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26 Nov 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

compiled by Danny Tuccitto

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 49ers 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.

Sunday, November 25

Buffalo Bills 13 at Indianapolis Colts 20

Andy Benoit: Through one quarter, Fitzpatrick has missed open receivers downfield near the sidelines at least twice so far.

Seattle Seahawks 21 at Miami Dolphins 24

Danny Tuccitto: Only took four minutes for Reggie Bush to cut back into unblocked defenders on a stretch play. This late in the season, he either has an Everest-like learning curve or he just doesn't care that it's wrong.

Vince Verhei: Take two run-first teams, both of whom are stronger in the front seven than they are in the offensive line, and you get Dolphins-Seahawks. It's 7-7 at halftime, with both scores coming from great individual plays. Miami's touchdown came when Reggie Bush was good Reggie Bush, and slipped a bunch of tackles on his way into the end zone. Seattle's touchdown was set up by a long pass to Golden Tate, who got his feet tangled with the cornerback, but caught the ball as he was falling down.

We've got a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial come to life as the game has been held up due to sprinkler delay. If they kept playing, it would have been the ultimate folly game.

Warren Moon -- in attendance as part of the radio broadcast -- just barely held onto his single-game franchise record of 17 consecutive completions. Early in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson had completed 16 in a row, but the 17th pass fell incomplete. What's worse, that was third down, so the streak-snapping incompletion led to a punt, and Miami scored the tying touchdown on the ensuing drive.

Early in the fourth quarter, Seattle's red zone interception is negated when Earl Thomas gets flagged for roughing the passer, and Miami scores a tying touchdown on the next play. Thomas was jumping to block the pass, and was actually in midair when the ball was still in Ryan Tannehill's hand. At that point, what's Thomas supposed to do? He can't fly! (After the game, Thomas confirmed, "I can't fly. I'm not Superman. I did everything possible to try and not rough the passer.")

Leon Washington answers Miami's touchdown with a 98-yard score of his own on the ensuing kickoff. That's his eighth career kickoff return touchdown, tying Josh Cribbs' record.

The Dolphins get a field goal at the gun to win 24-21, which must be a frustrating loss for Seattle. Their defense blew two seven-point leads in the fourth quarter, and Miami's last three drives totaled more than 220 yards, with two touchdowns and a field goal. Fortunately for the Seahawks, Tampa Bay and Minnesota lost too; or this could have been the game that cost them a playoff spot.

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Matt Waldman: Falcons offense eviscerating the middle zones of the Bucs pass defense. Matt Ryan is 8-of-8, and in the red zone.

Falcons score on a shotgun pitch play to Rodgers, his first of the year. Rodgers had a 20-yard run in the first series on the same play. They haven't run this play much all year, but it is working well against the Bucs.

Andy Benoit: Even with Julio Jones back and Bucs extra thin at cornerback, Jacquizz Rodgers is a key part of Falcons game plan in the first quarter.

Trends with Falcons red zone play-calling: interior screens to running backs and toss sweeps out of shotgun.

Aaron Schatz: On their first drive, it was surprising to see the Falcons run so much (and so well) against the top-ranked Tampa Bay run defense. I think they had something like seven or eight runs to just two or three passes. Also, the Falcons are definitely using Jacquizz Rodgers more than Michael Turner today, hoping to get more space for running outside. Gerald McCoy and Brian Price are beating the Falcons' interior linemen a lot, and Lavonte David has clearly been a big addition against the run.

On the other hand, the Buccaneers are really having a problem covering Tony Gonzalez: just plain wide open a few times.

Matt Waldman: Doug Martin catches a pass in the right flat, makes a defender miss at the line of scrimmage, and weaves across the width of the field for a 42-yard gain that is nullified by penalty. Two plays later, the Falcons sack Freeman, and force a punt. Beautiful run after the catch by Martin, though. He's running with a lot of confidence between the tackles and in the open field.

Ronde Barber reads Matt Ryan's eyes, and undercuts Roddy White for the interception. On the ensuing drive, Mike Williams throws a double-pass to Vincent Jackson to get inside the five-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: From the pocket, Matt Ryan just threw it out of the end zone by about 25 yards trying to avoid a sack with four seconds left in the half. Can somebody explain to me why that's not intentional grounding?

All of Tampa Bay's big pass plays seem to be on the left side today. They just had another in between the corner and the safety. For inquiring minds, here's Atlanta's defensive DVOA by pass direction going into today's game (ranking in parentheses):

  • deep left = 56.2% (26)
  • deep right = -2.5% (8)
  • short left = -5.7% (19)
  • short right = -39.6% (3)

Readers may wonder why we're not talking about Mike Smith's strange decision to kick a 48-yard field goal with 13 seconds left instead of a) punting the ball or b) running some sort of "QB run around like a crazy person" play that would take more time off the clock.

Yeah, I guess it was pretty dumb. Even though a punt probably gets a touchback, the difference between Tampa Bay having 80 yards to go or 62 yards to go probably means a lot with only enough time for two more plays.

Oakland Raiders 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 34

Robert Weintraub: I didn't see this game because I was driving the utterly banal stretch of I-75 between Florida and Georgia, but I listened to the whole thing thanks to the miracle of satellite radio. It was just like being back in Cincinnati! (Only I've never been there save a handful of games.) But since no one else seems to have watched any of it either...

Mohamed Sanu appears to be emerging as a legitimate successor to TJ Houshmandzadeh. He had two touchdown receptions (four in three games), and ran for a first down from the backfield. He also plays special teams, and is a strong blocker. The radio guys were talking about Sanu's soft, enormous hands -- the play-by-play man's handshake story bordered on salacious. His coming to the fore as a legit No. 2 wideout opposite AJ Green is a major reason that the Bengals have scored 93 points in the last three games.

Speaking of Green, he went without a touchdown reception for the first time in ten games.

Carson Palmer was booed vociferously by the small-but-lively crowd (blackout in Cincinnati). He was sacked twice on the first series of the game, and it all went downhill from there.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best game with the Bengals by far. He broke two long runs that came up just shy of the end zone. On the second of these, Marvin Lewis challenged even though the Bengals were up 24-10 and (at worst) had first-and-goal inside the one-yard line. The challenge failed, but then Cincinnati got stuffed on three plays, and had to kick a field goal. Sadly, that means Lewis will feel justified in his next ten absurd challenges.

Sure, it came against a Giants team taking a mid-season breather, plus the sorry Chiefs and Raiders, but three straight Bengals routs is not something any of us fans are accustomed to: You have to go back to 1976 to find the last three-game stretch of Cincinnati wins by 18 points or more. Remember the Bicentennial and the election of Jimmy Carter, kids? Norv Turner, Jason Garrett, and Andy Reid are straight ahead on the schedule, by the way.

Pittsburgh Steelers 14 at Cleveland Browns 20

Aaron Schatz: A terrible play turns great for the Steelers. Chris Rainey hits a wall on the goal line, but nobody wraps him up, so he is able to bounce back outside, and score.

Midway through the fourth, Browns penalties move them back to third-and-31. Draw play by Trent Richardson gets like three yards. What's the point? Whenever I see that, I always think that more teams really need to teach their quarterbacks to quick kick. You would get much better field position off it than running the give-up draw followed by a standard punt return.

J.J. Cooper: Either the offensive line play is the worst ever or the officials are calling holding too tightly. It seems much more a case of understanding that every grabbed jersey doesn't have to be called a hold. It is making an already ugly game almost unwatchable.

Also the Steelers started the game with Rashard Mendenhall at tailback. He quickly fumbled, and was replaced by Jonathan Dwyer, who also fumbled. He was replaced by Isaac Redman, who also fumbled. The Steelers then turned to 180-pound fourth-stringer Chris Rainey. He fumbled too but because Pittsburgh recovered, so Mike Tomlin stuck with him. Eventually Tomlin let Mendenhall back in the game, but he quickly fumbled again. As I said, this game has been nearly unwatchable.

Aaron Schatz: Mike Tomlin: Not an expert on fumble luck.

Andy Benoit: Charlie Batch’s third interception was a perfect example of why he’s a third-string quarterback: a fluttering deep ball that came up several yards short of Mike Wallace, landing perfectly into the heart of a double team that had had more than enough time to drift over.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I would be curious to see how close those defensive backs were when Batch threw it because, by the time the ball came down, they were both stapled to Mike Wallace.

J.J. Cooper: On the first play of a potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, Rainey just fumbled for the Steelers' seventh turnover. That's now a fumble lost by each of Pittsburgh's four running backs.

OK, this game gets its fitting final act. Trent Richardson apparently fumbles, but officials rule he was down. Replay shows it was a fumble, but the Steelers can't challenge because they're out of time outs. And since it occurred with 2:10 to go, it is not automatically reviewed.

J.J. Cooper: When I said the holding calls were ridiculous, I went back and counted: nine holding calls in the second half.

Andy Benoit: Lawrence Timmons stood out all game for Steelers; not just with his tipped pick-six, but also with his speed to the edge in run defense.

Tennessee Titans 19 at Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Tom Gower: The Jaguars hold a 7-6 lead, and it's been the sort of first half that you'd expect between two of the half-dozen or so worst teams in football. (Before Tennessee's game against Miami, I'd have said three). Chad Henne successfully attempted contested passes in the middle of the field on the Jaguars' touchdown drive, but he's been sacked four times by one of the worst pass rushes in football. Still, he hasn't had those spray-y moments he had late in last week's game, and is 10-for-14 against a secondary that hasn't challenged him much.

Meanwhile, the Titans have looked like the offense I expected coming into this season. Chris Johnson has looked good at times in putting up some mediocre rushing totals, and been a good option on checkdowns. And while Jake Locker (8-for-16) has had moments that make me wonder if he'll ever be an above-average NFL passer, his receivers haven't helped him out at times (e.g., Nate Washington had a bad missed toe-drag of the sort I'd expect from, say, Lavelle Hawkins).

Oh, also, even though Henne's downfield pass ended up falling incomplete, Mike Mularkey went bold again, going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Titans 45-yard line with a minute to play in the half. Naturally, the Titans took advantage of the good field position (plus three timeouts), and picked up their second field goal of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Grrrr...We're never going to be able to keep Mularkey this aggressive if the defense can't hold after those occasional failures. Also, I would like to see them throw, say, a five-yard pass on fourth-and-3; not a downfield pass.

Tom Gower: In the second half, Cecil Shorts, who is having a nice second season, found a hole open in the Titans secondary, and eluded a couple of tacklers for a 59-yard touchdown. The Titans answer with a field goal, but Jacksonville is ahead 14-9 at the end of the third quarter in a stadium where they've lost every game this season by at least 17 points.

Fifty-five minutes into his 11th game of 2012, Karl Klug gets his first sack of the season. Apparently, those seven sacks on 10 sacks-plus-pressures in 2011 weren't indicative of a future superstar after all!

Denver Broncos 17 at Kansas City Chiefs 9

Ben Muth: Kansas City has moved the ball a little bit early, twice driving into field goal range. On the second drive the Chiefs elected to kick on fourth-and-2 from the four-yard line. Arrowhead does not like the decision.

There was just a crazy sequence on Kansas City's drive early in the second quarter. Romeo Crennel decides to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the Broncos' 40-yard line. They go five-wide, and Brady Quinn gets the first down on a quarterback sneak, except Crennel called a time out just before the snap. After the break, the Chiefs line up in five-wide again, but this time the Broncos jump offsides, giving Kansas City the first down. But of course they're still a bad football team, so Quinn takes a sack to push them out of field goal range, and are forced to punt anyway.

Greg Gumbel thinks a lot of teams would look to settle for a field goal on second-and-goal from the nine-yard line with 40 seconds left in the half, but you have to go for the end zone when you have Peyton Manning. I know it's easy to rag on announcers, but is there a single coach in the history of football that wouldn't try to score a touchdown in that situation? That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard said on national television.

Vince Verhei: So far in this surprisingly close game, the Chiefs have had two false starts on third-and-1. Third-and-6 is too much to ask of Brady Quinn.

Ben Muth: Do you think Romeo Crennel's poor clock management haunts him in other facets of his life? Does he show up to dinner parties an hour early, and sit awkwardly as the hosts set up? Does the school office have to call and remind him to pick up his kids? I'm sure he can't handle microwaving popcorn. The only question is whether half the bag ends up as unpopped kernels or if the whole thing gets burnt to charcoal.

Danny Tuccitto: Romeo and the Chiefs automatically qualified for the 2013 Orville Redenbacher's Pop Up Bowl.

Minnesota Vikings 10 at Chicago Bears 28

Andy Benoit: Henry Melton beat Brandon Fusco inside for a sack on the Minnesota's first play. Then, Jasper Brinkley blew up the lead block of Evan Rodriguez on the Bears’ first play, resulting in a Forte fumble (his first of the season).

Early in the second quarter, Brandon Marshall had a play with minus-12 yards after catch. However, he's catching the ball well so far. It's unusual for a guy who struggles with drops, but Marshall is good at plucking the ball out of the air. His drops tend to come when he reacts to the ball instead of attacking it.

Marshall is also very good at using his upper body to get positioning downfield, like a post-up basketball player. It’s a major advantage against zone coverage because, rather than having to locate the holes to get open, he's essentially making in-position zone defenders into out-of-position man-to-man defenders.

Evan Rodriguez just got his first touch on the season. (Chicago originally said he was going to be their Aaron Hernandez.)

The Bears have run a methodical offense in the first half built around interior running and the occasional quick slant or play-action. It’s the exact type of play-calling you would favor when your offensive line isn’t very good, and is facing a four-man pass rush.

The end zone pass interference penalty that Brandon Marshall drew with five minutes left in the half was a product of great coaching and design. Chicago called a two-man route with maximum protection. When you go with maximum protection against a zone defense and four-man rush, you’ll get time to throw because there are no green-dog blitzes (i.e., man-to-man defenders rushing the passer instead).

Most of Christian Ponder’s poor passes this season have been a result of mechanical issues, particularly with his feet. Chris Conte's first-half interception on an overthrow was no exception: Ponder's feet weren’t completely set.

And on the next play following the turnover, Matt Spaeth's touchdown was a great play by Jay Cutler, who eluded Jared Allen, rolled left, and threw accurately into a tight window just before getting hit.

Without Percy Harvin, the Vikings had no downfield passing game in this one. Jarius Wright got Harvin's snaps, but he was used more as an underneath option. Jerome Simpson wasn’t a factor downfield, and also had two blatant drops. On the bright side, Adrian Peterson remains a beast: He still finishes a lot of runs by lowering his head like a battering ram, and 80 percent of his rushing yards this season have come out of two-back sets even though most of those runs don’t involve a traditional lead-blocker.

With about five minutes left, Minnesota had third-and-1 at Chicago's goal line. They went to the air, but Ponder had nowhere to go with the ball. On fourth-and-1, they went to the air again, with the same outcome. If they Vikings knew they were using four downs, why didn’t they feed Peterson on third down? He had been rolling on that drive.

Baltimore Ravens 16 at San Diego Chargers 13 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: NORV ALERT! With a 13-10 lead and 4:19 to play, San Diego goes three-and-out in less than a minute after a three-yard dumpoff on third-and-7.

NORV UPDATE! Ray Rice, I mean, wow. Down three with 1:59 left, the Ravens have to go for it on fourth-and-29. Joe Flacco dumps the ball off to Rice. After he gets through ten or so yards of empty space, Rice somehow outmaneuvers three Chargers defenders standing right in front of him, goes around to the left, and then dives for the first down. I think 28 yards of YAC. A block by Anquan Boldin on Eric Weddle also helped.

Vince Verhei: If the Chargers lose this game, and Norv loses his job, then Ray Rice's 30-yard gain on fourth-and-29 needs to be his San Diego epitaph.

Aaron Schatz: Thirty yards? I think it was barely 29 yards. They're reviewing it. I think he made it, but just barely.

Tom Gower: If they flag Anquan Boldin's blindside block that injured Eric Weddle, the Ravens don't have a first down right now. As is, the Ravens have the first down, and are facing a defense with one healthy safety.

And now they've won in overtime. I want to register one complaint, though: I don't know why John Harbaugh elected to kneel three times before kicking the game-winning field goal. Those kneel-downs lost four yards, turning a 34-yard field goal into a 38-yard field goal. If he were 15 yards closer to the end zone, I could live with that, but at least run into the line for no gain instead of voluntarily losing yardage like that. I know, I know. Harbaugh gets fired if Flacco (or Rice) fumbles, but c'mon.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think there's a huge difference between 34 and 38. If it was over 45 yards, I would think Harbaugh was nuts.

San Francisco 49ers 31 at New Orleans Saints 21

Andy Benoit: Colin Kaepernick made a precise throw on the last play of the first quarter. After buying time, he had to dump the ball off, but his throw led Bruce Miller for the catch-and-run. Most quarterbacks would have just gone for the completion in that situation (especially young quarterbacks).

Aaron Schatz: San Francisco's offensive line doesn't look great today, at least when it comes to pass-blocking. I wonder how much of that is the line, and how much is that a different style of play from the quarterback can sometimes make the line look worse.

Andy Benoit: Most of it is the line. Niners have a great run-blocking offensive line; they're only average at pass-blocking. Of course, Kaepernick has an ability to extend the play, which is something something Alex Smith doesn’t give you.

Vince Verhei: I'm seeing a lot of Tweets impressed by Kaepernick today. I dunno. At halftime, the offense has one touchdown, three punts, one turnover, and only seven first downs. He's made some exciting plays, but it's not like he's dominating and it's not like he's playing a good defense, either.

Aaron Schatz: I agree with Vince here. It's not as impressive as last week against Chicago, although he would look better if not for an outright drop by a wide-open Vernon Davis.

Can anyone see the main way that San Francisco covered Jimmy Graham in the first half? He only had two catches for 16 yards, and was the intended receiver on Ahmad Brooks' pick-six. He's a hard guy to make disappear, but the 49ers are doing it.

Danny Tuccitto: I'm on the same page. You can definitely see what Kaepernick brings to the table in terms of elusiveness and arm strength, and how that makes San Francisco's offense even more multidimensional going forward. However, he's basically just played the typical 49ers role of "efficient quarterback." I don't see Alex Smith being much worse in this one except perhaps taking more sacks.

Andy Benoit: On Brooks' pick-six, San Francisco used him as a free spy/underneath defender, and Drew Brees never saw him. You play tendencies in the NFL, and the Niners have not used Brooks in that capacity much this year.

Whitner's pick-six was a tip off of a Colston drop. Colston elevated, but was (rightfully) preoccupied with Goldson blowing him up -- which he did. Whitner and Goldson are incredibly fast downfield hitters, especially when they get a running start; which is often in this scheme.

Brees seems to have a tendency to fumble on contact this year.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I don't think that's necessarily a tendency this year; I think it's a tendency over his whole career. For a guy who never scrambles, Brees has an awful lot of fumbles nearly every season. He only had one last year, but averaged about seven per year from 2003 to 2010. It's a pretty small complaint about a guy as great as Brees, but it is part of the package.

Hey, look at that. The 49ers put Aldon Smith over on the other side so he can go up against the third-string right tackle Will Robinson, and on the first play he gets a sack when Robinson whiffs. Smith has such a high percentage of San Francisco's sacks, I would think you would want to double-team him as much as possible.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, it's nice to see Aldon Smith finally lining up on the strong side. Brooks might have a pick-six in coverage, but he hasn't put the slightest hint of pressure on Brees when he rushes. You're going against a third-string tackle, man.

Vince Verhei: It probably won't matter since San Francisco ended up kicking a field goal to go up 10 with eight minutes left, but holy cow did Randy Moss just get away with pass interference in the end zone. He grabbed the defender by the front of the jersey, and spun him to the ground.

St. Louis Rams 31 at Arizona Cardinals 17

Ben Muth: Cardinals open up the game with a long touchdown drive. The biggest play was an unnecessary roughness penalty on Quintin Mikell, who jacked Andre Roberts up at the end of a play as he was standing around a pile. Even worse, the late hit occurred when Arizona came up 12 yards short on third-and-18.

Andy Benoit: I bet the Cardinals hadn't even had a 15-play touchdown drive during a walk through practice this season.

Tom Gower: Janoris Jenkins, who's made a ton of rookie-type mistakes lately, picks off Ryan Lindley and returns it to the house. It looked like Lindley was fooled by the coverage, expecting Jenkins to go deep with the outside receiver and vacating the flat for the shallow out by the slot receiver.

Ben Muth: Beanie Wells with a nice cutback and bounce for his second touchdown of the game. My guess is that Mikell lost outside contain because of short motion by Andre Roberts. When a wide receiver goes in short motion, it means he's probably blocking inside, which in turn means the safety scrapes over the top if the running back bounces outside. In this case, though, Mikell attacked inside instead.

Biggest benefit of the Ryan Lindley era is that it's forced Whisenhunt to call throws based on quick pre-snap reads and play action where the first read is underneath. This led to the pick-six but it has really helped the offensive line: zero sacks allowed the first half.

Lindley throws another pick because of miscommunication with Larry Fitzgerald. That's the second time where the two have been on completely different pages. Considering Fitzgerald seems to be responsible for personnel decisions, I'd make sure I'm simpatico if I were Lindley.

Lindley with a terrible throw on another pick-six for Janoris Jenkins. He tried to force it into a bracketed Fitzgerald off his back foot.

Andy Benoit: That was simply a bad play by Lindley -- Larry Brown Super Bowl XXX type of play.

Ben Muth: We need to retire the "Thunder and Lightning" nicknames for running back tandems. John Lynch says that's what people in St. Louis are calling Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson.

With 5:30 left in the game, Jeff Fisher elects to kick on fourth-and-inches from Arizona's two-yard line to take a two-score game (11) to a two-score game (14). Don't know what the math is, but that seemed like a terrible call.

Tom Gower: I don't think it was that bad a decision.

Ben Muth: Let me rephrase. It wasn't a "terrible" decision (Lindley isn't scoring 11 or 14 points this late), but I don't get what a field goal gets you there.

Unbelievable note from Darren Urban on Arizona: "Somehow, the Cards lost two games to the Rams this season when quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of 15 passes in the two games. Never thought that’d be possible."

Green Bay Packers 10 at New York Giants 38

Aaron Schatz: Cris Collinsworth is talking about how, with Clay Matthews injured, the Packers are easier to run on, and there's nobody you need to double team on the outside when you want to run. Is Matthews considered a particularly strong run defender? I've always just thought of him as a pass rusher.

I do think, though, that we're definitely seeing the effect of injuries on the Packers pass defense tonight. These young cornerbacks really don't seem up to the task against Manning, Cruz, and Nicks.

Vince Verhei: NBC's decision to play salsa music when Victor Cruz scored is my favorite broadcasting moment of 2012.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, the cue didn't quite work right tonight, though. It came out choppy; was better in earlier games.

Oh, Mike McCarthy. You can't go on fourth-and-inches with your kicker in a massive slump? I'm sad.

Boy, this didn't turn out to be the most interesting game, did it?

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 26 Nov 2012

228 comments, Last at 28 Nov 2012, 5:02pm by SandyRiver


by N8- (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:12pm

Yes, Matthews is a run-stopper as well as a pass rusher.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:47pm

Yep, he anchors quite well, and while he doesn't always get multiple blockers, he tends to not give ground at point of attack, he also ends up in the back field which can force a runner to cut earlier or in an unplanned direction which leads to plays for others. Oddly he does what you expect a nose to do against the run in a 3-4. Anchor your spot, absorb blockers, make sure a blocker can't slip off and get to the next level, if there is a hole, keep it small, and make it easier for other guys to make plays. If he doesn't make the tackle he'll often at least get a hand on the runner and slow them some. Capers also uses him in run blitzes. I'm not saying he is a great run defender but he is at worst average against the run. Walden has always been below average, I still don't have a read on Moses yet, but he's an undrafted rookie. The rest of the rotation at OLB with Perry out for the year is essentially the same type of deal, low round picks or undrafted rookies who flash in pass rush.

I agree with Aaron on the injuries looking obvious in the secondary. They had played weak offenses after the main rash of injuries hit, so they survived it. I'm not sure Matthews or Woodson will be back next week, Shields probably will, which helps more than some might think. He might not be a big upgrade as a corner over Hayward or House, but it means that in dime and quarters coverage that you have a corner playing slot coverage instead of a safety (McMillian), and you aren't putting a 3rd string safety (Richardson, another undrafted rookie) at safety at times.

Jennings should be back for the offense next week too, he practiced this past week, but was held out as McCarthy said to "prevent a potential fatigue injury". That should help the offensive production, which of course can help cover for defensive issues. If his return makes Finley stop dropping the rare pass Rodgers sends his way, so much the better. Though I realize the o-line injuries are the bigger issue, but still Jennings should help. I wish Sherrod were going to make it back, but I still think he is going to end up on IR, I think they have to make that decision on him by tomorrow.

With the last regular season double digit loss coming back in 2009 (and last 20 point loss coming in 08) this all feels odd as a fan. I've been spoiled.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:59pm

The defensive back who was routinely getting exposed was Davon House. The Giants were clearly targeting House nonstop. Right after that was Jennings.

Woodson wouldn't have helped and folks need to stop thinking the guy can still cover anyone but a tight end. Woodson is best used at the line of scrimmage where his combination of instincts, hand checking and ability to slice through defender and tackle work best. He cannot hang with receivers downfield and it's silly to think otherwise.

Tramon Williams not playing soft would help. Sam Shields will likely push House to the bench and that would help. Heyward is fine and getting better. Not asking AJ Hawk to cover anyone would help. Not thinking that Erik Walden can pass rush against anyone not below average in pass blocking would help.

Dom Capers needs to work in the reality based world versus the fantasy world he has clearly created for himself.

I am not saying Capers has a great hand of options but asking people to do things they clearly cannot do is foolish.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:24pm

Oh I have no illusions that Woodson can cover anymore, that's generally why he is in the slot, and ends up on TE or running backs or WR 3, and does exactly what you say (and some of that is playing coverage instead of Hawk). He still blitzes fairly well too, and he could have helped, I still think if he were in the slot (and I think he would have been on the coverage they had called) the Bradshaw screen doesn't go for 59 yards. He wouldn't have prevented the Packers from losing (he and Matthews both playing probably wouldn't have) but I do think it would have made the game more reasonable.

I said Shields might not be a huge upgrade over Hayward or House, because I've seen Shields get picked on like House was in several games last year and I have no idea what he'll be like after an injury that could still affect his best asset, his speed. But yes, it will push House down on the depth chart, which is fine, especially since the shoulder harness does clearly affect him.

Tramon only plays soft when it's in the game plan or he's injured, it was pretty clearly game plan.

I've also wondered about Capers defensive design since last year. He can find ways to get favorable match-ups for players, but he hasn't shown a lot of ability to always match a scheme to what he has on the field. Like you say scheming to get Walden a 1 on 1 match-up on someone he still can't beat anyway, doesn't do you much good.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:10pm

Based on FO's stats, Tramon Williams has typically ranked poorly in yards given up per pass play, so it would appear to me that playing soft is routine for him... but he has made up for it with a high success rate,a bunch of interceptions, and good safety backup. It didn't help that he didn't tackle very well last night either.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:02am

I might be weighing 2010 too heavily since it was his only healthy year as a starter, so I'd need to see his charting stats this year. So perhaps that it tainting my memories of his starts in 08 and 09 when Woodson or Harris were injured, and most of his starts this year.

In 05-09 he was the nickle back and spot starter. The nickle back in GB is generally a zone (soft) coverage player, with the outside CB's generally in press man. He was injured for most of 2011, and Capers kept him off the line, actually changed a lot of the scheme concepts to try and allow Williams to play softer and kept his hands off receivers. Most of this year he has been playing up more, and being allowed to jam at the line, the New York game being an exception. I'm expecting his charting numbers this year to look much more like 2010.

But I will grant that I might just being putting too much weight on spot starts and what may have been a career year.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:37am

Bob McGinn's evaluation of the game has a highly critical section on Williams and that teams will be targeting him more in the future if he doesn't start tackling. 2010 is pretty clearly a career year. Williams is playing soft and it's very possible after this season that Green Bay makes a permanent change.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:07am

I really have issues fitting the Giants game in with the rest of the season.


They didn't play hardly any sub packages, which is unusual, they started House because of his size, over Heyward. It looked like a different D than most of the year, because it was.

I've also never considered Williams good in the run game (that is also where Woodson is missed, but really he is a just a tiny linebacker now). There is a difference in playing soft vs the run and soft vs the pass. He was soft vs the Giants, I'm not denying that, but then so was House, and both safeties. They really looked to be schemed to give bigger cushions vs the bigger WR, which on paper makes some sense as you figure you'll lose the jams at the line more than you'll win and with most of the secondary only having average speed, you have a higher risk of letting them get behind you. Of course as we saw the issue was less with getting beat and more with not tackling.

I still think Williams being soft has more to do with scheme or injury. Even with 2010 as a career year, I still think his numbers this year will be closer to 2010 than to 2011 or 2009 (the other two years he had a significant number of starts). I also don't see them letting him go at the end of the year, his deal goes through 2014 and it's very rare for them to cut a player before then. I figured when he got the extension in 2010 that he would play till the end of it, and then wouldn't be resigned, he'll be 31 then. You need three corners for this D, and Williams is still better than House and possibly Shields. Even if they get another corner that ramps up as quickly as Hayward next year, Williams should still have a job and then they might just Driver him for the last year of his contract if his play continues to slip. As much as I respect McGinn, he's putting too much weight on one game, which is part of his job as a columnist.

The Packers as a whole have (and have had) run D issues, I guess that allows you to call the players soft, and as mentioned the two best run defenders that play off the line are out.

But I'm willing to eat my words later. I haven't had time to watch the coaches film of the last 5 games, and I admit I wasn't watching Williams closely when I did with the first 6.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:43pm

The Packers are a somewhat soft football team being camouflaged by a great qb, ala late era Manning/Colts. When Matthews is in street clothes, they're almost a marshmallow factory.

The Vikings are a somewhat physical football team exposed by a passing attack that would have a tough time looking good in a MAC conference championship game. It doesn't really matter who plays in the Packers secondary next week, in terms of pass coverage. Harvin will be hobbled at best, and now Rudolph may not play. The Vikings couldn't get downfield on Kent State right now.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:40pm

You know for some reason I thought they had Detroit next week (I thought they had one of those 2 games in three weeks) and Minn was after that, I had it flipped.

You are right, that does make me feel a lot better about the defensive injuries against the pass game. If the run defense doesn't sort itself out, and the offensive line doesn't sort itself out, the Vikings could still win on a 25 carry 185 yard performance from Peterson, and 6 sacks from Allen.

I'm not feeling the sky is falling or anything, they got waxed and that happens sometimes to good teams (just not the Packers in recent years). I still feel the defense is at least average, even with the injuries, and the offense is still at worst average, they will at worst split with Minn, they'll beat Tenn, and I think they beat Chicago too (and if not they likely beat Detroit or Minn twice) so they should still be the 11-5 team I figured they were, and make the playoffs, and they can still have games like they did vs the Texans or Arizona in the playoffs so I still see Super Bowl as possible.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:16pm

In today's rule environment, any team with great qb, which makes the tourney, has a real shot at the Super Bowl. Now, winning three or four playoff games, against teams which can flat out whip your team on the line of scrimmage, is still a tall order, but not nearly as tall as it used to be, so if the guys on the line can at least threaten to throw a few good hooks and uppercuts, Rodgers can drag them over the line.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:49pm

When I need an unbiased Clay Matthews opinion, I go to that cat lady Packer fan for advice. She watches every snap, no matter where she is.

by rageon :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:42pm

cat lady Packer fan

That sounds like someone RaiderJoe needs to be married to.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:13pm

It was nice to completely ignore Jim Schwartz in this piece. You know, because he's a friend of yours. I know his game wasn't on Sunday, but if Norv Turner lost a game the way Schwartz did (and Schwartz made multiple gaffes in his loss), it would be a 12-part miniseries

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:41pm

Actually, Aaron was nice enough to make Thanksgiving Audibles-free; you know, so we could spend time with our families instead.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:47pm

That was nice of him. Hope you had an enriching, safe holiday.

Serious question: how do you pronounce Tuccitto? I think I'm saying it wrong in my head.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:01pm


Heh. You'd be the millionth person to pronounce it wrong. It's a a real puzzler, I know. A popular -- albeit good for comedy -- error is "tuxedo."

Anyway, it rhymes w/ "DeVito," with the "cc" pronounced like an "s." Those from the old country, though, are allowed to pronounce "cc" like a "ch." In that case, it's basically "two cheetos" without the s at the end.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:16pm

Ah, thanks for clarification. I was botching it. Cool.

Loved your rest/bye-week analysis piece, by the way.

by DavidL :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:43pm

I have one great-great-grandparent from Italy, and thus claim justification in continuing my previous "Twocheeto" pronunciation.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:12pm

Congratulations. I'm approving your request to be great-great-grandparented in.

by Theo :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:39pm

And is it dEnny or dAHny?

by Passing Through (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:53pm

Something you guys could do if you were serious about Audibles would be to tape the games and watch them later.

I know audibles is supposed to be live and low key but I would guess it is one of the FO fanbase's favorite articles.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:34pm

I'm guessing that would be too expensive.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:57pm

And all I wanted was to read funny accounts and anecdotes about the Butt Play.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:53pm

Not sure your speculation on FO contributors motives is on target, but you're right that the coaching failures in this game deserve comment. The bone-headed challenge was so bad as to be mind numbing. Beyond that the two (consecutive!) 4th quarter drives that could have resulted in FGs to extend the lead to 10 points but that both ended in punts due to sacks that took them out of FG range werejust begging to be second guessed. Not sure if those are Linehan or Schwartz calls though. What else you got?

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:39pm

Hey there. I did, in fact, send everyone at FO an e-mail on Thursday morning saying specifically not to send in any Audibles comments because I wanted everyone to feel like they could be with their families without feeling pressure to be near a computer or notebook.

I felt a little silly when the Thanksgiving games ended up so memorable, especially Houston-Detroit, but that's life.

As far as Jim Schwartz goes, it was tough watching him make that mistake on national television but I'm a lot more upset about his conservative tendencies on fourth down than I am about that heat-of-the-moment error.

Anyway, readers are perfectly welcome to discuss the Thanksgiving games here even though we did not. Have it out on all the craziness from Houston-Detroit, the greatness of Robert Griffin III, and, yes, Brandon Moore's tuchus.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:55pm

I was most appalled at Schwartz's overtime decision-making. The Lions had third-and-eleven at the Houston 29, on the left hash, and Schwartz decided to kick the field goal. He didn't decide to play for the field goal, but actually kicked it on third down.

Kicking on third down makes sense when it's truly a chip shot. In that case, if the snap is bad, the holder can fall on the ball and there will be one more shot to kick. The field goal will be a little longer, but still within range.

But when the field goal was already 47 yards, losing eight due to a bad snap would result in an unreasonable attempt. Schwartz could have instead used third down to (a) advance the ball or (b) center it (though I'm told they preferred to have Hanson kick from the left hash). I don't see how kicking a 47-yard field goal on third-and-eleven was in any way the right choice.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:09pm


I hate how coaches think "we're in field goal range!" as if FG range is separated by a border, inside of which the kicker is 100% accurate. Coaches have to know that any kick outside 40 yards is a crap shoot for most kickers. And that a 5-yard difference could mean a 25% increase in the kicker's accuracy. On the flip side, the "risks" being attended to by kicking on 3rd ground are infinitessimal.

by bstar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:00am

No, 40-49 yd FGs are not crap shoots. This year, the NFL average is 80.3%(183/228).

<20 yds - 100%
20-29 yd - 98.7%
30-39 yd - 88.8%
40-49 yd - 80.3%
50+ yds - 59.8%

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:15am

Considering that there's a huge dropoff at 50+, I'd really like to see more granularity in the 40-49 bucket. I would guess that there is a relatively big difference between 40-44 and 45-49. And Hanson's attempt was a 47-yarder.

by bstar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 7:14am

Yeah, definitely a finer breakdown of yardage on FG attempts would help. Does anyone out there have access to data for FG attempt yardage in 5-yard zones instead of 10-yard ones?

by duh :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 8:13am

FWIW Hanson is 8 of 9 from 40 - 45 this this year and 4 of 6 from 45 -50

by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:47pm

Yeah, 89% vs 67% is really a huge drop-off. Of course, it's also a small sample size. But still, kicking that 3rd-down FG was truly indefensible.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by SandyRiver :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 5:02pm

Does Hanson's 4-of-6 include doinking the upright last week? If so, he was at 83% from 45-49 as he lined up for that kick, and given the sample size, not really different from his 89% from 40-44.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:48am

On PFR you can do it by yard line, but you don't seem to be able to do a range - you can do inside X, outside X, or from exactly X. Some from each yardline are slightly different (i.e. some FGs from the 29 are noted as 48 yarders, not 47 yarders due to whereabouts at the 29 the spot was or snap went to I guess.

From the 27 (45 yarder) 18/20 (90%)
From the 28 (46 yarder) 12/15 (80%)
From the 29 (47 yarder) 21/29 (72.5%)
From the 30 (48 yarder) 19/26 (73%)
From the 31 (49 yarder) 10/11 (91%)
Overall from 27-31 yard line (roughly 45-49 yards - 80/101 (79.2%).

If I take those numbers away from the the 183/228 that bstar gave for the figures from 40-49, that means that from 40-44 NFL kickers should be 103/127 (81%).

This has led me to conclude that Schwartz should have used the 3rd down to kneel, and lose 2 years, because a kick from the 31 is easier than from the 29. Well, maybe. Well, no, but I'd love to see someone argue it.

From the 32 (50 yarder) they drop back down to 9/16.

Maybe the drop off isn't from 40-44 V 45-49, but from 40-46 and 47 and beyond?

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:49pm

Maybe (probably) the drop-off is kicker dependent. So we would really need to look at all of Hanson's data instead of league-wide data. Granted, that's less data, but I'm pretty sure not everyone is equally competent from various distances.

In fact, I wonder if that's why the percentage goes back UP at 49 yards... maybe only the better kickers try from that range... or maybe not.

Either way, getting closer is better, and "field goal range" is not binary, so I don't understand kicking the field goal on 3rd either. At least try to get closer.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:32pm

The idea is that if something goes wrong (bad snap, penalty, e.g.), you can still retain possession, rather than giving up the ball immediately with bad field position.

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:58pm

My point is that missing a long field goal is much, much more likely than any of those things. The shorter the field goal is, the more likely I am to agree with that line of thinking. Inside 40 yards is nearly a chip shot in good weather these days. Beyond 40 yards, I still want to get closer if I can. Well, or thereabouts; I kind of pulled the 40 yard mark out of the air.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:46pm

Watt had already sacked Stafford to turn field goal attempts into punts twice in regulation. I'm not saying it was the right decision, but it was more understandable in the circumstances than it might otherwise have been.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:51pm

But if you're really worried about that, you run up the middle to gain a couple of yards. I don't think that reasoning holds any water.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:58pm

Not to mention that a punt is hardly the end of the world. It was a high-scoring game, but the defense would be relatively rested at the beginning of OT and the Houston offense would presumably be starting inside their own fifteen. That's not a bad deal compared to a missed FG.

And of course you could always run a fade to Calvin Johnson, double covered or no. An armpunt on 3rd down wouldn't be the end of the world either.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:56pm

Regarding Schwartz's idiotic challenge that probably cost his team the game, there was a similar play in the Bears-Vikings game. Matt Forte apparently had fumbled (although watching it live it looked like he might have been down before the ball came loose), and the Vikings recovered and ran it back for a touchdown. So that play was going to be automatically reviewed for two reasons (it was a turnover and a scoring play). One of the announcers quickly commented something about how Lovie Smith presumably knows not to throw the challenge flag (which was my first reaction as well). Lovie did know this and did not challenge, and the play ultimately was reversed because Forte was down by contact. I was very glad that our coach knows the rules and didn't cost us what would have been a key touchdown.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:44pm

It's easy avoid that mistake if you've seen someone else do it on national TV just a couple days earlier.

On the other hand, I've seen Lovie Smith make more questionable challenges than any other coach in the NFCN.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:01pm

While that's true, it's also easy to avoid that mistake if you simply know the rule. Schwartz acknowledged that he did know the rule but made that boneheaded challenge anyway.

While Lovie Smith certainly has made his share of questionable challenges, I don't know how he compares to other coaches in the division. I do know that he has never made a challenge that he knew was not allowed, that also cost his team a 15 yard penalty, and that resulted in a TD being allowed when it would not have been awarded but for the challenge and ultimately cost his team the game. (Obviously, we can't know how the game would have played out absent the challenge, but that clearly was the biggest play of the game.)

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:30am

Actually, for whatever reason (it probably helps that scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed), in my mind Lovie has been better at challenges for the last season or so. That said, the one that epitomizes him in my mind was in the Lions game last season where the Bears had 3rd and 1, ran it for no gain, and Lovie called a timeout to decide whether or not to challenge. Then he challenged, and lost (they were pretty clearly short), and was charged another timeout. Then the Bears ran it again on 4th and 1 and failed to convert.

Agreed that Schwartz's move was as boneheaded as you can get, although I also think the rule that the play won't be reviewed if the challenge flag is through is as dumb of a rule as can be. I love watching the Lions fail, but I would have much preferred it if Houston had actually had to score that touchdown they were given (which they well might have).

by Roch Bear :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:11pm

Interesting observations, LionInAZ. I'm a Bear fan and so don't trust my own suspicion, agreeing with you, that Lovie is indeed among the worst if not THE worst at challenges. Overall, I think he is a valuable head coach, but I wish he'd hand the red flag over to some assistant.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:10pm

This year is especially frustrating/disappointing because Schwartz previously seemed to be pretty good with challenges/timeouts/game management. This year he's completely fallen apart. The stress of higher expectations, perhaps?

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:47pm

I'm not sure he's been make more bad game management calls, but when you combine that challenge with the player discipline problems make it look worse.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:31pm

For the record, I agree that Lovie is a pretty good coach. It's just my observation that he makes challenges into an adventure.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:49pm

This is an accurate statement.

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:54pm

Lots of coaches do stuff like that, but I still think it's inexcusable. As an NFL head coach, you're supposedly one of the best 32 people in the entire world at a job that includes challenging plays. Are there not 32 people in the whole freaking world that can coach well and know the damn rules?

by P (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:16pm

I was screaming at the TV the whole game for the Vikings to just run the damn ball. But no, even sans Harvin, they threw twice as often as they ran.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:10pm

Are the Vikings trying to limit AP's carries because of the knee?

by Birdman84 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:10pm

They could be, but Gerhart isn't a bad backup if that is the case.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:45pm

Gerhart is a terrble backup.

by Roch Bear :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:14pm

To his opponents, AP is a great and terrible runner. Gerhart is a bit meh.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:59pm

Then you must have loved when they came out for the first play of the game in an empty backfield shotgun formation with Peterson split out wide. That resulted in a quick sack of Ponder.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:16pm

The Harbaugh/Flacco kneeldowns were aimed at draining the clock as much as possible, so if the Ravens missed the Chargers wouldn't have much time left. I'm not saying I agree, but that was the idea. They did take some risk kicking it on fourth down, no margin for error if you botch the snap.

by DavidL :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:30pm

Yes, but they could have drained the clock with running plays that went for no gain or even a short gain instead of a guaranteed 1-yard loss.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:33pm

The trade off is having no risk of fumbling versus some risk of fumbling, and the value of four yards (from a 34-yard kick to a 38-yard kick). I don't see an obvious preference to either side.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:40pm

no risk of fumbling

Philip Rivers calling on line 2.

by bstar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:10am

NFL kickers make close to 90% of their FGs from 30-39 yds(88.8%). I think the "no-fumble" advantage is greater than the difference between a 34 and 38 yd FG.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:23am

I'd guess that fumbled snaps on kicks are somewhere less than 5%, which is probably about the same as the difference between 34y and 38y.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:59am

Kickers are 50/57 (87.7%) on 38 yard FGs the last two years, and 38/41 (92.6%) on 34 yard FGs.

Does that mean that there would need to be fumbles on 5% of FGs for the down to be worth more than the yardage?

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:58pm

Not quite, but close enough for an ad-hoc conversation.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:12pm

I imagine that if a running back is specifically tasked with not fumbling, he can virtually ensure that as well. Wrap both arms tightly around the ball and stay low.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:15pm

I thought it was excellent game/situation management from Harbaugh. Had the kick been missed, San Diego would have been left with only 40 seconds and no timeouts to get into range themselves. It was actually picked up by the TV commentators (but strangely not here by the Audibles writers), pointing out that a tie was valuable to the Ravens as it would have stretched their division lead to 2.5 games with only 4 to play.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:24am

I really liked that too. I think its the first time I've ever seen an NFL coach actively think in terms of win/loss/tie, instead of win/loss.

I guess you could argue that the other Harbaugh was doing the same thing in the tie against the Rams, because they punted away with less than 2 minutes left. They were facing 4th and 15 from their own 43 though, so that seems like less of a "nice call for considering the possibility of a tie not being terrible" moment.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:04pm

Gower's comment:
"I know, I know. Harbaugh gets fired if Flacco (or Rice) fumbles, but..."
surprises me. Really, Harbaugh gets fired? I don't think there are 5 coaches in the league who are more secure in their jobs right now, than John Harbaugh. Probably Jim; probably McCarthy; maybe Coughlin. Belichick. Anyone else?

There are a bunch of coaches I would put in the category of "about as secure in their jobs as Harbaugh", including Tomlin, Mike Smith, Kubiak. But I wouldn't say they were more secure.

It was an odd comment, really struck me. Harbaugh gets fired if a fumble keeps the Ravens from attempting a FG there? I don't see his ice as anything remotely like "thin".

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:51pm

John Fox, Pete Carroll, Lovie Smith...

by BigCheese :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:05am

If the Bears miss the play-offs (which as much as I'm rooting for them to win the division isn't entirely out of the question with that O-Line and all of these injuries piling up) Lovie's gone. Specially with the new GM.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Guest789 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:03pm

Pretty sure that was meant as a joke.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:23pm

Of course we remember 1976. Party at the Moon Tower, Timmy Lincecum getting busted. At least Randall Pink didn't quit football, though he never signed the commitment to his team. Aerosmith was still on drugs, so the summer concert was awesome.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:10pm

I don't remember 1976 since the late 70's were my version of the late 60's. Plus, the Packers sucked those years, drafting such memorable players as Barty and Barry Smith, so I had no reason to bother remembering those years.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:31pm

Justin Tucker has a strong leg. I don't think the difference between 34 yards and 38 yards is meaningful for him. He's made all 11 of his FG attempts less than 40 yards.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:33pm

I want to echo the comments here regarding the officiating in the Cleveland-Pittsburg game. That game was absolutely brutal to watch. There were roughly 20 penalties in the game and the vast majority seemed to be against the offense (there was one long defensive PI but I can't recall any others). I was reminded of that great NFL films bit with Hank Stram (I think) referring to one official as 'an over-officious jerk'.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:36pm

The Romeo Crennel clock-management bit was really, really funny. Thanks for that.

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:36pm

Did I miss a special Thanksgiving edition? If not, that's too bad. I was looking forward to seeing FO's personal observations on the Washington-Dallas game.

by Just Another Falcons Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:51pm

Concerning going for the FG late in the Falcons game, I think what you are forgetting is that Atlanta was only up 1; without more points a FG can win the game for Tampa Bay. In that case (and as it ended up after the miss), they only need to go 35 yards instead of 62. I think I would have preferred to go for the first down via the run, but I think the FG attempt was defensible.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:21pm

The worse decision for me was calling a pass on the 3rd down before the punt / FG decision. Incompletion there, and then a punt on 4th down from the 37, and the Bucs would have had about 50 seconds to go 50 yards to get into field goal range. That whole sequence should not have ended with Freeman being able to throw a Hail Mary to an end zone with Vincent Jackson in it, but that's what happened.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the win. Tampa needs some help in the secondary, but they play sound football.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:08pm

Well, FO's audibles may have been Thanksgiving-free, but the comments don't have to be...

How the heck did Sanchez accomplish running into Moore like that? Despite what Collingsworth said, Wilfork did not shove Moore backwards but merely stood him up. Sanchez looking up while on the ground, seeing Gregory taking off with the ball, and then lying flat down on the ground again just made the play.

And (sorry, Jets fans) I just totally lost it on the ensuing kickoff. Have to agree with Rex for once -- "unbleeping believable".

by MpM (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:21pm

That play was pure Sanchez. He didn't just run into Moore but slammed his face into his butt (butted his butt with his face).

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:02pm

Ah! This is what I came here for. Thank you PatsFan!

I agree, I did not see Wilfork do anything but hold his ground. I guess Collinsworth's brain was simply unable to process the astounding sensorial data of Sanchez running "unabated to the butt".

I'd like someone to make a youtube video to the tune of that song featured once in South Park.. what, what, in the butt, what, what, in the butt. You know which one I mean?

I'd also like Sanchez to be credited for a forced fumble for hitting himself so hard against that wall of butt.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:12pm

Having re-run the play 10X, it appears (to me, anyway) that Wilfork did push the blocker back, only about a foot but right when Sanchez was making contact. Of course, Sanchez may still have been puzzling over why the intended ballcarrier had vanished.

That McCourty-induced forward lateral hit Edelman right in stride, resulting in raucous laughter in our house.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:28pm

I'm honestly not sure how you could NOT watch that play at least ten times. It is a microcosm of both the Jets' season and Mark Sanchez' career, as well as one of the better general blooper plays of all time. The highlights:

1. Mark Sanchez letting the full back pass by and extending his arm into midair and only later noticing the lack of a ball carrier.

2. His decision to immediately tuck and run rather than see if an eligible receiver was open and/or had whiffed on their block.

3. Dustin Keller's obvious frustration with what the players in the backfield generally were doing/not doing.

4. Brandon Moore being three yards into the backfield on a running play but still engaged with his blocker and facing forward.

5. The fact that Vince Wilfork was therefore apparently not doubleteamed on an inside run with a lead blocker.

6. The fact that Sanchez appeared to still be accelerating all the way into impact. To all appearances, he spent most of the play with his eyes tightly shut.

7. Running into an offensive lineman is quite forgivable; even good RB's do it all the time. Falling down when doing so is less forgivable. Allowing a forced fumble to be credited to your own guard's right hamstring is difficult to understand.

8. Following up that forced fumble by flopping facedown and burying one's face in the turf is not a recommended strategy for fumble recovery, or the tackling of fumble recoverers.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:47pm

Given that this was a running play (not a draw), the offensive line was almost certainly run-blocking. It's unlikely they were ALL pushed back, so any attempt to "see if an eligible receiver was open and/or had whiffed on their block" would lead to an illegal man down-field penalty.

Tucking and running is what QBs are trained to do, for this reason.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:10pm

I was assuming it was blocked as a draw, based on the fact that the LT was deeper in the backfield than Moore was; obviously Sanchez didn't act like it was a draw, but I'm hard pressed to know what he thought the play call was (I guess a halfback dive, but it really doesn't look like the OL was moving forward off the snap).

You are absolutely correct that if this was a running play, he couldn't look for a receiver (although he might have tried looking to lateral to the running back who didn't show up to take the handoff).

Also, an illegal man downfield penalty wouldn't have been a bad result, all things considered.

by duh :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 8:36pm

From the Jets blog on ESPN:

It was a misdirection play, with Greene -- the tailback -- running wide left on a pitch action, with Hilliard -- the up-back -- taking a quick-hitting handoff and plowing into the line. But the play was aborted when Sanchez turned out to his left instead of the right.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:01am

Sanchez messed up the play? Did Moore realise, and tell Sanchez to kiss his ass?

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 4:08pm

If that is the case, the Jets offensive line was totally blown up on the play. Moore was 2-3 yards behind the LOS, as were the TE and LT (who at least have the excuse that they kept the end outside the play). The Patriots LDE looks like he's falling down as Sanchez approaches Brandon Moore's arse, but he's a yard deep as well on the RT. Only the RG looks like he's effectively blocking a running play, and Gregory is able to pick up the fumble because he was unblocked (although he would have been meeting the fullback north of the LOS since the fullback reached it long before Sanchez).

However, the RG's success in blocking probably means that if Sanchez threw a pass, there would be a flag. Laughably, no other Jets lineman would have been ineligible downfield!

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:59pm

Double Post deleted.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:11pm

I can't wait to read Will Allen's reaction to the Vikings going to the air twice when facing a 3rd 1.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:21pm

Eh, playcallers outsmart themselves with some frequency. It would be more defensible if the Vikings didn't pass the ball like the 1925 Chicago Bears.

The game played out almost exactly like I thought it would, if Cutler played.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:04pm

Not as funny as I had hoped.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:07pm

Sorry; the game kinda' bored me silly.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:02pm

It was actually third and 2, not third and 1. But I agree with the sentiment above: If you know you are going to go for it on fourth down, then you absolutely should have run it with Peterson on third and 2, especially considering the way he was running on that drive.

by Huh (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:17pm

"Thomas was jumping to block the pass, and was actually in midair when the ball was still in Ryan Tannehill's hand. At that point, what's Thomas supposed to do? He can't fly!"

He's supposed to not indiscriminately launch into the air and lunge forward 5 yards. Simple.

You may want him to be able to both: (1) jump up to block the pass and (2) preserve the ability to sack the QB if he pump fakes... or you just may dislike the current rules protecting QBs.

But acting as if he had no other choice is just absurd. This is a textbook penalty: launching at the QB and striking him about the head and neck region.

Also, it's clear that he actually jumps because Tannehill is throwing. But it's completely unclear why people are claiming otherwise anyway: he's still launching himself from a few yards away and coming down on the head or neck region... Unclear why anyone thinks whether it was pre-, mid-, or post-throw matters. It also seems clear to me that he could easily have gone more vertical versus forward 5 yards (maybe a slight exaggeration but not by much; he clearly only achieves enough height to actually strike Tannehill in the head rather than block the pass while moving forward 4 yards or so).

Acting as if he had no other choice and he was making the correct play is just pure delusion under the current rules. If you have to launch to get to the QB, you better be going lower; if you are trying to block a pass, you better go more vertical than horizontal. Done. And shifting to your side so you are launching hip first doesn't absolve you of the penalty -- just makes it clear that you know its a penalty in the first place.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:36pm

This pretty well echoes my sentiment completely, before I could express it. A prospective echo! If Thomas wants to leap to block the pass, he can jump vertically and so not run the risk of landing on the passer when he comes down. Likewise, if Tannehill had held the ball, Thomas would have still come down and hit him in the head, thus drawing the same penalty, only it would have negated his sack other than the interception. Taking a flying leap that would hit the head of the quarterback is just a bad idea, period.

by Huh (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:03pm

I just watched it again more closely. To sound less like a homer, Thomas only moves forward 2.5 yards... But if you watch the NFL Gameday highlights (the one that is 2:25 long), you can see Thomas plant to jump at 1:03 and Tannehill's arm has clearly gone forward and the ball is about to leave his hand.

But, again, this is irrelevant. One can argue that they don't like the current rules, but I see no way to interpret this play as not illegal nor unavoidable.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:13pm

I disagree. Thomas didn't "launch". He landed from jumping up into the air near enough the QB that they made contact. It was a good clean play where a defender's forward motion carried him into the quarterback after the ball was thrown.

That said, there are all kinds of situations where good, clean plays lead to flags being thrown. It's just that all of the most egregious examples involve quarterbacks.

by Huh (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:34pm

Launching in the NFL is defined as leaving your feet.

Your description is a little fanciful -- making it seem like it was coincidental that he hit the QB as just a matter of unfortunate proximity (Thomas himself clearly tries to spin, going sideways... presumably because he can tell he's going to land on top of the QB's head.)

I have no problem with someone saying this play SHOULD be legal. Or that intent or intent to try to self-correct or any other number of aspects SHOULD mitigate the call of the play. But I do have a problem with someone saying it was a good clean play (no, it was not -- it is illegal to strike the QB when in the backfield in the head or shoulder region. Thomas may have intended to do as much as possible to avoid the hit or injury, he could have had all the happy thoughts in the world in his mind at the time, but that doesn't change the fact that striking the QB in the head or neck region is illegal).

If people actually want to improve the current situation with the rules and player safety, the debate only progresses forward when people can accept reality. Yes, moves that were formally legal are no longer legal. Moves that may not even result in injury or even the risk of injury are now illegal. Yes, defensive players have to control their movement in the air or not jump in the air if it risks a penalty. Yes, their is favoritism towards the QB and other skill positions while other players are still exposed to highly dangerous but perfectly legal plays. Yes. These are the rules. You can say that the rules should be changed again, propose ways to improve them, but denying that this is a clear infraction of the rules makes no sense.

I've grown very tired with the complete lack of progress on these issues based on the willful ignorance of fans, players, commentators and the like. When discussing the rules, you actually have to accept and understand the rules. Pretending that they are other than what they really are based on individual subjective preferences doesn't help anyone.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:17am

Say Tannehill see's Thomas jumping, and thinks "oh, right, he's gonna break up the past, best hold on" and Thomas then hits him as he comes down from his leap. Its *still* going to be a roughing the passer penalty, for a forcible blow to the head of the QB.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:19pm

"Aaron Schatz: From the pocket, Matt Ryan just threw it out of the end zone by about 25 yards trying to avoid a sack with four seconds left in the half. Can somebody explain to me why that's not intentional grounding?"

Because hes not Tom Brady?

In all seriousness, I'm not quite sure how IG is supposed to be called anymore. The refs have been all over the place on calling it.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:13pm

The same answer I was thinking of.

And the non-call on Ryan is the choice taken far more often than the IG whistled on Brady.

I literally cannot think of another IG called on a QB throwing the ball out of the end zone.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:20pm

No, no, no. It's nothing against the Patriots at all. You see Brady's pass landed in the end zone, where conceivably a receiver could actually have caught it, therefore an intentional grounding penalty. But Ryan's pass (just like about 3 throws a game from either Manning) was into the 5th row and completely uncatchable in any situation, therefore not a penalty.

Is that clear yet, or do I have to go over it again?

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:21pm

The pass we're talking about, from the Seahawks game at the end of the first half, did not land in the end zone.

by Travis :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:41pm

Possible reasons (all weak) why this wasn't called grounding:

1. Ryan did throw it in Julio Jones's direction, even if it went 20 feet over his head. There was no one in the middle on Brady's throw against Seattle. [But the referees are ignoring the "vicinity" component of the non-grounding exception.]

2. Ryan was being hit by the Tampa defender near his feet, which could have affected the throw. [Doesn't really look like it.]

3. Atlanta had a timeout left, so there wouldn't be a ten-second runoff that would mean the half was over, thus no real protest from Schiano. [However, the subsequent field goal would have been from 32 rather than 22.]

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:54pm

2 can't be it. Brady got called in the last week or two for one that landed about 10 feet from a receiver, that was thrown while he was falling with a defender on him.

I saw one last week (and I'm having a hard time remembering who the QB was) where the QB was driven out of the pocket, ran backwards, and just chucked the ball out of bounds. It landed a good 5 yards short of the line of scrimmage with no one in the vicinity. No call.

by Travis :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:10pm

The only grounding on Brady in the last 3 games came on the first play of the Jets game, when he basically threw the ball 5 yards in front of him with no receiver close while being tackled.

It's important to note that the "being hit" non-grounding exception applies only to passers who are hit AFTER starting their passing motion. A passer can't start his passing motion while being tackled, throw the ball into the ground, then claim that the hit affected the pass enough to make it not grounding.

I saw one last week (and I'm having a hard time remembering who the QB was) where the QB was driven out of the pocket, ran backwards, and just chucked the ball out of bounds. It landed a good 5 yards short of the line of scrimmage with no one in the vicinity. No call.

Drew Brees got flagged for this exact play yesterday.

I can't say I saw the play you're describing - maybe the ball landed at or beyond the line of scrimmage out of bounds? It's not important where the ball crosses the out-of-bounds line, but it's important where it lands.

by Ben :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:10pm

I thought that being in eminent danger of being sacked was one of the criteria for intentional grounding. So, tossing it out of the endzone when no one is hanging on you would not be grounding, but it is if someone is dragging you down.

Which, again, argues for the Ryan pass to be called.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:22pm

Well, imminent danger, perhaps.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:31pm

I honestly think that the refs calling grounding on Brady is just hazing at this point. Of course, given that it is Brady and the refs are probably really, really tired of his soccer/basketball "He hit me so hard!" flopping and whining, I'm neither surprised nor sympathetic.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:39pm

I suspect your reading something into the refs' behavior that isn't necessarily there.

by Ben :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:40am

Yeah, that too. That's what I get for trusting spellcheck...

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:21am

Isn't "a receiver in the vicinity" considered to be anyone the ball kind of passed over near the side/end line, especially when the throw is out of bounds? For example, Brady's Super Bowl one was hurled down the middle with no one particularly close, but you never ever see it called when a QB intentionally throws it out of bounds way over the head of (covered) receiver.

Didn't see the play in question, so I dunno if there was a receiver vaguely under where Ryan threw the ball away.

by Kevin M (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:32pm

"We're definitely seeing the effect of injuries on the Packers' pass defense tonight."

The Packers have allowed 35, 37, and 38 points in 3 games against the Giants over the past 12 months. They seem to have issues defensively whether guys are hurt or not.

by Anonraiderfan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:37pm

I am absolutely crushed you did not comment on the Jets game. Doesn't anyone have TIVO or DVR or subscribe to NFL.com?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:40pm

I am forced (since at one time I thought he was a good coach) to conclude that Schwartz has to go. Ignorant, disorganized, and undisciplined is no way for an NFL head coach to go through life.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:38pm

That the Lions are undisciplined seems almost beyond dispute. When the Lions finally suspended (with pay?) Titus Young it seemed like an arbitrary action rather than an application of a consistent set of standards. Schwartz had a reputation as smart and organized but it's tough to see it in their performance. Given that the (admittedly dumb) rule about challenging scoring plays/turnovers had just drawn major coverage due to a coach screwing up only four days prior, his mistake is really inexcusable. And his explanation, 'I just got mad', only serves to underline the lack of discipline.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:47pm

Ignorant, disorganized, and undisciplined...a.k.a. "fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son" from Animal House. Props if the reference was intended more props if it wasn't.

I have to agree that Schwartz is a bad coach. The Lions have the talent to be a lot better than they are...coaching is the difference.

by Israel P. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:52pm

Four carries, six yards, two fumbles. I guess Rashard will get "Least Valuable Running Back" this week.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:00pm

It would be great if Vince put together composite DYAR for Pittsburgh Running Back. 20 carries, 49 yards, and 6 (six!) fumbles should result in a pretty impressive number.

by Alternator :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:58am

You have to figure that all four running backs will at least make Dishonorable Mention, so we should be able to assemble Pittsburgh Running Back ourselves, if need be.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:55pm

In the current climate of concern for player safety, I'm surprised that the Warren Sapp / Hines Ward-style blindside block is not getting more referee attention. I didn't see Boldin's shot on Weddle, but in the Bears-Vikings game, Jared Allen put an absolutely brutal hit on an unsuspecting Lance Louis (who was trotting across the field after an interception), launching himself airborne and knocking Louis unconscious (such that he blew out his knee falling, not to mention the probable concussion).

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:59pm

What struck me most in the Bears vs Vikings was the difference between two teams that have pretty similar personnel quality with two big exceptions:

The Bears have a QB able to make big plays with one good receiver.
The Vikings have a RB capable of making big plays.

I really think if you traded Cutler for Peterson...the Vikings would be the Bears and the Bears would be the Vikings.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:10pm

The Bears have much better talent top to bottom on defense. The Vikings can block.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:10pm

I get your general point, but I think there are significant differences on defense that make it a bit easier for the Bears to overcome their offensive shortcomings. Particularly, I think the Bears' interior D-line is better, the LBs are better in coverage (check out the pass DVOA vs. RBs and TEs for the two teams), and the Bears' secondary is deeper, all of which adds up to the #1 vs. #22 pass defenses according to DVOA.

But Minnesota's O-line is better (or less bad).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:14pm

If you put Eli Manning and Victor Cruz on the Vikings roster, people would start to rave about the Vikings' offensive line. With Cutler and Marshall, people would talk about the Vikings offensive line as being one the better ones in the league.

by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:02am

If you put Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on the Vikings roster, 5 members of congress would be raved about as one of the best o-lines in the league.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:29am

Yeah, considering the Bears have a RB capable of making big plays (although not as good as Peterson, obviously), I don't think that's even close to being true.

The Bears running game is somewhere around 80% of the Vikings running game.

The Vikings passing game is about 30% of the Bears passing game.

Also the Vikings have a competent O-line. Trade offensive linemen and the Bears are in the Superbowl while the Vikings are piking #1 overall.

And of course, the Bears defense is vastly superior to the Vikings defense as well.

So no. Not even a bit.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by TomKelso :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:01pm

The grammar nerd in me needs to point out that there is no highway between Georgia and Florida, only a border. The stretch of I-75 between Atlanta and Tampa -- IN Georgia and Florida -- is excruciating though.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:37pm

Well the grammar nerd in me needs to fire back that one definition of "between" is "connecting spatially"; And that the usage given with I-75 seems to be correct in that context.

by Gridiron Grammarian (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:11pm

Oh, me? I'm just proud of you both.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:12pm

Really? The meanings of words is a grammatical question-class now?

Meh. I guess we're just arguing semantics.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:40am


by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:45pm

I'm not a charter member of the Kaepernick Fan Club, but I've found it amusing today to hear a number of professional yappers criticize his apparent move up the depth chart. The guy getting paid a ton of money to manage the Niners roster has demonstarted some proficiency as a football coach. Unlike the yappers, he's very closely examined Kaepernick's and Smith play on a daily basis. If that guy thinks Kaepernick gives his team a better chance to win, I'd be pretty hesitant to assert that I know that guy is wrong.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:53pm

A lot of the protest comes from the sense that it's weird and perhaps unfair to bench a starting quarterback who's playing well. Count me among those who thinks that starting Kaepernick is (A) a raw deal for Alex Smith, and (B) probably the right move.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:22pm

Anybody who expects that most nebulous quality of extremely limited utility, fairness, to be found in professional sports, is, to use a clinical term, loony.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:25pm

I find your (A) and your (B) to be contradictory.

Alex Smith is paid handsomely to be a starting QB. If his team has found somebody that can replace him, they should do so. They know what he brings to the team. The best you can say about it is that it's occasionally good, with an emphasis on occasionally.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:53pm

The two are in tension but not mutually exclusive. Football is a cold-blooded business but I think most people can feel some empathy for a guy who was essentially doing everything right, and then got concussed through no fault of his own and is now out of a starting job. Harbaugh's doing the right thing for the team but I wouldn't fault Smith for feeling like he got royally screwed here.

by Tino (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:57pm

I don't know why Smith would think he got "screwed". If he had to swap paychecks with Kaepernick, now that would be screwed. But getting benched because an injury allowed your back up to show himself (at least for the moment) as the superior player is more "unlucky" if anything. If anyone but Harbaugh was the coach, Smith may not even be on the roster anymore.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:58pm

That's a bit of a cop-out Will. The same argument could really be made about any decision an NFL coach makes.

Professionals make mistakes. They're human.

That being said, I think Smith is a terrible QB.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:12pm

No, that's not true. I can tell you wih 100% accuracy that Jim Schwartz was wrong to throw the challenge flag. Yes, Harbaugh is capable of making a mistake when it comes to his depth chart. Before I claimed that I knew he was doing so, however, I'd need to gather a very large body of evidence, because I also know that Harbaugh has an extremely large body of evidence at his fingertips, when he makes depth chart decisions.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:53pm

It might be wiser to take your approach but if you did you would be very quickly out of a job as a paid 'yapper'. They aren't paid to be right. Their jobs are to draw eyes and ears to their broadcasts. Waiting until the evidence is clear simply won't do that.

For example, if the kind of officiating mistakes that occurred yesterday (and every other Sunday) had happened with replacement refs, it would have been worth about 30 minutes out of every SportsCenter hour. Not because ESPN cares one way or the other but because they could promote the story,

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:17pm

"Before I claimed that I knew he was doing so, however, I'd need to gather a very large body of evidence, because I also know that Harbaugh has an extremely large body of evidence at his fingertips, when he makes depth chart decisions."

Right, but this applies to every depth chart decision, made by every NFL coach.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:40pm

Which is why I find nearly all depth chart-decision criticism, given with an air of knowledge, to be empty yammering, especially when the criticism is directed at a guy who has a track record of success. It's like listening to your cable t.v. guy say that he knows your accountant is giving you bad tax advice. Unless my accountant has a record of getting his clients jammed up with the IRS, my cable t.v. guy would sound more intelligent by keeping his mouth shut.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:24pm

I basically agree, but I'd add a couple of caveats:

1. I think we have enough accumulated evidence to suggest that NFL coaches are on average irrationally unwilling to bench their own first round picks, especially at quarterback. Criticism to the effect that this phenomenon is taking place again is a deal more likely to be justified than other types of depth chart criticism.

2. No fewer than 4 NFL coaches, including demonstrably competent HCs Tom Coughlin and Gary Kubiak, and questionable HCs with strong records as DCs Dom Capers and Jim Schwarz, have been prevailed upon to start CC Brown for no fewer than 7 games each. One can only assume that some canny players retain the services of very, very good private eyes.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:56pm

CC Brown provides an excellent lesson in the role of desperation in regards to roster filling.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 8:13pm

He leaves a stain on all your clothes and no detergent gets it out?

by smitty27 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:47am

Is depth chart-decision criticism okay when it's based on a head coach's stated irrational policy? Say all four of your running backs fumbled in the first half, but the rookie, 4th-string running back didn't lose his fumble. The coach's "you fumble, you sit" policy leads him to give most of the touches in the second half to the 4th-string running back who wasn't expecting to play that day. Could you criticize the depth-chart then, since the decision isn't based on analysis of data, but a play we all saw on tv?

Then again, I think it would be worth checking out what your cable t.v. guy is saying.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:00am

Yes, if the coach says he makes his depth chart decision based upon reading chicken entrails, it's ok to criticize him. Happy?

You apparently have different cable t.v. installers than I do. I usally have to tell mine how to do their jobs with regard to getting a clear signal, so I don't think I'd be taking any advice from them on who could give me sound tax advice.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:02pm

Pretty much everyone close to the team -- including local media -- are taking that line. Everyone clearly likes Smith, he's a great guy, he was NFC offensive player of the week in the game before his concussion, he's got a 70% completion average and yada yada.

Still, I'm awfully glad to be watching our young second-year guy. Hard to believe there's much more that can be done with Smith, while Kaepernick clearly has oodles of potential. Some of his throws are like air-freshener for the brain after so many years of Alex Smith.

I'm thinking that so few of Smith's good games come against good defenses that Kaepernick's performance against the Bears really woke our coaches up.

QB controversies aren't much fun, but at least we're probably the only team in the playoff hunt that could lose its starting quarterback and not be hurt much.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:12pm

You want reasoned discourse and self awareness from people paid to talk on television?

Next you'll tell me you don't like watching 2-4 men on TV yelling at each other.

What are you, some kind of communist?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:30pm

I'm so tired of that crap you shouldn't lose your position because of injury. Usually said by ex-players who eventually lost their starting jobs due to injury (and often the cumulative effects of aging). Favre replaced Majkowski. Kurt Warner replaced Trent Green. Brady replaced Bledsoe. These all happened because of injury. It happens all the time. And it's not as if Alex Smith has ever been as good as any of the three above who were replaced.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:36am

There's a reason we know Wally Pipp's name. And it's not because he sucked.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by zenbitz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:35pm

I am pretty much in this line. At this stage, it's hard to say what Smith does *demonstrably* better than Kapernick. He *probably* throws fewer INTs, because he's pretty good at it. Smith simply does not have a great arm and risk adverse. Smith seems to make good decisions.

Kaep did, I think, a little worse than expected against a terrible Saints defense. Possibly that was the Saints playing well with a solid plan, but possibly Kaep was a little confused by how the Saints were bluffing their safeties.

Kaap does have a tendency to fumble when running with the ball, but Smith takes an awful lot of sacks.

Subjectively, it seems like with Kapernick, the Niners actually have a reasonable chance at converting 3rd and longs, while with Smith it seemed generally hopeless.

Is it worth it to trade (maybe?) some turnovers for a long passing threat? Against average teams it probably doesn't. Against GOOD defenses... maybe. Maybe Harbaugh just needs to find out before the playoffs.

Assuming Kapernick remains the starters, he will play STL, MIA, NE, SEA, AZ. The AZ game probably won't matter, and NE hardly has an awesome defense- but they are very well coached and I think Belichek and Co will scheme vs. the niners well.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:02pm

Seems like I'm the only one who's giddy at how good Kaepernick can be. He's supposed to be raw so I can take a few rough edges (waving the ball around too much when he scrambles and panicking after that drop snap leading to the pick) and I know he'll make some mistakes like every young quarterback but his potential is up there with the wunderkinds who were taken at the top of the last two drafts.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:06pm

You're not the only one.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:31pm

What I'd seen of him in the pseudo-wildcat package they run had me already intrigued as to his potential development. I'm not going to crown his ass just yet, but I'm certainly looking forward to watching him develop.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:28pm

Please stop misusing that term. If it's not a direct snap to a running back, it's not a wildcat. (Also, if the QB hands off to a receiver, it's (almost) never a reverse.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:49pm

In wildcat, it's a shotgun QB who takes the snap. The keys of it's being a wildcat are more about the unbalanced line and read-option than the number on the back of the person taking a snap.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:19pm

How is "pseudo-wildcat" misusing the word?

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:53pm

Language is defined by use. Wildcat used to mean a certain thing. Now, because of common use, it seems to mean that the snap is taken by someone who isn't the usual QB, and preferably who might run sometimes. Yeah, it's a little goofy, but whatever. Language changes; grumpy old men gripe about language change. That's how it goes.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:00pm

True, but language does not change at a constant rate. We can still understand Shakespeare, but Shakespeare couldn't get Chaucer. A lot of that is grumpy old men at the barricades.

Some words are worth fighting for, or we'd all sound like Emmitt Smith.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:16pm

Oh, gosh, if he turns into a good decision-maker, which we won't be able to determine for another 20 games or so, Harbaugh has found, health providing, his qb for the rest of his coaching career, which may go 10-plus more years. A tall guy like that, with great athleticism? If he can throw it to the right guy, he'll be a superstar.

by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:09am

A tall, atheltic QB? If only Joe Webb could be what he looked like he could be.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:27am

Throwing it to the right guy, in a timely manner, is a bit of a challenge, isn't it?

by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:36am

That's why they get paid the big bucks.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:39pm

I would describe my self puckered up, and maybe feeling a bit o' empathy for Smith... but then I see Kaep throw the ball and I get all giddy.


by bstar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:36am

We've got two great historical examples of similar situations to draw from. Hostetler over Simms and Brady over Bledsoe both led to Super Bowl wins. Enough said.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:55pm

At the risk of thread jacking, I'm surprised we've made it this far without anyone discussing the kick to the junk.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:42pm

I hate thread jacking, but that would not be thread jacking. If it happened in this week's games or during this weekend's broadcasts, it's fair game for Audibles.

Kick in the nuts!

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:54pm

Night in the Ruts. It all comes back to 70s Aerosmith.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:56pm

If that kick to the 'nads was deliberate, I'm surprised, because I didn't think even a Lion Named Suh would be that dumb. That guy was my favorite college player in a long time, so it's been pretty disappointing to observe him te last couple years.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:14pm

If that kick to the 'nads was deliberate, I'm surprised... and extremely, extremely impressed with Suh's body control. To simultaneously be flying through the air, determine exactly where Schaub's crotch was, and then get his foot in that exact place requires amazing spatial awareness and physical ability.

I think Suh pushes the boundaries of "necessary" roughness on a lot of his hits and that he's made some flat-out dirty plays in the past, but I can't convince myself that this was one of them.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:15pm

I read your post and get the reasoning but when I saw it in real time and then watched the replay boy it sure 'seems' like Suh was trying to kick the guy. That he hit him in the groin was likely just happenstance.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:20pm

That's actually a good point. Suh might have just been trying to kick Schaub anywhere - which is certainly worthy of some sort of punishment - and the groin part was just bad luck for Schaub.

The league they will not suspend Suh. However, they are still deciding if he will be fined.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:03pm

Not even a fine. I guess even the NFL can't judge the intent of a player spinning around when he's facing the ground.

Edit: Apparently the early report I read was wrong. No suspension, but still considering a possible fine. I don't see the logic in it.

by SFC B :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:22pm

I don't think he got him in the groin intentionally, but I do think he kicked out intentionally. He just had the (mis?)fortune of having his foot land squarely on Schaub's twig and berries when the camera was looking.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:42am

I know what you mean. It was a joy watvhing him dominate in college and I was outraged when he didn't win the Heissman when there wasn't anyone even close to be as deserving as he was that year.

And now, I really, really dislike the ugy, and not just because he's a division rival.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Christopher (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:00pm

Typical..."Eh, it's the Bucs...who cares" analysis. Brian Price is sitting on a couch getting fatter & tearing a hamstring...the gentleman in the middle you were thinking of was Roy Miller.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:21pm

You're taking it too personal. Me, I think of it more as "Eh, Bucs, Falcons.. who cares?"

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:36pm

getting fatter & tearing a hamstring

His pelvis is/was not properly fused and his hamstrings were pulling his pelvis apart. He had surgery to correct this, you would have done too.

What an entirely nasty remark.

by nath :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:08pm

Not to mention one of the reasons he took some time away this year is that his sister was killed. Real sensitive posting there.

by TJS (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:11pm

Not sure when a 9+ YPA became "game manager" status. For anyone paying close attention, Kaepernick is SIGNIFICANTLY better. He's making throws vs tight windows and man coverage and looking to throw when on the move.

I'm also not sure how you can just gloss over that Smith "takes more sacks." A lot of 49er drives have stalled because of that reason. Kaepernick's ability to minimize those 5-8 yard setbacks was huge in that victory yesterday. Furthermore, he's not avoiding sacks, he's avoiding sacks and making plays down the field. Whenever Alex did appropriately slide from the rush, he checked down to Gore or threw the ball away.

It's highly unlikely that the 49ers win that game with Alex Smith playing.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:43pm

Yeah. The Audibles comments on Kaepernick have a deprecating tone, but they basically boil down to "he doesn't really do anything worse than Alex Smith, and he does some things significantly better, like avoid sacks." More and more you see Harbaugh's position -- Smith's been a good QB and a perfect citizen, but Kaepernick's just better and there's no getting around it.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:51pm

I think the niners probably would have won with Smith yesterday, apart from the touchdown that was set up by Ted Ginn the defense gave up 14 points and scored 14 so if the niners could have mustered a couple of field goals they probably would have won anyway. Smith has been pretty hot recently too, completing 25 of his last 27 throws.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:04pm

The game would have been so different. I'm guessing the 49ers drives would have taken more time and the defense would have gotten more of a blow (though Kaepernick did have that lovely drive at the end of the third that gave the defense, in real time, 20 minutes on the bench). My own brain isn't used to these 4-play and 6-play drives that end in scores; hard to imagine how the defense was adjusting.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:18pm

At least speaking for myself, no deprecation intended. I love Kaepernick. Was just agreeing with the sentiment that, although the CHI game was a definite eye-opening performance, any fawning over the NO game is a bit overdone.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:57pm

I agree; he showed more tantalizing flashes of ability but it wasn't the best game. A couple of reports have referred to his interception as "inconsequential," which is annoying. It wasn't inconsequential when he threw it.

by dbt :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:31pm

I'm watching the packers-giants game now on game rewind, and the thing that's amazing to me is how bad eli was through the first 20 minutes. After about the Cruz TD, he seems to have picked it up, but he was basically awful before then, all checkdowns, one screen pass that set up the first TD, and a lot of misses. Ahmad Bradshaw has been the superstar for the offense so far, (and the o-line).

by theslothook :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:40pm

Anyone who watched the 49er game, the big difference came between the two halves. The first half, there was absolutely no pass rush- the 2nd half- the pass rush went berserk. The entire o line got pummeled in every direction. Not sure what the heck happened or what adjustments were made, but this kind of reminded me of the playoff game. Similar story- first half brees had all day to throw, second half he was harassed over and over.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:59pm

What happened is that the Saints had to abandon the run. In the first half the run-pass mix was really confusing the 9ers rush. In the second half they could "pin their ears back."

Where in heck does that come from, anyway? Who wants their ears pinned back?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:06pm

You ever catch a glimpse of Andrew Siciliano on the NFL Network? Mr. Siciliano apparently doesn't want them pinned back, but that's a bit surprising.

by theslothook :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:12pm

Im not so sure. They were tied at the half so it wasn't like they were down by a massive amount. Even for most of the game it was a 2 score. And some of the pass rush really was just beating a man in front of him and sandwiching brees. I don't think it was because they abandoned the run and just sold out to pass rush brees.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:26pm

They were down by 14 pretty quickly.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:30pm

If I had to guess, I bet it comes from dog racing. Dogs sort of fold theirs ears when running to be more aerodynamic.

by Athelas :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:14pm

Yup--looking at my greyhound right next to me. They can make their tiny little heads look even tinier by making their ears seemingly disappear.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:27pm

Sound painful for the dogs when the pins are actually applied.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:32pm

Its from horses. When they just run as fast as they can they pin their ears back. Watch a race, it's what they do. Dogs fold their ears back when being supplicant. For example my dog flattens his ears to lower than the top of his head and wags his tail when he sees me but when running toward something would always have his ears pointed toward where he is running. Dogs are pack predators who would be focusing on prey when running; horses are flight animals who want to hear where the creature they are running away from is as they run away, they can see where they are going and presumably aren't running towards a predator - and if they are they aren't very good at being horses.

If you think about how much people used to ride horses until approximately one hundred years ago (because the option was that or walk) it's common usage makes sense. Good phrases long outweigh their meaning to cultures; Americans still talk about 'being on a stick wicket' without the slightest idea of what is troubling about sticky wickets but the usage remains correct both in terms of its original derivation and its common (or at least used and understood) US usage.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:36pm

they aren't very good at being horses.

This very funny phrase led me to construct a vivid mental image of some sort of snooty horse critic. Like if Pitchfork media wrote about horses. This image will probably make me giggle a few times over the couple days.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:38am

Different breeds of dogs probably react different, but here's a youtube clip of a great dane running and his ears look pinned back to me.


by Athelas :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 7:51am

Different breeds do it differently. Sighthounds, greyhounds for one, pin their ears back.
But I wouldn't doubt if it originally came from horse-racing.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:41pm

Think it's horses, actually. Certainly I've heard the phrase used in horse racing contexts.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:04pm

I had completely forgotten about Warren Moon's tenure in Seattle.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:15pm

Along the lines of Aaron's thoughts about teaching a QB to quick kick - why not put the punter in a shotgun formation in place of the QB? You're basically telling them you will either quick kick it or hand it off (which the punter should be capable of) so it at least puts some pressure on the defense to pull a few guys off the LOS.

I'm sure there are some risk arguments, but I think punters might actually be able to handle this. They already used to handling snaps, and are occasionally used on fake FG's since they are typically the placeholder.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 5:30pm

That's the kind of situation where you like a punter that can throw a pass, like Tom Tupa could back in the day.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:17pm


If you put a punter in who can't throw, you're basically going to have your RB running into a punt block formation, which probably isn't going to go well. If you do kick it, its the same as any other punt (except you're giving up a down).

The quick-kick, on the other hand, is going to have the defenders spread out, and no returner looking for the ball.

by Athelas :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:20pm

And if Brady can practice and execute a quick-kick, can't all QBs?

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:25pm

No, plenty of QBs need more time practicing throwing and reading a defense as it is.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:09pm

Laser-like hit right on the center of the argument!

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:46pm

Or better, a passer who can punt like Randall Cunningham or Danny White.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:21pm

Danny White was pretty much unique in that he was a legitimate full-time punter and a legitimate full-time starting QB for a good team.

Having said that, most QBs should be capable of doing a quick-kick punt. Sure, you won't get the same kind of yardage that you get from the regular punter. But if nobody's back, you might get a nice bounce and roll.

As for Randall Cunningham, apparently he had a punt of 80 yards in 1994. But I'm sure he wasn't impressed, since he somehow had a 91 yard punt in 1989.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:54am

That 91-yarder came back in his Giant-killer days with the Eagles, late in a close game. He wasn't the team's regular punter, but LOS was Philly's 1 so the tight punt formation was necessary, and maybe the switch was because Cunningham might better be able to salvage the play if something went wrong. The punt sailed downwind (very windy that day) to about the NYG 30, then bounced inside the 10 before going out of bounds, so the 91 yd was also the net.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:49pm

UCLA's Brett Hundley did this against Stanford this week. It seems like sort of an odd decision, it was 4th and 3 from the Stanford 38. He did drop it at the 2 with no return though.

by Duke :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:42pm

Everybody here seems to assume it's easy to cover a quick kick return. Not to mention one that may or may not happen based on what the defense is doing.

I'm not certain about that. You'd have to train the whole offense, at least, too.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:01pm

From a normal formation, you can't block gunners that would be illegal contact.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:40pm

Can I ask a controversial question, without bias? I spoke last week as a Colts fan and said I had no problem with NE still running their normal offense up big in the 4th quarter against my team, but that I am not always so charitable when my team is not involved. NE did this again against the Jets. So, here is the question for NE fans: What benefit is there to the Patriots to keep starters in when the game is out of hand?

I know there are some possible answers (to ensure the win, for example, is what BB offers), but I am wondering what fans think is the benefit. Or in other words, why would you want your team to do this?

(Again, I'd like to ask this without bias, so I don't want to make it seem like NE should or shouldn't do anything. I had no problem with them doing it against my Colts. I just wondered what NE fans want from their team when in these situations. As a Colts fan, I need my starters to get more reps, no matter the score. Except for Wayne, no offensive Colt starter has more than 3 years of experience, and most are rookies. But that is not the case with NE. On defense, I want them to pull Freeney and Mathis ASAP, as they are getting old.)

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:57pm

Against some teams I'd rather see Brady pulled sooner and let Mallett get some reps.

Against other teams I want to see "them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."

As for what's in BB's mind? I imagine some of it is to stick it to certain people (I doubt the man who was HC of the NYJ for one day has good feelings about that organization, for example.)

But I think a lot of it is simply his (right or wrong) play 60 minutes mantra. After losing an easy SB win by blowing the 2006 AFCCG, and being unable to close out 2007 and 2011, unable to close out 3 shoulda-been-wins this year, etc. I think he believes in a "we simply do not stop playing" philosophy.

I also bet he subscribes to the "as long as you keep trying, we're gonna keep on trying" approach. I think, but haven't confirmed via paying super-close attention at what the other team is doing in blowouts, that when the other team concedes (by going to scrubs) he will follow suit.

In other words, I think he honestly believes that the benefits of instilling a "we play to the final gun" feeling with the team is worth the risk of starters getting injured.

Also, NE does have young players (like Ridley and Vereen who are only in their 2nd years), new players (like Lloyd), players who are still developing at their position (Edelman was a QB in college, not a WR), and the random OLman of the week. So getting them game reps with Brady isn't the craziest thing in the world to want to do.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:11am

I felt that the Colts' offense was far more dangerous than the Jets' offense. I would have been happy if Brady had sat the entirety of the fourth quarter against the Jets.

Aside from Brady, though, since there's not a lot of depth on the NFL roster, I would only look to sit starters who were dealing with injury issues.

Belichick said something after the Colts game that I think is his controlling philosophy here. He doesn't like sitting one guy to protect that guy from injury because it sends the message to the rest of the team that the one guy is more important than the rest of the team. I think, though, he should make an exception for Brady. Also, Mallett needs more in-game experience than he's gotten the past two years, so putting him in to play the fourth quarter wouldn't be interpreted poorly by anybody.

I'm pretty sure Brady himself never wants to be pulled from a game. But I doubt that on that score he's any different from Peyton Manning or any other top QB. These guys want to be on the field.

Aside from Brady, who might I want to see more bench time in a blowout? Wilfork, certainly. The LBs are all young, so there's no issue there. And the secondary all need to stay in. On offense, the Pats do so much rotation that this isn't much of an issue. And with Gronkowski, Vollmer and Mankins out with injury, the line doesn't have much depth.

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:27am

I think it could be argued that the more starters you pull, the more likely it is that someone gets hurt, and because you can't pull all your starters, theres a good chance you're increasing the chance a starter gets hurt.

Guys who don't play often are more likely to make the sort of mistakes that get people hurt (not blocking the right guy, etc)

by Purds :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:48am

I guess I am not asking who should be pulled, but rather what is the team trying to gain by repeating something that clearly already works (if you're blowing a team out, that usually means something you did worked). And, I am not really trying to get into BB's head. I was just wondering what you, as a fan, would like to see happen in the last 5-7 minutes of a blowout?

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 7:32am

Well I'd like to see Mark Sanchez repeatedly running into his own linemen, fumbling the ball and then going limp as the stench of fail overwhelms him, once wasn't enough.

by Alternator :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:13am

Belichick doesn't like pulling starters, period, and I've only really see him do it to see how a backup plays, or when a guy is playing hurt. Even then, neither is common, and I wouldn't expect to see Mallett play anything significant for another few weeks.

You'll note he doesn't rest starters in meaningless games, either, so he's consistent.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 7:55am

He does rest starters in meaningless games, just not as much as other teams might. And he definitely will not not play them at all.

When the Pats were returning the 31-0 favor to the Bills back in 2003, Brady was out most of the 2nd half.

Then in 2006 (IIRC) he had Cassell play a lot in the 2nd half of the final game, including most/all of the 4th quarter.

But unless a starter is dinged up, the starters are going to play the first quarter and very likey the whole first half, no matter how meaningless the game is.

by Brent :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:14pm

I understand a fan of the winning team complaining that a starter might get hurt (not sure I agree, but I understand). I do not understand a fan (or a coach, heaven forbid) of the losing team complaining about "running up the score." Running up the score is tactless when kids are involved. These guys are professionals. Take your lumps and get over it. If you don't want the opposing team to run up the score, then play better.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:51pm

I sort of care about running up the score in that I like the NFL to set an example of sportsmanship for young people.

I also want my team to sub in backups during a blowout on either side (winning or losing). This is based partly on fear of injury and partly on wanting backups to get in game reps.

by Brent :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:33pm

That's reasonable.