Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

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

23 Sep 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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.

Green Bay Packers 30 at Cincinnati Bengals 34


@TerrapinPrime: Gio Bernard leaping and contorting mid air for the touchdown like a frog catching a branch.

Scott Kacsmar: Packers have come back from a 14-point deficit 7 times since 1992. All were 14-point deficits; four were down 14-0

@Walshmobile: I think I know Rodgers's problem. He played WAS, not used to seeing covered WRs again.

@blotzphoto: Bengals goal in this drive is to at least get to punt the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Unfortunate human error call in GB-CIN. Reggie Nelson called for roughing passer for helmet-to-2-inches-from-helmet hit.

@Coboney: Wow is this the same Johnathan Franklin we saw in the preseason? Looks fast, quick and effective!

Robert Weintraub: Bengals punt on 4th + 7 inside GB 40. Shouldn't have--need to make something, anything happen on offense. Defense is worn to a nub.

Robert Weintraub: Like I said--five plays, 93 yards, Packers in the end zone, game over.

Robert Weintraub: Packers are running almost every play for Franklin, and they should--he's been elusive as heck.

Robert Weintraub: Well, maybe the right call, but on 4th n inches, Franklin stuffed, fumbles run back for a TD by Newman! Wowzers.

Aaron Schatz: The Green Bay fumble-and-TD-return by Cincy doesn't make the GB decision to go for it on fourth down wrong. It means fumbling is bad.

Robert Weintraub: Ref explained call by starting, "Here's the situation..." Love it. 8th turnover of the game, btw, four each.

Robert Weintraub: @FO_ASchatz And yet how many coaches will say, "see? That's why we're conservative!" #causationnotcorrelation

Robert Weintraub: Any doubt this ends by Dalton fumbling a kneel down play? #bengals

@ptmovieguy: Marvin Lewis icing his D on 4th-and-5?

Robert Weintraub: Not sure you can really draw any conclusions one way or the other from that one. Just insane game.


Vince Verhei: This may sound silly considering there were a zillion turnovers in this game, but as I watched this game I kept thnking to myself "these are Super Bowl teams." Especially when Green Bay had the ball. I’ve seen Aaron Rodgers take a pounding before, but I don’t recall seeing a team that could beat him up so consistently while also smothering his receivers. Green Bay has always been the team with a full arsenal of receivers who could beat you, but none of them could get any separation today. All the Packers’ points in the first half were set up by turnovers, and most were field goals after defensive stands. The Packers put together some drives in the second half, because they are still the Packers, but Cincinnati looked every bit their equal.

The other side of the ball, obviously, was a little different. Cincinnati’s offense and Green Bay’s defense are both flawed units, but they still have stars (Clay Matthews, A.J. Green) who can make the one play they need to beat you. Overall, it was just a good game by two teams that seem capable of playing well into January.

Rob Weintraub: It's rare that a team surrendering 30 points in a game can be said to have a heroic defensive performance, but Cincy's defense did an amazing job. (Of course there was a fumble return touchdown in there, so really it was 23 points.) Consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers, including the back-to-back deflections at the line to win the game. Extremely good coverage on the Packers wides, in particular Leon Hall, who Colin Cowherd described as a "blown first-round pick" this week. (Not really analysis -- CC, who just got a TV show devoted to football this season, clearly has no idea who Leon is.) Many of Rodgers' completions were excellent throws into coverage. And of course despite being on the field seemingly the whole game (10:53 of the fourth quarter, amazingly), and often with bad field position, Cincinnati managed to come up with big plays to win and then save the game.

Both Gio Bernard (expected) and Jonathan Franklin (not so much) were excellent in space, and played tough. Both were solid in pass protection, and Gio in particular went out of his way to throw his body around. Of course as a Cincy fan I'm palpitating every time he goes flying through the air or bowls over a defensive back instead of stepping out of bounds, but it does pump up everyone in the building. Franklin's fumble late was unfortunate, but otherwise he was outstanding -- and with the wideouts covered and Jermichael Finley hurt, he actually became the offensive focus in the fourth quarter.

Marvin Lewis gets banged on a lot, and deservedly so often enough. But his challenge late to overturn a first down and set up the decisive fourth down fumble-and-runback was pivotal. And it would have been very easy for the Bengals to get discouraged after the turnover barrage and the 30 straight Green Bay points. Marvin is forever telling the team to "just keep playing" and for once they actually listened. Gotta work on that ball security though -- jeez Louise.

Saint Louis Rams 7 at Dallas Cowboys 31


Andrew Potter: Love the Jonny Hekker pass attempt on that fourth down. Unsuccessful, but love the play.

Scott Kacsmar: Fade to Gavin Escobar on third-and-goal? Always amazes me how Jason Witten is not a target for Dallas down there.

Scott Kacsmar: If DeMarco Murray could play the Rams every week every year, he might have a shot at Emmitt Smith's rushing record.

Tom Gower: 2-point opportunities forgone: Jeff Fisher down 24-6, Marvin Lewis down 30-20. Both 3Q, granted

New York Giants 0 at Carolina Panthers 38


@Daniels_Ryan: Seven minutes in, and both the Panthers and Giants have negative yards. Oh boy.

@Foosball_Wizard: Tolbert runs the 4th down in for a touchdown. A beam of sunshine comes down from the heavens and illuminates Rivera in its glow.

@Daniels_Ryan: Well, Rivera found his balls, but if the Panthers keep turning the ball over on punt returns, he is going to lose his mind.

Danny Tuccitto: the giants' offensive line is quickly failing their way off of Eli Manning's christmas list.

Aaron Schatz: Every time the Panthers sack Eli Manning, do CAR fans think "wow, we would be a SB contender with an actual professional coach"?

@CyrisJonfs: In the 3rd quarter, #Panthers have more points than the Giants have yards.

Aaron Schatz: Panthers huge win suggests another year where they massively under-play their Pythagorean projection.

@Daniels_Ryan: Ron Rivera has staked the Panthers to a 31-0 lead after three quarters. Send in Mariano Rivera to close it out! #1stNFLSave

Robert Weintraub: Re: NYG-CAR -- too early to declare this another year where home team won't play in its stadium in the Super Bowl?


Vince Verhei: The most notable news of this game (well, besides what a dumpster fire the 2013 Giants have turned out to be) is that Ron Rivera finally went for it in on fourth down in a non-obvious situation. On their second drive, with no score, they had a fourth-and-inches at the 2. Rivera turned down the go-ahead field-goal try to bring in an extra lineman and hand the ball to power back Mike Tolbert, and Tolbert picked up not just the first down, but scored a touchdown. I'd like to believe that Carolina's ensuing offensive outburst (accomplished with minimal contribution from Steve Smith) was a gift from the Football Gods, rewarding Rivera for getting the fourth-down call right for once.

Scott Kacsmar: Since I actually don't have to write about the latest Carolina late-game failure this week, that fourth-and-1 this week is something I'd like to mention. Definitely the right call in that situation and maybe Rivera will feel different after the reward of a rather easy touchdown run. However, should that situation come up again when it's the final few minutes and the game can be clinched, do we really expect Rivera will have learned anything and go for it? I say he'll still take the easy way out and kick the FG or punt the ball.

Aaron Schatz: Somebody please make sure Ron Rivera never, ever sees footage of the end of the Cincinnati-Green Bay game. Ever.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 at New England Patriots 23


@WhispersMoCo: http://NFL.com is telling me that the Cardinals have scored a TD in the Pats-Bucs game.

Aaron Schatz: Somebody from the Patriots is going to need to explain this "LaGarrette Blount returning kicks" concept to me

Aaron Schatz: It's not just mistakes by receivers. Tom Brady has clearly been less accurate this year. Just overthrew wide open Sudfeld.

@sivankev: @FO_ASchatz Thompkins and Edelman were even more wide open.

Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz IIRC, not only this year. Was less accurate second half of last year too.

Aaron Schatz: I like Bucs decision to go deep on 3rd-1 knowing they would also go for it on 4th-1. Neither play worked, but both good decisions.

Scott Kacsmar: Josh Freeman one of the best short-yardage QBs in the league. Hate that they passed up the sneak twice there.

Aaron Schatz: John Lynch just called Gillette "Toughest place to win on the road in NFL." Recommend he consider medication, plane ticket to Seattle.

@MilkmanDanimal: Tampa has marched up and down the field, but FG, missed FG, 2 stops on 4th down. Outplayed the Patriots, but are still losing.

@pchicola: Like that McDaniels finally trimmed down the option routes and is using "easier" routes (slants, dig ins, flies) with the rookies.

Aaron Schatz: Jonathan Banks gives up TD to Thompkins. He's not having a good game. Yet another demonstration of limit of 1 shutdown corner.

Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz Brady had all day on that one. Difficult to cover a pro receiver for that length of time.

Aaron Schatz: That may be the best FG Gostkowski has kicked in years. Wow. Would have been good from 60, straight down the middle.

Aaron Schatz: Pats have really figured out how to slow down Tampa pass rush since first quarter. Would need to re-watch film to figure out how.

@MilkmanDanimal: LeGarrette Blount ineffectively running into the middle of the line against the Bucs instead of for them is a nice change.


Aaron Schatz: Maybe the best lesson here is that we all need to stop presuming we know how a game is going to go based on what we see in the first couple drives of the first quarter. The Patriots had four plays, five plays, and three plays on their first three drives. The offense looked completely discombobulated, just like it did last week against the Jets. The Bucs' pass rush was getting to Brady easily, and when they didn't, he was holding onto the ball too long anyway.

Then things kicked into gear in the second quarter and for the rest of the game the Patriots actually looked like the Patriots for the first time this year. I'm not sure how the Pats changed up their blocking, but Brady had time to throw. The running game got a few big plays. The young receivers weren't making obvious drops. In fact, when they missed catches, sometimes it looked like the timing still isn't down between Brady and his receivers, but sometimes it looked like it was just straight out Brady's fault, with bad ball placement. He underthrew Aaron Dobson wide open in the end zone at one point; obviously we can't know for sure from the outside, but it certainly didn't look like Dobson was the one who made the mistake.

On the other side, Josh Freeman isn't looking good. He's not consistent, and the touch on the deep throws seems really iffy. Sometimes he "touched" them five yards out of bounds. The Bucs also really need to find themselves an inside receiver. It's almost the opposite of the Patriots' current problems. There are no tight ends. They started Nate Byham, who is essentially just a third tackle. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams make for a great pair of starting wide receivers -- Williams in particular is underrated, he's playing hurt and still playing well -- but their backups are also basically outside guys. There's nobody who specializes in playing the slot. They need someone like Julian Edelman or Davone Bess.

A couple of interesting defensive wrinkles for the Patriots: They played a bit with three cornerbacks and only one safety. And for the second straight week, they moved Chandler Jones inside a lot on third downs.

Houston Texans 9 at Baltimore Ravens 30


Rivers McCown: Google, what is Schaubophobia?

@ptmovieguy: Unsuccessful 3rd down conversion, but Andre Johnson's one-handed catch while being mauled was pretty awesome.

Rivers McCown: When Dallas Clark and Ed Reed collide you can hear the Metamucil bottles shake.

Rivers McCown: People complained about that yellow CBS score graphic looking like a penalty, but it would fit right in with the Ravens-Texans game.

Rivers McCown: Very surprising that the Ravens would play underneath zones on a quarterback who barely throws longer than eight yards.

Cian Fahey: DeAndre Hopkins has three targets, two big plays and one penalty drawn. Schaub negating his impact.

Rivers McCown: Always good when your big offseason free agent signing (Reed) gets a montage solely of players leaping over him.

Rivers McCown: I’m not sure if it’s Kubiak or Schaub that owns the checkdowns and play calling. But the Texans are going nowhere until it’s fixed.


Rivers McCown: So, two weeks, two dreadful Matt Schaub pick-sixes. His deep ball looks like a horse's ass. The offensive line that was struggling even before Duane Brown's turf toe forced him to the sideline continued it's stellar job of "protection," to the point where Gary Kubiak played it even more conservative than usual. This team is almost completely reliant on Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins on offense, and J.J. Watt on defense.

The season is three games old, and this team has played three good quarters of football, maybe. This is look-in-the-mirror time. On their merits, they aren't a good football team. The defense is fine and Watt is going to make splash plays, but I just watched Brian Hoyer look better than Schaub. As I said in the last tweet, I don't know who really deserves the full complement of blame. Way too many third-down throws are going short of the sticks, but also way too many third-and-longs are getting wasted on go-nowhere draws. This is with one of the best wideouts in the league (granted he was hurt), a solid pair of tight ends, and a rookie Hopkins that has received plenty of praise. This isn't Schaub watching Kevin Walter be well-covered. The sum of these parts should be so much more. The optimist in me really wants to believe that Schaub is being held back by conservative play calling. The key word there is "wants."

And as for Joe Marciano's special teams unit giving up a punt return touchdown to Tandon Doss despite no fewer than THREE Texans being in front of him with no blockers? I hate to say this twice in one comment, but ... Horse's. Ass.

Detroit Lions 27 at Washington Redskins 20


Scott Kacsmar: Every time DeAngelo Hall scores a TD, some people will mistakenly confuse him for a good player.

@Walshmobile: Brandon Meriweather has caused 3 concussions this season, 1 opponent, 2 on Washington. Orakpo out with head injury/concussion symptom.

Andrew Potter: "Dragging Redskins defenders" is a phrase you're likely to hear a lot this year. Another two-play can't-cover can't-tackle exhibit.

@AMSportsLive1: Worse defense; 2013 'Skins or 2012 Saints?

@Walshmobile: Orakpo back in, Meriweather slightly off the hook. I think him missing the first season of Crown hit enforcement is cause of issues.

Aaron Schatz: The weird RG3 first half/second half split continues today even though this time the WAS defense didn't dig him a huge hole.

Aaron Schatz: Jim Schwartz goes for it on fourth-and-inches from the 10 instead of kicking FG to get a 6-pt lead. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Scott Kacsmar: Me love you long time, Jim Schwartz. Actually, just for this drive and going for it on 4th-and-inches w/3-point lead.

Arizona Cardinals 7 at New Orleans Saints 31


Scott Kacsmar: Heath Evans alert in Arizona/New Orleans game. Keep mute button handy.

@anhirsch: Play design on Saints' TD to Meachem was outstanding. Faked quick screen to Sproles and whole Cards secondary bit.

San Diego Chargers 17 at Tennessee Titans 20


Tom Gower: Titans did what they do, bring a lot of 5 man rushes. Rivers did what he's been doing, hitting short passes w/ aplomb. 7-0 SD.

Tom Gower: Fraidy cat punt by the Chargers on 4&1 at TEN39. Failed on 3&1 run, but c'mon.

Tom Gower: Great job by Fouts of highlighting Weddle's fantastic recognition & reaction to Walker's route. SD's all over the bootleg today.

Tom Gower: Dumb move by Rivers, obviously, after easy OPI call. Ayers sack a nice move, going outside-in on Dunlap instead of just outisde.

Peter Koski: Block in the back on Britt causes TEN to have 1st and 1 at midfield. Haven't seen that before.

@AMSportsLive1: Tons of running from Jake Locker today. He's deceptively fast; never really noticed until a half hour ago.

Tom Gower: One thing that's stood out the first half for TEN O is how often first defender hasn't made the tackle. Change from first 2 games.

Tom Gower: Also, with no Donald Butler (or Te'o!), Chargers ILBs have been an issue today. Too easily blocked or edged out of play.

Tom Gower: Philip Rivers went 20-24 in a losing effort today. T-7th best completion percentage in a loss. http://bit.ly/1b58fTF


Tom Gower: Given that Rivers was so efficient, why did the Chargers strive for (and achieve) balanced play-calling, considering the run game was only moderately efficient and not explosive? I thought San Diego would have success in the passing game, and they did early, but the drive for balance didn't seem to help them.

Tennessee didn't do a lot this game, but 20 points ended up being enough. Jake Locker had a number of key plays with his legs, including a 39-yard scramble and a QB draw score. The game-winning drive came with his arm, though, with an assist to San Diego's tackling (a consistent problem for them today, which was not one for Tennessee) on short passes in front of the defense. The winning score came up top, though, against a blitz sure to make TMQ's "stop me before I blitz again" feature (assuming TMQ is still a thing that actually exists).

Cleveland Browns 31 at Minnesota Vikings 27


@TerrapinPrime: Td browns.. Let the Brian Hoyer era begin before he's traded in week 6 for a pack of skittles and a half carton of milk.

Scott Kacsmar: Christian Ponder looked like he was pushing a shopping cart on that run, but great call on QB draw.

Scott Kacsmar: Love how Browns are always the "team with nothing to lose" meaning they run a good fake punt. Did it against Pittsburgh last year.

Andrew Potter: Fake field goal passing TD for the Browns! Whatever they are w/o Richardson, looks like they'll be fun to watch.

@MilkmanDanimal: Browns' punter has 47 yards/punt, kicked an XP, and thrown a TD pass. At least the Vikings' loss has an amusing anecdote.

@MilkmanDanimal: 10 seconds left, down 4, Solomon Wilcots announces "The Vikings have to go for the end zone at some point here."

@wrizal: How rare, two shots at a Hail Mary in the same game?

Rivers McCown: Christian Ponder’s checkdown passes on this final drive are bad and he should feel bad.

Rivers McCown: Pourin this one out for the good ol days of August when Vikings fans were trashing our regression prediction for them.

@Foosball_Wizard: September 22nd 2013: The day the #Browns won with Brian Hoyer making his first NFL start and throwing 54 passes.

Atlanta Falcons 23 at Miami Dolphins 27


@laufy84: Huge fox graphic kiss of death "16 straight made field goals" NOPE!

Robert Weintraub: Lamar Miller drops a sure TD on a wheel route for Miami. Remember that if somehow Atlanta holds on.

Robert Weintraub: Ryan Tannehill was very effective dinking and dunking on this winning drive. Picking on ATL rookie CBs, getting good protection.

Robert Weintraub: 38 seconds left, two timeouts--Matt Ryan time.

Andrew Potter: Love the deception on that Miami TD. Move the HB out wide, fake the FB handoff, eye the throw to the split out HB, throw to the TE.

Aaron Schatz: It's nice that Ryan Tannehill led a game-winning TD drive today but that just makes him equal to Brian Hoyer, not Brady/Manning/Brees


Tom Gower: I didn't pay a ton of attention to this game until late, but I thought this week we saw more of what I expected last week in terms of Atlanta's offense being hamstrung by an opposing pass rush and no Roddy White limiting Matt Ryan's options in terms of receivers who can win one on one. Defensively, they showed more pass rush than I expected (how much of that was the Dolphins line?), but Ryan Tannehill when he needed to still found enough time and open receivers to complete the comeback. This is a game I want to watch closely this week.

Indianapolis Colts 27 at San Francisco 49ers 7


@matthew_carley: Kaepernick always looks a little bit like a gazelle but I'm not a fan of the deer in headlights look. Calm yourself Colin, calm.

Peter Koski: 49ers receiving corps lacks the ability to consistently get open. Boldin makes up for it, others can't.

@Coboney: Tarell Brown should be embarrassed there. Has angle and position but gets stiff armed by Andrew Luck.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder how much of today's SF offensive blackout is lack of VDavis, both as receiver and blocker.

Aaron Schatz: Golly, great spin move by Cory Redding on Alex Boone to sack CK. Vernon Davis couldn't help with that.

Scott Kacsmar: Heyward-Bey fighting for and drawing another flag. Michael Crabtree's shaking his head somewhere.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, playcall! Colts calling naked PA bootleg Luck at goal line for TD. Great playcall!

Robert Weintraub: Bono-esque play fake, that is -- he's obviously a far better runner than Steve ever was.

@matthew_carley: This is even more embarrassing than last week's performance against Seattle. I think I'll try watching golf or synchronized swimming.

Andrew Potter: Only 49ers opponent in last nine incl. playoffs not to score 24+ is ARI in Week 17, 2012. Only they and ATL didn't score 27+.

@JP_Wright: @FO_ASchatz Maybe the FOA prediction of 49ers regression to the mean was simply a year early? Losses at home like today’s are bad.

Andrew Potter: Granted, 49ers' last nine games includes GBx2, SEAx2, NE, BAL, ATL. Others are ARI and, of course, IND.


Aaron Schatz: It's tough to figure out exactly what is wrong with the 49ers without going back and watching the game with rewind and slo-motion and preferably coaches' film. But the 49ers are really having problems. The defensive problems are the lesser issue. The pass rush doesn't look as good this year, and they gave up a lot of rushing yards, but part of the problem with rushing yards came after Patrick Willis left with an injury.

The offense was worse, though. The offensive line problems continued. The running game is totally stagnant. And it doesn't seem like anyone can get open, especially without Vernon Davis healthy and on the field. To have only one score against the Colts defense is pathetic. When Jim Nantz is talking about how Darius Butler is unbeatable that day, that's a problem. I understand that if you play man coverage against the 49ers, you take the risk of Kaepernick running on you, but nobody can get open against man coverage if Davis isn't on the field. After seeing what happened to the Packers in Week 1 compared to the last two weeks, I don't know why any defense would play zone coverage against Anquan Boldin ever again.

Buffalo Bills 20 at New York Jets 27


Andrew Potter: Bills defense almost stops Geno Smith on a QB draw, but Bills #50? saves the day by pushing him in for the TD.

Scott Kacsmar: Just basing this off seeing it a few times this season, but Geno Smith pretty good at hanging in there to deliver an accurate throw.

@AMSportsLive1: As a jet fan, I'd forgotten what a fifty yard touchdown pass looked like.

@Foosball_Wizard: We made it 1 hour and 17 minutes into #Jets #Bills before a video of the butt fumble was shown.

Aaron Schatz: Among this year's FO projections so far inaccurate: that Fred Jackson had hit the wall.

@Foosball_Wizard: Unlike last year, the #Jets are a threat to throw out of the wildcat with Kerley/Powell as opposed to Tebow.

Robert Weintraub: Kyle Wilson and Stevie Johnson are having a battle to see which one is dumber.

Robert Weintraub: EJ Manuel looks off safety, hangs in against blitz, and hits wide open Chandler for TD, then converts 2-pt to tie as well.

Aaron Schatz: OK, can we do a Football Outsiders negative card for Justin Rogers? Like, 40 overall rating or something?

Tom Gower: @FO_ASchatz If we do, Kyle Wilson needs one as well.

Robert Weintraub: Justin Rogers is running away with the Keep Choppin' Wood Award this week.

@Foosball_Wizard: #Jets probably have more penalty yards than the #Giants offense had yards today.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at Seattle Seahawks 45


Vincent Verhei: Carroll loses challenge. Seahawks score on next play anyway. Now down one challenge and one TO for no reason.

@calesgreen: Russell Wilson using the pump fake to freeze the unblocked blitzing DB, buying time to find Zach Miller for the TD. Power move.

Andrew Potter: Jaguars first down! First time across their own 27, with 8:55 to go in the 2nd quarter. Into positive yardage for the day.

Vincent Verhei Golden Tate with the Donnie Avery-style downfield screen for a first down

Andrew Potter: Brilliant play by Cyprien for JAX knock the ball loose from Wilson. Deaderick recovers. JAX finally in SEA territory.

Tom Gower: Russell Wilson loves the jump ball to Golden Tate against Demetrius McCray today. Loves it, loves it, loves it.

Vincent Verhei: Russell Wilson with 3 TDs in first half against Jaguars, who once passed on him in draft and took a punter instead.

Vincent Verhei: Credit where it's due: That JAC punter just hit a beauty out of bounds at the 2

Scott Kacsmar: Was wondering how the Jaguars scored and of course it had to be a 2-yard drive following a turnover.

Andrew Potter: Should note that JAX TD came off short field created by Anger punt pinning SEA. INT was Wilson under pressure in own EZ. Adv: Anger.


Tom Gower: The middle of the Jacksonville offensive line in particular is an atrocity. Not much more to say about it than that. Will Rackley? Brad Meester is pretty much done. Interior pressure is big in the NFL, and any team that doesn't get it against Jacksonville will be wondering why not. Defensively, they are some okay spots but too many personnel liabilities. Unless things drastically change when Justin Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis are in the lineup, they're down there with the 2005 49ers as the worst offense we've seen lately. Obviously things change in the NFL. This team should eventually get better, but it may not be much this year.

Vince Verhei: Yes, they won in dominant fashion, but there are concerns about Seattle, particularly along the offensive line. Russell Okung is out for at least seven more games, and both Max Unger and Breno Giacomini were in and out of the lineup today with various ailments. This is not a particularly talented group to begin with, and the backups gave up a decent amount of pressure. Fortunately Russell Wilson was around to do Russell Wilson things, but the more Russell Wilson things that Russell Wilson is forced to do, the more likely it becomes that Tarvaris Jackson will wind up doing Tarvaris Jackson things. (Which is still better than anything Jacksonville has to offer.)

Chicago Bears 40 at Pittsburgh Steelers 23


@Foosball_Wizard: Felix Jones gains 11 yards on first down, exceeding the #steelers total for the entire year. The crowd goes wild.

Aaron Schatz: Boy oh boy was that some non-security by Big Ben. Do you mind if I just wave this football around a bit?

@JGulner: @FO_ASchatz it almost looked like he was trying to no-look-lateral it to his lineman.

Rivers McCown: Looks like every NFL offense needs a Canadian quarterback whisperer

Aaron Schatz: Great block by Kyle Long to move Lawrence Timmons aside on that 55-yard Matt Forte almost-TD.

Aaron Schatz: It has always seemed the Steelers had that next line of young players ready to come in when guys aged. This time, they aren't ready.

Rivers McCown: Todd Haley's last successful screen pass was run in 2006.

@TCBullfrog: 2 Def TDs for CHI, now on pace for 10 on the season. Last season not repeatable?

Aaron Schatz: Big Ben looking a lot like... Jay Cutler in 2011-2012. "HELP ME!!!"

Rivers McCown: I'm not saying Steelers fans are jaded, but they might welcome a Bane invasion right now. Especially if he took over for Haley.

Aaron Schatz: ‏ Chicago right-side OL rookies having a great game, Mills and Long. Martellus Bennett trying to pass block next to them, not so much.

Aaron Schatz: Antonio Brown had that one egregious drop earlier, but wow, otherwise a couple of INSANE amazing catches. One-handed corner end zone!

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers with 15 carries for 68 yards after having 30 carries for 69 yards in the first two games.

@TCBullfrog: 3 Def TDs for CHI, now on pace for 16 on the season. Last season not repeatable?

@adrianhosey: Tillman being bothered by "a groin." His groin? Someone else's groin? Thanks Michelle.


Scott Kacsmar: Honestly, I missed a large chunk of this game so I could depress myself further with Dexter and Breaking Bad, but the first quarter was classic 2013 Steelers. That means little pressure on the opposing quarterback and more than enough on Ben Roethlisberger, who was missing the deep ball again early on. He also had some real trouble with fumbles tonight, which was probably the most disappointing part of his performance. It was otherwise solid from what I seen. It was good to finally see the offense move the ball, but another turnover (Dwyer) made the comeback more difficult. Heath Miller's return was not big on the numbers, but I think it helped Roethlisberger trust his guys more. Antonio Brown played an excellent game, but I think Emmanuel Sanders could have made a few more plays.

My beef with the defense remains the lack of big plays. They still have yet to get a takeaway in 2013, which is unspeakable. Look at how many the Packers got in the first half today. Pure dumb luck should get you at least one in 12 quarters, but this has been a problem for a few years. When it came to crunch time and the Steelers were down just 27-23, Jay Cutler saved his three biggest plays of the night, all on third down, including the touchdown. The rest was just boxscore padding.

I guess a Super Bowl ring and good press conferences buy you a lot of time, but Mike Tomlin's well on his way to missing the playoffs for the third time in five years. He'll take the 0-3 standard to London to face the 0-3 Vikings, meaning two continents can worry about finding better ways to spend their time than watch these hopeless teams.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 23 Sep 2013

166 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2013, 10:55am by Jocuri Gratuite


by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:12am

This may sound silly considering there were a zillion turnovers in this game, but as I watched this game I kept thnking to myself "these are Super Bowl teams."

Yes. It does sound silly.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:09am

It's not silly to consider Green Bay and Cinci to be Super Bowl contenders. Aaron Rodgers makes Green Bay a contender, and the entire Bengals team makes them a contender in spite of Dalton, who isn't bad, just mediocre.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:19pm

I think "Super Bowl contenders" is a bit different than "Super Bowl teams." One implies being one of many teams in the mix, while the other implies at least being one of the favorites of the teams in the mix.

The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since 1990. I see them at the same level as the Texans: teams that have shown that they can win a lot of regular season games but have yet to look like a real player in the postseason.

As for Green Bay, even though they're only 1-2, they look like the 2nd best team in the NFC right now. But they're going to have to cut down on the kind of mistakes they made yesterday.

Aside from Seattle, who really looks good in the NFC right now? The Bears look decent, but not significantly better than they've been in recent years. The Falcons, Packers, and 49ers are all 1-2. And they're doing better than the Giants and Redskins.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:19pm

What you say is true, too. But my original comment was based more on my being incredulous that anybody could watch a game that sloppily played and entertain thoughts that either team could be worthy of the Super Bowl. It'd be one thing if there'd been tons of amazing defensive plays causing the turnovers, but most were just sloppy ball handling. It's one thing in Week 3 to watch a really impressive performance and say "that team's going to the Super Bowl." But quite different to say that when the winning team turned it over on four consecutive plays.

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:46pm

I've been wondering about the early season results. I think you're putting too much weight on the actual events of the games (e.g. fumbles, ints) at this point. I don't think we can draw this type of conclusion yet: ("turnovers on 4 consecutive plays == silly to think the team is a super bowl contender").

I have the impression that exhibition games have simply taken the place of the full-speed padded practices that no longer happen in training camp and the first 3 (maybe 4?) games of the season look more like exhibition games, with teams still sorting things out. The games count, of course, so there's no rotation of players, but I think more teams look bad early on than used to be the case.

The successful teams that make the fewest changes (e.g. Broncos offense this year, Seattle this year, Manning-era Colts offense, the Patriots offense before this year, Ravens and Steelers defenses in years past) look good right out of the gate, because they don't need the reps. They're not the only teams that can do that, but they seem to have more of a head start. This is my impression and I'm only looking at anecdotal evidence, so I'm prepared to be talked out of it.

To me, this was the value of Welker to the Patriots that Belichick missed. He was worth slightly more to the Pats than other teams because of all the uncertainty at the other receiving positions and because fewer practice reps put a premium on players that don't need to sort things out.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:10pm

That's probably true, but it's not really just the events of the games with the Bengals but pretty much the entire picture. Green-Ellis is averaging under 3 yards a rush for the year. A.J. Green looked unstoppable in the opener but has like 87 yards in the two games since then. Their defense gave up almost 400 yards to the Packers and that was the game where everybody was impressed with how good they looked. The AFC is wide open, but awfully early to get too excited about anything Cincy has shown.

by CaffeineMan :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 8:01am

I agree, nothing to get excited about. But not silly to think of them as possible contenders, either. National jump to conclusions week is becoming a 3 or 4 week celebration. That's my main point.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:17pm

"To me, this was the value of Welker to the Patriots that Belichick missed"

They didn't "miss" anything. They made him a bigger offer than Denver did. He didn't take it. They had to move on, and by the time he realized that he wasn't going to get a huge 5 year deal (or whatever the hell he was looking for), the offer was gone.

by James-London :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:21am

Cincy's D was in a class by itself yesterday. I haven't seen Seattle yet this year but I have a hard time believing that they can be much better than the Bengals.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:40am

Cincy did look good yesterday but how much was it them versus the Packers just being off? Their Defense was 15th in DVOA for the first 2 weeks.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:28am

Any chance they played a large role in making the Packers 'off'?

They got consistent pressure on Rodgers, really covered Cobb better than most, and while Jordy had a nice game, he had to make some ridiculous catches off of ridiculous throws.

I don't know if they are better than Seattle, but I think they've faced better offenses so far.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:01pm

I'll be curious to see what DVOA says. It hasn't loved them the first two weeks, while it has liked Seattle.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:45pm

Cincy's D definitely had the Packers offense flustered most of the day as Rodgers looked under duress most of the game even when he was completing passes however the Packer running game which was down to their third string running back consistently gashed their run defense for solid gains (although I must say Franklin showed good burst and made a lot of defenders miss.) Cincy really wanted to take away the run after the catch from the Packer receivers which they did fairly well. The biggest key is that they REALLY clamped down on the Packers once they got into the Red Zone...no matter what the Packers tried Cincy seemed to have an answer for.

Bottom line, Cincy's defense kept the game close enough against a very good offense to get them the win. The Packer's injury situation certainly didn't help...losing Matthews, Starks, and Finley were huge blows and the turnovers were just killers especially the last interception by Rodgers who tried to throw a guy open. He tends to get away with it more than others but that was a bad time of the game to try it.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:05pm

Seattle's defense is ridiculously nasty when they're at home.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:34am

"Aaron Schatz: Somebody please make sure Ron Rivera never, ever sees footage of the end of the Cincinnati-Green Bay game. Ever."

I laughed so damn hard at the mental image of Ron Rivera watching this game film in a dark basement at Bank of America Stadium. I just picture him staring blankly in disbelief at the screen for hours.

Actually, that's kind of what happens to him after watching the opening kickoff each week. That might explain some things.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:04pm

From an ESPN Blog entry posted by David Newton:

"Fourth-and-what? Rivera took a lot of grief last week for not gambling on fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 21 with 1:42 remaining and a three-point lead. So when the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-1 from the New York 2 with 2:38 left in the first quarter of a 0-0 game, the fans cheered. What they didn't know was Rivera initially kept the offense on the field because he thought Carolina got the first down on the play before. But since the offense already was there and the defense was playing well, Rivera decided "we're going for it anyway." The Panthers not only got the first down, they got the touchdown."

That's so perfect.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:09pm

Brilliant. Even when he's right, he's really just more wrong than usual.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:44am

"in particular Leon Hall, who Colin Cowherd described as a "blown first-round pick" this week. (Not really analysis -- CC, who just got a TV show devoted to football this season, clearly has no idea who Leon is.) "

Colin Cowherd is a twit. Always has been one.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:27am

Here's a terrifying thought.

If you put Cowherd and Bayless in a room, one of them would have to be right.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:57am

Avoid either/or and yes/no questions at all costs. Then they both can be wrong in different ways.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:23pm

But thats the only questions those guys know how to answer... "Is he elite?"

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:50pm

The truth of DEW's sentiment is on display every episode of ESPN's First Take, with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless each exploring entirely new ways to be wrong.

by Crunch (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:13pm

Bayless would be wrong, Cowherd would accidentally be right for completely spurious reasons and then be an asshole about it.

Bayless - The Dallas Cowboys play Soccer!
Cowherd - No, jackass, The Cowboys must be a football team because the ball is made of leather.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:22pm


by tuluse :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:06pm

I pretty sure Skip is a classic troll, just saying insane things to get a rise out of people. Cowherd actually seems like he believes what he says.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:31pm

I think you're write about Bayless. He seems to take pleasure in articulating contrary opinions which he then finds tortured logic to support.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:54pm

Bayless was once a very good sports writer. He got to TV and realized what makes money and never looked back.

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

by td (not verified) :: Thu, 09/26/2013 - 5:51am

no he wasn't (unless you mean some time before Dallas that I'm unaware of)

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:04pm

I know I'm in the minority, but I find Cowherd entertaining. You would be foolish to count on him for X's and O's discussion, but his big picture theories and insights are often insightful. {ducking for cover now}

by Deemo15 :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 8:48pm

It's all in what you like. I consider myself a knowledgable sports fan with playing and coaching experience. And I listen to Cowherd every single day. You aren't alone. He is right far more than he is wrong. His voice and style turn a lot of people off.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 8:25am

Ugh. I had a long drive on the Monday of opening weekend and was listening to ESPN radio. Cowherd spent the entire 3 hours of his program repeating ad nauseum that Kaepernick was the best quarterback in the NFL, bar none.

His reasoning, also repeated ad nauseum, was that Kaepernick was the hardest QB in the league to prepare for -- that defensive co-ordinators fretted away during sleepless nights during 49ers week, and that was the de facto definition of the best quarterback in the NFL, and therefore was proof positive that Kaepernick is the best.

He had a couple of guests on, each of whom responded to his opinion with something like "Are you high? You think Kaepernick is a better quarterback than Rodgers or Manning?" At one point, Cowherd admitted that if he had his pick of any QB in the league, he'd take Manning on his team, because Manning was the best quarterback in the league.

Then the guests left, and he went right back to repeating that Kaepernick is the best QB in the league, bar none, because he can't be prepared for for the duration of the show.

I cannot listen to that horse's ass again after that. He still makes my ears bleed less than Bayless, but I give Bayless the benefit of deliberately portraying a caricature of a sports fan for the sake of debate and ratings/page views. Rush Limbaugh long ago proved that one can make bucketfuls of cash using that business model, and unfortunately it's invaded all forms of public discourse, including sports talk. As far as ratings go, nobody cares about a quiet, well-thought out opinion.

by DA (not verified) :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 9:50am

I think people are 100% wrong about Bayless. He does not simply just choose to go against the grain to create things to shout about/troll. I also do not think he is acting/exaggerating much if any at all.

Bayless, is simply a highly biased individual who also buys into narratives in describing players:

-DAL Players = Love since he used to cover the team
-Vandy Players = Love since he graduated from there (Cutler can do no wrong)
-4th Quarter Comebacks = Love since it shows they are "Clutch"(Tebow, Vince Young)

-Replace Favre = Hate(Rodgers)
-Failing at Game Winning Shot = Hate (Lebron)
-Different from Jordan = Hate

by whckandrw (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:46am

It's a good thing the Bears defense keeps creating turnovers and scoring because they don't seem to be able to stop anyone the traditional way. It felt like the Steelers moved the ball pretty well against the Bears D and it took big plays/sloppy Steelers play to keep the Bears ahead. The Bears were getting zero pressure from their front 4 and relying on blitzes to harass Pittsburgh QB. That is not a situation which will get better without Henry Melton.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:24pm

The Bears are playing very boring defense right now. They almost never make a great play and almost never make a terrible play. Unfortunately they're not making many good plays either.

It seems like they're doing something right though, as they keep forcing turnovers late in games. It's like the old cliche about tiring an defense down by running lots of plays, except in reverse. The Bears make the other team run a bunch of plays until they get tired or the Bears figure them out and then stop them.

The problem with this theory is that other teams seem to do fine in the earlier in the 4th quarter.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:39pm

I usually agree with you, tuluse, but this comment seems upside-down. Aren't turnovers returned for TDs great plays? And aren't 40-yard pass plays against you terrible plays? It seems to me that what the Bears D isn't giving up are 10-play drives for TDs with a lot of 3rd-and-shorts.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:47pm

That's true.

I don't really know how to describe what I'm seeing.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:27pm

I reckon it is sloppy execution for most of the head scratching plays (do YOUR job Chris Conte and Major Wright because when you try to do everyone else's you give up 40+ yards through the air). The other culprit is Tucker losing patience and resorting to stupid blitzes like the last TD they gave up blitzing Conte to little effect.

by Kevin Bradshaw (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:51am

The Texans play calling is 100% Kubiak, and Schaub has basically no authority to deviate.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:56am

Charles Tillman bothered by groin, runs off field yelling, "STRANGER DANGER".

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:48pm

I'm picturing him being chased by Anthony Weiner waving a cell phone.

by BKM (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:04am

What happened to this week's edition of "Tuccitto blames the refs for 49ers ineptitude?"

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:45am

It was preempted by "Tuccitto had personal matters to attend to that precluded him from watching the 49ers game altogether."

Don't worry, though. It'll return with a new episode in two weeks.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:00pm


by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:11pm

MIA played a late game, so we didn't get SF-IND locally, and I don't have Sunday Ticket.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:22pm

Hold on... you work for a Football website, and you don't have Sunday Ticket? Really?

Thats pretty piss poor.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:10am

Regarding the Falcons loss in Miami...

* Red zone performance was the difference in the game. Falcons generated 20 points in five red zone possessions while the Dolphins got 21 points in three red zone possessions. And they also hit field goals from 46 and 50 yards.

* Special teams were a clear loss. Harry Douglas' punt return fumble, which gave the Dolphins a short field down 20-13, was the play of the game, we missed a field goal (which might not have changed the result of the game, mind you), and we had three special teams penalties. BTW, I don't think there's anything I hate more in football than fumbling on a punt return. Total kick in the nuts.

* The Dolphins scored points in the final minute of each half (3 and 7, respectively). Although the Falcons had five sacks in the game, we couldn't pressure Tannehill in the two-minute drills. On the drive to end the first half, the Dolphins never faced a third down, and on the final drive, they never faced a fourth down. No negative plays on either drive.

* Pass protection was great, but we were deliberately getting the ball out quickly and short as part of the game plan. Can't say I blame the coaches for wanting to protect Ryan, but our inability to finish a couple drives with touchdowns was the difference in the game.

* Still waiting for Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to join the season. Roddy's ineffectiveness is hurting badly... play of the season so far might have been his injury in the second preseason game. Tony looks like he's still on vacation.

* Patriots in Atlanta for SNF next week. I expect the Falcons defense to get eaten alive in the short passing game.

by James-London :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:21am

I think that's a fair assessment. Miami's D did well in the Red zone, possibly because the just lined up & played. The colour guy (Tim Ryan I think), kept pointing out that a lot of Atlanta's rushing yards came with Miami running twists & stunts, leaving big holes to run through.

Miami need to sort out their protection though, esp. the backs and TE's. Sims had the most disgraceful whiff on a big sack of Tannehill, one worthy of the X of Great Shame, and I don't know he gets through the season if it doesn't change.

Nonetheless, this Miami fan is fairly happy this week

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:21am

The Dolphins looked a lot like the Dolphins team that played last week. The team canned both inside linebackers in the off season and the new guys do not look good at stopping the run. The interior defensive line was supposed to be a strength but three games in it looks like a huge weakness. Particularly since the Jets, Bills, and Patriots will all run the ball through it at its current state.

Tannehill when he has time looks good. Arron can knock him all he wants but he clearly is the best QB the Dolphins have had since Marino. He makes throws other guys never made and makes good decisions with the ball. The only thing limiting him appears to by the Dolphins poor play in the line and their often Mike Martz approach to pass protection.

by James-London :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:39pm

Does Miami's 3-0 start justify the extension for Jeff Ireland that PFT are reporting?


Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:15pm

It is hard to argue yes to this. His top 3 rookies aren't exactly doing anything and he traded up for one of them. His new starting middle linebackers don't look to be anything special. He hasn't shown much ability to land quality offensive linemen. His strengths appear to be defensive line. The Dolphins have 5-6 edge rushers that they keep rotating in on people and his defensive backfield looks ok. He survived letting Reggie Bush go. Frankly though if Tannehill hadn't turned out to be better than FO was predicting last year then they'd be 0-3 and Ireland would be toast. Let's see this Dolphins team run through the AFCeast before acknowledging anything. Its 3 games into the season :)

by James-London :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:21pm

Agreed. If Arizona had given Rod Graves an extension after 3 games last year...
Still, it appears Ireland has found a real-live QB, and that I'd guess will cover a multitude of other sins, esp. as the pick wasn't all that popular at the time

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:15pm

It is hard to argue yes to this. His top 3 rookies aren't exactly doing anything and he traded up for one of them. His new starting middle linebackers don't look to be anything special. He hasn't shown much ability to land quality offensive linemen. His strengths appear to be defensive line. The Dolphins have 5-6 edge rushers that they keep rotating in on people and his defensive backfield looks ok. He survived letting Reggie Bush go. Frankly though if Tannehill hadn't turned out to be better than FO was predicting last year then they'd be 0-3 and Ireland would be toast. Let's see this Dolphins team run through the AFCeast before acknowledging anything. Its 3 games into the season :)

by FrontRunningPhinsFan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:33pm

To be fair, the Dolphins were playing without their biggest DT, Paul Soliai. Cam Wake got injured in the 1st quarter and Koa Misi got injured in the 3rd. Obviously injuries happen, and even with all those guys healthy their run defense hasn't looked as good as last year, but it wasn't as though all their top guys were in and they still couldn't stop the run.

I agree with your comments on Tannehill. That last drive he made all the throws, his teammates had drops and he still managed to get them down the field. He had a great game overall. His INT was not his fault at all, it should have been a 3d down conversion that went through Charles Clay's hands and got picked.

This was by no means a perfect game, but this is a game the Dolphins would not have won at any point in the last few years.

Hopefully none of the injuries sustained in this game are long term as we were already playing without our #2 CB and the FS has been playing injured as well.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:22pm

It's funny that you're so down on the Falcons. I've been dreading the Patriots' trip to Atlanta for several weeks now. I cannot see them winning in the Georgia Dome if their offense sputters in the way it has done so much this season.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:32pm

I am far more concerned about Cincinnati. The Patriots will have Gronkowski back in all likelihood, and with the small improvements they have made on offense, I expect them to look pretty good against Atlanta.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:07pm

Problem is the Falcons offense has been sputtering too. Roddy and Gonzo are averaging a combined 50 yards of production per game through three weeks, compared to last year's average of 150 yards (and about a touchdown) per game. Pass protection was horrifying in the first two games but it was much better yesterday with Sam Baker - fresh off signing his second contract in the offseason, of course - out with an injury. Lamar Holmes at LT and Jeremy Trueblood (!) at RT were a significant improvement on the protection of the first two weeks, though the game plan certainly was all about getting the ball out of Ryan's hands. Ryan and Julio are carrying this team.

About the defense, I always remember something Dr. Z once wrote. He once asked Bill Walsh what the key to football was, and Walsh's reply was late game pass rush. The Falcons cannot make stops in critical situations because they don't have a consistent pass rush. This is a weakness against the Patriots.

That said, we're 1-2 but could easily be 3-0, since both of the losses were decided in the last minute. Oh well. Since I have a ticket, I guess I'll be there on Sunday night... along with about 10,000 Patriots fans with Georgia license plates.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:59pm

I'm curious about what the line's going to be for Sunday's game because of your team's offensive woes.

Either way, this Saints fan who is living behind enemy lines here in Atlanta is looking forward to the two primetime games this week...

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

by Peregrine :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 8:37am

A Saints fan in Atlanta? How unusual. (Sarcasm.) Delta's ready when you are.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:15am

Wow, is Julius Peppers done, injured or both? I didn't see him do anything all night except pick up the fumble for the TD because it went right to him as he was so far out of the play...after being single blocked.

by bodio :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:22am

Agree...Peppers has been useless this year.

by rageon :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:41am

Could have sworn I saw him get some pressure on a few plays last night, but certainly not like in the past. Agree that something doesn't seen right with him, and I assume we're approaching "done." Of course, an old Peppers mights still be a starter in the NLF, but he's not playing at the level of his pay at this point.

Agree with the above comment that the Bears seem to be relying heavily on turnovers. As bad as the score was, I didn't think they out-played the Steelers by that much. Apart from the turnovers, it looked to me that they couldn't stop the Steelers.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:52am

Not if they are going to run into the punter.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:16pm

I'm still mad about that one. I know Walters screwed up, regardless, because he clearly didn't know where the punter was going to be and would have slammed into him no matter what, but shouldn't the players be explicitly told in that situation not to try to block the punt and risk contact? With a 21-point lead against a team that had done nothing offensively up to that point, I don't see how it's worth the risk.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:15pm

I saw him get pressure a few times, but yeah he is not looking like himself.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:21am

"Given that Rivers was so efficient, why did the Chargers strive for (and achieve) balanced play-calling, considering the run game was only moderately efficient and not explosive? I thought San Diego would have success in the passing game, and they did early, but the drive for balance didn't seem to help them."

Sometimes advocates of play-calling efficiency strike me as being like a cargo-cult.

Let me put it this way -- the most efficient shot in the NBA is the dunk. So why doesn't everyone just dunk? Because you need to run other plays, too, otherwise the defense just packs the paint. Hell -- research has shown you don't want your best shooter taking all the shots -- because having other people also shoot increases overall shooting efficiency.

Perhaps Rivers was so efficient passing because the play-calling made the defense honor the likely run, thus giving him an advantage while passing. The NBA guys can figure this stuff out -- why can't the football guys? Let's just call all backfield players "QBs", so you can fall in love with them, too.

by Drunken5yearold :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:40pm

I agree, and I'm not sure that the Chargers would have been able to continue to pass the ball efficiently anyway. I think they were calling so many runs because of all the injuries to the offensive line. Fluker was hurt in practice before the game, but both the LT and the LG left the Titans game in the second half. The Chargers had an undrafted FA at LT, Clary back at RT, a fifth-round draft pick getting his first NFL action at LG, and a nobody at RG. And it's not like the Chargers starters aspire to much more than being average anyway, so you know that these back-ups aren't anywhere close to being any good.

Still, the Chargers would have won if Gilchrist can just secure that interception there at the end. You know, the one that was thrown right into his hands.

This Chargers team has been surprisingly frisky (they could easily be 3-0!) but they have absolutely zero depth, and even the starters on defense suck (except for Weddle, Freeney, and Butler, who also missed the Titans game). Weddle is awesome, but he can't carry the entire defense.

All Rivers needs is an average o-line that can give him a little bit of time and some passing lanes. If the Chargers starting o-lineman are out for any length of time, expect this offense to regress to what we saw last year.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:21pm

Football is weird. Everyone says Eric Weddle is awesome now, and I don't watch enough of the Chargers to know one way or the other. But I do know that whenever his name is mentioned the first thing I think of is this:


by bodio :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:22am

"Aaron Schatz: Somebody please make sure Ron Rivera never, ever sees footage of the end of the Cincinnati-Green Bay game. Ever."


by Lyford :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:34pm

Just out of curiosity, for those of us who don't haven't been here often enough, or who haven't read comprehensively enough, what is the context of the Ron Rivera joke?

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:47pm

Last week, with 4th and short and a 3 point lead, the Panthers opted for a FG. To get a 6 point lead. And then the Bills drove the length of the field, scored a TD and won.

People wonder why, with a very strong running game and a QB like Cam Newton built in a manner that would make a 1-yard sneak look simple, Ron Rivera has been historically frightened of going for it on 4th and short.

That's not the only issue with Rivera, but it's the most recent.

by Lyford :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:01pm


by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:22am

I think the Steelers (Big Ben, actually) miss Charlie Batch. Not on the field, but in preparation. Ben has gone from the least to most experienced QB on the roster. I am wondering if that is the change we see in the offense.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:30am

Not Haley?

He seems frustrated, not confused. I think they really miss Wallace blowing the top off the defense.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:26pm

Wallace was useless last year in Haley's death-by-a-thousand-cuts offense. Roethlisberger's strength is hanging onto the ball for a long time and making things happen, so it's perplexing that Haley's offense seems intent on getting the ball out of his hands as fast as possible on most plays.

by DRohan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:32pm

Getting it out of Ben's hands quickly stems from the poor protection from the O-Line in recent years. But you're right. That moves away from Ben's greatest strength. I think the better strategy is to get some better lineman.

About Wallace, he's still very effective on short routes. His speed is deadly anytime you can get him the ball in space. But I think they overused the hitches and WR screens, and did not disguise it very well. Defenses were able to sniff it out way too often.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:27am

Completely perplexed why Tampa got the ball at the end of the first half on their own 20 with 45 seconds left, proceeded to run Martin up the middle for 6-7 yards and then not hurry, burning a good 25 seconds off the clock, and only then throw a pass on second down, which dropped incomplete and stopped the clock. Next play, pick on 3rd down, gives NE a freebie three points at the end of the half. You're either running out the clock or you're throwing to get into field goal range; why would you split the difference? Was patently ridiculous.

by dryheat :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:41am

Thought the exact same thing. Eggo has nothing on Shiano.

by GrandVezir :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:38am

My guess would be that Schiano was hoping to catch the Patriots napping: run the first play as if you're going in for halftime, then try to score on a couple quick-strike plays while the defenders' minds are in the locker room.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 11:08am

That explains the decision to run on first down, but not the subsequent plays. Handing the ball off on a draw on 1st down at the end of the half is a pretty tried-and-true method to figure out whether or not you're going to run out the clock or try to score; if you get a bunch of yards, start throwing, if not, let the clock run out. Schiano basically split the difference, getting a few yards but then letting the clock go for a while before throwing.

It's the time gap that gets me; if they were going to start throwing, run up to the line the moment Martin is tackled and push forward. Don't mill about for 20 seconds and let half the remaining time go.

by oi! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:29am

Felix Jones had the fumble for the Steelers, not Jonathan Dwyer. I noticed that the Steelers offense looked a lot better with Dwyer in there than Jones, and that when they insisted on putting Redman in, it looked completely awful.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:56pm

You're right. I saw it as Dwyer on CBS Sports, which is pretty bad for following the game this season. Their GameTracker was better than ESPN/Yahoo/NFL.com in recent years, but I don't like the recent changes.

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:47am

No discussion on Robert Griffin III's headfirst dive-fumble from yesterday's game? Imagine if Michael Vick commited the same play. Nobody is going to scream "That's why you MUST slide if you want to survive in the National Football League?"

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:16pm

Oh I have no doubt people will scream that. I can already imagine the discussion between Kornheiser and Wilbon on PTI tonight.

by Lance :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:22pm

Actually, it didn't seem to come up on TK's radio show. Granted, I was working (D'oh!) and couldn't hear EVERYTHING this morning, but it wasn't a topic that TK (or Wilbon) hit on that I heard...

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:54pm

There were tweets about it but I guess they didn't make the cut.

It was a mistake by RG3. The refs made the correct call.

RG3 has shown his problems with sliding several times, including last year the first time he was injured. It's really something he needs to improve.

I don't know exactly what you mean by the comparison to Vick. Certainly there's been no shortage of Vick criticism over the years. But most of it is in regard to his passing (which is much less accurate than RG3's, FWIW.)

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:11pm

I am bringing up Vick, who is certainly not as skilled of a passer as Griffin, because every time Vick dives for a first down, you get a 20 minute Sportscenter segment with people screaming "You must learn to slide! You can't put your body and your team at risk!" Now, given the especially negative outcome of the Griffin play, I'm a little puzzled as to why the national media isn't having a conniption.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:38pm

Every time the game was mentioned on ESPN this morning, they said that RG3 had made a mistake. And he was getting the blame on the Washington media for the failure to slide. But right now, whether RG3 slides or not is far from the biggest problem the Redskins have.

And people have been yelling at RG3 to "not put himself at risk" since he started with the Redskins. That noise increased when he first injured himself last season and again in the playoff game, when he somehow was left on the field long after he was hobbling in a useless fashion.

More generally, RG3 has a much better ability to interact with the media than Vick ever has had. The media have consistently loved him since he was at Baylor.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:31pm

Maybe I've been watching different TV than you, but every time I see video of Vick diving over the pylon, or for a first down, its not commentary about saving his body, its commentary saying how "dynamic" and "dangerous" he is, and completely ignoring th fact that hes a below average QB, fumbles too much, and is hurt all the time.

So I have no idea what you're talking about.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:00pm

"Nobody is going to scream "That's why you MUST slide if you want to survive in the National Football League?"
The Washington sports media is doing plenty of the screaming for you.

by Anon (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:38pm

The media heads have had a field day scrutinizing Griffin III since Week 2. And yes, they've criticized him for the slide.

Never understood the Vick criticism either. What I do find interesting is the praise that Cutler got from the media for barreling into the defender with his throwing shoulder during the Sunday night game. Proof that when your team wins, no one cares about the nonsense that other players are criticized for in a loss.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:14pm

I don't know that Cutler is being praised for what seemed like a semi-risky move as much as a couple of other things. One is that there are still people attached to the "Cutler is a wimp" narrative based on the NFC championship game, and a move like that proves his toughness (not that he should have to).

Second, I know I see a lot of QBs who slide short of a first down to avoid contact, and IMHO that was a time in the game where the Bears needed that first down. Yes, they were up 4, but I'd argue that the way the 2nd half had gone it was crucial. I would have liked to see Cutler take a hit in a less risky way, but I'm glad he made sure to get the first down.

by DRohan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:53am

"They (Steelers D) still have yet to get a takeaway in 2013, which is unspeakable...this has been a problem for a few years."

This helps explain why the yardage numbers for their defense often look pretty good, yet they're less effective overall than you might expect. You make it so much more difficult on yourself if you can't get the easy stop once in awhile, instead having to stop them three times to force a punt. Not to mention the impact on field position.

The pressure turned up in the second half and they looked much better as a unit, but still couldn't get anything more than a few near-misses on takeaways.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:56am

The comments on the Ravens-Texans game seem to be mostly about what's wrong with Texans, without much mention of what the Ravens were doing right. I'd say that the Ravens pass rush has been really good so far, even without Canty yesterday. Suggs, Dumervil, A. Jones and Ngata are all very good players who you'd like to double team in passing downs. The Ravens also dominated in the red zone, which would be in line with what they did last year (-36% pass DVOA in red zone).

The Ravens running game was very poor, but I'm not sure that had much to do with the absence of Rice. The Texans front 7 is stout as hell. But the difference in the game was 3rd down, where the Ravens shut down the Texans but Flacco was deadly in the second half, converting a bunch of 3rd and longs (just like vs. the Browns).

After the past two games, it seems that the second half vs. Denver was an aberration for the Ravens D. Maybe a combination of lack of familiarity in the secondary (Huff is new, and has been benched for Elam), plus lack of conditioning (first game of the season plus Denver altitude), plus Peyton Manning making insane throws despite a good pass rush in his face.

by Crunch (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:28pm

And Denver being really, really good offensively. The more I see of Baltimore the more impressed I am by the 7 TD game.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 12:21pm

"Aaron Schatz: Jim Schwartz goes for it on fourth-and-inches from the 10 instead of kicking FG to get a 6-pt lead. Yes! Yes! Yes!"

When it was 4th and inches I was already resigning myself to seeing the field goal unit trot on the field, only to be pleasantly astonished when the offense stayed on the field. Maybe Schwartz been reading all the critcism about his conservatism by FO and Barnwell. Or maybe he saw highlights of Panthers-Bills last week.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:22pm

Green Bay lost Finley early and that didn't help. Then Starks went out at halftime as did Mathews and that didn't help either. When Franklin got his bell rung late the Packers were out of running backs and had Ross lining up in the backfield for show.

If anyone had told me GB would rush for over 150 yards and lose a game I would have told them they were nuts. But it happened.

It happened because the Bengals didn't give up like their fans (I travelled to the game and when it got to 30-14 Bengal fans were headed to the exits), Rodgers kept trying to hit the home run versus running for first downs and then out of bounds several times that short circuited drives and GB was poor down near the goal line settling for field goals too often.

Some day Mike McCarthy will begin winning close games. Some day.

I hope.

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:27pm

Injuries aren't an excuse, and I say this as a die-hard Packer fan. Maybe all these injuries will lead to another year like 2010 where they were the most injured team and won the SB.

McCarthy should have gone for it on 4th and goal from the 6-inch line earlier in the game (instead of a FG) and Rodgers should not have forced the ball on that second INT. They were already in FG range at the time. An extra 3 or 4 points and the endgame is totally different...in fact, McCarthy probably kicks the FG on the fateful 4th down!

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:34pm

I wrote that the injuries didn't help matters. Didn't write that the Packers lost because of injuries

by Nevic (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:54pm

You're right, sorry. Didn't mean the reply to be so harsh. Just still reeling after the loss yesterday. At 30-14 with possession I had a win in the books. Stupid endowment effect makes losing it hurt so much more!

by Bay Area Bengal (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:21pm

> It happened because the Bengals didn't give up like their fans ...

Ouch. It's true, but it also isn't necessarily fair. Bengals fans have rooted for their team through decades of futility. DECADES. We don't even have a storied history to fall back on ... just an almost-storied history filled with the "what ifs" of guys like Bill Walsh (who wanted the head coaching spot after serving as an assistant for 5 years), Steve Young (who just wanted to not play for the Bengals), and Dick Lebeau (who got his shot coaching our terrible team, then spent the next decade deconstructing our offense for our arch-rivals).

We've seen Kimo von Oelhoffen destroy our QB's knee on the first passing play of a playoff game that might have turned our franchise's fortunes around. We've seen Tim Krumrie's leg shattered in the Superbowl. We've seen our team trade up in the draft to gift Ki-Jana Carter a record salary that could never and would never live up to, and we've seen our team refuse NINE DRAFT PICKS in order to retain our #3 pick ... which we then used on Akili Smith.

We've rooted for Ken Anderson, who, despite his statistical superiority, remains unmentioned by most HoF voters because he didn't "just win." We've rooted for Ochocinco, hoping his on-field heroics would ultimately outshine his off-field meltdowns (perhaps brought on in part by the same frustrations and futility that we all felt). We've rooted for Jeff Blake, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jon Kitna becasue, well ... because we had to.

Simply put, every Bengals fan has told himself "This time it's going to be different" only to find himself angry and disappointed enough times that it would drive any other normal person (excluding Browns fans here because Clevelanders aren't normal people) past the brink of suicide. Everybody knows that the Bengals are the Bungles ... we're the NFL's oldest and easiest punchline. Hell, even the NFL isn't afraid to say so:


As recently as 2011, ESPN called the Bengals the single worst professional sports franchise for our inability to reward fans' devotion:


We had 14 years in a row without a winning season, feeling like Superbowl champs during that lone year of 8-8. I mean, come on ... God blessed Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the Lombardi trophy for all their suffering. Are you an Arizona Cardinals fan? Think you have it bad? Talk to me in TWENTY YEARS when your franchise's miserable streak will finally have caught up with what we've been through as Bengals fans.

We're the sports equivalent of Charlie Brown, lining up to kick Lucy's football when we should be wise enough to know what's about to come next.

So please, show a little mercy on the Cincinnati Bengals fans. You have know idea what we've been through, and the PTSD we've suffered at the hands of the Brown family. We're victims, here, and we're still a little fragile.

by Blotzphoto :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:03pm

Every word of the above is true.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 9:10am

Awesome post...but at least you have the coolest helmets in football.

Growing up a Packer fan I never dreamed I would see two Superbowl victories in my lifetime so when the Packers get ousted in the second round of the playoffs I guess I shouldn't be so down (but I still will be.)

by Austintacious (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 1:51pm

Tom Gower: 2-point opportunities forgone: Jeff Fisher down 24-6, Marvin Lewis down 30-20. Both 3Q, granted

Bengals were down 30-21, not 30-20. The PAT was blocked.

by Fred Funk (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:29pm

So, the Rams score 5-point TDs?

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:38pm

Before the extra point was kicked after the A.J. Green touchdown, the score was 30-20. Going for two at that point would have made it 30-22, which means it's possible to tie with a touchdown and another two-point conversion. They instead kicked the extra point to make the score 30-21, which meant Cincinnati still needed to score at least twice to tie the game.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:14pm

Gotta confess I am getting impatient for some of the younger defensive guys to begin making plays. Nick Perry isn't doing much. Datone Jones, same. The secondary guys do just fine wrapping up a guy AFTER the catch is made.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:25pm

-GB's Defense could actually be interesting if Hayward and Burnett ever return

-Whoever it was that stole Franklin's Jersey yesterday and played instead should be applauded. Looked completely different than he had ever shown before. A legit elusive, skilled back would complement their team better than a power back like Lacy. If Franklin proves for real (not holding breath), then yesterday's game will have been worth it.

-Nothing is more predictable in sports than knowing McCarthy's Packers will lose any close game. I was watching, just waiting to see how they would blow it. Still want McCarthy fired (or trade McCarthy for Coughlin), although know it will never happen.


Bradford continues to prove right what I have been saying for years, that they should replace Bradford. Bradford is basically Jason Campbell 2.0, Checkdown Master. Bradford has never seen a 3 yard pass that he did not like. I wonder what his 1st Half DVOA is this year.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:32pm

Has anyone been able to determine how many close games need to be played before a team's performance in said games becomes significant/worth mentioning?

Because per the Journal Sentinel in games decided by four points or fewer his teams are 9-20, counting playoffs.

Maybe that is an arbitrary cutoff. Maybe in games decided by 3 points or fewer McCarthy's team record improves. I have not checked.

And what is the standard for teams in that situation? Is it like baseball one run games where a team's record is about .500? That anything too far above or below is considered good/back luck?

Just curious.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:52pm

"And what is the standard for teams in that situation?"

Don't know about the rest of it, but obviously, the average of all teams in 4-point games will be .500. :)

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:32pm

Bradford continues to prove right what I have been saying for years, that they should replace Bradford.

Replace him with whom?

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:55pm

With someone from the Draft. STL would have been better off not trading the #2 pick in the draft. They also failed to draft a QB last year

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:08pm

I'm beginning to believe that McCarthy is Andy Reid's long lost twin. Similar chubby body type. He's had a better QB and talent on offense, worse defense, and one more SB ring. Same mind-numbing clock management skills.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:09pm

Dupe post.

by Dean :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 3:41pm

You mean the Sam Bradford that FO ranked 10th and 6th in weeks 1 & 2? Yeah, he was terrible on Sunday, but the whole team shit the bed. Kinda hard to have a good game when you're sacked 6 times and knocked down 14.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 2:44pm

"Should note that JAX TD came off short field created by Anger punt pinning SEA. INT was Wilson under pressure in own EZ. Adv: Anger.

As the Clash once said: Anger can be power, you know that you can use it.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:15pm

The niners are in a hole and it could be deeper in a couple of weeks. The passing game has been the main culprit, it's been totally ineffective over the past two weeks and the resulting loaded fronts are probably a big factor in the disappearing act from the run offense.

After Boldin the marginal trio of Quinton Patton, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore just aren't good enough to win against man coverage. Without Vernon Davis the receivers look as punchless as any corps in the league and it will be a while before any help arrives. Manningham is due back sometime after week 6, depending on his recovery and Crabtree sometime in late december, which could be too late. A short week before a road trip to the Rams is followed by the Texans so a 1-4 start is not out of the question, which would make even a wildcard look like a long shot.

And the injuries are piling up. Any team would look bad if they were missing players of the quality of Willis, Davis and Crabtree along with major role players Ian Williams, Manningham and Culliver (we might also be without Asomugha for a couple of weeks but I'm not crying any tears about that one). Now it looks like Aldon Smith will be gone for up to a month as he tries to overcome his substance abuse issues. So the niners will be without seven of their 24 players that see major playing time, it's a huge handicap and as we're only three games in it's likely that more injuries will follow. Injury regression is a bitch.

I'm also getting concerned that Greg Roman might be bizarro-Martz. Mad Mike used to get so obsessed with his genius in the passing game that he just couldn't bring himself to run more modest plays. Roman refuses to run a simple iso lead or an inside zone when he can pull two linemen across the formation leading a counter option pitch toss. The passing game struggles too. We've played against a ton of man coverage in the past two weeks and we're still running the same isolation routes. When you watch the 49ers you see the man-beating route combinations every week because they play so much man-2 on defense but Roman doesn't seem to want to wander across the hall and ask Vic Fangio about them. It isn't that difficult: you run the flanker on a shallow cross to create a natural pick for the halfback as he releases on a swing pass; poco routes; out and ups; stop and go etc. So why are the niners convinced that all you need to do is run a corner to beat man coverage? It might work with Vernon Davis on a linebacker or if Crabtree is going to be able to leave his man for dead but the smurfs aren't beating anyone.

Long season coming up.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 9:32pm

You had me until, "I'm also getting concerned that Greg Roman might be bizarro-Martz."

Take a deep breath, my friend. I hear what you're saying, but I don't think any Niners fan should have any concerns -- based on one half of one game -- that these guys are in the process of going from probably the best coaching staff in the league to a bunch of bumbling idiots.

Still haven't watched it (and don't plan to), but one thing I noticed from the play-by-play is that IND seemed to adjust to SF running successfully on 2nd-and-long (in some way that's impossible to tell without watching the film). Here's the PBP on 2nd-and-long within one score:

2nd-and-10 (1Q, 8:03, 0-7): Kaepernick scramble for 14.
2nd-and-11 (1Q, 5:47, 0-7): Gore run for 21.
2nd-and-13 (1Q, 4:20, 0-7): Hunter run for 13, TD.
2nd-and-12 (2Q, 12:45, 7-7): Kaepernick scramble for 5.
2nd-and-7 (2Q, 6:18, 7-10): Dixon run for -1.
2nd-and-10 (2Q, 4:25, 7-10): Kaepernick incomplete to Boldin.
2nd-and-10 (3Q, 6:40, 7-13): Kaepernick to Boldin for 8.
2nd-and-15 (3Q, 4:27, 7-13): Hunter run for 2.
2nd-and-10 (4Q, 12:36, 7-13): Kaepernick to Hunter for 4.

Scramble success, run success, run success for a TD, (IND adjusts), bupkis.

Of course, the other thing that kind of floors me after looking at the PBP is that people are losing their s*** over a loss where the game was within one score for 55 of the 60 minutes. They weren't able to stage a two-TD comeback in 5 minutes, and desperation led to the score widening even further. These things happen.

Personally, I'm much more worried about the defense because its mediocrity has now revealed itself over a larger sample size; also, Chris Culliver (and now Aldon Smith) isn't walking through that door for the next month. Might also hypothesize that it's creating a negative feedback loop with the offense, unfortunately.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:22pm

I think they shifted to playing predominantly cover one out of a loaded front and we couldn't compensate by passing against that look. I've never been a huge fan of Roman's passing coordination and now the run game has gone AWOL for most of three weeks.

I'd day the negative feedback has been from the offense to the defense. They did a pretty good job containing Aaron Rodgers, they contained Seattle until the short fields and turnovers led to a runaway final quarter then held the Colts to within one score despite an offense that could only muster one decent drive all day. They've only managed two long drives in the past eight quarters and one of those ended in a pick against Seattle. The defense is constantly being asked to work with little rest and with short fields, I think they've held up and if the offense had been able to move the ball and eat some clock they would have conceded fewer points.

However, as Aldon Smith has been at least half of our pass rush the crap is really about to hit the fan. We never looked like scoring for most of the last two weeks, something must be going wrong.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 3:34am

A Niners-loving friend of mine made this same argument (i.e., "negative feedback loop is from O to D, not D to O") to me today. I mean, it's fine, and I get what you're saying. I'm just reluctant to buy it because the D has been this bad consistently over the past 9 games, and even when the O was scoring tons of points. Excluding the two Seahawks games (since apparently it's preordained that they s*** the bed at Seattle), the O has averaged 27.9 PPG since Week 15 last year; the D's allowed 27.3 PPG -- after allowing only 14.2 PPG the previous 13 games (14.1 PPG with Smith, 14.3 PPG with Kaepernick, by the way).

Sure, we can come up with reasons for them being twice as accommodating (e.g., what the D gave up at New England was just because they had a large lead, the Smiths were hurt at the tail end of last year, they've played several high-powered offenses, the O's Super Bowl points came mostly because Ravens D was playing with a large lead, etc.). At a certain point, though, reasons start sounding like excuses. The writing's been on the wall for a long time that this team was not going to be able to rely on their defense so heavily in perpetuity. (For instance, having nine starters manage to play 90% or more of snaps for two years is unsustainable.) I think the offensive staff and front office realized this a long time ago, and that's why they went with Kaepernick as the permanent starter, and that's why they brought in Boldin, and that's why they drafted McDonald, and that's why they're throwing more on standard downs in close games.

But I can agree to disagree on this one for now. We can reconvene in a few weeks.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:58pm

While I do think that the offense is more culpable for the 56-10 two game spread than the offense, I don't think that the defense is playing at the sub 15 points per game level. I do still think that it should be a good defense when healthy and that it deserves most of the credit for the games still being in touch in the fourth quarters.

If I had to guess the reason for the decline it would be the reversion to mortal status of Justin Smith. In his first four years with the niners he had 29 sacks, he has four in his last two. He's still good but he isn't the unblockable super mutant he used to be. When you watch the 49ers opening three games the guy that is constantly double teamed is Aldon Smith who gets constantly chipped and doubled with teams rolling away from his side. However, the defense just isn't one of the top two or three units without both of the Smith brothers wreaking havoc.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 1:52pm

Bingo. Justin Smith just isn't the wrecking ball he used to be, which would just utterly destroy the opponent's play design. It makes me a little wistful, because when he was in his prime he just about my favorite player to watch.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 5:21pm

I got Bingo! Cool, what do I win? (Please let it be a shiny new wide receiver, or an iPhone)

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 5:28pm

It's your choice of an activated Jon Baldwin or Chris Harper.

by greybeard :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 10:24pm

Maybe you should watch the game before making these kind of comments. The game did not look close. After the second drive of the 49ers.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 3:04am

From PFR boxscore:

SF win probability at start of their 3rd drive = 79.6%
SF win probability at start of their 4th drive = 71.0%
SF win probability at start of their 5th drive = 61.2%
SF win probability at start of their 6th drive = 58.4%
SF win probability at start of their 7th drive = 36.4%
SF win probability at start of their 8th drive = 32.2%
SF win probability at start of their 9th drive = 0.0%
SF win probability at start of their 10th drive = 0.0%

Seems to me that, under any definition of "close," the game was close during Drives 3 through 8. Maybe you mean that IND significantly outplayed SF after SF's second drive, but the scoreboard didn't show it until after their eighth drive?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 9:36am

Where are you getting that? PFR's plot shows SF never having a win probability greater than 58%.

Which is consistent with their trailing nearly the entire game.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:24pm

Woooooaaaaah. That's weird. OK, so what apparently seems to have happened is that when I was marking this stuff down last night PFR was displaying their WP model that incorporates the point spread. But now, I guess they've taken the spread out of it so that the game starts 50/50, which obviously lowers all the WPs since SF was an 9.5-point favorite.

In any case, according to the more Burkean WP model that's up on PFR now, yeah, you're right about them never being higher than 58%. Of course, they also weren't under 20% until midway through the fourth quarter, and if you -- the general you, not specifically you, ABGT -- think 20% "isn't close," IND overcame an implied WP of 19% to win this game. SF just needed one measly TD to take a fourth-quarter lead, and they had the ball at their own 41 with 12:41 left. Maybe that seemed like an improbability because the O had sucked all day, but it really wasn't asking much. One TD! They're not Jacksonville.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 12:47pm

Clearly not. Jacksonville scored 17 points. =)

by Danny Tuccitto :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 1:09pm

Well played, sir.

by mm(old) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:17pm

It was interesting how the Saints completely abandoned the run in the first half against Arizona, facing a good rush-defense without Guard Jahri Evans. They only attempted 3 total rushing plays in the first half (+ 1 kneel down by Drew Brees), gaining -1, -2, and -2 yards. Imagine how bad it would have been if Mark Ingram had been active!

Of course, even with Arizona not needing to respect the pass, the Saints' offense had 14 points in the first half, thanks in part to a defense that continues to look respectable this year. After scoring on their first possession of the game, Arizona was unable to sustain another drive, giving Brees many chances to get into a rhythm. I'm not even going to call the defense 'good' at this point, but mere respectability is a huge jump up from where they were last year.

by CTPatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:26pm

The New England Patriots have only lost at Gillette Stadium fifteen times since it opened in 2002. I think that qualifies as a tough place to win, perhaps not the toughest. Let's see how often Seattle wins outside their home.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 3:48pm

The Pats were 6-2 at home last season. The Seahawks were 8-0. I think Aaron's comment about home field advantage was fair.

" Let's see how often Seattle wins outside their home."

And when they do lose on the road, that will strengthen the point even more, yes?
It's a point about home field advantage. For some reason, Paul Allen decided to build a stadium featuring a hazardous work environment for his players, which will doubtless lead to premature deafness among many of them and among many long-time season ticket holders.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 7:35pm

"And when they do lose on the road, that will strengthen the point even more, yes?"


Incidentally, that is why home-field advantage is a bad thing; it implies the existence of a road-field disadvantage of equal strength, and the net result is to push your record toward .500.

Since an extra loss hurts an otherwise 12-4 team more than an extra win helps an otherwise 4-12 team, toward .500 is a net negative.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 2:17pm

"it implies the existence of a road-field disadvantage of equal strength, and the net result is to push your record toward .500."

I don't see why. Let's say Seattle's road-field disadvantage caused them to lose to Detroit, but their home-field advantage caused them to beat New England. The net result does not push them toward .500.

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:01pm

I have tinnitus which is probably from attending Seahawks games in the Kingdome as a child. Worth it.

by AnonyRuss (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:26pm
by DJG (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:52pm

Two things I thought were funny about this linked story.

1) They refer to the Harvard guy as an "egghead" for calculating home and away point differentials. I mean, nice work for actually doing it, but it's not like he proved P = NP. You don't a Harvard degree; pro-football-reference, Excel, and an hour of free time will suffice.

2) I like that the Lions rate highly on the chart with a negative point differential both home and away. ("Hey! We only lightly suck at home!") Well, at least they're off to a decent start this year.

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:33pm


by Bobman :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:34pm


by dryheat :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 8:27am

Hey Egghead, sing "Fayuh Hahvuhd" for me!

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 10:22am

"I like that the Lions rate highly on the chart with a negative point differential both home and away. ("Hey! We only lightly suck at home!") Well, at least they're off to a decent start this year."

Thank you for reminding me that in the Matt Millen era, my favorite team broke Houston Oilers' record for a road losing streak, and then broke their own record a few years later.

by Bay Area Bengal (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:33pm

My reactions to the Bengals/Packers game:

- Wait, what? The Packers are only three point favorites? I'll put down $50 on that. Hell, I should probably put down $100. This is a SURE THING.

- Wait, what? The Bengals are up 14 points? Eh, it's early. Give it time ...

- Four turnovers on four consecutive drives? Called it. I really should have put down $100. I mean, this was a SURE THING.

- 30-21. Way to put together a drive when it doesn't matter, boys.

- 30-27? Shit. They're going to kick an extra point and lose by 2, ruining my SURE THING bet. Fucking Bengals. Can't even lose right.

- They missed the extra point? They missed the extra point! Maybe ... maybe they aren't going to screw up. Maybe I'll get a push. Maybe ... maybe they'll even win. Nah. Can't win. This is the Bengals. This is a SURE THING.


- Game over. Maybe this team is different. Maybe this year will be different. Yeah. It's gonna be different this year ...

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 4:52pm

It is nice to see SF finally having to deal with playing backups after having supernatural health the last 2 or so years. Much harder to win when you can't roll out the same starters basically every week of the year

by BJR :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:05pm

Can somebody shed any light on what was going on with Cleveland's fake field goal that went for a TD? The starting TE was totally uncovered on the sideline and nobody noticed to adjust or call a time out? Seems like a massive fail from the Minnesota special teams/coaching staff.

Josh Gordon looked like a beast yesterday. Having him back in the line up made more difference than Richardson ever could have.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:03pm

Special Teams unit changeover is a time where there's a lot of bustle and confusion: the offense has just come off the field and the defense is being prepped, or vice versa, so a lot of the coaches' attention is elsewhere. Cameron had been on the field for the previous offensive snap, so he didn't have to come between the numbers then split out like a sub would: he just made as though he was heading off but stopped at the sideline. Snap, pass, TD before anybody realises. I've seen that happen a few times for several teams -- Amendola once got a TD for the Rams that way, and I've seen Vinatieri throw a TD for the Patriots on a similar play too.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:36pm

The Vinatieri one was against the Rams in 2004. That was one where the receiver (Troy Brown) wasn't on the field the previous play, so he had to (and did) go inside the numbers and then went out to gunner position before the snap.


I believe that was also Troy Brown's first regular season game as a defensive back.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 11:57pm

The Vinatieri one is longer ago than I thought.

The Amendola one was against the Seahawks in Week 4 of last year. I distinctly remember yelling at the TV on that one, because the announcers were complaining about Amendola not coming inside the numbers. The side judge even threw a flag on the play. The highlight's available on NFL.com, with Pereira explaining the rule.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:07pm

Nice win for Indy yesterday, but are fans not wondering about the absence of next year's first round pick after watching Ahmad Bradshaw run roughshod over the 49ers defence?

by Bobman :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:41pm

Eh, I'd wait and see what's happening in ten more games. Bradshaw was not signed as a 25-carry back, no matter how good he is. Because he can't contribute ANYTHING if he's in a walking boot on the sideline.

Once T-Rich gets more practice reps in and knows the system, I SUSPECT that he'll get about 50% of the snaps, Bradshaw about 40% and Brown about 10%. I'd much rather have Bradshaw run 12 times for 70 yards all season, than get a bunch of 25-carry 125 yard games only to get injured. And if he does, well, there's this Richardson guy. I think Peter King said it well (and I have never typed those words I my life) that it doesn't matter who got the yards yesterday, by the time Dec and Jan roll around, this will be a backfield that can eat clock and keep a lead, maybe even punch the ball down the D's throat if need be. Last time they had that, Indy won the SB (the playoff game vs the Ravens that year is a good case in point--everybody knew they planned to run at the end, and they still did so successfully, grinding out about the last six minutes of game clock, nearly all on the ground).

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:47pm

Richardson was pnly gonna get 15 carries or less yesterday. Just got to team few days before game. If no injuries happen Richatdosn going to gett 22 carries a game and Bradhsaw get leftovers. Nothing to worry about if Colts fna..

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:58pm

As a fan, I'm not sure what to make of yesterdays win. They employed the very scheme that I've never been a fan of. But they were effective, which means for the time being, people are going to praise it and the colts will likely continue with it going forward. I realize its hard to criticize this coming on the heels of a win, but I've never believed that offenses are more effective or more consistent if they approach the ground aND POund style. Its amazing the narrative people have come up with. Those great passing teams of the colts and patriots? Who cares, how many sbs did they win is all the will say. They will then chime in with how ineffective it is in cold weather or facing a physical defense and then opine for the glory days of smash mouth football.

The colts may have won, but this wasn't an offensive win. The rush game as just barely effective enough, but wasn't overwhelming. Luck threw for under 200 yards. This offense was NOT great and I'm convinced the more they fool themselves into thinking the nfl is returning back to the dead ball era, the more they are going to hurt luck's development as well as the team's in the future.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 7:06pm

You actually want Luck to be throwing it more? I would've thought running more would be much better given Luck's protection issues.

The Colts played a pretty good SF defense at home and beat them the way SF used to beat other teams. I'm going to guess that DVOA really likes the Indy offense, given all their long, sustained drives.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 7:50pm

I think the league has moved in the direction of open passing. Sustained ground game excellence is hard to maintain over long periods of time, while successful passing(with a good qb) can be successful for very long periods of time. Passing the ball generates far more yardage, points, and tds than running. Obviously, we want to incorporate both and ideally, a team will try to be good at everything. Still, the resources are finite and I think its best to direct our resources and scheme toward building an effective passing offense than trying to build a power running offense. And despite the win, I'm still skeptical about how effective this will be both in the short and long term.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:23pm

Didn't actually see the 49ers game this week(will watch later tonight), but man, this was shocking. I feel slightly vindicated for being so pessimistic about boldin all offseason as I knew the guy couldn't get separation having watched him all post season last year. The 49ers are actually facing a very similar problem that the ravens are- namely, injuries have whittled their receiving cores down to 2 of the worst 5 in football. I ask again to 49er fans, how much blame falls on Kaep and how serious are these concerns going forward?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 9:40am

I think the other thing going on is that Kaepernick isn't accurate enough to drill the ball in to where Boldin can get it.

Flacco, unfortunately, was.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 5:37pm

Very mNhy paosts here. Cannot read them all. Will skim and cherry pick ig need to later. Very onteresting day of NFL activities uesytersau. Bengals, Dolphsin, Clts, and some other swwith some good wins. Raiders going to win 27+24 tonight. Brobcos fall to 3rs place.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:00pm

My favorite analytic comment of the week: GameDay highlights characterization of the Green Bay 30-14 lead as "Green Bay scored 30 unanswered points". Unanswered, right until Cincinnati scored the final 20 points of the game.

by DRohan :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:02pm

That's long been a pet peeve of mine, too.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 6:33pm

Hey, this Vikings fan concluded that FO's 5.5 projected wins for the Vikings was about right. However, it may end up that we both overestimated their performance. They are going to have a helluva time winning a single road game, and due to playing in London, they only have 6 remaining home games. .500 at home may be their ceiling.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 8:36pm

I figured they would regress as a team, but their defense didn't just regress towards the mean, they regressed to the abyss. I can't figure out what happened. Were Williams and Winfield that important?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/23/2013 - 9:18pm

The one thing that has surprised me is that I thought having three edge rushers who had previously shown a large amount of talent, in the final years of their contract, would translate into a good pass rush.

They are cooked.

by theslothook :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 2:14am

Will...this one is strictly another hypothesis from me, especially since I haven't actually watched any of the vikes games this season. But, 2 years ago with a ferocious pass rush, the vikes had one of the worst pass defenses assembled. It was as porous a secondary as you can imagine. LAst year it progressed and we might have explained it by better player(smith) and better coaching. Without looking strictly at the results, I wonder if its just regression and the vikes pass defense is returning back to its true state which is somewhere closer to abysmal like it had been. Lately, I've come to the conclusion that regression happens for some reasons which are obvious(injuries, acquisitions, etc) and then for reasons that are completely unknown. Why has the 49ers offensive line regressed exactly? Why has the 49ers defense regressed against the run so far?

That would be one plausible explanation for why the vikes pass defense has now fallen back to its prior levels.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/24/2013 - 8:34am

Regression really doesn't apply if there has been substantial turnover in personnel. As bad the Vikings have been this year, it bears no resemblance to two years ago in the secondary, when it was capable of making Tim Tebow look like a HOF passer. Now, with mostly different people, they merely make a third string qb look competent. Jared Allen was hurt last year. I thought he'd show he still has a lot gas left in the tank. Not yet. Everson Griffen, a tremendous talent, has a chance to put 20 million in his pocket, but hasn't shown a great desire to do so. Robison, it turns out, may have peaked before age 30.

I expected a bad year, but I will be officially wrong if they get into week 17 competing for the top draft pick, which is a distinct possibility at this point.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 09/25/2013 - 12:44am

why the tmq hate? i found out about FO through tmq... just curious...

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/25/2013 - 8:16am

Because he's largely a fraud. Find something that happened successfully, and develop a cockamamie theory that supports it, while excluding all the evidence that contradicts it. That doesn't fly at a statistic-based website like it does for the masses.

I find his "smarter than the average fan" schtick unbearable considering 1) No, he's not, and 2) No, he's not.

At least Peter King doesn't think he's the smartest guy in the room all the time.

by Jocuri Gratuite (not verified) :: Sun, 09/29/2013 - 10:55am

I don't really know how to describe what I'm seeing.