Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

08 Oct 2012

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

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, October 4

Arizona Cardinals 3 at St. Louis Rams 17

Ben Muth: It was just one drive, but Sam Bradford looked really good to start the game. First Bradford found Danny Amendola for 44 yards (despite him being covered by Patrick Peterson) right as he was getting hit, then he made a nice touchdown throw rolling to his left on third down in the red zone.

Peter Koski: What we've learned from Kevin Kolb and Bradford so far tonight: accuracy, it's important. No horseshoes and hand grenades allowed by these defenses.

Tom Gower: Greg Zuerlein just killed the ball on that 53-yard field goal in the second quarter. This isn't exactly a revelation, but the kid can kick.

Ben Muth: The story of the first half is Kolb missing some big plays. On the Cardinals first drive, he underthrew Rob Housler down the seam on what should've been a touchdown, then he didn't see a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald on a double move where he burnt Janoris Jenkins. Kolb also underthrew Andre Roberts on what could've been another touchdown in the second quarter. The Cards settled for a field goal; Jay Feely missed it.

Also, Arizona's offensive tackles still can't block.

Between Kolb's flopping and the lack of scoring, this game is a fan riot away from becoming a soccer match.

Arizona's offensive line is terrible. That said, Kolb never hangs in there and makes a throw as he's getting hit. He always holds on to the ball and tries to escape to make the throw. This usually ends in a sack because he isn't Ben Roethlisberger.

Look, I'm the one who called Arizona's tackles one half of the Sharktapus combo with Dallas' interior offensive line, so I am not fan of their work. I love Mike Mayock as much as the next guy. But him killing Arizona's offensive line for the Cortland Finnegan sack that basically ended the game is ridiculous. It was an empty protection, which means you can go full slide (and leave one edge unblocked), or man (and account for five specific guys). The Cards went man, and it was pretty clear that they decided to account for the four down linemen and the Mike linebacker. Kolb can redirect them to any defender he wants if he thinks someone else is coming. He can say "Mike 31" and Arizona will block the four down guys and Finnegan. If he doesn't, then he has to know that guy won't get blocked. Kolb has to get rid of the ball.

To blame an offensive line using the logic "they had five guys blocking and they only rushed five" is absurd. Imagine if a defense went Cover-0 with five guys but every offensive player was eligible. That's what it's like to be an offensive lineman in empty protection.

Peter Koski: I agree. Kolb HAS to be aware of all possible blitzers going empty back. Finnegan's rush was right in front of Kolb and it looked like Fitzgerald was open with James Laurinaitis still sliding over in to coverage. Kolb seemed to get paralyzed during the decision making, discounting the massive pass rush he was facing.

Aaron Schatz: Every time the Rams lined up Robert Quinn and Chris Long in the wide-nine, you knew that Kolb was toast. His pocket presence is awful, but it is almost as if he throws the ball even worse when he has enough time to think. His hurried throws looked better than his more calm and collected throws.

Not only does Zuerlein look great, but the near-albino Johnny Hekker was booming punts as well.

Sunday, September 30

Cleveland Browns 27 at New York Giants 41

Aaron Schatz: In honor of my return from Blogs with Balls, I'm picking the Giants to beat Cleveland 24-1.

Wait, I take that back. Cleveland is already up 7-0. So, 24-8.

Andy Benoit: Browns just went up 14-0. Apocalypse?

Aaron Schatz: Or prelude to another Giants Super Bowl run?

Matt Waldman: Ahmad Bradshaw fumbles his first carry on the initial drive when Chris Snee is crossing through the rushing lane and the runner's loose ball-carrying arm grazes the lineman. Ball goes straight up, and after a mini Football Follies segment, Sheldon Brown recovers in Giants territory. Two Trent Richardson carries through big creases seal the deal.

Giants punt after a short second series, and Josh Gordon draws Chase Blackburn on a play-action post for a 62-yard touchdown. Antrel Rolle is not there to provide support and it's a perfect pitch-and-catch in stride about 45 yards down field.

Andre Brown is out with a head injury on a kick return earlier in the first quarter. Martellus Bennett hyper-extends his knee blocking Jabaal Sheard, and now the Giants are relying on Rueben Randle. The first pass was a nice comeback. On the next play Randle is hit helmet-to-helmet by Buster Skrine on a deeper cross and drops the ball. Manning comes back to Randle for three straight with Skrine in tight coverage, but it fails to do anything worthwhile.

Richardson makes three Giants defenders miss on a bounce to the right side for five yards, and had no business gaining positive yards in this situation despite a holding call on Benjamin Watson. The penalty makes it first-and-20, which Richardson erases with a 22-yard gain on a screen to the left flat where he cuts across the field and stiff-arms Blackburn in the process for the first down. Then he nearly rips through a grab of the seat of his pants by Blackburn on a seven-yard gain. Anyone notice Richardson's shoulder pads look small on him, but because he's human ball of muscle you don't realize it at first glance? Crazy.

Browns add a field goal to the total after the Cleveland offensive line pulls its Richardson Tank to the edges of the Giants defense. Brandon Weeden looks pretty good when he has time, but not good enough to avoid throwing a wide open slant in the red zone behind Gordon. The rookie receiver nearly holds onto the ball while turning in the opposite direction of his break to reach for it, but can't hang on. If he does, he backs into the end zone for the score. Gordon is a really fluid athlete; even his lesser moments look somewhat graceful.

Ben Muth: Greg Gumbel just mentioned that Weeden is older than Joe Thomas. Weeden has played pretty good today, but I always forget how old he actually is.

Matt Waldman: Bradshaw running hard after the fumble, finishing with the pads low and getting yards after contact on runs where he gets a head of steam. Manning is also making some nice throws in coverage that might be better described as muggings in progress. Domenik Hixon climbs the ladder on a comeback for a nice play after catching a hook with Sheldon Brown acting as a white and orange cape. Hixon is a bit of a redemption story after an injury-filled career. He's a nice player in tight spaces -- a taller, rangy, slightly more dynamic Steve Smith when the former Giant was healthy.

Gordon's second touchdown is a seam route past Corey Webster, and Weeden threads it under the safety for the 20-yard score.

Andy Benoit: Was Weeden’s interception to Steve Brown really as inaccurate a throw as it appeared to be? That’s what interceptions at recess look like. Maybe coaches film will show something different. Hard to explain that one for now...

Matt Waldman: After that pick, Manning immediately finds Randle with a play-action pass between the corner and safety, and the rookie receiver takes it inside the the Browns three. Bradshaw takes a quick-hitter up the middle for the score.

Cruz gets his second score on another play-action route where Cruz fakes inside from the slot and breaks to the corner wide open to take the lead. Things are back to normal in the football world.

Richardson seems to be breaking no less than two tackles on every run. Even a one-yard run is fun to watch as he shoves aside players his side or larger. Gordon nearly makes a pretty catch at the right sideline in the two-minute drill. He extends for the ball low and away, and gets both hands around it, but the ball hits the ground and moves while he's focused on keeping his body inside the boundary. I think they've found something in Gordon if they can find something in Weeden.

Browns defensive back Skrine commits a pass interference penalty on Randle with four seconds in the half and gives the Giants a 40-yard FG attempt to extend the lead to 10 points. Skrine's (pronounced "screen") last name must have some root in a language that means "foul."

Tom Gower: Every time I've watched the Browns this year, Skrine has been really, really involved in the game, and not in the Jason Pierre-Paul "this guy is a one-man wrecking crew" sense.

Matt Waldman: Weeden on third-and-goal has yet another pass batted at the line. This time he catches it, rolls right, and throws it to Jordan Cameron in the back of the end zone for an illegal forward pass.

After that, he throws a pick to Blackburn, killing another drive in the end zone.

Andy Benoit: Bradshaw has his career-high in rushing yardage today. He’s looked fluid and light on his feet (in a good way) from the get-go today.

Baltimore Ravens 9 at Kansas City Chiefs 6

Rivers McCown: Kansas City has first-and-10 just past midfield against the Ravens early in the first quarter: run, run, run. All of these by Shaun Draughn, not Jamaal Charles. The last of which looked like an audible from Matt Cassel. No wonder Chiefs fans are having signs about firing everyone flown over the stadium.

Andy Benoit: In the early first quarter, Jamaal Charles loses another fumble in his own territory. That’s what lost the game for KC last week. Is Charles the new fumble guy in the league? Are we going to get stories about him carrying the ball high and tight around the facility all week now?

Rivers McCown: Cyrus Gray fumbles on a pitch later in the drive Andy talked about. Cassel has attempted two passes, and one of them was a play-action dumpoff. This team has zero confidence in him.

Peter Koski: Stick with what you're good at, and the Kansas City offense is good at turning the ball over. They've already had two punts, a lost fumble, and a tipped interception in the first 20 minutes.

Rivers McCown: To be fair to the Chiefs, they have been fairly impressive in the run game when they haven't been turning it over. Charles is showing a lot of short-area quickness and getting them into favorable down-distance situations.

Vince Verhei: Alright, this is now ridiculous. Chiefs run, run, run, and get a first-and-goal at the 12 after a false start. They then run for a loss of eight on first down; run for a loss of two on second-and-goal from the 20; and run for ten yards on third-and-goal from the 22. They have 29 runs and four passes. If you are this afraid to pass, you may as well dump Cassel and sign a Big 12 spread option refugee or CFL vet and at least throw in the occasional option or bootleg keeper.

Now, that being said, It really is fun to watch a team run so effectively. I don't watch very much college ball, but the Florida offense yesterday -- with a heavy dose of seven-lineman sets, unbalanced lines, and 20-some runs in a row in a comeback win -- was a beautiful thing to behold.

Peter Koski: The Chiefs have run 33 plays, with 27 or so being running plays. Among the passing plays: a sack with a lost fumble, and an interception.

Rivers McCown: The Ravens wideouts are really having a rough day today, and it's especially notable how often Joe Flacco is going after Brandon Flowers with little to show for it.

Chiefs just ran the ball three straight times with less than a minute left in the half to get a first down at their own 30. In a tie game. This is bizarre. The Chiefs converted third down, then took a timeout. Why?

With a big Charles run, the Chiefs get in almost field-goal range. They come up short on a Cassel dumpoff pass on third down, looking at a 60-yard field goal on fourth-and-1. Then they decide to punt with 12 seconds left in the half.

Vince Verhei: As we focus on Kansas City's rush offense, let's not overlook how great their pass defense is playing. Against the league's premier deep-ball offense, they've held Flacco to 7-of-17 for 64 yards.

Rivers McCown: Kansas City gets a first-and-goal on a pass interference, Cassel runs a quarterback sneak, then fumbles. Are we really so desperate that we need to invoke the arcane notion of Brady Quinn? Channel 6 says yes.

P.S.: Cassel completed a pass to Dwayne Bowe on this series that was such a wounded duck that Bowe couldn't make a football move after catching it. Even though his man was playing off coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Did Ed Reed just pick up a Kansas City fumble in the end zone and try to run it out with like five Chiefs surrounding him, instead of just taking a knee for a touchback? Way to blow 10 yards of field position there, buddy.

Vince Verhei: Cassel now has 50 yards passing (not counting DPI calls) with two lost fumbles and an interception. That's a lot of bad plays with very little production. (Professional football writer analysis right there.)

I'm fine with Reed's decision to run it out. It was a high-risk, high-reward play, and it didn't work out, but Reed might have a better chance to score than any Ravens offensive player at this point.

Tom Gower: Cassel came into today's game throwing an interception or fumbling the ball every 10.6 plays. He's done a great job of lowering that today.

Rivers McCown: Flacco should probably stop throwing at Flowers.

Vince Verhei: Was that written before or after Flowers pulled in an interception to keep Kansas City in the game?

Rivers McCown: Does it matter? (After.)

Thankfully Cassel is there to make Flacco feel better about himself with another turnover.

Vince Verhei: Quinn is in for Kansas City. His first game since December of 2009. Not because Cassel was benched, but because he was crushed under a pile of Ravens. He walked to the locker room.

Quinn "leads" a field goal drive in which he completes two passes, only one for a first down. Baltimore lead 9-6. I'm tempted to pore through old boxscores so I can make Johnny Unitas-Len Dawson jokes.

Chiefs sack Flacco, and it's a pretty clear fumble and recovery for a touchdown for Kansas City. The old inadvertent whistle blows the play dead though. On the next play, Flacco scrambles for a first down on third-and-15.

Rivers McCown: I thought I heard they called this Flacco's forward progress being stopped?

Vince Verhei: Right. That's what it was called, but it looked to me like a very bad call. The ref who blew his whistle could only see Flacco's back and didn't know he had fumbled. Sorry I wasn't clear.

The Ravens pick up a few more first downs to run out the clock and win the game. Man, that's an ugly, ugly win, where they got multiple gift turnovers and still needed to scratch out a win over a bad team. It might be one where DVOA says the Chiefs played better.

Philadelphia Eagles 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Aaron Schatz: The play where Michael Vick leans away from pressure and then chucks the ball into the sky without looking at where it is going? Yeah, that's not going to work out well in the long run.

Andy Benoit: On the Vick heave play Aaron referenced, he also had an interior hook route open at the top of his drop. He didn't pull the trigger, and chose to play sandlot. Classic example of the bad side of Vick.

Well, at least Vick isn’t throwing interceptions. His second lost fumble was forced by Lawrence Timmons, who is having a great first quarter.

Maurkice Pouncey had three shotgun snaps that were high and fast in first quarter ... has that been a problem with him in the past?

Vince Verhei: Early in the second quarter, Vick has the near-interception and two lost fumbles, one at the goal line. He actually fumbled away another ball, but the play was correctly ruled down by contact on replay. That should not let Vick off the hook on the play, because he fumbled of his own accord, and only incidentally got his leg tangled with a Pittsburgh defender.

It's still 0-0, though, because Pittsburgh is making their own share of mistakes. Plenty of penalties, and Ben Roethlisberger has fumbled two shotgun snaps himself, though both were recovered by Pittsburgh.

Andy Benoit: Through 10 dropbacks, Vick has taken seven hits. Never mind, make it eight hits on 11 dropbacks.

Vince Verhei: Troy Polamalu is already back on the bench with his calf wrapped. Pam Oliver says he is done for the day.

Andy Benoit: The Steelers are able to get pressure on Vick with two deep safeties. That changes the way back end defenders can play the deep ball, and ruins an Eagles system that’s predicated on creating speed-based downfield mismatches.

The Steelers are throwing a lot at Nnamdi Asomugha in first half, not so much against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Asomugha is primarily matched on Antonio Brown, Rodgers-Cromartie on Mike Wallace. Brown did a good job getting open against Asomugha in first half. Won the matchup.

Aaron Schatz: Brown definitely is able to get open downfield against Asomugha, he had a play in the end zone where Roethlisberger just barely overthrew him and he reached out but was out the back of the end zone by the time he had possession. Both quarterbacks are under a lot of pressure. Not a lot of running the ball. And to answer Andy's question, no, I don't remember Pouncey ever being known for difficulty with shotgun snaps.

By the way, a Google search on "Maurkice Pouncey shotgun problems" brings up a number of stories about Mike Pouncey having shotgun problems. Maybe they switched bodies today, like a bad 80's comedy.

Danny Tuccitto: Wait, you mean a *totally awesome* 80s comedy.

J.J. Cooper: Not recently for Pouncey. Generally he is pretty consistent at snapping. One of those seemed to hit Roethlisberger in the hands.

Andy Benoit: The only two times the Eagles have gotten near Steelers’ goal-line, they’ve benefited from chunk yards of penalties.

It won’t show in the rushing numbers, but LeSean McCoy is keeping the Eagles’ offense alive in the second half. Lots of tough yards, creating yards that aren’t there. He had a pair of fourth-and-short conversions on Philly's early fourth quarter drive.

DeSean Jackson ran a great route against Ike Taylor, Cover-3 type coverage ... may have been quarters ... but whatever it was, Jackson ran an outside route versus Taylor’s outside technique. It was a similar route to what he ran last week against the Giants for a big gain.

Outstanding fourth-quarter drive by Eagles. A 17-play drive that lasted over eight minutes. Just like last week, the Eagles have gone to the ground in the second half to regain control of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Let it be known that the Steelers running game definitely improved in the second half. Big holes for Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall.

Miami Dolphins 17 at Cincinnati Bengals 13

Danny Tuccitto: Since I wrote about it in Upset Watch this week, my goal today is to keep an eye on A.J. Green v. Sean Smith. Early on, advantage Smith, although Andy Dalton doesn't seem shy about forcing the ball to Green, as evidenced by an on-the-move, across-his-body, 40-yard toss into the middle of the field. Probably should have been intercepted, but the coverage was there nonetheless.

Totally peculiar game-management move of the week: Miami has fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 38-yard line. They line up to run a play, but it's just the ol' try-to-draw-them-offside game. It doesn't work. They take a delay of game and then punt, right? Wrong. They take timeout for whatever reason, and then *go for it* after the timeout!

They ended up not getting the first down, but the result is irrelevant.

Halftime in Cincy, where it's 7-6 Miami. This one's pretty much proceeding as expected except for the Dolphins run defense uncharacteristically allowing Bernard Scott to break off a 29-yard run. On the other nine running back carries, though, Scott and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are averaging 2.0 yards a pop. In the Green-Smith matchup, Miami's been playing a lot of zone and allowing other corners to cover Green than I expected. By my count, Green's had six targets, been covered by Smith on four of those targets, and has a whopping two catches for five yards on those plays. (Mike Carey voice) "It remains...advantage Smith."

Vince Verhei: Dalton hits Green for a touchdown very early in the fourth quarter. Bengals then kick the extra point to make it a four-point game at 17-13. Why would you not go for two there? I guess you're anticipating giving up a field goal at some point and needing a touchdown?

Tom Gower: William Krasker's two-point conversion chart has your break-even at about 24 percent. So, Marvin Lewis didn't think his offense could gain two yards more than a quarter of the time?

Atlanta Falcons 24 at Washington Redskins 17

Andy Benoit: Ryan Kerrigan doing his best J.J. Watt impersonation on the first Washington touchdown.

Vince Verhei: Could be the Red Bryant tribute as well.

Tom Gower: Yeah, that was a very impressive play by Kerrigan, disrupting a screen and jumping up to get the ball. The Falcons have been just a bit off offensively today, stalling on a couple third downs. They've been playing well this year, better than they did last year, but their offense is starting to bother me again, just because I don't understand what's going on as well as I think I should.

Andy Benoit: Alfred Morris and the Redskins are consistently beating the Falcons on the edges with the stretch run. Receivers blocking in the run game is critical for that. Stretch runs are smart against Falcons because it forces corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel to play at the point of attack.

Matt Waldman: What I like about the Falcons offense compared to the Mularkey version is that it minimizes Matt Ryan's vertical game. Ryan has improved his arm strength, but he lacks that power arm to throw line-drive style deep plays. He needs to throw the ball with more arc than guys like Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Flacco, Cutler, etc. This offense does a strong job using Ryan's precision as a play-action passer on short drops. When they move Roddy White around, they do a great job of generating misdirection on short play-action passes that leave White in single coverage on the back side or running open across the middle on boot legs. But if the ground game gets out of rhythm and the play-action game is minimized, Ryan gets out of rhythm and the offense can stall.

Andy Benoit: Redskins put a lot of demands on their linebackers in pass defense. Tony Gonzalez is liking this.

Tom Gower: With first-and-goal at the 1 late in the first half, the Atlanta Falcons lined up with Ryan, Michael Turner, Gonzalez, and eight offensive linemen. After the Redskins are flagged for encroachment, they remain in the eight-lineman look and Ryan hits Gonzalez for the score.

Aaron Schatz: We may have to have Ben diagram that Atlanta eight-lineman set.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, 76-year-old Gonzalez has nine catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, in ten targets. He's not really going to retire, is he?

Matt Waldman: Based on Brian Cushing projecting his worries that one can't compete without "supplements" on Gonzalez's vegan compatriot Arian Foster, I'm sure the Texans linebacker is hoping so.

Vince Verhei: Kirk Cousins in for Robert Griffin after that goal-line collision. The Redskins promptly go three-and-out.

Rivers McCown: Jim Miller thinks a quarterback controversy is a-brewin'!

Andy Benoit: Julio Jones makes a fantastic adjustment on the ball for the game-changing touchdown in the front corner of end zone.

Tom Gower: Second series with Cousins, Pierre Garcon drops a pass, then nobody on defense bothers to go more than 20 yards downfield. Santana Moss is 25 yards downfield, catches the ball, and runs 50 more yards to the end zone. I don't know which defenders screwed up, but at least one of them did in a big way.

Aaron Schatz: On the Santana Moss touchdown, that looks like he just split two safeties in a deep zone, it looked like they were looking at each other like "I thought you had the middle... no, I thought you had the middle." What was odd is that Atlanta then showed a close-up of a dejected Samuel walking to the sideline, even though it wasn't his fault at all, he had a zone on the side.

Green Bay Packers 27 at Indianapolis Colts 30

Tom Gower: The Packers are a better, more talented team than the Colts. This is not much of a surprise. Cedric Benson had a nice gain on a well-executed screen to set up in the first Packers touchdown, and Bruce Arians, apparently unfamiliar with the rules, challenged the second Packers score. So Green Bay got to kickoff from the 50. Benson was just carted to the locker room, shaken up on a tackle. I didn't think it looked that serious, but you never know.

Andrew Luck came out of college with great pocket presence and movement, and he needs every bit of it today as the Colts have struggled badly in protection today.

Andy Benoit: Just as Robert Griffin takes a bad hit near the sideline (after slipping), Andrew Luck rolls to the sideline on a nearly identical play and gets out of bounds. Symbolism?

Tom Gower: Luck scrambles for a score to cut the Packers lead to 21-19 just short of the close of the second quarter. The Colts then go for two and are stopped. According to William Krasker's two-point chart, your break-even point on this call is about 25 percent.

Andy Benoit: I've only seen a few plays, but Packers back Alex Green has a LOT of juice. Incredible lateral burst on his 41-yard run. Hard to imagine him not supplanting Benson in the near future.

Matt Waldman: Green reminded me of Jamal Anderson (stylistically speaking) when at Hawaii. His burst flies off the screen in those college games. Getting healthier, I suppose.

Andy Benoit: Are we watching a legend unfold with Andrew Luck here?

Vince Verhei: All credit in the world to Luck, but let's also credit a Colts defense that limited the Packers to one touchdown, two missed field goals, an interception, and four punts in the second half.

Aaron Schatz: I'm seeing stuff on Twitter about some kind of strange Packers clock management ... any details?

Denver Broncos 21 at New England Patriots 31

Aaron Schatz: Question in the press box during Denver's opening drive: "Did the Broncos actually bring any running backs with them, or did they leave them all at home?"

The Pats would like Peyton Manning to know that he can have the pass in the flats to his tight ends whenever he feels like it. Three or four yards? They're fine with that.

Andy Benoit: Breaking: Tom Brady is sharp in pre-snap reads out of no-huddle. Patriots controlling the tempo.

Von Miller is showcasing explosive speed and power off the edge, but Brady doing an excellent job with pocket movement to compensate. When your quarterback can compensate like that, you can get away with single-blocking a guy like Miller, even though your tackles can’t actually block him.

Aaron Schatz: What's impressing me about Miller isn't just the pass pressure, it's the couple of big tackles for loss he's had of runners trying to take it outside. He just took down Brandon Bolden for a four-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1.

Otherwise, I feel bad I'm not being more talkative here but this game has played out as chalk. The Patriots offense looks Patriots offense-like. Denver's defense looks reasonable but clearly misses D.J. Williams, and the Pats are completing lots of short passes and getting lots of inside runs from shotgun. Manning looks good, he just had a couple of passes that were a little off and that's why the Pats are up 17-7 at the break.

Ben Muth: Bolden busts a long run on an outside zone off the tackle. Now do you give credit to Sebastian Vollmer, who knocked down the defensive end? Or, do you give it to Deion Branch, who got in the way of the cornerback? If you're announcing for CBS you give credit to Branch of course.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots just converted a third-and-17 with a handoff to Danny Woodhead. Just ... wow. The outside is nice, but the middle of the Denver defense is a problem.

Andy Benoit: We think of how a hurry-up offense helps your pass-blocking, but New England has shown all afternoon how it can help your run-blocking.

Rivers McCown: I think J.J. nailed it in Under Pressure when he noted that the biggest difference between this Manning and peak Manning is his ability to feel the rush coming. Big sack and forced fumble by Rob Ninkovich and the Patriots are less than 20 yards from being up four scores.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots go for it on fourth-and-5 from the 37, figuring it is too far for a field goal but too close to get much field position punting. Sounds like a good decision. Doesn't work out well when Brady is sacked, loses the ball, and it bounces backwards about 15 extra yards for a 20-yard loss. Judge on process, not results, of course, but yeah, that sure didn't work out well.

Broncos score on that next drive after the Brady sack to make it 31-21. They onside kicked with 6:41 left and two timeouts remaining. Does that seem a little bit early to folks? I expected them to kick away.

Andy Benoit: Chandler Jones is doing a good job getting sinewy corner turns. Ryan Clady is fending him off, but Jones’s athleticism is evident. Manning is doing a fantastic job of improving late in the down. He’s single-handedly keeping the Broncos alive.

Aaron Schatz: Late in the game there, fourth-and-1, Denver chose to throw a 30-yard deep pass to Demaryius Thomas rather than try to convert with a run or a short pass -- the kind of short passes the Pats were letting them have all day. Totally ballsy, aggressive call, and I know we usually love aggressive calls, but I have to say -- I don't think it was a good idea, even if it worked. There was plenty of time for the Broncos to march towards the end zone, they didn't need to grab 30 in one chunk, and their odds of converting on a shorter pass were much higher. Anyone else have thoughts on it?

Vince Verhei: On the two Denver strategic questions:

1) I would never try an onside kick unless it was literally my only option. I think I've got better odds of forcing a three-and-out and getting the ball back than I do of recovering an onside kick.

2) I'm pretty sure the play-call on fourth-and-1 was not "throw deep." I think Peyton saw he had a one-on-one matchup down the field that was at least as good a matchup as anything short, and they needed two scores, and he took a calculated risk. There were, what, six minutes left at that point? I don't think you can assume you'll have enough time to march down the field twice there.

Aaron Schatz: The results of the Champ Bailey project are interesting. As I did three weeks ago with Patrick Peterson, I tried to follow Champ Bailey on every New England offensive play. (Admittedly, I sort of lost track during a lot of the fourth quarter with the Pats running out the clock.) Unlike Peterson, the Broncos clearly wanted Bailey on Brandon Lloyd on every play. He switched sides whenever Lloyd did and went to the slot when Lloyd did. He was in man coverage on him on nearly every play, and it looked like pretty good coverage. Bailey generally used outside leverage to prevent Lloyd from moving away from the sideline. Brady didn't look to Lloyd much at all. And yet, when they did throw to Lloyd, they had success. The Pats threw three times to Lloyd in the first half, and all three were complete for first downs. First, Lloyd was able to get open on a dig for a first down. Later, he got away from Bailey with a little shake move in the middle of the field on one. He caught a quick slant on a third.

In the second half, they only threw to Lloyd twice. The first one was with 7:05 left in the third quarter, from around the 20, it was overthrown in the corner of the end zone but coverage was good, Brady would have needed to drop it into a very small space. Then in the fourth quarter, they threw to Lloyd again, I was a bit distracted but I think it was a zone of some sort and the pass was actually almost picked off by Von Miller in the underneath zone.

I'm not sure what this told us about Bailey's declining charting stats overall. He looked good, but his stats (allowing three out of five successful plays) wouldn't look good. Unfortunately, this shows one of the limitations of the charting. It's a big leap to track the success of coverage on all passes, but it's another big leap to try to track the success of coverage on all receivers, whether they are thrown to or not. It's something we finally would have the ability to do with all-22, but have neither the volunteer man-hours nor the financial resources to make it happen. However, we certainly could take a look at the end of the season at a few cornerbacks where the charting stats disagree with conventional wisdom. And now that we have snap counts, we can also look at targets per snap, which I am guessing will produce some interesting data.

Seattle Seahawks 16 at Carolina Panthers 12

Vince Verhei: After a couple of personal fouls, the Seahawks have benched Breno Giacomini for Frank Omiyale. If Brian Orakpo knows these guys, he is going to crush the caveman in fake Scrabble.

Seattle's defense gave up nothing in the first half. The Panthers last drive had a couple of big plays, including a big Cam Newton run, but stalled and ended in three points. Newton can't get anything to Steve Smith, though part of that was a blatant defensive pass interference deep downfield by Brandon Browner that the refs missed. Watching the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner cover the 5-foot-9 or whatever Steve Smith is comical. Not that it's a terrible mismatch (although Browner is clearly winning), but just the height difference makes me laugh.

Carolina's defense is leaving holes all over the secondary, and Sidney Rice is making more tough catches than I remember. Russell Wilson is 12-of-13 at halftime. That said, it's still the Seahawks offense, and they're still only ahead 6-3.

Andy Benoit: Captain Munnerlyn just got a huge pick-six. Inaccurate throw by Wilson. At what point are we going to start really questioning Wilson?

Vince Verhei: I've been questioning him for weeks.

Rivers McCown: Yeah, and I picked him apart in Any Given Sunday last week. And Pete Carroll had to field a few Matt Flynn questions last week as well. He's been questioned.

Vince Verhei: Wilson threw another interception while scrambling and throwing across his body. The ball came in behind Marshawn Lynch and, to be fair, was catchable, but got knocked up into the air and picked off. Counting Leon Washington's fumble on the opening kickoff, that's three turnovers for Seattle this quarter.

And the Seahawks defense has still given up only three points. They're conscious of Newton's big-play ability and giving big cushions to the wideouts, much less press man than they usually play, and Newton has been too erratic to hit the shorter routes.

Aaron Schatz: I think The Asterisk is still our man in the long run, but listen, I told people before the season that rookies are usually rookies and they have rookie problems for a reason, and you don't see those issues in the preseason because opponents aren't specifically game-planning to confuse them in their glorious rookieness. So yes, I think Flynn gives them a better chance to make the postseason *this year* but I think it makes sense to believe in Wilson long-term.

Vince Verhei: Brandon Browner: Real man. He's been dominating Smith all day. Then Carolina runs the option. Browner forces Newton to pitch the ball, then peels off and hits DeAngelo Williams for what would have been a loss anyway, then strips the ball and recovers it to put Seattle back in the game.

Seahawks capitalize on the turnover as Wilson hits Golden Tate with a slant route on third down, and Tate somehow squirms through about a half-dozen Panthers for the score. A 27-yard touchdown drive.

Panthers get by far their best drive of the day as Newton finds Greg Olsen in the Seahawks' zone a few times. It comes down to a goal-line stand. Two runs are stuffed, and a completion comes up just short of the goal-line. On fourth-and-inches, they try play-action and a rollout. Olsen is quadruple-covered, and Newton, looking completely lost, throws the ball into the turf. This defense is just wild.

Seahawks ended up taking a safety and kicking away, and the defense iced the game with a Bruce Irvin sack-fumble. Alan Branch fell on the ball. Really an amazing game for the Seattle defense.

Buffalo Bills 3 at San Francisco 49ers 45

Peter Koski: Leodis McKelvin is giving the Niners special teams some problems. He brought a kickoff into Niners territory after bouncing out of a pile. On an earlier kickoff, he found a seam, but it was called back for holding.

The Niners keep going back to play-action on first down and the Bills keep giving them no reason to change. The San Francisco offense seems real close to finding a groove, but it can't quite get there.

Ben Muth: Buffalo's secondary is bad at tackling.

Peter Koski: Michael Crabtree is displaying some more of that after-the-catch playmaker ability that he's yet to do consistently in the NFL. Kyle Williams is also showing signs of development, making a nice adjustment on a back shoulder stop and then taking it to the house. The Bills are motioning guys out wide in an effort to take Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman out of the middle to create space for C.J. Spiller.

The Bills don't have an answer for Vernon Davis.

Andy Benoit: The Bills are the first team since the 1950 NY Yanks to allow 550 or more yards in consecutive weeks.

Danny Tuccitto: The predictability of this 49ers game makes me wonder if some intrepid computer engineer in Cupertino programmed it into the matrix. We knew the Buffalo defense is horrible. We knew that San Francisco's defense is great. We knew the 49ers offense can score points just fine against horrible defenses. We knew they easily handle inferior non-division opponents at home. There's been your
typical dose of Kaeper-cat, play-action passing, 300-pound defensive linemen as lead blockers, naked bootlegs, end-arounds, etc. On defense, it's Patrick Willis seemingly everywhere, Carlos Rogers getting abused in the slot, sure-handed tackling from everyone, plus takeaway after takeaway.

It's the first time in years that I'm legitimately bored watching my favorite team.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Harbaugh has to be the leader for Coach of the Year. Look, I know nobody ever wins Coach of the Year in two straight years. They almost always give the award to somebody coaching a surprise playoff team that unexpectedly goes from a losing record to a winning record. This year that would be Leslie Frazier, and the Vikings are impressive, but what Harbaugh has done with the 49ers is truly remarkable. The historical regression trends were so strong, and yet that may be the best team in the league. And Harbaugh is such a big reason, especially when you consider how much his management has meant for Smith and that offense.

Tennessee Titans 7 at Minnesota Vikings 30

Tom Gower: Matt Hasselbeck has been pretty lousy early, and Antoine Winfield was the first Vikings player to actually take advantage and catch the ball. That set up a field goal to make it 10-0, as the Vikings scored earlier on a drive that included a nice touch pass downfield to Percy Harvin and finished with a Harvin run from the backfield.

Well, my company for this week's game left a lot happier than they did four years ago when the Titans beat the Vikings in Nashville. Today's game was never really competitive. The Titans did nothing offensively in the first three quarters, and while the Vikings didn't do much either, they did just enough. Adrian Peterson ran well, Harvin is better than you think he is, and the Titans' receivers had major problems winning against an improved secondary. Michael Griffin did get flagged for a hit, so maybe Jerry Gray will be happy about that. Otherwise, there's not much to be happy about as the Titans have now given up at least 30 in every game this season and have not scored more than two offensive touchdowns in a game. I wrote this on my Titans site after last week's game, but the Week 17 home game against the Jaguars is looking like it could be a big one for draft position.

Rivers McCown: I started Chris Johnson in a fantasy league, so I am at least as culpable for his performance as his offensive line.

San Diego Chargers 24 at New Orleans Saints 31

Rivers McCown: Looks like this game is about as popular as Ryan Mathews in the Chargers front office.

Tom Gower: I've been watching with some interest, though I'm also still stewing over the Titans game. Philip Rivers has looked great at times. The Mathews stuff still drives me nuts -- I got to the point last year where I sort of figured things out and could see where they wanted him to make better decisions at the second level. Second-year defensive end Corey Liuget has turned into a heck of a player after a very meh debut season. Beyond Liuget, the guy who's really surprised me this year is Malcom Floyd. He's been a very good vertical threat in the past, but is doing better this year on shorter and intermediate passes than I was expecting.

Danny Tuccitto: Yanks fan here, so I'm watching that one. Something I'll say about SNF is that I wonder if I'm the only one that doesn't see anything impressive in Drew Brees breaking this record. I mean, we're talking three-four seasons of games with touchdowns on one of the most pass-heavy offenses in today's pass-heavy NFL. Big whoop.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it's impressive in the same way a long hitting streak is impressive: the consistency.

Danny Tuccitto: Yeah, I was a bit too hyperbolic for my own good there. It's not that I don't see "anything" impressive about it. I just don't see why people think it's super-duper impressive enough for it to be a major storyline in the lead-up to the game.

Rivers McCown: Pierre Thomas has been a real bright spot in the second half for the Saints. And it's nice to see the vertical threat restored in New Orleans now that Devery Henderson is healthy.

Hard to mount a game-tying drive when you commit three penalties in a row. Second-and-37!

Matt Waldman: Devery Henderson to me is like the fighting chicken in Family Guy. He doesn't show up often, but when he does he shows up big. His hands have improved enough that he's not as bad as Robert Meachem. Speaking of Meachem, the Saints secondary has made him look like a starter for once this year. Watching that ball rattle off his chest and into his hands as the safety's contact helped the receiver secure the ball is typical Meachem on a good day. I've said this for years, but Meachem looks like he's doing a math problem in front of the classroom when he's targeted by a quarterback.

Listening to the broadcast team relay the Chargers' comments about Eddie Royal developing into an option that will garner 4-5 catches per week is humorous. The guy has issues recognizing zone coverage. Unless he's strictly getting targets versus single coverage, he's often a liability. Unless stem cell researchers figure out how to combine the DNA of Floyd, Meachem, and Vincent Brown, this receiving corps is not replacing Vincent Jackson with this crew. Brown is the only receiver after Floyd with promise beyond situational skill.

I don't understand why the Saints even use Mark Ingram at this point. I loved Ingram's potential, but those knee injuries have resulted in a different player than the one the Saints saw at Alabama. Thomas is a spark plug for this team. He came to this team with a chip on his shoulder and quite unintentionally the Saints gave him a bigger chip the past 2-3 years. He's the most complete back on the team.

Rivers McCown: That is why Cris Colinsworth is an excellent analyst. Wow. Correctly diagnoses that Jared Gaither is hurt, and Martez Wilson gets a game-clinching sack/fumble on the very next play.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 08 Oct 2012

236 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2013, 7:53am by mano


by Kevin M (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:06am

My thoughts on the Giants-Browns game are please bring back the replacement refs. Heck, bring back the replacement rule writers. What horse's ass thought it was a good idea to only allow ball spot challenges on plays that resulted in a first down?

The Browns completed a 3rd down pass and after a measurement, the ball was 6 inches short of a first down. However, replay clearly showed the ball should've been spotted a yard behind where it was. Coughlin throws the challenge flag because Cleveland is about to go for it on 4th down in their own territory. The refs tell Coughlin he can't challenge and Cleveland converts the QB sneak for a first down. I highly doubt they go for it if the ball is placed in the proper spot. What is the purpose of not letting a team challenge a spot on a play resulting in 4th down as opposed to 1st down? It's not like the game will be lengthened because there's only 2 challenges per team.

by James B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:50am

The main problem I see with this is that there is no way to define a "successful challenge." The refs never spot the ball exactly right. Where do you draw the line? 6 inches off? 1 foot? 1 yard? It's an arbitrary rule, but you have to make some arbitrary rule here.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:20am

Successful spot challenge:

(1) changes from being a first down to not being a first down, or vice versa
(2) changes from being <= 1 yard to go to not being <=1 yard to go, or vice versa

(1) is the current rule, as I understand it. Why not add (2), to address problems like mentioned above?

by James B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:43am

Like I said, 1 yard is just as arbitrary. Why not the 2? It really just adds more complicated measurements. Of course, there should be no reason why you can't willingly lose the challenge in order to improve the spot of the ball.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:21pm

OK, here:

Spot gets changed AT ALL, it's a successful challenge. There, done. Easy.

If a coach wants to use one of his two precious challenges to move the spot 6", that's his business. You don't need to make an artificial "unsuccess" to discourage frivolous challenges because you already only allow two per coach per game.

by Jerry :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:25am

I didn't see the Browns-Giants game. Was Coughlin told that he couldn't challenge (I'm assuming he had one left), or did he just decide not to when he was told that even a "successful" challenge would cost him a timeout?

by Kevin M (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:14am

Coughlin was told he could not challenge because the challenge was not going to result in a moving of the sticks. After the play ended, there was an official timeout for a measurement. The ball was 6 inches short of a first down. A successful Giants challenge (all replays were indisputable) would've moved the ball farther back, making a 4th down attempt by the Browns more difficult and perhaps making them reconsider going for it.

In short, Cleveland COULD challenge the spot of the ball (because a successful challenge for them might've resulted in a 1st down), but the Giants could not (it was still going to be 4th down regardless of the outcome of the challenge).

I just don't understand what the purpose is of not allowing a team to challenge the spot.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:33pm

I could be wrong, but I thought one could challenge the spotting of the ball up until recently. I do recall a point being made in the last year or two that challenging a spot was only allowed if it resulted in a first down. But I swear there was a change at some point. Not sure why or when.

I'd also agree that it should be allowed and if the spot changes that its successful. Coaches phsyically cannot challenge very much, so I doubt it would be used much for ball spots. But as reference in the above posts, sometimes the spot IS pretty important and cannot change the outcome.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:18pm

At least the refs had a dubious rule to fall back on for this call, unlike the 3 missed DPI's they should have called against the Browns, including the interception that happened with the Browns' DB's arms draped across Victor Cruz's a good 2 beats before the ball arrived.

On Weeden's key 1st hald interception that turned the game around, I'm surprised I haven't seen more criticism of the play call. Giants had demonstrated repeatedly that they couldn't tackle Trent Richardson, and yet on 3rd-and-1 the Browns not only threw but took Richardson off the field and went shotgun empty backfield. Drives me nuts when the Giants do that, but I was very happy to see an opponent do that. Someone needs to explain to me why that's so common, and why any offensive coordinator hell-bent on throwing wouldn't at least want to show the potential for a run to set up play action.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:09am

Was that atrocity in the Bronco game an onside kick? I thought of it as some sort of elaborate squib kick. I know that Prater isn't the best onside kicker in the world, but I would think that if he was really trying, he wouldn't flutter it out 20(ish) yards.
It was like the worst aspects of kicking away and onside kicking all rolled into one terrible decision. The Broncos' late-game kickoff decisions have been infuriating me... Also Joe Mays. Joe Mays infuriates me too.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:54am

A fair number of onside kicks are done on the theory that you boot it beyond the receiving team's line, then your guys running forward from the start of the play can cover 20 yards faster than the other side's guys can realize what's happening, turn around, and cover 10. No clue if this works any better IRL than other methods.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:10am

I've seen the short pop-up kickoff work a bunch of times in college. It works even better when they are expecting a standard kickoff.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:55pm

The Broncos sort of did that to the Jets in the 1998 AFC championship game, but I don't think it was intentional. Jason Elam booted a kickoff and a huge gust of wind just killed it. It landed way, way short of the return man, there was a scramble and the Broncos ended up with the ball on what effectively ended up as an onside kick, but like I said I think it was a fluke. I remember the wind was doing crazy things to the football that day.

Overall I'd think pop-up kickoffs are worth trying in high school and college but no so much in the pros. NFL players are so fast you may think you're kicking into a void and find that one of those speedsters fields your short kick and returns it rather easily.

Sort of off-topic, but one thing I've been waiting for with the kickoff mark moved up to the 35-yard line is for a team to have its kicker start going for hang-time instead of distance. Have the kickoff go high in the air and come down maybe around the 5. You'd stand an excellent chance of stopping them inside their 20, though doubtless many teams would rather negate the chance of a return TD, even at the cost of a few yards of field position.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:19pm

In week 2 this year against the Lions, the Niners left a huge void 30-35 yards downfield, with the hands team up front - Hanson pooched it and Kyle Williams grabbed it for the Niners. It was kind of close, partially because Vernon Davis was a little confused about whether he needed to recover it or not. The niners even called a time out before the kick - then stayed in the formation.

It's unclear whether that was a Seely trick that worked, one that didn't work, or just a weird oversight.

by jebmak :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:18am

When the Giants were down 14-0 and I mentioned that it didn't look good for my decision to pick them at the biggest value in my office pool, someone said that the Giants were going to win by 14 anyway.

So, I'm not sure who it was, but props to you.

by James B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:37am

Did anyone else think Bradford's 44 yard throw to Amendola was more lucky than good? If DRC had made even the slightest effort to find the ball, that would have been incomplete or even an easy interception. It basically goes under his arm.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:53am

That would have taken an amazing effort from DRC, since he plays in Philadelphia now. I assume you mean Peterson?

by James B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:07am

Yes. Peterson. The guy in red and white wildly flailing about in front of Amendola when h pulled in the ball one handed at hip level. It's late. Forgive me.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:34am

You you mean that awful, underthrown lob off his back foot in the direction of one of the game's best corners that Mayock praised to the rafters?

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:51am

I found the best part of watching football this weekend was watching the NYG/CLE game (my wife and I were visiting my parents) and hearing my 69-year-old mother who watches maybe three games a year (when the Bears are on) take an unsolicited shot at Dierdorf's announcing. I'm pretty well convinced that Michaels/Collinsworth is the #1 announcing team currently working NFL games, but it'd be interesting to see how the folks here would rank them.

...Of course, network policy has a nasty effect as well. Divine intervention couldn't make a MNF color guy bearable.

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:45am

I've alluded to it before but I'll say it again; the tv viewing experience needs to evolve further. The camera angle is terrible and the commentary is worst. I'd rather listen to the mindless madden game monotony.

I really enjoyed the statement in last weeks article about how typical analysis of Brady doesn't say anything about what makes Brady Brady but rather is usually just descriptive of things that he has done, which is close to who he is (not to untangle the idea about doing & being) but this 'analysis' is not constructive to a better understanding of what makes him function the way he does.

I've posted a bit about day9 and the starcraft commentary community but I'm going to ramble on a bit more about how I see them functioning.

1. The commentators are self-starters and knowledgable. Some were former pro players, but they all still play and thus are aware of how the game evolves and the mechanics of the game. If a commentator can't place the players onto their 'build's' or overarching strategy early in a match then no one will take them seriously and no one will watch. When no one is watching, they don't get invited back and their streams fail. I see this not happening in pro football in two ways: 1. People aren't fired. They need to fire some of these guys who are atrocious. Before they can do that though the people calling the shots need to understand that good commentary is more than 'the pass was complete for 8 yards". Something more along the line of "Wayne got open on that long third down because of a unique new route that is being run where the WR looks to run a post route but then turns it into a lazy hook that the CB is in no position to play because of his leverage. The requirement for this would be commentators who understand this. 2. I don't think commentators do. I see them being in awe of the physical tools, which is dandy, but that doesn't explain how a team like SF has turned it completely around, and then all the pundits are scratching their heads. As noted in the open discussion thread, the networks have former coaches that don't even know the rules of the league commentating. That's terrible. They need former coaches that still put in enough work to know the rules and the actual strategies of the teams and of the game. Though I'm assuming a lot of coaches are terrible at what they do and can't understand overarching strategies, how else to you explain the complete ineptitude of certain staffs?
After wins Belichick uses the Belestrator (The telestrator) on the Patriots official site to break down plays from the previous week That is the kind of broadcasting that should be happening live. When Madden started doing it there was a soft revolution, but it needs to go all the way to the all 22, but specifically the madden cam. If a network was bold enough to do it I'm sure everyone would watch that game if no one was rooting for a specific team at that time slot.

2. The commentary should be reflective of analysis and descriptive of actual events rather than reactionary to how this new event fits the prescribed narrative of the game. Manning Dueling Brady? What a load of bs. They both play on offense. Now something like Brady vs Reed and Lewis (pre-ravens), or Manning vs Belichick. That makes sense. That's why this site is growing. It does what the networks should be doing. If the NFL were serious about promoting itself it would take a more classic Nintendo approach and have a say on how the networks used the content. In the 80's to make a Nintendo game with a stamp it had to pass Nintendo's quality review. That made the Nintendo more successful than the Genesis. Similarly the Apple app site works the same way, which is what keeps iOS generally more stable than an Android (I'm an Android guy, lets not make this the topic). The NFL should tell the networks that they can make narratives but that they should make sense and not be nonsensical.
What a live viewer should hear is what personnel are on the field, what the formation is and it's strengths, and what presnap motion is being used and to what effect. If a commentator was really good they could describe how far the back is from the LoS, the game situation, etc.
I think that the commentators are bored with the game and confused by how to fit things into the narrative when they're nonsensical plot arcs. They just keep coming back to the moronic statements that they preplanned. They need to find guys that can talk on their toes.
Since the networks realized that they should have the game situation put in an info bar (score, time & quarter, down & distance, and timeouts) maybe they'll figure out that the point of commentary is to comment on the game, not only on the musings about the mythos of the game, though someone of that mystique should certainly stay

3. Commentators should be younger and they should be able to draw women. This might seem ridiculous to some. If you want the guys to pay attention to something, get girls to pay attention to it. At least that's how good restaurants operate. The NFL has to realize to grow their actual market outside the US and outside the demographic they already own they're going to have to get football to appeal to more than the guys who innately like it, they need to make it more appealing. You have cheerleaders which is fine for gawking but when girls are saying to their guy friends, let's watch the game, that works a whole lot better for the NFL than, lets watch the Batchelorette. Old men who sound like morons in bland suits that are not appealing. I love football and I think the commentators are unattractive to the sport. In gaming women players and women commentators exist but in a minor role, though more and more women are getting into videogaming. I think women can't stand the neanderthal approach that networks use to package the games. Women buy an idea of mythos to a degree but they also appreciate learning, and I don't see educating happening in the booth. Though maybe this is too sexist of a stance and I'm off base.

4. Train the sideline reporters to ask some real questions. Instead of to Torrey Smith: "How did you do it?" (I think it's fine to bring up his heart break once or so, to mention the minute of silence but give it a break, you don't need to pry and it's not even probably relevant) have them ask a question about what actually happened; so for instance to Brady after the Buffalo game: Did you keep checking to the run against that personnel package or was it called that way? (That's actually pretty weak) Maybe something along the lines of asking Ed Reed what goes through his head as he's positioning himself or baiting a QB, so for instance; "After your rotation into centerfield what helped you key onto the route that you decided to break on?

I'd love to see these things implemented but I'm not sure that they're necessary to the business model. On Saturday I was watching WV vs Texas and my Dad said "Now all WV needs to do is score to put the game away (in the 4th with about 6 min left)." My father seemed to be completely oblivious to the idea that there was another team on the field and that that made a difference to his thought process. And my dad isn't a dumb guy, he's actually a chemical engineer and is really bright. But he seems to be completely lacking in game theory. 'Need' to him he recognizes but he doesn't understand entity interaction within a system.

To me this would be a perfect crew for a game:

Analysis: Chris Brown of smartfootball.com
Alternatively this position could be filled with some other brilliant football mind that is ideally both young and dresses well. I don't care if he's never played, if he has, or if he's old. As long as he understands and can talk about nuance of the game.
Alternative: Andy Benoit (maybe I'm showing how little I know)

Color: Sid Meier/Warren Spector or Jerry Seinfeld
Someone who cares about the game and who is funny. Don't give me narrative fluff, if you want fluff give me humor about the absurdity of pushing a guy down and then picking him up or give me an explanation/education of how coverage holding up and sacks are related. And maybe show the correlatives of big blitzing and success. I don't think most people understand that. Alternatives: Sean 'Day9' Plott, Obama, Joshua Waitzkin

Filler/Chemistry (Not a necessary position): Anna Kendrick
She's my flavor of the month and I want to hear her talk about football. I think she's hot enough that guys will take notice but not that girls will want her off the screen. This is really a spot predicated on gelling the booth. Seinfeld or Buck could also take this spot. (I'd love to hear Dr Phil's take on the New York Jets, The Dr for a full broadcast calling Jet's vs Patriots would be interesting if asked about dynamics of group responsibility for success). It could be that girl kicker out of college (forgive me for not knowing her name, my excuse is that I'm in Winnipeg), or Cooley's wife, or for that matter any gf of a player. I don't know how well Giselle understands the game but I think she'd say more interesting things, well, definitely more inflammatory things. So a celebrity or someone involved in the game in a grassroots/personal way. Get that guy who was signed by the Bucs honorarily who was paralyzed in a game. You get him talking about leading with the helmet and I think the message will start to click about tackling with the shoulder. You'd have to be careful with him though to not make him a battering ram for the issue.

Though maybe I'm just preaching to the converts and the unwashed masses couldn't give a rip as long as they get to see big and fast guys hitting each other.

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:52am

Sorry for the poor editing; It's a little late

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 8:19am

Katie Hnida was the CU kicker.

All this seems pretty reasonable to me. Announcing has been mostly the same for at least 25 years, as far back as I can remember with a reasonably critical mind: targeted at people who don't know much about the game, but not in such a way as to increase their knowledge. Anything that seems like it might be different is rejected and replaced with more of the same. Production still focuses on all kinds of unrelated crap that doesn't even need the focus while plays are happening on the field, even with teams you know will run no-huddle and hurry-up offenses.

I agree that a key demographic is younger women - I doubt the NFL can gain much more of a following among younger men. Telecasts need to be about more than just blood and boobs, but you don't want to go too far in the other direction. Making telecasts female-friendly does not mean coloring everything pink or using little words. Present more learning opportunities during games. Do away with cheerleaders. (They don't lead cheers anyway; they're just like NBA dance teams. And their pay is atrocious.)

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:18pm

I can't remember who did it but I think during the Colt SB run in 06 there was an explanation from the network covering the SB of what a Tampa-2 was. While this is standard fare for those that play madden (though the Tampa-2 wasn't actually in Madden till a few years later) it was nice to see the zone concept explained.

'Education is evil' is I think a prevailing theme of football broadcasts, and it's probably a part of the building enigma surrounding Harbaugh or Belichick. They are both educators as coaches and smart about game theory and the networks are too dumb to understand enough to even explain that.

You could also have cheerleaders actually lead cheers. Don't they at the college and HS level? (Forgive my ignorance, hockey is what's big in Canada)

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:28pm

In college and HS, cheerleading is a sport to itself. It's kind a group gymnastics/tumbling.

The cheerleading they do at football games is more just having fun.

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:43pm

Yeah.... It seems most broadcasters work on the principle of "this game is so complicated that you the viewer couldn't possibly understand what's going on, so I'll dumb it down for you".

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:17am

You know, NASCAR has a huge female audience despite being almost entirely testosterone-fueled. College football also seems to have a sizable female audience. I think if the product is compelling, the audience will come.

Besides, Susan Komen has already ruined 5 weeks of the season. Let's not let her idiot sister ruin the rest of the season, too.

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:30am

I have nothing to add, except that I enjoyed Dennis Miller's tenure on MNF

(I also like the Eagles)

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:03am

A comedian as color guy?

Like, say, Dennis Miller? Didn't everybody hate that experiment?

Edit: apparently billsfan didn't. My bad!

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:22pm

I hated Dennis Miller too. I think a lot of humor is based on shock value and racism and other stereotyping, which is terrible. I think what Seinfeld did, at least to my knowledge, was to make fun of the insanity in life. What is more insane than watching behemoths run around on a field and yet get paid millions of dollars to do so. It's like we value the most meaningless thing above all.

Get observational humorists like Bryan Reagan. Miller was dysfunctional because he wasn't that funny.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:45pm

Always thought Seinfeld was about social anthropology -- making explicit cultural rules that we take for granted. "Dja ever notice...?"

I find the guy consistently funny. Pro football might have one or two of those unstated cultural rules to poke fun at. But does he give a flying shit about football?

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:49pm

I don't think he does. He's made a lot of references to and jokes about baseball, but I hardly ever hear him talk about football.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:35pm

I too hated Dennis Miller, but I don't him funny when he isn't talking about football either.

I'm not sure there are many comedians who can ad lib jokes for 3 hours effectively, and I'm even less sure there are enough who love football enough to do the job right.

Tony Kornheiser tried, and either sucked or was crushed under the oppressive creative drain that is the Disney corporation.

As for appealing to the female demographic, my only anecdotal experience is that my mom loved John Madden, so I don't think it's obvious how to appeal to women.

by TomC :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:00pm

Here's a revolutionary concept: You know which announcers my wife likes? The ones who know a lot about the game and don't talk down to the viewers---i.e., the same ones that all intelligent football fans like.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:45pm

So your wife doesn't like any of the network announcers?

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:25pm

I guess I'm in the minority of FO readers who finds Miller funny, but I like one-liners like:

"That hit was later than Godot"
"Ironically a guy named Berlin showed some pretty good north to south speed"
"Truth be told, the Monday Night Football vineyard has not yielded an exquisite vintage so far this year. A lot of Ripple, Thunderbird and Boone's Farm turning up on the wine list."
"... the Colts would have to win out for the rest of the season just to go 8-8. And trust me, that's one Indy 500 that nobody saw coming."

The reason he didn't appeal to a broad audience (http://espn.go.com/abcsports/mnf/s/annotatedmiller/archive.html) is probably the same reason he appealed to me.

(I also like the Eagles)

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:46pm

I don't mind Dennis Miller generally, but hated him on MNF. Nothing irks me like a guy who uses words that the general public needs a dictionary for, yet uses them incorrectly as often as not. I still cringe at his usage of "Pyrrhic" victory to mean a close loss, that is, a moral victory.

It's the same problem I have with Easterbrook. If your schtick is that you're the urbane, intelligent alternative to football analysis, don't make stupid mistakes in your urbane, intelligent football analysis.

by canofcorn66 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:13pm

My million-dollar idea: create a secondary audio channel (like they sometimes broadcast an SAP channel in Spanish, etc.) that broadcasts only the actual sounds of the game, with no commentary. Just crowd noise, helmets crashing together, Ray Lewis yelling at people...it'd be wonderful. You could use the same video feed, but just cut out the talking heads and maybe fiddle with the on-field mic mix a bit. There's a possiblity you'd miss out on some pertinent info from the commentators, and I suppose telestrator illustrations without accompanying analysis could be a bit strange, but I think it'd be worth it in the end.

Of course, this will never happen because it would impinge on each network's "brand" or something, but I would really enjoy it. Who needs commentary when you have Twitter these days?

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:23pm

Some years ago when broadcast TV first switched to digital, the local Fox station actually did this. And I did take advantage.

by Dean :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:29pm

What's really sad is that years ago (late 70s?) they did a game with an empty booth. Might have been Dolphins/Pats? Anyway, it was a flop. The producers found it borderline unwatchable, and the ratings were terrible.

by canofcorn66 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:39pm

Interesting, I've never heard of that. I can understand why that would flop and why it's especially impossible to present that as the only option, but it seems like having it as a secondary option wouldn't be too crazy...

by Xian :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:45pm

Interesting. I thought they were repeating that experiment weekly with Joe Buck.

by Marko :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:47pm

It was Dolphins vs. Jets in 1980. I remember watching it. It was very boring. Of course, those two teams were boring anyway. Here is an ESPN article from a few years ago near the 30th anniversary of that game: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=5906858

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:13am

Certainly Michaels/Collinsworth is the crew I enjoy the most. Mayock is good to. Oh and Billick has been a very postive surprise. So has Mike Martz.

I'd say
1. Collinsworth
2. Mayock
3. Billick/Martz

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:52am

The last drive by the chargers had 4 bad calls all go against them. Gates called for OPI when their was barely any contact with the defender, hardwick called for holding when he released the player instantly when he got by him, Floyd fighting to get out of bounds only to have the refs call forward progress (if a player gets out of bounds before the whistle is blown it is out of bounds regardless of the spot of forward progress), and with about 1:20 left in the game the refs have a conference and allow the clock to be run down about 20 seconds.

This is the first time ive ever felt like the NFL actually fixed a game (granted i have only been watching about 10 years and on average watch about 2 games a week). There is no point in me crying and claiming i refuse to watch the NFL from here on out, but it should be known that the end of this game is evidence that the refs can fix a game in obvious ways and if it happens to a mid-low interest team it will go largely unnoticed.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:01am

Please. The NFL is not going to fix a game, for the simple reason that it would be really dumb thing to do.

I will say the game served as a nice counterexample to the conventional wisdom that the replacement refs fouled thing up to a degree that the regular zebras never would

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:33am

Your second paragraph is exactly what i meant to get to in my original post. Well said Will.

"Please. The NFL is not going to fix a game, for the simple reason that it would be really dumb thing to do."

I disagree with your assessment. My most convincing proof is the NBA officials scandal in the early to mid 2000's. Regardless of whether Donahey(?)was telling the truth or trying to become famous quick, the perception to the average fan is that NBA refs strongly affected the outcome of games, and often on purpose with alterior motives. While i agree that it would be a really dumb thing to do, the NBA appears to have done it with almost 0 repercussions. It is more popular now than it has been since the Jordan era.

I also havent even touched up on why Loomis and Payton were allowed to be present at the game. I find it very fishy that they would be allowed to break the rules, then be the beneficiary of 5 bad calls in the closing seconds of a very close game.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:57am

An NFL game's popularity has been shown to be almost completely untied to where the teams playing are from.

The NBA is actually the opposite.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:09am

The perception of the average fan was that Tim Tebow was a good NFL qb last year. The perception of the average fan is that Super Bowl Rings are a useful metric in delineating among great qbs. Now we are supposed to think the NFL is involved in a vast criminal conspiracy that would send billionaires to prison (and you can ask Martha Stewart whether billionaires go to prison), in a sport where t.v. ratings are great no matter which teams win, because of the average fan's perception?

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:56am

The fact that Martha Stewart managed to do time still boggles the mind. She's a piker compared to the lords of Wall Street.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:18am

She either received the worst legal advice in the history of the United States, or her legal counsel may have been unethical instead of grossly incompetent. When the FBI comes calling, wanting to ask questions about your trading activity, you tell the FBI that you ain't saying anything unless a Grand Jury subpeona arrives first, and then you're taking the Fifth unless an ironclad immunity agreement is offered. If your billionaire client insists on doing an FBI interview, despite your advice to the contrary, you need to tell your billionaire that he or she is now an ex-client.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:40am


This part of the comment thread stops here. Wall Street people will now be known simply as "possible Football Outsiders readers." Thanks.

by Paul R :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:54am

We can talk about Martha Stewart, though. Right? I need some craft-project ideas for all these empty beer cans.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:05pm

A dreamcatcher big enough aid the Bills playoff hopes?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:47pm

Sorry about that.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:35pm

That was one of the most good-natured warnings I've seen in a while.

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:41am

You made it through the entire 2007 season and *now* you think games are being fixed?

I agree with Will Allen's point--this game and last week's GB-NO game were a good reminder that the replacement refs weren't that much worse.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:02am

Maybe the scabs were only marginally worse in terms of calls on the field.

However they were much, much, much worse in the administration and control of the game.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:11am

"This is the first time ive ever felt like the NFL actually fixed a game "

The refs had two dubious calls that cancelled big gains by the Chargers and gave them 2nd and 37.

Then they called illegal hands to the face and gave the Chargers 1st down. Is this something that the officials would have done if they were fixing the game?

"If it happens to a mid-low interest team it will go largely unnoticed." Possibly true. But the Sunday night game is not going to be low profile in any case.

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:38am

I guess you could make an argument that the "illegal hands to the face" call was an attempt by the referees to fix the game they had just broken.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:54am

Didn't see much of any game until Saint/Chargers. What's with these parents and their all day baptism celebrations? Well, the brunch as pretty good......

It has to be frustrating to be a Chargers fan; the opponent is on their back-up back-up coach, and Norv is still getting outclassed. It is amazing that that the Bolts only scored 24 points.

Looking at the drive charts for earlier games, it appears as if the Vikings just slapped around an inferior opponent. I suspect the Packers just aren't very good on the line of scrimmage. The Bears performance aganst the Packers may have been a real anomaly.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Andrew Luck is going to have a nice career.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:57am

Thursday games suck.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:23am

Yeah, I should have remembered the short week factor when I was surprised at how bad the Bears offense looked on that Thursday game.

by AnonymousLee (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:43am

Norv down a TD with 2:50 to go benches Mathews- his best skill player by FAR - in favor of Ronnie Brown. game over, and he deserved it.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:57am

Funny thing is, they probably still force overtime if the refs don't call offensive PI on Gates negating a huge play, then a phantom holding call on the very next play negating another long pass. Replacement officials could not have done any worse on that drive than these guys did.

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:59am

Mathews seems to be so much better than either Brown or Battle. I get that you sometimes have to send a message to your players (though in this case, what's the message? "don't fumble"?), but you also need to use the talent you have on hand to win games.

by TomC :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:07pm

I agree, but I was surprised to see that Battle is #7 in DVOA among RB's. Small-number stats at this point in the season, but still...

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:17pm

Poor Norv. He always seems to make his decisions based solely on a desire to prove people wrong via some outré call, and the decisions are almost always incorrect.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:17pm

Also, his name is "Norv."

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:10am

Wow. I can see disputing the achievement as not necessarily as impressive as the mark by Unitas; defensive backs were allowed to molest recievers, et al. But lets make list of the great modern QBs who never held that record. As standout as Brees' weapons are, other so-called great quarterbacks have had better. And let's not forget the particular liability of a Saints defense which can be quite willing to force him to watch a game from the bench. More durably and consistantly explosive than, Marino, Favre, Montana, Brady, Manning (either), Moon!, Warner, Aikman, doesn't strike me as any shade of unimpressive.

/Not even a Saints fan

by 0tarin :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:48am

Not that I disagree with your main point here, but the defense keeping Brees on the bench doesn't (typically) prevent him from tossing a single TD over the course of 60 minutes. From what I've seen of their defense, it's more likely to encourage him to toss as many as possible.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:03am

It demands that he do so, it does not aid him in anyway. Maybe it did in their superbowl year. But this year they seem to be playing to allow the most rushing yards in history. That time is lost opportunities for him. If he goes three and out, or turns it over, that's extremely expensive because of the defense that takes the field. As his space of opportunity shrinks, so must his efficiency rise.

In my mind, if there's any argument strongly in favor of Unitas' supremacy, its medicine, but I've yet to even see any other critic mention it.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:56am

Brady's currently on a 37-game streak, and I don't think it's a coincidence that two of the top three streaks have proceeded entirely in the past 3-4 years. Heck, until it was snapped two weeks ago, even Matt Stafford had a 21-game streak going, which almost certainly would have been 29 if not for getting hurt early in Week 1 of 2010.

And I think Stafford's streak is a perfect example of what my point is here. Like Aaron said, as an achievement in consistency/longevity, Brees' streak is impressive for sure. He's avoided injuries. As an achievement in compiling TD passes, though, it loses weight for me personally because of how many more get thrown these days. 2012 is on pace to be the third year in a row that the league as a whole crosses the 1.5-pass-TDs-per-team-per-game threshold (not that there's anything magical about that threshold, of course). Previously, there had never been even two seasons in a row like that since the merger, and the strike-shortened 1987 season was the only other single season it's happened. And for the first 1+ seasons of Unitas' streak? 1.2. (Although, interestingly and further to my point, the league average jumped to 1.4 in the final 2+ seasons of his streak.) Of Brees' 48-game streak, 41 are in the 2010-2012 period. Brady's entire streak is in that period.

Kudos to Brees for being consistently great, and not having his streak snapped because of an in-game injury or getting rested for the final three quarters in Week 17 or any other randomness. In terms of the must-throw-a-TD-pass half of the equation? Meh.

by canofcorn66 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:37pm

I'm not particularly enamored with the record itself because it seems to be more a show of consistency and longevity as opposed to jaw-dropping brilliance, and I think we can all agree that jaw-dropping brilliance is just more fun (some of us have Barry Sanders' 1988 season bookmarked for a reason).

Still, I don't think that we should hold Brees' context against him, or overstate the case that "everyone throws TDs these days so it's not a big deal." Sure, 2 of the top 3 streaks are from the past 3 years, and certainly that points to an extreme trend in the game. But only 4 of the top 10 are post-2000, which is only 1 more than the number that are pre-1970. Not to mention the fact that the TD% in Unitas' era was actually higher than it is today (and practically ever was), and by a lot - roughly 5.2% to today's 4.3%. There's no doubt that our current era is extreme in some ways, but other eras have their own extreme quirks, too.

I think our old friend Mike Tanier has been the most on-point on this subject: "Records are set by extraordinary players under extraordinary circumstances. That is how Brees sets them. That is how Marino set them. That is how Unitas set them." We shouldn't let that diminish our appreciation for all-time great players doing all-time great things.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:06pm

That's reasonable. Obviously, I'll endorse anything Tanier has to say. Yes, longevity records typically involve rare players playing great in rare circumstances; and, yes, we should appreciate it. Contemporaneously, this is why Cabrera's triple crown in a post-steroids MLB, after no one did it during the Steroid Era, is such an awesome feat that deserves a lot more fanfare than it seems to have gotten.

My issue is precisely that Brees' record loses (some) weight when you consider that, although he is certainly a rare player, these aren't rare circumstances. Like Bonds breaking a three-year-old record after McGwire broke a 37-year-old record, we could easily see Brady break Brees' record in short order. Then you read today's XP re the one-word play calling gaining traction in college getting adopted in the NFL by the Patriots, and the near NFL future seems like it might turn into 18 possessions per team per game. In that environment, we could easily see ANY top-tier QB break it in the next decade, Brady or otherwise. And unlike the Steroid Era in baseball, I don't think the NFL is going to make rule changes to return TD passes to some previous historical level any time soon. That ship has sailed.

So really, at base, my point here is just to congratulate Brees on breaking the record, but to ask the following question: If Brady or someone else breaks it in the next decade (as the league environment makes it more and more likely to happen), will there be similar fanfare? I think not, and that (to me) dilutes the super-awesomeness surrounding Brees breaking it yesterday because he's merely the first of what figures to be several quarterbacks to break that record in quick succession. Records are celebrated because they're rare. In time, I don't think Brees' accomplishment will be considered rare in retrospect.

Of course, I could be wrong.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:00am

Why the emphasis on the fact that no one did it during the steroid era? It's the triple crown, and it's based on a player's stats relative to everyone else; Not relative to some absolute that steroids should have an effect on.

Theoretically, if a lot of players are taking PEDs, a triple crown shouldn't be any easier or harder to accomplish. I don't see Cabrera's triple crown as any greater an achievement because of the steroid era - it's impressive in its own right, although I don't think it should be celebrated like it used to be.

I don't think it's as big a deal because of the lack of awe I have for RBIs, as being so team/context dependent. And because I don't see why they are treated differently than runs in that way. Why not a triple crown that's AVG/HR/RUNS? Or OBP/HR/SBs? Both of those would be really impressive too. AVG/HR/RBI does seem pretty arbitrary/old-fashioned.

by DGL :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:52am

I would hypothesize - though I've done no research to test the hypothesis - that the steroid era not only increased the average batting performance, but also the variance. Higher variance in performance - broadening the spread of BA/HR/RBI - would seem to make it more likely that one player would lead the league in all three. (Of the 14 modern-era batting triple crown winners, 8 were pre-integration, when there was a much higher variance in batting performance.)

by canofcorn66 :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:46pm

No, that's a fair take, and the McGwire/Bonds analogy is an interesting spin (though we aren't dealing with PEDs and juiced baseballs here...but that's a different story).

The thing is, though, despite the fact that it's easy to imagine every top-tier QB coming within spitting distance of the record with such high-paced, high-possession offenses, only Brady is currently close at all -- the next longest active streak is Matt Ryan at 20. That's almost two full seasons away. You may be right, and there may be a slew of 'slingers who reach their way into the 30s and 40s, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that most of them fall short.

All of which is to say, I think that there's a different way to look at Brady's almost inevitable future-breaking of the record, and that's that Brady happens to be another rare/elite QB in an opportune era. If/when he breaks it, will that cheapen Brees' accomplishment a bit? It might, but I'm not sure that it should.

by dryheat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:04pm

Unless we're assuming that Brees's streak stops next week, I don't see a way Brady, or any active NFLer, breaks it.

Brees might run that number into the 80s.

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:00am

Unitas missed two games with injuries during his streak (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/decades/1960s/unitas.aspx), but he also worked summers in a steel mill. Brees was statistically better in everything but YPA (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/2012/10/1/Unitas-and-Brees-NFL-TD-...).

ETA: And Brees took a week off, too: (http://www.profootballhof.com/history/2012/8/30/NFL-Saints-Drew-Brees-TD...)

Both of these "records" are nonsense.

(I also like the Eagles)

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:31pm

I don't think the Bills are that bad of a team. DVOA had them at 22nd or something? They had the misfortune of playing 2 of the 3 best teams in the league (by DVOA), and I think the 49ers were a particularly bad matchup for them. The strongest part of the 49er offense is the o-line, and the strongest part of their defense is their ability to stop the run, and those two happen to negate the strongest features of the Bills' own game.

I do wonder how they're going to handle their recent horrible defeats. I think they can beat Arizona. But after their last six quarters, will they think they can?

by billsfan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:54pm

Even if they get past Arizona (a team that now appears to be just as schizophrenic, but has a fairly solid defense), they'll still probably need a win against either Houston or New England to have a chance at a wild card.

I haven't seen enough yet to tell if it's bad play calling or just bad decision-making by Fitzpatrick.

(I also like the Eagles)

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:14pm

I saw part of the game, and would say "both". Fitzpatrick is still a backup-level talent attempting to carry a team; he isn't dumb, and he isn't completely without talent, but he is not as good a thrower as Smith (let alone Brady). He makes bad decisions when he is asked to do more than game-manage and take shots when the defense breaks down. He's a better version of Mark Sanchez, or, to put it another way, he's Matt Cassel (before this season's inexplicable Casselmageddon).

However, having him attempt 29 passes against 16 runs for Spiller and Jackson is pretty insane; giving up on the run to favor the pass when you're behind only makes sense when the passing game is generating more yards.

Buffalo isn't a playoff team, even in the arguably weakest division in football.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:53pm

...even in the arguably weakest division in football.

As a fan of an NFC West team, I can't tell you how tickling comments like these are.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:14pm

It's amazing that instead of the AFC East teams feasting on teh NFC West as a part of their schedule, the NFC West has flipped it completely around.

by Cogitus :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:52am

So yeah, everyone in Bills management/coaching should be fired. I don't even get how a team this talented is so bad. Literally speechless at this performance

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:25am

Talent? What talent? I'm hardly an expert on anything Bills related, but I see very little talent. I mean, Mario Williams is awesome, Kyle Williams very good and I guess Dareus has shown promise. Byrd seems to be DeAngelo Hall 2.0 (a bunch of interceptions and little else). Offensively the RBs are great but injury riddled. Fitzpatrick is a below average QB and Stevie Johnson seems to be a below average WR1.

by D2K :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:59pm

While I certainly dont disagree with you about Fitzpatrick, in fact I would assess him as a bottom rung, fallacy at the position. Another small market re-tread, hope and prayer capable of 3-4 game spurts of replacement level-esque mediocrity, before driving off of a cliff with his head coach and GM riding shotgun. I have seen this more times than not since Kelly retired and Wade Phillips cursed this team with the inane replacement of Doug Flutie with the Golden Child Rob Johnson, puke.

I do however disagree with your assessment of Byrd = Deangelo Hall 2.0. Byrds problems can be attributed directly to scheme and an incompetent DC in Dave "the wannstache" Wannstedt. A man whos claim to fame is nothing more than hitching his wagons to loaded early 90's Cowboys dynasty, and the recruitment of Larry Fitzgerald and Lesean Mccoy.

There is talent in Buffalo. A top 5 offensive line (#'s 12 in adjusted line yards, and 3 in pass protection), a top-tier RB duo (although, grossly under-utilized), a horizontal offense capable of scoring with any team in the league, if the QB wasn't a tire fire, and a defense oozing with potential. Mario Williams gets more unjust criticism than any player in the league from the lowest common denominator sports fan/message board guru/paid sports pundit (ESPN/NFL network), who completely neglects to mention that he is coming off of a season ending injury, playing in an entirely new scheme (4-3 over) directed by a DC that has completely lost his touch with todays pass-heavy game.

In Buffalo, the talent is there, the troubles of this team can be directly correlated to coaching and scheme (of course they are hand and hand). Its absolutely abysmal watching this team, and this coming from a die-hard.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:02pm

How does Dave Wannstedt keep getting jobs? How many times do you have to prove your incompetence?

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:56pm

As a Pats fan I somewhat follow the Bills. I don't think the talent is superb but it's also not that bad. I'd say a little above average generally.

I'm with Cog, the coaching is terrible.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:09am

John Fox punted with 4th-and-5 from the Patriots 39-yard line. At his disposal is Peyton Manning and Matt "56-yards is a chipshot" Prater.


by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:22am

What makes that even more egregious is the offense you are punting to. Playing a team with a great defense and a really bad offense? I can make the case that such a punt has some logic to it. Does Fox really think Brady and Co., in their current form especially, is put off at all by starting a drive inside the 10 or 5?

Fox is a wonderful coach, but nearly all NFL coaches are far too frequently possessed by groupthink.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:12pm

I think Fox needs to realize really soon that he has one of the 3 or 5 best quarterbacks ever to play the game, and that whatever he thinks is best is probably better than whatever Fox decided to do with Jake Delhomme in Carolina.

There are obviously a ton of "crucial moments" in any game, but that run on 3rd and 4 felt like a major concession. Three of the past four games, it's taken the Broncos about 38 minutes to start playing smart football. That seemed to be the play that woke them up, but too late.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:27pm

No way Fox called the run. I don't think he even OKs the playcalls. It is all Peyton Manning - even if fox meddled, I'm sure he'd check out of it and line. I've seen Manning check to a run on 3rd-and-4 a lot of times - with good succes. It looks stupid when it fails, but I'll leave the playcalling to the hall of famer.

Major strategic decisions like go for it-situations is, however, Fox's juristiction.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:30pm

On a related note Jay Cutler audibled to a run on 3rd and 4 or 5, and Forte converted it. If the defense is lined up in way that there is an obvious hole to exploit, it can work.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:52pm

Fox's post-game comments on that play seemed to indicate he had the idea that it was going to be a run. I don't buy quite yet that Peyton is running the offense entirely by himself. I think Fox is learning that that's how it should be, and they're still phasing out of an awkward transition. As a Colts fan, I've seen him run on 3rd plenty of times. But that whole sequence was rushed and strange.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:08pm

I remember the Colts doing it on 3rd and 4 against New England in the 4th quarter of teh 2006 AFC Title Game. The Colts were driving down 31-28, and could've taken a lead there if they had tried a pass and got another 1st down.

Same thing happened in the 2010 Wild Card game against the Jets.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:11pm

Question for people closer to actual football than I am:

How much of an advantage is being in shotgun on a passing play? Obviously, it is possible to pass from under center.

How much of an advantage is it to be under center on a running play? Obviously, shotgun running is becoming more prevalent, but runners seem to get bogged down a lot without a full head of steam.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:16pm

There is a lot more variety to a running game with the qb under center, which greatly increases the likelihood of running success with most teams.

The disadvantage from being under center when passing varies greatly with the skill of the qb.

by Theo :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 4:57pm

When you're in shotgun, you don't have to drop back 3 or 5 steps. So from the shotgun you receive the snap and make your reads faster and easier. You're not turned to one side so your vision is wider.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:16pm

If I'm thinking of the same play, Addai picks that up for a TD to take the lead with a dive untouched through the middle.

Still, different contexts. That was under center vs shotgun, and not at midfield, and with about a minute left against an exhausted Pats' D.

Was Wilfork in on this week's third down?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:47pm

Forgot that the Addai TD was on third down. That was third and two.

My play was three drives earlier. The Colts had a 3rd and 4 around the twenty and the Colts ran. They didn't get it and vinatieri hit a field goal to tie the game at 31.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:37pm

Is a 56-yd FG a 'chip shot' for Prater in Foxboro?

by elroy1 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:16am

the fix was clearly in last night's sd-no game. someone mentioned it above but i also wanted to point out that floyd was clearly interfered with on that pick with about 3 minutes left. what a bunch of bull.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:04am

The Gates offensive PI and the holding call on the very next play were both simply horrid.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 8:30am

Arians did botch the challenge, but I'll cut him some slack, seeing as how it's his first game as HC, and he only had about a week of advanced warning. Also, the effect of the 15-yd penalty was pretty minor. Moving the kickoff from the 35 to the 50 is essentially changing the outcome of the kickoff from "probably a touchback" to "definitely a touchback". Not as big of a penalty as it was when the kickoff was at the 30.

As for the question about the Packers clock management, all I can think of is the wasting of the final timeout, which did cost them a chance to get the ball closer for the kick. 0:08 left, clock stopped, Packers can't get the play off and have to burn the timeout. Forced them to try the 51 yarder right then rather than risk running a play.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:59am

Arians claimed in his presser that he was aware of the rule, and that he just wanted some official somewhere to give it another look. Perhaps a specious claim, but in this one instance, I am glad to assess this call by result instead of process.

by Ben :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:18pm

An addendum to the other reply, in the press conference, Arians claimed the same logic that you used:

"Either way we were going to start on the 20-yard line" was his quote.

by BJR :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:25am

Did anybody else hear Troy Aikman lambasting Andy Reid for going for it, 4th&1 on about his own 40, down 6 points with about 7 minutes left?

Ok so maybe this isn't as absolutely straightforward as some decisions to go for it; the Eagles defence is good and putting trust in them to stop the Steelers quickly isn't absurd. But it has to be the correct decision with Vick and McCoy in your backfield, right? Anyway regardless of the 'correctness' of the decision, it was interesting to hear an esteemed ex-player/commentator still professing the ultra-conservative approach after the various 4th down controversies of recent weeks. Or maybe he just like ragging on Andy Reid, I dunno?

As discussed many times previously, it's pretty tough to disentangle QB/WR performance. Right now Reggie Wayne seems to be doing a good job proving it wasn't all on no. 18.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:01am

I saw this last week with Mike Golic and Cris Carter on Mike and Mike in the Morning. Our football players have a near-religious irrational attachment to the idea that punting on 4th down is necessary. Going for it on 4th down is like running a red light during rush hour. It's just wrong!
You can't argument numbers with people like Aikman.

by rageon :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:17am

For example, Philip Rivers apparently yelling at Norv last night about not punting.

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:05pm

I don't remember this exactly. Did Turner call for a punt, and Rivers got mad? Or did Turner go for it, and Rivers got mad?

Also, does anyone else feel - in light of all the Cutler and Newton behavioral analysis going around lately - that Rivers has always gotten quite the pass? Not that it makes him a worse quarterback - criticizing his behavior is as frivolous as criticizing Cutler's and Newton's - but it seems that for whatever reason there's a double standard at play.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:09pm

Rivers has always been too busy smirking and barking at the other team to smirk and bark at his own team.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:05pm

If i remember the drive correctly, it was about 4th and 10-15(?)and was gonna be a 55ish yard field goal, a tough field goal for anyone.

The three options for Norv were to
1. kick a low percentage field goal
2. punt to try to pin the saints
3. go for the first down since you are in 4 down territory.

I had a hard time deciphering what rivers was exactly upset about but in my non expert opinion i wanted them to do anything but kick the field goal. Going for the first down has less downside because the ball is placed farther back after a missed field goal, and a low percentage at 3 points seems silly against drew brees. Sure enough they kicked the field goal and it wasnt even close. I would have been upset like rivers, although yelling at a menopausal norv turner probably didn't help the teams chances at staying tough in a time of adversity.

by Dean :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:35am

Aikman has some objectivity issues when it comes to Philadelphia.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:11am

He has the same problem when it comes to the Redskins.

by nuk :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:58am

Any man who can get 960 yards receiving with Paintovsky as his QB has plenty of talent.

by Theo :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 5:00pm

I think no one disagrees that Wayne has been a great receiver for the last 10 (?) years.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:04am

Matt Waldman: Devery Henderson to me is like the fighting chicken in Family Guy. He doesn't show up often, but when he does he shows up big.

Well done, sir!

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:27am

At one point in the Miami game they pointed out the stadium jersey count was Marino 48/Boomer 1. I point that out to ask the question when was the last time an actual active player on Miami had a higher Jersey count than a retired player? I looked around the bar and saw 1 Brown, 1 Williams and 2 Marino's. Is there any other team where the retired guys are more popular than the product on the field? I would guess Cleveland.

by James-London :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:35am

Only guessing, as London's a long way from Dolphins Stadium, but I reckon the '99' Miami jersey's would have been high on the list last season.

And typically, Miami finally make one stick, and I'm on a train back from the North & miss it...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:46am


by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:09am

You still see plenty of Elway jerseys in Denver. I wouldn't be surprised if his outnumbered everybody except possibly Manning.

by Illuminatus! (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:13pm

Atwater and Terrell Davis get a lot of love when I'm in Denver sports bars.

by Piglet (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:13am

Totally. I am a Denver fan and the only jersey I own is #30. Hard to overstate how Denver fans feel about the great T.D.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:19pm

I've noticed that there's been an upswing of Gradishar in the stands over the last year or two.
But I've also seen two Reuben Droughns jerseys (on two different people) in the last couple of years... So take what you will regarding Bronco fan awareness from those two observations.

by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:17pm

What's even funnier about the 1 Bengals #7 jersey is that they said they interviewed the girl wearing it and it was actually a Bruce Gradkowski jersey! I don't know if that's actually true or not but if it is that is absolutely hilarious. Not only is it funny that she's got a Gradkowski jersey, but how is Esiason's number not even retired?

And to answer your question there are probably more Dan Marino jerseys at Miami games than all other players combined since he's retired. You'll see a lot of Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, but a whole lot more of Marino. What else would people wear? Trace Armstrong? Pat Surtain? Jay Fiedler?

I actually don't have a Marino jersey but I DO have a Jake Long jersey and just got a Cameron Wake jersey - I like line play a whole lot. But I got them mostly because seemingly every fan has a Marino jersey and not much else.

Fire Jeff Ireland.

by not Verified (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:46pm

I would only consider buying a jersey of a retired player. You never know who is going to pull a "Favre" and make you burn your $150 jersey.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:53pm

O.J. Simpson agrees.

by Deelron :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:15pm

So you mean retired for a while, right?

by unverified (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:43pm

In light of Will's comment above I guess I meant dead.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:23pm

For years, Montana, Young, and Rice jerseys outnumbered everything else at Candlestick

by bcsj (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:32am

We were subjected to the BAL-KC game because OAK was off (proving that you must be careful what you wish for..). It's hard to find the proper adjectives to describe how bad Matt Cassel was. KC would have won that game by a large margin if hadn't made mistake after mistake.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:44am

I think the Coughlins better prepare well this week, because I believe the Harbaughs are going to want to make a statement in six days.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:34am

I just heard Tim Hasselbeck eviscerate Vick for the same issue Ben Muth raised with Kolb. We hear a lot of praise for the great qbs who do great work pre-snap, but we don't hear enough, in my opinion, about which guys are screwing up their offense with their awful pre-snap work. I don't watch closely enough to have a worthwhile opinion, but Hasselbeck does, and he played enough to know what he is talking about. When he says that Vick is doing some of the worst presnap work in the league, I think I know which way I lean on the debate last week here, about where Vick ranks among his peers.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:41am

Harvin is better than you think he is.

What if I already though Harvin was pretty darn good?

by Paul R :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 11:45am

Turned on the Colts game at halftime. Packers were up 21-3. The first thing I heard from the announcer was "the Colts are matching up with the Packers in every statistic except the score." That gave me some hope, so I watched the rest of the game. Glad I did.

Was it great Colts defense in the second half, or bad Packers offense? I couldn't tell. It was obvious that the Colts D was getting to Rogers on passing plays. It seemed to me that it was good coverage downfield causing it rather than an improved pass rush.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:05pm

The Packers stopped trying to run the ball and the Packer offensive line collapsed in the second half in pass protection.

On defense the Packers were in position on pass defense but Reggie Wayne kept making insane catches and the Colts offensive line locked it down in pass protection. And when GB did get a rush Luck would get away. And by mid-4th quarter the defense was completely gassed which made defending anything all but impossible

The Packer punter had a good day. Everyone else was pretty much a disaster.

Mike McCarthy has got to stop thinking offensive line is good. It's not.

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:39pm

Everyone else was pretty much a disaster, including the officials. For the third week in a row they took a takeaway from the Packers. Nick Perry hit Luck hard in the first half causing him to fumble and the Packers recovered on the Colts 15 yard line. The hit was clean, but he was flagged anyways.

Also, it seems like every week Sam Shields plays perfect defense, is interfered with by the WR, and then gets a foul called on him. This week the pass even looked uncatchable to boot. Instead, a 25-yard penalty that led to a Colts TD.

by Zord (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:46am

Perry led with the crown of his helmet, which is why the flag was thrown even though it was not helmet to helmet.

The call against Shields was iffy, but in no way did he play perfect defense. He had position then clearly slowed down to impede the receiver, thus the flag. The ball may have been uncatchable and it's one of those plays where the call could be justified either way.

The Packers got away with many calls too, Woodson in the end zone, the DPI called against Vaughn where there was no contact until after the ball hit Vaughn in the back were far more egregious calls/noncalls than the Shields play.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:05pm

I'd love to see the all-22 film of the second half. We were down a starting corner (Vontae Davis) and our starting nickel (Justin King, which is whatever). Granted, around this time, GB was down Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley, so maybe it was a wash. Finley in particular can stretch the middle of the field, so I'm wondering if our linebackers felt more comfortable staying home in midfield zones once he was out. Regardless, going from no pressure in the first half to five sacks in the second is curious.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:13pm

Most Packer fans feel the team would be better off without Finley. They view him as a very talented player with bad hands who impedes the offense since the coaching staff seems enthralled by his physical skills versus the actual production.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:15pm

I second that. I can't recall the last time I watched a Packers game where he didn't drop the ball at least once.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:21pm

The offensive line called out the coaching staff after the game complaining openly at the constant calls for passing allowing teams to not even bother with honoring the run.

Last I checked the Packers were throwing about 65% of the time this season which is a ridiculously high total.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:33pm

pfr has 190 pass attempts, for 59% of all offensive plays. That isn't counting sacks or QB scrambles, or maybe some other things, so I could believe 65%.

For comparison, last year pass attempts were 56% of offensive plays.

by ammek :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:47pm

Whatever the reason for the weak offensive outing, it wasn't that McCarthy abandoned the run. If anything, I'd argue that he stuck with it rather stubbornly: through the end of the third quarter, he had called nine runs on first down (compared with eight passes), and only one of them had been successful (gains of 9, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 and -2). The problem was that, especially in the second half, the failure to gain any yardage at all on first down left him with no choice but to call passing plays on second and third down. Excluding the final hurry-up drive, the Packers ran on just 7 of 37 second and third downs.

Of the Packers' first 19 1st-and-10s, only five were successful (and one of those was a scramble) for a miserable 26.3% success rate. In its first five drives of the second half, Green Bay had eight 1st-and-10s but only one of them was successful (the scramble by Rodgers); indeed that was the only play that gained more than a yard.

Despite this, the Packers continued to run on first down in the fourth quarter (not that they had the ball for very much of it), which led to a 41-yard gain.

McCarthy can't afford to lean on the run any more than he did yesterday because a) his rush offense isn't very good, and b) the defense can easily give up a three-score lead in the space of one quarter. Just like last season, the Packers' best chance of winning is to get into a shootout.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:30pm

It drives me nuts when a coaching staff falls in love with an otherwise athletic tight end with lousy ball skills. The Chiller did that for years with Shiancoe, although, to be sure, Shiancoe was not the athlete that Finley is. The position demands the ability to catch the catchable balls in traffic, and I don't care how tall and fast a guy is, if he can't consistently perform the catching the ball task, you shouldn't have the guy on the roster.

Hell, give me a Kleinsasser any day; a guy with limited receiving value but who can reliably set the edge, one on one with defensive ends, has more real value than the beautiful, fast, tall, tight end, who frequently is looking at the ball laying on the ground.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:39pm

Worked out okay with Vernon Davis, who has gradually learned how to catch a ball. Meanwhile Konrad Reuland, called "The Garbage Man" because he can catch any garbage throw in traffic, cut before the season.

I imagine coaches are thinking it's easier to teach someone how to catch than teach them how to run fast.

by Dan :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:05am

Is Finley even that athletic? His combine numbers were not impressive (4.82 forty, 27.5" vertical) - the real combine standout his year was Dustin Keller, and Kellen Davis and Martellus Bennett also put up clearly better numbers than he did.

by TomC :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:02pm

I can't blame any non-Bears-or-Jags fan for not watching that game. I did watch, and my (Bears-centric) thoughts are:

1) The current run of Bears' defensive scoring is unsustainable but incredibly fun to watch.

2) I think Gabe Carimi is now a bigger liability in pass protection than JaMarcus Webb.

3) Gabbert can make some decent throws when he has time, which he inexplicably did for the entire 1st half. 2nd half, not so much.

4) Justin Blackmon is already pretty good.

5) I can't put my finger on what makes Jacksonville so bad. They looked like a fair-to-middling team hanging on in a tough matchup in the first half. Then as soon as anything went wrong, they completely fell apart. That generally points to coaching, or just youth, but isn't that what they used to look like under Del Rio, too?

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:25pm

When the Bears played the Cowboys and Rams they fell apart after keeping it close too. Perhaps the Bears coaching staff is making incredible adjustments? The counter point to this is the Green Bay game of course.

Another possible explanation, the Bears defensive line is ridiculously good this year. Due to this the Bears are stopping the run just fine with 7 men in the box on most plays. Now this is good for obvious reasons, but I think one unexplored side effect is that once a team is down even slightly, they start to get worried. They can't get anything going on the ground and start to force passing. This leads to a cascade effect where the already very good defense can just tee off.

I wasn't impressed by Gabbert. Yeah he made some throws, but even Rex Grossman can make some throws. He might amount to something, but I think playing him his rookie year was a terrible decision.

by Marko :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:26pm

Your second paragraph is a good analysis. When the Bears kicked the field goal to go up 6-3 (after squandering the chance for a TD largely due to Gabe Carimi's consecutive false start penalties), I fully expected the Bears to open a can on Jacksonville because even a 3 point lead seemed big with the Bears' defense and Jacsonville's offsens-like substance. (Of course, no one could have predicted the magnitude of the second half beatdown.) I actually predicted a Pick 6 would follow shortly thereafter. Once that happened, the offense continued to roll and then finished drives.

by Duke :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:10pm

I've heard several times now that Lovie Smith (and staff) are apparently very good at second-half adjustments. I don't recall where I've heard this--more of a just a general notion that I've heard enough to make it stick. So, at least, there is that impression.

That said, I think your other observation is good, too. This team gets a lead and that makes the other team's offense even more unbalanced, which just leads the Bears D to tee up and go sack happy. Which, with more talent on the D-Line (seemingly), they are doing better than previous years.

Also, they totally stuffed the Jaguars running game, which really helps. By my count, Jones-Drew had one 20-yard run on the Jaguars only scoring drive, and then a 27-yard run in the 4th when the Bears were up 20-3. Which means that other than that, he had 10 runs for 8 yards. The Jags were just no threat on the ground.

As a third possibility, I think it was the ESPN NFC North blogger (Kevin Seifert?) who said that Cutler looks better when playing with a lead. That's kind of my general impression, too--that he seems more comfortable. That's not exactly scientific, though.

by Duke :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:16pm

Even AS a Bears fan, I wasn't happy watching that game. The best you could hope for is an easy, boring rout, and that didn't happen until about the 4th quarter; for the 1st half, it looked like there was a chance they would blow it.

In response to some points:
2.) Certainly there has been a lot of talk about Carimi's failings recently, and I think they'll get even louder now that his double false start debacle gives a concrete example to point to. But the Bears tackles are what they are. Either the Bears can gameplan around it, or they can't. I don't see an upgrade on the roster (or on the streets), but I think they can manage the situation.

3.) The simplest explanation for Gabbert having time would be that the Bears were focusing on stopping MJD. In the second half, with a 7+ lead, they could pin their ears back and go nuts. Not sure that that's true, but that would be my first guess.

4.) I wasn't so impressed with Blackmon. He had some good plays, but nothing that made me think you had to pay extra attention to him. It's still a toss-up IMHO as to which receiver is going to be the best WR out of this draft class.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 4:26pm

Blackmon made Gabbert look competent for a series. He had a handful of nice plays against a very tough defense. I would agree that it's too early to tell if he'll be good or not, but I would say more signs pointing up than down.

by Duke :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:58pm

True. I think he'll be a useful player, for sure. What I'm not certain is that he'll end up being an impact player. I didn't see anything to say that that would happen, in this game.

Although, for a rookie in his 5th game, being thrown passes from Blaine Gabbert, against the Bears D, maybe that IS asking too much.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:20pm

I know that it isn't the best measure of quarterbacking but I'd still like to point out that Alex Smith has the highest passer rating in the NFL.

I've defended him a lot down the years but I never thought that would happen.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:26pm

Also, lost in New England literally redefining how offense works in the NFL, they've too run for over 240 yards in each of the last two games.

That was an incredible performance, but the Bills defense is just awful.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:42pm

Particularly their secondary. I haven't seen receivers that wide open in a long time. Do they always play that badly?

A perfect secondary for Mr. Smith -- his biggest problem has always been that he's risk averse, not that he can't make the throws. (Is that a problem or a strategy?)

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:19pm

It was a problem until it was a strategy.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:25pm

Not that it would have likely changed things but the Packers were on the short end of two horrible calls on Sunday. Sam Shields was called for a 30 odd yard DPI when he was pushed down by the Colts receiver and a sack/fumble was taken away when the ref called personal foul for hitting with the helmet when there was not any contact.

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:41pm

I pointed this out above, too. This is the THIRD week in a row that the officials have incorrectly turned a Packer takeaway into the opponent keeping the ball (or winning, in the case of the Seattle game). The Sam Shields DPI call was 25 yards, I think, but the pass even looked uncatchable.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:33pm

I agree I don't think they would have made a big difference, but it does seem that the Packers are getting the worse side of the reffing this year. Though I also think they got the better side in quite a few games last year.

And now my ramblings.

I had hope for the defense after the Bears and Seahawks games, but I'm giving up a lot of that. Seattle has no offense, and the short week hit the Bears worse than the Packers, seem like better explanations to me now. Woodson is worse in coverage that I wanted to admit, and they just don't have corners that can play zone well. I actually understand that with Williams and Shields (Williams was a man corner in college and when he came into the league, Shields only became a corner his senior year in college) so I can see why they might have zone issues, but it's really starting to hurt because Capers really wants to have the ability to have zone coverage for some of the blitzes he wants to do, and for some of the calls that he wants to use to get Matthews in more 1 on 1 situations.

I don't know if the offensive line is talent or coach deficient. I seem to think it's more coaching, because Tauscher and Clifton both looked bad in Campen's early years, and while that was getting to the end of their careers they both still played 3-4 years after that. College is still in the league and I don't know if he is considered horrible in Arizona like he was in GB. Breno Giacomini, the TE they converted to tackle, but let go is starting in Seattle, though Seattle doesn't have an offense so maybe he still sucks. I think Caleb Schlauderaff is playing for the Jets as well. Sitton had a great year in 2010. Bulaga was credited with only allowing 2.5 sacks in 2011. It seems they have the ability to play well, lack of consistency is a coaching issue in my mind. Some of that is on McCarthy and his play calling too. I don't think of any of them as great, I think of them as average to above average, but the line can just collapse.

Rodgers was 3-11 of passes that traveled over 10 yards. He looks a lot more like the 2009-2010 version of himself. Holding the ball too long, missing open receivers down field, having more passes than I had gotten used to thrown behind the receivers. I'm at worry level 6 now. 8-8 is starting to seem possible and that was my worst case lots of injuries Rodgers misses a couple games scenario in preseason.

So they are who we thought they were. A offense that wouldn't be as good as last year and a defense that should be improved but still has issues. That even has me wondering if Capers might be part of the issue.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 5:37pm

I'm curious if the NFL will defend the personal foul call on Perry's sack/fumble of Luck. There was no actual helmet-to-helmet contact, but I wasn't sure of that until seeing the replay. I saw a quote from McCarthy, who initially disagreed with the call, saying that it was "probably" the right call, because the ref explained to him that Perry hit Luck with the crown of his helmet. (No indication whether or not McCarthy had seen replays of it at that point.)

From what I saw, Perry did not hit with the crown (very top) of the helmet; it was the hairline of the helmet that made contact as Perry ran through Luck. This still could be a penalty under a strict parsing of the rules, but it would be about the most drastic restriction on hitting that I've seen. It looked to me like an excellent hit, not at all what I think of as spearing: Perry hit Luck at chest-level, his helmet, shoulders, and arms making contact with Luck's chest/arms and never riding up to strike Luck's helmet. Sure, at some angles it's possible to make no helmet contact at all while tackling; but I'm not convinced that is always possible (and depends as much on the ball-carrier as on the defender).

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:02pm

I have no problem with officials calling borderline "leading with the crown" and "helmet to helmet" fouls against defenders, to get them in the habit of actively avoiding making dangerous tackles.

I think on this specific play, Perry did lead with the crown, though it wasn't an especially bad instance of the foul.

by duh :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:32pm

As a no dog in the fight viewer I thought it was pretty clear the defender speared him.

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:08pm

Thanks! It's good to get a couple other perspectives. I didn't have any rooting interest in this game either, though I always like cheering for a good defensive play.

It looked to me like a very natural way to make a solid hit, and I wouldn't conclude any malicious intent-- but I'm OK with an occasional safety-based penalty in such a situation. Defenders need to make extra efforts to avoid such penalties, especially when they have a blindside hit opportunity like that one.

I'm still not sure if I endorse this penalty--I'd have to see it again. I thought there was some phrase permitting helmet contact to the torso as part of a tackle, provided the helmet didn't ride up to make helmet-to-helmet contact. I'm not clear on the line between this and spearing-- possibly because it's been moving for the last few years.

by nat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:01pm

For comparison, look at Dumervil's 2011 hit on Brady (link). He's clearly looking at what he's tackling. A punishing hit, but not an illegal one.

Then look at this week's hit (link). He drops his head at the last instant, leading with his helmet instead of his eyes.

It's a subtle difference, to be sure. I'm guessing the ref cues on how the helmet moves during the hit. If it flexes back, the defender was looking at what he hit. If it doesn't, or just compresses into the shoulders, the hit was too far up the crown of the helmet.

But I have to say, the difference is very subtle, and this was a border-line call.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:30pm

Unfortunately, this shows one of the limitations of the charting. It's a big leap to track the success of coverage on all passes, but it's another big leap to try to track the success of coverage on all receivers, whether they are thrown to or not.

I think you could do a pretty good job just by doing what you already do and adding in knowing who was on the field (or even using the snap count data, although you'd introduce more error) on each play, without having to watch every coverage of every receiver.

Redefine success the following way:

* If a DB is targeted and the pass is successful, he gets a failure.

* If the DB is ON THE FIELD (whether his guy is targeted or not) and the pass is a failure, he gets a success. If his guy was targeted he did his job, and if his guy wasn't targeted (or he didn't have a guy but was playing a zone), he did a good enough job that no receiver got open due to his bad play (or even if a receiver did, the QB was fooled enough not to find him).

* If a DB is on the field and the pass is a success, but not to his guy, then count it neither as a success or a failure. There's no data (without time consuming watching of the all-22) as to whether the pass was completed to someone else because the DB did his job, or because he didn't but some other DB also didn't do his job.

Then you get a success (or failure) rate based on this.

This would tease out the effects of a great CB hardly ever being thrown at and improve the DB charting stats a lot...

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:41pm

I would do something differently. I would leave success rate alone and create a new stat. Well a couple new stats actually. I would just create DVOA +/- for when the player is on the field. Then you could break it down by passing/rushing. Or even look at say DVOA against #1 receivers when corner back X is in the game.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:36pm

A few thoughts on Broncos – Pats:
1) Re: Bailey on Lloyd. FWIW, the Denver Post was making a big deal about how Bailey used to go one on one with Lloyd in practice all the time, so perhaps the Broncos felt that was the best matchup for him. On the shake move Aaron mentioned, I believe it was one of the many times Denver got no pressure up the middle on Brady and he was able to wait for Lloyd to get open.
2) I didn’t hear Tracy Porter get mentioned at all. From what I could tell, he spent a lot of time covering the likes of Stevan Ridley when he was split out wide. Not sure why Denver wouldn’t at least try to put him one on one with Welker. I mean, it couldn’t have gone any worse that what Chris Harris was doing. Rather, not doing.
3) Maybe this is where DJ Williams was missed most: one play you didn’t mention was the 3rd and 24 New England converted on a dump off to Danny Woodhead. Joe Mays had the Woodhead assignment, and when Woodhead released from the backfield, Mays tried to jam him and whiffed. That separation let Woodhead all the space he needed. Poor recognition by Mays, because if he just keeps Woodhead in front of him, he stands a better chance of holding him to something less than 25 yds. And Denver would have had a chance to score at the end of the first half.
4) I don’t think the Prater kick was an onside attempt. My guess is he was supposed to kick it a little further so it would bounce around in the zone and the Patriots would get it at their 25 or so or a lucky fumble happens.
5) On the 4th and 1 where Manning hit Thomas deep: don’t forget that the drive before that saw Denver run a short yardage play on 4th and 2 or so and McGahee dropped the ball when he was wide open. So maybe New England was looking for that, and Peyton remembered the drop.
6) Denver was down 24 and scored a TD with about 1-2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Anyone wonder why Fox didn’t go for 2 there? I was really wondering when Denver was driving after the Ridley fumble right until McGahee gave it back.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:33pm

Belichick apparently couldn't stop talking about Champ Bailey after the game - he apparently is continuing to show well in film if not in stats.

From what I could gather, Harris looking bad against Welker was about Denver being in man in the first half. They switched to zone concepts in the second half, which improved things. In general, it seems like Denver adjusts extremely well in the second half of games - this goes back to last season. But when it's that dramatic a shift, I think this says less about the strength second-half adjustments, and more about bad game-planning.

There are a ton of Broncos fans that hate DJ Williams and are convinced that Wesley Woodyard is better than DJ in every department... I have a lot of trouble with that belief.

Worst play was probably that 3rd and 4 run to Lance Ball. I think it was a McCoy play call, some fans had noticed that it didn't appear that Manning checked into a run on that play.

I thought about the 2, but I generally have a hard time justifying going for them when there's a large score differential. Too many other things can happen.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:48pm

Another note on Luck: just as he did on that last drive, he has been zipping balls onto tightly covered receivers all year. Imagine how he'll look once he has a year or two under his belt, knows his playbook inside and out, and starts reading defenses and calling audibles. I'm reminding myself to stay patient, but after only 4 games, it's really hard not to be super excited about his future.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 12:54pm

For the record I don't like the current Packers team. As in they are not enjoyable to watch. It's a soft team that seems to avoid contact and well, playing football.

There are maybe a half dozen guys willing to mix it up and other than that it's pattycake stuff. Mathews, James Jones, TJ Lang, Charles Woodson and man I am already running out of ideas.

That and the constant changing of personnel. The coaching staff seems obssessed with 'match ups' and the opposition just mashes the soft spot left avaialble due to the insertion of so and so at the expense of whomever.

Is it not possible to just put out your best guys and play most of the time?

It's also time for a possible intervention on the Charles Woodson era. If you want to keep him close to teh line and have him work tight ends, backs and receivers with mediocre speed that's fine. But thinking he can cover legit receivers these days is lunacy. Those days are gone unless the league allows him at least one serious grab beyond 5 yards.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:18pm

In 5 games this season the Packers have been physically whipped in 3 of them. San Fran is mildly understandable.

Mike McCarthy needs to sit down and understand that the recipe to beat Green Bay is to punch them in the face because GB doesn't like being punched in the face.

I understand that is overly simplistic, but if you watch the games and the correspnding schemes it's all about people pounding on GB and GB not pounding back or better yet applying the first pounding.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:26pm

Chicago also punched them in the face but the Bears offensive line was so bad even though GB onlly drove the ball once in the game GB was able to get the upper hand

But GB got beat up in that game as well.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:40pm

I'm probably going to get plenty of angry responses to this from Pats fans, so I should first start by saying the Pats offense as a TEAM is excellent. With that said, I was so thoroughly unimpressed with Tom Brady this game that it really reaffirmed all of the things I've felt about him over the years. I actually went back and rewatched this game- he completed 1 pass over 10 yards the whole game- and that came when he had absolutely no rushers at all in his face. He completed exactly 0 passes to receivers on the outside longer than 8 yards. Every other attempt over 10 yards was woefully incomplete- often either thrown out way out of bounds or noticeably overthrown.

The thing with Brady, he gets credit for his decision making on short throws, but honestly, welker, branch and even gronk all get open on short routes- welker in particular, was nearly always open on short. To me, this isn't a function of brady, thats a function just how good his receivers are in space. THis is something unique only to NE, yet Brady gets seemingly all of the credit for it. And this really has been the Mo of the pats throughout his career. Brady is a mediocre at best medium and deep thrower and I'm convinced, on every other team except NE, this would be a major liability. Hes still a great qb at other things, but I came away convinced that Brady is not in the same class as Brees, Rodgers, or Manning- who in my opinion, are far less dependent on their supporting cast than he is. And really, I hate bringing it up, but Cassel's demise is further proof of this fact. 11-5 and actually leading the nfl's best passing offense in the 2nd half of 2008- yet he's unable to beat out brady quinn these days when hes had no 3 years of starting experience since then.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:51pm

Careers aren't static, and Brady is the prime example of that. The Year Two Brady was rather different than the Year Seven Brady, which is rather different than the current Brady.

I'd take any of them.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:59pm

I would say 2006 P Manning is the same as 2012 P Manning- I really feel there's no difference in his game. I still came away from that game with the opinion that he's arguably the best player in this game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:06pm

It's not super dramatic, but Manning in 2006 could make better throws under pressure.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:24pm

Not really. 03-06 Peyton had a great deep ball. He had a better arm than even 08 Manning.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:05pm

And at what point in his career did T.Brady ever look like a competent medium thrower? The 2007 version was a combo if short to welker and and watson, with deep bombs to randy moss. And as SCott Kascmar showed, even this was a myth- he was actually below average even in those years.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:08pm

I would say 2005-2006 Brady had a pretty solid mid-range game, no one noticed because he was throwing the Reche Caldwell.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:12pm

I think your concept of "competent" is likely ill defined. I have't done a very in depth examination of his career to give you a precise answer. To my casual eye, Brady became less effective downfield after 2008, and mid career Brady was drmaticaly better, in many areas, than early career Brady.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:25pm
by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:35pm

Having read the linked article, I'd have to say that I don't think it sums up anything particularly well.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:45pm

Oh i think it bellies my earlier point. Look, I get it, Ne has been wildly successful for a very long time and Brady is the most visible component so he's going to get a garden shed full of praise. But, does he deserve it? No. The article shows that Brady is not nor was he likely ever an above average medium and deep thrower.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:56pm

What? How do you derive that from the article? I'll also note that you are moving the goalposts (I love a good football cliche/metaphor in a debate about football), with regard to your chracterization of Brady as a medium to deep passer.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:20pm

It went in detail about Brady's failings at throwing medium to welker. Then it went further compare where Brady's production mostly derives from, then noting how skewed it is relative to other great qbs. Finally- it showed how 2007 completely skewed out impression away from reality. I don't want to argue about this too much, after all, even this article and the stats are still victims of subjectivity to an extent. I was just really saying, imo, Brady is a great qb, but he's being credited for things that really aren't a product of him and his weaknesses are being masked to a great extent.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:48pm

The article uses a lot of playoff stats, which necessarily entails small sample sizes. It never once establishes a definition of competence, which woud be necessary to support your implication that Brady has always been incompetent when throwing medium to deep. I honestly don't understand how you drew the conclusions from the article you linked to.

In any case, the more I watch football, the less interested I am in making specific rankings among a group of great players at any posiion. I think football is just way, way, to context dependent to make that anything but subjective feeling, masquerading as objective analysis.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:50am

Fair enough, I can agree with that. It is subjective after all. So to summarize- will you know nothing and the vikings suck!

by DGL :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:41pm

Oh, great. Now we're going to have the Irrational Brady-Brady Discussion Thread.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:11pm

I literally laughed out loud. Just thought you should know.

by Dan :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:59am

Early in the season, the Patriots tried to make use of Lloyd and throw the ball down the field more, and it didn't work so well (that's what happened against the Cardinals). Now they're getting back to their bread & butter in the short passing game, and they've been able to use the running game and fast tempo to mix things up while remaining efficient.

Their recent playoff losses have seemed to reflect an over-reliance on the short passing game. It's not clear if this week's incarnation of the Patriots' offense will provide enough versatility to avoid that, or if they'll need to find a way to get the down-the-field passing game to work too.

by Nathan :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:52am

They *just* missed a couple of those shots early in the year. I don't think we've seen the last of the deep ball to Lloyd. He plays too well with the ball in the air to not continue to take a few shots.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 1:44pm

Just one more follow up: I don't want to diminish how great brady is at doing certain things. He's got good accuracy short- takes the easy completions as opposed to forcing things- reads the defense really well and has great pocket presence(i think for some reason, his pocket mobility as really suffered now- he's starting to duck his head in the face of pressure alot more than he use to). He's also good and pre and post snap reads. Its funny, but his only liability is his ability at throwing a football over 10 yards.

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:20pm

I can understand where you're coming from. I think some of it is that the coaching staff knows where their weapons work best and design plays to work to those strengths. I know Randy Moss is Randy Moss but the vertical game in 2007 was incredible and 2008 was not even close to the same. I think Brady can make the throws but while NE is not risk averse when it comes to situation management, mid play the Pats are risk averse and it shows.

I think Lloyd can work the outside but NE still does not have a burner that can challenge the top of the defense. Slater is not the answer.

As to his ducking. Like Andy Benoit said, Brady has great pocket mobility (still terribly slow though), but he was definitely off yesterday with how the pocket was collapsing. I think Brady has actually practiced the ducking thing because I've seen a few times where he ducks a tackle. In the Baltimore game this year he did it and then was tackled by LT N Solder. He did it to the Jets last year in the Meadowlands and he also ducked a Vikings tackle a few years back. I think the Jets play resulted in a first to welker, the Vikings play resulted in a TD to Tate.

by Rich A (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:23pm

I still think the best duck ever was Vick ducking the Giants big blitz a few years ago and then breaking straight forward for a run.

by Mister Asterisk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:44pm

Nonsense! The greatest QB duck ever was by Randall Cunningham against Bruce Smith:


by artmac (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:17am

no, the best duck ever is Randall Cunningham, in his own endzone, somehow ducking Bruce Smith, then running back to his left and unleashing a perfect strike about 65 yards in the air to a receiver who'd gotten behind the secondary for a 95+ yard TD. one of those totally mindblowing RC plays that probably made the accompanying inconsistency all the frustrating (pretty much the same as Vick of course)

by ticttoc (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:48am

While you couldn't do much better thand Cunningham's duck from a pure yardage feat, I would posit that from a nailbiter/historical perspective, Dave Krieg ducking Derrick Thomas's potential 8th sack (which would of been a record) then firing a game winning 25yd TD pass to Paul Skansi as time expired was much better. But then I'm a Seahawk fan and I also couldn't find any video of it. (I thought everything existed on the Internet?!) or maybe I'm dreaming.

by Dean :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:18am

I remember both plays. Krieg was good, Randall was better. The other play that jumped out in my mind was also Randall, but it wasn't a duck. Carl Banks went low on him and knocked his legs out, and Cunningham essentially did a pushup, got back up and threw a TD to Jimmie Giles (of Tampa semi-fame).

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:34pm

I found Denver's defensive approach to the game really confusing. Given what we know about Brady and that passing offense (as has been noted, he likes throwing quick and under 10 yards), it seemed that the Broncos were getting no jam at the line of scrimmage and did nothing to disrupt that timing. The short crossing routes were deadly and all the corners or LBs were stuck trailing Welker as he could sprint into open field. If you can at least make Brady cycle through some reads, he doesn't march right down the field so quickly.

Of course, a suddenly potent running game changes the equation a bit.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:56pm

I specifically watched welker the first time i saw the game. He absolutely destroyed chris harris in man coverage and then has a savant like ability to find the right hole in zones too- ie- knowing when to stop when he finds the zone or keep running when he's in the zones. I owe RickD an apology for calling Welker a system player. He may be too one dimensional, but his short area prowess is BY FAR the best I've ever seen. Its really incredible. You either funnel your entire coverage his way(then gronk annihilates your safeties), or assign a top corner comfortable in the slot. If not, this guy finds the open area time and time and time again. It was that easy for Tom Brady.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:14pm

This is where Brady's reads kick in the most, and could be fascinating to watch this season. Switch to a zone to stop something underneath, and Brady can either find Gronk in a medium zone gap or just audible to a run. Go to man, and he kills you on the crossing route.

Either way, this is why I think you have to take a page out of the early-00's Pats and maul those receivers at the line. Try to buy a half-second more for your front four to find a pass rush. But this running game really changes things for Brady. Show that defense too early and you are doomed.

by duh :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:14pm

>> Of course, a suddenly potent running game changes the equation a bit.

This. Again though, as others have said, it is a schematic thing. The Patriots 2-2-1 personnel puts the defense in a difficult place.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 2:41pm

Maybe it's just me, but I find the Patriots offense really dull to watch.

by dryheat :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 7:54pm

Then I can't for the life of me understand what you find to be an exciting brand of football. I think most observers would find a no-huddle, lightning-quick tempo offense of quick passes to guys like Welker, Hernandez, and Gronkowski combined with an inside counter run-game and the occasional play-action deep shot the diametric opposite of dull. Back to the stone age with Tebow? Dropping back and chucking the ball deep downfield every play? Three yards and a cloud of dust? The Chiefs?

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 8:09pm

I too find it boring.

It's so mechanical in it's efficiency, so consistent. There's no drama or sense of unpredictability.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:47pm

In other words, it's the essence of what football teams strive for -- perfectly efficient, mechanical ball progress, aided by rules that favor this kind of play.

Of course, the way to put an end to this boring game is to find a way to defend it.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 9:50pm

Perfection is boring.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:04pm

And yet I suspect every coach in the NFL would trade in excitement for that kind of perfection. The only things that save us from it are differences in talent (players, coaches, FOs, and officiating), plus the loyalties to schemes handed down through coaching trees.

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:59pm

No one is saying it's not one of - if not the - best offenses in the league. Just that it's not particularly exciting.

Which I can see. Compared to other top tier offenses of recent years - Green Bay, New Orleans, Houston - the Patriots make fewer plays that make you exclaim, "Wow!"

by BJR :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:48am

Personally find it great to watch (I'm not a Pats fan by any means). It's so smooth - graceful almost - when in full flow. If anybody finds it dull I think it is more to do with over-familiarity, and a tacit association with the cold, clinical methods of the head coach.

There's a similar school of thought in soccer that finds Barcelona boring to watch because their game is predicated on retaining possession and close, low risk passing. They execute it so smoothly and efficiently it looks easy, and after a while you take it for granted and start willing them to do something more adventurous. But its important to appreciate the phenomenal skill level required to execute like that. After all, nobody else can do it (although many now try). Same with the Pats offence.

by Dean :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:20am

Widespread Panic's version was MUCH better than the Talking Heads, even if theirs was the original.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:21pm

This is just from my fan perspective and this echoes tuluse's point slightly- its too simplistic in methodology. They run when they want, they throw short because its easy and it moves the chains. Thats it. Its an offense that doesn't need to rely on disguise and deception and long choreographed type plays of brilliance with receiver combinations attacking deep down the field.

I think the biggest misconception about the pats is that they do things out of scheme and design. No, its their players winning individual matchups. Their receivers and tight ends beat their man coverage and zone coverage assignments - their blockers engage defenders and push them out of the way- their running backs take the assigned holes and follow their leads. Its all brilliant but its a function of great talent not necessarily grand deceptions.

by BJR :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 7:49am

Of course. If it was all out of scheme and design then everybody would do it.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 10:49am

Not necessarily, even if the scheme is the driving force then you might need a certain type of player to run it and each team might not have that player. I don't mean a great player, more a guy with certain skills, perhaps a little quick receiver who works well against underneath zones. Also, the details of the processes might not be obvious without inside information. You would also need the time to install the system fully, which is not always afforded with the churn in coaching staffs. You would also have to be a good coach.

Personally I do find it dull. I think that part of it is the shotgun, the play doesn't flow as the qb drops from under centre away from his pursuers before gathering to throw. It lacks the rhythm of the Texans' boot-playaction game It's more like snap, stand still, throw short to receiver who drops to the floor and avoids the hit. It's a bit like netball with pads.

Is it effective? Yes, very. Does it have the frisson Mike Martz generates from knowing that a deep bomb could occur on any play and that the quarterback's life is in genuine danger? No, it's far to sensible for that. Remember the game against Pittsburgh where the Pats caught the Steelers in base personnel and threw seven straight identical passes to Welker. Effective but as interesting as when that irritating guy ruined Street Fighter by learning that there was a stagger on one move that meant he could win every time by repeating that move ad nauseam. Wasn't he fun to play? Actually, that might sum it up, ad nauseam. I have to say that I prefer the two TE attack to the 3 WR stuff.

by MJK :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:11am

I can see why the Pats offense could be viewed as boring. Even as a Pats fan, I start to take it for granted...but now with RZC I watch other teams more, and suddenly I stop doing so.

You mean, when you get the ball with 1:50 left in the first half at your own 15, it's not a foregone conclusion that you're going to score 3-7 points before the half and leave nothing on the clock?

Regarding it being skill, not scheme...it's both. One of Belickick's strengths (on offense at least), is that he is willing to design what works according to the skillset of his players. A lot of coaches try to fit round pegs into square holes (for example, trying to run a zone-blocking scheme when their personnel is better suited to man, and so forth). Have undersized but athletic linemen, and a good, shifty running back or WR? Run a lot of screens. Have a WR who doesn't have elite speed, size, or separation, but exceptional quickness to create small windows, and a QB who is accurate enough to hit those windows? Design an intricate, short, over the middle attack. Manage to have two elite TE's fall to you in the draft? Design a hybridized run-seam route passing offense that gives both base and sub defenses nightmares. Don't have a QB that cna throw precision 40 yard rainbows or a WR that can stretch the field vertically? Don't insist on trying depe bomb after deep bomb.

You can say that the Pats succeed because their skill players win their matchups, not because they're doing anything clever schemewise. But the reason why they can win the matchups is that the scheme plays to their strengths...so they can win their matchups.

This is probably true of every successful offense, not just the Pats. It's not enough to have talent or good play design...you have to have both.

by MJK :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:12am

By they way, I do remember that game (although I thought it was vs the Jaguars...) While it wasn't exciting from an execution standpoint (except to a Pats fan), it was very funny and amusing to watch (except to a fan of the opposing team). Like watching someone play Rock Paper Scissors, when you knew they always threw Scissors because Rock and Paper were lame, and their opponent knew it, too.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:14pm

One thing I will give the pats coaches credit for is they always maximize whatever strengths they have at the time. This may seem obvious, but really, many teams run the same system regardless of whether their talent permits it or not. Part of the pats constant reinvention has to do with how their talent changes over time. I don't think the pats necessarily do this by design- after all, they've had many drafts where they've gone after receivers or rbs who didn't pan out and so they had to make do with what they had. After all, in 2010-after a very successful offensive year- they went after vareen and ridley despite having law firm and woodhead. It was hard to make sense of those picks then, but now- they've played up on it because thats where their strength is.

Still- I want to say, for the pats offense to be where it is, they got lucky. The 07 season brought them two elite receivers via trades. The 2010 season brought them one elite tight end and other special tight end via the draft. Those two seasons were what permitted the NE renaissance.

by dryheat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:19pm

I'm not at all sure what "luck" has to do with whom Belichick traded for, or whom they drafted. Moss and Welker's weren't unknown entities to Belichick, nor were Gronkowski or Hernandez -- they were scouted for a year. They weren't lucky to draft Maroney or Chad Jackson either, they scouted them and decided that those were the players they wanted.

Unlesss you mean that they were "lucky" that Gronkowski and Hernandez weren't already drafted when the Patriots turn came up (Remember they traded up for Gronk). But in that sense, every player drafted after #1 overall was a lucky selection if they turned out to be good players.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:34pm

I kind of take the same view of Belichick does when it comes to the draft. And btw, I have done enough work on the draft results from a stats point of view to show this- NO one has shown a consistent ability to hit consistently on draft picks or certain positions. The draft results are more or less simple- the higher the picks you have, the better odds you have of finding a great player. What i meant to say was- yes of course the pats scout players and draft who they like- but they got lucky in the sense that their process of finding great players offensively really came in those 2 years. That is lucky, because its hard enough to land an elite player so late in the draft or free agency, let alone two!

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:35pm

I kind of take the same view of Belichick does when it comes to the draft. And btw, I have done enough work on the draft results from a stats point of view to show this- NO one has shown a consistent ability to hit consistently on draft picks or certain positions. The draft results are more or less simple- the higher the picks you have, the better odds you have of finding a great player. What i meant to say was- yes of course the pats scout players and draft who they like- but they got lucky in the sense that their process of finding great players offensively really came in those 2 years. That is lucky, because its hard enough to land an elite player so late in the draft or free agency, let alone two!

by tuluse :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:25pm

I'm not so sure the coaches run their scheme regardless mantra is fair.

I think it's likely coaches don't recognize the talents their players have, and I think it's likely many teams have less talented players than the Patriots. There are very few coaches I've seen that simply refuse to adjust their scheme.

Even Mike Martz went max protect when Caleb Hanie was his starting QB.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 2:45pm

I read once a player -- in a minor, non-football sport, but he was on the best team in the world in the sport for a time -- saying that the goal of their offense was to score without anyone ever saying 'great play', because a great offensive play was one that almost didn't happen, and the team trusted their offense to be able to score without taking big risks.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 3:39pm

That sounds like Boston's Death or Glory -- 6 time US Ultimate champions.

by nat :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:01pm

Just by playing up-tempo, the Patriots give you 10% more football to watch than an average game. (As measured by offensive plus defensive plays per game)

It's just you.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:04pm

Like every QB, Brady has strengths and weaknesses:

He's good at reading the defense before the snap and figuring out who is likely to be open. Part of the reason why you see him complete so many balls to "open" Welkers and Gronks short is that he figures out ahead of time that they will or won't be.

He's extremely good at judging before hand how much time he's likely to have and how much pressure he will probably see.

He audibles very will into what the defense is not prepared for.

He's capable of running a high tempo no-huddle like few other QB's in the league.

All these things are powerful pre-snap abilities that often get overlooked. Now let's look at his strength post-snap:

He is extremely accurate throwing short. The rest of the reason why you see all those balls to "open" Welkers and Gronks is that they are open for someone with the accuracy of Tom Brady, but not open for someone with the accuracy of someone like Michael Vick.

He is extremely good at shifting around in the pocket to buy time. He doesn't shed tacklers like Big Ben, but he does drift to buy that crucial extra second. I actually think this is his biggest strength. I don't know that any other QB's do a better job of this that I've seen.

He takes care of the ball.

Now his weaknesses:
* His deep ball is poor, and his mid-range ball is medicore.
* He gives up on plays sometimes, taking a sack or throwing it away when some QB's would dance around and try to make something happen (conversely, this is part of the reason for his low INT and fumble rate).
* He occasionally fixates on a receiver even when it isn't working.
* He's the slowest QB I've ever seen.

These weaknesses mean he get's few sports center highlights (the deep rainbow strikes, the mad scamper for the first down, etc.), but on the whole can be coached around and compensated for by good coaching and play design. He won't have the scrable of Vick or the arc of Flaco, but he is likely to be the much better QB over his career.

And to counter the Cassel example, I would encourage you to look at 2006. Brady ran a highly successful offense with Reche Caldwell as his #1 reciever. No Gronk, no Welker, no Hernandez, no Branch even. He is not a product of his receivers...if anything, the opposite is true.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 3:16pm

All of what you said is true. I didn't want it to come off like Brady is secretly a terrible qb that is entirely a product of the system. Obviously that isn't the case. Still, I did want to say that since we hold him to the level of best qb in the nfl and maybe the best of all time, I find his limitations are severe enough to mention them.

Now to address some other non receiver facets- his offensive line is nearly always good. This is partly my opinion yes, but Pff since 2008 has never placed NE outside the even the top 10 of their rankings, most of the time they rank in the top 5! Thats something no other team has managed in that time span. And consider they have placed many other o lines with top qbs outside the top 10, they aren't letting their rankings be biased by qb play. Its not just them, ben alamar has also independently timed NE as the best o line in football-not sure which years he did it, but I remember he ranked their 2009 and 2010 o lines as consecutively the best.

In 2006- Ne was a short throwing dink and dunk team then as well. It wasn't as deadly as it is now, but that didn't mean he wasn't a dink and dunker then too. Remember that vikings game? that was entirely dink and dunk.

The other issue i want to add- despite all of the failings of the NE defense- they have seemingly never been poorly ranked when it comes to scoring. So while they give up yards in bunches, I have a hard time remembering when the NE defense basically buried tom brady behind a ton of points(the few happened in 05 when the chargers and colts hung 30 on them before the 4th quarter in Ne). This has the dramatic effect of not forcing brady into a frantic hurry up style where he needs to pick up yardage fast and conserve time. Thus, not further accentuating his negatives.

I'll conclude like this. Brady is one of the best qbs I've ever seen. All of the qualities you mentioned above place him very high. But, as far as I'm concerned, in totality, Peyton and Brees are both better qbs and right now so is Rodgers.

by duh :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:26pm

I have said this before but it bears repeating ... Brady's ability to slide / step up in the pocket hides an awful lot of the O-line's failures..

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 6:51pm

But as I've said, qb play isn't the only explanation as there are many offenses that are led by elite qbs that do not have great o lines and this shows up in pff's numbers. Just saying tom brady makes the o line rate highly is wrong because then the colts would've had a highly ranked o line. Ditto for the packers or the chargers.

by duh :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 8:15pm

Would you agree that an average O line with a QB who has the skills to make them look better would rate better than a terrible offensive line with a similar QB behind them?

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/08/2012 - 10:19pm

The point of objectively ranking o lines is to find a system that attempts to rank them independently of the qb. This actually can be done- as ben muth does it every time he writes his articles and Pff tries to do the same. They've actually asked scouts to help set guidelines about how to do exactly this.

My pt is- the rankings are meant to be independent of the qb and indeed, alamar had a much better system- who can block the longest while keeping a clean pocket adjusted for the number of rushers. Both systems- NE comes out on top. Of course, nominal statistics like sacks and pressures given up are going to dip based on qb play and yes brady makes the line look better, but they also are a very good line even if it were mark sanchez back there.

by D2K :: Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:49am

Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights.

by mano (not verified) :: Tue, 01/01/2013 - 7:53am

Walker is out this week with a broken jaw (wierdly kneed in the head accidentially in the week 16 Seahawks game). Not http://www.fresh-tests.com/exam/350-050.htm positive how replacing him with non-receiving threat Peelle is going to mess up 350-050 tests those plays (fewer TE arounds for positive).