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24 Sep 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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.

Thursday, September 20

New York Giants 36 at Carolina Panthers 7

Rivers McCown: No Jonathan Stewart, no Hakeem Nicks. Are you ready for some Ramses Barden?

Peter Koski: I'm more curious about Rueben Randle. His LSU/SEC pedigree and size intrigued me as a Niners fan, but alas, it was not meant to be...

Also, if you're Ron Rivera, do you try and pull off a fake kneel down at some point?

Danny Tuccitto: If Rivera did that, it would be one of the greatest trollings of all-time.

Peter Koski: When I saw Carolina running the Wildcat with Cam Newton out wide, I thought it was a waste of Cam's talents to cruelly banish him outside the numbers. Then I started to think how awesome it would be to see Cam burn someone on a 9-route and now I want more Wildcat.

Rivers McCown: Andre Brown's coming out party! Finally, the 2009 draft's leader in Speed Score has a healthy chance.

Danny Tuccitto: I realize Brown is providing an excellent opportunity for us to tout Speed Score, but what's catching my attention so far is neither his size nor his speed nor the combination thereof. It's his vision. Several times already, he's seen a hole at the designed point of attack close, and noticed the wide open spaces elsewhere. Cedric Benson he isn't.

Vince Verhei: Missed most of the game so far, but I see that Barden is 7-of-7 for 100 yards at halftime. Barden is the guy whose numbers at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo were so obscene (1,467 yards and 18 touchdowns for a team that only threw 206 passes) that I had to put a cap on them for Playmaker. His Combine numbers were pretty bad, so his projection wasn't that high.

J.J. Cooper: Kind of excited to see Barden getting an opportunity as he was a pretty fascinating guy heading into the draft. Size, speed (OK, not so much speed), great name, great stats at a small school.

Danny Tuccitto: This game is turning out to be a positive data point for the theory that a defense is only as good as its weakest link. With Michael Coe no longer manning the No. 2 CB position, the Giants defense looks like an entirely different -- and better -- unit.

Vince Verhei: Love the play-action rollout (NOT bootleg) throwback to Greg Olsen to set up Carolina's first touchdown. I still say the rollout is the most underused tactic in the NFL (with the possible exception of the pistol, which I also love).

Tom Gower: SackSEER sleeper Frank Alexander just had a sack, making it a trifecta of guys FO metrics thought might be good.

Kevin Gilbride's really called a nice game tonight and Eli Manning has been hitting the throws he needs to-not perfect, but plenty good enough to take apart a Carolina secondary that still needs upgrading.

Sunday, September 23

Andy Benoit: Does anyone in this group watch the pre-game shows? They seem completely ridiculous...

Tom Gower: I watch NFL Matchup off the DVR and, depending how much time I have, first AFC Playbook and then NFC Playbook on Sunday mornings.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah. My pregame show is NFL Matchup depending on when I wake up, then I do other stuff. I went grocery shopping this morning instead of watching pregame shows.

Rivers McCown: I watch Matchup off DVR as well. I'll usually put the CBS pre-gamer on in the background, but I rarely am paying attention to it.

Aaron Schatz: Thanks to the wonder of the DVR, it is the pregame show for people who don't like 100 guys sitting at the same desk talking nonsense!

Cincinnati Bengals 38 at Washington Redskins 30

Rivers McCown: First play from scrimmage for Cincy: a Wildcat, with Mohamed Sanu under center, throwing deep to A.J. Green after DeJon Gomes was left in the dust. 73-yard touchdown.

Solomon Wilcotts just called an Alfred Morris run "Red Grange-like." Uh, he's been good so far, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

Andy Benoit: How often do you have a pick-six in the end zone? Do we have any stats on that?

Aaron Schatz: The last pick in the end zone was by Chris Kelsay off Tony Romo in 2007. The ball was actually thrown out of the end zone, but was tipped at the 4 and batted back to the end zone, where Kelsay caught it.

The last pick in the end zone that never left the end zone was James Allen off Tom Tupa in 2002, but that was an aborted snap on a punt where Tupa was desperately trying to make a play.

The last pick in the end zone that never left the end zone *on an actual offensive play* came in 1993, when Rich Gannon was with Washington, his pass was tipped in the air by Santana Dotson of the Bucs and caught in the end zone by Ray Seals.

Peter Koski: I remember that Romo-Kelsay play from MNF when Buffalo blew, what, a 20 point lead?

Ben Muth: The Bengals just scored on a long run after catch from Armon Binns. He just ran a six-yard out, but Josh Wilson took an awful angle, and Binns ran up the sideline untouched. Really bad play by Wilson.

Also, if Trent Williams is out for a long time (he left earlier today), the Redskins may have the worst tackle tandem in the NFL with Tyler Polumbus and Jordan Black.

The Bengals just ran a fake field goal that looked like it was just the holder running off tackle. I'm not sure what the plan was here. Either it was supposed to be an option (with the kicker) and the holder should've read the safety who made the tackle, or maybe Peko, who just stood around and looked confused, was supposed to release and block the safety. All I know is the plan couldn't have been "well, the holder's gotta make the first guy miss."

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, Washington did not receive the memo about increased home-field advantage under replacement officials.

Ben Muth: Redskins are running the zone read triple option by motioning Brandon Banks into the backfield on back-to-back plays. The first time, Robert Griffin gives it to Morris who carries some Bengals for 12 yards. Next play, he keeps it and pitches it to Banks for another first down. A few plays later, Griffin keeps it and turns it up inside for yet another first down.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis fumbled for the first time in his career. The Redskins can't capitalize though, as they go three-and-out thanks to a sack allowed by Frick (Black) and a hit allowed by Frack (Polumbus).

Aaron Schatz: How many times has Black been released? Geez, I thought he was out of the league years ago. And is Polumbus just playing to give Bill Barnwell someone to point and laugh at each week?

OK, anyone want to tell me what just happened in WAS-CIN? Twitter sort of blew up about some weird ref mistake.

Ben Muth: Washington tried to down a punt inside the 5. The ball hit the goal line and bounced back into the field of play. Terrence Newman tried to pick it up for Cincy. He couldn't, and the Redskins recovered the ball. Now, I don't know why Twitter would blow up about the call. Because a) it was correctly ruled a touchback, and b) I'm pretty sure it would have been Cincy's ball anyway since Washington had already touched it. (That's the college rule anyway, or at least it was a couple years ago.) Field position (ball at the 1 instead of the 20) is the only thing that would've changed if the ball didn't touch the goal line.

Oh yeah, Washington challenged and lost. They are now out of timeouts.

Tom Gower: It's the NFL rule as well.

Ben Muth: Bengals are now just teeing off on Griffin on the option. He's making the pitch for gains, but taking some shots.

Vince Verhei: Bengals get their third 40-plus-yard touchdown pass of the day, this one a 59-yarder to Andrew Hawkins. That Redskins secondary is so, so bad.

Aaron Schatz: Who did they beat there? I know Ben said they were beating Wilson earlier in the game. He was the one bright spot last year; if he's not playing as well as last year, wow, yeah, they are going to give up a lot of big passes all year long.

Rivers McCown: Richard Crawford was in coverage. It looked like he was playing trail technique. Dalton just lobbed it right over his head and there was zero safety help.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Minnesota Vikings 24

Peter Koski: On the opening kickoff, somehow the refs tried to give the 49ers their second illegal block to the back while being the kicking team. Thankfully, the flag was picked up. It's the same officiating team from this week's stirring MNF, so I'm a little worried.

The 49ers defense is containing Adrian Peterson, but Kyle Rudolph is finding some soft spots between the linebackers and safeties.

Christian Ponder has third-and-goal at the 1, it's a play-action rollout, Dashon Goldson does not bite and is closing in. Ponder lobs it over Goldson to the corner of the end zone, right to Rudolph. Aldon Smith looked at the fake for a split-second too long and couldn't get back into coverage.

49ers just ran the "Andy Benoit Film Room Special" stunt with The Smiths. It generated an incompletion and quarterback hit by Aldon.

Andy Benoit: Randy Moss getting lots of reps early, which hasn’t been the case this season, but he doesn’t show the same burst at the end of plays. Not even close.

Danny Tuccitto: I don't know. I see Moss repeatedly running free in the Minnesota secondary, and Alex Smith throwing it to North Dakota.

Andy Benoit: Both Vikings touchdowns have been a product of Ponder’s mobility in some way.

Peter Koski: Ponder is playing out of his mind right now.

Rivers McCown: It should be noted that he's been doing that for two-and-a-half weeks now. Or at the very least, he's being managed to play like that, if you want to be pessimistic about it.

Danny Tuccitto: I don't know what's going on today, but NaVorro Bowman is having one of the worst games I've seen him play. Missing tackles, taking bad angles, and so on.

Vince Verhei: I'm not exactly sure what's happening in Minnesota, but San Francisco got the ball after a Toby Gerhart fumble that was originally ruled down by contact. San Francisco challenged the play and won the reversal, but the announcers were saying the 49ers should not have been able to challenge because they were out of timeouts. Then Smith throws an interception, and on the ensuing Vikings drive, the 49ers challenge to say Gerhart fumbled again. Announcers are saying it's the second challenge that the 49ers have been inaccurately granted. They lose that challenge and the refs say they are now out of timeouts. Long story short, either the announcers or the refs are very wrong about something. And it goes without saying that all of this took a long time to get sorted out.

Danny Tuccitto: Here are my thoughts on the 49ers game:

1) Something I alluded to earlier, Bowman's performance is another example of why tackles is a useless stat. In the box score, he had a huge game (18 combined tackles).

2) This was probably the most lackluster defensive performance I've seen since Harbaugh took over. I'm not going to play armchair psychologist, but it was pretty odd seeing them that flat and making all kinds of mental mistakes. On Minnesota's first touchdown, Donte Whitner and Bowman bit hard on the play action, and BOTH tight ends were wide open. Then, in the late-third-early-fourth drive that put Minnesota up 24-13, San Francisco gave them 32 yards worth of penalties. On third-and-5 with 3:49 left in the game, Tarell Brown practically gave Percy Harvin the slant with his presnap positioning even though there's no way he's running an out breaking route in that situation. I guess you could put some of the blame on the coaches there, but it would still be an example of a mental lapse. Carlos Rogers was an abomination defending the slot most of the day.

You could say the same of the offense, what with multiple miscommunications between Smith and his receivers, including on his late interception; also Frank Gore's fumble on the first play after Minnesota went up 24-13. Obviously, all of these things happen from time to time. It was just weird seeing it from the Harbaugh-era Niners because they so rarely -- if ever -- happen.

3) I guess this is a related point. Whether we're talking about Harvin's fumble conveniently bouncing right back to him or the multiple throw-up-a-floater-and-see-what-happens completions by Ponder (including Rudolph's second touchdown) or the 49ers doing diddly with two Toby Gerhart turnovers in the final three-plus minutes or David Akers actually having a field goal blocked, this was a really weird game to watch in terms of randomness and unlikely events. That's important to note before we go jumping to conclusions about the result.

4) The Vikings offensive line must be a lot better than I had been giving them credit for. They finished 2011 dead last in ASR, but yet the Smiths did next to nothing. Has Matt Kalil really made that much of a difference?

Aaron Schatz: The Smiths: What Difference Does it Make?

Danny Tuccitto: Heh ... If we're going that route, the Smiths song for this game would be, "Back To The Old House." Specifically, "I would rather not go back to the old house. There's too many bad memories." Today conjured up bad memories of the house under Nolan/Singletary.

...Didn't help that Singletary was on the opposite sideline, either.

Rivers McCown: Do you really think they'll pull through, Danny?

Kansas City Chiefs 27 at New Orleans Saints 24 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: I'd like to thank @BroncosTalk on Twitter for this:

Dierdorfery: "If there's a better back out of the backfield than Darren Spoles, I want to know who it is."

Andy Benoit: Perfect solo coverage technique by Stanford Routt on his interception late in third quarter. Used the sideline well, simply took the inside positioning from the outside wide receiver. You can’t blame Drew Brees much for that pick; you have to assume your receiver can hold position better than that.

Jamaal Charles had a great day statistically. On his last long run though, you wonder if he would have tried to outrace safety Malcolm Jenkins in space a year ago (as opposed to cutting it back).

Matt Waldman: Charles is consistently lacking the skill to make sharp lateral cuts that he used to make two years ago. The saving grace with Charles has always been his toughness between the tackles. He did have three plays that he tried to cut or corner to the left where he lost his balance and he was visibly upset. He routinely made these plays at Texas and early in his Chiefs career. The fact that he's mature enough to get his pads down and stick with what he finds on most plays helps him post-injury.

Mike Kurtz: Kansas City has the ball at New Orleans' 30-yard line and about 1:20 left down by three. They then run two runs up the middle, content for the field goal try to tie the game. I have never seen such ridiculous playing to not lose. All of a sudden I'm a Saints fan.

Aaron Schatz: In NO-KC, the Chiefs fumble the ball in overtime and the Saints return it for a touchdown. The refs go to review it, and it looks like it will be overturned, knee was down. But here's the problem -- you know the thing about how the replay can't overturn the call on the field without incontrovertible evidence? There was no call on the field. The announcers, at least, didn't see any call of whether the player was down, or if there was a fumble.

Andy Benoit: Great to have a bunch of overtime games, but with replacement officials already making the games take longer, and with the new overtime rules, it's going to be dinner time before some of these first window games end.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs' defense comes up big, big, big after halftime. Saints had eight possessions in second half and overtime (not counting the kneeldown at the end of regulation) and gained a total of 55 yards. They got two touchdowns due to great field position, but otherwise produced one interception, one safety, and four punts.

The Chiefs ran NINETY-TWO PLAYS in that game. Charles finishes with 33 runs for 233 yards.

Ben Muth: If Todd Haley was coaching, Thomas Jones would have had 64 carries.

Danny Tuccitto: I realize opponent adjustments for DVOA get applied on a play-by-play basis, but man New Orleans is poised to be pretty bad once they kick in (barring a great showing in Week 4). Yes, they're 0-3, but that includes losses against a KC team ranked 32nd in VOA coming into the week and a Redskins team ranked 25th. The other loss was to Carolina, who was previously ranked 12th before the No. 22 team beat them 36-7. Or, from another angle, New Orleans' opponents have a combined .360 Pythagorean winning percentage.

So if I've got my math right, it's looking like Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma > Peyton Manning. At least Indy had the fifth-toughest schedule last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at Dallas Cowboys 16

Rivers McCown: Josh Freeman draws two offsides penalties on the hard count during Tampa's first drive. They are the road team. (That's bad.)

Greg Schiano goes for it on fourth-and-1, inside the Cowboys 5. Doug Martin converts, then Freeman finds Luke Stocker on play-action to take an early lead. Mike Smith is shaking his head.

Andy Benoit: Bucs front seven very active against the run early on. Adrian Clayborn in particular.

Surprised Tampa has Jordan Shipley returning punts. I thought his knee injury took away some of his burst. That's why he's not a Bengal anymore.

Freeman's first interception came against an amoeba presnap look with a backside cornerback blitz he never saw. The blitz didn’t get there, but the checkdown was tipped. Freeman just rushed it a tad mentally, so the checkdown throw was a tad too hard and D.J. Ware tipped it up.

Freeman's poor pocket presence strikes again: he held the ball on a three-step drop with a tight end blocking DeMarcus Ware. Protection broke, Freeman never sensed it.

I'm wondering why Dallas is choosing to use Brandon Carr at safety in nickel packages instead of Michael Jenkins.

The Bucs are much more effective in their blitzes this week. Not necessarily getting sacks, but they’re dictating the tempo of play.

Rivers McCown: Shipley just muffed and then lost a punt, so maybe Andy should be a GM.

Andy Benoit: Kevin Ogletree just slipped a little in the end zone because one of the (replacement) officials threw his hat at his feet.

Rivers McCown: Scabs.

Andy Benoit: Cowboys failed on a surprise onside kick. It'll be easy to criticize the decision but Dallas wouldn't have done it if there wasn't clear evidence during the week that Tampa was vulnerable to it.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, we get asked all the time about the probabilities on things like surprise onside kicks and fake punts, but the fact is that those plays are based almost entirely on what you see scouting the opponent's special teams on film, not any kind of probability. This is particularly an issue with fake punts and field goals, because they often take place on very rare down-and-distances.

Andy Benoit: Jenkins facing Vincent Jackson one-on-one outside in nickel while big money cornerback Carr is playing out of position at safety.

Aaron Schatz: Are you referring to a specific play here?

Rivers McCown: They've been doing this all day in their sub packages.

Andy Benoit: Barry Church being helped off the field. Cowboys are deathly thin at safety. Mana Silva in at safety now. Saving grace might be Tampa Bay's utter lack of a downfield passing attack today.

The announcers are talking about Gerald McCoy's helmet-to-helmet hit on Tony Romo and bringing the replacement officials into the discussion. That's erroneous analysis -- McCoy's hit just happened to be helmet-to-helmet, it wasn't a blatant launch or remotely intentional. Romo was pushed into the hit, McCoy aimed for his shoulder.

Bucs wideouts did absolutely nothing. Mike Williams was slow in and out of his breaks. Freeman must improve his awareness in the pocket. Poor sense of timing.

Detroit Lions 41 at Tennessee Titans 44 (OT)

Tom Gower: The Lions drove right down the field on the opening drive, but the Titans actually covered the tight end once and got a stop on third down to force a field goal. Making me almost deliriously happy, the Titans then opened on offense with five straight passes and were driving down the field until Jake Locker failed to catch the shotgun snap.

Titans score their first first-half touchdown of the season off a throwback on a punt return.

Rivers McCown: What on Earth is happening to Matthew Stafford? Did Ponder absorb his powers?

Tom Gower: I'm not sure anything's really going on with Stafford -- he's currently 11-of-15, albeit for only 73 yards. The Lions are throwing short passes, some of which Tennessee has done a good job of tackling on. He overthrew Brandon Pettigrew open on a seam route that would've been a bigger play, and Calvin Johnson just failed to hold onto another vertical pattern. Either of those would've improved the YPA by at least a full yard.

Vince Verhei: The problem is much less what is wrong with Stafford, and much more what is wrong with Calvin Johnson? One catch for six yards very late in the first half. Are there eight guys on him?

Tom Gower: Interesting call by Jim Schwartz, choosing to take fourth-and-2 at the 23 (effectively, a 41-yard field goal try) rather than giving the Titans third-and-15 at the 36. I'm not sure what the right call is there down 20-9 early in the third quarter. In any event, Rob Bironas misses the field goal and after Pettigrew's second drop of the game, Stafford finds Johnson over the middle for a 28-yard gain and the Lions move downfield quickly into at least field goal range.

Rivers McCown: Mikel LeShoure up to 100 yards now for the Lions; the last time the Lions had a 100-yard rusher was Week 11 of last year, against Carolina.

Tom Gower: The Lions' three possessions in the second half have resulted in 18 points, and the Titans' defense has now given up 52 points on 12 second-half possessions this year. Part of that has been they're doing a better job of finding Johnson, who's up to five catches for 78 yards plus a two-point conversion. For maybe the first time in the Stafford era, though, the Lions have a sustaining ground game behind Leshoure, who's consistently found creases and hit them hard.

And now the Lions offense will have to do it again, as they give up their second special teams score of the day, this one a 105-yard kickoff return, to tie the game 27.

The Titans get their first second-half stop of the afternoon when the Lions fail to account for an unblocked edge rusher and then get their second long touchdown pass of the game when Nate Washington reaches over corner Jacob Lacey to pluck the ball and rushes untouched to the end zone. John Wendling, playing deep safety, made an attempt to break up the pass but missed badly. The Titans now have touchdowns of 61, 65, 105, and 71 yards.

Alterraun Verner steals the ball away from Pettigrew and returns it 72 yards for a score to give the Titans a 14-point lead with 76 seconds to play. Old-time Oiler fans will remember a pretty similar play by Cris Dishman in 1993 against the Chiefs, though I believe that one was ruled an interception rather than a fumble and only 60 yards.

Vince Verhei: So, in the fourth quarter alone, we had:

  • a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tennessee.
  • a 71-yard touchdown pass for Tennessee.
  • a 72-yard fumble return touchdown for Tennessee.
  • an onside kick recovery by Detroit.
  • and a tip drill Hail Mary touchdown as time expired by Detroit to force overtime.

That's got to be the silliest fourth quarter ever, doesn't it?

Aaron Schatz: Twitter is filled with all kinds of complaints about the refs today and we haven't covered too much of that here, but geez, I just saw Craig Stevens' catch in overtime in the Titans-Lions game. The play was called complete, then reviewed and overturned. I'm just mystified. The ball never hits the ground. So not only did the ball never come out, but the replay official somehow called it incomplete when the ball was never clearly out on the video. That's just nuts.

By the way, there was a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play, so even though the officials called it incomplete, there was a 15-yard penalty afterwards. But the refs called the penalty from the wrong yard line. The line of scrimmage was the Tennessee 44 but they walked the penalty off from the Detroit 44, so it effectively was a 27-yard personal foul penalty.

Vince Verhei: And the finish may be sillier than anything else up to that point. Tennessee kicks a field goal to take the lead in overtime. Lions take the ball and drive inside the Tennessee 10-yard line. They have a fourth-and-1, but they turn down the game-tying field goal in an attempt to get a winning touchdown instead. The run is stuffed, there is a measurement, and the Lions come up short. Titans win.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Schwartz made the ballsy move of going for it on fourth-and-inches rather than kicking a chip-shot field goal that would have tied the game. He knew the game was over if he failed. I don't have the math in front of me but I'm guessing the math will show that Jim made the right decision probability-wise. But it didn't work.

(We later went through the math here.)

Tom Gower: I think I spent about 15 seconds sitting down in an hour of watching football between the fourth quarter of Titans-Lions and the other two overtime games.

Schwartz's post-game comments today:

(on the final play being a run)

"No that was miscommunication. We were going to try to draw them offsides. The crowd was loud and we said if they didn’t jump we were going to take the timeout and the ball ended up getting snapped. We need to obviously make sure all 11 guys get the calls right there and be able to play it but I didn’t want to take the delay of game if they didn’t jump. We had a great chance to get them offsides. They were in a goalline type defense. They were in four-point stances."

(on the intent of kicking a field goal to tie)

"I was very clear on what I said. I am not going to go any further on that."

Ben Muth: The ball doesn't get snapped if the Lions are just trying to draw someone offsides. And if it does, there isn't a play to run once it happens. It's not like coaches go "Hey, don't snap the ball on this play, but if it does happen we're running 96 Force." That's a lie.

Tom Gower: Jake Locker led the Titans in rushing this week. Do we know the last time a quarterback led his team in rushing each of the first three weeks of the year, or just three weeks in a row?

New York Jets 23 at Miami Dolphins 20 (OT)

Andy Benoit: Austin Howard trying to block Cameron Wake ... that should be against the law. Mark Sanchez just got drilled because of the pressure Howard allowed.

Aaron Schatz The Jets are down at halftime, but I've been a little surprised by how well they've dealt with pass pressure from the Dolphins. Left side of the line looks good. Right side ... Austin Howard isn't wonderful but he's doing a good job of at least pushing Cameron Wake behind Sanchez, and Sanchez is doing a good job of sensing the pressure and stepping up in the pocket. At that point he either overthrows his receiver or the receiver runs the wrong route.

I also will say this "Tim Tebow playing wideout as a decoy" nonsense isn't going to do anything if Sanchez never even looks at Tebow's route, let alone actually throwing the ball to him.

Andy, have you seen anything in your tape study to get at why Reggie Bush has been so much more effective running between the tackles since he signed with Miami?

And as I type that, Bush looks like he's gone down with a knee injury with 0:23 left in the half.

Andy Benoit: Bush has improved a bit as a between the tackles runner but not drastically. Simple toughness is the main force behind the improvement. Bush has some now; he didn't before. Also, the Dolphins helped him out a lot last year with more committed interior blocking designs, taking some of the decision-making out of Bush's hands. At his core, though, Bush is a space-oriented runner through and through. I thought he was ineffective on true inside run designs last week. Even the plays that went inside successfully had outside and redirection elements to them.

Vince Verhei: Mark Sanchez has been, well, pre-2012 Mark Sanchez today. Looks tentative and confused most of the time. He's got a sack and an interception, completing less than half his passes, and getting less than 10 yards per completion. His receivers have dropped some passes too. Speaking of receivers, Tebow has lined up as a wingback three or four times and is actually running out routes and crosses. They haven't thrown to him yet, but he does have a first down on a fake punt on fourth-and-3.

Ryan Tannehill played well in the first half, but opened the second half with an ugly pick-six where it looked like two Jets had a chance to grab the ball and score.

Dolphins' next drive lasts one play as Daniel Thomas fumbles the ball away. (Bush is on the sideline and still in uniform, but not in the game.) Jets get a first-and-goal and then things go badly. Standard run is stuffed for no gain. Tebowcat results in a loss of yardage (that would have lost even more if Tebow hadn't evaded a tackle). On third-and-goal, Sanchez either badly overthrows an in route or badly underthrows a corner. I can't tell, but the ball comes down right in the middle of the two receivers for an easy interception.

Aaron Schatz: It looked to me like he was underthrowing the corner, looked like it was meant to be a pass to Stephen Hill in the corner.

Andy Benoit: Tebow goes in motion, Sanchez throws to him, Tebow didn't turn around to look for the ball quick enough. He actually ducked when it came. But he was very inspiring throughout it all.

Vince Verhei: The Jets finally try a pass to Tebow, and of all times it's on a critical third-and-medium near midfield. Because that's a good time for a "what the hell, let's see if this works" kind of play. Reshad Jones jumps the out route and swats the ball away. Tebow actually looked startled that anyone was covering him.

Andy Benoit: Darrelle Revis goes down with a non-contact knee injury. If he's out, the Jets are a 5-6 win team.

Aaron Schatz: Think about how much that defense is based on the idea that you can put Revis on the best receiver and concentrate on everything else. Just a massive, massive injury if he's out for a long time. I winced. Even as a fan of their archrivals, I mean, you don't want to see the best players in the game go down with major injuries because you like to see them play.

Andy Benoit: Can Tebow play corner? He did a good job forcing the incompletion on the Jets' last offensive series...

J.J. Cooper: A Sanchez special: overthrows a wide-open Hill on first down for what could have been a touchdown. On second down he throws it away even though there is no pass rusher within three yards of him. On third down he misses an open running back. Jets punt. Oh and to make it even better for Jets' fans, Hill, who had pulled up after the incomplete pass on first down grabbing his hamstring, stayed in the game and pulled it much worse on the third-down play.

Aaron Schatz: If the Jets really want to be all ground-and-pound, they need to figure out how to block on running plays. The run blocking was very good a couple years ago, it's just awful now. With about half the fourth quarter left, Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene together have just 48 yards on 19 carries. I think the longest run of the game is six yards by Powell and that was around right end. There are no holes up the middle at all.

Benjy Rose: The answer can be summed up in two words, and they rhyme with Schmalan Schmaneca.

Vince Verhei: It is 1:40 p.m. in Seattle. The Dolphins just kicked off to start overtime in a game that started three hours, 40 minutes ago.

Aaron Schatz: Dolphins kick game-winning field goal, miss. Jets march down, kick game-winning field goal, blocked... but Miami had called a timeout first. This is nuts. Today is nuts.

Andy Benoit: Joe Philbin uses an icing timeout that winds up nullifying a blocked field goal. Stupid use of timeout ... not only because freezing kickers doesn't work (it only helps them, statistics show), but because if Folk had missed, Philbin's Dolphins may have needed that timeout later.

Mike Kurtz: Is it possible that this will be the end of icing? I know, too much to hope for.

Vince Verhei: I've got the time unofficially at four hours, four minutes.

St. Louis Rams 6 at Chicago Bears 23

Mike Kurtz: Awesomely insane play in Chicago. Jay Cutler throws, it's deflected and taken for an interception by Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan runs upfield, is taken out by Cutler of all people, the ball pops out right into the hands of Devin Hester, who runs back downfield, who is then hit by Finnegan, and the ball pops out again. A St. Louis lineman dives on the ball and curls into the fetal position.

Turns out Finnegan was down by contact before the ball came out. Sam Bradford then throws something very close to a tip-drill interception on the next play. Wacky game.

Andy Benoit: Tim Jennings had another very impressive game. He jumped an Amendola slant route to set up the tipped pick-six for Major Wright.

Buffalo Bills 24 at Cleveland Browns 14

Vince Verhei: C.J. Spiller, the league's leading rusher, was carted off the field with a shoulder injury. Bills now down to Tashard Choice at running back.

Aaron Schatz: I just want to give props to Trent Richardson on his touchdown run for the Browns' first touchdown today. He ran into a wall of defenders, his offensive line got no push at all, but he was able to bounce it way outside and go around everybody to take it in. Definitely saw the talent there and why he's not just another run-of-the-mill fungible back who's much more dependent on his line than most fans understand.

Jacksonville Jaguars 22 at Indianapolis Colts 17

Vince Verhei: Andrew Luck had a couple of 10-yard runs on one drive in the second quarter. First time, he took a big hit at the end of the run. Second time he slid before a defender got within 10 feet of him. I've been surprised at how slow his release looks. I don't want to overstate this, because it's a half-dozen or so plays viewed casually in a crowded bar, but it's like every throw he makes a decision, then psyches himself to throw as hard as he can, and then actually throws about as hard as he can. Again, I don't want to over-react here, but it is surprising for a guy who was pitched as having great mechanics in school.

Atlanta Falcons 27 at San Diego Chargers 3

Vince Verhei: This game, a 1 p.m. PT kickoff, was five minutes old before any of the early games ended.

Andy Benoit: Thomas DeCoud gets his second interception of the day. All the sudden, the Falcons safeties know how to cover people.

Philadelphia Eagles 6 at Arizona Cardinals 27

Ben Muth: This game is going to be ugly from an offensive line standpoint. Five hits and two sacks in the first eight pass attempts.

Brian Billick just called Kevin Kolb a "big strong armed quarterback." Then Kolb used his laser-rocket-cannon-hose to throw a ball right to the Eagles. But, because he throws so hard, it got knocked up right into Michael Floyd's hands for a touchdown.

Andy Benoit: Kerry Rhodes with two enormous plays near goal line at end of first half. He prevented a DeSean Jackson touchdown, and then blindsided Michael Vick with a backside blitz to force a sack-fumble that was returned for six.

Ben Muth: Arizona is up 24-0 at the half and is treating Vick like a pinata.

Aaron Schatz: After that play, Twitter immediately exploded with "Wow, the Cardinals are for real" comments. Well, I think that the 17-0 before the sack-fumble does a much better job of showing the Cardinals are "for real" than the touchdown did. That sack was great scheming, and they are killing Vick. But 95-yard touchdown fumble returns are almost the very definition of unsustainable success.

Rivers McCown: Forget about the sack-fumble, someone tell me how Kolb is averaging 9.8 yards per attempt. I need some explanations there.

Andy Reid: Vick is now 9-of-19 for 117 yards plus three sacks and three official rushes. LeSean McCoy has 4 carries. Sheil Kapadia mentioned this on Twitter, but why is Andy Reid doing this again for the second time in three weeks?

Ben Muth: I think Arizona's defense is for real. You can win a wild card with a real good defense. Probably not much else, but watching the Cardinals is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be going into the year.

Andy Benoit: I agree with Ben. The Cardinals are a more diverse version of the Steelers (schematically), and Horton is a great defensive play-caller. Having Patrick Peterson helps.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not saying they aren't for real. I'm just saying that the evidence is the pressure on Vick, the sacks, the inability to complete passes, and even the fumble itself. But not the fumble return.

Andy Benoit: The Vick sack-fumble play is going to be this week's Schiano-Coughlin clip. We'll see it replayed way, WAY too many times.

Aaron Schatz: I wrote in the ESPN Upset Watch column that if the Cardinals wanted to win, they needed to switch Peterson over to the offensive left so he can play Jackson. I haven't seen the whole game, but it is looking like that's what they did.

Ben Muth: I haven't been watching for it, but it seems like every time they target Jackson, Peterson is right there.

Tom Gower: I'm not trying to make this "Tom rips on Andy Reid" day, but I don't get the decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-5 down 24-3 at the end of the third quarter.

Late-game constant No. 1: when there's a big run or catch-and-run against the Eagles, Nate Allen gets beat somewhere, usually in space.

Ben Muth: The game is over in Arizona, but there's still fun to be had watching it. Ryan Williams just trucked Nnamdi Asomugha in the hole an dwent for another 20 yards. Unfortunately, he grabbed his leg at the end of the run. Hoping it's just a cramp.

Houston Texans 31 at Denver Broncos 25

Vince Verhei: Matt Schaub has seven different targets in his first eight completions.

Andy Benoit: J.J. Watt is owning the Broncos. Is he the best 3-4 end in football?

Rivers McCown: Justin Smith definitely has a claim to that crown, but Watt has pushed his game up to the next level this year. He's clearly the best player on the Texans defense, and that's saying something.

Aaron Schatz: The other guy with a claim to the title would be Haloti Ngata. It depends on how you consider the Ravens' front. The Ravens actually list their lineups with one end and two tackles, with Haloti Ngata listed at tackle. But if you think of the basic 3-4 as a nose tackle inside, ends outside, then Ngata is a 3-4 end, not a 3-4 tackle. Ma'ake Kemoeatu is the nose tackle.

Andy Benoit: Regarding Joe Mays' roughing the passer penalty: very violent play, but being rough with the passer is not the same as roughing the passer. Great hit.

Tom Gower: He went helmet-first into Schaub's helmet and the force of his blow knocked Schaub's helmet off. He's getting a FedEx this week for sure. Not sure how that's a "great hit."

Vince Verhei: Schaub has thrown two touchdowns of 50 or more yards, and thrown two other balls that could have been that long but were dropped. Then Mays dropped him with about as dirty a helmet-to-helmet shot as you could find. Dropped his forehead and stuck his arms out to the sides like he was trying to take flight. Schaub missed one play.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, I thought this was dirty too, then I re-watched it in slow motion. He actually knocked off Schaub's helmet with his upper chest, it was not a helmet-to-helmet hit. I think it actually should have been legal.

Rivers McCown: (Mollom has blocked this comment for excessive profanity.)

Andy Benoit: The Texans look like they play with 12 men. It's incredible. A swarming front end of the defense and a stalwart back end. They're consistently generating pressure with four rushers -- and all four rushers are constantly on the same page.

Aaron Schatz: It's one of those improvements that's hard to predict statistically. Normally when you have a defense improve like the Texans did last year, you see some regression next year. That's what we forecast for Houston. In particular, Wade Phillips defenses have an interesting history of improving significantly in year one and regressing a bit in year two. Not happening so far. They just had the perfect mix of scheme change and added talent. What are the biggest differences between the current defense and the awful defense of 2010? Well, they signed Johnathan Joseph, and added Danieal Manning, but I don't think that latter one is a major add. Otherwise, the secondary is basically the same. But in the front you add Watt and Brooks Reed, plus Connor Barwin matures in his third season. Am I missing anything? It's really mostly three players: Joseph, Watt, and Barwin.

Rivers McCown: Glover Quin moved from mediocre corner to safety, where he is above-average. Kareem Jackson stopped being the kind of liability that allowed multiple touchdowns to Seyi Ajirotutu, and became merely a below-average cornerback.

Andy Benoit: Gotta love Peyton Manning: unhappy with a deflected touchdown because he knows that the design and execution of the play didn’t work well.

Rivers McCown: I am pretty sure that I do not.

Aaron Schatz: Like we always (often) say: you judge based on process, not results.

Rivers McCown: Manning seemed to come alive late in the no-huddle, and it was a little interesting that Brice McCain was having the majority of the work done on him. While Houston as a whole has not regressed, I think McCain is one player in particular who has.

Either way, I would like to thank Matt Prater for not letting Trindon Holliday return any kickoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 31 at Oakland Raiders 34

Andy Benoit: Eight different targets on Ben Roethlisberger's first 14 completions.

The Steelers aren’t blitzing the Raiders much late in the second quarter, they’re choosing to play coverage. Makes sense against a Raiders team with limited weapons.

The Raiders give up a 21-yard yard completion with 0:23 seconds left in first half, putting Steelers in field goal range. But Matt Giordano made a "big hit" on the receiver (Emmanuel Sanders), which apparently was cause for celebration.

Danny Tuccitto: If I saw it right, Giordano's "celebration" was of the chopping wood variety. Given it came after allowing a 21-yard completion, maybe he was just lobbying the Scramble guys for the KCW Award.

Tom Gower: Late-game constant No. 2: when the Raiders bust off a big run or big catch-and-run, Darrius Heyward-Bey has a great block downfield. He had one on Darren McFadden's 64-yard score today.

Andy Benoit: With Heyward-Bey being carted off the field and Steelers safety Ryan Mundy not being flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, will we see the discussion about the replacement officials and player safety finally assume a serious tone? Or will it just stay hypothetical?

Aaron Schatz: Not to mention the play a few minutes before where Philip Wheeler crawled an extra two or three steps so he could take Roethlisberger down below the knees after the pass. Lucky there was no injury on that one.

Tom Gower: Mundy didn't know when he hit DHB helmet-to-helmet that he wouldn't get flagged for it. That's not a replacement refs issue; that's a rule issue. The penalty wasn't enough to deter Mundy from making the hit in the first place. That's your problem in my book.

Vince Verhei: I'm seriously starting to think that they'll have to remove facemasks to stop guys from killing each other like this.

Andy Benoit: Tomlin uses a timeout with 3:51 left to flirt with the idea of going for it on fourth-and-one in their own territory in a tied game. No trust in the Steelers defense?

Gamble pays off for Tomlin, but whoa ... when's the last time the Steelers didn't trust their own defense? And it's not like they're playing an offensive juggernaut.

Vince Verhei: Well, the Steelers defense had given up three touchdowns and a field goal in the last four drives. So there's that.

Tom Gower: Yeah, why should Tomlin have confidence in his defense? As Vince points out, they haven't stopped the Raiders lately. I was just glad (a) he made the decision and (b) they converted, so we don't have to hear about how crazy Tomlin is all week.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, he trusts more than I would have ever expected in math. They did go for it, and they got it. The kind of play that he would be lambasted for if it had not worked. Again, I'm guessing that the math would end up showing it was the right choice, although I personally am not as confident about the fourth-and-1 on my own side of the field.

New England Patriots 30 at Baltimore Ravens 31

Vince Verhei: Now Baltimore gets the officials for a measurement on a spot that's a full yard short of a first down, giving them a full minute or more to rewatch the play and decide if they want to challenge it. Did the Harbaughs get together and discuss ways to bully the refs for extra timeouts?

Rivers McCown: That memo that the NFL sent out about not pleading to the scab refs sure seems to have been effective. This isn't quite Atlanta-Denver bad, but it's not too far off.

Aaron Schatz: This game may end before 2 a.m. ... maybe.

Vince Verhei: Watching Baltimore security chase down that streaker, as shot from the blimp circling the stadium, may have been my favorite moment of Week 3.

Rivers McCown: Pretty lackadaisical tackling on that Dennis Pitta touchdown. And on the streaker, as well. It's contagious.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, strange, because this Patriots defense is definitely better than last year. But that was sort of embarrassing. Otherwise, I'm not sure what my big broad takeaway is from the first half here. The Patriots look like the Patriots. The Ravens look like the Ravens, only with a slightly better passing game and not as much pass rush.

I'm sorry, the runs here are not working. Collinsworth and Michaels are talking about the runs getting the linebackers to move forward, making space for passes. I can't see if that's true. But 10 carries for 28 yards, enough with the shotgun sweeps, guys.

Rivers McCown: Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels may want to lean on players such as Stevan Ridley or Rob Gronkowski. No, I don't own these guys in fantasy, why do you ask?

Aaron Schatz: This is the first game where Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady look like they've been practicing together.

Wow, the Ravens are starting to send the super heavy blitzes. I think next drive, it's time for the Pats to bring out the 3-TE set and get some protection in there. It's Michael Hoomanawanui time!

By the way, with one more quarter to go, there are 22 play reversals today around the NFL, the most in one day since at least 2000. Previous high was 16 on October 9 of last year. Thanks to Chris Hoeltge at the NFL for getting me that data.

I don't to keep complaining about the refs, but did they just call Devin McCourty for defensive holding without any actual physical contact? Or am I just being a homer?

Tom Gower: That holding penalty on McCourty was pretty phantom to me as well, and I'm about the furthest thing you can get from a Pats homer.

Rivers McCown: I think at one point in this game, Cris Colinsworth said something like "the referees are likely to let more things go." Uh, well, that clearly is not the case.

Aaron Schatz: It sure is the case if you are Michael Oher.

Ben Muth: Oher just tackled someone on the edge. The result is a 20-yard gain for Ray Rice in the flat.

Aaron Schatz: OK, and I'm getting ready to complain about how ridiculously home-cooked the refs are tonight, and then they just called an ABSURD penalty on John Harbaugh essentially for trying to call timeout. Or something. This is like pitching with an umpire with a totally random strike zone. How do you know what the hell to throw when even a pitch right down the middle is occasionally a ball?

Tom Gower: Congratulations, you now know what rooting for a team that has Chris Johnson on it is like.

Vince Verhei: Well, that's about the most fitting end possible to one of the worst football Sundays I've ever seen. I put this on Twitter and I will repeat it here: I get paid to write about football, and I get paid to write about pro wrestling. I am no longer sure which sport has worse officiating.

Aaron Schatz: So at the end, the Ravens pull it out. Very nice last drive by Flacco. Patriots defense sort of folded there. But damn, that whole game ... that was a travesty. No matter which team won, it was a travesty. And now, they're probably going to fine Bill Belichick for putting his hands on the ref after the game trying to get the ref's attention. Because, you know, fining Belichick will totally show everybody what the problem is in the NFL right now.

Mike Kurtz: I'm not sure there has been a substantive shift in officiating from Week 1 (when everyone was largely shrugging) to now. There are still marginal calls and there are still questionable calls, but I think the main difference (after Week 2 especially) is a problem of legitimacy. I do think actual enforcement is substandard, but not ridiculously so. However, replacement crews are cocking up basically every single aspect of game management, from player control to clock control to enforcement, and all the while taking a million conferences before doing anything.

This makes the crews look incompetent. If the crew looks incompetent because it cannot manage the game, the viewer does not trust the crew to handle penalty enforcement appropriately because the perception is that the officials do not understand the game thoroughly enough to do their jobs. The process of officiating at any level only works if the crew carries with it an air of legitimacy and authority. Without that, the dozens of marginal and judgment calls each official makes each game is put under a microscope (often by people with a very loose grasp of the rules and officiating mechanics) and you end up with 10 different opinions the viewer trusts as much as the word from the officials.

I don't think it matters at this point whether there is a substantive difference in the officiating between the regulars and the replacements, since nobody trusts the replacements at this point. That said, everyone is still going to watch, so the NFL has no real reason to compromise with the officials.

Vince Verhei: I actually agree with a lot of that. My problem with the replacement officials is less about them making good or bad calls and more about how long every damn discussion takes. It's not knowing how many timeouts a team has. It's not knowing the rules about challenges. It's not knowing how yards a penalty should be. It's the excess pushing and shoving in every game. It's the fact that they very clearly have no idea what the hell they are doing.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 24 Sep 2012

248 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2012, 8:56am by Mike Tanier


by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:48am

Is it time to wonder if Andy Reid traded the wrong QB?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:01am

It's Andy Reid, in listening to Philly fans I've learned that you wonder about any decision Andy makes within 1 second of him making it.

by Little Bobby Tables (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:29pm

Yes. McNabb is really a very good analyst on ESPN, he would have killed it as a color commentator on the Eagles radio broadcasts.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:26pm

You mean the guy who lost an open competition with John Skelton?

by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:19pm

Yes. Because the guy with 6 INTs and 5 fumbles just might be worse.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 2:34am

I know, crazy, right? I mean, trading the young QB that you think perfectly fits in your system to keep a 30-year old QB who relies entirely on athleticism. It's amazing that this went wrong!

Seriously, whatever you though about Kolb/Vick, if Kolb turned out to even be an average QB that trade was eventually going to look bad.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:33am

When I think about it, I'm still shocked that Reid made such a heavy wager on a guy who, in several years in the league, had never shown any inclination to be an efficient quarterback and who had shown a tendency to be injured.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:57pm

I have to say, my assumption was basically that Reid had to have decided Kolb wasn't much good and never would be - otherwise why make the trade?

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:04pm

Same here, Reid must have decided that Kolb was trash.

However, if this was the case they still should have been trying to find a young guy to replace Vick. I bet they would have liked Russell Wilson at pick #59 right about now.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:07pm

I assume the pick of Foles was made with this in mind. I would think he'll be the starter in 2013.

by Purds :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:52am

I especially agree with the last few points. The refs were quite bad in the night game, but their lack of authority was much worse. No one trust them, or respects them, and they don't have a chance. It will only get worse from here. That NE-Batlimore game was so inconsistently called, that no one was going to be happy in the end. Terrible.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:31am

It isn't the end of the world. It just adds one more element to the randomness in addition to the already huge amount of randomness. It is like a bad rainstorm, or high winds.

You typical NFL game might be something like a team with a strength of 40+10d6 vs a team with a strength of 60+10d6.

Now it is 40+12d6 vs 60+12d6, it is not the end of the world. As DVOA has made clear over the years the team that played worse already wins some decent number of the games, and as gamblers know the team that IS worse still wins occasionally.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:37am

Joking right?

Turning the NFL into D&D is not helping your argument.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:52am

??? No I am not joking, the games are more random. Boo hoo. There ALREADY was a ton of randomness. I have personally never even played D7D, but it is framework for explaining randomness many people are familiar with.

I realize since your team lost last night in a badly officiated game you think it is the apocalypse and the world should jump to assuage your misery. But it wasn't the apocalypse actually.

The NFL had good ratings yesterday, sold a lot of tickets, the games were played, there were no more or less injuries than normal. You are angry because you perceive yourself as the recipient of injustice, but the losing teams fans always feel that way even under the old system. Now they just have something more concrete to point at.

I am not claiming the reffing of that game was as good as it is with the other officials, it wasn't. But it wasn't a disaster, and your team losing doesn't make it so.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:32am

I don't think you need to make unfounded accusations about another commentor's team-goggles to explain why they are pointing out that your explanation is stupid.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:14pm

??? What is stupid about my comment? I am trying to help you understand the basis on which the decision is being made, you guys just want to complain and hurl insults and the league.

And the team goggles definitely are in play, each week the posters going on an on about it are people whose teams were hurt. It is never the people whose teams were helped, or had well officiated games. It is not a coincidence.

Yes the refs are worse, but there are always problems like this.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 5:49pm

Then that's some very selective memory you have there, but let me make this exeedingly clear:

The end of the MNF game was a complete and utter travesty. The refs literally robbed the Packers of thier rightful victory. Not in a hypothetical, "they could then have gone on to win" or "they didn't play well enough for one play to decide it" way, but in a real, we're giving the oponent 6 points on the last play of the game, not because of anything they did, just because we want to.

The Packers were robbed and I'm livid about it.

Now please, try and tell me that my fandom is somehow coloring that reaction.

- Alvaro

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

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:12pm

QCIC, you are throwing around strawmen. Nobody is claiming it is the "apocalypse" or a "disaster". But relative to the world of football, that officiating was about as bad as it gets. There are many parts of football that bring randomness into the equation and make football unexpected, quirky and fun. Poor, inconsistent officiating isn't one of them. Nobody wants the randomness of poor officiating and it is something that the NFL purposely tries to minimizes by reducing or even eliminating judgement calls.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:08pm

"Nobody wants the randomness of poor officiating and it is something that the NFL purposely tries to minimizes by reducing or even eliminating judgement calls."


If I wanted to play craps, I would go to a casino.

Saying "it's not bad that it's more random" really flies in the face of so much of what our culture likes about football. We like it because it's a test of strength, character, phyiscal ability, leadership, etc. We don't like it because it's a high-variance practice.

And to think that my judgment here has something to do with the Pats losing is weak. It's a sign of a weak argument that it refuses to be argued on its merit, but immediately turns to ad hominem.

by Anonymous Jones :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:49pm

Just because I'm paranoid does not mean that someone isn't chasing me, and just because we've learned to turn the accusation of bias into the pejorative label "ad hominem" does not mean that there is no evidence of bias here.

He mentions that there seems to be an unusually high correlation between losing and whining. On a non-statistical anecdotal basis, I concur.

by NG5 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:05pm

Obviously football is a sport with some rules to constrain randomness. The randomness brought on by inconsistent officiating is not part of the legitimately accepted randomness brought out within the rules of the game and thus directly denatures the interpetability of success and failure.

I'm very close to not watching football anymore until the NFL puts it's pathetic union hammer away (see http://www.thenation.com/blog/169593/why-are-nfl-refs-locked-out-its-all...), and I don't even think my team has had as many problems with it. It just isn't football when I'm constantly rethinking conditionals related to the officiating. It's okay to ask "what if that runner broke free" because him not doing so is part of the rules of competition, but it's to be entertained when I don't know what the rules are on a given play. I was shocked when my team, the Steelers, ran a seemingly deliberate pick play on a fourth and one in field goal range gambling that they could get a first down on the uncalled pick, and it worked. I was impressed at the creativity of the call, but I don't like the idea of a sport won and planned on unseen penalties.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:25pm

So your answer is that they are bad, but not so bad that we should care?

That sounds like awful reasoning to me.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:32pm

My answer is that the owners are in a dispute with the regular officials and until such time as that dispute is complete everyone should just relax.

It is football not a mission to mars. The stakes are low (despite what ESPN wants you to believe). That the owners have settled for less than optimal reffing is not some

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:39pm

national tragedy. It is just business.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:47pm

If I thought this was a national tragedy, I would be doing more than posting anonymously on the internet.

You're position is just as ridiculous as the one you ascribe to other people (which I don't think anyone is actually taking).

We're on a football site, we're going to talk about football issues. Right now the biggest one is how bad the refs are.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:24pm

If you listen to half the comments and discussions about this people clearly think it is a national tragedy. They are extremely worked up about it.

It is a game. The reffing is sub-par. Cest le vie. It will work itself out.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:26pm

Pretty sure it's just people on a football forum bitching about refs.

Didn't realize you were the sole arbiter of what is and isn't acceptable to discuss.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:10pm

Tell you what. You find somebody who thinks it's a "national tragedy" and you can go please yourself with the righteousness of your argument. Until then, all you're doing is building strawmen for the purpose of self-gratification.

by bns (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:50am

Um... 12 dice are LESS random than 10.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:03pm

1. 40 + 1D6 plays 60 + 1D6
2. 40 + 100D6 plays 60+100D6

Which is more likely to be an upset?

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 5:55pm

Well, that's a piss-poor analogy, since in the first scenario, there is no way for the second team to lose.

Now, if you want to make anacutal relevant question with the first one being 40 +10D6 plays 60 + 10D6, then the answer is that the first scenario is more likely to have an upset, which is what the previous poster said.

- Alvaro

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

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:01pm

Really? I'm not a statistician, nor do I play one on TV, but that seems staggeringly counterintuitive and does not appear to be even remotely supported by my admittedly brief and unscientific experiments using this dice simulator. What I would have expected is that more dice would mean a higher probability of an average roll closer to 3.5, but also a higher probability of a total roll discrepancy above 20. And that's what a couple of minutes of mucking about produced. Am I wrong in principle and seeing flukey outcomes in practice? If so, why?

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:02pm

You're mistaking raw difference in results for randomness. You need to normalize the results.

How often when rolling 2 sets of 10 dice do you get a result 6 times higher for one set? What about results of triple or double? Compare to how often this happens with sets of a single die.

A better example of increasing randomness would have been to change the dice from 6 sided to 8 sided.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:29pm

Ah, so it's a purely semantic issue?

It seems to me that adding in a couple of extra d6 is a perfectly reasonable analogy for adding a further non-skill factor to deciding the outcome of games. 12D6 makes an upset more likely than 10D6, so the not-quite-op's point was a pedantic nitpick rather than a substantial objection.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:40pm

It's one of those confusing things, where adding more dice does lead to more upset results, but is actually less random.

by Gauss (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:40pm

You are correct. More dice mean a greater probability that the difference is at least 20, and hence an upset.

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:07am

The NE/BAL game reminded me of an NBA playoff game: It seemed that whenever a pass was in the air, the receiver and defender would hit into and touch each other, and then turn to the refs and scream for a foul on the opposing player. The consecutive illegal contact/John Harbaugh personal foul penalities were indeed ridiculous. Now, I didn't see the replay, but was the pass interfence on Devin McCourtey on the drive really legit?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 12:16pm

The DPI that gave the Ravens the ball on the NE 5 on the game-winning drive was totally legit.

Other calls on McCourty? Shall we say....less so.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:03pm

I'm not sure I blame McCourty for that one.

If you're going to get called for PI for running parallel to the guy, you might as well grab him.

Especially when they're letting Tory Smith punch defensive backs, and letting this go uncalled:


by Eddo :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:55pm

Uh, that's not Torrey Smith in that gif.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:37pm

I didn't say it was.

The comma, and the word 'and' separates clauses.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:09pm

To be clear, the Torry Smith punching a defensive back was a seperate incident, that isn't nearly as bad as the GIF, which is Cary Williams repeatedly punching Julian Edelman in the face, right in front of a side judge.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:29pm

That's Cary Williams, isn't it?

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:16pm

It was probably technically a legit call, but not in the context of the game and I have seen that go plenty of times especially in the context of the game. He contacted the receiver pretty close to the same time as the ball and looked back for it. I could see it go either way. Some of the others were totally phantom.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:12pm

The NBC guys said that the penalty on Harbaugh was for running on the field. If true, I don't see how that's to be argued.

As for the "illegal contact" that had the Ravens fans all upset, there was definitely a penalty there. It was either holding or PI. But you cannot throw a receiver to the ground and catch the ball in his stead - at least, not under current NFL rules.

by Dan K (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:29pm

Yes, the last defensive PI at the 5 was totally legit. Also a bad call by McCourty, he never looked for the ball, it was very underthrown and the receiver was going to have trouble adjusting back to the ball without the PI.

A litany of complaints from the Patriots side (note: I fully believe that the Patriots got lucky on an equal number of calls, but those just don't stick in your craw as much):
1) That "illegal contact" on the Raven's pick should have been defensive PI, there was no question it was a penalty of some sort.
2) Phantom McCourty holding that kept the second to last drive alive early.
3) Phantom PI on Mayo where there didn't appear to be contact and the ball was thrown into the ground and looked like it might have been tipped.
4) Random, but 3 or 4 plays before the end there was a catch on the sideline where he clearly went down inbounds. Bizarrely this is what I think Belichick wanted to complain about at the end of the game. Also I hate TV announcers for not even noticing that this might be a complaint.
5) Michael Oher [insert any play]

Overall the game just felt arbitrary in a way it usually doesn't. Refs just seem out of their element at all times. Going penalty crazy in a failed attempt to regain control of a game just feels desperate. It's a bad sign when I was mostly happy that the Pats escaped without any major injuries. It doesn't seem like this would be that hard to fix.

Get down, distance right routinely.
Don't let games get out of hand early. If you call those defensive holding penalties consistently on the first drives they won't happen on every play.
Understand the rules on timeouts and challenges. The clock at the end of the game or half matters. Don't give free timeouts or measurements or out-of-bounds.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:47pm

Re: Phantom McCourty holding that kept the second to last drive Ravens alive early

I'm a Ravens fan, and I was trying to figure out what the ref could have been thinking on that call. This was 2nd & 14 in the 4th Q. One of the replays showed a little something. Early in Torrey Smith's route, around 8 to 10 yards past the LOS, Smith did a sort of hesitation and go, and McCourty smacked Smith in the facemask. It didn't look like much judging by McCourty's motion, but Smith's body reacted. His head got jolted a bit, and he put his hand to his face, before continuing his route.

Could the ref have meant Illegal Contact, rather than D Holding?

If that's not what the ref was flagging, then I got nothing and it was just a flat-out terrible call.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:09pm

Yeah, I assumed it was the hands to the face that was what drew the flag. Of course, it was reported wrong (much like the Webb pick).

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 5:59pm

But you cannot throw a receiver to the ground and catch the ball in his stead - at least, not under current NFL rules.

Apparently you can, according to the MNF officials. Well, except for the "catch the ball" part. You only need ot catch the guy catching the ball.

- Alvaro

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

by zenbitz :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:47pm

my best guess of what happened with the timeout/challenge in SF/Minn was that Harbaugh called time out - THEN realized there was a challenge opportunity. Since, if he realized this in advance he could have just thrown the challenge flag - I think he somehow convinced/intimidated the refs into giving him his challenge.

Either that, or he never called timeout and the announcers were wrong. I couldn't bare to go back to the DVR and watch any part of that game again.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:54am

No mention of the horrific call early in the Saints/Chiefs game where Pierre Thomas had a touch down catch over turned even though the call on the field was a catch and there was nothing remotely close to irrefutable evidence to overturn the call?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by mrh :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:40pm

As a Chiefs fan, I thought the ball clearly was NOT controlled after Thomas hit the ground. It was moving around in his arms. I also thought it was NOT clear that the ball touched the ground in the replays I saw. I don't know if what I was shown was what the ref saw or at the same scale as he saw it. I didn't see enough to overturn the call on the field and was a little surprised that the ref did.

But I notice you're not complaining about the call on the Dexter McCluster fumble when he was clearly not trying to advance the ball. I believe the NBC officiating consultant later said that should have been ruled as the player "giving himself up".

IMO, the Thomas call was a poor judgment by a ref that he saw the ball hit the ground, although it's possible he saw a replay that I didn't. That kind of crappy judgment on replays happens every week. The McCluster call appeared to be an unfamiliarity with the rules and more attributable to replacement refereeing although it's possible that I don't understand the rules well enough.

by mm(old) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:07pm

You don't give yourself up by leaving the ball behind when you roll over. You give yourself up by staying on the ground with the ball and not trying to get up, or by calling out 'down' to the ref while you have the ball.

He dropped the ball because he was hurt, which sucks, but it wasn't because he was intentionally giving himself up.

by mrh :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:41pm

From PFT: The officials ruled that McCluster was down, although it wasn’t as clear as it was on the Cruz play that McCluster was declaring himself down.... “I don’t agree with the ruling,” NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos said in the viewing room. “He was injured. It’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m down.’ He’s not trying to gain any yardage.”

Jim Daopoulos is a former official and NFL supervisor of officials.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:56am

By the way, does Belichick get suspended for grabbing the official?

The league sent out a memo last week regarding intimidating officials and there is precedent of PLAYERS getting suspend for contact with officials.

Thus, it should stand to reason that Belichick would be suspended for at least couple games for his actions.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:35am

If you don't suspend a coach for putting his hands on an official, Goodell is making a real mistake.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:36am

"real mistake"

Well, it's Goodell so this is practically a given....

Velvet Sky fan

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:11am

Eh, ripping Goodell has become very fashionable, but by the only standard that matters, which is how well he has pleased the 32 guys who pay him an eight figure salary, Goodell has been outstanding. If he thinks that he needs to back off on a coach putting his hands on an official, however, he's wrong.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:35am

"suspended at least a couple games for his actions..."

Belichick wasn't suspended at all for defying a league memo to not videotape the signals of the coaches. You think he'll be suspended for trying to get the ref to answer a question?

He'll be fined. He should be fined. But how can anybody make any argument that "intimidating" has anything to do with it? The game was already over. You cannot intimidate (i.e., influence future decisions) of an official when the game is over.

Belichick was asking for an explanation of why no review was happening. It's a legitimate question. And the ref simply ran away. Is that legitimate?

There's a simple answer: it's not a reviewable play. But the ref was in way over his head.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:37am

"You cannot intimidate (i.e., influence future decisions) of an official when the game is over."

Because there is a certified 0 probability that that official would ever call another Pats game.... ?

Velvet Sky fan

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:40am

No, because it shouldn't matter by then.

BTW, what is a "certified 0 probability"? Who "certifies" probabilities? Especially probabilities of non-random events like referee assignments?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:41am

Your comment was what was implied to certify it.

Wow, this needed to be explained?

Velvet Sky fan

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:47am

Well, since you weren't making any sense, yes. And I still have no idea what you mean by "certified."

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:17pm

"The game was already over. You cannot intimidate (i.e., influence future decisions) of an official when the game is over"


read how YOU wrote that the intimidation would have no future outcome.

the only logical implication is that therefore that official would never work another PATS/Belichik game

you do realize that the MOB is prime proof of how flawed your thinking is?

Velvet Sky fan

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:08am

That ref had a lot to answer for, as that was one of the worst-officiated games I've ever seen. But it's not the ref's job to stop and answer questions from the coach whose team lost the game as they are walking off the field. I don't blame the ref for continuing to head to the locker room as BB was screaming at him.

by Paddy Pat :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:01pm

If Belichick gets suspended, I think the Patriots team should refuse to suit and play. With all the holding that went on in that game and the level of violence tolerated in both directions, it seemed to me that there is now no legitimate counterclaim to the argument that the scab refs are jeopardizing the health of players. The players and coaches need to take harsher measures to protest this.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:14pm

If the players think their health is being jeapordized, then they should present the evidence, and take whatever measures they have available to them to rectify the matter as quickly as possible. That has exactly nothing to do with whether Bill Belichik gets suspended for putting his hands on an official.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:06pm

"But it's not the ref's job to stop and answer questions from the coach whose team lost the game as they are walking off the field"

I'm pretty sure it is the refs job to explain why they're not reviewing a score, when every score is supposed to be reviewed.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:48pm

Every scoring play is reviewed in the booth and they decide if a the refs on the field should have another look. The refs on the field don't decide this one way or another.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:14pm

It's still part of the ref's job to explain rulings, even if he's not the one making them. Blowing off the head coach on the last play of the game? That's bad job performance.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:17pm

1. Is it? I mean, in practice, officials do explain rulings almost 100% of the time, but are they required to?

2. In this case, what's to explain? The ruling was that the ball passed inside the upright, extended upward. What is the official in question(*) going to say? "Well, it was 2.5 inches inside the upright, and 74 inches above it"?

(*) Which official was it? I would think only two officials' would have any relevance in this case: the head referee and the line/back judge who was under the upright in question.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:16pm

Field goals are not reviewable. Once that one was called good, the game was over and there was absolutely no action to take.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:41pm

Field goals *are* reviewable, actually - you can review if the ball went inside the goalposts and if it went over the crossbar. However, this specific one was not, since the ball was above the uprights, which makes it unreviewable.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:42pm

You could also review something like 12 men on the field.

by SKD (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:30pm

ALL scoring plays are reviewable.

by Illuminatus! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:05pm

"He'll be fined. He should be fined. But how can anybody make any argument that "intimidating" has anything to do with it? The game was already over. You cannot intimidate (i.e., influence future decisions) of an official when the game is over."

Did you watch the end of the Washington/Cincinnatti game? That's exactly what happened. The ref called a penalty on Washington and announced the game was over, and Kyle Shanahan actually yelled at him until he put time back on the clock and gave them another play (though he did issue a second penalty).

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:20pm

Actually I did watch that game. The ref did not announce that the game was over. The ref announced a penalty on the offense in a dead ball situation when the clock was not ticking. And then for some reason, the announcers thought that any penalty on the offense requires a 10-second runoff.

The announcers were wrong about whether a 10-second run-off should happen. At no point did the refs say that they were going to take time off the clock. That's why the game wasn't over. It had nothing to do with Kyle Shanahan intimidating any official, much less intimidating an official after the game was over.

by Illuminatus! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:27pm


"At least one official apparently indicated - erroneously - that there would be a 10-second runoff because of the false start penalty, which would run out the clock. Cincinnati's coaches and players along the sideline then walked onto the field, thinking the game was over.

That's when the Redskins coaching staff - and Kyle Shanahan in particular - went livid.

'When I overheard the official tell the head coach that the game was over after the false start penalty, I tried to explain that the game was not over,' Kyle Shanahan's statement said."

Shanahan himself said the refs announced the game was over. That's why he lit into the guy.

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:21pm

I am surprised that nobody is talking about how Harbaugh bullied the refs into changing the way the game was being officiated. It went from no calls in the first quarter to a flag fest in the next three. Harbaugh was in their face almost the whole game, even on pretty clear penalties. He even bullied them into a free time out for that measurement.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:24pm

The measurement of a ball that was a yard from the first down marker was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen.

The refereeing early in the game was far too lax. They were letting the players push and shove with very little called. That they decided to start throwing flags was an improvement, it was just how they did so that started to be ludicrous.

Ever see a PI called for a play that is only 2 yards from scrimmage? Yeah, me neither.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:29pm

The reffing was so pathetic for such an otherwise quality matchup where both teams played well. That first down measurement was a disgraceful abuse of the replacement ref's, but there were a slew of other calls that i thought hammered both teams.

The ne penalties have been well documented and most were downright stupid, but the ravens also got hosed on a couple. On the 2nd to last drive- carry williams gets called for a phantom illegal contact. Brandon lloyd got away with 2 blatant push offs on 3rd down. The time out 15 yard penalty. Then there was the logan mankins baiting pollard into a 15 yard penalty. Then there was the brady slide and ngata fell on him as a result of chasing him. The fall wasn't even malicious, with no elbow to the head or really anywhere near the face of brady. No call until brady screamed for a flag(not really blaming brady, hes doing what he needs to), but that was an example of swaying refs imo.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:31pm

I agree the Ngata fall onto Brady was not malicious, and possibly just a result of Ngata tripping over Brady as Brady slid in front of him. But, as a Ravens fan, I thought that call was inevitable. You can't touch Brady without a signed note from Mike Pereira, as the Ravens D well knows. You certainly can't fall on him after he slides.

Anyway, I also figure the Ravens have, in history, received the greatest possible break from the refs on the play where a D-lineman falls on top of a downed QB. (cf Tony Siragusa and Rich Gannon in the 2000 playoffs) I don't complain when that call goes against the Ravens D; they already got that call when they most needed to.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:35pm

I still give the Ravens the benefit of a doubt for any questionable officiating in their favor after this:

"Tom Brady pass complete short left to Jabar Gaffney for 8 yards, touchdown. Penalty on Bart Scott: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, Penalty on Bart Scott: Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards"


Even though the calls this time were just randomly bad instead of blatantly one-sided, at least the 2007 version was entertaining for 58 minutes.

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:42pm

Refresh my memory....didn't Scott pick up the ball and throw it? I remember thinking the TD was the wrong call (it was called Incomplete on the field, right?), but as I remember the Unsportsmanlike Conduct call wasn't controversial at all, just a dumb action by Scott.

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:45pm

Sorry, that call is made 100% of the time against every QB. There is nothing that says it has to be malicious. That was the right call as was the personal foul on Pollard and Reed. Reed in fact should have had two.

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:29pm

Why should Reed have had two? The shoulder-to-helmet hit on Branch, and what?

by Rocco :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:27pm

Reed had another headshot in the game but I'm blanking on the details.

by Rocco :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:26pm

100% of the time...except for last week, when it was ignored twice on SNF against Stafford and Alex Smith, neither of whom are of Brady's stature.

by Rocco :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:30pm

And Russell Wilson was just hit in his slide with no flag. I tried to write this earlier but for some reason this page takes forever to load.

by BSR :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 6:57am

That was a half slide and the hit was coming as he started to slide. Not the same at all. I didn't see the others, but then again these are the replacement refs we are talking about. I should have noted that I was talking about the regular refs. You can't fall on a sliding QB a full second after slide.

As for the second headshot, that was Reed again against Edelman in the end zone.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:19am

That wasn't a head shot, he leads with his arms, and hits Edelman in the chest.

by BSR :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:27pm

I went back and looked at the video. The first time looking at it, it seemed like his shoulder was going into the facemask. Looking at it a second time, id doesn't look like it. That was probably a good non-call.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:43pm

Ever see a PI called for a play that is only 2 yards from scrimmage?

Yes, but only when a receiver blocked too early on a tunnel screen.

by rageon :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:04am

Any thoughts on my Denver (or really, Peyton Manning) has looked much better moving the ball in the fourth quarter the last 2 weeks? Is it just going to a more no-huddle offense? Are teams giving them more (but why would you run a prevent on Manning)?

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:30pm

It probably is a product of Denver being down 20 pts in the 4th quarter in consecutive games. My favorite part of the game was when Denver had 4th down near midfield at the beginning of the 4th quarter. They’re down 20 and the defense really hasn’t been able to stop Houston’s offense. So what does John Fox do? Yep, orders the punt. So Houston manages to kill 4 minutes while driving back to the spot Denver punted from, only to inexplicably lay the ball on the ground and give it back. So Denver ends up driving for a TD, albeit with 4 fewer minutes on the clock. If that isn’t a classic Bad Process/Good Outcome, I don’t know what is.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:40pm

Manning's always been good in these situations. I've heard an idea that his arm starts slowly and 'wakes' up as the game gets going, but that seems counterintuitive.

Overall, I think no one should overanalyze Denver right now. Their schedule to start the season is really, really tough. Both of their losses were six-point losses to what probably are the two best teams in the NFL right now. Sure, they were also down 20 in the fourth quarter, but I don't think either defense went into prevent (especially not Houston's).

They just have the bad luck of a front-loaded schedule. If they can stay in striking distance come November they should be fine. If they can enter the bye 3-3 (they have vs OAK, @ NE and @ SD on MNF coming up before then) they should be fine.

Apparently Jaworski is saying Manning's passes are wobbling. He's not been able to throw perfect spirals since like 2005. His arm actually looked fine to me yesterday. The two deep throws to Thomas were really well thrown (the first was overthrown, though, but it didn't sail, Mannign just simply pushed it too far).

I just think Denver lost to a simply better team playing really, really well yesterday, and lost a weird game where Manning threw three early picks last Monday. That's about it.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:31pm

That was 4th and like 16. Besides, the D was seriously clamping down on the Texans in the second half - Houston had 21 at the half.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:04pm

You know whats funny...ron jaworski was asked how manning's arm has looked since thats what the media seems hung up on and its become their explanation for everything wrong in denver. He actually said he looks fine and in fact, none of the three ints in atlanta were actually manning's fault. He said all three were the result of receivers either running incorrect or lazy routes.

All the passing-receiving problems, i expect to get corrected over time and maybe its just been a function of scheduling, but two things have really worried me about denver. Their offensive line performance, since the pitt game, has been pretty lousy, especially up the middle. The second has been denver's attrocious third down defense. Its been actually good enough on first and 2nd, but third down has been an absolute nightmare for denver, allowing third and longs and big plays to be completed with startling regularity. Again, all this could be small sample/ schedule related, but right now, those are the big concerns.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:12pm

Yeah, the third down defense has been a huge problem. Honestly, they were just flat outplayed yesterday, and had an awful quarter last Monday.

Manning's arm looked fine. The one roll-out pass to Decker that was called back for holding was as good of a pass as Manning can throw. He's never been as consistent with perfect, tight spirals as a lot of other great QBs (Brees, Rodgers, even Flacco).

To me, it was just drawing two of the best, most complete teams in the NFL in the first three weeks. If they can't hang around .500 heading into November, they should be fine. No one else is running away with that division.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:58pm

To me, that brandon stokley td was a vintage manningesque throw... the type of throw i feel like almost no other qb can make. He was forced to move in the pocket, readjust and launch a throw into an extremely tight window. Stokley was in tight coverage and it caught him stride.

It was reminiscent of the greatest throw I've ever seen: The throw to collie in the 2009 afc champ game against the jets. That throw was surreal.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:15pm

That throw to Collie was just incredible. Another great one was a 3rd down throw to Clark in the Super Bowl on the TD drive that made it 17-13.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:37pm

Mannings best throw ever was against the Pats one year in the regular season at home. The pocket collapsed and he rolled left and threw a dart 40 yards downfield over and outstretched Dallas Clark and it falls right into Marvin Harrisons lap. Mind you he was running full speed to his left, stopped and took a huge hit. Best throw ive ever seen.

by ibanez_ax :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:05am

With Tanier having moved own, do you guys still check up on him to make sure he's not slashing his wrists during Eagles games?

by Mike Tanier :: Sun, 09/30/2012 - 8:56am

I stay close to the defensive coaching staff so I am never around anything sharp.

by ASmitty :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:06am

"Ben Muth: The ball doesn't get snapped if the Lions are just trying to draw someone offsides. And if it does, there isn't a play to run once it happens. It's not like coaches go "Hey, don't snap the ball on this play, but if it does happen we're running 96 Force." That's a lie."

Obviously you know more about line play than I, but I'm inclined to agree with Schwartz here. Literally nobody on Detroit moved on that play except the Center. Every lineman was in their stance for a second after the snap, and the QB belatedly surged forward and nearly fumbled the snap. The C appeared to be the only player who thought they were running a play.

I will say that the QB was REALLY selling it pre-snap though, and swatted the center hard on the thigh before the ball was snapped. Not sure if he was just trying to sell the fake and the Center thought it was an improved go signal or reacted on instinct or whatever. But it all looked horribly wrong.

Incidentally, I think Detroit should have been going for it anyway.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:09pm

Apparently Raiola did indeed think Hill had audibled into a play. If Schwartz is lying, Raiola's covering for him.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 2:36pm


For a source on that, and I don't think he's covering, all the reports I've seen say he was pretty inconsolable about it.

Most teams have two play calls there and they both usually use no play in them.

It will be the jargon that sets the formation for a normal play then then no play to indicate there won't be a snap but you line up thusly. However since offenses have learned that sometimes defenses will assume it's a no play they can end up back on their heals so depending on the situation that no play will be a no play fire or no play shot (there will be another word in the call). That basically indicates that if the QB sees something in the D, wide tackles, guys looking like they will be flat footed, they can then do the snap and run the play. Sometimes that play is the QB sneak where it's just the center and the QB that really know when they are going because the signal is a hand slap on the center. Sometimes the QB barks something and the full play goes.

In this case Hill did smack Raiola and if he were confused, and with the tension of that situation he snapped the ball and no one else expected it. Schwartz has claimed in past years that Hill gets full reign if he has to go in, they don't do anything different than with Stafford as far as what the QB is allowed to do, so folks thinking that a back QB wouldn't be able to do that and the line should have known likely doesn't fly here either.

So yeah I think Raiola screwed up, and I think I understand why, still sucks for the guy.

by witless chum :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:21pm

This. It didn't look like a play to me. It looked like Shaun Hill ended up with the ball in his hands and had the good sense to try and QB sneak it. Not that I doubt for a minute Jim Schwartz would make this up, he seems like a squirrely little bastard who I wouldn't turn my back on (and I say this as a Lions fan), but it looked like Dom Raiola was the only one running a play to me.

by ASmitty :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:08am

Double post.

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:25am

2 questions from games I saw today.

TB vs Dal

TB with 4th and 3 from the Dallas 10, down 7 - 16, 44 seconds left in the 4th quarter.

Almost every coach goes for the FG in that situation and it drives me insane. There has to be something I don't get, because in that situation, IMO, you go for the first down to get the TD, then you only need a FG to win if you get it back on the short kickoff.

TD then FG, from the 10, must have a greater chance to happen than FG then TD? It's not as if you are at the 30!

Are those 3 points that important in Playoff tiebreakers at the end of the year?

I'll post my 2nd question in another comment.

by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:31am

You need a TD and a FG. If you go for the first down, all you're doing is leaving yourself even less time to get the other score later, even if you make it. If you go for it and don't get it, the game is over.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:37am

Delaying the moment "when the game is over" is not a good win maximization strategy.

I realize psychologically people want to realize potential gains when they can, and put off realizing potential losses, but if we are going to pay these guys $5million a year to be the strategic masterminds behind the team the least you should be able to expect is that they overcome one of mankind's most basic and well known decision making flaws.

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:44am

You think being down 10 - 16 with 44 seconds left and a kickoff has a better chance of winning than 7 - 16 with 39 seconds and 1st and 10 from the opponent 6?

by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:32am

You're assuming a 100% probability of them making the first down. I'm not.

But lets hypothesize that they get the first down and eventually get a TD on the drive. Then they recover an onsides kick. Now you're looking at the difference between being down 6 with 44 seconds left or down 2 with 20 seconds left. Either way, you're screwed, but at that point I'd rather have the time.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 6:13pm

Why????? I would much rather have to go 20 yards in 20 seconds than 60 yards in 44 seconds. Every time.

- Alvaro

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

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:34am

Having the score look close is more important than trying your best to win. Which is dumb.

by Biebs :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:39am

well. no.

Assuming you aren't going for the end zone, it's a choice of making it 16-10 with about 40 seconds to go or a 50% chance (Arbitrary 50/50 number, if they go for the endzone, I have to assume it's closer to 25%) of getting closer to the end with about 40 seconds to go, but still without a score.

I'm sure the numbers have been run on the situation, but I don't think it's so obvious they should go there. if it's inside the 3 yard line, sure. But 1st and 10 from the 5 and more time off the clock isn't so obviously better.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:48am

I am more talking about the situation generally, rather than this specific circumstance, although I bet if you ran the numbers even in this circumstance they should try for the TD.

People really have an aversion to realizing losses.

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:26am

At the end of the game, I have to wonder if Vick even knew his own name. The closing montage of 'Dr. Strangelove' is a reasonable approximation of what happnened to him.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:27am

Very encouraged by the Viking win. Obviously beating a good team like SF is great, but it wasn't a typical weaker team type of victory. There weren't a bunch of crazy plays like long returns, pick 6s, etc. I think the Vikes got the good side of the luck equation in the game (penalty calls, fumble luck) but they also looked at a minimum a physical match for SF.

I didn't think Ponder would ever be a decent QB, but after 3 games this year I'm very encouraged by how well he's played. Of course I didn't think Aaron Rodgers would be any good either so I've now accepted the fact that I have no idea how a QB will turn out.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:43pm

No crazy plays? How bout a QB throwing a pick for the first time in 8 games, a field goal getting blocked, Frank Gore fumbling(not that crazy ill give you that), two long returns and SF not doing jack with them, missing a guy who is 6'4 high for a touchdown and Christian Ponder of all people getting a rushing touchdown.

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:39pm

Which one of these is crazy?

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 1:41pm

I would give him blocked FG as a crazy result. The rest just seem like football to me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:31am

Swapping Kalil for Johnson at left tackle has made huge difference for the Vikings o-line. Brandon Fusco at right guard is a big upgrade over Herrera, who was finished. Loadholdt is playing better. The 2nd year with their with o-line coach, Jeff Davidson is showing dividends; this unit had never been well coached in the Childress era, getting by on veteran experience.

Yes, there was no doubt some evidence of inattention by the Niners, but I do think the matchup that poses the biggest problem to the Niners, in general, is a team equipped to trade hooks and uppercuts for three hours, on both sides of the ball. No, the Vikings rushing numbers don't look great, but Peterson and Gerhart did combine for 33 attempts, and it wasn't all late game clock kill rushes. The Vikings showed a willingness to be physical on offense, and I think that is important when playing the Niner defense.

The Vikings have always had a good defensive line, and they are somewhat better than last year's train wreck in the defensive backfield, although obviously still not great. At home, against a passing attack that isn't dominant, the defensive line can cover the backfiled's weaknesses.

Finally, the most unpredictable element for the Vikings was of course Ponder. Having him become a starter last year for a team with no wide receving threat whenever Harvin was off the field, bad pass blocking, bad pass defense, about 70 days after opening an NFL playbook for the first time, was not conducive to illuminating to us how good or bad Ponder may be. Right now, he looks like a pretty athletic guy who is pretty intelligent, which is consistent with a guy who earned a bachelor's degree in two and a half years, and has earned two Master's degrees. If this keeps up, especially if he stays healthy, and his receiving corps stays healthy, with Simpson, coming off suspension, adding a vertical threat to go along with Rudolph and Harvin, then my win projection for the Vikings is going to be substantially off.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:12pm

I thought that was the worst loss for the Niners of the Harbaugh era, so it's nice to read your comments because it's a lot easier to have a positive attitude if the Niners actually lost to a pretty decent team, which they may well have done.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:31pm

Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the week 4 matchup between the Lions and Vikings would be trap game...for the Vikings!?

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:03pm

Yeah, your QB looks pretty good. He looked a lot better than Rodgers or Stafford, that's for sure.

Arizona in undisputed first place of the division...whoda thunk it?

by BJR :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:11am

Your theory about the Niners will be put to an interesting test next week when they play a road game against a team (the Jets) who are very tough on both lines of scrimmage, but are now, sans Revis, decidedly average to poor in all other areas.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:33am

You all assume Mundy intentionally hit DHB like that.

Did you watch him play at all otherwise? He is never in the position, place, or time that he is supposed to be. LOL. He couldn't intentionally hit a tackling dummy.

Velvet Sky fan

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:33am

PS, Tomlin and/or LeBeau have got to go.

Velvet Sky fan

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:10am

Great username.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:35pm

His pre-ban username was Fire_Omar_Tomlin, which I think is a reference to the resemblence between Tomlin and Omar Epps. So he's fairly good at comming up with usernames. Evaluating coaching talent? Not so much.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:34pm

It's been over one entire season since the Steelers made the Super Bowl, and they were only two or three touchdowns away from being blown out against the Packers. Their last championship was way back in the 2008 season, and they barely even won that game. Clearly Tomlin has no idea what he's doing.


by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:15pm

... and Tomlin built a SB roster and hired a new HOF level DC from scratch, right ?


Velvet Sky fan

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:35am

The story line for the SF game should be Singletary can still intimidate the Niners into playing badly. The difference being now he is no longer on the SF side of the field.

by Biebs :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:36am

Comments On the Jets game:

1. The first INT wasn't Sanchez's fault, as the receiver should have cut in and just didn't. The 2nd INT looked horrific, but it's hard to tell. Sanchez overthrows should have cost the Jets the game, 4x Sanchez had receivers wide open over the top and he missed the first 3x, only in OT to Holmes did he finally complete the over the top pass to an open receiver.
I really thought Sanchez would improve, but I'm quickly giving up hope.

2. The iced block kick was deceptive. If you watch the Jets, half of the OL stopped when the whistle blew. It's not clear at all the kick would have been blocked if the whistle was blown.

3. Bilal Powell should be starting. Shonn Greene is painfully slow and doesn't break tackles (though I do think he broke one late for 9 yards). Holmes is a good receiver, but until Hill learns to catch and Keller comes back from injury the Jets are painfully deficient at offensive skill positions. Also, the Jets pass rush in brutal. Tannenhill had all day to throw.

In general that was as bad as I have seen a team look and win a football game.

by JetFanInMD (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:46pm

In reference to point 2, Nick Mangold, the Jets center, was quoted as saying the oline (or most of the oline) heard the ref's whistles and did not block for the first kick.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:38am

I completely agree with the last couple of Audibles by Mike and Vince about the replacement officials. Truth be told, in terms of pure "we screwed the pooch on this call" matters, I don't think they're particularly worse than the regulars. They've still managed, with the benefit of luck, to stay ahead of Hochuli 1-0 in "calls that directly lost/won a game," after all. The flub-ups about time-outs and marking off penalty yardage are bad, but are also confined to 2-3 incidents a week, which is not that bad for replacement officials who are basically the equivalent of A-ball players suddenly called up to the major leagues. I can deal with those mistakes as a fan. In fact, I can probably deal with them better than I can when the so-called "best in the business" officials commit the kind of frag-ups that got us instant replay in the game in the first place.

The problem is their utter lack of control over the game. All the conferences, all the screaming and yelling from coaches, the post-play pushing and shoving; it's obvious to everyone that the replacement officials are in over their heads. Mike Kurtz's point about how the lack of apparent legitimacy puts each bad call (or apparent bad call) under a microscope: from coaches, from players, from fans. And the national media is feeding the beast on this, from the announcers in the booth to story after story on ESPN* to sports talk radio, which just makes it worse (seriously, I wonder sometimes if the officials' union owns stock in ESPN, or if it's just the natural media urge to feed controversy instead of dismiss it).

*which is probably why I'm sympathetic to the replacement officials' plight, because I'm a Washington Nationals fan and I've spent the entire baseball system watching the national media create a self-generated circus over Stephen Strasburg

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:01am

Hey, the replacement refs haven't blown a coin flip or put anybody's eye out yet, so they have that advantage over the regular guys.

by Paul MAnonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:46pm

Well, what about sample size? We have maybe 15 years of refereeing before this season in which the Hochuli call and a missed coin flip stand out. Not saying there weren't a host of egregious mistakes, but those are the two embarrassing ones that affected the outcome of a couple of games. There are 256 games a year-- so in a sample size approaching 4,000-- we can name two. In a sample size of 47-- slightly smaller-- we have seen 1) countless long periods of confusion; 2) more replay reversals in a single week than ever before (this week); 3) "Personal Foul: Red!!"; 4) at least two outright huge mistakes on penalty yard marchoffs; 5) confusion or outright ignorance of the rules regarding timeouts and challenges; 6) and a general spirit of lawlessness that is breathtaking. it wouldn't take someone in Tombstone in the 1880s or Chicago in the 1920s to know something was a bit different-- I suspect these refs are substantially worse in every phase of their jobs.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:04pm

The point I'm making (well, actually, echoing, as Mike and Vince made it first), is that your #1 and #6 in that list are the problem items. The replacements *are* worse than the normal officials; that's undeniable. The point is that if the officials were able to maintain control of the football games, keep their authority *as* officials, then I think we'd more or less all understand that these are guys out there doing the best they can, and yeah, there'd be a few more bad calls than usual, but most of the complaints would be confined to the usual "the officials screwed my team with a call I don't agree with" (like everybody screamed for years about early whistles on fumbles, ticky-tack DPI calls, and unreliable enforcement of offensive holding in line play) we always have seen. What's causing this near-universal castigation of replacement refs, where every mistake is being analyzed and counter-analyzed to death, is the lack of that authority, to the point where there's the potential to put players at risk (and not just because of non-calls like on the Mundy/Heyward-Bey hit).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 6:38am

I think #5 is just as bad as #1 and #6. Missing a call is fine. That's built into the game - some things are reviewable, others aren't, and you live with it. Okay, no big deal.

But officials just flat out screwing up basic rules of the game, almost every game? That's new. Hochuli blowing the ball dead isn't screwing up the rules of the game. It was an accidental whistle. Those are in the rules - they happen. What isn't in the rules are "recourse for a team if they think the refs flat out screwed up"? Those things aren't even reviewable, and even if they were the coaches would be burning so many challenges it's crazy. The challenge rules assume that the refs aren't awful.

What's causing this near-universal castigation of replacement refs, where every mistake is being analyzed and counter-analyzed to death,

No, really, what's causing the criticism of the refs are more basic officiating errors in one week then you normally get in a full season. Seriously, on Sunday alone you had Harbaugh getting 2 challenges he didn't have, the Redskins being penalized 25 yards for a 15-yard and 5-yard penalty combined, the Titans gaining 12 yards on a mistaken ball spot, and then the disaster on Monday.

This is in one week. One week!

by t.d. :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:15am

Crappy officiating has swung a Super Bowl. I know everybody is acting like this is a travesty, but awful officiating was a weekly subject of conversation all the time with the regular refs

by coboney :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:44am

I think everyone is just now learning to appreciate how good a job the regular guys did.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:02pm

Oh, come on. Comparing what's going on this week to what happened in any game with the replacement refs is insane. It's not even close.

Judgement call decisions are one thing, but we didn't have people screwing up challenges, screwing up addition, screwing up spots, screwing up rules enforcement, every week.

Seriously, it's like you're complaining that it's okay that you found a rat in your food at a restaurant because last week the peas were a little cold. You expect holding calls, pass interference, roughing the passer penalties you don't agree with. You don't expect to have to ask "wait, is the spot right? Did they mark things off right? Is he allowed to challenge?" after every play.

by t.d. :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:55pm

My counter-argument to this is that the failure in Seattle (the only egregious example of terrible officiating, as complaints about the inconsistent application of pass interference -NE v. Balt.- are absolutely consistent with the kinds of complaints made every week) is truly a failure of the replay officials. The play was close enough that the announcers had difficulty with it in real time (listen to the audio of the play as it happened), and this is exactly the kind of mistake replay was implemented to avoid. Too bad for the league that replay didn't do its job.
/ftr, anecdotally, I've felt like holding calls have been up, along w defensive holding, wheres dpi has been down. I actually prefer the way these games have been officiated, as the game more closely resembles play circa 2003, before Polian changed the points of emphasis

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:58pm

You're kidding, right? The only 'egregious example' was Seattle? Harbaugh getting 2 extra challenges in San Francisco wasn't "egregious"? Tennessee getting twelve extra yards, in overtime, on the drive that won them the game wasn't egregious? Twelve yards is 1/8th the field! That's the equivalent of 1 point! The Seattle call lost Green Bay the game, and the way it was handled was insane, but it was a judgement call.

The other ones were just complete mistakes - there was no 'judgement call' involved there at all. Just mistakes. And they happened in the same week, along with a bunch of other mistakes. And they happened a week after there were a bunch of games with other similar mistakes.

Do these mistakes happen with regular officials? Yes. Do they happen every week? No way!

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:39am

2nd question.

NE up 20 - 14, end of 2nd quarter. I know hindsight is 20-20, but at that moment, I was wondering if they needed to go for 2 instead of 1. I would say their chance was 50-50, no? Point expectancy is 1 either way.

Shouldn't good offensive teams, with so-so defenses, like the Patriots, always go for 2 until they get the advantage? Go for 2 on your first TD. If you get 2, you got the advantage and kick extra points from that point on. If you don't, you are the Pats, chance is you will get probably score another TD before the end of the game.

If you get the 2-pointer on your second try, you get to restart the counter on the next TD. Of course, that 3rd TD might warrant a sure extra point instead of a 2 point attempt depending on the situation.

So the question is, should the Pats have gone for 2, as early as the end of the half?

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:44am

No, good teams should take the lower-variance option-- the PAT. Reduce the chance that the game ends up hinging on a couple of idiosyncratic plays, and bet that, over the long haul, the general superiority of your roster and coaching should give you the advantage in the aggregate.

Lousy teams are the ones who are more likely to benefit from a risky "all-2PC" strategy.

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:55am

I disagree. You posit about good teams and bad teams, regardless of the opponent.

We need to look at Def vs Off and Off vs Def. The Pats were playing Baltimore, not Jacksonville. At that moment, both teams looked to have a 50-50 chance of winning.

What I am trying to find out is can you play a dynamic 2 point conversion strategy? Always go for it on the first TD and then decide depending on the game situation.

The one thing I am concerned though, is that the defensive players in your team might view this as a vote of non-confidence towards them and you might lose the trust of your players...

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:46am

You mean up 19-14, i.e. before the PAT.

It was something I thought about at the time. Indeed, I was surprised that they didn't go for 2. But I think the expected value of a PAT with that offense against that defense is higher than the expected value of a 2-point conversion. It's not like the Pats were making any progress at all in the running game.

Also, keep in mind that expected value is really only useful as the number of tries gets high. If you have the choice of a PAT with 100% chance of success, or a 10^40-point conversion with 10^-35 chance of success, you should definitely go with the PAT, even though the expected return of the second strategy is much, much higher.

by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:59am

Yes 19-14.

The point I am trying to make is that the earlier you decide to go for 2, the earlier you get to know if you gamble has worked. This gives you the earlier insight in decision-making you might not have the luxury of having, say with the score 19-14 after a TD with 2 minutes left in the game.

by DraftMan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:11pm

I don't know about that...if you score a garbage touchdown late in the game and now trail 38-6, that 10^40 point conversion sure seems like better odds than the alternative.

by are-tee :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:39am

I suspect that Folk's initial try in OT was only blocked because the whistle blew before the snap and the OL let up. Folk mentioned in a post-game interview that they tell the long snapper to snap the ball anyway after hearing a whistle, but I don't know if that applies to the rest of the line.

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:40am

The NFC West is 3-0 against the NFC East.

The NFC East is 3-0 against the NFC South.

The NFC North is 3-2 against the NFC West (with tonight's results pending).

by Marko :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:25pm

Atlanta is 3-0 against the AFC West.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:42pm

Goijgn to be 3-1 after play Raiders

by CoachDave :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:54am

What's concerning for me is that the scab refs are getting worse and the players and the coaches are taking advantage of it...and likely catalyzing the degradation.

By week 6 I expect full out riots with folding chairs and scab refs with cattle prods and tazers.

And I agree with the earlier poster on the Lions 4th down play...it look like the Lions C was the the only one who didn't get the memo to draw the d-line...the rest of the OL didn't move until well after the play was crushed. And the QB looked surprised to be getting the snap as well. I think the Lions C didn't get the playcall, which for the Schwartz-led Lions is par for the course.

by starzero :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:54am

my only question is why the refs took off the last five minutes of the colts/jags game. as a colts fan, i have three specific non-calls in mind, but i'm sure they were useless both ways.

1) a defender can't hit a qb on his slide. you can tap him down, but can't land on him.

2 & 3) a defender can't grab the receiver before he catches the ball. can't pull his hand, can't hit him in the head before the ball gets to him.

any one of these flags gets thrown and i'm pretty sure the colts win.

the replacement refs seem to be getting worse, not better. when does this become a big enough issue for the league to do something about it?

hail damage

by jedmarshall :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:10am

Those were very poor calls, but I'm not sure any of them directly influenced the outcome. Continued poor playcalling by Pagano/Arians is way above the refs in my list of what went wrong.

by Willf (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:06am

"when's the last time the Steelers didn't trust their own defense? "

2010 Pittsburgh vs Green Bay comes to mind where they tried the failed onsides kick late in the game.

by Jerry :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:18pm

Ir was 2009, but that was exactly what came to mind. By giving the Packers a short field, Tomlin left enough time on the clock for Ben to hit Wallace on the last play.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:08am

I may be a fan who watches every Bucs game, but I have no idea how I endured that game yesterday. If you could pack the foulest excrement in history into a centrifuge and distill it down to its most pure form and then use the power of the Gods to craft it into a number of vaguely man-shaped football-playing forms, it still wouldn't have been as godawful as watching that game. While the defenses played well, they largely played well because the offensive lines were godawful. Tampa's d-line beat Romo up all day, nobody could run the ball, and Josh Freeman put on a performance so lousy that Week One Brandon Weeden just climbed into a time machine in order to give him a hug.

What was my highlight . . . Kevin Ogletree falling down and missing a TD, because the replacement ref threw his hat at his feet, causing him to fall? How about the Bucs forcing two separate Romo fumbles on sacks, both of which were called wrong by the refs, requiring challenges to get the ball, the best part being that, with the second one (which was CLEARLY a fumble) the ball bounced right to Eric Wright, who ran it into the end zone for a TD. Sure, Tampa got the ball, but not the TD, and with the offensive ineptitude, Tampa, of course, did not score a TD on that possession.

I think the absolute BEST part was Tampa is on their own 20 with 2:30 left in the game. OK, you're down by 9. Pretty sure that's two scores. First down? Run Doug Martin up the middle for one yard. Second down, incomplete pass. Third and 9, with 2:15 left, 81 yards from the end zone while down 9 points? RUN THE BALL. Utterly inexplicable. They then lined up to punt on 4th down (surrendering), before taking a time out and deciding to go for it.

Let me get this straight--we have a "play until the last snap to try to win the game" coach, who's plan for winning is running the ball when you're in desperation mode and absolutely have to throw? So, we'll smack a QB on a kneeldown, but try to kill the clock when saving the clock is the most important thing you can do?

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:13am

I like how your comment is subtle and understated.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:24am

I was going to say that I can't believe that the Cowboys are still trying to get by with paying a highly mobile qb a ton of money to evade the messes the o-line puts him in, but we are talking about a team run by Jerrel Jones. Is Ryan Effin' Cook actually starting for the Cowboys? Egads.

When Romo is done, there are going to tons of meathead football fans talking about how overrated Romo was, ignoring how he was running for his life for most of his career.

by Tanner (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:50pm

I would find it so hard to be a Bucs fan if my coach was Greg "The A-hole" Schiano. Not only is he irrational and not a very creative coach, he's a genuinely unlikeable person. I'm wondering if Belichick's recommendation was a joke on his part, like he thought it would be hilarious if someone that incompetent got hired

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:17pm

I haven't watched his teams play enough to have an opinion on the quality of his coaching. Unless I actually know somebody, or see evidence pertaining to a person that gets tested somehow, like in a civil or criminal legal setting (like Bobby Petrino's motorcycle ride), or through undisputed public behavior that is open for all to see (like Bobby Petrino prior to his motorcycle ride), I try to avoid forming a strong opinion about the quality of anyone as a human being.

Could Schiano be within the Petrino Personality Parameter? Sure, but I'm not willing yet to say so definitively.

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:45am

Boy, did my Eagles lay a stink bomb this week. But, it wasn't even about them screwing up. It looked like the Cardinals completely overmatched them.

Now, why did McCoy only get 5 carries in the first half? Especially with two linemen out, and Jeremy Maclin out? Why not go max protect with two tight ends? I know most good teams go with the "next man up" philosophy, but, you have to adjust maybe just a little bit to the personel you have available. It looked like the Eagles brought back the game plan from the Cleveland game, which as you may remember, was not super effective.

On that sequence at the end of the first half, do you think DeSean Jackson could have possibly kept his legs churning to get into the end zone? For a moment, it looked like he could have kept pushing.

As for the 3rd and goal play that resulted in the sack-fumble, if you're going to attempt a pass, I feel you should. at least be in the shotgun. In this case, the quarterback needs the extra room to see, especially when there's one yard to go and not much space between the pass rushers and the quarterback. The QB draw from the shotgun worked the week before, why not at least give the threat of it?

Defensively, it appears the Eagles tried zone again, after playing a lot of man and bump and run coverage the first two games. It did not work, as Cardinals receivers were open unerneath consistently.

Now, maybe if Andy is ragged on all week again, like after the Browns game, perhaps a better game plan will be drawn up for the Giants game this week. We can only hope, right?

by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 12:17pm

I'm quite certain that if we all gang up on the coach and berate him all week, he'll have a quiet moment of reflection in his office and think "you know what? The fans are right. I really should try to draw up an effective game plan this week. All those other weeks where I deliberately drew up a terrible one? That was just wrong. I'm not going to do that anymore."

Yep, that works every time.

by PSGQPR (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 12:17pm

I completely agree with the problem of legitimacy and the replacement refs... and the trickle down from that making the NFL itself look amateurish, overly proud, and foolish all at the same time.

That said, what no one seems to have mentioned (other than Simmons somewhat casually) is the impact of the refs on gambling. Or more specifically, why would anyone in their right mind gamble on an NFL game right now?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 12:17pm

NE's Brandon Spikes had the replacement ref slam yet (on Twitter):

Can someone please tell these f------ zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint

Wonder how many multiples of $10,000 the fine for that will be....

by Travis :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 1:54pm

Tom Gower: Jake Locker led the Titans in rushing this week. Do we know the last time a quarterback led his team in rushing each of the first three weeks of the year, or just three weeks in a row?

Best I can determine, Locker is the first quarterback to lead his team in rushing in each of the first 3 weeks of the season since the merger. Rob Johnson (2000 Bills), Cade McNown (2000 Bears), Michael Vick (2002 Falcons), and Donovan McNabb (2003 Eagles) did it for the first two weeks.

Other QBs who've led their team in rushing at least 3 weeks in a row:

5 weeks:
Randall Cunningham, 1990 Weeks 4,6-9

4 weeks:
Randall Cunningham, 1986 Weeks 10-13
Michael Vick, 2001 Weeks 16-17 + 2002 Weeks 1-2
Michael Vick, 2006 Weeks 9-12

3 weeks:
Greg Landry, 1972 Weeks 12-13 + 1973 Week 1
Randall Cunningham, 1988 Weeks 10-12
Kerry Collins (!), 1998 Weeks 11-13 (first 3 games with the Saints)
Michael Vick, 2004 Weeks 11-13

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:23pm

Kerry Collins? Kerry Collins? Geez. I looked up that year on PFR; the leading rusher for the year was Lamar Smith, with 457 yards. 1325 yards for the whole year, back before the league got utterly pass-crazy. Yeesh.

by Ryan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:39pm

Chris Johnson played for the Saints in 1998?

by Xian :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:43pm

I'm somewhat surprised that Aaron Rodgers isn't on there, after last year's complete abandonment of the run.

(And I say that as a Packers fan.)

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:01pm

As another Packers fan, I'm also surprised. Not just last year, but especially in 2010 when it seems Rodgers was the rushing game until his concussion during the Lions game.

by Travis :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:19pm

Rodgers led the Packers in rushing last year only in both games against the Giants. Starks or Grant usually got enough carries to break 40 yards.

by Purds :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:23pm

Goddell can't suspend BB for grabbing the official at the end of the game. (This is said in an earlier thread up there.)

Look, I am as anti-BB as they get, but watching it live, it didn't seem intimidating or mean-spirited. He just wanted a word, the ref did not, and they broke from each other almost as soon as they contacted each other. As much as I would like to see BB/NE go down in flames, a suspension is not merited here. I just don't see it.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:29pm

Yeah, I think it's a real mistake to try to get into the mind reading business, in regards to interpreting why someone deliberately makes contact with a ref. It seems to me to be more wise to simply have a hard and fast rule of suspensions for any deliberate contact with an official.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:35pm

I think this is a situation where the length of the season is the main issue.

If that happened in baseball of basketball it would be an automatic likely multiple game suspension, but since those seasons are 10x and 5x longer (not to mention the coach probably isn't as integral) no one really cares if a coach gets suspended for a game or two.

I don't think BB should be suspended. It isn't like he shoved/bumped/hit the ref, but just tried to get him to stop and talk to him (yell to him, more accurately).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 2:41pm

Again, you are thus inviting more contact with a ref, with the violator making an after the fact rationalization of why the deliberate contact really wasn't that bad. Give Belichik a one week unpaid vacation, and nobody gets any notions that deliberately putting your hands on a ref is anything but an a very, very, very, bad career move.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:31pm

So - can you shake a ref's hand?
Can you pat him on the back and say "good job!"

Obviously some kind of judgment is called for here, and I would say that grabbing a ref's arm to get his attention isn't the kind of thing that should be punished.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:04pm

I would say that grabbing an official, in order to get the offcial's attention, is exactly the sort of thing that should be punished. You don't put your hands on someone, unless you are darned sure that the someone will welcome the contact.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:23pm

This is football Will, not a sexual harrassment seminar.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:16pm

In football, you don't put your hands on the officials to get their attention, as I suspect Coach Belichik is going to shortly be reminded.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:37pm

You've never grabbed a person's arm to get his attention?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:47pm

A person in a position of legitimate authority? Nope. It's either a stupid thing to do, because such a person might choose to use that authority in an unfair effort to harm you, or, it is unwise because others might interpret such an action as delegitimating the person's authority.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:09pm

I think you guys have both expressed your pts of view, but unfortunately, you've reached that point where you're probably going to have to agree to disagree.

As for my opinion, yes, bb shouldn't have reached out to grab the official, but honestly, the officials were not following the proper protocol and so bb did exactly what I would imagine most coaches would've done- screamed for an explanation, and failing that, reaching out and grabbing for an explanation. With cooler heads, it was a wrong move and he should be fined, but big picture, i think the refs were the ones at fault.

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:47pm

That's like saying lets suspend Nagta for diving on Brady so we can teach everyone not to rough the QB who is sliding. Don't be silly. It wasn't even mildly aggressive.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:00pm

Don't be silly. It is intolerable for coaches to be grabbing officials to grab their attention.

by Purds :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:37pm

Okay, Will, I was in complete disagreement with you until you made that last statement: it is intolerable for coaches to be grabbing officials to get their attention. With that, I must agree.

It just seems that in such a short season, as someone above noted, suspension is too heavy a penalty. Of course, suspension would send a clear message. Hmmm. I still don't think that punishment would fit the crime, but I do see the allure of a clear prohibition.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:50pm

Apparently the league office disagrees with you as to what is intolerable and what is tolerable.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:18pm

We shall see.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:55pm

I don't know. Being a Pats fan I've generally stayed out of the argument in regards to suspending Belichick or not, but when he's looking for an explanation of why the game is over (and according to Belichick's Monday press conference, that kick is potentially reviewable -- and I trust Belichick to know the rules better than a replacement ref or the MNF crew) and the official is ignoring him and running off the field, I can see grabbing his arm to get his attention, slow him down. I'm sure there will be a significant fine, but this was no hostile action to warrant a suspension IMO -- he wasn't poking him in the chest or letting spittle fly in his face while cursing him out. I do think the official has an obligation to acknowlege Belichick, even if to say, "The kick's not reviewable" or "The kick was unquestionably good", or even "Coach, it's been a long night, the game's over". At one point John Harbaugh was standing behind an official during a Pow-Wow, attempting to eavesdrop and had his hand on the official's back. Is that also suspendable in your "don't touch the zebra" world? I think some kind of discretion has to used.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:50pm

These arent officials, these are replacement hacks. Stop being such a crybaby.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:02pm

Will, they call the "Slippery Slope" a fallacy for a reason. Allowing a coach to grab a ref's arm to get his attention at the end of the game isn't going to end up with Coaches beating refs on the sideline.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:23pm

No, but it very may end up with a coach grabbing some offcial he is mad at, and who he thinks is a target for intimidation, during a game. That coach will then say, "Hey, if Bill Belichik can grab an offcial to get his attention for a possible review, why can't I grab an official to get a rules interpretation?"

If the NFL lets this slide, it'll be the only major sport where engaging in this behavior doesn't result in a suspension. You seem to think this would be good thing. I don't.

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:38pm

Maybe he should be banned for life. That would really send a message!

What you are being silly about is the punishment. You can send the same message with a fine as I am sure we are about to find out. In the heat of the moment these things happen. A fine is enough to remind everyone where the line is.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:39pm

You are being silly in implying that 7 days away from his football team is extremely punitive.

by Theo :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:03pm

By now I'd substitute the replacement refs for their own sake.

by Dean :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:03pm

"the Redskins may have the worst tackle tandem in the NFL"

They're pretty bad, Ben, but I'll raise you Barry Richardson and Wayne Hunter.

by Theo :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:09pm

I read that as "tackling tandem" and wanted to raise you Taylor Mays and Reggie Nelson of the Bengals.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:44pm

Every time I hear someone use that ekspression, my mind goes directly to an image of the players in question riding a tandem-bike, and I never fails to give me a chuckle.

by Spanky (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:26pm

Take a bow. That is right on the money.

For a site whose very essence is to counter groupthink, joining the fray with respect to the officials is a very un-FO thing to do. I urge all fans to think back to when you began anew at a job. You weren't perfect right off the bat, lacking nuance despite being qualified, while having little command of the administrative aspects of your job. Well, this is really no different. I'm sure these guys will be appreciably better in a couple of weeks, and it isn't as if the officials they replaced were any good.

If anything, we should want to see change of our referees. I am more of an NBA fan than NFL, and I would LOVE to see a fresh batch of NBA officials, younger, more nimble, with eyesight completely intact, and most of all, FREE OF ANY RELATIONSHIP WITH PLAYERS OR COACHES AND WITHOUT UNWRITTEN RULES. These men are arbiters, not district judges. They should be completely neutral, and without accessibility by those they are officiating.

I see this as an opportunity for an increase in the quality of play, and I am hopeful it will lead to more level officiating once these officials are comfortable in their roles and accepted by players and coaches.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:58pm

It is less to do with the quality of the calls than it is that the replacements haven't been able (or even willingly tried) to control the game. I can forgive a bad call or three. The regular refs have called enough wrong pass interferences, missed enough holding, and "fill in the blank here" calls that I can accept these guys won't be much different in that regard. But it was the rare game where the players got into little brawls after every play or the coach intimidated the officials about calls. These officials need to make sure both sides understand they are in charge of the game. When the lose control within the first five minutes, the players and coaches will continue their beyond the rules stuff. I don't blame the players or coaches. They are being paid to win by whatever the officials allow. And until the replacement officials start to do what is needed to control the game, we'll continue to complain.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:27pm

I don't think it was rare at all.

Last night was particularly bad, but it wasn't all that far off from a typical Pats-Ravens game as far as control of the game goes. I've seen Pats-Jeff Fisher games that have been significantly worse.

The big problem last night was that the calls were almost completely arbitrary.

by rageon :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:07pm

I tend to agree. It seems that everyone is just looking for mistakes, and once they see them they blow them out of proportion. I'm not sure I'm seeing THAT many more mistakes this season than last.

It does seem like they are taking forever to sort things out, which is making games longer (and at times painful to watch). But I guess I'd choose slow over incorrect. I'm also in the camp of wondering about getting things under control, as it also appears that players and coaches are trying to take advantage of them.

As for the Pats/Revens game, the players themselves were acting like fools in the first half, with the announcers screaming about the refs needing to take control. They starting throwing flags eventually, I assume in an effect to do just that. But once they do, now they're getting hammered for being inconsistent.

Other than making games take longer, I just don't see the big problem here. I think people have their position and they are going to find ways to support it, regardless of what the evidence shows. (See e.g., the major sabermetric websites and their views on steroids in baseball).

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:52pm

Really? You havent been watching the games then just the highlights. Week 1 they called a block in the back on the KICKING team. And thats not in their top 25 mistakes.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 5:18pm

If you are referi g to the 49ers game on that call then they actually spotted the foul, they just didn't know what to call it. It should have been either a defensive hold or an unsportsmanlike conduct as Spillman had dived to the floor while reaching back with a handful of Packer jersey in an attempt to buy a clipping penalty.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:36pm

Thinking the refs are bad isn't "groupthink," it's empirical. We generate these ideas not from repeating what other people say, but because we have the same responses to the horrors that are unfolding in front of our eyes.

by Spanky (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:27pm

forget "ideas". forget what you "see". heres empirical evidence.


like i said, groupthink. as for the refs not having control over the game, it boils down to respect and other intangible factors. no team of officials, legitimate or otherwise, exerts any real control over 100 armored, hulking humans who reach the height of their aggression on sundays!! that's just nonsense. we have proof that the calls arent all that different from last year, and data on challenges illustrates that they are even more accurate than last years refs!! mind you, replay officials are holdovers from last year. thus, the blame for the acrimony towards them has to be on the coaches and players.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:48pm

I'm sorry, I cannot take your idea seriously. It's obviously just groupthink.

See how easy that is!

p.s. good job posting an article from last week an acting like it's relevant to our discussions of yesterday's games.

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:04pm

Especially an article that points out how much certain penalty numbers have changed (and those penalties happen to be the ones that affect the game the most - PI/Illegal Contact and Personal Fouls.)

by Spanky (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 10:01pm

youd like there to be a larger sample, for sure. but this dialogue about the refs didnt come to life just this week. if i had data for all three weeks, id post it. but i doubt itd move the needle. similar number of flags, more upholdings of challenges and replays, 2 more personal fouls per week.

given the level of outcry, youd expect that these refs were a massive departure from the "quality" of the legit refs. but it doesnt seem to be the case, based on the data. id happily welcome evidence to the contrary

by beargoggles :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:43am

How about that game that just finished?
I've seen a lot of dubious PI penalties over the years, but I don't think I've ever seen them get like 5 straight calls wrong over the course of one drive (and not just wrong, but OBVIOUSLY wrong), basically handing the game over to the home team. I'll even give them a pass on the catch/INT ruling in the end zone, which I'm not 100% was wrong by the rulebook even though it didn't pass the smell test.

That was an appalling outcome. I laughed uncontrollably for several minutes.

by BSR :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:41pm

And what makes you think these officials are neutral? This wasn't some long term vetting process that resulted in these officials being hired. They basically had to find whoever was willing to leave their regular officiating gig to be a temporary replacement in this one. By definition it was the least proficient officials and you think this is a good idea?

And by the time they actually do learn the rules, they will have developed relationships with players and coaches and developed more unwritten rules. Human error is a regular part of football in the players, in the coaches and yes even in the refs but compounding that human error with incompetence does nothing but take away from the game. It was like watching my kids flag football game. In the end nobody cared what the final score was because it didn't mean anything.

by HawkFan2012 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 3:53pm

Fellas I know you guys don't like watching the Falcons but as football fans you should probably start paying more attention. They're the best team in football through 3 weeks and it's down to a Mike Nolan defense that is creating turnovers and getting stops.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:21pm

Why would anyone not a Falcon fan subject themselves to a brutally boring beatdown like that one when there were good competitive games in Denver and Oakland?

by JasonK :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:19pm

Well, they're better than the AFC West...

by TomC :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:47am

JAFF, good to have you back, and enjoy your steaming cup of FOMBC later in the year.

by mrh :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:52pm

I've seen a number of clock errors that were the fault of the clock operator, who is not a replacement hire, and not the replacement officials. I don't even remember any specifics now but so I guess they weren't too bad but I just wonder why I noticed them now and not at other times? Am I just overly sensitive to the officiating in general? And how much of these bad calls by the refs is the same thing?

Yes there might be more bad calls now. But there might not be, we might just be more sensitized to them. Certainly every audibles I can remember has complaints about the bad calls. I've probably said a dozen times here that I think the NFL should go to full-time refs.

As for the replacement refs endangering the health of the players. I'm generally on the side of the players union but that's basically crap. It's the players who endanger each other's health by trying to win. I'm not saying I would be any different but the lack of a flag - or the presence of a flag - and the fines that come later in any given week won't change that much one way or the other. It will take a long culture shift to do that.

No one has mentioned the Saints' replacement coach (or players) trying to take back-to-back timeouts, resulting in a critical 5-yard penalty late in the game. Shouldn't they be pilloried for not knowing the rules, just like the replacement refs?

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 4:55pm

"Shouldn't they be pilloried for not knowing the rules, just like the replacement refs?"

Saints: 0-3. I think that's punishment enough.

by ab (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:10pm

The first one came after the Vikings' Toby Gerhart was ruled down by contact on an early whistle, before he dropped the football. Harbaugh took his final timeout and told Roan that he was using the timeout to challenge the play, because he thought Gerhart had fumbled. You can't do that—you have to throw the red flag and risk losing a timeout. You don't get to call timeout first.

But Roan obligingly reviewed the play—and even though the replay showed Gerhart losing the ball after the whistle had been blown, he reversed the call and ruled it a fumble. So he awarded the Niners the ball and a free extra timeout. I bet he'd make a fabulous grandparent.

Got that? The scab refs blew the whistle too early, negating a fumble. Then they wrongly granted a replay challenge of the play. Then they wrongly overturned the play.

by ab (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:13pm

That Vikings bit is cut and pasted from Deadspin.

by DavidL :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:32pm

As player safety goes, that might be the single worst decision the replacement refs have made. “The play ends when the whistle blows” might be – has to be – the single most ironclad rule in football, because otherwise you get players delivering late hits on defenseless former ball-carriers in hopes of causing a “fumble.”

by RC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:06pm

Um, thats not the replacement refs. There's already a rule that states if a fumble is clearly recovered after a whistle inadvertantly/incorrectly blows a ball dead, it can be awarded to the recovering team.

Again, I don't agree with what they did, but the Refs have been doing that for 2 or 3 years now.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 9:40am

Aren't all turnovers supposed to be reviewed by the booth? If so, Harbaugh did the smart play and give the officials more time to look at it. Why can't Harbaugh do that? I've read it on three different websites now (and my guess is that it was copied and pasted to two of them), but who says he has to throw the red flag and risk losing a time out? It's simply not true, even if a Vikings fan says it is. A coach can even call timeout, have an assistant review the replay, and then throw the challenge flag out. It happens several times each season.

As for the merits of overturning the call, that's a different matter. It seems that the replacement officials are particularly bad at overturning calls with no visual evidence to support it.

by Marko :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 12:59pm

Yes, all turnovers are supposed to be reviewed by the booth, but it wasn't ruled a turnover. Therefore, it wasn't going to be reviewed by the booth absent a challenge. And while it's true that a coach can use a timeout and then challenge a play, you would need to start the sequence with at least two timeouts. The first is used for the extra time, and the second is charged to you if you lose the challenge. (Which is why it's generally not a good idea to call timeout first because you risk losing two timeouts in the process.)

The 49ers only had one timeout at the time, which Harbaugh used. When you are out of timeouts, you can't challenge any more plays, because you don't have another timeout that you would be charged if you lose the challenge. That's the issue. Once he burned that last timeout, he was out of timeouts and challenges. He could have and should have just challenged the play without calling timeout first.

by Marko :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 5:35pm

In only two emails above, you described nearly all of the important/interesting plays from the Rams-Bears game. The only other really noteworthy events that impacted the outcome of the game were two personal fouls on the Rams (one a late hit on the Bears punter, the other a blow to the head of Jay Cutler on a third down incomplete pass) that extended Bears drives and led directly to 10 points. That game was one of the few early games that didn't have an incredibly exciting finish and/or wasn't a shocking upset.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 6:32pm

I sometimes forget that when you guys write "if you are a Bills fan, not so much" you really, really mean it.

The Buffalo Bills offensive line, by the way, now has credit for one sack in the last three games, with a rookie LT. And that one "sack" is credited to no defensive player, because it occurred on a "fumble" when the ball slipped out of a Fitzpatrick's hand during a throw, traveled three yards in the direction of his throw, and was called an incomplete pass on the field. No defender touched Fitzpatrick on the play (or even got within a yard of him).

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 7:48pm

I'm going to try to be brief because I really don't want to be eaten by the blasted spam filter.

I thought the Vikings outplayed the 49ers, Ponder looked like the mobile version of Brady I called him as pre draft. Rudolph was excellent, as was Harvin and Greenway, who I had always regarded as overrated, played a blinder even after disgarding his 'sack' where Alex Smith fell over he was superb.

At the same time, I thought the two personal fouls that gifted the Vikings the long TD drive were utter garbage and the second TD catch by Rudolph was clearly OPI. That was seven points given to the Vikings. The pro 49ers reversal when they shouldn't have had a review was too late to change the game, it would have been better if crap refereeing hadn't put the niners in a hole to begin with.

The non reviewable fumble by Gerhart was ridiculous. Harbaugh shouldn't have been able to challenge. However, if the officials had ruled correctly in the first place then the niners would have been awarded a fumble to begin with. So the incompetence meant that there was no result where fans of any team could be happy.

The 49er system of calling two plays and picking the best option was exposed. When the opposition knows it is coming then it becomes a system of surrendering the initiative, eight defenders in the box is a pass and if it's the 49ers it's probably a short pass. It also hinders any attempt to hurry up if Alex Smith has to have a good look at the defense and then call out one of two plays.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:17pm

Have to disagree strongly about the 2nd Rudolph td catch. The defender, back completely turned to the ball, making zero effort to locate the ball, initiates contact with the receiver, and the receiver then responds. If anything needs to be called, it is DPI. Here is a Niner fan website....


....which describe the play.....

"An example of a shorter answer would be in regards to Kyle Rudolph's second touchdown where Donte Whitner wanted a pass interference call. There is no doubt that Rudolph gave Whitner a shove. At the same time, Whitner had a hand around Rudolph's hip before that and was pushing Rudolph when Rudolph pushed back. This strikes me as the refs swallowing their whistle to a certain extent. Well, that or not knowing what the hell is pass interference."

...which seems about right to me.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:53pm

I give credit to rudolph making a great play, but ponder's throw really was the definition of chuck it up there and see what happens. That would be less of an issue if not for the fact that peterson was completely wide open on that play.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 9:33pm

Oh, there is no doubt that Ponder made the wrong throw there, but it is starting to appear as if Rudolph has the sort of ball skills that puts qbs in the Pro Bowl, and when you have ball skills like that, chuck it up there isn't always a bad play.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:02am

I just looked at this again and I disagree, Whitner did put his hand on his hip for an instant but took it away almost instantly, there's no way that was either DPI or holding. Then Rudolph pushes off, it doesn't matter if Whitner was looking or not, you still aren't allowed to shove the defender out of the way. It would have been DPI if whitener had contacted Rudolph without looking back while the ball was in the air but that didn't happen.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:38am

I looked at it several times as well, and I differ. Whitner is in contact with the receiver, without any attempt to locate the ball, with the ball in the air. That's DPI.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 4:07pm

Then we're looking at the same footage and seeing different things, all I can see is that after Whitner turns the contact is initiated by Rudolph. We're not going to agree on this.

Edit: I should be clear that the contact that Rudolph initiates is a shove, otherwise it would indeed be DPI.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/24/2012 - 8:38pm

Yowzers. Tool much to read.here.

Jist wanted to say Dvoa better rank Raiders ahead of Steelers this week.

by theslothook :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 2:14am

This was amazing. That MNF game was really a microcosm of why replacement refs are what they are. Look, the regular officials miss calls like holding and pi too and many times there are ticky tack calls that are made or not made. With that said, never would the real refs have let THIS happen. the packers got absolutely hosed. Whats more, how about the fact that the opi happened in FRONT of the ref who signaled touchdown, the call of touchdown was made a good 10 seconds after after the play ended and the back judge had signaled int and touchback. Or how about the fact that there was never even a conference among the refs to discuss the play. And most incredible of all, the play was REVIEWED and somehow still held up as a catch. Its mind boggling.

WE all know the nfl is a monopoly, so it doesn't nor do i expect it to budge one iota from this. But more importantly, the people who are busy screaming at nfl are missing the bigger picture. The nfl isn't a person, its an entity, comprised of of owners. People can scream at the nfl all they want and publicly condemn Goodell, but its the owners who have the real power and as far as I can see, the owners are getting 0 blame in all of this. As long as that continues, all this falls on deaf ears.

by dbt :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 4:15am

Steve Young called it a week ago.


Goodell doesn't care until it impacts the bottom line, because the owners don't care until then.

by apbadogs :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 8:36am

All your points are valid save the review...I understand it was only reviewable to see if it was a "catch" (ball hit ground or not?)...possession is NOT reviewable.

by Roy G (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 1:21pm

I've watched the video now several times, and I can see that the ruling of simultaneous catch is certainly plausible. Remember that possession is not secured until both feet touch the ground. The defender 43 leaped into the air, caught the ball but 81 certainly looks like he could have his hands on the ball by the time 43 gets his left foot down. There are no camera angles which show the ball, so we don't know for sure. But, when 43's left foot hits the ground (0:49 of this video http://youtu.be/n5L7O3PWICs ) 43 is lying on top of 81, and it certainly appears that they both have their hands/arms on the ball. Thus, it is a simultaneous catch and a touchdown.

2 notes though: 1. 81 clearly got away with pass interference which would have negated the TD and ended the game. 2. 43 is an idiot for trying to catch the ball. In that situation, an incomplete pass wins the game, so he could have just knocked the ball out of bounds.

by Mandos (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:35am

Vince Verhei: I'm seriously starting to think that they'll have to remove facemasks to stop guys from killing each other like this.

Not sure how that would stop the defender leading with the crown of the helmet, if anything this would increase injuries to the receivers and QBs. At this point surely taking away helmets completely makes much more sense, it works in Rugby so why not? can anyone really definitively say that the player are safer with helmets than without? Also removing helmets will improve the game in other ways as vision and mobility would improve. Also, players become more marketable and face-mask penalties are irradiated.

I realise that this is never going to happen as helmets are way too cool and part of the aura of the game, but still its I think it is a valid argument

by Mandos (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:37am

of course I meant "eradicated" not "irradiated" grr

by TomC :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:51am

Though enhancing a 15-yard personal foul with a large dose of gamma rays might add to the deterring effect.

by ArchonE (not verified) :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:54am

Far and away the best comment in this thread.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/25/2012 - 11:23am

No one has died from a skull fracture since metal helmets were introduced, so I think that's good evidence.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:55pm

What no one has really said is the replay officals are the normal ones. They have been f**king up at an alarming rate as well. In the Titans Lions game, the replay overturned a call of catch when the ball clearly never hit the ground.