Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» Weight and Injuries

NFL football is a violent game, and traumatic injuries are unfortunate but unavoidable. But are bigger players more likely to be hurt than their smaller peers?

17 Dec 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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 16

Green Bay Packers 21 at Chicago Bears 13

Andy Benoit: Chicago opened the game with five straight runs. Evan Rodriguez stood out as a lead-blocker early.

Aaron Rodgers looked a bit flustered on the first two series. The Bears are swarming and getting good coverage. Corey Wootton and Julius Peppers both got pressure off the edges for a sack on third down on the second series. It was a four-man rush, and may have been an inverted Cover 2, as Chris Conte dropped and then went into the flat. Peppers bull-rushed Marshall Newhouse and won easily.

Mike Kurtz: The Bears are just eating Green Bay's offensive line up. They're not just getting consistent pressure, they're getting consistent overall pressure. Usually its from the bookends, but the defensive tackles are also pushing interior linemen back into Rodgers' face. If this keeps up and Matt Forte can keep the running game going, this is a very winnable game for the Bears.

Bears called for 12 men in the first quarter. Packers called for 12 men in the second quarter. Apparently, neither team is capable of counting.

Andy Benoit: Randall Cobb came up with some big incompletions early in the game, both somewhat tough catches, but plays that have to be made. Rodgers' ball placement was not great on the second one -- it was a slight overthrow.

Mike Kurtz: I disagree on the second Cobb play you reference, Andy. Even though it looked close, with the speed that ball had, Cobb would've had to make an incredible catch to reel it in.

With 11:22 left in the first quarter, Mason Crosby unveils the worst field goal attempt in the history of modern kicking. Holy cow.

Aaron Schatz: That kick was WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE right. With 13 "I"s.

Andy Benoit: Brandon Marshall is showing tremendous power after the catch. He stiff armed Casey Hayward to the ground on his touchdown reception, and he's just generally been breaking tackles and falling forward all game.

The Bears have blitzed on third down at least three times today -- that's an nusual approach for them, especially when facing the Packers. Rodgers beat them for it on the last play, though the blitz wasn’t the reason why. Rodgers was tremendous on the series that led to his first touchdown. Several perfect downfield throws towards the right sideline, including the touchdown pass itself, where James Jones got a step on Kelvin Hayden.

D.J. Moore had a tough first half. He was beaten several times by Cobb, and also got beat for a short area touchdown by Jones. Moore's eyes were in the backfield for too long, and Jones too easily crossed his face. Moore was a healthy scratch earlier this year, and he's shown why so far today.

Ben Muth: Moore looked absolutely clueless on that play.

Andy Benoit: We get the rare "useful sideline reporter halftime update," courtesy of Pam Oliver, who reported that Bears coaches told her the Jay Cutler interception had nothing to do with Devin Hester. It was just a bad throw.

Packers won’t even attempt a 44-yard field goal up 14-7. They went for it on fourth-and-6 instead, and were successful. Crosby will be unemployed on Monday.

Aaron Schatz: How many times has "Crosby will be unemployed on Monday" appeared in Audibles this year? That has to be the fourth or fifth.

Rob Weintraub: Certainly Josh Brown has made himself employable for the stretch run with his work in Cincinnati, assuming Mike Nugent returns and isn't Wally Pipped.

Mike Kurtz: Rodgers misses high again on a beautifully-designed slant and go. That was another pass that was only a bit high, but had a ton of velocity, making it difficult for the receiver to adjust.

Andy Benoit: The Packers are once again using double-team concepts on Marshall, with Tramon Williams involved.

Charles Tillman garners his 10th forced fumble of the season, Ryan Grant was the victim on this one.

Ben Muth: Tillman is ridiculously accurate when he punches at the ball. Are we sure he isn't a Marquez brother?

Aaron Schatz: Remind me -- and Rivers, mark this down because you are doing the chapter -- to include in the book a study on how consistent fumbles forced numbers are for defenders from season to season. (More than fumble recoveries, for sure.)

Andy Benoit: Chicago took back-to-back shot plays to Alshon Jeffery following the fumble recovery. Those earned two penalties on the Packers defense, and the second one was all sorts of lucky because of an underthrown ball. Morgan Burnett was mixed up in his positioning and bailed them out with some very poor technique.

Questionable play-calling by Mike Tice at the goal line late in third. He knew it was four-down territory, ran inside three straight times, and they were all stuffed. (Forte is not very explosive on those plays, that’s not his game.) Then on fourth down, he dialed up an empty-set throw, where Jeffery was called for offensive pass interference. If you know you’re going for it on fourth, why run it on first three downs like that?

Mike Kurtz: It's worth mentioning that on the second- and third-down plays, Forte had all sorts of real estate outside and failed to bounce either out. I'm not just mentioning that because I need a good game out of Forte to get to my league's championship. Really.

Andy Benoit: Rodgers is throwing with great zip, and reading the field with confidence. This is one of his more impressive games of the season.

Mike Kurtz: Crosby just outdid himself, his kick hit the pylon and bounced back onto the field.

The Packers just tried a lateral on a punt return for absolutely no reason whatsoever. A flag was thrown for forward pass, but it was backwards. Bad mechanics by the back judge. There's holding, but it's neither here nor there, because Chicago recovers the awful dropped lateral.

Andy Benoit: Inside their own 20 with less than eight minutes to play. Against a Bears team that has less than 70 yards in offense since the first quarter. What the hell?

Rob Weintraub: It's such a fine line between stupid and clever...

Andy Benoit: Sam Shields has had a pretty solid game in downfield coverage. For that matter, Brad Jones has done a very solid job covering Forte. The Bears clearly want Jeffery to be their downfield weapon, but he has a lot to learn in the way of technique at this point.

Indianapolis Colts 17 at Houston Texans 26

Andy Benoit: Vontae Davis is shaken up again early. The Colts defense is a different unit with him. The Texans have over 110 yards of offense so far, the Colts just five. Texans always seem to start fast, and the Colts have a tendency to start slow.

Tom Gower: Apparently, because Indy is 9-4 they have a good defense and we must therefore treat it like it is wonderful, even though they force turnovers about as often as a defense made up of FO staffers would. I heard it on Playbook this week (yes, I still watch it), and Dan Fouts was just talking about it. If they were 4-9, other people might be talking about them like they were the 30th-best defense in the league, which is where DVOA had them coming into the week. Extrinsic narrative-driven nonsense.

Matt Schaub finds Andre Johnson to finish off the Texans second drive and put Houston up 10-0. The Texans are dominating total yardage, as Andy noted, but needed six points there. The damage has mostly been done through the air, with Arian Foster once again struggling to find consistent running room.

Vince Verhei: OK, I admit it, Mrs. Claus' naughty video cell phone commercial made me laugh.

Andy Benoit: Mewelde Moore fumbled at the one-yard line -- he was just brought in this week. J.J. Watt helped make the play. Getting the sense that Watt might be a pretty good player.

Tom Gower: Scheme note: the Colts are doing a nice job at staying at home and pressuring Schaub on bootlegs after a big pass to Johnson on one set up the opening score.

Ben Muth: The Colts get a three-and-out and march it right back into Texans territory. They get a touchdown on third-and-goal on a great catch by Reggie Wayne, but it's called back due to offsetting penalties and Indy has to settle for three.

Watt is absolutely destroying the Colts tackles in the first half. It's bordering on assault.

Andy Benoit: Texans special team ace Bryan Braman gets his first career touchdown. He deserves to go to the Pro Bowl this year.

Rivers McCown: The Texans deserve a special teams Pro Bowler? I think you might get less traction from me on that than your Bernard Pollard mid season Pro Bowl pick.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure I get the idea of a Texans guy as the AFC Pro Bowl special teamer. Texans special teams are horrible this year, next-to-last in our ratings. Am I missing something?

Tom Gower: I started thinking about finding a different game for the second half, then T.Y. Hilton got open deep for a 61-yard score to make things a little more interesting. Shayne Graham had a chance to extend the lead at the end of the half, but missed badly from 50. Considering they're about 27th in FG/XP value and last in kickoff distance (even without returns), is it too late in the season for the Texans to seriously consider available kickers?

Rivers McCown: I have more confidence in my ability to finish Audibles tonight (after attending this game and downing about eight beers) than I do in Shayne Graham.

Ben Muth: The Colts have been been blitzing guys from very wide against the Texans to slow down the outside zone play and the boot/play-action game. Houston's protection doesn't account for guys coming from that far away on those types of plays, and Indy has gotten a couple sacks off of it.

Rivers McCown: Great hustle from A.Q. Shipley at the end of the game, obviously diving to get an injury timeout on Indy's garbage time drive.

Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt are good at football. Like Tom said, it was really noticeable that Indy was keyed in to the play-action game. Really surprising that Wayne was a complete non-factor. The Texans did not do much special in terms of coverage on him. Even left Brandon Harris on him in the slot a few times. In single coverage.

Houston's run defense was really problematic in this game. Vick Ballard was able to get the edge about four or five times, most of which I'd chalk up to Whitney Mercilus being a pin-your-ears-back rusher at this stage of his career. If the Texans miss Brooks Reed anywhere, it's in the run game.

Minnesota Vikings 36 at St. Louis Rams 22

Tom Gower: The Vikings go for it on fourth-and-1 in the red zone and convert on a Christian Ponder run, he then finishes the drive with a scoring scramble on third-and-goal. From what I saw, Adrian Peterson was finding Rams ready to tackle him in the backfield with regularity.

Vince Verhei: Peterson's carries today, in chronological order, by yardage: 4, -2, -2, -2, -1, -3, 8, 82.

Andy Benoit: Everson Griffen showed unbelievable athleticism on his pick-six of Sam Bradford. Just snagging the catch alone was impressive, he showed great burst and some change of direction on his return as well.

Rivers McCown: Griffen has just needed consistent playing time. If Brian Robison is out for the next couple of games, it could be a chance to see what Griffen can really do up front.

Rob Weintraub: Danny Amendola scores, spikes the ball hard, and it bounces up into the face of an usher, breaking his glasses. Amendola just walks away.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I doubt he even realized that was happening. What he's supposed to be looking at the ushers for?

Rob Weintraub: Amendola catches a two-point conversion, then proves he did indeed notice his spike from earlier as he hands the ball to an usher in recompense. Snag was, it was the wrong dude.

Actually, I'm calling them ushers as a catch-all for "stadium employees."

New York Giants 0 at Atlanta Falcons 34

Matt Waldman: Love what I'm seeing from David Wilson the past two weeks -- much more security-conscious with the ball. He's also running hard and willing to bounce a run back to the inside and get his head down to gain positive yardage. He had two nice gains outside on the Giants' second drive, but the offense fails to capitalize partially due to Eli Manning overthrowing some receivers. Lawrence Tynes misses a medium-range field goal that would have made it 7-3.

Nice little slant-and-go to Harry Douglas up the left sideline, accented by Julio Jones as the outside receiver carrying out the appearance of a wideout screen on this twin alignment to bait the Giants defense. Douglas gets an easy catch and takes it to the Giants 12. Two plays later, Tony Gonzalez runs an out through three zone defenders on a well-timed throw for the touchdown. The Douglas play looked easy, the Gonzalez play looked difficult. Both were performed to perfection.

Aaron Schatz: We should point out that the rookie Jayron Hosley was the cornerback on Douglas there, starting in place of Prince Amukamara, and he's known for being overaggressive. Just got killed on that play.

Matt Waldman: We should add further that he got hurt on the play.

Nice to see Hakeem Nicks run past Asante Samuel on a deep post despite the cornerback playing 10 yards off the line. Manning overthrew the ball, but that's a good sign that Nicks is feeling a little better. I wouldn't be surprised if Samuel didn't anticipate Nicks being this healthy and underestimated the receiver. However, Samuel never recovered and was about 20 yards from doing so.

Manning throws his second interception, this time a great, diving catch on an undercut by free safety Thomas DeCoud in the middle zone near the right hash. The target was Nicks and the ball was placed to Nicks' body rather than leading the receiver.

Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that I think that Tom Coughlin made the right decision on both fourth-down attempts in the second quarter. Again: Process, not outcome. They both failed, but that doesn't mean these attempts would fail 100 percent of the time, any more than Mike Smith's decisions and the Falcons' failures in last year's Giants-Falcons playoff game mean that the Falcons would fail 100 percent of the time. I don't even have too much of a problem with the playcalls, although I think Manning -- yes, even Eli Manning -- could have tucked the ball and gotten enough yards for the first down instead of throwing to a covered Victor Cruz on the second attempt.

If this game comes down to three points, the announcers will talk about the three points the Giants didn't get, but they won't talk about how the Falcons would be forced to try to come back if the Giants had gotten seven.

Moose Johnston noted this already, but I should also say that the Falcons' secondary looks remarkably prepared for this game. They're around the ball constantly, they seem to have a great idea of how the Giants receivers will react to certain coverages and where Manning will be throwing the ball.

This doesn't change anything our numbers have said about the Falcons up to this point, but kudos to them, this may be the best game they've played all season, even better than the game where they picked off Peyton Manning a thousand times in the first half.

Andy Benoit: Jones ran right by Hosley for a long touchdown early in the second half. Jones might be the best-looking straight-line runner in the NFL. Absolutely no wasted motion.

Rob Weintraub: John Abraham just punched the ball out of Kregg Lumpkin's hand about 25 yards downfield, which may set a distance record to match Peanut Tillman's accuracy record in that particular discipline.

Rivers McCown: Kregg Lumpkin always makes me think of General Tragg. Also, the Giants would need an influx from Dimension X to win this game now.

Aaron Schatz: I was thinking about this game on the way down and what went wrong for the Giants. Manning had a bad game, definitely, but also it seemed like the Giants pass rush was absent all day. Sure enough, I just checked, Matt Ryan only sacked once.

Denver Broncos 34 at Baltimore Ravens 17

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens are all over Peyton Manning early, despite the injuries, and the pressure is making him surprisingly inaccurate.

Andy Benoit: The Ravens offense doesn’t appear to have much rhythm early on. Some hints of boo birds in Baltimore. Coming soon: Fire Jim Caldwell chants!

Aaron Schatz: Four drives, no first downs, but we should give some of that credit to the Denver defense. For example, they stripped Joe Flacco early. On the last drive, the Ravens ran a bootleg where Vonta Leach blocked and then leaked out for a pass, and two Denver defenders read it perfectly and were right on top of Leach when he caught the ball.

Andy Benoit: Knowshon Moreno hurdles Ed Reed for a first down. Reed was almost completely upright, too. Moreno is looking like the Georgia version of himself.

Vince Verhei: Yes, that Moreno run was amazing. The game as a whole, less so. First quarter saw seven punts and a field goal which was set up when Flacco fumbled on a sneak on third-and-1. Manning, as noted, has played surprisingly poorly. The Ravens have no first downs and have spent most of the first quarter throwing dumpoffs to guys who are surrounded by Broncos. Common sense would tell you that there must be opportunities downfield, but Flacco has yet to try anything deep.

Ravens finally get some offense, thanks largely to a 40-plus-yard deep ball to Jacoby Jones. They hit the red zone and it looks like they're going to score and make a game of this, but Chris Harris picks Flacco off and runs it back for the slowest 98-yard pick-six ever. Flacco nearly ran him down from behind. It's 17-0 and the game feels over at halftime. That 17-point lead may as well be 70 the way the Ravens offense is playing.

Andy Benoit: Flacco held the ball too long on the play. The Ravens are booed off the field at halftime.

Vince Verhei: Eric Decker gets a long touchdown pass to put Denver up 24-3. Decker had a step on Cary Williams, and then just as the ball arrived Williams appeared to let up and let Decker go free.

On Baltimore's next possession, they lose yards on a three-and-out. Is Cam Cameron the offensive equivalent of Juan Castillo?

Matt Waldman: I will add that Decker had a nice stutter move just after his release that froze Williams, which is why he got free.

Andy Benoit: It might be too little too late, but Dennis Pitta’s second touchdown was a tremendous exhibition of tackle-breaking. He shed three different defenders near the sideline.

Tom Gower: Pitta's second touchdown cuts the margin to 34-16. The Ravens kick the extra point with about four minutes to play, because of course they do.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3 at Miami Dolphins 24

Danny Tuccitto: Greetings from Sun Life Stadium, where it's a predictable 3-3 after one quarter. Biggest play of the game so far was a 38-yard catch and run by Justin Blackmon -- on a shallow cross. Love seeing Jacksonville try to get him the ball in space by running him across the middle.

Incidentally, the section directly in front of me has more jerseys of former Dolphins than current ones. Here's a sampling:

1) Dan Marino
2) Larry Csonka
3) Zach Thomas
4) Jason Taylor
5) Ricky Williams
6) Brandon Marshall

And my personal favorite...

7) Nat Moore

Tom Gower: I'm sorry, but you'll have to do a lot to top the Kevan Barlow 49ers jersey somebody was wearing at the Titans-Packers preseason game I went to a couple years ago.

Danny Tuccitto: Weird sequence at the start of the second quarter. Blackmon catches a touchdown over R.J. Stanford on a wheel route, but it gets called back because of a procedural penalty on Guy Whimper. Two plays later he catches another pass at the first-down marker, but is barely out of bounds. After a Chad Henne scramble, Mularkey goes for it on fourth-and-1 at the 11-yard line. Quarterback sneak doesn't get there (and was so short the refs didn't even bother measuring).

Guy Whimper penalty extravaganza continues. Jaguars in the middle of putting a nice little two-minute drive together. They get all the way to the Miami 38-yard line with over a minute left in the half. Holding on Whimper, and they end up having to punt.

We have progress in Miami! First "Reggie Bush screws up stretch play" doesn't happen until the beginning of the third quarter.

Rob Weintraub: The worst fake field goal ever was just attempted in Miami, where the punter stood up and tossed one about 20 yards out of bounds.

Danny Tuccitto: Up 13-3 near the end of the third quarter, Miami has fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars 13-yard line. Dolphins fans smell blood in the water. Philbin doesn't, and kicks the uber-meaningless field goal. Crowd boos him mercilessly.

A few minutes later, now it's Jacksonville's turn. "Mad" Mike Mularkey goes for it on fourth-and-1 at the Miami 15. Fails again, which makes the Jaguars 0-for-2 on the day. (Leaguewide conversion rate is 71.8 percent.)

No idea if there's a backstory I don't know about, but when there's a penalty on the opponent, the Miami PA plays the little guitar intro from "Jackass." Are they basically calling the offending player a jackass?

Carolina Panthers 31 at San Diego Chargers 7

Tom Gower: Mike "I took less money to play close to my family, but feel free to call it a revenge game anyway" Tolbert has two early scores for the Panthers, who take a quick 14-0 lead. The first came after Cam Newton converted fourth-and-1 from the 2, and the second after the ball slipped out of Philip Rivers' hand when he cocked his arm. There was an audible cheer when the refs signaled that the Panthers had recovered the fumble. The game's being played in San Diego. Yup, that kind of season.

Andy Benoit: The Chargers are down 20-0 just like that. They’d be hearing it from the home crowd, except there is no home crowd.

Detroit Lions 10 at Arizona Cardinals 38

Ben Muth: The Lions muff a punt and it's Cardinals ball on the Detroit 5. Arizona could get their first touchdown in 11 quarters.

Beanie Wells punches it in on first down for the touchdown. (He may have fumbled, but inconclusive evidence isn't enough to overturn the call on the field.)

Patrick Peterson picks off Matthew Stanford throwing from his own end zone. That's Peterson's fourth consecutive game with a pick. He returned it to the two and Wells scored two plays later.

Arizona's two touchdown drives have combined for seven yards.

Andy Benoit: Peterson physically dominated Calvin Johnson on that pick, technique-wise, anyway.

Ben Muth: Stafford throws the ball right to Rashad Johnson who takes it back for a touchdown. For those wondering what it would take for the Cardinals to score 21 points in a half, we have our answer.

Stafford has looked awful. He's been hit hard, and as a result, he's been inaccurate. Plus, he's tried to force a lot of balls to Megatron.

Speaking of Johnson, I like what Arizona has done on him so far. They've lined up Peterson on him when he's aligned outside and given safety help over the top. When Johnson is in the slot, the Cardinals have bracketed him right off the snap. Great job of forcing someone else beat you.

Peterson left the game with cramps, but returned a series later. His first play back, Johnson beat him on a fade for a 30-yard gain. That's Megatron's seventh straight game with 100 yards receiving, which ties an NFL record.

Stafford takes a delay of game that nullifies a touchdown pass. The very next play, he throws another pick-six. He has now thrown as many touchodwns to Cardinals players this season as John Skelton and Ryan Lindley combined. Tim Ryan is theorizing he may have a concussion. It has been a bad day for Stafford.

Andy Benoit: Stafford's latest pick, to Greg Toler, was again man coverage. Toler came off his guy in the end zone and just snagged a bad throw to Tony Scheffler.

Tom Gower: The Cardinals' four touchdowns have eight yards of offense associated with them: five-yard drive, three-yard drive, and a pair of pick-sixes.

Ben Muth: Calais Campbell has had a really good game and a strong year when he's been healthy. I'd put him second on the 3-4 end power rankings below Watt and above Justin Smith.

Aaron Schatz: He's not playing today, but since we haven't had much chance to say his name this year with the rest of his team sucking, I'll add that Muhammad Wilkerson might be fourth.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 at Dallas Cowboys 27 (OT)

Mike Kurtz: Dallas's offensive line is just mauling Pittsburgh's defense. Aside from one missed blitz pick-up, the Steelers haven't been doing anything in the pass rush or against the run.

Andy Benoit: James Harrison is dropping into coverage in the flats a lot. Some of it is part of the zone-blitz design, but it happened about four times in first quarter.

Tight end James Hanna is a fairly integral part of the offense early on. There's a lot of versatility to him, and he moves pretty well. This is a good time to use him because they’re splitting him into the slot and commanding, via formation and personnel, that Harrison follow him there, getting him isolated in coverage. Hanna could become an Aaron Hernandez-type for the Cowboys. It’s too early to say, obviously, but intriguing skill set.

Steelers brought in fringe defensive back Robert Golden at safety in red zone, Tony Romo immediately went after him with play-action against his zone, he was frozen. Touchdown Jason Witten. Good play call based on the Steelers formation.

Matt Waldman: Hanna is interesting, but from what I studied of him I don't think he has near the same agility around the ball or after the catch. Hernandez-type is a good descriptor though. He's in the town, just not necessarily in the neighborhood.

Andy Benoit: DeMarcus Ware is having a quiet game so far. A lot of inside stunts have been called for him, but Ramon Foster and Max Starks are doing a good job over there.

Mike Kurtz: Ben Roethlisberger keeps short-arming short throws to the running back, resulting in worm-burners. It's uncharacteristic and very bad, it's cost them at least one first down thus far.

Of course, more ineffective running up the middle with your late-round running back behind your replacement-level offensive line doesn't set you up well for success.

This just in: Keenan Lewis cannot cover Dez Bryant. The Steelers are really missing Cortez Allen and Ike Taylor.

Andy Benoit: Mike Wallace showed good route execution on his 60-yard catch in the third quarter. He drew quarters coverage and executed his break near the border of Danny McCray’s zone, while also running directly at him. He distorted the coverage a bit, and caused McCray to get flat-footed.

The Steelers running game has had most of their success running draws out of shotgun. Mostly ineffective on normal runs. With the Cowboys not blitzing much, the Steelers offense has expanded vertically. Roethlisberger had four straight completions of 20 or more yards in the second half.

Mike Kurtz: Lewis is now injured. Steelers are down to defensive back number nine.

Andy Benoit: Sean Lissemore's huge sack came on one of the few Cowboys blitzes. It was a cross blitz inside, Lissemore got through the B-gap. On the following play, Anthony Spencer and Lissemore got in for a sack with a weak-side twist. Two rushers beat three blockers; extremely well-executed.

Ben Muth: The first sack was a complete clusterf*ck up front for Pittsburgh. Hard to tell who messed up but my guess is David DeCastro in his first start. The second sack was due to dumb play calling. Why run play-action in that situation? Puts your offensive line in a horrible position to pass off any games, like the end/tackle twist the Cowboys ran.

Aaron Schatz: Third-and-26, Antonio Brown catches the ball for 11 yards just to gain field position for the punt, then goes out of bounds, thus saving Dallas a timeout. Not good thinking.

That ends up not mattering because the Cowboys can't convert after a great long punt return, and they choose to punt instead of kick a 61-yard field goal or go for it on fourth-and-4 at the Steelers' 43. Probably the right call.

Brandon Carr justifies his signing with one play! And, um, Mike Wallace, why didn't you try to touch him when he was on the ground after the interception? You didn't even dive to try to tackle him when you were chasing him down the field after you finally realized, gee, this guy seems to be returning this thing.

Seattle Seahawks 50 at Buffalo Bills 17

Andy Benoit: Apparently the Bills couldn't get their defense through customs.

Russell Wilson becomes the first Seahawks quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in a game. The third one came off read-option.

Chris Clemons beats Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn for a sack-and-fumble. Glenn has not been as effective since coming back from his midseason ankle injury.

Ben Muth: Pete Carroll is faking punts when he's up 30. I don't mind a team running up the score, in fact, I enjoy it. But, if I were Chan Gailey, I might be wondering what Carroll's deal is.

Kansas City Chiefs 0 at Oakland Raiders 15

Aaron Schatz: At halftime, the Chiefs have 17 total yards. Brady Quinn is 8-for-12 for 35 yards. That is some serious Captain Checkdown action right there. They have minus-2 rushing yards. Did somebody kidnap Jamaal Charles?

Tom Gower: With the help of defenseless receiver and pass interference calls, the Chiefs get to goal-to-go. Then, on fourth-and-goal from the 4, they pick up a delay of game call. On fourth-and-goal from the 9, Romeo Crennel still elects to go for it with 2:30 to play in the third, but the Raiders get pressure and Matt Cassel dumps it off to a not-uncovered Charles at the 9.

The Chiefs punt on fourth-and-15 from the Raiders 42. Darren McFadden fumbles a reception on the next play and the Chiefs take over at the 18. Offensive pass interference, eight-yard completion on a dumpoff, underthrown (maybe killed) swing pass roughly five yards downfield, pass to receiver 15 yards downfield that ends up five yards short under pressure, and incomplete to a not-open Jon Baldwin on end zone thrown under pressure. I'm pretty sure I'd take Matt Leinart over Quinn.

San Francisco 49ers 41 at New England Patriots 34

Aaron Schatz: Pats do very little on their first two drives. Lots of pressure on Tom Brady. Only five pass blockers isn't going to cut it with these San Francisco end-tackle stunts. Too much room for confusion, like on the Aldon Smith hit that caused Brady's incomplete on third down of the second drive, two guys blocking one defender with another going free.

Danny Tuccitto: Given the elements and the "trying to keep New England's offense off the field" idea, the Niners first drive was way more pass-heavy than I would have thought. Can't argue with the results, though.

Ben Muth: The last few weeks, Nate Solder's punch has almost completely disappeared.

Justin Smith gets away with a massive hold on a tackle/end stunt on the second drive of the game.

Tom Gower: We're not halfway into the first quarter, and already this has been a more eventful game than almost all of the non-Dallas-Pittsburgh games combined, what with the Brady fumble that wasn't, the Randy Moss touchdown, Carlos Rogers's pick and Brady's tackle, and now Delanie Walker's fumble.

Mike Kurtz: Considering that horrible loss for the Steelers(in a very good game), all I can wish for is that New England shuts down Michael Crabtree to get me into my fantasy championship.

Aaron Schatz: Around the second Colin Kaepernick dropped snap, I realized that this game may be decided by fumble luck.

Great fake punt call by San Francisco. Kyle Arrington was moving backwards at the snap, and the 49ers upback ran right into that space.

Lots of pointing by the Patriots before each 49ers offensive snap. I wonder if that means they are a bit confused by San Francisco's constantly-shifting formations.

David Akers honks a field goal. Feels like this should be 21-0, somehow it is just 7-0.

Danny Tuccitto: Perhaps Harbaugh shouldn't be running a draw on third-and-7.

Rivers McCown: We have a tremendous class of young quarterbacks, Brady and Manning are having superb seasons, Peterson could break the rushing record, Megatron could break Jerry Rice's receiving record, three sophomore defensive players are in a crazy battle for Defensive Player of the Year that probably ends with Michael Strahan's sack record going down.

So why does it feel like field-goal kicking is worse than ever? I can think of at least three contenders we've discussed (GB, HOU, and SF) that could be way more competent there.

Aaron Schatz: Not only do I think it would be the proper strategy for Harbaugh to go for it on fourth-and-inches to start the second quarter, I think this might be a good time for an early dagger shot. You know your guys can beat the Pats defensive backs, they'll be heavy up on the line, maybe this is the time to go play-action and try to get up top and get the touchdown.

Danny Tuccitto: San Francisco's touchdown to go up 14-3 came on a wheel route, which provides a perfect opportunity to link to Andy's write-up back in October. The second screencap is the exact same route combination by Vernon Davis (seam) and Walker (wheel) from a two-tight-end right formation.

Tom Gower: Apparently Jim Harbaugh saw the same thing somebody (Ben? Somebody on Twitter?) pointed out earlier about LaMichael James' lack of decisiveness on these runs, as I believe we're getting a lot more Frank Gore of late. (I write this in the mid-second quarter right after that entirely-too-complicated non-touched punt officiating adventure).

Aaron Schatz: First, to explain for anyone still confused about the muffed/not muffed punt: The main reason for confusion was that the refs announced the penalty as being on 57 of the kicking team, which would be the Patriots, except they don't have a 57. Therefore they not only had to review whether or not the ball hit the punt returner's leg, they also had to figure out who the holding penalty was on.

Once they realized the penalty was on the 49ers, not the Patriots, they have two options:

1) punt muffed by 49ers: Patriots get ball at spot of recovery, decline penalty.
2) punt did not touch 49ers player: 49ers get ball where Patriots first touched it, then go backwards 10 yards due to penalty.

The review showed the punt did not touch him, therefore option two.

Pats look really bad. Brady's shaky and it isn't just the pressure. Even when the pressure is light, he seems off. Receivers have also dropped a couple of balls. Pats got lucky when Moss decided to commit offensive pass interference, because I was expecting a Kaepernick bootleg run from the 4 and that run made it 10 yards from the 14, so it probably would have scored from the 4. This thing is still a ballgame at 21-7, but it doesn't feel like it should be.

Danny Tuccitto: As a frequent critic of Rogers' coverage in the slot, I have to say I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that Wes Welker went catchless in the first half.

Ben Muth: Seems like this Pats-Niners game is another disappointing blowout in a week full of them. This is probably the most shocking one too.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah. Patriots are getting outplayed and getting bad bounces. Bad play + bad luck = blowout.

Last week I had to explain to Patriots fans on Twitter that one big win over Houston didn't guarantee the Pats a Super Bowl championship. This week I have to explain to Patriots haters on Twitter that one big loss to San Francisco doesn't prove the Patriots are "frauds." You know, because teams that lose in the regular season never win the Super Bowl.

Danny Tuccitto: Am I the only one who thought the quarterback sneak was a dead giveaway when New England spread it out on fourth-and-goal with Brady under center -- and San Francisco's linebackers lined up four yards deep in the end zone?

Ben Muth: Patriots with the center circle back protection I diagrammed two weeks ago. Welker blocked for a bit before releasing to the flat where he was wide open for a first down.

Aaron Schatz: Pats ran this play against Houston for a big gain too, except that one was a pass to the single wide receiver deep, not to the tight end (which in this case was Welker, not a guy rostered as a tight end) leaking out.

Wow. Now 31-17, fourth quarter, Patriots driving. This has become a game again. Wait, no. Patriots 31-24 because I was interrupted in mid-e-mail by a couple of strange defensive pass interference calls. First there was not a DPI called on a pass I thought was definitely a DPI, but was ruled uncatchable. Then the Patriots did draw a DPI because the defender tripped up Brandon Lloyd on a pass I thought was more uncatchable than the other one. I've been complaining all year about officials throwing a DPI flag when the pass was uncatchable and now I'm just confused.

I'm not quite sure how the Patriots have gotten back into this thing. I mean, we knew their offense could score quickly, but where did the 49ers defense go? I wonder if the injury that Justin Smith suffered earlier in this game is part of the issue?

Ben Muth: Guess I spoke too soon with the blowout talk.

Aaron Schatz: Even though I'm a Pats fan, I'm kind of worried about how Rivers and Tom would have to console Danny if the Pats actually complete this comeback. Actually, Rivers is probably too young to even remember what that felt like.

Aaron Hernandez has the yips tonight. When I said something about a bad bounce after the Brady interception that went off Hernandez's hands, people on Twitter said they thought it was alligator arms instead. I don't know about that, but he must have at least three drops, plus that play.

Rivers McCown: Actually, the day that game happened, I was at a friend's house and could not understand why all the adults were angry. Also, I think I was playing SimCity.

Danny, the Patriots are an unstoppable soul-crushing machine and there is no way they won't complete this comeback.

Tom Gower: Biggest regular season comeback is 28 points, by a young Joe Montana. This would match that.

I'll spare you the family travails related to my not viewing of almost all of the first half of that game.

Aaron Schatz: It is now 31-31. The Patriots even hit the long bomb to Brandon Lloyd that they've been waiting pretty much the whole season for. Why are the 49ers not getting pressure anymore? This can't all be Justin Smith, right? Where are the T-E stunts? Can't the backup run a tackle-end stunt with Aldon Smith?

Tom Gower: I don't know what to say about this comeback. Even when it was 31-3, though, it wasn't boring in the same way that, say, Carolina-San Diego got boring quickly, and we've seen a lot of what New England can do. Of course, as I'm typing this, Kaepernick finds Crabtree for a long touchdown to retake the lead. This game is nuts.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats blitz and -- I think, I may be wrong -- get caught in zero-coverage, and Crabtree twists around Kyle Arrington and goes 38 yards untouched.

Danny Tuccitto: Just have to say, Vic Fangio should forfeit his paycheck this week. The last quarter-and-a-half has been the most vanilla defense I've seen since Tom Olivadotti was "preventing" wins left and right in Miami.

Aaron Schatz: The James kickoff return and Crabtree touchdown catch are great examples of how the concept of in-game momentum is total nonsense.

Danny Tuccitto: Obviously, I agree with you, but I'm guessing you might get a counterargument that goes something like, "What about that 28-0 run?"

Rob Weintraub: A wee bit conservative, there, no, given that Akers is your kicker?

Aaron Schatz: Great game. Obviously I would have preferred my team won, but it feels better that they weren't slaughtered. I think this game showed that the 49ers are very good, the Patriots are also very good but weren't quite as good tonight, and that there will be a lot of mistakes and mishandled balls when the weather is a cold, drizzly mess.

Tom Gower: And with tonight's win, I believe the NFC clinches a winning record in interconference play for the second consecutive season. First time that's happened since 1994 and 1995.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 17 Dec 2012

192 comments, Last at 21 Dec 2012, 6:44pm by dbostedo


by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:18pm

I think it's amazing that Minnesota is in the 6th seed at the moment.

I think it's much more amazing (and that's saying something) that Adrian Peterson has a quite possible task in front of him to break Dickerson's 2105 record.

What a fun game to watch for this Vikings fan.

Quick! Sign Moore and Fitzgerald!

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:39pm

Not only will Peterson be gunning for the rushing record at home in the finale against GB, but Randall Cobb has an outside shot at breaking the all-purpose yardage record in that game as well (Cobb is currently sitting at 2240, Darren Sproles has the record of 2696).

Even without breaking the record, Cobb will be increasing the GB record he is sure to set next week (he only needs 10 more yards), and AP will be increasing the Vikings record.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:05pm

What Peterson has done is so amazing when he is facing so many 8 man fronts. That passing game does not help him out at all. Maybe the WRs and TEs are all good blockers? They certainly aren't pass catchers.

by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:18pm

Jerome Felton is a good FB and Rhett Ellison (TE) does a nice job blocking. The center John Sullivan is one of the better centers in the league, and his best feature is his ability to run block very well - consistently getting to the second level.

But yes, you're correct - that passing game doesn't help much at all. It's interesting to note that the best passing game Peterson has ever played with was the 2009 campaign with Favre and Peterson had a pretty mortal season. 1,383 yards at 4.4 per carry (a career low for AP). He did have 18 rushing TDs that year, though.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:50pm

This is a weird thing to ask, but is Peterson (or really, the Vikings offense) actually helped out by seeing so many eight- and nine-man fronts?

I noticed this last week against the Bears. The Bears were playing very aggressive defense to try to stop Peterson, putting nine in the box in some cases and run blitzing. As a result, if Peterson could make someone miss in the backfield - which he's tremendous at doing - he wound up with a ton of daylight in front of him.

As the game went on, the Bears started playing a more reactive defense, and they actually were pretty effective against Peterson.

The last three games in particular, Peterson's yardage is driven by a few long runs, which counter a large percentage of "unsuccessful" plays (which was pointed out in Audibles - at one point this past Sunday he had nine carries for nine yards). Take away Peterson's home run ability by playing fewer guys in the box, and the Viking offense loses effectiveness.

Normally, just giving a back two to four yards per carry, prior to contact, seems foolish. But you'll get enough two-yard-or-less stuffs in there to get to a point where the Vikings have to rely on Christian Ponder, which is exactly where you want to be.

I guess the strategy with playing eight or nine in the box is that you're more likely to stuff Peterson twice, forcing a third-and-long. But is third-and-long really much more advantageous to a defense than third-and-medium, given that Ponder is the opposing quarterback?

I'm just kind of thinking out loud here.

by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:59pm

It's not a bad theory, but who is gutsy enough to try it out? Even without the homerun capability, I think AP would cause a lot of damage against 7-man fronts. He wouldn't have as many 50-80 yard runs, sure, but he'd have a lot more runs go for 5-15 yards. Then FO's stats would like him better too.

I believe AP looks boom or bust simply because of the 9-man fronts. He'd look consistently damaging against 7-man fronts.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:09pm

As I say in my post, the Bears did kind of try it. They certainly played "off" beginning the second quarter, and got better results.

I think defenses see Christian Ponder as the quarterback and smell blood, so they play up to try and dominate the Vikings' offense into never gaining a yard. But Peterson is so good, that doesn't work. And since they played so aggressively, one miss is all it takes for a 10+ yard run.

(The strategy I'm discussing actually would be attempting to prevent the 5-15 yard runs, or more specifically, the 10+ yard runs. Those are the subtle killers.)

by KB (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:52pm

I think the stacked fronts are actually helping in a backwards way. Once he gets past the second level, there is only one - if any - DB to beat. So as long as he can clear the LBs, he's 1:1 with a smaller DB and he has a full head of steam.

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:35pm

I'm quite impressed with the Colts effort this week as well as a little bit down on the Texans, but Arians had a horrible game.
-What the hell was Moore doing in the game in an important goal line situation?
-Also punting in the 4th qtr. Yeah it's 4th and 20, but please try to win the game. Hint: Best way to do this involves Andrew Luck making plays, not the D.

Also the officiating was horrible and sloppy for the whole game. Not saying it favored either side really, but just a hard game to watch.

by nuk :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:28pm

Yeah, that pissed me off.
They quit when they punted with five minutes left, and then they pretended that they were still trying to win by running plays with seconds left, down by twelve. The only thing they can accomplish there is getting someone hurt.
We should accuse the Colts of trying to run up the score there. Just kneel.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:32pm

Yep. And Shipley (already backup center) did appear to get at least somewhat hurt. Hopefully he is OK...honestly based on what I've seen so far I like him more than Satele.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:31pm

Agreed. 2 weeks in a row of sloppy officiating.

Don't forget the unsportsmanlike on Arians. Not his best game.

Colts fan, but realist. I was surprised and encouraged that they kept it close. Without the big mistakes (fumble/punt block) this game would have been seriously in question at the end.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:52pm

I'm for Vick. Down with Moore.

Hey Colts fans, how about this slew of "Colts are frauds and won't win in the playoffs" articles? File those right next to "Miami retirees enjoying 4pm dinner deals" and "Internet changes way Americans shop."

by bernie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:35pm

As a Colts fan, what I find frustrating is the way they use Luck. I wish they would call more plays where luck rolls out on Bootlegs, and shift the pocket more. They've proven all year long they can't maintain a clean pocket for him to throw out of. He has managed to deal with it by consistently stepping up and making room, but if there is pressure up the middle, he's screwed.
Luck has also shown his ability to throw on the run is excellent, and his receivers are all shifty and speedy, so if they orchestrated a few desogned plays where they get him outside the tackles and let him throw on the run, it might open up the throwing lanes a bit, plus it might give the running game a bit of a boost.

People talk about RGIII getting injured due to the way he plays....I'm amazed Luck hasn't been injured yet given all the pounding he's taken in the last 5 weeks. The guy is athletic and mobile... don't give him concrete shoes.

by are-tee :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:36pm

"...with the rest of his team sucking, I'll add that Muhammad Wilkerson might be fourth."

The Jets' offensive may be bad, but the defense was ranked number 7 in weighted DVOA through week 14, so I wouldn't say that Wilkerson's teammates have been sucking.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:13pm

I think you underestimate how good Wilkerson is. The Jets linebackers consist of two outside guys too old to get to the quarterback, one former all-pro who let Shane Vereen go for 80 yards on a dump off pass, and David Harris, who is good but has played poorly until the last couple of games. The secondary, especially Cromartie, has been pretty good, but don't mention Kyle Wilson's name to a Jets fan, they might punch you for no reason altogether.

by are-tee :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:09pm

I think Wilkerson is terrific. I also think Kyle Wilson has done a fine job -he only gets noticed when he gets beat, which isn't really that often. If the linebackers are weak in coverage and the pass rush is lousy, then both corners must be playing at high level for the pass defense to be as good as it is.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:38pm

Sorry if that comment came off snarky. I just think Wilkerson and eventually Coples will get their respect only when the Jets get an edge rusher to take the double and triple teams off them. Part of the reason everyone thinks the Jet's talent level is so low is that it is lacking in the spots where it would be most glaring: skill positions on offense, and linebackers in a 3-4 defense.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:37pm

Vic Fangio should forfeit his paycheck this week. The last quarter-and-a-half has been the most vanilla defense I've seen since Tom Olivadotti was "preventing" wins left and right in Miami.

Yeah, really. Not sure how much credit you can give NE for the "comeback" when they only came back because SF shifted out of the defense that was strangling NE for the first 2+ quarters and then didn't immediately go back to it once Brady et al started tearing up the less aggressive defense.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:54pm

Don't call it a "comeback"!

(Referring to the scare quotes, and with apologies to LL Cool J)

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:09pm

It's hard to play with a lead. Even harder when you're without your best defensive player. I think you should give all the credit in the world to the Pats for scoring 28 points in 15 minutes without the benefits of a turnover. It's not like the 49ers are a blitz happy team who stopped being blitzing. They just moved from man to zone. Maybe they just seemed less aggressive because the OL was playing better.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:11pm

It did seem in the 3rd quarter especially that the D line was worn out. Seemed like the ends were just kinda doing some sort of weak contain, as if Brady was suddenly going to take off on the edge.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:14pm

Sure seem the 49ers would be a much better team if the coaches didn't freak out whenever they had a good lead and start playing with so much fear. It costs them, most recently in the Rams game, and almost last night.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:28pm

Yeah. I've kinda been biting my tongue in Audibles over the past few weeks because I lean heavily towards giving SF's coaching staff the benefit of the doubt:

1) Up 13-10 @ STL w/ 1:34 left, SF D lets an O that was totally inept to that point mosey down the field with ease, and tie the game.
2) Up 20-6 vs. MIA w/ 14:27 left, SF D lets an O that was totally inept to that point mosey down the field with ease, and make it 20-13.
3) Up 31-3 @ NE w/ 10:21 left in the third quarter, SF D lets an O that was totally inept to that point mosey down the field with ease, and make it 31-10. Unlike STL & MIA, "inept" is not a "true" descriptor for said O, so continued vanilla results in continued moseying.

So, this week's comment wasn't some one-off, in-the-moment emotional outburst or meant to denigrate NE's comeback. It was a culmination of seeing it over and over again (but refraining from saying anything) the past few weeks.

Oh, and also, what makes it really odd to me is that, if you go back and look at the first year-and-a-half of the Harbaugh era, you see them reliably expanding large leads in the second half. For some reason, there's been a total reversal during the second half of this year.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:35pm

Is it possible that man coverage against NE will just wear out any LB/DB over time? I can't imagine chasing Wes Welker around for hours.

Of course, this doesn't explain soft D vs Miami or St. Louis. But I did wonder if that explains the shift in the 3rd quarter yesterday.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:36pm

It isn't just the defense, it's the way they stop trying to score on offense too. Like when they stopped trying to move the ball after they got to the edge of field goal range in overtime against the rams.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:16pm

I think you and Danny are both right.

The offense goes into turtle mode - run, run, dump off, punt. This keeps the defense on the field, and it's not a defense that makes a lot of (read: any) subs on the DL.

I think the coaches are not morons. They *know* that they are playing safe with the offense, they are not puzzled that it's not working. I think they further causes them to play less energy-intensive defense, essentially assuming the "comebacking" offense will eventually screw up and they will get the ball in FG range.

This works rather poorly with Brady's Pats, Bree's Saints (Sunday nights game was quite similar to the NFC divisional playoff last year), or either Manning.

Also - I will have to read Danny's link closer, but I suspect that the turtle strategy IS successful against non-elite and non-STL-Ram offenses.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:58pm

Nothing too sophisticated. Just showed that, in games w/ eight point lead or better at halftime through Week 8 of this season, Harbaugh SF teams (on average) turned 15-3 halftime scores into 31-10 finals. Since then, they expanded 20-0 halftime lead vs. CHI in Week 9 into 32-7 final. They have yet to lose any such game, and NE game was only second time a team came back to tie it at some point (2011 Week 1 vs. SEA).

Here's a link showing the games in PFR's game finder.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:24pm

Definitely true...but as I like to tell the people around me as these things unfold, SF's D is the straw that stirs their drink. I have little doubt that a lot of the tactical conservativeness with a lead on offense stems from Harbaugh believing his D is going to preserve said lead.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:33pm

What was most alarming was how FAST they were allowing these td drives. I disagree with Aaron, Ne's offense is not a quick strike offense. yes they go speed tempo, but they also run a ton of plays. They are a time killing death march of a thousand paper cuts. It should have been 3 6 minute drives. Instead they were like 2 min td strikes.

Danny - Is the sf pass rush completely dependent on Smith to that extent? I mean, how is that possible? If that is true, than Ahmad brooks shouldn't have been resigned and vic fangio really isn't a great D coordinator. You would think they could scheme better pressure with the ridiculous amount of talent that they have.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:42pm

New England's offense is not a quick strike offense in terms of plays. They are a quick strike offense in terms of time off the clock.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:41pm

I suppose we need to remember that no other team runs it's plays with such a crazy tempo so any other opponent would run out of time.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:24am

I'm shocked defenses haven't resorted to the "opps, I have a leg cramp and must fall down" method to slow the Pat's offense. After all, Belicheck used it to slow down the Colts in 2005. Faking injuries seems like the best way to end the Pat's insane offensive pace.

by nat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:50am

The league periodically warns about this. Faking injuries could result in suspensions and/or draft pick penalties (for repeat offending teams, I assume) for conduct detrimental to the game.

It's a hard one to enforce, though. When does "I hurt" become "I'm hurt"? Are players obligated to stay on the field when they are cramping? Stiff? In pain? Dizzy? Have the wind knocked out of them? Are winded?

I suspect the reason teams don't do this much is that subbing out one guy this way doesn't accomplish much. Using a fake injury to sub your whole defensive package is exactly what would draw the league's scrutiny and possible "conduct detrimental" penalties.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:24am

Actually subbing out 1 guy accomplishes a lot in this case. The real advantage of the fast pace is that it forces defenses into "basic" sets, thereby making Brady's pre-snap reads easy as pie. There are no complicated blitzes or exotic zone schemes possible when the pace is so fast. Faking an injury gives a defense time to dial-up something a little more complicated if they want, not to mention time to catch their breath.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:09pm

I'd think this is one reason the San Francisco defense was a good one against New England (until they started playing prevent in the middle of the third quarter). They don't make many substitutions, play mostly vanilla packages. Their two middle linebackers are so fast that they don't come out of the game very often. They don't hardly blitz. They play a lot of man.

I hope they remember what was working if the two teams meet again in some slightly more important post-season game.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:09pm

" if you go back and look at the first year-and-a-half of the Harbaugh era, you see them reliably expanding large leads in the second half. "

FWIW, they started the second half with a 17-3 lead and expanded it to 31-3 before, you know, giving up all of the lead.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:31pm

That was a strange D strategy--allow Welker to catch nine consecutive 8-11 yard passes, all with a very up-tempo, clock-saving pace. It was Colts-like and especially odd coming after such tight, aggressive, successful man coverage earlier. Even if the Pats are forced to make a 15-play drive for a TD, it's not like it kills 8-9 minutes of clock. More like 3, they way they play, which means, with a few SF 3-and-outs, they could readily rack up 3-4 TDs per quarter, even without any big plays or freaky fumble/penalty/ST luck. Somehow Fangio or someone else on the SF sideline could not do that math.

Anybody else have a problem with the non false start call on Pats #47 on the play where he caught his first TD? While the play was live I said outloud, no problem, it's coming back. But there was no flag. I saw it again in replays and each time said "this guy takes off well before anybody else moves, what the hell are the refs watching?" Maybe my eyes were tired. Now I have to go back and look again--with the camera angle from the offensive right side, he was on the end closest to the camera and pretty exposed. Hard to miss, I thought.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:48pm

The no-call I don't understand is the Brady hissy fit when the 49ers called timeout just before a snap. He spiked the ball so hard it rebounded 30 feet in the air (sure -- I can do that) and started yelling at the officials.

How is that not an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:59pm

It wouldn't be unsportsmanlike anyways (unless he said something the ref didn't like). Spiking the ball like that is a delay of game penalty, IIRC.

However, SF had called a timeout, which means a spike isn't a delay of game -- with a timeout called, the spike doesn't delay marking the ball, etc.

At least that's what people in last night's #fo chat said.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:25pm

Heh...with that logic, any such display before a T.V. timeout also wouldn't be a penalty.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:02pm

Because Tom Brady is a quarterback, and quarterbacks don't get called for unsportsmanlike conduct?

Brady had no right to be so upset - Donte Whitner, for one, was calling timeout a full 3 seconds before the snap.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:05pm

Doesn't matter what the player was doing. If the officials, through their inattentiveness, incompetence, etc. fail to impose the timeout before the ball is snapped, they don't get to blow the play dead after the snap no matter how long before the snap the defense was signaling for it.

Brady said later that he thought the ball was snapped just before the refs signaled the timeout.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:59pm

Correct or not, if an official blows a play dead, it's dead.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:12pm

What's the substantive difference between Brady spiking the ball and other players mouthing off at each other and getting into pushing matches?

The NFL doesn't penalize each and every display of anger. We all know that, right?

And the reason it wasn't called a delay of game was because the refs had just granted a time out. Brady was not, in fact, delaying the game.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:38pm

The NFL doesn't penalize each and every display of anger. We all know that, right?

I'd say it's a matter of degree. It's not necessarily the spiking (legal, unless aimed for another player/official), it's the spiking combined with berating the official (who has a live mic).

This doesn't prove anything except to show that mere yelling at the ref can be considered unsportsmanlike conduct, but:

Second-and-2 on B25. A1 runs to the B20 where he is tackled by the facemask. A1 jumps up and yells at the Umpire because he didn’t think the foul had been called (although it had).
Ruling: First-and-goal on B25. Both fouls are enforced...

(Don't know what was said, but here's [2:30 mark] Richie Incognito getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for mere yelling/cursing at an official.)

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:39pm

I would think it would matter a great deal what the beration was.

"God damn it! You blew that dead after the snap! And we had them confused. You cost us an easy play, damn it!" wouldn't deserve an unsportsmanlike


"You bleeping, bleeping, bleeper! How bleeping blind can you be? You place a bet on the game or something? And what the bleep with that punt call earlier? Auditioning for the village idiot position, you overwrought fame whore? Bleep you!" certainly would.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:48pm

Agreed, though by Rasheed Wallace standards, even the former is probably ejection-worthy.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:01pm

Fairly or not, there's probably also a pecking order to it. An all-timer like Brady can probably get away with a bit more passionate colloquy than, say, Kirk Cousins could.

by Tyler (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 11:04pm

He can get away with being a bigger baby than anyone in the league. Cries more than anyone that I've seen in the NFL in 20 years.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 3:12am

This is a really stupid comment. He complains as much as any quarterterback of his standing.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:10pm

That would just mean, "He complains as much as Peyton Manning." Not a very broad statement.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:59pm

I've never really understood this line of thinking. If, as a quarterback, you're not arguing for calls that would help you, you're not doing your job. If a defender is being hit downfield, if you're hit late, or high or low, if a defender moves into the neutral zone, a quarterback absolutely should ask where the flag is. If that makes him a cry-baby to the TV-viewing audience, so be it. Being perceived as a whiner doesn't correlate much with winning and losing. If I were a head coach, I'd demand the QB do it, and you can be sure I'd be doing it on the sideline.

As much as we'd like to pretend otherwise, gamesmanship is part of the game, and job security depends more on results that some obscure sense of ethics.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 1:59pm

I'll make a basketball analogy for you:

Peyton Manning complains like Chris Paul.
Tom Brady complains like Rasheed Wallace.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 3:04pm

I haven't watched a Pro Basketball game in about 15 years, so this point is as lost on me as if it were a jockey analogy. Is it that Brady is more demonstrative?

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:38am

I didn't notice that, but it might explain how Hoomanawanui got behind the defense. The play that had me scratching my head was the non-PI call against Branch in the end zone -- second quarter I believe. The defender had his right arm around Branch's waist and his left arm on the back of his shoulder pad while he was trying to catch the ball.

I thought it was a well-officiated game, which I'm not sure I've said before. Most non-calls I agreed with, although both quarterbacks took an uncalled blow to the head.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:40pm

"Uncatchable" for DPI (discussed in the Pats-49ers) doesn't mean "thrown where no one could get to it". It means something more like "already past the receiver".

It's not that an overthrown ball makes all interference legal. It's the ball actually arriving or going past that makes contact no longer interference.

Or that's the way it seems to be called.

It's a better rule that way. Why should a defender get away with mauling a receiver just because the pass was off target? But why should a defender get called for interference because a receiver failed to get a hand on the pass as it went by?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:05pm

It seems to be called as a little of both.

I've seen interference with a receiver not called when the QB ended up moonballing one three rows into the stands.

If even Calvin Johnson would have needed a trampoline and a head-start, it's likely to be called as uncatchable.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:33pm

I was simplifying a bit. When the QB clearly throws the ball away (as opposed to just over or under throwing the receiver) refs seldom call interference, because the ball is visibly "beyond" any receiver the moment it leaves the QB's hand. That's not really evident to refs on unintentionally off-target throws. You usually can't say a pass is over thrown for sure until you see where it's coming down.

So, yes, you're right in a way. It is some of each.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:37pm

I'm not talking throwaways, I'm talking Tebowesque accuracy ineptitude. The kind of QB who can miss a receiver by 12 vertical feet or 20 yards horizontally, without actually trying to miss.

The Chuck Knoblauch of QBs. You know, one who plays for the Lions.

by Solomon :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:36pm

I get your point about Knoblauch, but he was actually a good defensive player for most of his career and won a Gold Glove in 1997. He developed the "yips" in 1999 for some reason.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:45pm

"Aaron Schatz: The James kickoff return and Crabtree touchdown catch are great examples of how the concept of in-game momentum is total nonsense."

That depends on how you define the concept. If your definition momentum to be a phenomenon that must persist for the rest of the game, then of course it's a concept that will fail. But I think it's obvious that the Patriots were playing with far more efficiency and confidence from 10:00 of the 3rd quarter until they tied the game. What word do you want to call that increased level of play?

"Momentum" seems to fill a need, as long as you understand that a team won't necessarily keep it. A team can "build momentum" or "lose momentum" or what have you.

It's not a term that's intended to be taken literally.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:10pm

"What word do you want to call that increased level of play?"

"Increased level of play" or "playing better" work fine. 'Momentum' merely describes a situation where one team is playing better than the other. Substituting "play better" and "play worse" for "build momentum" and "lose momentum" changes nothing about the meaning of the sentence.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:23pm

"What word do you want to call that increased level of play?"

There's actually a term from competitive chess that works perfectly here: "Initiative."

It refers to being in a position where you can dictate the flow of events, to a certain degree. And, initiative can disappear when you make a mistake, giving the other side an opening. Such as that long kickoff return after the Patriots tied the score.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:51pm

That is great. How can we interject that into football vernacular?

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:01pm

How about for starters, instead of a coin toss we make the coaches roll 1d20 and add their dexterity modifier? Highest roll chooses first.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:28pm

Sadly, the RPG version of "initiative" is more accurately described as "move order" or "reaction speed" and is a very different thing.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:12pm

To be clear, I know this and was being flippant. Though I admit to being morbidly fascinated by the idea of knowing Andy Reid's DEX modifier.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:01pm

"Though I admit to being morbidly fascinated by the idea of knowing Andy Reid's DEX modifier."

I'm a couple decades past the time when I would describe real-world things in D&D vernacular, but I'm feeling the pull here... (maybe it's Andy Reid's local gravity?)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:39pm

"Chris Kluwe rolled for initiative, which lead to his punt being blocked by Julius Peppers."

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:59pm

I like that in some ways. The problem with the word "momentum" is that the true meaning of the word implies a great deal of difficulty in stopping it.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:16pm

Love it. Now I want to start calling 5+ blitzers "pawn storms" and a missed tackle "tackling en passant."

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:34pm

And castling would be...? The QB and WR change positions, direct snap to WR... hey, I think I've seen this before.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:47pm

Could Castling be wildcat formations? Or would it be max protection?

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:47pm

Could Castling be wildcat formations? Or would it be max protection?

by komakoma (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:36pm

I'm about 1900 myself, so I'm on the very bottom edge of understanding the concept of initiative, but from what I know this is actually a really good analogy. Of course, in chess, initiative is decided by absolute factors on the board, whereas in football it exists solely in the minds of the players and coaches (and the crowd too, I guess).

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:19pm

I would call that increased level of play, "Tom Brady is yelling at me, we need to get things going or this week is going to suck."

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:49pm

The niners would be a really good team if they could manage to snap the ball properly.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:55pm

They're doomed the next time they face a Schiano-coached team.

by Deelron :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:02pm

So they're not a very good team beating the Patriots at home?

I get the joke, but it's overdone, they actually won the game. One team dominated one half, one dominated the other and the first did just enough to win.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:24pm

IIRC, Karl is himself a 49ers fan.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:38pm

The dropped snaps were getting me down.

by Deelron :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:35pm

Yeah I know he's a 49er fan, and they got me down too, but within an hour of the game I saw rather same comment (or roughly the same) in multiple places, where the reality isn't that they "snatched victory from the jaws of embarrassing defeat" or anything like that, the reality is that they beat a top 5, playoff headed team on the road by playing one dominating half and one poor but just good enough half in a game in which they never trailed. It wasn't all flowers and sunshine, but why would we expect it to be with two Superbowl caliber teams?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:57pm

Has marijuana been legalized in Wisconsin? The only thing I can think of, pertaining to an explanation of McCarthy calling for a cross field lateral on a punt return in that context, is that Ol' Mike risked bringing his stash down to Chicago for the weekend, and decided to smoke it all up Sunday morning rather than take it throught airport security again.

As to last night's game, the most significant element may be the condition of Justim Smith's elbow, because that defense becomes more ordinary when the rhinocerous with a mood disorder isn't on the field.

I'd like to go back and look at AP highlights in years past, because it almost looks to me that he has actually increased his lateral quickness when he changes direction. He simply turns minor mistakes by potental tacklers into game-changing blunders.

by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:26pm

I've noticed that once he's out in the open and it's a footrace, AP doesn't nod his head with each step the way he used to. I can still see his first TD in the pros in my mind - the way the Vikings horn tilted with each step as he sprinted toward the endzone.

How much of that is purposeful and how much of that is residue of his knee injury, I wonder?

His top speed is still not at 100% - he never would've gotten caught behind on that 50 yd run in years past. Although that could be age.

Anyhow, he's transcendent to watch. I just love the guy.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:35pm

Surely Fangio can find someone else on the team to hold opposing guards' shoulder pads?

by zdneal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:52pm

I attribute ADAP's resurgence to Chili's departure. After his rookie year Chili was telling him to stop breaking runs away from where they were designed to go. All part of Chili's magical system.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:12pm

That's as good an explanation as any. I certainly can't think of any valid reason to do anything in that scenario except field the punt and protect the football.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:35pm

Marijuana is not legal in Wisconsin. But it is in Colorado where Crosby is from. That would explain both Crosby's first field goal (Which was not wide with 13 I's. I is not a wide enough letter to convey that FG's badness. It was wide with 13 W's.) and the punt return insanity, assuming the reason Crosby is still on the team is to get McCarthy some magic brownies which kick in sometime around two hours after kickoff.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 2:44am

Get it right: marijuana is unlikely to do this. You're thinking of coke.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:03am

"Has marijuana been legalized in Wisconsin? The only thing I can think of, pertaining to an explanation of McCarthy calling for a cross field lateral on a punt return in that context, is that Ol' Mike risked bringing his stash down to Chicago for the weekend, and decided to smoke it all up Sunday morning rather than take it throught airport security again."

McCarthy's explanation for that play was that Rodgers had racked up his ankle on the previous drive and that they were trying for a quick strike punt return for a touchdown in order to keep him off the field (Harrel would be coming in for the next series if it had worked.) Regardless, I thought it was a horrible play call at that point of the game especially if you are going all in on a punt return for a touchdown. For one of the smarter coaches in football that was one of his dumbest moves ever.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:33am

The notion that one is going to have a non-qb throw the ball across the field, despite the knowledge that any ball, which is not caught, is going to be live, while holding the lead, deep in your own territory, against an opponent which is awful on offense, defies any explanation that doesn't involve pharmacology.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:53am

Well Cobb did throw the ball at Kentucky (62 of 122, 689 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT). Though 100 of those attempts came as a freshman (he was classed as a QB his first 2 years, and a WR in his final year). So as far as QB experience he has more recent exp than anyone but Rodgers and Harrell on the active roster. Now I love Cobb, and I'm just being nit picky, but I have to admit that when a college coach converts you to WR it probably says something about your QB skills, or the fact that you are only 5-10 on a good day, but whatever. Your point is valid, I'm not disagreeing.

In fact you can add to the players involved. You have a non QB, throwing across his body to a receiver who had been on the practice squad most of the season. So it's not like this is a guy with uber hands.

I mentioned some stuff about this in another post, but yes, the decision makes no sense, and I'm not going to argue the pharmacology either. Heck his starting QB has openly questioned it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:10am

From what I recall of Randall Cobb in college, his move was more based on Kentucky having a serviceable backup QB, but an utter lack of talent at WR.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:15am

That's the thing; it's a hard throw where, most importantly, an incompletion means disaster. It isn't like a running back on the the other team's 20, on a first down, who is instructed to simply run it if the receiver isn't wide open. Unless the guy throwing the ball is flinging it a couple hundred times a week in practice, on a play where an incompletion can immediately swing a favorable game situation to an unfavorable one, well, I'd wanna see a blood test done on my head coach.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 1:22pm

Yeah, if that was the rationale, it's still a horrible call. If you're worried about Rodgers' ankle, put Harrell in to hand off anyway. You're still up two TDs against a team with a lackluster at best offense.

Even if the pass is caught, I don't think the odds of scoring a TD on the return are very good at all.

by Trogdor :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:04pm

That punt return was one of the dumbest calls I've seen in a long time. At that point in the game, there was about zero chance the Bears were scoring twice without a lot of help. The Packers didn't even need to try to score anymore; they could have fair caught the punt, knelt three times to burn a couple minutes, and just punted it back (out of bounds, if possible), and cruised to victory, with the added bonus of rubbing it in by kneeling with over seven minutes left.

They had no need for more points. Why not take a dig at your biggest rivals? "Every time your offense fails, we'll just burn two minutes and give it back to you, because your offense is so faily it won't possibly matter". Instead they go with a gimmicky punt return in bad conditions, where a fumble gives the Bears an almost guaranteed score.

by Anger...rising :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:55pm

And, um, Mike Wallace, why didn't you try to touch him when he was on the ground after the interception? You didn't even dive to try to tackle him when you were chasing him down the field after you finally realized, gee, this guy seems to be returning this thing.

You have a point on his failure to touch Carr down, but he never had an opportunity to dive because Connor immediately knocked him off stride, allowing Carr to separate, and then Ware cut him off before he could catch up.

by coboney :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 12:57pm

As for the T-E stunts - they were discussing the other day that those aren't called but rather an on the field choice by the Smiths so it makes sense that losing Justin Smith would cut those out because the backup and Aldon Smith wouldn't have the same degree of familiarity.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:12pm

I called the Miami fans wearing former players weeks ago:) I thought Tannehill got the better of Henne allowing Jeff Ireland to take a collect sigh of relief. With two games left Miami has managed to obtain last seasons record and has a chance to better it by a game and a super slight chance at 8-8. This probably will cause the Jeff Ireland haters to collectively cry out in mass, but at the moment his job looks modestly safe and Miami might actually return the same front office and coaching staff for two seasons in a row. All this could blow up if secret Nick Saban rumors surface. If there is one person Dolfans want to see less than Jeff Ireland it is Nick Saban so I place the odds as 1 %, 50 % if the Gloria Estefan/Mike Lombardi rumor I just made up turns out to be true.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:01pm

Are there really Nick Saban rumors? I ask this not sarcastically, but inquisitively.

You would think Saban would be the person least likely to ever coach Miami again. That would be worse than the Red Sox hiring Grady Little!

by Jim W. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:18pm

Ware is playing injured, so I wasn't surprised that he had a relatively quiet game. Either he has had worse nagging injuries this season, or he's at an age where he can't recover from injuries as quickly, because he hasn't looked as explosive this season.

Speaking of injuries, I'm curious what Dallas' defensive AGL will look like at the end of the season relative to other teams. It has to be near the top. Given their starters on IR, and assuming Jay Ratliff doesn't play again (which seems likely), Dallas will have 51 games lost due to injury - and that's starters alone. And of course that's without new injuries the last two games, which perhaps isn't a safe bet.

by zdneal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 1:47pm

I saw a Gino Torretta Viking jersey at a game.

by mrh :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:20pm

Tom Gower: I'm sorry, but you'll have to do a lot to top the Kevan Barlow 49ers jersey somebody was wearing at the Titans-Packers preseason game I went to a couple years ago.

At Arrowhead this year for Chargers game, saw a Ryan Leaf jersey. Thought it might be a Chiefs fan being ironic, but it appeared to be a genuine Charger fan.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:39pm

I could MAYBE see a genuine Charger fan wearing a Leaf jersey 15 ears ago, or 14 years ago, but as of 13 years ago, I cannot imagine it. Why? It's like George Washington wearing a Benedict Arnold jersey during a pickup hoops game with Thomas Jefferson. Charles DeGaulle wearing a Petain jersey while playing petanq? Okay, both jokes lame, but why on earth would an actual Chargers fan wear a Leaf jersey?

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:49pm

Penance? Maybe on the inside it doubles as a hair shirt.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:09pm

There's an interesting school of thought that Petain managed to do a huge service for France, by essentially playing to Hitler's ego while submarining his foreign policy under the table. He managed to keep France a force in international politics even through the occupation, and large kept Germany from any of the colonial resources it coveted.

He wasn't deGaulle, but he also wasn't Quisling.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:12pm

Now you're just showing off by courting Godwin's law without stepping over the line.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:23pm

But what about DeGaulle wearing a Pierre Laval jersey?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:02pm

Patton wearing a Montgomery jersey while playing Rommel.

by rfh1001 :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:29am

If Leaf had been a Seahawk the Leaf jersey might work for the hipster ironist fans. Maybe with an asterisk saying: * He had one of the best ever DVOA games by a rookie QB, actually. (Or maybe it's VOA, I can't remember.)

by zempf (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:48pm

A few months ago I saw someone walking around with a Mike Mamula Eagles jersey.

by Matt Bowyer :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:06pm

Not to be That Guy, but I'm surprised Washington didn't get a single mention.

Sounds like I missed a hell of a game at the end there -- NFL Game Rewind, you are my best friend.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:43pm

Washington is now the clear favourite to win the NFC East (assuming RGIII is good to go). Win and they are in. Meanwhile the Giants are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. If they lose either of their remaining games they cannot win the division, and there is a good chance they will fall behind both Dallas and Washington who both currently hold tie-breakers over them.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:10pm

The Cowboys are win and in too, so I am curious about your justification for having the Redskins as a "clear favorite". Is is just the homefield advantage for the finale?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:18pm

I would add in the fact that the Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31 in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. It was only a 7-point margin of victory, but it felt like more, since the Redskins were leading 28-3 at one point. The Cowboys scored enough in the 2nd half to make it close, but they didn't ever have the ball in a situation where they could score and tie.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:54pm

As a counterpoint, I'll point out that the Redskins' team MVP is coming off a concussion and may not be 100% (Yes, I realize the original post stipulated he was assuming that RGIII was OK in his assessment).

I think that you probably shouldn't put too much weight on that one game, anyway.

Upon further review, however, because of the tiebreaker situation the Redskins can afford a loss to Philly as long as they beat Dallas and New York drops a game; I don't think Dallas can say the same w.r.t. New Orleans (and beating Washington). So, Redskins as favorite is fair. Correct me if I am wrong.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:12pm

The Cowboys can say the same. See Quirky Research's post on the subject.

Essentially, if all three teams split their remaining games, the Giants finish in third, while the Redskins/Cowboys winner takes the division.

And based on the linked chart, the Giants don't control their own destiny to win the division. If they go 2-0 and either of the other two also does (they both can't, since they play each other), the Giants lose the tiebreaker.

However, the Giants do hold all interdivision tiebreakers, so winning out would guarantee them a playoff spot.

by dk (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:42pm

The Redskins play a weaker team in week 16 and they have HFA in the pivotal finale and they are probably a slightly better team than the Cowboys.

That probably makes them a favorite for the NFC East crown, although they probably falls short of "clear favorite”.

The real advantage the Redskins have is their inter-division tiebreakers. The Redskins have a much better chance of getting the wild card spot than the Cowboys if they miss out on the division title.

by Cro-Mags :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:14pm

Has any ref ever been more verbose than Ed Hochuli? Less is more.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:20pm

He was out of control last night. He's taken to explaining non-fouls and non-calls, as if slack-jawed viewers can't understand the game (or appreciate its flow) without his insight. That blown call in Denver has ruined him for life.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:29pm

I just figured Hochuli gets paid by the hour.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:17pm

Everson Griffin sure looked good picking off that pass and returning it for a pick 6. He's also played gunner at times on punt coverage, rather effectively at that.

I wonder what kind of TE this guy might have been if given a chance.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:27pm

The VOA for the NE-SF game is going to be interesting to see. It feels like SF played better. But they won by just seven despite getting 7-of-8 fumble recoveries. That fumble-luck doesn't translate into success as measured by VOA. And depending on that kind of fumble-luck doesn't bode well for their future.

Am I just reacting to the final score and not the quality of play when I still feel SF was better?

by herm :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:17pm

The 49ers fumbled five times, but four were aborted snaps, which are recovered around 3/4 of the time by the offense. The Patriots fumbled three in the open field, where the odds of the offense recovering are more like 2/5. The 49ers were still lucky, but your impression may be the result of understanding that not all fumbles are created equal.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:22pm

Bill Barnwell used Chase Stuart's numbers to calculate that the niners would recover 5.3 of those fumbles so they were lucky but less than the 50:50 fumble recovery rate.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:36pm


So if the 49ers were deprived of one or two drives and the Patriots had one or two extra, would we still think the Niners had the better game?

The VOA will be interesting, indeed.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:53pm

I think it it might be close.
The Niners also had a big INT return, a big fumble return and a big kick return.
On the flip side they had 6.9 Y/P compared to 6.0, and had two redzone turnovers (I forget if VOA penalizes these).

Plus a couple of the fumbled snaps killed drives without the turnover.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 8:36pm

Plus an shanked fieldgoal.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 10:17pm

The shanked field goal and kick return show up in VOA. The interception and fumble returns don't. They get replaced with the expected value for a fumble or interception of that kind in that situation, because fumble recoveries and both fumble and interception returns are non-predictive of future success.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 11:59pm

One thing that confuses me about DVOA. If returns(both fumble and int) are rated by VOA as largely random events, then how will DVOA interpret long returns that setup touchdowns? Ie- in the case of the 49ers, the fumble return set up a first and goal where the 49ers scored. Now red zone gets weighted more heavily than normal plays so the offense gets a big time credit despite the fact that the return yardage set them up in the red zone in the first place.

by nat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 8:16am

The credit isn't very big. IIRC, it weights red zone plays as if they were 1.2 plays. It's not as if it says a + 5% play is a +25% play. It's closer to saying it's a 5 x 1.2 = +6% play. And for some reason, the weighting factor is even smaller for the defense.

Still, I'm not a fan of the red zone bonus. I don't get the impression that red zone plays are any more predictive than other plays.

by nat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 8:44am

I may be confusing VOA and VOAf here.

One includes the fumble recoveries that really happened. I forget which. With luck, Aaron will make that clear.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:27pm

What a frustrating game to watch as a Bears fan. I expected the outcome to be similar (or even more lopsided in favor of the Packers), but this was probably the most frustrating way to lose - in a combination of generally poor play that was still enough to keep the game within reach, plus some highly questionable officiating.

The poor play: Cutler's interception that led to Green Bay's touchdown at the end of the 1st half was hideous, even if Hester ran the wrong route (which wouldn't surprise me). The number of times that the Bears allowed the Packers to convert a 3rd-and-long, plus the two 4th-down conversions, was embarrassing. The playcalling didn't help, either. I recall two series that stuck out. One was the 1st-and-goal from the GB 5 that ended in a field goal because Forte can't punch the ball in from a couple years out. The thing is, every Bears fan watching the game knew that long before yesterday. If you don't have Michael Bush available, then try something different. The other one was one of the Bears' offensive possessions in the 2nd half. 1st down: run for no gain. 2nd down: run for a 2 yard loss. 3rd down: throw a pass to Marshall about 2-3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, where he's tackled immediately. I'm sorry, did Tice misread the scoreboard and think that the Bears had a healthy *lead* at that point instead of a deficit? IMO, when you're down in an important game in the 2nd half and you've been bad on offense, that's the time to take chances and hope to make something happen rather than be content to punt the ball away.

As for the officiating, the roughing the passer call on Peppers in the 4th quarter seemed ridiculous to me. I watch Cutler take hits just like that several times a game and it almost never gets called, but I guess Rodgers is one of the lucky ones who gets that call. The way that pass interference was called, both offensive and defensive, also made me pretty mad. I can't recall another game with so many interference penalties, very few of which were obvious. I thought Jeffrey really got a raw deal with the OPI that erased a touchdown for the Bears; the contact seemed pretty minimal and the defender clearly flopped intentionally. And the missed call against Shields that would have kept the Bears' last drive alive was egregious enough for Troy Aikman to comment on it, and I agree with him: maybe it's interference and maybe it's not, but call it consistently.

I'm sure a Packers fan would have a different interpretation of some of those calls than I do, but it sure seems like it was a game where multiple game-changing penalties, for both teams, were badly called.

by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:44pm

I felt similarly after the Packers-Vikings game in Green Bay this year - the Packers didn't play particularly well, but Minnesota just couldn't take advantage. It smells like the kind of season where Green Bay loses a playoff game in strange fashion.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:12pm

The wreckage in my living room attests to the fact that I agree with you on the officiating, but I, too, am a Bears fan, so all the same caveats apply. The sad truth is, however, that as currently constructed the Bears are not good enough to make a dumb mistake or two, get a bad call or two, and still beat a good team (even when that team gifts them 9 points on special teams). I expect them to beat Arizona & Detroit, but they still might miss the playoffs if they do that, and even if they make it, I can't like their chances in Lambeau very much. Unless of course the magic turnover TD sauce returns, in which case anything is possible.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:13pm


Rodgers has gotten clobbered consistently this season with few calls. Frankly, the only time he seems to get a call is when its Peppers. That is not a joke remark. I am fairly certain that Peppers has been flagged 3 times in the last several years including yesterday.

It did look like it was helmet to helmet. I know several Packer defenders have been flagged for similar hits over this season

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:29pm

I covered my thoughts on the penalties in the Open Discussion thread (post 329).

I just wanted to agree with you that Rodgers really doesn't get a lot of calls, with the exception being Peppers. On this specific play it was called because Peppers left his feet after the ball had been thrown and the official would have been in a position to clearly see this. It's ticky tacky, but it's been pretty consistently called all season. Same for the fact that Peppers hit him high, the higher you hit the more likely you are to get called. I've been complaining about Walden and his high hits since he joined the Packers, he's a penalty waiting to happen with the way roughing is called and he has gotten called a fair bit in the past, even when there was no helmet contact and the QB still had the ball in his hand when he got hit, but since Walden is always up high, he gets called. Matthews on the other hand rarely hits up high, he consistently flexes at the hips, or if his body is rigid like Peppers was, he his should hits below armpit level, not the middle of his chest hitting Rodgers shoulder.

Peppers doesn't dive, or he bends his hips so his upper body is lower, and that still gets called and I'm very much with outrage against it (even though as a Packers fan I'm not part of the outrage I just agree with it). But with them consistently calling things like that (and by consistent I mean 7 or 8 times out of 10, this is the NFL that is about as consistent as things get) I get it after watching it a few times. Peppers height hurts him with the way the rules are called now a days too. It's harder for him to get low, but leaving his feet and not bending his hips at all, that the classic "spearing position", though he didn't spear, it just makes a close call way more likely to go against you.

I'll allow it as ticky tack, but I will defend it as the right call. Though I will say that the Packer's radio announcers seeing it live were wondering what Peppers could have done and they are huge homers so I asked about it, but getting to see it on NFL Rewind I get the call, I've seen Perry and Moses called for similar this year.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:51pm

The guys I was at the game at - we're all Bears fans - thought Peppers deserved that penalty, as a late hit (which it was called). He had no chance at affecting the pass, and he knows better than to follow through with a hit like that.

Just a frustrating game from a Bear fan perspective. I agree with Steve's assessment that a loss was expected in general, but given that the Bears had a 7-0 lead and had Rodgers looking less than sharp early, they could have stolen a win.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:27pm

Honestly, I haven't watched enough Packers games to have a valid opinion on that, so I'll defer to you. I certainly feel like Cutler has taken hits like that and worse with no flag, but you may be right that Rodgers doesn't get protection from the officials on those hits either. (I do seem to remember Peppers getting penalized a lot, and since the two Packers games a year I'm guaranteed to watch take place against the Bears, maybe that's the reason for my misperception).

It didn't look like helmet-to-helmet to me, but if it was, then I understand the call. Based on the replay I saw at the time and the commentary from Aikman/Buck, it sounded like the penalty was based on timing rather than helmet-to-helmet.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:50pm

Well this Packer fans is going to point out that Jeffrey got the benefit of a defensive holding when replays showed that he clearly grabbed Shields by the facemask, and should have been the one penalized. That could have been a 20 yard turnaround on a drive where CHI scored a FG.

Shields could have gotten the other penalty you described, but the OPIs all looked legit to me. Shields gives away over 30 lbs to Jeffery, so what you see as a flop may have just been the fact that Shields is never going to out-muscle a WR.

And as far as the Peppers penalty, that ship has sailed. You hit the QB anywhere near the helmet and it will get called. Once in a while a ref misses it (Rodgers himself got pretty blatantly facemasked by Fairley last week with no call), but they've called it that way all year, for every team. That call hardly affected the game in any case, as GB punted shortly after, if I remember right.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:34pm

You're right about the no-call on the face mask. As far as OPI goes, it's hard for me to tell what's "fair" to call and what isn't since enforcement seems to vary so widely. It felt like Jeffrey was getting flagged for stuff that I see all the time.

Like I said above on the Peppers penalty, if the reason was helmet-to-helmet contact, then I understand the call. I was under the impression it was based on the timing of the hit, and that IMHO would be questionable. Also, I agree that it didn't have a huge impact on the outcome of the game, but it did mean that the Packers burned a little over a minute and a half of clock before punting. Add that time to the Bears' final possession that started with 56 seconds to go and...oh, who am I kidding? It probably would have just given Cutler extra time to throw another interception, or for the Bears to call a couple more running plays up the middle.

As a Bears fan, I'm not just pessimistic about this season...after the last few games, I don't see how they get better in the next few years. It seems much more likely they'll get worse.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 8:58pm

Regarding the Peppers hit, I'm not sure if it was the timing or the contact, but the way the refs are instructed to call it, if it looks like there is ANY contect to the QB's helmet, they are supposed to throw the flag.

We've all seen roughing calls where the defender puts his hands up to try to block the throw and ends up with his momentum carrying him towards the QB, and he gets flags when his hands graze the QB's helmet (Woodson has drawn a few of these on blitzes in past years). I agree it gets frustrating, but it's called around the league like that. Defenders need to be coached to aim for the torso and bring their hands around the the side if they miss the swat.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 10:30am

"We've all seen roughing calls where the defender puts his hands up to try to block the throw and ends up with his momentum carrying him towards the QB, and he gets flags when his hands graze the QB's helmet (Woodson has drawn a few of these on blitzes in past years). I agree it gets frustrating, but it's called around the league like that. Defenders need to be coached to aim for the torso and bring their hands around the the side if they miss the swat."

I could be wrong but I thought they changed the rule to where inadvertent contact to a QB's head as you described is allowed. Any type of swinging/launching at the QB's head is still a penalty but if you non-intentionally graze the helmet it's not.

On a side note, I really hate the fact that roughing the passer calls always give the benefit of the doubt to the QB...if it looks like it was a rough it almost always gets called even if it was a matter of the defender making a textbook tackle and the QB ducking his head at the last minute resulting in helmet-to-helmet contact. The Nick Perry sack of Andrew Luck earlier this year still bugs me...hit him cleanly in the shoulder/chest area and gets called for roughing. As Cris Collinsworth said last week it's tough playing defense in today's NFL.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:15am

Every hit to the helmet that I've seen this year, inadvertent or deliberate, has been a penalty. I've even seen it called when it's been a high hit even if the defensive player doesn't hit the helmet. It doesn't matter if it's just a graze to the helmet. If a player hasn't adjusted by this late in the season, it's the player's problem.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 6:44pm

The language of the rule as it is now says that a penalty to hit the passed "forcibly in the the head or neck area".

What "forcibly" means is debatable, but I think the intent from the league was that the only hits to the head that aren't a penalty are extremely minor - like a fingertip grazing the helmet. Everything else is a penalty.

And "the head or neck area" actually leaves a little room for interpretation as far as where the neck ends and the shoulders/chest/back begin. So that could be why you see calls where it doesn't seem like there was a blow to the head.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:33pm

Lpins stinky team. And head coach fan of this websit. Wwhat does that say if anything?

by Solomon :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:42pm

That is funny and all, but you realize you read this website as well?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:21pm

So Lpins = Lions, not Dolphins?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:44pm

It means being a fan of FO doesn't necessarily make one a better than average NFL football coach. And who's to say Belichek isn't a fan. He wouldn't tell anyone anyway.

by rfh1001 :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:34am

Belichick = Raiderjoe.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:34pm

Aaron mentioned the confusing punt sequence in the SF - NE game. The part that really confused me is that Ed Hochuli kept saying that the Patriots had "illegally recovered the ball." Maybe I heard it wrong, but he said it a few times. I couldn't figure out how the punting team could illegally recover the ball when they thought it might have hit Ginn in the leg, or at the very least were just downing the ball.

by nat :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:41pm

Technically, touching a punted ball to down it is illegal. It's a zero-yard spot foul. Among other things, it means the receiving team can safely pick up the ball and run with it, without fear of fumbling.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:04pm


Here's Rule 9-3-2:

"First touching is when a player of the kicking team touches a scrimmage kick that is beyond the line of scrimmage before it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line. If the ball is first touched by a player of the kicking team, it remains in play. First touching is a violation, and the receivers shall have the option of taking possession of the ball at the spot of first touching, provided no penalty is accepted on the play, or at the spot where the ball is dead. First touching does not offset a foul by the receivers."

So, having ruled Ginn didn't touch it, Hochuli (properly) announced that Cole's "first touching" was illegal -- even though there's technically no penalty yardage attached to the violation. I'd say this whole fiasco was an example of Hochuli's tendency to over-explain his rulings (apparently, a mantle he's taken since Dick Hantak's retirement). Mentioning the technical "illegal touch" added nothing to understanding, and in fact just made everyone more confused.

Also, in addition to what nat said above, this whole "first touching" thing is why you'll sometimes see a guy on the punting team touch the ball at say, the 10-yard line, but it's ultimately "downed" at, say, the 5-yard line, and the receiving team gets to start their drive at the 10 rather than the 5. Once there's a "first touch" by the kicking team, the receiving team can choose to take the ball at the spot of first touch (i.e., the 10) or the dead ball spot (i.e., the 5). The vast majority of the time, it's the opposite scenario, and they choose the dead ball spot because the ball was swatted away from the end zone, i.e., from the 5 to the 10.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:43pm

Aaah, that last graf explains a LOT! I had always wondered about that, but not enough to actually look into it. Thanks.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:42pm

The last paragraph also explains why it's so imperative for the coverage team to keep the ball out of the end zone, even after they've already had a 'first touch' in the field of play.

I had been wondering at why touching the ball at the 5 and downing it at the 1 meant the ball was at the 5, but touching it at the 5 and downing it in the end zone meant that the ball was at the 20.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:44pm

Touching at the 5 and downing at the 1 should result in the ball being spotted at the 5, not at the 1.

I often wonder why more returners don't try to pick up a ball after it's been touched, but before it's been downed. Once the kicking team touches it, NOTHING bad can happen to the receiving team. Pick it up and RUN WITH IT. The worst thing that can happen is that you fumble the return, but you opt to start with the ball back at the original touch spot, where it was 99% likely to start had you not scooped it in the first place.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:35pm

Cool, this makes sense now. Leave it to Ed Hochuli to explain something for so long that it doesn't make sense.

by ajz (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:12pm

From the NFL rules digest:

"Any member of the punting team may down the ball anywhere in the field of play. However, it is illegal touching (Official’s time out and receiver’s ball at spot of illegal touching). This foul does not offset any foul by receivers during the down."

An official at one time told me to think of this as a "violation" rather than a foul. I've long since forgotten the reasoning behind it, but I'm sure it's sound. You might sometimes see a returner pick up a ball that's been batted by the punting team, and the announcers will go on about what a dangerous play that was, but it wasn't. Even if that returner fumbled or muffed the ball and the punters recovered, the receiving team will always have the option of taking the ball where the illegal touching occurred. It's actually a zero-risk, high-reward play. I think someone once returned a punt for a TD this way. The punting team tried to bat it out of the end zone but failed. The ball just sat there in the end zone and a guy on the receiving team picked it up and ran it back.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:17pm

" I think someone once returned a punt for a TD this way. "

Yup. Happened to the Lions. Indeed, most insane ST plays have happened to the Lions.

1. Punt return for TD after illegal touching? Check.
2. 60+ yard FG to win game? Check.
3. Lose OT game on kick return? Check.
4. Take the wind in OT? Check.

I'm amazed Hester's missed FG return didn't happen against the Lions.

\The trick of "call both heads AND tails to win the toss in OT" almost worked, but didn't.
\\Bettis did call both heads and tails. The one on NFL.com doesn't have this, but the youtube of FOX's telecast demonstrates it.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:34pm

I've said it before. McCarthy is an excellent game week prep coach, and creates good game plans, and he and his staff are even pretty good at making adjustments if the plan fails, at least on the offensive side. The punt lateral was designed because they've seen a weakness in how the Bears cover them (it's the same reason the fake field goal for a Crabtree TD in the first game worked, McCarthy has been looking to use that against the Bears for nearly 3 years, at least that is what he told McGinn).

What he isn't great at is the 4th quarter with a lead and just when to try to and hit a home run. The punt return is just another example. There are other examples of trying to force it down field on 3rd downs on play calls that get guys open for the first, and where you can see the design worked. Some of that is Rodgers but McCarthy has admitted to some of it being him calling for Rodgers to make the deep option the first look, not the first down options. With the weaker o-line that can mean that is the only look this year. Last year many of those plays hit.

That being said he is still NFL average or better at game day management. I'm a fan I want to clearly win every game.

I do give him credit for something that Aikman talked up in the broadcast and a few beat writers have pointed out. He's done more mapping out of when to go for it on 4th downs during prep week and has an assistant that now keeps him on track with that. I don't recall what fully prompted it, but it started before Crosby went in the slump (I think it may have been after the New Orleans game). But both times they went for it on 4th yesterday were essentially decided before the game. I think he also is going for it more on 4th downs, even with a great punter, than the NFL average this year. Maybe not as much as game theory says he should but I've noticed an upward trend the last few years that seems to be continuing.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:45pm

I have a strange interpretation of the pats comeback. While the first two tds were set up by ridiculously vanilla defenses, they then switched back to man coverage and still got burned. Yes the pressure evaporated(hard to believe its all because of one man), but I actually thought Brady just became unreal. I've never seen him make that many down the field throws before ever. I don't know if it was one night he was in the zone or he's now discovered it, but some of them were impressive.

Even still, the real issue was the man coverage of the linebackers really started to fail. Willis and Bowman both started having a hard time covering the inside. Maybe it's the pats speed tempo that wore out the defense.

My 49er friend just let out the deepest sigh after the game. It was a sigh of relief. "YES we won," he said, "and thank god we don't have to go back to that horrible place again."

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:05pm

"Tom Brady is absolutely one of the five best QBs in history and has a legitimate claim to be the best ever" isn't all that strange of an interpretation.

by Cybit (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 1:52pm

Sad thing is, I'd say he's probably the third best QB in the league right now, behind Manning and Rodgers.

Then again, I think Brady's weakness has been any kind of pass rush. Once he gets hit a couple of times, he starts phantoming pressure and it gets ugly quickly.

A team with a good pass rush and play action is going to have a field day with the Patriots. Thankfully for them, the only team that has that in the AFC seems to be the Broncos.

Then again, a healthy redskins defense / pass rush + RG3 might put 50+ up on the Patriots.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 2:57pm

I'm not sure about him being third best right now, but you are right about the happy feet. He's not Rodgers or (healthy) Roethlisberger under pressure.

The Pats' defense is better than you're giving it credit for being. Though some of that is the Pats' offense putting the other team in a hole quickly.

by nat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:52pm

DYAR, YAR, and DVOA would like to have a word with you. VOA is too busy marking Manning up for facing soft pass defenses to be bothered, but tweets "me, too!" anyway.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 5:16am

Its entirely possible to say Brady has played better than Peyton, but dvoa and dyar really aren't stats that measure individual skills. PFf does a slightly better job but even their qb and receiver methods have flaws. Until we come up with a systematic way to measure impacts of pressure/scheme/surrounding talent - its virtually impossible to cross compare qbs.

by theslothook :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 5:16am

Its entirely possible to say Brady has played better than Peyton, but dvoa and dyar really aren't stats that measure individual skills. PFf does a slightly better job but even their qb and receiver methods have flaws. Until we come up with a systematic way to measure impacts of pressure/scheme/surrounding talent - its virtually impossible to cross compare qbs effectively

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:20pm

I'm of the opinion that part of the reason the Patriots gashed the 49'ers so bad after the two Vanilla-D drives is that running backwards 100 yards a couple of times in a row is really exhausting, especially when the offense isn't letting you substitute at all. Combine that with your offense going 3-and-out a bunch of times...

I think the Patriots ran more plays in those two drives against Vanilla D than they had the entire first half. I think if the 49ers come out still in Man in the 2nd half, the Patriots lose that game by 30.

by Mike W :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 2:53pm

Cutler, like Dan Marino, never threw an INT that was his fault.

I thought most of the calls in the Chi-GB game were actually correct, which I found disorienting. The Peppers call seemed viable only as a helmet-to-helmet penalty, but they didn't describe it as such.

Mason Crosby, jeez. Got the vote of confidence from McCarthy today, adding ammo to the 'high as a kite' theory. Thing about Crosby is even when he is kicking well, his balls seem to float and knuckle a lot, unlike the arrow-straight line from most kickers. Lately it's been a lot worse. It's as if his foot contacts the ball differently than most guys. McCarthy owes it to the team to get someone else at this point. Keep Crosby around for kickoffs or the desperation 58-yarder if you must, and for next year, but right now he's unusable.

For an 'elite' QB, Eli Manning sure has some bad games. But you can't spell elite without E-L-I.

SF looks so good at times I wonder how they ever lose. Moreso and more often than other genuine contenders like NE, GB, Den, Tex and NYG (yes, they're legit contenders). But, 3.5 losses.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:07pm

Biggest regular season comeback is 28 points, by a young Joe Montana.

I was at this game, as a 10 year old.

I do think it's not a coincidence that the Niners pass rush vanished without Justin Smith. He should get some sacks for the season from his Brother, Aldon.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:38pm

Not related unless by adoption. Whixh possible but more lijejl case of samme name differnrt familors. Does reminf of Cle Browns 1970# 1980s ten straight years a Pruitt leed team rushing yards. Same name. Not related. Greg and Mike. Greg (mostly him but also E. Campbell) led to leaguebbanming tearaway jerseys. G. Pruitt when with Browns always had loosejersey in tatters . Then later Greg reppaear with Rariders down line and top notch punr returner 1983.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:48pm

RJ, I have great respect for your historical knowledge, but think you might mention the Colts' Joe Washington with the tearaway jerseys, too, as another factor in having them banned. He was extremely shifty and guys would snag his shirt but not him. Went through probably 3-4 a game. Which means he had plastic pieces of his pads flapping all over until he got a new jersey each time.

And of course you remember his immortal MNF game vs the Pats, with TDs rushing, receiving, passing, and kick returning. I bet he went through an EXTRA jersey that night. Once the jerseys were changed, his career was not quite the same IMO. He got a couple rings with the Redskins, but was not the "can take it to the house from anywhere in any situation" type threat anymore. sigh.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:29pm

I remember that MNF game against the Patriots. That was back in the era when the Patriots never won on Monday night. Literally. I think in franchise history, their first Monday night victory happened some time after Parcells took over.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:29am

To be fair, they weren't good enough to host most of the time, and during those spurts where they were, the NFL didn't put games there because of the drunks in the seats.

I think the Patriots went well over a decade, between hosting MNF.

by Travis :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:03pm

Yup. The Patriots didn't host any MNF games between 1981 and 1995, despite playing four road MNF games 1985-1987.

The 1981 game against the Cowboys featured 42 in-stadium arrests, 20 arrests outside the stadium, and a stabbing, which actually was an improvement in fan behavior from the Patriots' MNF 1980 game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:28pm

If the Viking playcallers had enough sense to simply keep handing the ball off to Peterson in Green Bay a couple of weeks ago, the Vikings would have had an excellent chance to be playing for a division title in Minneapolis in two weeks, which would have been pretty bizarre, to say the least.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:38pm

Heres a question for you will: Who is the more valuable player over their career to the vikes? AP or Allen?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:11pm

That's a hard one because, while Peterson is an elite of the elite talent, it took him longer to become decent in pass protection than it should have, in a passing era, and Allen is really, really, good, and well balanced in all phases, with a chance of being HOF material beofre he is done, at the 2nd most important position in the game, in the current rules environment.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:21pm

Its interesting that its so close right? Allen is one of several elite pass rushers against the best Rb over the last half decade(possibly the best RB since Sanders? Payton?)

I suspect you'd still go with Allen for reasons you mentioned above + run production still requires at least a decent o line. Then of course there are the year to year affects of regression on running games that pass rushers don't experience as much.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 5:55pm


When the offense can't pass, AP can still make it work.
When the defense can't stop the pass, Allen cannot make it still work.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 6:48pm

Then again, the year Favre was there..somehow the vikes could pass but COULDN't run effectively. I suppose that suggests that while AP is a god among men, there are limits to what he can do.

As the patriots have shown, you can keep recycling rbs and be effective so long as you have a good offensive line.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 7:28pm

John Sullivan was terrible, terrible, terrible, in his first year as starting center, and Loadholdt wasn't any good as a rookie (this year is about the first where he has played decently), and Mckinnie was beginning his descent into slop (which of course meant it was the year he made the Pro Bowl). That offense excelled purely on the running talents of Peterson and Favre's quick release.

by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 8:38am

I remain convinced that the Vikings would've gotten their title if Birk had stayed.

by Solomon :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:41pm

FO writers -- do you not watch the Thursday night games? Do you take the nights off for personal/family reasons? Do you not have NFL Network?

I am not upset or anything, but I was curious why the Thursday games are usually ignored.

BTW, what is up w/ Brady's temper tantrum after the 49ers timeout? Lucky for him that wasn't 15 yards.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 3:54pm

He claimed the refs granted the timeout and blew their whistles after the ball had already been snapped. Which pissed him off because SF wasn't ready for the play.

It is true (as the announcers noted) that SF was signaling for the TO before the snap, but that doesn't matter -- if the refs don't see it in time and the ball is snapped, they can't blow the whistle.

I don't claim to know if the whistle was below epsilon before the snap or epsilon after the snap, though.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/17/2012 - 4:33pm

It is curious how many people interpret his anger as a sign of a character flaw.

Seemed obvious to me at the time.

And it's not on the 49ers here - they were clearly calling for a timeout.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 11:33am

but that doesn't matter -- if the refs don't see it in time and the ball is snapped, they can't blow the whistle.

Maybe they're not supposed to, but they do -- quite often. You have to figure that the crowd noise is such that they offense might not hear the whistle, so who's to say whether or not the whistle beat the snap? Virtually every week I see the side judge running towards the middle of the field blowing a whistle and waving his arms like he's trying to land an airplane while the quarterback is dropping back.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:48pm

I'd love to see an NFL official go diving over one of the lines to stop the snap ala that NBA official stopping a free throw attempt by trying to block the shot.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:32am

The NY Jets form an interesting case study of a team that is strong in so many areas and yet so weak at the games most important position and the game's most important facet. It is an important reminder of how limited your title window can be when you don't have even a mediocre starter for a qb. Somehow, this team went to two afc champ games with sanchez in what is now obviously the high water mark for this team. Still, I read that this will be Ryan's first official losing record since he's been with the jets. This actually a pretty amazing accomplishment and I think speaks well for Rex's coaching ability, given who his qb is. And yet, his future is murky. Where they go exactly from here is very difficult to say.

I'm curious to hear what Jet fans think, because realistically, your options are either ride it out with rex and hope they can acquire a competent starter from another team(see Kirk Cousins/Alex Smith/Mike Vick), or blow up the roster and administration completely and start anew.

And watching from a distance, I suspect there are a lot of grins coming out of foxborough and the rest of the Pats fanbase. I suppose if it hadn't been for that 2010 Playoff upset, Pats fans would actually be feeling sorry for the Jets right about now. Instead, Pats fans probably enjoy being tickled to death by this unfolding saga.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 2:39pm

I doubt Pats fans would or should feel sorry for the Jets fans right now. I didn't feel sorry watching a 6-10 Jets team destroy the Pats in 1990 (it was Ken O'Brien's 2nd perfect passer rating game). Pats fans should enjoy what they have now, because like everything else, it won't last.
As a Jets fan, I'm concerned that they will blow everything up. They need to tweak the front office and hire Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. But the New York media and the Jets fanbase want a massacre. They aren't thinking deeply about who is doing the hiring. This would be Woody Johnson's first hire of a general manager; Parcells picked Bradway, who is still with the organization, and Tannenbaum was already there. I doubt Johnson hires people more competent than the ones already in place. They've made mistakes, but they've also been more successful over the last ten years than for most of the Jets history.
I also would not assume that McElroy is not a competent starter; we just don't know right now.

by bucko (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 6:44am

aaron rodgers on the lateral pass:

On Randall Cobb throwing a pass on a fourth quarter punt return against the Bears: “I wasn’t thrilled about the call, to be honest with you. At that point, I think it was 7:57 on the clock, we’re up two scores, we’ve been moving the ball pretty well. Maybe not the right call in that situation.”

On if it was rubbing it in: “I don’t know about rubbing it in. Just not a very intelligent call at that point in the game.”