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

Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Audibles Opening Night Special 2015
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails 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 turn into (if they can).

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.

As is now tradition, we have a special Opening Night Audibles covering the regular season opener between the Patriots and Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers 21 at New England Patriots 28

Cian Fahey: Sammie Coates is inactive behind Darius Heyward-Bey while Martavis Bryant is suspended, it's probably too early to call a player a bust after one game but...

Scott Kacsmar: Sammie Coates didn't even get exaggerated praise from Ben Roethlisberger, who praises everyone to the nth degree. Seriously, he'll make you believe he had the Hogs in front of him in 2008. That's discouraging, because I don't know what these teams are still seeing in DHB to roster him, let alone give him snaps.

Tom Gower: Heyward-Bey is a fine and energetic blocker who also plays special teams. On the right team, that's a very valuable thing for a fourth or fifth receiver, and playing ST makes it easy to keep him up on a regular basis.

Cian Fahey: Hope he gets a few chances to cover some punts as a third receiver tonight then!

Vince Verhei: Note to whoever it was in New England that decided to play "Hate Me Now" as the Patriots were warming up: Well played. Well, well played.

Aaron Schatz: As far as Sammie Coates, look, the dude is a project. Some guys are projects. That doesn't necessarily make them failures. And the Steelers did look like a team that had its receiving corps set and could take time to develop a project at the position.

Whether that project will actually develop, or was worth a third-round pick instead of a fifth or sixth, is a different story.

Tom Gower: Also, Robert Quinn was a healthy scratch his first game, and he turned out okay.

Cian Fahey: Quinn probably has better hands than Coates.

Aaron Schatz: Hell, Richard Quinn might have better hands than Coates.

Vince Verhei: That pregame banner-dropping trophy-raising concert was the best damn thing I ever saw. And I cheer for Seattle. Holy crap.

Aaron Schatz: Hello from the press box, high above Gillette Stadium, where the most common thing heard seems to be "I need a note about the Steelers... Does anyone know anything I can say about the Steelers? Just one thing?"

The second-most common thing heard is, of course, any deflategate joke.

Mike Kurtz: &$-%$#$&&& Todd Haley.

Scott Kacsmar: Yes, the first #FireToddHaley of the season came rather quick. A gadget like Antonio Brown passing on the opening drive? Save that for later. Simplicity was carrying that drive right down the field until that.

Cian Fahey: Dominique Easley had made a great start to this game. Was exploding off the snap and penetrating pocket consistently. Just gone off with what appears to be a significant hip injury. Awful for a guy who has two torn ACLs in his past and is finally healthy.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, I think handing it to the fullback on second-and-28 has to be considered as weird as calling the trick play in the middle of a successful opening drive.

On the positive for the Steelers, Cody Wallace is pushing some guys early. Making some holes. Looks pretty good.

Tom Gower: After the idiot trick play and they were backed up, the Steelers called plays like they were trying to get a field goal attempt. They did, and we saw what they got out of it.

Mike Kurtz: That may be the first time I've seen illegal formation called for that. As long as I can remember, "through the belt" means "vaguely in the area of a guy."

Aaron Schatz: OK, Cody Wallace a better run blocker than pass blocker. Whiffs completely on Dont'a Hightower on an A-gap blitz for a sack of Roethlisberger.

Scott Kacsmar: That's a long failed completion when you get 17 yards on third-and-18, but it's still a good field position gain to help your D/ST. I guess that's why we have a binary counting stat like failed completions and something more advanced like DVOA to deal with such plays.

Cian Fahey: Steelers headsets aren't working. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Scott Kacsmar: Headset failure not uncommon in NFL games. Getting the other team's radio broadcast? Never heard anything like that before.

And we look to be headed to a scoreless first quarter.

Tom Gower: Both teams made it to the edge of scoring territory, but couldn't actually put points on the board. The Steelers missed their field goal, and Bud Dupree sacked Brady on the Patriots' third down near field goal range on what looked like it was supposed to be a screen. So, while it hasn't been as scoring-heavy as I expected, both teams have moved the ball some.

Cian Fahey: Nate Solder is having a bad night. Multiple penalties and just got beat on a speed rush by Jarvis Jones of all people.

Aaron Schatz: Guy next to me asks "is this the longest Gronk has ever gone without a catch to start a game?" Next two plays, passes to Gronk, including a badly blown coverage where the safety forgot to go over to cover Gronk man-to-man lined up wide. Touchdown, Patriots.

Cian Fahey: Gronkowski was uncovered for his touchdown, but he wasn't the only one:

Scott Kacsmar: If the Patriots keep getting Julian Edelman on Blake, this is going to be a long night for the defense. That guy can tackle, but he can't cover. That's the advantage of how the Patriots run their offense differently from most, and how most defenses refuse to shadow receivers. We know Edelman is the best receiver on the field (Gronk the biggest threat, so let's not even put a guy on him, but I digress), so why not shadow him with your best cornerback? That's William Gay this season, but other teams have better options and still don't do it like they should.

Cian Fahey: If there is one cornerback in the NFL that Darrius Heyward-Bey can beat, it was always going to be Bradley Fletcher(or Cary Williams). Heyward-Bey with a huge play in response to Gronkowski's touchdown.

Scott Kacsmar: Of course DHB makes a bigger play than what he did all last year. Now if only he can get Bradley Fletcher in coverage more.

Mike Kurtz: After the last fg attempt, I'm amazed they aren't going for it on fourth and three.

Hey look, he missed it.

Aaron Schatz: If you aren't going to put a deep safety over to help Fletcher, why do you even put the guy on the field? The Pats are supposed to excel at using guys in ways that hide their weaknesses. Not there.

Vince Verhei: Maybe the Steelers should have considered going for it on fourth-and-3 instead of asking their third kicker of the year to try a 46-yard field goal. Just an idea.

Cian Fahey: Jarvis Jones is repeatedly obliterating Nate Solder. He's beating him with speed rushes, bull rushes and shedding him v run. Solder isn't a star left tackle, but Jones has been woeful to this point in his career so this is a major development.

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Vince Verhei: Beautiful, beautiful play fake on Brady's second touchdown to Gronkowski. I was still watching the "runner" as the ball was in the air.

On the first play following that touchdown, Pittsburgh runs the Seahawks' goal-line play and execute it perfectly. They trolled Seattle. I laughed.

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers need to go down the field more in the second half. Really test this secondary instead of trying all the horizontal stuff.

Cian Fahey: Antonio Brown's athleticism is incredible. Just glides away from defensive backs who are desperately making an effort to follow him. That's what he did against Malcolm Butler late in the second quarter down the sideline.

Aaron Schatz: OK, second-and-5 from the 26, 20 seconds left. How on earth do the Patriots leave Darrius Heyward-Bey wide open in the corner of the end zone for seven or eight seconds? And how on earth does DHB not notice his foot is OUT OF BOUNDS when he's wide open for a touchdown?

Mike Kurtz: DHB Was always an avid student if the Raider Way.

Tom Gower: On the play before that, how do the Steelers out of a timeout burn :22 of :42 seconds with a pointless running play when they're 31 yards from the end zone? Aside from, of course, Todd Haley'ING.

Scott Kacsmar: Can we just recycle one of my rants from the last two years of Audibles of the Steelers botching the clock before halftime? I don't feel like going over that one. Just brutal.

Mike Kurtz: It's one thing to say that the Steelers defense is weak at secondary; they've had issues there for years now. One thing that we never saw when LeBeau was running the show was such complete unpreparedness. Not just the miscommunications, but basic gameplanning, like starting the game playing off the receivers against Brady's popgun arm.

Scott Kacsmar: Have to disagree, Mike. Steelers usually have that kind of start in at least one game every year. Seahawks hit a handful of open sideline passes to start SB XL even. Dalton was doing it in Cincinnati last year. That's just part of their scheme and it looks really foolish against a team spreading receivers out and gladly taking those easy yards.

Ben Muth: Halftime thoughts:


I missed part of the second quarter, but I thought the right side of Pittsburgh's OL (David DeCastro in particular) looked good. Also think both tight ends for Pitt are blocking their asses off. Pittsburgh overall has looked okay but the botched double pass, two missed field goals, a DHB blunder, and horrific clock management has them 2 scores down.



Vince Verhei: I've never bought into the anti-Tomlin stuff, but, uh, he's not having a good night.

Aaron Schatz: OK, here's the problem with some of the old Boston media.

Ron Borges tweets after the really well-run Will Allen safety blitz sack: "Marcus Cannon is already on top of his game, which is why Will Allen was on top of Brady." Except, Marcus Cannon blocked the guy he was supposed to block there. Will Allen came in untouched. It was a great play design. Either Brady hits the hot read, or he goes down. Cannon did nothing wrong.

I don't know why Cannon was in the game for Solder -- as bad as Solder was playing, he's the better player, you want your better player in there, right? -- but he was not responsible for that sack.

Apparently, my Twitter followers have pointed out the Pats have been rotating their linemen around all game. Not sure the strategy behind that, but that's what's up. They had Cannon in for Sebastian Vollmer on an earlier drive.

Ben Muth: Yeah, people are crushing Cannon on Twitter. He might've screwed up by over sliding inside when he didn't need to, but I put it at 70/30 that two blitzers off that edge means you throw hot. That's the classic, if you don't know the call/scheme you don't know who messed up scenario.

Cian Fahey: They've done that previously, but I don't remember them doing it with their LT?

Tom Gower: Cannon was playing left tackle for Solder there, and right tackle for Sebastian Vollmer earlier. The Patriots were also giving some of their interior lineman series off earlier in the game, with Shaq Mason, I think, moving in and out. I know other teams have rotated linemen at times, but it's normally like the continuation of a camp battle. Does any team regularly give their linemen series off like that, and have the Pats ever explained why?

Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh down ten and on the verge of scoring a crucial touchdown, and they run a draw on third-and-goal from the 6. Can't defend that.


Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think it was DeAngelo Williams, but otherwise, yeah.

Vince Verhei: Didn't New England spend the first month or so last year shuffling their linemen in and out? It's like they don't trust the preseason as an evaluation method, and they want to see different players and combinations in REAL real games before they settle on a starting five.

Aaron Schatz: Can someone explain to me how on earth the Steelers keep leaving Gronk open? First they had Bud Dupree on him one-on-one in an empty-back set. Huge gain. Bud Dupree is not here to be covering tight ends. The next play, Brady overthrew Edelman but he didn't even see he had Gronk wide open again in the slot!!! Ridiculous.

Cian Fahey: The coaching staff is terrible and has been for a few years now.

Tom Gower: The Dupree coverage looked like a zone where he didn't realize he needed to carry Gronkowski's route because the deep defenders were otherwise occupied (outside route held CB, not sure about middle defender). I didn't rewind to check on the Edelman overthrow. So, yeah, inexperienced and/or not very good players not executing their assignments in high pressure situations. Basically, what we all expected coming into this game.

Vince Verhei: Steelers punt on fourth-and-3 down 14 points with 8:29 to go in the game. They have made every possible wrong decision tonight.

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Aaron Schatz: Patriots had a terrible clock-munching drive munch only 53 seconds after that, so hey, who knows. Maybe Pittsburgh has life still. Crowd is chanting "Where is Roger?" Shades of the 1999 ALCS.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I'm sorry. Deep pass into the wind is too short for DHB to catch. Interception. Fire extinguished.

Scott Kacsmar: Well I've watched them all live, and it's hard to think of another game where the Steelers were this dumb under Tomlin. Dumb is the simple word I'd use to describe this performance. The offense was very respectable given who didn't suit up tonight, but we may be quickly learning the Patriots are in a real bend-but-don't-break mode this season. Pittsburgh left a ton of points on the field and had several poor decisions on play calls and clock management. Bad debut for Josh Scobee. Keep that up and the Steelers will be looking for a fourth kicker in 2015.

We tend to just ignore the preseason, but the Buffalo quarterbacks were 30/33 for over 300 yards against Pittsburgh. Never in the 96-year history of the NFL had an offense completed over 90% on 30-plus passes. And that was the Buffalo quarterback situation with most of the top receivers out. What was Brady's peak rate tonight? 24/28? Think he hit 19 in a row. That's very alarming, especially when you can't line up and are leaving countless receivers wide open. Nothing more unforgivable than how often Gronkowski can be left open like that. The game plan looked nonexistent tonight, and I don't know if that's mostly on Tomlin or Keith Butler, but I've seen nothing to believe the Steelers won't be one of the bottom defenses this year. They might rough up Josh McCown at home, but anything even resembling competence should have success against this defense.

Overall it was more competitive than I expected as the Patriots didn't pull away as easily after halftime. I hope this was just a Week 1 snapshot of two great offenses (both missing several starters) going up against two awful defenses. If the standard of defense is getting to this level...

Vince Verhei: Yeah, I'm feeling very good about my pick for Pittsburgh to fall short of their DVOA projection.


91 comments, Last at 13 Sep 2015, 5:49pm

1 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I'll borrow from Peter King and say what I liked and didn't about the game (as a fan of good football, not as a Patriots fan). What I liked:

* The clever way the Pats switched up the play with their two big TEs in the red zone. The first time, they crossed to spring Chandler to be open. The second time, they faked doing exactly that again, the defense bit, and it left Gronk open on the fade. Beautiful chess match.

* The safety blitz that LeBeau dialed up to end a critical Patriots drive was a thing of beauty. Perfect call perfectly executed.

* The young Patriots interior line held up very well, surprisingly.

* Antonio Brown is amazing. Julian Edelman is pretty good, too. Those two WR's were a joy to watch.

And what I didn't like:

* Um, Steelers? The Patriots have this big, athletic guy named Gronkowski. Number 87. They like to throw him the ball sometimes. You might want to cover him... And if you do choose to cover him, you should probably not try to single cover him with a LB. Signed, Steelers fans and Julian Edelman fantasy owners everywhere.

* Ninkovich looked old, slow, easily overpowered, and often out of position and unable to set the edge. This is a big deal for the Patriots defense going forward.

* Burn that play! You know the one I'm talking about.

* Still hate that in this league the rules reward a QB for a bad throw and punish a DB for being in perfect position with a DPI when the ball is underthrown and the WR runs into the DB trying to come back to it.

* The fact that the broadcast gave this nonsense with headsets any air time at all, and Tomlin fed the hype. I know it's because those trumped up smear propaganda pieces came out earlier this week, but seriously. We all just want to focus on football, not more manufactured "scandals".

46 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

No, I just borrowed the format. Those are my thoughts above, not his.

And I'm just an idiot. I hadn't realized LeBeau had moved on. Who is the Steelers DC right now?

Anyway, it was a beautiful safety blitz, beautifully timed and executed. Even though I'm a Pats fan and didn't like the outcome, I'll give credit as a football fan when someone does something brilliant.

4 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I would favor expanding the legal contact with receivers zone to 10 yards, so I'm not one to make it too easy to pass. Having said that, I'd argue that when your eyeballs are 180 degrees away from the football, and no attempt is ever made to get them to track the football, you were not in perfect defensive position.

10 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Burn that play? Not me. (Assuming you mean the WR-pass that resulted in a sack)

Sometimes trick plays don't work. What needs to happen is to have the WR make a quick determination about whether the secondary was fooled. If not, throw the ball out of bounds. Don't wait for someone to beat their man: you aren't a QB.

62 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Nobody was better at this than Ladanian Tomlinson, and Marty Shottenheimer leaving the trick plays in and using them 1 or 2 times a year.

The result:

8 for 12, 143 yards, 7 TD, 0 INT 2 sacks (for 3 yards).

All but one (failed) attempt during the Shottenheimer + LT era. Norv wasn't a fan of doing something that worked so well for the previous regime.

2 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Aaron, can I make a preemptive request? Can we have a Patriots scandal thread permanently easily accessible? The season has started, the games are to be enjoyed, and it would be nice if any who want to argue (and I've been one of them) about the merits, or lack thereof, of any accusations of skulduggery by the Patriots were kept out of game discussions. I suppose stuff pertaining to what players did on the field would be fine, like ineligible receivers reporting, etc., but can anything to do with accusations pertaining to anything else be kept out of all threads except one? I've got to think more than a few share my preference.

5 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

No one pays attention to preseason, but they should when their preseason point differential is as bad as the Stealers (league worst -49). Looking back to 2007, that's tied for the 9th worst PD in preseason. Of those bottom 9, only the 2014 Dallas Cowboys had a positive PD in the regular season (-56 in preseason, +115 in regular). The other 8 had an average PD in the preseason of (-56) and an average PD in the regular season of (-100).

I've never seen a good analysis of the correlation of pre-season PD and the regular season, but my preliminary searching also shows at the top end of the preseason PD teams generally have positive regular season PD, too (not always, of course). Seems to be something there, at least at the very top and bottom, more than co-incidence.

36 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Can you imagine if Moss had smartened up and stuck with the pats during Gronk's rookie season and the Pat's traded for Branch. Their lineup would've been:

QB: Brady
WR1: Randy Moss
WR2: Welker
WR3: Branch
TE1: Gronk/Hernandez
TE2: Gronk/Hernandez
WR4: Edelman
RB (Early Downs): BJGE
RB (Passing Sets): Kevin Faulk.

That's a roster that could've destroyed the 2007 scoring record and maybe set a record that the Bronco's couldn't have equalled.

That's Moss, part of 2 of the most prolific offenses (Vikings, Pats), Welker, also part of 2 of the most prolific offences (Pats, Broncos), and Gronk and Hernandez. Covering this team would've been ridiculous.

As well as the dink'n'dunk underneath game works for the Pats and has since they've traded Moss, this team would've threatened everywhere on the field to an absurd degree. Basically only the running backs were average.

That and they had Hoyer, an okay backup QB, far better than Cassel imho.

(Torrey Holt was also on this team for the preseason but was cooked by the time he arrived and was cut before the regular season)

37 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

The scary thing about Moss to me is that I suspect he really didn't like playing football. He loved the money most of all (that isn't meant as criticism in any way), he really liked the sound of 70,000 cheering when he caught a pass, but the daily mechanics of being a professional football player was something he really, really, disliked, and that negative energy really held him back at times. If he had been a football junkie like Cris Carter, after Carter achieved sobriety, I think Moss might have done things that would have been substantially even more jaw-dropping.

I'll never forget that in February 2008, at the end of the game, when the Giants kwew it was over, unless Moss caught a 70 or 80 yard touchdown pass, Moss was able to get a couple of strides free of the coverage, and in Brady had been given the chance to step into the throw, it might have happened.

38 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

You mean on third down? Brady had a 7-yard run into that throw. Moss was behind the defense just short of the 20-yard line, but I think even if he could have caught it he'd be tackled. However, NE had two timeouts, so if he caught the ball we would have had a very dramatic final 10 seconds in the red zone. One shot at the win before a FG that would have given us OT in the Super Bowl.

The 4th-down heave wasn't nearly as close.

52 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Yes, Brady's lack of long ball accuracy in that situation cost the Patriots a perfect season, maybe. Well, no one QB is perfect in every way.

I am equally amazed that everyone knew that would be the play call, Moss was triple covered, and he still managed to get open and the ball was just off his fingertips.

Though I have often thought, given that they were only down by 3 and still had timeouts, if multiple bombs to Moss was indeed their only option. There were 30-something seconds left...couldn't they try shorter stuff and try to get into FG range, maybe with one long attempt thrown in? The Seahawks managed to march down the field and score a TD before halftime in less than a minute in the last SB.

59 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

It was odd from 1st down it seemed they were going to go balls-deep on each play.

Brady threw a floater to no one on first down, and then sacked on 2nd. Can't blame them for going with the bomb on 3rd and 20 - that was a scary close play. Can't blame Brady, given he rolled to his right and Moss ran a go on the left, it was probably a ~70 yard throw.

8 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I really really wish the nfl started outlawing those pick plays from receivers. Its become a kind of go to strategy against man coverage. And when the picks involve linebackers and corners - try to cover say running backs and tight ends in the slot - the results are devastating.

The whole reason to call it a rub is to give it a veneer over what it really is.

31 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Then the cover men either have to switch or play zone. Should they take Picks out of Basketball? Fundamentally sports have space and speed and they manipulate those aspects with the players on the field. I believe the whole reason why the Patriots use the rub route is because Manning has been using it for years. Early in Brady's career they used to run with more TE's and more underneath digs rather than the rubs. Blame Manning (I'm joking).

It'd be nice if they let the picks/rubs stand but owned up to them but then took out illegal defensive contact on the whole field. Keep DPI and OPI but let the defenders play d (holding/not playing the ball/hits before the ball arrives).

That and make holding completely illegal everywhere (so you can jam/try to reroute a WR anywhere but you can never hold him).

What would your suggestion/alternative be?

66 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Everyone uses them, but that doesn't make them right. Basketball has btw taken steps to enforce picks. You need to have your feat set and you cant come up high against on the defenders or extend your arms and lean too much. Those are all moving pick violations.

In the nfl - I just think it makes it really hard to play pure man coverage against bunch sets and staggers.

I'd rather let defenders mug receivers past 7 yards or eliminate rubs altogether. You can still pass without using rubs.

49 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

And all teams use them. New England does them well, but the Steelers used at least one last night to convert an important 3rd down.

The thing is, it is illegal to run a pick play. It's OPI, and the NFL has been more aggressively enforcing it. What teams do instead is position the "picking" receiver so that he doesn't block the other DB, but that the DB trying to cover him does. Essentially force a defense to "pick" itself.

It's a great way to beat man coverage, but it is easily checkmated by playing zone well, especially if a normally rushing LB or DL drops into coverage. And it can be defeated even by good man coverage, if the defense is good and physical--see the last play of the SB.

69 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

There was at least one play for the Patriots early on where the receiver picked off the defensive back, i.e., hit him, and it wasn't called. If the NFL is going to allow it, then teams should make those hits count on the Patriots small receivers, and that's how I think Rex Ryan will probably deal with it. The thing about playing zone against the Pats is, Brady usually destroys it. The lone exception has been Seattle, and they play a version of zone that includes man.

11 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

"Vince Verhei: I've never bought into the anti-Tomlin stuff, but, uh, he's not having a good night."

Well Vince, better late than never.
Welcome to the club. Once you see it, you can never unsee it.

The standard is the standard!

13 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Yes, running that pick play on the goal line works a lot better when the opposing db over the guy who is supposed to set the pick is not Brandon Browner, enjoying a complete physical mismatch.

For all the heat directed at that infamous pass play at the end of the Super Bowl, I don't think it has been emphasized enough how badly Carroll and Bevell were outcoached in the last two minutes of that game.

21 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

The problem is that when you call a play that favors the opponents' physical attributes, and not your own, it reduces the margin of error. Sometime the opponents is just so physically superior, across the board, that it can't be avoided. I wouldn't say that was the case with the Pats defense. In any case, my view is that the Seahawks mismanagement of the end of the game went far beyond the play call, and involved really inexcusable disorganization with regard to using the clock and getting plays in, as well.

26 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

All 22 showed the pats had essentially sold out against the run. They needed 1 yard. A short pass may not have been super optimal, but its a pretty standard play you will see across all 32 teams, regardless of the opponent - especially when all you need is 1 yard.

I don't hate the call, I hate the throw. Again, you throw it low and safe and since its short -its the easiest throw you'll make short of a dump off. That's on Wilson imo.

As for the time out/etc - you are right, that's on the staff. But a better throw wins the sb and no one is talking about the coaching staff or the call ever. It gets wilson the mvp.

Its akin to Tom Brady's miss to Welker in superbowl 46. Yes Welker had his hands on it, but a better throw to a wide open receiver and its likely game over.

30 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

A short pass was fine. A short pass which had it's chance of success greatly expand, and it's chance of disaster greatly decline, based upon a wide receiver beating a jam on the line of scrimmage against a db who just physically outmatches him, is not fine. Yes, perfectly thrown balls improve the chance of offensive success, and reduce the chance of offensive disasters, greatly. It's best to not call plays with the intent of giving the defense a fair fight, however. The idea is to have the defensive player doing things that he isn't good at. Brandon Browner is really good at jamming the likes of Kearse at the line of scrimmage, on the goal line.

65 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Not every play can be scripted perfectly. Sure, question the coaching staff - but those kinds of plays are routine and part of why you pay a qb so much money is to make plays when things aren't perfectly optimal. Its one thing if Wilson is under heavy duress and forced to make an off balance throw to a covered receiver.

This was a short pass to an open receiver needing to get 1 yard. If this were any other qb(including brady) - he gets blamed 99 percent of the time and deserves the lion share of it.

85 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Yeah, what I question is whether that play should even had been in their goal line package for that particular game, against that particular opposing personnel group. It speaks to me of what I saw in general at the end of the game. The opponent had prepared in a superior fashion, had thought through the various issues better, days ahead of time, and thus had his chances of success increase, relative to the Seahawks, in the critical moment.

73 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

You can indicate that it was a bad pass by Wilson, and I'm not going to argue, but I think that it would be unfair and silly to encourage fans to look past the strong Super Bowl performance that Wilson had. It was streaky, but he put together quite a few huge plays, finding massive holes in the Patriots' secondary while avoiding the rush with tremendous aplomb. He was 100 times better than he had been in the NFC Championship game, and did a lot all by himself to put the Seahawks in a position to win the game at all.

I also think that the receiver did a fairly weak job on the interception play, and given the relative strength and experience of the receivers, it was also a poor play-call. I think it would be fair to point fingers in all directions on that play, including in the direction of Butler and Browner.

78 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I should be clear. I don't think Wilson had a terrible game on the back of that one throw. I fully accept that it was a difficult set of circumstances and a sub optimal play(something I've said many times over).

He played a pretty good game overall I thought. Yes the receiver didn't fight as hard for the ball as he should have. Yes malcom butler saw and made a great read.

That said - this was a play qbs face all the time. We just don't remember them because most are not at the 1 yard line of the sb with so little time left. It was still a short pass to an open receiver for about 3 yards. I won't make broad statements about Wilson as a qb on the back of one throw, I merely stated that the blame about playcalling, circumstances, coaching, etc etc is missing the fact that had the throw been better, NO ONE is talking about it afterwards. THis didn't require a herculean effort either, its a throw a lot of qbs(including Wilson) can make relatively often. That it got picked off is unfortunate. I don't think it speaks to wilson's lack of clutchness, it was just a poor throw at a bad time. That is all. But a poor throw nonetheless.

14 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

they have "on paper" the supposed most atheletic "cover" LB in the league (Shazier) and they used him on Gronk ZERO snaps that I noticed the entire game.

Tomlin, the "DB and tampa 2 guru" had the following D scheme to cover and stop Gronk in this game:

they covered him (at least) twice with their least athletic LB (Garvin)

they didn't cover him at all at least twice

they (tried) to bracket him with DBs (but they both were on the high side so it didn't work, obviously)

one defensive snap with 10 players on the field

as was pointed out in the graphic above, on the snap where he wasn't covered for the TD, he wasn't even the only one! wtf!

pure incompetence! fire Tomlin now!

The standard is the standard!

84 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Um, because in eight years as a head coach, his worst record was 8-8 (twice)? Unless you think anything less than a championship every year is bad coaching, or dislike anyone involved with the Steelers, you should appreciate that Tomlin is a good, if not perfect, coach. And the Steelers figured out in the last 47 years that they shouldn't go out of their way to try and replace a good coach.

87 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Um, very few coaches inherit what turns out to be a HOF caliber QB, and a defense that for the first 4 years is laden with several borderline HOF level players that can carry his glaring weaknesses.

When you get to beat down the Browns and Bengals ever year, going 8 and 8 at a minimum isn't much of an achievement.

The standard is the standard!

91 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

But when you're in a conference with the Manning and Brady/Belichick reaching two Super Bowls is as good as them. You'd have to be a very confident owner that you can find a coach who will do better ...

2007 Patriots
2008 Steelers
2009 Colts
2010 Steelers
2011 Patriots
2012 Ravens
2013 Broncos (led by Manning)
2014 Patriots

81 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

The one (of few times) he's been told to (or allowed to) run in coverage down the seam with a TE, he did it with ease. On paper (measurables) he's more athletic than Wagner. At this time is he as good a player as Wagner? Of course not. He someday could be, if Tomlin and company take the training wheels of. Sadly, we'll probably never know. :(

The standard is the standard!

18 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I've never seen a defense fail at basic gameplanning as Pittsburgh did. They couldn't even line up. On the first drive it was blatantly obvious that they didn't have a damn clue who was supposed to be covering whom and NE was able to no-huddle and catch them over and over with it. Pittsburgh needed to use a time out and get organized, especially since they clearly weren't interested in using TOs for 2-minute-drill clock management. Lots of boneheaded scheme stuff on defense--totally uncovered receivers, Harrison and Dupree lined up wide, Terence Garvin (listed as the very last ILB on the depth chart) covering Gronk. They had their nose tackle line up at end and try to edge rush a couple of times, with predictable results. I don't know how any of that can happen to a pro football team, which has presumably practiced at least once since assembling the roster. I'm also shocked that they tried everybody but Shazier on Gronk. Why the hell did you draft the fastest ILB on the board if you weren't going to even let him try to cover athletic tight ends?

82 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Nobody wants to read it 1000 times?

funny-- I don't want to hear it 1000 times, but every time Omar gives a presser, it's his go to nonsense answer.

The point is-- it's a pointless comment; yet it's his go-to.

The standard is the standard!

25 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I will say this. If you are going to get rid of Dick LeBeau, and then you don't hire somebody really good to replace him, you are going to catch a lot of flak. The most common glaring error I seen in very, very, bad defensive coordinators (cough,cough, Cottrell, cough, cough) is being so disorganized on the sideline that the guys on the field don't know what the call is before the center snaps the ball. I didn't watch closely enough last night to have an opinion as to what was going on.

28 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

his replacement is the LB coach that worked under him since 2003.

Now, does that mean he is a sure fire great DC? no, of course not. But there should not be some amazing continuity gap in terms of communication and organization, even if he is supposedly shifting more to a hybrid 1gap cover2 yada yada badabingbadaboom

you can't make the excuses for putting unatheltic and especially putting non-existant players on gronk, and I dont see how you can excuse playing off Edelman as if he's the second coming of Jerry Rice, even if your best corner is .... Willie Gay.

The standard is the standard!

32 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Well, if Tomlin is letting his defensive coordinator coordinate, and I have no idea if he is, then the things you disliked last night are in good measure because the coordinator did a bad job, which means Tomlin ought to be faulted for hiring the guy, unless he improves. Hiring a staff may be the most important thing a head coach does, and Tomlin received great beneft from having LeBeau on staff when he arrived. The offensive staff has certainly had its moments of concern, so the best criticism of Tomlin may be his hiring practices.

34 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

FWIW, I think the Butler decision may have come from above Tomlin's pay grade. Supposedly the Steelers had kept Butler around for so long by whispering DC promises to him whenever another team offered him a gig, and so I think the transition here was more about feeling like they owed him one than it was about evaluating a bunch of candidates and him being the best one.

33 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

The miscommunication stuff is new to Butler, but several of the scheme issues were things that carried over from LeBeau. OLBs in the slot, big slow DLs failing at edge rush, and Off Coverage No Matter What were all things the Steelers were ineffectively doing last year. I was hoping the Butler installation might bring some fresh ideas to the old terminology for a smooth transition, but instead it looks like we're getting terrible execution of the same stale concepts.

77 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

It also seemed that #41, Antwon Blake was playing.
He's could be the worst Steelers defender I've seen since... ehm... the 1980s first round defensive linemen.

Seriously though, and I have just watched the game; it seemed that the safeties and corners just didn't know who was going where and what the hell they were supposed to do. Just play vanilla then, cover3, cover1 with some blitzes... you know. Simple. You'll tip Brady what you're doing, but at least everyone is covered.
And then they never thought of putting Boykin in. Because. They were covering Edelman and Gronk so well! Ah? Ohhhhh.

79 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

My God, Antwon Blake is terrible. It is amazing that their best corner is basically Willy Gay, who was barely good enough to be the Steelers slot corner 7 years ago.

They were basically the best run team from 2004-2010 (NE can make an argument, obviously) but their inability to build personnel on defense since then is staggering.

80 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

The 2008 draft class happened...
the running theme in Pittsburgh had been "we have some superstars right now, so hold on to them as long as we can and then we take step 2 and step 3 is profit!"
Step 2 was never defined. It went from taking a runningback in the first round (Mendenhall) and run him 1000 times as soon as possible until his tires came off. They are doing the same with Williams and Bell right now. It's so stupid.
They can't scout a secondary, Steelers cornerbacks are like Spinal Tap drummers. Tomlin was supposed to be a secondary expert or something... right.
The Steelers are very good at developing receivers. They seem to have the offensive line figured out - they can't help injuries there.
But since Hampton retired it's a guess who on the defensive line, the outside linebackers STILL need Deebo to show up at 37 years old.
Then there's the time mismanagement... so all in all I just have to conclude that Tomlin proves you can only go so far with a Super Bowl team you've inherited.

89 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I'll let someone from the Outsiders give that answer.
Ben really is really good, but Heinz Ward -> Plax Burress -> Santonio Holmes -> Mike Wallace -> Antonio Brown (-> Martavis Bryant is next) is not a coincidence.

Maybe it's Ben who holds on just enough for the receivers to get open. Maybe it's the "you'll get the ball" type of play calling, or maybe it's the coaches teaching the guys what to do... I don't know, but it works.
The Steelers are happy to let them walk though.

43 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I'm surprised Pitt's time management isn't being taken more to task. It isn't often that you'll see a team trailing by two scores run the clock down the the point where winning becomes virtually impossible while keeping two timeouts in their back pocket. Presumably they were for the *next* drive, but I'm not sure their approach warrants that amount of credence.

60 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

That was the long march to nowhere. This was somehow even more absurd because they apparently thought trying to score in 15 seconds with two timeouts is better than strategically using your TOs so you have a minute for the final drive. There was an air of intentional strategy to this one. Even as a Patriots fan, it was somehow frustrating seeing the clock so mismanaged.

51 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I thought you lot were supposed to look beyond the box scores. If DHB catches that ball Tomlinson looks like a genius. If the Steelers could kick field goals they would have drawn the game at the end. So despite some egregious screw ups (and to my mind some helpful officiating, not to mention possible 'electronic assistance ') the Steelers would have nearly tied the game at the end. The comments look like they never came out of the locker room.

54 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

You can't just say "if they hadn't missed those two 1st quarter FG's" and add 6 points to the final Steelers score in you head and conclude they would have drawn the game at the end.

If the Steelers had had 6 more points after the first quarter, don't you think both teams' end-game strategies (especially the Patriots') might have been a little different? I highly doubt the Patriots abandon their up-tempo no-huddle that had been working well and run Dion Lewis into the line for no gain twice in their final possession to burn clock if the score is at all close.

58 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Plus an easy completion to the wide open Lewis on NE's final drive and the Patriots are likely kneeling their way to a 28-14 victory. A clean game certainly could have led to a Pitt win, but much of the argument is based on the final margin and it's not like NE played perfectly either.

57 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

Injuries & roster depth. That's why the Pats in recent years have used such a variety of personnel packages both defensively and on the offensive line. They are really valuing developing the entire roster so players are prepared to fill in when there are inevitable injuries. At the same time they are limiting the snaps of key players who they want to still be fresh come the playoffs. What killed them in several years were exhausted lines on both sides of the ball that couldn't play up to their regular season level. The way they are managing injuries is also cautious and aimed at having players ready for the post-season.

Expect the Patriots offensive line to settle in around week five, even if they think they already know the best line. Expect them to keep experimenting with defensive formations. (Based on their roster, I would certainly expect quite a few 3-saftety packages.)

71 Re: Audibles Opening Night Special 2015

I'm not sure fooling around with their offensive line is a great idea against the Bills, with Dareus coming back. If Belichick knows the best line already, he should play them next week to keep those guys off his Hall of Fame quarterback. The other stuff, yeah, I pretty much agree with, but I wouldn't throw too much into this victory. The Steelers were shorthanded, and honestly I doubt they make the playoffs with their lack of depth and overall defensive talent.