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23 Dec 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

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.

Minnesota Vikings 14 at Cincinnati Bengals 42


Robert Weintraub: Because it worked out well last time--20+mph winds in Cincy, over/under on Dalton completions today is 13.
Robert Weintraub: Carlos Dunlap coming off a concussion runs fumble back inside the 5--and all his teammates celebrate by...hitting him on the head!
Aaron Schatz: Hey Bengals, I didn't quite get the point of a goal line pass play with only two possible targets. Second down TD rendered it moot.
Robert Weintraub: As the ball is in the air for AJ Green, a lightning strike here in ATL kills the TV. When it comes back, Cincy is kicking the PAT.
@UpsideOfSports: 3rd and 2 and Vikings go shotgun spread while Adrian Peterson looks on from sideline. Pick six, Bengals.
Aaron Schatz: Can we stop please with "let's use the last two games to see if Matt Cassel can be an NFL starting QB?" He can't.
Robert Weintraub: Adrian Peterson can do many things, but he just abused in pass protection by Vontaze Burfict, who blew through AD for a sack.
Robert Weintraub: Yes! Fox just showed the halftime show at PBS--monkeys riding dogs herding sheep. Take that, pee wee football and marching bands!
Robert Weintraub: And yes, that's the 4th straight home game the Bengals have scored 40+ points. Now if they do it next I'll really be impressed.
Robert Weintraub: Ronde--"No one in Cincinnati would rather have any other QB than Andy Dalton." You can praise a guy w/out the absurd hyperbole.
@Raiderjoe_FO: J. Freeman mjst be football moron and open wound in lockre room to not get playign tine anymore for Vikes
Robert Weintraub: Hallelujah--Dalton out. 27/38, 366, 4 TDs.


Aaron Schatz: I gave up on this one and switched to the Red Zone channel once the Bengals were up 28-7 at halftime. We can talk about the mess that is the Minnesota quarterback situation, but that's not a surprise to anyone. Matt Cassel is an NFL backup, he's not starting quality. Maybe he was at the peak of his career for a couple years, but he's not now. I don't know what the hell the Vikings were doing picking up Josh Freeman, throwing him on the field with no preparation, and then not actually playing him once he actually learned the playbook.

But everyone knows that Minnesota needs a quarterback. Can we talk about how bad this secondary is? Wow, is it bad. I mentioned this on Twitter and someone responded that it's been bad for a decade now, and that's really true except for Antoine Winfield. And these defensive backs would look even worse if it wasn't for the fact that there's a good pass rush playing in front of them, and Chad Greenway is pretty good at the Derrick Brooks role. Harrison Smith is pretty good. Otherwise, ugh.

You could blame injuries, but honestly, the guys who were originally starting weren't that great either. They started the year with Josh Robinson and Chris Cook as the starting corners. Cook lost his job to Xavier Rhodes, Rhodes was out today but Cook still didn't start, he played nickel. Robinson was out too. So they're starting Marcus Sherels, who's been a depth guy for years, and Shawn Prater, who has been cut by both Cincinnati and Philadelphia over the last two years. These guys just got killed out there. Cook in particular is awful, the early game charting data has him over 9.0 yards per pass allowed. The Vikings can't seem to find a good free safety either. What a mess. I always talk about how highly-drafted cornerbacks take a while to develop, so Rhodes could get a lot better next year, but they still need to spend some draft picks on defensive backs to go with Rhodes
and Smith.

Rivers McCown: I often wonder if the problem in situations like Minnesota's isn't so much that the picks failed as it is that the development behind them failed as well. Look at what Seattle is doing with Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell. Look at what Carolina is doing with Captain Munnerlyn and a bunch of solid-at-best players. I think in places like Minnesota and Houston, the coaching staff and front office get a little overconfident in depth guys that they've developed for their system, then never take a step beyond saying "well these are our guys" after they're exposed. No, the reason those guys are cheap in the first place is that if they don't pan out, you try and find someone else. If you don't, you wind up with Andrew Sendejo and Shiloh Keo playing key roles while the more successful teams have backups that can at least survive being plugged in a few weeks without being completely destroyed.

Rob Weintraub: Pretty much a straight-up ass-kicking by the Bengals, which was expected given their home-field awesomeness this year (today was the fourth-straight 40-point outburst at home), but not so much by the chattering classes, who don't seem to understand, even now, how week to week crazy the NFL is. Remember back when the Bengals were pretenders, the Pats were dead without Gronk, the Ravens were poised to make another Super Bowl run from the back of the pack, the Dolphins were dangerous, and so on? That was all of six days ago.

The Vikings seemed a little over-committed to establishing Adrian Peterson on the ground. By the time it was apparent he had nowhere to go, the Vikes were down by two touchdowns. Cassel wasn't playing the Eagles defense today, my friends.

And while Cordarelle Patterson is an astonishing physical specimen and hellish in the open field, he can't run routes consistently yet. He's a lot like another former Tennessee Vol who fell in the draft due to character questions, Da'Rick Rogers, who also had some pure athlete moments against the Bengals. Neither are consistent enough running routes to make a difference in the pass game from week to week or quarter to quarter. No Vikings receiver was open all game, really.

When your only complaint is that the crucial players played far too long in a blowout, that's not a bad day.

Miami Dolphins 0 at Buffalo Bills 19


@jonnybblazin: Bills pass rush getting good push vs. the Miami O-line. Miami's offense doesn't look good in the cold rain of Buffalo so far.
Andrew Potter: Robert Woods ejected in Buffalo. Bills already without Steve Johnson and Marquise Goodwin. Have fun with that, EJ.
@jonnybblazin: @bighairyandy More like have fun with that, Thad! Buffalo should go TE and run heavy anyways.
Mike Ridley: Brian Hartline's DYAR is going to be horrible. Zero catches in seven targets with a couple big drops.
Aaron Schatz: Stephon Gilmore really coming on this year since he came back from early injury. Helping shut down MIA offense today.
@Mercurius100: Buffalo D celebrates holding the Dolphins to 2 yards on 2nd and 1. I'm sure that's not related at all to why they always draft high.
@jonnybblazin: Bills with a 90+ yard drive that took 9 minutes off the clock, but settle for only a FG. Still, a devastating drive for Miami.
Aaron Schatz: Buffalo was fourth in defensive DVOA going into this week, but 63 yards for MIA thru 3 qtrs still seems a bit ridiculous.
Scott Kacsmar: Dolphins have 62 yards of offense in the 4th quarter. Laying one of the biggest eggs in team history to Buffalo.
@MCB5219: This Buffalo-Miami game is so ugly. Miami is trying to at least challenge the 2002 Texans' mark for sacks allowed.
Cian Fahey: I'm surprised Tannehill didn't get injured before now. Speaks to his impressive athleticism playing behind that OL.
Scott Kacsmar: What a horrible FG decision by Marrone here. Go for the dagger. Miami's done nothing all day.
Danny Tuccitto: quite a roller coaster ride for MIA over the course of a few plays: tannehill hurt, then moore completes bomb, then moore INT.


Rivers McCown: Which one of the numbskulls on this site wrote about how the Dolphins line had improved over the course of the season last week?

In fairness, I did suggest in that piece that Buffalo would cause problems for Miami in the ground game, and boy did they. The passing game was of little use without Marquise Goodwin, but that doesn't really matter when you can just rush for 204 yards as a team.

Nice 1980's-style football win for the Bills.

Indianapolis Colts 23 at Kansas City Chiefs 7


@ptmovieguy: Nice defense by #16 Rodgers on Luck pass. Too bad he's the WR. We'll mark that as "defensed int"
@Mercurius100: Andy Reid going to make Knile Davis stand on the sideline holding a football the rest of the game?
Mike Ridley: I hate to say it, but I agree with Dan Dierdorf. Hemmingway seemed to catch and fumble the ball.
Andrew Potter: No idea what a catch is anymore. Should be a fumble in KC, called incomplete.
@Shake1n1bake: I really don't get the 4th down attempt by the Chiefs, risking turning over on downs to shorten FG by ~5 yards
Scott Kacsmar: What's with all these taunting penalties the last few weeks? Huge one on Poe, extending an Indy drive.
@nath_on_fire: Andy Reid's cowardice strikes again. 4th and 8 from Colts 40 down 23-7 - better punt! There are 38 seconds left in 3rd, after all.
Scott Kacsmar: That looked close to a pick and KC safety there for Freeman. Guess it's a touchback.
@Shake1n1bake: Darrius Heyward Bey, banished from the offense in favor of Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rodgers, having a good game playing STs.
Scott Kacsmar: Hell of a win for the Colts today. Not sure what they can do in January, but no team will finish reg. season with more big wins.


Scott Kacsmar: Oh look, just another impressive win over a top team that no one expected from the Colts. It looked ugly early with some three-and-outs and that Jamaal Charles touchdown run, but the Colts were the better team from that point through the end. Andrew Luck played a clean game and was afforded more protection than I imagined him getting on the road. The Chiefs really miss Justin Houston.

What's not surprising is the Colts looking more efficient on offense when removing Darrius Heyward-Bey from the equation and giving guys like Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers opportunities. Whalen was especially big today while Donald Brown continued to run hard (he even broke tackles) and make the plays Trent Richardson never does.

Alex Smith might have played as poorly as he has all season. The Colts do not have any Pro Bowl-caliber players in that secondary, yet we continue to see them come up with some great efforts against teams like Denver, Seattle and San Francisco.

Hate to bring it up, but there was another huge officiating blunder that went against the Colts inside the two-minute warning of the first half again. It clearly was a catch-and-fumble by the Chiefs, but even after review the official stuck with the incomplete call. The Chiefs missed a field goal, so karmic justice was served, but the reality is the Colts should have had the ball with a chance for more points.

I was getting ready to "crown" the Chiefs as a Super Bowl darkhorse in the AFC, but performances like this really worry me. We know the defense had been sliding, but if the offense was able to pick up some of that slack, then this is still one of the more balanced teams in the AFC. Though when Smith has days like this, they can lose to anyone and I would have to imagine the Colts will be favored by a few points in Indianapolis should this be a playoff rematch.

Tennessee Titans 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 16


Cian Fahey: The technical term for the Jaguars' run defense early on is "wet cardboard"
Cian Fahey: Titans continue to drop Jurrell Casey into coverage. It's like calling a designed run for Peyton Manning
Scott Kacsmar: So, center screen for the Jaguars? Meester even had a good YAC effort there.
Tom Gower: In a game like this, no good reason not to go for it on 4&3 from the opposing 41. Thanks for doing so, Mike Munchak.
@Mercurius100: Tennessee establishing the run, because "getting those 2-3 yds on every carry is important." Throw on 4th and goal from the 1.
Scott Kacsmar: Fitzpatrick's 4th-and-goal throw couldn't have been much worse. Would have been slightly better in CFL.
Cian Fahey: Ryan Fitzpatrick makes me sad
@Mercurius100: Jags beating the Titans, but at least Tennessee has established the run.
Tom Gower: Jaguars are looking more like DVOA's 27th-ranked run defense in the second half after 6 solid quarters against Titans
Tom Gower: Horrible sunny 80 degree weather in Jacksonville resulting in lots of players slipping on Everbank surface
Cian Fahey: Great INT by George Wilson to seal the Titans victory


Cian Fahey: It was what you'd expect it to be. A sad affair between two teams who don't have the requisite talent at quarterback to really be competitive in the NFL. Of course, they could be competitive with each other, but there was nothing enjoyable about this competition.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne both have their flaws. Henne threw the game-sealing interception, but Fitzpatrick didn't do a huge amount to help his team either. The Titans simply had more talent around Fitzpatrick than the Jaguars had around Henne.

Brady-Manning this was not.

Tom Gower: I'd defend this game from Cian's comments, but he's not wrong. I've defended Fitzpatrick in some ways, but he's an NFL backup. Henne is not better. The Jaguars, playing Mike Brown and some seriously JV receivers, none of whom had an NFL catch before this season either, actually took the lead before the Titans got some key stops and finally moved the ball on the ground in the second half after six quarters of some pretty lousy run offense against a bad run defense. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Jaguars were playing Paul Posluszny and a bunch of "who's that" at linebacker with Russell Allen going on IR this week and Geno Hayes also missing the game.

Cleveland Browns 13 at New York Jets 24


@Foosball_Wizard: Beautiful throw by average yet much maligned QB Jason Campbell dropped in endzone by Greg Little.
@Foosball_Wizard: Winslow is definitely juiced for this game. Vaulted over Joe Haden running after a catch. Magic motorcycle knee held up.
@nath_on_fire: So the Browns ran two plays on the goal line with Josh Gordon on the bench? "Run into great defense or pass to someone terrible"?
Mike Ridley: Browns just had their first rushing TD on the road
Mike Ridley: Geno Smith just pulled his best Vlade Divac. #BeautifulFlop
Andrew Potter: The Geno Smith dive for a roughing call was embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as the official flagging it.
@alexknobel: It's great to see Ed Reed hawking his own teammate for a lateral after an interception again.
@Mercurius100: Jets still running Wildcat, because to them it's the hottest new thing in the NFL. Just wait until they discover the forward pass.

New Orleans Saints 13 at Carolina Panthers 17


@MichaelEdits: Love that fake Wildcat by the Panthers. Not so sure about the follow-up real Wildcat.
@GDFar: Saw 4 celebrations on the first drive of NO@CAR. Both teams have incredibly high energy.
Aaron Schatz: Red Zone goes to Saints just in time to see Panthers swim past Armstead, bull rush Grubbs, and clobber Drew Brees.
@anhirsch: Successful surprise onside kick from the Saints. Looks like Sean Payton wants to out-riverboat Riverboat Ron
Scott Kacsmar: It's 20 minutes into the game and Cam Newton is 1/8 in terms of drop back success rate.
@GDFar: Kenny Stills comes to a complete stop and the ball goes over his head by a foot 55 yards downfield. Announcers blame Brees.
Andrew Potter: @FO_RiversMcCown McCown sighting in Charlotte! Incomplete fourth-down pass, wholly anticlimactic.
@anhirsch: Midway through the 4th, Carolina's punter is the player of the game. Back to back punts downed inside the 5 in the rain.
Scott Kacsmar: Graham's height delivers. This should be some finish.
Scott Kacsmar: There's the big 4th-down decision I've been waiting to see for Rivera. He punted, wasting the 2-minute warning & down to 2 timeouts.
Scott Kacsmar: Saints should be much better in 4MO than they are with Brees & Payton. Killed them in NE. Might do it again here.
Robert Weintraub: Rob Ryan will surely blame someone else for that Panthers drive.
Aaron Schatz: Troy Aikman apparently not aware that career long of FG kicker does not matter when team is down 4 points.


Rivers McCown: I didn't get to watch a lot of this game, but it very neatly stuck to the narratives. (Well, except for the one that Peter King tried to shove on Cam Newton before the final drive on Twitter, anyway.)

The Saints have been worse on the road this year -- they were pretty unimpressive. The Panthers lost Steve Smith, and their offense was beyond unimpressive. Carolina was outgained for 140 yards and was 0-of-9 on third-down conversions.

The one thing that did change from last game was that a lot more of Carolina's pressure got to Drew Brees. Part of that was Terron Armstead's uh ... let's call it "inauspicious" debut at left tackle. Part of that was just better scheming. Even with Brees hitting nearly 70 percent of his passes, Carolina was able to hold him to just 6.4 yards per attempt.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 at St. Louis Rams 23


@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa's offensive line holding up surprisingly well vs. St. Louis' front four on that first drive.
@ptmovieguy: Rams just pulled off a double-reverse to Bailey for long TD
@TCBullfrog: Rams fake to RB, give to WR one way who gives to WR running other way. Is that a double reverse or reverse end around?
Scott Kacsmar: Kellen Clemens fumbles in red zone on QB draw. Are you amused, Tim Ryan?
@Mercurius100: Mike Glennon, meet Robert Quinn.

Dallas Cowboys 24 at Washington Redskins 23


@WhispersMoCo: Literally 95 yards between starting positions for the Cowboys after the first two punts. Must be some kind of record.
@MichaelEdits: This Kirk Cousins led scoring drive brought to you by Subway.
Scott Kacsmar: Romo dealing, but this game isn't on NBC in prime time so it doesn't count. Great improv and Cowboys up 14-6.
Mike Ridley: Romo just pulled a Russell Wilson
Robert Weintraub: Bradshaw on the halftime show during Dallas-Skins hilites--"That's right, Jason Garrett, act like you know what you're doing!"
@Mercurius100: Oh Romo, when you throw a pick to DeAngelo Hall it really makes it hard to defend you.
Cian Fahey: You know Kyle Orton is going to come in and lead a comeback victory here for Romo
Mike Ridley: Romo appears to have a decent ankle injury. Barely handed the ball off on a stretch play.
Ben Muth: At a bar in Dallas, people cheered when Romo came up with a gimpy ankle.
Mike Ridley: True to form, Cowboys have a false start on crucial fourth-and-1 attempt.
Mike Ridley: Washington continues to stone the Cowboys d-line. They haven't come close to Cousins today.
@ptmovieguy: WAS with tons of diamond formation today. Is this normal?
Mike Ridley: Romo has no zip on the ball. Can't drive off the ankle.
@Broncfan07: Tony Romo, destroyer of narratives.


Mike Ridley: After a slow start, Tony Romo came through at the end to help offset the narrative that continues to hound him. Playing on a clearly hobbled ankle, Romo led the Cowboys to a game-winning 87-yard drive, including a fourth-and-goal conversion from the 12-yard line.

The last drive will mask what was a poor day for Romo and the team. Romo had just 123 yards before that last drive plus a terrible pick to DeAngelo Hall. The secondary didn't have an answer to Pierre Garcon, who was regularly abusing Brandon Carr; he ended with a career-high 11 receptions. Dallas also couldn't produce a pass rush to save their lives. Washington came into the game with the 24th ranked Adjusted Sack Rate and had little trouble keeping Kirk Cousins upright.

Scott will probably touch on this in his article but Shanahan failed by never attempting to go for two when they scored to make it 14-12 and then 19-14 later in the third. Maybe he was gun shy after last week's two-point failure, but I would think trying to get three yards against the Cowboys is one of the easier propositions in the league.

Denver Broncos 37 at Houston Texans 13


@Broncfan07: Von Miller done for day with knee injury. Sigh. Is Simon Fletcher busy at the moment?
Rivers McCown: And somehow the Texans are only two field goals from taking the lead. How did the Broncos get a number not divisible by 3?
@hscer: Denver only up 10 at half with Manning at 296 yards. If Houston stays close (questionable, I suppose) is Van Brocklin in trouble?
Rivers McCown: Denver gave up about 40 yards of blown coverage assignments on HOU touchdown drive.
@nath_on_fire: It's the ultimate Matt Schaub scramble: daylight ahead, so he slides short of the first down. Texans in a nutshell.
@dingerc: Schaub takes the worst sacks. In FG range, takes two consecutive sacks (held ball too long). Texans punt.
Aaron Schatz: HOU seems to be following the "physical on DEN receivers" blueprint. Press hard on third-and-3, Manning can't find anyone open.
Aaron Schatz: And then at the goal line, HOU doesn't get physical with the DEN receivers, Decker open easily for the TD. LET'S GET PHYSICAL!
Mike Ridley: Great catch by Decker to give Manning number 50 on the year.
Rivers McCown: Wade Phillips ultimately had problems defending a spread team with a good quarterback. Bet no one saw that coming.
Aaron Schatz: Just curious, will people be criticizing the Broncos for "running up the score" so Manning could get the TD record?
Robert Weintraub: Peyton Manning bails out @SInow by breaking record while on news stands across America. Congrats.


Rivers McCown: Say this for Tony Romo: win or lose, he always manages to keep things exciting before they're over. And, thanks to him, the Texans are going to have to find a way to lose in Week 17 too to claim the No. 1 pick this organization has earned with their 13-game losing streak.

I don't really have anything new to add to the Peyton Manning agenda. He's an awesome player who is often picked apart because he is the best player on the best team. The Texans were able to have some success in the third quarter when they kept finding pressure on Manning with blitzing linebackers or safeties while playing man on mostly Cover-1. That didn't last long before they remembered that they were the Texans.

Matt Schaub attempted a few deep balls in this game. I spent a lot of this game laughing. There's no pressure left at this point, no face left to save. Only lulz to be had at the idea that Schaub can throw further than seven yards past the line of scrimmage. At the idea that he was once going to lead this team past Peyton Manning. At life.

Aaron Schatz: Just to be clear, I don't think the Broncos were "running up the score." I just wanted to point out that only certain teams get criticized for playing all 60 minutes.

New York Giants 23 at Detroit Lions 20 (OT)


@MilkmanDanimal: Finally got around to football, pleasantly surprised to see Ndumakong Suh hasn't actually killed Eli Manning yet.
@MilkmanDanimal: Matt Stafford with a ludicrous, Tarkenton-esque escape and a nice completion. He's such a frustrating mix of great and lousy.
Scott Kacsmar: Bush fumble. So just your typical Detroit game.
@nath_on_fire: Calling him "Labatt Stafford" b/c he's near Canada and always looks like he's 30 seconds away from or removed from chugging a 6-pack
@nath_on_fire: And the Giants punt inside the 50 tied under 2 minutes. Doesn't anyone want to win this game?
@Mercurius100: Detroit deserves to lose this game. Fortunately they are playing Eli and the Giants.
Andrew Potter: NYG & DET trying very hard to out-fail each other in the fourth quarter and overtime. So far Giants failing harder.
Scott Kacsmar: It was a pick-six this time, but that's still 5 blown leads in the 4th quarter of Detroit's last 6 games.

Arizona Cardinals 17 at Seattle Seahawks 10


Ben Muth: Great pick by Chancellor, but is check him for a concussion after that decision to run it out of the end zone.
@TeutonSF: Seahawks fumble & tip ball luck continues 2day on 1st 2 drives. Been there all reg season. If it disappears for 1 playoff gm, hm loss
Mike Ridley: Carson Palmer + Seattle Defense = Lots of Turnovers
Mike Ridley: I like that Wilson wants to make a downfield throw, but on third-and-1 with open room, take the scramble instead of a low-% pass
Mike Ridley: Hauschka inexplicably misses a 24-yard field goal right before half
@ExcessiveFarce: Seahawks offense is still pathetic, squandering great field position yet again. I have a bad feeling about this game.
Danny Tuccitto: usually a 6-3 game like SEA-ARI is a snooze-fest, but this one's oddly entertaining what with the awesome defense being played.
@TeutonSF: No #COY vote for Arians. Keeps allowing turnover machine Palmer to throw in FG range instead of trusting running gm.
Danny Tuccitto: kudos to chris myers for working a christmas carol into the play-by-play: fitzgerald & sherman were "lords-a-leaping" on a jump ball.
Tom Gower: Illegal formation on a kick called for the second time today, this time negating SEA XP miss to keep it 9-9
Danny Tuccitto: it continues to be a mystery to me why ellington ever comes off the field, esp. e.g., for taylor just prior to palmer RZ INT earlier.
Cian Fahey: Cardinals have been underestimated by many for too long this year. Not a great team, but this isn't a major surprise either
@ExcessiveFarce: Inexplicable blown review gives Arizona the game. Of course it wouldn’t be an issue if Seattle’s offense wasn’t helpless.
Tom Gower: Really rough break for SEA for that INT to stand. No perfect angle to show absolutely definitively it didn't hit ground, tho it did
@Mercurius100: Assuming they don't get in somehow, Arizona pushing the best team to miss the playoffs?


Tom Gower: I started off on this game early, after the Titans game ended and before the game in San Diego began, expecting the Seahawks to take the stranglehold and seize control. The defense was up to the task, but Russell Wilson struggled to find open receivers, receivers struggled to make contested catches, and the run game produced little. Steven Hauschka even missed a 24-yard field goal after Carson Palmer's third interception gave Seattle the ball at the 3 at the end of the first half. When Seattle took the lead at 10-9 in the fourth quarter, I thought the game was over and we'd get a fifth and maybe even sixth Palmer interception to make the final score a bit more along the lines of what I and most people expected. Nope. He scrambled and found a late releasing Jake Ballard for one third-down conversion, got a fortunate defensive holding call on another, and hit Michael Floyd on a good throw against Maxwell's tight coverage for the game-winning score on the last one. A fortunate interception sealed the deal.

Takeaways from this game? I think the big question is just how good the Seattle offense really is. Last year I leaned clearly on the side of "great defense, above-average but not special offense." This year, Seattle's offense seemed to be better and more consistent. This game looked more like last year's offense -- or maybe just the offense we saw against the Rams, and the only difference was this game is in Seattle, where the Seahawks had been unbeatable, instead of on the road. Maybe an Arizona (or San Francisco next week, or either of those teams in the playoffs) has the right mix of familiarity and lack of distance to spring the upset. Or maybe just weird things happen, and sometimes good physical coverage helps you rack up 102 penalty yards instead of winning games.

Rivers McCown: This is the kind of game where Percy Harvin was supposed to change the equation for the Seahawks, only he's not around to do so.

Arizona potentially missing the playoffs for one of the myriad of pedestrian 9-7 AFC teams is a great time to bring up that the NFL should end conferences and divisions as a tool separating teams in the playoffs and instead just use it for scheduling.

Oakland Raiders 13 at San Diego Chargers 26


@dmstorm22: He's not great, but is Al Davis somewhat vindicated with Mike Mitchell's play in his career? Not a terrible 2d round pick
Tom Gower: Guessing Rivers thought he was getting Cover-2 on that INT. Instead, Jenkins sank w/ Brown's route & had an easy pick.
Tom Gower: SD TD to make it 17-10 was slant/flat, natural pick action. OPI Q is whether Royal's route was intentional DB block. Marginal IMO.


Tom Gower: San Diego finally stopping shooting themselves in the foot long enough to get a win at home against a team they were much better than, while the Raiders kept getting in their own way. If we were submitting anti-recognitions to Madden, Mike Jenkins would deserve it this week, most particularly for an idiotic taunting penalty. Nice pick by Eric Weddle, though.

Pittsburgh Steelers 38 at Green Bay Packers 31


Scott Kacsmar: Announcers are really disrespecting Roethlisberger's career by calling this his best season. It's not. Not even top 3.
Scott Kacsmar: Ike Taylor just turned an interception into a James Jones catch. I don't know how these things keep happening for Taylor.
Cian Fahey: How can anyone play football for 20+ years and have ball skills as bad as Ike Taylor? It makes no sense
Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers are known for being a 3-4 defense, yet they play dime so often this year. Not in it yet with Lacy making a big run.
Scott Kacsmar: Oh that fake punt was awesome by the Steelers. David Paulson didn't even drop it.
Scott Kacsmar: I'm not sure Roethlisberger's ran that fast since a long rushing TD against 2007 Browns.
@ptmovieguy: My head hurts from explanation for batted ball penalty on blocked FG in GB.
Aaron Schatz: Illegal Bat: It's not just for Patriots games anymore!
@PPatel1063: Illegal Bat: The Manu Ginobili Experience.
Scott Kacsmar: Ok, Quarless with the double-agent QB pressure to aid the pick-six. Crazy looking play.
@nath_on_fire: Tramon Williams is a serial rulebreaker. Is there a higher rank than "Admiral Armbar"?
Cian Fahey: Roethlisberger has played really well today, but there's that accuracy issue rearing its head again at the worst possible time
Tom Gower: Was Matt Flynn TRYING to make that the last play of the game? Couldn't have done a better job at it if he was.
@jhkiley: Would you rather be the Packer whose offside gave PIT 1st & goal or the one whose false start cost GB 1st & goal & 10 seconds?


Scott Kacsmar: I probably need a longer "cool-down period" for this one, but I still can't believe the Packers got the ball back after the blocked field goal in the third quarter. Then the ending should have been a simple game-winning field goal with no time left. The "let them score" strategy has one fatal flaw: the offense never has to take it. The Steelers took it when the only logical call was to take two knees and kick the field goal. The long kick return by Green Bay made it feel like the Packers would inevitably score, but the false start and 10-second runoff certainly was a huge benefit to the Steelers. Still, this game should have never been that interesting in the final minute. Matt Flynn fumbled and that should have been the dagger. Mike Tomlin's clock management is as bad as it gets.

Both rookie backs looked very good today. The quarterbacks had their moments, but also some big blunders. The fake punt was a big swing play for the Steelers. Green Bay definitely wasn't prepared for that trick. Somehow, almost everything the Steelers needed to happen this week has. I marked this off as a loss back in April, assuming Aaron Rodgers would be the quarterback. Pittsburgh caught a break with Flynn, but there are good reasons 0-4 teams almost never rebound to make the postseason: The hole's too big and it's usually a flawed team that starts 0-4. Even if this team finishes 8-8 and just misses out on the shaky AFC race, big changes need to come for this team.

Cian Fahey: I love all the 2013 draft running back class. All. Of. Them. ... except Knile Davis.

Aaron Schatz: Speed Score loves Knile Davis because it is not called "Fumble Score."

Tom Gower: Or "Durability Score."

New England Patriots 41 at Baltimore Ravens 7


Aaron Schatz: LaGarrette Blount really reborn this year. Not just breaking tackles, but making cuts. Looks surprisingly good.
Aaron Schatz: Donta Hightower did something good! All over New England, radio hosts are seeing their heads explode.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not the world's greatest expert in QB mechanics, but I think Flacco's knee injury is affecting him. Inaccurate so far.
@WhispersMoCo: About Flacco, via Phil Simms. "He went to put his left foot on the ground and missed it." He missed the ground?
Aaron Schatz: Pats now at 1st-and-30. Allow me to channel ghost of Paul Maguire. "They don't draw up a lot of plays for 1st-and-30."
Aaron Schatz: Pats really taking advantage of Ravens playing so heavily for pass, getting tons of yards on ground vs. No. 6 DVOA run D.
Andrew Potter: LeGarrette Blount has now run for around 50 yards on the past four plays ... net gain of two after penalties..
@jonnybblazin: McCourtey just concussed himself on Ed Dickson's ass.
@afrocomb: After seeing how McCourty just got injured, Ed Dickson must really have 'Buns of Steel!!!
Aaron Schatz: BAL is winning the battle of resistable force (BAL run) vs. moveable object (NE run D). Need to run more.
Aaron Schatz: For example, why on earth does BAL go empty on third-and-2 when NE can't stop run? Flacco throws ball, off Pitta's hands, INT.
Aaron Schatz: Torrey Smith just Heisman'ed poor Steve Gregory. Not the kind of power move you expect from Torrey Smith! Pretty cool.
@csoandy: $Ravens.kicker.fgResult{if $opponent =="NE" then "Wide Left"}
Aaron Schatz: The Patriots had themselves at D/ST in their fantasy football Super Bowl.
@pchicola: @FO_ASchatz Do you think the Patriots and Belichick will be accused of running up the score with their defense?


Aaron Schatz: Impressive win for the Patriots, with a small asterisk because Joe Flacco's knee injury clearly had him off all day. He wasn't very mobile in the pocket and there were a number of throws where he was inaccurate because he couldn't put proper weight on that leg. So I don't think that anyone should suddenly go feeling like the Pats' defense has overcome its numerous injuries. They were even giving up some rushing yards to the Ravens early although the Ravens didn't end up with a great rushing average (21 carries, 71 yards for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce) because the Patriots stiffened against short-yardage runs. Their first six carries went for 29 yards. Then they were back to being unable to run, and in the rest of the second and third quarters it was 13 carries for 33 yards.

A much better sign for the Patriots was on offense, where they were able to overcome their Gronklessness to constantly get Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola open. Also, the makeshift offensive line, with Logan Mankins moved over to tackle and UDFA Josh Kline at left guard, held up very well against the Ravens pass rush which was eighth in Adjusted Sack Rate coming into this game.

With 21 points in the final 2:10, including two defensive touchdowns with Tyrod Taylor playing quarterback for the Ravens, this 41-7 final has to be one of the great all-time bullshit final scores in NFL history. It's certainly going to make the Patriots' Pythagorean record look a lot better than their performance deserves.

Chicago Bears 11 at Philadelphia Eagles 54


@pchicola: First time I watch a PHI game since week3, and man, this offense is exciting and clever.
Scott Kacsmar: Bears are as competitive as Super Shredder tearing down the dock's support beams and collapsing it on himself.
@ptmovieguy: Alshon Jeffery with the most casual one-handed catch I've ever seen.
Andrew Potter: At what point do the Bears concede that they aren't stopping Philadelphia, and start playing the entire game four-down?
Aaron Schatz: Why on earth did CHI just call a timeout when an incomplete pass stopped the clock? Was he trying to ice the kicker? What the hell?
Aaron Schatz: Geez, Trestman, do you think that timeout might be useful when you try to score in the last 1:10 of the half? WHAT THE HELL?
Aaron Schatz: The only reason that timeout by Trestman made sense is if he thought he had 12 guys on the field.
Aaron Schatz: That catch by Alshon Jeffrey in the middle of the field with :35 left would have been a really neat time to take a timeout.
@MilkmanDanimal: The NFC North champ gets leprosy; this is the only possible explanation for how this division is going.
@MilkmanDanimal: When the Cowboys give up 50 next week to the Eagles, it's totally going to be Romo's fault.
Aaron Schatz: There's the Julius Peppers broken tackle you don't often see. TD McCoy.
Scott Kacsmar: "So he breaks Luckman's record and he follows it up with a pick-six." Al Michaels with the perfect summary of Jay Cutler's career.
@csoandy: Does the interception yardage push Jay Cutler back behind Sid Luckman again?
Scott Kacsmar: Al Michaels says he thought we'd see 53.5 points tonight. The O/U was 54. Al's sly way of saying he took the under.
Vincent Verhei: Foles just said that PHI's rushing game against CHI was "degrading."

Special Playoff Odds Update!

A day early. Right here, kids.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 23 Dec 2013

138 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2013, 11:32pm by Mother shebubu


by Alexander :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:16am

Pats-Ravens Score is backwards.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:18am

Need to flip the headline score of the NE/Bal game. Should be NE 41, not Balt.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:31am

There probably should be some kind of Curtis Painter (or Jim Sorgi, Tyrod Taylor, Brian St. Pierre, etc.) adjustment for the playoff odds once you get to Week 17 and contenders are playing quality teams that won't be playing starters for very long or at all. Of course, this would require speculative and manual input.

Right now, the playoff odds give the Chargers just a ~50% chance of beating the Chiefs, who have absolutely nothing to play for and a road playoff game 6 or 7 days later. (Right now, the spread is Chargers -10, which translates to at least an expected 75% chance of winning.) Andy Reid has a history of pulling starters in meaningless games.

by UtVikefan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:35am

Aaron, all due respect, but you blew it with Rhodes. He is very, very good. Ok, if he can stay healthy, he is very, very good.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:36am

If only Andy Reid were available this offseason instead of last offseason. He would have been able to work wonders with the unformed, unfinished raw material that is Matthew Stafford. I really hope the team can get him some good coaching before his bad habits become too ingrained.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:44am

Stafford is in a group with Cutler and Romo who are all basically the same guy... Among the most physically talented in the league but mental lapses and inconsistently perpetually tease their teams and fans.

Perhaps there is something to Cowheards theory regarding QBs wearing baseball hats backwards.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:49am

Tanier agrees "Romo and Cutler are average in the way that a person with one hand on the gas grill and the other in the freezer is comfortable. Freeman and Stafford are the same way, but with more freezer."

by nath :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:00pm

Romo is better than any of those other guys. I don't think any of the others could keep a passing attack humming along without their top weapons and with a bunch of street guys.

by rageon :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:02pm

Cutler did have a pretty great year in Denver with little more than Brandon Marshall for skills players (i.e., Eddie Royal, Tony Scheftler, 37 different running backs.

But yes, agreed, Romo is better than those guys.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:07pm

I'm also forced to point out that Stafford had a pretty spectacular year in 2011 with only Calvin Johnson, no running game, and a bunch of below replacement-level receiving options.

But yea, only Romo has had sustained success year after year with little dropoff when his offensive teammates get injured.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:06pm

More importantly, who do want to see coach? At first I was thinking a guy that could really improve the defense, but now I think somebody that can fix Stafford is more important. I'm thinking my (mildly realistic) top 3 would be Lovie Smith, David Shaw and Darrell Bevel. I might also add the Saints/Broncos OCs, and, dare I say it, a second chance for Josh McDaniels. (I might regret saying McDaniels, but I think he might be ready for a second chance).

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:10pm

I'd also add that I think that, despite the fact that any NFC North team is going to be first round playoff fodder, I actually think Trestman might have been the better call for the Lions last year. Reid might be the better coach, but I think he knew the Chiefs would be easier to fix than Detroit.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:32pm

Martin Mayhew wanted to fire Schwartz after the team's 2nd half collapse last year, but ownership apparently didn't want to eat the 3 years left on his contract. I think if the position was open, Reid would have salivated at having Stafford, Johnson, and Bush to work with.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:40pm

Fair enough, but Reid is out now. Who do you want that's realistic. To me part of the issue with the Schwartz situation is that the alternatives aren't that much better. However, after the tremendous collapse including the game yesterday, I just don't see how this can continue. I know you think Ford might pull the trigger now, but $12 million is still a lot of money.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:46pm

See my comment below about Josh McDaniels. Lovie Smith seems like the only guy available with a proven track record. Greg Roman has done good work in SF despite all the injuries, and maybe someone of the Jim Harbaugh tree, with his obsession about practice/preparation is just what this team needs. Mike Zimmer seems to get looks every year, but apparently doesn't interview well (don't know what that's about). I don't pay enough attention to college football to know about candidates there.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:21pm

Was wondering to myself last night if the Redskins might hire Lovie Smith once the Shanahan debacle is played out.

The sad thing about the Scwartz situation is that he's clearly the best coach that Detroit's had in a long time. And yet he doesn't seem to impose enough discipline to get the team to make the transition from "talented" to "winning." With all the injuries on the Packers and Bears, the Lions should have won the NFC North weeks ago.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:39pm

Schwartz deserves some credit for taking the team from bottom-feeder to somewhat competitive, but it's clear he's not going to be able to take the next step. It's shocking how unprepared this team looks on a week to week basis.

I actually wasn't as down as I should have been about the Lions crapping the bed. If they had won this putrid division, all I would have had to look forward to is an embarrassing 1st round home loss and more seasons of Schwartz. Sometimes it's better to stay home in January rather than being fooled into thinking you have a good team.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:30pm

Yeah, same here ... after charting the fourth or fifth poorly-played game in a row, I couldn't see any way they would get pass Carolina or New Orleans or San Francisco. Plus this could lead to Green Bay or Chicago getting blown out, which is always fun. I've already had a bit of schadenfreude watching the Bears fans on my Facebook feed change from "haha Lions" to "!@*$*&%#" in just a few hours.

I feel like part of the problem is that Schwartz needs to be coaching an underdog, low-talent team, so that it makes sense to be coaching your players to take risks at all times. Better teams should be removing variance, not adding it. Wait for the snap, don't try to time it. Make the safe throw, don't try to sidearm a pass through three defenders into a spot your WR3 hasn't yet figured out he'll be in.

The constant issue with ball security, that I don't know about. Dropped passes and fumbles. Hopefully the next coach can bump that slider down a bit so that more passes are caught. (Not that I know who I'd want that coach to be. But I do agree with the people who think he needs to be someone who can fix Stafford. It's a passing league, so fix the passing game.)

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:54pm

I agree with what you're saying. The thing I found maddening is that the Lions never could seem to have the offense and defense firing in the same game.

I do wonder however, is low variance a good thing? My sense is that, while maddening, you'd rather have a good team with high variance. Busting out that occasional can of whoop-ass is a sign of a team that can hang with better teams. (Of course, a top DVOA, zero variance team would be best, but I'm thinking decent playoff team is the Lions ceiling here. I feel like Aaron Schatz did something on blowouts as a sign of team quality, though I suppose a team might have low variance if the blowouts are more a sign of opponent quality).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:11pm

"I found maddening is that the Lions never could seem to have the offense and defense firing in the same game."

It's like the 1990's all over again.

"Busting out that occasional can of whoop-ass is a sign of a team that can hang with better teams"

That's fine as long as you don't mix in the "whoop-ass" games (the Lions really only had one this year) with home losses to the Buccanneers and Giants of the world.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:26pm

I've already had a bit of schadenfreude watching the Bears fans on my Facebook feed change from "haha Lions" to "!@*$*&%#" in just a few hours..

Any Bears fan who was talking smack between the afternoon & night games needs to have his/her head examined. The way the CHI-PHI game played out was disturbing and ugly but not in any way surprising.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:37pm

"Any Bears fan who was talking smack between the afternoon & night games needs to have his/her head examined."

You can say that about approximately 70-90% of the fan base of any given team. Just go read some of the comments on ProFootballTalk.com if you need a reminder.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 9:50am

It's probably more like 10 - 20%. It just seems like 70 - 90% because idiots are louder.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:43pm

C'mon, I can't revel in the Lions showing off all their bad qualities in one perfectly sublime exhibit while simultaneously knowing the Bears are nearly as bad a team (but in different, less easy to make fun of ways)?

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 11:09am

That was the knock on Tony Dungy as well. Dare I suggest Detroit as the locale of the next long-awaited Jon Gruden vehicle?

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:58pm

"The sad thing about the Scwartz situation is that he's clearly the best coach that Detroit's had in a long time."

Sad for Detroit fans that despite the truth of that statement it still doesn't mean he's any good at all. He's still a guy that had a talent-laden team and took them absolutely nowhere.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:15pm

"The sad thing about the Schwartz situation is that he's clearly the best coach that Detroit's had in a long time."

Nobody's arguing he's better than Rod "keep a low pad-level" Marinelli. I actually think Steve Mariucci was a decent coach. He consistently got 5-6 wins out of a team that had at best 2-3 win talent (damning with faint praise, I know). This Lions team has roughly the talent level that the 2001-2002 49ers had, and I think if Mooch were coaching this team, he could consistently get double-digit wins out of them.

I think it was a case of right coach/wrong team and vice versa. Now excuse me while I retreat to my lab to work on building a time machine.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:58pm

It might be easier to try and buy some cocaine and then entice Wayne Fontes out of retirement.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:13pm

Hey, at least we wouldn't have to worry about "Cocaine Wayne" trying to assault an opposing coach after a post-game handshake gone wrong.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:16pm

Well, in fairness he's over 70 now, plus, it was his "sons" cocaine ; )

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:17pm

But maybe all Stafford needs is a hug.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:30pm

Someone should hire Dave Toub to be a headcoach, but I don't know if it should be the Lions.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:47pm

That would definitely be a "thinking outside the box" hire. Not sure if Mayhew is willing to take that risk, though, since he's going to be next on the firing line if this team doesn't improve.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:23pm

As a Bear fan, a Toub hire by the Lions would scare me. When he had Bear special teams near the top year after year there was some possibility that it was due to a couple of draft picks which were not his business (Hester, Mannelly (the LS)), a head coach who cared about special teams (Lovie), plus "mere" good quality coaching. Now that he has KC's special teams performing really well in his first year, after they were 'nothing' before, I'm convinced. He is a sharp coach.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:30pm

I was thinking of those same names, too. Smith would be a good fit, but would need a good offensive coordinator. I was also thinking Greg Roman. McDaniels had such a spectacular flameout in Denver, I feel like a few more years need to pass before teams are ready to give him a second chance (ironically if he hadn't been given any control over personnel, he may very well still be the coach there).

I also agree fixing Stafford should be first priority. If you have a reliable franchise QB, you can weather some variance in defense/special teams.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:45pm

I agree, and maybe Roman might make sense, but I see him as ill fitting. Too much multiple tight end and wham blocking which doesn't match he Lions personnel. I agree that the team suits an Andy Reid style offense, but that boat has sailed.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:50pm

Maybe a 49er fan can comment, but it seems like Roman did what he did because all of the 49ers competent wideouts have been injured for much of the year (the 49ers passing offense is +27% DVOA despte all that). I would hope he's a smart enough guy to fit his scheme to personell, rather than the other way around if he were hired somewhere else.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:27pm

Roman would drive you crazy. The reason the niners' passing game is at 27% is because they've been facing teams looking to shut down the run. It's been cover-1 with a spy on Kaepernick all year which has resulted in the run game ranking 16th with -0.9%, even though the run game is the offense's strength.

"I would hope he's a smart enough guy to fit his scheme to personell, rather than the other way around" - Good one, I needed cheering up. He's very good at what he does, dialing up ever more convoluted versions of wham, trap and power out of different formations. However, I've been getting the impression that the rest of the NFL has started to catch up to his run scheme after he reintroduced the trap block into the NFL following the previous supremacy of the zone scheme.

His work in the passing game isn't as good, it's based on Lindy Infante's half read system. It can get very good production out of young qbs quite quickly but I'm not sure it has the comprehensive features that mark out some of the league's best passing games.

You'd also enjoy never ever snapping the ball with more than a couple of seconds on the playclock and wasting timeouts.

If it was me I'd go for Bevell, and I'm not just saying that because he's with the rival Seahawks. I think he's done a fine job there with Wilson.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:47pm

That's my sense too. I'm fully on board for Bevell, but, then again, I thought Schwartz was the guy 5 years ago.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:14pm

Thanks for that post. I haven't watched enough 49ers games to be aware of all that.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:37am

It looks as if the Patriots and Broncos have each lost their best offensive (Clady, Gronk) and defensive players (Wilfork, Miller) that don't play QB....

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:49am

Reports from Denver are that it is more likely just a sprain, so while he may not be 100% for the playoffs, he could play in the playoffs.

But yes, it is ridiculous how injury-plagued all of the top teams in the AFC are.

The Bengals lost their two best defensive players. The Colts lost their two best non-QB offensive players. The Pats have lost everyone. The Broncos lost their LT, numerous defensive players through the year (most have or will come back).

by RickD :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:15pm

Keep all of this in mind when, three months from now, Roger Goodell floats the concept of an 18-game season yet again.

Early in the Pats' game yesterday, after Hightower and Gregory had left the field with injuries (minor injuries, it turned out), I compared the unit to "Survivor" and wondered if anybody other than Devin McCourty had stayed healthy all season. Sure enough, McCourty later concusses himself by slamming his head into a receivers hip.

I think that leaves only two defensive starters who haven't been hurt all season. (But I hesitate to even think their names...)

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:55pm

"Keep all of this in mind when, three months from now, Roger Goodell floats the concept of an 18-game season yet again"

Goodell doesn't float shit. If he's pushing for something, its because the owners have asked for it.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:05pm

He still has his own ideas about to accomplish owner goals. Like they tell him they would like to make more money, and he comes up with the idea of more games.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:50pm

I really doubt that Goodell is pitching ideas to the public without the specific approval of the owners.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:40pm

Why? I don't see what one has to do with the other. The demand for NFL games clearly outstrips supply. If the owners want to have two more games that is their prerogative. Sure more players will get hurt. Players playing sports always get hurt, and NFL football is a very violent sport with a lot of injuries.

I don't see why that is an argument against an 18 game season though? That players don't make it through the season seems an argument against having any games whatsoever. If you really want the starting rosters to make it to the playoffs you better only have 1 no contact scrimmage. Even preseason games cause injuries.

An 18 game season might even help people transition to thinking of it as a sport of attrition. The expectation that a player is going to make it through the year seems a little obsolete in this era of giant roided up missiles.

The null hypothesis would be that players were 12.5% more likely to get hurt during the regular season with 18 games. Certainly the players should get some compensation for that and the additional work they are doing, but I am not sure why 18 games is such no go when this all lies on an continuum. There is no reason to think that 16 is some ideal number.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:55pm

OK, Dan Snyder. The gig is up.

by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:00pm

Yep anyone who treats the situation as it really is must be an NFL owner...

Look I am no friend of NFL owners. I find the way they fleece communities by manipulating stupid politicians borderline criminal. But why shouldn't they be able to have whatever number of games they think the market will sustain?

More players will get hurt with 18 games. Absolutely right. More players get hurt with 16 games than 10 or 5 or 1 or 0. It is all a balance of many different elements.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:28pm

It would be an easy compromise to have an 18 week season with 16 games and 2 byes. Since TV money is probably proportional to weeks, not games.

by jwkelly :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 6:34pm

Absolutely. And the extra bye would make for healthier players. Win-win.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 6:47pm

I don't think an 18 week season with 16 games would be an issue with the union. In fact, it may be the only sane way to keep the Thursday games as one of the byes could be paired with a midweek game so that teams would have at least nine days on either side of a midweek game. I just don't think 18 games would be very smart for all parties including the owners.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 8:21am

The problem is that every team likes to sell tickets to ten games, but between the crappiness of pre-season games and the increasing attractiveness of staying home, season tickets are less valuable. Adding bye weeks won't change that, but turning an exhibition into a regular season game will. The next step, which the league hasn't figured out yet, is how to sell the longer regular season as good for player safety.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:53pm

It's that 12.5% that people are talking about. Right now heading into their 16th game, the Cowboys have 10 guys on IR-- make that 11, since Romo was just ruled out for the rest of the season-- and another 5 who are questionable. The team is having to replace injured linebackers that they signed off the street six weeks ago.

The Eagles have 5 guys on IR, and another 2 who are questionable.

That's a lot of injured players-- including a few big-name stars! Sure, we can compensate the players for extra work, etc., but that doesn't change the fact that more injuries means the quality on the field goes down as more and more people go on the IR.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:03am

"There is no reason to think that 16 is some ideal number."

This has nothing to do with the rest of your comment, but how the league is organized into the eight divisions with four teams, and with the schedule as mathematically perfect as it is right now, makes 16 the ideal number to me.

I guess that you could remove any SOS games and just make it two IC divisons each year.

Hmmmm. Well, I just convinced myself while typing this post. Go 18 games! But so help me if you add new teams.

(And seriously, this just happened.)

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:18pm

Clearly, receivers having hips should be illegal. Watch for updates on this after the spring owners' meetings....

by nathnd (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 11:19am

My thoughts on the 18 game season and more off-Sunday games:

The players are eventually going to lose those fights - there's too much money at stake, and the owners are going to keep pressing hard until they get them. So I think the players should cut a deal to protect themselves now, before they just get forced into a bad spot.

For the off-night games, I'd want a rule that players get at least 120 hours between games - that is, at least 5 full days between the end of the previous game and kickoff for their next. So right now, you'd get a bye week before Thursday games, but in the future they could shift you around slowly if that's where the scheduling goes.

For the games, I'd give in on 18 (or even 20), but add a per-player game restriction - each player can only appear in 16 games per season. I'd support an exemption for kickers and punters, and perhaps any player that appears in no more than 10 plays in any game. Protects the players more than the current regime - now you're a whole lot more likely to sit with minor injuries, since you'd have to do it anyway. Keeps the wear and tear the same, expands roster sizes, and gets more games for the owners. Wins all around.

by Jerry :: Wed, 12/25/2013 - 7:35am

I appreciate what you're suggesting, and agree with the idea of byes before Thursday games. Limiting players to 16 games in a longer schedule leads to some obvious problems, though. While we all understand that any given player might not dress for a particular game because of injuries, we still assume that we're getting hte team's best possible lineup. Would you want to buy a ticket for a Lions game, especially outside of Detroit, and then find out that it's a game where Megatron won't play as a coach's decision? More importantly, will teams be allowed to sit stars for Sunday night games? NBC would go nuts if Manning (either) or Brady sat out one of their games.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:22pm

You're right, and even there you're understating it. Colts lost top 4 non-QB offensive players (Wayne, Ballard, Brashaw, Allen); the Pats have lost lots of guys for the whole year, but also guys for games (last week without either of the outside receivers), and the Broncos are starting to get weekly losses adding up (Welker, Thomas for awhile).

If the NFL goes to an 18-game season, you might be wisest to sit top guys for the first half of the year. The playoffs would be more interesting to viewers if the league went back to 12 games. Imagine a loaded NE versus a loaded Denver? Would be a great game.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:35pm

I think Castonzo/Hilton are better than Ballard at the least, if not Bradshaw, but yes, I did understate the Colts injury situation.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:27pm

I think the Packers and Bears were good teams in week 1.

The Steelers could make basically an entire football team from their IR list.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:04pm

Packers fans are unimpressed by Steelers IR list. However, even our heads are still hurting from that batted ball explanation.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:36pm

NFL moved Patriot-Bills game to late start, (same time as Denver's) apparently to make sure Denver doesn't have the advantage of knowing they can sit players in the unlikely event Bills upset New England.

by rageon :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:54pm

As a Broncos fan, I've spent the season being thankful for getting to witness Peyton while at the same time thinking about how much better the team could have been with a little injury luck (and no Von Miller suspension). Add Clady, a full year of Miller, a healthy Champ Bailey, and all of the missing weeks of various defensive players (DRC, Woodyard, tons of others), and they had the personel to be a legit "great" team. But it's hard to get too worked up when you have Manning.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:11pm

Those reports are wrong.

Von Miller is done for the season, per both Mike Klis (Denver Post) and Adam Schefter (ESPN).

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:26pm

The question is, which postseason will Manning be reliving, 2005 when Freeney was IRed and Mathis hurt late and they had no pass rush so the Chargers rolled them in the first round (despite 400 yards, 69%, and 3 TDs from the QB), or 2009 when Freeney blew out his ankle in the AFCCG and could not show up to rush Drew "22 of 23 in the 2nd half" Brees in the 2nd half of the SB? (Manning: 333 yds, 69%) (stats estimated)

With that D, Denver will likely have to average 30+ pts in the post season. While many will say "easy, they did it all season" so did the Colts (and Pats) a few times and it's a lot tougher to sustain it in the playoffs.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:32pm

Yup, the morning report of optimism that it was just a sprain is wrong.

Honestly, it is a crushing loss on face value, but how good was Von Miller this season? He wasn't nearly the force he was a year ago. The defense played better with him, I guess, but they're set up to absorb a loss like that better than most teams.

Anyway, the AFC playoffs just got more interesting.

by deflated (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:33pm

No, losing Miller really is a massive hit to the Denver D. No league average unit can afford to lose an All-Pro at a key position.

Miller was having an excellent season with the same mix of QB pressure and tackles for loss in the run game, he was just getting more attention from blockers (and so converting less pressure into sacks) as there is less help for him on the line. With Vickerson, Wolfe and Miller gone I can see some serious run defense issues ahead.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:42pm

Was he. His numbers that Aaron gave in the injury aftermath post weren't stellar, even if he was being doubled and tripled more.

It is a big issue, and I myself didn't realize that their Defensive DVOA was that much better with Miller (maybe since all three of their losses also happened with Miller).

If their offense returns to its level from Week 1-6, they'll be fine. That is unlikely, but their defense also missed DRC, Bailey and Woodyard for some of the games where Miller played, and those guys are back. Wolfe is also expected back by the postseason, I believe. Losing Vickerson is big, but they're run defense was fine without Miller.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 6:08pm

All I know is that his numbers on ProFootballFocus were good, and the pass rush was was certainly better with him.

Denver fans can hope Derek Wolfe is back, and that Mr. Mince is a good enough fill in.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:47am

This Steelers / Packers game, and last Steelers / Bengals game, are going in my personal folder to explain guts and stomps to my brother (who, with a PhD in econometrics shouldn't be a stupid of a fan as he is...) A good team would have taken the fortuitous bounces and turn them into stomps. The 2012 Steelers, being an OK team, took the fortuitous bounces and turned them into guts.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:53am

"@dmstorm22: He's not great, but is Al Davis somewhat vindicated with Mike Mitchell's play in his career? Not a terrible 2d round pick"

I assume this comment only made it in because there were so few comments for Raiders-Chargers, but the comment is most likely a reference to the Saints-Panthers game, since Mitchell now plays for the Panthers.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:34pm

It was regarding his play in the Panthers game.

And by no means is a mid-level starter on his 2nd team a good pick, but this was a guy who was literally laughed at when he was drafted as a 2nd round pick. I always felt bad for him. Laughing at Davis is one thing, but laughing while interviewing him was another.

He's honestly better than many other 2nd round DBs picked in recent years (there are over a handful of 2nd round pick DBs that BB has drafted in recent years that have done less), and I love to see him playing pretty well for a good team and a great defense.

by hscer :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:05pm

Heh, go figure. Manning had 296 yards and 1 TD in the first half, and just 104 yards but 3 TD in the second.

by lester bangs (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 12:25pm

Must. Not. Criticize. Jim. Schwartz. Because. He. Likes. FO.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:01pm

Mia/Buf If you read game rifs then you knew Miami's oline was in trouble. It was sort of amazing how Jeff Ireland has constructed a worse line every year he has been GM. Now that it is a dead certain he will be back for another season I am trying to imagine what he can do to construct an even worse line. As horrible as Miami looked... the weren't even the worse performance by a team that might get in the playoffs. Cutting Dansby was a really, really bad idea but the Cardinals seem happy.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:45pm

Just wanted to comment on the Jets game. While he pulled off an embarrassing flop, Smith was almost past the white line when he got shoved. Nothing wrong with the ref's call in that situation. They would have been kicking a field goal even without the flag, so I'm not sure if it even effected the game.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 1:54pm

"All over New England, radio hosts are seeing their heads explode."

Wait a minute...I don't think this is possible.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:41pm

Why am I still waiting for Trent Richardson to bust out and have a hundred-yard game? Like there must be just one, simple, missing piece ("No, Trent, run that way," or, "Hey Trent, do you know you have your helmet on backwards?")and then he will start turning out fifteen-yard carries on every play.

Stockholm Syndrome, maybe? Should I see a doctor?

by Tino (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:54pm

I think the Colts should play him at fullback or H-back. He's got size and speed, so I'm assuming he can be dangerous in a straight line. But he is absolutely awful at finding a hole at the line of scrimmage.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:57pm

He is far more effective catching passes out of the backfield. But they can't do that too much or else it's tipped off when he's in the lineup--"Oh hey the Colts don't want him to run for a yard so they're going to throw to him."

He's at least decent in space. But so are a lot of running backs. Blah

by Purds :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:26pm

Well, they could. At least they have started using DHB in a role he can master -- special teams gunner. He was actually really good at it yesterday.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 3:27am

Paul, Perhaps you're watching the movie Die Hard and instead you are having Helsinki Syndrome.

Love the helmet on backwards bit.

by canofcorn66 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:56pm

I know this is crazy talk, and I'm not actually advocating that the Vikings proceed with Cassel as the starter...but going into this week he was 10th in DVOA, 10th in passer rating, and held similar spots in NY/A, ANY/A, etc., which put him in front of guys like Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, et al. Sure, it's a small sample and we all watched him play terribly in Kansas City, but I don't think it's overly complimentary to call him a league-average starter.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:57pm

He was a better than average QB in NE for his one year.

Its not out of the question that KC was just a terribly run team.

by jds :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:43pm

I think it is pretty clear that the Vikings coaches (if still employed) intend to proceed next year with Cassels as starting QB until the rookie they are going to draft is ready. And I think Raiderjoe had the best comment in the Vikings section. Indeed, what is the deal with Freeman?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 12:42am

Can anyone anywhere figure out the deal with Freeman? Anyone? I suspect somehow Al Davis is using his dark magicks from beyond the grave in order to ensure Freeman is the starter in Oakland next year.

by Anonymoustache (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 2:57pm

Shouldn't the section for Pats-Ravens be

New England 41 at Baltimore 7?

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:19pm

because your model overvalues them

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:32pm

Noooooo! Shhhhhhh! You'll wake the FOMB Curse.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:19pm

Watching the seahawks cards was fun if you appreciate good defense, especially in the case of the cardinals where I thought it was much more of good D than poor offense. They did a great job of covering receivers and getting pressure on wilson early. By the late quarters, I thought wilson started to get panicky in the pocket and the cardinals d line did an excellent job of containing his scrambles.

On the other side, the seahawks defense was great all game too, but the cards also got unlucky with tip drill ints. Plus both red zone picks were of the kind where palmer really should not have thrown them. Otherwise though, fun game to watch. Really showed off how great the nfc west defenses are.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:31pm

The general public has been sleeping on the Cardinals all season, and are only now realizing what a good team they are. It's funny that when Carolina lost to them in week 4, it was considered a "bad loss" for a long time. I thought one of the more impressive games I saw them play was ironically a loss, to San Fransisco. Carson Palmer kept giving the ball away inside his own red zone over and over again but their defense kept it close for most of the game, and the final score ended up being deceiving.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:15pm

Advanced NFL Stats' visualization last week showed that Arizona was basically Seattle's equal since Seattle beat them, which is pretty stunning. They're like Chicago from last year, a team with an extremely good defense and a top-6 DVOA that's probably going to miss the playoffs.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:16pm

"but the cards also got unlucky with tip drill ints."

Not that lucky. Sherman missed one late in the game, and most of the others were tipped really high and those almost always get intercepted. And of course, you can't get more lucky with tip drill ints than the one that ended the game.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:18pm

I didn't mean they were lucky to intercept passes that got tipped. Just, tipped pass in general are rare and those that get picked are rarer still. I'm speaking generally of course. And yes, the wilson pick was also ridiculous(especially since it wasn't even a legitimate tip).

I should have been more explicit with my main point. I think low scoring games are seen as boring or mislabeled as bad offense. Instead, this game was really entertaining and well played and the low scoring nature wasn't because the quarterbacks were just being horrible.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:24pm

Yeah, I'll agree with that. There was absolutely insane coverage by Arizona. I mean, there were large stretches where it looked even better than Seattle's in the Saints' game. I could only catch the second half, but a lot of Wilson's deep passes into single coverage were quite accurate; the defender was simply better on those plays. I have no clue how they allowed more than 400 yards to Fitzpatrick.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:26pm

For the people who say defense is boring, I give you the Saints @ Panthers game. Sure, watching the Saints defense dominate the Panthers sans Smith for most of the game was tough, but watching that defensive effort by Carolina was incredible.

Robert Quinn might have locked up the award, but it's been a while since a high-tackling, good coverage linebacker has won DPOTY. Urlacher was the last one (in 2005), and Ray Lewis twice and Derrick Brooks before him. I don't know what his advanced metrics are, but Luce Kuechly is amazing. The rare 'most NFL ready' linebacker that actually works out.

The downpour helped, but all game they were dominating the Saints screen game and forcing Brees to throw underneath. Just an amazing job. Even on the TD drive, they almost got to each of the two catches by Graham.

Great game, really. Well deserving of a do-or-die situation (which in the end it is, since I can't see either team losing next week).

I just hope that even one of the two do-or-die games next Sunday is 75% good.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:34pm

Heh, in irc I mentioned how watching the Panther's defense made me nostalgic for when the Bears had good linebackers.

It's an acquired taste, but it's often so much fun to watch those guys run around, plugging holes, dropping back and surprising quarterbacks, and generally making sure no play goes extra yards.

Advanced stats often underrate players like Kuechly because much of the time the offense is trying to avoid him. Someday we'll have substitution data for the NFL, and be able to make something like a +/-.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:38pm

Bears fans really are living through alternate realities between seasons. Tell me, which would you rather have, the much better offense with the porous D or the great D and the pathetic o?

by whckandrw (not verified) :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 4:51pm

All season I've been saying I prefer the talented O because you have to score to win the game, but there are only so many times you can allow the opposition two hundred yard backs in a game...

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:07pm

Well I'd take the amazingly good 05/06 defenses with a pathetic offense over this year's good-but-not-great offense and bad defense. If you could give me Peyton Manning I might change my tune.

Just aesthetically speaking, I find it unpleasant when an offense easily marches down the field. I don't mind the marching down the field part, but there should be difficulties to overcome and drama involved in the journey.

Mostly, I just want the Bears to do well and have a chance to win the Superbowl. They clearly don't this year, and I think they had a better chance the last few years with Lovie. On the otherhand: I like Trestman, but he got a raw deal this year with the injuries. I have no idea what would have happened with last year's coaching staff with this team.

I don't know if my ramble answers your question.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:26pm


We'll, your answering a few different questions in your post: What you find stylistically pleasing, what you think better wins football games, and which brand of bears football is better balanced.

Personally, I agree. Last year's bears had an A rated defense and a C- offense. This year's offense is like a B+ but the bears defense is like a D. I guess then, last year's gpa would be 2.75, or roughly a B-. This year's would be a C+.

One problem I have with dvoa when it comes to defense is that a great defense doesn't rate as highly as a great offense does and that's a function of year to year team baselines. However, I think great offensive dvoas are overstated primarily because there are so many teams fielding awful qbs for large stretches of the year(to say nothing of qbs that are awful playing through injuries).

Defenses are based more off the collective talent and so the lows are probably not as low as the offensive lows are. That maybe understates how great a great defensive really is.

All that rambling of my own to say, which is better, having the great o or the great D? I personally prefer the great D in a one year or two year stretch, but the great O lasts far longer so I think ultimately, everyone's goal should be to try and build the great o from that perspective.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 5:46pm

"All that rambling of my own to say, which is better, having the great o or the great D? I personally prefer the great D in a one year or two year stretch, but the great O lasts far longer so I think ultimately, everyone's goal should be to try and build the great o from that perspective."

On the other hand, couldn't it be argued that a great D is cheaper to maintain than a great O? We've seen Manning's Indy teams slowly be deprived of talent from their 2004 highs; New Orleans' wide receiver core and OL are sub-optimal right now; and Jennings fled Green Bay for more money. Meanwhile, Chicago, Baltimore and Pittsburgh's D pretty much maintained their dominance for a whole decade.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 9:06pm

I suppose that's true. Then we need to add yet another variable, which is, bad offense basically hamstrings you far more than a bad defense does. If you examine all of the teams that routinely finish at the bottom, most of their problems are from bad offense. In fact, the bad offense basically makes your defense look worse because of lousy field position and turnovers. That helps explain the chiefs massive turnaround this year. I also think the same will happen to houston next year, when they get some stability at qb.

But also, o is just more consistent. Great o anyways. GB, Indy, NE, NO, SD(until recently) were always in the mix while the steelers, ravens, and bears had off years where they missed.

by Whatev :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 9:59pm

But the question is, do you actually get to make the choice between a good offense and a good defense? I'm not so sure it works like that. All of those consistently great offenses you mentioned share a common feature: a great QB. It's not as simple as just going out and buying one of those. I think you can build a "pretty good" offense by spending adequately on linemen and receivers and find a pretty good quarterback, but we've seen plenty of those, and they have up years and down years, just like good defenses.

by Jeff88 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 5:29pm

The Jets would have gladly taken Shaub over the Sanchez/Geno roller coaster of the past 5yrs

by jebmak :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 8:11pm

"Hate to bring it up, but there was another huge officiating blunder that went against the Colts..."

But don't forget that this was after the terrible horse-collar tackle flag that went against the Chiefs to extend the Colts drive. Fortunately, they also went on to stall and miss a field goal.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 9:12pm

Agree about the horse collar, but as a Colts fan I am bummed that for the last two weeks, a reversible call was made, reviewed, and then not reversed even though the evidence was obvious. The first one led to 7 points, the second could have led to points if KC was better.

The point is not the usual "we got robbed by the refs" call or non-call, but twice in a row we've had a replay booth review, with the incorrect call standing. Not good for the league.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 3:44am

I'll take on the horse collar tackle: At game speed, I think they had to call it, primarily because of the way Richardson went down--knees buckling, falling backward--that kind of fall (and the attendant broken ankles) is EXACTLY why a real HC tackle is illegal. The instant I saw it I threw a mental flag and yelled at the TV. Yes, I was biased. But if My guy had made that tackle I'd be yelling at him the same way (at game speed view) "You idiot! You cant do that!"

On review, I think it's iffy to say it absolutely was not a HC tackle (fingers inside the jersey or pads and a tackle pulling a man backwards like that = HC). After seeing the slo-mo replay, I agree it probably was not an HC unless his fingers are super long, but Richardson's dreads covered the money shot, so a replay is inconclusive on the key issue.

I really understand why they called it and if it was reviewable, why they could not overturn it (the hair blocks the view). If I was a KC fan, I'd be most angry at Richardson's stupid hair or the way he went down--almost as if he took a dive resembling a HC tackle victim--rather than fighting through a fairly weak tackle attempt. A guy grabs the top of your pads with one hand and brings you down? How lame. Spin out of it! Lunge forward! Stiff-arm him! Don't collapse and fall backward....

Hell, now that I see that in print, I am starting to doubt my eyes... Replay did not look particularly like a HC, but how could he have brought TR down WITHOUT reaching inside? If it wasn't TR (i.e. if it was a competent back), I'd say it's inconceivable (in a Wallace Shawn voice). Richardson, yeah, maybe a one-hand grabbed shoulder pad (from the top) is enough to bring him down. sigh.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:23am

I disagree. I was shocked that they called it at real speed. It looked like he spun him down with his hand on the shoulder pad. There was no hand inside the back of the collar jerking him backwards.

Upon review, I agree, maybe a finger was inside the side of the collar, but we can't tell? Regardless, the pressure still wasn't a yank backwards, it was a spin. The real horsecollar tackles look nasty.

Re: your last paragraph, LOL.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 9:23pm

You weren't the only one who noted the double standard, Aaron:

So many in media clutched their hymnals when NE kept scoring in 2007. Denver throwing deep, often up 30-13 with 5 minutes left. Not a peep
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) December 23, 2013

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 10:21pm

Define 'often'. He threw three passes up 30-13. There's a difference between that and the Pats throwing and running plays on 4th down up 38-0 in the 4th quarter against Washington. At least come up with a better example of Peyton running up the score.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 10:59pm

Why don't you tell the whole story. The Pats ran plays on 4th down inside the 20 - should they have kicked a field goal?
Manning was running up the score against a seriously unmanned team that weren't getting back into the game.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:18pm

The drive that made if 45-0 started well before the 30.

Also, were the 2007 Redskins, down 38-0, not an unmanned team that wasn't getting back into the game.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:56pm

"The Pats ran plays on 4th down inside the 20 - should they have kicked a field goal?"

Yes. Conventional football says that when you're crushing an opponent and you're inside the 20, you run 3 running plays, run the clock down, and kick a field goal. No one complains, the game ends sooner, and that's that.

Going for it on 4th against a team that you're clearly crushing is just sort of dick.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/23/2013 - 11:58pm

Also, I don't know if it was a bootleg, a scramble, or a patented QB sneak, but they had Tom Brady run two yards on 4th and 1.

by Lance :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:26am

Yes. With 11 minutes to go on 4th and 1 from the Washington 7, Brady ran a sneak and gained 2. Then, after a False Start on Randy Moss, they ran the ball for 8 yards, and then on 2nd down Brady passes to Welker to make it 45-0.

Then, let's see...

After a 3-and-out by Washington, New England puts Matt Cassel in. They run it once, and then Cassel throws (!) two passes-- one complete and one incomplete, bringing up 4th-and-2 at the Washington 37. New England goes for it--again. The score is 45-0, and there are 7 minutes left on the clock. But New England passes it (passes it) and gets 21 yards. Next play is another touchdown and it's 52-0.

So in here, we've seen a number of pass plays (albeit with the back-up QB) and a pass on yet another 4th down, while up 45-0. Is this really NOT running up the score?

Now, to their credit, when they got the ball back AGAIN-- this time with the score 52-7 and with 2:56 on the clock-- New England runs it three times and manages to bring the clock down to 1:16 before finally punting on 4th-and-19 from the 50.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 9:58am

Going for it on 4th down is the best way to assure that the clock keeps going down 45 seconds every play.

It's the best way to assure a win, and its what every team should be doing in that situation. The FG is valueless.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 11:30am

Where do you get your Conventional Football Wisdom from? In your scenario, people do complain, and the game does not end sooner.

Not to rehash an old argument, and I agree the Pats threw a few unnecessary, and one egregiously unnecessary, passes late in that game (I think it was a BB reaction to a real or perceived slight by someone in R-words management, or was that the game that the other HC kept calling defensive time-outs?) but kicking field goals up by 40 points is the exact definition of "running up the score".

The sportsmanlike move is to call basic running plays and keep the clock moving to all-zeroes.

by Lance :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 1:45pm

Really? Because when it's 38-0 you've more or less proven that you can move the ball as you like. So when it's 4th and 2 at the opponent's 15, what's more likely: That a) you're going to get those two yards, or b) that you're going to turn the ball over on downs?

If you said "b" then you're sort of fooling yourself. But that's fine. It's what fans of running-up-the-score teams do. Because of course, what happens far more often is "a" and the team converts and continues to drive to a touchdown-- oops! Now it's 45-0!!

What's more-- and as a FO guy you must know this-- the odds are very likely that even if you don't convert on that 4th-and-short, the odds are VERY likely that you're going to get the ball back anyhow. This was the whole point of the _Hidden Game of Football_ book that played some role in the development of FO in the first place: going for it on 4th and short deep in your opponent's territory is a good move because the most likely person to score next is YOU. In other words, when you're up 38-0 with 10 minutes left in the game and are JUST LOOKING TO SCORE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE just go for it on 4th and short when you're within the 20.

Yes, a field goal IS 3 points, but everyone acknowledges that it's a consolation prize to the touchdown. EVERYONE would rather have 3 scored against them instead of 7. At least then, if your team manages to get a garbage-time touchdown, it seems like a slight moral victory. There is a reason "hold them to a field goal" is a common expression among TV and radio commentators.

You can talk "sportsmanship" all you want-- maybe it makes you feel better to not look like a dick. But I hope that when you pay $300 for tickets for you and your kid to see a game, your team gets BLOWN OUT and whoever it is that's doing the blow-out goes for it on 4th and 2 from the 12 while up 38-0 and ends up scoring a touchdown with 10 minutes to play to make it 45-0. With a pass play. Then you can say "that's how classy people do it" to your kid.

And then, when the opponent puts in the back-up QB, I hope they keep passing and going for it on 4th down because, you know, they're just running out the clock in a sportsman-like fashion.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 2:09pm

These guys are professionals, so I don't really care about their feelings.

That said, I think most coaches miss out on opportunities to get backups real playing time when in a blow out. Why not get the backup qb and receivers out there and let them run a few real drives where they get to pass and everything?

Chasing history (the TD record) also seems like something worth doing to me. Then the question becomes, why bother running there?

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 3:28pm

Whine whine whine whine whine. Save it for Pop Warner, high school, and college mismatches.

In the pros I want to see the teams play hard to the final gun (they are paid professionals after all) and if that means one team (even mine) is getting blown off the field, so be it. I don't have any problems with "running up the score", whether it was the 2007 Patriots, 2013 Broncos, or any other team. Especially if the winning team puts in their backups and the other team still can't stop them. Personally, I think a coach in a blowout (on either side) is missing a good opportunity if they don't put their backups out there and have them run real plays (i.e. not run it every down) to get them some work.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 4:16pm

Fair enough. And if my son and I are still at the game, and team x just ran a fullback dive on fourth down to go up 45-0, I will look at him and say "This is what happens when a team is unprepared, outclassed, or quits. This is a metaphor for life...if you're looking for somebody to look out for you when you won't look out for yourself, you're going to get rolled."

by Mother shebubu (not verified) :: Sat, 12/28/2013 - 11:32pm

Yes, I have no understanding why this is an issue. Aside from the self-interested reasons to avoid running up the score (injuries primarily), it's bizarre that fans have a problem with this. These are two professional NFL teams, and if one can't stop the other scoring a touchdown, in what reality is that the fault of the team scoring a touchdown? I'm from Ireland, and this never arises in Irish or European sports. If a team is running up the score on your team, you're angry at your own team, not theirs! I mean if they're completely unmatched, fine. I can see it in College or High School, where mismatches can happen and it's pointless and petty, but in the NFL I'm surprised that fans don't appreciate the idea of seeing how many points team x can put up.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 12:29am

Has he not watched the Bronco defense this year? They are more than capable of giving up 17+ points in less than 5 minutes...
For what it's worth, I thought it was stupid when the backlash against the 07 Patriots was going on as well. But given the number of seemingly improbably come from behind victories over the last few years, I think the hand-wringing segment has kind of taken a back seat. Or at least I hope so.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 3:52am

Normally I'd agree with you about the Denver D--Romo or Rivers would require them to pad the lead just in case. This really has seemed like the season of the comeback, after all. Luck has made a habit of it. Look at the NE/Den game for a prime example--Had Den scored 10 more in the first half to go up an "unconscionably padded" 38-0, they may have still lost (and people would have called it karma for running up the score instead of realizing it was compensating for a poor D), or maybe they'd merely win by three.....

However, against the Texans and Schaub..... maybe not.

I don't think the Pats in 2007 ever gave up a 24-28 pt lead like Denver has this season.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 12/25/2013 - 8:06pm

There was meant to be an element of kidding on the square to my comment about the Denver defense. Was I actually concerned that Houston was going to tie the game up or win it? Not really... But I will say that I felt more secure with the additional touchdown. And given that in the playoffs there won't be teams like Houston available to play against, I would like the Broncos to get in the frame of mind that they should score at all available times.
The crux of my position is that I don't think the negative connotations of running up the score should exist at the professional level. I also think that the college system encourages, if not demands putting the maximum amount of points on the board each week. If you want to make an argument for decorum/sportsmanship or mercy rules at the high school level, I'd almost certainly agree with that argument. But after high school, I don't see that it has any meaning.

by Edge (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 3:54am

No one in 2007 ever said that the Patriots were the only team that ran up the score in the history of the NFL. They caught more flak for it because they did it more often and more flagrantly than any other team has, not because of some anti-patriots media smear campaign.

What Denver did was more "stat padding" (which the 07 Pats were also egregious offenders at) than running up the score. Manning probably wouldn't have tossed a fourth TD late if it wasn't to break the record, but its impossible to say.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 11:44am

In a case like this, I'm in favor of trying to get the milestone or whatever out of the way as soon as possible to eliminate the distraction. If Manning needed another TD pass for the record, I'd be in favor of throwing another one late in a long-decided game.

Then again, I find the concept of scoring unnecessary points in a professional game quaint and misguided. If the defense is going to roll over and quit, I as an offensive co-ordinator see no reason to stop trying to score. This isn't Alabama vs. some division 2 directional school. Every NFL team is close enough in talent that they should be able to compete for 60 minutes. If the game isn't close anymore, one could justify using the remaining time to practice certain plays or give the next opponent a few new wrinkles to prepare for. Nothing is, or should be, more important to the Head Coach than doing the thing that serves his team the best. Nothing should be less important that the feelings of the other team that competes under the same rules and constraints.

I'm saying nothing with regard to the wisdom of having the league MVP on the field throwing passes and taking potential season-ending hits in a long-decided game, however.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 1:53pm

There was a good chance this would have been Peyton's last meaningful action of the season because it would have been Osweiler starting in Oakland if New England would have lost....

by td (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 7:16am

It's things like nursing a grievance for six year after 'some' people accused the 2007 Pats of running up the score that has earned Pat fans their well-deserved terrible reputation

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 9:59am

And its posts like this that prove that the rest of the league's fans are just a bunch of sore losers.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:27am

And it's posts like this ...

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 10:40am

Sore losers? That would imply the Patriots won anything in 2007.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 11:34am

That's an inane comment. Even if we live in a bifurcated world where there is one champion and everybody else is a loser, why single out 2007?

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 8:52pm

Yes, it is an inane comment and mainly a joke - but I think you'll agree that the talk about "sore losers" years after the fact is just as inane. Anyhoo, I might genuinely have more indifference to the Patriots than any football fan in existence, so really truly I'm on board with inanity in regards to decade old perceived slights...

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Wed, 12/25/2013 - 1:24am

Well, he's criticizing Schatz's out-of-the-blue whining about something that happened a half decade ago. It's annoying because it was a long time ago and almost no one has even thought about it for five or so years. No one likes passive aggressive drama queens with 'woe is me, why are people so mean to my precious team' attitude. It would've been obnoxious and childish enough in 2007, much less all these years later… It doesn't really have anything to do with winning or losing…

by Purds :: Tue, 12/24/2013 - 7:35pm

It's Christmas time, Pats fans. Give it a rest. Gees.