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31 Dec 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 17

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 30

Houston Texans 16 at Indianapolis Colts 28

Andy Benoit: The Colts run a wideout screen to Donnie Avery early. It's a good play against the Texans because it keeps the offensive line from having to block J.J. Watt, eliminates the risk of Houston batting down a ball at the line of scrimmage and, best of all, the Texans play a lot of man coverage. Man coverage is a great look to screen against because defenders step into the blockers and the screen target usually only has to worry about beating one guy.

Rivers McCown: Gary Kubiak just challenged a sack based on the Colts having 12 men on the field. They had 11.

Gary was told there would be no math.

Danny Tuccitto: I'll say it again: how do people making millions of dollars screw up a decision that simple? This one was even worse than Gailey's completely backwards backward-pass challenge last week.

Aaron Schatz: Connor Barwin and Watt just took down Andrew Luck for a sack-fumble because Luck held onto the ball too long. He's done that a lot this year. Watt had 52 Defeats coming into this week, and he's now at least at 54 and I may be forgetting one or two more he has today, and we're just at the end of one quarter. He's going to blow away the record for Defeats. (Note to readers: I'll run the official total in an XP on Monday afternoon.) Why are we talking about anyone else for Defensive Player of the Year?

Andy Benoit: Luck’s "pass" wasn’t a fumble, but it was still a backward pass, wasn’t it? Why is that not still a fumble?

Rivers McCown: Because Tuck Rule, that's why. I need some Mike Kurtz rulings on this.

Aaron Schatz: You're right, the fumble was overturned by the tuck rule. The reason that's not a backwards pass is that whether a pass is backwards or forwards is determined by the angle of the quarterback's arm, not by the direction the pass actually travels. To give an example, if you are trying to throw to a guy 30 yards downfield, and you get hit in motion and the ball comes out and goes back slightly, that's not a backwards pass because your arm was going forwards to get the ball downfield.

One less Defeat for Watt though, so maybe now he'll only shatter the record instead of obliterating it.

Andy Benoit: Houston's next sack was a five-man rush with stunt and twist concepts involved. It commanded tough one-on-one matchups for the Colts.

Third-and-3, and the Colts threw to Reggie Wayne on a little hitch type route. They probably saw that Kareem Jackson struggled with that a bit last week. Interesting that the Texans are playing man on almost every down and Johnathan Joseph is following Avery, not Wayne. Jackson is following Wayne. Reason for that is almost certainly because Joseph is the better deep ball, downfield defender.

Rivers McCown: Erm, well, I'd say the reason is that Jackson has just been more dependable in coverage than the clearly-injured Joseph.

Andy Benoit: Duane Brown absolutely outstanding at landing vociferous open-field blocks.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, Brown just had a block that got Owen Daniels an extra six or seven years on a tight end screen, pretty sweet. Kept his guy away, I think Joe Lefeged, and then eventually just got him to fall over.

Ben Muth: Texans ran a nice tight-end screen off play-action for a nice gain. The part I liked was Brown pulling to kick out on the corner. He locked onto him (hard in the open field) and threw him down like a child. Really impressive.

Three comments for one block! That's got to be a record.

Matt Schaub's underthrown pick to Vontae Davis on the next play was less impressive.

Andy Benoit: Schaub underthrew tight end James Casey significantly. And it’s not like Casey is a burner.

Aaron Schatz: Well, here's some more blocking talk. Texans still having trouble with runs up the middle, which has been an issue all season. Vick Ballard just went in from the one-yard line and I think Anthony Costonzo pushed Tim Dobbins back five yards.

If the Texans can't score a touchdown against this Colts defense, they are really in serious trouble. We're talking one-and-done. I can't believe how much the Colts are pressuring Schaub today. We're talking about an offensive line with three guys going to the Pro Bowl against the team ranked 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate.

Rivers McCown: Wade Smith is a Pro Bowler like Vince Young is a Pro Bowler. And Derek Newton may be one of the five worst starting tackles in the league.

But yes, this has gone south quickly.

Andy Benoit: Houston's offense had no rhythm in the first half. The run game is not serving as an anchor again, though Houston's had a little more commitment to it this week.

Colts keeping Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney in to start the second half. Questionable decision there.

Rivers McCown: Well, it's not getting any less questionable than going all-out for today was in the first place. The way the Texans are playing I'd definitely be trying to give them an opening-round bye if I were locked into the five seed.

Andy Benoit: Schaub made a handful of impressive plays on the first series of the second half. He showed accuracy on the move, a few throws coming after eluding hints of pressure, and managed well in the pre-snap phase.

Ben Muth: Dan Dierdorf just conducted a hard-hitting interview with Dan Dierdorf about Watt's MVP chances. My head hurts.

Rivers McCown: I utilized the SAP button today. No complaints thus far.

Andy Benoit: The Texans were aligning Johnson on the right side to face Cassius Vaughn and a few times in the slot against base personnel, which got him matched on Lefeged.

Arian Foster is a patient, powerfully flowing runner. You see that on the edges especially.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know, do most teams generally leave a guy back in kick
coverage in case the returner breaks one? The Colts just took one 102 yards for a touchdown and there was no Texans player even close to stopping Deji Karim after he passed his own 40.

Rivers McCown: Implying that there is any logic behind Joe Marciano's ideas was your first mistake.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I guess Shayne Graham was the last line of defense, and one slight juke by Karim sent Graham six yards too far to the right.

Vince Verhei: Just saw that play. The kicker's supposed to be in there somewhere, but it looked like he wasn't even on the screen.

Andy Benoit: Freeney got a sack with a speed-to-power interior bull rush against Brown. It was so quick that Brown never got his feet set; he was easily uplifted on contact. That's more about Freeney playing well than Brown setting up poorly on the play. Brown was very solid in pass protection last week against Jared Allen.

Luck is a willing, eager blocker when in a position to make hits on reverses.

Castonzo wasn’t quite as sharp in pass protection as he usually plays in this game. He fell behind in the count a few times and had to play in recovery mode.

Luck made an amazing seam throw to T.Y. Hilton on third-and-23 for a touchdown. A spread set, five vertical patterns. It was against a spread Cover-3, Luck fit it between cornerback and safety (not hard) but also over the dropping under-4 safety (very, very hard).

Aaron Schatz: I rewound to look, and Joseph comes at Hilton running at an angle like he's coming from the sideline, dives and just misses him. That makes me think Joseph wasn't on Hilton getting beat. And I don't think they would put Glover Quin on Hinton man-to-man. So I'm guessing that's a zone. But I do feel like Quin is the one who should have been closer to that play, not Joseph. Dunno if I'm right, of course.

Nope, based on a replay showing the whole field, it was Quintin Demps who was supposed to be the deep safety and was too far to the other side of the field. Definitely looked like Joseph had nothing to do with letting that play happen, and just realized what was happening late and tried to make a very good play and missed.

Rivers McCown: Quintin Demps has been as bad as any safety in Texans history this year. And this is a team that started C.C. Brown, Glenn Earl, and Matt Stevens for multiple seasons.

Aaron Schatz: Very impressive by Andrew Luck to make third-down conversions on the drive that iced the game. The Texans kept needing to get the ball back and needing to get the ball back, and they just couldn't do it. No matter what I've said about the Colts this year being overrated and winning lots of close games against poor opponents, and how much their defense sucks, the fact is, Luck was everything he was advertised to be and he's the biggest reason they'll make the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 23

Rob Weintraub: Both teams come in talking about avoiding injuries in this one as the playoffs loom. So BenJarvus Green-Ellis tweaks a hammy in pre-game warmups and won't play, then Vonta Leach goes down on the second play of the game. Oy.

Tyrod Taylor comes in and options his way down the field for a touchdown, the first the Bengals defense has allowed in the first quarter this season since ... the season-opener. Against the Ravens.

Marvin Jones at last gets his first touchdown, after a few close calls. A.J. Green, Jones, and a healthy Mohamed Sanu would be a nice troika going forward, especially if Cincy can add an explosive element like Tavon Austin from West Virginia.

Move over J.J. -- Carlos Dunlap with a phenomenal play to deflect a pass by Taylor, grab it, and sidestep double-T for the pick six. 23-14 Cincy.

No roll over from the Ravens -- they fake a punt on fourth-and-1 down nine with five minutes left, and get it.

The Bengals recover an onside kick and win the backup bowl over the Ravens 23-17, thus beating Pittsburgh and Baltimore to end the season -- regardless of circumstances, that's a good thing. Were it not for a maddening one-point loss to Dallas in a game that the Bengals dominated for 53 minutes, Cincy would be 8-0 in the second half of the season.

I'm now in the uncomfortable position of rooting for New England so the Bengals can get some vengeance on the Texans next week. And, of course, not have to go to Foxboro, or Foxborough.

Rivers McCown: Of all the rivalries in the NFL, Texans-Bengals is definitely one of them.

Philadelphia Eagles 7 at New York Giants 42

Danny Tuccitto: Eagles started the game with an onside kick. Can't remember the last time I saw that.

Vince Verhei: Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer says it's the fifth time in the Andy Reid era that the Eagles have started with an onside kick.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles linebackers just look awful today. They were supposed to be so much better this year, with Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans, but the Eagles are still just 24th in defensive DVOA, and the Giants are slicing through these guys today. Some of it may be scheme. Ahmad Bradshaw got loose on a wheel route because DeMeco Ryans had to come all the way over from the other side to cover him, but then Ryans couldn't tackle him anyway. And Jamar Chaney just got beat in coverage for the Giants' third touchdown.

Kendricks is out today, so that at least somewhat explain the extra struggles of the Eagles linebackers today.

Tom Gower: Andy Reid, how do you square an onside kick to open the game with a punt on fourth-and-5 from the Giants 41 down 35-7?

New York Jets 9 at Buffalo Bills 28

Vince Verhei: Mark Sanchez starts out 1-of-4 for three yards with a pick-six. He threw it into a crowd of three Bills with nothing but green turf in front of them. I'm really, really going to miss the 2012 Jets.

Sanchez tries a deep curl route on the sideline to Clyde Gates. The pass is overthrown, which in this case means it goes behind Gates, who has to try and reach behind him for it, leaving him wide open to get driven into the turf by the defender. Looked like Sanchez was throwing to the spot where Gates made his cut, not where he was cutting to.

I would be remiss if I didn't take note of the equally inept Buffalo offense, which has four first downs on four possessions. They have 132 yards, exactly half of them on a slant-and-go across the middle to C.J. Spiller. He's still terrifying in the open field. Breaking news, I know.

Spiller fumbles on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. The next Jets drive proceeds as follows: run for a loss, incomplete shovel pass, draw on third-and-12, field-goal attempt. Keep in mind, they think they'd do worse than this with Tim Tebow.

Ben Muth: A draw on third-and-12 from the Buffalo 17. This angered the Football Gods, who smote (smited, smoted?) them on the next play with a blocked field-goal attempt.

I will not miss the 2012 Jets.

Vince Verhei: Bills finally chain a couple of first downs together, and the slant over the middle continues to be their best weapon. The drive stalls and they too miss a field goal. On the next play, Sanchez play-fakes, pump-fakes, and then gets the ball stripped and the Bills recover. I believe Tebow has been in for one play, where he handed off.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Tennessee Titans 38

Tom Gower: The Titans are really excitingly bad on defense. Keith Toston, getting his first work since December 2010 (10, not 11), ripped off chunks of yardage on the opening drive, and I have no idea who was supposed to be covering Jordan Shipley on the first Jacksonville touchdown. On the second touchdown, the Titans blitzed, Justin Blackmon caught a quick slant, and Alterraun Verner and Al Afalava blew tackles. Aaron, you're going to send me a cranky email in the offseason when I chart this game and record 47 broken tackles.

The Jaguars are up 14-7 after two possession for each team, and it should be 14-14 as Nate Washington dropped a seam throw from Jake Locker that could have gone for six. The first Tennessee touchdown was set up by a successful deep pass from Locker to Lavelle Hawkins, who's spent most of this season on a milk carton. These defenses are so bad even these two offenses can have success against them.

After I sent that earlier email, the Titans stopped doing anything productive on offense for the normal variety of reasons, but still go into halftime with a 21-14 lead thanks to a Zach Brown pick-6 (finally taking advantage of one of Chad Henne's repeated attempts to throw an interception) and a punt-return score. Quality of play is still pretty low, but it's been entertaining for a meaningless Week 17 game.

Titans start the second half with another punt-return score and another pick-6 by Brown. They now lead 35-14, after scoring 28 straight points without running an offensive play. Henne airmails Blackmon and the pass goes right to Michael Griffin, but he's tackled inside the 10, ending the run. (Plus, an illegal block would've wiped out any potential touchdown.)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22 at Atlanta Falcons 17

Tom Gower: John Abraham was apparently carted off in the fourth quarter of the Bucs-Falcons game, and all starters are still in. Tampa leads 22-10 (they went for 2 and missed, thanks Greg Schiano).

Oakland Raiders 21 at San Diego Chargers 24

Vince Verhei: Chargers return the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Oakland. Camera cuts to Norv for his reaction, but the real highlight is Charlie Whitehurst in the background, jumping up and down like the guy at the end of the bench in a college basketball game.

Tom Gower: Terrelle Pryor hits a fade route for a touchdown, Raiders now down 10-7. Pryor still has some young quarterback moments, but he's looking at least semi-competent.

Green Bay Packers 34 at Minnesota Vikings 37

Andy Benoit: As usual, Christian Ponder’s first pass was a play-action rollout to Kyle Rudolph. (Rudolph was the second target, first read was Michael Jenkins underneath but he got taken away by a hard jam.) A.J. Hawk did a tremendous job taking on Adrian Peterson’s pass block to crumble the pocket.

On third-and-7, the Packers rushed three and used Clay Matthews as a spy on Ponder. Man-free coverage, but Rudolph beat Jerron McMillian from the tight slot for conversion.

When the Packers go to full house backfield, there's a very high likelihood that they run the ball. There’s a lot less deception and trickery in their offense than you’d guess. Their play-calling tends to match with what you’d expect from the formations.

Matthews consistently exploding off the edge past Matt Kalil. Just incredibly fast.

Ponder is throwing well on third down, getting through his progressions well. Jarius Wright continues to be a more-involved component of the offense. Minnesota just brought him out of the backfield on his touchdown reception in the flat. Wright is starting to fill the Percy Harvin duties just a bit.

Greg Jennings' second touchdown was a busted coverage in the short red zone by Chris Cook. He played man when the coverage was clearly zone.

Rob Weintraub: Boy, Mike McCarthy just threw a challenge flag on what was a terrible fumble call. Review discovered that it was indeed a touchdown on a lunge by James Jones. McCarthy got away with it because the "booth initiated a review before the flag was thrown," so instead of Minny ball on its own 1, it's a touchdown for the Pack, and they kick off from 15 yards further back. Aaron Rodgers went ballistic when he saw the flag, figuring they were going to get screwed, but they didn't.

Remember, Jim Schwartz is in this division.

Ben Muth: At this point, Mike McCarthy trying to challenge that fumble is ridiculously stupid. Can't imagine a coach not knowing the rules after Thanksgiving.

Rob Weintraub: I'm usually sympathetic to coaches and players getting caught up in the heat of the moment during games, but yeah, McCarthy letting his emotions get the best of him in that scenario would have been a disaster.

Andy Benoit: James Jones is doing a very good job blocking downfield for his fellow receivers.

Ponder's first downfield shot was to Wright off play-action. Perfect throw over the top, Wright got by Sam Shields with a double move. Extremely well set-up and executed play. 65 yards.

Ponder’s third-and-goal touchdown to Jenkins was alarmingly similar to the two interceptions he threw in the previous meeting with Packers. The play worked, but M.D. Jennings was in perfect position to intercept it.

Rob Weintraub: M.D. Jennings somehow has a pick go right through his arms, 34-27 Vikings.

Aaron Schatz: Jarrett Boykin from the Packers just caught a pass on fourth-and-2 while A.J. Jefferson was practically trying to get into his uniform. One of the most egregious defensive pass interferences I've seen and he caught it anyway. Pretty good.

However, the Vikings have Rodgers under a ton of pressure. He hit the Boykin pass fast, but any time he has to wait even more than a second, it seems like the Vikings are on him.

Andy Benoit: Everson Griffen beat Don Barclay with speed around the edge for a sack. Two plays later, Barclay committed a false start. Two plays later, Griffen kicked his ass again and forced a Rodgers incompletion. Rodgers has been under siege throughout the game.

Rivers McCown: Griffen really stood out to me charting the Texans-Vikings game. I don't think Minnesota has lost anything in moving him into the lineup for Brian Robison -- and Robison is a hell of a player.

Aaron Schatz: I'm a little confused why the Packers go into a loose "prevent"-style zone in a tied game. The Vikings get Jenkins easily open on the outside for a long completion.

Andy Benoit: Big mistake by Casey Hayward, he stayed in the shallow flat when there was no threat there. He guarded grass. Hayward is an interior corner, on that play he was on the outside. Unfamiliar territory for the rookie.

Rob Weintraub: 33 carries is plenty, but I'm a little surprised that it's the career-high in a game for a guy like Peterson.

On the 34th he shows his greatness, ripping off a huge run to leave him only nine yards shy of Dickerson. Wow. But Blair Walsh is on for the field goal.

It's good, Vikes in, Bears out, run this baby back next week in Wisconsin!

Arizona Cardinals 13 at San Francisco 49ers 27

Danny Tuccitto: I haven't been as verklempt as others about what's happened since Justin Smith's injury, so my one thought about today's 49ers game is that, if the defense gives up 20 points or more to Brian Hoyer and company, then commence verklemptness. Giving up 100 or whatever it was to Seattle is one thing. Even twenty to Arizona is quite another.

Ben Muth: LaMichael James sighting in San Francisco. Caught a toss and reversed his field immediately (designed) and followed Joe Staley outside for about 15 yards. He made a couple of guys miss in the open field too.

Danny Tuccitto: After David Akers misses yet another field goal, the Niners are still stuck on zero points. One thing I've noticed since catching up on some game charting -- and it's happening again so far today -- is that the offense is average at best when Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman don't feature those exotic personnel groups, formations, shifts, and motions in the game plan. Just now, after a quarter full of traditional offense, they switch to the play Ben described and James nets a big gain.

Ben Muth: Offensive lineman Senio Kelemete just high-pointed a tipped pass to take it away from a defensive lineman for a five-yard gain. This has been my favorite offensive play of the 2012 Cardinals.

Rob Weintraub: I was about to write that Austin Pettis made the catch of the day for the Rams, catching a deflected pass by out-fighting Seahawks defensive back Jeremy Lane for the touchdown.

But then Kelemete made that grab to save a pick, Peko/Polamalu hairdo flying in the Bay breeze, and we had a new leader. Couldn't tell if his name was spelled right, as his 'do obscures his name on his jersey.

Akers blows yet another straightforward field goal. Do we have numbers on the worst seasons by kickers for postseason teams, and how they performed in the playoffs?
You just know either Akers or Mason Crosby, if not both, will have huge kicks to decide a playoff game. Just the nature of sports.

Aaron Schatz: Worst FO FG/XP values on playoff teams, 1991-2011

2007 IND -12.4 - Adam Vinatieri 1-for-1 in Colts' only playoff game.
2005 CHI -11.9 - Robbie Gould had no field-goal attempts in Bears' only playoff game. A lot better after his rookie season, of course.
1997 MIN -11.8 - used both Greg Davis and Eddie Murray. Murray 3-of-4 in playoffs, miss was from 48
2001 PIT -11.5 - Kris Brown, 3-of-5 in playoffs with a miss from 35 and a blocked field goal from 34 famously returned by the Pats for a touchdown
1995 SF -10.9 - this negative value was all Doug Brien and Tony Zendejas, Jeff Wilkins took over at midseason and was fine.
2009 DAL -10.7 - cut Nick Folk in favor of Shaun Suisham two games before the playoffs.
1995 IND -10.5 - Cary Blanchard 4-of-7 in playoffs, but Colts make surprising run to AFC Championship game anyway.
1991 CHI -10.0 - Kevin Butler 2-of-2 in Bears' 17-13 loss in wild card round. Wait, wasn't that guy the head of Playstation or something?
1991 HOIL -9.3 - replaced Ian Howfield with Al Del Greco at midseason. Del Greco 2-of-4 in playoffs, missed from 46 and 33 but did hit from 53 against the Jets in the wild card game.
2009 NO -9.2 - replaced John Carney with Garrett Hartley at midseason, Hartley wasn't much better than Carney in regular season, but he was 5-of-5 as Saints won Super Bowl.

So it looks like in general, the worst kickers of playoff teams haven't really cost their teams much. Kris Brown may be the exception. However, Akers and Crosby are probably going to be the new 1-2 on this list. So we'll have to see. And of course I'm not tracking here any time that these teams didn't try a field goal in the playoffs because of a lack of trust in their kickers.

Rivers McCown: In Eddie Murray's defense, he'd just retired from baseball earlier in the season.

Rob Weintraub: Akers just got roughed pretty hard on a PAT attempt, and was writhing as Red Zone cut away, of course. Might the kicking issue take care of itself?

Danny Tuccitto: I have no idea how much this happens in general, but NaVorro Bowman just made a special teams tackle with under four minutes left in a 27-6 Week 17 game.

Rivers McCown: The 49ers should clearly stop trying to run up the score, says Rob Gronkowski.

Danny Tuccitto: OK, so the defense gave up less than 20 points, and the offensive shenanigans returned to a certain extent. To boot, the Packers lost. Consider me completely non-verklempt.

Miami Dolphins 0 at New England Patriots 28

Aaron Schatz: Patriots offense looks very crisp in first three drives. Aaron
Hernandez looks like his ankle is healthier than the last couple weeks. And New England's pass rush is definitely pressuring Ryan Tannehill, but the Dolphins just took advantage of this with a great play call, sending Tannehill up the middle on a quarterback draw to convert on third-and-7.

Tannehill is very mobile, which we all knew, but I'm impressed with the fact that he's always looking to throw the ball when he escapes the pocket instead of just tucking it to run.

Rob Ninkovich just went down with a knee injury for Pats. Reasonably sizeable loss to their pass rush.

Rivers McCown: I am probably the only person on the planet who thinks of Yaridovich when I hear Ninkovich, but now maybe you will too.

Andy Benoit: The Patriots are getting a lot of mileage out of outside screen concepts. (Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, mainly.)

Aaron Schatz: Tannehill gets up after a sack, stumbles, clearly has a concussion -- a "light" concussion is still a concussion -- somehow doesn't get checked out by the doctors, and goes back on the field on the next drive even though this game means absolutely nothing for Miami in the long run. Not cool.

It's being discussed on Twitter, but for those who haven't seen, Rob Gronkowski is essentially playing with one arm today. He's even blocking with one arm. In fact, he's blocking well with one arm. Catching, not so much. He could use another week off.

St. Louis Rams 13 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends with no score in Seattle. Rams have done nothing on offense, and they lost a timeout when Jeff Fisher challenged a third-down spot at his own 21. Even if you win, the reward there hardly seems worth the risk. Seattle's offense has moved the ball well, and appeared to score a go-ahead touchdown on a pass to Zach Miller, but the play was (correctly) called back for offensive pass interference on Anthony McCoy, who set a pick on the play.

Otherwise, the Rams have been getting pressure up the middle, and that has led to a lot of third-and-longs that have led to punts.

Hey! The Rams have a punter who went to Bothell High School! How did I not know that?! For Gods sake, Johnny Hekker threw a touchdown against Seattle earlier this year and I still didn't know he went to Bothell. (Bothell's a Seattle suburb, and my hometown, for the vast majority of people reading this who have no idea why I care.)

Seahawks kick a field goal to go up 3-0. Their three drives have ended with failed plays on third-and-12, third-and-18, and third-and-17.

Seahawks opt to punt on fourth-and-1 at midfield inside the two-minute warning. The ball goes into the end zone for a touchback. They have three points and have given up five sacks and I am frustrated.

Aaron Schatz: Do you have any thought on general trends as to why the offense isn't working for them today? This is quite a surprise after the last few games.

Rob Weintraub: Legatron misses a 51-yard FG. He's come crashing down to earth with such a thud that his new nickname should be Skylab.

Vince Verhei: The offensive line is out of sync and not playing well as a unit. Chris Long got one of the sacks because Breno Giacomini moved outside to pick up a blitzer. Obviously he thought J.R. Sweezy would pick up Long, but nobody did and Long got an easy sack.

It's most frustrating because Seattle is getting some of the help they need for the 2 seed -- Vikings lead Green Bay and Arizona is trailing by just a point as I write this -- but it won't matter if they can't take care of their own business.

The offensive line is not playing well individually either. Long just beat Giacomini straight-up for a sack on third down, though Seattle was able to kick a field goal anyway. They still trail 7-6.

I also think the Seahawks are using more read-option looks than normal, and the Rams are very prepared for it, although I haven't been tracking it or anything. It's been part of their offense since at least October, but it now appears to be Plan A and Plan B.

Tom Gower: Really impressed by the power with which Steven Jackson is running against the Seahawks. Guys are just bouncing off him at times. This is not how the Seahawks defense normally looks, I don't think.

Vince Verhei: Well, it's funny, the Seahawks defense has drastically improved over the course of the season because they've been getting a ton of turnovers. But in the process the run defense has tailed off. I don't know why that would be, unless there's an abundance of guys missing tackles and trying to rip the ball out.

Russell Wilson hits Michael Robinson for a touchdown. That's his 26th touchdown pass of the season, tying Peyton Manning's rookie record with one more quarter to go. The drive was all Wilson scrambling and finding open guys in zone coverage. Remember those sacks, because his other numbers (12-15-183-1-0) are outstanding.

Seahawks try the surprise onside kick afterwards and it almost works like a charm, with Kam Chancellor getting an easy recovery. But the ball didn't travel ten yards, so St. Louis gets it at the Seahawks' 45.

Your no-balls of the day award: Following the onside kick, Rams get a fourth-and-goal at the 1. Jeff Fisher, whose team isn't going to playoffs so he has nothing to lose, elects to kick the tying field goal instead of trying a go-ahead touchdown.

San Francisco's win is final and the result of Seattle's game is now irrelevant. They're locked into the five seed, at either Dallas or Washington next week. May as well sit everyone, though I don't expect that to happen. Sure enough, here come Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and company with about five minutes left in a tie game.

Dallas Cowboys 18 at Washington Redskins 28

Aaron Schatz: I never expected that Cris Collinsworth would be one of the people to fall into the "DeAngelo Hall is a great cornerback" trap, but he keeps talking about the Dez Bryant-vs.-Hall matchup as a matchup of strength against strength.

Vince Verhei: While Michaels and Collinsworth (and many on Twitter) were crediting the Dallas line for great protection, nobody pointed out that Washington only rushed three on the play. (Although they did cover it at halftime.)

Tom Gower: Romo's two interceptions were both terrible and disheartening considering how well he's played for much of this year (again, his grief-per-error is probably highest of any NFL quarterback). The Jason Witten touchdown was a delay of game, which reminded me of the Ravens in Nashville in the 2008 postseason and, yes, a 3-man rush. Hall struggled in coverage against Bryant, because Hall is overrated in the eyes of most fans. I'm impressed with the general level of Washington's defensive performance given what the've lost to injuries, particularly Brian Orakpo.

Rivers McCown: Generally speaking, I feel like it's much harder to add depth to games done by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.

Aaron Schatz: Basically agree with Tom.

Vince Verhei: I do like your GPE point on Romo, and completely agree.

Mike Tanier: Grief Per Error should be a stat.

Vince Verhei: I think Romo is a good pick for one endpoint. The other, historically, would be Brett Favre. Not sure who would fit among active quarterbacks. Eli? Roethlisberger?

Danny Tuccitto: The Saints' Charles Brown leads the league in Good Grief Per Error.

Vince Verhei: For weeks now, I was pretty sure that my picks for Rookie of the Year would be 1) Robert Griffin, 2) Wilson, (big gap) 3) Luck. Based on what he's done tonight, and looking at his year-long numbers, I'd move Alfred Morris ahead of Luck, and I might not stop there.

Aaron Schatz: It will be interesting to see when some NFL defensive coordinator finally comes up with a good defensive response to the rise of the pistol and read option in the NFL. It's going to happen, it always does. Everything is cyclical.

Matt Waldman: Or, perhaps it will be a college coordinator. Nevada's Chris Ault was behind the pistol, so perhaps a college coach provides the response.

Aaron Schatz: Well, my guess is that it may be something that requires the higher level of athlete that an NFL defense will have at most positions instead of just one or two.

Matt Waldman: That's a great point. At the same time, look at Dallas' defense of the `90s and it was really a defense that the Miami Hurricanes used to dominate (and that Jimmy Johnson also used at Arkansas). The fact that the college game is structured in a way where teams can dominate in terms of recruiting, I still wouldn't be surprised if it is a college team.

Danny Tuccitto: Agree. Defenses will adapt to read option (quickly, I think), and then offenses will start running even more pistol slice plays (per Chris Brown's tweet, Washington already ran a successful one in this game), and so on and so on.

Mike Tanier: Just wanna point out that the Redskins have 14 points in the fourth quarter. Not exactly an offensive onslaught. If the Redskins were doing this with conventional offense, we wouldn't blink.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I spent time the last two days charting as Buffalo ran around desperately confused by the Seattle option plays, so I'm not really just thinking about Washington here.

Oh, and they just scored again, so hey! 21 points.

Tom Gower: I can't help but think the Cowboys would be handling the Redskins rushing attack better if both Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were healthy.

Matt Waldman: On another note, I spent yesterday studying Cincinnati tight end/wingback Travis Kelce, who is the lead back in the pistol offense for the Bearcats. He would be a great pick for the Redskins, who lack a quality blocking tight end who is healthy and doesn't act as his own counsel in the courtroom. Kelce is a fantastic blocker and a strong receiver. Fred Davis might have to open a shingle for family law...

Aaron Schatz: I just don't understand why Collinsworth keeps talking about how good he thinks Hall is. He's really not normally the guy who falls for the idea that "faster equals better." The Redskins pass rush is stopping Romo a lot more than Hall is.

Danny Tuccitto: Going to throw something completely contrarian out there. Having watched Reggie Bush all year, and having heard of Darren McFadden's struggles, I'm starting to believe more and more that a back with replacement-level skills who's proficient in reading zone blocks can excel in said scheme. I know the word "system" is a pejorative when describing a player, but I just don't see Alfred Morris -- he of the 92 Speed Score -- as some elite talent worthy of more than a pat on the back for great execution (a plaudit to be sure). Kudos to Shanahan and company for plucking him out of the late rounds, but that's essentially his/their M.O., right?

Tom Gower: I concur with Danny.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I've been having this fight on Twitter for the last 20 minutes with Redskins fans who think they've found the next Adrian Peterson instead of the next Olandis Gary. Probably something in between, honestly.

I think the other problem with Morris is the natural fan inclination to give all the attention to players at the "skill positions." Therefore, one big game by Morris should put him into the rookie of the year race, but nobody is talking about Bobby Wagner or Casey Hayward or Lavonte David or Chandler Jones, and what they mean to their teams.

Dallas finally wins a one-on-one between a wide receiver and a cornerback in man coverage as Kevin Ogletree gets a touchdown, but one of the reasons they finally win I think is that it had nothing to do with speed, it was just about Ogletree using his body to shield rookie Richard Crawford away from the ball.

Oh, and look, Dwayne Harris then reaches out to catch a ball that Romo throws away from Crawford in much the same way, and they get the two-point conversion. I think if the Cowboys end up driving to come back down three, they're going to go after Mr. Crawford.

Tom Gower: Remember how the Cowboys had that fourth-down punt at the end of the first half, and the Redskins had like 14 guys on the field for a while? Remember when the Cowboys could have snapped the ball and gotten at least a penalty, and had a reasonable field-goal chance? Had they made that, that two-point conversion would have resulted in a tie game, not the 21-18 score we have right now.

Danny Tuccitto: And there's your season-killing pick by Romo to make everyone forget that he's actually been pretty damn good in high-leverage situations this year.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, Romo just made one of those awful Romo decisions with the high Grief-to-Error ratio. Floated a pass to a receiver outside and didn't understand that the linebacker over there was falling into a zone instead of coming on the pass rush.

Vince Verhei: Perhaps that interception on the swing pass partially explains why his GPE is so high. I believe that's going to put him in the lead league for interceptions thrown, and more to the point, it seems like he throws way more ugly interceptions than anyone else.

Rivers McCown: That registers as at least +0.78 grief-to-error shares for Romo.

Tom Gower: Let's just ignore that the Cowboys have given up 255 yards rushing and most of what they've done positive has been the result of Tony Romo making plays on his own and claim this loss is solely because LOLny Romo.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I will say this about Romo. It seems like a ridiculous number of his picks are the result of reading the defense wrong and throwing a hot read that either Romo misreads or Romo's receiver midreads leaving Romo throwing to a place that has a defender rather than a receiver. I there something about the coaching in Dallas that these guys just can't seem to get the hot reads down properly?

Rivers McCown: Yeah, constant miscommunication on offense seems to be a theme for the recent Cowboys teams. I'm a little more inclined to blame that on Bryant based on the smoke that they blow, but Romo and Jason Garrett do deserve a lot of blame as well.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 31 Dec 2012

107 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2013, 7:19pm by Bjorn Nittmo


by jimmy bones (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:34am

I really don't think the broadcast was talking about DeAngelo Hall as elite. Just that he was the guy that was matched up against Bryant (and he did a decent job). I don't think anyone thinks Hall is an elite corner anymore and the constant slagging of him is becoming a 'smart' football fan crutch much like the Jeter defense arguments in baseball. The point has been made and won.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:36pm

If Collinsworth wasn't saying that Hall is elite per se, he was certainly pumping him up and portraying him as Bryant's equal. The Redskins fans I watched the game with were horrified.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:09pm

Hall just had his annual "big game in front of a national audience" last night. It's just enough to keep casual fans and Redskins coaches believing that he's elite.

by Atocep :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 9:44pm

At one point Collinsworth said it was a matchup between the best on both sides of the ball.

I think that could definitely be seen as being referred to as elite.

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 9:44am

I thought he meant simply that the Redskins had their best cover corner matched against the Cowboys best WR.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:41am

It is an interesting week when Patriots fans are rooting for the Colts and Bears fans are rooting for the Packers.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:42am

At the beginning of the second quarter, at the Minnesota 41, Mike McCarthy first elected to send the offense back out for 4th and 11 and then, rather than take the delay of game, which would not have hurt them at all, threw away a timeout. Then, later in the quarter, after he'd used two more timeouts, Ponder's arm got hit on a pass, sending the ball floating in the air and eventually hitting the ground just before Jarius Wright could corral it. It was called a catch, although the referee immediately looked around the field for confirmation from somebody who actually saw the ball. Because the Packers had no timeouts, they could not win this easy reversal. The Vikings went on to score on that drive, putting the Packers in a 13-point deficit.

There are many more direct causes for the Bears missing the playoffs, most of them involving how Lovie chooses to play with a lead, but I'm most angry right now at McCarthy, a coach who can't understand that you don't call a timeout before a short punt. I was actually okay with rooting for the Packers--chance to root for a competent offense for a change--but it appears it's not so easy to get away from idiotic coaching.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:16pm

Reports are that Lovie Smith is gone now, and I'm OK with that (I do have mixed feelings, but I think in general, he had maxed out his stay in Chicago).

That said, Lovie never had a game as bad as the one McCarthy just did. The wasted timeouts in the first half, the challenge flag on a turnover (just inexcusable), and the stored timeouts in the second half (he had two left when he decided to ice Walsh's 29-yard game-winner) were all just awful, awful in-game moves. And the Packers had yet another slow start, and it finally bit them.

I'd take Lovie Smith over Mike McCarthy eight days a week.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:24pm

I was a Packers fan for exactly 3-1/2 hours, and I want McCarthy fired. That was a travesty.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:13pm

I've said it on this site several times. McCarthy is an excellent game week coach, but I've often questioned his game day management. I was asked last year when I said I think he should play calling off, who should have it. My response was Joe Philbin. Maybe this year it should have been Tom Clements. Take the play calling away and maybe he doesn't screw up the time management as much as he tends to.

That being said this was one of the worst games as far as the management goes. Also if you are to believe Aaron Rodgers at least one of the first half time outs, that Rodgers, not McCarthy, called was because the refs were being abysmally slow with spotting the ball. I've never seen Rodgers get as aggravated as he was with the refs.

So if outlier performance is more important than median performance I can understand why you'd take Lovie over McCarthy, but I'll still take the normal McCarthy over the normal Smith, even though I agree that McCarthy has game day issues.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:23pm

Lovie Smith also excelled in the six days leading up to Sunday. And from what I've seen of McCarthy, he's worst than Lovie during most games, not just this past one, so I don't really consider it an outlier.

In my opinion, Lovie's the better coach, but McCarthy has the much, much better QB. And for most of their tenures, the better GM as well.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:39pm

I think if you swapped coaches and kept everything else the same that the Bears and Packers recent history would look similar. I wasn't trying to say Smith was a bad coach, and if McCarthy loses in the first round of the playoffs this year, he will be on the hot seat in 2013. At least McCarthy generally challenges things that should be challenged, I think his worst year was 4 of 9, generally he wins more challenges than he loses. I'm not sure Smith has ever had a single season where he has won more than than half of his challenges. I've also seen him do some very boneheaded time management and play calls.

I do like the Smith tends to not try as and be as tricky and McCarthy can be, the problem is that McCarthy's tricks work more than the fail. He has also made quite a few excellent decisions on punting/not punting. He is more likely to go for it in situations where people on this site get on on coaches for not going for it. Smith tends to be conservative more frequently. I've seen McCarthy make the management calls that lead to winning games several times too.

I really don't think Smith and McCarthy are that different overall. They have different strengths and weaknesses, and McCarthy's strengths still over come his weaknesses.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:16pm

I don't disagree with any of this. They are very, very similar coaches.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:18pm

When GB was looking to go for it on 4th and 11, I believe the refs still had two balls on the field with 8 seconds left on the play clock. Given that GB ended up punting they would have been better off just taking a delay of game, but the timeout that they force to take could have been the one that they would have used to challenge the pop fly one-hopper to Wright.

I also think the the criticism of McCarthy is way overblown. The timeouts didn't appear to be caused by late play calls from the sidelines, and ended up being mostly well used, as GB ended up with TDs on at least one possession after a timeout. I believe that it's generally worth burning a timeout to get the right play in goal-to-go situations.

More importantly, GB averages about 9 yards per pass and 5 yards per run, so blaming GB's offense for any part of that loss is ridiculous. It was the defense that didn't hold up its end in this game, between poor tackling, a few big blown coverages on inferior receivers, and killer penalties on 3rd downs when the Vikings were in goal-to-go situations.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:37pm

That was the point I was trying to make. Even if the refs were at fault there, it's a bad idea to take a timeout there when a delay of game is possibly even beneficial, and without that timeout they had to let that Wright catch stand.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 12:13pm

Being the pessimist I am, I correctly predicted that the Bears would win to keep their playoff hopes alive, but that the Vikings would beat the Packers. Leave it to the Packers to lose the one game of the season that I want them to win.

Anyway, while I think any type of penalty for throwing the challenge flag on an automatically-reviewed play is ridiculous (just ignore it), I don't understand how you refuse to review the play for the Lions but not for the Packers. The explanation that the review was already underway is unsatisfying to me. (Also, what about the Packers player who ran over and picked up the flag, then tried to hide it? Shouldn't there be some type of unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for that?)

by GregK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:47am

As a Redskin fan, I agree about Morris for the most part. He is not AD and is a replacement level "talent." That being said, he has been astonishingly productive all year, whereas people with all the talent in the world never put up the same numbers. The ability to execute should not be dismissed so easily.

Anyways, my real point of this comment was to harken back to an article Chris Brown wrote last year for Grantland. Essentially, Harbaugh took away all sight adjustments/hot reads from Smith when he took over as 49ers coach, and voila--Alex Smith is a "good" QB. Can't help but thinking Romo could be helped by the same practice, as those INTS are so crippling and so reoccurring.

by Tim Wilson :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:23pm

Tough to say if that'd be a good change. I think we can agree Romo is a far superior QB to pre-Harbaugh Alex Smith. And many of Romo's great plays do involve hot reads or at-the-line audibles (you can hear him yelling "Kill!" many times before snap), particularly in cases where he sees single coverage on Dez or Austin and goes to them.

I'm a Cowboys fan, and it's tough for me to figure out what a solution to these mistakes might be. Last year, Romo had one of the lowest bad decision percentages in the league (he was behind only Brady and Rodgers, I believe). And for the past 6 weeks, he had been excellent. And then you get a game like this. I'm one of those who fully believe Romo is a very good QB and the Cowboys would be nowhere near 8-8 without him...but these mistakes do keep popping up and I can't really figure out why, given his extreme success for other periods.

As a side note, Romo suffered a broken rib in the 2nd quarter last night. Not sure if that changes our opinion of his play at all (not the first two INTs, but everything after). Probably not, the last INT was a bad read, not a physical issue.

by Joe T. :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:39pm

Morris is replacement-level, but has above replacement-level production?

I don't see why you deny he has "talent" - excellent patience behind the line, good vision, good ball security, nice burst, the ability to power through defenders. These are all skills essential to the system he runs in, and he is above average at minimum in all of them.

Morris isn't a complete back but if he were truly "replacement-level" Evan Royster would have received more than 23 carries this season. Royster average 4+ yards per carry last year, is a better receiver and can block.

Michaels and Collinsworth kept talking last night about what a great back Murray was, but his production is right there at "replacement-level."

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:44pm

He's not a replacement level talent. He gained over 1600 yards this year. I doubt Roy Helu or any other backs on the Redskins roster could replicate that level of productivity. He's an excellent (top 10) back - not Adrian Peterson, but who is? He's shown power, patience, vision, and some open field ability. Those things don't often come in one package. Instead of thinking of him as a "system" back, why don't people think that Shanahan is great at identifying RB talent because he values intelligence at the position over combine attributes?

FO citing Speed Score continues to be disappointing. I think it's been well demonstrated that the number is useless and doesn't contribute anything to an intelligent discussion. Yes - larger, faster backs are more likely to excel because they're better athletes. But there's a lot more involved with the RB position at the NFL level, and guys like Morris, Ray Rice, Stevan Ridley, etc. prove that. It makes no sense that a site as intelligent as FO evaluates talent based on something as stupid and meaningless as a 40 yard dash time. Particularly considering that FO argues consistent 5 yard gains are more useful than RBs who get stuffed 9 times and then break a big run.

by jimbohead :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:01pm

Is he really top 10? There are a lot of guys I'd argue for ahead of him, on a talent level. He's been crazy successful, but he's a shanna-back, with a couple mods, if you will (running qbs help rb production, and the pistol isn't well-adjusted for in NFL defenses). That doesn't mean he's not great, because clearly he is. There are just a lot of really good backs out there.

by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:32pm

Just running through my head guys that are better/at his skill level:
Ray Rice
Jamaal Charles
Arian Foster
Beast Mode
Shady McCoy
Steven Jackson
Doug Martin

And with some of those guys, I'm being pretty generous. Who knows how much gas Gore and Jackson have left. I guess you could include McFadden and Murray and maybe T-Rich, but Morris has been more consistent than them. He may not be an objective top-ten back, but he's at least in the discussion.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:47pm

FO has Morris #5 in DYAR and #8 in DVOA.

I would put him behind Peterson, Foster and Rice. Probably behind Charles, who is trapped in KC. The other highly rated RBs on FO are Spiller and Lynch. Spiller is much faster and would be considered elite if he were on a decent team. Lynch isn't elite - I would have Morris as his peer.

Gore is probably better, but I don't see much of him. Would also be concerned about his mileage (and Jackson's, and MJD's).

Doug Martin has the talent to be elite - more than Morris.

As a Pats' fan, I'm certainly dubious of the notion that Ridley is better than Morris. I would go the other way on that one.

In terms of Shanahan RBs, TD > Morris > Gary, obviously. If Morris produces at the Portis level (and he just broke Portis's Redskin rushing record), then he'll be just fine.

by Tino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:42pm

I think Mike Anderson is a more apt comparison than Olandis Gary. Anderson had a similarly monster rookie season as a 6th round pick for Shanahan in Denver in 2000, but had a disappointing 2nd year and was eventually relegated to FB duties after they drafted Clinton Portis.

But the overall point with Shanahan seems pretty clear: 1) He's had exceptional success with low-drafted RBs, 2) One great year does not guarantee he'll stick with them if another RB catches his eye.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:28pm

Re: Alfred Morris

A good comparison to Morris would be Arian Foster in Houston. Nobody is trying to argue Foster is anywhere close to replacement level, but he has similar strengths and weaknesses to Morris (he wasn't in high demand before 2010 either, going undrafted). Running in a zone/one-cut system requires different skills than running in a power blocking or other kind of system. The league as a whole undervalues those particular talents, meaning there are opportunities to find extremely effective players in the late rounds of the draft. Kudos to Shanahan and Kubiak for being smart enough to take advantage of this inefficiency.

Look at McFadden in Oakland--he's a tremendously talented player, but he STINKS in a one-cut zone system (and it proves Raiders coaches are clueless for trying to cram him and their o-line into a system that clearly doesn't suit them). Likewise, Morris probably wouldn't excel in a different system on a different team, but he's tremendously talented at doing the things the Redskins ask him to do.

by Zord (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:35pm

Arian Foster and Alfred Morris weren't on the NFL fans' radar for entirely different reasons. The Redskins deserve major kudos for grabbing Morris out of FAU, where he produced well at a small school. Arian Foster always had incredible talent and displayed it at Tennessee when he wasn't injured or in the Fulmer's doghouse. He missed the combine due to injury and likely performed poorly at his pro day because of the injury, that combined with his arrest history and the negative reviews from Tennessee coaches about his attitude and coachability were the major red flags that caused him to go undrafted. You have to credit Foster for showing great emotional growth allowing him to maximize his great talents as well as the Houston organization for giving him the support he needed when he needed it.

by Zord (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:38pm

Which is to say that I think Morris is only comparable to Foster in that they have ran productively in similar systems, but that Foster has much greater physical gifts. The Mike Anderson comparison is more apt in my opinion, and he had a couple of good years in Baltimore after Portis came to Denver.

by corrections (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:52pm

Without the sight adjustments and hot reads (Romo's improvisation) behind that line the Cowboys would be terrible and Romo would look worse.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:47am

Greg Zuerlein is still 14-16 on field goals less than 50 yards, and has hit 7 of 12 from beyond 50 yards. I fail to see how this is "crashing back to earth," unless you expect your kicker to be automatic from 50+.

by andrew :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:07pm

He was earlier, now he regressed to the mean.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:31pm

He made his first 15 kicks. I believe he's made less than 50% since.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:55am

Lack of playoff implications aside, did no one really see a minute of Panthers-Saints or is this another copy/paste error? They combined for 82 points, so they should have at least been seen in a lot of scoring udpates during other games.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:50pm

I don't think Carolina running roughshod over the Saints defence, and Drew Brees making some plays, is really note-worthy at this stage.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:55am

Tannehill coming back in was a bit ridiculous. He was clearly stumbling and confused.

It seems like a waste of time to make all these rules to prevent concussions when the doctors making the decisions are on the team's payroll.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:09pm

Same with Simpson in the Vikes game.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:57am

Grief-to-Error Ratio has non-football applications as well. Such as when my wife says her New Years resolution is to "get in shape" and then she waits for me to reply.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:22pm

appropriate answer is "I don't think you need it, but I have thoughts on how I can help you with your 'workout' if you so desire"

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:19pm

What?!? You have some thoughts about helping me get in shape? How long have you been thinking these thoughts?? Have you been sitting around all year thinking about how fat I am?!? WELL?!!?!?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:05pm

I'm not a psychologist, but women such your wife are clearly trying to lay the burden of their own insecurities on their spouses. The best way is probably to explain that if she doesn't love herself for who she is, there is no way you can compensate for that.

You see, she "knows" (thinks) she's overweight but she can't handle the "truth" (thought), so she manipulates you into acting out the role of the person who calls her a fatty. In other words, she's picking up a fight with her own self through you, and the purpose of that fight is for her to come to grips with who and what she is.

So better to cut to the chase, unless you want to repeat the scene endlessly.

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

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:12pm

That was very insightful. I'm impressed.

by Paul R :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 12:03am

Noah must have a comfy couch.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:19pm

Every married man: Danger!! Danger!!

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:31pm

There is only one proper response to this:
The Bill Cosby "confused dad" look. Feign confusion long enough and she will let it go.

Coincidently, I do believe Lovie Smith used this look frequently on the side line.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:58am

McCarthy got saved by his own stupidity on that attempted challenge of the Jones "fumble". But how did the officials ever rule fumble in the first place? The one official, who's sole job is to view the goalline for scores, kept ruling it a TD well after the play. Plus, it was clear Jones lost the ball when it hit the ground. Your choices at that point are TD or down short of the goal. Fumble never enters into it.

P.S. This was only moments after Peterson's "fumble" was overturned on replay (although it look like Peterson did drop the ball just before he hit the ground). Not sure where his knee was when the drop happened.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:24pm

You're right that calling the Jones play a fumble was pretty ridiculous. The ball obviously crossed the goal line prior to it coming loose, so the only call could be down at the one or touchdown.

That said, McCarthy's challenge-flag-throwing was inexcusable. And imagine if Jay Cutler had been screaming at his coach like Rodgers was. (Note that there's nothing wrong with what Rodgers did.)

The Peterson "fumble" was quite obviously down, in my opinion. He was still gripping the ball cleanly when his right knee touched the ground.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:33pm

That what I was wondering about the Peterson "fumble". At first, I thought the ball came out when the ball hit the ground. However, on replay the ball appeared to slip out prior to it hitting the ground. Hence no ground causing a fumble. What I was not sure on, and what I did not get a good look at, was whther Peterson's knee was down prior to when the ball slipped out.

by NYMike :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 1:39pm

I'm a big Packer fan, but I thought AP was down by contact, even in live action. I was surprised the play continued, and not surprised it was overturned.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 6:58am

"Obviously" may apply after watching a couple of slow-motion replays, but not so much when making the call on the field in real time. In this case, different officials saw different things, then got together and discussed it.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:56pm

The fumble call was horrible, Jones' entire body was on the ground.

I don't understand the "reviewing all scoring plays" rule. Since Jones was not ruled to have scored, but a fumble, they review it as a scoring play anyway? Review all plays that could be a score beyond a reasonable doubt?

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:11pm

All turnovers are also reviewed, based on a call from the replay booth directly to the official. The only way this play wasn't going to be automatically reviewed was if the ruling was that Jones was down by contact short of the goal line.

by Lyford :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:12pm

It's not just "all scoring plays" that are automatically reviewed - it's all scoring plays and all turnovers.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:13pm

They actually reviewed it because it was a turnover, though the announcers kept harping on the scoring part.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:01pm

All turnovers are reviewed according to the same rules as scoring plays.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:11pm

All turnovers are reviewed, not just scoring plays.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 7:02pm

Does anyone know if turnovers are automatically reviewed? Or is it just scoring plays?

by Schmoker (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 3:33am

I am sure you can Google for that.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:18pm

Two different officials were ruling two different things--one said fumble, one said touchdown. The official ruling, after the officials huddled together and figured out what they thought as a group, was that the result of the play was a touchdown. At that point, the play went to a review. The review official's choice at that point are what you said--either a TD or down short of the goal. So actually, even if McCarthy's flag had been seen before the replay official buzzed in or whatever, thereby nullifying the review, the result of the play would have been the same--touchdown Green Bay, 15 yard penalty assessed on the kickoff.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 11:54am

"The official ruling, after the officials huddled together and figured out what they thought as a group, was that the result of the play was a touchdown."

That's not right. The official ruling on the field before replay was a fumble, with the Vikings recovering. It was only a touchdown after the review.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:00pm

Re: Dallas punt with Washington Redskins substituting
No one on the broadcast pointed it out, but it looked like the officials were preventing the Cowboys from snapping, and they were giving the Redskins time to substitute personnel.

When they showed the all 22 replay, it looked like the official was standing in front of the punter.... and I think that is who Moorman was yelling at. I don't have DVR so I couldn't check it out and didn't think to at the time.

Aren't defenses allowed time to substitute? Did the Cowboys make a quick substitution?

by Mike Y :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:00pm

Nothing on Bears-Lions when the game had playoff implications at the time?

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:01pm

On the Kubiak 12 men challenge I think he got shafted by the cameras. The only replay I saw during the challenge, the one Dierdorf counted the players on, showed the Texans sideline. You'd think that if there was a 12th guy trying to get off the field he'd be headed towards the Colts'.

Maybe the ref was able to get another angle that showed Kubiak was wrong (you will get no argument from me about Kubiak being wrong on anything), but what the announcers went with showed the incorrect sideline to see if a Colt was trying to get off the field.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:01pm

Also on the Luck/Tuck rule. Last week Robert Griffin got called for a fumble while being hit while attempting to throw forward and the ball went backwards. It was called a fumble. First time I ever saw that happen. It was even challenged and upheld. I think the issue was that Griffin was thowing in the flat (which is almost a sideways pass), so it almost looked lik it wasn't going to be a forward pass. But I maintain the officials botched that call too.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:08pm

I was complaining about this in this week's open thread. I couldn't remember a specific play where grounding was called on a player getting hit while throwing, but I know I've been upset about it in the past.

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

I disagree that Luck is the biggest reason the Colts made the playoffs. He's been very good, but Reggie Wayne is the one the most responsible for the Colts success.

by Deelron :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:19pm

After comparing what Wayne did last season compared to this season I'm not sure how that argument can be made, given the difference in results.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:37pm

Agreed. Wayne has been a good receiver. He was in 2010. Was in 2012. And pretty much was in 2011. But a good receiver with crap QBs is neutralized. Look at Larry Fitzgerald. And as bad as Arizona's QBs have been, I don't know if any team had worst QBs in 2011 then Indianapolis (the Curtis Painter/Dan Orlovsky experience with a dash of Kerry Collins).

I simply don't think its feasible for a WR to impact the game without at least a decent QB. I also believe that the NFL is a QBs league. That's not breaking news. But I don't see teams winning much without good QB play. Whatever success a team has without a good QB is temporary and tends to be short-lived (which may even last for a season).

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:09pm

Several things completely perplexed me about Bucs-Falcons. One, Mike Smith leaves his starters in for the entire game. The Falcons played to win until there was about 30 seconds left when Doug Martin broke off a long run to inside the 10; the Falcons just let the clock run out rather than burn timeouts. Before that? All starters, playing to win. The second weird thing is Roddy White and Julio Jones were largely non-factors, and I have to imagine they simply didn't want to be out there, because those two could have easily destroyed Tampa's subpar corners. Was just a weird game to watch.

by jeffS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:12pm

Houston and Green Bay have offensive line issues because they unnecessarily let good offensive linemen go. They had enough cap room to keep them.

For some reason,there seems to be virtually no analysis of this on the internet. These decisions can be as crucial as those to do with the draft.

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:52pm

I'm fairly certain the Texans didn't have the cap room to keep Winston, Brisel, Myers, and Foster. I also think they have Duane Brown to resign this year.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:59pm

The Packers don't really have cap room. Well they do if you don't mind having no money to resign Jennings (this year), Rodgers, Matthews, and Raji (only signed through next season) who are all due up for a new contract or an extension. Managing the cap involves more than next year.

So they let Scott Wells go, and Saturday was a downgrade. EDS appears to be an upgrade over Saturday and not much of a downgrade from Wells. They didn't let anyone else go. Sherrod hasn't recovered from the broken leg last year. Bulaga suffered a freak hip injury. So they started Newhouse all year, when his job was supposed to be #3 on the depth chart (behind Sherrod and Bulaga), and now they are starting an undrafted rookie at the other tackle because of the other injury. They didn't have any other players they let go that could have helped at those spots.

The Packers of o line issues because I don't think they have a great o-line coach, and I think linemen is the weak point of the teams player evaluations as well.

by DavidL :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 12:28pm

Andy Reid, how do you square an onside kick to open the game with a punt on fourth-and-5 from the Giants 41 down 35-7?

Because the opening onsides seemed to be more about bookending his Philadelphia career (as the team's first play in Reid's tenure was also an onside kick) than being aggressive as a general rule.

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 1:03pm

Is there an FO rule that you need to downplay anyone the mainstream starts to recognize? Even by FO's metrics Alfred Morris was the 5th most valuable running back this season, and he had a particularly good game last night.

I get that fans easily go over the top, especially on social media, but it wasn't just one big game that has people saying he should be in the ROTY conversation.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:33pm

Except that wasn't the point. The debate was if he's already in a class with Adrian Peterson. He's not. Why anyone would consider "not as good as Adrian Peterson" a slight is beyond me.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:42pm

That's extreme. No one's putting Morris in a class with Peterson. Well except some deluded hometown fans. But hometown fans delude themselves about a lot of things.

Morris didn't even get a Pro Bowl birth (which is admittedly flawed) despite finishing second in the league in rushing (with a total that might have rivaled for the league lead in past seasons). And he really hasn't even sniffed the discussion about Rookie of the Year either. He's getting little play in the media.

by Dean :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:56pm

It's not extreme. It's an accurate portrayal of Aarons assessment. It's everyone else who's promptly started projecting things he never said and creating a controversy where none should exist.

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 10:35pm

That wasn't what I was talking about. I more had in mind what followed: "I think the other problem with Morris is the natural fan inclination to give all the attention to players at the 'skill positions.' Therefore, one big game by Morris should put him into the rookie of the year race, but nobody is talking about ..."

(That's why I specifically mentioned that it wasn't one game that has people talking about ROTY.)

And this comment: "I know the word 'system' is a pejorative when describing a player, but I just don't see Alfred Morris -- he of the 92 Speed Score -- as some elite talent worthy of more than a pat on the back for great execution."

I've been following FO all season, as usual, and haven't seen much praise given to Morris. Fair enough; there are plenty of RBs to cover. But you don't have to think Morris is "elite" to think he's more than That Guy who happens to be playing in the successful system.

by Dean :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 10:07am

I refuse to discuss whether a player is "elite" or not until there is a generally accepted standard definition of what constitutes "elite." This goes double for Eli Manning.

by Alternator :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 12:39am

Elite: part of the top tier of player quality at his position.

Now, trying to define that tier, that's the hard part. But defining elite shouldn't be a big deal.

by bernie (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 2:23pm

My issue with Post season awards is that they are completely driven by Main Stream Media pundits, and that they change completely from week to week based on the latest game played.
Look at Rookie of the year. RGIII has pretty much been crowned since week 1 when he beat a Saints team that has since turned out to suck. The media has barely been able ot wait until the season can end so they can give it to him. But then all of a sudden, Russell Wilson shows up and has some nice weeks on a red hot Seahawks team, and then it's a two horse race. My guess is Seattle's ordinary performance against the Rams, will be enough to knock Wilson out of the race, since RGIII won on national TV, meaning he outperformed Wilson, right?
This is not even considering Andrew Luck because he threw a bunch of picks, and his completion percentage isn't very good. Yet I guess context means nothing in this instance, considering Lucks o-line is there in name only, most of his skill position guys are rookies, he has no defense to rely on, and he runs an offense where his average pass is at least 10 yards downfield.
Don;t get me wrong - I think whoever wins the award, whether it be RGIII, Wilson or Luck deserves it, and has played awesome football this year, but I think the idea that Luck is miles behind the other 2 because he's thrown a few INTs and his completion percentage is low is bullshit.

Same as MVP - I think Peterson deserves to win it, but would he even be considered, had he only rushed for 1800 yards? Seriously, knock off a couple of his game ending breakout runs, and he's had the same impact on his teams performance, but without the sexy yardage total. DOes he look like an MVP now?

All the Media cares about is storyline, not truth, and unfortunately, the media gives out these awards.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:08pm

While I agree with you to some extent, I do often see mainstream media at least taking a look at season long statistics for these things. And while the talking heads seem to flip flop week to week, I think when they get down to voting, the whole season is looked at a little bit more.

As far as the context bit, I wouldn't expect people to all agree on how much to raise Luck's standing based on the team around him. And I'm not sure voters should anyway, because then you're just playing "what if" games.

FWIW, looking at DYAR and DVOA, which do at least take opponent into account, the three rookie QBs ranks (total) :

Wilson - 8 (867)
Griffin - 11 (729)
Luck - 19 (255)

Wilson - 6 (19.7%)
Griffin - 8 (16.7%)
Luck - 19 (-5.2%)

Griffin and Wilson essentially have the same attempts, yards, and completion percentage. Wilson has 6 more touchdowns, but 5 more picks. Luck has a bunch more of everything except TDs (662 attempts!!) I'd say it's a two horse race, unless you want to include Morris or Martin.

by Zordan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:29pm

My take is that Griffin should narrowly win the ROY over Wilson. Frankly both have had better seasons than Luck. That said all three have had remarkable seasons. IMO the supporting cast argument is more of a tiebreaker than main reason for deciding who's had the better season. I use that argument to say that Griffin should win over Wilson, but it is not a strong enough argument to say that Luck has played as well as Wilson or Griffin even though he is on a significantly worse team than either.

Wilson plays on a team with better defense, a more established running game and better pass blocking O-line, which is why I'd vote for Griffin over Wilson, because based on statistics they are very close. I think that Griffin has had an enormous effect on the running game by running the zone read so well. Wilson has been very good at the zone read as well, but Lynch and the Seahawks O-line were pretty good in a different scheme last year. I just don't think that Alfred Morris is even a 1,200 yard rusher in the typical Shanahan zone running offense.

All 3 QBs have had incredibly successful seasons in leading their teams to the playoffs. As a Colts fan, I'm incredibly pleased at how well Luck has done, and think that in 5 years he will clearly be the best of the three because I am an utter homer. I think that NFL defenses will adjust to the zone read, and it will become more of a wrinkle than a base offense. The zone read won't be rendered a gimmick like the Wildcat, but I'd be very surprised if teams are running it with great success in 3 years. Additionally, the Colts are in a great position to greatly improve their roster with $40M+ in cap room (when Freeney is cut or restructured) and next year's draft where they only miss a 2nd rounder because Davis and Vaughn didn't meet the conditional goals on the 6th and 7th round picks from those trades. Also, young QBs tend to increase their accuracy and decrease turnovers. Luck clearly has room to improve in those categories, and even though his completion% has been down in the last quarter of the season his passes seem to be much more on target. He made some truly awful throws earlier in the year, and has shown better mechanics later in the season. Griffin and Wilson have been so brilliant in regards to Comp% and turnovers that I just don't see how their numbers can get significantly better in years to come.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:43pm

The things no one mentions in any RG3 discussion:
fumbles or all turnovers as opposed to just interceptions
and who he's played (few good defenses/teams many bad ones, meanwhile Wilson has made his bones on the class of the NFL)

What's messed up is if the Seahawks lean on Wilson next year, and his rate stats improve a small amount, though he'll play a similar schedule to this year in some respects, he might put up Aaron Rodgers type numbers. It's totally insane. If the Seahawks hit on their next draft like they've hit on the past two (finding contributors and starters in even late rounds), they're going to be absurdly good.

by DarkVictory23 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 3:50pm

So should we ignore interceptions and low completions just because of the team he is on? As the last guy to reply just said, that's a heck of a 'what if?' game you want to play.

Also, this seems like an odd defense for Luck. He's been considered neck and neck with RGIII for ROTY since before he even played a game. It's disingenuous to say the media has been biased against him. Only recently since Wilson scratched and clawed his way into the discussion have sports commentators started to actually seem to hold any of Luck's numbers in consideration.

As for AP... yeah, he should be in the running, even with 1800. He's carried his team more than Shaun Alexander did when he won it, as the Seahawks actually had a very good passing game. (As a 'Hawks fan, I was happy he won it, though.)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:06pm

The part I find strange about the MVP season is it has so many similarities to the people backing Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP, where one number seemed to trump a lot of other factors. Here it was 2,000 yards (or the chase of Dickerson), there it was the Triple Crown. In both cases, they failed to note that many past players that accomplished the feats didn't win the award.

Also, we just had a guy run for 2,000 yards three years ago in Chris Johnson. Oddly, both took off after the first six games.

Johnson went for 1,410 yards on 263 carries (5.4 y/a), 12 TDs, while Peterson went for 1598 yards on 235 carries (6.8 y/a). Obviously, Peterson's numbers were better, but Johnson provided a lot more receiving value (34/377 vs 20/88).

Johnson also had a bad QB to work with (Vince Young), an it was his team that went started to turn their season around in those 10 games (going 8-2 following a 0-6 start, the Vikings went 6-4, following a 4-2 start).

Johnson lost the award, but I feel like Peterson is a lock to win it.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:41pm

How many times has the MVP award been awarded to a player on a non-playoff team?
How valuable was CJ? Without CJ they may have gone 3-13 and missed the playoffs. With him they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Maybe I'm a spoiled NE fan but to me 8-8 and missing the playoffs isn't a whole lot different than 3-13 and missing the playoffs.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:46pm

"How many times has the MVP award been awarded to a player on a non-playoff team?"

Probably less than it should have been.

"Without CJ they may have gone 3-13 and missed the playoffs. With him they went 8-8 and made the playoffs."

A team's record, IMO, should mean very very little when talking about MVP. I like to think that a player's "absolute" value, or production, should trump all. Just because an outstanding performance doesn't lead to a win doesn't mean it doesn't have "value". And talking about the team without that player is a silly way to figure out how valuable that player is.

Simply put, I think the MVP should go to the player who had the best season. That may include some elements of the team around him. But it definitely shouldn't be as reductive as "x didn't make the playoffs, therefore no player on x can win the MVP".

We're not talking about an award that should be tied to the team as a whole. We're talking about MVP, not MVT. Taken to an extreme, let's pretend a QB had 5000 yards assing, 1000 yards rushing, 10 YPA, 50 TDs, and 0 INTs; And that his team went 8-8 because of a lot of 41-38 type losses (i.e. terrible defense). If he existed, that QB should win the MVP every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:03pm

The object is to win games.
The players are there to help the team win games.
If the team does not win games then none of the players were valuable. Nothing else matters if you don't win games. Winning is the object of the game.
You can make the argument that the player played very well while losing and that none of the losses were his fault but you can not say the player was valuable to a team that doesn't win enough games when the goal is to win games.
That is like saying it is more valuable to lose 50-49 than it is to lose 50-0. The result is the same: no value.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:44pm

"If the team does not win games then none of the players were valuable."

That's just silly in my opinion. You could just as easily say that the point of the game is to win the Super Bowl, so the MVP can only come from that team.

There is value to the team in doing things to help the team win (i.e. score points or prevent points) whether or not the team ultimately wins or loses. To say that, for instance, Tom Brady is only valuable because the defense is good enough to not give up 50 points a game seems silly. But that's essentially what you're saying if you tie MVP to team wins.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 8:17pm

I think we are both taking the extreme case of each side of the argument.
I don't think there has ever been a case where a single player has performed way better than every other player. If there was, it is likely that the player's team would win enough games to display the player's value to the team.
So, your example of a player performing unbelievably for a team that doesn't win any games isn't realistic.
When it comes to judging MVP candidates that have had very similar performances, evaluating the team performance helps determine the value of the candidate to the team. So, no, winning isn't the only factor in determining an MVP player.
However, if two players have similar contributions to their team but one is making the playoffs and the other isn't, my vote would go to the player on the playoff team since making the playoffs is every team's goal. There is something that can be measured. One candidate helped his team achieve the goal of making the playoffs. The other candidate wasn't good enough to get his team over the hump (regardless of the reason).

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 9:05pm

"...your example of a player performing unbelievably for a team that doesn't win any games isn't realistic."

Well some of Barry Sanders seasons may have been kind of like that. And there have been some great QB seasons for pretty poor teams. But on the whole you're right - I just don't think you should start with that mindset of "playoffs matter for MVP".

(On an almost unrelated note, in baseball this happens quite a bit, and there is a bias against players on non-playoffs teams. Football is less individual to the point where it doesn't happen often.)

"However, if two players have similar contributions to their team but one is making the playoffs and the other isn't, my vote would go to the player on the playoff team..."

That's reasonable provided they really are similar. My argument is basically that you should take each player on his own production/performance merits, and not consider the team record as a starting point.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:27pm

There are really two different questions that are being raised here:

The first is in discussion of the MVP award and what it means. I know its name is most valuable, but to be honest, sticking to that criteria leaves you with only qbs because even an average qb is more valuable than most elite skill position players. If it were truly a discussion of value, then I think its probably either Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. I'd prefer to gauge MVP based on who had the best season of any player. If that is the criteria, its between Watt and AP and I would give it to AP, even though I am a die hard Manning fan and hope he wins.

The other issue is ROY and on here I have to admit I got upset with Vince's comment about luck a distant third(or now 4th) behind Morris. First, DVOA and DYAR are team reflective statistics, NOT qb related statistics. If you want evidence of that, see where Brees ranks this year in those stats relative to others. I think even the most die hard Wilson and Rg3 fans would be delusional if they believed those 2 were better than Drew Brees.

The bigger issue is how each plays qb. Honestly, Rg3's production to me feels like the product of the shannahans and the pistol. Yes, hes good at running it, but the vast majority of this throws are off playaction where the defense is in shambles or a quick slant or throws out of the backfield. No discredit to him, but can we really be impressed with Rg3 doing these type of throws to accumulate yardage versus say Romo being forced to beat a blitz under heavy pressure over and over and forced to read the coverage every time to make the play? Its as if we pretend like the two face the exact same circumstances when its obvious they don't.

That brings me back to Luck. Even saying he has wayne is overstated because Wayne's isnt what he once was. Cosell mentioned this in a podcast, much of wayne's receiving yardage in the past came against outside top corners where he would either win and get the ball or even and lose and manning would still fit the ball in. Now, he runs in the slot or in motion or runs through traffic(i've charted him playing in the tight end position a few times). He's effective, but he's definitely not as great as his numbers are implying.

Finally- this was mentioned above but it is worth repeating. Context for the qbs matter. The colts are 28th in DVOA and there's a reason. There defense is an eyesore and the rest of the offense really isn't that great either. Absolutely none of Luck's o line men are even average. I disagree with Andy, Costanzo has been bad, the interior line has been even worse. The rest of Luck's skill position players are rookies. He plays in a conventional offense with progression reading and throwing with anticipation. I guess I'm making excuses, but if nothing else, its simply naive to just look at completion percentage and ints and just blindly make assumptions about the quality of the qb. THats exactly what media members do and if you read this site, you really shouldn't be falling into that trap.

by DarkVictory23 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:14pm

So why should we ignore poor completion percentage and turnovers? Assuming we are just making 'assumptions' based on his stats, what is the argument for ignoring those 2 numbers? They aren't be-all, end-all, but since when were completions and turnovers not two of the more important numbers for a QB?

And why should we consider all the mitigating circumstances in his favor (rookie skill players, different system) and ignore the awful schedule he's faced? The main argument for Luck is 'ignore his bad stats, look at the wins!', but he's put those wins together against bad teams. And wins are the ultimate



Meanwhile, Wilson's team has won just as many games against a much better schedule and he still has good numbers. Now, even though I'm a homer, I still think RGIII will get it. I'm ok with that, but I simply don't see a compelling argument for Luck. The different scheme... yeah, I get it. I know Wilson has had the benefit of Marshawn Lynch all year. Again, though, I think if you have to play the 'what if' game to explain why a guy should still get the award, it's probably a good sign he shouldn't get the award.

This isn't some media thing and I still feel that's a ridiculous line of argument. The media had/has all the vested interest in the world to crown Luck. They have happily ignored poor completions, bad interceptions, and some mind boggling decisions for most of the year. Two other guys have simply played better this year. This isn't an award based on who'll be better 3 years down the line.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:52pm

I think my general premise is that just going by stats isn't enough and often times is misleading. I don't mean to suggest we ignore anything. I would argue that the only way to fairly discern the quality of all three would be to do rigorous tape study, isolate the play of the qb from the receivers, line, and scheme and then determine who was the best of the group. None of us I imagine have the time do it and thats fine. I get annoyed when people say, "Lucks Comp % and Ints are higher, therefore its obvious!" No, it isn't.

by DarkVictory23 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 12:35am

You are right, interceptions and completion percentage do not tell the whole story. I definitely accept that. And I agree it would be impossible just about to come to a definitive assessment, even with all the time in the world and the entire NFL Films library at your fingertips.

I just don't get the argument about the media 'wanting' to discount Luck due to some poor stats. The media consensus before they got to the league was Luck is #1, RGIII might be great, might be Vince Young. They want Luck to succeed as much as anyone.

The problem is, regardless of our inability to isolate 'QB play' from 'team play' to any degree of certainty, this is still an individual award that is given out, so we have to do so. Do interceptions and incompletions tell the whole story on Luck? Of course not. But neither does his team's record. But we gotta judge with what we have. Wilson and RGIII also are taking their teams to the playoffs, and they don't need any asterisks to explain some poor stats, so I don't think it's unfair to characterize it as a race between them and say there is a 'big gap' before you consider Luck.

I don't think anyone is wanting to dismiss Luck out of hand.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 5:50am

I'll concede it this way. And btw, full disclosure, I am colts fan so you will know my biases when i make this comment. Just off judging throwing ability-ie- ignoring their running game contributions- I believe Luck to be the best qb of the group. That said, if the award is being given based off statistical production and team record, then I believe Russell Wilson to be the best qb. Again, let me not confuse things. I like all three qbs and all three are deserving, including alfred morris and bobby wagner. Its a shame they are all going against each other in the same year. But given what the award is based off of, I'll go with Wilson.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:07pm

"I'll say it again: how do people making millions of dollars screw up a decision that simple? This one was even worse than Gailey's completely backwards backward-pass challenge last week."

I'm not sure if its because of norms or official rules, but there is are very strict limits to the division of labor in an NFL coaching office. That's why we don't see, for example, Andy Reid getting a 35k a year pay cut and a special "I'm in charge of time outs in the last 2 minutes of the game" coach that is paid 35K a year.

by Gregg (not verified) :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 4:31pm

I noticed that the Redskins' football-colored burgundy jerseys make RG3's ball-handling even more deceptive. The football blends in to the RB's and his midsection so it's harder to see who has the ball.

A google search reveals that the Redskins used to wear white jerseys at home. I wonder if this is a reason for the change. I also think it's an unfair competitive advantage. Like a pitcher wearing a white wrist band.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:21pm

I believe that the Redskins would only wear white at home when the Cowboys were in town.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 7:16pm

No -- they always wore white at home from early 80's until 2-3 years ago.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:53pm

I'd say it's such a minor competitive advantage as to not matter. Every team's darker uniforms will help disguise the ball to some extent (the Browns in particular), but it's a large ball and isn't that easy to hide regardless of color. (I'd guess the way you move and hold the ball is much more important.)

I think baseball is much more of a problem, because you're talking about blink-of-an-eye reaction time issues and a small ball, close to the same size as a wrist band.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 6:08pm

The Redskins have never worn white uniforms at home as long as I've been a football fan (1991).

More important than the ball color are the studies showing that in evenly matched competition, the side wearing red will defeat the side wearing blue far more often than is statistically likely. It's great to root for a team that wears red!

by Dice :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 7:00pm

Didn't they go all white for their 2005 run to make the playoffs? I know they were into the all white for a while under Gibbs.

by dmb :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 9:24pm

Correct, the Redskins went white-on-white from Week 13 onward in 2005. The Redskins won the week 13 game and decided to stick with it until they lost, so they wore it for the full 5-game win streak that ended the regular season, as well as both of their playoff games that year.

Apparently the Ninjalectual hasn't been a very observant fan, as Gibbs was big on wearing white at home. The tradition stuck until they pulled out the 70th anniversary jerseys in 2002, and came back in full force upon Gibbs' return. Per the Uni Watch link below, here's the Redskins' history of wearing white jerseys at home:

1964 every home game;
1981-2000 every home game except 1994 vs. Falcons;
2002 vs. Cardinals and Cowboys;
2003 vs. Jets, Giants, Patriots, and Cowboys;
2004-2007 every home game;
2008 vs. Saints, Cardinals, Rams, Browns, and Cowboys;
2009 every home game except vs. Broncos, Saints, and Giants.

When the Allen/Shanahan regime took over in 2010, they started wearing the burgundy jerseys at home as the rule rather than the exception. So it also doesn't have anything to do with RG3.


by Sakic (not verified) :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 10:24am

I always thought the "white jerseys at home" was an NFC East thing and not just a Redskins thing. I seem to recall (and I haven't paid overly close attention to it in recent years with the addition of throwbacks and alternate third uniforms) that back in the 90's the Cowboys and the Eagles always wore the light jerseys (maybe the Giants as well but not certain) at home EXCEPT when they were playing on the road against the NFC east. It always stood out to me seeing the blue Cowboys jerseys and red Redskins jerseys because I saw them so rarely.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 7:19pm

Cowboys always have worn white at home, and Redskins and Eagles did the same for many many years (but in recent years have gone back to dark jerseys at home). I'm proud to say the Giants have always worn blue at home, except for in the 80's when they would make Cowboys wear blue at Giants Stadium (a 'strategy' I never liked, and glad they abandoned starting in 1988).

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 01/03/2013 - 7:15pm

No idea what this commenter is talking about -- Redskins started wearing white at home during first Joe Gibbs administration and only in the last 2-3 years reverted to home reds.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 6:12am

The skylab comment was gold. We need more Weintraub in here, week-by-week. His commentary is always logical and highly accessible (while still being intelligent).