Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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.

Atlanta Falcons 39 at Dallas Cowboys 28

Andrew Healy: Just saw Brandon Weeden's statline along with the Cowboys' running backs:

Brandon Weeden: 9-of-9, 105 yds
Joseph Randle: 91 yds on 9 carries, 2 TD
Darren McFadden: 34 yds on 5 carries, 1 TD

That is one awesome offensive line, I guess.

Sterling Xie: And Andrew jinxes Dallas, as Weeden throws an interception to set up Atlanta outside the red zone.

But before that pick, Weeden had completed his first 16 passes of the season. That's got to be some sort of record, right? I vaguely remember Mark Brunell completing a ton of consecutive passes in a season opener against Houston some time back, but I don't believe that happened at the start of the game.

Andrew Healy: Yes! I want credit for that pick. Weeden got delusions of Aaron Rodgers on that one. Rolling left, couldn't set his feet, airmailed Jason Witten.

Vince Verhei: We mentioned last week that due to horrible line play around the league, a lot of games this year haven't been fun to watch. Well, thank goodness for the Cowboys, because I don't remember the last time I had this much fun watching a football game where I didn't have a rooting interest. Dallas' line is just pushing the Falcons around, routinely driving defenders 10 yards or more off the line of scrimmage. And they're mixing things up too, like a pitcher mixing up his deliveries. They have used a heavy dose of inside zone, but also a handful of traps and outside pulls to keep Atlanta's defense guessing. It's usually hard to pick out individual linemen for good plays, and they only stand out when they screw up, but I've noticed La'el Collins (first start at left guard), Travis Frederick, Doug Free, and even Jason Witten taking care of their men. It really has been a pleasure to watch. In my mind, this is what football is supposed to look like.

You can see it in pass protection too, where they aren't just winning one-on-one matchups, but coordinating with each other to make sure every blitzer gets picked up. Brandon Weeden completed his first nine passes, making him 16-of-16 on the year and giving him a Dallas record 21 completions in a row going back to last season. And on those nine completions, he was pretty much completely unhurried, standing back and waiting for his crossers to get open underneath. (Those have been his favorite routes, and Atlanta could counter that with more zone defense in the second half.) Then the first time Atlanta gets any real pressure, with Paul Soliai pushing Frederick back into Weeden's face, Weeden throws a terrible pick to William Moore, where it wasn't even clear at first who he was throwing to. Replays showed that he badly overthrew Witten, but the point is, Brandon Weeden still sucks, and his line is making him look like Roger Staubach.

Falcons haven't had nearly that kind of sustained success, but Devonta Freeman is getting free for some big plays (runs of 10 and 16 yards, plus a 35-yard reception), and it's 28-17 Dallas at halftime.

Falcons are rallying, and they now have the ball down three late in the third quarter. They have definitely been the more explosive offense today, with Julio Jones getting a 22-yard catch to set up his own 45-yard touchdown. Cowboys are getting some pressure, but Matt Ryan is hitting a lot of passes on the run. Looks like a shortstop out there sometimes.

Cowboys have had the ball twice and failed to move it. Falcons are doing some blitzing to stop the run, and they have successfully taken away the shorter patterns. And Weeden, even with protection, can't hit the deeper stuff -- he had Witten open for what should have been a third-down conversion and a gain of 18 or so, but threw way over the tight end's head, and Witten ended up taking a big hit to the ribs as he jumped for it. He seems OK, but that looked bad.

Falcons get the lead on a Devonta Freeman touchdown, his third of the day. This has been a fascinating game because both defenses are fairly mediocre, but while Dallas clearly has the best offensive line in this game, Atlanta clearly has the best passer, runner, and receiver. (And obviously that might be different if Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were healthy, but they aren't.)

Cowboys get the ball back and go three-and-out again. Weeden gets sacked on third-and-long. Vic Beasley beat Tyron Smith on the left side, but there was pressure from the right too. Shows again that no matter how good your line is, it's hard to block when the defense knows you have to pass.

Atlanta blows Dallas out 22-0 in the second half and wins 39-28. Cowboys get only 52 yards on four drives after halftime, while Atlanta scored touchdowns on their first three possessions before running out the clock on their fourth.

Indianapolis Colts 35 at Tennessee Titans 33

Cian Fahey: First third down of the game for the Colts ... and they blow an assignment, forcing Andrew Luck to throw it away.

Marcus Mariota's downfield accuracy remains my biggest concern with him. Has missed at least three big plays downfield that should have been completed to this point. They went to Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker, two players the Colts can't really cover.

Tom Gower: Halftime in Nashville, and the Colts are up 14-10. Indianapolis' offense has been nearly as consistently successful as I've feared, so most of this first half has been about Tennessee's offense and their success and mistakes. Those errors include those overthrows on deep routes Cian noted and a couple early drops, one of which went off Delanie Walker when he was hit by a defender and bounced to the newly-signed Dwight Lowery, who returned it for a score.

Cian Fahey: Andrew Luck has thrown more interceptable passes than people realized in the past, but anyone saying he's just doing what he's always done now is off in my opinion. He's making worse decisions and throws more consistently this year than he ever has.

Marcus Mariota's numbers have been incredible through three weeks. Even as someone who was very high on him during the draft, I never imagined he would be this good this early. He's doing everything you need a quarterback to do.

The Colts are making a comeback, might be too late. Philip Dorsett making an impressive play on an underthrown pass from Andrew Luck for a long touchdown reception. Believe that's the first of his career.

Andrew Healy: Man, I really dislike that two-point conversion play call for the Titans. They spread the Colts out and got a pass interference on the first try. Then they went heavy and ran Jalston Fowler and his 12 career rushing yards. Why not roll Mariota out and give him a run-pass option? Felt like that play had a 25 percent chance of working.

Tom Gower: Titans have third-and-8 at the Colt's 34-yard line. Marcus Mariota takes a sack that knocks them out of field goal range. Brett Kern's punt is downed at the 1, though, so the Titans feel pretty confident about a 27-14 lead with 12:20 to play. Luck's been off all day. Rest of Colts offense hasn't done much -- until they go 99 yards, getting the touchdown on a two-deep splitter where safety Marqueston Huff, playing because the Titans only had three corners up and Perrish Cox got hurt, is beat by Philip Dorsett. 27-21. Two plays later, Marcus Mariota doesn't account for the safety or assumes something else will happen and the aforementioned Mr. Lowery has his second pick of the game, this one returned to the 11-yard line. One play later, Colts up 28-27. Titans go three-and-out. Said previously moribund Colts offense goes 69 yards in five plays, featuring some real TitanUp tackling moments. 35-27.

The Titans did follow with a good drive, as the Colts were probably playing a bit conservatively and we saw the return of the big zone voids that had let Mariota have so much success earlier (he'd finish with 369 yards passing). But the two-point conversion fails (from the 1-yard line after a penalty, handoff to Jalston Fowler as a fullback in a jumbo set, which worked several times earlier including the touchdown that just made it 35-33), the onside kick goes out of bounds, and we have two blown fourth-quarter leads by teams from the state of Tennessee this weekend as they tried to end long losing streaks against rivals.

Cincinnati Bengals 28 at Baltimore Ravens 24

Aaron Schatz: Hell of a play by A.J. Green to push off two tacklers with stiff-arms and then outrace a third to put Cincinnati up 21-17. Then Baltimore scored again, and then Cincinnati scored again for the win. Baltimore is 0-3 despite three close losses. The Ravens don't look like a bad team at all, but they just haven't gotten the breaks this year.

Rob Weintraub: Good thing I didn't watch this live, as I'd be in the ICU with a coronary after that fourth quarter.

Some observations:

First and foremost, the Bengals should have put this one away by early in the third quarter. Total domination of the first half, to the point that Baltimore faked a punt at its own 27-yard line down 14-0 (and only got it because of a lucky bounce on a fumble on the play). Cincy was driving deep for another score late in the half, faced fourth-and-inches at the Ravens' 3-yard line. They went for it (step on their throat, I like the call), and Andy Dalton improv-ed a pass to Tyler Eifert, who caught it, took three steps, reached the ball over the plane, then had it kicked loose flukily by the defender in the end zone. Of course, as we all know, despite the football move and breaking the plane, the insipid rule says that's incomplete. Turnover on downs. On the first drive of the third quarter, Dalton then threw his first pick of the year in the end zone (nice play by Jimmy Smith). So instead of a score between 17-0 and 28-0, it remained 14-0, and of course the Ravens came back.

Baltimore had zero pass rush in the first half, then started blitzing almost every play, occasionally some exotic stuff. The key strip sack/touchdown return resulted from getting Elvis Dumervil isolated on Eifert due to overload on the Cincy right side of the formation.

Steve Smith basically took the responsibility of saving Baltimore's season personally, and damned if he almost did it. On fourth-and-5 down two touchdowns, he broke three tackles and turned a quick out into a long touchdown. He pushed off but outfought Dre Kirkpatrick for the go-ahead score at 24-21. He's an indomitable player, no other way to put it.

Carlos Dunlap savaged Ricky Wagner on the Ravens right side.

Both teams struggled to run all day, though Giovani Bernard had some success. Jeremy Hill continues to struggle -- there wasn't much room but he seemed tentative, the fumblitis may be plaguing him mentally some. Baltimore abandoned the run early on.

Dalton gets no credit for mobility, but his running touchdown to open the scoring showed very good instincts to pull it down and very good swerve to get in despite defenders having angles on him.

And if Andy D. didn't have tremendous resiliency, he wouldn't be in the league. Just like last season, the Bengals blew a two-touchdown lead in Baltimore, then Dalton, immediately after the big play by the Ravens to take the lead for the first time, hit A.J. for a bomb, this time 80 yards (last year it was 77). Green showed excellent balance to spin off a pair of defenders and break free, and Dalton made a nice anticipation throw to hit the streaking receiver. But the key was Gio, who held off Dumervil on a blitz long enough to let Dalton step into the throw. Steve Tasker went on and on after this play, saying how the Bengals have never had a guy step up when the chips were down and make plays in big spots blah blah blah -- never mentioning that Dalton hit Green in almost precisely the same circumstance last season. That made it 21-17 Cincy, but Baltimore rallied despite falling way behind the chains a couple of times and re-took the lead again.

On the game-winner, Dalton had Eifert flanked wide right one-on-one, a similar look to the play they scored on against San Diego last week. But Dalton called him back in tight and changed the play when the Ravens overloaded the offensive right side with a big blitz look. There were trips left, with Green in the middle. Baltimore was forced into man coverage on that side, and Green ran a simple corner route. Perfect touch throw, easy touchdown. Dalton created that look pre-snap. Then I see Tony Dungy talk about it at halftime on NBC, and he's all "where's the double coverage?" He offers little to nothing in that role.

The Ravens had plenty of time for yet another tilt of the seesaw, but on third-and-short an A-gap blitz by Vincent Rey forced Kelechi Osemele to grab his facemask as Rey ran by. That wiped out a third-down conversion by Smith, and forced fourth-and-a-mile. Flacco chucked one deep, and Maxx Williams had his hands on it, but couldn't hang on. Ballgame, and I waved off the defibrillator.

That's four in a row for Cincy over Baltimore, and five of six, but everyone will continue to pick the big bad Ravens in these matchups. Dalton has won the last three against the purple with huge late drives and big plays, but yeah yeah do it in January.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at New England Patriots 51

Aaron Schatz: Takeaways from the first half of the Patriots-Jaguars game:

1) Coming into this game, we knew that the Jaguars' offensive line was not very good, but also that the Patriots' run defense had been pushed around in the first two weeks. Which side would give? The answer seems to be "Jaguars offensive line." 30th in ALY in 2014, 25th through Week 2 this year. T.J. Yeldon nine carries, only 26 yards through first half. The Patriots' pass rush also has Blake Bortles under constant pressure. The Jaguars' one scoring drive came in part because Jamie Collins knocked the ball out of Bortles' hand on third-and-7 and it went something like 10 yards forward and into Toby Gerhart's hands right at the first down marker, turning a likely punt into a new set of downs.

2) Either Blake Bortles has serious accuracy issues or his receivers just have no idea which routes they're supposed to be running. I have a feeling it's the former.

3) Before the Super Bowl, one of the big stories when it came to the actual football was "Will the Seahawks alter their Cover-3 scheme to cover Gronk on seam routes?" Well, the Jaguars run the same scheme, and early on in this game the answer was apparently "no." Gronk was ridiculously wide open for a 43-yarder up the seam. After that the Jaguars started covering Gronk with what looked like a bracket, a short coverage guy and then the attention of the safety who started the play deep, and Tom Brady started throwing elsewhere. Jaguars had cornerback Davon House on Gronk wide when the Pats went to the four-tight-end set in the second quarter (which was actually a three-tight-end set with Brandon Bolden in for the inactive Michael Hoomanuwanui) and he got a nice pass defense on a try for Gronk on third-and-goal.

4) Some of us thought that this would be the week that the Pats would finally move from Dion Lewis to LeGarrette Blount as the main running back because it fit the matchup with the Jaguars' defense. Not so far -- Lewis has played more than twice as many snaps as Blount in the first half. The Pats have now used Lewis as the main running back against three different defensive schemes, and despite two fumbles. He seems to clearly be the No. 1 guy. Blount did finally show up in the second quarter and had some nice runs and passes.

One reason why we're seeing so many penalties this year is that the league is clearly trying to crack down on these short underneath passes where the receivers start blocking before the pass is actually thrown. Rob Gronkowski just got hit with his second offensive pass interference flag of the game for blocking on an underneath pass. But the way the refs are trying to enforce the rules on this just seems really haphazard and inconsistent.

Jaguars respond to Gronk's second OPI by getting stuck with two DPIs of their own on consecutive plays to put the Patriots at the 1-yard line. The second one was really awful because the Jags got dinged when James Sample got in Gronk's way in the left corner of the end zone, but Davon House would have intercepted the pass even if Sample had not armbarred Gronk. It was the one really bad pass Brady has thrown all day. It was clear there were going to be two guys right there with Gronk the moment he threw it, and while I believe in Gronk's ability to out-maneuver one guy, two guys is kinda tough.

Blount runs it in from the 1-yard line, and the Pats are up 30-3. Shaq Mason as fullback again. Who knew they would use a rookie guard as the replacement for James Develin?

Stephen Gostkowski breaks the NFL record for consecutive extra points made at 423. Given the change in the length of XP, Gostkowski may now hold this record forever.

Jaguars have been decimated in the secondary during this game, to the point where they brought former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in at one point. He's on their roster as a developmental prospect at cornerback.

New Orleans Saints 22 at Carolina Panthers 27

Cian Fahey: Have contended for a long time that Luke McCown is better than his brother. Shouldn't be a major surprise that he's showing competence during the first half against the Panthers.

Andrew Healy: Josh Norman might be the best player many fans have maybe never heard of. Just a sick interception to seal it for the Panthers.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at New York Jets 17

Sterling Xie: That Brandon Marshall lateral is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Would've been a roughly 15 yard gain on first-and-10, and it wasn't one of those end-of-half lateral-it-around sequences that would've justified it. Somehow don't think the hook-and-ladder to Jeff Cumberland is part of Chan Gailey's playbook, but you know what they say about the Jets and having nice things.

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Aaron Schatz: What exactly happened with Marshall?

Sterling Xie: He caught a crossing route and, surrounded by three Eagles, decided it would be a good idea to lateral it to an unsuspecting teammate. It bounced straight off of a defender (I believe Connor Barwin) and the Eagles picked it up and would turn the takeaway into another touchdown. So it's nearing the end of the first half, Philly is up 24-0 and the Jets have two first downs. Looks like some form of order has been restored.

Cian Fahey: The Jets appear to be in stage two of the Ryan Fitzpatrick experience.

San Diego Chargers 14 at Minnesota Vikings 31

Sterling Xie: Big thing with Teddy Bridgewater at the end of last year was how much he improved his deep ball, but that was a an ugly floater to Charles Johnson in the end zone that got picked off and ended a possession just outside the red zone. Bridgewater also completed just two passes in the first two weeks that traveled over 20 yards. Hopefully he just happens to be a slow starter, 'cause no one needs to hear the pro day truthers start crowing.

Pittsburgh Steelers 12 at St. Louis Rams 6

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers-Rams are delayed because the pyrotechnics caught part of the field on fire. The head referee waited a good seven minutes to announce to the crowd that the field is being fixed and there will be a delay of no more than 10 minutes. This is clearly the worst season ever for the NFL with fireworks.

Early in the first quarter CBS had some humorous zoomed-in shots of "the stain" on the field caused by the pyrotechnics, but it's been irrelevant to the game. I thought this one could be offensive without a lot of points, and that's what we're getting through a half with just a 9-3 score. Neither defense is getting much pressure at all, and Roethlisberger was barely ever breathed on until the final drive of the half. I couldn't say if it was Cody Wallace one-on-one or if he's getting help, but Aaron Donald wasn't even a factor in that half. The Steelers weren't bombs away this week, with a lot of short stuff to Antonio Brown and using Le'veon Bell out wide. When Roethlisberger went for a deep ball, he threw a bad one and Janoris Jenkins came down with the interception. The Steelers also didn't come through on their two-point conversion this week, with a quick slant defended well. I only noticed one snap for DeAngelo Williams, or at least just one carry, as it's been Bell all game just like it was last year after LeGarrette Blount was released. Bell has looked pretty good, though the Steelers aren't getting much push up front on rushing plays.

Todd Gurley really didn't show anything that half, but neither did Tre Mason. Tavon Austin was slippery on a couple of plays, but the Rams have been bottled up pretty good so far without any gain over 19 yards. A fake punt had the Steelers fooled, but Johnny Hekker's pass was just too low at midfield.

Much more pressure from Donald and the Rams in the second half. Roethlisberger gets tripped up for a sack and immediately grabs his lower leg. Looks bad and Michael Vick is in. Roethlisberger is carted off. I hate to speculate, but it looked more like an ankle injury than an ACL/knee injury. Roethlisberger had a high ankle sprain in 2011 and only missed one full game, but he wasn't good after it happened.

Vince Verhei: A Rams pass rusher rolls into Ben Roethlisberger's leg, and he is very gingerly helped to the sideline by two men, limping and grimacing the whole way. Looks like it will be Michael Vick the rest of the way.

By the way, as I write this, there are about 4 minutes left in the third quarter of this game, and about 6 minutes left in the third quarter of the Cowboys game, even though the Cowboys game started 15 minutes earlier. What happened? Did they just skip halftime in St. Louis?

Scott Kacsmar: CBS is saying left knee injury for Roethlisberger. If it's any ligament damage we'll find out within the day. And this really sucks since it's the kind of play he's been involved in literally hundreds of times. Just never know when you'll get hit at that certain angle.

Andrew Healy: Hard to think about the game with the injury to Roethlisberger, but wow, Le'veon Bell with some serious ups on Michael Vick's pass down the sidelines. Don't remember a running back who looked so much like a good wide receiver.

Vince Verhei: Despite the fire delay, this game still ended before SIX other early games. I ask again: did they just skip halftime?

Scott Kacsmar: They had a halftime. Not sure if it was shortened, but they had one. Offenses moved the ball OK. Just didn't finish drives.

San Francisco 49ers 7 at Arizona Cardinals 47

Vince Verhei: This game is less than four minutes old and Colin Kaepernick has already thrown two terrible pick-sixes in four passes. Both under pressure, near-falling-down weak lobs off to the right, resulting in the easiest points ever for Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu.

Aaron Schatz: I think the big question about Arizona is: "What changed from 2014?" All those numbers we quoted before the season still apply. This is still a team that really wasn't that good last year, that won a lot of close games based on good bounces of the ball. Even when Carson Palmer was still healthy last year, they were not dominating games. They were winning close. Now they're just stomping their opponents. Yes, those aren't very good opponents so far, but the Cardinals are just destroying those bad opponents in all three phases of the game.

Let me add that I'm not watching the Arizona game in particular right now, so I don't have an answer. The responses on Twitter seemed to mostly be "the defense is healthier," "Larry Fitzgerald is fitting in as slot receiver now," and "the offensive line is much improved." Also, lots of people pointed out their easy schedule so far, but again... Guts and Stomps, folks. If the Cardinals were an average team on a nice run against a bad schedule, they would be beating teams 30-20 or 24-14 each week, not 47-7. So far in 2015, this is a team that's dominating in all three phases of the game.

Scott Kacsmar: I could see Cardinals at 8-0 heading into bye week and Week 10 game at Seattle. The offense is definitely better this year. Carson Palmer didn't even finish six full games last season, so it's hard to compare the two. Throw in a favorable schedule and more experience in the system for players like John Brown and their start doesn't surprise me a whole lot. Plus they've been able to pile on some garbage touchdowns at the end of each game to make the score a bit more lopsided.

Buffalo Bills 41 at Miami Dolphins 14

Sterling Xie: For the second straight week, Buffalo marches down the field on a breezy opening drive touchdown. Tackling continues to look like a massive issue for the Dolphins, as old friend Charles Clay basically ambled past three defenders while barely being touched. It's always too easy to blame things on coaching, but the evidence keeps piling up for the Dolphins.

Aaron Schatz: Buffalo has at least two guys blocking Ndamukong Suh on every play. CBS just showed a play where they had three guys blocking him. There should be all kinds of opportunities for the rest of the defensive line. Yet those guys are doing nothing most of the time. (They did just have nice penetration to force LeSean McCoy to go wide on a second-and-15 run, though he still managed to turn the corner for 4 yards.)

Dolphins run a weird little gimmicky backfield pitch to Jarvis Landry on third-and-2 instead of either trying to run it up the gut or running some short crossing patterns or a stick route or something. Bill Lazor seems to have entered the Mike Tanier "Burn This Play" Zone.

Tom Gower: Miami's offensive line is creating real problems. They can't block anybody, and Ryan Tannehill isn't handling the pressure well, even just the free rushers that are his responsibility. Three picks in the first half, the offensive is completely inept, and it's 27-0 while I contemplate what else I could do with my life and whether that means voluntarily watching Phil Simms call a Jimmy Clausen-quarterbacked Bears game. Oh, wait, Tyler Lockett just took the second-half kickoff back for a 13-0 score. Nope, time to go do something else for a while.

Sterling Xie: I think it's still fair to be skeptical of Tyrod Taylor because of small sample size and all the negative plays he made last week against the Patriots. However, this is now twice in three weeks where he's looked completely under control, while also mixing in a few nice deep balls. Things will be harder against teams that aren't just mailing things in, but it's encouraging that Taylor has looked excellent in two games rather than just skating by and staying out of the defense's way. I think most people would have agreed before the season that merely competent quarterback play would make Buffalo a playoff team. Right now, it seems more probable than not that Taylor is at least at that level.

Chicago Bears 0 at Seattle Seahawks 26

Vince Verhei: Remember the Jedi mind trick punt return touchdown the Seahawks gave up to the Rams last year? They used it today, and it worked against the Bears, with Richard Sherman returning the punt 60-some yards to set up a field goal. I saw that some college team used it for a touchdown this year too. For the life of me I can't understand how this play works. How do you fool the punting team that the ball is going to the right when it's going to the left? Seattle was held to a field goal, though, because their offensive line is still terrible. The Bears came into the game with no sacks all year. Russell Wilson has been sacked twice in five dropbacks.

Seattle's first four drives totaled 37 yards and one first down, and they were getting booed off the field at home. Thank goodness they put together a 77-yard drive at the end of the half, but even that ended on incompletes on second- and third-and-goal to Jimmy Graham and Chris Matthews, and they added a chip-shot field goal to go up 6-0 at halftime. The only thing they've had any success with this year is going up-tempo, spreading the field and putting Russell Wilson in shotgun and letting him pick and choose the matchups he likes.

Weird play-calling at the end there as Seattle went for it on fourth-and-1 at the 27. That's fine, be aggressive, but they let 30-plus seconds run off before snapping the ball, with two timeouts in their pocket. Marshawn Lynch made a juggling catch to keep the drive alive, but he was tackled out of bounds with only 26 seconds to go.

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Then Chicago apparently thought Seattle had no timeouts instead of two. Seattle had a first down at the 18-yard line. Chicago rushed three with one linebacker and seven defenders in a line across the goal line. Wilson hit Kearse for the easy first down and 13 seconds to go, with a timeout. As noted, the drive stalled there, but lousy clock management by both teams.

Chicago isn't getting any big plays -- their longest gain is a 12-yard Matt Forte run -- but they are running a lot (21 runs, only nine passes), and running well to put themselves in short-yardage situations. Five of their six first downs in the first half have come on the ground. They have no points because their average starting position has been their own 17-yard line. Seattle's has been their own 37-yard line.

Biggest play of the half may have been a missed replay review. Bears punted and pinned Seattle at the 13-yard line, but it sure looked like the ball bounced off the leg of a Seahawks player and should have gone to the Bears. Refs reviewed it, but they let the play stand, and Seattle kept the ball.

Marshawn Lynch barely played in the first half with calf and back injuries, and now he's out of the game with a hamstring injury. So after Chicago goes three-and-out after the special teams score, Seattle goes pass-wacky! They do get a first down on a nice bootleg pass to Ricardo Lockette, but then Pernell McPhee gets back-to-back sacks. The first he was being blocked by Jimmy Graham. Do not ask me why the best receiver on the team is ever, ever, ever staying in to pass block, especially when he's no good at it. Actually, scratch that, because the next play McPhee was being blocked by alleged starting tackle Garry Gilliam, who barely even laid a finger on McPhee. Remember, everyone, the Bears had no sacks in Weeks 1 and 2. THIS LINE IS AWFUL.

Bears punt on fourth-and-1 at about their own 45-yard line, down 20 with about three minutes left in the third. I guess John Fox thinks his defense will force three turnovers.

Now Bears are punting on fourth-and-2 down 20 with less than 13 minutes to go. Why did they bother flying out here?

OK, this is awesome. Pete Carroll just trolled John Fox HARD, going for it on fourth-and-1 up 23. Wilson's first read is covered and it looks like a sack is inevitable, but he escapes and somehow finds Graham for the first down. Even a failure there would have been a mighty in-your-face.

Seattle's offensive line settled down in the second half, and once they stopped screwing up every other play, Seattle's offense looked the best it has all season. Thomas Rawls had a lot of good runs and finished with 100 yards rushing. Jimmy Graham got free for a touchdown, which is nice, because he had a horrible day blocking, both passing and running plays. I don't know why he's labeled as a tight end. He's a wide receiver who sometimes lines up tight to the line. Larry Fitzgerald does that all the time, and nobody calls Larry Fitzgerald a tight end. Come to think of it, between the two, Fitzgerald is probably the better blocker.

Anyway, Chicago right now is a horrible team with a horrible coach, and they seem quite worthy of getting the draft's top pick, especially if Jay Cutler misses too many more games.

Denver Broncos 24 at Detroit Lions 12

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos came out using a lot of pistol tonight after using it only once per game in Weeks 1 and 2. It would seem to make sense, as a good compromise between the shotgun formations Peyton Manning is used to and the stuff Kubiak tends to run. But it's not new. The Broncos ran a lot of pistol last year, and they ran pistol the year before that. It's been a thing in the NFL for a couple years now. And Cris Collinsworth is talking about it as if we discovered the pistol formation in blueprints aboard an alien spaceship. I know he knows what the pistol is for, but NBC seems to have decided that very few people watching understand the pistol and so Collinsworth has to explain it as if it were some brand-new, crazy wrinkle to NFL offense.

(Actually, after looking... Denver didn't run a lot of pistol last year, just 20 plays. But they used it 81 times the year before that.)

Scott Kacsmar: Well if the late-afternoon slate didn't cause our staff to stop covering football, this game might. Denver's pressure is impressive. Both offenses are frustrating to watch with all these short throws on third down. You're both paying a Georgia Tech freak of nature a lot of money. Give him a shot down the field.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like the Lions have never watched film of a Wade Phillips defense. Guys, the pressure is coming. It's coming. You need to know the pressure is coming.

Tom Gower: Coming into Sunday Night Football, I wasn't sure how the Lions were going to move the ball against the Broncos defense based on watching their game against Minnesota last week and watching Denver's first two games. They can't block the defensive front, and the Broncos have the corners to match up to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. We're just a couple minutes into the second quarter right now, and I still have no idea how the Lions are going to move the ball. Denver's offense is going to be 87 shallow crosses, it seems, and based on the San Diego game that makes sense against Detroit. Effective, granted, but uninspiring.

Scott Kacsmar: Some guy named Bennie Fowler just caught a screen and actually picked up some YAC, something the Broncos are the worst offense in the league at producing this year. Cody Latimer must be horrible if he can't see the field over Fowler.

Aaron Schatz: I think we've answered Tom's question about how Detroit will move the ball downfield: passes to the running back, and DPI flags.

Tom Gower: Well, Calvin Johnson bailing out Matthew Stafford by taking the ball away from Aqib Talib kind of helped as well, as well as Megatron's sliding grab.

Scott Kacsmar: So those Georgia Tech receivers are pretty special. Entertaining end to the half. Not enough quarterbacks go all out for the touchdown in that situation. I'd go for Demaryius Thomas in single coverage too. Slay picked a bad time to fall down and give up the touchdown, because at least a tackle there leads to Denver kicking the field goal. Huge swing in this game starting with Detroit's blocked extra point. Denver gets ball first in third quarter too.

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember what I said during the Patriots game about how the league is clearly putting an emphasis on calling OPI on wide receivers blocking on short passes, but the calls are very inconsistent? The Lions offense just got shut down and then slowed down by a blocking OPI on Eric Ebron ... three plays after a 33-yard gain by Golden Tate did not have an OPI called on it. Tom, I believe you have a picture for us?

Tom Gower: Detroit's second touchdown came on a short drive after Demaryius Thomas decided to just throw the football around like he was Brandon Marshall or something.

I wish I felt some sense of progress from the Denver offense. We're nearly 11 quarters into the season, and we've made a little bit of progress by not spending all our time trying to run bootlegs with an immobile Peyton Manning, but I'm trying to see last year's early season offense and we're not even close and I'm not sure how we get here. Maybe it's the line. Maybe it's Peyton's arm. Maybe it's something they'll figure out in another three or four weeks. Maybe the defense will be like the 2012 Texans and allow them to ignore problems until they're too late to fix. I don't think they'll blow this game as we head to the fourth quarter with the Broncos up 14-12, but I wonder if that's a good thing. Well, #KubiakBelievesInYou wouldn't be a new thing at all.

(For those unaware of the phenomenon, #KubiakBelievesInYou dates back to 2010, when Kubiak expressed his confidence in struggling defensive coordinator Frank Bush, he of one of the worst pass defenses in DVOA history.)

Aaron Schatz: I'll go with "Peyton Manning looks better" but where on earth is the famous Gary Kubiak run blocking? Can he not work his magic on this line because they aren't good enough, or is it that he can't work his magic with a pistol setup? The pistol does not prevent zone blocking as far as I know. The Broncos have no running game whatsoever. They're currently at 13 carries for 29 yards. Everyone knows I don't believe in "establishing the run" nonsense but it does help to have some balance to distract the defense, slow down the pass rush, keep the offense out of third-and-longs, convert third-and-short, and so on.

Scott Kacsmar: Thought I saw some early blocking downfield on an Owen Daniels catch too. It's not consistent, but at least they seem to be calling it out this year.

Aaron Schatz: Someone has to explain to me why Matthew Stafford's fumble with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter was not an incomplete pass. He clearly thought it was, that's what I'm sure he was arguing with the officials. His arm was going forward. It wasn't a tuck rule thing -- he wasn't bringing the ball back in to his body. However, nobody has to explain to me how stupid it was for him to try to throw that with three guys on top of him. Dude, get rid of it earlier or take the sack. You've had years of training to make the right decision in this situation, even with the adrenaline flowing through you.

Tom Gower: 24-12 final. Peyton had a couple nice throws late, including the clinching touchdown to Daniels. Move along, there's nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Nathan Forster: The Lions' tepid offense last year could have been explained away by Calvin Johnson's injury problems. Well, now Calvin Johnson is mostly healthy, and three games into the season, it does not look like the Lions' offense is better at all. To me, it seems that Joe Lombardi's schemes are about as ill-fit for the Lions' personnel as possible. Stafford is a hit and miss quarterback -- he can hit some amazing throws one minute, and be 5 yards off the next minute. With a quarterback like that, you really want high-risk, high-reward throws, because the chances that Matt Stafford is going to be "on" for three big throws are a lot higher than him being "on" for eight little ones. Add in Calvin Johnson, who is large and fast, and it makes sense to throw a lot of bombs. This strategy worked reasonably well for Scott Linehan's Lions, who were ranked fifth, third, and sixth in total yards from 2011-2013. Joe Lombardi's offense is all about these short timing throws -- the very throws that Stafford cannot make with any consistency. Understandably, this offense worked wonders for a precision quarterback like Drew Brees, but no one in their right mind would think that it would work for a quarterback like Stafford.

Also, a few years ago, I was screaming for the Lions to stop giving the ball to Mikel Leshoure and to give it to Joique Bell. Now I'm screaming for the Lions to stop giving the ball to Bell (1.6 yards per carry going into this game) and start giving it to Ameer Abdullah. Moreover, the Lions' failure to run the ball itself is an indictment of the Lions' offseason. The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, and pretty much held pat everywhere else. The only thing that the Lions did that could have conceivably lead to an improvement in the team was focus on the running game. The Lions used their two high picks on a guard and a running back. The idea must have been that, with an improved running game, the Lions' offense would bounce back and could offset any regression/talent drain on defense. Well, thus far into the season, none of that is working.


241 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2015, 12:59pm

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Aaron: Someone has to explain to me why Matthew Stafford's fumble with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter was not an incomplete pass.

That call befuddled a lot of people. Despite the clear forward motion of the arm when it was hit and the lack of downward motion of the hand before the ball came loose, the refs determined that Stafford wasn't trying to pass the ball, nor trying to pump fake. I think they were reacting to how he tried to grab the ball as it fell to the ground - saying that it meant he was trying to pull the ball to his body with the throwing-like motion, too.

Chalk it up to a typical boneheaded call. Refs are human.

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I didn't see the play, but from what has been said here, it sounds like it's a problem of refs trying to judge intent. I thought that would be a problem when they got rid of the "Tuck Rule". Under the old rule, there was no need for refs to judge intent. Simply look at the facts. Arm moving forward --> Incomplete Pass, regardless of what you think the QB's intent was.

Now, since they changed the rule, the refs need to look a the context and psychoanalyze the QB and figure out what he was in the process of trying to do. Sometimes it's obvious he wasn't trying to pass (like in the famous Tuck Rule game), and then it seems like the new rule is superior to the old rule. But other times, it's not clear what he was trying to do, and the new rule just makes things more controversial. It sounds like this play is in the latter category.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I actually think that was a reasonably defendable judgement call that it was a fumble and remained so.

That said, the crew was still atrocious. My favorite was them calling a false start on the Denver center for no apparent reason, when Ngata clearly jumped off-sides.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

What was funny about the false start on the center is, if you remember in the Super Bowl, right after the interception, Seattle jumped offsides with the ball at the one (then Gronk tried to throw Irvin out of the club). Well, before they jumped, the Pats' center bobbed his head about 5 times (with Brady not even in the shotgun), which clearly caused Seattle to jump, but the Seahawks got tagged with the offsides call.

197 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Repost: This was mentioned in Boston media after the game. The center did bob his head, at least twice. That is the Pats silent count mechanism apparently. Prior to the play in question, all silent snap counts were one head-bob or two head-bobs. On the offsides call, the snap count was three head-bobs, and Bennett crossed (or was pushed across) the neutral zone after the second head-bob.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I've never really understood what qualifies as a false start. Sometimes you see the refs throw a flag because a guard or tackle twitches a quarter of an inch, or because the center flinches before snapping the ball. And yet other times the center seems to be able to bob his head with impunity.

And often you'll see the linemen get completely set, and then the defense will shift, and an OL will stand up and point to a new guy (presumably calling out a new blocking assignment). But other times, the lineman will start to point and the defense will come across the line and the offense will get flagged.

What is the rule, anyway?

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I believe there are two rules. One is that offensive players (any) are not allowed to simulate a snap. You will occasionally see receivers or QBs called for this one.

There is a second rule limiting what lineman can do after they're set, but I'm not 100% sure about it.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It's pretty extensively defined in the rule book :

"ARTICLE 2. FALSE START. It is a False Start if the ball has been placed ready for play, and, prior to the snap, an offensive player who has assumed a set position charges or moves in such a way as to simulate the start of a play, or if an offensive player who is in motion makes a sudden movement toward the line of scrimmage. Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start.

Exception: This does not apply to an offensive player under the center who turns his head or shoulders, unless the movement is an obvious attempt to draw an opponent offside.

Note: See 4-6-5-d, for actions by a defensive player who attempts to cause an offensive player to commit a false start.

Item 1. Interior Lineman. It is a False Start if an interior lineman (tackle to tackle) takes or simulates a three-point stance, and then changes his position or moves the hand that is on the ground.

Item 2. Change of Stance. An interior lineman who is in a two-point stance is permitted to reset in a three-point stance or change his position, provided that he resets prior to the snap.

Item 3. Eligible Receiver. If an eligible receiver who is on the line changes his stance, or moves to another position on the line or in the backfield, he must reset prior to the snap. If an eligible receiver who is in the backfield changes his stance, or moves to another position in the backfield that is closer to the line of scrimmage or to a position on the line, he must reset prior to the snap. (For a backfield player who is moving parallel to or away from the line of scrimmage, see Article 7.)

Item 4. Player Under Center. It is legal for a player who has taken a position under or behind the center to go in motion, whether he has placed his hands under center, on his knees, or on the body of the center. However, it is a False Start if the Rule 7, Section 2
27 action is quick and abrupt. If the player fails to come to a complete stop for at least one second prior to the ball being snapped, it is an illegal shift. See 7-4-8.

Item 5. Shotgun Formation. A player who is in position to receive the snap in shotgun formation is permitted to shift his feet prior to the snap, but any quick and abrupt movement is a False Start. This includes thrusting his hands forward when there is
not a simultaneous snap.

Item 6. Attempt to Draw Offside. Any obvious attempt by the quarterback or other player in position to receive the snap to draw an opponent offside is a False Start.

Penalty: For a False Start: Loss of five yards from the line of scrimmage. The foul is enforced prior to the snap.

Note: The official shall blow the whistle immediately. The penalty for a False Start shall be enforced regardless of whether the snap is made or there is a reaction by the defense."

228 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

>Item 6. Attempt to Draw Offside. Any obvious attempt by the quarterback or other player in position to receive the snap to draw an opponent offside is a False Start.

By a literal reading of this rule, shouldn't the hard count be considered a false start? It serves no purpose other than attempting to draw the opponent offside.

236 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm guessing (obviously) that the officials allow anything that's related directly to calling the snap count, as long as it does not involve faking a play start. Since the Pats had apparently been using the head-bob silent count all game long (and, I'm sure, in other noisy venues during earlier games), it was not going to get called unless the center did some other deceptive movement.

Going to the three-bob on that inside-the-one play was sublime. If the "Hawks had stuffed Brady behind the line, they would probably have had 10-12 seconds and a timeout at about their 40 following the free kick, and with all the 30+ yard plays Wilson had completed that day, a 29-28 winning FG was far from impossible.

1 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As a Bills fan, I just want to say that this 2015 iteration of the team, you know the one with actual NFL caliber level coaching and as loaded a roster as any in the league could easily be a Super Bowl contender.

After a dismantling of the Colts and the Dolphins, both off season darlings, and a game against that team who won it all last year that gave the Bills a chance to tie the ball game up on the final drive, I feel like this team is at least the 2nd best team in the AFC at this point. I know, I know, what about the Bengals? Well, they travel to Buffalo in a few weeks and we will have a better understanding of who is the real challenger to the Patriots this year.

What an exciting start to the season and it feels much different from previous dreadful years where the Bills started off hot and faded down the stretch.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It seems to me the big difference between good teams early and deep playoff teams is depth. Lots of teams start off hot and then cool once once the injuries start. We will see if the hot Bills can stay hot once the war of attrition that is the NFL season really gets underway.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Thats always fair but this Bills team is one of the deepest teams in the entire league.

Its amazing what happens when there is competency in a given teams front office. The Bills have been hitting on picks for the better part of 4 years.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I wouldn't crow too much about the front-office. There are rumblings of cap-hell to come in the very near future. But for now, at least, Buffalo has a clear window. They look like a playoff team to me. How deep a playoff team remains to be seen. Ryan is inconsistent. He can coach a magnificent game one week and lay an egg the next. When he's on though, he can certainly steer a team through some great opposition and beat better teams. I think the near-term prospects look very bright for Buffalo.

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

In fairness to Whaley the year Manuel was picked was Buddy Nix last season as GM of the Bills.

In fairness to EJ Manuel, he was grossly mismanaged from a development standpoint by the previous and inept coaching staff that was tasked to properly develop him.

To the poster above regarding the Bills salary cap, The Bills have essentially two players on the entire roster that are deserving of long term contracts (everyone else has already been signed) with CB Stephon Gilmore and LT Cordy Glenn. Gilmore is a must sign and will undoubtedly get a deal but Glenn is a little more expendable. They'll be fine.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Oh yeah, that was the other half of it, actually. Can't believe I forgot that. The cost to acquire Watkins when he didn't have a QB capable of getting him the ball. That was probably dumber than the Manuel pick.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Not to mention that they traded up for Watkins in a particularly deep WR draft, where Beckham, Benjamin, and other top talents would have been available at their original #9 draft pick even if Watkins had come off the board before they picked.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I am sure hindsight will help your argument much more then it will mine, but at the time of the draft, when the Bills traded up, they assumed they were trading up to grab the number 1 WR in that draft class. Watkins was heralded by all draft sites and all front offices (even the Giants who drafted OBJ, admitted that Watkins was the number 1 WR on their board) as the best WR in the draft and Whaley made a move up to get him. I find no fault in that.

The Bills already had a great defense and they were going all in on their 2013 (just the year before) first rounder EJ Manuel. Adding the number 1 WR from that class is a great way to do that.

Sure, they could have held firm at 9 and taken whichever receiver was still available but if Buffalo doesnt trade up for Watkins then Cleveland most likely takes him (or at least they should have but apparently Cleveland thinks you can win games in a passing league without WR's) and Evans goes to TB at 7. That leaves Beckham available at 9 but he was injured during the entire pre-draft process and its no sure thing that OBJ is revered the way that he is if he is in Buffalo instead of with Eli in NY. Benjamin didnt go until the end of the 1st round and he doesnt have the skill set the Bills were necessarily looking for when they made the Watkins pick.

215 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"or at least they should have but apparently Cleveland thinks you can win games in a passing league without WR's"

They already saw Josh Gordon not really add that much in the W-L standings despite his great 2013 season, to say nothing of the team's struggles with his insertion into the lineup the next year. He likely only meant the difference between 4-12 and 2-14 (probably fair to give Minnesota the game that year, and Baltimore the sweep, if he hadn't played.)

RE: Cle's drafting, a lot of people are also treating yesterday's game as a referendum on the Browns' drafting with what Carr and K.Mack did, but that unfairly gives the Raiders a pass for being 3-13, and losing head-to-head to the Browns, with both of them on the field the year before.

229 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well the Seahawks were one play away from back-to-back Superbowl victories with (Tate)-Baldwin-Kearse-Lockett(the elder) as WRs. Of course you could also say, well they were throwing to Lockett(the elder) on that play and that is WHY they are not back-to-back SB champs.

So clearly great WRs are not a necessity to winning SBs. Also, SF the year before.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't know about cap hell, if things go as planned they will have some work to do, though. I also think they're perfectly willing to let some guys walk (McKelvin, Glenn, Wood) if they have cheaper replacements. That's why Darby was drafted, for example, though that's paying dividends quicker than anticipated.

We'll see if we're still talking about this team in six weeks. I've been here too many times before...

161 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yes, so I looked up my paradigm for strong front-line talent but no bench, the 1974 Patriots, going out 6-1 with wins over the 11-3 Dolphins, 10-4 Rams and 10-4 Vikings and closing 1-6 with losses to the 4-10 Browns and 7-7 Jets. (In the 6th and 8th games NE lost to Buffalo (9-5) 30-28 in Buffalo and 29-28 at home. OJ did not overwhelm them in either game, which is not how I recall most contests between the two teams in that era.) Buffalo looks more like the current Pats then the 1974 team, however. The mean years in the NFL of the current rosters in Buffalo and NE is 4.2 and 4.4 respectively. The number for the 1974 Pats was 2.1, with 18 rookies, 15 guys in their 2nd year, and 16 with 3/4 years of experience. The later two numbers for the current Bills/Pats lineups are about the same (16/17). The 33 rookies and 2nd year players playing for NE in 1974 nearly doubles the numbers for such guys on the present Bills/Pats rosters (16/17). Looks like my paradigm might not be so paradigmatic. (The 2014, Super Bowl Champion Partiots had 25 players in their first or second year and 20 in years 3 or 4. The mean for the whole team was 2.6 years of NFL experience.) (Of course, age of roster has no demonstrated correlation with quality of depth.)

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I wouldn't exclude the Broncos from any discussions about the best AFC team, if Manning gets back close to his normal self the way Brady did in '15 as Brady's o-line solidified, then I think the Bronco's edge in the secondary will be decisive.
I'm not sold on Taylor either, he's done a lot of good things but we have yet to see how consistent he is or how good he will look after teams have film on him.

It is nice to see the long suffering Buffalo fans have an exciting team to cheer for though and I hope they do well against everyone but the Patriots

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yes, if Manning regains the ability to throw deep with something resembling authority and accuracy, then the Broncos will be formidable, even behind that awful blocking. That isn't the way to bet, however. Brady did not look as bad on the deep pass last year, and the Patriots o-line was not as bas as what the Broncos have shown this year, one game in Arrowhead aside.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'll agree that Brady's struggles didn't include an apparent physical drop off, but NE's OL was absolutely abominable for the first four weeks of last year. The Arrowhead game was actually the best the pass pro looked for the first month.

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I remain a Peyton skeptic.

Arm strength isn't just about throwing it 30 yards down the field. It's also about getting short passes out quickly without a big windup. Peyton never had the natural arm strength of Favre or Marino (who could flick their wrists and send a laser between two linebackers), but he was always good being able to stay reasonably in control of himself and squeeze out a good throw with decent mechanics even under pressure. Classic Favre would sidearm it 90 mph while falling backwards; classic Peyton takes a couple baby steps to the side and throws over the top while continuing to churn his legs to avoid the big hit.

What I noticed on his deep throws yesterday was that he was really stepping into them. That's fundamentally a good thing, but if he needs that kind of space to throw deep, then it's a lot more limiting to the offense than the highlights indicate.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

He has needed that kind of space for three years though. As has Brady, to be fair. (The difference between the two of them can be seen on things like those slants between LBs, where Brady can take one well-protected step and zing it as hard as anyone, whereas Manning's is precise and strong enough but not enough to make you say "whoa, guess he can still summon the fastball when he needs it."

You're right, though. As the arm has gone, the full body mechanics have become more important, and if you compare tape from early last year to late, you can see his lower body and follow through (how much the right leg comes up and around for instance) change dramatically. All his misses in January and even the first two weeks this year were long, but that's not in any way an indicator that his arm strength has gone up... just that he's really working to fling it, and that kills accuracy just the same as a full windup slap shot isn't as precise as a wrister (or any other sporting comparison you want to use).

Ultimately it's almost always better to miss long than to miss short, and the misses with Sanders in the previous two weeks were close enough and well enough thrown (ie, didn't look like he had to use the whole body like a coiled spring) that it didn't concern me too much. I found the deep throw that succeeded last night to be a worse throw than any of three that went beyond Sanders in the first two games.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm definitely seeing improvement. The first week, I thought he was absolutely toast. Done.

He looked more of the same for most of the Chiefs game. can start to see some of it come back. The timing returned on some of the medium throws and now some of the deep throws are at least getting closer. They're still not catching people in stride, but he's compensating with putting more air under them and letting his players make plays.

Another observation - owen daniels cannot gain any separation anymore. Like at all. If virgil green is really as athletic as they say, then his route running must be whats keeping him off the receiving patterns.

177 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

There is inaccurate and there is "Will the ball ever arrive?". Heck, Manning was inaccurate on deeps in the season opener last year, but this year he looked like he was in a punt, pass, and kick competition, 8 year old division. He's getting better, however.

198 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It's obvious his arm is weaker, however it also seems that pressure just totally disables his game much greater degree than it does other veteren QBs.

Due to a decline in arm strength, he needs to step into his throws and if theres pressure he can not. It seems like he doesn't want to take a hit and he either throws it early or takes the self sack. I think the leading sacker of Manning is himself. With that said, he is still a top tier QB with protection, but he needs his OL to get better because most defenses have better fronts than Detroit.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As good as the Broncos defense is and they are very good, anytime that you have to replace 4 of your starting 5 offensive lineman in one single off season is almost impossible. At the same time the team as a whole has to learn an entirely new system, a system BTW that is an obvious ill-fit for your ALL-Everything, yet sadly on the last legs of a brilliant career quarterback, it doesnt spell good things for that team if injury occurs to a key skill player or key defender or as the season wears on and the QB can no longer carry the team.

The Broncos cant run block and they are below average in pass pro. While they're still the favorite to win that division, I dont see how they can win a game in the playoffs against any team that will force Manning to pass in January.

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Patriots have replaced the ENTIRE offensive line at times this year. RT Vollmer has been dinged. LT Solder has played poorly. Center Stork is still out with a concussion. LG Connolly retired. RG Wendell has the flu, or so the rumor goes. Mostly it's been Vollmer and Solder sandwiching the 3 rookies. But backup Marcus Cannon has played plenty, and they've cycled through a bunch of other players. And they've played without missing a beat. Not impossible--not at all.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Which is very Bruce Arians-y of them, which is kind of funny since that's why they switched to a WCO after letting Arians walk...

There's more to it than just individual badness there, though. Part of it is Luck. Part of it is that they really have been getting blitzed more than anyone I can remember watching. I mean, Bowles sent EIGHT guys a couple times.

180 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

So a reasonably competent OC would have plenty of plays with safety valve dump-offs to TEs and RBs, or even a thr33-yard hoot to a WR, right? To blunt the effectiveness of the 60% blitz rate.

Or draw plays.

Or screen passes.

Am I missing anything? After the first two weeks Luck had like three passes to RBs despite all the pressure.

I'm confused. And so, it appears, is Pep Hamilton.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Denver is a legitimate contender if their defense continues its historic DVOA pace. Their defense has scored 2 TDs and has allowed only 4 TDs. Except for interior DL, they are extremely deep at all defensive positions. Its ironic when considering both their talent on defense and the way Sly Williams started his career, that except for Von Miller, Sly Williams could be their most irreplaceable defensive player.

If the OL gels, Denver could be very good this season. With a pocket, Manning is still a top 6 or 7 QB. Hopefully Mathis and Vasquez can get back to their 2013 form when they were two of the best OGs in the league.

A big advantage Denver has that hasn't been mentioned... they will get the other two top AFC Conference contenders, New England and Cincinnati, at home. I can't see Denver winning on the road against either team in the playoffs, so the regular season matches are pivotal to their success.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Very interesting game with the Vikings coming up. The Broncos would have had 9 in the box sometimes anyways, and the Vikings had success yesterday with 3 tight end sets. The best way to negate great edge rushers is often to beat on them, and the Vikings o-linemen, especially their athletic but very raw 4th round pick playing right tackle, are decidedly better at run blocking. Ya' gotta' bet on the Broncos defense, but it wouldn't be the first time Peterson defeated loaded boxes.

On the other side, the Broncos are worse pass blockers than the Vikings, and the Vikings have talented pass rushers as well. Zimmer and Manning will have an interesting cat and mouse game, I think, with Zimmer bringing, or faking, double A gap pressure at times. If Rhodes doesn't make it through the concussion protocol this week, that'll give a big edge to the Broncos.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think Denver will put Talib and Harris on an island and load the box. As you said, Peterson has faced that his whole career so thats nothing new, but I'm interested to see how their smallish LBs respond and if Teddy gets the chance to hit a big one over the top. I would also expect them to try C gap runs on 3rd and medium against all of the Edge Defenders except Von Miller. Both Ware and Ray have given up big plays by over-rushing and giving away the C gap.

As far as Denver's offense, expect Sambrallo to get lots of help against Griffin and Denver to go in full dink/dunk mode.

I think the best way to beat Denver's defense is to dink and dunk them to death with quick passes to RBs, TEs and SWRs, which is why I think an offense like the Patriots and Chargers are their toughest matchup. Still optimism is high in Denver because this defense looks like it could be one of the best defenses in the NFL this decade.

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Now Bears are punting on fourth-and-2 down 20 with less than 13 minutes to go. Why did they bother flying out here?

The Bears appeared to be using the Herm Edwards "Any drive that ends in a kick is a good drive" playbook, as best seen in the Brooks Bollinger Jets-Ravens game from 10 years ago. Do nothing remotely risky on offense (the Bears were only sacked twice and had no turnovers), punt at every opportunity, and at least you won't lose 59-0.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think it was actually with 3 mins left in the 3rd, but the point remains true.

If I remember correctly, one of the broadcasters was actually praising them for it, too! At least the other guy said something along the lines of, "Yes, you might get another 3 possessions, but when will you get another possession at midfield?"

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That struck me too. And I thought three things:

1. Yes, I guess it's possible you'll get three more possessions
2. In addition to scoring touchdowns on all three, you'll have to keep Seattle from scoring in between
3. I've seen nothing in this 45-minute-old game that suggests that the Bears will score one touchdown, let alone three

That was pretty much an indefensible call by Fox. Then again...

If you're John Fox, you punt on every fourth's what you do.
If you want to save 15% or more on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It's what you do.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Well, the announcer who defended the punt was Phil Simms, who says something about that stupid probably once per segment, so that's not a surprise.

On that note, everyone should follow @PhilSimmsQuotes on Twitter.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

And Simms has never met a punt he didn't like. A week or two ago, he praised a team for getting to midfield on the reasoning that they would be in a great position to punt if the drive stalled. It was first down when he said this!

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Maybe Fox thought Herm said, "YOU PLAN TO WIN THE (field position) GAME."

If Fox had been in Chicago longer, that game would have felt like one of those middle-finger-to-the-GM-for-sticking-me-with-this-QB games, kind of like the "Josh Freeman's been on the team for less than a week and we're starting him" nightmare for the Vikings a few years back. I can't think of any vaguely realistic explanation for the kind of gameplan the Bears ran other than trying to actively depress their fans.

Um, maybe Fox and Cutler are buddies, and this was a conscious attempt to make fans appreciate Jay more?

237 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Not the first time for them. It may be apocryphal (and it dates back to the Bears' 1963 championship season), but as Mike Ditka was leaving Wrigley following a 6-0 "crushing" of the Rams, he accidently bumped a female fan. He stopped and said, "No offense, Ma'am." To which she supposedly replied, "Well, that's for sure!"

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It might be defensible on the theory that the Bears are a talent-poor team coming off a competitive loss to the Packers and an uncompetitive loss to the Cardinals. No one with a brain (Fox included, I'm sure) thinks they have the slightest chance of making the playoffs this year. Add in the injuries to their QB and best (by far) receiver, and maybe there's an argument to be made that going out there and playing super-conservatively so as to lose by less than they would have otherwise is worth something in terms of morale. I don't know.

I do think calling Fox a horrible coach is absurd given his track record, bad 4th down decisions or no. As a fan I couldn't care less what he does on 4th down in an unwinnable game in a season where the Bears are probably better served by losing more games anyway.

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Fox is sitting there going, I told you to get a better backup. I don't care how good this kid is in the film room, I had to play him a couple of years ago and there is nothing he can do. GIVE ME A BETTER BACK UP. And punt.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I wouldn't be shocked if we learn at some point that both Jeffery and Cutler could have gone against the Seahawks, but the coaching staff decided "what's the point? And if we lost Jeffery or Cutler for 4 or 5 weeks..."

The Bears were just sort of there yesterday. Punter had a great day at least!

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The NFC is really top-heavy this year, isn't it? I'm not sold on Atlanta or Carolina being much more than above average, but somebody's got to win the division.

If Dallas can finish 9-7 and get Romo/Bryant back for the postseason, they could go on a run. Of course, even if they're healthy for a playoff run, that doesn't mean they'll play like usual.

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

If the Giants tamp down the knuckleheadedness, I think they might be able to go 9-4, or better, the rest of the way, by scoring 30-plus a game. There aren't too many teams that have the depth in d-backs to properly defend the Giants receivers, once Cruz is back.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I agree completely that the NFC is really top heavy. I think its Zona, GB and Seattle before a precipitous drop off (The Cowboys would be in this tier if they werent the victims of losing their starting QB and stud WR).

Arizona will get their first real test next week against a top tier defense when the Rams come to town and I think we will know more about them after that game, but boy do they look good. 16-2 over the last 18 Palmer starts is an amazing number, even if QB wins isnt a legitimate statistic. Its that defense in Arizona that really has me buying in.

Of those 3 teams (Zona/GB/Seattle) its going to come down to who has HFA in January.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Seahawks may eventually be top tier, but they didn't look like it against the Bears. Against a team QBed by Jimmy Clausen, the Hawks only had a 6-0 halftime lead.

I can't put my finger on exactly what's wrong there, but something is wrong, and it's more than Kam Chancellor being out. Well at least Jimmy Graham finally got a TD. If they can actually figure out how to use him properly, that would certainly help.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I just find "figure out how to use Jimmy Graham properly" to be such an incredibly strange concept; you have a really athletic, talented TE. At what point does somebody say "Oh, hey, maybe we should have him run up the seam and catch the ball" jump to mind? That's like Generic TE Pattern #1, right?

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm beginning to think that interior O-Linemen are undervalued in the NFL. Not that you have to have all-pros across the board, but at least a minimum level of competence is needed. Watching the trash the Colts have roled out at Center and Gaurd the last few years (Mewhort excluded) and seeing Luck having no pocket, getting pummeled by unblocked rushers and RBs continuously hit in the backfield certainly colors my perception on this.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I am with you on this. In fact I think it may be better to invest heavily in the G/C/G combo before either tackle. Not only does having competency at guard and center make the passing game flourish but with teams running some form of inside zone as their most prevalent run it should solidify the fact that without a capable G/C/G combo a teams offense will be severely restricted.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

There's a difference between ignoring and investing heavily. I think you can get by with mediocre linemen in general - just not terrible one's. I'd really rather have great corners and pass rushers. As the broncos have shown, the best friend of a struggling offense is a defense.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Wait until they play the Cardinals. For years, they have struggled against even decent Tight Ends. As an avid Cardinals fan, I'll be convinced once they shut down TEs and can successfully not get burned on screen passes.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I can't put my finger on exactly what's wrong there, but something is wrong

I didn't pay close attention to that game except to laugh at Claussen and Fox, so maybe it's extra wrong, but let's not forget that it's not as if these Seahawks have ever been exactly an offensive juggernaut. Yes, Wilson is capable of greatness and shows many many great traits even when not posting big numbers, but he has always still been perfectly capable of mediocre. (And that's with the 4-pick Pack game excepted. I view that carelessness as an anomaly.) The Super Bowl Seahawks teams won ugly plenty of times.

That said, not only was that game close for a long time, it took big special teams plays to get them going too. That is certainly troubling, as it's not as if the Bears' D is any good either.

Still, plenty of good athletes and good teams have sleepwalked through games where the opponent was both overmatched and didn't appear to actually be trying. It's possible (likely, even, given human nature) that their offense might've been much better if the Bears had actually presented anything remotely resembling a challenge to them.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yeah, this was similar to a number of Seahawks games I can recall in recent seasons, slowly crushing a weak opponent. You might have liked to see more than one offensive TD, but they've spluttered on offence plenty of times before pulling it together when it matters.

Though there will be a concern if Marshawn Lynch is injured or has lost a step. He and Wilson have obviously covered for a lot of their O-Line deficiencies in the past.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I thought the Seahawks D took care of business yesterday. The Bears O did nothing, just as it should have done nothing.

But the offense, which should have easily moved up and down the field against a bad Bears D, was pretty ugly. Even if Lynch missed most of the game, they really struggled to block a defensive front seven that is not good outside of McPhee and struggled to pass on a secondary that might be the worst in football. They better hope the offensive line comes together in the next few games, or else they might be in major trouble.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm pretty sure what the Seahawks are missing is that they are running out one of the 5 worst O-lines in the league. The only time so far when they've looked decent on O is when they've basically given the ball to Wilson and said "They aren't going to block for you, so just do what ever you have to do." Which is exactly what Pete Carroll and Bivel hate to do.

Also, icing on the cake was Simms's comment on offensive line being something that's always been a signature of the 'Hawks under Carroll.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

There is a monumental competiton going on right now for the title of "One of the 5 worst NFL offensive lines", and it isn't clear at all that the Seahawks qualify. I mean, yes, they are bad, but there is just a gigantic amount of bad offensive line play being exhibited now.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

But think about the quality of offensive football coming from a team that has for skill position players, top-10 QB, best or second best RB, second best TE, and Baldwin and Kearse at WR. How bad does your o-line have to be to screw that up?

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Has anyone ever thrown for more yards on a drive than Luck's 109 yesterday?

(98-yard drive, holding call -3, false start -5, sack -5, only one 2 yard rush by Gore between all the passes.)

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I actually found a Matt Ryan drive where he threw for 110 yards last year ( Took two offensive penalties (Atlanta scored a TD after being in 1st and 29.

I couldn't find any other drives in the last few years that had more than that, though.

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Oh wow, great find. And they even started at the 9, not the 2. (And he had 25 others that came back on an away from the play offsetting penalty too!)

There's got to be a drive that had like 2 holds and a personal foul that led to like 130 yards passing somewhere in history. Or with a sack-prone but not awful QB playing from behind against a prevent D.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Here's a better one:

The Raiders started the drive on the 2, had 25 yards of penalties, their opponent had 5, and the running backs combined for -2 yards, so Rich Gannon threw for a whopping 120 yards on one drive.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

It technically doesn't count, but the Eagles had a drive in the second half of the opening Monday Night game at Atlanta in which Bradford threw for 91 yards that counted and 22 more that got erased by penalties.

All told, the Eagles gained 120 yards on that drive (that counted) and 41 more that were erased by offensive penalties. They started from their 5, immediately had a false start, had 3 additional penalties on the drive (each of which wiped out a decent gain), but ultimately punched it in.

"Unfortunately" no sacks -- plus one ATL penalty -- took away from their ability to extend the drive beyond 161 yards.

166 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I can better that one too:

Those are two drives in which the QB threw for 135 yards, with offensive interference wiping out large chunks of yardage.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The deep floater that Bridgewater had picked off was immediately preceded by long td pass that was just plain dropped in the end zone. Yes, the int was a bad throw, it taking place on 2nd and 10, as opposed to 3rd and 10, but it also happened with whiffed pass blocks in front of the qb, with the qn trying to avoid a huge hit, which, in this era, seems like the wise thing to do. Bridgewater just needs to throw it out of bounds when that happens, and it'll probably happen a lot this year. This offensive line can look ok when run blocking for an elite HOF running back (and it certainly appears that 28 is still at that level), but it just can't pass block at all. They may not be quite as bad as some other hideous units in the league when it comes to pass protection, since Kalil appears to have rebounded somewhat, but they aren't too far removed from it.

Speaking of bad o-line play, Rivers is going to get killed behind that bunch. Yes, Everson Griffin is quite talented, but fer' the love of Jim Parker, every single move he attempted against the big lug across from him, speed rush, bull rush, rip move, etc., looked like it had been invented yesterday afternoon, to the big lug's complete astonishment. Ick.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I was expecting an offsides flag on that play. I haven't gone back to look at it, so I'm not saying they got jobbed there -- perhaps the rusher just timed it perfectly. Part of me thinks that Teddy thought they were getting a free play, so why not throw it up?

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I didn't get to see the Jets game yesterday, but it seems to me that their major problem right now is the inability to run the ball. The offensive line hasn't opened any holes the last two games. I don't know how inaccurate Fitz was yesterday, but his interceptions only started happening after the 24-0 deficit.

46 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Yes, the run blocking was a big problem for the Jets yesterday. The Eagles weren't even loading the box, which meant they could double Marshall without leaving them vulnerable to obvious mismatches elsewhere. Fitz is nowhere near good enough to carry the team in that situation. The defense and punt coverage forgot how to tackle briefly, but they straightened that out a bit in the second half. It's too bad for the Jets that Murray was inactive because Matthews and Sproles were much more effective than Murray was likely to be.

One play toward the end of the half (right after ill-fated Marshall lateral) really frustrated me. They threw a screen to Sproles and Demario Davis wrapped him up and slammed him down on the turf, which drew a flag for unnecessary roughness. Sproles had already broken about 10 tackles at that point between his punt return and offensive touches, so I very much dispute that any effort by a Jets defender to actually get him on the ground was "unnecessary."

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Sproles had already broken about 10 tackles at that point between his punt return and offensive touches, so I very much dispute that any effort by a Jets defender to actually get him on the ground was "unnecessary."

Plus Davis was one-on-one with Sproles, he was nowhere near the sideline, and no whistle had blown, so I'm not sure what Davis was supposed to do there. It's not like Sproles would have stopped or gone down willingly.

Sproles broke a tackle on the very next play but wasn't flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Actually I had forgotten another weird part of the call. The refs annouced that it was after his forward progress was stopped, but the whistle didn't blow until after the tackle happened. But the bottom line is, "slamming" a player to the ground is a penalty, and that's what Davis did. It's a tough call, but not the wrong one.

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That was an interesting play. I didn't know the "slamming a player to the ground" was a penalty now. That's certainly what he did there, but I'm not sure what he was supposed to do. He wrapped up a 160 lb running back and tackled him hard, making sure he didn't slip out. Sproles must have caused at least 10 missed tackles up until that tackle...

Reminds me of a play a few years ago, I can't remember the details, but it involved a running QB faking a slide and the tackler stopped and the QB ran for a bunch more yards, maybe a TD. The defensive team had already been hit with hitting the QB too late penalties, and the calls froze the defender as much as the rules did.

As for the game, Marshall was both awful and great. His play led to two turnovers (short arming a ball at the end of the game along with the lateral), but he was the only reason the Jets were in the game to begin with. I haven't though Fitzpatrick has looked good at all this season, with the exception of one drive against the Colts. He had multiple plays where Devin Smith had a step and underthrew him. He has no ability to throw outside, and I believe the Jets could have won with a better QB (something that Jets fans have been saying for about a decade now). He reminds me of Pennington after the injuries, but with much less common sense as a QB.

I think Geno can be successful with this team. He's never had the talent that Fitzpatrick has had (his rookie year was highlighted with Jeremy Kerley as the Jets #1 WR, except for 4 games when a broken down Santonio Holmes or Greg Salas/David Nelson was his #1 WR). Last year he had an injured Eric Decker for the first 6 weeks, and played badly. I doubt Geno Smith is the answer, but Fitzpatrick is unbelievably limited as a QB, and simply isn't the answer.

One more comment on the game. Sam Bradford looked awful. Maybe it was the Jets defense, but Bradford missed receivers all over the field (though Mathews dropped a sure TD on a wheel route) and really didn't do anything in the game. THis is with the Jets not getting any real pressure on him at all.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

you may be thinkgin of m. kiwanuka vs vince young. def was a play like that. he was too afraid to tackle young hard or something, so then young escaped. embrassing play for NYG. but kind of could understand what kiwanuka did. I happened to have seen d. davbis play yesterday while off Raiders_Browns game for moment. horrible peantly. sad that that is 15 yard penalty. football becoming too soft.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Maybe it's the line. Maybe it's Peyton's arm. Maybe it's something they'll figure out in another three or four weeks.

I still blame Kubiak and Dennison for most of it. Putting Manning back away from center still doesn't change the route combos and play names and play calling, etc. We still saw him take a sack on an incredibly ill-advised rollout (though maybe it would've been fine had the guy been blocked... but still, Peyton was asked to throw on the run there). I have never seen any evidence of intelligence from that tandem on the passing or play calling side of things. (Semi-related, I also loved his early attempts to match Fox in the ludicrous punt game... yesterday afternoon was a great window into the conservative minds of the last three coaches Peyton has had.)

That said, at least some of it was the loss of Thomas and Welker. Not that either was a superstar anymore (though I'm starting to think I underrated Julius), but when you have a QB whose deep ball is unreliable (charitable description), losing two guys that can get (or be schemed) open in short yardage is a pretty big deal. New England would be OK if you took away Gronk and Edelman, as an example, but there'd be a dropoff. I think we're seeing a bit of that here too, which we also sort of saw last year when they were out.

At this point, I'm viewing these issues as largely related to the adjustment period. Peyton will be fine. Not All-Pro, but fine. Going forward, the larger issue will be the run game.

I will say this: Peyton's mobility and arm issues have definitely made me believe in the mobility/flexibility/diet work Tom Brady has done. He is climbing the pocket better than I've ever seen and looks fantastic. Still think he's being helped a ton by the wide open guys, but boy is he playing lights out. And for a guy who has never exactly been super athletic, he's looking pretty damn athletic. At 38.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"One reason why we're seeing so many penalties this year is that the league is clearly trying to crack down on these short underneath passes where the receivers start blocking before the pass is actually thrown. Rob Gronkowski just got hit with his second offensive pass interference flag of the game for blocking on an underneath pass. But the way the refs are trying to enforce the rules on this just seems really haphazard and inconsistent."

Detroit was victimized by a really bad OPI as well, on a play that would have put them into FG range to go up 15-14.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

In the Extra Points thread the other day pertaing to the sorry state of analytics in football, I wrote that the Bears should maximize their very low chance of winning in Seattle yesterday by treating the entire field as 4 down territory, at the cost of also maximizing their chance of losing by 40 or more. I think I was right. The Bears were about as prohibitive an underdog as I could remember in that spot, but they would a have improved their chance a winning a tiny bit by running their offense as if they had four plays to get 10 yards, but also substantially improved their chance of getting beat by 50 points. Humans really have a predilection for pain avoidance over reward seeking.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

That's just it. They weren't winning 19 times out of 20 anyways, why not move the needle to 17 times out of 20, even at the cost of making a 50 point loss a very strong probability? I know the answer, of course, but it is a very interesting example of a feature of human psychology.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Fox adopting an "Every drive is your last" strategy would also have to account for some way to stop Clausen from touching the ball on every play, like direct snaps and T-formation to Forte and what have you. His greater failing was having no confidence whatsoever in Clausen to run a functional offense. That seems understandable, but I can't see any reason why you'd keep him on the roster if so in place of someone else, since Cutler has missed time with some frequency. Not being ready on special teams on a game they absolutely needed field position advantages (and played like such) is not a good sign either.
And as for Chicago fan outrage, I think a punt late in 4Q of a game they weren't going to win will have to take its place in line behind the 40 point loss(es) . If they haven't become numbed to this sort of thing already. Chicago's best play going forward without Cutler and Jeffrey might be punting knuckleballs and hoping the returner muffs it.
Oy, the Bears.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Maybe it's not even psychology. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of folks would never believe that a strategy that yields a 50 point loss could actually give you better odds to win.

Let's assume the Bears lost by 50 this week going for every 4th down. I think the general public consensus would be that you could never win that way; After all, look how badly you got blown out. The way to win in "their" view, then, would be to keep it close and hope to get lucky by being conservative.

I doubt most people consider that there might be a high variance strategy that gets you to, say, 17 out of 20. Coaches might be the same.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

As you correctly state: human nature. One can possibly defend Fox not wanting to adopt such a high-variance strategy throughout the match - he does not want his new players to risk utter humiliation at this early stage of what is evidently going to be a long, tough season for them. You can even argue he was successful in his conservatism to some extent; the score was only 6-0 at half-time, so only a wacky bounce or two away from parity (though that was mostly to do with Seattle's offensive inefficiencies).

But the fact that he was still punting right until the bitter end was indefensible, and frankly laughable. Fans aren't going to tolerate that type of garbage for long. Good grief, at the very least people want some form of entertainment! Although the blowout wasn't as bad as it might have been, I'm certain Fox did himself absolutely no favours with his new fan base yesterday.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I don't know if the Chicago fans want entertainment. Last season was entertaining, and everyone complained that they were passing too much.

I think the Chicago fans aspire to boring mediocrity. And I think they've found the right coach for that. And I, a Bears fan, despair.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"Last season was entertaining"

I suppose in the way a trainwreck where no one gets hurt is entertaining. I'd rather not have assistant coaches sniping starting players in the media; a defense that can't tackle, cover or rush the passer; and a special teams that just sucks at everything.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The Patriots had nine drives (plus a kneel down possession) with no punts and no turnovers, scoring on each possession.

According to the PFR game finder, this has happened just 16 times since the merger. (In a single game, from 1970 to 2015, in the regular season and playoffs, requiring Punts = 0 and Turnovers = 0)

It's easier to do in recent seasons, with nine happening since 2001. But it's still impressive, regardless of the opponent.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The only thing more pathetic might've been if they ended the game by kicking a meaningless field goal.

Which I want to say has absolutely happened back when Fox was coaching Carolina. It's one of my earliest "hey, at least we didn't get shut out!" memories... Hmm.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Ha, nice.

Last game of the season too, down 21-0 to the Falcons, FG on 4th-2 at the 5. A garbage time TD hid that one.

(Claussen in both those games. I'm sensing a trend...)

I swear there were more, possibly when Matt Moore got thrown in to the fire. And I seem to recall maybe a Herm Edwards one in KC as well.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I could only find two other games since the merger where the possibility exists that the team punted on every single drive. THere are only 15 games since the merger that a team was both shut out and committed 0 turnovers (

Of them, the team either missed field goals, turned the ball over on downs, or even just ended the half with the ball. However before 2003 game, there is no drive data that far back on PFR. Of the 6 games prior to 2003, 4 had missed field goals by the team shut out. But I couldn't think of a way to check out if the other 2 games had a non-punt (I suspect that one game, where the team shut out only had 5 punts did not punt on every drive, though).

Either way, it's a rare and pitiful stat for the Bears offense. To not go for it down 20-0 with 4th and 1 at the 46 yard line is inexcusable.

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

ESPN said that no other team has punted on all of their drives since at least 1980, which is as far back as their database goes, so it's possible that they're the only team to do this since the merger.

Of course, Seattle aided them by failing all three times with goal-to-go before halftime. Any one of those goes for a TD and they would likely kneel after Seattle kicks a touchback.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Mia-Buf Rishard Matthews is quietly having a nice first 3 games for Miami. The bad news in that is that the team spent a lot of resources to acquire DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings, and Kenny Stills this offseason. Only Parker did anything of note against the Bills (mostly watch Tannehill passes sail over his head out of bounds). Miami somehow had enough corner back depth to trade a corner to the Ravens this week. It's hard to imagine that watching McCain. Perhaps Kenny Stills can play corner back because no one else on the team can. The Bills are better coached than Miami (a bold statement). Miami luckily doesn't have to worry about home field next week because they get to fly to London to get blown out by the Jets. Team owner Ross would have Miami play one game outside the country every year to gain international exposure. So pretty much the people in London by now are sick of seeing this team every bit as much as the people of Miami. As bad as they look now I truly fear that in three week Joe Philbin will go full save my job mode like he does every year. There is no coach in the league whose fan base doesn't want his job saved more than Joe Philbin.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

This is the point where, as a Bucs fan, I'm supposed to get angry because there was no commentary on Bucs-Texans, right? Why was my bad team not showered with attention?

I didn't get home until near the end of the third quarter, and I can comfortably say I commend FO for ignoring this game. It wasn't even entertaining in a "Jimmy Clausen trainwreck" sort of way, it was just boring. When the main story from a game is a kicker missing FGs, I think that says something.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

"This strategy worked reasonably well for Scott Linehan's Lions, who were ranked fifth, third, and sixth in total yards from 2011-2013."

All Lions fans now have a new appreciation for Linehan's offense, and how he covered up weaknesses on the roster. Sure, his offensive lines still couldn't run block to save their lives, but they did pretty well in pass protection (2nd in adjusted sack rate in 2013). Now the offensive line is bad at both run blocking and pass blocking.

I've pretty much written off this season, as the offense looks even worse than last year, and the defense is no longer good enough to compensate. Given the brutality of the remaining schedule, finishing 6-10 would be an accomplishment.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Boy, Norv's been impressive last year and this year (one weird game in San Jose aside), hasn't he? I mean, once Peterson was gone last year, that bunch had no business being competitive, and he's really managed throuh some horrible pass blocking so far this year.

52 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I've written it before, but general opinions of offensive coordinators are almost directly proportional to the quality of the offensive line. People can see when a QB sucks and make that mental adjustment in their head, but without good blocking it just limits how creative a coordinator can be and there's just no getting around defenders in the backfield.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

Which is why great OCs will either (1) make building the line a priority, or (2) call plays commensurate with their line's ability to run them.

That might seem elementary, but how often do we see OCs (and HCs) decide to implement their systems, regardless of the personnel on the field? Because their system is flawless and can be taught to and executed by anyone.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think if your o line sucks, its better to go the route of the chargers - lots of short passes out of shotgun and spread. Sure - it won't fix your problems, but its a lot better than pretending you can protect your team by running the ball and max protecting.

I have a very wedded theory about o lines. The difference in terms of offensive production between a mediocre line and a pretty good one isn't that much. And few teams have great one's.

However, a tire fire of an o line will submarine a team no matter what they have.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

And if you're one of the 20 teams in the NFL that doesn't have a QB as good as Rivers?

Yeah the Colts, Broncos, Packers, and Chargers have all at times (or are currently) just telling the QB to go out and be amazing, but does anyone think the OCs are doing a good job?

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I think the packers and chargers oc's have a had some say in their success. I say some, not even close to all. Remember, before Mccoy and Wisenhunt, Rivers was going through two really sub par seasons before turning it around. The switch in philosophy at least cut down the turnovers.

And Cosell has mentioned how mccarthy's system has really helped Rodger strike that perfect balance of structure and improvisation - really accentuating his skills.

Colts and Broncos are different for different reasons. No, their coordinators deserve no credit. None.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

The lions offensively yesterday reminded me of the Colts. Both teams are trying to run a scheme that just doesn't fit the personnel. The strength of both offenses are down the field receivers. They really need to play to that and live with whatever hiccups result. AS the bears showed on Sunday, avoiding turnovers can still mean your offense was awful.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

I'm going to actually praise Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Given exactly two healthy, good skill position players (Forte and Bennett) he came out with a very well designed running attack that really worked. He's also managed a shuffled offensive line well.

Through 3 games, the offense has looked well coached and creative enough.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 3

They didn't actually score though, which is sort of the point of offense on most teams. I thought Gase's Broncos offenses were creative and well coached too; but they were sometimes a bit Rube Goldberg and always most successful when Peyton just ran everything.