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03 Dec 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Rivers McCown

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

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

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a 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, December 2

Arizona Cardinals 6 at New York Jets 7

Rivers McCown: Only five weeks left to enjoy the Jets!

Peter Koski: Maybe HBO should consider an offseason Hard Knocks with the Jets?

Ben Muth: Mark Sanchez throws a pick on his first pass. The Cardinals can't get a first down on third-and-1 or fourth-and-inches on the ensuing drive. This game is going according to plan early.

Brian Billick doing reads for The Mindy Project is high comedy.

Sanchez keeps throwing the ball to Kerry Rhodes. The former Jets safety that was too "Hollywood" for New York has two picks in the first.

Patrick Peterson just made the interception of the year. Chaz Schilens was open deep and Sanchez underthrew him. Peterson came from behind to make a spectacular steal-and-catch from Schilens. As I'm typing this, I'm realizing how hard the play is to describe in writing. I'm not doing it justice. It probably looks even more absurd on the All-22.

Ryan Lindley just threw an interception of his own after the Peterson pick. I didn't see the immortal Rusty Smith live, but he can't have been any worse than Lindley.

Jets go three-and-out after the Lindley pick and Nick Folk doinks a 52-yarder off the upright (his second doink of the game). I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Rivers McCown: In Rusty's defense, his terrible game did come against one of the worst pass defenses in modern history. The Jets are still passable.

Vince Verhei: Is Greg McElroy warming up yet?

Ben Muth: Not yet, but I vote for making McElroy all-time quarterback in this game.

Cardinals get 40 yards on a fake punt on what was a poorly-designed punt block from the Jets. The Cardinals don't get a first down after that, but kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead into the half.

Lindley is 6-of-20 for 48 yards and a pick at the half. He hasn't played up to those numbers. Lindley's first pass was a 23-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald. He has 25 yards passing on 19 attempts since then. This is an NFL game.

Sanchez has three interceptions already. Beanie Wells has 10 carries for 15 yards. That includes a nine-yard run. Shonn Greene is the offensive MVP so far. He has nine carries for 29 yards.

You can feel the hate/anger/disgust of Jets fans through the television. If the Cardinals win there could be a riot. Thom Brennaman: "I got to tell you, this has been as ugly and inept an offensive football game as I've ever seen."

Andy Benoit: I admire the heck out of Ben Muth for watching the Cardinals-Jets game. Even fans of those teams probably had to at least talk themselves into tuning in for it.

Vince Verhei: I'm not watching Cards-Jets as closely as Ben, but I'm keeping one eye on it from time to time. I would rather watch morbidly fascinating bad football than more standard mediocrity like, say, Jacksonville-Buffalo.

Ben Muth: I am a Cardinals fan and a masochist. Not necessarily in that order.

William Gay just dropped what would have been a pick-six on the first drive of the second half. Jets go three-and-out. McElroy still not warming up.

Cardinals respond with a three-and-out of their own. Arizona is now 0-of-10 on third downs.

Rivers McCown: At what point do we speculate that McElroy isn't playing due to his offseason comments about the Jets locker room? Three weeks ago?

Ben Muth: Neither team has completed a pass in the second half. Over five combined drives.

McElroy is (finally) warming up. Walking onto the field, he gets the biggest pop I've heard since Steve Austin ran in during the Rock/Mick Foley Raw title match.

McElroy leads a 69-yard touchdown drive on his first series. Bilal Powell's 34 yards rushing and 20 yards in Arizona penalties helped, but McElroy did throw a one-yard touchdown to a comically open Jeff Cumberland on third-and-goal. So there's that. This is after he almost threw a pick his first pass of the game. Now he's just had a pick called back on a really bad illegal contact call.

Cardinals try to let the Jets score at the end of the game, Greene sniffs it out and takes a knee at the one.

Lindley completed one pass in the second half. Counting the three sacks the Cardinals gave up, Arizona had 56 total yards of passing. That's 1.8 yards per dropback. They would have been better off running 34 quarterback sneaks.

Beanie Wells, had 15 carries for 22 yards. Not counting the 40-yard fake punt, the Cardinals had 41 yards rushing. Those who are good at addition have probably figured out that without the fake punt the Cardinals had less 100 yards of total offense.

Arizona had five first downs all game: two rushing, two passing, one from a penalty. And, finally, Arizona finished 0-15 on third down.

It was the worst offensive performance I have ever seen.

Danny Tuccitto: I mentioned this trend in my fantasy piece for Insider this week, and it turned out to be mildly prescient today (opponent adjustment aside), so here's the quote from the piece: "Since Lindley took over in Arizona, Fitzgerald has four catches on 17 targets (for 42 yards and zero touchdowns), which translates to a 23.5 percent catch rate. With Kevin Kolb and John Skelton earlier this season, his catch rate was 51.5 percent."

Today: one catch for 23 yards on seven targets, which drops Fitzgerald's catch rate with Lindley to 20.8 percent. Fitzgerald's always been a guy I thought of as a talent that transcends the typical dependence of wide receivers on quarterback play. Well, it's clear that Lindley is the exception that proves the rule.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at St. Louis Rams 16 (OT)

Danny Tuccitto: At the end of the Rams' first drive, Jeff Fisher just elected to punt on fourth-and-inches from the 49-yard line. Fair catch plus a penalty on St. Louis during the kick means the 49ers start at the 25-yard line. That's a net of 26 yards. At 4-6 and a massive underdog, why are you punting?

Midway through the first quarter, we're seeing a good part of the reason why Harbaugh made the move to Colin Kaepernick. On the 49ers first drive, Janoris Jenkins blitzed from the blind side edge, and Kaepernick sensed it quickly enough to peel out and scramble for a short gain. I think Smith either gets blown up on that play or throws it into the 14th row after a short rollout. On their second drive, Kaepernick sees a running lane open up, and takes off for a first down to extend the drive, which ends in a Frank Gore touchdown.

As the FOX crew said, it's not that Smith isn't athletic. He is. It's just that these kinds of make-something-out-of-nothing plays are not -- and have never been -- in his repertoire.

Peter Koski: After one quarter in St. Louis, the Rams defense is not giving Kaepernick a lot of downfield options to throw to, forcing mostly dumpoffs. Ted Ginn has been in on offense for at least two snaps, which is two more than I prefer. Gore has already ripped a couple of big inside runs while Steven Jackson is not gashing the San Francisco defense like he did three weeks ago. St. Louis' biggest play of the first was a personal foul penalty by the Niners.

The luxury of Vic Fangio: sending a three-man rush with The Smiths is the equivalent of sending five for most teams. Another sack for Aldon Smith. The Defensive Player of the Year race has been fun to watch this year.

Aaron Schatz: The Rams throwback uniforms are awesome and I wish they went back to wearing the brighter colors full time.

Danny Tuccitto: Obscure rulebook minutia alert: the Rams just got a safety when Kaepernick's throwaway from the end zone didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage. Pretty straightforward call ... until Mike Perreira chimes in with the "line of scrimmage extended" distinction. Kaepernick's throw landed past the line of scrimmage, whereas the officials instead treated it like a punt, going by where the ball was when it crossed the boundary in the air.

In other words, Rams just got two free points, so we've got the baseball score: Giants 7, Cardinals 2.

Rivers McCown: Nobody tell Joe Buck. He'll be distraught.

Danny Tuccitto: Make-up call alert: If anyone wants to get a good laugh, check out the roughing the passer gifted to San Francisco at the beginning of the fourth quarter. No contact with Kaepernick's head, and barely any contact with Kaepernick whatsoever. Robert Quinn basically chest-bumped his shoulder.

In an unrelated note, I've counted at least four times where Cortland Finnegan's engaged in the proverbial extracurriculars after the snap. If Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham were from The U, there would have been fisticuffs by now. The fact that he's getting away with it over and over is a joke.

Vince Verhei: So in other words, every Cortland Finnegan game ever.

Rivers McCown: Is that a second reference to the Rusty Smith game in one column? I love it. Only four? He must be tired.

Andy Benoit: Alex Smith has a "what the hell? I could have made that pitch!" look on his face, watching Jenkins recover an errant pitch to Ginn.

Danny Tuccitto: Ginn made one of the most half-assed recovery attempts I've ever seen.

Kaepernick's 50-yard run is another example of making something out of nothing, but what on earth is Jenkins doing 60 yards downfield covering no one (he ended up saving a touchdown)? Cover 3 I guess? Looked like Randy Moss was running a 9-route to that side, so maybe he just decided to hang out and catch a breather rather than attacking the run immediately?

Apparently Carl Cheffers is unfamiliar with human anatomy. Sam Bradford scrambles, and attempts to slide, and Dashon Goldson hits Bradford in the chest with his back. Second helmet-to-helmet call today where there was no helmet-to-helmet contact. At least they evened out, I guess.

Andy Benoit: Jenkins was giving up way too much cushion on Moss, allowing a third-and-3 conversion on a play where the defense schematically won. That’s been an issue with Jenkins a few times the past couple months or so.

Danny Tuccitto: I have no rational thoughts about the last 18 minutes of game time here, at least not any that are printable. It's beyond my comprehension how in the hell Harbaugh got burned settling for a field goal in the first game against the Rams, and then he chose to settle for a field goal again -- this time a 51-yarder!

Aaron Schatz: David Akers is providing excellent anecdotal support for the FO precept that all kickers are inconsistent on field goals, no matter how good they may look for one or two years.

Minnesota Vikings 14 at Green Bay Packers 23

Andy Benoit: Aaron Rodgers drew two offsides on the opening series with hard counts. The second one resulted in a somewhat deep shot to James Jones for a touchdown. A.J. Jefferson was in good position on the play, but showed very poor ball skills on. Should have been an interception, but Jones snatched it from behind him.

The Packers opened the game with a lot of no-huddle, had some success with it.

Adrian Peterson has great control in his stutter step. He's unique in his ability to manufacture violence and acceleration right off of it.

Christian Ponder threw into a tight window on Kyle Rudolph's touchdown to cap a 14-play drive. Brad Jones was in good position underneath, but never turned to see the ball.

Everson Griffen is standing out with his initial quickness inside against the run. Rodgers drew a fourth offsides on him, then Mistral Raymond got flagged for pass interference on the play. This probably isn't news, but Rodgers has an incredible ability to sense and elude pressure from his back side.

Peterson's 82-yard touchdown was one of the best all-around runs we've seen this season because it required every tool in his belt. It started with lateral agility, then explosion, then strength (breaking tackles), balance (tip-toes the sideline), and finally, breakaway speed. Stamina, too, because most runners wouldn’t have the wind to break away after slugging through tacklers laterally early in the run.

With T.J. Lang sidelined, Don Barclay has been a target at right tackle. He's struggling with the quickness of Brian Robison. Packers receivers are struggling to get open early in the route. Rodgers is continuously having to extend the play.

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

Unusual about Peterson’s big run to begin the second half, and his solid run on the next play, was that it came behind a lead-blocker. Vikings having success with two-back sets this year, but they don’t do a lot of straight lead-blocking.

Rivers McCown: Maybe they should, Kevin Seifert wrote up a little something about that this week.

Andy Benoit: Ponder threw an awful pick in end zone to Morgan Burnett. Off a short-field rollout, he took down to his third read, and threw back across the field a bit. Should have just scrambled.

The Vikings had a third-and-one from about their own 10. The Packers loaded 10 men in the box. Tells you everything there is to know about Vikings offense right now. No Vikings receivers have a reception through three quarters. Ponder is not able to get the ball downfield, and there have been practically no attempts at it.

Vince Verhei: I just want to say that early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings have 36 yards passing (with two interceptions) and 237 yards rushing. There is some god-awful quarterbacking in this league today.

Andy Benoit: Evan Dietrich-Smith struggled all game, particularly in short area run blocking. At this point, Michael Jenkins shouldn’t be playing outside in the NFL. Simply can’t separate from man coverage.

Rivers McCown: At this point? I can't remember the last time he could. 2008? 2009?

New England Patriots 23 at Miami Dolphins 16

Andy Benoit: Ryan Tannehill missed a wide-open Brian Hartline who got behind Aqib Talib on a coverage miscommunication over the top.

Aaron Hernandez has two early drops and was also the target on a Tom Brady interception (good coverage by safety Reshad Jones).

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, that's Brady's first pick in over 200 attempts. A really good play by Jones; not only did he have tight coverage, but Brady was trying to put it out of his reach and Jones managed to pick it off with one hand instead of just slapping it away.

Otherwise the story of the game so far has to be the improvement of the Pats' defense. End of the first quarter, and the Dolphins have about three yards per carry while Tannehill is 2-for-8 for just 17 yards. Talib and Alfonzo Dennard really seem to have stabilized the cornerback position.

Brady has also overthrown guys a couple times today. One of them was clearly an issue of not being used to Daniel Fells running the seam route usually run by Rob Gronkowski. With Gronk, that wouldn't have been an overthrow.

Andy Benoit: Wes Welker has nine catches for 82 yards and a touchdown in the first 20 minutes. This is where the idiots say "revenge game ... wanting it more ... blah blah blah...”

Aaron Schatz: Miami offense gets going in the second quarter. Some excellent tackle-breaking by Daniel Thomas.

Karlos Dansby just got called for pass interference on what looked like an uncatchable ball, like 10 yards past Shane Vereen. This brings up two questions. First, whatever happened to not calling DPI on uncatchable balls? And second, why on earth is Dansby using a blatantly illegal armbar on a ball that his receiver wasn't going to have a chance to catch anyway, thus risking a DPI flag?

The Dolphins pass rush is really on fire today, all over Brady. Patriots pass rush also getting to Tannehill.

Stevan Ridley is having trouble finding room to get around the corner on the outside, but doing a good job of finding holes and pushing tacklers back to get yardage up the middle.

"Statement drives" are usually ridiculous announcer nonsense, but I do think this final drive by the Patriots against Miami is a statement drive. The statement isn't as much "look how tough we are," it's more, "for those of you who didn't already know, our running game absolutely does not suck."

The Pats got the ball on the 20 with 8:28 to go. They just hit the two-minute warning on the 2-yard line. 54 of those 78 yards came on runs by Ridley and Vereen.

Oops, though, Brady just had his first failed sneak in years. He trips over his own feet trying to go in on third-and-2. Pats will kick the field goal and go up 10. We await the backdoor cover.

Note that the Seahawks' strategy of covering Brandon Marshall one-on-one downfield (discussed below) is much better than the Patriots' strategy of playing Hartline zero-on-one downfield to allow for an easy 28-yard gain right on the sideline, thus also allowing the Dolphins to stop the clock without timeouts, thus allowing for the backdoor cover.

Carolina Panthers 21 at Kansas City Chiefs 27

Andy Benoit: The Panthers ran a statue of liberty with a reverse on the final play of first quarter ... got Joe Adams a gain of five or so.

Seattle Seahawks 23 at Chicago Bears 17 (OT)

Vince Verhei: Fumble luck alert: three fumbles in the first quarter in Chicago, two by the Bears, one by the Seahawks. The Bears recovered all three of them. They turned that luck into one touchdown and another red zone drive, but on fourth-and-inches inside the 20, the Seahawks stuffed the dive. Not sure how you justify trusting that offensive line against this defensive line, but the Bears did, and it cost them.

Mike Kurtz: The announcers mentioned that they talked to Carroll before the game about Brandon Marshall. Apparently he told FOX that he wasn't going to do anything special on first and second down. Nothing special appears to be zone coverage on Marshall. He has 68 yards after the first quarter. The Seahawks cannot win this game if they don't take Marshall seriously. The Chicago passing game runs through him alone.

Aaron Schatz: The Seahawks have the best defense in the league against No. 1 receivers, so I don't think Carroll necessarily had to do anything different, but do they usually play zone coverage? I thought they were a primarily man team.

Mike Kurtz: So did I, but they're clearly playing zone. Nobody is playing press and the corner stays outside and behind when Marshall has been cutting it over the middle.

Bears get the ball, Marshall is still in single coverage. Second throw, Marshall in single coverage again. At least they have the corner up this quarter. So someone got the message, sorta.

So, if you need evidence that the booth doesn't get the stupid score ticker on the bottom of the screen on their monitors. Braylon Edwards makes an amazing diving effort to grab the ball in the end zone, so the announcers show what is probably a great angle of his hands under the ball, but it's at the bottom of the frame, and thanks to the Carolina-Kansas City game, we can't see the ball.

The catch is overturned. It's probably not a catch, but it probably should not have been overturned.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks take a 10-7 lead into halftime (barring something wacky in the last 5 seconds here). I'm surprised about that overturn just because I don't think the video evidence was indisputable either way.

To be fair, the Seahawks have been dodging their share of bullets as well. Jay Cutler has underthrown a few receivers on what should have been first downs, and Earl Bennett dropped what could have been a long touchdown catch. The Seahawks have gone to man coverage on Marshall with Earl Thomas shading that side. Don't ask me why they didn't start that way, it's only the theoretical foundation upon which their entire defense is built.

Matt Forte catches the ball and is called down inside the one-yard line to set up a first-and-goal. Lovie Smith decides to challenge. A colossal waste of a challenge. Even if he wins. You don't think you can pick up two feet in three plays? Well, the Bears won the challenge. That touchdown caps off a drive that went about 90 yards and puts Chicago ahead 14-10. Seahawks appeared to force a three-and-out inside the Bears' 20, but Bruce Irvin was called for hands to the face on third down while pass rushing against a tight end. There's one you don't see called often.

Bears have a third-and-12 near midfield, where a first down means a great chance at a security field-goal, and they run ... a draw for no gain? I kind of get the give-up play deep in your own end, but that was a give-up in a huge situation.

Bears fumble again, recover it again. At least this one was a botched handoff that resulted in a big loss.

Seahawks finally recover a fumble, but this time Marshawn Lynch puts the ball on the ground and it costs them a first down. Fortunately Lynch runs for a first down on the next play.

Mike Kurtz: The Seahawks are driving, around midfield at the two-minute warning with two time outs remaining. This drive has seen a lot of scrambles and rollouts by Russell Wilson. He's found a lot of space against a rather soft Bears defense, which has helped immensely.

Andy Benoit: This time, Golden Tate’s game-winning touchdown is legit.

Vince Verhei: Russell Wilson, third-round rookie, just led a 97-yard, fourth-quarter, last-minute, go-ahead touchdown drive on the road against the best defense in the world. I'm not going to be much use for the rest of the day.

Mike Kurtz: Seattle, of course, does a hideous job covering Marshall. Again. This sets up a 46-yard kick for Robbie Gould to tie it.

Andy Benoit: Cutler buys time to complete a 56-yarder to Marshall to set up the game-tying field goal. Seahawks covered him one-on-one downfield with no contact. Easy to criticize that approach, but they were likely anticipating the Bears doing some sort of quick hitch (Chicago had two timeouts at the time).

Vince Verhei: Well, if nothing else, we have the game of the year here. I think that's safe.

Seahawks, in the immortal words of Matt Hasselbeck, take the ball in overtime and they score. Probably not a coincidence that Tim Jennings and Brian Urlacher both left the game during the drive. A touchdown pass to Sidney Rice to put the game away. Bears knocked the ball free and I thought it was incomplete, but they ruled possession. Rice was knocked out on the play, but got up after a few minutes and was walking around fine.

I counted at least a half-dozen read-option runs by Seattle on the overtime drive. Between options and scrambles, I think Wilson ran for at least six first downs today. Wilson becomes the tenth player this year to throw at least 30 passes against Chicago, but the first player to do so without an interception. In his last four games, Wilson has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Going back to the New England game, he has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions in his last seven games.

Wilson now has 19 touchdown passes in 12 games. He's on pace for 25. Only one rookie has ever thrown that many: Peyton Manning. Tate actually deserves the bulk of the credit for that fourth-quarter touchdown, catching the ball in the field of play and slipping several tackles to get into the end zone.

Rivers McCown: L! Q! F!

Houston Texans 24 at Tennessee Titans 10

Rivers McCown: First quarter done in Nashville. Texans up 14-3 after Gary Kubiak went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 10, converted, and had Matt Schaub find James Casey on first-and-goal. Where was that aggression the past few weeks?

Houston's non-J.J. Watt pass rush is still AWOL early, which would be a problem if Tennessee's pass offense was at all threatening. Even on their one big play, Danieal Manning was in position to pick Jake Locker's pass off. Jared Cook just made an outstanding individual play to snatch it away from Manning and hold on despite Manning's hands being on the ball.

Inadvertent whistle in Tennessee robs us of a glorious fat guy touchdown. (OK, Antonio Smith isn't a defensive tackle, but still.)

Tom Gower: Firing offensive coordinator Chris Palmer proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Tennessee Titans this week, as they put up ... uh, three points of offense in the first half and trail the Texans 21-3. Jake Locker is 8-of-22 for 96 yards and two interceptions, which is the kind of statline I'd say more or less accurately reflects his level of performance. The Texans went on the board early when Michael Griffin took a horrible angle to the ball in deep zone coverage and whiffed (of course), basically conceding to Lestar Jean all the yards to the end zone, while the third touchdown was set up by Locker's first interception. Titans punt returner Darius Reynaud has fair caught the ball inside the 10 multiple times, and the Titans this year have barely scored when starting inside their own 20. Ho-hum, just another game by a good team against a not very good one.

Left tackle Michael Roos goes off the field injured for the Titans. Left guard Steve Hutchinson left with his own injury earlier in the game. Right tackle David Stewart broke his leg earlier as well. With only seven linemen active, Hutch has to come back into the game. After line shuffling, regular starting center Fernando Velasco is playing right tackle. Down 24-3 now, I'm not sensing a comeback in the offing.

Locker did better in the second half. Not great, but better, more along the lines of the performance I expected against a defense that would be down three of their four cornerbacks after Brice McCain was injured in the first half. Brandon Harris seemed to be a particular target, and a very juicy one, though Kareem Jackson (the one healthy non-terrible corner) got caught peeking in the backfield in man coverage on Locker's touchdown throw to Kenny Britt. I don't think the Texans will come out great offensively this game, but they went up early and were never seriously threatened.

Rivers McCown: I thought Harris played acceptably, granted I didn't watch with all-22 or anything. You know, when Wade Phillips goes into the prevent, bad things tend to happen. The bulk of Denver's comeback in Week 3 was due to that.

Still, I do think the defense has been playing markedly worse without Johnathan Joseph, and this was a game where the final score indicates that the Titans are bad more than it shows the Texans are good.

Indianapolis Colts 35 at Detroit Lions 33

Andy Benoit: Andrew Luck’s game-winning drive was the perfect combination of quarterbacking between his feet and arm. Absolutely remarkable.

Rivers McCown: I didn't get to see a lot of this game because I was only switched in at the two-minute warning, but...

Luck marched the Colts down the field in about a minute. Game-winning touchdown on fourth down. Ho hum. This team has an abysmal defense, but the young offense is coming together, especially now that Coby Fleener is back.

And Luck is a witch. I started writing this comment on first-and-goal from the 8 or so, because I knew this was coming.

Tom Gower: Andrew Luck, he good, he real good, especially for a rookie. I hate you, Colts fans. Nothing personal, but I hate you.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Andy Benoit: Joe Flacco's arm gives him the ability to beat the coverage that wins schematically, especially outside the numbers. We saw that when he slung the ball past James Harrison.

The Ravens are running away from the titled nose tackle side of Casey Hampton. Two weeks ago they were running towards that side and getting stuffed.

Vonta Leach really standing out in the run game as a lead-blocker.

Mike Kurtz: Cortez Allen has had a very good game thus far. Flacco has been singling him out, and he has had a few great coverages, plus a near-interception Smith broke up. He was dinged for a defensive pass interference at the 4-yard line, but it was a pretty weak call where Torrey Smith's and Allen's hands grazed each other.

Andy Benoit: On third downs, Ravens have been playing coverage and forcing the ball to stay with Charlie Batch. It’s working.

Mike Kurtz: Andy, it doesn't help that the Steelers are going with predictable runs on first and second down. I wouldn't be surprised of the Ravens knew what the Steelers were...

And then they run an end-around wideout throw that Antonio Brown airmails. Interception.

Jonathan Dwyer runs off-tackle, finds nothing. Batch is right behind him at the handoff. Dwyer bounces it to the sideline, Batch sprints past him and nails the safety, giving Dwyer the last three yards and the touchdown. Awesome.

Vince Verhei: Batch hits a wide open Emmanuel Sanders streaking across the middle of the field. Sanders catches the ball, takes two steps, then fumbles untouched. The ball shoots out sideways into a pile of Baltimore defenders.

Aaron Schatz: I feel bad that I have nothing to add to the discussion on this game, but I feel like these two play the same game every time: they all sort of come out looking the same. Good games, but rarely does much stand out in the midst of all the overall good defensive play.

Mike Kurtz: The big story is that Batch is not the problem with the Steelers this game. Mike Wallace and Brown are.

Andy Benoit: Steelers had some interesting play design on Heath Miller’s other long catch: fake screen to Chris Rainey, Miller leaked inside.

Ed Reed's interception was good centerfield coverage. A bad decision by Batch, but a much better play by Reed. Reed looked at the shallow route and just covered ground on his redirect to get back deep on Miller. Great defensive play.

Aaron Schatz: Batch's emotion at the end of the Steelers-Ravens game was touching. Probably the last game of his career, and after being lambasted for last week's loss and playing horribly in the first half, he came back with a nice second half and led the game-winning drive.

Cam Cameron may want to explain why Ray Rice had only 12 carries and one catch in a close game.

Mike Kurtz: As one of the people who said that Batch was terrible and would have a terrible game, I am eating a helping of crow and feeling a little bad after his response at the end of the game. Still, I'm ecstatic that Ben Roethlisberger is coming back. This game felt like it would've been a whupping with a better quarterback (even though Batch had a fine game).

Rivers McCown: You're telling me that the Ravens and Cam Cameron didn't use Rice enough in a loss? No way.

Danny Tuccitto: The operative phrase representing what Ravens fans are thinking about Cam Cameron right now: "overstayed his welcome."

Cleveland Browns 23 at Oakland Raiders 20

Andy Benoit: Most interesting thing about this game: anticipating how dirty the uniforms might get.

Tom Gower: Brandon Myers has 14 catches this game. In Cincinnati with Palmer, that would have been most of Reggie Kelly's season total.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 at Denver Broncos 31

Tom Gower: Josh Freeman, deep-out passer. He hits some of them. He got picked on another one where he didn't get it over underneath man Chris Harris, though it was negated by a roughing the passer call on Von Miller.

Watching Knowshon Moreno run, I don't see very much suddenness in his game.

The Broncos hut-hut on fourth-and-2 from the Tampa 46, then burn a timeout. Granted, it's inside the two-minute warning and they still have a timeout left, but c'mon, just take the five yards for delay there.

Vince Verhei: Peyton Manning just scrambled and hit Moreno for a first down on third-and-short. Nothing remarkable there, except that the receiver was laying down just across the first-down line when Peyton threw it. It was such a cool play that Greg Schiano came up to slap Payton's helmet.

Andy Benoit: Manning's touchdown to Demaryius Thomas was a great anticipation throw versus the man coverage of Leonard Johnson.

Tom Gower: Manning is still good at football. That throw was kind of a "look what I found" experience for Thomas, as the perfectly-timed ball arrived in just the right place. The second touchdown to Thomas was another good anticipation throw ahead of the underneath coverage of Lavonte David.

Freeman gets hit in motion, and the Broncos go from down 10-7 at halftime to up 28-10 with 3:56 to play in the third after Miller takes the gift 20-something yards for a score.

Vince Verhei: What were we saying about the defensive player of the year vote? First interception of Miller's career.

Andy Benoit: Pick was off the lurk/spy coverage that Denver has been using him on this season. He’s been great in that role.

Rivers McCown: I'd be really interested to see which of Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, or Miller the commenters preferred for DPOY. I'd go with Watt because I think the deflected passes put him in a category that the other two aren't really in, but I'd imagine it's much closer to the readers.

Vince Verhei: Manning's last interception was a surprisingly horrible decision. David got the pick, but even if he hadn't been there, two other defenders were closing on on the receiver to break up the play.

Aaron Schatz: Tampa just hit a field goal to make it 31-16 with 3:30 left. Then they kicked away. Why? I realize the chances of a comeback are remote, but the only way to even try is probably two onside kicks. Might as well try.

Vince Verhei: Bucs get a field goal and touchdown to pull within eight with 2-and-a-half minutes to go and no timeouts. Broncos recover the onside kick. It's not quite kneeldown time yet, but if/when it gets there, should the Broncos go with Brock Osweiler rather than put Peyton in jeopardy in front of Schiano's anti-kneeldown assault?

Danny Tuccitto: On that Tampa Bay field goal, my reflex was, "Why are you kicking a field goal?" On the kickoff, my reflex was, "Why are you not kicking onside?" And then it hit me: they're down 31-13 (and then 31-16) with 3:30 left.

I went back to caring about more important things

And as I type this, the Bucs get the ball back and score easily to make it 31-23 with 2:30 left. So now my reflex is ... aw, hell, I give up except to note that going for one was clearly a case of Greg Schiano trolling Chase Stuart bait.

Speaking of Schiano, he must be a big fan of English Beat, because these last two drives make it seem like his endgame strategy is "Save It For Later."

Vince Verhei: Peyton was out there for the kneeldown. He took the snap and jumped backwards to get down. And sure enough, there was pushing and shoving afterwards.

Danny Tuccitto: To bring this conversation full circle, their mutual disdain for unwritten rules makes it inevitable that Cortland Finnegan will be playing for Schiano at some point.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 at San Diego Chargers 13

Andy Benoit: Andy Dalton's second interception was completely Marvin Miller’s fault. Would like to see wide receiver drop-tips that get picked off charged as fumbles (or a separate statistical category) to the guilty wideout. Dalton did his job on the play.

Tom Gower: Marvin Jones. The Ball went off his hands, Corey Lynch got the opportunistic deflection.

Philip Rivers has completed 17-of-25 passes. This has produced six points of offense. (Demorrio Williams had a pick-six earlier on a bad read/throw by Dalton.)

Aaron Schatz: Actually, Bud Selig still blames Marvin Miller for that pick.

Tom Gower: Chargers have thrown the ball on 30 of their first 36 plays. It’s been evident throughout the season that Norv Turner does not view Ryan Mathews as any sort of a foundation back.

Danny Tuccitto: And, lucky for Norv, he won't be around to build on that non-foundation for the future.

Tom Gower: Dalton scrambles for a rushing TD to give this game some points in the second half, then Rivers gets strip-sacked by Carlos Dunlap, who went around backup right tackle Kevin Haslam, playing for an injured Jeromey Clary.

Per the CBS crew, the Chargers are dissatisfied with Mathews' lack of patience on runs and desire to plant his leg and look to go outside. Between Mathews, Norv, and A.J. Smith, two probably shouldn't be back in San Diego next year. We'll see which choice the Chargers go with.

Danny Tuccitto: Does anyone watching this right now have any confidence whatsoever that Norv, Rivers, and company are going to masterfully execute a two-minute drill to tie the game?

Ben Muth: What has happened to Rivers over the last two years? He's been awful for 25-odd games now, I don't think is a slump anymore.

Mike Kurtz: Rivers seems to think that:

A) He only has 20 seconds, B) that he is on the 5.

That's two fades that were short of the goal line. One way out of bounds. With two time outs left. At the 17. With a minute left. What the heck is going o--

Wait, what's that?


Tom Gower: The offensive line is a major problem this year, especially the tackles. They're Cardinals-level bad. Aside from that, I thought the issue last year was that when Antonio Gates wasn't healthy they lacked a reliable option in the middle of the field. I think that's still an issue this year. The deep routes depend on receivers who can win one-on-one. Malcom Floyd's done a decent job of that this year, I think, but Robert Meachem has not, at all. That's why Danario Alexander has been playing so much lately. Eddie Royal has been playing like Eddie Royal: not a useful receiver. Plus, there's nothing like a sustaining run game. Rivers has done OK at times, but only by turning into a total checkdown artist, and when he tries to go downfield, too many picks have followed.

Rob Weintraub: My usual two cents on the Bengals:

Marvin Lewis continues to be very progressive in his aggressiveness on fourth down. On the opening drive Cincy, went on fourth-and-9 at the San Diego 35. Defensive holding earned a first down, and the Bengals scored later to make it 7-0.

Cincy really felt the loss of Mohamed Sanu. A.J. Green drew heavy attention, and no one else stepped up to get open underneath. Jones had the aforementioned drop-turned-pick, Andrew Hawkins is just a specialty player, not a consistent down-to-down threat, and Brandon Tate can't get open. Going to be a problem for the Bengals going forward.

Jermaine Gresham showed why he isn't in the elite class of tight ends. He caught a beautifully-designed touchdown pass early, but struggled mightily with blocks on the edge. Melvin Ingram, in particular, was getting past him regularly. And he fumbled in the third quarter in Chargers territory. His inconsistency is maddening.

The Bengals pass rush was absent in the first half, as the much-maligned Chargers line did a good job keeping the interior rush in particular away from Rivers. But the front four really cranked it up in the second half,

BenJarvus Green-Ellis now has cracked 100 yards for three straight games, the first Bengals back to do that since 1999 (!), when Corey Dillon was in stripes.

They needed the win desperately with the Steelers and Colts pulling victories out of their behinds. Unlike Peter King, I'm not sanguine about the Bengals playoff chances, despite the four-game win streak.

Aaron Schatz: I should e-mail Jim Armstrong and see if we can do some AI a little bit early this year. I'm curious how high Lewis comes out given some of these interesting fourth-down decisions.

Rob Weintraub: Near the goal line he tends to kick, funnily enough. Up 17-13 late in the fourth, Cincy had a fourth-and-one at the 3, and kicked to go up a touchdown. In the maroon zone, however, he goes more often than not. At least in the last half-dozen games.

Philadelphia Eagles 33 at Dallas Cowboys 38

Danny Tuccitto: First play: How exactly is that not intentional grounding? DeMarcus Ware annihilates Nick Foles one second after the snap, and Foles throws ball to the ground as he's faceplanting into the turf.

Tom Gower: Foles had already started his throwing motion when he was contacted by Ware. If you start the motion before contact, it's not grounding when you throw the ball, even if it doesn't get back to line of scrimmage or in the vicinity of an eligible receiver.

Aaron Schatz: Right. I think it is pretty clear the intended receiver is Bryce Brown, if Foles had not been clobbered while throwing.

Danny Tuccitto: Fair enough. Although, I just rewound and looked at it again. Foles doesn't start to motion until after he's hit. He looks Brown's way, decides not to throw, then gets clobbered, then decides to chuck it after contact.

In defense of my defensiveness, after experiencing the gifted safety against Kaepernick, I'm seeing intentional grounding around every corner.

Tom Gower: I thought he cocked the ball before Ware's contact. That's enough; NFL refs are normally relatively generous with that call, I think. Also, Brown is a more effective running back when he runs forward instead of backwards, trying to bounce things. It's hard to have success going backwards trying to bounce runs in the NFL.

Danny Tuccitto: Getting away from the officiating stuff...

One thing I find interesting is that the NFC East has two backup running backs who are young Speed Score darlings that would easily be workhorses on other teams. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy signed through 2017 and the Giants have Ahmad Bradshaw signed through 2014. What do the front offices do? I mean, seems like a gigantic waste of talent to have Bryce and Andre Brown languishing on the bench under normal circumstances.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles do not look like the team that people think is falling apart at the seams. Offensive line looks particularly good tonight, protecting Foles and making big holes for Brown, who is what the kids call "hella fast."

Danny Tuccitto: Again, Brown! Let me add Ben Tate to the previous pair of young, backup, Speed Score darlings. Tate's only signed through 2013 so it seems feasible that Houston will move him this offseason. Nevertheless, quite a conundrum for the front offices in question.

Rivers McCown: They should have moved him last offseason, when he was at the peak of his value. Now they'd be lucky to get a third-rounder for him. Whoever traded for him would have to extend him, and he now has chunks of two of his three seasons wiped away due to injury.

Tom Gower: The Cowboys could block. Then the refs started calling offensive holding. Now the Cowboys, including particularly Doug Free, can't block effectively.

Vince Verhei: Obviously, the Dallas coaches didn't tell Kevin Ogletree to fumble the handoff on that end-around. But they did call an end-around to Kevin Ogletree, which is bad enough. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have a combined zero targets at that point, and you're finding ways to get the ball into Kevin Ogletree's hands?!

Danny Tuccitto: Vince, your observation reminds me of the 49ers pitch play to Ted Ginn earlier. Why even bother putting the ball in the hands of your fifth-best offensive option barring some kind of nothing-else-is-working situation?

Rivers McCown: To, as the kids say, "put something on tape." That'd be my guess.

Tom Gower: Collinsworth had a nice observation there, that wide receivers are much more used to catching the ball than they are taking handoffs. I'm not sure it's supported by the evidence (haven't checked, and don't care enough to), but it makes a lot of intuitive sense. Plus, since Cris was a wideout, it makes me think it's likelier he really knows what he's talking about here.

Aaron Schatz: Did the Eagles just leave Jason Witten completely wide open down the seam with a minute left? There's the first of those "two or three totally blown coverages per game" that Collinsworth was talking about earlier.

Tom Gower: Yes, they did. It was apparently another of those plays that ended with the 2012 Eagles trademark "Nnamdi Asomugha and Kurt Coleman looking at each other like they weren't sure exactly what was supposed to happen there" post-play conference.

Aaron Schatz: Gotta congratulate the Eagles tonight for playing hard instead of just going Full Kotite.

Danny Tuccitto: Agreed ... with the caveat that "Full Kotite" was the last seven weeks.

Tom Gower: Bryant is a grown man. He just overpowered Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead at 31-27.

Danny Tuccitto: A grown man who spends $500k on jewelry, and requires a strict curfew. #JustSaying

Aaron Schatz: Whenever he has a big game like this, I get a sneaking, totally non-statistically-based feeling that trouble with the law is just around the corner.

Tom Gower: Well, Dez Bryant, grown man-child then?

Aaron Schatz: Wow, Ware just went right past Foles. Dived right past him trying to get a sack, like he was juked or something. Ware hasn't really been near Foles much tonight, another example of how the Eagles' line has done a good job.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, that's two dead-to-rights sacks that Ware's missed tonight.

Tom Gower: Ah, yes, there it was, The Inevitable Bryce Brown Fumble.

Danny Tuccitto: Also, the Morris Claiborne fumble recovery return touchdown gives me an opportunity to mention something I looked up earlier tonight. Last year, as per FOA 2012 the Cowboys were fourth in the NFL in "CB by sides." Not sure how much Claiborne has been on an island this season, but, if he hasn't, kudos to him and Brandon Carr tonight for totally shutting down Jeremy Maclin.

Rivers McCown: It's actually not that hard, says a disgruntled Maclin fantasy football owner.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles just ran the third-down give up draw with Bryce Brown in a situation where they were going to have to go for it on fourth down. What the hell was that?

Tom Gower: "We don't trust Nick Foles and our pass pro to throw the ball 20 yards downfield twice and get a first down, so we'll see if we can get a short fourth down." Tony Romo in the second half: 10-for-10, 169 yards, three touchdowns. Yup, Juan Castillo was the problem.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 03 Dec 2012

210 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2012, 4:56pm by tuluse


by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:21pm

thought don barclay held his own at right tackle. his quarterback was very complimentary after the game. the same quarterback who chewed out his soon to be ex-left guard after said guard moved too soon on a play near the vikings goal line

would like to extend my thanks to the vikings offensive game callers who decided to not run adrian peterson 35 times and instead asked ponder to try and throw an oblong ball away from his body. this seems foreign to ponder.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:15pm

After watching nothing but RedZone highlights during the game, I would like to extend the same thanks to the Vikings.

Poor tackling has been a trend for the packers (as has poor pass blocking) but was covered up by two excellent tacklers (Matthews and Woodson). I am wondering if this is a coaching issue or a personnel issue. My son's PopWarner team practices using the sideline for tackling...not sure why paid professionals cannot seem to push out Peterson with 3 tries.

I am just glad they didn't run him more.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:31pm

Desmond Bishop is also a good tackler.

I think most secondary guys have a rap as poor tacklers because defensive backs have learned that really tackling someone is more taxing than looking to shove someone to the ground or out of bounds. And most receivers are willing to accomodate that approach. That is why running backs and receivers who are NOT on board with that approach can make a cornerback or safety look pretty silly when they refuse to cooperate.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:35pm

Did you see Cromartie try to tackle Dez Bryant in the critical moment last night? That may have set back football 100 years.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:08pm

I saw it. Cromartie wasn't trying to tackle, just strip the ball.
Apparently lots of current NFL players don't make the connection
that when you concentrate on stripping the ball, you're giving
free yards to the ball carrier.

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:55pm

Nah. I think they do get the connection, for the most part at least. It is just that the value of a strip, and its possible recovery by the defense, outweighs allowing the ball carrier to pick up an extra yard or two. I'd imagine this is particularly true once the ball carrier is past the first down marker. The "just tackle him, don't try and strip the ball," mantra strikes me as being in the similar vein as the "just fall on the ball" mantra. It sounds good, but the reality of the situation is that the value of a turnover is so high it's worth taking risks. It doesn't mean Cromartie made the perfect choice in this situation, but it's probably something he's been coached to do for the past few years.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:01pm

Not inside the five yard line. His decision making was terrible, if that is what led him to adopt the technique he did.

by Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 7:57pm

Apparently at least one football GM didn't make the connection that Cromartie can't tackle before signing him.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:22pm

Disagree that was a failed sneak by Brady. Sure looked like he was centering the ball for the FG attempt. There was no upfield drive -- he was going to his left the whole time. That was a called play to do that.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:51pm

Announcers said the same thing. They thought initially thta Brady tripped but the slo-mo replay clearly showed Brady go to the ground on his own and they corrected themselves that Brady must've just centered the ball for the kick.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:46pm

Yeah, and the radio PbP guys said that it was the arm bar on Vereen that made the ball appear so uncatchable. That said, I do agree with Aaron that refs have overlooked the "catchability" of passes lately.

by Anonymous Me (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:23pm

A random note: I don't think Brady tripped on the last play of that drive. As one of the announcers noted, it looked like he deliberately fell to place the ball in the center of the field for his kicker. One of those characteristic look-at-me-while-I-optimize-my-chances-of-winning moves by Belichick.

Enteratining stuff as always.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:47pm

"One of those characteristic look-at-me-while-I-optimize-my-chances-of-winning moves by Belichick."


by Candace Bergen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:19am

He said 'everybody is supposed to suck Belichek's dick because the Patriots won a couple of Super Bowls a decade ago'.

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:28pm

Eagles will also show up against the Giants in Week 17. Here is my thought, Andy Reid should not punt on 4th down the rest of the year. Just challenge that idea and give the NFL 4 games to see it in action. In fact all teams out of the playoff hunt should use this time to figure out if this strategy has real benefits. Then they will go back to the old way the minute they have something on the line.

by BotswanaMeatCommissionFC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:27pm

Like just play Crazy Madden Style for four weeks? As an Eagles fan, I fully support this. Onside kick every single time. Put in the full Punt-block formation every time they opposing team punts. Constantly throw the hail mary and bliz every down.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 11:45am

I would guess the NFL would come down hard on the Eagles for doing so and probably altering the competitive balance of the playoff seedings. I can see Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder getting a little pissy because the Eagles went for it several times on fourth down in their own territory, giving the Giants offense short fields all afternoon.

by Dean :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:15pm

What justification could the league have if the Eagles (or any other team for that matter) were to use such a strategy and mathematically defend the percentages? If they're genuinely trying to win (and you could argue that the Eagles haven't been doing that for 2 months), then the league has no grounds.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:29pm

If Bradford was sliding and a guy hit him even by accident that's still a penalty correct? Because I have seen various teams get penalized on that rule even when the defender was just falling on the guy versus a true blow to the body.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:04pm

I think that if the quarterback leaves the slide so late that the defender has already committed to the tackle then it isn't a penalty if the defender tries to pull up as Goldson did.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:08pm


Well that would make sense and I agree with the concept but again, I have seen the Packers get penalized at least twice in the scenario you just described. And does the league make that distinction in the rules? That if in the refs judgement if the qb started to slide 'late' the defender shouldn't be penalized?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:35pm

That's why I said 'I think', I'm not certain that the rule is as I stated. I've seen it called both ways and it's a judgement call, however, I have very little trust in the judgement of the myopic, incompetent, ham-fisted morons that were in charge yesterday. They called the penalty as a helmet to helmet hit, which is certainly was not.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:34pm

I imagine the Pats plan to leave Hartline open down the field was by design as Tannehill missed him completely the other two time the Pats decided to just let Hartline run wide up down the field. I wonder if the Ravens and Steelers are miffed at how the last decade the Pats got so lucky to play in a division without any football teams. The Pats looked like a team without its A game but the Dolphins simply have about a D+ game of offense. So it all worked out. The good news is that Henne/Tannehill match up moves 1 week closer.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:23pm

How quickly people forget the Jets making the AFC championship game two years in a row.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:56pm

and yet they didn't win the division either year though... Bills have been horrible for a decade, Dolphins one playoff in the decade run (they won the division with a tie breaker or the Pats would have owned them all), the Jets have had moderate success now and then, but still couldn't take the division away from the Pats! Worse none of those three look like they are moving in a direction to challenge that Pats. Three disorganized franchises and the Pats. You can pretend the AFC least is interesting, but it hasn't been for years.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:50pm

That a team capable of reaching the AFCCG in back-to-back years doesn't win the division speaks positively about the Patriots, not negatively.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:26pm

The only two years the Patriots have lost the AFC East since 2001 are 2002 and 2008. Pennington beat them out both times on tiebreakers. The Steelers and Ravens should just be glad they're not playing in the same division with New England, since they would have been doomed to playing on the road continually in the playoffs, and competing with each other for one playoff spot and not two.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:06pm

There is no reason for Pats fans to be defensive about this issue. The AFC East has been NE and 3 bad teams for most of the last decade. But, that's also true of the AFC South: Indy and 3 bad teams. Let's face it, NE and INdy had it much easier than Baltimore and Pitt did in terms of inside-the-division games. Here is an easy way to put it for NE:

Name the great, or almost great, QB who played for an AFC East team not named NE in the past decade. it can't be done, and you can barely name more than a couple who we'd even consider "good." Who you going with in this pass-happy era? Pennington (good but injury-prone noodle arm)? Sanchez (led them to 2 AFCC games but isn't really a good QB we are all now realizing)? Fitzpatrick? Who?

And, the AFC South until about a year ago could say the same: who are the good to great QB's not named Manning in the last decade? Schwab (not done anything post season yet)? Steve (I wasn't very good after 2003) McNair? Not Leftwich.

Pitt and Baltimore relied more on defense, but at least they had to slug it out each year against one another. Imagine if the NFL had not realigned, and Indy and NE had been in the same division, playing twice a year and fighting for the same division title, every year?

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:32pm

AFCE Brady era good QBs:

AFCS Manning era post-McNair good QBs:
V. Young

All of the above had at least one season where they could be characterized as above average starting NFL QBs. Several of them had at least one very good season.

Also, if you are just now realizing Sanchez isn't a good QB, I have bad news for you.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:33pm

I never thought I'd be defending Pats fans but...you're actually pretty wrong in most of your assertions.

First of all, lets start with a few corrections: Baltimore and Pitt play each other twice yes, but they also get games against the perennially awful browns and the sometimes terrible but sometimes decent Bengals, so its not like the division is always super tough.

Steve Mcnair(wasn't very good?) He was a co-mvp, multiple probowler and to date is a far superior player than I think you're giving him credit for. The afc south was not always a pushover btw, with years of Tenesse and Jacksonville being good for portions of the early and mid parts of 2000. In the latter years, the entire conference sank.

The afc east has had several teams compete with NE too, with the jets getting to the afc champ game twice. Thats not ho hum, but a pretty significant accomplishment. We like to knock the jets, but they've actually been one of the NFLs more successful franchises this decade.

In reality, most of the nfl divisions have featured one great qb and a couple decent ones with varying degrees of success here and there. What the AFC east and AFC south have experienced isn't anything extreme or abnormal and by in large, the AFC north isn't a huge extreme either.

The only division that I would say has been consistently tough, sporting several multiple playoff teams-including two years they had three playoff teams- was the nfc east. They, you could argue, legitimately have a brutal stretch of divisional games.

by nat :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 9:44pm

Since 2001, the Pats have never faced three division rivals who were all below .500 in non-patriots games. So much for your "most of the decade" concept. Never != most. And .500 != bad. They do tend to lose to the Patriots. But, hey, who doesn't?

For a counter example, look at the Broncos this year. Now there's a QB who ran to a soft division!

by Ima Pseudonym (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 10:13pm

Can't believe I didn't have anything better to do, but this thread made me curious. Here are the DVOA numbers for the AFC East and North for the last three years (totals in parentheses):

East North
22.8 22.6
13.5 14.5
-1.3 .1
-9.7 -14.2
(25.3) (23)

44.6 35.4
18.7 21.7
1.8 -3.4
-21.3 -4
(43.8) (49.7)

28.8 29.1
15.8 14.2
4.4 -.1
-10.4 -23.1
(38.6) (20.1)

In only one of the three years was the total DVOA of the East lower than the North, and it wasn't by much. In all three years, the second place East team was roughly comparable to the second place North team.

Anyone who wants to compile the other years' data is welcome to, I would be interested in seeing it, just not interested enough to do it.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:30am

Okay, I'll try to defend my statements using FO stats. My two main points were these:

1) The AFC East and AFC South leaders had a much easier road within the division over the last decade because they almost never played an elite opponent in the division, or at least not as often as the AFC North leaders did.

2) The AFC East has had almost no real QB's not named Tom Brady in the last decade, nor did the AFC South not named Peyton Manning.

I used rankings, because frankly I didn't want to type in each individual DVOA value or DYAR valued for QB (you can rightly quibble with using DYAR versus DVOA for QB's, but that is what FO sorts on the page, so that's what I went with):


1) On average, the AFC East teams not NE were slightly worse than the AFC South teams not Indy
AFC East average rank #2-4 (non NE): 17.8
AFC South average rank #2-4 (non Indy): 17.3 (but excluding the last two years of no-Manning Indy: 17.0)
AFC North average rank #2-4 (varies year to year): 16.9

So, each year the AFC East opponents were about 1 rank position lower than the AFC North. But, my point wasn't that everyone was bad in the AFC East and everyone was good in the AFC North, but that the AFC North team consistently needed to contend with an elite opponent in the division, and that this wasn't true of NE and Indy. On that score:

AFC East #2 average rank: 12.2
AFC South #2 average rank: 7.8 (but drops to 8.1 if you exclude these last two non Manning years)
AFC North #2 average rank: 9.3

Thus, in the past decade, NE has had to contend with 6 opponents ranked in the top 10 by DVOA. Indy had to contend with 6 in the 8 years (2003-2010), and the AFC North leader had to contend with 8. That doesn't sound like much, but let me put it this way:

In the last decade, NE has had to contend with a division opponent in the top #10 in only 5 years (one year #2 and #3 were top 10). The AFC North champ in the last decade has faced a top #10 opponent within the division in 8 of those years.

Or, put it this way: Only once in the last decade was the #2 team in the AFC North worse than #12 in DVOA. For the AFC East, NE enjoyed 5 years were no division opponent was in the top #12 (top 13, actually).

Thus, my main point is defendable: Of the last 10 years, the top dog in each division had to contend with another top dog (top 12 or top 14, however you want to slice it):
AFC East 5 years.
AFC North 9 years.

In 5 of the 10 years, NE's "best division opponent" was ranked #14 or worse, with an overall average of 12.2 ranking.
In only 1 of 10 years, the AFC North leader's "best division opponent" was ranked #14 (actually #13) or worse, with an overall average rank of 9.3.

Clearly, in many, many more years NE's toughest in-division rival was worse than the in-division rival that the AFC North top dog faced.

2) I may have been wrong about AFC South opposing QB's being weak, but I was dead on about the AFC East opposing QB's being terrible. Some stats for you, having taken Manning and Brady out as the perennial #1 QB for each of their divisions:

AFC East #2 QB average rank: 16.2; only three ranked in the top 10 (or expanding that, only 3 in 10 years ranked in the top 16!)
AFC South #2 QB average rank: 10.2; 7 times ranked in the top 10 (if expanded to top 16, 9 of 10 years)
(This wasn't my point, but by comparison: AFC North #2 QB: 13.4)

To further that point:
The average rank for the AFC East #3 QB was 25.0
The average rank for the AFC South #3 QB was 17.2
The average rank for the AFC North #3 QB was 18.8

Average rank for AFC East #4: 31.9
Average rank for AFC South #4: 28.0
Average rank for AFC North #4: 31.6

Overall averages of the #2, #3, and #4 QB:
AFC East: 24.4
AFC South: 18.5
AFC North: 21.3

And, yes, I have too much time on my hands, but I didn't want to leave my statements undefended.

by nat :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 8:40am

Funny. You said three bad teams most of the decade. Nothing in your epic post defends that point.

You lose. And don't have the character to simply say so and move on. It makes it hard to take the rest at all seriously.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 9:01am

That was deep analysis, nat. Stick to your preconceived idea -- you're good at it. You show your character quite nicely -- I am so thankful that you brought questions of "character" into an analytical debate. So classy.

To help you, as you clearly can't be bothered to actually read, I'll give you a Spark Notes version: the non-NE AFC East teams over the past decade: only 6 of 30 times have they been better than 14th in the league. In the AFC North, the second best team has been better than 14th 10 of 30 times, about 2/3 more often.

Oh, and nice of you to ignore the glaring lack of QB's in the East points. Way to bring a lack of any proof to your "argument" other than your love of all things NE.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 9:08am

Sorry, nat, I didn't give you enough credit; I figured I should at least look at your "proof." I see you were so wise in your deep analysis of teams as to use win-loss records at a site devoted to advanced metrics. Certainly THAT makes sense. And, as to the Jets getting to the AFCC twice being proof of the team's greatness: yes, fall back on small-sample playoff records to prove a point. It makes perfect sense, as by that measure Tom Brady has become a much worse QB as he has "matured," having won 3 SB's in his first five years, but having 0 wins in his last 5+. Of course, Brady is a much worse QB and has massively regressed, given your criteria. Talk about stupid analysis.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 5:44pm

But the absolute best part, which he completely glosses over in his analysis is that, according ot his numbers, of the three divisions, the one with the best avergae #2 team was... the AFC South!

But hey, that doesn't fit the narrative of the poor AFC North and the lucky, lucky Peyton Manning, so why point it out?

- Alvaro

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

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:23am

Just thinking about the Patriots, and Belichek, gives me an orgasm. This site is like Hustler for that. I sprayed my seed on the computer screen like a fire hose just thinking about how wonderful New England is.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:31pm

Yeah, the Steelers would have been much better off if they got to play some of those AFC Championships at home, right?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:40pm

As a fan of a team which has been awful at passing in 7 of the last 8 years, with at least 10 different starting qbs (I really have lost count), I share Mr. Gower's envy of Colts fans (Packers fans too) . Once you consider that the Vikings have, in that period where passing is designed to be the central element of the game, also been consistently below average to bad in the defensive backfield in that time, and below average to bad at receiver, with the exception of one season of Sidney Rice, and Harvin's injury-filled tenure, and have still managed to be 60-64 since the beginning of the 2005 season, there are at least three conclusions to make: 1)Adrian Peterson is really freakin' good, 2)they really have been mostly quite good on the line of scrimmage, and 3)they have the combined luck and skill at evaluating qbs and receivers that a degenerate gambler typically has at Keno.

What was really awful about Ponder's red zone int was that he likely saw the defender, decided to throw it anyways, and simply doesn't have the skill needed to feather a ball like that over the defender, while giving the receiver a shot. The Vikings obviously need to draft another qb, because they can't have much confidence that Ponder will be a viable starter for the next five years. Oh well.

Actually, since the stadium extortion scam, I don't really care all that much if they habitually fail. I really would like to see Adrian Peterson, while he is still a dominant talent, play with a competent passing attack for a couple years, however. Maybe his contract is structured in a way it would be possible to move him.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:44pm

Will, if any team would benefit from acquiring Alex Smith it's the Vikings. That team just needs 'ok' from the qb position to win 8-12 games depending on schedule, etc.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:10pm

Yeah, if they aren't in a draft position to get somebody they see as a real value (I don't see any Russell Wilson types in college this year, athough I'm no expert), then Alex Smith would make sense. They can throw hooks and uppercuts with just about anybody, but they are so poor at corner, receiver, and (sigh) qb, that it doesn't matter much.

Absent a qb solution, man, I'd like to see Adrian Peterson matched with a head coach and qb who could make the most of his historically remarkable talent. I just hate to see great running backs get pounded for years while matched with teams that can't complete the puzzle. The Barry Sanders saga was depressing for that reason,and the Walter Payton story almost turned out the same way. Can you imagine what a Belichik or a Harbaugh could do with Adrian Peterson?

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:26am

Run him into the ground? I'm guessing most coaches could do that, although I agree that Belichek is the greatest genius this world has ever known. I also bet he look amazing naked.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:53am

Getting run into the ground is what talented NFL rbs are for, which is what I wrote. The point is to maximize their playoff appearances while getting run into the ground.

Well, a semi-literate great ape is not encountered often, so don't despair!

by P (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:46pm

I'm with you, Ponder has to go. I see little difference between him and Tarvaris Jackson at this point. Sadly, the QBs for this year's draft don't compare favorably to last year's.

by laberge :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:20pm

Unfortunately they are talking like he is the future. Makes me wonder how bad Webb must look in practice. Too bad they didn't make him a wideout.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:16pm

I feel for you Will and you Tom. As a colts fan in his late twenties, I really haven't had to watch terrible football for much time at all(I imagine a patriots or packers fan will share this experience with - or steeler fans of any generation). Even last year, once it became very obvious what was going to happen(I pretty much knew since that first week), I was still overjoyed. I suppose after 10-15 years(knock wood), the colts will receive their proper penance and I'll have to endure some bad football for a prolonged stretch.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:26pm

I really wonder if the Vikings had the 2nd pick in the draft would Spielman have traded out for the picks and stuck with Ponder and passed on RGIII. My gut he would have stuck with Ponder because he is a bad judge of QB talent.

Here's a list of QBs for the teams Spielman has been associated with since Chic as Dir of Pro Personnel 1997-99 through his present role as GM in Minn.

E. Kramer
R. Mirer
S. Stenstrom
M. Moreno
S. Mathews
C. McNown
J. Miller
J. Fiedler
D. Huard
R. Lucas
S. Rosenfels
B. Griese
AJ. Feeley
B. Johnson
B. Bollinger
T. Jackson
K. Holcomb
G. Frerotte
B. Favre
J. Webb
C. Ponder
D. McNabb

Spielman had various positions ranging from Dir of Player to GM. The only decent guy on the list (excluding a washed up McNabb) was Favre - who was clearly a Childress decision. In fairness McNabb was more of a Frazier choice when he still had some pull.

On the whole a pretty sad list.

I can't know how much input he had on these guys, but the guys you know are his pet projects - AJ Feeley, Sage Rosenfels and C. Ponder - are all awful.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:34pm

I'd like to know where Tavaris Jackson and Christian Ponder were on Studwell's draft board. Studwell's position seems to continually strengthen through various coaching, GM, and other management shake-ups, which tells me that the Wilf brothers look back at his draft boards, and say to themselves "Hey, we woulda' been better off if we had just followed the board of our Director of College Scouting!" I know for a fact that Childress was the major force behind the Tavaris Experiment, and I suspect The Ponderous Move was mostly divided between Speilman and Frazier. When you don't have a qb, reaching for one is a real temptation, and I suspect that neither of those guys was anywehre as near as high on Studwell's board, compared to players at other positions. Ugh, think of what could have been if they had picked a productive player with their 1st pick in 2011, and then picked up Russell Wilson in the 3rd round this year.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 11:15pm

they should have waited until the 2nd round and taken one of Kaepernick, Dalton or Ponder...I liked Dalton because he was noted as the most accurate passer of the group. They could have taken Fairley as a DT or one of the offensive lineman.

On that front, I'm very encouraged by the improvement in the offensive line. Particularly when it is a pretty young group. I think the front seven needs an injection of talent the way the back end had last year. K. Williams is just a guy now and the other guys aren't even that. Greenway is decent but they need some better lb play. That and WR seem to me the biggest needs outside of QB of course.

Frankly, I would rather they take some vet than reach for another Ponder type of pick in the early rounds.

by Jerry :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:36pm

If you look at Steeler history from 1933 to 1971, you'll be impressed by how bad they were. One of the things that makes the Immaculate Reception so celebrated is that it was the Steelers' first touchdown in a meaningful postseason game, in the 40th year of their existence.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:52pm

I'll tell you what's really awful. After decades of futility at QB, you finally get talented QB who has franchise potential, and the supporting cast for him is so poor that he frequently looks like a faster Rex Grossman.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:55pm

Who is the quarterback that you are describing?

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:00pm

One Jay Cutler.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:27pm

Ive asked this question to bears fans I've met and for my mind, they are missing the big point. The question is why? Why are the bears in a situation where the only good piece on offense is their qb and now 1 wr(who they added THIS offseason)? The answer i get is they are defense centric and don't put enough emphasis on the offense- but to me this answer is wrong.

I've said this before: Most teams guards and centers and even their right tackles are made up of mid round picks. At worst, you hope you end up with a mediocre try hard guy, at best you get a great player. The bears ended up whiffing on both first round tackles and their mid round guys developed into terrible starters.

THe bears are actually a quite an interesting paradox. In the same way they got tremendously unlucky with their offense, their defense got very lucky- ie- grabbing jennings who turned into an all pro- signing peppers-a kind of franchise transcending defensive player that NO team should ever let get to free agency- coupled with guys like melton, paea, idonije, and the rest of their depth- its quite remarkable really.

I guess the bears are a great example of the duality of luck.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:49pm

The ignored the offensive line for too long, when they tried to address it the players they got were not very good. That is 80% of the problem right there.

I have no problem with the receivers as a group, but currently here is the injury report: Knox - out, Hester - out, Jeffery - out, Bennett - questionable.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:05pm

An excellent first order take. Applaud.

It seems like the defense is stuffed with players who have outplayed their draft position. It is hard to think of any starter, besides Major Wright, who hasn't.

The offense has Cutler/Marshall and a LT (Webb) who has outplayed his seventh round expectations ... probably. (I think Forte has only played to his draft expectation but others disagree).

They also have had wondrous luck on special teams personal. Gould was a FA find and Hester was perhaps the only return man worth a second round pick as such.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:13pm

I don't know how much of this is luck and how much is just being better at evaluating and coaching defensive players.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:36pm

But see...why is it the o line stinks then? its not as if the bears as a franchise under lovie have had consistently awful offensive lines. I can give you wr, but again I'd argue the bears haven't had a chance to really grab any top quality receivers in the draft.

Maybe its just coaching/scheme, but I still feel like drafting his a crap shoot. There are just too many examples of this. I've seen Aj Smith, Andy Reid, BB, and now Ted thompson all at one time or another being lauded for their great scouting abilities. Years later, this is starting to feel more mixed.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:48pm

One of the least discussed aspects of drafting is how few people have had a large enough number of draft picks to give any insight whatsoever as to whether their results, good or bad, are the result of skill or random chance. It is as if we are determining who is a great or lousy major league hitter based upon the first fifty plate appearances.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:08pm

My stupid brain always wants to see patterns in data, and I can't make it stop.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:35pm

Good for you on recognizing the frailty. Socrates and know not but know that you know not ... etc. The human pattern recognizers are marvelous devices, but they don't turn off. Faces in clouds are wonderful examples. Lots of faces 'recognized.'

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:07pm

When the offensive line was good it was built from free agents and Kreutz who was there before Angelo. Teams don't seem to let tackles who are solid or better walk anymore, and Angelo's line strategy was to build from those free agents.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:28pm

Could be. If I had to guess, I'd guess luck as the evaluation of a DT and a OG are kind of symmetric. WR/CBs as well. As Will says later in this thread, there are dang few drafters who have enough data for a track record, and even those GMs are really GM + scouts + coach + ... combos that change a little year to year.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:49pm

"I've said this before: Most teams guards and centers and even their right tackles are made up of mid round picks. "

I hear this a lot, but I don't think its true. There are some good late round pick lineman in the NFL, but the majority of the starters are 1-3rd round picks. Even on the teams with OLine coaches with a rep of coaching guys up.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:19pm

When i said mid round, i really meant from the 3-5 range.

As for supporting my above statement, I can't speak for right tackles, but since 1980, there have been 980 first round draft picks and 988 2nd round draft picks. Guards and centers have made up for 3.5% of the first rounders, and 5.4% of the 2nd rounders. That, btw, is the smallest allocation of first rounders to any position not named FB, Kicker, or Punter. Yes, there are more tight ends selected in the first and 2nd round than there are centers or guards.

I think that kind of implies that most interior o line men at least are mid round type guys.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:33pm

Which is really interesting. If that delay in drafting OGs is because they are really hard to evaluate (compared to other positions) it makes sense, but I doubt that explanation. If they delay is because they don't vary much amongst themselves, then why are there $7-8 million guards? If the position is simply unimportant then why are DTs drafted high, isn't there a certain symmetry there? It used to be that DTs were not paid nearly as much as other defenders but that era is done. I think the C/OGs are on the upswing in respect now (as measured by $ and draft resources spent on them).

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:36pm

why are there $7-8 million guards?

Because that's not very much money in the modern NFL, and the upper limit for tackles is about twice that.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:59pm

Now you are asking a very difficult question that is juxtaposing nfl tactics and evolutionary football trends.

The two hypothesis you came up A) that guards and centers are drafted low because there's very little variance between the third round guard and the 7th, B)Their position as a whole is undervalued - both feel valid in this case and I would add a third thing to it- that as a position, its weaknesses can be mitigated by superior qb/ skill position play. Those are the sort of explanations for why RB's have started to go out of style in the draft.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:59pm

Okay, if OG FAs are paid about half of what OT FAs are paid then that is a fine measure of the estimated importance of the position. I did not think it was a factor of 2, I thought more like 1.5 or less.

Are DEs paid twice what DTs are? If not why don't they show a similar ratio? (of course, if real numbers are not so clear, pehaps 1.8 OT/OG vs. 1.6 DE/DTs then forget about it).

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 9:24pm

One final thing: I don't think salary numbers are a great indicator of true value. The reason is, I don't think the nfl operates like a profit and loss business the same way other businesses do. THis was kind of shown when Richard Thaler(a chicago economist) wrote a paper analyzing draft trades vs contract payoff and founds teams who traded up universally lost. It also hearkens back something Bill Beane said after money ball, where he just assumed baseball wouldn't use those innovative methods because they were run by old boys club type traditionalists. I suspect goes far more off gut and general perceptions of value than they do rigorous analysis of value vs risk. Its there, but I doubt the numbers will bear it out in any exact way.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 9:50am

"I think that kind of implies that most interior o line men at least are mid round type guys."

No, it does nothing of the sort.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:46pm

I can't imagine what Ponder was seeing on that RedZone INT. I don't think there was enough room for any QB to throw that ball above Jennings and get it to drop into a reasonable catch range. Just an awful, awful play that helped give away a winnable game.

Adrian Peterson truly is an incredible talent, and I definitely do feel for you and all Vikings fans in having no answer at QB. Even when teh Vikings were quite good for a solid decade, they had umpteen different QBs. They wasted the talent of the, when motivated, greatest WR I've ever seen in Randy Moss. He was so good the Vikings made, and won playoff games, three straight years with three different QBs from 98-00. Just an amazing run.

Anyway, what hurts probably is that they've been consistently average in their down years, never giving them the opportunity to draft a Luck or RGIII (unless they are willing to spend what the Redskins were to acquire that pick).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:55pm

Yeah, I haven't seen the play from enough angles to have an opinion whether any qb has the talent to make that throw. I know that Ponder isn't one of them, however, and the worst combination in a qb is a guy who has far more confidence in his ability to make a throw than what his level of talent warrants. At least Cutler is correct when he thinks that there are very few qbs, who have as good a chance as he does, when attempting a difficult throw.

by Led :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:45pm

McElroy showed a little more zip on the short and intermediate stuff than I remembered from his pre-season last year. Adequate. Still has no chance on the deeper patterns though. He also seems reasonably calm in the pocket and throws it where he wants it to go, which in itself is a significant improvement from Sanchez. The Jets o-line has been playing better and the defense can still be good enough to keep them in games if they don't have a turnover + 3-and-out machine at QB. If Ryan has the stones to stick with McElroy (who may turn out to be terrible but at least offers the fans a diamond-in-the-rough fantasy) rather than Tebow or Sanchez, I'll be mighty impressed.

by QP (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:46pm

Question I haven't seen an answer for:

In the Cowboys-Eagles game, Cowboys go for it on 4th down, and it appears the runner picked up the first down, but the ruling on the field is that he was short and its a turnover on downs.

Garrett throws the challenge flag and the play is reversed giving the Cowboys a first down. Since the ruling on the field was a turnover (on downs), isn't the play automatically reviewed in the booth, and shouldn't the Cowboys have been penalized for throwing the challenge flag a la Jim Schwartz?

Either they missed the call or turnovers on downs are excluded from the automatic review, but no one addressed it during the broadcast.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:52pm

That's a great question. Just wanted to acknowledge that this was a tremendous question.

My guess is that the league didn't consider how a missed 4th down is a 'turnover' so didn't include it the list of automatically reviewed plays.

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:06pm


Section 15 Rule 9 governs Instant replay,

Replay Official’s Request for Review. After all scoring plays, interceptions, fumbles and backward passes that are recovered by an opponent or go out of bounds through an opponent’s end zone, muffed scrimmage kicks recovered by the kicking team, after the two-minute warning of each half, and throughout any overtime period, any Replay Review willbe initiated by a Replay Official from a Replay Booth comparable to the location of the coaches’ booth or Press Box.
There is no limit to the number of Referee Reviews that may be initiated by the Replay Official. He must initiate a review before the next legal snap or kick and cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays
Rule 15, Section 8, Article 1

by tedkerwin :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:08pm

So, it is not defined as turnovers, it is specific turnovers as outlined.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:03pm

I don't think a turnover on downs counts as a turnover for replay purposes, otherwise they'd be reviewing every punt.

by Chris H. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:06pm

The same question came up during the Bears game. Turnovers on downs are not considered "turnovers" for the purposes of review and are specifically excluded from the automatic review rule.

by tballgame (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:50pm

Rather than allow this to be any reflection on Fitzgerald, I think we just conclude that Lindley is the sort of talent that shines through regardless of the quality of wide receiver around him.

At this point, if you are Arizona, don't you just get ultra-creative with the QB position. Let Fitzgerald play QB. Or run your goal line rushes for an entire first half to see how far you can push 'wearing down a defense'. Run fake punts on second down. Invite Scott Bakula to play QB and invest in a Necessary Roughness sequel. I feel like the standard fare play calling is putting too much focus on the QB's abilities. Worse comes to worse, try coaxing McNabb out of retirement.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:34pm

I like the idea of playing Fitz at QB if only because it would open the door to all sorts of innumerate arguments. Consider this: over the course of his career, the Cardinals have averaged 13.7 yards on passing plays when Fitzgerald has touched the ball. Therefore, if he were the QB, the Cardinals would suddenly average 13.7 yards per attempt! That change would instantly give the Cardinals the best passing attack in the NFL!!

by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 12:57pm

What has happened to Rivers over the last two years? He's been awful for 25-odd games now, I don't think is a slump anymore.

His offensive line is awful. Full Stop.

He's an immobile QB, in the mold of a Kurt Warner, in an offense that continues to stubbornly demand 5 and 7 step drops in order to force the ball down the field. His LT is an undrafted rookie who is the worst pass protector in football. His RT is a 6th round pick who would be the worst pass protector in football if not for said LT. And on top of that the RT got hurt yesterday and was replaced by a guy signed to the practice squad last week. He's already been sacked 36 times, 5th worst in the league and easily on pace to top his career high for a season.

The middle of the line is in only slighly better shape. Losing Dielman and replacing him with Green has been a major drop off, and Hardwick isn't getting any younger. There's no push in the running game, there's no pocket to step up into, and there's no time to throw. Multiple defensive players have had career best days against them this year.

Now take that situation and put it against what FO's own stats say is the best pass rush in all of football. Its amazing things didn't go worse yesterday. Next week will be a massacre, with the Steelers rush ends eating these two tackles alive as entrees before having Rivers for dessert.

Sometimes football just isn't that complicated. Over the past 3 years, when McNeil or Gaither were healthy and playing well, Rivers was playing well. When they went out and were replaced with practice squad level players the effectiveness went down and the turnovers skyrocketed up. Unless and until the team fixes the line this won't change.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:29pm

Even with the protection issues, there have been several situations this season when Rivers has had adequate protection and has simply made terrible throws. His accuracy is way off.

I subscribe to the theory that it's all Norv's fault, and that his general incompetence is manifesting itself if way previously thought to be impossible. If Norv were in charge of the coin toss, the Chargers would consistently lose that 16 games in a row, confounding mathematicians around the world.

by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:43pm

True, though I think a case can be made that some of those throws were at least influenced by the protection situation and his inability to step up in the pocket consistently. More importantly, its the percentages that get you. Take away a few sacks and hits and pressures and the margin for error isn't so small.

I think the problem with Norv is that this offense worked when he had the personnel to make it work. He doesn't anymore, and he hasn't been capable of adapting. Maybe its an impossible task, but its his task, and he hasn't done it.

As for coin tosses, believe it or not the Panthers have lost all 13 coin tosses this year, 12 pregame plus their one overtime toss. I have trouble believing even Norv could top that.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:02pm

This kind of echoes the earlier comment about the cumulative effect of offensive line play. I think once you've gone through a season long process of inconsistent o line play, it really affects your arm mechanics and footwork. So many of rivers mistakes are accuracy related to mechanics. I've seen it happen three times now with qbs who were all at one time stellar- jay cutler, philip rivers, and yes, Aaron Rodgers.

Its kind of gone under the radar how much the packer passing game has regressed. The exact answer why is harder to disentangle and I'm sure displaced or one of the other packer fans will have a better sense of it. MY take, and i know their receivers and rbs have been injured, but the injuries and upheaval on the o line have really bothered Rodgers and are having a similar effect on him that they are on Rivers. Now, that said, Rodgers receivers are vastly better and I still fear Rodgers even in the funk hes in, but the cumulative effect of a poor o line has been, for my money, the biggest explanation for their regression.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:25pm

I'm not sure I agree about Rodgers.

He's gone from historically great to merely having a passer rating in the top three of the league. That sounds more like normal mean-regression than yippie mechanics, besides which Rodgers' mechanics have always been yippie because he has always been running for his life since he took over.

by Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 8:53pm

Rodgers is not in a funk. That part sounds ridiculous. He has played with a below average to terrible line most years though. The rest is very agreeable.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:52pm

Cam Newton = Guildenstern.

I had heard that tidbit about the Panthers. 2^{-12} is a very small number, close to 1/4000. I'm impressed. That's a p-value most scientists would kill for.

Clearly this phenomenon has not happened by chance alone.

by jonsilver :: Sat, 12/08/2012 - 2:20pm

Tom Stoppard fans rejoice! +5

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:03pm

Plus the last two pre-season games. So they're just one shy of 16.

- Alvaro

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

by laberge :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:14pm

Bad o lines seem to have a cumulative effect on a qb. Even on the rare times pass pro holds up, the qb is still expecting to get crushed and rushed and inaccurate throws follow.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:05pm

Could be worse - if Andy Reid was in charge of the coin toss, he'd forget to bring a coin to the first six games.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:32am

Rivers is the new Carson Palmer, minus the crippling leg injury.
Brees is the new Brett Favre, minus the jeans commercials.
Both stories are going to end very badly.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:07pm

All Zebras must die, along with whichever bright spark called that blasted option pass.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:23pm

Is it just me or are there an extraordinary number of bad offensive lines this season? Usually, a few teams struggle and a few teams are flat-out bad, but this year seems worse. Philadelphia and Arizona are thorougly documented, but there's also Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Green Bay, and who knows who else that I didn't think of off the top of my head. As usual, there are plenty of reasons why a line doesn't perform - it just seems like there are more lines than usual who aren't performing. Or is it just me?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:28pm

What is also remarkable is that two of the teams you mention are ranked 5 and 6 in DVOA.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:21pm

It could be this is how defenses are adjusting to the passing era- onus on pass rush to stop it. Thats just a guess mind you.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:33am

Which shows how meaningless DVOA is as a 'stat'.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:28am

How long have you been held hostage and forced to visit a meaningless innertube website?

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:37am

Oh WIll, i'm glad you're here to read this. You know, I've been too nice to you and tuluse, and karl, and all of these other FO clowns. Its time i start showing you how tough I am, you pathetic weanie. I could kill you with my thumbs ya heard!!!????

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 4:19am

Yeah those Bears and Packers at 8-4 tied for 3rd in the conference sure do suck.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:24pm

THis question is for Karl and I'll preface by saying that I did NOT see this game: But, (and i promise you I'm not making this up), I spoke to my friend about this game and he put the loss entirely on Kap and said one more bad game and they should go back to Smith. His reasoning, the 49ers are in a chase for one of the byes and really can't afford Kap's growing pains this year. Do you agree? Oh and my earlier Nick Foles pandering is starting to look better for me!

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:01pm

The niner running backs combined for 27 carries for 64 yards and that includes a 23 yard scamper by Gore so for most of the day they were 26 for 41, which is abysmal. I don't see how that's Kaepernick's fault. The Rams front seven did a great job of stuffing the niners' run game where they really seemed to miss Kendall Hunter's change of pace. I really hope to see LaMichael James next week or I'll assume that his blitz pick up is not up to standard.

The Rams defensive line also consistently created quick pressure with Brockers in particular giving Iupati fits (that was Iupati's worst game of the year and the Rams rookie was responsible for one of his other poor games). Smith would have been as bad as Kaepernick in those circumstances. The niners' offense looked at its best yesterday when Kaepernick was dropping back on a normal play without some Romanesque gibberish. He went 21/32 for 208 with at least four dropped passes including Delanie Walker dropping what would have been a game winning touchdown on a beautifully flighted toss on the play following the 50 yard run. Those aren't great numbers but it's better than the rest of the offense. I can recall a bad miss of Davis deep over the middle, throwing behind Ginn and a couple of underthrown passes, he wasn't awful throwing the ball, though he wasn't getting the ball out on time as well as he did in his first two starts. The offense struggled to stay on schedule more from the poor running game and the rythm-killing gadget plays.

If there's any criticism of the decision to go with Kaepernick then it would be on the coaching staff's seeming reluctance to let him loose. The niner play calling yesterday could have been pulled from the Jimmy Raye file, with some insane option nonsense thrown in so that you'd know it was a Harbaugh special. This makes little sense to me, if they don't trust Kaepernick then why make the change, however, they weren't exactly causing folks to remember the BYU Air Raid days with Smith.

There were always going to be some growing pains, you'll see them from your binky Foles too, I'm sticking with Kaep for now. I'm really angry with the blasted officials, safety my arse!

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:33pm

You know, just to be clear, I was never wedded to foles at all. In fact, my comment was a teasing jab at our back n forth prior. I'll freely admit I had Kap read incorrectly as he looked like a completely different qb in the saints and bears game than the guy I saw in the rams game.

Now to my foles point. It was actually just an idea of what good teams should do when they face a qb situation in a few years. Rather than wait to become terrible(see the chiefs), they should draft a 2nd or 3rd round guy and have him sit and learn. That obviously isn't going to be the case with foles, but it was the original plan. The big disagreement with Kap(Again i repeat at the TIME), was he felt like a scrambler first and a thrower 2nd. That doesn't look to be the case(though my friend swears that Kap reverted back in this game), thats why i was in favor of the 49ers going for a 3rd round pocket style qb.

All that to say, don't make me start rooting for foles and then rooting against Kap out of spite KARL!

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:49pm

I thought the 'binky Foles' line was clearly tongue in cheek, I wasn'ttrying to have a go at you. Are you finished with that boulder yet?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:54pm

Damn you Karl, I'm stuck on that thing like Homer Simpson and the stone cutters!

by jimbohead :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:46pm

Kaep wasn't good, his mistakes were costly, and one of them was in a high-leverage situation (the errant toss that got returned for a TD). That said, having only had the chance to watch in a bar, and not in a place where i can be effectively analytical, Brandon Jacobs looked really bad, and I wonder why LaMichael James wasn't given the nod for #2 rb. He's exactly the kindof speedy counter-punch to frank gore that the niners' run offense needs, and had in Hunter.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:05pm

I didn't say he was good, just that everyone else was pretty poor and he wasn't the reason they lost. The fumble was appalling but then he did hit Walker in the hands with that pass in the end zone and the line barely gave him a clean pocket all day. If the run game had produced anything then the niners would have walked away with a win even with the fumble and the non-safety.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:27pm

The Niners OL got owned in this game. In fact, I think they got owned in the first game, too - but the Niners defense played much better in St. Louis.

Kaepernick did not have a great game. However, he didn't make me long for Alex Smith, either. He did escape a couple sacks and threw a couple bullets, and had a key 50 yard scramble. These are things Smith doesn't do. Obviously tossing the option pitch over Ginn's head was not a shining moment in 49er quarterbackdom. I guess it would be interesting to see how Alex Smith handles the blitzes. Anecdotally I dunno, but he does have good numbers.

I credit the Rams defense for simultaneously shutting down the run and the long pass.
I didn't think Kaepernick had such a great game against NO either... I mean, they are the 32nd best passing defense in the league, and Kaep turned in a very Alex Smith like performance.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 10:44pm

"The Niners OL got owned in this game. In fact, I think they got owned in the first game, too - but the Niners defense played much better in St. Louis." Its harsh to blame the defense, they gave up three points in five quarters.

"I guess it would be interesting to see how Alex Smith handles the blitzes." - Was it blitzes? I haven't (and won't) look at the tape but I got the impression that the rams were rarely sending more than 5 and mostly four.

And I agree with your general impression of CK7.

by zenbitz :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:36am

The defense played great in this game. In the Tie in SF they did not play up their standards.

I didn't count blitzes vs. 4-man or 3-man rushes but it's my impression that they brought 5 a lot. That was why they got killed on the slants.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:49pm

I only got to watch the last half of the 4th quarter and overtime, but I have to say it was the most frustrating session of football in a long while. Ball on the Rams 50 yard-line on OT, and Harbaugh and Roman seemed content to try for the long-shot field goal. Run run pass on third, run run pass on third, 51-yard FG. What kind of play-calling was that?

I'll bet Dashon Goldson gets flagged with more bogus personal foul calls than anyone. I've seen it happen at least 4 times that a flag gets thrown just because he hit hard, and they rationalize it had to be dirty somehow. That's 60 yards of penalties out of air, and the way to know they're air is that he's never gotten a single fine.

This last game it was supposed to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Bradford slide, but their helmets never even came close to touching. So the Rams get 15 yards and time to kick the FG that sends the game into overtime. Arrgh.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 10:46pm

"What kind of play-calling was that?" - Crap.

"I'll bet Dashon Goldson gets flagged with more bogus personal foul calls than anyone." - He does get flagged a lot for fair stuff.

by zenbitz :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:42am

It was extremely frustrating that they were unable to run the ball when they needed to.

I say this as I see the Redskins pound the ball (and a couple play action passes) with 3 minutes left get a couple 3 first downs and ice it. Can't remember the last time I saw the 49ers do that...

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:28am

Dashon actually did the exact opposite of a penalty. When Bradford slid/fell on his side... basically right before contact was like "oh crap, actually I'd rather slide" Dashon turned his body away to minimize contact. Nothing he can do!

At the end of the game... just run run run, screw the "almost TD" to Delanie. Kick the FG with 25 seconds on the clock. Running out of bounds there by Kaepernick was a really bad mistake. It gave STL twice as much time.

I love the Fisher quote "we're gonna win this game now. you're gonna go out there and win this game." before the kick in OT

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:37am

Whenever you address this dope in this threads, you always write it as though you're pants are soaked with urine, you're so afraid of his response. He's just some jerk on a meaningless football website, he's not a mafia don. Be a man, you effete twerp. You embarass yourself.
'Karl....is it okay if I ask you about 49ers quarterbacks...I mean...I don't want you to type in all caps at me or anything...love, a Nobody'

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:19am

I'm assuming you're talking about me. I wasn't really sure I should even bother replying to you since its obvious what you're doing but what the hell. I think its funny that you're trying to read into my emotions or whats in my head based off something like a forum question on a "meaningless football website."

Honestly, I try to be respectful with everyone I deal with, whether its over the internet or in person. I like chatting with people on these forums because they are mostly fans like me, passionate fans but also football aficionados who like the deeper parts of the game. And I do like listening to their opinions, even if I don't necessarily agree. That being said, I don't bother trying to pretend like I'm some big tough guy, especially over the internet. Would you prefer next time address karl by saying, "hey faggot..." or telling everyone on the forums that I can bench press over 225 lbs and I took boxing for three years so that means I would pretty much mess up anyone who in real life? Would anyone even care?

by Roch Bear :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 2:13pm

"I can bench press over 225 lbs" okay, you're not Kevin Durant. You *are* reasonable and really need no further defense. I think "Gorilla" is a young flamer ... who seems to try to be funny and occasionally manages just that ... but mostly whiffs.

by theslothook :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 4:47am

In order to protect my vanity, I will defend myself and say, I actually can bench press over 225 lbs(the most I've ever gotten to was 275), though I concede it took me a while to get there and so it is something I'm proud of.

by evenchunkiermonkey :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 5:30am

U mad bro?

by Travis :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:27pm

Lindley completed one pass in the second half.

Lindley completed four passes in the second half, it's just that one of them was for -1 yard on 2nd and 19, another was for 6 yards on 3rd and 20, and a third went for 3 yards on 3rd and 10. None of those passes had a chance of gaining much more they they did.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:29pm

Delete misplaced comment.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:40pm

As a Chiefs fan I was pleasantly surprised to see them actually play competent football yesterday, with no turnovers and I think just one penalty. Quinn looked competent, Charles ran well, and even with Flowers and Derrick Johnson missing large parts of the game the defense made some decent stops to wrap the game up. I realize the competition wasn't stiff but the Chiefs have looked worse against worse teams.

Crennel did what fans have wanted him to do for weeks - go for it on 4th and short - this is supposed to be a running team, the offense gets few chances for TDs, and the defense is generally not good enough to win low-scoring games by itself. So the TD on 4th-and-one to end the first half and the two 4th-and-one conversions on a 17-play, 9:56 drive were as exciting as it gets for Chiefs fans these days (not to mention TD drives on back-to-back possessions).

For those of you who don't have to listen to Mike Martz do color commentary, I actually thought he had some good insights but an annoying habit of calling Quinn "Brady" which would have been bad enough if his first name was Mike or Matt. Given his actual name, it was almost blasphemous.

I don't want this to become a Jovan Belcher thread, as there already is one of those, but my sympathies and prayers go to the family of Kasandra Perkins, particularly her daughter.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:39pm

Some1 else can research if want but think yesterday's carfs vs Jets game first one with all Qbs under 100 yards since 2095 bears hosting 49ers game with Cindy Pickett going 1 for 13 fot maybe 28 yards and Kyle Otton going 8 for 28 for 67 yards or something Luke that. Game had crazy wind. What was lindley and Sanchez's excuses? Game was one where n. Vashrr return wind blown fig try 108 yarda for toichdown

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:11pm

Bear-Panthers 2010. Jimmy Claussen led all passers with 61 yards.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:49pm

The last such game was last year's Week 10 Broncos-Chiefs game, when Matt Cassel led all passers with 93 yards.

Others since Pickett-Orton:
2010 Bears-Panthers: 61 yards (Clausen)
2009 Bengals-Jets: 63 yards (Sanchez; Carson Palmer went 1 of 11 for 0 yards)
2009 Eagles-Panthers: 79 yards (McNabb)
2008 Bengals-Browns: 64 yards (Dorsey)
2006 Vikings-Bears: 73 yards (Brad Johnson; Rex Grossman went 6 of 19 for 34 yards with 3 interceptions and won)
2005 Eagles-Rams: 97 yards (Mike McMahon)
2005 Seahawks-Eagles: 98 yards (Koy Detmer)

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:20pm

It was Hasselbeck with 98 yards in that Hawks-Eagles game; Detmer had 84 and McMahon 61.

More trivia on that game: the Seahawks had <100 yards each passing and rushing...and won by 42 points.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:29pm

Yup, typo.

I think both teams would have been happy had that game ended at halftime.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:00pm

Cindy Pickett... typo or 'Chris Everett' style joke? All I know is for what I imagine Raiderjoe to be, he would not be afraid of Jim Everett flipping over a table at him.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:11pm

I mostly just like the way that, within the usual hailstorm of Raiderjoe typos, "Cindy Pickett" came out so perfectly spelled.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:52pm

Sorry tried to type Cody but hit C key then I key and phone guessed Cindy at some poont whoxh happen beacausde it is smartphone so tries to be smart but ends up being smart Aleck a lot of time

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 8:05pm

I just got an iPhone, and the thing does that spell-it-for-you thing to me too - but only sometimes. It's weird. Is there any way to turn it off?

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 9:32pm

Go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Auto-Correction.

Or, at least that's where the option was when I was doing tech support for iPhones a couple years ago.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:55pm

"He's unique in his ability to manufacture violence and acceleration" (from MIN/GB audibles)

I want to put that on my business cards. It might be a little over-the-top for a piano tuner, but it's just too awesome to pass up.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:56pm

I feel like yesterday's Bears game was karma for their win against the Panthers. That was a game they won but had no business winning; not to take anything away from the Seahawks, who did manage to drive down the field twice and score TDs on the Bears defense, but yesterday feels a lot like a game they had no business losing.

I hated the decision to go for it on 4th down, up 7-0 and in easy FG range. I don't see why you don't take the points and build a two-score lead at that point, unless you're sure you can get the 1st. With the Bears' O-line, I don't think anything is ever certain.

I actually liked Lovie Smith challenging the ruling that Forte was down at the 1-yard line. It didn't look like it in real time, but the replay was clear that he was never touched until after he'd crossed the goal line, and the officials made the correct call.

I was sick about the Earl Bennett TD drop when it happened, and even sicker after the loss.

Most of all, though, I hated how conservative the Bears went on their last drive before Seattle scored to take the lead. I had visions of last year's game at the Broncos, for which they could be excused since they didn't have a competent QB at the time. I think up 4 points before the 2-minute warning, you make scoring more points a priority over burning clock, and you don't just fall back on punting it away without really trying to pick up some first downs.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:53pm

I liked the 4th and 1 call at the time. I thought we were rolling, let's pile it on. And generally speaking, I prefer aggressive Lovie Smith. Obviously it didn't work out, but I can't say I didn't like it at the time.

I agree that this loss hurt. I wouldn't be surprised if VOA says that the Seahawks outplayed the Bears significantly (due to fumbles or whatever), but it sure didn't feel that way. I thought the Bears were the clearly better team yesterday. But somehow the game was close. And on the last two drives they just couldn't keep Wilson inside the pocket, and he burned them every time.

On a day when your closest division rival wins, and the current #2 seed loses giving you chance to move forward in the chase for a bye...losing a winnable game hurts.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:16pm

Agreed on all counts. I hope the coaching staff doesn't decide that the fourth-and-one play was a bad decision.

I thought the Bears could have easily been up 17-0 or 21-0 early (the Bennett drop was killer - and that was possibly the most impressive throw I've ever seen a QB make), but didn't capitalize. And it bit them in the end.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:37pm

And Lynch's fumble was a killer too. Seattle had scored on 8 out of their 11 opening drives up until yesterday, with a ninth being a missed field goal. Both sides had their share of mistakes.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:11pm

FWIW Lovie said in the press conference that going for it was teh correct call and he'd do it again. I agree.

- Alvaro

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

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:28pm

"I agree that this loss hurt. I wouldn't be surprised if VOA says that the Seahawks outplayed the Bears significantly (due to fumbles or whatever), but it sure didn't feel that way. I thought the Bears were the clearly better team yesterday."

The commentators kept saying this too, in the face of all the evidence. Chicago was better in the first and third quarters, and Seattle was better in the second and fourth, which quite fairly led to a tie game after 60 minutes.

One thing that is true is that Chicago held the ball significantly longer in regulation, roughly 33 minutes to 27 minutes.

by Wikitorix (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:02pm

The Seahawks had three TD drives. They drove 94 yards for a TD in the 2nd quarter as well.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:37pm

Correct...I was thinking only of the crucial last two, but they deserve credit for the earlier one as well.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:46pm

I agree it was a game the Bears should have won, but not necessarily one they deserved to win. Had Bennett caught the TD pass, and if the Bears had gotten any points out of the drive that ended on the turnover on downs, it would have been 17-0 or 21-0 as Eddo said, and the dynamic of the game would have been very different. On the other hand, they were only in the position to be up by that much because of the fumble luck detailed above.

(The other play that's making me ill as I rehash it over and over in my mind is the dropped pick by Wright just before the 2-minute warning. That's the ballgame if he holds on.)

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 7:49am

I could not beleive that Lovie thought it was a good idea to go for it on fourth down when your line has just gotten blown up on third and short and the front office spent most of the week checking corpses for pulses to see if they can find a backup guard. Kick the bloody field goal, go up by ten and Gould's kick at the end is a game winner. Yes mistakes and opportunities both ways but Lovie chose to take points off the board. Seahawks played well, especially Wilson but I am hanging that one on Lovie.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 1:58pm

The Bears loss is the most gut-wrenching since either the loss to the Tebow Broncos or the playoff loss to GB.

The defense plays nearly lights out for 4.75 quarters. The offense has nice drives and moves down the field for a couple scores, which is about all you can ask with this group. That amazing play by Marshall and Cutler to send the game to over time. Then it all ends with that plodding, relentless, hope sucking drive.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:31pm

I have a bad feeling that the Bears are going to be gut-wrenching in general for at least a few years. The improvement on offense this year isn't what I expected it to be, and I think the only way they'll ever get to be a top-ten offense is if they can make huge upgrades to the offensive line. (Some would argue they also need another receiver, but I'm willing to say that Jeffery could be that if he can get and stay healthy). I think there's still a question mark on how good Cutler is capable of being, though I continue to be impressed with how he manages behind such godawful protection.

And maybe two out of the last three games aren't a trend, but I think we're already seeing an indication that the defense isn't going to hold up much longer. Urlacher may be basically done (if not actually) after the latest injury, and everyone's going to be a year older next year. I don't think it will be reasonable to expect the defense to keep making up for poor offensive play much longer.

Unless management makes some sharp moves this offseason, or unless the Bears surprise everyone and go on an amazing run this year, I doubt they win a Super Bowl with Cutler as QB.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:45pm

The bears are in an interesting situation honestly. I'm one of those people who feels like its not hard to go from a train wreck like o line to one thats just passable. At this point, signing a few mid level free agents and a mid round rookie or two will get you there. With any development from jeffrey, the offense can actually be top 10ish. People forget, but cutler was pretty damn good with denver in 07 and 08. The real question is defense and how hard is it to maintain their quality. Urlacher is finished, but the d line is stout and jennings + tilman round out a fairly significant core. this offense can be decent to good. I think the real question comes down to how well the bears can maintain the status quo on defense. I really don't like their safeties honestly(though they are young) and I feel like thats the real weakness on this defense. They really got exposed in that 49er game.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 8:04am

Louis and Webb are actually good enough, as is Garza even if he is too old to rely on in future. They need a LG really badly as the unholy of C.Williams, Rachal, E.Williams, C.Spencer have all pretty much sucked. They also need better depth and for Gabe Carimi to start playing like a first round pick lineman (there is a Dylan lyric in there somewhere, 'he looks like an NFL lineman, but he blocks like a little girl').

Cutler is a very good QB now, never mind 2008. Don't look at stats, the guy is making amazing plays and carrying a wounded offense on his back.

As for defense, when the Bears have gotten exposed this year it has been when teams are able to take advantage of them in man free coverage. That is what happened on Sunday and it is what happened against the 49ers. Briggs and Urlacher are still amazing players but neither can run with Vernon Davis and Kelvin Hayden is a very good nickel back when playing zone but can get out of position against slot receivers in man free - eg Kyle Williams against SF for a TD, over and over again vs the Seahawks to Tate. The safeties are pretty good and versatile, not many teams have a pair that can both play deep halves, deep middle, man up against WRs and TEs wide or in the slot, blitz and play the run. Those two really aren't the problem, they allow the defense great flexibility and options to sugar their coverage. What might have been an issue on Sunday could be Conte missing most of the game with illness leaving the re-deployable-hole-in-zone that is Craig Steltz on the field.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:54am

I told you guys at the beginning of the year that Steltz sucked. I can't figure out why the coaches like him so much because he is just not athletic enough to play safety in the NFL.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:10pm

I have long been of the opinion that Steltz sucks, for pretty much the same reason you have given. Plenty of folks over at WCG thought he played really well at the end of last season but I couldn't see it. He is one of those players who says all the right things and hustles just enough to look like he gave a crap in a game your team loses narrowly.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 4:32pm

I kind of got the impression that he's solid on special teams, and that's why he's still on the team. Which makes it too bad when he has to be your first safety off the bench, but we all have to make sacrifices.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 4:56pm

But the Bears usually carry 4-5 safeties. Steltz as the 4th or 5th safety makes perfect sense, as the 3rd safety? You're just asking for trouble.

by bcsj (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:22pm

There are now 3 teams that have lost to Seattle this year in agonizing fashion: GB, NE, and Chicago. And Pete Carroll's post-game exuberance is just salt on those very nasty wounds.

by SKD (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:08pm

As a 49ers fan, I must say the officiating has been terrible all year. I could recount the audacity and sheer number of ridiculous calls this year but i dont have the time.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:17pm

As a Steelers fan that was never on the "Fire Bruce" bandwagaon, I'm glad t see him doing so well in Indy. If Luck was bigger (and even dopeyer looking) and Wayne was smaller and slower, this would look like the Steelers offense from 3 or 4 years ago.

I have no idea who is going to be HC for the Colts next year, or if Bruce is going to go back to OC if it isn't him, but it'll be fun to watch the Colts for the rest of the year.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:52pm

Can you shed some light on what created the "fire Bruce Arians" momentum in Pittsburgh? Was he not well-liked by the players, other coaches, fans, media, or any of the above?

by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:32pm

BA was willing to pass the ball more than 60% of the time. (Many) Steeler fans believe the ratio should be greater than 60% run, well at least 50/50. The greater sin was BA's willingness to call a pass from shotgun, with no running back in the backfield on third and 1's. "Blasphemy!" And those wide receiver screens!! "And your little dog, too!"

The unwillingness to run on 3rd and 1 or late in the game bothered me, but a W's a W. I think it was a Rooney's (Art III) call to not renew. (just as I thought Kordell was a different Rooney's (Dan) call which the coach could not overrule.)

by Ben :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:49pm

Since, for a decade plus now, Colts fans have watched teams that have a complete lack of short yardage running game throw it all over the yard, he should fit in just fine here then.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:04pm

Basically this. To some Yinzers, running the ball early, often, and for little gain is a moral act akin to a sacrement, not a strategic choice. Also, people focus on whatever stupid statistical bugaboo of the year looks bad. One year it's red zone efficiency. On year it's third down efficiency. On year its time of possession.

My personal beef with him was that he couldn't randomize his formation:playcall ratios if you put his playbook in a box that may or may not release poison gas, but I thought he was very good at, you know, everything else. Like identifying and coaching up talent, designing plays, etc.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:16pm

I was pretty neutral on him, but you list one of the two biggest things I thought were wrong with his game. The other was that his play calls seemed to optimize for ideal scenarios and local maxima. For example, he never seemed to call plays like it was "four down territory." The sequence is designed to maximize the chances of a first down within three plays, when a sequence designed around four plays may have a higher conversion probability.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:40pm

Thanks for the info. While Arians has made some tactical and/or game management errors as a head coach, I have found his offense scheme to be innovative. At least compared to the prior Colts regime, which essentially ran a handful of plays using the exact same formation. Granted, Peyton and Co. had perfected the execution of said plays, but it really left little to the imagination.

by RavensJimbo (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:28pm

With 4:50 to go in the third quarter, Rice takes a handoff and goes 34 yards for a TD that puts the Ravens up by 7. On their next possession, with 1:52 to go in the third quarter, the first play is a handoff to Rice that goes for 10 yards. The Ravens' run game is rolling now. They are shoving it down the Steelers' throat and they can't stop Rice.

But they don't have to. Because Cam Cameron does. And over the last 16:52 of the game, Ray Rice never touches the ball again. Meanwhile during that time, Flacco goes 3 for 7 for 23 yards, and is sacked twice, including the play where he coughs up the game-changing fumble. If you're beating the Steelers by 7 at the end of the third quarter, and Ray Rice has just gashed them for 44 yards and a TD on his previous two carries, is there any other team in the NFL (other than maybe Philly) that would never give him the ball again?

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 2:44pm

Adrian Peterson ran the ball for 48 yards and 23 yards on separate series against GB. Within 2 plays each time Ponder threw a horrible pass intercepted by GB.

Not the same but GB had no answer for Peterson and MN did not force GB to provide an answer.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:57pm

You know, I just checked the play-by-play, and while AP had a tremendous game it's misleading to say that GB never contained him.

AP rushed 6 times on 2nd down, and didn't gain a first down a single time. 4 of those times AP also carried on the preceding 1st down, so there were 4 drives where back-to-back AP runs put MIN in 3rd down. Twice they gave AP a third carry: he gained 8 on a 3rd-and-2 but was stuffed on a 3rd-and-1.

MINN gave AP 4 consecutive carries once (following that successful 3rd down conversion), in those 4 carries he gained a total of 19 yards.

Until GB's icing drive, AP had 21 carries and Ponder had thrown 15 passes, 5 of which were on a successful TD drive, with a few scrambles. After that MIN was down two scores and had to throw. I don't think that MIN could have realistically been expected to run AP more than they did.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 9:07pm

I didn't have the sound on but was there an explanation as to why Peterson was on the sideline for extended periods at different times in the game? If I remember at least one was on the drive right before the two minute warning in the first half.

I thought that odd.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 10:54pm

I can only guess, but the two reasons I can think of were to get him a breather after a long run (he had two pretty long runs besides in big TD run), or because MINN felt they were in a passing situation and AP's biggest weakness is poor pass blocking.

Really though, hardly any RB plays every down, even "every down" type RBs. The workload is too high, and AP was on track for a busy day before GB sucked all the time out of the 4th quarter.

by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:06pm

This Steeler fan certainly understands the value of running out the clock, thanks to Coach Cowher and the Bus. But remember the Steelers ran about twice as many plays as the Ravens after Rice's TD.

A 37 year old qb, two undrafted, free agent backs (three if you throw in the fullback) and a cobbled together O-line, with three undrafted free agents (center, right guard and right tackle-I think the RT was undrafted, 7th round if not) was able to put together a 6+ minute, 85 yard drive. For that to happen to a Raven's D is not usual. Maybe linebacker depth is also an issue.

I only recall two solid passes by Flacco all night... the TD and the flat outside Harrison's reach. The rest of his performance was either PI or pedestrian. He looked lost and confused.

Putting it all on Cam is too easy.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:37pm

The Ravens' defense has deteriorated significantly this season. They've even dropped behind New England in DVOA! Rated #22 in the NFL. After leading the league in DVOA for defense last season.

A combination of injuries and age have really hurt this unit.

As for the offense, it's true that they only had 2 drives that started in the 4th quarter. The first ended on the 3rd play with a Flacco fumble.

The second one, which I think Ravens fans are most critical of, looked like this:

1-10-BAL 20
(7:24) 5-J.Flacco pass short left to 44-V.Leach to BAL 32 for 12 yards (94-L.Timmons).

1-10-BAL 32
(6:43) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete deep middle to 82-T.Smith.

2-10-BAL 32
(6:34) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete short middle to 17-T.Doss.

3-10-BAL 32
(6:30) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete short right to 88-D.Pitta [50-L.Foote].

4-10-BAL 32
(6:23) (Punt formation) 4-S.Koch punts 57 yards to PIT 11, Center-46-M.Cox. 84-A.Brown to PIT 15 for 4 yards (56-J.Bynes).

Any time a QB kills a drive with three consecutive incompletions, fans are going to ask why no running play was called. It was a tie game with plenty of time on the clock.

It just seems like Cameron doesn't really appreciate that Ray Rice is the best player on his offense. An elite RB should get more than 12 carries in a game.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 10:12pm

Well its technically true that Baltimore is behind NE in defensive DVOA, they are both at 2.7%, so its pretty close. Also, its interesting that there are a bunch of teams clustered in the middle of the defensive DVOA rankings. For instance, the Steelers are 10th in defense, but only have a -2.9% DVOA.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:13pm

I agree the play calling by Cam was not optimal. He basically put the game in Flacco's hands and Flacco lost it for the Ravens. But I don't know, surely Flacco has the ability to call audibles at the line, right? At a certain point this has to be as much Flacco's offense as Cam Cameron's. Flacco is in his fifth year but still doesn't seem to be able to read defenses and make adjustments at the line.

Remember at the beginning of the year when the Ravens were running the no huddle? The whole reason Flacco liked it was because it simplified the defensive schemes, and he was better able to read the field. Well, here's an idea, how about Flacco tries to improve that aspect of his game rather than running a gimmick offense that hides his weakness?

Its games like this that make me think about what the Ravens will do in the offseason with Flacco. He made it clear he wants to be paid in the top 5 of QBs because of his win totals, when in reality he is about an average QB. He has exceptional throwing ability but is mentally below average. I just don't know if its worth it paying that guy $20 mil a year. He peaked in his third year, regressed in his 4th year, and now is playing somewhere in between those two, its not a great trend.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 3:11pm

I do think the Bears defense has a pretty good chance to regress significantly by the end of the season, even beyond what we would expect from such a historically high level, due to the number of guys who are past the age of 30. I think it would be interesting to see a DVOA analysis of good teams, comparing the first 10 weeks, to the last 7, correlated to median age of starters.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:10pm

One of the more interesting dynamics for this season will be whether a non qb will win MVP. While Watt's initial surge of MVP backers has probably died out(mostly because DTs dont really put up multiple flashy statistics), AP and Calvin Johnson are both going to and should merit some discussion. AP is obvious, but Calvin is on pace to break Rice's receiving record and possibly hit the 2k mark(just an absurd number).

In the end, i expect the forehead or brady to get it, but I wouldn't have a problem giving it to either of AP or Calvin.

Interesting side question- comeback player of the year if you couldn't co-give it, who would deserve it more? Which comeback is more amazing? Honestly for me, I still expected Peyton to be really good. I really thought Ap would need a year to recover. That hes in the mvp discussion is kind of surreal.

by bstar (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:34pm

Well, the only real comparison we have for an elite QB in recent times missing a full year is Tom Brady coming back in 2009 after missing almost all of 2008. Brady was good, with a 96+ passer rating, but that's actually his worst number for a full season since 2007. So I think it was reasonable to expect a less-than-awesome Peyton Manning, especially considering Manning is 36 this year and Brady was 32 in his comeback year. Manning has his team at 9-3 and his passer rating is 104+. He's definitely been better than Brady in 2009, so I do think Peyton deserves all the accolades coming to him.

As for who's more valuable between AP and Peyton, I think it's clearly Manning.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 8:00pm

Anyone who prevents Tim Tebow from being a starting quarterback is a valuable player, indeed. In fact, does anyone think Sanchez would have made it to Week 13 with Kyle Orton backing him up?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 8:05pm

I hate awards like the MVP because its supposed to be open to any position and yet its obvious that only the QB is truly valuable in an obvious sense. I mean, if we did a ranking of players based on just value- I suspect the first 20 would all be qbs before we ever got to a point where'd you'd pick someone like Calvin, JJ, Miller, etc.

Rather than do it that way, I guess I'm asking whos individual season has bee the most impressive? Maybe its Manning given hes doing what hes doing at his age, his circumstances with a new team, missing a year, and then coming off multiple surgeries. Just really hard to overlook AP or Calvin, or the trio of Watt, Miller, and Smith. Funny that all three defensive player of the year candidates are all from the same draft class and all 2nd year guys.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:42am

Why would Calvin Johnson be considered for MVP, just because of a bunch of useless counting stats? His team is worthless, and he has done nothing of note beyond get a bunch of empty yards in losses.

by evenchunkiermonkey :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:23am

(1)He's on pace to break the single season rec. yardage record set nearly two decades ago. By Jerry Rice.
(2) 66 of his 86 receptions have gone for first downs which leads all WRs. He's top 5 in total 1st downs among all skill position players.
(3)His 119.9 ypg is the highest among WRs.
(4)He's done all this despite persistant double coverage.
(5)Hes made 29 plays of 20+ yards, the most among WRs or RBs by a wide margin.

But let's forget all that and remove this seasons best WR from the MVP discussion because he doesn't play defense as well.

by Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 9:12pm

Yet take him away and the Lions are still losers. Not that valuable.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 7:39am

You clearly haven't watched any Lions games (I've watched every single one, unfortunately). His yards aren't "empty". He was the only reason the Lions were in position to beat the Packers, Texans, and Colts last week before the defense blew it for them (he doesn't play defense, so that's not his fault). If he's not on the Lions, that team has at most 1 win, and may even be winless. That being said, I think the MVP should come from a team in playoff contention, which eliminates him.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:09am

Stop your clear anti-Manning sentiment by insulting his noggin. It's a FIVEhead, nor a mere forehead. That's akin to calling Chad Pennington noodle-arm. A pure insult. So remember, FIVEhead, because it's all in the brain.

I wonder if a bunch of voters, will cross-vote for PM and AP as MVP/Comeback POY, i.e. half vote each way) thereby cancelling them both out for winning either award....

by Trogdor :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:30pm

Was anyone else annoyed by Michaels/Collinsworth going on about how Damaris Johnson probably shouldn't have returned that last punt? Yeah, he fielded it at the 2. Under most circumstances, it would have been a pretty big mistake to even get near the thing.

But they were down by eleven with under a minute left, and if he let it go into the endzone for a touchback, they'd be down 11 with the ball on their own 20 with under a minute and no timeouts, with a not-excellent QB against a defense given a chance to set up. Would you rather have that, or take a shot at busting a big play on a punt return?

If he got tackled at the 3, their chance of winning was essentially zero - which is about the same as if they got a touchback. A big return (at least into field goal range) makes the chance significantly non-zero. If you're ever going to take a chance, that's pretty much the time to do it.

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:59pm

I was thinking the same thing. They needed to pursue a high variance strategy. Fielding a punt on your own 2 yard line qualifies.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:22pm

I was. I would be shocked if the coaching staff hadn't told him to field that and run with it even if it was inside the end-zone, as long as he saw even the glimmer of a lane.

A big play on that return was pretty much the one and only shot the Eagles had of winning that game, and anyone who thinks it should have been fair-caught just because it was at the 2 needs to thinkt his through a little bit more.

I really enjoy Micheals and Collinsworth, but that comment was incredibly dense.

- Alvaro

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

by kilfara (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 5:46pm

"Matt Forte catches the ball and is called down inside the one-yard line to set up a first-and-goal. Lovie Smith decides to challenge. A colossal waste of a challenge."

But now that all turnovers and touchdowns are automatically being reviewed anyway (Jim Schwartz/Mike Smith trigger-happiness notwithstanding), it seems as though there are fewer occasions for coaches to use their challenges. So while this comment clearly would have been appropriate a few years ago, I wonder if we should be so harsh now. I'm increasingly inclined to say that any time you're 99% sure a ruling on the field is wrong and you can gain something from challenging it, you should challenge it.

by BigDerf :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:23pm

Also, we see almost every other week scenarios where a team has the ball at the one yard line and then comes away with just 3 or even 0 points. When you can get 7 points on the board on such a clearly overturnable challenge, you do that every time.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:37pm

Especially when your team has already been unable to gain less than a yard when it needed to. Granted, this would have been 1st and goal, but still.

Plus, there are the odds of winning the challenge to consider. I don't know how good of a look Lovie had before he threw the flag, but in the end it was certainly clear that it was a touchdown.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:41pm

I was torn on this particular challenge. It's the type of play where I usually would say "just take the ball and score from the 1". But two factors come into play here

a) it was obviously the wrong call, and there was little chance that the non-TD would be upheld


b) the Seahawks' D is very stingy and had already stuffed the Bears.

Basically Bears' O vs. Seahawks D is a matchup that should favor Seattle. So yeah, throw the red flag.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:41pm

This, exactly.

And I'm sure this example is burned deep in Smith's memory: in 2010, against the Redskins, Earl Bennett caught a long pass and clearly got into the end zone, and the refs called him down at the half yard line. Lovie didn't challenge, and on the next play, Cutler tried to sneak it in, didn't get the push, tried to extend the ball over the goal line, got it slapped away, and the Redskins recovered. The Bears lost that game by three points.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 2:05am

I like the universe TomC is living in where Smith is capable of learning from mistakes.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 8:08am

Didn't the unsmiling one also use his last timeout so that he couldn't challenge the fact that Cutler clearly had the ball across the plane before it got knocked out of his hands?

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 1:06pm

Actually, I recall Smith using a challenge on the Bennett catch, but the play standing. Then, when Cutler was clearly over the line, but Smith didn't challenge, it's as if he overreacted to losing the previous one.

by TomC :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:08pm

Ha! A bit of poking around the inntertubes reveals that you are correct, and I am wrong. I was even at that game. Looks like it's time for assisted living.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 2:37pm

Hey, so was I! I remember it well, because it all happened right in front of the end zone our seats are in.

by Eddy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 9:16pm

Lovie can usually be counted on to lose a couple games a year all by himself. He's having a down year this year.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 6:24pm

"Oops, though, Brady just had his first failed sneak in years. He trips over his own feet trying to go in on third-and-2. Pats will kick the field goal and go up 10. We await the backdoor cover."

Thats not really what happened. He took the handoff on the right hash, and then basically just fell down dead center between the two hashes.

I think it was called exactly as it happened. I think BB decided that the 45 seconds was more important than the end zone.

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:45am

BB is the smartest man in the world. Imagine how he is in bed? His two fistfuls of championship rings make him better than Jesus Christ, who was only adequate in bed. Unlike BB, who is like Harry Reems x a million!

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:32pm

Regarding DMVP debate. Quick-and-dirty calculations from R

#All list are on the form (Von Miller, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt)
> Solo.Tackles = c(7,47,54)
> TFL = c(24,14,24)
> Sacks = c(14,16.5,15.5)
> FF = c(4,3,0)
> d = data.frame(Solo.Tackles,TFL,Sacks,FF)
> D = as.matrix(d)
> Points = c(1, 3, 5, 5) #A totally arbitrary points system awarding 1 point for solotackles 3 for tackles for loss and 5 for sacks and forced fumbles.
> D%*%Points #Calculating the points.
[Miller] 209.0
[Smith] 186.5
[Watt] 203.5

So a slight win to Miller. Add some points to Miller for allrounded-ness and for his pick-6, and add a huge number of points to Watt for batting passes (13 passes defensed) and I'm positive it's a two-horse race for DMVP. Very close, but Watt bats a very valuable - I think he's more valuable... I'm going to be voting for Miller though.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:28pm

I think that massively undervalues forced fumbles.

How about: 1, 2, 5, 20
3 for a batted pass
30 for an interception
3 for a pressure

I wonder if FO has some numbers that can value that sort of thing in a context free manner.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 12/05/2012 - 3:41am

Watt has 15 pass deflections, 6th in the league. He's the only one in the top 35 who is not a DB.
Miller has two, Smith has none.

Not sure where you got your numbers for TFLs. ESPN shows Miller with 12, Watt with 14, and Smith with 2.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 7:45pm

"Cardinals try to let the Jets score at the end of the game, Greene sniffs it out and takes a knee at the one."

Now, letting the Jets score is a sound strategy here, and so is the counter-strategy, but the wording reminds me of previous audibles quotes that went something like:

"Raiders try to let the Chargers win the game, Rivers sniffs it out and loses fumble."

by Gorilla Graham (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:47am

Who cares? Is your life so empty you have to recall similar lame quotes from one of the FO fatties and post it on a message board?
Please kiss a girl some day. Then maybe you'll realize all this crap is stupid.

by evenchunkiermonkey :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:35am

Y U mad bro?

Mom canceled your XBox Live again?

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:25pm

Naah. He's mad because the Niners/Rams game didn't end in a tie, giving him a second sister-kisser this year. You know, since that's the only way he knows what a kiss form a girl is...

- Alvaro

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

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 9:06pm

"BenJarvus Green-Ellis now has cracked 100 yards for three straight games, the first Bengals back to do that since 1999 (!), when Corey Dillon was in stripes."

Sends me to PFR to look up "Rudi Johnson".

[Edit: He missed by 2 yards in 2005 have 4 straight, but yeah, he never managed to string together three 100 yard games. Strange for a back who put up three consecutive 1400ish yard seasons.)

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 4:52am

What a strange turn of events. I'm not sure I've seen such a pathetic case of trolling on these boards since Foxsports used to use DVOA as one of their power rankings.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:18am

If I had to guess, I'd guess Fark, or usenet.

by Brent :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:43pm

In the Monday night game: Late, the 'skins were up by 1 and trying to ice the game. They threw for a first down which nearly sealed the game (a subsequent first down on a run actually sealed it). The book is to always run to keep the clock moving. But 3 runs and punting the ball away is clearly worse than getting a couple of first downs and ending the game. I felt like the decision to pass for the first was the right move, and I often think that's what coaches should do more often. Anyone here done an analysis of when run-run-run is the right strategy and when attempting to pass for the first is worth it?

by BigCheese :: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 6:29pm

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

Well, to be fair, Tony was wide open because he was at home watching the games.

To be even more fair, the Bucs were compeltey unable to cover ANYONE in the GB/MIN game...

That random line in there just made my day.

- Alvaro

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