Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

10 Oct 2011

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

compiled by Rivers McCown

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 tune 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 Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.

Tennessee Titans 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 38

Ben Muth: Matt Hasselbeck throws a pass just off eligible tackle Michael Otto's fingertips on first and goal. I fear that may be Otto's last redzone target today.

Aaron Schatz: I think this game has started with a flag on every single down on the first Tennessee drive. Or something close to it, at least. Evenly distributed. Everybody's feeling flag-happy today.

J.J. Cooper: Credit the Steelers' special team coach Al Everest with a good memory. Last year the Steelers started their game against the Titans with a reverse on a kick return to Antonio Brown for a touchdown. This year, on their first kick return Brown faked the reverse for a 50-yard return.

Mike Tanier: The Titans-Steelers game is on the bar television next to the Eagles game, so I can look to my left if I want to see a decent tackle.

Mike Kurtz: Steelers execute a beautiful fake punt around midfield, Daniel Sepulveda to Ryan Mundy. The Titans didn't even look, just went through the motions, didn't even realize what was going on until Mundy was 15 yards downfield, ended up with 33 yards. Gorgeous.

Three plays later, the Titans bite completely on play action, easy pitch and catch to Ward for a touchdown. The play before that? A lightning-quick end-around to Antonio Brown. Very creative end to that drive, kept Tennessee on its heels and it paid off for them.

Aaron Schatz: We even have a Jonathan Dwyer sighting! Titans run defense does not look good today.

Steelers are running a lot of a formation where they start in offset I, then motion Heath Miller back into the backfield for a full house before snapping.

Danny Tuccitto: At 21-3 midway through the second quarter, it sure looks like the Titans' defense DVOA will be taking a hit this week. They basically have no answers for the formation and personnel variation being used by the Steelers offense so far

Ben Muth: Hasselbeck drops back on a third-and-8, pump fakes, turns around, and then falls into the fetal position. Three minutes left in the first half and Tennessee hasn't converted a third down yet.

Aaron Schatz: Note: Ravens clobbered Steelers. Titans whipped Ravens. Steelers currently dominating Titans. This is why we don't rank teams based on "X beat Y."

Danny Tuccitto: I realize that this is the year of the quarterback, but, at 21-3, do we still need to be hearing about Roethlisberger's foot after EVERY throw? Is Dan Dierdorf a color commentator and former player, or is he a podiatrist?

Tom Gower: The first half of this game looked an awful lot more like the Titans I expect to see this season. Reinstated fullback Ahmard Hall had a key block that helped spring Chris Johnson for 21 yards on the first play of the game, and he's had nine yards on his next 21 carries. Nate Washington has been quite quiet-not sure exactly what the Steelers are doing on him-but Damian Williams seems to be cottoning on to the offense a little, though the same cannot be said of Jared Cook.

Defensively, the Steelers have been inconsistent running the ball, minus of course the huge run by Dwyer where deep safety Jordan Babineaux did his best Brian Russell impression. Roethlisberger hasn't been attacked the Titans vertically, as I expected, but instead is throwing a bunch of short and intermediate stuff. It's kind of reminiscent to me of Kyle Orton's play in the game the Titans lost to the Broncos at home last year -- not as many sacks that game, but avoiding what pressure there is and finding an open receiver. Once again, in-breaking routes against Jason McCourty seem to be moderately fruitful ground. Add in the two special teams breakdowns on the long kickoff return and fake punt, and only that bit of Roethlisberger stupidity keeps the halftime score from being worse than 21-3.

Robert Weintraub: I hate to compliment Roethlisberger (or Ben as Dierdorf calls him every single play), but his holding on to the ball while getting sacked early in the third quarter was astounding.

Danny Tuccitto: Not to have this devolve into another esoteric rule discussion, but can someone explain to me why offensive players don't get called for facemask on stiff-arms if they grab and pull? Isaac Redman nearly turns Barrett Ruud into Linda Blair circa The Exorcist, and Ruud responds by grabbing Redman's facemask (possibly out of disorientation from all that head torque). Penalty on Ruud turns a one-yard loss into 15 yards and a first down for the Steelers.

Robert Weintraub: Yeah that one definitely should have been offsetting at worst.

Mike Kurtz: Redman definitely committed an offensive facemask, but the only time OFM ever, ever gets called is if a ball carrier grabs the mask and rips the guy down to the ground or twists his whole body around. Never count on that being called unless it's so bad it becomes a safety issue.

J.J. Cooper: I guess nothing explains how bad the Steelers' offensive line has been than this. Max Starks, unwanted by anyone all year, is re-signed by the Steelers this week. He practices three times and is immediately handed back his starting left tackle job. Not only does he play, but he makes a pretty dramatic difference in the Steelers' pass protection. Today Roethlisberger usually has time to look to his second option instead of dodging a pass rusher as he gets set in the pocket.

Mike Kurtz: Not just on offense, but on defense! Max Starks is some kind of wizard, clearly.

J.J. Cooper: Karma makes up for the Steelers' earlier successful fake punt. Now the Titans block a punt and Finnegan recovers it. But for the second time in two weeks, the Steelers' opponent loses a return for a touchdown because of a block in the back.

They just flashed up a stat that Rob Bironas is 50 percent successful on onside kicks. Is there any proof that certain kickers have a knack for onside kicks? Or is this a case of too small of a sample size to make any judgements?

OK, the Steelers-Titans game is officially over as Mike Wallace gets his usual 40-yard touchdown by beating a corner and safety. That makes four catches of forty yards or more in five games.

Tom Gower: I didn't see much in the second half to change what I saw in the first half -- a little more activity for Washington, a little more miscommunication with Damian Williams. Really, though, this game was all about the defense. The Steelers had nine possessions: a three-and-out, a four-and-out, five touchdowns, a field goal, and the 61-yard drive that Roethlisberger's stupid interception killed. When seven of your opponent's nine possessions get that much yardage, chances are good that you're going to lose.

Oakland Raiders 25 at Houston Texans 20

Rivers McCown: The Texans have their customary awesome drive to start the game, then the Raiders catch Houston off-guard with a flea ficker, but Jason Campbell overthrows Chaz Schillens by about three yards when the closest defensive back was five yards away. Houston is going to the passing game a bit more than you'd expect early, and then Matt Schaub throws a tipped at the line interception into the arms of Lamarr Houston.

Surprisingly, the run defense has been pretty stout for the Texans so far. So far being the key word.

Houston gets back on the scoreboard on a beautiful play action touchdown where the Raiders forget to cover Joel Dreessen. The Raiders got to 7-6 off a pair of turnovers on Houston's side of the field. Those resulted in scoring drives of -1 yard and 2 yards as Sebastian Janikowski went to work.

Robert Weintraub: Injury update -- Mario Williams out for the game with a pec. That sounds pretty cool, at least.

Rivers McCown: The play Williams left on didn't actually look that bad. In fact, it looked more like he hurt his finger on the sack than anything.

With two minutes left in the first half, the Raiders finally discovered that picking on Jason Allen is a good idea. Wade Phillips got a little overaggressive and Allen blew a tackle that let Darius Heyward-Bey take it to the house.

Robert Weintraub: Michael Bush with a very alert play for Oakland -- flea-flicker called, but he notes that if he tosses it back, Jason Campbell will be crushed instantly, so he holds it and runs for a few yards.

Rivers McCown: After a huge third-and-1 stop, the Raiders kill the Texans with a successful fake punt that goes for about 30 yards. The Oakland rushing game has done a lot more this half and that has really carried them since the Texans seem to be giving up doubling Allen's man so that they can keep blitzing. No Williams is also a factor.

Tom Gower: After a Matt Schaub sack, Gary Kubiak elects to kick the field goal with three minutes to play and a timeout remaining down 8, rather than go for it. And, no, the Texans do not onside after the made field goal. Jim Caldwell would approve of this strategy.

A strategy Jim Caldwell would not come up with: after a first down run and the Texans taking their final timeout, the Raiders throw deep on second down. It falls incomplete, and the clock stops. Third down run, and they're punting at the two minute warning ... which is exactly what would have happened if they'd run on second down instead of throwing.

Rivers McCown: To be fair, they kicked the field goal on fourth-and-18, it's not like they had good odds to convert that.

Describing the second-half of this ballgame briefly because I have turned the living room into a mess due to it: The Raiders defensive line absolutely destroyed the Texans offensive line. Schaub struggled under the pressure, and Jacoby Jones struggled to do anything right. The fact that the Texans were in the game and had a last-gasp chance felt like a miracle.

Houston's sports radio stations are now feeding off the awkward play Schaub had with seven seconds left at the Oakland 5. He moved forward, drew a safety, and the safety jumped up on him. He's not mobile enough to get by that man, so he threw an goofy off-balance floater that was easily picked off to end the game.

Tom Gower: To be clear, I'm not sure Kubiak was clearly wrong there, just of his possible strategic decisions, he made the most conservative possible choices.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at Buffalo Bills 31

Mike Tanier: Juan Castillo is grossly incompetent and must be fired immediately. I wouldn't trust him to supervise my kid at recess at this point.

Aaron Schatz: Bills have picked off Michael Vick twice in first quarter, first time on a tipped pass, second time when Vick was hit in motion. The Patriots game was similar ... the Bills defensive line actually gets most of their interceptions. They just happen to fall into the hands of defensive backs, but the linemen are doing most of the work.

Mike Tanier: Barf-o-rama in Buffalo!

Aaron Schatz: Oh man, I feel for you Mike. Vick is 9-for-13 with three picks, which means he has only one ball that has hit the ground. Somewhat similar to Tom Brady in the game against Buffalo. The Bills defense really isn't that good, but they're great at picking the ball off. The Eagles really need to try running McCoy more today.

Vince Verhei: Eagles were favored once again today. If that score holds up, I may write about them in AGS for the third straight week, just so I can spend 800 words yelling at America that this team sucks and has sucked all year, so for God's sake stop betting on them.

Aaron Schatz: The thing is, I thought that the problem was that the Eagles defense sucked and the Bills offense was getting disrespected by Vegas and the media. But the Eagles defense isn't throwing three picks right now, Michael Vick is.

Doug Farrar: Vick Awareness Fail: Halfway through the second quarter, third-and-six, and safety George Wilson enhances his already ridiculous game by careening in on Vick and deflecting a pass that should have NEVER been thrown. No blockers, right in Vick's line of sight as he's throwing to LeSean McCoy. That's an inexcusable throw. Wilson creeps up to blitz playside pre-snap. Whaddya want, Mike -- should be hold up a sign?

Vince Verhei: Oh my God. Eagles intercept Ryan Fitzpatrick and have a chance to add points at the end of the half. They're in field goal range, but Vick hangs in the pocket, then throws the ball ten yards out of the back of the end zone ... and the half expires. Vick and Reid timidly ask for one more second, but do not get it.

Mike Tanier: Bobby April. Interim coach. Everyone else, gone.

Doug Farrar: Tanier's blood-alcohol DVOA peaking right ... about ... now.

Vince Verhei: The circus continues. Eagles open the second half with a "surprise" onside kick, except they all huddle together and then sprint to the ball, ruining the element of surprise. The Bills were not fooled. They were actually running toward the ball as it was kicked, and they appeared to recover. I'm not sure what happened -- maybe the Bills called timeout? -- but the play was waved off and Philly kicked off again, normally this time.

Ben Muth: The Eagles try a surprise onside kick to start the second half. The kicker was talking to his guys and the turned around suddenly to dribble the ball out. Didn't work though as the Bills recovered.

But that didn't matter because the ref never whistled the ball ready for play. The Eagles can't even screw up an onside kick right this year.

Doug Farrar: And with that aborted sneak onside kick attempt to begin the third quarter, Tanier fires April, as well.

Rivers McCown: Tanier now frantically trying to get the bartender to pop in the 2008 Phillies DVD.

Vince Verhei: The Fox broadcasters have apparently caught on, as they're now cutting to repeated shots of an overwhelmed Juan Castillo shouting into his headset.

Mike Tanier: Castillo is Dana Bible II and needs to be coaching JV tennis somewhere 2000 miles from Philadelphia.

Danny Tuccitto: Prediction: On C.J. Spiller's eight yard run at 11:15 in the third quarter, entering data in "broken tackles" column of game chart causes fatal error in Microsoft Excel.

Aaron Schatz: At this point, I feel guilty for constantly assigning Eagles fans to chart Eagles games.

Vince Verhei: After their defense gives up yet another score, Eagles' next drive starts with a wide receiver screen that loses yards. Note to Andy Reid: You have a bevy of playmaking receivers and a quarterback who shoots laser beams with his arm. You're playing a defense that came into the game with four sacks on the season. Leave a blocker or two in the backfield and throw the damn ball downfield.

Vick then bails everyone out with a 50-ish yard run to set up a McCoy touchdown.

Eagles have pulled within seven, and Buffalo starts deep in their own end following an ill-advised kick return out of the end zone. The tackling displayed by the Eagles defense on the ensuing drive is ... let's go with "uninspiring."

Eagles now have the ball at their own 20, down seven, with five minutes and change to go. Has anyone seen Tanier? Did his liver finally explode?

Vick throws too far in front of a receiver on an out route, resulting in a tip-drill pick. Bills then have a fourth-and-1 at midfield, line up to draw the Eagles offsides, and the Eagles oblige. I can think of no more fitting way for this team to lose a football game.

Ben Muth: The Eagles game could not have ended any other way.

Aaron Schatz: The worst part is you want to accuse them of playing unprepared rookies or something, but that was one of their most experienced veterans who jumped offsides, Juqua Parker.

Also, the fourth Vick pick was not a tip drill as much as it was a fumble. Jason Avant had the ball stripped by Drayton Florence. It was the kind of situation where normally the ball hits the turf and the play is declared incomplete, but the ball bounced into the hands of Nick Barnett without ever hitting the ground. It was a seriously unlucky interception. The Eagles are simultaneously unlucky and undisciplined. Not a good combo.

Robert Weintraub: The Bills had a virtually identical interception last week against the Bengals, when Andre Caldwell juggled it and then kicked it up in the air. That one was returned for a TD, too. The Bills are looking so far like the '09 Saints.

Mike Tanier: I would just like to let everyone know that my phone died. I did not drink myself into oblivion or go on a spree of any kind, temptation withstanding.

Seattle Seahawks 36 at New York Giants 25

Doug Farrar: Seahawks give Michael Robinson three straight fullback blasts in the second quarter in the red zone, and it's Seattle's second fumble today in that area. I am having Notre Dame flashbacks.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks and Giants tied at 14 at halftime. A weird, sloppy game where it feels like both teams have been lucky. Seahawks were fortunate to start two drives in Giants territory and another at midfield. Giants were lucky to recover a pair of Seattle fumbles inside the red zone.

Seahawks have controlled most of the action -- they lead 13-11 in first downs, 242-163 in total yards, and it was worse than that before the Giants' two-minute drill touchdown. The big play was 47-yard Marshawn Lynch run down to the 1, but mostly it's been Tarvaris Jackson nickel-and-diming his way down the field. Each Seattle tackle has given up a quick sack, but otherwise Jackson has had good protection. That's critical, because Jackson is one of the most hesitant, slow-to-react quarterbacks I've ever seen. For a guy who was brought it because he was supposedly familiar with the offense, it sure takes him a while to figure out what's going on.

Seahawks have also generated more pass rush than usual, until that two-minute drill, obviously. I think they've been using fewer over and under shifts and more conventional 4-3 looks. That probably has something to do with it.

Charlie Whitehurst sighting. Jackson picks up a first down on a shotgun read-option, but immediately heads to the sideline.

Robert Weintraub: Anthony Hargrove just blasted Danny Ware for a safety. You don't see a safety on a running play when the scrimmage line is the 5 too often.

Vince Verhei: I mentioned the Seahawks' field position earlier. Giants have had 11 possessions. Seven have started at or within their own 20, and their best start was their own 41.

Following the safety, by the way, Seahawks go three-and-out -- and then down another punt inside the five. Jon Ryan for MVP!

Eli Manning chucks a wounded duck into double-coverage. Kam Chancellor touches the ball first, but tips it straight up, and Victor Cruz pulls the ball in and rambles for a touchdown. Bradshaw adds a two-point conversion and it's 22-19, Giants.

After recovering a Giants fumble, the Seahawks follow with a zero-yard scoring drive, a field goal to tie the game at 22. Does anybody here want to win?

Let it be known that on October 9, 2011, both Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst played well for Seattle. Down three in the fourth quarter, Whitehurst calmly moves down the field 12 yards at a time. Giants then screw up on defense, with two guys covering a quick out route and leaving Doug Baldwin alone in the end zone. Seahawks up 29-25 with less than three minutes to go.

Giants get a first-and-goal following a ridiculous Cruz fingertip grab, but 80 for the Giants slips and can't handle a pass, and Brandon Browner reels it in and goes 90 yards the other way for the icing pick-six.

New Orleans Saints 30 at Carolina Panthers 27

Vince Verhei: Panthers break out the old school option pitch for a long touchdown. Panthers got a great block on the cornerback by a wide receiver, and DeAngelo Williams broke a tackle by a linebacker. Saints had a safety back there in position to at least keep him out of the end zone, but Williams just makes him look silly with a shoulder fake and scores.

Doug Farrar: I was thinking how teams aren't really playing the pitch against the Panthers is a real testament to Cam Newton's progression as a pure pocket quarterback who's learned not to bail. You start to integrate that aspect of his play, and the dude becomes very dangerous.

Rob Weintraub: Saints-Panthers might be the hardest hitting game of the season so far. Cam taking plenty of hard shots, and both teams are playing on the border of the rulebook.

J.J. Cooper: Newton just made Fran Tarkenton proud by dropping back, reversing field to scramble away from pressure, then running back to the other sideline, cutting up for a first-down scramble. Nice run, especially as he ran when he had too, not as the first or second option.

Arizona Cardinals 10 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Robert Weintraub: Adrian Peterson's third touchdown comes as he bulls straight through Patrick Peterson. I'm willing to wager that never happened to PP at LSU. Even Cam Newton didn't ever do that to him.

Ben Muth: Do you think the Cards can get Andrew Luck if they go 1-15? I hope so, because I'm not sold on Matt Barkley.

J.J. Cooper: Jared Allen vs. Levi Brown is one of the worst matchups you could draw up, so I'm kind of surprised Allen has only two sacks. Brian Robison vs. Jeremy Bridges/Brandon Keith on the other side is just as bad. One of the reasons you can explain the Vikings dominating the Cardinals.

Kansas City Chiefs 28 at Indianapolis Colts 24

Robert Weintraub: Announcers give credit for unreal Dwayne Bowe tip drill TD grab to ...Todd Haley. Coached him up or something.

Vince Verhei: I think Jacksonville and Kansas City are in a two-team race for Luck. Rams will get some wins somewhere in the NFC West.

Cincinnati Bengals 30 at Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Robert Weintraub: If anyone is wondering what to make of the Andy Dalton-Blaine Gabbert rookie quarterback duel, it should be noted that heavy winds are making any pass over ten yards an adventure.

J.J. Cooper: Will love to see the all-22 on a Gabbert-to-Jason Hill touchdown against the Bengals. Somehow the entire defense let Hill get behind them with no one within 10 yards of him.

Robert Weintraub: No need -- Leon Hall mistakenly passed off Hill to the safety, who was busy sprinting up to get the tight end. Hall seen pounding himself on helmet repeatedly afterward.

Thanks to Matt Turk and a 22-yard punt from his end zone, Cincy takes over deep in Jacksonville turf. They convert a fourth-and-6, then punch it in with Bernard Scott, who is still alive, thanks for asking. Up three with a little under two minutes left.

Jags officially hand it over -- rushing to get off a third-and-short with the clock ticking, Jacksonville is not set, and the snap flies past Gabbert who is looking elsewhere.

San Diego Chargers 29 at Denver Broncos 24

Tom Gower: The Chargers offense still feels donut-shaped to me, with not enough completions in the middle of the field. The refusal to give the ball to Ryan Mathews in the red zone also bothers me greatly, though he did at least miss some time with a calf injury today before returning. Kyle Orton is 6-of-13 for 34 yards with an interception ... yeah, it's that kind of game. The Chargers lead 23-10 at half, with the Broncos' score coming on a pick-six by the not-very-good Cassius Vaughn.

Aaron Schatz: Tim Tebow time! Please please please, one of you please be watching the Broncos.

Vince Verhei: I thought Brady Quinn had passed him?

Tom Gower: Tebow played the first series of the second half. Two Willis McGahee runs netted a couple yards, then he completed a pass to Eric Decker for zero yards on third down. Punt. It looked like he had a read left on third down , but the Chargers had the quick out covered, so he threw to Decker on the other side of the field. Tebow was also in in the first half for a play, where he ran QB Dive Left for two yards.

Vince Verhei: Tebow's second drive consisted of a three-and-out. He's very good at giving his receivers a chance to make highlight reels, throwing balls downfield that are almost, but not quite, uncatchable.

Tebow underthrew Rosario by a full yard. Rosario is able to reach back and down and get his fingertips on it before it falls to the turf. CBS then puts up a graphic about how many balls the Broncos have dropped today. Tebow finishes that drive by hanging in the pocket on third down before rifling a pass at Matt Willis' ankles.

Tom Gower: The Broncos did pick up a first down that drive on a McGahee run, so they only went about 29:30 of gametime without one.

Vince Verhei: Tebow runs it in (designed run up the middle out of a shotgun) for a 12-yard score. Denver goes crazy. McGahee adds the two-pointer to pull Denver within eight points. Camera cuts to Kyle Orton clapping half-heartedly. In three drives, Tim Tebow has zero passing yards.

Tom Gower: Philip Rivers gets a kind of unusual fumble, shot-putting the ball forward after Robert Ayers knocks it out. John Fox properly wins his challenge, as he lost control before his arm started going forward. Two runs later, the Broncos run a screen against a corner blitz, and Knowshon Moreno dives into the end zone from 28 yards away. Tebow now 2-of-6 for 28 yards with completions of zero and -3 yards downfield, and six rushes for 38 yards on the ground. Chargers overplay the quarterback draw on the two point conversion to tie the game at 26, and Brandon Lloyd can't haul in the pass.

Vince Verhei: Chargers kick a field goal on their last drive. Lloyd finally pulls in one of Tebow's barely catchable balls, a one-handed snag along the sidelines that was ruled incomplete, but reversed on replay. Tebow gets one more completion in the middle of the field and the Broncos spike the clock, with one play to actually win this thing. He then scrambles around for nearly ten seconds, winding this way and that, until he actually finds a guy in the back of the end zone, but two Chargers break it up and that's that.

Tom Gower: I'll let J.J. do the official measurement, but I had Tebow at 11.3 seconds from snap to throw on the game-ending play.

New York Jets 21 at New England Patriots 30

Aaron Schatz: Jets start the game against the Patriots in the same 3-1-7 set that confused the hell out of the Pats in last year's playoffs. They were blitzing a little out of it, though, not just rushing three. Then they came out for the second drive in a more standard 2-4-5 nickel. What's interesting is that the Pats were throwing on the 3-1-7 but had Law Firm running all over the more standard formation.

Hey, if you guys wanted an offensive facemask, they just called one against Rob Gronkowski in the Jets-Pats game. I didn't really get a close look at what exactly Gronkowski did.

Mike Kurtz: Looked pretty innocuous, actually. Wing must've had a really good look at it.

Antonio Cromartie has looked REALLY bad thus far.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots close out the first half with Aaron Hernandez effectively dropping both a touchdown and a field goal. He dropped what would have been a touchdown, but worse, it went off his hands and into the hands of Cromartie, which means the Pats don't get a field-goal try.

Jets are playing a more conventional defense than they did in the playoff game last year. Even when they have seven defensive backs, they're sending four or five most of the time. Pats are getting some runs, some passes, mostly to wherever Revis isn't. Jets are doing well running on the Pats. Overall Pats have been the better team, but that pick to end the first half keeps it close.

Jets trying out a new offensive strategy, "ground-and-pound-and-get-stuck-in-third-and-long"

Mike Tanier: Jets blitz the house from the left, Patriots run a shotgun sweep right.

Aaron Schatz: For most of this game I was going to say that the Jets offense was really unimpressive. There were very few passes to Santonio Holmes or Dustin Keller, probably their two best weapons. Wouldn't it make sense to run Keller up against the poor Pats safeties? However, Jets finally had impressive 85-yard drive to pull within six. Great touchdown pass to Holmes.

Pats get ball back with 7:07 left and proceed to run eight straight running plays, seven to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and one sneak by Brady, to take five minutes off the clock. That leaves third-and-2, they pass to Gronkowski for the first down, and the game's basically over. A Jets stop on third-and-1 gives Stephen Gostkowski a chance to kick a field goal that keeps the Pats' streak of 30-point games going at 13. They'll tie the 99-00 Rams if they get 30 against Dallas next week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 at San Francisco 49ers 48

Danny Tuccitto: First quarter over in San Francisco. My general impression is that Harbaugh's really unveiling the West Coast offense this week. Tight ends heavily involved. Almost every pass has been in the middle of the field. Josh Morgan catching a slant. Dumpoffs to Frank Gore over the middle look like they're by design with Tampa Bay's linebackers vacating the area in Tampa-2. One other thing I'll say is that previous San Francisco teams would fold like a house of cards after that Gore fumble in the red zone. This year, Carlos Rogers gets a pick-six on next play. Don't get me wrong, it's not the proverbial swagger; just less of the "here we go again" mindset it seems.

Aaron Schatz: You know, that sounds about right. One of the things I've always argued about sports is that there aren't a few players who have special positive powers, but there are a few players who have special negative powers. I think most players are fine in the clutch, but there are a few who can't handle that pressure. I believe that most relief pitchers in baseball could close, but there are a few who clearly can't. And I think that most football players have plenty of confidence and swagger ... but clearly there are occasionally teams who get that "here we go again, we're doomed" mindset. And the idea that Harbaugh and a 3-1 record help to assuage that anxiety makes sense.

Danny Tuccitto: Usually, teams run bunch formations with two receivers and one tight end. On the 49ers' latest touchdown, they line up in a bunch right with Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, and Justin Peelle. Peelle is wide open in the right flat, but Davis is wide open in the middle of the field with Walker in a position to block. Smith hits Davis, Walker blocks a would-be tackler, and Davis barrels his way into the end zone.

Decleating of the week: Dashon Goldson just blew up Mike Williams (legally somehow), and it's ruled a catch-fumble instead of an incompletion. San Francisco takes over at the Tampa Bay 36.

Aaron Schatz: So Danny, do you think this game today is sending the message that we need to take the 49ers seriously, and not just in a "they're guaranteed to win the NFC West at 8-8" kind of way?

Danny Tuccitto: Memo to Raheem Morris and Greg Olson: You're down 41-3 in the fourth quarter. Why are you running on first and second down? Why are you punting from midfield?

Aaron, having had my will beaten down to a dust over the past eight seasons, I just reflexively assume the worst. In that vein, they've been lucky the last two weeks to play teams that aren't as good as their reputation (PHI) or record (TB) suggest. I guess that makes them a good team, but I still think things would be ugly if they had to face a truly elite team. I'll get back to you after they travel to Baltimore in Week 12. But yeah, at the very least, they're clearly the best team in the NFC West.

As I was saying, Aaron, Harbaugh goes for it on fourth-and-3 at the Tampa Bay 20. Colin Kaepernick completes a pass to Morgan, who runs to the one-inch line, and looks to have broken his ankle in the process. Had to be carried off by teammates. With Edwards still out, this now -- for real, this time -- becomes the Michael Crabtree Era in the San Francisco wide receiving corps.

I know it's tough to evaluate players in the late stages of a 48-3 game, but Aldon Smith continues to impress as a pass rusher. He's got three sacks so far, but I'd be interested to see what his hit and hurry stats are like.

Vince Verhei: On the Niners front, here is a complete list of NFC teams that I think are definitely better than San Francisco: Green Bay and New Orleans. They might not be better than teams like Detroit or Atlanta, but they'd at least be competitive. I think they'd be the favorites to win the NFC East, and would at least be wild card contenders elsewhere.

Green Bay Packers 25 at Atlanta Falcons 14

Tom Gower: Just for the record, this is the first time the Packers have trailed by 14 points since the playoff loss to Arizona, and the first time they've trailed in the regular season since they trailed the Vikings and B**** F**** on November 1, 2009. So far (Packers just kicked the FG to go down 14-3), the Falcons have done a very impressive job of scheming, and now that Chad Clifton has joined Bryan Bulaga on the shelf, even the Falcons' pass rush will probably be getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers.

With the tackles out, this looks more like the early version of Rodgers, having to run around and avoid sacks. He's obviously improved a lot since then, but it's limiting their offense. The lack of sticky glue on his receivers' hands (Jermichael Finley on the goalline right before half, Donald Driver over the middle before the long FG to make it 14-9) hasn't helped.

Aaron Schatz: James Sanders in man coverage on a wide receiver is not a good matchup, kids.

Another thought: It's harder to add interesting scouting comments for Audibles during the Sunday night game because Collinsworth seems to usually point out stuff that I'm noticing, whereas all the daytime commentators say a bunch of meaningless nonsense.

Rivers McCown: Mike McCarthy: Not a fan of your illegal substitution calls.

There's that Sam Baker that Ben Muth always tells me isn't playing very well. I haven't watched much Atlanta this year -- have they actually used their blocking tight ends a lot?

Vince Verhei: I thought, on the whole, Marshall Newhouse played OK at tackle. Maybe it's because I've been watching Seattle for years, but I've seen plenty of tackles play worse than that.

Tom Gower: I feel like they run six offensive linemen on passing plays a lot more than most teams, and it's regularly Svitek next to Baker.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers was definitely under more pressure in the first half than the second half.

Mike Kurtz: What really amazed me throughout this game is Matt Ryan's inaccuracy. Green Bay hasn't been able to bring much pressure, so it's not like Ryan's hearing footsteps. He's just misfiring while in the pocket. That more than anything is why they're going to lose this game -- the defense played surprisingly well.

Tom Gower: I spewed about this on Twitter Friday night, but I feel like I'm actually sort of starting to figure Atlanta out. They coach like they mostly trust Ryan's ability to make pre-snap reads, but don't trust his ability to read and improvise post-snap. They got out to the early lead because they were able to scheme successful plays that Ryan could execute (his second strength). The Jones pick was not because they wanted to change their identity as a team, but because it was the best way of maximizing the ability of Ryan's success on throws defined off the pre-snap reads. We saw what happened when they tried to highlight Jenkins -- it didn't work. The throwing a lot to Jones early this year hasn't been highlighting Jones' ability or justifying his draft status -- rather it's that they now have two viable options for pre-defined throws based on the defensive look pre-snap. Six offensive linement instead of an extra wide receiver isn't a big problem in that case, because it's not as big a deal if you have to wait for one of the receivers to beat somebody.

I should emphasize that this is sort of an evolving theory, and progressed while watching the Seahawks game and I feel better about it after tonight's game. I'm sure I'll have to revise it, but I feel like the Falcons' offense actually make some sense now for the first time this year. I should also note this theory includes the fact that Michael Turner is now no longer a feature back.

Robert Weintraub: Is it me or are Al and Cris writing this one off a little early, especially with all the comebacks we've seen this season? I know it's a long shot, but two scores in 1:10 with an onside kick -- hardly unprecedented.

Rivers McCown: With the benefit of hindsight, I'm gonna go with: "it's just you."

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 10 Oct 2011

241 comments, Last at 13 Oct 2011, 4:06am by Eggwasp


by troycapitated p... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 10:49am

The Roethlisberger INT was apparently a result of a miscommunicated audible. The original play call was apparently to clock the ball, but they tried to change it to a quick pass to Sanders and the receivers didn't get the change.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:17am

I'm a big fan of that idea. Spiking the ball is obviously valuable, since it's the quickest way to stop the clock. But when you're already spending at least 10 seconds getting your offense lined up legally, and the defense is sluggishly getting back on their side to drain a couple more seconds and catch their breaths, a surprise shot at 10, 20, or more yards down the sideline is a great idea. It should only take a few extra seconds, and there doesn't seem to be much risk-- that is, if the receiver knows about the plan too.

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:43pm

Dont let what actually happened get in the way of a good Roethlisberger bashing.

The guy throws 5 TD's and completes over 70% of his passes, yet the reaction is to call him stupid twice. Makes perfect sense to me.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:50pm

I was a little taken aback that an FO writer actually wrote "I hate to compliment Roethlisberger."

Yes, he's an awful human being. But this is supposed to be a professional operation, and I'd be disappointed if there were staffers who can't keep personalities out of it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:56pm

I appreciate the honesty. All the women I know refer to the guy as 'Rapistberger'. I can understand anyone's reluctance to say good things about a guy with such a record of sleaze.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:59pm

Just talking with other fans, yeah, I agree. But I expect better from professionals. It's not like it's news to anyone working for FO that these emails and IMs become published content.

by Sidewards :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:08pm

You're reading waaaaaay too much into it. Weintraub is a Bengals fan.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:11pm

But these are just emails between fans. That's why they watch whatever games they want to watch. I like that they keep it that way, rather than try to be polished and "professional", regardless of the fact that it's going to be published.

There is no pretense of this being some kind of proper neutral analysis or anything - biases are free to be shown. (And for the record, Mr. Weintraub is a Bengals fan, so the comment likely has more to do with that, than any political commentary on what kind of person Roethlisberger is.)

by Basilicus :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:48pm

I'm more taken aback that FO employs a Bengals fan. Doesn't that show a serious lack of judgment on all parties involved? :)

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:54pm

I think it showed an exhaustive, painstaking search to actually find one.

by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:24pm

Understood, but everything the "staff" says on these things is obviously available to the readers of the site. More to the point, the things they write are INTENDED to be read.

One writer "hating to compliment" a player and another overlooking a otherwise dominant performance to harp on a single play that he calls stupid more than once (which, as it turns out, was equally the fault of the receiver) really brings into question the "unbiased" nature of the site.

It doesnt really matter, but (as mentioned by others) I expect better. This site seems to have devolved over the past few years.

by Sidewards :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:41pm

Clearly not understood. A significant part of the joy of reading these writers offerings is their biases. How fun would Tanier's Eagles rants be if he weren't a fan who was personally wounded by every ridiculous thing that happens when they walk onto the field? How funny would Word of Muth be without Ben's Stanford bias, or his vehement hatred of defensive lineman?

To say that the site has devolved because a Bengals fan hates a Steelers quarterback is to deny everything good about football.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:52pm

Yeah, this is the part of the site where we get to see the writers reacting as regular fans, with all their loyalties, hopes and tragedies. IE Tanier and the Dream Team. Audibles is the best part of the site for just the reasons you are complaining about.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:58pm


I don't think it is. As I said, part of the INTENT of this feature is to let all the writers show their biases and simply send emails around like regular fans. This is regardless of whether or not it will be read by the readers - that doesn't enter into it, which is why it's a glimpse into what these writers are like as fans, and what they think about while watching games.

"...really brings into question the "unbiased" nature of the site."

This article IS SUPPOSED to show biases, if that's what the writers are thinking/chatting/emailing about. If you think that the fact that the writers HAVE biases is a problem with the whole site, then there probably isn't any sportscaster or writer that you can read. Those that cover things in an unbiased fashion are simply putting their biases aside - it's not that they don't have them.

by Vicious Chicken of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 10:18am

"By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site"

Please tell me where the prelude to the article states that the intent is to throw aside the illusion of objectivity. It says it isnt the same as the other articles. It doesnt say "this is where we make comments based on nothing but our bias".

Like I said, it doesnt really matter and everyone is free to defend and read whatever they want. Again, I just expect better from an "advanced statistics" site.

by Eddo :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 10:38am

"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."

"...they do not represent a standard review..."

"We watch the games, that we as fans are interested in watching..."

And nice strawman, by the way; just because some bias is included, that doesn't make the whole article the equivalent of making "comments based on nothing but [] bias".

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:02am

There was an obvious pass interference no call on the last play of the game where Willis (I think) got shoved out of the back of the end zone. I doubt it would have made much difference but Denver should have gotten one more play.

I saw a few minutes ago on twitter that Tebow was named the starter in Denver. Prepare yourselves ... for the comment trolls.

by Ferguson1015 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:30am

Agreed that DPI should have been called, although to be fair, Denver got away with quite a few holding calls throughout the game. Not to mention that scuffle that consisted of practically the entire Chargers Offensive line ganging up on 1 or 2 Denver Defensive players where the refs called offsetting penalties. I think the refs just had an off day in that game. It seems to happen a lot when the Chargers play the Broncos in Denver.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:50am

There was no DPI against Willis on the play because Tebow was out of the pocket. Once the QB is scrambling, the defense can maim the receivers until the ball is in the air. In this case, Willis had a play on the pass, but since Tebow threw pretty much a line drive, there's no way Willis was shoved, had time to get his feet, and get back into the play all while the ball was in the air. So, no DPI.

by galactic_dev :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:54am

Tebow is going to save the Broncos! Especially once they play him on defense as well as offense.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:53pm

Funniest thing I heard all Sunday was a Broncos fan, upon the Chargers having to kick off with 28 seconds left, shouting "put Tebow back there."

by MJK :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:05pm

There are a couple of unwritten NFL officiating rules. (1) Never throw a DPI flag on a Hail Mary attempt. (2) Never call an offensive facemask penalty on a ball carrier. (3) Always throw a flag on the Pats defense this season if they manage to prevent a 3rd down conversion, since they are so bad that they must have broken a rule if they managed to make a good play.

Just kidding on (3).

But seriously, I thought the shove out of the back of the end zone should have been DPI as well. The only think I can think of that might mitigate it is that Tebow was out of the pocket and scrambling around. Once the QB is out of the pocket, can you call DPI? I know there's no such thing as illegal contact, because the receivers could be blocking for a QB run. If the ball wasn't in the air yet when the shove occurred, it might not technically have been illegal... Anyone who knows the rule care to clarify? I think the ball was in the air, so possibly moot, but not sure.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:21pm

Illegal contact is only an infraction when the quarterback is in the pocket, but defensive pass interference (which can only take place while the ball is in the air) is still an infraction. Without re-watching the play, I recall thinking that the Chargers could have been called for defensive pass interference. My subjective impression is that NFL refs are very reluctant to call pass interference on hail mary-type plays, and that such plays often include both offensive and defensive pass interference.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:55pm

The only one I really recall was the Lions-Browns game where Stafford converted the winning TD on an untimed down with a separated shoulder.

And on that one, two Browns tackled a Lions receiver through the back of the end zone (ie they tackled him into the stands padding) while the ball was in the air. It was one of the more egregious DPIs I've ever seen.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:58pm

It was time. I was watching the game with a Broncos fan and a Chargers fan and we all knew it was time. During the first quarter we were predicting it. The Chargers fan said there was no question in his mind that the Bolts would blow out an Orton team, but that he was pretty sure if Tebow entered it would spark some kind of ugly bumbling but undeniable comeback that fell just short. It pretty much shook out exactly how we all expected it to. I have a soft spot for Denver, and they just got a whole lot more entertaining to watch, for better or for worse.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:08am

Texans begin their rapid descent back to earth in DVOA. I never thought I would wish to be a Bills fan.

by Southern Philly :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:15am

Was it me, or did Ochocinco sit on the bench for a long time after that (inexcusable) false start late in the 2nd quarter?

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:54pm

If, by "on the bench for a long time" you mean "was targeted 4 plays later", then yeah.

He played the rest of the drive. He also played pretty much every play where the Patriots had 3 WRs on the field.

He's the 3rd WR on a team that plays 70% of their plays in 2WR,2TE,1RB formations. People need to get over it.

by GK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:20am

"Let it be known that on October 9, 2011, both Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst played well for Seattle. Down three in the fourth quarter, Whitehurst calmly moves down the field 12 yards at a time. Giants then screw up on defense, with two guys covering a quick out route and leaving Doug Baldwin alone in the end zone. Seahawks up 29-25 with less than three minutes to go."

The persepective from the stadium yesterday...

A referee -- either intentionally and then ignored later during the penalty huddle, or inadvertently -- blew a whistle to call the play dead when Osi Umenyiora jumped offsides. The players didn't screw up by covering the quick out and leaving a receiver open downfield. Instead, they stopped playing at the whistle that was blown. The crowd in that end zone went berserk, the sideline went berserk, etc.

In a game chock full of fluke plays, dumb mistakes and impressive luck for both football teams, it's a shame the go-ahead TD was scored due to an errant whistle.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:13pm

well, feel better, in the replay one can clearly see the safety bite extremly hard on Whitehurst's pump fake and erase any chance of being involved in the play.

by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:23pm

That's interesting, because if there was a whistle, it wasn't obvious from the replays I saw. It looked a lot more (from TV) like the defense assumed an unabated to the quarterback whistle was inevitable, but the back picked up Umenyiora. The defense was clearly expecting the play to be blown dead, whether or not there was an inadvertent whistle, though. That part seemed pretty obvious.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:23am

As I sit here it seems that the most plausible explanation for the 49es performance yesterday is that London was subject to an instantaneous obliteration by thermonuclear blast/tidal wave/horde of flesh-eating-zombies sometime while I was asleep on saturday night and for the last two days I have been in another celestial realm. There are two things to learn from this,you can still get FO on the internet but even in heaven there's no fresh milk in my fridge. I also would have thought someone would have run a duster around the place before I arrived.

The other explanation is that the niners look like a well coached side that executes well concieved gameplans with some fine personnel. This is a stretch though, it's hard to take seriously. Occam's razor would immediately allow the observer to dismiss a reality where Anthony Davis didn't hold anyone for an entire game (was there nobody within arm's reach?), Ahmad Brooks failed to jump offside on a key third down and Alex Smith played a nearly perfect game.

As that is clearly nonsense all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the 3 tight end bunch formations, all the lovely yards after the catch, the disciplined secondary and the brutish play of both lines. Now I'm off to watch some angels dance on a pin.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:19pm

It is strange reading 49ers fan reactions to the game. So many are giddy about that game, and so few are confident about the future. I guess 8 years of being crap will do that to you.

"Stay humble," Harbaugh implores his team. No one needs to tell the fans that.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:59pm

Well, here's a cautionary tale.

In 2007, the Lions waxed a tolerable Broncos team 44-7.

They then went 3-37 in their next 40 games, with their largest win being 5 points.

by greybeard :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:40pm

49ers are in the NFC West.
And they won quite many games (14) in the last two years despite having the worst coach in the NFL (possibly the worst coach ever among the coaches who stayed on the job for a year or more).

by jimbohead :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 8:16pm

I agree, there are reasons for optimism. Above comment was more a way of legitimizing our slightly irrational fears that this 49ers season still has a chance to fall apart at the seams. It's been a rough decade.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:25am

Sherrod was ok in the second half. Second year and rookie tackle and the line holds up. Kudos to the GB coaching staff.

Last year the Falcons played field position and won. This year the Falcons had the added bonus of the league change on kickoffs, forced the Packers to drive the field on most possessions, but once the Packers figured out the Falcon scheme Rodgers was able to make a series of big pass plays.

Is it my imagination or is Rodgers one of the few guys who throws a really flat ball 30 yards downfield? That seems to me to take a lot of arm strength. Or wrists. Most longer passes that are not bombs still have something of an arc. Rodgers seems to be able to whip some passes on a flat plane.

Bishop had a good game at linebacker. And Peprah was a lot more active than last week so that is a good sign.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:36am

I don't pretenbd to know anything about collge qbs, but the first time I saw Rodgers on the field in a Packers uniform, I couldn't figure out how he fell to the bottom of the first round. Did the Packers coach him through a major mechanics overhaul? How the hell did anyone think that Alex Smith was a much better prospect?

by Travis :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:43am

For one, Rodgers' coach at Cal, Jeff Tedford, had previously developed a bunch of high-profile QB busts, including Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, David Carr, and Kyle Boller.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:46am

That's a pretty dumb reason to conclude that a guy isn't good enough to warrant a high first round slot.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:44am

The word about GB is that Rodgers re-shaped his body and improved his arm strength between his first and second year.

That and McCarthy has a rep as a good qb coach.

Combine the drive from the player itself and that looks to generated the current form on display

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:46am

Smith's Utes tore Pitt apart in the Fiesta Bowl, while Rodgers' Cal lost to Texas Tech in a non-BCS Bowl.

I'm not sure that this explains even most of it, but it had to have hurt.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:01pm

And looking down the list, I see a lot of teams that were either set at QB, or thought they were. KC, for instance, had a pretty good offense with Trent Green. ARI had just acquired Kurt Warner, and SD had drafted Philip Rivers, Marc Bulger was still a good option for STL, etc.

Sure in retrospect all of those GMs would now trade a decade of their lifespan for the chance to draft Rodgers. but at the time his fall wasn't completely inexplicable, just mostly so. It's not NE getting Tom Brady for a used tissue inexplicable.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:16pm

This is the thing, though. I think people put way too much stock in pedigree and not enough in coaching. Yes, Peyton Manning probably would have been Peyton Manning regardless of where he went, but for the most part, I think the QB you draft has some degree of moldability. What you're drafting is potential, but unless you coach him adequately, he'll never realized that potential.

Now, I'm not saying that Ryan Leaf would have succeeded elsewhere, but consider the Rodgers-Smith situation. Two highly touted prospects coming out of college. One get's drafted by a stable organization with excellent coaching and a sound offensive philosophy. He sits behind an established starter for a few years, re-tunes his mechanics, and then steps into a team with lots of talent around him, and becomes a superstar. The other get's drafted by a disfunctional organization, get's thrust into the starting role as a rookie with crappy coaching, a dearth of talent (excepting Gore), and has a different offensive coordinator trying to teach him a different offensive system that demands different skills every year of his career. Obviously, he doesn't do so well.

Even Tom Brady was not very good when he was drafted. He was probably worth more than a 6th round pick, but probably not more than a 3rd. A lot of people don't realize that Brady was the FOURTH QB on the depth chart his rookie year. The Pats were so terrible then that they could afford to keep 4 QB's and take a chance trying to develop a guy that showed some flashes and promise, but that scouts thought didn't have the physical tools to ever succeed. If the 2000 Pats have even a little more talent on their roster, Brady doesn't survive the final roster cut down, probably bounces around the league for a few years, and maybe get's a shot as a backup somewhere, and then only ever gets the spotlight if the guy he backs up gets injured. He never gets coached by Belichick and McDaniels, and never becomes TOM BRADY.

Coaching matters.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:37pm

The fact that 3 of the elite QBs in the league are Brady, Brees and Rodgers shows how much a QB can develop in the NFL. They are all obviously smarter players then when they started but, they are also more athletic and have stronger arms then when they entered the NFL.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:44pm

This did occur to me a bit as I was thinking about it. This was my thought experiment - what if ARI had passed on Rolle to take Rodgers? Not an organization with the pedigree of GB, but he probably would have sat behind Warner and taken over an offense where he'd be throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Given Rodgers' obvious talent and drive, I find it hard to believe that Denny Green or whoever was running their FO could have screwed him up. Kurt Warner's best years in ARI are pretty comparable to an average year for Rodgers in GB. (The team's defenses are a different story.)

Put Alex Smith on that ARI team, and I can't see him succeeding anymore than he did in SD. He's still a marginal QB on a marginal team who got drafted too high because of his numbers in an Urban Meyer spread offense.

Coaching and organizational stability definitely matter, but there are still guys who could have succeeded almost anywhere, like Manning and Brady, and guys who were going to be busts almost anywhere (like Leaf, as you said). Where coaching really matters isn't with guys like Rodgers, although GB has to be commended for handling him exactly right. It's more for moderately-talented quarterbacks like like Marc Bulger and trent Green and Alex Smith.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:07pm

The only QBs I think would have been atleast moderate succeses no matter where they went are Peyton, Eli, Rivers and Ryan those guys all looked like pro QBs even in college. And guys like Vick, Big Ben, Cutler and Palmer are so talented I think they would have flashed anywhere their consistency would be based on the situation they ended up in. I wouldn't put Brady in either class he seems like a case where so many variables needed to go right for it to work out.

by Nathan Forster :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 8:29pm

Maybe I'm in the minority but I think NFL QBs are born and not made. You posit that the Colts organization was better than the Chargers', but it's ultimately circular logic--the conclusion that the Colts organization was "good" and the Chargers organization was "bad" is based mostly, if not entirely, on their records in developing Manning and Leaf respectively. Going into the draft, the Colts were a previously mediocre team that had a bad season, and the Chargers were a borderline playoff team who had appeared in the Super Bowl just a few years earlier. One would be clairvoyant indeed to identify the Colts as a good organization and the Chargers as a bad one in such black and white terms at the time.

Nor did New England have any sort of magic beans when it "coached up" Tom Brady. If it did, then we would be talking about Kevin O'Connell, Kliff Kingsbury, Rohan Davey, and Michael Bishop lighting up the league. The difference between Tom Brady and those guys? Tom Brady is Tom Brady and those other guys are not.

It's just incredibly hard to predict who will and who won't be a successful quarterback. Some things in life are just hard to predict--it doesn't mean that there is some intervening cause that predicts it, such as quality of coaching. If you put first rounder Joey Harrington on the 2002 Patriots and sixth rounder Tom Brady on the 2002 Lions I would take Tom Brady in a "bad" organization any day of the week.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:55am

New England turned Matt Cassel into a tolerable QB, and he wasn't even good enough to play in college.

There's also David Carr Syndrome (also acquired by Joey Harrington), where an otherwise good QB becomes so beaten down by his crap-ass team that he implodes as a player as well.

by MJK :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 1:53pm

You're disproving a statement that I didn't make. I never claimed that coaching and organizations alone could create NFL QB's. If that were true, the well run organizations would always have pro-bowl QB's. But I think it's fair to say that it generally takes both inherent talent AND a good situation and good coaching.

Imagine QB goodness can be measured on a number scale. 0 is Ryan Leaf, 15 is a tolerable starter, 20 gets you a Pro-bowl berth, and 25 is the Hall of Fame. I think basic talent and hard work probably is worth up to 15 points or so. Coaching is probably worth up to about 8 points, and situation/surrounding talent probably up to another 5 or so.

To get to starter quality, a truly elite guy (say, Peyton Manning) will get you there by himself, and it would be tough to screw him up. But most good QB's will only have around 8-10 "innate" points, and need some combination of half decent coaching and half decent talent to get up to starter level.

It takes good coaching AND good innate qualities to be a very good QB. It takes exceptional quality in all 3 to get a Hall of Famer.

Using this scale I would have said that Leaf (or, for that matter, Jamarcus Russel) failed because he probably had above average physical abilities but terrible mental abilities/dedication (say, innate abilities were probably only around a 6 or 7, best case), and was in a bad coaching situation on top of it.

Kingbury, Davey, O'Connell, Bishop all were too low on the innate ability scale, true. But Brady, Cassel (and who knows...maybe Hoyer) had enough innate talent that the good coaching was enough to bring them up to starter calibur or beyond.

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 5:04pm

I think the thing is the individual scales can add up to more than the total. There is a limit to how good a passing offense can be no matter how good each component is. So I would say innate talent could go up to 18, and coaching and surrounding talent can probably both go up to 10, but the max for all 3 is still 25.

by andrew :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:14pm

And Miami......... Miami had..... well they were thinking of taking John Beck in the 2nd round....

by edswood (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:56am

Mommy please, make the pain go away.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:00pm

Alex Smith Just Wins.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:54am

Rodgers is on tape as saying (via NFLN, I believe) that he and the Packers completely re-did his throwing mechanics in the first couple of years. I think I saw it on the America's Game feature on last year's team.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:32pm

His mechanics needed a complete overhaul of his mechanics, came from a gimmicky college system, his arm is a lot stronger now than it was back in college.

by Mr. X (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:18pm

A reporter on a recent talk show in Milwaukee brought up the mechanics question about Rodgers and it was said that Rodgers has been somewhat evasive when asked how his mechanics changed after coming to the Packers. I am sure someone could do game film comparisons and figure it out.

He has also learned not to hang onto the ball too long. I have also seen doing more double-pumps this year than in the past, thus making it harder on the defense.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:33pm

I specifically remember there being a concern about how Rodgers held the ball, that he kept it too low rather than up near his shoulder. On the other hand, I don't understand why a specific, correctable mechanical problem should dissuade you from drafting someone. If you can fix the problem, you've instantly made a good player even better.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:13pm

It's the other way around, Tedford coaches his qbs to hold the ball by their earhole. Rodgers has lowered where he holds the ball, which McCarthy said a few months ago makes his overall delivery more natural and allows him to get the most out of his arm strength.

As for why everyone doesn't fix up quarterbacks with unwieldy actions, it isn't easy. You need a player who can take your coaching onto the field and not regress when he gets flustered, a lot of players fall down there (Grossman, Cutler). The coach needs to know the ideal technique, how to fix a problem and how to teach it. Finally, there is a real risk that in trying to change the way the qb throws you risk losing what got him as far as it has without him becoming the player you are hopiing for. Plus some guys, Favre, Garcia, Marino etc. can overcome what seems to be a flawed technique and prosper.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:45pm

I think it was Jaws who put up a side-by-side view of Rogers 'Cal' dropback and passing mechanics with his Superbowl dropback and pass in the first game of the year. They were radically different. IMO, this is a 2 part decision...a CHOICE by the QB himself that he can be better and work on improving (coachability) and proper coaching to get him to where he needs to be. Many of the other primadonna QBs did not have a coachability factor that Rogers seems to have (Akili Smith?). It takes a lot of humility to admit that you may have been doing it wrong all these years...even though you were very successful at a Division 1 National Champion caliber school. Aaron Rogers is good because of who he is as a person. Coaching and situation definitely gave him the opportunities to become who he is.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:01pm

Lots of people had Rodgers ahead of Smith before the draft. Smith's stock rose rapidly just before draft day (for reasons I am not sure of). I know that most people initially expected Rodgers to go first.

I never bought into the Smith hype and felt the 49ers should have drafted Rodgers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:39am

Also, I saw Russell Wilson against the Cornhuskers,and I was impressed by how he stayed in the pocket to survey his options before he took off running, and his accuracy and arm strength. What is the gossip about his Sunday prospects?

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:48am

He certainly LOOKS like a guy who can play on Sunday. His accuracy is there, he has a good arm, he's tough and he picked up the Badger offense in about no time flat. (Insert usual joke on the lack of complexity of Badger run-first approach)

Wilson strikes me as better than other WI qbs who have managed to hold clipboards on pro sidelines.

by P (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:53am

Wisconsin's offensive system does look more complicated (read: well-rounded) than last year's version, probably because Wilson could pick it up quickly and actually execute it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:57am

Wisconsin's offense benefits from non-Wilson things including:

--Wagner stepping in for Carimi and no apparent step back in proficiency.
--Konz being even more impressive
--Peterson showing great hands at TE
--and the most telling is that Nick Toon is playing like a man possessed.

by P (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:05pm

This is all true.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:03pm

Having a guy who can really throw it does allow for more complexity, along with, of course, a guy who has a feel for the game. Previous Wisconsin qbs have always seemed, to me, to be so athletically limited that it constrained what was possible.

For about 80% of the complaints I hear about play calling or lack of imagination in offensive scheme, from most football fans, my reaction is usually, "What players are you hypothesizing to be available to the playcaller?"

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:55am

Athletically, there is no comparison between Wilson and the Darrell Bevel clones. He can run like hell, and not just in the Tavaris Jackson-style straight line speed without instincts style. He certainly seems to be able throw the NFL deep out. Like I said, what really surprised me was the amount of patience in the pocket he displayed. I like him a helluva lot more than I ever did Christian Ponder, fer cryin' out loud.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:05pm

The thing about Russell Wilson is that he's realistically 5'9" or 5'10" (he's listed at 5'11") and he doesn't have a cannon arm. His short throws are accurate enough, but it seems like his throws over 20 yards sometimes float a little. He's a smart, athletic QB who is good at decision-making and throwing off the run, but his ceiling is probably somewhere in between Seneca Wallace and Jeff Garcia.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:15pm

I guess I overestimated how tall he was by about 3 inches. It makes a real difference with NFL defenses.

by gtliles82 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:54pm

My expectation is that whatever limitations kept Joe Hamilton (namely: prototypical size) from having a successful career as an NFL QB will due likewise for Russell Wilson. Wilson's struck me as Hamilton's spitting image since his freshman season.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:02pm

How is his size, attributes, and offensive experience much different than Drew Brees?

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:40pm

Drew Brees is a bit taller also he is the exception. Every year there is some super productive short QB who ends up washing out in the NFL Joe Hamilton, Pat White, Drew Tate Troy Smith, Todd Reesing etc.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:02am

So what's the cut-off for a too-short QB? Garrard and Gradkowski are 6'1". Brees and Vick are listed as 6ft, although I don't believe for a second Brees is taller than 5'10".

Derek Anderson and JaMarcus Russell were 6'6". Leinart and Campbell werre 6'5". Were they too tall to succeed?

by Illmatic74 :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 6:33pm

Obiously those guys weren't to tall since Peyton Manning, Tom Brady Ben Rothelisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco Josh Freeman are all 6'5. Most succesful NFL QBs are between 6'2 and 6'5 you have to acknowledge there is a reason for that.

by andrew :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:51pm

I've had a couple packer fans insist to me that Favre is responsible for the dominance of Rodges, that his disdain for Rodgers drove him to make himself better.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:02pm

It may have helped but Rodgers is good about carrying a chip on his shoulder over just about anything. Comments from Roddy White where he said they were a better team. Comments about NO being better because they had player organized workouts and GB didn't. He's stated he wants to beat every team that passed him over in the draft.

The man can turn anything into motivation, so yes Favre's disdain for him did probably fuel him too, but if Favre had fawned over him, he would have found something to drive himself. The man likes his revenge. :)

by BJR :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:41pm

I have to say, I always think stuff like this is mainly just hype and media bullsh1t. If a guy who is paid millions of dollars to perform in front of huge live audiences can't get himself motivated to do his job then he does not belong in the NFL, regardless of where he came from or what goes on around him. Loads of sportsmen talk about carrying chips on their shoulders, but few are good enough to destroy their opponents every week.

However, I will say that Rodgers does seem to have the perfect temperament for a QB to carry along with his enormous talent. He seems to have the perfect blend of assurance in his own ability without coming across as arrogant and believing he is capable of anything, and always seems completely composed and cool under pressure without ever seeming to lack intensity. He even seems to make it look like fun, unlike Brady or Manning; God forbid anyone crack a smile during one of their military style operations. It's the perfect combination and makes him really easy for neutral fans to root for.

by southsidesox24 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 2:08pm

I have to say, I always think stuff like this is mainly just hype and media bullsh1t. If a guy who is paid millions of dollars to perform in front of huge live audiences can't get himself motivated to do his job then he does not belong in the NFL, regardless of where he came from or what goes on around him.

I agree that a high level of motivation is required to play in the NFL, especially to be the best. However, I disagree with the implied reasoning that money and performing in front of a crowd automatically should be enough to motivate a player. They clearly can be factors, but I don't agree with the underlying premise. It seems to be a common narrative from sportswriters and fans, but none of us have ever been in a position to actually understand the type of work and motivation it takes. Further, I doubt that almost any of us have the level of motivation required to succeed in the NFL, let alone question what it takes to be that motivated.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:30am

And I just to say for the umpteenth time how much I enjoy the Audibles.


by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:52am

Audibles also becomes even more enjoyable when the Iggles implode. I was watching Red Zone, and every time they flipped to the game, I imagined steam coming out of Tanier's ears.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:33am

Every week Aaron Rodgers shows what a tremendous passer he is. Last night his best throw, IMO, didn't even generate a score.

At 7:51 in the second quarter, AR abandoned the pocket under pressure, rolled to his right and threw downfield to Jennings who was on the run from the left slot forty-odd yards downfield. (There's a highlight of it on NFL.com.) He's running - not jogging - to his right, throws from the 50 to the Atlanta 10 without slowing down, and Jennings doesn't need to adjust at all to catch it. He doesn't slow down as he throws - there's no setup, no textbook mechanics. But the ball doesn't waver or wobble in flight: it's about as good a spiral as you'd see if he was standing completely still.

It's the antithesis of a desperation heave, which is what I see so often from QBs on the run. Matt Ryan did a cross-field throw last night to Harry Douglas (IIRC) that HD caught, but was nullified by penalty (2nd Q, 5:19 I believe). He had to stop his roll, set, and then loft it left - even standing still he didn't (or couldn't) drive it like AR.

AR's ability to throw consistently with velocity accurately on the move is an area of his game that I can't remember seeing another quarterback do so well. Maybe Steve Young did it like that, but I haven't seen him play lately. From what I see, it separates him from nearly every starting QB in play right now, and astonishes me regularly. It's ... really impressive to watch, and if you're not regularly watching this man play, I think you're missing something special.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:52am

I am going to sound like the Chris Farley interview character on the old SNL but yeah, that was awesome

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:39pm

It's been a while, but I don't recall that Young threw on the run very much. He was a tremendous passer and a tremendous scrambler, but I think he tended to keep the two separate. That may have been dictated by the 49ers offense, which relied on a lot of quick slants with runs after the catch, rather than throws downfield. I can't remember a QB throwing those jump passes down the field from a dead run with the velocity and accuracy that Rodgers does. Maybe Elway, in the earlier part of his career. I haven't watched much film of Fran Tarkenton, but I've heard he was one of the greats at throwing on the run.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:53pm

Tarkenton had average arm strength at best, and was below average for nearly all of his second stint with the Vikings, which makes his accomplishments all the more
remarkable. His recognition was off the charts; HOFer Jack Youngblood once said that Tarkenton could smell a blitz, and that Tarkenton would regularly draw plays in the dirt in the huddle, in response to what he saw a defense doing during the game. Tarkenton hid the ball as well as any qb I ever saw, which was even more important in the days when receivers could be mugged all over the field before the pass was in the air; if the db knew the ball had not been handed off, he could really concentrate on mugging the receiver. Finally, yes, he was extremely elusive, and could find the guy who was open, even if he could not throw a laser shot.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:55pm

delete repeat

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:43am

It is somewhat interesting to see the Vikings, week after week, try to emulate the 1972 Miami Dolphins, minus the qb with throwing accuracy, Paul Warfield, three Hall of Fame offensive linemen, and competent play in the defensive secondary.

Oh, and probably about 12-14 wins.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:09pm

At least they've started to try to emulate the 1972 Dolphins instead of the 2007 Patriots. Against the Lions - in a game they led by multiple scores for much of the way - McNabb threw 36 passes to only 17 Peterson runs.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:45am

"Juan Castillo is grossly incompetent and must be fired immediately. I would trust him to supervise my kid at recess at this point."

Mike, it's great to know that you care more about the Eagles than the safety of your kids.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:56am

Heh. That should be "wouldn't" of course. I fixed it.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:50am

I do think the Packers generated a pass rush. Ryan strikes me as a guy who would rather throw a pass up for grabs versus taking a sack. Mathews was 'almost' there several times but Ryan got the ball out. Early on he hit a receiver. Later he was just tossing it away.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:59am

I am deeply disappointed in the rest of the league for the lack of respect everyone except Tampa showed for the passing of Al Davis. Sure, there were moments of silence and some lovely verbal tributes, but only Tampa had the respect to go out there and lay down and play dead, just for Al.

Heyyyyyoooooooooooooooooooo . . .

The only good thing about that game was that it was so incredibly and ludicrously lopsided that I stopped caring. I'm really not taking the early part of this season all that seriously in terms of trends and such just because the short offseason is going to skew things in funny directions, particularly for inexperienced teams like Tampa, but Josh Freeman apparently hates me and is trying to kill me. His decision-making has been godawful this year, and he's forcing the ball into places he would have avoided last year. It's painful to watch.

Also, Harbaugh going for it on 4th and 2 while up 38 late in the 4th quarter? I hope he gets leprosy.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:02pm

He did get a receiver with a broken ankle, meaning that either Ted Ginn or Kyle Williams have to start next week at Detroit. Will that do?

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:05pm

"Also, Harbaugh going for it on 4th and 2 while up 38 late in the 4th quarter? I hope he gets leprosy."

On the plus side, a few thousand Brits probably leanred everything they know about American football from this game, so they are now better versed on sound 4th down strategy than most of us over here.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:43pm

The Bucs-49ers game wasn't on British telly yesterday, they showed Jets-Pats. The only way anyone in the UK saw the 49ers game was if they had a subscription to NFL gamepass, which would indicate that they would already know about 4th downs.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:45pm

I actually meant the folks in the stands, though I suppose they were mostly expats anyway.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:10pm

The game was played in San Francisco. The London game is against the Bears in a few weeks. So, barring a very unexpected distribution of British immigrants living in Northern California, I'd say it didn't do much to increase their knowledge of the game.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 4:23am

Also - the folks in the stands in London are overwhelmingly NOT US-expats. They are British NFL fans - many of whom have demonstrated far greater love for the game than most Americans. We have sustained their fandom across an Ocean, in the face of wall-to-wall "soccer" coverage/culture - never mind the dark days of spending hours trying to pick up faint Armed Forces Network radio transmissions on Sunday evenings before Sky TV gave us live games. We got 60 million people here on our tiny island, there's enough of us who love NFL to fill an 80k stadium (never mind the Europeans who come over). If you check the stands, you'll see plenty of jerseys you'll not recognise - because they are OUR teams jersey's - we just haven't got a multi-billion $ college industry organising it all for us.

Rant over, but I get riled by these assumptions that we're all sitting in the stands scratching our heads as to why the players are passing it forwards. I expect that from CBS talkboards, but not here.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:10am

Probably because even the Canadians, all 8 of them, can support their own pro league, whereas Europe has failed to do so.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 4:06am

You obviously know little of the history of the World League/NFL Europe then - particularly the London/England/Any regional town we feel like playing at this week after closing the league for two years and somehow are surprised the fanbase that packed out Wembley has gone AWOL Franchise.

Never mind the fact that (1) we knew the standard was a lot poorer than we could watch on TV - I didnt even watch NFL Europe on TV - the standard was so poor. (2) with it being a "feeder" league, we never had a clue who would be playing year after year - there were no players to build teams and fan-bases around.

But shutting the league down for two years (of course we didn't know at the time it would even come back) and expecting fans to return to random stadia around the country to a renamed team, was a heroically ignorant decision by the NFL. In the meantime during the layoff the Premiership had been formed, and NFL was being shifted around the TV schedules.

by David :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 11:54am

Rant over, but I get riled by these assumptions that we're all sitting in the stands scratching our heads as to why the players are passing it forwards. I expect that from CBS talkboards, but not here.

Really? Then you must be new here, because much as I love FO, they have a massive antipathy towards the UK game, every year. Personally, I notice it more from the writers, but there's a vocal section of the commentariat that can be relied upon for disparaging comments, and a general desire to pretend that the world outside of the fifty states doesn't exist

by Eddo :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 12:23pm

I've noticed the apathy, too, but assumed it was a function of a slate of games that haven't been particularly appealing.

The 2007 game featured the winless Dolphins against the Giants, in an ugly game (thanks to rough weather conditions).

In 2008, the Saints and Chargers played. This was definitely an interesting game, but was only shown regionally in the States.

In 2009, the Patriots blew out the Buccaneers. Once again, it only got regional coverage in the U.S.

In 2010, in a game nobody wanted to watch, the Broncos played the 49ers.

The main problem has been a poor slate of games. This year, the Bears and Buccaneers play, which isn't really remedying the situation.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 3:26pm

I'm actually thinking of going. I need a bunch of frequent flyer miles before the end of the year, and there's a flight available for around $500 bucks. Plus, it's more appealing than going to Seattle to watch my Eagles at this point. Anybody have suggestions for things to do over there?

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 10/12/2011 - 11:25am

There's a deightful little place just outside London called Dale Farm, where you can stay very cheaply.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 10/12/2011 - 4:37pm

Just Googled it - sounds nice.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2011 - 3:57am

Anything to do in London? A real question?

I was kind of thinking about going to New York - is there anything to do there?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:08pm

I don't have a problem with going for it; I mean, why kick a field goal? On the other hand, it may have been a good time to run off tackle.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:04pm

Another observation is that both teams last night could have been flagged for roughing the passer. Rodgers twice took shots well after releasing the ball and Walden hit Ryan with his helmet. No flags

Walden is particularly irksome because the guy has already been penalized more than once for helmet to helmet. He routinely comes in high and bear hugs the qb versus getting down a bit and driving through.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:25pm

Agreed but the no calls were consistent. There were a couple of plays on both sides that other crews may have called DPI as well. I had no real complaints about the officiating because it was consistent. Even Hawk getting called was consistent. He didn't start it, which was clear in the replays, but they always flag the 2nd guy.

I'm sooo looking forward to Zombo recovering from the broken scapula and So'oto fully healing from the strain suffered in the weight room. I know So'oto has been doing limited practices and even got a few snaps vs Denver. I also realize he is a rookie and all we have is preseason and practice to judge on; but I still feel they will be an upgrade over that Walden/Jones thing that is out there most of the time. Like you said Walden really drives you nuts with the technique that is just asking for penalties. Yes he is playing OK as the other OLB, but we have better sitting in the trainers room. Zombo might start practicing in pads again this week.

Many of the defensive mistakes early were missed tackles and issues caused by Williams still playing with the harness and favoring the shoulder. But if you watch they started letting him bump more in the 2nd half and you didn't hear about White or Jones anymore.

I really credit the coaching staff with getting the talent they have on the bench ready to play. Some rough patches with 2 back-up tackles playing but they got it sorted. Peprah took a bit to fill in for an all pro player, but he's doing alright. I'd even be OK if we were looking at Lattimore, Francois, So'oto, House and MD Jennings manning much of the back 8 for a few quarters. Of course some of that is because I think the offense would still be putting up points. :-)

by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:09pm

OK, not a specific response to the Audibles column, but I'm curious - does anyone other than Joe Benigno think that the officials in New England erred in overturning the Branch "fumble" in the 3rd quarter?

by MJK :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:20pm

No. It looked like a fumble live, but the replay clearly shows that Branch's knee is on the ground and the ball still firmly in his grip when the defensive player first touches him. It doesn't matter that he was trying to get up, or that a second later he tried to change his ball-carrying hand and the defender knocked the ball out...if his knee is still on the ground and the ball is secure, the second a defender touches him the play is over.

Close, but not a fumble.

Of course, I'm a huge Patriots fan, so I'm probably a little biased.

by ScottyB (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:26pm

I'm not sure. But I guess the rule is, if you are on the ground, you can never fumble because the hit that pops the ball out means that you are downed at the same exact moment?????

by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:10pm


If you have possession of the ball, then the moment a defender touches you while any part of your body except your feet or hands is touching the ground, the play is over and the ball is dead.

While I was sure it was not a fumble (after seeing the first replay) I was wondering if the refs might decide he didn't have possession long enough and rule it an incomplete pass. (Remember, even though a coach might only challenge one aspect of a play ("That was not a fumble.") the refs can and are supposed to look at the whole play and if (for example) they see it was an incomplete pass, they are supposed to rule it incomplete even though no one challenged whether or not the pass was complete.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:22pm

What's the rule if the defender strikes the ball directly? Is the ball considered part of the ball carrier for purposes of determining the ball carrier down, or could a defender knock the ball out and cause a fumble if he doesn't actually touch the ball carrier?

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:25pm

I believe that's exactly right. The play is over at the moment he's touched. Similarly, you can't fumble in the end zone - the instant you cross the plane with the ball or establish possession of a pass in the end zone, the TD counts and the play is over.

(Of course, you can fumble in your own end zone, but it's not recommended).

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:06pm

Its impossible, by the rulebook, to fumble the ball(from a hit) while you're already on the ground. The instant Branch is touched, the play is dead. The Jets defender hit Branch in the shoulder, slid his hand down, and knocked the ball out. The problem is, the play is dead the second he contacted the shoulder.

I was honestly really surprised that it wasn't ruled down by contact on the field. It was pretty straight-forward.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:15pm

With the exception that the offensive player doesn't have possession. Which is why switching the ball from one hand to the other confused things. I'm not surprised they ruled him down either, but I can definitely see why it took a challenge.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 12:14am

You don't lose possesion switching the ball from hand to hand.

by Athelas :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:08am

Did you hear BB saying Ernie Adams not only knew changing the ball from hand to hand does not lose possession but Ernie knew exactly what rule that was? I thought his interview on Monday was more interesting than usual.

by Led :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:28pm

No. Branch was holding the ball with his knee on the ground when he was first touched.

by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:38pm

Packers game was only the 4th 25-14 game in NFL history

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:48pm

You should use the handle of "EliasJr" or something similar. :)

by clark :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:01pm

I'm surprised there are that many. The Seahawks-Giants game is the first 36-25 game in NFL history.

by ammek :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:39pm

Three teams scored 25 points yesterday. I doubt that's ever happened in a single week before.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:25pm

Looked this up for you using PFR's handy box score tool...

It's the first time 3 teams scored 25 points in the same week. Two teams had previously happened 5 times since 1920:

1994 Week 9 -- DET @ NYG, 28-25 & IND vs. NYJ, 28-25
2002 Week 5 -- KC @ NYJ, 29-25 & JAC vs. PHI, 28-25
2003 Week 1 -- MIN @ GB, 30-25 & TEN vs. OAK, 25-20
2007 Week 17 -- CIN @ MIN, 38-25 & CHI vs. NO, 33-25
2010 Week 8 -- DET vs. WAS, 37-25 & SD vs. TEN 33-25

You're welcome.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:51pm

You beat me to it, but I believe you missed a few:

30-Oct-60: SF vs. CHI, 25-7 & BUF vs. HOU, 25-24
16-Nov-69: BOS @ CIN, 25-14 & NO @ NYG, 25-24
26-Oct-08: MIA vs. BUF, 25-16 & WAS @ DET, 25-17

My favorite oddity: there have been five 25-19 games, but no 26-25 games.
Highest scoring: 52-25, OAK vs. TEN, 29-Sep-02
What else? Three 32-25 games seem unlikely, but there they are. On second thought, the differential of 7 takes the degree of difficulty down a bit.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:02pm

Hmmm...I sorted my list by weeks, and the '60 and '69 ones show up as being in different weeks despite being played on the same Sunday. Oh, I know why. One is an AFL game and the other is an NFL game, so it was Week X in the NFL, but Week X+1 in the AFL.

Yeah, the 2008 one was a legitimate miss, though. So we'll put it at 6 times on same week in same league, and 8 if you time warp the AFL and NFL merger.

Re 32-25, yeah, check out 28-25. A whopping 16 of them. Also 8 25-22 games. Definitely because of the differential being so common in general.

by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 12:54pm

I think I figured out why fans/media love Tebow so much. He is a QB that doesn't look like a QB at all. That was also, one of the reasons Favre was so loved by the same people(to be fair he was a QB smart enough to master some complex offenses at Green Bay) He is extremely inaccurate, he doesn't seem to have any sort of rhythm to his passing and he doesn't seem to have a sense of timing and anticipation. Like they used to say about Favre he just seems to be having fun out there.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:00pm

You may not have wanted to leave the impression to the contrary, but let it be noted that very few qbs if any, in the history of the NFL threw the ball better than Favre. Yeah, Favre would try to do too much, but give Peyton Manning Favre's throwing talent, and he might have passed for 100,000 yards.

by CraigoMc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:07pm

It was a running joke for seemingly a decade that Favre would try to "gunsling" a pass into triple coverage and get picked off. What's forgotten is that Favre only did that sort of thing because a few years earlier he could not only complete that pass, but do so regularly. He just couldn't break the habit once his body finally let him down. It's hard to think of a better combination of arm strength and accuracy than Favre at his peak.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:14pm

Too bad Favre didn't have a brain to match his arm.

I'll take Manning or Brady over Favre every day. Watching perfectly thrown interceptions at the end of games is not what I'd want to do as a fan. Has any other QB in history killed his teams chances of winning the conference championship game twice in three years by throwing an awful interception? That Favre did so for two different teams only makes the accomplishment all that more impressive.

Also, his comments about Aaron Rodgers just make him look even more narcissistic than I thought he'd been. Add him to the list of QBs I'd rather have the Favre any day.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:28pm

Oh, nearly anybody would take Manning or Brady over Favre. That doesn't mean that Favre wasn't a great player, or that there may not have been anybody better in the ability to throw the ball, especially before he injured his thumb. Favre and Tebow really are not similar at all.

The Packers had no business being in ot against the Giants in that conference championship game, so badly were they whipped on the line of scrimmage, and for all the yelping that takes place about Favre's int against the Saints at the end of that game, he decisively outplayed Brees in that contest, in front of Brees' fans in a very loud venue. The fact that the Vikings dbs dropped easy interceptions, and that Favre's errant pass was caught, makes for a lot of confirmation bias.

Finally, I do think it has been decisively proven that Favre is a jackass of a human being. I severely doubt that this is uncommon for NFL qbs who make a lot of money.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:12pm

I know you're not saying this, but I do think that Favre's "QB Savant" reputation has been overstated. Combining his physical talents without the drive, work ethic, and leadership results in Jeff George, not a HoF QB.

As much fun as I've had poking fun at the Favre over the last few years, I can't deny his abilities as a QB. As mentioned above, his 'gunslinging' was ok because it worked. The problem is when Tony Romo, or any number of other young QBs try to emulate him with only 80% of the talent. Heck, I suspect that emulating him with 97% of the talent would be yield a pretty bad result. Favre was unique.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:23pm

The shame of the all the media hype surrounding the guy, which of course the guy encouraged, was that it tended to prevent even otherwise sensible people to look at him less than clearly. He was a great, great, player who had some flaws.

As to Favre vs. George, I may not want either guy for a brother in law, but the latter guy was mostly despised by his teammates because he was a coward (by NFL standards, I should emphasize). Nobody ever said that about the former.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:31pm

Well definitely Favre is one of the great QBs, but I think the media fawning ended up hurting his game. He was a much better QB in his 20s than in his 30s and I think some of that was due to an over-inflated ego.

And yes, all the great QBs have massive egos - the trick is how they manage to keep them in check. Some do a better job than others.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:37pm

I think it likely coaching had a bigger impact than media attention. Holmgren got after him hard, hard, hard, and until McCarthy came along, my impression was that his subsequent coaches were intimidated by him, or at least were reluctant to confront him. Childress, for all his faults, was never shy about getting in any player's face, and I think it served Favre well in his one great year in Minnesota.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:59pm

Absolutely yes to this. Rhodes and Sherman did not harp on his mechanics (specifically his footwork) the way Holmgren and later McCarthy did. Favre didn't like getting harped on but it helped him. I think you are right about Chilly too.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:09pm

Chilly was 180 pounds of twisted steel, and rompin' stompin' dynamite.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:20pm

He wasn't just a contentious bastard, he was a dumb contentious bastard; the sort of meathead who, if the most beautiful girl at his college lost her mind and decided she just had to score with The Chiller, The Chiller would complain to her that she didn't wear an easy to remove bra.

by Mike W :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 7:21pm

It's ok, Will. He's gone now. Everything is going to be ok. He's gone, and he's never coming back.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 4:28am

theres a joke about Big Ben there.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:03pm

If the day is in 1996, I'll take Favre (Brady and Manning were still in college).

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:31pm

It's a vicious cycle: he's a charismatic, unorthodox and successful player, so he generates a lot of buzz among the fans, which gets the media's attention, which makes fans curious and generates more buzz, ad infinitum until there's no room left on earth for anything other than Tebow's Q rating.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:36pm

I suspect that his success on the field will be inversely related to how many games he starts. Start him for the rest of the season, and my guess is by year's end nobody will saying much about him being successful.

by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:11pm


And I feel bad for Orton. This is the second time he's been benched for an inferior QB who who had been named the heir-apparent for no particular reason.

Kyle Orton isn't the Bronco's problem right now. Pretty much everyone else is.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:24pm

I would have agreed with this last year, but this year, Orton is at least part of the problem. He is not playing to his level of last year, which could be that he is playing to his actual skill level, or he lost McDaniels, or both. Either way, he is not exculpated, but he deserves a slight bit of clemency.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:30pm

I totally agree with your point and with Will's. My comment about successful was referring solely to the rise of his star back in college. And I've been a very vocal Orton supporter, but he really, really hasn't played well this season, largely due to a really bad team around him, but he's been uncharacteristically fond of really ugly throws right to the other team, which made the switch (unfortunately, from my perspective) inevitable.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:54pm

A question for anyone with experience as a receiver: is there a significant difference between catching a ball thrown by a right handed vs. Left handed qb? I noticed yesterday that a few times Tebow actually placed the ball fairly well and it just seemed to bounce off the receivers' hands. Does the reversal of spin on the spiral take some time to adjust to as a pass catcher?

by PerlStalker :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:22pm

I heard that it does take a little bit of time for receivers to adjust to the opposite spin but I think it depends on the receiver.

by Zach81 :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 4:27pm

The two major differences I've noticed when playing catch in my coed flag league (eg, recreational skill levels) were the flight path of the ball and the reverse spin when actualling catching it. I'm not sure how it translates when it's a pro-level talent throwing or catching, much less together. For example, would an NFL QB throw a straighter ball in general, or would the increased speed and spin amplify the difference?

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:17pm

The fans' general attitude towards Tebow is standard for highly-drafted QBs who haven't played much. Fans see their team's high draft pick as potentially being the next Brady, Brees or Manning, without accepting or acknowledging how extraordinary those players are. It's an expression of the irrational optimism that's the heart of fandom, but unfortunately it often comes at the expense of average QBs like Orton. To be fair, Orton was much worse than average on Sunday.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:15pm

It's not difficult for an average QB to look worse than usual against the Packers.

by Rick Killing (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:06pm

This week's Audibles around Tanier is what would likely happen every week if my buddies and I did the same thing: We'd stop talking about the game and start talking about the guy watching the game, sniping at him until he pounded his PC into atomic dust.
Then we'd all laugh about it the next time we saw him to see if it would happen again. Some of my friends have thicker skin than others.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:08pm

Vince Verhei: Tebow's second drive consisted of a three-and-out. He's very good at giving his receivers a chance to make highlight reels, throwing balls downfield that are almost, but not quite, uncatchable.

Exactly right. And yet the announcers found a way to praise Tebow for his in-the-same-zip-code approach to passing. "He gives his receivers a chance to make a play." Yeah, that's what I want from a QB: a high degree of difficulty for his receivers.
Very impressed with Brandon Lloyd, FWIW.
I think if Denver wants Tebow to play, they deserve him.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 10:13pm

I was watching ESPN First Take while on the treadmill today and heard Skip Bayless actually accuse Brandon Lloyd for not trying hard enough to catch the ball during a two-point conversion attempt because it was Tebow and not Orton throwing the ball. They showed the attempt and not only was the ball a difficult catch, but the DB had him well-covered and knocked the ball out. Yet there was Bayless still claiming that Lloyd didn't try hard enough. I have a feeling that if Tebow fails his fans will turn into Tebow conspiracy theorists, blaming everyone else that Tebow failed.

by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 7:54am

Mind you, Bayless is an equal-opportunity idiot. Heck, just this morning he announced that the way to fix the Eagles was to bench Vick in favor of Vince Young...because Young is "just a winner" based on his career record as a starter. *eyeroll*

That said, you've probably got a point. How many times have we seen the same exact narrative whenever some freakish athlete fresh off college success comes into the NFL? The pundits announce that they will "transform the quarterback position," and then when they fail to actually play the game of NFL football, the organization is accused of "not installing a system designed to take advantage of their talents."

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:15am

Mind you, this doesn't excuse Dan Reeves for wasting the talents of two incredible running QBs. Both Vick and Elway were better off without him.

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 3:46pm

Vick's DVOA plummeted when Reeves left and Mora Jr arrived.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:20pm

I will be breaking down the Green Bay game tonight, as I spent my night watching most of the first half from Buffalo Wild Wings and most of the second half in an Emergency Room (unrelated to the first half); however, as far as I could tell, neither team made any discernable adjustment. The Packers just seemed to out-talent yet another team, finally just getting a guy or two open on passing routes that were being covered relatively well (except for James Jones). The Falcons just seemed to do what they always do -- manage to look just good enough to make you think they could be good, and then handing it away to superior talent (or taking/keeping it away from inferior talent).

It was not so much bumbling or bad play from the Falcons and good play from the Packers as much as it was "this was expected."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:41pm

Come the playoffs, if the opponent manages to make Rodgers uncomfortable and get some shots on him, I suspect the Packers will get beat. If not, I suspect the Packers will hoist the trophy again.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:43pm

That applies to any qb.

And the Falcons DID knock him around last night and still he made plays.

The guy is not infallible. But he is tough. He showed it again last night.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:54pm

I wasn't talking about the qb performance alone. I was talking about team performance beng highly correlated with qb performance. The 99 Ravens and 02 Bucs, and really, the 05 Steelers, success was not predicated on good performance from the qb. I'd say the only Super Bowl champ which was more dependent on qb performance than this Packers team is Mannings' Colts.

Rodgers is plenty tough, and even more accurate, which means that in the playoffs, the opponent better get after him hard. If not, there is practically little chance the Packers lose, absent some major injuries to the Packer defense, as in Clay Matthews, Raji, and some other guys.

by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:08pm

They need to find a shutdown corner. Last year, Tramon Williams was looking like the guy, but he has regressed. Woodson is good enough to play, but not in a traditional cornerback sense -- at least, not for extended periods. Most of their best competition will have one option and then some other guys, so being able to make the game 10v10 would be great.

Without a shutdown corner, facing the Falcons, Patriots, Steelers, Texans, and Lions is always going to be tough to watch, because it gets scary. I am not saying they need a Revis, but they need somebody to cover Roddy White, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Andre Johnson, and Calvin Johnson with any regularity and skill. ;/

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:12pm

Williams has been nursing a bad shoulder which limits his ability to jam at the line of scrimmage.

The guy who has regressed is Sam Shields.

My guess is that Packers get through these next two games and the bye week allows Williams to recover more fully making him more capable of performing to last year's standard. Hopefully Shields will also respond. He looked better last night after a series of subpar outings.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:14pm

I agree, but if Rodgers is allowed to be mostly comfortable, I just can't see them losing a scoring contest. Now, if they have to go on the road to a loud venue, against excellent pass rushers, his chance of staying comfortable greatly decrease. They definitely want to finish ahead of the Lions for the division, for instance.

by ppabich :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:24pm

What's crazy about Rodgers, If you get after him he escapes the pocket. The Falcons were all over Rodgers in the playoff game last year, and the offense still scored over 40 points. In order to beat them right now you need to possess the ball enough to keep Rodgers out of rhythm, get a pass rush while also maintaining good contain, and preventing big plays. The Falcons did that well for a good amount of the game last night, but the safeties crept up and got burned. The Packers aren't invincible, but they are very difficult to beat.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:27pm

Yeah, you really need more than one pass rusher to have great game in order to disrupt him.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:12pm

The Bears and Lions have had success in recent years just concussing the shit out of him.

More seriously, GB's defense is bad enough this year that you can win a shoot-out against them, ala the Kurt Warner game. If NO ever finds a semblance of a goal line attack, they could do it.

And although they can't put the pieces together, the Eagles are actually constructed to beat the Packers. All the theory is there, although it probably requires at least NCAA-caliber linebackers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:24pm

It appears to me that Rodgers is starting to get what Manning discovered early on; it is better to throw the ball away than to get hit. It really is going to take an outstanding performance to keep them in the 20s come playoff time, I think

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:27pm

The difference is that Rodgers occasionally sojourns as a runner. (Never a risk with Manning) The problem is that while athletically he's Steve Young, he's got Troy Aikman's injury tolerance.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:31pm

I don't know about that (Eagles being constructed to beat the Packers). I'm sure that was the intent, but GB's running game is good enough this year to punish teams that key too exclusively on the pass.

GB was killing the Falcons with draw plays on the first few drives. I haven't really seen much of the Eagles this year, but if their run defense is as bad as advertised then GB should be reasonably successful.

GB also has Finley, who would match up well with any Eagles CB except maybe Asomugha. James Starks has also been a solid receiver out of the backfield this year, so I feel like GB could find plenty of matchups to like against the Eagles LBs and safeties.

NO definitely feels like the biggest threat to GB in the conference.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:45pm

There are definitely ways the Packers can lose, but most of them IMO involve losing players to injury first.

The Packers must-stay-healthy list:
Jennings or Finley (having both is a luxury last year's squad didn't have)
Starks or Grant (likewise)
Both offensive guards and C Wells (since they have exactly one reserve interior O-lineman on the roster)
No more than two injuries to offensive tackles (which they have just had)

Raji - to command double-teams on the d-line and push the pocket in interior pass rush
Matthews3 - to command double-teams in the outside pass rush
Tramon Williams - to be able to single-cover the opponent's best WR

That's eleven guys that are essentially irreplaceable. Williams being hurt causes them big trouble in pass coverage - as he heals, I think we'll see more stats like last night's and less like the first four weeks. Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee haven't shown that they can step up as more than stop-gaps, and Davon House is a rookie.

IMO, everybody else is a role-player, and the Packers have depth at most positions that most teams would envy. But they aren't infinitely deep, and as skilled as the pro personnel department in GB is, starting quality offensive or defensive linemen don't grow on trees. They lucked out with Howard Green last year, and Sam Shields, and Erik Walden, and they prepared this year by drafting Sherrod, Cobb, et al. But with enough injuries, you run out of people who can make the occasional play, or stop the other guy most of the time.

Rodgers and the Packers offense can go as far as their offensive line can take them. I'd say the Saints also know this. The Lions haven't learned that yet, and to some degree neither have the Falcons. The Vikings used to know this, as did the Giants, and maybe the Bears are finally recognizing it - a little late, because their championship-contender window is closing rapidly with the age of their defense.

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 3:47pm

The Packers made the playoffs last year without Grant and about about 1 game worth of Starks.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 5:07pm

First you apply that list to just about any team and it's the same type of deal but I want to get into some detail as this team is the most complete feeling one that I've seen wearing the Green and Gold since the mid 90's.

Flynn would do as well as Cassel did when Brady got hurt. Rodgers might be needed to get them to 16-0 (which isn't going to happen) but Flynn is good enough to get them to 11-5 and he could still win a playoff game. The passing offense would drop from historically great (it's over 70% DVOA right now that has only happened a handful of times) to only being great maybe only really good (I would guess it would dip down into the 40's or 50). Granted 5 wins is a lot, but I still think Flynn can win a playoff game.

Finley is harder to replace than Jennings. But they could lose one of them. Again it would drop the current passing attack down, but it would still be better than last years levels by a bit I think (it was 32% DVOA last year).

As was already pointed out they didn't have Grant or Starks last year. They still managed a 1.8% rushing DVOA (11th in the league). They are currently at 6.0% (12th in the league) so it's better but not that much better. Of course they don't have Jackson this year but Alex Green would likely run just as well as he did.

The interior linemen. They do have a guard on the practice squad who many fans would feel alright with filling in for a game or two, especially at LG since that is a fairly easy position. If the tackles aren't also hurt Bulaga and Newhouse can both play inside. I'm not sure about Sherrod. Likewise Lang is OK at tackle for a few games if you have.

The defense is much thinner, I'll grant you that. Raji would be very hard to replace. Pickett is actually a pretty good nose but he will not give you the interior rush. If Neal comes back, stays healthy and plays like he has shown it wouldn't be quite as bad since he would help with that. But yeah losing Raji would be like the Ravens losing Ngata or Detroit losing Suh. He is a special player.

Same goes for CM3. While he doesn't have the sacks the Packers are getting pressure fairly well, it is causing scrambles and hurried throws and while that isn't as good it helps. Getting Zombo and So'oto back is going to help that some though, but again take Ware away from Dallas, and we'll get to see what happens in Houston without Williams. It would hurt.

We've seen the Packers without Tramon Williams since the 4th quarter of the NO games. OK he's been on the field but he was at maybe 85% against Atlanta on Sunday and it was worse before that (and of course he was out vs Carolina). But it does say something that they put a 70% Williams in to play Chicago over starting Lee or Bush. Pat Lee is one of the most disappointing 2nd round draft picks I've seen.

The other thin position is ILB. There really isn't anyone behind Bishop or Hawk.

Again I think this team is 13-3 or 14-2 right now. I think they can still win vs anyone even if you take out one of the people you listed, but sustaining it for 10 or 11 games would be a different story. The offensive line was finally addressed the last two seasons and that proved a very good thing with the injuries to it recently. But yeah they can't really take much more, but what team really could withstand losing 3 starters on the offensive line?

So I'll give you Rodgers, CM3, and Raji as very difficult to replace. Everything else they've pretty well proven they can replace either last year or already this year. The offensive is a lot better off than the defense. But then in this league it seems like you are more likely to win with a great offense and a bad defense than with a great defense and a bad offense.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:04pm

That's the lesson from Super Bowl 42, though, isn't it?

The Packers' weakness is the same of any spread offense - the offensive line has to hold off the pass rush on its own. If the O-Line holds, you win; if it doesn't, then it doesn't matter how overmatched the secondary is.

The trick is putting together both a quality pass rush AND an offense that score on its own. There are maybe four teams in the league which can do that right now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:10pm

Which is also why the pass rusher is 2nd only to the qb in importance, in today's NFL.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:39pm

I think this is a bit much. The Pats have won a lot of games without high profile pass rushers, and the ones they lost were not lost due to a lack of pass rush (popular opinion notwithstanding).
There are many aspects to having a good defense - the elite pass rusher is only the sexiest for TV coverage to focus on (with the shutdown corner coming in second). Also, there are many ways to build a good defense. You can have a run-stuffing defense a la the Williams boys in Minnesota, or you can have a cover-2 with pass rushers a la Indy, or you can have a blitz-heavy defense with an elite secondary a la Rex Ryan. The Jets don't have a pure pass rusher but they certainly have a great defense.
Defense differs from offense in that it doesn't help very much to be elite at many positions if even a few are below par. Since the offense gets to determine where the action is, it is incumbent on the defense to be solid in all areas.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:46pm

Kevin Williams has been a terrific interior pass rusher, and yes you can get pressure with scheme. If you don't get pressure on a high quality qb, with even just pretty good receivers, however, that chances of winning are pretty poor. If I can't have Manning or Brady or a great qb of some kind, give me Reggie White, Bruce Smith, or a great pass rusher who also can be good against the run.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 5:27pm

Disagree with this a little. The best defensive backs can only cover for so long, so if your pass rush can't get to the QB, you're never getting off the field on 3rd down. Which is the Patriots defense's problem this (and last) year.

I agree that you don't need a single elite pass rusher...but you do need a good pass rush. That either means an elite guy with at least average talent around him, or 3-4 pretty good guys (like the Patriots of 2003-2004, if we're talking Patriots).

The fact that the Pats win a lot of games despite a bad pass rush is that their offense has been otherworldly for the last year or so. And that's a decent way to build a team...if you happen to be lucky enough to have a brilliant and bold coach and a HoF QB. But if you only have a "very good" offense, you NEED some pass rush.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 11:52am

I'm not sure the Colts support your theory. Granted, they have two good pass rushers not just one, but their defense is pretty simple. If Freeney and/or Mathis gets pressure, good things happen. If not, bad things happen. Those are by far the two most important players in the Colts D.

by andrew :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:00pm

Teams that might be able to beat the Packers if they stay healthy (no guarantees, but basically anyone else saying there is no chance):


not sure I can legitimately add to that list.

by ppabich :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:06pm

No doubt there are teams that can beat the Packers, but are there any teams that would be favored over them? On a neutral site?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:21pm

I'd make the Saints slightly neutral-field favorites.

I think the Saints win in week 1 if that game is in NO as opposed to at Lambeau.

by BJR :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:28pm

The Packers were favoured by 5 in that game IIRC, suggesting they are rated a better neutral-field side than the Saints. Nothing has really changed since then to change that.

I suspect the Patriots are the only team that would be rated equal to the Packers by Vegas on a neutral field right now. I'm not saying that is right or wrong, but that is about where the books have the teams rated right now.

by BJR :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:35pm

The Packers were favoured by 5 in that game IIRC, suggesting they are rated a better neutral-field side than the Saints. Nothing has really happened since then to change that.

I suspect the Patriots are the only team that would be rated equal to the Packers by Vegas on a neutral field right now. I'm not saying that is right or wrong, but that is about where the books have the teams rated right now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:11pm

Even accounting for injuries, January is a long, long, ways from now, and it is hard to know which defensive fronts will be peaking at the right time. I love Brady and the Pats offensve scheme, but from what I see now, they are a definite underdog on a neutral field scoring contest.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:21pm

basically anyone else saying there is no chance

Er, I don't think anyone was saying that at all; it's almost cliche to say this, but any team can be beaten by any other team, at any time. We were talking about the best way to do that, and noting how few teams seem to have those capabilities. I specifically cited Super Bowl 42 as an example of a weaker team defeating a superior one by exploiting a mismatch.

Incidentally, those are the exact four teams I was thinking of. New England doesn't have much of a pass rush, but they can score just as easily as GB, and I can see them winning a shootout through superior special teams. I haven't seen enough of San Diego to judge.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:34pm

I would add the Steelers to the list. Of course the Pack would be favored, but the Steelers have everything a team would need.

The Falcons clearly need more. They threw their best punch at the beginning of last night's game and the Pack easily shrugged it off.

The Giants on a good day (i.e., not yesterday) can run with anybody.

The Chargers are good at beating the teams they should beat but rarely beat the elite teams.

The Jets and Eagles need serious fixes before they worry about the Packers.

The 49ers are starting to look like a team that can think about beating the Packers someday.

The Colts should be in the discussion when Manning returns, but even then it would be a long shot.

Right now the Packers are the most complete team in the league, and the only team that's excellent on both offense and on defense.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:41pm

Your list is pretty good. I think it's way premature to put the 49ers on there. I think the Ravens on a good day could beat the pack.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:58pm

Yeah, that's why the 49ers are only thinking about a future day when they can beat the Pack. But I have to say I like how Harbaugh is transforming the team. He's well on his way to winning Coach of the Year.

Now if only I could remember which Harbaugh he is. :)

When I see Flacco win a big playoff game, I'll take the Ravens more seriously. They've only got one playoff in recent years that impresses me. I honestly think the Steelers have a better shot.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:20pm

This 'who could beat the Pack' discussion is silly. It's the NFL, wierd things happen, players get hurt and the ball bounces funny. the next team to beat the Pack will almost certainly be the underdog but it could only take a slip, a fumble and a batted ball for them to come a cropper. (That actually looks a bit rude in a PG Wodehouse kind of way)

It seems that the better discussion would be 'are the Pack the best team in the league?'

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:23pm


by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:49pm

You're right. That was a great discussion.

by Theo :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 5:39pm

So I guess we can close the file on that one.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:05pm


by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 1:55pm

Mike, I'm in awe of the fact that you were able to watch and comment on the late games after watching that Eagles game - after watching the Phillies. I went outside to do yard work after the offsides fiasco. My pit of dispair was about 5 miles deep when I stopped to go to work this morning. I expect to reach China during the bye week, unless I get splashed with magma first (which might be preferable).

by Gaamoo (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:46pm

I described it to my non-football friends as such: The Bills were willing to let the Eagles win, but the Eagles insisted on gift-wrapping the victory for them. At this point watching the games is harming my soul.

I haven't watched baseball since Friday.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:37pm

Boston sports fans don't want to hear anybody else moan about baseball. Even seeing the Tigers knock out the Yankees brought only a tiny smile to my face.

Is it worse to have the best team in baseball and see them beaten by a lights-out pitching performance by a pitcher who's widely acknowledge to be excellent, or to have a team that's thought to be excellent collapse over the course of a month because all of the elite players start playing like minor leaguers? Having experienced both, I think the second is much worse.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:44pm

I think it was kind of obvious pretty early in the season that Boston didn't have the pitching to make a serious run in the post season. That's why I wasn't as disappointed as I imagine I'd be if I was a Phillies fan.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:54pm

Well...if Buchholz hadn't gotten injured, I would take Beckett/Lester/Buchholz against anybody. And then pen was solid until it wasn't.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:19am

That line still isn't as good as Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt, with Madsen in the pen.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:41am

Boston DID have the pitching though(Beckett, Lester, Buchholz), and they went out and got more (Bedard). Thats 4 guys who should put up mid 3 ERAs. The problem is, Buchholz got hurt and missed most of the season (broken spine). And the two pitchers they had who should have been good for 4.2ish ERAs, one blew out his elbow (Matsuzaka), and the other one had an ERA 2.5 Runs higher than his FIP (which was right around 4.2).

The HAD plenty of pitching. It just all got hurt. When you're starting your 9th or 10th best guy as your #3, you're going to have problems, and that goes for every team, including the Phillies.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:27pm

I don't know if QBR has been keeping Aaron up late at night with worry, this week it said that Tebow was the 5th best qb this week.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 2:46pm

In an era where defense is illegal, am I the only one unimpressed by the Pats tying the Rams 99-00 30pt game streak?

In an year where 400 yard passing games are routine, don't all passing/receiving/scoring records seem watered-down?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:03pm

It takes the Vikings 3 games to pass for 400 yards. Thay live in the Sahara Desert of passing stats.

by Karma Coma :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:49pm

If more teams start doing it, it won't be as impressive. What impresses me is that they're doing it without an elite wideout like Holt or Bruce or an insanely effective all-purpose threat like Marshall Faulk. They are seeing most of their production from tight ends and slot receivers, and they have a defense that is reluctant to give the team more scoring opportunities (unless you count letting opponents score quickly). At last check the Pats ranked something like 25th in total offensive drives, so it's not just the points that's impressive - it's the efficiency.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 10:26pm

Just how obscene do Welker's stats have to get before people stop thinking him of "that scrappy l'il white guy, but not an elite WR"? As a Miami fan, I cursed virulently when we handed him to Belichek & Co. for a 2nd-rounder, and I really haven't stopped.

Sure, he's not Calvin Johnson, but he's no worse than the second-best WR in that division (depending on how much credit you give Santonio Holmes) and one of the top guys in the league, even after you adjust for Brady-related stats inflation.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 2:19am

double post

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 2:18am

I'd put him at #4 after Fitzgerald, Johnson, and Johnson. Wallace is a close 5th though. As far as Brady-related stats inflation, I think you have it backwards. Brady's the one with Welker related stats inflation. Look at the typical Welker reception and you'll see a guy really wide open, and Brady isn't running all those yards after catch. No, Welker is the best player on that offense. He's not the most important because a QB is harder to replace or make up for than a WR, but he's the one with most talent.

by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:01am

Mostly I meant "inflation" as in the difference between his MIA and NE numbers when he went from Gus Frerotte and Joey Harrington to Brady. But while 4th-5th in the league might be a little high, he's absolutely got to be a top-10 guy.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 8:57am

Brady's numbers inflated just as much when Welker arrived.

It seemed that Moss was the main factor in the jump in Brady's stats, but considering that Brady's stats have mostly kept up since Moss has left, Welker's contribution to that was at least as important. And Welker's numbers this season are just sick. If it was really all Brady those yards would be spread around a bit more.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:25am

Welker's rate stats didn't change appreciably when he went to NE. His volume stats increased markedly.

by edswood (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:30am

Mommy please, make the pain go away.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:46pm

Finish your tequila!

by Karma Coma :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 4:58pm

I didn't say he was just a scrappy li'l white guy, but i should have been more specific that i was talking about an elite deep threat. St. Louis had 2 when they were putting up 30+ every game, plus Faulk and an often Welker-esque Az-Zahir Hakim. Despite a few longer catches that don't reflect his traditional production, Welker has never been a deep threat. He's just not tall enough or fast enough to win battles with DBs down the field. Before this year, his career long for a catch was 64 yards, and at least 59 of those were after the catch. He's elite at what he does, but what he does is not usually assocaited with high-flying, big score offenses. I was responding to a poster who was unimpressed with what NE's offense had accomplished scoring-wise. To me, it is impressive because the Pats are scoring their points with tight ends, posession receivers (one of whom is elite), and machine-like efficiency again leading the league in points & TDs per drive.

by Parmenides :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:15pm

I can't figure out if the Carolina Defense is so bad because of scheme or personal or a combination of both but to have an offense that is this close to being great constantly get beat because the defense lets everyone score a couple of more points is getting infuriating. Last year the offense was just bad in that way that they looked like they were giving a course on the possible permutations of failure.

Now we have a team that looks good on the field but just can't seem to win the game.

by Joseph :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 11:29am

Even as a Saints fan, I have to say that CAR's defense misses MLB Jon Beason, WLB Thomas Davis, and the NT (Ron Edwards?) that they acquired in the offseason. I have the nagging thought that they lost some other defensive starter to IR also.

2 NFCS questions: Which QB is the worst in the division (Brees, Freeman, Ryan, Newton)? And is this guy better than ALL NFCW QB's, not to mention better than the QB on about 1/2 of the teams in the NFL? (Let's see--better than CIN, BUF maybe, DEN, CLE, ARI maybe, KC maybe, IND until PM comes back, MIA, SF, JAX, NYJ prob, DET maybe, STL maybe, OAK, WAS, SEA, TEN because of age, MIN--yeah, pretty much)

by Eddo :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 12:09pm

While I think there's no doubt that the NFC South has the best quarterbacks on the whole, I think you're being a bit too generous here.

Brees is unquestionably an elite QB. In terms of active QBs, I think only Brady and Rodgers can be considered better.

Ryan has had quite a bit of success, but still has not taken the next step to an elite level. And I'm not talking the Brady/Brees/Rodgers level; I mean the Roethlisberger/Rivers level. If Ryan's not careful, he'll wind up on a level with Eli Manning and Tony Romo - quality, veteran QBs who mix in bad games with good ones. It's not a priority to replace them, by any means, but they can sometimes make you wonder if they're good enough to carry your franchise for the next decade.

Freeman was very good last year, and he's still quite young. He seems to have regressed a bit, this year, though having not seen many Buccaneer games, I can't really say if it's him or the team around him. Still, therein lies the danger of banking too much on a young QB with only a moderate amount of success. And has Freeman really separated himself from his fellow draftmate, Matthew Stafford? So far this year, Stafford surely looks better. A lot of this is team-dependent, of course, but it's not a clear call.

Newton, obviously, has looked awesome for his level of experience. However, Freeman could be a cautionary tale, if he doesn't bounce back. And you're underselling the competency of Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, who has a lesser supporting cast (particularly the offensive line, from what I've seen) than Newton and has been a solid rookie QB.

So yes, the division has the best QBs overall, but after Brees, all have their question marks. It's not a slam dunk that any of the others are top-ten QBs at the moment, let alone all of them being top-16.

by Joseph :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 3:55pm


Obviously only Brees is elite. To me, Ryan/Freeman are right on the cusp of top-10 ([no specific order inside of tiers] 1st tier--PM, TB, Brees, Rodgers; 2nd tier--Rivers, Big Ben, Vick, & Schaub; 3rd tier--Eli, Romo, Cutler, Freeman, Ryan, Stafford, Hasselbeck (for one more year), & Bradford (starting next year). Newton looks ready to join this tier REALLY soon also. IMO (as a SAINTS' FAN, no less), is that Newton has taken a team that could only win two games last year because they had worse-than-horrible QB'ing and has made it that scrappy 5-11/6-10 team that nobody likes to play because they're dangerous. I think the Saints lose this past Sunday's game if they had Beason + Davis/NT on IR. [Sure, the coaching change probably has helped some--but afaik, Olson & Shockey at TE are the only offensive upgrades besides Newton.]

Of the teams I listed, I think most, if not all, would trade for ANY of the NFC South QB's. Esp. because the other 3 besides Brees still have their best years ahead of them.

*In my opinion, the 1st tier are the unquestioned best 3 or 4 QB's'; 2nd tier are just a little below that, but are well-above-average starters; the 3rd tier are above-average starters, but they cannot carry the team by themselves like the top-8. Once or twice a season they will lose a game because of their mistakes. IMO, tier 4 would be competent starters and young guys who are gaining experience to move upward--Campbell, Henne, Kolb, Sanchez, Orton, et al. + some rookies and 2nd year guys. Tier 5 is our-real-starter-got-injured, we-are-hoping-for-Luck, and we-have-a-one-year-veteran-place-holder-for-the-rookie-we-just-drafted-who-isn't-ready-yet (also known as McNabb, Garrard/McCown [oops])

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 4:37pm

I'm starting to think that Matt Ryan is in the 4th tier. He's a smart QB, but physically I haven't seen anything impressive from him. I'm not sure the Falcon's would lose much switching him for Orton.

by Theo :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:28pm

Am I the only one who saw and remembers this from the NO Saints - Carolina Panthers game??
From the game book:
3-20-CAR 40 (:18) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass short left to D.Sproles to CAR 28 for 12 yards (J.Anderson).
Timeout #2 by CAR at 00:02.
4-8-CAR 28 (:02) J.Kasay 46 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J.Drescher, Holder-C.Daniel.

Yes. That's Carolina calling a time out, while the Saints were running their FG unit onto the field while time expired at the end of the half. Saints said thank you for the 3 points, dumbasses.
Panthers went on to lose by 3 points.

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:53pm

Does that make Sean Payton a honeybadger ?

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:53pm

No, I remember it. It baffled me at the time.

I guess the Panthers were trying to ice the kicker? I had thought even Mike Shanahan wouldn't do that as the clock was running to 0:00.

And yes, it cost the Panthers 3 points.

by Parmenides :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 3:58pm

What I've read is that someone thought there were twelve men on the field and called the time out. Rivera took the blame but on the replay he seemed to be yelling at someone in the booth.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:01pm

That would make sense...but really, a timeout with 1 second on the clock? There's no penalty if the ball isn't snapped in time. Terrible call by the Panthers.

by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:43pm

There's no penalty if the ball isn't snapped in time?

I don't quite understand that. The Saints literally snapped the ball, knowing they weren't about to kick the field goal because there were too many players on the field.

You can't end a half on a penalty, so if the Panthers had gotten caught on the play, the Saints still would have kicked the field goal, but from a closer distance.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 9:22pm

What's not to understand? The defense is allowed to have more than 11 players on the field before the snap, right? So the penalty is only whistled if more than 11 players are on the field when the ball is snapped. And if the ball isn't snapped until after the clock reads 0:00, then there's no penalty.

So there are three possibilities:

a) on the one hand, perhaps the Saints get the snap off on time, miss the field goal, and the Panthers are whistled for too many men on the field

b) on the other hand, perhaps the Saints don't get the snap off on time.

c) or, on the third hand, maybe the Saints get the snap off on time and make the field goal.

The only scenario where calling a timeout makes sense is (a). In scenario (b), calling a timeout is definitely the wrong move. Moreover, if you call a timeout, you're saying that you think that it's significantly more likely that the kicker will make a FG five yards closer in - but you are also giving the kicking team a lot more time to set up a clear snap in any case.

All things considered, the timeout was a bad call. You're better off risking the "too many men" penalty with 1 second on the clock, esp. since there's still a large probability that such a penalty wouldn't matter.

by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 11:52pm

Sorry, I didn't understand it the way it was originally phrased. You're right in that the its ultra likely the Saints wouldn't have made that field goal because Kasay was not lined up right at all. He was still trying to back up when the ball came out, after the timeout had been called, and actually after the clock had hit zero.

The point I was trying to make is that the half can't end on a penalty. If the Panthers had been caught with 12+ men on the field, the Saints would have accepted the penalty, and had a chance to line up properly and kick the field goal anyways.

I think that the Panthers were wrong to call the timeout in order to avoid the penalty, because the Saints didn't get the snap off in time, but the reason that they called it, fearing the Saints were going to hurry the snap just to catch the Panthers with too many people on the field wasn't completely illogical.

by Drunkmonkey :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:39pm

So as soon as I opened up Audibles, I immediately scanned for the Panthers game to see if this was mentioned, and also as soon as I finished reading the whole Audibles, I started scanning through the comments to see if anybody noticed this. I was actually at the game yesterday, and my dad asked me the same question as soon as I got home.

What actually happened was that the Saints were completely lined up, but not quite ready to snap it, and Carolina was still running players off the field. Rivera saw that NO was about to snap the ball and called TO because there would have been a 12 man on the field penalty and the Saints would have had the chance to kick the ball from 5 yards closer. The reason that the Panthers let Kasay go was because his leg had been crapping out noticeably for the last 3 years or so, and the Panthers didn't want to give a kicker that accurate a chance at a closer field goal.

A lot of people around me were very perplexed by this, and at first I didn't really understand the decision either, but then realized that even after the timeout was called, about 4 players were still trying to run off the field.

by Marko :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 7:28pm

I asked about this yesterday during the game thread discussion. I saw a brief mention of what happened on the Red Zone channel, but the sequence wasn't clearly explained (the fact that Carolina apparently called TO to avoid a penalty for 12 men on the field wasn't mentioned), so I asked if someone could explain it. A few hours later, someone posted a reply saying that Carolina wanted to avoid a penalty. By that time, I had seen a mention of this on the highlights package on NFL Network.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 10:10pm

Watching the game at the time, it didn't look to me like the Saints were ready to snap the ball in time. They did not, in fact, get the snap off before the clock hit 0:00 and it was only later that we were informed that the Panthers had called timeout.
I don't think the Saints avoided snapping the ball because they were aware that the Panthers were calling a timeout. They simply were not ready.

by Kurt :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 10:24am

I don't understand why you wouldn't just leave your base defense in in a situation like this. The risk in not getting your kick defense set in time seems to far, far outweigh the benefit of increasing the chances of blocking the kick from 0.01% to 0.1%.

by patsfandan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 4:20pm

Favorite moment of Sunday's games - Opening of 2nd half of NE-NYJ game, Phil Simms explains how the NYJ are one of the few teams that can shut down Welker because, " most teams don't have a Darelle Revis, who can shut him down one-on-one." Next play, 73-yard bomb to Welker who blew by Revis while the safety bit on play-action. Revis island seems bigger than Manhattan this year.

by Led :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 5:25pm

Cover two zone. Eric Smith had the deep half and blew the coverage. Revis bailed him out slightly by catching Welker from behind, although the Pats scored eventually anyway.

by Whatev :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 5:50pm

Well, the way I see it, Simms basically guaranteed it would happen by opening his mouth.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 10:15pm

Regardless of whether it was Revis's fault, the long reception came on the play after Simms said that the Jets could shut down Welker.
Kind of funny, really.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 9:29am

Demonstrating the difference between "can" and "will".

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 6:34pm

1. It's not clear the Raiders would have any offense without Sebastian Janikowski.

2. The Packers were behind 13-0 at one point against the Panthers just two weeks ago.

3. Jake Plummer, then Jay Cutler, and now Kyle Orton. I predict an increasing record of futility for the Broncos because of fickleness toward QBs.

by Fielding Melish (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 8:08pm

You're third point is definitely accurate. I live in Denver, and ever since the day Elway retired, the 'next in line' has been inevitably ridden out of town on a rail, whether by coach's decision ( Griese wasn't good enough, so Shanny had to get Plummer..two years later, Plummer wasn't good enough, so he had to get Cutler..Shanny goes, McD comes in, Cutler makes a fuss and then he has go to, so we get Orton...) or by the fans/columnists ( Orton must go because Tebow is a 'proven winner' ). I will admit that Orton has been fairly dreary this year, and it feels like all the negativity surrounding this team has worn him down ( or a lack of upper-level talent on his part ), as he clearly wanted to get out of here before the season started because we all knew this Tebow thing would ruin the team for now and the future. Tebow's bizarre charisma will get him through the year, but unless his prayers really are answered, a fair amount of fans will get really tired of watching him over/underthrow Decker and Lloyd all season, and will quietly begin to hope the hometown team never wins, because that may bring them some Luck, the guy Elway has wanted for two years.
And so it goes...

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 10/10/2011 - 9:15pm

As a fellow Denverite, I'd like to take that point even farther (further? Whatever, that's one grammar rule I've never had a handle on) for the last couple years I've been amazed at just how hostile the fans in Denver are toward all their athletes. Maybe it's the same everywhere, I just don't know, but the venomous hatred spewed on Griese, Plummer, Cutler, Orton, DJ Williams, Ryan Harris, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, JR Smith, Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj, Huston Street, Todd Helton (at times) and whoever happens to be getting all the blame for CU not being a legitimate major conference team is mind boggling. When I was growing up, my greatest dream was to play for the Broncos. Given the way Denver fans have spent all their time talking crap about Broncos players since Elway retired, I could not be more thrilled that I was totally awful at football.

by ammek :: Tue, 10/11/2011 - 5:43am

It's slightly awkwardly phrased (it's audibles!) but I guess Tom's comment is supposed to read:
this is the first time the Packers have trailed by 14 points since the playoff loss to Arizona, and the first time they've trailed [by 14] in the regular season since they trailed the Vikings and B**** F**** on November 1, 2009
After all, they lost six games last year!