Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: Maurice Hurst

A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

14 Jan 2013

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

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.

Saturday, January 12

Baltimore Ravens 38 at Denver Broncos 35 (2OT)

Tom Gower: Um, the Ravens' only real advantage this game was supposed to be their superior special teams play, and Trindon Holliday returns a punt 89 yards for a score less than three minutes in. Then a bad kick return leaves them starting the subsequent drive inside the 10.

Rivers McCown: Joe Marciano thought that return was mediocre at best.

J.J. Cooper: When I saw Holliday's first return for a touchdown, I thought back to the Chargers game in October. Holliday had just been picked up off waivers from the Texans, and he fumbled his first punt return. At the time I was thinking there was little chance he'd make it to Tuesday with the Broncos, much less remain the team's main returner. Now he's going to be part of Broncos' lore forever.

Ben Muth: Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith are perfect for each other. Flacco can throw it as far as anybody, and Smith can chase just about anything down. Both are limited, of course, but man can they stretch a defense.

Andy Benoit: Flacco's touchdown to Smith came against a Cover-3 zone, the Ravens had the perfect route combination on for it. Two deep middle crossers occupied the deep centerfield safety. Flacco made an excellent deep throw. (His second excellent deep throw on that second series, first one was the pass interference penalty that Tandon Doss drew.)

Mike Kurtz: This is the non-predictive events bowl.

Vince Verhei: I wrote in Quick Reads that the Ravens needed to use a back or tight end to help Michael Oher out as often as possible against Von Miller. They haven't done that much on their first two drives, but there has been only one pass rusher (not always Miller) to that side, which means the right guard has been unoccupied and able to give Oher a hand. The Broncos need to start sending more men from the offense's right.

Also, stop throwing pick-sixes. Stop that right now.

Andy Benoit: Ravens are dropping Suggs into coverage a few times early on, smart tactic against Denver’s frequent short-flat patterns.

Aaron Schatz: This is weird. An offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdown in 5:10, and the special teams touchdown was Denver not Baltimore, and the interception return was picked off Peyton Manning, not Flacco.

Chykie Brown, however, totally got away with holding Eric Decker, which in part caused him to tip that ball in the air, leading to the interception return touchdown.

It's early yet, so I don't think three big plays have taught us too much about how the rest of this game is going to go.

Andy Benoit: Manning just a little behind Decker’s short slant on that throw. Just a tad behind Demaryius Thomas on a similar throw previous play. (Lots of contact by defense, probably should have been pass interference, but good physical coverage).

Aaron Schatz: Broncos tie it up about 10 minutes in at 14-14, on a touchdown to Brandon Stokley in the right corner of the end zone. I think this was supposed to look like the "levels" concept that Chris Brown wrote about this week at Grantland. Two guys were stacked on the right, Stokley was the guy who ran the shorter route ... but instead of turning in, be stopped, then twisted the other way and went to the end zone, leaving Corey Graham in his dust.

Rivers McCown: Baltimore has made a concerted effort to target their tight ends early. Maybe they are readers.

Tom Gower: Flacco's been playing reasonably well so far. Denver pass rush wasn't really a factor in the first quarter. I suspect those two things have some relation.

Rob Weintraub: Yes, Peyton is great, etc. But this constant acclaim for handing off when there aren't eight men in the box is absurd. To hear Dierdorf tell it, it's as though he's making Sophie's Choice by forfeiting a pass attempt.

Aaron Schatz: Let me tell you, Baltimore, you *really* look like the best special teams in the league when Tandon Doss runs into his OWN BLOCKER on a punt return.

Andy Benoit: Von Miller is getting put in coverage situations a lot against base sets. Good design by Ravens.

Ben Muth: Smith keeps getting behind Champ Bailey. Denver may have to re-think that matchup.

Tom Gower: He's going over the top in man coverage and beating him to the middle of the field. Where are the Denver safeties? We haven't seen them. On the touchdown, Mike Adams, I believe, bit on the dig route in front of him, but I'm not sure what's happened since then.

Aaron Schatz: Regarding the safeties on the deep passes to Smith -- Mike Tanier pointed out to me that on that last deep pass, the one that was overthrown, they ran two semi-deep crossing patterns in front of the safety. That's what took the safety's attention, which prevented deep help.

I know this feels like a broken record to Ravens fans, but this team seems unable to build steady drives with consistent medium-length gains. Almost everything seems to be either hurried or the deep pass to Smith, and I'm already noticing the issue of "hey, maybe they need to give the ball to Ray Rice some more."

Vince Verhei: Manning's accuracy and touch on that touchdown to Knowshon Moreno ... man oh man, this cat is good at football.

Ben Muth: Moreno scoring a touchdown, in a playoff game, on a hitch and go ... was unexpected.

Matt Waldman: Unexpected, but Matthew Stafford to Moreno on that style play was something they ran with success against Michigan State in a bowl game.

Andy Benoit: The Ravens are using a lot of zone exchange concepts, bringing Dannell Ellerbe from deep second level. Ellerbe has stood out again this week, playing with good all-around tempo and consistently getting near the ball in a variety of ways. The question: is Ellerbe just improving, or has his recent explosion been a product of having Ray Lewis back?

Vince Verhei: Comcast cable in Seattle went to a monthly test of the Emergency Broadcast System as Denver was lining up to for it on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. Not joking.

Danny Tuccitto: At least it was just a test, though, right?

Vince Verhei: Apparently Denver picked up the fourth down. (I missed the play, but got to enjoy the five-minute review process.) They're up seven and in scoring range. Ravens fans might call this an emergency.

Danny Tuccitto: Here's the soundtrack for that Prater kick.

Vince Verhei: Smith. That second touchdown. Holy Lord.

Mike Kurtz: Has there ever been a game where the big names on defense for both sides have proven to be liabilities?

Tom Gower: Your lesson, as always, is that attempting a long field goal with a good quarterback is a mistake. Oh, yeah, and after disappearing for most of this season, the Old Man Bailey we got used to seeing the previous couple seasons has returned with a vengeance.

Aaron Schatz: Here's the thing. I'm not surprised that Bailey would get beat deep by Smith. I mean, he's what, 37 years old? But that second touchdown, where Smith outmaneuvered him, was much more of a surprise.

And yet, it still feel like until that two-minute drill, the only thing working for that offense was the deep pass to Smith. They can't win in the second half unless they can get something else working also.

Rob Weintraub: I dunno -- I'm leaning more toward sensational play by Smith than cloddish coverage by Champ.

Mike Kurtz: The two are not mutually exclusive.

We've secretly replaced the Ravens special teams with the Steelers special teams. Will anyone notice? Let's watch!

Rob Weintraub: How do they not play Madonna's "Holiday" at Mile High after Trindon's big runbacks?

Vince Verhei: Ravens give up their second special teams touchdown of the day. Their own Twitter account dubs this "insane."

Danny Tuccitto: This game is giving me the heebee geebees. Two hours before kickoff, last thing I need right now is a constant reminder of the irony that was San Francisco's No. 2 special teams turning heel in the NFC championship game last year.

Aaron Schatz: The Ravens did not allow a single kick or punt return touchdown during the regular season. In fact, they allowed only two kick returns longer than 35 yards all year, and only two punt returns longer than 30 yards. Special teams is nutty.

Vince Verhei: The sack/fumble/penalty play in the third quarter took five minutes of real time to resolve. Are the replacement refs back?

Andy Benoit: The Broncos are targeting Lewis with shallow crossing routes and having consistent success.

Jacob Tamme is a very good individual route runner. He an make breaks, and had a third-down catch where he beat Chykie Brown one-on-one outside like he was a wideout.

Ben Muth: Michael Oher has just broken the single game playoff record for uncalled holds.

Rob Weintraub: That's the market inefficiency Michael Lewis should have written about...

Rivers McCown: I want to point out that a) a playoff team squib-kicked away from Trindon Holliday and b) a squib kick would likely be among the top ten Texans kickoff returns this year.

Matt Waldman: I don't think many people would have believed in August that Terrell Suggs would have two sacks in a playoff game. The advancements in surgery and rehab are pretty incredible.

As a Browns fan from the `70s and `80s, this game has me conflicted -- the Ravens personnel and management is essentially descended from the Browns of my youth, so I'd like some revenge on the Broncos, yet how can I cheer for them?

Aaron Schatz: And with the touchdown drive that put Denver up 35-28, we entered the "chippy" portion of this game. Lots of penalties, and a lot of physical play that isn't getting penalized.

Ravens did the right thing on fourth-and-5, throwing to Dennis Pitta and attacking Adams. Sometimes even a below-average defensive back is gonna make a play, and he did.

Andy Benoit: Very bad game management by Ravens to burn a timeout before the play though. It was a no-doubter that they had to go for it, so no excuse for being slow with the play-call process.

Rivers McCown: They did the right thing throwing to Jacoby Jones on third down too, except for the part where he was Jacoby Jones.

Aaron Schatz: OH MY GOD, did the Broncos blow coverage. What on earth was Rahim Moore doing? He was totally lost, had no idea where the ball was, mis-timed his jump... I mean, I'm assuming that he was supposed to get Jones deep because Tony Carter clearly is staying in a shorter zone in case they throw a deep out or comeback to get Jones a catch and out of bounds.

Vince Verhei: It took 17 games, but the Denver secondary I wrote about in FOA 2012 has finally arrived!

Matt Waldman: They just did the wrong thing throwing to Jacoby Jones on third down, except the part where Denver failed to cover Jones. Jeebus.

J.J. Cooper: OK, this game just entered the "we'll be seeing NFL Films specials on it for years" category.

You know, when announcers decry prevent coverage, there are reasons you play prevent. Of course, if the safety in deep coverage doesn't understand that it involves being on top of the deepest receiver, it doesn't really matter whether you are in prevent or not.

Ben Muth: I don't know what to say about the Jones touchdown. My buddy next to me said it pretty well though: "Looks like Moore misjudged it."


Aaron Schatz: Why on earth was Denver kneeling down instead of trying to get into field-goal range with 30 seconds and two timeouts? What, you don't have faith in your quarterback ... who is Peyton Manning?

Andy Benoit: Broncos kneel down with 0:36 left and two timeouts on a tie game. Hmmmm ... what are you paying Peyton Manning all that money for?

J.J. Cooper: If Holiday returns another one in overtime, the Broncos will induct him into their ring of fame after the game.

Aaron Schatz: I'd like to thank the Ravens for not squibbing. That squib earlier was stupid. You have Justin Tucker and you are a MILE ABOVE SEA LEVEL. OK, fine, one kickoff got returned for a touchdown. Almost all the rest are going to be touchbacks. Just let Tucker get the damn touchback.

Mike Kurtz: CBS's overtime graphic only prints a summary of the first part of the overtime rules (absent mention of safeties). No wonder nobody understands any of the damn rules.

Vince Verhei: Bailey's pass interference foul on the first drive of overtime is, well, a mystery to me. Usually, even on a bad call, I can see what the referee *thinks* he saw. That one, I have no idea what happened.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting that the Broncos put Jim Leonhard on the field to catch the first punt of overtime. They clearly were still worried that Holliday might fumble the punt.

J.J. Cooper: Anyone disagree with punting it here on fourth-and-1? I don't.

Aaron Schatz: I'm sure the math says that you have a small advantage by going for it, but it's the kind of situation I always describe as the hard call where close math doesn't lead to a clear response.

Andy Benoit: Ravens first-down play-calling in the run game was very predictable in the second half and in overtime. Interior runs with Rice over and over again.

Rivers McCown: These teams need to establish the run for the second overtime.

Vince Verhei: Flacco was the top quarterback in Quick Reads for the Wild Card round, but take away about a half-dozen big plays and he was pretty close to a replacement-level passer. This game feels the same way.

Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know what happened with Jimmy Smith this year for the Ravens? Did he get benched for bad play? Was it an injury? He was supposed to be such a talented cornerback, but he's playing nothing but special teams. That at least points towards "demoted" rather than "injury."

Rivers McCown: I remember him leaving the first half against Denver because he was still having hernia problems. I dunno where that leaves him today.

Aaron Schatz: My god, Manning threw a pick. This game is an all-time classic of unexpected results.

J.J. Cooper: Just a terrible pass by Manning. Horrendous decision making on that one.

Tom Gower: Sadly reminiscent of Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game at the end of regulation, though at least the Broncos weren't in field goal range. Just trying to make a play that wasn't there.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-7, and Baltimore runs it into the line, settling for a 47-yard field goal. I know they're in Denver, but I hate the settling for a long field goal there.

Aaron Schatz: I agree, but Justin Tucker was the best kicker in the league this year ... and he hits it.

I sure hope this goes down in history as "Rahim Moore blew the game" and not "Peyton Manning blew the game."

This game was really, really unexpected. In so many ways.

Ben Muth: If I was Broncos defender, I would have blocked Tucker's practice kick and shoved the tee up his ass.

Tom Gower: I need to go somewhere and process that game. I told Mike at the end of the third quarter that I couldn't decide if it was a good game or a drunken idiot's idea of a good game. Two quarters-plus later, I'm still not sure. Ah, well, Packers-49ers.

Vince Verhei: Mostly agree with this assessment. There were some spectacular plays out there, but also a bunch of ugly mistakes and bad coaching decisions. Tremendously fun, but something of a trainwreck.

Given a few more hours to think about this, I've changed my mind. Don't get me wrong, it was still a trainwreck, but it was such an emotional roller coaster that it hardly matters. When Playoff Game One leaves you so emotionally drained that you can't even enjoy Playoff Game Two going into halftime tied, then Playoff Game One was a great game.

Green Bay Packers 31 at San Francisco 49ers 45

Vince Verhei: Ravens-Broncos game creeps on with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the Packers-49ers game has started, and Green Bay has scored. Arrgh.

Danny Tuccitto: This is gratuitous, but, on the pick-six by Green Bay, Alex Smith throws that ball into the upper deck.

Matt Waldman: Despite this being more of a bad offensive decision, Sam Shields is testament to Ted Thompson's prowess. I remember studying Shields as a wide receiver at Miami. Shields has had a steep learning curve, but he still remains a promising player who might be rounding into form.

Ben Muth: I can't remember who, but someone earlier this year said that Colin Kaepernick runs like a deer. It really was the perfect description of his running style.

Matt Waldman: As much as this isn't realistic, I love the storybook idea of the 49ers "saving" Randy Moss for the postseason.

Danny Tuccitto: Through the first quarter, Green Bay hasn't been going four-wide, but they've gotten success running the ball against San Francisco's 2-4-5 nickel (including the DuJuan Harris touchdown). Also, by my count, Casey Hayward has only been on the field for four plays as the 49ers have been in either 21 or 12 personnel the entire time. Maybe they are readers.

Matt Waldman: Harris also validates the notion that NFL running back prospects are as plentiful as NBA shooting guards. My buddy Wes Bunting, who used to be at the National Football Post, was the first guy I remember writing about him. I thought Harris was, stylistically, a similar runner to Maurice Jones-Drew. He sometimes tried to make that one extra move he needed to avoid. This touchdown run at end of the first quarter was an example of what he wasn't always doing at Troy.

Aaron Schatz: People are apparently angry at me for referring to Harris on Simmons' podcast as "just a guy," but if NFL running back prospects are as plentiful as NBA shooting guards, and there are more of those guys than there are jobs as NFL running backs, doesn't that mean that a moderate prospect like Harris is, in fact, "just a guy"?

Danny Tuccitto: Tramon Williams has frequently been a target.

Although I didn't mention it because the 49ers don't throw the ball to their running backs much, Green Bay had the 27th-ranked pass defense DVOA on running back targets. Big swing pass to Frank Gore set up their first touchdown.

Tom Gower: I paused this early and went through in hurry-up mode to get caught up. Watching the 49ers is like watching a college team in terms of their run action and how they spread the field. I know. They're a running team, ALY loves them, their personnel even with spread sets isn't wideout-heavy, but they just seem like a good example of an ongoing schematic evolution. The pick-6 looked like it was just a really bad play by Kaepernick trying to reset and throw to the other side of the field across his body, making a play possible for Shields. The big play to Gore that set up the touchdown was just an out that he took upfield on a scramble drill. Charles Woodson was kind of in "no man's land." Kaepernick's scramble touchdown was a really bad play by one of the Packers safeties. It looked like two deep coverage and he was very slow to react to the scramble action; it was like he was expecting a pass even after Kaepernick was well past the line of scrimmage.

I think there are varying gradations of being "just a guy." Harris runs with a little more bounce in his step than some other guys, and put a nice move on Donte Whitner, I think, for the touchdown. But as I said last week, the Packers don't have a sustaining running game with him. He finished with 47 yards on 17 carries last week for a reason, and it's not because he's a superstar back.

Andy Benoit: On the Kaepernick scramble: it was a five-man route concept, which limited the available defenders just a bit.

Niners playing almost exclusively two-tight end personnel, but Walker being used as a de facto wideout on a lot of downs. The Packers are playing their nickel package against that personnel in passing situations.

Aaron Schatz: Chase Stuart made this comment on Twitter, but seriously, after that crazy, draining Ravens-Broncos game, paying attention to this game is almost impossible.

Strong coverage by Shields on the Michael Crabtree touchdown that makes it 21-14, but even better throw by Kaepernick. It's nice to see Crabtree finally fulfilling his potential with Kaepernick at quarterback.

Mike Kurtz: I was just about to point out that the Packers keep leaving the middle wide open for Kaepernick to run wild, but it was so obvious that Aikman just went on a rant about it.

Andy Benoit: James Jones' second touchdown came over the middle against a rare Niners 2-deep zone. He beat NaVorro Bowman early, but really, the route was about manipulating the safety. Jones did so masterfully by disguising his route as a flat one early on.

Aaron Schatz: I know all of these Kaepernick scrambles are exciting, and they're getting good yardage, and I have to give him credit for getting out of bounds instead of getting himself killed, but honestly, this stuff can get addictive if you do it too much. With a guy like Kaepernick, you get worried that he's going to forget to be a passer first. A couple of glasses of wine can improve a good meal, but I don't want Kaepernick sitting on the side of the road in the middle of next season, chugging Mad Dog 20/20 from a bag.

Danny Tuccitto: Given past dramatic playoff endings in San Francisco after the hero spent most of the game dropping passes, Delanie Walker will no doubt catch the winner in this one.

Andy Benoit: Niners showed a package with LaMichael James and Gore both on the field. They faked a wideout screen to James off it, looking for a shot play deep left, but it wasn't there.

Vince Verhei: The second half just started and, only now am I really able to form coherent thoughts about football.

Aaron Schatz: Danny, I know the 49ers apparently refer to the pistol as the "Q" formation in their play calls ... do you know if all pistol is the "Q" formation, or is it just that diamond-like pistol with two backs next to Kaepernick and a guy behind him?

Danny Tuccitto: "Q" is all pistol as far as I know.

Rob Weintraub: "Q" also refers to formations when Kaepernick activates the ejector seat button in a car that also turns into a submarine, or Gore fires a poison dart from his wristwatch.

Danny Tuccitto: Green Bay's long second drive of the third quarter was my worst nightmare come true. Niners in dime the whole way. A throw long throw down the seam to Greg Jennings with Carlos Rogers in coverage, and then previously-invisible Jordy Nelson catches a couple of passes outside because fifth-string (!!!) corner Tramaine Brock is on the outside left instead of Chris Culliver for some reason. (Is Culliver hurt?)

Aaron Schatz: I liked it when Randall Cobb stretched out for the first down that was three yards away. Apparently he thinks he's Inspector Gadget.

Rivers McCown: Inspector Gadget has nothing on Kaepernick. At least against Green Bay.

Ben Muth: It's amazing how quarterback reads/runs that have been around for a decade in college are catching NFL defensive coordinators completely off-guard. These defenses look clueless, like they never considered the possibilty of a quarterback as the runner. Shocking how little they've adapted in a season that has been full of this stuff.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like the Packers offensive line is losing strength in the third quarter. The pressure seems to be getting steadily higher.

Tom Gower: So, I wondered last week how much of the Packers' fine defensive performance had to do with an inept Joe Webb-led Vikings attack and how much it had to do with a Packers defense playing well with the return of Woodson. The Packers just punted on fourth-and-4 from midfield early in the fourth quarter. The 49ers have 38 points. I'm going to say last week had a lot more to do with the Webb-led team than the Packers suddenly having an elite defense.

J.J. Cooper: I'm pretty sure Kaepernick already has set a quarterback rushing record for the playoffs and we still have time left in the third quarter. By P-F-R's Play Index, Kaepernick's 163 yards rushing is the 22nd-best in playoff history, running backs or quarterbacks. It appears the previous record for a quarterback was Michael Vick's 119 yards against the Rams in 2005.

That last run which put him up to 179 yards rushing now means this is the 14th-best rushing performance in a playoff game. He needs 13 yards to enter the top 10. Eric Dickerson's record 248 still seems safe, I think.

Vince Verhei: Not just that, but he's already passed Vick's 173-yard regular season record, and there's eight minutes to go.

Ben Muth: The 49ers are killing the Packers' defensive line up front in the ground game. That's the story of the game. The read option stuff is exasperating it, but it's mainly San Francisco's front five kicking the hell out of Green Bay.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the scrambles aren't about the offensive line kicking the defensive line's ass, right? I think that's at least part of the story.

Seattle or Atlanta better learn what a "spy" is.

Vince Verhei: Packers defense jumps offside on fourth-and-1. They haven't shown any discipline all night, why start now?

J.J. Cooper: Joe Staley is the stud on the 49ers line, and Mike Iupati is really good as well, but I've been impressed with the development of Anthony Davis. Davis was a disaster as a rookie, especially in pass protection. Now he's solid in all aspects.

Good news for the 49ers that the NFL doesn't have the NBA's "leaving the bench" rules. When Josh Sitton started mixing it up with the 49ers defense, Iupati jogged out onto the field and made it as far as the hashmarks before the refs saw him and sent him back to the sideline.

Ben Muth: Yeah, Davis has been really good. He's a great example of people not recognizing how important age can be for a young guy. All rookies are not the same age. Davis took his lumps early, but he was the youngest player in the league. He's still only 23, which is about the age of a guy that stays in college all five years, and he's an above-average starter. It's one of the reasons I'm really high on Tyron Smith.

Danny Tuccitto: The NFC Championship game result will either be elating or heartbreaking for me, nothing in between. San Francisco has played on my birthday twice in my lifetime. First time, the genesis of my fandom, was their win over the hometown Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. The second one involved Roger Craig fumble-crushing my soul.

Sunday, January 13

Seattle Seahawks 28 at Atlanta Falcons 30

Vince Verhei: Falcons get a field goal on their first drive, and FOX goes to commercial with ... "Pour Some Sugar On Me"? Did Joe Elliot move to Alpharetta or something?

Matt Waldman: Nice to see Chase Coffman look like an NFL tight end in frame and not an emaciated Ted Hendricks like he seemed at Mizzou. Nice catch.

Aaron Schatz: Tony Gonzalez's touchdown catch was really a thing of beauty. I loved the way that he had Kam Chancellor running with him, then stopped short; Chancellor's inertia thus left Gonzalez open, and then Gonzalez got his feet just in bounds for the touchdown.

So far, this game definitely seems to be following the storyline that Seattle feels like it's playing a football game at 10 in the morning.

Mike Kurtz: The penultimate play of that scoring drive had an amazing catch, but FOX's angle also had a great view of the side judge and head linesman watching the play through, if anyone wants a visual demonstration of all the stuff I've been talking about.

Rivers McCown: Well. The "pacific coast team on the east coast" storyline as well as Seattle's problems stopping the run over the second half of the season.

Matt Waldman: I've become a big Seahawks fan so take this with a grain of salt, but this should be a 21-0 game. I wouldn't be too excited if I were an Atlanta fan. Mildly optimistic, yes? Giddy? Hell no.

Rivers McCown: Seattle goes for it on fourth-and-1 and gets stuffed. Tried to tell 'em about that Atlanta run defense in the preview. Not the same unit since their bye week.

Matt Waldman: Seahawks did them a big favor on that last third and fourth down sequence though...

Ben Muth: Not giving the ball to Lynch on third or fourth down there has replaced Denver kneeling out the clock as the decision that caused me to scream at my TV the loudest this weekend.

Aaron Schatz: Although for the year, Seattle in short yardage: 70 percent conversion (4th) and Atlanta defense: 65 percent (21st). So it's not like Seattle was running into a wall.

Matt Waldman: So much for not being down big...

Aaron Schatz: Wow. I can't believe Russell Wilson just made the "take a sack on third down with no timeouts left" mistake. Just, wow.

Ben Muth: Atlanta, who hasn't been close to pressuring Wilson all day, gets a sack on the final play of the half to keep the shutout. Amazing.

Danny Tuccitto: Was that him "taking" a sack or just that guy coming out of nowhere, and getting on top of him before he could even react?

Tom Gower: I think that was a quick blown block sack, not really Wilson's fault. At the same time, I feel obligated to note his Rose Bowl experienced finished with a game-ending spike.

Vince Verhei: First half thoughts:

  • That sucked.
  • I don't think that end-of-half sack is on Wilson, it's on J.R. Sweezy. Jonathan Babineaux was on Wilson so quick there was nothing Wilson could do.
  • Perhaps Lynch's bum foot explains the third- and fourth-down decisions. But I don't know how neither of those plays is a play-action rollout with a run/throw option for Wilson.
  • It's really a shame that Richard Sherman fell down on Roddy White's long touchdown, because up to that point I thought he had played a great game.
  • Bruce Irvin? Hello? Are you on the field? I expected him to get pushed around in the running game, but he hasn't sniffed Ryan on a pass play either.
  • All of that said, in no way is this game over. Wilson is getting all day in the pocket (well, most of the time) and I trust him in a pass-every-play offense.

Andy Benoit: In the first half, Atlanta did a fantastic job against Seattle’s read-option game. That’s something the Falcons defense had struggled with earlier in the season. Sean Weatherspoon’s speed and physicality really stood out.

Matt Ryan was tremendous in the first half of this game, going through his progressions with poise and making great pre-snap reads that allowed him to quickly find the exploitable one-on-one matchup against the blitz.

Ben Muth: Seattle would have been better off trying to kick the field goal. Most special teams units drill that all the time and can get on the field, lined up, and kick it in 10 seconds or less.

Rivers McCown: I do wonder how much of Seattle's aggressiveness -- both on the fourth-and-1 and the attempt to get that snap off -- comes from having a street free-agent place kicker.

Vince Verhei: Seattle using a handful of pistol plays today. I don't remember them doing much of that this year. Looks like something they just picked up after seeing it last week.

Mike Kurtz: Gonzalez is having an absolutely amazing game. He's already made three 'wow' catches, two contested.

Vince Verhei: The first two drives of the second half ate up nearly 13 minutes combined. Not conducive to a comeback.

Aaron Schatz: No, not looking good for Seattle. The zone coverage is definitely not working. Ryan keeps finding Julio Jones in the holes there.

If anything is gonna get this back for Seattle, it's going to be Zach Miller up the seam. that's been open all day.

Tom Gower: The Falcons are burning clock and getting points. It's hard for Seattle to win when that's happening. This isn't the best offense in the league, but they're playing really, really well today. Gonzalez has a couple great catches, White has the touchdown and some other grabs, Julio had the big one that drive where Earl Thomas crushed him, and the backs are playing to their strengths.

Rivers McCown: Matt Ryan armpunt!

Tom Gower: Well, um, at least the Falcons didn't go ultra-conservative up 13 in the fourth quarter?

I hope Mike Smith doesn't end up regretting kicking the extra point up 26-7 late in the third quarter, especially after the Sherman offsides could have given him the ball at the 1.

Rivers McCown: That one's interesting to me. The Falcons have run all over the Seahawks today, of course, but for the season they were awful in short-yardage situations. Which sample size do you believe is more relevant?

Tom Gower: Michael Turner's running well today. I don't think there's a big difference between being up 19 and up 20, whereas there is a difference being up 21.

Matt Waldman: I feel kind of like Tom Hanks in the middle of the ocean screaming for my volleyball at this moment.

Aaron Schatz: Well, here we are. The Seahawks came back. Guess they are over the jetlag. Now we've got a game.

And wow, look at the replay. Mike Peterson is supposed to be covering Zach Miller, and he's like "la la la, I don't have to follow this guy into the back left corner, I'll just stand here in the middle of the field by myself, la la la." I guess he thought Wilson might scramble?

Tom Gower: Um, the Falcons need a pass rush from somebody other than John Abraham. I think we've said that before, for a couple years maybe, and with him out it's even more true.

Ben Muth: I'm finally willing to admit I was wrong about Wilson earlier this year. He's really good.

Also, I hope the Cardinals get to interview Darrell Bevell.

Aaron Schatz: The drive by Atlanta to go three-and-out with eight minutes left was like a parody of what a bad drive looks like when a team is blowing a lead. "Hey, let's throw a screen to lose four yards ... then how about a third-and-long dumpoff where the receiver trips over the turf before a defender gets to him!"

Ben Muth: Can you get fined for a chop block? That Max Unger play was flat-out dangerous.

Rivers McCown: I know the Texans have been fined for it before.

Ben Muth: Game winning offensive-lineman touchdown! This is the best game ever!

Aaron Schatz: Heh. Instead, Unger gets to be the hero because he picked up the fumble from Lynch in the end zone ... although it looks like Lynch crossed the plane anyway. I don't know if they'll give that touchdown to Lynch or Unger.

I hope this game doesn't go down as "Matt Ryan can't win in the playoffs yet again," but at the same time, he had some bad throws on those last couple of Atlanta drives where the Falcons couldn't hold onto the ball and work the clock.

Ben Muth: Crap. Game-winning touchdown by a Cal running back instead. Still a good game though.

Rivers McCown: 30 seconds, two timeouts, John Fox not coaching ... ain't over yet!

Aaron Schatz: Pete Carroll, calling timeout to ice the kicker, then claiming to the refs that he didn't call the timeout when the kicker missed the field goal. Classic.

What was the point of Atlanta kicking what was either a squib or an onside kick with eight seconds left, thus getting the Seahawks already into good field position?

Tom Gower: The onside kick-type kick was insane. I could have gotten behind a pooch kick or short pop up or a squib roller, but a pseudo-onside like that? No, not at all.

I'm happy Atlanta won this game because now we won't have to spend too much time talking about how Mike Smith is basically the Murphy's law of risk-reward decision-making in the playoffs.

Rivers McCown: I am happy that we get to watch Wilson play football for a long, long, time. That last drive was ridiculous. Especially how he rolled away from the pressure on third down to hit the running back in the flat.

Matt Waldman: Amen, brother. Amen.

Vince Verhei: I can't believe how happy I am after my team just lost a playoff game. That was freakin' incredible. This weekend so, so, so makes up for wild card weekend.

I can't really coherently comment any more on the game, but man oh man, is Brian Billick a lousy announcer, and worse, after some of what he said I would never hire him as a coach again either. He advocated kicking a field goal down six points in the final two minutes. He forgot what down it was and how many timeouts each team had. If you make those decisions and mistakes in the booth, what unholy calamity would you be on the sideline?

By the way, my comment on Billick was written before I saw that he had interviewed for the Eagles job. Philadelphia! I implore you! Do not hire this man!

Aaron Schatz: I'm happy for Ryan shaking the ridiculous "he's not man enough to win in the playoffs" silliness, and I'm happy for Gonzalez finally winning a playoff game.

Ben Muth: What a game. I'm upset we won't get to see Harbaugh versus Carroll in the playoffs, but life is full of disappointments.

Andy Benoit: The story of this game in the second half was how Seattle killed Atlanta with trips formations. They ran a bunch of deep-intermediate pass plays off horizontal route combinations from this formation, which was a fantastic way to attack the single-high zones and post-snap coverage rotations of Atlanta’s secondary. The Falcons never really did figure out how to stop this. And without Abraham, they couldn’t simply take it away with a four-man rush (though when their pressure did get there, Wilson somehow found a way to escape almost every time).

Ryan struggled a bit in the second half after throwing a second interception (bad decision and bad execution on that play), but he obviously bounced back well with the efficient fourth quarter field-goal drive in the final seconds. The Falcons run game looked a lot better than expected (the plan to keep Michael Turner fresh this year paid off well), which was critical because Seattle’s cornerbacks took away a lot of Atlanta’s staple plays, including the potent receiver screens.

Vince Verhei: By the way, the fact that Atlanta won the game on a 30-second, two-timeout drive has not gone unnoticed in Denver.

Houston Texans 28 at New England Patriots 41

Aaron Schatz: Apparently during warmups, J.J. Watt walked to the Patriots logo at the center of the field and spat on it. I don't understand why that should provide any extra motivation for the Texans, but of course, I didn't notice because I was busy watching, you know, another game.

Vince Verhei: I love the idea that would give extra motivation to New England. "We were going to half-ass our way through this here playoff game, but now that you've spat on our logo, I guess we'll give it our best."

Rivers McCown: I'm reminded of the phrase "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball."

Special teams are pretty random, huh?

Ben Muth: The huge kickoff return from the Texans to open up the game is only like the eighth-strangest thing that has happened this weekend.

J.J. Cooper: All we need is a good fourth game here and we are taking about as good a weekend of football as one could hope to see. We have had one of the longest games in NFL history, an all-time record broken with Kaepernick's rushing, and watched the lead change hands three times in the final minute with a Hail Mary on top of that.

Aaron Schatz: The huge Zoltan Mesko punt where the Houston returner tripped on himself was a little more like what I expected from special teams.

Looks like the Pats are going to have Aqib Talib on Andre Johnson pretty regularly here.

Danny Tuccitto: It's funny to me how (non-partisan) people are saying Houston having to settle for a field goal after Danieal Manning's kickoff return is a bad thing. The moneyline (+207) implied a 33 percent win probability, and the field goal just improved it to 60 percent. Yeah, it would have been 72 percent if they scored the touchdown, but let's not forget what our expectations were five minutes ago.

Rivers McCown: Well the real problem isn't that they settled for the field goal THERE ... it's that they've had to do that way too often lately.

Danny Tuccitto: Rivers, I said *non-partisan* people.

Rivers McCown: >B-I

That's my crack at an Ian Curtis emoticon.

Danny Tuccitto: Well, if we're making Joy Division references here, the soundtrack for that depressing field goal was, "New Dawn Fades." To wit, "me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else."

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots' no-huddle is so fast that you look down after one play and they score a touchdown before you have even looked up again.

Can't believe in the AFC preview, I forgot to mention the way the swing passes to running backs were wide open for Houston in the first game. They just got a first down on one for the first time in this game.

Also, Talib can't cover Johnson. I'm not sure if Matt Schaub has even looked at Kevin Walter once, but Talib can't cover Johnson.

Rivers McCown: Cornerbacks not named Darrelle Revis seem to have a hard time with that.

Aaron Schatz: Wes Welker has had a couple of sweet catches in this game, but also a couple of big drops.

The Texans are leaving the A-gap open a lot. Pats should have runs up the middle all they want, if they want.

Am I being a Pats homer in thinking that the penalty on Brandon Lloyd for throwing the ball back to the official too hard was a little bit ridiculous?

Tom Gower: Yes. It's a !#%!#%!@#% stupid, selfish play to whip the ball at the refs. It wouldn't surprise me if he said something as well, though of course we'll probably never know that. Don't screw with the refs is football smarts 101 and humanity 001.

Aaron Schatz: Well, I don't think he whipped it at him that hard, but okay.

Danny Tuccitto: Keep in mind, the guy who called it was Garth DeFelice, who in his infamous NFL career to date, has (a) tackled Kenneth Darby (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/2193023/kenneth_darby_gets_jacked_up_by_nf...), and (b) ejected Justin Smith after trying to stop a shoving match by starting a shoving match of his own (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL46vIFXR6M). Seems like Lloyd just chose to mess with the wrong guy. (Or Joey Crawford picked up an extra shift tonight.)

Vince Verhei: So he has a history of petty, selfish, dick-waving behavior. That's good.

Lloyd's penalty bothers me more and more the more I think about it. He didn't flip it that hard. Should have been a verbal warning, that's all. (Unless there already had been a verbal warning.) If this was a meaningless Week 17 game, OK, whatever, but in the playoffs? I'd like the championship to be determined by who plays football best, not who has the best manners.

Tom Gower: Count the number of overhand throws you see to the refs from five yards away. Unless I'm just misremembering badly, it's practically none. At all. Ever. I also don't have an issue with potentially borderline unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for doing things that are incredibly stupid and never a good idea.

Vince Verhei: I had a pathetically short football career consisting of like a dozen games between ninth and tenth grade. I once saw a teammate flip a ball to a referee harder than he needed to. The ref briefly stopped the game so he could loudly and publicly scold the guy and let everyone on both teams know this behavior would not be tolerated, but he did not throw a flag. He got his message across anyway. It wasn't a problem the rest of the game. This was a Thursday night JV game in front of a few dozen parents. We can't give highly-paid athletes on a global stage the same leeway?

Ben Muth: I do expect my highly-paid athletes to be smarter than your average high school sophomore.

Vince Verhei: Well, there's that.

Danny Tuccitto: Asking "How many specific instances of a five-yard overhanded player-to-ref toss can you remember?" screams to me of availability heuristic. I mean, we're not paying anywhere near enough attention to remember something as mundane as a player-to-ref ball toss, let alone the specific type of delivery. How many specific instances of five-yard "underhanded" player-to-ref toss can you (or I) remember from before today?

Then again, I can't even remember why I ever actually cared about this. Oh, right! DeFelice screwed the Niners once. Anyway, back to the game!

Aaron Schatz:The Texans need to stop with the over-the-middle short stuff on third-and-long. They aren't going to get the YAC, the Pats defense is disciplined. They need to find Johnson and take advantage of the fact that Talib can't cover him and that the Pats aren't giving Talib any specific safety help.

Rivers McCown: Easy to say, harder to do when you've got an unblocked rusher right up the middle.

Aaron Schatz: I do think Welker may have gotten away with a little OPI on that deep pass down the left sideline. But the Texans still need to remember that you may want to occasionally cover Shane Vereen. 17-3.

Rivers McCown: Bradie James doesn't know what this "coverage" is you speak of.

Vince Verhei; Dont'a Hightower made a tackle in he second quarter that was really a German suplex (a wrestling throw where you stand behind a guy, grab him around the waist, and throw him backwards straight over your head). He went to Alabama, and I saw another Tide linebacker do it in the national championship game against Notre Dame. Is this something Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are actually coaching their players to do? It's not like it's an easy thing that happens on accident.

Aaron Schatz: OK, kids. Second-and-goal on the 5, 2:00 warning. If the Texans don't score on the next two plays, should they go for it or kick a field goal? Remember that the Pats get the ball first after halftime.

Danny Tuccitto: Is that a trick question? They go for it every day, and twice on Sundays (as many times as possible on this particular Sunday).

Rivers McCown: I'm so glad we didn't have to see if Gary Kubiak thought the same.

Tom Gower: That I think we all think Gary Kubiak should go for it on a fourth down in that situation has no bearing on what Gary Kubiak is likely to do.

Aaron Schatz: Fun with "inconclusive replays!"

Ben Muth: Watt's straight-arm move (basically a stiff arm) is devastating. He kills guys with it.

Aaron Schatz: New England's offensive game plan can be summarized as "get rid of the ball within 2.5 seconds so J.J. Watt does not kill you." And so far, so good.

Texans just had to punt away when on third-and-5, Schaub missed the fact that he had a wide open crossing route, then threw the ball away instead of trying to run for a first with tons of open space in front of him as long as he could get away from Kyle Love.

Tom Gower: Or he could have reset his feet and made a better throw. Schaub's better than some of his critics would have you believe, but he has not had one of his better games.

The ruling of forward progress on the Owen Daniels non-fumble seemed awfully quick, as those things go, but it's hard to know just how quickly officials rule forward progress given that it's a non-issue probably 99 percent of the time.

Mike Kurtz: That was a ridiculously fast forward progress call. While he was being driven backward, he never had a chance to demonstrate he was completely under control of the defense (which he probably wasn't). I think that's also why the wing official didn't just shut the play down. He was probably thinking about it (and probably got it wrong).

Ben Muth: Phil Simms just complimented Tom Brady for keeping his hands on the football before he threw it. I have to begrudgingly agree that not fumbling the football is a good trait for quarterbacks.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of which, Pats just got lucky when Schaub lost the ball and it went all bouncing around, because on that second-and-9, they had a linebacker on Johnson in the slot.

Ben Muth: Phil Simms knows what he's talking about, folks.

Aaron Schatz: Uh-oh. Schaub just threw that pass that we all throw in Madden, where the linebacker comes out of nowhere to jump super high and pick it off. Damn you, Madden engine!

Mike Kurtz: And we always make fun of Madden physics...

Tom Gower: That Rob Ninkovich interception of Schaub was a terrible decision. He just dropped and was between Schaub and intended receiver James Casey the whole way. I don't know if Schaub just didn't see him, which is the sort of thing incredibly unobservant me would do, or if he just thought he could make the throw. Either way, a crucial error.

Rivers McCown: Remember that part of the day where Atlanta was up by 20, but Seattle still had Russell Wilson and knew they could get back into it?

Yeah, I don't have that feeling.

Aaron Schatz: (Houston Chronicle beat writer) John McClain also doesn't have that feeling.

Rivers McCown: Jeez, you already have the winning team here, you don't have to take the low blow too.

Tom Gower: John McClain makes me sound like an optimist at times, and I'm an admitted "glass mostly empty" kind of guy.

Aaron Schatz: I know you need to mix up runs and passes and you can't get stale and predictable ... but I'm not sure I understand the deep pass to DeVier Posey makes sense on fourth-and-1 with Arian Foster and three Pro Bowl linemen.

Tom Gower: Wade Smith has no business being in the Pro Bowl, but whatever.

Aaron Schatz: I can agree with that Smith statement.

Matt Waldman: That third Vereen touchdown is not much different than what I profiled him doing at Cal, except the Cal play was more impressive.

That Posey target in the end zone may turn out to be a catch by the letter of the law, but boy does that stretch the spirit of having control before going out of bounds.

Vince Verhei: I dunno. I thought, given the benefit of frame-by-frame analysis, that he had possession of the ball before his foot hit out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: OK, Pats just went three-and-out thanks to an offensive pass interference call on Aaron Hernandez. 10 minutes left, 38-20. Do we think the Texans have it in them to make a comeback here?

Mike Kurtz: No.

Rivers McCown: You're a funny man, Aaron.

Aaron Schatz: In case people didn't see on Twitter, PFT is reporting that Rob Gronkowski re-fractured his arm on that catch attempt in the first quarter and is done for the year. Obviously that's a big blow to New England's chances of winning the whole thing.

Texans just went empty backfield on third-and-goal from the 1, I can't even begin to imagine how angry Rivers is right now.

Oops, they just did it again on fourth-and-1, but this time they got the quick slant for the score. Still, what the heck?

Rivers McCown: What's left to be angry about? This no longer matters. The verdict has been given. The only things that matter are the questions "who?" and "how long will it take?" for Matt Schaub's replacement. Compared to all of the other quarterbacks this weekend (even Joe Flacco), Schaub looked like Bane trying to keep up in a rap contest.

Danny Tuccitto: Also, let's not forget the Schaub draw that gives every defensive coach nightmares ... and Schaub throwing it to a covered Daniels in the back of the end zone instead of a wide-open Arian Foster in the flat ... and, in general, the huddling, five-minute drive down 18 in the fourth quarter. That entire drive was just peculiar.

Vince Verhei: The funniest part of the day is listening to Phil Simms discuss two-point conversion strategy. Hearing him count is funny enough by itself, but then once he has determined a two-pointer is necessary, he must determine WHEN you should go for two. You don't go for two on THIS touchdown, he says, you go for it on the NEXT one.

Rivers McCown: Yeah, his idea of kicking a field goal down 13 with less than a minute was pretty remarkable, even by his standards.

Aaron Schatz: A few people have e-mailed me wanting to write guest columns about two-point conversion strategy, but there's already some excellent recent stuff on it. Chase Stuart has been writing a lot about two-point conversion strategy and going for two earlier on in the process when you have a big fourth-quarter deficit, and there was an article on Slate this weekend about it.

Andy Benoit: The Texans simply couldn’t match up to the Patriots tight ends and running backs through the air. A lot of us probably figured that’d be an issue. The biggest issue was inside linebackers Barrett Ruud and James on running back Vereen. The Patriots up-tempo offense was too much for Houston’s run defense –- especially inside the 30-yard-line. The Patriots are going to miss Gronkowski, but as I may have mentioned in one of the Film Room pieces earlier in the season (don’t know if I did or not but I’ve said it many times before), Hernandez is actually their most valuable tight end. His versatility is too much.

Also, this isn’t analytical, but I figure Audibles is a great place to voice this question for our commentors to discuss: what the hell are those silver logos at midfield in Foxboro? I looked it up and they’re supposedly the Gillette Stadium logo with the bridge and towers. But they look to me an awful lot like razors. You know, the kind of razors that the crafty marketing psychologist extraordinaire for Gillette might think up...

I think the Texans are screwed. I don’t see this team winning anything of real substance with Schaub under center. Schaub is a smart quarterback and a great fit in Houston’s system, but his arm-strength limitations and inability to make tough throws under duress are major problems. And we see it in big games against defenses that play quality man coverage. That’s what the Patriots did and it defined the game. I disagree with Phil Simms that Schaub saw Ninkovich on that second half interception (fantastic zone exchange/blitz design by the Patriots on that play, by the way). There’s no way a smart quarterback could have reasonably thought that throw would work.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 14 Jan 2013

224 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2013, 7:42pm by dryheat


by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:38am

It's funny to me how (non-partisan) people are saying Houston having to settle for a field goal after Danieal Manning's kickoff return is a bad thing. The moneyline (+207) implied a 33 percent win probability, and the field goal just improved it to 60 percent. Yeah, it would have been 72 percent if they scored the touchdown, but let's not forget what our expectations were five minutes ago.

The 60% and 72% figures are for a game between two average teams, not the Texans playing at the Patriots. A team with a 33% chance of winning before the game has started doesn't jump to 60% just because they scored a field goal on the opening drive.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:41am

Andy: Aren't they drawings of the stupid "lighthouse" thing behind the open end of the stadium?

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:42am

That flip from Lloyd to DeFelice was routine. Literally, it happens every play. Lloyd threw it to him like I would pitch a football to my four-year-old. DeFelice threw that flag out of embarrassment. He missed the ball and got hit with it. Ridiculous.

And I think Dom Capers needs to be fired for apparently not watching any film on Kaepernick leading up to the game.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:13pm

Totally true. Lloyd throws the ball towards the ref after every catch, the ref just wasn't paying attention.

by mansteel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:35pm

"...the ref just wasn't paying attention."

Exactly. If my four-year-old hits me with a ball when I'm not paying attention, I have a word with her about it. I don't penalize her, but if she's still doing it when she's Lloyd's age, she can expect an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:45pm

Your four year old should tell you to pay attention to the ball, if taking possession of it in a timely manner is in your job description.

by Brent :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:13pm

Yeah... Guy cranks one at me -- especially if he's angry -- then I throw a flag. Guy flips an easy one that hits me, then I'm giving him an earful but not flagging him unless he keeps on doing it.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:04pm

Except that Lloyd didn't do anything different than an NFL player does after every single NFL play, save those that an official picks up the ball off the turf. He started jogging back to the huddle and soft-tossed the ball back towards a guy wearing a striped shirt. The guy wearing the striped shirt got hit with the ball because he failed to catch it -- possibly because he didn't see it until late -- and threw an unsportsmanlike conduct flag because of a bruised ego.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:28pm

I think the idea that this throw wasn't 50% harder than your typical throw to the ref is silly. It certainly doesn't need to be flagged, but it is definitely the type of thing that might be flagged. Which is why you don't do it. I mean do you watch football? Players almost never throw it that hard from that short of range.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:35pm

Are we now to the point that we have to put a radar gun on the flips that players make to refs, to make sure the player does not exceed the median velocity by certain percentage? Short of a full wind up with obvious bad intent, the damned refs should pay attention to the ball, and remember that nobody sells commercial spots with them in mind.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 9:11pm

No we are at the point where if you chuck the ball at the ref in a pissy aggressive manner there is some non zero chance you will get a flag. This happens like 5 times a year. If you don't want to chance getting a flag tone it down half a notch to the level 99% of the other players are at.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 9:31pm

Say, where do ya' get one of them pissyagressometers, and what was the reading on the flip in question? Can you post the other readings you collected this season, which allows you to conclude that if the player toned it down half a notch, he'd be at a level where 99% of the other players are at?

I'm kind of suspicious of this new fangled technology, like pissyagressometers, so I'd rather just tell the refs to pay attention to the ball. Call me crazy.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:38pm

GIF of the play : http://cdn.cosbysweaters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lloyd.gif

Well I've definitely seen conduct calls for things that build during a game; For instance, maybe Lloyd was warned once already for something (swearing at a ref, pushing after a play, etc.) It could have been a sort of cumulative flag. And that does require something of a "pissyagressometer" from the refs. Not everything is quite as cut and dry with regard to some of these kinds of calls.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 12:07am

After watching it again, I think the ref's behavior is even worse than I thought after seeing it live. The doof in the striped shirt needs to be told that if he is holding his hands out, as if to catch the ball, the player can assume he's ready to catch it, and if that toss is too much for him, it's time to get the hell out of the business.

by mbm (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:32am

Former Pat's receiver Troy Brown was once flagged for the same thing. He caught the ball going out of bounds and threw it over his shoulder towards the ref while running back on the field, missing the ref by a yard or more, just a bad blind botched toss. In Brown's defense, the ref was behind him and he was looking forward. Brown himself looked like he had been shot when the flag came out. I would have thought a ref would just be embarrassed making such a call, and if he did, his mates would shun him.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:38pm

Will I have no idea why someone who is normally relatively realistic and a rationalist like yourself doesn't understand that refs in fact do constantly use "pissyagressometers". You seem really angry about this call for reasons I totally cannot fathom.

Each year a few players who toss the ball violently to officials get flags. In the contexts of such tosses this was a relatively violent one. Is this a good penalty, probably not, but it is the type of penalty that is called quite a bit when it happens. Why so mad? You love to make bets, so I will posit you this bet. You do that exact same toss 100 times over the year and it is easily drawing 20 flags. Against that particular surly ref maybe 50 flags. Know your audience.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 2:36pm

Derrick Mason used to do the same thing and it would drive me crazy. He'd get frustrated or angry and throw the ball harder. Sure it didn't always get called, but it happened enough that I would have changed my behavior rather than risk a 15 yard penalty.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 2:47pm

I have no idea whatsoever as to how you came to the conclusion that your definition, and the ref's definition, of "relatively violent" has objectve basis. It does not. It's a ball that a typical healthy adult can catch without issue. This healthy adult is getting paid to catch the ball, so as to keep the game moving along, and he was making a hand signal which indicated he was ready to catch the ball. I have a belief that people should perform the simple tasks, that they are getting paid to perform, without letting their surliness play a role, and if that is a tremendous challenge to them, they should quit their jobs.

Why on earth you have supposed I am angry by making this observation, and why you think the emotional state you have supposed I have is worthy of mention is also fairly bizarre.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 7:30pm

It was the same kind of toss you'd see a quarterback pitch the ball to a tailback during a pre-season walkthrough. Seriously, every game you see much harder throws back to the official during 2-minute drills and other hurry-up situations. The flag was thrown because the official missed the ball and it hit him.

I was also puzzled that the officials picked up the roughing the kicker flag when there was absolutely no block into the kicker.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:24pm

That was textbook running into (not roughing) the kicker. (And I checked the 2012 rulebook and running into the kicker still exists).

The rusher came in untouched, reached for the ball, missed it, slid under the punter while both of the punter's feet were in the air, and the punter came down on him. The rulebook actually gives that as a specific example of running into the kicker.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:57pm

That's all fine, except the flag was picked up because (I thought the referee said) he was blocked into the kicker. However nobody touched him -- the play happened like you describe it.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 9:10pm

I was agreeing with you!

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:22pm

As far as I could tell, they picked it up because they knew that there was virtually no chance of Houston scoring before the half otherwise. This line of reasoning also applies to a number of other questionable calls as well.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:53am

Packer fans have dissected this game twenty ways from Sunday and the short version of the defensive guys who flat out failed on Saturday were Erik Walden, Brad Jones, BJ Raji, Mike Neal and Tramon Williams.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:04am

outside of Minn GB is the team I watch the most. GB has some really talented players - starting with a great QB, but they seem to get beat up in the lines. I think they would have fared very well against Atlanta, but SF is very tough physical team - like Minnesota, but with an actual QB and slightly better defence.

Outside of NE and maybe Pitt, I think GB has the best program in the NFL so I suspect they will address those shortcomings and be back as one the better teams again next year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:21am

The Vikings are physical, and that's why they are fun to watch, outside of 28, but let's not kid ourselves. The Niners have a much better defense.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:59am

I like to kid myself, I find it much easier than kidding others.

Stats wise: FO lists the Vikings as having the 21st best defence and SF 2nd. Advanced football has the Vikes 13th on defence and the 49ers 3rd.

I think the Advanced Football rankings for the Vikings are closer to what I saw this year. The had the Vikes off 25th and the defence 13th. FO had the offence 15th and the defence 21st.

Any way you look at it though SF is a top tier defence and the Vikes are somewhere in the middle. But they did make some huge strides this year in pass defence.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:13pm

Oh, I agree. Last year, they had the worst secondary I've ever seen, once the quality of the pass rush is considered, and I'm not exaggerating a bit. They made huge strides this year. Greenway is obviously a very good player, but The Niners get a lot more production from their linebackers as well.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:55am

Ben Muth: Game winning offensive-lineman touchdown!

Aaron Schatz: Heh. Instead, Unger gets to be the hero because he picked up the fumble from Lynch in the end zone ... although it looks like Lynch crossed the plane anyway. I don't know if they'll give that touchdown to Lynch or Unger.

I think Periera actually pointed it out after they came back from break, but Unger couldn't have been credited with the touchdown because of the Holy Roller rule. If Lynch had been ruled to have not crossed the plane, then Unger can't advance the ball after recovering the fumble and Seattle would have gotten the ball at the point where it was fumbled.

Tom Gower: I hope Mike Smith doesn't end up regretting kicking the extra point up 26-7 late in the third quarter, especially after the Sherman offsides could have given him the ball at the 1... I don't think there's a big difference between being up 19 and up 20, whereas there is a difference being up 21.

Atlanta could have actually gone for two from the "one-half yard line"; Seattle was flagged for Offsides twice on the PAT try. The second one (after the kick was made) was assessed on the kickoff, but Atlanta could have chosen to have the ball spotted at the one-half and replayed the try. Which they absolutely should have done.

Although had the game been tied at 28 when Atlanta got the ball back with 31 seconds left, Smith might have been tempted to go John Fox and play for OT, whereas down a point he had no choice but to try to move the ball.

John Fox also wasted a Denver timeout immediately before the punt with 1:15 left. Yes, you want to run as much time as possible off the clock. But if you don't trust your punt team to be able to get the play off with 0:01 left on the play clock, take the delay of game penalty. So you're punting from the 42 instead of the 47 - that just lets Colquitt boom the ball as hard as he can instead of trying (and ultimately failing) to drop it inside the 20. Sure, you're playing to let your defense win the game - but the time out could end up being important, and the five yards almost certainly isn't.

Also, Phil Simms is an idiot, the Eagles should immediately cross Brian Billick off their list of coaching candidates, and someone needs to sit down with John Fox and remind him very forcefully that his team paid $96M to sign Peyton Freakin' Manning, not Jimmy Clausen.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:08am

And although it was said in jest, I wonder if John Fox's coaching decisions were subconsciously influenced by the fact that his starting quarterbacks over the course of his head coaching career have been Jake Delhomme, Chris Weinke, Rodney Peete, Matt Moore, Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton, Jimmy Clausen, David Carr, Brian St. Pierre, and a 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde...

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:11am

I don't have a rooting interest either way, but is that manner of conspicuous idiocy worth firing John Fox over?

by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:24am

I think the idea of a stern talking-to should suffice.

It helps that on Sunday two different QBs led their teams to FGs with less time on the clock than Manning had. And neither Matt Ryan nor Matt Schaub is in danger of being mistaken for Peyton Manning.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:32am

My favorite Schaub-isn't-a-good-quarterback moment from yesterday was when it was 3rd-and-goal on the 1, with the left A-gap uncovered, and he didn't audible into a QB sneak, instead dropping back to throw a screen to Andre Johnson for a 1-yard loss.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:55am

This is essentially the same dilemma the Eagles have had with Andy Reid for the last 8 years or so. Do you keep a coach that has built your team into a solid contender, knowing that his late-game management skills are in question, or do you roll the dice with another coach, with the risk that he might suck and you won't even make it to a situation where that matters?

by markslack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:52pm

This is why, as a Colts fan, I wanted Reid hired when there were firing rumors around him a few years ago. He seems to be pretty good at everything except the two minute drill. Just hire him on the condition that, at 2 minutes left in the half, his mike will be turned off and Peyton makes all playcalls and timeout decisions. Weakness averted!

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:59am

Russell Wilson is so much fun to watch. He's like Fran Tarketon - but a better athlete with a way better arm. I love how calm he looks in the pocket.

Denver's safety on the tying touchdown - had to be one of the worst db plays I've ever seen. It was like watching those kids trying to catch fly balls at the home run hitting contest.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:18am

He really is mindful of Tarkenton with a better arm, which is about a high of praise that one could muster. Carroll and that personnel department better not screw this up. If they can add a Pat Williams-type run stuffer, look out.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:19am

If Russell Wilson is clearly better than Fran Tarkenton already, he's definitely headed to Canton.

Tarkenton is probably the most underrated QB in NFL history.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:14pm

We'll see how Wilson develops. Tarkenton had the fastest recognition of any qb I've ever seen; it seemed like he could smell a blitz. He was so mentally good it was hard to believe; he was known to change route combinations in the huddle, based upon what he saw while playing the game, in the era prior to pictures of defensive formations being sent down to qbs on the sidelines.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:50am

it's funny how time seems to adjust the feelings the media has about our stars. When Tarkenton retired with all the records he was certainly talked about at the time as one of the greats, but you never hear his name mentioned in that way anymore.

For what it's worth - Pro Football Reference's list of Weight Career Approximate Value - Weighted Index (a measure that weights seasons as opposed to just summing the value)

1. Rice 159
2. Manning 159
3. R. White 159
4. A. Page 158
5. R. Lewis 158
6. B. Favre 155
7. F. Tarkenton 152
8. J. Brown 148
9. B. Smith 147
10. D. Marino 145

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:44pm

Underrated? He's in the Hall of Fame!

Ken Anderson is so underrated that he can't even make the underrated list, and Wikipedia thinks I'm searching for a pro wrestler with the same name.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:56pm

Well, Ken Anderson is far more underrated, but by the standards of qbs who might reasonably be thought of as the best ever (which is a category Tarkenton belongs to) Tarkenton is very underrated. For instance, it took a few years for him to gain induction to the HOF, an institution which regularly puts in qbs at first opportunity. Most of this is due to the stupid practice of evaluating great qbs by their championship rings.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:13pm

Vinny Testeverde says hi.

but /signed anyway. Tarkenton was throwing for 60% in the SEVENTIES. Any time anyone starts talking about how good Terry Bradshaw is, pull up pro football reference and compare the two.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:18pm

Look at his td/int ratio as well, and then adjust for era. Then adjust for the fact that he was 32, and well past his physical prime, before he was on a good roster with good coaching. Remarkable, to say the least.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:27pm

I think you meant to say "That's Incredible!".

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:41pm

Good one...I suspect if Tarkenton had gone the route of talking head like other ex QBs instead of doing bad tv shows that his status as one of the greats would have been more popularly accepted.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:54pm

Tarkenton was next to Cosell and Gifford on Monday nights for a couple years. He always made too much money owning other businesses, however, to make booth work a necessity.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:58pm

I think the biggest reason his status is not popularly accepted is his lack of rings. I don't agree with it, but there it is.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:10pm

Jim Kelly agrees.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:57am

Hopefully 40 years from now Wilson doesn't turn into a bitter, crusty old man who feels the need to constantly point out how players just aren't as tough as they used to be.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:44pm

It's too bad when that happens. Chuck Bednarik, and, from another sport, Bob Feller, are also notable all time greats who became repeat offenders in this regard, as old men. I wish more guys would take the Ted Williams approach. Ted, for all his shortcomings in dealing with people, was always very willing to give the modern players their due.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:18pm

I doubt that Wilson is as good an athlete as Tarkenton was. Already he is getting caught from behind by rushers a lot of times. I'm not sure he has the speed or quickness to get to the edge all that well.

I think Wilson is a football smart QB who is advanced for a rookie at knowing his reads and where to go. He reminds me of a more athletic Bernie Kosar, another QB who graduated early. We'll see how things pan out.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:59pm

Not sure I agree with the first sentence. Tarkenton certainly wasn't slow, but his forte was quickness, darting around like a waterbug. If he were truly fast, he'd have chalked up a lot more 30+ yd scrambles than he did (counting gain from scrimmage, not yards traveled, which often seemed to be hundreds as he evaded rushers.)

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:02am

I didn't listen to much of the commentary (on mute mostly). How critical of Mike Smith was Billick? Did they mention that they've known each other since 1982 when they were on Doug Scovil's staff at San Diego State and that they are brother-in-laws.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:05am

The question: is Ellerbe just improving, or has his recent explosion been a product of having Ray Lewis back?

He has improved and he's out of Harbaugh's dog house. His return from injury has really helped out the defense.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:14am

Look, it wasn't "good physical coverage" that led to the tipped ball on the Manning pick six. It was interference, and it wasn't really close. It's not complicated. You don't get to hit the receiver before the ball arrives. And I'm not saying the Ravens were undeservng winners; when your dbs play as unathletically as the Broncos' dbs did, it's hard to argue that the Broncos should have won.

There was enough bad coaching in Georgia for four plaoyff games. I know NFL coaches kick too often, but unless your defense in awful, completely discounting the value of 3 points, about half way through the first half, is unwise. Then Carroll ices his team out of the playoffs. Mike Smith did his very best to to let Carroll get away with his mistakes, however. Using his last timeout too quickly, and then calling an onside kick, was really a creative attempt to snatch a loss from the jaws of victory.

A question for the Packers' defense; how does a guy run for 180 yards, while seeming to endure his hardest hit when someone may have farted in his general vicinity? What a disgrace. Without having sat in on the Packers defensive meetings, it's hard to know how much is on Capers, but they sure looked unprepared. I can't believe that, after saying that one couldn't really learn anything from seeing their performnce against Joe Webb and some cans of corn at receiver, I convnced myself that because Raji had a couple nice games, and Woodson was back, that the Packers would keep the Niners below 30 points. Happy to be wrong, however.

I feel for Broncos' fans, however. That gut wrencher was a combination of the '75 Drew Pearson Hail Mary loss by the Vikings, with a dash of the '98 and '09 OT heartbreakers thrown in for good measure.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:26am

Erik Walden, number 93, was the guy most responsible. Linebacker discipline is critical against this type of offense and Walden repeatedly blew his assignments leading to him being benched after the 50 odd yard td run. Brad Jones, number 59, was close behind.

The Niners clearly targeted Waldens side of the field. Yes Matthews also had his bad moments but nowhere near the train wreck that was Walden.

When you toss in Raji not getting any push, Mike Neal having to be benched because he was being overwhelmed and Tramon Williams deciding that cruise control was ok for a playoff game and it's amazing that if the Packers hold onto the ball (no fumble, no interception) they may have stolen teh game from the Niners whose offensve line was on all eight cylinders Saturday night

The Packers offensive line held up remarkably well. People keep barking today that Thomposon needs to overhaul the offensive line and while you can always use good o-linemen if I am Ted I am making sure Desmond Bishop gets back healthy, and in the draft it's linebackers and d-linemen as the focus.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:37am

Oh, I think the Pack's o-line played well enough to win, given a credible defensive effort. It helped that, it seemed to me, that Justin Smith was not really the normal Justin Smith, albeit better than I anticipated. The one reason I'd still consider making the o-line a priority is because Rodgers is still getting hit too much, and athough he is a remarkably durable guy, I woudn't want to tempt fate too much. He could help out by developing some Manning-like ability to throw the ball away, however.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:47am

Bulaga comes back next year. Barclay looks at minimum a very good backup and maybe a long-term starter. Sherrod maybe does something? They absolutely need to find an alternative to TJ Lang who is way too inconsistent at guard.

I see more internal options for the o-line than the d-line. Ryan Pickett is getting up there in age and when he was not on the field Saturday things went from gross to hideous.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:01pm

I agree - I thought the offensive line played well enough to win. I actually thought Rogers was under more duress in the Viking playoff game than the 49er game.

I do think Rogers makes the line look worse than it is. He does hold the ball forever fairly frequently. He's like Roethlisberger in that regard. They make tons of great plays doing so, but they do incur a number of sacks other QBs wouldn't.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:12pm

"I do think Rogers makes the line look worse than it is. He does hold the ball forever fairly frequently. He's like Roethlisberger in that regard. They make tons of great plays doing so, but they do incur a number of sacks other QBs wouldn't."

For certain. The offensive line is not a great unit but there have been a lot of sacks given up based on Rodgers holding the ball too long. I think he feels that his quick release and running ability can get him out of any jam and while his drive to stretch a play and make something is part of what makes him special I frequently find myself screaming at the television telling him to throw it away. Got to know when to cut your losses.

At least he avoids throwing late across his body to the middle of the field into triple coverage like a past Packer QB who was "just trying to make something happen."

by johnnyxel :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:41am

That wasn't a called onside kick, it was a terribly executed squib by Bosher.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:03pm

Wow, that's a stunner as well.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:38pm

That's what I thought as I watched the reply - looked like one of the near-whiffs I did when kicking off in college. Plus I can't believe that it would ever be called intentionally in that situation.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:47pm

The rulebook definition of an onside kick [3-17] doesn't consider whether the kicking team intended to recover, so a terrible squib like Bosher's gets credited as an onside kick in the play-by-play because he meant to kick it short (though not that short) and it didn't travel 20 yards.

by johnnyxel :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:52pm

Interesting as always Travis. However, whether we attribute it as a bad coaching decision definitely depends on intent.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:58pm

Definitely. The rulebook definition just makes it harder to determine what happened when looking back at the game years from now.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:38pm

I thought it was pretty clear he was trying to gun it past the first row and just executed terribly and kicked it right at someone in the first row. it was much too hard for an onside kick. The guy had to make a soccer goalie save.

by Drunken Benson (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 12:58pm

Any thoughts on Carrol's passing up the 65-yard kick for the Hail Mary? Granted, Longwell's older than dirt, and the record is 63. But, it's indoors. Maybe a 10% chance of hitting it. But, that's better than a Hail Mary, no?

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:06pm

I'm with Carroll on this one. I think the odds of a kicker just signed off the street setting an NFL record in that situation are probably closer to 1%.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:07pm

It's probably more like 1%, or even less, with the distance and low trajectory. It might get up somewhat higher with the odds of the defense being called for leaping and getting a re-kick. Presumably, Carrol asked if Longwell had that in him. It's such an extreme outlier, either way, that I'm not inclined to second guess the call.

But if the kicker thought they could get the distance, and trust in luck for the accuracy, I might go for the kick just because of the record that would go with it if successful.

by Sgood (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:15am

"Flacco was the top quarterback in Quick Reads for the Wild Card round, but take away about a half-dozen big plays and he was pretty close to a replacement-level passer. This game feels the same way."

AKA "Take away all the excellent things a player does, and he's pretty average."

by DGL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:14pm

I am about the farthest thing you could find from a Ravens fan, but I agree with this sentiment.

The Ravens' offense is built on running and chucking the ball deep. Flacco is good at chucking the ball deep. When he is successful at chucking the ball deep, he will have a good game.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:51pm

You haven't gotten the gist of what they're saying, which is that Flacco is a quarterback that relies on the big play to be as good as he is.

That's a little more perceptive than "Take away all the excellent things a player does, and he's pretty average."

by Anon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:38pm

Sure, but that's like saying "Take away Russell Wilson's ability to scramble and he's average." You could say that about any player -- if you ignore all the things they do well, they no longer look good...

It's about as meaningless a statement as there is.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:49pm

So...any characterization about what makes a player good is meaningless? Because it all boils down to "take away what a player does well and he's average." Huh?

Why bother reducing an interesting comment to such a non-interesting one?

by Brent :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:47pm

The point is more that "Flacco only does one thing well." That's not true of Wilson. It has been true of some mobile QBs who couldn't throw well enough to play in the NFL, but the reason Wilson and RGIII are exciting players is that they run well AND throw well.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 7:02pm

Even Flacco does more than one thing well. He doesn't throw interceptions really well.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:16am

Several thoughts:
None of you guys knew about the holy roller rule? Am I that old to remember the original TD by the Raiders that led to that rule? That TD was Lynch or nobody.

Talib did a much better job against Andre Johnson in their first matchup.

Phil Simms seems afraid of going for a 2-point conversion.

Telling Peyton Manning to take a knee with 36 seconds and 2 timeouts has got to rank up there with one of the worst coaching decisions ever. That's like having Jerry Rice at WR and only using him as a decoy.

If jet lag is such a problem for the Seahawks, here's an idea: set your alarms to 5 a.m. all week long! Or, even better, don't go back to Seattle between games!! The Pats stay at a West Coast hotel when they have back-to-back games on the West coast. Point is that, to borrow from Boogie Nights, this is a YP, not an MP.

and finally,

Sal Palantonio is on ESPN implying that Flacco is a better QB than Brady because he has head better performances in their recent head-to-head meetings. Do these guys really think QBs play against each other directly? I'm pretty sure that Brady's numbers would go way up if he got to play against the Pats' pass defense, too.

by Arglebargle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:53am

Telling Peyton Manning to take a knee with 36 seconds and 2 timeouts has got to rank up there with one of the worst coaching decisions ever. That's like having Jerry Rice at WR and only using him as a decoy.

I couldn't believe they did this in the first half, with all 3 timeouts remaining, but then when they did it in the second half, I wanted to punch my tv.

Denver deserved to lose that game, for that reason alone.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:16pm


by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:23pm

It felt exactly like the 1998 Vikings (37 seconds left, 2 timeouts, 3rd and 3 at the 27) and the 2001 Raiders (22 seconds left, 2 timeouts, ball on the 35). Weirdly, all three had the second-best pass DVOA in the league.

by Random Pats Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:17pm

John Madden back in 2002's Super Bowl would disagree with you...

Of course, the Pats managed to get the field goal...but that was after Madden went all "They should just kneel and take their chances in OT"

by dryheat :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 7:42pm

I posit that a different strategy may be considered if your quarterback is MVP candidate Peyton Manning and not 1st year starter Tom Brady. If Fox had Tebow or Ponder or Locker, his strategy would probably be seen in a better light.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:01pm

I was really surprised that the Seahawks didn't go to some SEC or ACC college to practice after beating the Redskins.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:23pm

"None of you guys knew about the holy roller rule? Am I that old to remember the original TD by the Raiders that led to that rule? That TD was Lynch or nobody."

I remember the holy roller game...or at least remember reading about it at some point. If I recall Ken Stabler is getting sacked and fumbles the ball forward to Dave Kasper who fumbles/kicks the ball into the end zone and falls on it for a touchdown.

I was watching the game with a buddy and he didn't know what I was talking about either when I said it was either a Lynch touchdown or he was down at the one inch line. I tried to explain to him that the only way it could've been ruled a fumble recovery in the end zone was if Lynch recovered it otherwise it would've been ruled down at the one since the fumble would have been deemed to have happened prior to the ball crossing the goal line.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:34pm

"Sal Palantonio is on ESPN implying that Flacco is a better QB than Brady because he has head better performances in their recent head-to-head meetings. Do these guys really think QBs play against each other directly? I'm pretty sure that Brady's numbers would go way up if he got to play against the Pats' pass defense, too."

The joke is that it's a Pats fan making this comment. No current QB benefited more from winner sauce than Tom Brady.

by coboney :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 9:46am

Not quite true - I present case in Point Tim Tebow.

by usctrojan11 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:22am

Pete Carroll was complaining that the refs let matt bryant kick a practice fg even though PC called his timeout way early for that

by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:28am

This is correct.

The announcers, of course, saw Carroll shouting at the ref and immediately concluded that Carroll was arguing that he had not called a timeout. And then they 'revealed' that he had with videotape.

You would think the logical thing would be to question the prior conclusion, but the implication seemed to be that Carroll was lying. At least in the fictional argument the Fox announcers had already established as fact.

by Luigi (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:29am

Carroll was no claiming he didn't call the TO, he was saying that he called before the play and the Falcons kicked the ball anyway. He didn't want to give the kicker a free practice shot.
My guess is that the kicker heard the whistle and then called the snap to get a practice shot. There's no penalty against that and I believe it will be the way to end the icing thing. The kicker just gets a free practice shot and that's always very bad.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:59am

I hate it when coaches ice the kicker this way anyway, so I love it when it blows up in their face. If you want to call the timeout, call it right away. Once you've let the players line up, you can't be surprised at the ball being snapped.

Has anyone ever examined the success rate of the last second icing timeout? Anecdotally, it seems to backfire (1st missed, 2nd made) more often than it helps (1st made, 2nd missed). But that could be selective memory.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:03pm

If you were actually allowed to dunk the kicker in some ice water - then I would think it a useful strategy...otherwise it's pointless.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:20pm

Make sure to read the comments in that link. Not a well-constructed study.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:44pm

Not saying I buy into it, just pointing it out. I am sure there is other work on the subject as well.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:47pm

One comment references a study which provided the opposite conclusion.

by DGL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:19pm

Is there anything in the rules that says the kicker can't take a practice shot in this situation?

The other team just called timeout. Play is dead and the ball will not be respotted for at least 30 seconds. I guess you could stretch the definition of Delay of Game (kicking the ball away from the officials) or Unsportsmanlike Conduct to include it - but that requires the officials to judge intent (while the holder will claim he was so focused on the kick he didn't hear the whistle or see the official signaling for the TO - and the LS and PK just following through on the play once the holders signaled for the snap).

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:25pm

Officials are instructed not to allow practice kicks even the practice kick that Justin Tucker took between overtime periods, but there is NO PENALTY should a team execute a practice kick.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:32pm

Seems a little contradictory. If there's no penalty, then it's allowed. Unless this means the official is supposed to physically run in and stop the practice kick from taking place, what's the difference?

The Tucker situation is a little different, but Carroll has no grounds for complaint here. If he didn't want to see the ball snapped, he never should have let the players get lined up.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:37pm

There's nothing explicit in the rules either way - the rulebook specifies five situations that call for delay of game penalties, but does not limit the penalty to those situations [4-6-5-(a-e)]. Kicking the ball is not mentioned.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:44am

I thought Rodgers was fairly pedestrian Saturday. The Packer offensive line did just fine given the opponent, Rodgers had time to find guys. He could have maybe run a bit more versus throwing stuff away.

That interception was inexcusable. That would have been a dumb play if done by Joe Webb and for Rodgers to commit that mistake is beyond ridiculous. Especially since the entire left side of the field was wide open for him to run for a good 15 yards untouched.

McCarthy abandoning the run completely well before the game away was weird. Sure have a possession of empty backfield but hey, the Niners will adjust and adjust they did.

by Luigi (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:57am

Rodgers was sick, it was clear, watery red eyes. He was fighting a sinus infection. Capers prepared badly for this game. McCarthy knew he had the defense unprepared and his QB sick. He had given up even before the game started. And when he punted in 4th and 3 down by 14 it was clear he wasn't in the game.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:58am

" Why on earth was Denver kneeling down instead of trying to get into field-goal range with 30 seconds and two timeouts?"

John Fox has been ridiculously conservative for years. Why are we surprised here?

by bernie (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:10pm

I've often wondered, what would the outcome be if a team went for 2 after every touchdown? I mean, if they have a 50% success rate, then they are in exactly the same situation as if they kicked the extra point every time. I think the benefits of going for two outweigh the downside to not converting the odd time. I would think this option should be extremely attracitve to teams that have excellent short yardage capabilities.
I think the reason we don't see this is because coaches would be absolutlely crucified the time it didn't work and they lost by one point.

by Duke :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:35pm

On the other hand, because of field goals that 7th point is more valuable than the 8th point is. So, maybe it's not worth the extra risk even if the conversion rate is 50% (which it isn't, it's higher, right?).

I dunno. I'm sure someone has done a more thorough analysis than me typing on my iPhone at lunch.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:11pm

" Obviously that's a big blow to New England's chances of winning the whole thing."

Frankly, I disagree. They've been playing some damn good football without him, and the rest of their skill position players are good enough that not having Gronk on the field is much better thant he hobbled Gronk we saw 2 weeks ago.

by peterplaysbass :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:21pm

I'll bet many Pats fans would rather have Gronkowski get hurt than for Denver to have won their game against Baltimore.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:00pm

I doubt if presented with that exact choice many Pats fans would be saying "yes another broken arm please." However, I was definitely rooting for Baltimore (we'll see how that works out) and think the Pats can continue to work around no Gronk as they have for a good part of the season.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:13am

Given that the Pats beat Denver this season while losing to the Ravens, I don't quite see the wisdom of sacrificing an All-Pro tight end to play the Ravens, even if it meant having an extra home game.

I know DVOA and the media loved the Broncos, but I felt they were a bit overrated and the Ravens' game amply exposed that.

Let me elaborate on that point: not only did the Pats beat the Broncos soundly this season, but they also beat them twice last season including the playoffs. None of those games was particularly close. Yes, Manning is a good deal better than Tebow, but that wouldn't help a defense that had failed to slow down the Pats' offense three games in a row.

The Ravens are far more physical and match up better against the Pats than the Broncos do.

by beargoggles :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:03am

Yes, And the Broncos played remarkably few games against decent teams this year. I thought it was pretty hard to evaluate them.

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:44pm

I agree with the OP (not peterplaysbass). I was surprised that Brady made it sound like they'd gameplanned for a healthy Gronk and I'm not sure he was going to be enough better than he was 2 weeks ago to make that worthwhile, given that he played one-armed then. Maybe it was just disinformation.

by Jah Lives (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:23pm

I know that Peyton is great and everything, and much like Matt Ryan you guys will be championing that other players or fluke plays shouldn't define a QB's legacy (which I agree with), but why are you hoping that it's remembered as the game that Moore screwed up and not Manning?

I mean, Moore got lost in coverage at the exact moment where all he had to do was stay downfield, but it was one play. Manning had two special teams TDs that were very flukey bolster the score and take a lot of pressure off of him, too. In the end, he had several chances and he is in fact the one who blew this game. One guy is a platoon type secondary player. One is up in the discussion for greatest QB to ever live. Shouldn't we expect more from one than the other?

Manning still had how many drives in OT only needing a FG to win? He still panicked on 3rd down and threw a pass across his body to a completely covered receiver. I mean, every play is extremely valuable and affects all the plays that come after it, but as far as I can tell it came down to Peyton Manning leading his team as the QB with several chances to win, and what he did at the end was nothing more than a total choke job, regardless of how pretty all of his stats are.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:33pm

Manning did not have a good game Saturday. He was clearly outplayed by Flacco, even if we throw out the first pick as uncalled DPI. Especially in the second half and OT, Manning was not making long or strong throws. It seemed that he was seriously impacted by the cold weather.

OTOH, Moore made a very stupid play at a point when the Broncos should have been winning the game.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:19pm

"Shouldn't we expect more from one than the other?"

I think we do expect more from one than the other. Moore wasn't being asked to win the game. He was only being asked to play prevent defense competently, in a situation where everyone in the stadium knows the offense will be looking to gain yardage in big chunks. He failed, spectacularly.

"Manning still had how many drives in OT only needing a FG to win?"

Two. Criticizing Manning for not putting his team in a position to win the game a SECOND time is valid, and the pick in OT was a killer, but overselling it diminishes the case.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:29pm

'I sure hope this goes down in history as "Rahim Moore blew the game" and not "Peyton Manning blew the game." '

Yeah, because it's important to protect Manning's reputation and uphold his place in history no matter what! Agreed that Moore's play was pathetic and crucial, but when the putative GOAT QB throws a pick-six, fumbles to set up another score, then throws an ill-advised and weak pass that is intercepted to set up the winning score, it isn't all that harsh to call him a different kind of "goat."

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:31pm

Hmm, I see that Jah Lives is thinking along the same lines as me (albeit a bit more vehemently) and typing faster, too.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:34pm

Good grief, Peyton Manning didn't throw a pick six, under anything but the most superficial understanding of the play.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:50pm

And if Manning's fumble had been field-called as a tuck-rule incomplete, I doubt it would've been overturned on review. (Though it looked like he got his left hand hand to the ball before it came loose, so I agree with the actual call.)

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:53pm

Oh, come on now. Everyone knows the quarterback has full control of everything on the field, including the officials. That's why QB win percentage is such an important and highly-regarded statistic. That pick 6 was entirely Manning's fault.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:48pm

Gosh, Will, sorry to offend you by a 'superficial understanding of the play.' I agree that not every interception is due to poor QB performance...indeed, not every loss is due to poor QB performance. My point was merely to point out that Peyton Manning is given demigod status by announcers, advertisers, "analysts," etc. Had Joe Flacco's game and Peyton Manning's game been reversed, there would be plenty of derisive hooting about Flacco not being "elite" and assigning a considerable amount of blame for the loss to "he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble." This would be somewhat unfair to Flacco and it is similarly unfair to Manning. Aaron's comment was written during or right after the game in a sort of off-the-cuff way, so it should not be taken as his final word on the subject. However, it seemed awfully anxious to absolve Manning and, if that absolution is complete, it struck me as excessive. As always, there is plenty of blame (and plenty of credit) to go around.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:07pm

I'm not offended. I just thought it silly to attribute a pick six to the qb, on a play where the ball was tipped in the air, when the db made contact with the receiver well before the ball arriving. That's all.

I agree that Flacco would not be cut as much slack, by some, as Manning, if their performances were reversed. On the other hand, I'm being forced to listen to Colin Cowherd this mornng, and thus am subjected to hearing how Brady is better than Manning, as "proven" by the fact of their respective won-loss records in the playoffs. I think the superficial application of stats is worth noting, that's all.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:34pm


by RickD :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:36pm

Regarding Aqib Talib, apparently Mike Reiss (ESPN.com/Boston) thought he played "perhaps his best game as a Patriot."

Just another opinion to throw into the mix.

by Gus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:22pm

What game was he watching?

by Jah Lives (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:39pm

The pick six was very questionable, and it helped even out the special teams plays that Denver got (which, much like Moore's gaffe, were just busted coverages from a typically reliable ST unit) , but I think the point is that Manning had plentiful opportunities to put the game away with nothing more than a field goal after all was said and done.

I don't know what blaming it on Moore does besides protect Manning's reputation. I mean, isn't the "Manning can't win the big games" crowd pretty sparsely populated as is? Does Manning really need a white knight in all of this?

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 12:49pm

I'd argue that staking your defense a 7 point lead, and giving the other team the ball at their own 20 with no timeouts and 1:09 remaining should be sufficient to "put the game away". It wasn't the greatest game of Manning's career, but it was good enough to get a win with a defense that's not giving up bomb after bomb.

But you are correct that the "Peyton can't win the big one" meme is mercifully dead. To me, the real shame is that when Manning went to Denver, we were promised we'd get to see what Peyton Manning could do with "that defense". That's not what we got, because that defense took the day off.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:03pm

The Denver offense did get the ball in overtime twice, did they not?

I didn't get to see the entire game (watching at a restaurant for the first half, got home as the Jones TD was happening), and maybe I've been spoiled by his HOF career, but when Baltimore didn't score on the first OT series, I thought for sure it was a Denver win. Manning did nothing in overtime, when all he needed was to drive for a Mile High field goal against an outclassed and exhausted defense, and then threw an ill-advised ball where he was A) moving away from the direction he was throwing, B) throwing to a guy that was well-covered, and C) making that throw in a situation where he couldn't afford a turnover. I have no problem putting this on Manning, at least in large part. He was in position to win, and he didn't deliver. If it were a guy like Romo, Schaub, or even the other Manning who threw that OT pick, he would be getting grilled unmercifully until next season.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:12pm

That interception was eerily familiar to Packer fans. Old qb in cold weather saying 'scr8w it' and helping the other team put him out of his misery.

That's how it felt anyway.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:25pm

There is no one who comments here who is a bigger Peyton Manning guy than I am - folks who have been around can attest. But he had a poor game, against a defense he has pretty much owned in the past. It wasn't just the OT interception, which was a bad decision but not a play that doesn't get made somewhere every Sunday. He fumbled three times (once bailed out by the referees on a questionable hands to the face call), threw another interception (although it was tipped and the result of holding/interference), and generally did not move the ball well all game.

Part of that was the insistence on running the ball even with the third-and-fouth-string backs in the game; but this whole game plan stank of hubris. The Denver Broncos came in expecting to win "on class" because they were the better team. And they WERE the better team; they outplayed Baltimore all game. But they didn't convert this into points because Fox played not to lose and Manning was in third and long all game.

As a result, they are out of the playoffs and have wasted probably their best chance for an SB in the Manning era. Even if Manning is just as good next year, Bailey and Stokely and the offensive line will be a year older too. And they'l be at the bottom of the draft.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:36pm

Look, I'm not going to defend Manning, but the parenthetical comment about the first int is sorta' like saying that a singer blew the "Star Spangled Banner" performance, with a parenthetical "although she was received a rifle-butt to the throat by a member of the Honor Guard".

There would be a helluva lot more ints and pick sixes in the NFL, if they legalized hitting the receiver before the ball arrives.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:50pm

Charles Woodson would support this rule change

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:18pm


Absolutely correct. The first pick six was not on Manning. I didn't mean to imply that it was. The overtime INT was on Manning, although it was by no means as bad a decision or throw as the Favre game-ending INT in 2009-10. The real problem with Manning was the fumbles; he's usually very good at tucking and covering on sacks but he was a bit more hesitant than usual Saturday and paid for it.

The other problem was the playcalling (Hester? What?), which may be Manning's fault and may not be.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:28pm

Whenever the Stubbleface int against the Saints is mentoned, I am required by law to note that the jeans model outplayed Brees by a gigantic margin that day, moreso than even the stats and advanced stats indicate. I mean, Brees was just crushed by his opposing qb on that day, which is why it is so difficult for Vikings fans to hear other football fans talk about that game.

At least Flacco played a good game. It'll be interesting to see what Quick Reads says, although I'd like to see Flacco's DYAR once a couple receptions are backed out, when the Broncos db's were stumbling around like they were doing shots of Jaegermeister on the sidelines to keep warm.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:05pm

when the Broncos db's were stumbling around like they were doing shots of Jaegermeister on the sidelines to keep warm.

Well, that certainly would explain a lot, and fits into the "early celebration" meme...

Honestly, as someone with no team in the playoffs, Manning played well enough to win in regulation. Why you don't put the ball in Peyton Freaking Manning's hands instead of running into the line again with a minute left I will NEVER understand.

If I were a Denver fan I'd be calling for John Fox's head. You know damn well Manning didn't call that.

by D2K :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:15pm

"The real problem with Manning was the fumbles; he's usually very good at tucking and covering on sacks but he was a bit more hesitant than usual Saturday and paid for it"


Its a point that I have not yet heard argued, but this was the 1st game in #18's career that he had worn gloves. For a guy that like you said, is usually very careful with the ball, tucking and covering on sacks...maybe the gloves were a problem?

by Purds :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:56pm

I agree that Manning had a bad, bad game, and I am also a huge Manning fan. It is, though, pretty obvious that if the defense had played anything like they were reputed to be, this discussion would sound very different today, and we'd be lauding the fact that Manning played that well without his #1 or #2 RB. The storyline would be that he had one tipped pass picked for 6, but otherwise played well, and put his team into the AFCC.

In the end, what could have happened doesn't matter. Manning played poorly in a crucial moment, as did Moore. The lack of a running game (3.0 yards per carry and a long of 11 yards on 41 carries!) also didn't help much. And Fox was oddly hesitant to use Manning at crucial times.

I would love to round out my understanding of what happened by finding out if all the 3rd down and mid-distance runs were called by the coaches or by Manning. Would be interesting to know that.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:14pm

I'd be interested to know what Manning's DYAR and DVOA was in regulation, and with the pick six backed out. The fumbles will hurt a lot, no doubt.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:30pm

Denver did get the ball twice in OT. The first drive ended when the running game couldn't convert 2nd-and-2 with two running plays. Maybe that's on Manning for not switching into a pass, but you have to be able to run for a 1st when you're on 2nd-and-2. The second drive (and basically the game) ended with Manning's horrible pick, which really was horrible. So that's on him.

In any case, my take on it is that criticizing Manning for not winning the game in OT is essentially criticizing him for not winning the game twice. The game was won in regulation, and the defense blew it. He deserves criticism for the pick, but not winning the game in a 50-50 situation like OT is not as big of a failure as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:07pm

Manning won the game zero times. Regulation is 60 minutes long, whoever has the most points wins. Manning no more won the game in regulation than if he had scored on Denver's first possession and saw the Ravens tie it in the final minute.

I understand your point well enough, Manning played well enough to win the game in regulation and it was a very unlikely turn of events that led to a Ravens win. However there was 59 1/2 minutes before that where he could have played better. Special teams got him 2 TDs! Offenses driving for the win / tie in the final minute happens. It happened again on Sunday.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:27pm

Fair enough, and valid points.

But "there was 59 1/2 minutes before that where he could have played better" seems an unfair burden to put on Manning alone. Yeah, he could have played better, and I've said before that he bears some blame for the loss. But there were 59.5 minutes where EVERYONE could have played better, not just Manning. The defense was bad. Champ Bailey, in particular, was terrible.

by Jah Lives (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:11pm

Youre not asking Manning to win it twice because his special teams was the only reason they had a chance to win it the first time around.

We all know it's a total team effort, but that takes away from the fun/pointless arguing, right?

by mrh :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:05pm

If by special teams you mean the return teams.

Manning netted 14 points: +21 on offense, -7 for the pick-six.
The Denver return team netted 14 points.
The Denver defense gave up 28 points.

If I'm blaming someone for losing the game, it's the Bronco defense (special mention to the DC who had no solution for the Ravens deep game), then Manning (special mention for whoever decided to not try to score at the end of either half in regulation) then Prater.

Because if Matt Prater kicks the ball instead of the dirt then maybe Peyton Manning has 24 points on the board instead of 21. And we can see how pointless it all is from that sentence to credit Manning for points that the whole offense and EP/FG team earned or failed to score. And I know the kick wasn't a gimme but if we're blaming Tucker's FG on Manning's INT in OT then Prater can take the fall for the missed FG.

by c0rrections (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:51pm

It sure seemed to me like someone was instructing the Broncos offensive coordinator to call a very conservative overtime game. I think this because I just cannot fathom Peyton Manning deciding to go conservative in all of his reads. It's like they were playing a completely different offensive game plan in OT.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:59pm

I would agree, which is why I scoff at the argument that Manning is Better than Brady because Manning "calls his own plays".*

*not making a case for who's better, just debunking that reasoning.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:16pm

You can't say that Payton Manning is a "coach on the field" and then blame everything bad that happens on the people off the field.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:23pm

"I'd argue that staking your defense a 7 point lead, and giving the other team the ball at their own 20 with no timeouts and 1:09 remaining should be sufficient to "put the game away". "

I'd argue that if you really think that, you haven't been watching enough football the last couple years.

Up 1 score, when the opponent has the ball with 1-2m left is a really precarious position. The rules changes the last couple years have made it very difficult to stop a team in 4 down mode running the 2 minute offense.

Frankly, I'd guess the win expectancy of that situation is right around 50%, and might be lower.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:26pm

With a seven point lead, it almost has to be better than 50%. Even if our hypothetical offense throws a TD the first play they're kicking off in a tie game...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:27pm

Wait, you really think a team down 7 points, needing to drive 80 yards, with zero timeouts, in 1:09, might have a win exptectancy of above 50%?

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:43pm

I would think Denver's win expectancy up 7 with 1:09 left had to exceed 80 percent. Being up 2 would be one thing (or even up 6)but coming back from down 7 in that situation (and then winning later) is a pretty tough task.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:11pm

"published on 8/07/2008"

A lot has changed since then.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:16pm

Not so much as to give a team down 7, 80 yards to go, 69 seconds left, with zero timeouts, anything close to a 50% win percentage.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:22pm

Okay then Will,

What is the win percentage? The offensive environment has changed drastically in the last 5 years, especially the passing game, so I don't think numbers calculated up to 2008 are relevant.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:34pm

Don't have the number at my fingertips, but if you have any confidence in your original claim, and want to go to the work of establishing it, I'll pay $100 to the charity of your choice if a team in that situation has a win expectation of better thn 40%. Hell, I'd be shocked if it was better than 30%. It's really hard to get enough plays to move 80 yards in 69 seconds, with zero timeouts, when the opposing defense knows that's what you have to do.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:38pm

"What is the win percentage?"

No one could say for certain, but basic common sense dictates it's not 50%, or even close. Down 7 with a minute to go, the realistic BEST case scenario is overtime. (Yeah, you could go for 2, but coaches do that so rarely that it's always a big story when they try it. We also know from real events that Harbaugh did not try it here.) If we estimate a 50% chance of winning in overtime before we know the outcome of the coin toss (for lack of any better estimate), then for the Ravens to have a 50% chance of winning the game from that point, their chances of scoring a TD have to be 100%.

Rule of thumb: To estimate the Ravens chances of winning there, estimate what you think the chances are of them scoring a TD in 1:09 with no timeouts, and then cut it in half. And this ignores the possibility of the Broncos scoring any points in the time remaining, which the Broncos apparently did too.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:54pm

It is still hard to score a touchdown in a minute with no timeouts against a defense which knows you need a touchdown. It would have been hard for Manning to do it and Joe Flacco is not either Manning. Let's say things have changed a lot since 2008 such that touchdowns are much easier to come by. In 2008 the win expectancy for Baltimore was less than 10 percent. Let's say the WE has doubled in that situation since then. It would still be less than 20 percent. Let's say it has tripled. Still less than 30 percent. Not likely to be a favorable proposition with reasonable assumptions.

And this ignores that your best case result is a tie in regulation, with the chance of losing in OT. So there is no realistic argument that Baltimore's win percentage with 1:09 left approached or exceeded 50 percent.

Is there a fangraphs for football? Wagering sites that let you jump in at any point on the money line?

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:25pm

ESPN apparently does win probability analysis currently.


"According to ESPN Stats & Information’s win probability model, Denver had a 97.2 percent chance of winning the game before that touchdown throw."

Although there is probably a steep decline from the 1:09 WP to the 40-ish second WP, the win probability for a team in Baltimore's shoes was probably still less than about 10 percent.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:52pm

Yeah, any team with anything resembling competency on defense, at home, should, a vast majority if the time, keep anything but a historically great offense out of the end zone in that situation. Hell, without any timeouts, you just can't run that many plays in 69 seconds, if the defense plays the deep center and the sidelines with any competency at all.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:34pm

I'd argue that you should tell my wife I don't watch enough football, because she'd argue otherwise. :)

Anyway, if you truly in your heart of hearts think that the situation described is right around a 50% proposition, I'd love to gamble against you.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:23am

advancedNFLstats.com gave Baltimore a 6% chance of winning at the point Denver punted.

It's really not that easy to score a TD with that little time and no timeouts. If it were that easy to score TDs that quickly, we'd see 30+ TDs/game on average.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 1:11pm

About the Falcons game, if we hadn't pulled it out of our tushies, the fanbase would have needed therapy. OMG. I'm emotionally and physically spent. Voice is gone.

Wilson was fantastic. I'd watched a few Seahawks games beforehand, so I understood why we wanted to try to force him to throw from the pocket, but he was more than up to the task. I have no idea why we didn't cover Miller. We missed Abraham a lot.

Really pleased with our running game, the most effective all season. Ryan missed some throws in the 4th quarter but came through at the end. I thought the Seahawks lack of pass rush was a key factor. Ryan's usually not that comfortable in the pocket.

Niners are a very tough matchup, particularly because I expect their pass rush will get to Ryan more. The zone read won't be taking us by surprise, at least.

by EricL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:02pm

The Seahawks missed Chris Clemons a lot more than I thought they would. I don't even remember Bruce Irvin's name being called. (Though I haven't gone back to look at the box score - the pain of the last 30 seconds hasn't subsided yet.)

by BJR :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:30pm

There is also the possibility, as was noted in last season's playoffs, that the refs are turning a blind-eye to offensive holding in the postseason. I don't recall seeing it flagged very often this weekend.

by EricL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:21pm

There is also the possibility, as was noted in last season's playoffs, that the refs are turning a blind-eye to offensive holding in the postseason. I don't recall seeing it flagged very often this weekend.

Sean Locklear would like this applied retroactively...

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by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:12pm

I'm in a setting this morning where I'm forced to have Colin Cowherd on the radio. I fear I will have a negative I.Q. before my car is finished.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:40pm

Will, take it as an opportunity to improve your self esteem by realizing that you are either 1) smarter than Colin Cowherd, or 2) unwilling to pander to the lowest common denominator by taking stances that you pretend people disagree with, even when they don't.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:25am

Dear me, whatever did you do that ended up with you being forced to listen to Colin Cowherd! Even young Alex was only forced to listen to Beethoven's Fifth.

by Joel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:15pm

Has Garth Defelice been seen palling around with Tim Donaghy?

by hh (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:28pm

I see NE is now favored here for Super Bowl. You know thing that matters most is recency and people look at the last few games for the scoring margin. NE by far has the best of all these teams followed by Atlanta.

SF actually has a negative scoring margin in its last 3 games and most damage was done in the Seattle game on Sunday night. Had they not lost by that much and put up a few more points they would at least had a fighting chance. The case for negative scoring margin in the last 3 games is made by the 06' Bears, 04' Eagles, and 09' Colts who all had negative scoring margin from its past 3 games going into the Super Bowl. Colts rested their starters which many call a mistake and its obviously true. None of them could make up for this and all 3 lost.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:50pm

You can have:
Russell Wilson for a 3rd rd pick and cap hit
Colin Kaepernick for a 2nd rd pick and cap hit
Robert Griffin for 3 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick, and the 1.02 cap hit

Who do you take with your 20-20 hindsight?

by Purds :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 2:58pm

Wilson or Kaepernick. That's a lot to give away for RG3.
Not sure which is a better pick of the top 2.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:09pm

Wilson, even if they were he and Kap were both 3rd round picks. I think he's much more likely to be a better quarterback once NFL defenses figure out how to best defend the read option.

by Go pats (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:07pm


I would take kap in a heartbeat. I just think his ceiling is so high, I think he is going to be an excellent passer as well as a beast running the ball, Steve young on steroids if you will.

It's fun having your two favorite teams in the conference finals, really hoping for a pats niners SB.

Brady sure threw some perfect long balls yesterday, I think all the talk of his deep ball sucking was premature.

by anderson721 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:26pm

I wonder why the hell he went that low. What was the knock on him? I don't see much difference in skill set between him and RG3, and I'm a Skins fan.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:48pm

University of Nevada and "gimmicky college pistol offense"

by EricL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:51pm

I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's "Heisman Trophy Winner!" vs. "QB in gimmick offense at 2nd-tier school."

Regardless of how true the latter statement is, or is not.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:55pm

Griffin showcased his lightning release and outstanding touch in college while Kaepernick had an elongated release like a baseball pitcher and a tendency to drive the ball. He's still working through these issues today but one of the things that I like about him moving forwards is that he has made substantial progress in correcting these flaws along with improving his drop from under center. This suggests that he is capable of taking coaching and that he still has room to tighten his throwing motion as well as his decision making. If Kaep entered the draft with his current mechanics then I think he would have been taken much higher.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 7:15pm

Also, Kaepernick is built like a giraffe. He shares that with Wilson, that he doesn't look like a prototypical NFL quarterback.

He is different than RGIII and Wilson in that he's not a shifty mover at all. He's got good top-end speed and a good stiff-arm, but he's no jitterbug.

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 11:00pm

Brady's arm strength is fine, it's his accuracy that is spotty. Sometimes he can land it nicely, sometimes he'll overthrow it badly, but almost never does he underthrow it for an easy pick--overall, he's maybe average on the deep ball, maybe a little weaker, and it is certainly the weakest part of his game.

by zenbitz :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 6:45pm

I think that if you judge based on last weekend that's the case. But I think Kaep ran the read/option against GB about 1/2 as much as he ran it for the previous 6 games.

Also he has about 1/2 the passing attempts and 2/3ds (Wilson) and 1/2 (RGII) the rushing attempts as the other 2 "read option" QBs.

I think Wilson is helped out by having Marshawn Lynch, and clearly Kapernick benifits from the Niners OL+Gore. Going to be an interesting few years in the NFCW assuming they can avoid hits.

by Carlos :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 7:44pm

yep, the context is important. I love all three, but worth keeping in mind that Kap is doing this with a team Alex Smith was able to take to the conf finals, Wilson has Lynch and a line that's been pretty good for awhile. RG3 has no weapons and a line that until this year was *terrible*

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:17pm

RGIII should continue to have less talent around him than the other two. How many years is it before Washington gets a first-round draft pick again?

by Go pats (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 10:33pm

Well, I hope shanny can find some good wr's after the first round plus there is a good group that are going to be available in free agency. I think g Jennings from the packers, possibly bowe from kc, maybe hart line from the dolphins and I am sure I am missing a few.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:36am

Griffin is going to be much more than a read option QB when all is said and done. He was used in that scheme this season because it was working so well. But he has the accuracy, touch and arm strength to be an excellent pocket passer, if that's what is needed.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:34am

Were you listening to ESPN radio in the DC area today? They were asking exactly that question.

Almost nobody was standing by Griffin. But of course, hindsight is wonderful. The price was paid for Griffin because he was considered a sure thing. Neither Kaepernick nor Wilson was considered a sure thing.

It's like asking after the roulette ball lands whether you should have played red, black, or green.

With hindsight, most callers would take Wilson. I'm still not entirely sure that taking Griffin is a bad idea. But I think he's a much better passer than he's given credit for, and that the other two have had the advantage of playing on teams with much better defenses than the Redskins have. There's no doubt in my mind that the 49ers with a healthy Griffin would be a Super Bowl favorite right now.

I think the lesson of the past decade is that you really shouldn't get cheap with QBs. Go for whoever you think is the best and pay the price. If you think Wilson or Kaepernick is the best, go for it. Right now I think we're far from a clear answer to that question.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:43pm

"Harris also validates the notion that NFL running back prospects are as plentiful as NBA shooting guards."

There are a lot of guys in the NFL who can run the ball. There are few who can do so successfully when the defense is playing the run. Guys who can run on their schedule, not the defense's, are valuable.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 3:48pm

"Well, the scrambles aren't about the offensive line kicking the defensive line's ass, right? I think that's at least part of the story."

they are, though. SF's linemen are clearing GB's defense completely out of the center of the field, giving Kaepernick all kinds of running room straight forward.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:03pm

Rivers McCown: Baltimore has made a concerted effort to target their tight ends early. Maybe they are readers.

It's annoying when you guys keep playing this card, even if it's partially (or fully) tongue in cheek.

by Silm (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:04pm

Re: "Aaron Schatz: Does anyone know what happened with Jimmy Smith this year for the Ravens? Did he get benched for bad play? Was it an injury? He was supposed to be such a talented cornerback, but he's playing nothing but special teams. That at least points towards "demoted" rather than "injury.""

- when all the DBs are healthy, Webb is our slot CB with Williams and Smith at outside. When Webby went down it was supposed to be Graham taking over in slot. But Graham has played so well he made himself a starter with Chykie Brown. Smith did get hurt (hernia) but was apparently not well enough and regardless, Graham has been playing outstanding and Brown has upped his game too despite normally being a ST gunner. I'm not sure how it will work when everyone's healthy nxt year . just who practices better I suppose. Btw Smith also had lackluster CB play, and has had a habit of being burned on double moves (forget which games, maybe Houston game)

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:58pm

Webb and Cary Williams are supposed to be the Ravens starting corners. Jimmy Smith is supposed to come in as the 3rd corner; he takes the outside and Webb moves to the slot.

Smith missed a bunch of games with the hernia this year, only came back toward the end of the season. Corey Graham was entrenched as the starter opposite Williams by then, with a cast of thousands as the nickel & dime corners: Shockey Brown, Ihedigbo, etc.

Honestly I thought the Ravens postseason was down the tubes when Webb and Smith went down. Corey Graham has played his heart out.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:08pm

Also, as someone who spent too much time watching a fat, slow, Bryant Mckinnie get qbs pounded towards the end of his run as a Viking, it was a little frustrating to see him pay well on Saturday. Having said that, I'll pull for him this Sunday, because I'm bored with the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and I'd like to see Matt Birk get there.

by Gus (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:34pm

Ravens have a number of guys that it'd be fun to see go out on top.

I kind of wish Flacco would get the ring this year, just to shut up his detractors. Evans catches that pass last year, and the Ravens dismantle Eli in the Super Bowl the way they always do when BAL-NYG play.

If only Flacco didn't whine so much about being elite...

by JimZipCode :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:00pm

>> the Ravens dismantle Eli in the Super Bowl the
>> way they always do when BAL-NYG play.


by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:47pm

(replied to wrong post)

by DGL :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:33pm

Is Ray Lewis from New Orleans?

by beargoggles :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:16am

It depends what you mean by Flacco's detractors. If you mean the people who don't think he is elite, well he isn't. If you mean the people who don't think he's "clutch," well he actually does seem to be pretty clutch if such a thing exists. Not so much based on that prayer yesterday but rather the really nice drive you mentioned against the Patriots last year, And generally good playoff record. At any rate I don't see any reason to think he's a choker. Then again, I don't really remember seeing that criticism of him.

I really like the Ravens too, which seems to put me in the minority on this site, but not because of Flacco. I guess I like all those defensive oldsters and Ray Lewis is just such a throwback. Also think the uniforms are cool and unique. I hope Lewis goes out in "near triumph" against the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

by beargoggles :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 3:07am

Shouldn't more of the story be how ineffective the Broncos pass rush was? I thought they really got very little pressure. Not sure if this was over conservative scheme or just that the ravens offense o-line performed better than expected. The lack of pressure allowed the Ravens to run those slow developing deep pattern combinations with relative impunity.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:09pm

Weintraub's pop-culture drops (Holiday, Q, etc) are the best, timely, subtle. The other guys, well, seem to try too hard.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:16pm

(1) What happened to the defense in the 4th quarter? Wilson was always having all day to throw, but several times guys were just WIDE open. By huge margins. When you know Seattle has to pass, you'd think coverage would be much, much better.

(2) Let's not get into the failed squib kick. But let's ask why did Atlanta kick a field goal with 13 seconds left? Even if you don't want to risk running another play and being tackled in bounce, couldn't Ryan just take snap and waste some time so literally zero seconds are left on the clock after the kick?

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:35pm

Why Atlanta kicked a field goal with 13 seconds left:

1) They had no timeouts left, so a sack (like Wilson in the first half) or penalty with a 10-second runoff (like Tom Brady's intentional grounding vs. Seattle earlier this year) ends the game.

2) They were just within field goal range, so a penalty (like Ramses Barden's offensive pass interference vs. Philly earlier this year) makes the odds of a successful field goal much lower.

3) It was first down, and 13 seconds is enough time to throw the ball away in the case of a bad snap, unlike the Giants vs. the 49ers in the 2002 playoffs or the Cowboys vs. the Seahawks in the 2006 playoffs. There's also enough time to recover and get off another play in case a Leon Lett touches a blocked field goal downfield.

4) The odds of the Seahawks scoring in 8 seconds are not much greater than any of the three possibilities above.

by Led :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:03pm

Point #4 is a very good point. Seattle recovered a surprise onside kick (I know it wasn't intentional, but still) leaving them in ideal starting field position and completed a pass in less than 8 seconds -- in other words, the most favorable circumstances they could have hoped for -- and still needed a 50 yard hail mary to score. Their odds were so vanishingly low that giving Smith grief about it is misguided.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:12pm

Mike Smith still should have let the clock run further before calling timeout.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 9:58pm

I think Tony Gonzalez called the timeout.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:46pm

Those are all good points, but the Falcons called timeout with 13 seconds left, not the Seahawks.

Atlanta should have waited to call timeout.

Now, if Seattle had (smartly) called a timeout of their own immediately, then your four points are correct, and the Falcons would have still be smart to kick a field goal immediately rather than mess around with another play.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:55pm

The original question seemed to assume the timeout.

Anyway, #3 (Matt Bryant was the kicker in that infamous Giants-49ers game) and #4 still apply with 13 seconds left, and ...

5) Smith may have been unsure of the spot/unsure whether he wanted to kick a 49-yarder rather than throw an out to get a little closer. He needed to make the timeout/no timeout decision immediately in order to leave himself time to make one or two more throws - any hesitation and the decision was made for him. If he really wanted to burn time off from there, he could still have do so - just spike it twice or do what the Patriots do and throw the ball deep out of bounds.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 5:48pm

Trumpy (after ball is marked at the 1): "If we had instant replay, that is a touchdown."

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:26pm

The final minute in Atlanta was a comedy of coaching errors (Atlanta could have easily trimmed more time pre-kick), but on the squib, the faulty execution made it look 50x worse.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 4:56pm

What a weekend.

I was conflicted about who I wanted to see win the Denver-Baltimore game, so I wasn't upset with the final outcome. And after Denver gutlessly took a knee at the end of the 4th with two timeouts, I turned to my wife and said "I hope Baltimore wins the toss and drives down the field for a touchdown." I suppose you could argue that since Denver got possessions in OT that the kneel-down wasn't the cause of their loss, but boy...30 seconds or so and two timeouts in a tie game, and you don't at least try to get into field-goal range? At high altitude with a good kicker? I have to think even a 65-yard attempt as time expired would have been worth trying...if it fails, then you go into overtime anyway.

I do think it's a shame that there's not a separate category for interceptions on passes that should have been caught by the receiver but instead are tipped off his hands. I don't put that one on Manning at all.

As a Bears fan living in Wisconsin, obviously I was happy with the SF-GB game. I have to admit to a huge bias against the Packers, both for obvious reasons and because of having to listen to way too many friends and coworkers who think that every year's Packers team is one of the greatest teams of all-time.

The Seattle-Atlanta game was much more exciting than I thought it would be, both before the game (when I kind of expected Seattle to dominate) and during (when it looked like an Atlanta blowout). Boy, did that decision to go for it instead of taking an easy field goal down 13-0 remind me of the Bears and Lovie Smith...or maybe it was that decision, plus the inability to pick up 1 yard on 2 tries. I think the result of the game speaks strongly for the philosophy of putting points on the board when given the opportunity early in a game; you never know what's going to happen later on.

Houston-New England...well, at least the first 3 games were interesting.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 1:44am

Houston-New England...well, at least the first 3 games were interesting.

As a Pats fan, I thought it was an optimal weekend. Three interesting games and an easy win for the Pats. It was a bonus that the Broncos and Ravens made so many mistakes en route to a game that went to double OT. Seeing that Ravens defense take so many snaps two weeks in a row makes me wonder just what they'll have left next week.

by mshray (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:18pm

Can anyone explain to me what happened to the last 9 seconds of the 3rd qtr in the SEA-ATL game?

Zach Miller catches a ball for a first down and trots out of bounds to his left - touched, but not wrapped up by, the defense - and the clock stops at 0:09. The FOX guys Billick & Brennaman talk about something typically inane for a bit...meanwhile the clock stays at 0:09 for approx ten seconds and then for no reason I can se or hear, it restarts. The camera never shows anything on the field (least of all a ref restarting the clock), and then Brennaman says something even more inane about Carroll not getting off another play in the 3rd qtr. And then we went to commercial and nothing further was said. WTF!?!?!?!?

If I missed something please tell me, but having rewatched the tape a few times last night I still don't get it. And at the end, wouldn't anyone not wearing red & black have been just the least curious to see what Russell might have done if he had 17 secs & 2 TOs instead of 8 secs and 2 TOs?

But I'm not bitter...

by Travis :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 8:28pm

The clock restarts after out-of-bounds plays once the ball is made ready for play, except in the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half. The Seahawks decided to let the clock expire rather than hurry to the line there.

by mshray (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2013 - 9:18pm

okay, thanks for the explanation...so it's on Carroll...but still surprised no one seemed to think much of it in what was a 27-7 comeback attempt at the time, and then an amazing finish later for each team.

by nath :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 4:37am

"I think the Texans are screwed. I don’t see this team winning anything of real substance with Schaub under center. Schaub is a smart quarterback and a great fit in Houston’s system, but his arm-strength limitations and inability to make tough throws under duress are major problems. And we see it in big games against defenses that play quality man coverage."

The Texans need to take a long look at the Schaub / Kubiak duo and decide if they can win a Super Bowl with them. I think the answer is no; this team has peaked. Kubiak makes too many boneheaded decisions and the offense simply isn't explosive enough. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels can't do it all themselves.

The only problem is, the team has a lot of good parts, and if you bring in a new guy, he might idiotically blow up the good parts to do his own thing. If it were possible to demote Kubiak to OC and hire another guy for game-day decisions, while looking for a legit WR2 and a QB upgrade, that would be optimal.

(Really, though, the team has holes in numerous places. The defensive depth is terrible.)

by nat :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 9:01am

I sure hope this goes down in history as "Rahim Moore blew the game" and not "Peyton Manning blew the game."
An understandable comment in the heat of the moment. Let's look at the numbers.

By DVOA, the Denver offense (-7%) and defense (13%) were both bad, with the defense somewhat worse. But teams are expected to be what they are, and offense and defense DVOA aren't on exactly the same scale. Compared to Denver's season averages, the offense (-29%) was under expectations farther than the defense (27%). But it is very close. It's fairest to say that the offense and defense shared equally in the underperformance.

As for individuals, both sides of the ball featured a few huge negative plays. Rahim Moore had the starring role in one very memorable play. Manning threw a pick six which, while not entirely his fault, was tipped high in part because of who he threw to and the choice to throw high rather than low into tight coverage in a crowded area of the field. The fumble (holding ball, failing to protect it) and other interception (bad choice, bad throw) were more clearing on him. Even if you don't want to focus on a few plays, Manning is a much bigger part of his unit and it's performance.

It was a team failure on both sides of the ball. But if you had to pick one goat, it would be Manning. If you had to pick a defender, it wouldn't be Moore anyway, would it?

Manning deserves much of the credit for getting the Broncos the top seed and bye. But he had a bad game, and deserves a lot of the credit for that, too.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 9:28am

I don't care about this debate, except for one part: it is simply an inaccurate description of events to claim that a pick six which ocurred after a receiver was hit before the ball arrived can be in part attributed to the qb. To say otherwise is to give way too much slack to the other entities on that field who were getting paid.

by GrandVezir :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:21am

If the ball was tipped, then it's not pass interference anymore, no?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:36am

Only if the contact occurs after the tip. I cannot understand why this is complicated. The ball was travelling in the air, untipped. The defender made significant contact with the receiver, in an effort to break up the completion, well before the ball arrived. The ball gets tipped, and grabbed by another defender, and run back for a touchdown. What should have been, under the rules of the game, a first down for Denver, became a touchdown for the Ravens. Why on earth do so many in this thread want to attribute a pick six to Manning? It's completely, wholly, irrational. Nuts. Crazy. It is as if Raheem Moore was tackled by another Raven receiver, as Moore jumped to tip the long pass, allowing the completion to be made, and the tying td scored, and people in this thread proceeded to attribute a misplay to Moore. I don't get it.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:42am

In the play under discussion, the "tip" occurred after (and as a direct result of) the pass interference. So no, that's not a legal play.

There are valid criticisms regarding Manning's play in this game, but anyone pointing to that pick-six as evidence of his poor play is holding Manning to an impossible standard.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:47am

It's really bizarre, akin to the wholly irrational descriptions of Stubbleface's play at the end of his career. We have a new Zombie King, who destroys people's power of reason, by the mere observation of Him!!

by Lyford :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 10:36am

"But if you had to pick one goat, it would be Manning."

No, it wouldn't. He didn't have a great game, but he played well enough to win, and had his team in position to do so. That he could have played better and made the last Ravens' play irrelevant may be true, but doesn't qualify him for goat horns. And while the last pick was bad, it also required a good play by the defender, and the Ravens still weren't in field goal range after the pick - the Broncos' defense had a chance to "make a play" instead of giving up 16 yards.

"If you had to pick a defender, it wouldn't be Moore anyway, would it?"

Yes, it would. Moore's job was straightforward, requiring nothing but simple competence - no brilliance, no special skills, no special intuition or knowledge. It was a job that could be performed adequately by any defensive back in pro football, and most defensive backs in college ball, and the performance of said job would elicit no comments from anyone.

And he failed to do it. Much greater "goatliness" than anything Manning, or anyone else on the team, exhibited. The game was won if he just does his simple, straightforward job of not letting the receiver get behind him. Moore's play is one of the "goatliest" plays in history, akin to a kicker missing a 20 yard game ending field goal or a holder or punter losing a game by failing to handle a good snap.

That doesn't mean that other players didn't play badly, possibly even worse on a cumulative basis. But Moore's play was deterministic - before it happened, the game was won, and after it happened, they were tied. He's a prototypical goat, a sparkling example of "goathood" for the next generation, a young man's Joe Pisarcik...

[It shouldn't be necessary to say this, but, let me say it anyway - none of that makes him a bad person, and any Broncos fan who would do anything beyond possibly booing him at a game next year needs to have his or her attitude towards life adjusted. And I hope that he's mentally tough enough and has a good enough attitude towards life to deal with the opprobrium which he's received, and will continue to receive. But if you're going to designate one person as the "goat" for that game, he's the one...]

by Go pats (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 12:07pm

i would say the entire secondary or more so the defensive coordinator blew it. On the 70 yard bomb, there was only one play and that was deep and the decondary was not prepared.

Fox should take lots of heat for the dumb decisions at the end of both halves. To say yesterday that he would have made the same decision 10 times over - what a maroon. Well I am glad he is coaching the Broncos beacuse if there is ever a close game with the patriots in the future, we can at least rely on Fox to screw things up by playing to lose. Good way to waste the last few years of Peyton Manning's career. I still dont get why Peyton stood there and did not give him the Peyton "face" and force the issue.