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07 Oct 2013

Audibles at the Line: Week 5

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.

New Orleans Saints 26 at Chicago Bears 18


@GFarri1: Pierre Thomas seems to always contort his body to get that 15% more than Ingram on the same run.

@GFarri1: Thru 3 drives, Bears O hasn't had a play that worked as they designed. All successful plays just Cutler making something happen.

‏@GFarri1: 3rd time Bears have run a screen on 3rd&14+ against a 3 man rush. All ended in 4th and 5. Far too conservative playcalls.

Mike Ridley: Tillman with yet another forced fumble. He's a sniper with that right hand.

‏@AMSportsLive1: Bears have looked anemic the last two weeks. CIN/MIN/PIT made them look better than they are. DET/NO made them look worse.

New England Patriots 6 at Cincinnati Bengals 13


Robert Weintraub: Jay Gruden doesn't cover his mouth when he calls plays. Explains a lot, actually.

Aaron Schatz: Kenbrell Thompkins' Madden ratings should read "regular catch: 40, spectacular catch: 99"

Aaron Schatz: This 3-0 CIN score is a great demonstration of how the Pats defense is much improved and their offense is a freakin' mess.

Robert Weintraub: One positive note from NE-CIN -- those who say tackling is a lost art in the NFL need to watch this game tape.

JJ Cooper: Smart decision by Marvin Lewis to go for it on 4th and goal in 4Q against Pats. Works out with a TD.

Ben Muth: If Gronk's absence leads to more Nate Solder targets I'm all for it.

Robert Weintraub: PS--Bill Belichick just kicked the FG on 4th and goal from the 1.

‏@WhispersMoCo: Really interested on the numbers about whether the Pats should have gone for TD there. They need a TD. If not now, then when?

Aaron Schatz: I disagree with Belichick decision to punt. No matter where field position was, a Bengals first down ends game.

Robert Weintraub: Give Kevin Huber a plus for that big time punt in the pouring rain when Cincy needed it.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots, enough with the one-yard passes. There's less than a minute left. KNOCK IT OFF.

Ben Muth: The rain in this Cin-NE game reminds me of The Last Boy Scout except Julian Edelman probably isn't packing.

Robert Weintraub: OK that game took 15 years off my life. I need Gio, Crocker et al to explain to my kids why Im not around for their adulthood.


Aaron Schatz: Now, let's be clear: Tom Brady's accuracy is off this year. He seems to overthrow guys more often than in the pass, and there are some bad underthrows too. The Patriots did have a couple of outright drops by their receivers, not just the young guys but also Danny Amendola. For the Bengals, Andy Dalton made a couple of really bad decisions, including the pass where he threw it directly to Brandon Spikes in the red zone.

That aside: Wow, what a great game by both of these defenses, especially considering that the Patriots were doing it without Vince Wilfork (and later on, without Tommy Kelly) while the Bengals were missing Leon Hall. The Bengals defensive line was just vicious today. There were plays where guys just knifed in before the Patriots blocker could even get to them. They were stuffing runs up the middle easily. The Bengals cornerbacks were incredible; a lot of the plays that were called drops by the announcers were really passes defensed. There were passes that the receivers probably should have caught, but still, what made those passes incomplete was usually contact by the Bengals defenders, not an outright drop by an open receiver. For the Patriots, it's remarkable that they nearly stoned the Bengals at the goal line late in the game despite playing without Wilfork and with Kelly hurting. Their cornerbacks played well too; Aqib Talib held A.J. Green to five catches for 61 yards, not a complete shutdown but still pretty damn good against the guy I think is the second-best wide receiver in the whole NFL right now. And Spikes was insane stuffing runs up the middle, not to mention that pick I noted before.

I could probably do this week's FO Madden cards as Spikes, Andre Smith, and three Bengals defensive players, and it would make total sense. What I can't figure out is how the Bengals were only 16th in defensive DVOA *before* this game.

J.J. Cooper: This was such a bizarre game for my normal expectations of what the Patriots will do. New England's defense kept giving the Patriots one more chance to tie the game while the Patriots offense failed to take advantage of those multiple opportunities. Like Aaron said, Brady looked bad at times. Actually, at times he looked awful. Brady had a miscommunication or two with receivers where balls landed 10 yards away from anyone -- but he also had some throws where he just missed receivers badly.

For the Bengals, it was just enough offense, but the defense deserves plenty of praise. When Cincinnati's offense couldn't close out the game repeatedly in the fourth quarter, the defense kept coming up with stop after stop. Giovani Bernard fumbled to give the Patriots the ball with 3:34 left, so the defense forced a three-and-out. The Bengals couldn't get the one first down they needed to ice the game, so the Bengals defense responded by holding Brady to 1-for-6 for 6 yards with a game-ending interception on the Pats final drive. The series would have been over earlier, but the Bengals were flagged for offsides on fourth-and-5 and then gave up another 15 yards on a roughing the passer penalty.

Rob Weintraub: Considering the Bengals were playing without their two best defensive players (Hall and Michael Johnson), and New England without its (Vince), this was a damn good defensive performance by both teams. The tackling superb, the gap discipline mostly excellent, consistent pass rush on both sides (edge Cincy, but NE got some good middle rushes going all game, through blitzing as well as some twist action), and outstanding coverage. The monsoon helped the Bengals at the end, of course, but they earned the win with strong play long before that. Mike Zimmer got the game ball, and deservedly so. Let's remember the Bengals corners for this one were Terence Newman, age 75, the artist formerly known as Pacman, and at third corner, a good deal of the time it was Chris Crocker -- a safety brought back once more before last week's game. That's the group that shut down Tom Terrific, who may not be 2007 Brady but looked just fine against Atlanta a week ago. Zim had them in the right spots all day, and the front seven was relentless, which helped.

I don't know much about Patrick Graham, the Pats' d-line coach, but either he or Belichick, or more likely both, deserve credit -- they coached up the replacement DTs, including vet Tommy Kelly and some no-name young'uns, and they quite adequately replaced Wilfork. They were helped by Spikes (as Aaron mentioned) and Jerod Mayo, who were all over the field. Obvious run situations were thrown back repeatedly, and of course Cincy helped them out by being very conservative in important spots. The disaster at the end of the first half in Chicago opening day still haunts Jay Gruden -- he is coaching the end of the half so as not to give up points after an inevitable punt, not to score himself.

Where the Bengals had success it was where the Pats are vulnerable -- the tight ends had nine catches between them, and both backs found room on stretch plays. On a first watch I'd call out Steve Gregory and Dont'a Hightower as weak links in pass defense. This is all relative, of course -- this may have been the best defensive game played this season. In that context, Dalton had a decent game, though all anyone will recall is the red zone pick (the first of his career), which was an awful decision. Otherwise, he spread the ball around, offset some sacks with a few good runs (including a read-option keeper early that loosened up the run D just a smdge), and threw a tremendous pass to Marvin Jones on third-and-15 out of his own end zone to key the drive that resulted in the game's long touchdown. After last week, I'll take it (and by transitive property, obviously the Patriots were idiots to be starting Brady over Hoyer all these years).

And give a shout out to both punters -- Kevin Huber uncorked a 57-yard monster out of the Bengals end zone just before the Pats last drive, and Ryan Allen pinned the Bengals deep all game (five times inside the ten).

Aaron Schatz: Well, let's be clear: Geno Atkins is Cincinnati's best defensive player, and he was playing, and he was good.

Cian Fahey: He's second-best to Hall! But I'm a cornerback advocate, so...

Scott Kacsmar: Didn't see the early sacks, but were they of the interior pressure variety that Brady so famously struggles with compared to outside rush? What surprised me on the last drive was how many passes Brady was throwing that were bad decisions that would have burned a lot of clock. It's as if he was managing a three-point deficit instead of seven. It was actually good that some of those passes were dropped.

Aaron Schatz: No, the two early sacks were:

1) Atkins knifed in on run action. Ben Muth can tell me if I'm describing this right, but it looked like everyone on the Patriots line was run-blocking right, and Atkins got in so fast that Nate Solder couldn't get over to the right fast enough to actually stop him. Brady went down right after the play-fake. Not really an issue of Brady not being able to take up the middle pressure, he never even saw it because he was trying to just play fake.

2) Wallace Gilberry coming from the right end position. I'm not sure what happened here, because Solder started by helping Logan Mankins on the defensive tackle and then tried to move over to get Gilberry, but by that point Gilberry wasn't going to be stopped. Weird line call, I think.

Rob Weintraub: Not counting prior performance -- through the first four games, MJ has been the best Bengals defensive lineman by far. Geno has been on the milk carton for a couple of games.

Matt Waldman: I think a lot of people are just coming to the realization that much of the offense's poor points this year have been due to inaccurate passes from Brady. The drops were so glaring that its easy for folks to look at some of the inaccurate throws and claim poor or incorrect routes by the receivers. This has often been the case, but since Week 1 Brady has demonstrated lackluster ball placement on routes that were clearly no one's fault but the Patriots' quarterback.

Although Brady will begin to earn more of the scrutiny now that some of the more egregious drops have decreased, I'm still of the mindset that this offense will continue to improve as the season progresses. The fact that Brady doesn't have a familiar and trusted receiver from seasons past in the lineup has to contribute to some level of hesitation on his part. Even the faintest delay of execution will contribute to the kinds of inaccuracies I've seen for five weeks now.

I also thought the Patriots overreacted with the LeGarrette Blount fumble when they pulled him from the game until the fourth quarter. Blount was running well in the first quarter and I think they hurt themselves while making a point to the running back. As I've mentioned often, Adrian Peterson fumbled the ball 20 times during his first three seasons in the NFL. Darren Sproles had 13 fumbles during his first five season. Eric Dickerson fumbled 39 times during his first 3 seasons! The following three seasons he decreased that total to a mere 22 -- he was fumbling nearly once a week during his first 5 seasons.

Blount is no Peterson or Dickerson, but he was placing the Patriots in good down-and-distance situations before Carlos Dunlap's excellent chop on a longer run. Difference makers tread the line between risk and recklessness and the factor behind both qualities is high effort. Does Tom Brady get benched for throwing an interception? Blount was doing more to pace this offense than Brady early, but whomever made the decision to bench Blount for much of the contest didn't recognize it - or care to acknowledge it.

Seattle Seahawks 28 at Indianapolis Colts 34


Vincent Verhei: Just saw a taunting penalty on a touchback in Indy. That's a new one.

Vincent Verhei: On Colts TD on blocked field goal, punter Jon Ryan actually ran the dude down from behind, but then missed the tackle.

Scott Kacsmar: Darius Butler drew that OPI flag on Golden Tate? Damn. Referee must be a Packers fan.

Ben Muth: Seattle leads the league in guys that I've never heard that look really good. Nice TD catch on a jump ball by somebody named Kearse

Peter Koski: Luck with a beautiful spin away from pressure and then immediately sets his feet to make a great first down pass. QB treat w/ SEA-IND

Vincent Verhei: Seahawks go for it on fourth-and-9 instead of long FG at end of half. It results in a fumble and near-TD. But still.

Scott Kacsmar: Remember fake Razor Ramon and fake Diesel? Robert Hughes (Colts) is the fake Joseph Addai.

Vincent Verhei: Seahawks keep getting field goals. That is a bad way to protect a lead

@TerrapinPrime: Did you see lynch palm that ball? Marshawn Jordan in the building

Vincent Verhei: Seahawks bit so hard on the fake screen that two "blockers" were wide-open.

Aaron Schatz: Colts are for real, man. Thought regression of fortune would cancel out offensive improvement. Did not foresee defensive improvement.

Rivers McCown: Well, that was a fun two years of not having to worry about the Colts in the AFC South. That's over.

@CyrisJonfs: Is Andrew Luck Fezzik?


Vince Verhei: At halftime, I noted on Twitter that the Seahawks were killing the Colts except for two big plays (a 75-yard T.Y. Hilton touchdown and a blocked field goal that was returned for a score). I heard from some angry Colts fans who interpreted this as a slam on their team, which was not my intent. I meant two things: 1) If the second half played out like the first, then Seattle was likely to win, and 2) The Seahawks had played their best half of football maybe all year and were only ahead by two points.

As it turned out, the second half played out nothing like the first. The Seahawks moved the ball but couldn't get any touchdowns. Russell Wilson overthrew a wide-open Golden Tate for what should have been a touchdown, and was tackled in the open field short of a first down by Jerrell Freeman on an option keeper on a key third-and-2. Things on defense were worse, as the Seahawks were repeatedly caught with too many or too few men on the field (yes, they made both mistakes), doubling one receiver and leaving others open, and burning timeouts -- their last one was called with nearly nine minutes left in the game. And when they did play well, Andrew Luck would just make a great throw anyway. He's just really really good, and he can throw well on the run and hit well-covered receivers and all those things that really really good quarterbacks do. But mostly it's frustrating because Seattle should have been ahead by two touchdowns at halftime, not two points.

Baltimore Ravens 26 at Miami Dolphins 23


‏@laufy84: Tannehill stares down the receiver, easy interception

‏@WhispersMoCo: Flacco missed last week's memos about throwing pick sixes while protecting lead late in game.

JJ Cooper: Outstanding athletic play by Ryan Tannehill who rolls out to his left to avoid pressure turns and throws a 45-yard strike

Philadelphia Eagles 36 at New York Giants 21


‏@Phildo449er: can someone tell brian billick that you are not required to punt on 4th down.

Andrew Potter: This Giants O is utterly horrific. Run game is worse than the Jaguars. If you can't even succeed against Eagles, time to give up.

Vincent Verhei: Oh, Eli.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at Saint Louis Rams 34


Scott Kacsmar: Blaine Gabbert INT. I haven't laughed that hard at an INT since Schaub against the Raiders a few years ago.

Andrew Potter: Luke Joeckel goes down for the Jaguars. Next play, pick-six. I don't even know who Gabbert was aiming for. Horrendous.

Andrew Potter: Jaguars are now tied with Matt Schaub for most pick-sixes this season.

Andrew Potter: Jaguars have the lead for the second time today!

‏@MilkmanDanimal: Haven't had a bad enough week as a Bucs fan, so watching Jaguars-Rams just to punish myself further.

Andrew Potter: @MilkmanDanimal Must be some small comfort to know that you don't even need to leave Florida for things to be worse.

Andrew Potter: Gabbert to Jeremy Ebert is not a winning red zone combination. Okay, Gabbert to anybody in any location is not a winning combination.

Andrew Potter: Blaine Gabbert now done with a left hamstring injury. Bad news for STL. Henne comes in and throws a 39-yard strike to Blackmon.

Andrew Potter: Update on Luke Joeckel: high ankle fracture means he's done for the year. How's that Monroe trade looking now?

Aaron Schatz: Luke Joeckel done for the season. Teddy Bridgewater, teal courtesy phone. Teddy Bridgewater, please answer the teal courtesy phone

‏@snakerjaker: @FO_ASchatz don't you mean the gray and yellow Gradient courtesy phone?

Kansas City Chiefs 26 at Tennessee Titans 17


Tom Gower: Titans can't run the ball and their receivers can't get open. Makes it hard to run an offense. Fans around me blaming Fitz. Whatever.

Aaron Schatz: It's five games and I can't believe Donnie Avery isn't broken yet ... or did he just break?

Aaron Schatz: Oh, man. Can we please not take KC's about-to-be 99-yard drive as proof teams should always kick a FG on the 1 yard line?

Andrew Potter: @FO_ASchatz Is a more reasonable argument that if you can't get TD in three plays on 1-goal from the 1, probably won't get it on 4th?

‏@AMSportsLive1: Titans last week vs Titans this week just goes to show how much of a difference Jake Locker made. And how much the Jets suck.


Tom Gower: I don't know what to say about this game. The Titans no-turnover streak came to an end early on the sort of unlucky bounce they hadn't had the first four games. The last 27 or so minutes of the first half saw less scoring. KC moved the ball kind of okay at times, but lacked general explosiveness. Tennessee couldn't run the ball: a mix of Dontari Poe wrecking the middle of the offensive line and a continuing general mediocrity in the run game, They couldn't throw the ball, as Ryan Fitzpatrick's timing was off and the receivers couldn't win or make contested catches. The one brief sign of life predictably shuttered out when they ran up the middle on fourth-and-goal.

Things changed some in the second half. The Titans first drive was keyed by a couple of seemingly random plays. The first, a harbinger of more to come, was a good Fitz scramble, the other an opportunistic CJ dumpoff that turned into a long touchdown. A second touchdown, on a Fitz scramble after a penalty-aided drive that started in KC territory, gave them an improbable 14-13 lead I certainly did not expect to see.

Eventually, though, the defense was asked to make too many stands. The penalty gods continued a KC drive that ended with a score that gave them the late lead. A couple Fitz interceptions, one on a contested play and the other a missed seam route, helped create the final margin of victory.

Carolina Panthers 6 at Arizona Cardinals 22


@Daniels_Ryan: Fourth and three to go from the five yard line, early in the game. Ron Rivera sends out the kicker, to no one's surprise...

@Daniels_Ryan: Cardinals getting great pressure on Cam Newton with inside blitzes. Two sacks on the same drive push Carolina out of FG range.

@Daniels_Ryan: Panthers bring their own inside blitz on the very next series, and bring down Carson Palmer.

Ben Muth: The real loser of the Levi Brown trade is Rob Housler, who is now my least favorite Cardinal. Oh & the Steelers lose that trade too.

Aaron Schatz: Ron Rivera finally takes a risk, goes for it on fourth and 1, Cam Newton makes perfect pass, and Lafell drops it. Aaarrgghhh

Aaron Schatz: Is the Arizona OL really controlling the CAR DL right now? Really? My god, they are.

Ben Muth: Panthers LG sliding out way too quickly on Campbell's safety. No threat out there, have to hang in and help your center.

Aaron Schatz: Well, apparently it's "don't notice there's a linebacker there" day in Arizona, for both Cam Newton and Carson Palmer.

Andrew Potter: That Newton interception to Daryl Washington was a terrible throw, but a great catch by Washington.

Aaron Schatz: Arizona fans booing Carson Palmer on every pick or third-down failure. What, they want John Skelton back?

@PigskinLover: Can we start tracking "carry by Mendenhall" as a QB kneel? I'd hate to penalize the Cardinals.

Tom Gower: Ron Rivera and Mike Shula have to be walking dead at this point unless they get Wayne Fontes'd, right?


Aaron Schatz: Carolina's performance in the second half of this game made me want to take the preseason projection system behind the barn and shoot it in the face. The game was pretty close in the first half. The Panthers offense was struggling but the defense looked good. But the defensive line really slowed down in the second half. It was amazing to watch the Cardinals -- THE CARDINALS (!?!?!) -- push them back on run play after run play. It helps that Andre Ellington is very shifty. He should really be Arizona's starter right now.

If you look at the numbers, the game should have been closer. The Panthers actually averaged more yards per play and had only one more turnover than the Cardinals did. But the Panthers couldn't score a touchdown in the red zone -- in fact, they never had a goal-to-go opportunity all game -- and they committed too many penalties. Another hidden stat: The Panthers intercepted Carson Palmer three times for 30 yards of returns. The Cardinals intercepted Cam Newton three times for 87 yards of returns.

The Panthers offensive line really had trouble protecting Newton, who was sacked seven times. The pressure definitely contributed to the three picks as well. Early in the game, it looked like Mike Shula finally opened the offense a bit to give Newton a chance to use his legs -- a couple read options, and bootlegs with a run/pass option -- but those plays seemed to be gone in the second half. Sigh.

Denver Broncos 51 at Dallas Cowboys 48


Scott Kacsmar: 2006 Peyton Manning in Dallas: probably a bottom 5 game for him since 2006. In other words: a career-day for Blaine Gabbert.

Scott Kacsmar: Surprised Peyton didn't get a quick play off to avoid the challenge. Maybe no one on the field realized his knee was down.

Scott Kacsmar: Cowboys on pace for 48 first downs...in regulation.

‏@pchicola: Love the Cowboys gameplan. Attack the seams vs the OLB's and the deep middle vs the safeties.

Scott Kacsmar: Manning's neck is fine of course. That's adamantium he had put in during surgery.

Scott Kacsmar: Peyton w/19 TDs in not even 4.5 games. John Elway had 19 (1986), 19 (1987) and 18 (1989) in his first 3 SB seasons.

@hscer: With that TD and still no picks, Manning does what Brady couldn't: go 19-0.

Tom Gower: Nice play by Clark on that Moreno run, getting a hand out to slow Lee just enough while maintaining his block

Andrew Potter: Did Phil Simms just advocate Dallas defense making Peyton Manning throw the football rather than encouraging Montee Ball to carry it?

‏@Foosball_Wizard: Peyton Manning delivered the ball to the endzone on that bootleg a little slower than Papa John's delivers pizza.

Andrew Potter: What has happened to Knowshon Moreno the past year? Massively improved player. Can't be purely Manning Effect, can it?

Andrew Potter: Romo's been superb in this game, but Manning's been so good that it hardly even matters.

@bwe2684: Any reason why Dallas doesn't onside kick after every score?

Andrew Potter: Why do announcers need a book to tell them that down 5 to the Broncos at the end of Q3, you go for 2? Surely that's just arithmetic?

‏@TerrapinPrime: The game defense forgot

Aaron Schatz: Denver defense was overrated before this week, 19th in DVOA. Will be worse after this game. Offense: Still awesome.

Tom Gower: NFL record for points in a game is 113. We're at 89, which means holy smokes, how did that game happen?

Andrew Potter: @ThomasGower NYG@WAS, 1966. Washington had 4 rushing TDs, 3 passing, a fumble return, and an interception return TD.

‏@MilkmanDanimal: Romo has 500+ yards and 5 TDs, and if Dallas loses it'll be because "he plays badly in close games" or some other idiocy.

‏@MilkmanDanimal: Please, somebody lock Skip Bayless in a box before he gets a chance to start talking about Romo.

Rivers McCown: Tony Romo is bad at foogball now. Where is my check for analysis

Aaron Schatz: Moreno getting the first down and not the touchdown was probably the best possible outcome for the Broncos there with 1:35 left.


Mike Ridley: I can't recall an NFL game that showed such an utter disregard for defense. It was more reminiscent of an NBA All-Star game than an NFL contest.

Dallas did a great job in exploiting the flaws everybody predicted would plague the Denver defense without Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, or Champ Bailey. Terrance Williams was fantastic, Dez Bryant was Dez Bryant and even Cole Beasley had meaningful contributions. As a Cowboys fan, I can't remember that many yards after the catch for a Dallas receiving corps.

Of course, the story of the game is Romo's late interception. While the interception did seal the game, it shouldn't take away from how sharp Romo was up to that point. This was by far his best performance of the season, interception included. He was accurate on his deep balls, hit his receivers in stride on timing routes, and did a nice job identifying mismatches in the secondary. The fact that he led them back from 15 down to eventually take a seven-point lead is something that the Cowboys should hang their hat on going forward, as previous Cowboys teams would've likely folded.

On the Denver side of things, there isn't much to say that hasn't been/won't be said later. This team is the definition of an offensive juggernaut. Even with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker being "limited" to a combined 106 yards, Manning got large contributions from Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno. There are just too many weapons for Manning to use for a defense to stop. Holding this team to a field goal should be seen as a quality stop.

Tom Gower: I'll have to rewatch this game and break it down to see just how much of what Dallas did was the result of major flaws in Denver's defense and how much the predictable result of a defense missing a number of key players and some occasional lapses that can be fixed with better technique and concentration (I noted Webster's on Twitter, and DR-C had one on a big Dez play).

I'd say the same about the Dallas D, except I'm already disposed to believe the Broncos really are that good on offense.

Houston Texans 3 at San Francisco 49ers 34


Aaron Schatz: OK, now, that's ridiculous. Matt Schaub, four pick-sixes in four straight games. Trumaine Brock sat right on that pass.

‏@WhispersMoCo: Schaub's one chance for immortality: if we start calling the Pick Six the Schaub.

Rivers McCown: Texans should of just run the Single Wing with J.J. Watt.

Rivers McCown: DID YOU KNOW: All Houston receivers have changed their last name to "short of the first" in a show of solidarity.

Andrew Potter: This is genuinely painful to watch. If the DB had caught that INT cleanly, that would have been pick-six no. 5 of Schaub's season.

‏@MilkmanDanimal: Has Houston's defense begun burning Matt Schaub in effigy yet? Or just plain burning Matt Schaub?

Aaron Schatz: I'm thinking the Texans may be using their mid-first round pick on a quarterback next year.

Vincent Verhei: Remember when people said the Falcons should have kept Schaub and traded Vick? Criminal activity aside, it seems silly now.

‏@itnw0628: After this week, I expect Colts to have highest odds of winning the division in AFC.

Aaron Schatz: This is painful. I'm feeling serious empathy for Houston fans. It's like the entire offense disintegrated since halftime of last week

Rivers McCown: Why yes NBC, I do need something else ... to get me through this ... semi-Schaubbed kinda life.

Aaron Schatz: Three different readers have tweeted me to tell me Schaub has turned into late-career Jake Delhomme.

Rivers McCown: Seriously though guys ... J.J. Watt single wing. Think about it? I'll draw the plays up and everything.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't see post-Arizona Jake Delhomme in Matt Schaub. More like post-Cincinnati Carson Palmer mixed with drunk Kerry Collins.

Mike Ridley: I never thought I'd see the day Tony Romo wasn't the least liked QB in Texas.


Rivers McCown: I don't like football anymore.

Tom Gower: More seriously, though, an early pick-six is about the worst possible start for a team that benefits so much from being on schedule and getting the most they can out of a (generally very, very good) plan. Alas, we may have gotten to the point where everyone knows the plan, and the individual parts aren't working well enough to permit it to work anyway.

Tim Gerheim: At what point does the injury risk in a game exceed the value of the "practice"? Arian Foster doesn't need to keep getting clobbered, and J.J. Watt doesn't need to risk injury on defense. Why not just take a knee and punt, then put 11 guys by the sidelines to show the 49ers your intentions? Frank Gore can just walk around the field for seven minutes and everyone can go home healthy. Once you're not winning the game, does it matter anymore if you keep trying? As I write this it's all backups anyway.

Matt Waldman: Frank Gore is a perfect example why speed is overrated. Defenders hate facing him because of his patience, balance, and strength. I've mentioned this often, but Larry Coker, the former UM head coach who recruited Gore -- and also was the running back coach who recruited the likes of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas -- said Gore was the best high school back he ever saw. Before Gore suffered two knee injuries at UM he was one of the most impressive running backs I've seen in terms of vision, quickness, agility, and speed. Considering that Gore is arguably one of the three best 49ers runners of all-time and is this good with pedestrian NFL speed, think of what he could have been if he never got hurt.

Imagine if Robert Griffin never recovers his blinding long speed but develops into a quality pocket passer within shouting distance of the likes of Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers. We'll invariably lament what Griffin could have been. This is how I'd characterize Gore's lost speed between his early days at UM and his entry to the NFL.

Danny Tuccitto: I have approximately zero scouting acumen, but I whole-heartedly second Matt's motion about Frank Gore -- especially with respect to his vision. It's been countless times through his career where I've seen Gore become Houdini, and make an anticipatory cut in the open field, not to make an immediate tackler miss, but to make a secondary tackler's pursuit angle laughable. For instance, here's a disappearing act he dropped on Rams safety Rodney McLeod in a run last Thursday night (at age 30, no less):

But what's always fascinated me about his NFL career has been that it lays bare how much of a sham the Wonderlic is. If that test was worth anything, you would never see a guy who scores 6 out of 50 have such a grasp of what "running smartly" means, and you also wouldn't see a guy who learned so quickly to transition from a speedy wunderkind at Gables High/early-UM to the "savvy" runner he's been in the NFL.

Matt Waldman: Plus Danny, there are a lot of "book smart" guys out there who wouldn't have the stones or the heart like Gore did as a rookie to yell at his veteran teammates in the locker room after a loss when they were cutting up and celebrating what they were going to do after work. I'll take passion, commitment, and football skill over a standardized test score, thank you very much.

Danny Tuccitto: At a time like this, my thoughts are with Rivers. It must have been a dark, dark place he went to tonight.

Rivers McCown: Can't sleep, Schaub'll pick-six me. Can't sleep, Schaub'll pick-six me.

San Diego Chargers 17 at Oakland Raiders 27


Scott Kacsmar: This game is already better than the last one. Like, these 117 seconds > whole 60 minutes of HOU/SF

Andrew Potter: First series for SD, Rivers throws a deep ball to a wide open defensive back. Overthrew Eddie Royal by about ten yards on third down

@PTMovieGuy: Raiders having success this drive, mixing up read-options, pistols, TE wing-flex/full house. Pryor pretty accurate

Aaron Schatz: Richard Marshall just had what you might call an "inadvertant flop." He slipped on the grass, rather than falling on purpose but insisted he was pushed. Looked like pretty light contact from Denarius Moore, who gets the TD

@pchicola: In era of zone blocking, love watching power running teams (SF, OAK). A decade ago, in era of power blocking, watching DEN was sweet

Rivers McCown: Pryor may not have NFL-level pocket passing skills, but he has Russell Wilson-level escapability.

@PTMovieGuy: How's this for ST/fumble luck? OAK blocks FG, but ball bounces to SD TE, who runs for 1st down

Andrew Potter: Well this game sure puts a dent in Rivers' potential MVNP (most valuable non-Peyton) season.

Danny Tuccitto: LOL! what a choker, that Philip Rivers! -- Tony Romo


Matt Waldman: This has probably been discussed earlier this year, but I have been so impressed with Terrelle Pryor's development. The fact that he has corrected a lot of the flaws with his footwork and release while bluntly telling the media that he didn't know how to throw the football when he arrived in the NFL is a stark contrast to the likes of Tim Tebow, who in hindsight could have borrowed a page from Pryor's book of "keep your head down, your mouth shut, and the cameras away" while grinding away at his craft. I thought the Raiders had beer goggles for Pryor when they drafted him (mistaking him for a future Steve McNair). But if we consider 2013 his rookie year, I would have pegged him as a top-20 overall pick.

His placement, movement in the pocket, and basic skill reading defenses is night and day better than what I saw from him at Ohio State. While I often said Pryor had game-changing talent, there are so many players who fail to work as hard or as smart as Pryor has. It's this work that has made me a fan -- especially as a part of an organization that has been in flux for so long.

Tonight's performances from Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown were indicative of the players I've studied at Cal and San Diego State, respectively. Allen in particular finally looks healthy and demonstrated why he's one of the best all-around receivers of this rookie class.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 07 Oct 2013

311 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2013, 1:26pm by bubqr


by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:15am

I agree with Aaron et al that something's up with Brady. There are errors being made that I don't believe can all be pinned on the new receivers. I think Brady's lack of confidence in them is bollixing up his throws. He's got to get over that.

I also think (contra many posters in various Pats fan forums) that the loss of Welker doesn't have much to do with this. The big difference isn't no Welker. The big difference is that with the murdering idiot gone and Gronk out and Vereen out, the NE offense has lost its ability to run pretty much any play from a given formation. That made things really, really hard on opposing defenses.

I totally believe Belichick should have gone for the TD instead of taking the FG. NE was lucky to be that close to the goal line in the first place and the way they were playing there was no compelling reason to believe they'd ever get that close again. Classic (unfortunately) playing to postpone the loss rather than playing to win.

(Speaking of which, this site is ruining me with respect to "regular" football forums. :). Had a unproductive, headdesking attempt at trying to explain that "maximizing the chance of postponing the moment of guaranteed loss" and "maximizing the chance of winning" are not the same thing...)

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:44am

I totally believe Belichick should have gone for the TD instead of taking the FG. NE was lucky to be that close to the goal line in the first place and the way they were playing there was no compelling reason to believe they'd ever get that close again. Classic (unfortunately) playing to postpone the loss rather than playing to win.

I'm not convinced on the TD vs. FG. Playing to postpone the loss is fine if you're the better team: risk is almost always a bad thing for the better team. Do I think that the Patriots are better than the Bengals? ... Probably, but I do think that Belichick probably *thinks* the Patriots are better, so the decision was probably rational for him.

Still probably the wrong one, though, especially in hindsight, since they did get back in field goal range again.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:04am

I dunno, I'm of the "If you tried 3 times from the 1, and didn't get in, you're probably not going to get in on the 4th" mind.

The problem wasn't the decision, the problem was that the offense couldn't execute anything.

That last drive was a thing of beauty... Brady had what, 10 consecutive incompletes?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:14am

Well, to be fair, the weather turned to complete and utter garbage in a real hurry there, so that did contribute.

That being said, though, the Patriots were basically *in* field goal range when Brady threw the interception. If they *had* went for the TD, and gotten it, they would've been in a position to tie the game. Standard caveats about teams playing differently in different situations apply.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:34am


Things weren't looking good in the run game at the time, and NE didn't have any luck all day in short passes. (Seriously, more than half went incomplete or were caught for a loss)

Also -- you're also gambling that the other team will be ineffective/turnover prone in foul weather. This too, came to pass.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:41pm

This season has been very instructive for me regarding the relationship between receivers and qb. I know much of the longform has put a ton of blame at brady, but then why is this the case? He was all pro, legendary tom brady less than a year ago and now he's middling to below avg(depending on your favored stat)?

I think its far more likely that we don't understand how much losing receivers hurts everything that you do. I remember feeling this way when Manning had that stretch in 2010 where all the pundits wondered had he lost it. I doubt very much brady has changed in any significant way whatsoever. Since we have no specific evidence to prove a reason, we're left with conjecture and so here's mine. Brady can't be a romo or an improvisational player to get guys open, so he has to rely on timing and anticipation. I think when your receivers suck or are you haven't had any time to work with them, everything gets thrown off. I think FO needs to look at this season very carefully because I remember in the book, they didn't think it would affect the pats offense all that much. As a bayesian, I would say we need to rethink our priors.

by David C (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:42pm

Even Romo is susceptible to it. He has always had Jason Witten plus at least one other top 16 receiver on his team EXCEPT for the first 4 weeks of 2009 after Terrell Owens left and before Miles Austin's breakout game in Week 5. His numbers for the first four games? 7.8 yards per attempt, 58% completion percentage, 1 TD and 1 INT per game, 82 QB Rating, a bottom tier Quarterback. Last 12 weeks of the season? 8.5 yards per attempt, 64% completion percentage, 1.8 TD and 0.4 INT per game, 103 QB Rating, easily a top 3 quarterback by pretty much any metric.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:45am

If the offense can't execute anything, I would think they have a much better chance of getting lucky and converting with one yard to go than putting together an entire drive for more points later.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:09pm

Tough to say: getting in from 1 yard to go is a battle between offensive lines and defensive lines. Getting in from 20-30 yards out is a battle between your receivers and their secondary. Not hard to imagine that you could feel good about one and bad about the other.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:26am

The way to model the decision at the goal line is this;

Strategy 1: TD now, TD or FG later
Strategy 2: FG now, TD later

The value of Strategy 1 is p1 = p11 * p12, where
p11 = probability of converting 4th and 1 for TD
p12 = probability of getting at least FG on next drive, with little time on the clock

The value of Stratey 2 is p2 = p21 * p22, where

p21 = probability of getting FG from 1 yard line (very close to 100%)
p22 = probability of getting TD on next drive, with little time on the clock

And the problem with the typical analysis here is that people consider only p11 and p21, instead of p1 and p2. I think it's fairly clear that p12 > p22 and p21 > p11. But the relative value of the products is unclear, and depends highly on the teams involved.

I felt at the time that the Pats needed to try Strategy 1 because they only had 3 points on the day, and shown almost no ability to get even close to the end zone. That meant, in my mind, that p22 was very low. And even though the Pats had the benefit of an unlikely turnover by the Bengals, and even though they somehow got two more drives, they didn't get back into the red zone.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:50pm

It's actually worse than that. Strategy 1 is actually "TD now, TD later" or "TD now, FG later, OT win". Strategy 2 is actually "FG now, TD later, OT win." Regardless of how strongly you feel about your team, an OT win is always going to be less than 100%.

It's easy to forget that if you score the TD now, when you get the ball back you can now go for the win entirely. If you kick the FG, your only (reasonable) option now is overtime, and to do that requires scoring the TD that would've won you the game before.

Hadn't thought about that portion of it. Taking that into account I think going for it is pretty obvious. Even if you fail, your defense could conceivably get a safety, and you're almost back to the exact same situation as a field goal.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:46pm

There's no rule that says you can't go for 2 on the TD and not play for OT.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:17pm

Probability of a 2-point conversion and probability of an OT win are roughly the same, and both less than 1.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:48pm

Great point.

by nat :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:04am

I feel for you, man. It's a hard thing to explain.

It's useful to know that in recent years, offensive TDs outnumber field goals by a large margin. So a quick analysis says you need to have a very good chance of getting the TD for it to be worth the risk of losing it all on one play.

That's not the whole story. You need to consider the time left, the state of your offense on that day, various match ups etc. Also, going for it gives you a better chance to win the game in regulation, which is worth a lot, too.

I personally agree that they should have gone for it. But I understand taking the sure points.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:15am

Stafford will take a lot of heat from Lions fans for this game, and some of it is deserved but just take one look at who his starting receivers were this game and tell me if you think even Tom Brady would put up big numbers throwing to those guys.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:18am

I probably should also give a lot of credit to the Green Bay front 7, they playing outstanding and mauled an oline that had been playing pretty well up to this point.

Oh, and Scott Linehan, please burn that play in the redzone that leaves Clay Matthews unblocked.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:36am

I don't know if he should burn that play, isn't that one where Matthews broke his thumb and hence didn't return? Giving up a sack in exchange for taking Matthews out of the game doesn't seem like a bad trade off.

Stafford did play well considering what he had. I haven't watched much of their other games, but does Megatron really open up the running game that much? The Packers weren't stacking the box and Bush and Bell couldn't run. I know the Packers front 7 has been better this year, but that would be a worry for me if I were a Lions fan. Once the Packers were down to their 4th string MLB and Matthews was out of the game it was pretty much a pass every down situation but knowing how good Bush and Bell had been coming into this game I was surprised.

Capers is very bad at changing game plans and he played like Johnson was in the game, heck he left 6 man boxes to run against a fair bit. It was odd to see Scheffler doubled at times.

I also need to watch the All-22 more but I'm not sure if the Packers inability to score touchdowns and having to settle for field goals was more to do with the offense of the defense. Against Cincy the D really did mess things up, but I'm bothered by that as a Packers fan.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:55am

"he left 6 man boxes to run against a fair bit."

Did he really keep doing that?, because the Lions beat writers who were watching from the press box seem to think that one of the safeties started cheating down later in the game when it became clear the Lion's wideouts could be handled easily in man by the Packers DB's.

The lack of success running had a lot to do with the Packers interior line, which was much better than anything the Lions faced this year. Dominic Raiola against BJ Raji (with or without help) is a clear mismatch in the run game.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:57am

I also have major concerns about the Packers' O. They should have been scoring way more on that Lions D, but instead every 3rd down, it was obvious that the Lions would blitz, the Packers O-line had no clue how to deal with it, then Rogers would throw the ball away or get sacked. Most 3rd downs he didnt even have time to get a play off. This any team that can blitz and cover the packers receivers for 7 yards will beat them. ref: Cincinnati.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:58am

"I'm not sure if the Packers inability to score touchdowns and having to settle for field goals was more to do with the offense or the defense"

The Lion's defense is much better this year, but to be fair, the Lions DB's got away with holding/PI in the redzone on at least two different drives.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:56pm

I appreciate a Lions fan saying that about the non-DPIs in the end zone. In both cases I think refs correctly noticed that Rodgers had moved out side of the pocket and so holding was off the table, but it sure didn't seem like the Lions DBs let go or turned to to the ball once it was in the air.

In exchange, GB did get a ticky-tacky call on the 4th down play they would have otherwise failed to covert in the first half. Overall, by the end of the game I really had no idea what the refs thought DPI or illegal contact was. There was also the play early on where Sam Shields got call for illegal contact, even though the announcers pointed out that Shields had established position down field and the WR ran into him.

Getting back to the issue of lack of TDs, I think a cause that was easy to miss was the poor starting field position by both teams. In a game with no turnovers or missed FGs, neither team was in a position for short scoring drives. Not counting the end of game after the onside kick, GB never started a drive past their own 30. They had two FG drives of over 70 yards, and a 44 yards drive that ended in a punt because it started on their own 9. Detroit's field position was slightly worse, never starting past their own 21.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:20am

Well, given that Brady can't put up big numbers with his own receivers... :)

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:26am

Exactly my point...Brady has had a rough time without his two primary targets, also. (Was Amendola even 100%?) Granted, this week Brady was playing in what appeared to be South Pacific cyclone.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:51am

South Pacific cyclones would blow in the opposite direction.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:29am

Not when you only consider the local behavior. It's not like the stadium is 30 miles wide.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:31pm

I didn't see the game, but if the wind was blowing really hard, with a lot of gusting, there isn't a lot of utility in evaluating qb performance in conditions like that.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:44pm

Brady wasn't performing like the Brady we know even before that game.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:05pm

Wind didn't actually seem all that bad to me.

Rain? Rain was ridiculous.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:17am


‏@laufy84: Tannehill stares down the receiver, easy interception

I suppose this is a reference to Ihedigbo's INT that was called back. I wouldn't call it easy if it doesn't count.

‏@WhispersMoCo: Flacco missed last week's memos about throwing pick sixes while protecting lead late in game.

No, Caldwell missed the fact that the OL was terrible and it was 3rd and 22 near the end zone. Flacco was actually doing fine until his had was blind side tipped from Mckinnie's failed block. I suppose Flacco could have audibled into a draw play, but really it was on the OC to call a more conservative play.

by andrew P (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:30am

Yeah, that INT wasn't on him. I thought it was a really gutsy performance by Flacco, who had nearly as awful protection as Tannehill did.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:05am

Yeah that tweet irritated me on many levels.

1) There was no INT, so its really not important

2) Advanced stats sites have done a great job pointing that that Ihedigbo is having an amazing 2013 season (despite expectations that he'd be cut to make room for Elam), when the best guy in the secondary jumps route, assuming its the QB's fault is silly

If you're going to post an anti-Tannhill (or coach) tweet, find one about their potentially disastrous decision to spike the ball on their final drive with over 1 minute on the clock. It cost them a critical down, and gave a gassed Dumervil enough rest to sack Tannehill on the next play.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:31am

Yeah, that was unfair to call that pick six Flacco's fault. The pass was so off target I had to go back and look at the replay and it clearly showed his hand getting hit from the blind side as he was releasing the ball resulting in that pop fly to short right.

I would love to see interceptions categorized more...which ones are legitimately bad throws or bad decisions resulting in the ball being tipped at the line and which ones were the result of receivers running the wrong route or the pass hitting them in the hands and the interception coming off the deflection. It's why I hate QB rating as a judge of a quarterback since so much of it is dependent on interceptions.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:33am

Flacco threw a terrible pass on that play. That's on him. By that point in the game he has to have some kind of feel for his blocking.

FWIW, the point on Tannehill's near-pick was that he was staring down his receiver. And yes, it was an easy pick, even if Ihedigbo didn't get his second foot down. That he missed doing so by an inch or so doesn't excuse Tannehill for the staring he did.

by laufy84 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:40pm

i'm a huge tannehill advocate and believe he's made a massive jump from last year. his mistakes are more glaring now because they're much less frequent than last year. the stare down just happened to be particularly blatant, given the great route by Clay and potential for a huge play if Tannehill had just given a second's glance to the left before throwing to the right

regarding Flacco's pick-six, it was on a 3-man rush, and Dion Jordan made a huge play to disrupt Flacco's throw. granted, the play call was very aggressive given the situation, but it was more of a great Jordan play than bad Flacco throw.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:47pm

I suspect you need to watch a replay of that play. At first glance it looks like Flacco threw the ball away incorrectly. In slow-mo you can see his hand is firmly hit by the left rusher just as he's releasing. Unless he could predict that Mckinnie was going to get beat just barely at that point, he has no control over that. He couldn't even step up b/c Oher was getting bulled back in front of him as well.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:12pm

"Flacco threw a terrible pass on that play. That's on him. By that point in the game he has to have some kind of feel for his blocking."

The problem with playing McKinnie at LT is that you don't know when he's going to try. It's tough to get a feel for a guy so inconsistent.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:17am

On the play before Romo's pick, he got sacked. On the pick, Denver rushed only three, and it was like the offensive line wasn't even there; he was rushed. Bad throw, yes, but it's like the blocking went to sleep as the game neared an end; maybe they were really tired after standing up all day.

I watched the first half of Jacksonville. Gabbert is an absolutely capable NFL QB when he can stand up in the pocket and not have to move in any way, shape, or form. I think I saw that happen once or twice yesterday. Put him behind the Dallas offensive line of the 90s, and, hey, he can play in the NFL. Behind that line in Jacksonville? Without Monroe or Joeckel? Good lord. No pocket awareness, no ability to manage the rush, plus, hey, he's really loose carrying the ball, so fumbles, yeah!

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:21am

I think Brandon Weeden is similar (better, but similar). When he has a clean pocket he throws a pretty ball (that TD to Josh Gordon last thursday was sublime), but he has trouble handling an NFL pass rush.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:57am

I noticed this too--at the very end of the game, either due to DEN's defensive play-calling or DAL's offensive line falling asleep (or both), there was sudden pressure on Romo, and then the pick. He played such a spectacular game, but the ending fits so uncomfortably snugly in the whole Romo narrative. Brutal.

At least Dallas is still the best team in the NFC East?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:07am

That was a pressure int. Romo was not able to get as much on the ball as he would have liked, and the defensive player made a great play. The idiots, however, will speak and write of Romo falling back into bad habits.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:46am

I don't want to say anything about habits, but throwing a wobbling pass over the middle like that is never a good idea.

On the other hand, I wonder if it really mattered. If he got sacked instead of throwing an int, the game is likely just as over.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:52am

That's just it; he can't take the sack, and the pass wobbled because of the pass rush.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:12pm

I think your Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys probably throw that pass towards the sideline and have a significantly lower chance of being intercepted. Still a single mistake on an otherwise amazing day, and even Peyton had a pick.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:16pm

As you note, Manning and Brady throw ints, and they are most likely to do so when they believe that they must score on every possession.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:07pm

Brady threw a pick in almost the exact same situation yesterday.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:45pm

Yes, and notice how the pick was a throw to sideline and not over the middle? While the result was the same in this case, the process will lead to less picks for Brady. My evidence: the career interception rates for Brady and Romo.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:53pm

I would like to see a study done on this. But ultimately, too much is being made of this pick. It was pressure and the defender made a great play. It was actually probably the most justified INT of the day - Manning's and Brady's were both far worse decisions/throws IMO. In the end, idk how people aren't roasting the cowboys defense. They were beyond horrible with, not even forcing a single punt all game. Many times they gave up red zone tds even when penalties had pushed the broncos back. About as bad a defensive performance as I've ever seen.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:59pm

If Tom Brady had received the quality of pass potection that Tony Romo has, I think the difference between Brady's 2.0 career rate, and Romo's 2.7 career rate, may have shrunk considerably. Yes, I think Brady has been better, but I do think the gap gets exaggerated somewhat.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:35pm

Just as important as the degree to which you are put behind. Even at their nadir, the pats Defense was 16th in scoring. Much of Romo's hellacious mistakes are the result(I think) of trying to do too much because he has no faith in his defense. He intimated as much when he said the pick at the end was as much a function of not wanting to punt. I can probably count on my hands the number of games brady's defense has left him down big early(the ravens playoff game in 09 comes to mind).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:42pm

Oh, absolutely, and I think the differences between the Patriots and Cowboys defense over the past 5 years is really illustrative of the value of sound, stable, coaching and management. It isn't as if the Patriots have been loaded with defensive talent,
and they have endured extended periods with some marginal guys as defensive backs in particular. They have never approached the hideous sieve-like nature that the Cowboys have often displayed. It's pretty remarkable.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:42pm

I think it was Brady who let himself down in that game. Three turnovers in the 1st quarter all resulting in the Ravens taking over deep in Pats territory.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:53pm

Yeah, I have a hard time blaming the defense for Brady getting strip sacked and giving up a TD on the first drive of multiple playoff games in the last couple years. Its a tough way to start.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:19pm

And don't forget the intentional grounding safety in the Super Bowl. Man, now that I recall all of his playoff gaffes, maybe Brady isnt clutch afterall? heh

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:33pm

Hes not clutch and hes not a choker. I guess I have to take Danny's word for it that clutch/choke does exist in sports psychology, but I haven't seen any compelling evidence that certain individuals are clearly clutch while others are clearly not clutch. We've let narratives dictate how we interpret the evidence. Brady's just what he is, a great qb that occasionally plays poorly because he has to face good defenses sometimes who have great players too.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:41pm

The "heh" was supposed to imply sarcasm at my clutch comment. Nevertheless, I agree and appreciate your view of clutch/choke.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:55pm

It's never as simple as "Player X is a choker." It's an interplay between personality, cognition, and physiology in the context of a given game situation. Some player might be neurotic (i.e., prone to worry), and so they're predisposed to interpret a certain stressful game situation more negatively than other players would. And then their mechanics break down or they focus less on the task at hand, or whatever. Or maybe that happens early in the game, rather than at the end. Or maybe they learn over the course of their careers how to short-circuit the process. That's another thing: Human beings are dynamic systems.

But more generally, the reasons you (or I) haven't seen any compelling evidence to label Player X as a choker are 1) we're not viewing their behavior or measuring their thought processes under controlled experimental conditions; and 2) we have to rely on assumptions about their personality because we've never sat down on the couch with them. Of course, those are our excuses. NFL teams, on the other hand, really have no excuse to be ignoring this kind of stuff.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:11pm

There's a reason the nfl has still been very slow to adopt big data or half the coming technological innovations/research that all other industries have. The nfl is a monopoly, and like all monopolies, they deliver inferior(relatively speaking) products at inflated prices. Its helped explain why many of the archaic relics in scouting have remained for so long and why the old boy networks within the coaching fraternity take precedence over merit.

by Jerry :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 6:33am

We're talking about the same the same NFL that measures pretty much every physical attribute that potential draftees have, right? The one that administers intelligence tests, and whose members famously administer psychological tests? If a team thinks it has some way of evaluating clutchness, I'm sure they use it.

You can dispute how effective any given measure is, and some teams are obviously better at evaluating prospects than others. But it seems silly to suggest that the league has meandered along without adapting to the times, if only because the competition within the cartel is so intense.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:07am

The thing that was concerning to me as a Rams fan is that it wasn't readily apparent which of the QBs was Blaine Gabbert, laughing stock of the league, and which was Sam Bradford, saviour of the Rams. Bradford looked better, but not to the extent of "this guy can play football; this guy can stack shelves or something."

Also, does Jacksonville quietly have one of the better young 1-2 WR combos in the league? They have a sort of Boldin and Fitzgerald look to them from the pre-Warner Cardinals. I know there's talk that Jacksonville should just trade everyone they can, but to me, Blackmon and Shorts look like they are clearly part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. If they could cobble together an O-line whichever QB is under center next year could be in a pretty decent situation.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:58am

I'm not sure it's as much that Blackmon and Shorts are conceivably very good as much as the fact the rest of that team is so abysmal that when one of the WRs does something good it just stands out more. Blackmon clearly has some of the skills on the field that made him a high pick, and Shorts certainly has some physical ability, but they're the only thing going at this point in Jacksonville.

by hrudey (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:39am

>I watched the first half of Jacksonville. Gabbert is an absolutely capable NFL QB when he can stand up in the pocket and not have to move in any way, shape, or form. I think I saw that happen once or twice yesterday. Put him behind the Dallas offensive line of the 90s, and, hey, he can play in the NFL. Behind that line in Jacksonville? Without Monroe or Joeckel? Good lord. No pocket awareness, no ability to manage the rush, plus, hey, he's really loose carrying the ball, so fumbles, yeah!<

I think more than anything he's a guy who, for whatever reason, falls apart once something goes wrong - started off fairly decently against both Indy and St. Louis, but after the deep sideline ball to Shorts got picked against the Colts or after the injury to Joeckel against the Rams, he went off the rails. He's not bad on the run, but in the pocket he just does not have awareness - he'll stand and take a hit on quick pressure, and jolt out of a fairly clean pocket if nobody gets open relatively quickly. But he makes up for that with shaky accuracy.

by nat :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:26am

As an experiment, I tried reading the tweets section for a game I watched and a game I didn't. This was a big sacrifice on my part, because the tweets have been sooooo booooorrrrrring. From this experiment, I have to say that it doesn't matter whether you've seen the game or not. The tweets are worthless reading.

The long form sections were better. But there the best reading was when you interacted as in past years' Audibles.

This year's Audibles are a mere shadow of their former self. I hope you ditch the tweets. I know you won't, because someone has convinced you that all the cool kids tweet.

That's just a shame.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:38am

Totally with you. Twitter is totally the wrong format to use for something like this. Hard to get any cogent analysis or even general opinion in just 140 characters. IT's pretty impossible.

I realize that it is hard to compare because there are many more games in the regular season, but just looking at audibles from last year's playoffs, they were so much more readable and interesting. I'll give credit to Football Outsiders' for trying something new, but count me as another person who thinks that it isn't working and they should go back to more of what was done earlier.

The Longform section is interesting, and at least better than just Twitter, but unless there is some debate, it is still a little hollow. I loved the longform section for NE@CIN. Of course, that longform section resembled Audibles from previous years.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:09am

I agree here. Tweets are meant to hang in the air for a second, contextualized by the shared experience of the reader, then disappear. There's a reason no one prepares Twitter compendiums for later reading.

[OK, I'm sure somewhere there are Twitter compendiums, but you get the idea]

by CBPodge :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:16am

I tend to agree too. I get the problem that Aaron stated when introducing the plan for Audibles this year originally (that the writers weren't sure what to put on Twitter, what to put on emails and so on). But I don't think that's really a problem - I feel its a bit similar to watching a game in a pub with your mates - you'll make comments to them, some insightful, some joking, and you might post some on Twitter too. I don't really think anyone read Audibles last year and thought "this is rubbish, because I read 140 characters of that email on Twitter on Sunday.

Plus I don't tend to follow Twitter during games (or have fantasy football open), because its annoyingly ahead of the Gamepass streams.

Audibles for the last few years has been great to get a digest of games you didn't watch, and more insight into games you did. It doesn't feel like its doing that this year.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:20am

"Audibles for the last few years has been great to get a digest of games you didn't watch, and more insight into games you did. It doesn't feel like its doing that this year."

Yes yes yes precisely. Couldn't sum it up better myself. I love Twitter but I never read Audibles before thinking "could use more terse snark."

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:29pm

Agreed. I get why they would keep using Twitter (consolidation of commentary, growth potential due to Twitter's user base), but as a non-active Twitter user, there's not really any benefit and a lot of the interesting debate and analysis that made Audibles great is being lost.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:49pm

I'm genuinely enjoying following the #foaud hashtag during games; I'm finding that the real-time commentary is making me switch to other games when people are pointing out interesting things going on. It's very much enhancing how I watch football on Sundays.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:54pm

Well, that just means it works on Twitter itself, not necessarily here. I do enjoy following the hashtag on Twitter. Feels diminished here.

by falcochicquera :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:40am

"The best reading was when you interacted as in past years' Audibles.
This year's Audibles are a mere shadow of their former self."

Agreed with this. Twitter is almost irrelevant unless it is in the moment. For thoughtful reflection (which is why most come here) a longer format is far more appropriate.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:44am

"The tweets are worthless reading."

That's your opinion.

by nat :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:00pm

Thanks for clearing that up. I would have been confused on that point without your invaluable help.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:02pm

I made the point not for your benefit, but for the readership at large. You stated your opinion as if it were an objective fact.

Sometimes it's worth pointing out that something couched as an observation is just an opinion.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:11pm

And sometimes things are clearly opinions, and there's no need for clarification.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:49pm

Except the Tweets truly ARE worthless reading and that's not opinion, that's a FACT. Just your opinion that's it's only an opinion is, in fact, an opinion.

Hah, that was fun :)

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:48am

Nothing to add besides just saying that I agree with you and all the other posters who have replied to you. Bring back the real Audibles!

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:06pm

Well, not all. I like the Twitter stuff. It also gives regular readers a chance to join into the conversation that wasn't previously possible.

As has been explained before, the FO guys aren't sending emails back and forth to each other as they did in the past. They are using Twitter more and more. And for a good reason - the Twitter audience is pretty large.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:59pm

One more note, in case we have not made it clear, about this new format of Audibles vs. the old format.

The previous format of Audibles took roughly three times as long to edit and construct, which was keeping Rivers McCown up all night and basically taking out his ability to do anything else on Mondays.

If we wanted to go back to the older format, not only would we have to figure out the best way to properly balance Audibles e-mails to each other with Twitter comments during games, we would also need those of you who don't like the new format to volunteer to stay up Sunday nights editing things for us.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:10pm

Cue influx of volunteers.

Sift through a bunch of smart comments about football from knowledgeable people? Sign me up.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:11pm

I have no strong feelings about the new format vs. the old, but I volunteer to edit, if I am allowed to assume the identity of any FO writer, and interject "Joe Webb would have done it better", after any comment pertaining to a qb's performance.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:12pm

You guys do this for a living.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:17pm

This is a good point.

by Ben :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:24pm

Since the in-game comments are now public on Twitter, why not just post on the open game discussion thread? No character limit, community interaction, threaded commentary, and no editing required except for the long form stuff.

by nat :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:37pm

You've reduced the effort. You've reduced the quality of the content even more. It's a bad deal.

You'd have a better article if you just ditched the tweets. You'd only have meaningful comments on 6-8 games, but that's okay. That's all you've got now.

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:16pm

Taking your opinion that the quality of the content has dropped...

You've certainly made some huge assumptions about the cost-benefit tradeoff. The benefits(*) of quicker turnaround time might offset the cost of weaker content.

(*) And FO, by my reckoning, has significantly more content available these days than ever in the past.

by BigDerf :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 6:38pm

On the new format vs the old format, its not really a comparison. I used to be very hyped to read audibles each week, now I'm reading this article on a tuesday because I'm super bored. Audibles used to be on my list of must reads every monday, now if I don't read it, I don't miss it because of this goofy format.

by dcaslin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:45pm

I agree wholeheartedly. Hell, if they wanted to cheaply get some good fan snippets to throw at these, quoting the top rated reddit comments on each game thread for each team's subreddit would probably net you two much better comments per game than these random tweets.

That said, FO's core competency is good analysts/writers, not picking tweets out of thin air, so it doesn't make much sense to waste space on them here...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:28am

Nobody should be shocked if the Broncos get bounced short of the Super Bowl. When you're that dependent on one guy, and are capable of giving up yards and points like yesterday, any game is eminently losable to a good opponent. I really hope it doesn't happen, however, because the ensuing football punditry will be so painfully stupid.

Bears/Saints was an interesting game from the standpoint of illustrating how hard it can be to evaluate performance. Without knowing how much Cutler is responsible for the Bears failure to adjust to the Saints' blitz scheme, it's hard to judge how well or poorly he played.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:34am

I'm not ready to give a real opinion on the Broncos defense until I see what happens when Von Miller gets back. By the second half of that game, they were without Woodyard, Ayers and Harris, and of course Miller and Champ. That is probably 5 of their best 7-8 defensive players.

I think even with Miller back they won't be close to last year's defense (not that they played anything like it in the playoff game), but they probably won't be close to as bad as yesterday either.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:01am

Well, of course nobody should give up on their defense. Performance is rarely static, and the personnel will be changing. Just last year the eventual champ emerged when one sub-unit, the offensive line, was re-shuffled at the end of November, and suddenly the team became much better. Broncos fans better hope, however, that their chance of getting to the last game, and winning it, is not entirely dependent on their qb playing like a cyborg transported from the time after Sky Net became self-aware.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:37am

I agree completely. The Broncos remind me so much of the 2011 Packers...capable of putting up insane amounts of points but a defense that can give up the same amount and then you get one game in the playoffs where the offense isn't producing against a good defense and it's all over. I'll be very interested to see if the defense rights itself when Miller and Bailey return but man, was that some extremely poor tackling on Denver's part.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:14am

Agreed. The Broncos are somewhat better than those Packers who were an abject joke at generating stops on a consistent basis.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:29am

I wonder if Antione Winfield would be interested in 4 months work, for a team with an outstanding chance at the championship? I didn't see the Seahwaks at all in preseason, so I don't know if he just can't play anymore, or the Seahawks were just too deep, but Winfield was still a very productive player last year, in the tackling department most of all, of course. I think he would be a good player still, on a team which is playing with the lead much of the time.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:35am

Seattle were absurdly deep at corner in preseason, their sixth guy would have been a solid nickel back for quite a few teams and could have started for some.

Turns out the sixth guy was Winfield.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:43am

Elway should be on the phone with his agent this morning, then. If Winfield can still tackle like Winfield, on a team which is going to score points like the Broncos, he'd really improve their roster. I think the Vikings would take him back in a heartbeat, but I suspect the old pit bull thinks he has one last campaign left, and wants to make it count on a team worthy of his career.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:01pm

I don't know how he compares to Antoine Winfield, but interestingly Denver does have Quentin Jammer, and he's been inactive for all but 1 game this year.

by nacaboose (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:21am

Regarding your Broncos comment. The broncos lost 3 key players on defense yesterday before halftime (Harris, Woodyard, and Ayers). Add those injuries on top of Champ and Von being out and this defense became incredibly inexperienced and lacking of talent. DRC didn't play well, but Romo had all day to throw in the second half (outside of the last drive). Lets wait until week 8 before we start talking about the Broncos defense holding them back.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:36am

When the offense is that good, it doesn't take much to say the defense is holding them back. No, there is no need to panic, but my comment was more in the vein of the recent trend of dominant-looking regular season teams with great offenses suffering what were considered big upsets in the post season. I just don't think it would be all that big an upset if the Broncos were to lose a playoff game in which they were favored by 10 or more. That may sound contradictory, but I guess all I'm saying is that variance is high in the playoffs in this era.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:50am

I think the point to consider here is that the Broncos are fairly likely to run into defenses in the playoffs a lot better than what they've faced in the regular season. Nor is the Cowboys' offense really considered one of the elite.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:56am

I think the Cowboys offense is better than you are giving it credit for. They were 10th coming into this game (which will go up). Romo is having his best season of his career. That was probably the worst the Broncos defense will play all season long.

Also, who are these defenses? And you can't just have a good defense, you need to be able to score too, which is why I don't think the Chiefs can beat this team in a playoff game. IND or NE if they get their offense figured out have better chances.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:01pm

I think the Cowboys o-line has improved significantly, after lo these many years.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:29pm

I don't think "top 10" = "elite."

Right now, Elite = GB, NO, and Denver (the top 3 teams in DAVE last week). Pats were elite last season but clearly are not right now. I know other teams are scoring more points/game than GB but I'm not really a believer in the Chargers, Cowboys, Eagles, or Lions. I could see a strong case made for the Colts and wouldn't argue against anybody who thought they were elite. It's a fuzzy classification thing. But the Cowboys are outside "elite", even after scoring 48 points against a depleted Broncos' defense.

At least in my opinion.

I expect the Broncos and Chiefs to split their season series along home field lines. I could well be convinced that the Colts are the best threat to beat the Broncos in the playoffs. The Ravens have lost too many people, the Pats are struggling, and I'm not yet sold that much on the Chiefs. The Bengals have the defense to shut down the Broncos, but I'm not sold on their offense.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:51pm

Any team can be beat in the playoffs. The media just hasn't gotten that message yet, or if they have, that message is constantly reinterpreted as "qb of losing team choked, qb of winning team showers in winner sauce"

The worst possible matchup for the broncos is still NE. The chiefs defense is incredible, but their offense isn't good at all. They have been so lucky to be 5-0(still, that defense is awesome). NE will be better on offense soon and their defense is very good. Despite the funk brady is in now, gronk and more time with amendola and time with the current group should clear some of that up. Also, Indy is...interesting. I still can't believe what I'm seeing from this team. The defensive pressure has really picked up after I spent all offseason calling them the least talented defensive unit in football. I was very harsh on luck to start the season, but hes been...impressive.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:00pm

I am amused to see a Colts fan being more positive about NE than many NE fans I know...

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:53pm


I would think it's New Orleans.

Denver doesn't match up w/ TEs at all, and NO can score a ton of points. They also play high-variance defense predicated on turnovers, which is about the only way to stop Denver at the moment.

The concern is that they are even more screwed by an outdoor Super Bowl than Denver is.

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:41pm

Yeah NO looks great too. I was probably speaking strictly from the AFC side. I think the elite NFC teams are still better overall than the elite afc squads. SF, Sea are both fighting injuries and should be better in the future. No looks great and we still shouldn't overlook GB. Compare that to AFC. NE, Denver are the two solid picks I think still, KC to me is still a mirage on offense and still Can't believe what I'm seeing in Indy!

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:49pm

Erik Walden looked okay yesterday!

I don't quite see NE matching up with Denver--Brady (who seems to be having an off year, regardless of his receivers) + Gronk + Amendola just doesn't look like it cam compete with Manning (having his best year) plus all his weapons. Unless Welker turns out to be a secret Belichick sleeper agent in the post-season. "Peyton, my friend, here's some special Gatorade I have for you, and only you." wink wink

Indy looks dangerous the way the 2009/2010 Jets and 2011 Broncos were in post season--they can play pretty competently in all facets, nothing too flashy, and if they get one facet really going, or some luck, you will lose and not know how it happened. They never feel they are out of it, and that Luck kid is alright. They need to put Hilton on the field more than DHB and they'll generate more on offense.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:05pm

"because the ensuing football punditry will be so painfully stupid"

Agreed, Will. Should we just start blaming Manning now and avoid the January rush, just like everybody's blaming Romo for his D allowing 51? Hey, that sounds like a potential profootballmock.com article.... "Bronco Fans With January Travel Plans Start Blaming Manning Now."

by laneglass (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:34am

Blah. This site has really gone down hill the past couple of years. I used to get excited to come on here on Mondays.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:07pm

I used to not go to bed "Sunday night" until Audibles were posted, around 3 a.m. Pacific time.... Smaller community back then, and I had less regard for a good night's sleep. But nothing like good Brady Manning argument to spike the adrenaline when the rest of the house was sound asleep.

by BigDerf :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 6:40pm

I would often read Audibles before bed as well, and I live East Coast. But now I'm reading this on a Tuesday, because well, its here and I'm bored eating my dinner.

by Jon Goldman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:38am

Hmm. The Bears were destroyed early by the Saints' pass rush, but it felt like they picked up the blitzes much better after the first few series. Certainly not a very good day for the offense anyway. The defense is beautiful and this game was winnable.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:46am

"Remember when people said the Falcons should have kept Schaub and traded Vick? Criminal activity aside, it seems silly now."

That doesn't seem silly now, does it? I mean, sure, if they didn't trade Schaub they wouldn't have got Matt Ryan, but if you're basically saying "who would you rather have had for the last few years, Vick or Schaub?" I'd take Schaub every single time. Am I weird for thinking this?

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:04am

Honestly, it doesn't seem all that silly to me, either. Until this year, when age or something seems to have bitten him hard (and we weren't saying that in the first week with the big SD comeback, either), Schaub was an upper-half, borderline top-10 QB whose main problem was an inability to stay healthy all year, landing Houston with too many situations where Sage Rosenfels or T.J. Yates had to play crucial games.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:25pm

+1. Schaub had been very good for several years.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 7:36pm

Actually, Schaub wasn't very good for most of last year (after the Denver game onwards, really). The guys around him (especially Johnson) played so well that the decline in Schaub's personal level was substantially masked in the stats, but it was there. I had hoped it was something temporary - an unreported injury, or similar. Looks like it's not.

But yes, I'd take Schaub 2007 onwards over Vick 2007 onwards, for sure.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:49am

I loved Peyton at the podium after the DEN/DAL game where he was talking about how he talked to Moreno during the time-out on the last drive about how the best outcome would be to get the first down but not the touchdown and Moreno basically said, "how the hell am I supposed to do that?" right before going and doing exactly that. Which is awesome in and of itself, but also raises the question, do you think guys like Ron Rivera would even be aware that getting the first down (and hence letting them run out the clock completely before making the FG attempt and therefore not giving Romo a chance to try for 600 yards) was the ideal outcome? I have my doubts about it.

Also, Pryor has really impressed me this year. Every game he's played, the Raiders were genuinely competitive in (including, y'know, some actual wins). This is a guy who came out of college with few true quarterbacking skills, and has turned into somebody who actually gives a very talent-deprived team a chance to win. The one game he was injured for shows plainly why the coaching staff gave him the starting job over Flynn. He's still a work in progress, but he actually *IS* a progressing work. Matt Waldman's comparison of him to Tebow is telling.

by BigDerf :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 6:44pm

Honestly, it amazes me how many players seem to not be aware of these game situations the way Peyton clearly is. This kinda goes back to the Donovan McNabb tie thing, but any time your players don't know all the rules, they are missing out on opportunities to win the football game.

There should be a second test to go with the Wonderlic that is just all about what to do in certain game situations. Whether or not the players could study for said test, it would still be better than them coming into the league not knowing any of it.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:50am

What in heck is up with Kaepernick? Last year he had Jaws talking about how he could be the greatest quarterback ever, and this year he looks like a poor-man's Alex Smith.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:30am

I'm just hoping it's growing pains. Houston's secondary is pretty good and their pass rush is one of the best in the league, with a depleted receiver corps I don't think he should have been expected to be very productive.

He's still only got Boldin and Davis as reliable targets and Vernon is clearly still recovering from his hamstring strain.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:55pm

Consider what Pryor is doing across the bay with even less than Kaepernick has. At least SF can run the ball.

by Anonymous49 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 7:27pm

What Pryor is doing right now corresponds to what Kaepernick had been doing against the likes of the Bears/Saints/Cardinals last season.

by jimbohead :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:36am

For now, I'm blaming the insane attrition at WR, and the fact that VD still doesn't look right. If Kaepernick is still playing poorly when MM and Crabs come back, then we know there's a problem.

That said, I feel there's a chance the 2013 niners have a chance to be somewhat like the superbowl winning giants squads of recent years. Struggle through the regular season, grab a WC berth, and get healthy all of a sudden in December for a playoff run.

by Deelron :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:13pm

Seconded. It's not like he's missing a bunch of open receivers, they're frequently not open to miss.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:34pm

Yeah, it is. He's missing a bunch of open receivers. Against Seattle, not so much, but against the Rams and the Texans he's just missing people.

by greybeard :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:48pm

He was supposed to be one of the best QB this year. Instead he is one if the worst. Since it cannot be that people are wrong about him it must be othe factors. Offensive line, wide receivers, etc. if you actually watch the games from all 22 you can see that he is missing wide open receivers. On deep passes as well.
He was supposed to be all upside. It did not matialize this year. I am hoping that it is either a sophomore slump or a temporary thing. I hope that it is not what Trent Dilfer told him last year: that due to the surprise factor that he had with his running ability the defenses were throwing one tenth of the book at him last year and that with more time for defenses to adopt to defending his run things will get complicated for him.
He is not a very likable character. He seems to be from Jim Harbough school of handling the press, He does not take direct responsibility for his shortcomings, and has had a ver long summer of commercializing his success. If he stays on this level of quality of play, I can see people chanting for Skelton soon.

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:53am

I never bought into the the "Kaep" has arrived theme that was circulating about all of these first and 2nd year sensations. That said, I think you're overstating things and its important to keep in mind, Kaep is still very much an inexperienced qb and was going to go through some growing pains at some point. Plus, while he's missed throws, one simply can't ignore how huge a loss crabtree was. The receiving core of the 49ers, imo, is one of the 5 worst in football and that includes boldin. If he stinks next year, then you can panic.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 10:45am

Yeah, I am just not understanding what is happening. It's not like he was much of a threat to run last year during the regular season -- they didn't uncork his running ability until the Green Bay game in the playoffs. What happened to that guy with the huge YPA who was completing bullets to the likes of Delanie "Hands of Stone" Walker?

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 12:14pm

There is some reasonably compelling statistical evidence that the receivers are holding Kap back; his passer rating is over 100 throwing to Boldin and less than 30 to his other receivers. I know passer rating isn't perfect but that's a pretty stark difference.

As for Grumblebeard's complaints that he isn't 'all upside' and isn't likeable, I just don't know what to say. I couldn't care less if he isn't a fun interview and no player is pure upside, that's fighting hyperbole with hyperbole. He is seeing defenses designed to take away the strengths he's shown and he'll have to adjust, every young qb goes through it.

by greybeard :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:59pm

Nice name calling. You might have a good career in substance-free politics.

I am or was not complaining about his demeanor against press or his summer of over exposure. I could not care less. I don't like that he does not really own up to his bad play though. I was merely pointing out that it is usually faster for fans to ask someone that is underperforming to be benched when that person is not likable.Actually I think if there were not a history of QB switch controversy from last year and had a lot of people were not defending the move to Kap from Alex last year and a as result asking him to be benched would admit to be proven wrong, people would have had been asking for his benching already. Again, not a complaint, just an observation/guess.

I was not one of the people that thought he would arrive so soon. I thought he was quite inexperienced and it showed even last year.

As a 49ers fan I want him to be very successful. He has not been this year. No amount name calling can change that fact.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 2:14pm

I thought the nickname was amusing. I have no dog in this fight, but arguing about whether your team's starting quarterback is "likeable" or not strikes me as a waste of time.

by greybeard :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 2:33pm

Amusing to you, offending to me.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 2:30pm

'Grumblebeard' was supposed to be lighthearted, no real offense intended and I apologize if any was caused.

He's started 15 games, teams have adjusted to him and he'll have to evolve. I think we should give him a chance.

by greybeard :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 3:44pm

I agree. He will benefit from this experience and hopefully will become the QB that every 49er fan hoped that he would be.

by greybeard :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:58pm

I fought the spam filter and I won ;), It was blocking my comment due to this word: "S_t_r_u_g_g_l_in_g". Very strange filtering.

by greybeard :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 2:03pm

I think he had 4 rushes of 40+ yards in regular season, twice agains Rams, once agains Dolphins and once against Jets.
I am going with my memory and might be wrong.

by Mark Fischler (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:55am

Hey Great Writers,

This is getting to be a little ridiculous in the amazing coverage the Pats get by you all compared to other teams (namely for me my Dolphins). I don't think your long form on any of the Dolphins game compares to anything elsewhere. Is this supposed to be a comprehensive look at the league or just your favorites. I mean I get that we're all fans at heart but I go to you guys to get a deeper sense of things and that's not happening in this column. Bummer. Please show me I'm wrong as I love it when I've missed something.


by CBPodge :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 10:58am

That's covered in the intro section: "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.)"

I think you've missed something. :-P

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:04am

I agree with your sentiment, though I did find it odd that there was just 1 longform response for SEA@IND, which was a massively entertaining game between two young teams that could each be the Team of the '10s.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:11am

...while apparently half the Outsiders staff was watching the snoozer in CIN. I know, I know, that's their prerogative, and I still appreciate reading about other games. But SEA@IND was one of the games of the season so far.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:14am

I wouldn't call CIN@NE a snoozer. I thought it was a really entertaining game played by two great defenses. Just because the game was low-scoring doesn't make it a snoozer. Last week's CIN@CLE game was a snoozer, this one was quite good. My favorite example is the Week 15 game in 2008 with PIT winning in BAL 13-9. Thought it was the game of the year in the regular season.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:40pm

What I find odd is that with multiple writers, how can any of the major games NOT be covered? (And this isn't the first time that's happened this season, nor does it always involve scheduling conflicts with a Pats game.) I'd think they'd just divy up at least the major games to make sure there's some commentary.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:54pm

Audibles isn't a article about covering games. It's an article about seeing what FO writers think as they're watching games. Which games they watch is really irrelevant.

Also, complaining about coverage in audibles is by far the most annoying aspect to comments on FO.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:57pm


by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:03pm

They basically have enough guys to cover every major game but don't. And the answer to why they don't is "that's just how they do it." Okay, I guess. But that's not much of an answer. And covering all the games would make the annoying questions go away AND throw a bone to fans of all the teams that get skipped.

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:27pm

"Audibles" is basically bonus content, though; FO generally lets their writers have Sundays free to watch what they want and comment on what they want (any required viewings are available via recordings/all-22 film and such). I've always thought of it as the "10% time" that large software companies give their employees, allowing them to work on pet projects (which sometimes develop into something bigger and revenue-generating, like GMail).

Forcing FO staff to watch certain games would diminish the content of "Audibles", in my opinion.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:41pm

I think it's part of their growing pains. Things that made sense when it was a smaller operation don't make as much sense any more. I'd guess it'd help their Twitter following to do more games and it'd also make editing Audibles easier if there weren't half a dozen guys doing a single game. It's cool that guys get to watch their favorite teams but not sure if that improves the reader's experience.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:55pm

We are still a smaller operation. Football Outsiders has only three full-time employees. There seems to be a lot of confusion about just how much work we can all do around here.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:48pm

Aaron, I don't know if you guys have some huge process issues or what, but all of the DVOA stuff should be automated at this point. It shouldn't be any work.

"Because its easier" isn't a good reason to notably drop the quality of your product, and it brings pretty much everything you do into question. Are you doing it right, or are you doing it the easy way?

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:49pm


by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:36pm

This is good info, Aaron. I'd just say that even though I visit here regularly, I still feel like there's a lot of insider stuff I'm expected to know that frankly is rather irrelevant to me. I see way more than three names on stuff around here. Whether they're full-time, part-time, paid, or just volunteers is beside the point to me.

In the same light, you had a post about how regulars would know that so-and-so is a Bengals fan. Honestly, I don't really care. If the fan has some deeper insight that makes him a better commentator that's great, but I'm not sure that always comes across. I'd probably get more out of this if more games got covered even if a few guys didn't always get to watch their favorites.

Just my $0.02. I know you get tired of these sorts of comments, but they continually come up because there's a segment who'd like additional coverage and it's not always clear what you are doing. (Yes, I know there's a disclaimer, but particularly online people don't tend to read the fine print.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:45pm

No, the answer is "that's how they want to do it". They want to watch certain games, and don't want to watch other games, so they don't. The goal is not to cover every game, it's just to write comments about the games they're watching anyways.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:24pm

So, maybe with enough input like mine someday they want to do it differently. Sort of like how until recently they apparently didn't want to use Twitter, but now they do. Things change and the audience frequently is a catalyst in changes happening.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:30pm

Well I wish you didn't want to make the comments you have in this thread, and it doesn't seem to have helped.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:43pm

Probably too soon to tell about that. Somebody probably said "you guys should be using Twitter" well before that decision was made.

And I guess I wish you didn't demand everyone view things exactly like you do. That would make for a pretty boring comments section. Do you plan on posting a notice when new ideas are welcome?

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:49pm

You know how sometimes when you write something and it seems like a friendly ribbing in your head and then when you read it later it comes across rather mean spirited? That's what happened to me on my previous comment.

I don't asking the writers to watch other games just so we have comments to read about them is entirely fair.

As far as new ideas go, I wish we could have separate threads for football discussion and meta discussion.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:53pm

Does this mean we are verging on a meta meta discussion? My head hurts.

by Jerry :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 7:18am

You're obviously no Joe Webb.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:19pm

Good comment. I also don't want to come across as a jerk. Trust me, I don't lose sleep over the Audibles format! But I think it's a worth talking about.

I've been coming here for quite a few years now and I want to see them continue to succeed but there's just the occasional thing where they seem to be still thinking like a tiny niche site when they're reaching out to a much larger market.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:56pm


by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:59pm

That's just the thing. The FO writers aren't assigned games. They watch the games they want to watch, because on gameday, they are fans just like the rest of us. So they're going to watch the games they want to enjoy.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:03pm

People who read Audibles regularly and know which teams we all root for will understand that the Patriots-Bengals game didn't get this much coverage because of the Patriots. It got this much coverage because of the Bengals. Robert Weintraub is a Bengals fan, and Scott Kacsmar lives in Pittsburgh, which got this game because it is an AFC North market. J.J. Cooper is also a Steelers fan, which explains why he was watching this game too.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:01pm

Then accept volunteers so that all the games are covered.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:14pm

Ya' know, you are free to post a lengthy analysis, in this thead, of any game the FO writers don't comment on, and if other readers think the game was interesting, and your take was interesting, they will respond to you. There have been plenty of weeks in the past when I've done that with Vikings games, and have had some good discussions of that game. No, the game won't be featured in the main body of the article, but who cares? Is there some sort of validation being sought? I don't get it.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 8:28pm

The point being that anyone who volunteers to write up in the comments section is just that - anyone. I don't come here to read just anyone. I come here to read good analysis. If you get volunteers and you main article them, there's a vetting process so not just anyone's analysis is put up there. By accepting voluntary submissions and taking only the good ones, you expand your quality of content.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 9:02pm

I dunno, there are regular commentators in the FO audibles, quick reads, and DVOA threads that I would put up against anyone in the paid cmmentariat, in or out of FO. I know their handles and read their opinions religiously. Would I enjoy them more if they were not in the thread, but in the regular column? I doubt it.

Look, obviously, this is important to you, and that's fine. I was just a little puzzled by the intensity that attaches to this topic.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 10:46am

Shoot, main reason I come to the site is for the comments. This is far and away the smartest bunch I've found on any site on the web.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:52pm

Feel free to join the conversation. If there are comments in the feed, there'll be comments in the article. If there aren't, there won't.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:01am

...and why is the Lions-Packers the only game without Audibles coverage? Does FO not employ anyone in that geographic area (basically the midwest)?

by CBPodge :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:10am

I'm pretty certain everyone at FO has Sunday Ticket, and I'm not aware of any massive Lions or Packers fans on the staff. Plus it seems like it wasn't a terribly interesting game?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:21am

It really wasn't that interesting. While the staff really doesn't have any Packers or Lions fans they, know there are enough vocal readers that we'll cover them in the comments if need be. But if they were going to skip games for those teams, this was a good week to skip. Most of the interesting stuff was mainly interesting to the fans of the teams, nothing real major and certainly very little excitement from the game.

by Sakic (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:19pm

Yeah, it was a pretty dull game when the most interesting comments you can make involve James Jones being denied the Lambeau Leap by a couple of Lions fans and Mason Crosby's remarkable turnaround this season.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:49pm

Unless you think the GB D-fense was only good because of the missing Johnson, I would say they may be worth commenting on by the staff. No sacks, but they help a potent Lions offense (Bush and co.) to pretty much nothing until they knew the game was over (give a TD with 2mins left when up by 3td). It will be interesting to see where they fit in the scheme of things with opponent adjustments. Other than the turnover-fest in Cinci they have been much more stout than I expected.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:55pm

"No sacks, but they help a potent Lions offense (Bush and co.) to pretty much nothing".

The Packers got 5 sacks.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:57pm

Detroit was down their #1 *and* #2 receivers.

In a pass-heavy offense.

With Pettigrew.

That's bad ju-ju.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:14pm

That's why I wasn't too surprised/upset about this loss. Even with Megatron, I figured they had about a 40% chance of winning. Without him, I knew ahead of time they were hosed. I just wanted to see the Lions at least put up a fight. The defense put up a fight for about 3 quarters, and the offense didn't have the horses to put up one (Bush is a great fit in this offense, but clearly can't carry a team by himself).

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:07am

". Is this supposed to be a comprehensive look at the league or just your favorites"

Just their favorites. Read the damn byline.

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:17am

The 'book' that CBS kept citing in the Dallas game for when to go for two was wrong. Especially in a track meet like that. As long as the odds are less than 50% and you have so much time that you cannot possibly predict whether you have to have 2 because 1 pt does you no good, you make the smart long term play and kick.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:41am

From 2010 through 2013, teams have been 88-180 on two-point conversion attempts, or 49%. Looking at Dallas's offense and Denver's defense yesterday, I think it's perfectly reasonable to think the Cowboys had a better than 50-50 chance to convert.

Also: it was clear by that point that beating the Broncos would require scoring as many points as humanly possible. Add to that the theory that the underdog should pursue high-variance strategies and I think the Cowboys should have been going for 2 all game long, and definitely in that spot.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:16pm

Any kind of analysis of stats like these has to account for the fact that head coaches are far more likely to go for a 2 point conversion if they feel that they are going to get it. So the number of 48% you cite (if that is the correct number) isn't the pure probability of any NFL offense converting 2 point conversion against any NFL defense. There has already been some selection involved pushing the observed probability higher than the pure probability.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:18pm

"are far more likely to go for a 2 point conversion if they feel that they are going to get "

RickD, I'd strongly disagree with this. I'd argue that teams are most likely to go for 2 in situations where they NEED to. Teams aren't going for 2 during the middle of most games, they're doing it late in close games.

I'd argue that the selection bias is in the opposite direction as you thing. Defenses are ready, most often have called timeout before hand to pick a specific defense to run, etc.

by RickD :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:25am

"RickD, I'd strongly disagree with this. I'd argue that teams are most likely to go for 2 in situations where they NEED to. Teams aren't going for 2 during the middle of most games, they're doing it late in close games.

That's a completely different axis. Let's call it the "situation" axis. Among teams in exactly the same situation, the ones more likely to go for the 2-point conversion are going to be the ones who feel more likely to get that.
Let's let theta be the offensive strength parameter. And let tau be the situation parameter (time of game, strength of defense). And let pa(theta,tau) be the probability that a 2-point try is attempted, while we let ps(theta,tau) be the probability that a 2-point try is successful.

The the observed probability is going to be ps_hat = (int_theta int_tau pa(theta,tau)*ps(theta,tau))/ (int_theta int_tau pa(theta,tau)).

OK, this looks like a complete mess. I could replace the denominator there just by relabeling the intergral measure for theta. Let's call it mu_pa
Anyway, what I'm arguing is that for a given value of tau, pa(theta,tau) is an increasing function of theta.

Now if I consider instead the general probability, if all teams were considered equally likely to attempt a 2-point conversion in any situation, we might call that pc

pc = int_theta int_tau ps(theta,tau), where instead of intergrating by the attempt rates across theta, I'm simply integrating according to the freequencies of each value of theta. Call that mu_f.

What I'm saying is that, for any value of tau, int_theta pa(theta,tau) ps(theta,tau) mu_pa > int_theta ps(theta,tau) mu_f. What that should mean is that, for any given situation tau, p_hat(tau) (the observed success rate) > p(tau) (the pure success rate). If one integrates over tau, that would mean that an observed success rate would be higher than a pure success rate.

Sorry, this took me quite a bit of time to mathematize, and my measure theory is rusty from decades of lack of use. I wanted to translate your statements also, but it's very late. Suffice it to say that you were considering how p varies as a function of tau while I was considering how p varies as a function of theta.

The real truth here is that there is no pure probability p, there are only a large number of values of p(tau,theta).

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:59am

Lol, I know there are a fair amount of statisticians that read FO, but how many people actually understood what you typed? If this were 2 years ago, I would have been completely clueless :p.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:39pm

This isn't like surprise vs. expected on-side kicks. There are virtually no surprise 2-point conversion attempts (and most of those are probably busted XPs). Just about all 2-point attempts occur in situations where it's obvious why the team is trying it (i.e. it's by "the book"). Conversely, almost nobody passes up a 2-point attempt when the book tells them to try it. I think the number of cases where the decision is made based on the matchups involved is vanishingly small.

That said, even if you're right, I can't imagine a thought process in yesterday's game that doesn't boost the chances of the offense converting over the average. By a lot.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:54am

You are correct that the odds are less than 50% - they're about 48%. So every time a team goes for two, they're sacrificing 0.04 expected points. That's a really small price to pay if a coach has any feel for how the points might match up - 0.04 expected points is about the difference between a team gaining 5 yards or 6 yards on the first play of the next drive.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:57am

Where did you get the odds from? The NFL stats for 2pt conversions include failed PATs. So, as missed kick counts against it.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:19am

It was really encouraging to see Nick Perry make plays in the backfield on Sunday. He had not been accomplishing much of anything but on Sunday he was generating a legit rush and being disruptive. Mike Daniels continues to be a player on the d-line. I think the Packers are getting more and more at ease with the notion of letting Raji go after this season.

Thought the offensive line was pretty solid and big credit to Mike McCarthy for running the ball more frequently. I believe on one drive the Packers ran it 4 straight times which astounded me. Of course Mike then refused to run it on 3rd and 1 two separate times in the game but hey, baby steps.

Mason Crosby having quite the rebound season. That is very encouraging.

Another Packer player lost to a pulled hamstring in Brad Jones. If I am the Packer training staff I am VERY NERVOUS about job security. The team has had a ridiculous number of hamstring injuries the last few years and no visible progress.

by ebongreen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:31pm

There's no obvious replacement for Raji on the roster, so I doubt that they're planning to let him go. Josh Boyd is the only young candidate, and at 6'3" 310 he's currently the wrong body type to play NT.

I too would like to see more runs in short yardage situations - perhaps they'll do more of that against a team with a lesser defensive line than the Lions have.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:45pm

Did you see what happened to the O-line on the 3rd and short plays? they got destroyed and any run would have been a 2-3 yard loss each time. There's still room to grow in that run game but Lacy and Franklin are really significantly better than last year's crew.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:46pm


lacey runs with a strong lean forward. they could have converted yesterday.

Mike got cutesy

And WHAT IS WITH all the batted down passes?

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:20am

"At halftime, I noted on Twitter that the Seahawks were killing the Colts except for two big plays ... I heard from some angry Colts fans who interpreted this as a slam on their team"

Speaking as a Colts fan, I will say that any Colts fan that disagreed with your statement must not have been paying attention. At the moment the score became 14-12, the first words out of my mouth were "we have no business leading this game right now." Seattle very nearly put that game away in the first quarter.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:30am

I also thought this, but now I'm wondering if it's time to recalibrate my Should We Be Winning-o-meter. This Colts team really is probably the most balanced I've seen in my lifetime. No one facet is as superlative as the Peyton offense, but a TD off a blocked FG is as legitimate as an 80 yard bomb (and worth as many points). Luck will always be ready to go in a fourth quarter, but getting wins in different ways is both a refreshing change and crucial playoff preparation.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:56am

In the tail end of the Manning years, I think the Cover-2 "just play conservative defense that's good enough" mentality really hurt the Colts. They really didn't have plus coaching during the Caldwell years.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:17pm

Oh, a blocked FG return TD is absolutely legitimate, at least insofar as it counts for 6 points. But it is not (since this is FO) predictive. You can build an offense designed to generate long bombs. You can't really build a game plan around blocking field kicks -- it's a lightning strike. You can't count on a lightning strike, unless you're at the clock tower at precisely 10:04 PM on 11/12/1955.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:40pm

Agree here too. But I think there's been a noticeable uptick in ST play all around in Indy the past year+ (yesterday's kickoff returns aside). It's leading to better field position to set up those more predictive things you're talking about. More generally (intangibles alert), all three sides of the ball seem to feed off each other a bit more under Pagano.

by Paul R :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:42pm

The Colts used to win games with Peyton Manning and the occasional defensive highlight. (Usually a Freeney/Mathis sack.)

Now, they win games with a good offense (running and passing,) a good defense and good special teams. They don't seem to have any superstars, but no one can argue if you call any aspect of the team "good."
I think balanced is the perfect word.

(Re: Special teams. As a long-time Colts fan, I am not qualified to judge special teams play. The current Colts S.T. squad looks amazing to me simply because they don't allow 40-yard returns on every kick.)

by Ben :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:11pm

Yeah, as a Colts fan, watching competent special teams coverage is a really bizarre thing. Though, I did enjoy the sarcastic cheer from the crowd yesterday when Reed finally decided to take a knee in the endzone instead of running it out from 9 yards deep.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:19pm

That crowd cheer was funny as hell. Unfortunately, he decided to run the next one out. (facepalm) The TV announcers were ready to give him a wedgie and all but said "what the hell does he think he's doing?" Our starting field position in the first half was horrid and the Hawks' was great, thanks to a shanked punt and a safety, then taunting on a touchback (double face palm).

by Ben :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:11pm

When they took the lead after the blocked FG, I had the exact same reaction. Walking out of that stadium at the end of the game, I was still confused on how the Colts won after that atrocious start.

Obviously the big difference was on 3rd downs. The Seahawks didn't convert one in the first half, and were only 2 of 12 for the game. Settling for 5 FG attempts (with one turning into 7 points the other way) is what killed them. Is that typical for the Seahawks? Though, with that defense maybe they can get away with it for the most part. I don't think they allowed as much as 34 points in any game last year.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:08pm

Too many back breaking bad officiating calls on third down seemed to be the momentum swinger in that game. Phantom PI calls, etc. Seemed to always come on critical third down plays. Both teams played lights out and not to take anything away from anyone, but the timing of some of that horrendous officiating had as much to do with the outcome as anything.

by Purds :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 9:05pm

I agree that the timing of calls seemed a bit random in that game, but you have to face the facts: Seattle's DB's are so physical, grabbing receivers downfield on every single play, that the refs call them for holds or PI on almost every play. I agree that the calls seem inconsistent, but that's because they aren't calling it every time, not because these are not fouls. (And, the Colts DB's were, late in the game, guilty of the same thing - they grabbed so much that the refs could have called them for holding or PI on almost every play).

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 12:32am

Ironically, I was referring to PI calls in which no PI took place.

by Purds :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 7:54am

Ack! Ironically, I can't type. I meant to say that the Seattle DB's are so physical that the refs COULD call PI on them almost every down. But I agree with you in part. Some of those PI calls looked like NBA "make up" calls, where they called the foul on the play after they should have called it, and there wasn't a foul on that make up play.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:16pm

I was thinking the same thing. The 73 yd TD I thought "okay, good" but after the blocked FG I thought, "holy crap, we are so lucky to be here now. I wonder if we can actually do anything with it."

The D really turned things around, which was probably aided by the O going no-huddle and keeping the ball for more than just three-and-outs. Team effort, to say the least.

by Robwein (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:21am

Sorry that we were all over NE-CIN this week at the expense of other games, but I'm a Bengals fan and Aaron's a Pats fan and that's just how it broke. Plus it was the main early CBS game.
I'll likely be the only one watching next week's duel between the Red Rifle and Thad (don't call me Thaddeus no more) Lewis, so there's that.

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:24am

Can we talk about CBS's "The Book"? I was paying enough slightly-buzzed attention but I'm pretty sure no one at any point explained what "The Book" was, who wrote it, or why we should trust it.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:43am
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:25am

"but Larry Coker, the former UM head coach who recruited Gore -- and also was the running back coach who recruited the likes of Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas -- said Gore was the best high school back he ever saw. Before Gore suffered two knee injuries at UM he was one of the most impressive running backs I've seen in terms of vision, quickness, agility, and speed."

You should follow college football more. Three of those guys show up every year. Miami almost always has two of them on their roster, usually as a backup who puts up a 100-375 season and is never heard from again.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:26am

TJ Lang has faced Suh and Atkins in back to back weeks and neutralized both players.

If the tackles can inch up their protection a bit this offensive line looks to be pretty good. They can certainly run block fairly well.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:32am

One thing I noticed in Dallas was that Denver's never ending inability to cover tight ends was on full display again. I would say that the defense was hurt when Woodyard, Ayers, and Harris went down at various points in the game, but it wasn't like they were exactly stopping Dallas with them in there. Most disturbing was that Dallas converted 4 of 6 third downs. That means Dallas only faced 6 third downs, which means that Denver's defense wasn't even stopping them on second down.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:32pm

I really like Kayvon Webster's development, rookie #36. He's a big corner, so he might be able to help the tight end problem in the future.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:26pm

He's definitely a thumper so far. Not afraid to stick his nose in the action.

by Zach (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:42am

As a Seahawks fan, I'm obviously extremely pleased with the job that Pete Carroll has done turning the franchise around. The energy and enthusiasm he brings to the team is blatantly obvious. That said, I think it's odd that, given his mantra of "Win Forever," he can be oddly cautious and conservative in fourth down situations.

Twice early in the game, the Seahawks had the ball in Colts territory on a 4th and short. In the first situation, they were facing a 4th and 1 at the Colts' 48, leading 12-0 and having just blocked the Colts prior punt for a safety. At that point, they were dominating the game, and if they were able to march down the field and score again (particularly a touchdown) they could have really made things tough on Indy. Instead, they punted, hoping to pin the Colts deep and let the defense get another stop. I understand that the D had forced three straight three-and-outs, but Indy is a good offensive team and you're not going to hold them back forever. Of course, the 73-yard TD to TY Hilton came a few plays later.

Then, the Seahawks got the ball back and again drove it into Colts territory. Facing a 4th-and-3 from the Colts' 30, they attempted a field goal instead of again trying to pick up the first down and really answer back. Again, I understand the impulse to try and get points, but coaches too readily assume that a 48-yard field goal is a given. In fact, the Colts blocked the kick and returned it for a TD, giving them the lead.

Granted, neither of these are "obvious" go-for-it situations, and I understand that coaches of all stripes will take fewer risks in the first half, when the game situation is less clear. That said, converting one or both of those first downs has the possibility of extending the Seahawks' lead to a more dominating one, and possibly stamps out an Indy rally before it gets going.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:57pm

Or you miss it and give the Colts the ball at midfield and ignite the very rally you are trying to stamp out. Tough decisions all around.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:22pm

As a Colts fan I was fearing exactly what he said. I would not have worried about missing and giving them good field position as they had three 3-and-outs to start the game and looked lost. I'd have gone for it, especially with the way Wilson was succeeding on planned and scramble runs.

by spujr :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:48am

Is it too early to make any comments about the AFC vs NFC record this year? I recall thinking at the beginning of the season how strong the NFC appeared to be with SF, Seattle, GB, and NO, and how weak the AFC is outside the Broncos and NE (Indy has been a big surprise this year). I'm just wondering if I am the only one who is surprised by the AFC vs NFC record this year.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:04pm

It's certainly not too early - people were noting it a few weeks ago.

The Colts and Bengals have impressive victories over the 49ers and Packers. The Seahawks were dominated by the Texans for most of that game and only won because of Schaub's errant passing. The struggling Pats had their best game in Atlanta, of all places. And the Chiefs own the NFC East.

I think we're seeing that both the Chiefs and Colts are better than expected. In the NFC, nobody is really better than expected (unless you count the Saints, and I wouldn't because I expected a bounce back year). The collapse of the NFC East is the big mystery.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:08pm

If the Cowboys can't win the division this year, the franchise has definitely entered the late stage Al Davis death spiral.

by skeptic3 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:55pm

I really don't think the Cowboys can win until they make a ballsy personnel move: the owner has to strangle the coach with the entrails of the GM. I don't think JJ has the guts for that so the death spiral is already on.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:01pm

Given the right organization, I think the coach could be o.k.. If you aren't a head coach with an obvious HOF pedigree, it just is an untenable coaching situation in Dallas, and even with such a guy, it's a real slog.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:00pm

Sure, but how do you convince Jones to eviscerate himself and auto-erotically asphyxiate on his own entrails?

Does Michael Irvin still have his old coke-dealer connections?

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:20pm

I don't know what was impressive about the Bengals win against GB. A fluke fumble return for TD after GB repeatedly gacks on its own. The Bengals d-line did a lot of good work but Dalton was a disaster and save for the one TD catch Shields did fine work against Green. And Cincy was only able to show some offense after Matthews left at halftime with a pulled hamstring. Matthews was destroying the Bengals offensive line.

Cincy beat GB. But that was one team falling over the finish line a hair faster than the other. There was nothing impressive about it for either team.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:31pm

way too early for any mega-judgment. Houston was godawful last night vs SF. Cowboys went toe to toe with Super Team. GB-Bal will be a good test this week. Fair to say the NFC is not dominant, but way too soon to say pendulum has swung in other direction. GB was better team vs. Cinci-- they gave the game away. Other than Denver-- and their defense has now officially entered the suspect zone-- is there anything approaching a great team in rest of AFC? Chiefs have played well but how good are they really? NE looks very vulnerable. I could easily argue that if Broncos are #1 right now, NO, SEA, SF, and GB are teams 2-5.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:33pm

and maybe the Colts sneak in there somewhere-- hard not to be impressed by what they have done.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:36pm

Hard to not have the Colts in the 2-5 when they've beaten two of your 2-5.

by spujr :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:48pm

GB may have been a better team than Cinci, but regardless of the fluke, it was still a close game to a team that lost to the Browns a week later. I agree with your NO, SEA, SF, GB 2-5 simply because it is hard to judge on an account of schedule (and you are right about NE). However, it is a mystery on why the NFC matches badly against the AFC. Is there a subtle difference in playing strategies between the leagues? GB-Bal will be an interesting game to watch for sure.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:51pm

I think that, if we say that the top 4 teams in the NFC are Seattle, SF, NO, and GB, there's a big dropoff below them.

Oh, and to reply to somebody else's point - it's not too early to make a judgment. The AFC won something like 12 off the first 13 interconference games. At this point I just use my regular argument about how you can have a significant result even with N is relatively small if p itself is relatively small (or large - by symmetry that means the same thing for binomial trials).

Or let me put this another way: the Chiefs already have more wins against the NFC East this season than they had against the NFL over the entirety of last year.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:18pm

But does anyone really care that the Chiefs are better than the Giants and Cowboys?

As a football addict, I find the question of which conference is better holistically to be passably interesting. However, I have to believe most people (and sports media pundits) are just concerned with which conference the top few teams come from and not whether teams #6-12 in the AFC beat out the NFC's #6-12. There's always a huge bias towards playoff implications, and I think so far it shakes out like this:

Disgustingly Good: Broncos

Very good: Saints, Seahawks

Only good, but previous history gives them a pass: Packers, 49ers, Pats

Very good, but previous history leaves people skeptical: Colts, Chiefs

If the Colts and Chiefs are for real (and it's starting to look like they are) then the AFC is stronger. Up until this point though it's looked like the Broncos are the only reliable AFC team, whereas the NFC could easily have 3-4.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:02pm

Indy still strikes me as the next coming of the Texans -- good for a run of 12-4 seasons followed by one-and-done because they lack any really spectacular players who could carry them.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:10pm

Maybe their spectacular player is their #1 overall pick from a year ago who was called the best prospect since either Peyton Manning or John Elway? There is that guy.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:32pm

Get real, dude. If he was spectacular he's have a ton more endorsement deals and we'd see him shilling everything from cell phones to Subway sandwiches. ;-)

by RickD :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:28am

Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:14pm

He could be. Or he could be the guy who threw 18 INTs last year and was lucky it wasn't 28.

He's been playing better this year than last, but that may be because the running attack is better and the offense is a ton more balanced -- his attempts per game are down around 25% from last year.

But even with this year's bump, DVOA thinks he's a league-average QB in 2013. Will that get it done if he needs to try to outscore Denver or deal with New England?

by Purds :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 9:32pm

I think you need to watch Luck play before spouting numbers as if they are the conclusive proof. Luck threw downfield more than any other QB last year -- and as even fans of as great a QB as Brady know, completion percentage goes down the farther you throw it. He's also the only one of the three great rookies who had no running game last year, and thus had to carry the offense alone. There is a reason Wilson threw about half as often as Luck last year -- Marshawn Lynch (and that defense). RG3 had a great rookie RB as well. Luck had ... not much.
Let me give an example in yesterday's game that doesn't show up in any stats, but shows his budding greatness. Late in the first half, Indy is backed up to their own 7, with 3rd and 22. Luck goes hard count for the first time all game, gets the defense to jump offsides, and then throws a prayer deep because he knows he has a free play. Browner interferes with Hilton, Indy gets the ball out at their 41, first and 10. That doesn't show up in the stats, but immensely changed the game (they went on to score a FG and left too little time for Seattle to score at the end of the half).

by Eddo :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:16pm

If you don't consider Andrew Luck to be spectacular, I think we're watching different quarterbacks.

by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:33pm

Well, Andrew Luck is no Aaron Brooks but...

by Spoon :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:23pm

Even apart from the comments above mine, your premise is false. Indy had the most spectacular player in the league for a decade of 12-win seasons, and still went one-and-done as often as not.

by RickD :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:30am

But Brady was on the Patriots? I'm confused.

(YES! I saw the shot, there was no danger.)

by Sakic (not verified) :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 9:26am

You took it...and broke a major rule of engagement in the process.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:28pm

@Paul M #106 No offense, but Indy just beat two of the teams you are putting ahead of them, one a blowout in SF. I'd put NO ahead of the Colts (with some anxiety), but I would have put SF and SEA ahead of them before those games, too.

by EricL :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:03pm

"The Seahawks were dominated by the Texans for most of that game and only won because of Schaub's errant passing."

And, in return, dominated the Colts for over a half. If not for a lightning strike, (and, maybe, tapping the blocked punt back in play vs. sliding for the recovery) the Seahawks are leading by 10+ at the half instead of two, and that's a totally different game.

The Seahawks deserved the 1-1 split in the games at Houston and at Indy, but the results were backwards.

by Blotzphoto :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:49am

After the CIN/NE game the Bengals radio team (Lapham I believe) couldn't stop talking about how Mike Zimmer's defense beating 3 Superbowl QB's this year (Brady, Rodgers and Rothlisberger.)

Yet they fell asleep against Brian Hoyer. So the secret to beating the Bengals is to start a quarterback who Mike Zimmer has never heard of!. Good news for Buffalo fans next week!

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:52am

I'm still flabbergasted that Lance Briggs of all people jumped offsides on the Saints 4th down play.

For game in which the Saints seemed to be in control of it almost the entire time, the Bears had their chances at the end, and just couldn't take advantage.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 11:59am

Has any word on leaked out as to why the Bears couldn't adjust to the Saints' blitz scheme? It seemed really weird, almost high school-like.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:17pm

I don't see much tangible difference between the Lovie Smith coached Bears and this version. If they don't generate turnovers and a short field the offense cannot execute enough plays on a consistent basis to score as the big play ability/approach is not there to compensate

Someone call me when the Bears win a game not involving a defensive touchdown or similar type of out of the ordinary heroics.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:24pm

Well, the defensive personnel isn't as good as past years', so they likely are in trouble, then. I really do wonder how much Cutler's pre-snap performance led to yesterday's problems. I recall seeing some intense conversation between him and a coach (don't know if it was Trestman), screen shots in hand, after he came off the field following another debacle delivered from Robb Ryan's blitz package.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:42pm

Given my opinion of Rob Ryan is nearly as low as my opinion of most things Bears color me highly unimpressed that a team could not cope with a Ryan blitz package which has all the imagination of a stick drawing.

Rex Ryan, good. His brother is a doof

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:03pm

I was puzzled, along with being unimpressed.

by Duke :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 7:15pm

Well the Bengals win did not involve and defensive TDs. They did force 3 TOs, but would you call that out of the ordinary heroics?

I think there is a difference in this year's Bears. The defense is not nearly as good, but the offense is competent. It can get down the field and score. And I think I am okay with it. As a concept for constructing a team, "Score 2-3 TDs on offense and hope a talented defense can cover that" seems better than "hope an insanely good defense can somehow generate points while you try to keep the offense from imploding".

The question for the Bears' season, I think, is going to be whether the defense--specifically the pass rush--can improve. I was holding out hope after the first few games, but after 5 games (plus the loss of Melton), I think it's going to be the thing that holds them back. They can still make the playoffs, but I doubt they do anything if they get there.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:00pm

They did eventually adjust and the offense was pretty ok in the 2nd half. Once you've put yourself into a hole like that, ok just doesn't cut it.

I think the Bears need to run more, throw more screen passes, and use rolling pockets more. Of course I've been asking for more rolling pockets since 2009, and for some odd reason none of the Bears offensive coordinators listen to me.

As for differences with Lovie's Bears, I've noticed that Cutler seems to bounce back better from bad plays.

Before this game, I thought the Saints were going to blow the Bears off the field. The defense was a pleasant surprise in this game. They still weren't as good as I like, but they did make things tough for the Saints. Although, if Sean Payton went for it on those 4th and 1s they were facing, it could have got real ugly for the Bears.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:04pm

Yeah, I just don't see why it would take until halftime to make some pretty basic adjustments.

by TomC :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:11pm

Possibly splitting hairs, but it wasn't halftime; it was middle of the 2nd quarter. And the adjustments were remarkably successful: the last six Bears drives were 6-80 (TD), 3-50 (half), 9-71 (FG), 13-74 (downs), 5-82 (TD), and 1-21 (game). I'm not anywhere near as angry about not adjusting faster as I am about being that surprised and unprepared to begin with. It's one of the Ryan's, for cryin' out loud, and your history as a team is "they fall apart if you blitz them." What did you think was going to happen?

And tuluse, I will never ever understand what was going through Briggs's head there. Every single person in the stadium and in the TV audience knew they were never going to snap that ball.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:38pm

Yeah, it would be illuminating to have some sense of how they prepared last week. Perhaps the coaching is to blame, but then again, it's pretty common for coaches to tell players exactly what is coming down the pike, tell them how to respond to it, and yet the players act like they are very surprised when it happens in the game. The key for a coach is to rid your roster of guys like that, but it is a lot harder if one of the guys is a prominent starting qb.

by milo :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:18pm

Well, the Saints had three sacks, the last was on the third play of the 2nd quarter, so the Bears seem to have adjusted fairly quickly. And though Ryan has a reputation for blitzing a lot, the Saints have so far done very well rushing just 3 or (mostly) 4 people. So there isn't a lot of film on Ryan blitzing with this defense. The first two sacks were blitzes that I am fairly sure the Saints haven't shown once in the preseason or regular season before this game. The first was two DBs from the offense's left side, the second was both inside backers slightly delayed. The last sack was rookie Kenny Vaccaro who hasn't blitzed all that often.

The Bears got uncorked with 6:00 left in the 2nd but were already behind by 13. After they scored, the Saints drove again to score with left than a minute left in the half. That drive was probably the most important of the game.

Saints offense in the second half was mostly ineffective, seems like the play calling was to prevent turnovers. Briggs was a monster the whole game, just a great performance. On the fourth downs, Payton has been banking the fake "draw them offsides" all season (at the cost of a few burned timeouts). Briggs probably thought Payton was going to take a withdrawal from his account. I did, too. Combined with a nasty snap count by Brees, Saints got the payoff without going to the bank.

by Duke :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:55pm

I agree with the need to run more. It feels like the last two weeks they've had trouble running up the middle, but great success running to the outside. Last week was easily explainable (Suh), but I'm not sure why this week. They started with an outside run that was a disaster (fumbled pitch, albeit recovered by the offense). Maybe they got scared?

by Duke :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 7:03pm

My quick and dirty parsing of Forte's runs from the play-by-play (fumbled pitch not counted):

Left End: 0, 2, 14, 7, -1 yards
Left Tackle: 2 yards
Left Guard: 2, 3, 2 yards
Right Guard: 7, 1, 12, 6 yards

So maybe I'm wrong. Looks like running outside wasn't particularly effective. Or rather, what was really ineffective was running behind Slauson and Bushrod. That's interesting. Not sure who they were up against on the Saints' line.

by JCutler6 :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 4:25am

The linebacker play hasn't been terrible, but I feel the Bears miss Urlacher. Even though he had lost a step, he was still at worst a 2-down linebacker. His knowledge of the system would've been invaluable during the transition to a new defensive coordinator. Emery got this one wrong

by Duke :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 4:12pm

Considering that nobody else signed him, I don't think it was a bad decision by Emery. Heck, if you really wanted him you could still try to sign him (I know, he retired...)

It's always hard to lose a legend and leader like Urlacher, but it had to happen sometime. This year seemed like a good time, with his contract up and a new coordinator and regime anyway. I'm okay with the move.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 10/09/2013 - 2:01am

I completely agree about being pleasantly surprised by the defense. Before the game if you'd have told me that the Saints would score 26, I'd have given the Bears a good chance to win the game. Still, I believe the Saints to be a superior team to the Bears right now so I can't get too upset about a (relatively) close loss.

As for what sets this team apart from the Lovie Smith teams, well, how about Alshon Jeffery? In only one of the Lovie Smith years did they have a receiver remotely capable of a 200 yard day and now they apparently have two, plus a solid tight end. The offense still isn't great, but at least they have the personnel to make me think that they could be great by the end of the season.

Unfortunately, age and injuries mean the defense isn't what it was a couple years ago, either. The performance against the Saints makes me think that it might still be good enough to go deep into the playoffs. The Bears lost the last two games and also didn't force any turnovers, which I don't think is coincidental...but it's not unreasonable to expect a good defense to force a couple turnovers a game. You just can't expect them to score a couple defensive TDs every game like they did for a while last season.

by RickD :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:10pm

I have reserved judgment on Brady's accuracy because often we don't know if the receiver is where he is supposed to be. And I haven't seen any of yesterday's game. But this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:15pm

He quietly wasn't as accurate last year as he normaly is. His 63.0% completion percentage was his lowest since 2006 (the last year he had weapons remotely near what he has now). In games that Gronkowski missed he was under 60%. I think it is just being magnified because of who he's throwing to now and those numbers are worse than they were last year.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:26pm

Just another day a the office at FO. War and Peace about a crap game in the rain featuring what team? Oh yes, the Patriots. Of course. Meanwhile there were terrific games in Indianapolis, South Florida and Dallas and pretty meaningful results in Chicago, Green Bay and San Francisco in terms of playoff seedings that collectively might have gotten as much space as a 13-6 ugly affair by the banks of the Ohio.

The Patriots offense has lost most of its weapons; and Brady, unlike Manning, is showing his age. That's all you need say. Now let's start covering the rest of the league, OK?? It's Football Outsiders, not Patriot Outsiders.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:39pm

Dude, way out of line.

First, they describe very clearly the intent of Audibles. So you are off base there.

Two, other writers of the site were clearly engaged and based on comments many site followers were interested PLUS it's a game between AFC contenders which makes the game inherently interesting. So you are off base again.

Third, it's their site with a lot of free content so they can do what they want. So you are off base AGAIN.

Finally, you are a Packer fan and if I may be so bold speaking for other GB fans you are embarrassing all Packer fans so please for the love that is all good and holy please apologize and shut up.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:55pm

I disagree with you Bucko. Just because they describe the intent does not mean people should stay quiet in regards to their opinions and things they disagree with. Likewise, even if the site is free, that does not mean people should not voice their opinions on things they feel annoy many of the site's followers (focusing heavily on 1 game and ignoring/dismissing many others).

Yes, NE vs Cincy was between 2 possible contenders, but so were other games that were completely ignored.

by bucko (not verified) :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 11:49am

Sorry for the late reply. Don't know if you will see this but this is five games into the season. Folks have made their case on the new format. Either send a private note to the site authors or shut up. Polluting the discussion thread is just annoying.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 12:54pm

Tom Gower: I'll have to rewatch this game and break it down to see just how much of what Dallas did was the result of major flaws in Denver's defense and how much the predictable result of a defense missing a number of key players and some occasional lapses that can be fixed with better technique and concentration (I noted Webster's on Twitter, and DR-C had one on a big Dez play).

I hope you post this as an article, because I would like to see a comprehensive breakdown of what...broke down.

Certainly to my eyes, the pass rush was part of the problem. Romo seemed to make a lot of plays late, meaning the initial coverage was solid but couldn't hold up. He scrambled in the pocket a lot. I remember pure disbelief on a couple of plays in that first drive where I couldn't believe he completed the pass.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:00pm

Do not have tim to read tbrofuh all the comments now but might later. Just stopped in to report tremendous win for Raiders. Kept pace with Chief and Brobcos and will be beating those yeams later. Maybe not going to win division title but certainly going to grab wild card spot. Can see Raiders as 5 or 6 seed with Dolphjsn, Ravens, titans in mix. Chiefs will fade. Bengals should win North. browns will be crappy again with Hoyer out but willlll beat some crap teams like Steelers and some others

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:05pm

Terelle Pryor is like the second coming of Tim Tebow!

Except he can throw an NFL pass. So there's that.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:36pm

"Tim Tebow, but with the ability to throw" is actually a pretty decent guy to have!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:45pm

And, blessedly, "Tim Tebow, having no ability to throw" has finally become the guy nobody wants to have.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:48pm

It does nothing to assuage his wounded pride, but when you think about it, Matt Flynn has the greatest job in the world.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:51pm

I hope Flynn is investing his paycheck, though, because I don't think he's getting another one after this season.

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:21pm

I don't know about hat - I'm pretty sure he'll sign on as a backup somewhere.

The NFL League Minimum for a 7th year player is about $850k - I can easily see him remaining in the league at that salary. He'll have earned 6.5M for his one year in Oakland, plus the 4M he got for his year on the bench in Seattle. He earned about 300k/year in four seasons in Green Bay.

If he hangs on as a backup for three more years, he'll have grossed $14.25M in under ten years, collect an NFL pension, and walk away with his health intact.

As far as I'm concerned, that's pretty damned awesome.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:34pm

Multiple reports today saying he's been released by Oakland.

by Ben :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:50pm

I would think Flynn to the Jags would make sense. It can make it look like the front office is trying to improve the team but with little risk of losing the number one overall pick. It may also shut up the Tebow fans as a bonus...

by Independent George :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:53pm

Really? They restructured his contract when they acquired him in order to reduce next year's cap hit; he's guaranteed $6.5M regardless, but they take a smaller hit if they waited until next season.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:36pm

Yeah, I applied for that job but at 48 years old, they just laughed at me. I plan to fudge my resume later today to make myself 22, then don a fake moustache, and see if I can get that job. I'm really good in interviews, work like a mule, and can't throw an NFL pass to save my life. I'd be perfect for it.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:15pm

You know, Tampa's nice this time of year. You could probably beat out Mike Glennon.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:52pm

I dunno, I think I may be an acceptable punter for the Broncos, without changing my bloody mary intake on Sunday mornings.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:04pm

Pryor is like a rich man's Kaepernick.

by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:19pm

That's... a little premature. Remember the Kaepernick that absolutely shredded the Packers? That was less than a month ago. He did alright last year too. And so far this year he's thrown to Anquan Boldin's corpse and a hobbled Vernon Davis.

On the other hand the "new" Pryor has only started 4 games. He's gone against Indy (whose D may actually be good), and three pass defenses ranked 24th, 25th, and 29th. That's pre-shellacking for Denver's D, they'll drop considerably once Romo's game this week is factored in. I'm extremely impressed with Pryor's game thus far but he's got a bit more to prove yet.

by Ben :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:04pm

I'm still trying to decide on what I think about the Colts' defensive coordinator. This is the second time in 3 weeks that a running back has gone crazy in the first half (Frank Gore was 8-70 and Marshawn Lynch was 11-76). So that seems to show some poor preparation. However, it both games in the second half the Colts made adjustments to really tighten up against the run (Gore was 4-12 and Lynch was 6-26, 18 of which came on the first play of the 3rd quarter.) and they have only allowed 7 points total in the fourth quarter through 5 games. That points to solid in game coaching.

I'm still having a hard time seeing this team as a real contender. They just seem too inconsistent at this point. If the defense can start playing the first half like it does the second though, they could be solid come the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see how the defense plays in the Denver game in a couple of weeks. If I had to guess, I think that game is going to be a replay of yesterday's Cowboy-Bronco's game. Though, it would be a bit ironic if Colts manage to use their running game to keep Manning on the sidelines...

by Ryan :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 1:16pm

Adjustments at any point to stop a running game for a consistent stretch represent a major upgrade in Colts defensive coaching. I think Pagano's secondary expertise is starting to shine through. My major frustration during the game was the lack of a consistent contain on Russell Wilson. We'd show it for a while, then go back to a standard 4-man, downfield rush, as if Russell Wilson was Joe Flacco. But now that IND has played through their scrambled-egg section of the schedule (OAK, SF, SEA), I think the pass rush will be more effective. Easier for any team to get to pocket passers.

by Bobman :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:42pm

1) I think the offense's slow starts have put the D on their heels early in games--tired and reeling is no way to play football, but yesterday's triple three-and-outs to start were rough on the D.

2) I wanted to murder Mathis, who somehow got 2 sacks without ever tackling the QB (one FF and one ran him OB), but gave up wide gaping chasms of space for Wilson to run through. Wilson could have driven a combine harvester through some of those holes, Robert! Some might want to celebrate his league leading sack total, but early on, I was blaming him for giving the game away. CONTAIN! Don't run upfield when you know he's got a 50% chance of running and running damn well through the gap you just created. It seemed like either bad coaching, poor film study, or Mathis being more concerned about his personal stats than the best interests of the team. Easy for me to say from my sofa, I suppose....

3) Calming down now....

by theslothook :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:53pm

I feel your anger, but I think it's just hard to prepare against that if you don't have superior athletes like say the 49ers do. I was more up in arms at the damn insistence to run trent richardson on first down time after time. It was felt like a wasted down and it persisted throughout the game. Its become a kind of elephant in the room, but I'll come out and say it, richardson looks below average. He doesn't look fast or particularly elusive. He can break tackles but hes still plodding and the damn insistence of trying to get him going has resulted in too many third and longs for luck to pull out. So far he has, but its too much to ask. They need to either stop playing rich as much or go back to 11 personnel.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:22pm

Every week fans say the same thing. Why can't they contain Wilson? Just CONTAIN him! As a Hawk fan who watches each game and peruses the opposing teams comments section both before, during and after each game I can tell you how it goes:

PreGame: Confidence that their team can contain Wilson (If their team has proven it can contain a mobile QB already) or worry about what Wilson will do to them (if they've proven they can't)

During Game: Frustration and More Frustration that their vaunted front 7 can't contain Wilson (Why can't we do like we did vs Kap/RGIII/Newton?!?!) or finger pointing at their d (these guys suck at contain)

Post game: criticism at their front 7's inability to contain Russell Wilson.

Note that in every scenario, it's always their teams failure to contain, it's never Russell Wilson's exceptional ability to escape containment.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 7:47pm

I know exactly why the Texans spontaneously lost the ability to contain Russell Wilson: Brian Cushing got injured. Before that they could and did.

But yes, he is very, very elusive (and indeed good, full stop).

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 8:33pm

No, Cushing wasn't the reason. It may have seemed like it, but it wasn't. For whatever reason, whether Wilson was under orders not to or whatever, Wilson was passing up easy running situations and holding onto the ball through much of the first half and into the third quarter. Many people observed and commented on the fact he had open running lanes and didn't break a big one. No one knew why. Then, evidently, Lynch told Wilson he needed to start carrying the team and Wilson began running.

by MMacks (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:34pm

I don't think the Pats/Bengals game got enough coverage here. I could use another 49,000 words on it while you pretty much ignore all the other 1pm games. I hate to be a butt about this, but come on show some editorial control.

by Scott Crowder (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 6:24pm

It would be more honest to simply rename the column "The Pats Game".

by RickD :: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 1:32am

Any more whining and Aaron is going to turn the car around.

by COtheLegend :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:49pm

There's a Frank Gore play I would like to point out from last night's game to go with the positive comments from the FO writers.

I believe it was early in the 3rd quarter when San Francisco lined up for a 2nd and 1. They went pure power run, and Frank Gore ran left for a large gain. However, what stuck out to me about that play was how after Gore accelerated through the hole, without looking around him, he just sensed defenders starting to close in on him and instinctivly put both of his arms around the ball to protect it while contining to run down the field. Not only did he protect the ball, but he made himself a little more difficult to tackle and got himself a few more yards. I found that little move to be a smart, instinctivly play that should be shown to youthful ball carriers everywhere. Especially in the way the game is played today, where a shootout can be decided by one or two turnovers.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 2:59pm

It probably has a bit to do with Gore fumbling on a similar play against the Rams last week.

by iron_greg :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:09pm

It used to be you could at least count on a half-assed write up of each game and then more expounding on the authors' favorites.

Now its just like the most apathetic tweet or two from some Twitter rando reader for most of the games and then 4 pages of wall of text on the authors' teams.

You guys complain about the readers complaining about it, and you try to act like its ok because you state your disclaimer, but increasingly the segment simply has no meaning for most until the playoffs start. If I want fan recaps of each game I can go to the team official websites. I come to FO for something better than that.

Unfortunately, I think the only thing FO produces of any value is the DVOA rankings which are still interesting. Although, how long before that is hidden in an ESPN Insider paywall too?

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:41pm

Beyond a different Audibles format, is there something else specific you'd like to see on the site?

by iron_greg :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 4:52pm

I would like to see more behind the scenes looks on the games from the analysts.

I get it they are small and busy analyzing games to create the DVOA numbers. I get it, and we like the DVOA ranks. But more context on those numbers would interest me.

But invariably even the DVOA rankings writeup is all about "hey look how awesome at life Denver is, look how bad JAX is". We get it with them. Its historic. No one has any shot of beating Denver this year (just like no one had any shot of beating Denver or New England in the playoffs last year remember?).

I respect the minds of the FO staff alot - I come here because they look at football in a way that is far more compelling and is more truthful than that of the typical ex-player broadcaster who trot out tired narratives. But if its always going to be 5000 words on a 13-6 game just because it features their teams while every other game gets 1x rando tweet from rando person, then really, what's the point? I don't need *my* team to be featured or anything, just an inclination that its not just a series of fan recaps of the authors' 8-9 teams.

Sorry to sound so negative but instead of complaining about *us readers* complaining, maybe consider why the readers care enough to bother complaining.

by Spoon :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:19pm


by dcaslin :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 5:37pm

That's well put. And I think it's worth stating the obvious about free content as well.

Audibles is free, presumably the folks at FO make money off page hits on it, but nobody is paying personally to see it. So the math should be reasonably simple on Audibles format:

Cost: Time, irritation and difficulty to put Audibles together

Benefit: Page hits, possible good will and advertising that can be leveraged into paid purchases of other services

Personally, I really miss the old Audible format, and Audibles will now be on my second tier places to visit on Monday's if it doesn't change. I'm not going to cry about it, as again, it was free.

by DA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/07/2013 - 3:41pm

-The AFC vs NFC record is pretty misleading to look at this early in the year. A decent % of it is due to the AFC West playing most their games vs the NFC East to being the year. DEN + KC already account for 6 of the AFC Wins, adding IND brings that # to 8. By contrast, the Raiders, Jets, and Jags have only combined so far for 4 games vs the NFC.

-Pretty surprising that a game of #9 DVOA vs #13 DVOA (GB vs DET), that was close for a large part of the game does not have any comments