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02 Dec 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Rivers McCown and Ben Jones

This year, we have a new format for our Monday morning feature Audibles at the Line, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. First, we're replacing our usual back-and-forth with some longer-form dissection of each game that at least one of us watches in depth. Second, every game that we find time for will also have a selection of tweets from us and a few reader tweets we found particularly insightful. To follow these tweets live on Sunday, or to contribute your own thoughts or a question for the FO staff, you can use hashtag #foaud. We discussed the new format in this post.

On Monday, we will compile a digest of tweets and e-mails to produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed, not entirely grammatically correct, and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

Audibles is still being written from our point of view, meaning 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. Audibles is often written from a fan perspective as much as an analyst perspective; in order to properly accuse FO writers of bias, please check our FAQ.

Jacksonville Jaguars 32 at Cleveland Browns 28


Andrew Potter: Cleveland continue their league-worst DVOA against tight ends. The shootout is on!
@THEOSU7: Brandon Weeden has discovered the key to appearing to be a competent NFL Quarterback: Throw the ball repeatedly towards Josh Gordon.
Mike Ridley: Brandon Weeden needs a new word made to describe how bad his play is. Any ideas?
Andrew Potter: @TheMikeRidley His word's already an adjective. That was a weeden performance. Henne throws a weeden pass into coverage.
@blotzphoto: Brandon Weeden's so bad he rendered Shannon Sharpe speechless. Which is a public service I suppose.
@THEOSU7: CBS' bumper music for q4 of Browns-Jags: Best Day Of My Life by American Authors. Alanis Morisette: THIS is irony.
Aaron Schatz: Quick, someone from Jags front office please call Jags coaches and explain to them how the draft works.
Robert Weintraub: I guess Josh Gordon isn't hurt--a 95-yard TD to give the Browns the lead, 1st ever NFLer to go over 200 yards in back to back games.
@MilkmanDanimal: Holy screaming excremonkies, Chad Henne just won the game on a freaking perfect pass to Shorts. CHAD HENNE.
@nath_on_fire: "CALL HIM CECIL PANTS III, 'CAUSE THAT WAS A BIG BOY PLAY!" - My imaginary new favorite announcer.
@MilkmanDanimal: Browns returner kneels in end zone, meaning he believes in Brandon Weeden. Check him for a concussion immediately.
Scott Kacsmar: Josh Gordon becomes 4th WR to have two career games with 237+ receiving yards. First to do it in same season and back-to-back games.
Vincent Verhei: J.Gordon now averaging 124.9 yds/gm this season. That would be the record for a non-strike season.

Tennessee Titans 14 at Indianapolis Colts 22


Tom Gower: Early thought on Titans-Colts: this game would be aggravating if I was expecting it to be something other than what it was
Cian Fahey: Nate Washington compensating for Fitzpatrick's poor deep accuracy there. Should have been a TD
@sfckoski: Not breaking news or anything, but Ryan Fitzpatrick makes too many "What was that?" throws.
Mike Ridley: Ryan Fitzpatrick's last throw was borderline Weediculous. Yeah, I think we've found the word.
@SigurWes: Starting to wonder if Andrew Luck is actually above average or not.
Robert Weintraub: Three straight runs up the middle, nothing for the Titans on the Colts GL. Where is this touted Munchakian toughness when needed?
Robert Weintraub: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws the ugliest pass of all time for the 4th down TD. Beurlein--"I was gonna say you gotta take the points..."
Tom Gower: Am I surprised Mike Munchak kicked the XP to go up 14-12 mid-3Q? No. Did he even think about going for 2? I hope so.
Robert Weintraub: Robert Mathis continues his All-Pro season with a huge strip sack just when the Colts need it.
Robert Weintraub: Fifth S/S of the season for Mathis, 31st of his career, the record, needless to say.
@Mercurius100: I can't pick on DHB anymore. He's overcome so much to be a NFL WR despite not being born with hands.
@ramdog7: Horrid game in Indianapolis, and at least one of these teams will be in the playoffs
Scott Kacsmar: You know Colts will kick the XP, but I'll be damned if this isn't the perfect situation to win the game now by going for 2.
@MilkmanDanimal: "All the work the defense in trying to tackle, it's rude of Donald to break them."--Trent Richardson
Cian Fahey: Kendall Wright with a brilliant adjustment for a big reception down the seam. Fitzpatrick is a disaster


Cian Fahey: Ryan Fitzpatrick single-handedly lost this game for the Titans. Somewhat incredibly, at least based on preseasons expectations, the Titans appear to be missing out on an AFC South crown because of Jake Locker's injury. They outperformed the Colts in every facet of the game today except at quarterback.

Also, Jurrell Casey is an absolute monster. Jerry Gray needs to stop dropping him in coverage though...

Tom Gower: These are two not very good teams. The Colts' ambition seems limited to gaining 12 yards on a particular play. Oh, they did have a couple plays that seemed designed to gain more yards than that, but not too many -- wouldn't want to make things too hard on the other team, you know, or get Andrew Luck out of the pocket. I almost feel bad noting things like Luck tends to hold the ball forever, which is a horrible thing when you stay in the pocket and are playing behind a bad offensive line. He had a couple really nice throws on downfield corner routes, but other than that was a bit blah. Donald Brown, who's had a string of good games against the Titans, struggled to running room for most of the game ... until the fourth quarter, when the Titans needed a stop and the Colts got a touchdown (wash, rinse, repeat from last game).

After the game in Indy two years ago, when the Titans lost to an 0-13 Colts game because they couldn't do anything on offense, I wrote a long post for my site about how the Titans were a fundamentally limited offense. Chris Johnson is playing better than he did two years ago, meaning he now reliably gets pretty much exactly what is blocked in the run game. The line isn't good enough to sustain drives that way, which means the Titans have to move the ball through the air efficiently. And, well, something Ryan Fitzpatrick has in common with Matt Hasselbeck two years ago is massive struggles throwing the ball downfield. He was lousy at it in Buffalo, and he couldn't do it today. They camouflaged that the first time they played Indianapolis with all those out routes, whip routes, and crossers against the Colts linebackers, who are not good in coverage. They didn't overload those as much today. It didn't help that they were a bit limited personnel-wise, with Craig Stevens inactive with a concussion, Delanie Walker leaving the game early with a concussion of his own, and Kendall Wright spending some time out of the game banged up as well. That the Titans did other things like Moise Fokou taking a 15-yard personal foul penalty at the end of the first half that gave the Colts a field-goal attempt they otherwise would not have gotten did not help their cause.

A couple further notes:
1. Donald Brown was a better rusher than Chris Johnson today, though Johnson might have been a bit more productive in the passing game thanks to Jerrell Freeman repeatedly getting caught flat-footed and unprepared for cuts.
2. When I ran the numbers a week or two ago, Jake Locker's passing DVOA in the games after he returned from his injury against the Jets was about -30%.

Scott Kacsmar: If you're the Colts, how do you not try the two-point conversion up 21-14 with 1:56 left? It would be 23-14 if successful. If not, it's still a 21-14 lead and your main goal is exactly the same: do not give up the touchdown.

Tom Gower: Maybe I'm just being thick, but I don't follow how going for two in that situation improves your chance of winning under the assumption that you and your opponent are both equally likely to score on a two-point conversion.

Aaron Schatz: Nope, Scott, not crazy. I think that it makes sense because you can assume the other coach would be risk-averse and, down 7, would automatically kick an XP to tie the game if his team did get a touchdown on the comeback drive.

Arizona Cardinals 21 at Philadelphia Eagles 24


@GDFar: Eagles fantastic at subtle deception on offense.
Cian Fahey: Nick Foles needs to start playing worse because I want to keep being a hipster who doesn't like him
Cian Fahey: Very smart that all the Cardinals defenders are wearing wristbands with plays on them
@dingerc: Siracusa on fox praises Eagles tackling right before two Eagles fail to wrap up Fitzgerald on the TD catch.
@gberry523: excellent wildcat bashing by this fox crew after the brad smith botched snap
@Mercurius100: Compared to the other early game QBs, Nick Foles looks like a Pro Bowler. Bad QB play.
@Mercurius100: Nick Foles is the ideal QB for Chip Kelly's offense. Who knew?
Robert Weintraub: An awful Nick Foles pick--his first--is wiped out by holding on the Honey Badger.


Vince Verhei: This was the first time I paid any real attention to Nick Foles on his hot streak. And for three quarters, he looked just as good as his ridiculous numbers. It seemed like he never made a bad decision or throw. It's not just that he wasn't throwing interceptions, he wasn't throwing anything that even had a reasonable chance of being intercepted. The fourth quarter was another story. He threw his first interception of the season, right to Patrick Peterson, but it was wiped out by a penalty. He threw another two or three balls that could have been picked but were broken up by his receivers, and had another pass tipped at the line and up into the air. I don't know if Arizona was doing anything different on defense at the end of the game, but Foles looked like a different guy.

Miami Dolphins 23 at New York Jets 3


Danny Tuccitto: jets putting on a tackling clinic on dolphins first drive. #Not
Danny Tuccitto: fitting for this NFL viewing challenge that dolphins start game w/ 9-minute drive and it ends in a missed field goal.
Danny Tuccitto: mike wallace on INTs: good job, good effort.
@GDFar: That Tannehill INT should have been incomplete. Embarrassing effort on Mike Wallace's part.
@Mercurius100: Best chance for the Dolphins to score: give Geno Smith the ball at his own 1.
@Foosball_Wizard: Starting to look like the #Jets are going to be drafting a QB again next year. Geno Smith, like Megamaid, has gone from suck to blow
Robert Weintraub: Matt Simms comes in and the crowd goes wild. I predict a McElroy-like moment of passion for Gang Green.
@Mercurius100: The worst thing for the Jets developing Geno Smith is being in the playoff race.
Robert Weintraub: Down 13-0, 4th and goal from the 2, of course Jets kick FG, and of course Gannon says "you gotta get the points." #lockstep
Robert Weintraub: A terrible tackle attempt by Dee Milliner results in a Wallace TD. He's been the antithesis of Sheldon Richardson.
@Mercurius100: Is this Jets season more or less soul-crushing because they outperformed early and won some games?


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 at Carolina Panthers 27


@GDFar: Bucs kick FG on 4th and 1 inside the 10 in a 0-0 game. Ron Rivera looks on, remembering what life was like before he was enlightened.
@MilkmanDanimal: Glennon literally just dropped the ball on a pass attempt from the 4; Orlovsky says "Kid, let me tell you a story about a safety."
@Mercurius100: As silly as "Analytical Ron" sounds as a nickname (that Rivera gave himself?), any other coach that wants to be known as analytical?
Andrew Potter: Weird call in the Panthers game, as a DPI flag is picked up because of where the ball was intercepted, not uncatchable.
Mike Ridley: Ted Ginn absolutely fooled Revis with his double move. With no help over the top, Newton had an easy throw.
Vincent Verhei: Ted Ginn with a pretty pirouette to get behind Darrelle Revis for a touchdown.
Aaron Schatz: Sentences I never thought I would see. @FO_VVerhei Ted Ginn with a pretty pirouette to get behind Darrelle Revis for a touchdown.
@MilkmanDanimal: This is the first game this year I haven't noticed Lavonte David is on the field. He's been pretty invisible today.
@MilkmanDanimal: I should have slandered Lavonte David earlier; he picks off a lousy Cam pass. I SEE YOU NOW, LAVONTE.

New England Patriots 34 at Houston Texans 31


Aaron Schatz: Gronk just saved Brady's ass. Brady had forever to throw, threw too low, and somehow Gronk picked it off grass and rolled into EZ
@pchicola: Patriots D seem more disciplined when playing man-to-man concepts than zone.
Aaron Schatz: We may have a new record for most ridiculously inadvertent hit to a QB's head, as jj watt knocks Brady into brooks reed's head.
Aaron Schatz: Definitely seeing the effect of the Wilfork/Kelly injuries on those runs up the middle against the Pats, once again.
@dingerc: So Grownkowsi's route running consists of barreling through DB with impunity? Pretty nice advantage.
Aaron Schatz: The surprise here isn't HOU running on NE. It's the NE offense struggling against the HOU D.
Aaron Schatz: Yet again, Pats back to a 3-4 look today. CJones is at OLB and Sapoaga is heads-up on the center, 2-gapping.
@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz Also using two different ILB sets. Spikes & Hightower for running downs; Fletcher and Collins for passing downs.
@pchicola: And now a Levels concept for that Vereen TD. Gronk runs corner, Vereen an out route from backfield. Hi-Lo the LB's. Easy TD for Brady
@jtv_3: Drives me NUTS that NFL teams don't use timeouts on defense when it is OBVIOUS the guys out there can't get lined up right.
Aaron Schatz: I was going to say "why would HOU ever go empty backfield against this NE run defense?" Then Keenum ran QB sweep for a TD. Made sense
@pchicola: Don't understand how Kyle Arrington can be so serviceable when playing the slot, and so awfully bad when playing outside.
Aaron Schatz: Brady is killing the Texans' off coverage in the second half; that's not a problem when you've got him in 3rd-and-long. FG, tie game
Aaron Schatz: I did not like decision of Pats to go empty on third-2. Would have rather seen two runs up middle to try to get the 2 yards.
Robert Weintraub: Rare mistake by Brady-went to Gronk on 3rd and 2, had man wide open in left flat. Gostkowski makes second 50+ FG, 34-31 Pats.
Aaron Schatz: Keenum's ability to scramble and throw on the run under pressure reminds me of when DAL pulled Bledsoe for Romo in 2006.


Aaron Schatz: The Patriots looked like they were half-asleep at times in the first half. Tom Brady was missing throws, the defense wasn't getting enough pass rush, and the front seven couldn't stop the run at all. I'm sure lots of people were thinking that this was a "letdown game" (I don't know if such a thing exists, but I doubt it) or a "trap game" (I know that such a thing does NOT exist, and besides, with Cleveland next week, what kind of trap would this even be?). The Patriots offense turned things around at halftime and was an efficient machine the rest of the way. Wade Phillips blitzed a lot and Brady beat it repeatedly in the second half. This was also a game where you definitely saw the effect that Rob Gronkowski has on how opponents cover the rest of the Patriots' skill players, especially down near the goal line. There was one play where there was so much attention on Gronk that Shane Vereen, if I'm remembering correctly, basically walked in untouched.

The Patriots defense didn't really turn things around. The run defense was still a problem for the rest of the day, and when Logan Ryan got hurt for a while, Kyle Arrington had to go play on the outside again, which is always a bad idea. He's so much better in the slot, and got completely lost on a deep bomb to DeAndre Hopkins at the start of the fourth quarter.

Chicago Bears 20 at Minnesota Vikings 23


@TCBullfrog: Bears have sacked Ponder three times now. Ponder getting little time when he drops back, not decisive either. Why are they passing?
Robert Weintraub: Matt Cassel comes in and immediately throws an 80-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery. Of course he does.
Robert Weintraub: Whoops, got my backup QBs mixed up for a minute there, it was McCown to Jeffery of course. I'm still warped from the college action.
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Cassell with a called QB draw on 3rd and goal from the 4, because . . . wait, what did I just type?
Robert Weintraub: Jeffrey an incredible catch for a Bears TD, he's surpassing B. Marshall before our very eyes.
Andrew Potter: How quickly Chicago's offense has gone from a weakness to a strength. Jeffery's touchdown catch was astounding.
Robert Weintraub: I saw Jeffrey play HS hoops back in the day. He was fantastic, his team won 3 or 4 straight state titles. Dethroned AJ Green's team.
Robert Weintraub: Alshon Jeffery update--234 yards receiving after three quarters. If this was Megatron the internet would be going berserk.
@TCBullfrog: Josh McCown makes ill-advised shovel pass which gets tipped, caught by OL and fumbled. Thus ensuring no QB controversy. #teamplayer
Robert Weintraub: OLineman catches deflection, then fumbles, rookie CB taunts to keep drive alive, Minny drops TD into hands of Bears for EZ INT. Whew.
@JoshReedBTG: McCown has been terrible in the 4th Q and OT. Needed to remind people that he is Josh McCown.
Vincent Verhei: L.Frazier settles for 40-yd FG on 3rd down. After penalty, he runs into line, settling for 55-yd FG. He deserves to lose.
@MilkmanDanimal: The Vikings getting a face mask to wipe out a game-winning FG is a patently Weediculous situation.
Vincent Verhei: Trestman then settles for 47-yard FG on SECOND down. Neither coach deserves to win. And late in OT, it's likely that neither will.
Vincent Verhei: Frazier finally prevails by settling for 34-yarder on FIRST down. At least that was a mid-range shot.


Vince Verhei: The overtime of this game was like a clinic on bad coaching decisions. Both Leslie Frazier and Marc Trestman coached as if every field goal of any length was absolutely guaranteed to go in. The Bears had the first drive of overtime and punted, so after that everything was sudden death. Minnesota's first drive produced a third-and-10 at the Chicago 21. Rather than try to get closer, Frazier called for what was officially a 39-yard field goal. Never mind that the average kicker misses roughly one-in-five kicks from that distance -- let's kick it now before something BAD happens on third down! The resulting kick was good, which does not mean Frazier made a good decision. It means he gambled and won.

Only things are never that simple. The field goal was waved off due to a Vikings facemask penalty. So now they had a third-and-25 at the 36. Surely now Frazier would be aggressive -- a 10- or 15-yard gain would make the fourth-down field goal try much easier. No, Frazier went conservative, running Adrian Peterson into the line, resulting in a 3-yard loss. Now, on fourth down, Frazier tried a 57-yard field goal. Field goals from that distance miss about twice as often as they hit. I'd have punted. Blair Walsh missed the field goal, and the Bears took over near midfield.

Not that it did them any good. A Matt Forte run gave Chicago a second-and-7 at the Minnesota 29, at which point Trestman called for a 49-yard field goal. That's a kick that is missed roughly one-in-four times, but Trestman turned down not one down, but two downs that could have moved the Bears closer. That kick was also missed.

The Vikings took over and drove for a first down at the Bears 16. Then Frazier called for another field goal try, a 34-yarder. On FIRST DOWN. He turned down THREE plays to try and get closer. That kick finally went in, ending the game before either coach had a chance to try a kick from their own side of the field.

St. Louis Rams 13 at San Francisco 49ers 23


Danny Tuccitto: Believe 49ers just ran successful TE screen for first time since the Clinton administration.
Vincent Verhei: Kellen Clemens throwing everything 6 feet too high.
@sfckoski: Kaepernick does not know how to hit his dumpoffs/check downs. Result is taking sacks.
Vincent Verhei: Tavon Austin's pass was not pretty, but I'm pretty sure he was throwing it away.
@matthew_carley: On a tackle of Vernon Davis McDonald grabs the meat between the buns with relish
@Coboney: @FO_VVerhei Ya probably was in retrospect. Still was a pretty bad play on the whole. Not like austin is a former QB that I know of
Vincent Verhei: Nobody calls a timeout following their own big play more often than San Francisco.
@unkleskillz: @FO_VVerhei all I hear is how great of a coach Harbaugh is. Is this TO issue a Kaepernick thing of Harbaugh/Roman thing?
Vincent Verhei: SL fake punt looked like it was supposed to be a pitch to the punter or a reverse to #12. Neither a good idea. SF ball.
Danny Tuccitto: Gotta check, but not sure there's anything more predictable in NFL over past 3 years than 49ers beating an inferior opponent.
@Coboney: FIsher with a smart choice going for it on 4th and 11 down 17 with 6 min left. Need TDs here not FGs - didn't work but good call imo
@matthew_carley: Kap looked as good as he has all year, a few times he dropped his eyes or was slow with his reads but ran through the reads better.


Vince Verhei: It happened again. It wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it happened again. The 49ers got a big play on offense, then were apparently so surprised by their own success that they were unprepared to call an ensuing play, and had to call a timeout. Forget for a second that I hate that call (I would rather lose 5 yards on a delay of game penalty than lose a timeout), this seems to happen to the 49ers every game. I've mentioned this before, and I'm actually going to do it this offseason, but I need to study which quarterbacks/offenses are able to get plays off on time, and which struggle with delays of game or timeouts. I think this is a critical part of "game management" that never actually gets measured or analyzed.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Jeff Fisher's team once again subjected us to a never-ending stream of pushing, shoving, and assorted other anti-social activity. It's almost funny at this point.

Atlanta Falcons 34 at Buffalo Bills 31 (OT)


@SigurWes: Were you ever to flag someone for leading with the crown, Frank Summers could've had it twice on that run. #Bills
@MilkmanDanimal: I wish the Vikings were playing the Bills in Toronto because Christian Ponder really, really belongs on a CFL field.
@SigurWes: Well, there should be a good @StevieJohnson13 tweet later tonight. #bills #godsfault
@Mercurius100: Yeah, anybody choosing to go on offense first in OT anymore just isn't paying attention.
Andrew Potter: @Mercurius100 Against Atlanta's defense, I'd consider it ... but the fumbles on the last two Bills drives have been inexcusable.
@wiesengrund: Falcons went from closest team to the super bowl to the farthest away in one season.


Matt Waldman: Roddy White might have earned the Most Valuable Player Award for the Atlanta Falcons' offense based on the absence of his health until this weekend. For the first time all season, White could actually beat man coverage beyond the shallow zone of the defense and this forced the Bills to abandon any plans to give White lesser priority, bracket Tony Gonzalez, stick its best cover corner on Harry Douglas, and stack the box against the Falcons ground game. White isn't all the way back because I'm not seeing him execute hard breaks at the rate he did in previous seasons. However, his acceleration is better than any time this season. He actually got the better of man coverage match-ups on timing routes and despite the Falcons going with their sixth offensive line variation this season and still giving up five sacks, a fumbled snap, and consistent pressure on Matt Ryan, the run game was more consistent, the Bills couldn't employ punt coverage on Gonzalez in the red zone, and the Falcons offense became more difficult to predict.

Julio Jones is a better athlete and at this stage of his career the more valuable prospect. Although Jones runs fast, jumps high, and displays strength, the Falcons offense still missed the precision of White's timing routes that require sterling technique, veteran understanding of defensive coverage, and rapport with his quarterback on how to adjust to the coverage in the same manner. When Atlanta has this kind of player who not only does these three things but also has the speed to stretch the field, opposing defenses have a real bind between run or pass; short, intermediate, or deep zone; or seam, flat, or perimeter. Jones only creates the dilemma with zone depth. White also widens the defense.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 at San Diego Chargers 10


Robert Weintraub: Look for Phil Rivers to throw to backs plenty early today to test out Burfict's sore ankle. #bengals
@blotzphoto: Not sure what 3 Bengals were doing standing around and watching Gates catch that pass though.
@blotzphoto: I have no idea what Jay Grudens passing offense is meant to accomplish. No one is ever open. It's as if they aren't trying.
@nath_on_fire: Mike McCoy punting on 4th and 2 from the Bengals' 42. I await the day "go for it" is recognized as the default best decision here.
@blotzphoto: after a promising start to the drive, Andy Dalton elects to punt on first down.
@blotzphoto: And The Law Firm locks on the Sleeper Hold and the Chargers hopes slowly fade...


Rob Weintraub: Not a great afternoon for Antonio Gates. Reggie Nelson jarred one ball loose after a catch in Cincy territory for a fumble, and Dre Kirkpatrick flat yanked a ball right out of his hands for another turnover. He just looked a step off all day. Philip Rivers and co. didn't have anything like the passing attack they did a week ago in KC, attributable to several active zone defenses by Cincinnati. Even the completed passes sneaked past tight coverage -- very few easy throws out there for Phil. The Bengals were especially sharp closing on shallow crossing patterns and tackled very well. Vontaze Burfict really should get All-Pro consideration. He wasn't even supposed to play after injuring an ankle pretty badly in Friday's practice, but was all over the place as usual (Marvin Lewis called him "superhuman" post-game).

He also had the key taunt of the game -- after the Chargers hit a field goal to cut the lead to 17-10 late, Burfict brushed past Johnnie Troutman and said something in his ear. Troutman reacted by trying to deck VB, resulting in a penalty on the kickoff. As a result, the Bengals began their four-minute offense from the 35 and not inside the 20, and once Andy Dalton found A.J. Green for 28 yards on first down, the Bengals easily ran out the clock. Are there scouting reports on what to say to opposing linemen?

Dalton started horrendously, then was fine over the last three quarters. But the Bengals won it on the ground. The game would have been much more lopsided had BJGE not coughed it up as the Bengals were going in to make it a three-score game with seven minutes left. Guard Clint Boling was lost to a knee injury early on, meaning the Bengals were down both starters (Kevin Zeitler out with a foot injury). But that allowed Andrew Whitworth to move inside to guard, his original position, and solid backup Anthony Collins to play left tackle. This actually has been a more effective setup than Whitworth outside of Boling, especially in the run game --Boling is nimble but not especially strong. The Chargers had some interesting run blitzes early, but by the third quarter they were getting pounded pretty good up front. It's difficult to play tough in those powder blue unis, I'm sure.

Denver Broncos 35 at Kansas City Chiefs 28


Aaron Schatz: Weird to see Peyton Manning getting time to throw and still inaccurate, or hanging balls like the INT by Marcus Cooper.
Aaron Schatz: KC offense: 9th in DVOA in the first half, 24th in DVOA in the second half. So take a lead now, guys.
Scott Kacsmar: Hard to believe it, but Moreno might be Denver's most reliable skill player this season.
Aaron Schatz: Am I reading this wrong? It seems like if Von Miller is on the def right, more likely to come. On def left, more likely to drop back
@Mercurius100: "You can't count on these [KC] receivers getting it done in obvious passing situations." That sounds like a bad way to build a team.
@Coboney: @Mercurius100 Yes but it's the Andy Reid way! They inherit the legacy of Freddy Mitchell, Todd Pinkson, James Thrash....
Scott Kacsmar: Not sure Manning has attacked downfield this much in any game this season.
@pchicola: NE "approach" wasn´t that bad. Fall behind & allowe DEN to run over u, so Peyton & cia can't get into a rhythm. Look unstoppable now
Aaron Schatz: KC's defense in FO numbers going into this week: 9th vs pass, 21st vs run. Looks like it, doesn't it?
@pchicola: Is Bob Sutton ever gonna switch coverage assignments? 1) Move Cooper inside to cover Welker; 2) Give him safety support; 3) Bench him
Aaron Schatz: You aren't going to get a lot of great deep passes from Alex Smith, so it helps to actually CATCH THEM.
@itnw0628: Chiefs are playing good possession football, keep Peyton Manning on the sideline. Only problem is, they're trailing by 14.
Aaron Schatz: Duke Ihenacho just face masked Dexter McCluster, but it may have prevented a score, and it cost DEN no yards, just a new set of downs
Aaron Schatz: If Manny Ramirez is called for unnecessary roughness after the play, is that just Manny being Manny?
Aaron Schatz: So, wait, *now* they can catch Smith's passes?


Aaron Schatz: Once again, just like two weeks ago, Denver was surprisingly good at protection against the Kansas City pass rush. Obviously, this was a bit easier with no Justin Houston out there. There was pressure, but less of it than Kansas City brings against most teams, even before you consider the fact that Manning gets rid of the ball so well that he rarely takes sacks.

I don't think the Denver secondary looked good at all. It was really sad to see poor Alex Smith finally throw some nice deep passes to open receivers, only to see them dropped. Champ Bailey played, but is still hobbled, so he only played in nickel packages it looked like. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was out. The Broncos are just getting slammed by injuries at this point, but their schedule is pretty easy the rest of the way so I figure they have five weeks to try to get healthier. Of course, guys like Vickerson and Clady are never coming back.

Scott Kacsmar: The Chiefs opened up the offense more this time around. Unfortunately, so did Denver as I can't recall Peyton Manning having this much downfield success in his tenure with the team. They treated Marcus Cooper like his rookie "R" was a scarlet letter burnt on his chest. The Broncos avoided the obligatory fumble this week and Eric Decker came up huge while the Chiefs squandered several opportunities. The Chiefs had some control of things at 21-7, but it was another second-half blitzkrieg from that Denver offense. Three consecutive touchdown drives of 80-plus yards is hard to do against Jacksonville, let alone on the road against a No. 2 scoring defense. While Denver was driving long fields for touchdowns, the Chiefs punted on five drives in a row, never running more than four plays on any of them. There's the difference in the ballgame.

I find it incredible how much the Chiefs have played to the numbers. We know they weren't that good compared to the past standards of a 9-0 team, yet they're so fittingly the first to fall back to 9-2 (now 9-3). They avoided the big injuries until last week, but that's no excuse to allow 76 points and over 1,000 yards (in Kansas City) to the Chargers and Broncos. I'm sure Denver would have liked to have Von Miller and Champ Bailey early in the season or Ryan Clady and Julius Thomas in today's game. We didn't see Cincinnati get shredded in San Diego without Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. Kansas City's still alive for a No. 1 seed, but seem destined for the No. 5 after this loss.

If the balance of schedules and duration of major injuries were closer, I'd say it's fair that the Chiefs are only the AFC's fifth-best team.

New York Giants 24 at Washington Redskins 17


Andrew Potter: Very impressive opening drive by Washington, attacking at pace against the best unit of the Giants.
@WhispersMoCo: Dear Shanahans, you're 3-8. Don't use RG3 as a blocker. Signed, all of DC.
@Mercurius100: WSH-NYG winner tonight keeps their hopes alive for a berth in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
Andrew Potter: Inside two minutes, finally see the Washington defense we expected. Touchdown Giants.
Danny Tuccitto: al michaels just pointed out that deangelo hall kept someone out of the end zone. it's an historic day.
Scott Kacsmar: Not only are Washington linemen not interested in helping RG3 up after a sack, the receivers have stopped trying to catch his passes.
@WhispersMoCo: NFL officials bizarrely retroactively cancel a first down. Redskins play 2nd down, then 1st down, then 4th down.
@WhispersMoCo: Redskins should protest outcome of game. Moving chains affected Redskins _strategy_. Arguably led to the final turnover.
@csoandy: Jeff Triplette just bailed out the Redskins offense. Now fans can blame him for the loss.
Aaron Schatz: Officials after game rip off their shirts, reveal St. Louis Rams t-shirts underneath.
Danny Tuccitto: if triplette wasn't fired/demoted for maiming orlando brown (RIP), he's not getting fired/demoted for maiming WAS's playoff odds.
Tom Gower: You know who thinks the story of the end of SNF should be the officiating confusion? Pierre Garcon.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 02 Dec 2013

176 comments, Last at 04 Dec 2013, 10:00am by JimZipCode


by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:59am

Aaron Schatz: We may have a new record for most ridiculously inadvertent hit to a QB's head, as jj watt knocks Brady into brooks reed's head.

If that's the RTP call on Houston, I disagree on your characterization. The first hit was totally clean, but while Brady was wrapped up and starting to go down the second man in left his feet and put a forearm to Brady's head.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:28am

That's a hilarious description. But if that's what you want to believe, go ahead.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:07pm

I don't think that it happened that way, exactly, but I feel pretty strongly that Reed knew what he was doing in taking a gratuitous shot.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:02am

I was listening to Baltimore sports radio on the way to work this morning and they basically called Marc Trestman an "Ivory Tower" intellectual who "overthinks" (they were recalling his explanation for not using timeouts at the end of the game against the Ravens two weeks ago).

Settling for a long field goal on 2nd down seems more like "not thinking" than "overthinking". I realize Robbie Gould is one of the best kickers in the NFL, but the Bears actually have a good offense now...feel free to run at least one more play!

by Jimmy :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:40am

Trestman's game management has been questionable the last few weeks. To be honest it was unconventional earlier in the year but it was working back then. Perhaps there is a reason Cutler is the starting QB after all.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:10pm

Despite that fact that he's in the same division as my favorite team, I want to see Trestman have success in the NFL (I think he ultimately will), if only to prove to the masses that advanced stats can be an effective tool in the game.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:50pm

I don't know any advanced stathead who supports kicking a 47 yard field goal on second down

That seems pretty whacky

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:25am

I didn't see the Redskins-Giants game, so I'm wondering what the furor is all about. The officials made a mistake, but the Redskins overcame that when Garcon got the first down. Garcon fumbling had nothing to do with the officials' mistake.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:30am

No, it didn't decide the game, but a mistake like that by the officials is much more alarming than anything the Redskins or Giants could do. It was disgraceful.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:48am

Most alarming of all were Triplett's postgame comments: defending himself, not aware his own crew thought it was first down, claiming they couldn't stop and get on the same page because that would give the Redskins an advantage. Mistakes will always happen but these refs are too arrogant to ever learn from them.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:58am

It's especially ridiculous given that Shanahan asked for a measurement. But...they didn't want to stop the clock to give the Redskins an advantage, so instead they screwed the Redskins over by misleading them about what down it was?

by MartyMcMartin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:15pm

I thought I heard after the game that not only did Shanahan ask for a measurement but he was told by the official closest to him (the side judge?) that he didn't need a measurement because it was a first down!

I agree that this didn't cost the Redskins the game but I also think that the officials were seriously bailed out when Garcon caught the ball for the first down before fumbling it.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:43am

I think the refs blew another call on that fumble. It looked to me like Garcon's facemask was grabbed.

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:11pm

Agree, his facemask did appear to be grabbed as it moved his head more than a little and that would have negated the fumble and was likely the reason for fumbling. If they are wanting to fine Tomlin 100k+ for his actions Thursday (a mistake, but still somewhat minor--though the possibility of penalty and/or officials call a touchdown was in play if he hadn't gotten out of the way--penalty still could have been called though) then punishment should be applied here as well. We'll never see it though. A downgrade is about the worst that will happen and that has no real affect. Most weeks most refs deserve a downgrade.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:43am

I don't understand why you think it's OK. Granting a first down, and then taking it away after the first down play was run? You're OK with that?

The actions of the players do not validate what the officials did. Jeff Triplette should be watching games on TV for the forseeable future.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:11pm

I agree that the actions of the players does not validate what the officials did, but also it seems like what the officials did had a minimal impact on the outcome of the game. I'm not excusing their incompetence by any means.

by nath :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:53pm

If blinding a player and ending his career didn't end Jeff Triplette's career, then this surely won't.

by David :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 4:27am

Hyperbole has its place in the world, but Brown wasn't blinded, and it didn't end his career (he came back with the Ravens) - though it certainly shortened it, and Triplette's actions injured Brown in a non-trivial way

by nath :: Wed, 12/04/2013 - 12:12am

It's not even much hyperbole. A news article describes the flag as having "temporarily blinded" Brown, and it caused his retina to detach. He missed three full seasons in the prime of his career because his eye was damaged so badly. That may not have *literally* ended his career, but it was an enormous damage to it.

by JimZipCode :: Wed, 12/04/2013 - 10:00am

Also, it was EXPECTED to end his career. It seemed to have ended his career. He came back years later, but for quite a while his career seemed done.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:26am

Anyone have a good reason for why Belichick burned his final timeout of the game right before NE had its final punt? The team was punting on a short field already, so why not run the clock down to zero and take the delay call and keep the timeout in case something crazy happened (like HOU burning Arrington for another long bomb and getting a quick score)?

by AnonymousOne (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:51am

He thought the 5 yards meant more than the TO at that point. Very little chance of even KA getting burned that deep in the formation the pats were in.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:00pm

You're talking about the time out taken with 22 seconds left on the game clock?

The next drive for the Texans started with 7 seconds on the clock.

Let's keep in mind that nobody in the NFL runs faster than 10 yards/second.

I'm OK with using that timeout. The Texans literally had no way to tie the game given where they were. They could have hit a bomb to get a TD, but if that had happened, the clock would have been at 00:00.

by Lyford :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:15pm

The Texans literally had no way to tie the game given where they were.

Well, a long completion with a defensive penalty (facemask, unnecessary roughness) would have given the Texans a chance to kick a tying field goal on an untimed down.

Still hard to see a scenario in which the Patriots could/would have used that timeout any better than they did...

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:09pm

Good point. I'd forgotten the possibility of an untimed down.

But even if that had happened, the extra timeout still would have been of no use to the Patriots.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:57pm

I think the timeout was smart -- preserved the field position and took all the time off the game clock that you could. And, it made it so that when NE did punt, the defense could not time the snap (in other words, there was no worry of the defense watching the play clock and jumping the snap with a second to go).

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:26am

I was so hoping Minny would have tied on back-to-back weeks...

by collapsing pocket (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:27am

It's difficult to play tough in those powder blue unis, I'm sure.

Either that or its difficult to play tough when you have a historically bad defense. Not really fair to blame the uniforms.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:09pm

...is it ever fair to blame the uniforms?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:14pm

It worked for the 1976-1996 Buccaneers...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:17pm

If you look at how terrible Culverhouse was an owner plus the stunning ineptitude of the front office in drafting players, you can make a very, very sad argument that those awful uniforms were actually the best thing about the 1976-1996 Buccaneers.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:03pm

I never minded the old Bucs uniforms until they decided to go with the orange pants. Yeeeesh...

by coboney :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:24pm

I'm always fine with blaming the Steelers throwbacks due to the damage they must inflict on all who see them.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:27am

Tom Gower: You know who thinks the story of the end of SNF should be the officiating confusion? Pierre Garcon.

Of *course* that's the story of the end of the game. Come on.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:29am

You know, I understand the outrage over the officials' screw-up over the downs on Washington's final drive, and it is absolutely true that the Redskins' play-call on third down might have been different had they known it was not first down. I get that.

But regardless of strategy, both the third-or-first play and the fourth-down play resulted in Griffin delivering accurate passes directly into the hands of receivers. That is to say, the play calls, different or not than what they would have been, *worked*. The reason the plays themselves did not succeed is that the receivers dropped the ball. True, Davis had some help from the defensive back whacking him one, but a professional tight end making millions of dollars per year is supposed to hold on to that catch.

We can talk about Triplette and Co. making a mistake all we want, and really there's no excuse for them making that mistake. In a vacuum, the officials can be blamed for their own poor performance. But they can't be blamed for costing Washington the game when Washington ran successful plays that the receivers simply failed to execute. (Tom Gower's tweet was dead on point here.)

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:35am

As a football fan, I don't care whether Fred Davis or Pierre Garcon can hold onto the ball. That's for the Redskins' coaches and fans to worry about.

I do care that the officials show some base level of competence.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:42am

You can rant all you want about the officials. It was an embarrassing performance for them. All I'm saying is that their mistake luckily did not determine the outcome of the game, thanks to the subsequent actions of the players. It could have done so, and that's part of why we should care, but the point is that the tenor of the criticism should be "OFFICIALS MESS UP BASIC GAME MANAGEMENT" instead of "OFFICIALS COST REDSKINS FINAL DRIVE OPPORTUNITY," and I'm seeing way too much of the latter (starting with Collinsworth in the game itself and continuing with ESPN this morning).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:07pm

Totally agree. If I were a Redskins fan, I would not want the players to use the officials' incompetence as an excuse for their lack of execution. Despite the fact that Triplette and company committed a fireable offense, it did not affect the outcome of the game.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:48pm

Does it change things if Garcon got his facemask grabbed on that final play (which it was)? When is it okay to complain about the officials' mistakes?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:00pm

I was referring specifically to the 1st down-3rd down shenanigans, which is what the media seems to be focused on.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:07pm

… But, they did, by definition, cost the Redskins' a final drive opportunity. The fact that the Redskins could have still succeeded isn't relevant. In the Packers-Seahawks game last year, the Packers could have avoided any trouble by simply blowing out the Seahawks. Were you arguing the referees didn't affect the result then?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:37pm

The Redskins still succeeded in getting a new set of downs. Garcon fumbling had nothing to do with down and distance.

In fact, Fred Davis also had that ugly drop the previous play. If Davis makes that catch, I guess the Redskins would have to thank the officials for making them think it was 1st down.

The man with no sig

by spujr :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:11pm

"It was really sad to see poor Alex Smith finally throw some nice deep passes to open receivers, only to see them dropped." -Aaron Schatz

Yeah, I though Smith played very well this game and was let down by the receivers.

It was nice to see the Broncos ramp it up in the second half. The last few games things fell apart in the last two quarters making me suspect the impact of not having Fox. Manning looked rusty early in the game (two interceptions with little pressure) but I think we were all reminded why the Broncos are rated #2 DVOA in case we forgot after last week's performance.

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:27pm

Denver looked good, but they have an incredible amount of defensive injuries on the DL and defensive backfield. If KC's receivers were even average, that game goes to OT or worse. Right now it is their LBs holding the defense together. Miller, Trevathon and Woodyard are as good as any three LBs in the league and if one of them go down, Denver won't be able to stop anyone,

On a positive note, Monte Ball looked like a beast and looks good enough to keep Denver from overusing Moreno the rest of the season/post-season.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:41pm

Well, some of those guys are coming back at some point, right. Only Vickerson is done for the season, I believe. DRC should be back. Wolfe's situation requires monitoring, but I would wager he'll be back.

The defense is not good, yes, but that lost in that 28 point performance is Denver giving up a TD on a drive that started at the 22 and a kickoff return. On the TD drive that made it 35-28, they also made the Chiefs go for ~15 plays, which is pretty good for their defense.

The biggest problem I still see is that the coverage really struggles to hold up beyond 3.5-4 seconds, making their pass rush so important, and that pass rush was largely silent yesterday.

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:27pm

Hopefully they get Wolf and DRC back soon and don't have any more injuries. While Webster is a nice surprise, he's still a rookie that has had his moments getting burned. Seeing Champ get targeted in the first quarter and then pulled in the 2nd half was not encouraging.

I agree with you that much of Denver's defense is dependent on Miller and the pass rush. What I've noticed the last few weeks (2nd half NE & whole KC game) is that Miller is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a TE/RB which isn't freeing up other pass rushers as much as it should, esp given how many passing situations they faced in the last 6 quarters.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:22pm

Missing Wolfe and VIckerson really hurts the pass rush, I think.

by rageon :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:14pm

Two thoughts of mine from the Denver game:

1st - Is Denver aware they are allowed to pass on first down. I missed most of the first quarter, but the rest of the way, I maybe remember just a couple of passes on first down. If I can spot playcalling tendencies while watching an infant at the same time, you can be pretty sure that other teams will as well.

2nd - On the play where the Denver player (Ihenacho, I think) got flagged for a late hit (which he absolutely deserved), one of the apparently inactive players on KC's bench pretty cleared shoved him as he was getting up. How would that theoretically be penalized if the refs were so inclined? Some kind of general bench foul or something?

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:34pm

Unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct, Kansas City bench.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:15pm

I must again commend Mike Ridley for his invention of the term "Weediculous", meaning "so bad it's comparable to something Brandon Weeden would do". It's perfect.

I was curious to see how Mike Glennon would do against a defense as good as Carolina's, and I thought he was better than his numbers showed. He had that utterly ridiculous fumble (if you haven't seen it, you should, it's hilarious) where he just dropped the ball pulling his arm back to pass, plus his one INT was at best iffy; the pass was clearly quite short, but Vincent Jackson was held trying to come back to it. The refs called it "uncatchable" which it seemed pretty clear it wouldn't have been had V-Jax not been interfered with, and had it been called the INT would have been wiped out. Carolina was clearly the better team, but Tampa at least looked vaguely competent and didn't make an endless series of stupid mistakes. Progress!

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:15pm

New England's run defense has looked really bad the last few weeks and will end up biting them in the post-season. They are also going to be extremely vulnerable to play-action passing. They can't count on playing in 25mph winds or facing Case Keenum in the playoffs.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:16pm

I don't know. Their playoff games figure to be at Foxboro, Denver, and E. Rutherford. They should be able to count on playing in sloppy and unfavorable weather.

by 3Monkies (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:32pm

In Denver they should expect cold, but probably not 25 mph wind...

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:12pm

It's far from guaranteed that they get the second seed. If they play like they did against the Texans' they won't.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 11:26pm

Nothings guaranteed, but I have a hell of a lot more faith in the Patriots than the Colts or Bengals for the 2 seed. And that's without considering they have a one-game lead with four to play and have the Browns, Jets, and Dolphins on the schedule.

They are more likely to finish as the #1 seed than the #3.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:46am

I think New England is a pretty sure bet for the #2 seed, but both Cincinnati and Indianapolis have manageable schedules the rest of the way (IND does have to go to KC, which will be tough). Both, if they win out and NE drops a game, would have the tiebreaker over the Pats (IND on strength of victory, which they'll have in most realistic simulations - CIN on head-to-head). The good news for the Pats is one of them is guaranteed to lose on Sunday.

I think the chances of them getting the #1 seed (them winning out, DEN finishing 3-1), is about equal to the chance of them dropping to #3 (them going 3-1, either IND or CIN winning out). But #2 is the safe bet, which is exactly where they were a year ago.

It is really rare for teams to repeat as the #2 seed. SF last year was the first in a long, long time to do it.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 5:55am

And by "Jets", I obviously mean "Bills".

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:20pm

Kellen Clemens looked awful. His receivers had a good number of drops, but more often he was flat-out missing an open guy, or giving them no chance to fight for the ball.

I haven't gotten to watch much football the past month (Pretty two-year-old, pretty wife. They want to do things.) But how in the world did that guy put up 80 points in two consecutive weeks?

..................and if it's not a penalty to tackle a guy by his nuts, good god, shouldn't it be?

I can hear you now -- you're saying, bravehoptoad, this ain't no sissy game. This is a game where guys are meant to be hauled to the ground by a crushing grip on the nut sac. If we make it illegal to tackle a guy by his nuts, where will it end? And I'd say, well, it'll end right there. Tackling a guy by his balls: that's just wrong.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:25pm

Illegal touching?

by jimbohead :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:53pm

I think the appropriate call is "giving him the business"

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:36pm

A real man gets pulled to the ground by his testicles, then jumps up and asks for more!

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:25pm

Asks for more... you mean a new pair of testicles, right?

by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:18pm

Is the blank "Longform" header at the end of the Miami-NYJ section a deliberate bit of ironic commentary? If so, well played.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:20pm

Given how many times he has been in the center of an officiating mess how does Jeff Triplette still have a job as an official?

by coboney :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:29pm

Because to fire him would be saying he did something wrong and therefore bring into question all those previous messes.

So basically he's got a job because he's so bad that the NFL doesn't want to go through the mess of firing him and admitting he was incompetent all along and address all those previous errors.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:24pm

I do want to acknowledge the drubbing of the Packers by the Lions.

Along with recognizing a superlative effort, I am now hopeful that this very sorry performance will cause some legit internal review by all layers of GB management.

I understand that losing a great quarterback is a big deal, but I don't think that injury should have generated the complete collapse of the run defense, an inability to cover kicks of any kind adequately and an offensive line that has linemen get PANCAKED by defenders several times a game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:40pm

How much of Ted Thompson's reputation, and Mike McCarthy's reputation, is based on the 2nd qb taken in the 2005 Draft lasting until the 24th pick?

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:52pm

Well they did take over a 4-12 team, and immediately improve it.

That said, I often felt that McCarthy's offense is more QB reliant than most. Without the ability to rifle in those back shoulder throws, it loses a major component.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:59pm

Isn't that like saying that without Barry Sanders' abillity to shake three defenders, the Lions offense looses a big component? It's not really a system to have your QB make tough throw into tight windows.,

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:23pm

I think the way the routes are designed to turn the defender away from the QB, and have him deliver a back shoulder throw to the receiver is absolutely part of Packers offense by design. It makes good QBs and receivers even better, but it is almost impossible for poor talent to run.

Sort of like the Martz system requires the QB and receivers to read the defense and adjust to blitzes on the fly. Cutler and the Bear's receivers were not smart enough to run that system as intended, but when you have Warner, Holt, and Bruce, you get the greatest show on turf.

Or for a less extreme example, how the current Saints and Bears offenses require the offense line to not allow pressure up the middle, and the QB to step up. If you don't have a solid interior line, the system won't work.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:36pm

Martz's system really requires outstanding o-line play as well, which, in an era where an increasing percentage of salary cap gets devoted to top echelon qbs, is very problematic.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:58pm

Ted Thompson has drafted a lot of quality players besides Rodgers (Mathews, Sitton, Finley, Cobb, Nellson among others)

If there is anyone who should be taking some heat it's McCarthy

I don't think a quality coaching staff has a team go 0-4-1 with 3 home games just because the starting qb is out

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:05pm

The quality of the roster has not been self evident over the past 5 weeks.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:43pm

I agree, I don't know how you can blame Thompson. Even if you want to say the offense owes most of its success to Rodgers, anyone with eyes can see that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are outstanding players (and great draft value to boot), and Lacy is a good running back. And the defense with basically the same personnel has shown in the recent past it can be good (8th by DVOA last year, and played well to begin this year).

You can argue that maybe Thompson has neglected an offensive line whose mediocrity is often masked by Rodgers, but many great quarterbacks make their line look better than they really are.

My first instinct is that McCarthy should shoulder the blame...but can you really blame him for some of the key injuries? Maybe he and his staff should take some heat for the healthy players not playing well.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:06pm

The offensive line hasn't been neglected, it's just had a large share of injuries.

GB has invested two 1st round draft picks and a 4th rounder on offensive tackles since the start of 2010. Bryan Bulaga (1st) was slated to be the LT, but tore his ACL in preseason. Derek Sherrod badly broke his leg in 2011, and has just now made his way back onto the active roster.

Despite being down two first round talents, GB's O-line started off the season quite well. Sacks were down a bit, and the running game started going once Lacy got over his own injury (concussion) early in the season. 4th round LT Bahktiari has played very well for a rookie (Thanksgiving was his worst game), and the middle of the line especially played quite well.

Since then, GB has suffered injuries to every starting lineman except LG Sitton. Losing RT Don Barclay for a few games, in particular, meant that GB was down 3 of it's top 4 offensive tackles (assuming that a healthy Sherrod is better than Marshall Newhouse, at least at RT, which recent performances indicate is very likely).

Bucko has also indicated that Thompson has draft several other talented players, including Finley and Cobb, both of whom are on IR (Cobb with designation to return). Without these two, GB has lost it's top two inside receivers.

Very few offenses will perform well under these circumstances. Yet they still could have won a few more games if the healthy D-line had played a little better over the last month or so.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:00pm

I think it is slightly unfair to put Ted Thompson's reputation on the Rodgers pick, as he did a great job of filling this roster with talent in the years following Rodgers' drafting. This team was a 13-3 team on talent before Rodgers started a game (admittedly, with Favre having his best season in years in 2007). They had enough talent in other areas to have a legitimate Top-5 defense in 2009-10 (especially in 2010, when their defense was good enough to overcome some slow offensive games in the regular season).

To me, the problem with Thompson's players are they've been largely injury prone, and the depth of the Packers roster isn't nearly what it used to be. I also think they've never really recovered from losing Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins, replacing them to middling results.

As for McCarthy, tying his success and reputation to Rodgers is more fair, as now that we get an extended look at his offense sans Rodgers, the results are not good at all. Rodgers is both the problem and the solution to the Packers O-Line woes, good enough to be amazing even with a bad O-Line, but making them worse at times. Well, everyone else that McCarthy is having play QB right now is only the problem.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:11pm

I'm certainly not saying Thompson is bad at his job. I'm saying that absent the good fortune of Aaron Rodgers being available at 24, Ted Thompson's reputation would have substantially less stature. This isn't terribly harsh criticism. Belichik is a great, great coach, whose career accomplishments would be substantially less impressive, absent a lucky break with a late round qb pick.

What McCarthy deserves more recognition for is the coaching he did with Rodgers.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:09pm

It's an interesting though experiment. Farve made a probowl 2 years after leaving the Packers, so minus Rodgers, they still have 2-3 years of pretty great QBing. Also, 2 more years to find a replacement. We might be smack dab in the middle of the Matt Flynn era right now.

by Marty_McMartin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:16pm

To say the Packers would have had "2-3 years of pretty great Qbing"seems to ignore what Farve actually did on the field. He made the pro bowl one of those years, but he was below average in one and terrible enough in the other that he was benched.

Keep in mind that the Packers won the Super Bowl the year after Farve left.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:22pm

He was hurt with the Jets. Which may or may not have happened if he stayed on the Packers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:33pm

Favre's last year in Green Bay was 2007. The Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010. Favre was hurt, with the Jets, in 2008, and finished 3rd by DYAR in 2007, 15th in 2006, and 10th in 2005, with Green Bay.

by Marty_McMartin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:44pm

I thought that sounded wrong even as I wrote it but I didn't bother to look it up. Seems a double sin to get that wrong since I live in Milwaukee.

Also, you may have a point about Farve's season with the Jets but even without the injury there is no guaruntee that Farve woulda very been good. Farve had down seasons in 2005 and 2006 before having a bit of a renaissance in 2007, his last year in GB.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:49pm

When being 10th by DYAR counts as a down season, in a very long career, I guess you are a Hall of Famer.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 6:20pm

I had never looked at Favre's DVOA/DYAR from 2005 before reading this. Finishing 10th in DYAR while throwing 29 interceptions is quite the accomplishment.

Edit- Rookie Peyton Manning ('98) managed to finish 12th in DYAR in 1998 while throwing 28 picks and Bledsoe in his second season ('94) threw 27 but finished 9th. All three had positive DVOA as well. Thought it might be a fun quirk but it's really just something that comes with throwing that many passes.

by nath :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 2:25am

V before R.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:47pm

I'm pretty confident that had Favre still been in the Packers offense rather than the Jets "offense" in 2008 he'd have been much better than below average.

To look at it another way, Rodgers didn't exceed Favre's 2007 production until 2011 and the Packers definitely declined and the Jets definitely improved with the Rodgers-for-Favre and Favre-for-Pennington/Clemens swaps.

The Packers would almost certainly have had two more years of Super Bowl contender quality quarterbacking in 2008 and 2009 (probably better than what they did have, frankly, and with the added bonus of the Favre Vikings not being around to sweep them out of a bye and into a wildcard in 2009) for Thompson to try to find a different replacement if Rodgers hadn't fallen down the first round.

by Led :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:22pm

Disagree about the Jets being better off with Favre than Pennington in 2008. Pennington solidly outplayed Favre all year with the Dolphins, who were not blessed with outstanding offensive talent either. Favre was disinterested in NY (except as to cheerleaders and masseuses) and the impact of the injury was overstated. It was never even clear to me exactly when the injury happened.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:54pm

We humans don't like to acknowledge luck and randomness - we really like to think we have much more control over things than we really do.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:58pm

The downward spiral in the trenches is a bit baffling.

On offense, the O-line is clearly having some injury problems, as it's been several weeks since they've been able to field EDS, Lang, and Barclay for an entire game. And obviously defenses are loading up more against the run with Rodgers out.

Bu the run D really has no excuses. They were quite good for the first 5-6 games, and have collapsed lately, despite the D-line being the healthiest unit on the whole team this year. Playing a short week after a full length overtime game couldn't have helped, but doesn't explain that much.

It's one thing for a team to not live up to a preseason "on paper" billing, but it's another thing for a unit or team to just decline so dramatically during the season without injury problems.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:58pm

The performance of the Packers front 7 was most baffling. When the Packers played the Lions in week 5, they looked like a top 10 unit and absolutely dominated the Lions offensive line. Then this past Thursday, they were Falcons-level bad, and the Lions O-line dominated them. It was one of the strangest splits I've ever seen (and can't be explained away by Calvin Johnson missing the first game).

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:28pm

Dolphins/Jets comments It is interesting to see Miami's offense when it works. Today all their short screens had actual blocking so the receiver didn't get hit immediately after the catch. Wallace actually broke some tackles. The offensive line kept people off Tannehill. The net result was 23 points making the Dolphins the only team yet to score 27 or more points in a game. They also failed to get a 4th quarter TD although they had one removed by the refs which probably counts on style points. Even when everything works for this team they have weird fundamental problems that might require a 7 member panel of outside experts and an investigator from the front office to solve.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:40pm

They had a missed FG, too. All in all, the fact they scored 23 rather than 33 is mostly bad breaks, not fundamentals.

The man with no sig

by bubqr :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:47pm

Some good tweets in there, best Audibles so far in that regards, and nath_on_fire (nat?) steals the shows with this one:
"@nath_on_fire: "CALL HIM CECIL PANTS III, 'CAUSE THAT WAS A BIG BOY PLAY!" - My imaginary new favorite announcer."

by jimbohead :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:59pm

SF's delay of game/timeout issue seems to stem from their overly onerous set of motions before each play. My uninformed speculation is that they feel they need them to help Kap diagnose coverages. That said, I felt the timeout after the crabtree completion was justified, more than a typical big play, because of the emotional weight of that moment for Crabtree and that whole offense.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:54pm

The motions seem to be tied to the 'three plays in the huddle' thing. It's got to the stage where hurrying to the line and snapping the ball quickly would count as am unexpected trick play for the niners.

I also wonder if having to hold the pays in his head presnap could be hurting Kap's ability to run through his progressions quickly, though he was much better yesterday.

by Richie1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 12:59pm

I understand the emotional need to prove that "I'm - I mean, WE are smarter than THEY are!!!" But it can't be so transparently ridiculous.

Kacsmar: Not even Dwight Schrute himself would pretend there's no difference between a 7-point lead and an 8-point lead. One you need one score to eliminate, the other the same one score and then an additional 50/50 play. A late 8-point lead is thus twice as safe as a 7-point lead. How can this math be so difficult for you Football Outsiders bozos?!?

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:40pm

"A late 8-point lead is thus twice as safe as a 7-point lead. How can this math be so difficult for you Football Outsiders bozos?!?"

That's not possible and I will prove it tomorrow.

by Anger...rising :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:01pm

I doubt you could prove water is wet.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:06pm

I don't agree with the "bozo" comment, but I am interested in the logic that will debunk his notion, for I, too, thought it was best to take the 8-point lead (safely) and force the opponent to make a 2-point conversion. I guess you will look into the averages of the Colts gaining the 9-point lead (let's suggest 50-50), and then ...

Let's see, done 100 times, assuming getting the 2-pointer is 50-50 and that Tenn scores a TD at the end:

Colts go for 2,
50 times successful, 9-point lead, game over.
50 times unsuccessful, 7-point lead, game tied, with 50-50 chance of winning in OT (after Tenn takes the tied with XP), so ...
subset 25 times Colts win in OT,
subset 25 times Colts lose in OT.
Thus, going for 2 gives you a 75% chance of winning.

I get that, but...

Colts go for 1 to take 8-point lead,
50 times Tenn does not get 2-pointer, so Colts win.
50 times Tenn makes 2-pointer, and thus to OT, so ...
subset 25 times Colts win in OT,
subset 25 times Tenn wins in OT.
Thus, going for 1 gives you a 75% chance of winning.

So, the hinging stat is how often teams are successful on 2-point conversations. If it's more than 50%, than the Colts should have gone for it. If it's less, than they should have kicked. If it's 50%, then it doesn't matter.

Not a mathematician, so fix my logic, please.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:10pm

Oops, I see the original post was debating 7-point versus 8-point leads, but I am wondering about the Colt decision to make it 9-points or 7-points. I am guessing the 7 vs 8 is simpler:

100 times with 7, you will win 50% in OT.

100 times with 8, you will win 50% on the failed 2-point conversation, and then half of the made conversions in OT, so 75% chance of winning with the 8 point lead.

So, 50% win with 7-point lead, and 75% win with 8-point lead.


by Ben :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:12pm

Well, the other hinging stat is the win probability in overtime. That's hard to quantify though. The Titans were generally out playing the Colts, so that would lead to the Colts wanting to avoid overtime, I would think. However, Fitzpatrick was turning the ball over with regularity. However, i'm not sure the coaches would want to keep counting on that, since the Titans have generally been pretty good in the ball security department this season.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:18pm

Good point, but as the teams were pretty even in scoring, I took the 50-50 assumption. One could argue that, I see.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:35pm

I think your assumption that Tenn scores 100% of the time makes the math easier but distorts the result. But I am too lazy to figure out how much.

by luvrhino :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:14pm

If the Titans don't score, then it doesn't matter what the Colts do, so it can be ignored in the analysis.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:30pm

Dude, you failed to take into account (A) Swagger and (B) Momentum, the two most essential aspects of any football game (or dwarf-tossing competition). In general, I thought you were on the right track.

I was okay with either choice because I think there was ample time left meaning a lot could happen--if TN scores a TD, they definitely kick for a tie unless forced to try for two to tie. I think the only likely loss there for Indy is in OT, which is a roughly 50/50 proposition.

by luvrhino :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:18pm

Under the other assumptions (e.g., Tennessee always takes the XP if down one, Colts always win if their two-point conversion is successful), the overtime odds don't affect the analysis.

The assumptions mean that the result is always either Colts win in regulation or there's overtime...the Colts should act to maximize the chance that they win in regulation, whether their overtimes odds are 50-50, 90-10, or 10-90.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:28pm

Gah, you've sucked me in with the "not a mathematician" bit.

If we're presuming both
a) PAT's are achieved with 100% rate (which is true enough)
b) Tennessee is going to score exactly one more TD.

Let's say both teams have the same probability, p, of converting a 2-point conversion. And let's say any OT game is a 50-50 result. And let's assume the Titans don't pull a Michigan and go for a 2-point conversion when a PAT could tie the game.

Let S1 = "Colts settle for 1" and S2 = "Colts go for 2."

Then the probability of the Colts winning with S1 is
(1-p) + .5 p = 1 - .5p

Here the (1-p) represents the failure of the Titans' 2-point conversion.

The probability of the Colts winning with S2 is
p + .5 (1-p) = .5 + .5p.

1 - .5p = .5 + .5p
.5 = p

So if p > .5, S2 is better, and if p < .5, S1 is better.

So yeah, you've gotten the crux of the issue. If converting a 2-point conversion is "hard", don't try it. If it's "easy", of course you do it.

by luvrhino :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:12pm


It's really a matter whether the odds of the Colts' offense converting a two-pointer are better than their defense is at stopping one. Under most circumstances, the two-point conversion rate is below 50%, which makes kicking the PAT the correct decision.

Of course, if it were the case that the conversion rate was above 50%, then in case of a miss the Titans should go for two were they to get a TD down by a point with no time left.

Another argument against going for two is that if the Colts succeed, then the Titans know they have to have two scores and can strategize accordingly. Were the Colts to kick the XP to go up by 8, then the Titans don't know if they'll need to score twice because the critical two-point conversion hasn't happened yet.

Colts kicking was almost certainly correct.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:41pm

Absolutely. Two-point conversion rates being what they are, being forced to defend one is far preferable to being forced to make one. Scott Kacsmar's assertion to the contrary is pretty bizarre.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:39pm

"Were the Colts to kick the XP to go up by 8, then the Titans don't know if they'll need to score twice because the critical two-point conversion hasn't happened yet."

This is a variable that needs exploring some.

When teams are down 8, do they play for one score, or two?

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:44pm

Well we know Cris Collinsworth's answer. He acted like the two-point was a given for Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving and was more worried about Baltimore's time to answer without ever considering the time the Steelers needed to conserve should they not convert.

Practically my entire recap on TEN-IND will be about that decision, so I'm saving it for tomorrow but I'll just say now you guys are ignoring a very obvious fact about the late 7-point lead.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:35pm

"I'm saving it for tomorrow but I'll just say now you guys are ignoring a very obvious fact about the late 7-point lead."

This better be good, or we'll be calling you "Bait-and-switch Scott Kacsmar the Used Car Salesman"!

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:30pm

It will be worth your time. In what was a forgettable Colts/Titans game, I plan on spending more time in writing the recap on it than any other game this week. Already compiled some good numbers.

by luvrhino :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 6:55pm

I do know that with a late 7-point lead, your opponent will almost always kick the PAT instead of going for two were they to score a TD. That's not relevant unless their odds of a two-point conversion are 50+%, in which case they should be going for two (ignoring seasonal considerations such as avoiding OT to keep players better rested).

All that was covered in my post above, so you've piqued my interest as to what the "very obvious" fact is. I can't think of any important time-management differences between behavior with 7-pt and 8-pt deficits with 1:44 to play. If anything, the team down by 8-pts would be more panicked trying to score quickly, since they might need to score twice. This would make it more advantageous for the Colts to kick to be up by 8, since they could counter a quick score Titans TD+2pt conversion with a score of their own.

I'm skeptical, but i'll see what Scott has to say.

by nat :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:35pm

I'm betting on reframing the question to include the case of the first two-point conversion succeeding, a mathematical stunt such as defining "halving the risk" as "doubling the chance to win", or assigning high probabilities to unlikely events, such as a successful onside kick followed by a FG or Hail Mary pass.

In any case, expect bogosity.

I'd love to be wrong.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:13pm

I'm very curious as to what this obvious fact is as well. I'd love to see a detailed breakdown of the decision, because I had the same "should they go for 2?" thought as it was happening. Ultimately, I came to the same decision most others above did, that it boils down to who you trust more -- your offense to convert it, or your defense to stop it. The way the game had gone so far, I was in favor of kicking.

But I'm open to the possibility that I'm wrong. There are clearly a lot of assumptions built into this thought process. Maybe I'm underestimating the possibility of multiple scores occurring in the remaining time, or some such.

Also, not that it matters much, but it's worth noting that this is strictly an academic exercise. Fitzpatrick threw a pick on the final drive, so none of this ended up mattering. Not so with the odd 2nd down FG try by Chicago, which is why that'll get a lot more scrutiny. All the more reason I'm interested in the breakdown of this one.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:07pm

The worst thing about Trestman's decision was the drive to get there was all Forte runs.

Forte for 7
Forte for 4
Forte for 9
Forte for 1
Forte for 3

Just keep feeding him until they stop it. He's a sure handed running back. Fumbles shouldn't be a major concern, and you don't lose anything if you score a TD.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:29pm

It will surprise no one to hear that I think an earlier set of decisions by Trestman was even more indefensible. The gift interception has given the Bears the ball at midfield. On 1st down, Forte runs outside for 9 yards. It is now 2nd and 1 at the Minnesota 41 with 4:38 to go in the 4th, with the Bears up 3. A 1st down puts you into field goal range and either runs another 2-3 minutes off the clock or forces Minnesota to burn the rest of their timeouts. What does Trestman do? He lines up in the bleepity-bleeping I formation and sends Forte up the gut on 2nd down AND THEN DOES THE SAME THING ON 3RD DOWN! Both plays predictably fail, and the Bears punt (!!!!!) on 4th and 1, leading to the game-tying FG. If Trestman doesn't understand by now that his team sucks at running up the middle from tight formations, maybe he's not as smart as I thought he was.

Also, Matt Cassel is the MVP of that game. Ponder was awful, and the Bears did Minny a huge favor by knocking him out. Cassel made zero mistakes (the interception was entirely his TE's fault), made several very nice throws under pressure, and saved the game by tackling K. Greene on the interception return.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:41pm

Yes, that sequence of runs was unconscionable. Trestman won't admit that this team sucks at running for short yardage. They were terrible at it under Lovie and they're terrible even with the good new line.

What are we even basing the idea that Trestman is smart on, anyway? He runs a nice offense (like Lovie ran a nice defense), but (again like Lovie) he's just helpless with in-game decision-making.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:41pm

If Cassell had started every game this year, there is a decent chance the Vikings would be competing for the division title, which, I know, says a lot about the division, absent Rodgers.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:52pm

At minimum, Greg Jennings would be having a much better year.

by Richie1 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:48pm

He was given the job earlier in the season and sucked, just like he has for a number of years now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:31pm

Sucking is a relative quality, especially in the set known as "Vikings quarterbacks".

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:25pm

I'm on board with complaining about this now. I was doing myself in IRC while the game was on.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:48pm

I don't know that I'd say the series after the gift interception was more indefensible, but I'm in complete agreement with you about how mind-bogglingly awful the playcalling was. Also, after the Bears failed to get the 1st down, am I the only one who thinks they should have tried the long field goal? I understand that there's a good chance it's a miss and Minnesota gets the ball with great field position, but the Bears defense was happy to hand great field position right back to Minnesota anyway within a few plays after the punt.

I think I'm as mad at Trestman for the 2nd down field goal attempt in OT as I ever was for any of Lovie Smith's boneheaded decisions. The worst part is hearing his rationale that he didn't want to risk any "unique" mistakes like what Minnesota had just done. By that logic, why not kick a 50-yarder on 1st and 10? Heck, why not go ahead and kick the ball every time you get into field goal range during every game?

As tuluse said, the worst thing about the decision is that the Bears were moving the ball very well. It's not inconceivable that they'd have picked up another first down and started to move into chip-shot range. Gould's one of the best kickers in NFL history for a reason and it's unfortunate that he missed a very makeable try, but I don't care who your kicker is, you want to get him as close as you can.

On a different note, I'm starting to come around to the idea that Mel Tucker is part of the problem with the Bears defense. I understand the talent deficit, but how is it that none of the idiots on the defense can make a tackle on the rare occasion that they actually cover somebody? (Also, why is Chris Conte still employed, much less still starting on an NFL team?)

by Juvenal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:54pm

They also mentioned suring the game that Gould's wife had given birth the night before and he was operating on very little sleep.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 7:52am

The only reason that I can think of is that Trestman doesn't trust McCown the same way he would Cutler. He doesn't want to take risks with a backup QB.

Why is everyone jumping on Conte. He has outplayed Wright all year and is better in coverage. No he can't shut down slot receivers and TEs but very few safeties can. Blaming him for some of the stuff going on in the run game is silly too, when backs are consistently getting up to the safety with a head of steam all safeties are going to be exposed. There are reasons why these RBs get into the NFL.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:44pm

Conte seems to make some really terrible mistakes every game. Like concussing a teammate this last game. He did have a nice one-on-one tackle against AP near the goalline though.

Wright has been much more consistent, if not good.

Steltz should not be on an NFL team.

by Brian C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:09pm

I don't really think that the decisions to kick field goals in the CHI-MIN overtime are all that indefensible. I mean, so an "average" kicker (which Walsh is probably better than) misses from 39 yards one in five times - put another way, that means that Frazier made a decision that results in a win 80% of the time. That sounds pretty good to me.

Even Gould's 47 yarder - assuming that Trestman has the same figures as quoted above, that means that he's looking at a 75% chance to win the game right then and there. Probably higher than that, since Gould is certainly better than an average kicker.

Don't get me wrong, I full well understand the argument to try to get closer. But aside from Frazier's decision to go for the 57-yarder (which I grant is truly baffling), I think it's easy to overstate the risk that these coaches were taking given the circumstances.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:43pm

Running AP into the middle of the line on 2nd down to settle for a 50+ yard FG on 3rd in OT is the singly stupidest coaching move of the year, right? At least with Trestman kicking on 2nd down there was a reasonable chance of the FG being made, but Frazier just shrugging and going for the super-long kick was mind-bogglingly dumb.

I did just see that Gould's first child was born Saturday, and he didn't get to Minnesota until early Sunday. Based on the fact the guy is clearly going to be exhausted, Trestman settling for the 47-yarder is even more inexplicable.

by Dan L (not verified) :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:46am

As much as I agree with all of the analysis on running extra plays to improve the chances of the field goal, I don't agree with the "running Adrian Peterson into the line" talk. When running plays fail, that is what they look like. The choice from the coaches perspective was "run a play with your star running back who is averaging 6.0 per carry today". There may still be an argument for passing on the play, but it is disingenuous to say the coach chose a running play that would not gain yardage.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 10:47am

If AP gets six yards on that run instead of losing a few, the Vikings are still looking at somewhere around a 45+ yard FG. Yes, that's a better chance, but it seems to me you want to maximize your chances to win, and that requires at least one more first down. Running in that situation is an overly cautious move; throw the ball.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:35pm

"Running in that situation is an overly cautious move"

Keep in mind Matt Cassell was the quarterback. Running was cautious, but not overly so.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:56pm

Cassell isn't Petyon Manning, but he also isn't Brandon Weeden. He had a decent day, and I think it's patently obvious your odds of missing a FG from that range are significantly higher than Cassell throwing a pick.

Cassell is what he is, a backup. He'll do some awful things, some good things, but he's certainly not the kind of epically awful that would make you terrified to have him throw in that situation.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:12pm

The options are this:

75-80% chance at winning the game

Running a play which will increase that chance, with a ~1% chance at a turnover.

So would you rather 20% chance at turning the ball over or 1%?

by Brian C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:11pm

I don't know where your "1% chance at a turnover" logic comes from. Looking at the Bears and the decision to let Gould kick, they've have run 768 plays from scrimmage this year. They've turned the ball over 16 times. That's over 2%.

OK, that's not a huge difference, but still. If they're being aggressive in the chance to get more yardage, that percentage would surely be higher, right? I doubt you're advocating just running it up the middle for minimal gain, correct? After all, Frazier is being crucified for doing just that, and with a much better running back than Forte (and against a much worse running defense than Minnesota's!).

Besides which, a turnover is not the only potential problem. Lord knows that the Bears running game takes a lot of tackles for loss. If you go to the passing game, a sack obviously makes things worse. There are penalties, which have been a problem for the Bears the last few weeks. Etc.

So at what point are we splitting hairs about odds? Gould's one of the best kickers in the game. The Bears have a good offense but not THAT good. Trestman had an excellent opportunity to win the game. It went badly. If it didn't, no one would have even brought it up. The criticism here is not unfounded, as I said in my original post, but it seems a bit myopic to me.

As for Minnesota, the decision to kick a 39-yard FG in sudden-death OT with a good kicker strikes me as wholly uncontroversial.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:20pm

"If it didn't, no one would have even brought it up."

Wrong. Plenty of bad decisions made by coaches that still won the game get brought up, often in Barnwell's weekly "Thank You for Not Coaching" articles, and Chip Kelly had some of his decisions scrutinized this week as well in the following article.


by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:27pm

I was assuming you would only call a run there. Forte has fumbled 16 times in 1476 attempts in his career. Slightly over 1%, but you would expect the offense to fall on a number of the fumbles, so I'm confident the chances of losing a fumble to be 1% or less in that situation.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:33pm

Well, maybe his "1% chance at a turnover" was based on Forte's 2 fumbles in 214 carries, on the assumption that he's not planning on throwing deep into double coverage or sending five guys out while giving McCown a seven step drop.

And no, I don't think he was advocating running it up the middle for minimal gain. I think the plan was to run it for four or five yards, and then run it for four or five yards again...

by RickD :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:33pm

The logic behind putting Gould out to kick a 47-yarder was definitely unsound.

Let's look at exactly what the logic was, from the coach's post-game comments.

"He was in range."

But "in range" in this case means "he can make a FG from this distance". Given that his miss probability goes down dramatically if the Bears make just ten more yards, kicking a FG on 2nd down is indefensible.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:10pm

Walsh has attempted 105 kicks in his career from inside 40 yards. He has converted on 103 of them (counting PATs).


On just FGs, he has converted 34 of 35 attempts. Thus, based on his history, and not Lou Groza's, there's around 90-95% odds he's good from 39 -- as he, in fact, was.

As to why kick on 3rd? It's sudden death. If you Romo the hold, simply falling on the ball yields a 46-yard makeup try. He's 23/28 in that range.

Eschewing kicking on 3rd is the kind of self-deluding paralysis-by-analysis the stat guys get ridiculed for. You did notice AP lost 4 yards on the 1st down run and only barely made it up on 3rd down, and that their QB was Matt Cassel, right? Just kick the fucking ball and go home.

by Juvenal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:40pm

Your thoughts on this matter are simply wrong. For a coach to willfully take say only an 80% chance of winning, when he has a very high likelihood of improving that 5 or 10 or 15 points, and almost no downside (yes 2% of plays are turnovers, now take out hail marys, 3rd and 4th and long, and other situations that bear no resemblance to (run it and do not fumble).

You have a decision to make there, one decision gives you a much greater than 80% chance of winning, one gives you only an 80% chance of winning. Don't praise the latter decision.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:48pm

The only <40 kick Walsh has ever missed, career, was a 30-yarder which Julius Peppers blocked. There's no demonstrable marginal benefit in moving up 3 yards to make a 39 yarder a 36 yarder when your kicker is Blair Walsh.

by Juvenal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:52pm

That is not what we are discussing. We are discussing the bears kicking from 47 on 2nd down! and the vikings decisions to run up the middle on 3rd down from 54 out.

The 39 yard kick is much more defensible.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:15pm

The 80% comment comes from Brian C's original post, where he's discussing Frazier's 39-yard decision on 3rd down, to which Vince ascribed an (wildly low) 80% chance of success.

So yes, that was what the rest of us were discussing while you were telling Shanahan it's really 1st down.

by nosoop4u (not verified) :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 4:51am

Disagree wholeheartedly. Your 80% is more like 90-95% given Walsh's stats from that range, as stated above.

Vikings QB INT% is > 2%, more like 3 or 4%. They also take sacks on 5-8% of dropbacks. Seems like a good 25% of their running plays is a tackle for loss or no gain. Chicago is historically exceptional at takeaways. The holder on kicks is a rookie punter who never held before this year (the historical kick it on 3rd in case the snap is fumbled).

Vikes ability to gain a couple yards makes no difference to Walsh, and there's just too much to risk running a play there. You saw what happened when they ran it on 3rd down after the penalty - a run for a 4 yard loss.

by JoeCB91 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:12pm

Thoughts on the penalty that took away Patrick Peterson's interception against the Eagles? I've seen a few of the national media people thinking it was a ticky-tack call.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:14pm

Tom Gower: These are two not very good teams. The Colts' ambition seems limited to gaining 12 yards on a particular play. Oh, they did have a couple plays that seemed designed to gain more yards than that, but not too many--

Before the season started, the local Indy sports press reported that Pep Hamilton's offense would be focused on short/medium gains. The idea was to "simplify the game plan" and help a team of young players keep things under control. Also, the running game would be emphasized to take some of the weight off Luck's shoulders. (Leading to the Richardson deal.)

It wasn't spoken aloud, but pretty obvious that shorter gains on offense means more time on the field, keeping the suspect defense on the bench.

It seems that this philosophy in practice has led to a large number of 3rd and 8 situations and too few plays in the playbook designed to gain eight yards or more. Especially without Reggie Wayne around to perform the occasional miracle.

And Richardson, obviously, is having problems. He seems to want to stutter-step and juke every time he's handed the ball. It's like he learned everything he knows from a Barry Sanders highlight film. Too many times on a power run when the team needs a yard or two, he will take the ball and come to a dead stop, looking to shimmy sideways through a gap instead of pushing straight forward.
You'd think by now a coach would have shown him a film of this and said, "don't do that."

It seems that the Colts haven't adjusted to problems that have arisen since the season began, problems which every team has. The plans you make in July never make it to December. I'm more inclined to blame the coaching at this point. Not Pagano so much, but Hamilton and the offensive staff.

Yes, the Colts team is a bunch of rookies who aren't any good. But sometimes a rookie has all the talent you need, he just needs to fix a few mistakes. A good coach should be able to do that.

Remember this old one:
You're a coach. You've got two players to choose from. The first player can run the 40 in 4.28 and he's got great technique. The second player runs the 40 in 4.32 and he's got lousy technique. Which player do you choose? The second one. Because if you teach him how to do it right, he'll be even better than the first.

by Ben :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:07pm

Are stats based on down and distance available to premium subscribers? I haven't gone through the games to check, but it seems like the Colts' offense is terrible on second and long. When the first down run gets stuffed (which is most of the time) it seems inevitable that the Colts end up facing a third and long.

I'm not a fan of Hamiliton's offense or play calling, but in his defense, I'm not sure Bill Walsh could coach up an effective offense with this line and these receivers.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:33pm

Yes, stats are available by down and distance in the premium section. Also by area on the field, down and type of play, home and road, score gap, quarters and halves and weekly DVOA. Quite a lot really.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:37pm

Only looking at ESPN's splits here, but Luck is indeed pretty bad on second and 8+, going 49 of 88 (55.7%) for 5.5 YPA with 1 TD, 2 INTs and 7 sacks. However, giving it to Brown on presumably a draw play has been wildly successful, with 6 runs for 100 yards and a TD.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 2:16pm

I agree with the Colts problems. I wish we could have a team good enough to get a comment like NE above, "the X's seemed to be asleep until" the last drive, but these Colts do not have a ceiling like NE or Denver. I have no idea how they win, how they put together a last drive like that, but I wish I saw it more often.

However, missing 5 offensive starters out for the year, and having a thinly talented roster to begin with, they aren't coming back to the top any time this year.

And, I do think they need to throw deep more often, even if those fall incomplete -- opponents crowd the line as the offense can't block well enough to spring a long run, and no passes go deep. It makes for heavy sledding. And, it's not like Luck would get sacked more going deep -- his sacks are very often long sacks.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:42pm

I don't understand Pep Hamilton's offense at all. It is stubborn, rhythmless, disjointed. Andrew Luck pretty clearly appears to be most comfortable in a no-huddle. But there are personnel transfers after almost every play and they far too often telegraph the next play. I cringe every time I see 1 WR on the field and a crowded box because there is a serious likelihood that the play will be ineffective (though I have not see any stat breakdowns based upon personnel groupings, would be curious to do so, I'm sure this site has them, I think I'm talking myself into purchasing the premium content, etc. etc.)

But overall the o-line is a nightmare and this team is going nowhere in the playoffs. Can't run, can't throw.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:03pm

I'm pretty sure you won't get breakdowns by personnel until the end of the year when the charting data comes out. There might be other sites that have a quicker turnaround though.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 3:59pm

"Scott Kacsmar: If you're the Colts, how do you not try the two-point conversion up 21-14 with 1:56 left? It would be 23-14 if successful. If not, it's still a 21-14 lead and your main goal is exactly the same: do not give up the touchdown."

Let's not get too Saban here. Didn't we run stats last year that showed that up 9 late was a worse situation than up 8 late, likely because down 9, teams go for a TD+FG and win, versus going for the late tie and still having a 49/49/2 OT chance?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:02pm

"So Grownkowsi's route running consists of barreling through DB with impunity? Pretty nice advantage."

It gets better. He's considered a "defenseless receiver" while he does it.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:49pm

Hell, you may be on to something there. What happens if you run the wildcat and put a 240 lb QB out in a pass pattern barreling over 185 lb DBs--defenseless receiver and a QB. May, the DBs might get flagged for roughing the underside of his cleats as he stomps them into the turf. Sweet.

Don't even need a wildcat--just put your backup QB out there. I'd like to see the opponents argue that Matt Hasselbeck is really a WR or TE. "Ref, look at him run! There's no friggin' way this guy is anything but a QB, right? Well, when he stepped on that guy the guy was hitting him below the knees, wasn't he? Where's my flag?"

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 6:24pm

If Brady ever fields a punt the NFL may explode.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:53am

Well, Brady does have a career 23yd/catch average...

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 8:04am

Gronkowski has been getting away with this for years. A typical positioning for a defender when Gronkowski has caught a hook over the middle is on their backside looking askance at the officials. It is rather blatant OPI but never gets called. Other TEs do it occasionally, Gronkowski does it a lot. Which isn't really fair as the guy is hard enough to stop when he doesn't get to knock the defenders down.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:50pm

He's gotten better at not extending his arms on the defender, although he still gets called for OPI every few games. I don't know what the rulebook says, but I've never seen the officials call an OPI on a collision if the receiver keeps his arms down.

You could call it cheating, I guess. I think of it as taking advantage of what the officials allow you to do.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:48pm

Yep, if you don't fully extend your arm you'll almost never get called for OPI. Alshon Jeffrey finally learned that this offseason and it's done wonders for him. But a receiver running into/over/through a DB rarely gets called, and even placing a hand on the defender to help get leverage for making a cut generally never gets called. Learn to keep the arms from fully extending and you can do a lot of stuff against a defender as a receiver.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:08pm

In terms of the question of going for two to go up 9 and win the game, assume that the other team can't score twice, that they'll go for a tie down 7, and that overtime is 50-50.
Then let your probability of converting 2 pointer be a, the opponent's be b, and the opponent's probability of driving for a TD be g (assume PATs are automatic).
By going for two, you win if you convert or if you don't and the opponent fails to score a TD, and half of the time if you fail and the opponent scores to go to OT, for total win probability a+(1-a)((1-g)+g/2)
If you kick the PAT you win if the opponent fails to score or if they score by fail their 2 point attempt, and half the time they succeed in scoring 8 to go to OT, for total win probability (1-g)+g((1-b)+b/2)
The former is bigger if a>1-b and is independent of g (feel free to double check my math...), or if we assume a common probability of converting this would reduce to go for it if the chances are better than 50%.
I don't have the data but I thought 2 pt conversions were closer to 40-45% which would mean going for the PAT and letting the opponent go for 2 is the smart play (but if you think your opponent is really good at 2 pointers that should lower your threshold for wanting to go for it).

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:12pm

"No, Frazier went conservative, running Adrian Peterson into the line, resulting in a 3-yard loss. Now, on fourth down, Frazier tried a 57-yard field goal. Field goals from that distance miss about twice as often as they hit. I'd have punted."

You have a kicker who is 12/13 lifetime from 50+, and you want to punt? Is an 86% of success to poor for your blood? I thought you wanted bold decision-making.

by Juvenal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:48pm

That quote is criticizing the previous play call, not the decision to kick.

Also you should be smart enough to know that 50+ is a VERY poor proxy for 57.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:12pm

I was criticizing the hypocrisy of the two statements. Do something bolder! Not that bold!

Walsh's career misses were 30 (blocked), 44, 46, and 53. The 53 yarder was his only dome miss prior to this game (other were @CHI, @GB, @NYG). He has made from 54, 54, 55, 55, and 56. If I use 55+, he can't miss!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:28pm
by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:44pm

Good God, what would an accurate play-by-play look like. Griffin 5 yd pass to garcon for 1st down/4.5 yd pass for 3rd down. Result: 1st and 10 at the 40/3rd and 1 at the 40.5. It's like one of those sci-fi novels/movies where people exist in two different realities at the same time.

Shanahan needs to hire one of the space navigators from Dune to handle this the next time. "Coach, I just came back from 45 seconds in the future and it's really 3rd down." "Crap; you shitting me? I had no idea. Okay, new play, guys...."

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 5:36pm

I don't know what else the play by play would be. The PBP there is correct. The isse is that one of the officials incorrectly told them to move the chains and indicate first down.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 6:39pm

It's been pointed out that Triplette also indicated 3rd down incorrectly, where he used the bent arm that usually signals 1st down. Which is why the sideline judge thought it was 1st down.

On the upside, he didn't blind anyone.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 6:59pm

"On the upside, he didn't blind anyone."

THIS time. So far as we know. On 12/1/2013.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 4:40pm

Dear Football Outsiders, I know this is kind of an unusual request, but could you please NOT cover my team in Audibles for the next few weeks. Yes, I know your rationale, you report on what games the guys watch for pleasure, but who on earth aside from masochists and my fellow Colts fans watch their games? And worse, who admits to it and discusses it? Really. They're not terribly inspiring and reading someone else's discussion I like watching a bowl of too-hot turkey soup cool off. Sad, dull, needs a bit more salt and zzzzzz... I'm sorry, I must have dozed off. What was I saying? Ah yes:

So please, feel free to watch it. Feel free to discuss it. But please don't punish me by publishing the Colts game comments. I hope this proves to be karma-balancing for all the "you never cover my team" gripes.

And yes, I know the playoffs are VERY likely for them and you more or less have to discuss them then; that's fine, I absolve you of the future anguish you will put me through after week 17. I'm a big boy and can handle it. Plus, I am getting some sort of prescription to get me through what I hope will be a few weeks of playoff games.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 7:38pm

You'd rather see more Jags/Browns/Titans commentary instead? Why punish the rest of us?

by EricL :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:37pm

Actually, yeah. I don't pay any attention to the Jags at all, so I'd really like to know how a team that was historically bad can suddenly win 3 out of 4.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 12:56pm

This is a gross oversimplification, but look at who wasn't quarterbacking them, and who was quarterbacking their opponents.

by Robwein (not verified) :: Tue, 12/03/2013 - 1:16am

Sorry, but the Colts play in Cincy next weekend, so there will be coverage, at least by me. Maybe in a fortnight.