experts may not agree with me on the offensive line prospects.
#127 by bravehoptoad // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:30pm
I think that the Kubiak style of offense - building everything off the zone running game, and using a lot of play action - can do well with a reasonably smart QB making a lot less than $28M.
It's worked pretty well for San Francisco (Jimmy G making $28M this year.) It's worked okay for the Packers this year (Aaron Rodgers $20M). Not too long ago it worked well enough to get Atlanta to the Superbowl (Matt Ryan $30M).
I don't think the price of the QB is the limiting factor.
#87 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:14pm
"Anybody who thinks Cousins, despite his shortcomings and cap number, is their biggest issue, has lost sight of what this sport is."
I think you're right that Cousins definitely isn't their *biggest* issue, but he's not their smallest issue, either. They're not going to fix their offensive line without significant money (which they do not have, thanks to Cousins's contract) or without 3-4 years of solid drafting (which they also don't have, thanks to Cousins's age).
Note: when I say "thanks to Cousins's contract/age" I don't mean that either of those make it *impossible*. It just makes it *harder*. I also don't mean they should get rid of him - see below!
"Now, if Cousins expects to maintain his cap ranking after next year, that might have to be addressed, but if he'willing to let his cap percentage drift downwards in 2022 and 2023, he's viable. "
I think this is basically the same as my suggestion elsewhere that if Brady accepts $12-15M/year, he's still a good value. It's true, but also almost certain that it's not going to happen.
"Going out and getting a young guy who has to run for his life when playing good defenses, and hoping to get lucky in finding the next Russell Wilson, ain't exactly sound strategy."
Absolutely! This is the thing that drives me nuts about NFL fans. They seem to think that just because Cousins has some downsides that that means the Vikings should get rid of him. *Lots* of QBs have downsides. Carson Wentz plays in a way that puts him in dangerous situations. This sucks, and means he'll miss games in his career, which means the Eagles have to pay a bit more attention to the backup QB position and there will be some games/years where things just don't work out.
Some teams get lucky with quarterbacks. Most don't. Trying to win by finding a 'hidden gem' in the draft is the perfect way to end up as a laughing stock in the league for decades.
#91 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:24pm
I am curious as to how the larger community views Kirk Cousins, but I am also perplexed at Fo's strongly negative reaction to him.
Is he functionally any worse than Jimmy G? I think Cousins is in fact better, though its probably a matter of taste. I think Cousins is around the 10th best qb in the league. That is a valuable asset, even if his cap number seems prohibitive.
#159 by zenbitz // Jan 13, 2020 - 3:38pm
I think Cousins was better for the year of 2019. But I think Jimmy has quite a bit of potential and is pretty inexperienced. If he can get LB-goggles and throw the ball out of bounds once in a while, he's going to be.... something like "elite".
#163 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 4:04pm
One of my best friends absolutely thinks the way you do and he's a very savvy football aficionado.
I'm not going to say you both are wrong, but I tend to be on the pessimistic side. It's true Jimmy g is inexperienced, but he's also in a very favorable offense with pretty good weaponry and a defense that affords him a lot of leeway. On most teams I don't see him guiding an elite passing game. I think it would be more mistake-prone, but still effective.
There seems to be constant rehashing of what these players are worth. They are two steps below Mahomes and one step below Wilson, and that appears to be their fatal flaw. yet saying draft a quarterback and move on sounds great until you're stuck with Mitch trubisky or Gardner minshew or the last 20 years of Cleveland Browns football.
#171 by theslothook // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:12pm
I didn't mean to imply always. Yes hes had great games. As I told my friend, being elite is a very very hard thing to accomplish. Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and on and on have flirted with seasons where they looked elite. But they never kept up that up. Such is the bar it takes to perform every year like that. Its hard to earmark someone for that.
Im not even ready to say that about Lamar Jackson even though he just had a season of spectacular play. I said for Mahomes after he completed another stellar year. Its just a hard standard. That's my main point.
#94 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:33pm
Complete agreement. The Vikings should roll the dice that their rookie center improves significantly in year two, and they absolutely need to replace their left guard asap. They need to start a conversation now with Cousins' agent about 2022-24, to find out how hard they intend to press the envelope. If they find out that maximizing guaranteed income is the primary goal, with all other considerations very distant, only then should they embark on a new qb strategy. They are not terribly ambitious in shooting for 13 wins and a home game in the divisional round next year, with a couple changes to their starting lineup. Once you get a 1 or 2 seed, playoff success is a much better possibility.
#128 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:32pm
They can probably manage even paying Cousins $30+M/year forward. We're only talking about probably $5M or so here. Honestly, Dalvin Cook almost makes up for it.
That ~$50M defensive line, though. That's a problem. I mean, it's the strength of the team, sure... but you just can't do that. Especially when the front 7 total is like $70M. If you're going to criticize the team's cap structure, *that's* where you put it. You can't spend $30M on a QB, $70M on the defensive front 7, and then rely on mid-round rookies for your offensive line. That *can't* work - even if you're lucky and hit on draft picks for offensive linemen, you're going to have to pay them eventually anyway.
#135 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:50pm
Well Griffen and Joseph are on the 16th tee, at best, so they either significantly restructure, or you cut them.
The guy I wonder about is Diggs. He's really good, but they may have about reached their limit in managing his divaisms.
#143 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:06pm
And it is rare that they stay with one team, because eventually they become unmanageable, absent a change in environment. The key is to trade him to a team desperate for receiving talent, before it becomes too obvious that you have to get rid of him. Jerel's still focused in Cooper. Maybe The District Idiot is a possibility.
#145 by Pat // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:23pm
"Well Griffen and Joseph are on the 16th tee, at best, so they either significantly restructure, or you cut them. "
The idea that players restructure and suddenly they're cheaper is pretty overblown. Restructuring usually just spreads money around. Those guys aren't going to go from $10-15M/year to $2M/year. And Griffen and Joseph are both plus players. Losing them means you probably replace them with someone worse, which means you better hope that some of the other players on the team are ready to step up, or you can find value in the draft.
Diggs is really a well-valued contract, I don't see touching that. $14-15M/year for a top-10 WR is totally solid.
Honestly, with the Vikings I think it probably makes sense to go the high-risk, high-reward strategy of restructuring Griffen/Joseph to push money forward, draft an OL high and target another in free agency, and pretty much go all-in for next year. Or equivalently cut Griffen and target a DE high in free agency to maybe even improve there.
But if they go that path that points towards a "blow up the team in 2021" situation.
#151 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:40pm
I agree Diggs is a terrific value. If he isn't a complete psychopath. When it gets to the point that three of his teammates, including the qb, need to go give him sideline psychiatric care during a playoff game in which they are leading, and the guy starts missing practices, because he's mad about not being targeted enough, the situation may be in danger of becoming untenable. Of course, these matters are impossible to judge from afar, and Zimmer's in no danger of becoming intimidated or sentimental by a receiver, so that'll be whatever it'll be. I do wonder what he might bring in a trade, however, if Zimmer and Spielman played their cards right.
#130 by bravehoptoad // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:38pm
I haven't seen the Vikings play recently, and was shocked how bad their defense looked. Sometime in the middle of the 3rd-quarter, Shanahan just said screw it, I don't need to call any more plays, and spent the rest of the game running through the A and B gaps. That's a kind of mauling I didn't expect.
Of course, it didn't help that at the time Minnesota had made all of four first downs, and it didn't help that they were playing on five days rest, but yeesh. My eight-year-old daughter is watching with me, and I'm trying to explain to her what makes football an interesting game, and what I've got to sell her on the idea is a bunch of three-and-outs and another bunch of 4-yard runs up the middle.
It was not the best game to sell football to a newby.
#140 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 2:00pm
That's exactly why it is such a mistake to read too much into the game. 5 days rest, two time zones, against a team that was already very physical, and had become much healthier with their week off. What were people's expectations?
#169 by bravehoptoad // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:23pm
A bit higher than that of the Titans against the Ravens.
I was thinking, hey, I finally get to see that ferocious Zimmer defense! Hrm.
Not complaining, not complaining at all. After five straight last-second finishes, I was relieved to have an easier game.
#172 by jh_eldred // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:52pm
Their offensive line problems are what makes Cousins a weird fit for the Vikings; while he is aggressive and throws well enough to take advantage of their incredible receiver talent, he is stunningly immobile and has very bad pocket awareness. A lot of Vikings games seem to vacillate between them moving the ball relentlessly and total non-games like Saturday and their second Green Bay loss. The offensive line combined with the opponent's pass rush seem to be what dictates this, but Cousins plays a part in this as well. He can't evade the rush and playing a small-ball, get-the-ball-out-quick style offense doesn't fit him either because of his decision-making and arm strength aren't compatible with that strategy.
This all sounds negative, but he really is a fine QB, probably somewhere around the 10-15 range among NFL starters. A team can absolutely win a title with him. But he's just such an awkward fit for Minnesota based on their roster-building philosophy. You can annually mitigate bad line play with Wilson or Brady, but Cousins just isn't that guy and as such he limits their ceiling. Their kind of stuck because improving on him is very difficult, but that makes it hard to take them seriously as a contender with the roster the way it is.
As an aside, part of the derision directed towards Cousins is his career-long struggles in big games. Fair or not, that reputation sticks to a QB. Dalton got the same criticisms because he no-showed plenty too many prime time/significant games, despite being a fine QB overall.
#11 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:03am
Signs the Smiths. That turned out awesome. And Amos has been solid while Turner has been more good than bad.
Drafted Jenkins in the second round who has been REALLY good. Savage is starting as a safety. Gary is a work in progress but there is promise there.
Picked up Jared Veldheer toward the end of the season, and the guy filled in last night at right tackle and the best thing you can say about a lineman is that you never really heard his name mentioned.
#12 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:05am
With regard to Baltimore, when's the last time somebody in the playoffs ran 80 or more plays, and didn't make it to 13 points? I think the Ravens ran 92 plays! Crazy!
I think the Seahawks are a 7 or 8 win team with an average qb.
#31 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:37am
2013. Baltimore did that to opponents twice in the 2013 playoffs.
9 times in NFL history. Five games have involved a team from Baltimore. GB is the only one to win.
Some of this is because Baltimore finds itself in the most heavily played games in NFL history. Five of the top 6 involve the lineal Ravens.
#13 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:20am
Along with being a really good player who was regularly blowing up plays last night is Clowney getting others on the team to follow his lead on 'playing to the edge'? The tackling via wrapping the neck which FOX insisted was not a penalty but good grief sure looks dangerous. Which another Seahawk did to tackle Rodgers but that was not called. The Seattle offensive lineman as the play is being blown dead pushing Preston to the Smith to the ground and then falling dead weight on top of him forcing Smith to leave the game for several plays? There were several others but I figure at this point listing them gets me labeled as whining when all I am is legitimately curious? Because I don't remember the Seahawks playing this way even a year ago.
#44 by Led // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:31am
How about Marshwn Lynch nailing that dude in the back who was trying to tackle the Seattle receiver? I have no idea why they made hitting the pile ("aiding the runner") legal a few years ago but regardless that was a clear block in the back. I don't see how it wasn't a penalty.
#75 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:41am
but to me the most egregious non-called penalty last night was the one I describe above when a 300 plus pound guy was allowed to shove an opposing player to the ground and then pancake him. And the play was being blown dead. The dead weight aspect was clearly post whistle. That was a legitimately dangerous act.
Really glad Smith is apparently ok.
#98 by AnonyRuss // Jan 13, 2020 - 12:44pm
Me too but I also didn't see the Pro Wrestling move you keep referring to as well. Maybe I was taking a leak, it's possible. Bladder is getting older.
Weird that hitting the hands negates a defenseless receiver. I guess it would negate a helmet to helmet since they protect the head so much better than a helmet does.
#174 by Dan // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:44pm
Clowney tackling Rodgers by the neck didn't look like a dirty play. Clowney was headed towards the body, Rodgers lowered his head at the last moment (it looked like he was trying to start a way-too-late slide), and so the contact happened way up high. (This is going by memory since I haven't been able to find a replay of it.)
It was a dangerous play, but that's a problem with sliding as a way for a QB to give himself up. If he slides before the defender gets there then the defender can avoid him and the QB will be on the ground out of the main line of fire. But if he starts to slide too late then he's not protecting himself and his head & neck are right in the line of fire so things can get real bad.
#14 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:23am
I wouldn't be shocked if they grabbed a falling Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason, though. Surprised, but not shocked.
So your cure for the Vikings -- a team that doesn't seem to trust its QB outside of an over-powering run game -- is to draft Jacob Fromm or Jacob Eason. College kids on teams that didn't trust their QBs outside of an over-powering run game.
#17 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:51am
Again, it's really unsound to be thinking along the lines of, "Hey let's draft the next Russell Wilson!'.
Divisional playoff round produces nearly as much overreaction as Week 1. The reality is that crossing two time zones on 5 days rest, to play an excellent, very physical team, that is coming off a bye week, is not likely to have a successful outcome. The idea is not to ask "How can we, as a six seed, go play in the one seed's stadium, allow them to run 92 plays, and still win comfortably?", but rather "How can we move from 10 or 11 wins, to 13 or 14, and then get a bye, before playing the divisional round at home?".
#41 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:13am
Ironically enough, given the drumbeat of criticism the Vikings run/pass mixture receives, if the Vikings had given Dalvin Cook one more red zone run against the Packers in September, and the refs don't steal a game from the Lions in Lambeau early in the season, that might have done it.
#51 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:51am
Nope, because there are different levels of trust. Cousins, given reasonable protection, can be trusted to locate the right target, and deliver the ball very accurately. 3 million, or even 13 million, won't buy you that. Now, do the Vikings want to let Cousins consume the same percentage of cap space in 2022 as he did this year or last? No, and they should begin to have that conversation with his agent now. To overreact, however, to getting soundly beaten by an excellent opponent, when you are travelling two time zones on 5 days rest, to play in that opponent's stadium, when that opponent is coming off a bye week, is a real danger.
#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 8:46am
In a division where Tennessee has found their way and Indianapolis isn't going away.
This Titans team kind of feels like the 2010-2011 Jets, though. Mahomes had more passing in the 2nd quarter than Tannehill has in two games.
#40 by johonny // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:12am
The 1995 9-7 Colts rode Faulk to two upset wins and had former disappointment 1st round pick Jim Harbaugh at QB. They barely (last second drop in endzone) lost the conference game. Although, the Steelers shutdown Faulk on the ground and forced Harbaugh to try to win through the air.It's not a perfect comparison, because Henry is more pounding than Faulk was, and the Steelers have less get up and go on offsense. I don't think anyone thinks KC can stop the Titans from scoring, and Kansas City's offense looked ready to score Sunday. Could be, should be, a shoot out. It was last time they played.
#48 by Pottsville Mar… // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:41am
Harbaugh led the NFL in passer rating and made the Pro Bowl that year - it's a little misleading to label him as a "former disappointment" at that stage in his career. In retrospect, it's likely that Harbaugh's struggles with the Bears were due as much to Ditka's complete inability to coach offense than anything else (see Ditka's refusal to let Harbaugh audible and his screaming match with Harbaugh on the sideline after his famous interception against the Vikings).
#63 by johonny // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:15am
Harbaugh had a 8.2 Y/A that year and 1.6 Int percentage. After that one season he appeared to return to his usual performance 6.7 Y/A and 3.0. It's similar to Tannehill's out of character 9.6 Y/A this season compared to 7.2 Y/A career and much like Harbaugh, he lead the NFL in passer rating. Harbaugh returned to form and eventually bounced around after that season. Tannehill is 31, Harbaugh was 32. It's about a close a comparison as you get. Which is why these Titans remind me of those Colts.
#50 by dmstorm22 // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:48am
I do get a lot or Rex Ryan Jets vibes from these Titans.
Obviously those jets were better defensively but the Titans have taken a similar approach with basically all running.
There's a lot of similarities to the 2009 Divisional upset of San Diego. Those chargers had an 11gm win streak and then made every mistake imagineable (3 missed fgs, three bad turnovers). Only diff is that was a close game.
#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:02am
I wonder what he thought the odds of getting a three-and-out defensively were.
He had 3 TOs and the two-minute warning. What he couldn't do was allow two first downs, especially on 3rd down conversions. As it was, he could have survived two first downs on first downs.
Teams this year were 11-46 on 4th-10 to 4th-12. Seattle this year made three-and-outs on ~20% of their opponents' drives. If you expand to 5 and out, they were a little over 25%. If you include drives ending in TOs, they got fast stops on 40% of opponent drives. Wilson was playing well in the second half, but their scheme was Russ Maddens around for 10 seconds and then gets a 10 yard gain. That's dicey on 4th-11.
#27 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:26am
Henry needs 91 yards next week for the most yards rushing in the playoffs in 3 games (Davis 1998, 468).
He's 233 yards behind Riggins' overall record from 1982.
Last year's division game against NE when they abandoned the run is the only playoff game he hasn't cleared 150 yards.
Odd part of that game is Tennessee did not abandon running in similar circumstances against the Chiefs in the prior game.
#28 by UsernameETA // Jan 13, 2020 - 9:27am
I'm just very disappointed that not more is being made out of how Bosa was being shut down by Brian O'Neill, and then took O'Neill out of the game with an illegal cheap shot. Then the kid preens and poses and milks his own "injury"? I dunno, man. I guess the NFL really cares about concussions. The Niners defensive line and offensive line wore down the Vikings, but the Vikings coaching probably did more damage. You have to go 8, hell, 9 men in the box and dare Jimmy to throw at the point in the game, because it sure seemed like Jimmy was intent on losing that game. You have to stop running on first down.
#47 by Will Allen // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:40am
You have to get Cousins hurt? Look, I appreciate analytics, I really do. That's why I spend so much time entertaining myself here. The analytics prism, however, can have the same effect as a handyman who only has a hammer for a tool; every problem starts looking like a nail. Believe me, Zimmer, Kubiak, and Stefanski all understand that they aren't having any success running. Compared to the analytics only people, however, that have a much better and more intimate understanding of the cumulative effect of extreme violence on qb performance, and they understand that they can't block the Niners defensive linemen when they have their ears pinned back.
When your offensive line is just getting it's ass whipped continuously, and you don't have 2010 Peyton Manning or 2020 Russell Wilson playing quartetback, playcalling becomes nearly irrelevant.
#69 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:24am
Even if you have Russ...
Watching the GB-SEA game, I get both why it's frustrating that SEA is so determined to rush poorly, but also why they don't go full Mahomes. That failed two-point conversion, when Alexander blindsided Wilson, I thought Wilson was going to come up hurt after that play. He just dodged getting crushed a couple of times.
It seems like the risk of going full Wilson 24/7 is you're going to shatter him.
#170 by bravehoptoad // Jan 13, 2020 - 7:27pm
It didn't look like that much of a cheap shot to me. Bosa's shoulder pad hit O'Brien in the chest. I get it's a penalty because the guy was running downfield while looking over his left shoulder, but that was also pretty stupid on O'Brien's part.
The Vikings went 8 men in the box on the 49ers' first drive, and it gave up a pretty easy 7 points, most of that (all of that?) through the air.
#42 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:23am
Graham has been a real whipping boy of Packer fans the past two seasons and with some justification. Graham has had his share of drops. He wasn't signed to block but even acknowledging that his block efforts at times have been comical. Graham falls down WAY too much limiting the few times he is in a position to generate yards after catch.
But last night he was golden. He held onto the touch pass after getting rocked by the defender. And that third down catch to ice the game was NOT easy.
Well done Mr Graham. Well done
#181 by justanothersteve // Jan 14, 2020 - 2:05pm
I was very pleased with Graham this week for probably the first time ever. I was also glad to see both Sternberger and Tonyan in the game; I think Jace was being used mostly as a FB.
I like having several TEs on the roster. Mike Sherman once kept 5 TEs which worked out surprisingly well.
#43 by Pottsville Mar… // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:26am
Not directly related to Audibles, but I'm surprised at the inductions of Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Cowher was the Steelers' coach for 15 seasons, and won one Super Bowl during that time. The Steelers were often good, but rarely great, making only two Super Bowls despite the AFC being relatively weak for most of his tenure. He wasn't responsible for any major strategic innovations or shifts in thinking. It's unclear to me why he is considered a HOF-level coach, other than being likeable. (It's also funny to consider that the Steelers' Super Bowl win over the Seahawks in 2006 likely catapulted two people - Cowher and Bettis - to the HOF in the final game of both their carreers. I don't think either would have made it if the Seahawks had won.)
Johnson was the Cowboys' coach for five seasons and the Dolphins' coach for four seasons. The Cowboys were only good in three of Johnson's seasons, making the playoffs in 1991 as a wild card before Super Bowl wins in 1992 and 1993. The Dolphins were mediocre in each of his four years, going 36-28 and never making it out of the divisional round of the playoffs. So Johnson's track record of success is almost entirely contained in his back-to-back Super Bowl wins. That said, Johnson arguably was more influential than Cowher, since he was at the forefront of draft day wheeling and dealing with his trade chart and aggressive accumulation of draft picks. Still, it feels like an 80-64 record over nine seasons is somewhat lacking as far as a HOF resume.
#49 by dmstorm22 // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:41am
The Steelers winning SBXL not only vaulted Cowher to the HOF but flip the result and Holmgren probably gets in.
Honestly there still is an argument for Holmgren over Cowher, as Holmgren resurrected two teams, has a giant coaching tree.
#71 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:31am
Cowher is 59 games over .500 with a win percentage of 62%.
Everyone ahead of him on that list is already in the Hall, is going to be in the Hall, or is one of the Lords of No Rings.(Amusingly, Mike Tomlin is exactly the same guy.)
Jimmy Johnson resuscitated the Cowboys and was clearly the driving force behind the Cowboys success. Switzer got over the hump (against Cowher!) once with Jimmy's boys, but Jerruh hasn't been able to sustain the success without Johnson. And he gets some bump for being a legendary college coach before going to the NFL.
#55 by JS // Jan 13, 2020 - 10:58am
I agree, especially w/r/t Cowher. They were pretty much always good-to-very-good, but that's organizational as much as coaching. Jimmy Johnson very quickly built up a truly dominant team, one that should have won in '94, and won in '95 with Barely Switzer as HC. Granted, he owes a lot to Mike Lynn (hi, Will!) for that, but he did a hell of a job. He was also at the forefront of emphasizing speed players on defense, which is at least something. He also did well at Miami, which shouldn't matter but gives more credence to the idea that he was a top coach.
Ultimately, we have to remember two things. One, the NFL HOF is a hall of very good, not of greatness, like the Baseball HOF, and two, being in the public eye helps A LOT. It's not a coincidence that both those guys are on TV.
#57 by Raiderjoe // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:05am
Putting rec ent Steelers coach and a cowboys one in there means more money for the museum in 2020. Don Coryell and Buddy Parker inductions would not bring as many people to Canton. Pro Football HOF starting to be affected by cronyism and commercialism. Is nto that cowher and johnson shoudl be nowhere near HOF btu they immediately rank with lesser head coaches in sujch as maybe h. stram or 1-playoff win guy s. gillman but at least those two were innovators. Ray Flaherty and Steve owen not strongly considered for NFL 100 All-time tema so maybe can say those are loweer tier HOF head coahce.s
I do liek don coryell for HOF. Took over moribound cards and went 31-11 in sueprb 3-tyear stretch 1974-76. all it was good for was two road playofff games bacjk when it was exrteemly difficult to win road playogg gam,es. then coached Chargers. created lots of excitement and happiness for fans with innovative offensive ideas.
Wanted Buddy parker in too. Coached Loins to two NFL champsunhips and then was gonna coach 1957 team btu resigned in trainignc amp. Team then won title under George wilson. then he coached Steelers and helped make them prettyy good. Best steelers coacg before chuck nolll it coudl be stated
with Coryell and parker nto getting in this special class , nwo they may never get in.
#68 by big10freak // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:20am
and the obvious influence he had on how football was played (and continues to be played) is there an explanation as to why he has not been inducted? Please tell me it's not for a lack of championships/Super Bowl victories.
Because that would be really damn stupid
#73 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:39am
The criticism of Coryell is that he's a lesser Sid Gillman (similar record and legacy; but no titles).
The guys who are like him -- great regular seasons, poor playoffs, no conference championships -- but who had more wins, are also not in the Hall. Guys like Marty and Chuck Knox.
Coordinators just don't get in. Bum isn't in. LeBeau is in as a player. Even if you treat Coryell as a HC/OC, I get the argument. I disagree with it -- you can't tell the story of the NFL without him. But I get it. Unfortunately, his biggest fan -- Al Davis -- was hated by the other owners.
#76 by Raiderjoe // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:41am
it is strictly due to playoff record of 3-6. there is no otther argument to make against Coryell. George Allen is in HOF )and deseveres it) with playioff record of 2-7. These two were coaching at samne time for while in same division so someone cann;'t say "different eras, so cannot compare them".
#82 by RickD // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:54am
had the good sense to have his two playoff wins in the same year, so he could make a Super Bowl.
As always with Hall of Fame selections, there are going to be weaker selections. Allen's Hall resume is a lot weaker than several coaches on the outside.
It's like how Lynn Swann's resume is incredibly weak for a WR. If every WR with better career stats than Swann were inducted, the NFL wouldn't have space for other positions! At least with Swann there is the argument that his great play on a couple of the Steelers' Super Bowl runs had an enormous impact on the growth of the NFL in the 1970s, which was a key decade for the emergence of the NFL into a clear 2nd fiddle to baseball to the dominant league in the US.
#138 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 13, 2020 - 1:54pm
But this doesn't apply to Cowher. Every coach will superior accolades is either already in the Hall, is currently active (Reid and Belichick), or has significant extenuating circumstances (Marty). Frankly, Marty deserves to get in, too.
Cowher's legacy is good enough that the argument is not why does he get in (1 title, 2 appearances, decade+ of very good teams), it becomes why are you keeping him out?
#79 by RickD // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:50am
career winning percentage of .572.
One 12+ win season...
Only 111 wins total...fewer than Dennis Green and Norv Turner.
And the three "playoff" wins includes a win in the 1982 playoffs, when, to compensate for the shortened season, the NFL had more playoff teams than non-playoff teams.
There are coaches with much better resumes (Schottenheimer, Shanahan, Holmgren, Vermeil) on the outside looking in.
#178 by Raiderjoe // Jan 14, 2020 - 1:14pm
re: 1982 oplayoffs. well, we can do this stuff with a lot of guys. 1976 Coryell went 10-4 and din'dt make playofs. If pklayoffs then were structured like playoffs of now, then 1976 Cards make playoffs. 1982 Chargers mayy have made playoffs anyway if 1982 season went 16 games. so to take credit away from them aned Coryell due to expanded playoffs, i don't see that as fair.
carrer winning pct of .572 is good esepcially since was taking over for cards and chargers who struggled right before he arrived. not klike aaron boone taking over ready-made Yankees team. A chimpanzee coudl win 100 games as Yankees manager. Maybe only 90 if there was some monkey business occcurruing during the season. So take out maybe Coryell's first year with cards where he is fixing rooster, then winnign pct goes uop. CHuck Noll liek this too. 1-13 first year as he spent year fixing thongs.
#74 by RickD // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:39am
To celebrate 100 years of NFL football, they've expanded the class this year. That's why Cowher and Johnson are getting in after so many years of waiting. If they're going to get in, I hope Tom Flores does, too. And Kenny Anderson. Well, we'll see on Wednesday.
#77 by Raiderjoe // Jan 13, 2020 - 11:44am
Flores is not gettign in due to cowher and johnson
teight were considered- Parker, Johnson, Cowher, Flores, Holmgren, Coryell, Reeves, Vermeil
only two spots avbailable
to me, none of these eight stand above the otghers. there are alll gusy who would not be on top tier of NFL head coacghes (top tier for me is the 10 who made NFL 100 Akll-Time Team and maybe one or two others). they would all be 2nd or 3rd tier guys if rbekaing down HOF head coaches into three tiers