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20 Jan 2014

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

compiled by Rivers McCown, Andrew Potter, and Ben Jones

For this year's playoffs, we have a modified format for our Audibles at the Line feature, combining our Twitter feeds with our e-mail discussion. Firstly, the arrival of the playoffs brings with it the return of our usual back-and-forth staff e-mail conversation. Secondly, every game 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.

After the last game finishes, 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 the comments in this feature are 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 England Patriots 16 at Denver Broncos 26


Aaron Schatz: I swear, man, Jamie Collins is going to be what Belichick thought he was getting in Adalius Thomas.
Tom Gower: Three guys on Chandler Jones on that deep pass. Not a bad idea.
Aaron Schatz: If you read game previews that told you to expect a lot of man coverage, guess what, they were right!
Aaron Schatz: Score so far: Broncos 3, Patriots 0, and punts bouncing in the Patriots' favor 100.
@WhispersMoCo:: If Arrington had looked, that pass was there for him to pick. No-look CB play annoys me.
Scott Kacsmar: Ugh, empty backfield on 3rd-and-1 is the worst. Broncos bailed out by penalty.
@MilkmanDanimal: Peyton yelled "Montana" and then "Omaha"; I think he's just reciting song titles from a Bon Iver album at this point.
Aaron Schatz: Pats want to drop lots of guys into coverage but this DL (esp the DTs) just isn't good enough to win with just front four.
Aaron Schatz: Really feels like the Pats are lucky to have this only at 13-3 at this point. Getting outplayed almost everywhere.
@csoandy: What did Manning learn from Caldwell in Indy? How to do clock management in spite of his coach. Seeing that today.
Aaron Schatz: Uh, Phil, part of the reason there's no pressure on Brady is that the Broncos are rushing three with seven DBs.
@MilkmanDanimal: Skip Bayless shakes in a corner; "He was supposed to choke! Why didn't he choke? What am I supposed to talk about this week?" *sobs*
@Raiderjoe_FO: Mannijg clearly better postseaodn player now over Tom Bardy. Manning was already better before today. Today cements it for thd dolts


Vince Verhei: We're within ten minutes of kickoff for the AFC Championship game. After one of the longest weeks of my life, my state of mind is somewhere between AHH!!! and AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots came out in an old-school, under-center pro set with split backs. What year is it? I swear, that's the first time I've seen that all year from them. You almost never see that formation in the NFL these days.

I'm not a big fan of making Austin Collie and Matthew Slater the targets on the Patriots' first two third-down pass plays.

Tom Gower: Yeah, interesting calls, especially given that it was a quick slant against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Collie and a deep pass to Slater. The ESPN piece I did had me convinced the Broncos were vulnerable short middle. So far, it looks like the Broncos are compensating by overloading that area of the field on third downs, which should create space elsewhere (both throws appeared toj be 1v1 matchups).

Aaron Schatz: Courtesy of Michael David Smith, here's a photo of the amazing blocking by Denver on the Knowshon Moreno run that converted third-and-10 and put the Broncos in position for a touchdown. Talk about your Merrill Hoge "canalleys."

Ben Muth: Aaron brought this up on Twitter, but Phil Simms saying Danny Trevathan was the best linebacker in football for a five to six game stretch is one of the nuttier things I've heard an announcer say. I mean which five-to-six games was he talking about? I'm a big Trevathan fan, and I understand when you're on the air for four hours you have to say something to fill the time, but this was absurd.

Tom Gower: I'm just happy an outside linebacker who isn't a pass rusher got some positive coverage. Yeah, I know, Lavonte David got some credit, but remember this is Phil Simms, who earlier in the game praised how well Tom Brady threw an inaccurate deep ball.

Rivers McCown: Andrew Luck couldn't have thrown that deep ball.

Scott Kacsmar: Very curious timeout by John Fox, but I agree with the field goal there. If they were closer to the end zone, then maybe go for it, but that's too far and not enough time left to gamble away three easy points with the Patriots kicking off in the third quarter.

Denver has to be pretty satisfied with both sides of the ball here. Blount's been shut down and Brady's missed a few plays. The Broncos are moving the ball fairly easily, scoring 13 points on four drives despite the bad field position. The sack of Brady on third down and second-and-20 conversion to Demaryius Thomas were the biggest plays in my book. I'd expect New England to abandon the run eventually, but this first defensive series is absolutely critical for what kind of second half we're going to get.

Aaron Schatz: 13-3 Denver at halftime, and it feels like the gap should be greater. The Broncos are really outplaying the Patriots today; the Patriots have done a good job of tightening on defense in the red zone and they've gotten great field position off some really friendly bounces on punts. Brady's not showing accuracy on the longer passes today, he's missed almost all of them. That doesn't really mean Manning looks that much better -- Manning just hasn't thrown many deep passes today, and the ones he has thrown he was accurate on, like the one to Demaryius Thomas for 29 yards that converted third-and-10 in the first quarter, or the one that converted second-and-20.

And yeah, the Patriots running game is completely not there today.

Vince Verhei: Ryan Allen having an All-Star game for New England today. Sure, part of that is due to lucky bounces, but if his first two punts were just average, Denver might have another three or seven points.

Anyone else playing well for the Patriots? Chandler Jones got a pass rush in the end zone to force a field goal. Jamie Collins has made some plays in coverage and rushing the passer. And they're making just enough plays to limit Denver to one touchdown in four drives. But overall, that was an awfully ugly half for the guys in the silver helmets.

I've watched the Welker hit on Talib repeatedly (GIF here) and despite all the online hand-wringing, I don't see how that's a penalty. Talib has no chance to make a play, so it's not pass interference. And it looks like the ball hits Thomas at the same time Welker hits Talib, which would have made it a clean block if Thomas had caught the ball.

Also, this is the most attention I've paid to Manning this year, and he's a case study on how arm strength is overrated, no matter what Phil Simms says. He has thrown some floaters today, but for the most part they've been on target and come down in spots where only his receivers can get them.

Tom Gower: Madden nominees, before the crucial fourth down with 2:30 to play in the third quarter: Terrance Knighton, who's been a big part of why the Patriots have been mostly ineffective in running the ball, not that I have any idea why they tried the LeGarrette Blount gameplan early when it was obvious to me it wouldn't work. Also Louis Vasquez, who's had a good season in general and has played a role in opening up room for Knowshon Moreno.

Aaron Schatz: Pot Roast destroyed Logan Mankins on the fourth-and-2. Huge game for the Roast.

Rivers McCown: Gotta give Denver's defensive line credit. The two biggest plays of their day, in their own territory, they beat the Pats offensive line one-on-one to get game-changing sacks.

Aaron Schatz: Their pass rush has done a great job of keeping things going without Von Miller.

Tom Gower: Yeah, I was really surprised when I ran those numbers this week, that they had been so successful without him. Malik Jackson was making a big splash early, but it's been more Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers, I think, plus Terrance Knighton and his great game today.

I feel like I should say something more about Denver's offensive performance, but this feels like the same sort of Denver performance we've seen all season. Julius Thomas is a matchup issue, what with the big pass play against Jamie Collins. They've run the ball well, as is the wont of Peyton Manning teams against two-high looks. Demaryius Thomas has eaten the coverage alive since Talib went out and has been making contested catches. They "only" have 26 points because, assuming I can count, they've had the ball six times (on their seventh right now, after recovering New England's failed onside kick).

Right, I can't count. Eight total possessions: one punt to open the game, two touchdowns and four field goals, then the end of the game. Puts a lot of pressure on an offense, and New England's pass game wasn't up to its usual level this year. Now all we need is the best team in the NFC (Seattle) to win as well.

Aaron Schatz: Another Pot Roast play on that two-point conversion. Shaun Phillips got over to get the main tackle but Knighton beat Connolly to get the assist. What a game for the roast. Not like you can really criticize Jacksonville for not bringing him back. The guy always had weight problems and wasn't always the most dedicated guy off the field, and Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks were among the few good Jags this year.

Eulogy from a Patriots fan: Hell of a year, hell of a year. I remember before the season having to defend our projection that the Pats would still be among the best teams in the league despite all the receiver turnover. Then they lost Wilfork, and then Mayo, and Tommy Kelly, and Vollmer, and Gronkowski, and Amendola's groin has been bothering him all year (that's gotta hurt), and on and on. The fact that this team finished 12-4 and made it to the AFC Championship game was a remarkable achievement. I believe I'm quoting a Sir Charles Barkley here when I say that as a fan, all you can ask for is for your team to be in the mix for the title every year. They aren't going to win it every year. The fact that the Pats have won double-digit games for 11 straight seasons is a pretty nice little streak.

That said, the team was completely outplayed by Denver today in pretty much every way except punting. Sort of anticlimactic. The Broncos didn't overcome quite as many major injuries as the Patriots, but they overcame a lot of them, so again, heck of a year for them. Manning is hugely important, of course, but John Elway has made a lot of other great moves over the last few years, like signing Vazquez, and getting Phillips to cover for the Elvis Dumervil debacle, and some good draft picks too. (Derek Wolfe is someone I like a lot, although hasn't played the last few weeks.)

San Francisco 49ers 17 at Seattle Seahawks 23


@EmperorJan: Someone needs to tell Kaepernick and Wilson first one to yell Omaha! wins.
Tom Gower: NaVorro Bowman & Bobby Wagner basically having a linebacking-off early on this game.
@dbt: Touchdown replay timeout touchdown injury timeout ... PAT timeout kickoff timeout. NFL fever!
Aaron Schatz: Dear Russell Wilson, stop going backwards all the time. Who do you think you are, Aaron Brooks?
Aaron Schatz: I knew the Seattle OL was bad but they are getting CRUSHED. And that includes Okung. Egads.
@MilkmanDanimal: I suspect Seattle's halftime is going to feature Russell Wilson just smacking his offensive linemen across the face for 15 minutes.
Aaron Schatz: Well, Seattle has figured out how to run block at halftime. Now they just need to figure out how to pass block.
@blotzphoto: Marshawn Lynch may be the most surprising HOF running back ever. He's going to Canton if he does this a couple more years.
Aaron Schatz: Score another one for Bill Belichick's idea that everything should be reviewable.
Aaron Schatz: I don't blame the refs for the mistake on the Kearse fumble. Human eyes, action too fast. I blame limits on challenges.
Aaron Schatz: Earlier, I reminded Russell Wilson not to go backwards. Golden Tate did not apparently see that tweet.
Aaron Schatz: SEA needs to consider just having 6 OL on every play at this point to try to protect Wilson. This is ridiculous.
Tom Gower: San Francisco starting off that drive like they were trying to burn 7 minutes off the clock like ATL in last year's NFCCG
@Mercurius100: Tip to your teammate INT to win the game is the most Seattle way possible to win a NFC Championship.
Aaron Schatz: So, SEA-DEN are first teams to finish 1-2 in DVOA 2 straight years, and first 1-2 in DVOA to meet in SB since TB-OAK 2002.


Aaron Schatz: Apparently, like the crew that did last week's San Francisco game, Gene Steratore's crew this week hasn't read the research about penalties going down in the playoffs. A lot of flags early.

So, does anyone have a theory on what's wrong with the Seattle passing game the last couple weeks?

Tom Gower: I mentioned this on Twitter, but for whatever reason, I don't think Russell Wilson is seeing the field cleanly. He's scrambled for yards rather than throwing to open receivers, including last week. I thought the defenseless receiver call on Whitner, he had Luke Willson open in front of the safeties and didn't get the throw off. He just seems to be operating a bit slow-not a lot, but that's enough to turn open into covered in the NFL.

Aaron Schatz: When Kaepernick had his big 58-yard run, I saw somebody make a joke on Twitter about how the Packers are sitting at home nodding... but they aren't. Kaepernick beat them with the zone read last year. Today, his rushing yards seem to primarily be on scrambles. The Seahawks have tried to spy him sometimes, but when they don't, he's killing them.

Rivers McCown: Put me down for "lack of receiving options" on Seattle's passing problems. Doug Baldwin is nice and all, but he's not ready to carry an offense on his own. I don't think they have a player that they can reliably go to and expect to beat his man.

I'd like to say more about this game but this is kinda what I expected. Well, I didn't expect Kaepernick to do all the rushing. But I expected stifling defense buttressing a few big plays on each side.

Scott Kacsmar: In last year's playoffs Kaepernick had nearly half of his yards on scrambles against Green Bay and the other half on zone-read keepers. He really did whatever he wanted to Green Bay. Should the 49ers advance, I'm sure I'll be looking into how he's carried the ball this season. He's the most impressive running quarterback to me just in terms of pure running ability. So fast and smart not to take big hits. I'm not sure anyone other than Michael Vick (in his prime) makes the 58-yard run Kaepernick had today.

Aaron Schatz: The thing about the lack of receiving options is that these are the same receivers they've had all year, except for Sidney Rice -- and the offense continued to play well for a few weeks after Rice went out. So, what has changed? One possibility is that these receivers aren't good enough to win on their own if the opposing defense isn't selling out to stop the run -- and the 49ers are stopping the run well enough that they don't have to sell out to stop it. Maybe?

Tom Gower: I concur with Aaron, this is mostly the same receiving group Wilson had success with, plus as I said, I'm seeing open receivers. I don't know if teams are just defending the Seahawks differently, and he's not as good at reading this type of coverage, or if he's just not seeing things clearly for some annoying reason I can't explain but maybe could if I spent 30 hours watching the Seahawks offense.

Vince Verhei: Nightmare first half. Wilson hesitant, with dumb scrambles and a sloppy turnover. Receivers turning into the walking dead. Offensive line (and fullback) getting outmuscled. Kaepernick somehow making plays against zone defenses that should be able to contain him. It's a seven-point deficit that feels like 70.

Wilson has looked indecisive and confused in the early and late parts of the year. He was better in October and November (he says without checking numbers). But it hasn't been very pretty of late.

Aaron Schatz: Russell Wilson pass DVOA split into four-game chunks, regular season only.

Weeks 1-4: 7.8%
Weeks 5-8: 4.6%
Weeks 9-13: 60.3%
Weeks 14-17: -4.0%

I realize he gets rid of the ball very quickly but I'm trying to imagine how Peyton Manning is going to stay upright against these two ferocious pass rushes. Almost every play today has been made by Wilson or Kaepernick scrambling.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm sure Manning will study a lot of what the Saints did against them. Might be the most similar offense Seattle or San Francisco has played.

Rivers McCown: Sorry, didn't mean to present that theory so authoritatively. I have eyes. I can see that Wilson is feeling pressure before it arrives. But I do think the lack of a true no. 1 receiver is a reason their offense has room for improvement.

Tom Gower: Denver has more and better receivers than either team, and Peyton's better in terms of movement within the pocket and recognizing pre-snap and after the snap where to go with the football than Kaepernick or Wilson. Yeah, it'll be an issue, but I'm not that worried. Plus, it's not like it'll be a road game, so crowd noise should not be a factor. Weather? Yeah, that could be an issue.

When San Francisco gets big plays from Colin Kaepernick, they score. The touchdown to make it 17-10? A freakin' laser beam from an awkward throwing platform. Scoring off consistent execution? Eh.

Aaron Schatz: Seattle got something even better than fumble luck with 8:45 left: unreviewable rule luck. Jermaine Kearse fumbled at the goal line and NaVorro Bowman recovered it, but apparently because they already called it a fumble, they can't review who recovered it, and they had announced the Seahawks recovered. I guess if they had not called it a fumble, they could review it to decide it was a fumble, and then give the ball to San Francisco properly? Score another one for the idea of making everything reviewable.

Of course, this whole sequence of events was soured by the fact that Bowman suffered a severe injury on the play.

Scott Kacsmar: At least this happened in a high-profile game, so good chance they'll be able to fix that in review for next season. Should be San Francisco's ball and justice is served anyway after Lynch fumbled the handoff. I liked the call to go for it, because the six-point lead just inches you closer to a heartbreaking one-point loss.

Tom Gower: Concur with the decision to go for it, and that it feels like that situation should be an exception to the NFL's generally wise policy not to mess around with recovering fumbles in piles.

I don't know what Colin Kaepernick saw on the subsequent interception. I'm not sure he knows what he did either. I'm just happy we got the atrocious pick in this game instead of The All Hail Quarterback Wins early game.

Scott Kacsmar: Shouldn't be hard to write language into the rule book for "a team can review a fumble recovery as to whether or not a player has clear possession and is down by contact."

Kaepernick has made some really boneheaded plays in the last few minutes, but the same can be said for a lot of these players. Golden Tate nearly gave up a first down. 49ers very fortunate they will have a chance to go on a game-winning touchdown drive here.

Tom Gower: It felt to me like Seattle had the better of the second half-not as much as San Francisco did last week against Carolina, but enough. Michael Bennett's strip-sack and Kaepernick's ghastly interception were part of that, of course, but the offense looked more functional at times. Lynch was fantastic, of course, with all the yards after contact, and Wilson made a great throw on fourth down for the go-ahead score, matching Kaepernick's laser earlier in the second half.

Madden nominees: Bowman, Wagner, Lynch?

Also, how fitting was it that a team that regularly struggled with offensive communication ran a terribly herky-jerky time-waster of a final drive and about the best cornerback in the game made the final defensive stop in one-on-one coverage?

Aaron Schatz: The Seattle defense and Marshawn Lynch took over and won this game in the second half. It's a great defense. They weren't letting Gore have anything in the run game, and while they were allowing some passes, they also made some plays -- the interception to end the game being the most important. Wilson made a couple of really good throws but he really did not seem consistently good, in large part because he spent the whole game running for his freaking life. I looked at the gamebook and Wilson completed 16 of 25 passes and honestly, I can't believe it was that many. Shaun Phillips and Pot Roast must be salivating at the thought of facing this line, and Seattle gets a real break not having to deal with Von Miller.

I'm hoping we can do a Madden Pot Roast.

Tom Gower: Early Super Bowl thought: great matchups on both sides of the ball, with (a) Seattle's pass rush and cover guys against a good and deep collection of targets and one of the best mental quarterbacks of all time and (b) Marshawn Lynch against a Denver defense that's been pretty stout against the run, especially in the postseason (unless New England's drive against that 3-2-6 or whatever prevent jacks up their DVOA).

Cian Fahey: Two weeks of analysis in store, but right now, it's clear that the Seahawks need Russell Wilson to play better to win. He couldn't be further from the transcendent player he was early in the season.

Vince Verhei: My thoughts at 7:14 p.m. Pacific time: ghhq3 h54qh4h4q ht4h464

Scott Kacsmar: Three turnovers by Kaepernick in the fourth quarter, all in a one-score game. That's always too much to overcome, but I thought the last drive was set up pretty well for a late win. We know he loves Crabtree and the throw was just not on target in the end zone (again). Tip and ball game. I look forward to how this rivalry plays out for years to come. So far the home team is 5-0 since 2012.

Early Super Bowl thoughts: Denver probably needs less points to win against Seattle, but points will be tougher to come by. So happy we get to see a legit No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense Super Bowl. Unfortunately the daily check of the weather prediction is a story for the next two weeks. Obviously Denver does need better conditions to run its style of offense compared to Seattle. Also have to check that status of Knowshon Moreno.

But can't wait for this one.

Vince Verhei: OK. I'm calming down a bit now.

So let's talk Wilson. Agreed with Aaron: His numbers look better than it seemed like he played. He apparently had eight first downs passing. I remember two (the big play in the first half and the fourth-down touchdown). Officially he had two fumbles. Felt like he had about five. I made a comment on Twitter that I wrote poorly, because it's Twitter, but this is what I was trying to say: At times it looked like he was making a deliberate attempt to have the worst performance ever by a quarterback to win a championship game and get into the Super Bowl. He's also never, ever keeping the ball on the read option anymore. Don't know if he's hurt more than anyone is letting on. Don't know if they've told him not to run. Maybe the zone read stuff helped him get into a rhythm, and without it he's still a second-year developing quarterback.

And then there's this: In four career playoff games, Wilson has trailed at halftime three times, and led a comeback to take the lead every time.

As for the 49ers, in some ways that was the best their offense has played all year. Zero wasted timeouts, one delay of game, one false start (and that was on a fourth down where they were just trying to get Seattle to jump), all on the road, all against the best defense in the world. Colin Kaepernick is a physical freak beyond compare. I felt, at times, like Jaworski knew what he was talking about with this kid. Obviously, he made some late mistakes. But man oh man is that guy scary.

Rob Weintraub: Oy, now two full weeks of Richard Sherman ...

As someone who has railed against the 45-44-ization of football for a while, I dug the intensity and defensive dominance on display in Seattle. It was old school football--right down to the personal fouls and apparent season ending injuries to Iupati and Bowman (and it would be tough for the Niners to play the Super Bowl without them, but I'm sure they'd like the opportunity). The Iupati injury in particular ended any chance the Niners had of maintaining a ground game, and without that they are completely reliant on Kaepernick runs.

As for Wilson, we all seem to have forgotten he is unusually short for a quarterback, and that's why he struggles when he is unable to dance his way into clean sight lines. That's why the Hawks seem to run only slants and nine routes--he is comfortable with them and can see them develop. Both defenses were crafted to stop the opposing quarterback in this game--small wonder they both struggled. But they also both made huge plays, so give them credit while picking them apart -- both were under considerable duress throughout.

I thought the "12th Man" and loud field aspect was totally overrated. Had Sherman not made a tremendous play, the Niners would have gone down the field into the teeth of these so-called ultrafans and won the NFC title. Yes, the stadium is acoustically contoured to maximize sound, but let's not grant Seattle some sort of holy status. When Seattle had an average team, there was nothing especially intimidating about the stadium. Now that they have the best defense in the league, it's a hard place to win.

Both the Pats and Niners have been to 3 straight conference title games--and both are now 1-2 in them, and both lost the Super Bowl. Not sure what that means, though as a devout hater of both teams, it's all I have to hang on to.

Danny Tuccitto: Richard Sherman. Great play. Odd time to throw his way. Never should have come down to that. Speaking in short sentences.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 20 Jan 2014

260 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2014, 6:38pm by louis vuitton neverfull pris


by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:05am

Rough as Wilson's night was, it was nowhere near the worst performance of a quarterback who won a championship game to go on to the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger was horrid in the 2010/2011 AFC championship game against the Jets, going 10 of 19 with two interceptions for 133 yards. He did have two big runs, but in the end only averaged 1.9 yards a carry.

by lefty :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:34am

But does it really count when your opponent is Mark Sanchez?

by Travis :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:38am

Or David Woodley against the Jets in 1982, 9 of 21, 87 yards, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble. Still much better than Richard Todd.

by Anonymess (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:57am

I had forgotten how badly the NFL needed the QB class of '83.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:56pm

Todd took a separate plane from the rest of the team after that game. I might add Woodley and Todd had to deal with a complete mess of a field, which was Shula's fault. The Dolphins did not utilize the drainage system during the week before the game, assuming that muddy conditions would hurt the Jets much more than them, and they were right.

That game was a complete organizational disaster for the Jets; Todd never recovered, and their coach Walt Michaels "resigned" due to a drunken tirade on the plane back. A team that had the talent to contend was set back for two years until O'Brien was ready. Even if they had drafted Marino, the defense didn't recover until 1985 when Bud Carson was brought in.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:22am

To be fair, Roethlisberger had a rushing touchdown and Mendenhall gifted the Jets one of those interceptions with a tip. Ben also iced the game with a big third-down conversion pass, which I don't think people give enough respect to. He didn't give his defense a chance to complete blowing a huge lead to Mark Sanchez.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:02pm

I felt that too much respect was given to Big Ben the week before the Super Bowl, as if he had led the Steelers to the game. That one play was huge, but for most of the game Ben did not play that well; in the first half, the running game led the Steelers. When the running game failed in the second half (i.e., the Jets defense woke up), the Steelers either went three and out, or gave up a safety, until that final drive. The Steelers defense was blowing a lead because they were gassed. By the way, the Mendenhall tip was on a fourth down, and he wouldn't have made the first down anyway, so it wasn't a big loss for the Steelers on that play.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 5:00am

If I'm remembering the right game didn't Roethlisberger have a decent if unspectacular first half where the Steelers running game was effective and defense dominant? If so then the entire second half of that game was garbage time where the employed strategy was more about running the clock off than scoring.

I remember on that interception and announcer saying something about not being able to afford an interception in that scenario I was thinking that just about the least damaging scenario possible.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 8:12am

Yeah, my recollections of that game are:

-Being about as relaxed as I could be watching the second half of a championship game.

-Knowing that once the Steelers held on the fourth-and-goal, the Jets wouldn't have enough time to score twice, even if Pittsburgh took a safety (which they did).

-Experiencing less excitement around us on the way out of Heinz Field than we did in Cleveland a couple months earlier when the Browns beat the Patriots.

by Led :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 11:05am

I don't think you're remembering the game quite correctly. It was a tale of two halves. The first half was as you described. The Jets were stifled on offense, got run over on defense, and gave away 7 points on a strip sack returned for a TD with less than 2 minutes in the half. But then the Jets scored on the first drive of the 2nd half to make it 24-10. From that time on, the Steelers called 9 drop backs and 10 runs plus 2 fumbled snaps (both recovered by Pitt) so you can't tell whether it was run or pass. Some of the drop backs turned into Big Ben scrambles, but they were intended to be passes. So it wasn't that the Steelers just tried to run out the clock -- the Jets' defense finally showed up and shut them down until the very last drive when Ben made two plays to get first downs and run out the clock. If the Steelers didn't recover 4 out of 5 fumbles (including all 3 of their own and the big fumble return for a TD), the outcome probably would have been different.

by duh :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:39am

As a lifelong Pats fan (and lifelong means attending Patriots games at both BC and Harvard Stadium) I can't possibly disagree with Aaron more. They had a chance to go to go to the stupid bowl, and in their biggest game of the year they laid an egg the size of a fart in church. They didn't play well on offense, they didn't play well on defense, and they didn't coach well.

Congrats to the Broncos who whipped the Patriots in every phase of the game ... well except punting mostly because the Broncos never needed to punt beyond the 1st drive.

Best of luck to all the Broncos fans may your team do what mine couldn't.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:30pm

They seemed to have no confidence right from the start. Why are they trying a face to Matthew Slater of all people on 3rd down? They hadn't thrown a pass his way all season long. It's the kind of thing that reeks of "trick play", and trick plays are trotted out when you think your normal offense won't work. And given the state of the Denver secondary, this baffles me.

And then, after Talib went out, apparently the coaching simply tried to use the same schemes, even though they'd lost their #1 corner back. They never made any kind of adjustment to account for the fact that neither Dennard nor Ryan can cover as well as Talib.

by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 4:12am

I agree with you, and so do most Pats fans. Injuries are naturally a problem, but the Patriots just seemed unprepared for this game. It is also not to Belichick's credit as a GM or a coach that the Patriots have been unable to find and develop all-pro talent on defense for years. Wilfork is the only real defensive star on the Pats, we've never replaced people like Seymour or Harrison In retrospect maybe Pete Carrol should get more credit for that Pats 2001 defense (Law, Milloy, Bruschi, Jones, even McGinest to some extent, all developed under him) than we realized.

by jmei (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 8:07pm

Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty are All-Pro-level defensive players, as is Aqib Talib on good days. All-Pro-level talent is not exactly easy to acquire, especially when you routinely draft in the high 20s.

by jacobk :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:39am

It's kind of amazing to watch the narrative being rewritten on the fly. I was given to understand going into this game that the Niners defense was perhaps the number two unit in the NFL, with past injuries and suspensions artificially dampening the numbers of a now-healthy D. Are we now declaring that their defense was actually terrible and overrated by DVOA?

Because in the game I just watched Russel Wilson put up a 16 for 25 night with 8.6 yards per attempt and a quarterback rating of 104.6. I don't see how he's in the same neighborhood as the worst performance by a winning quarterback in a championship game unless he was going up against a total creampuff.

For the last three weeks I've been seeing the refrain of "the Seahawks can get by with sloppy play like that against [team they just beat], but they won't get away with it against [upcoming opponent]." I guess it was naive to think that it would stop just because they beat the consensus pre-game pick as the "best team in the playoffs."

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:14am

QB Rating doesn't take into account bad sacks, fumbles, or intentional grounding. I wouldn't call it a horrible game by Wilson. I thought it was about average for a QB. The SF defense also deserves a lot of credit for a great game. Had Wilson been playing a lesser defense, I'm certain his play would have looked better.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:00pm

He had four sacks and one intentional grounding call. The first sack was bad, but I don't know about the others. I recall a lot of very early pressure. I guess you could put that on Wilson for not making the line calls, but that's being pretty nitpicky.

Wilson did make some bad decisions during the game. He's not Peyton Manning, the Mobile Organism Designed Only for Completions. But for a merely human quarterback against a very good defense, he had a solid game.

Since Seattle's bye week, they have faced the following rank of defenses measured by DVOA: 10, 13, 6, 2, 12, 10, 13. Thirteen being the 49ers, who by reputation are much better than their number.

Over the same time period Denver has faced: 9, 19, 32, 18, 26, 32, and 21.

Manning is obviously better than Wilson, but the gap isn't quite as gigantic as raw numbers from the last seven games might lead one to believe, IMO.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:00pm

He had four sacks and one intentional grounding call. The first sack was bad, but I don't know about the others. I recall a lot of very early pressure. I guess you could put that on Wilson for not making the line calls, but that's being pretty nitpicky.

Wilson did make some bad decisions during the game. He's not Peyton Manning, the Mobile Organism Designed Only for Completions. But for a merely human quarterback against a very good defense, he had a solid game.

Since Seattle's bye week, they have faced the following rank of defenses measured by DVOA: 10, 13, 6, 2, 12, 10, 13. Thirteen being the 49ers, who by reputation are much better than their number.

Over the same time period Denver has faced: 9, 19, 32, 18, 26, 32, and 21.

Manning is obviously better than Wilson, but the gap isn't quite as gigantic as raw numbers from the last seven games might lead one to believe, IMO.

by jacobk :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:02pm

Sorry about the double post and the nick swap, I switched over to an (inferior) computer and didn't realize I wasn't logged in.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:29am

I was surprised, too. The SF defense made Russell's life hell. And, as well as Lynch played, he was getting two or three yards per carry (his final stats are inflated by his TD run).

The man with no sig

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:37am

One of the reasons I think Seattle will win in two weeks is that I don't think Denver's defense will be as good, compared to the Niners, at reducing Wilson's ability to make big completions after extending plays.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:49am

That's possible, but I tend to think Denver actually has a better coverage secondary than SF has. The line and LBs aren't as good, but they cover in man pretty well. They certainly bottled up SD and NE for three quarters, and I've been lead to believe that Rivers and Brady are pretty good. Seattle certainly doesn't have anyone of Keenan Allen's quality, unless Harvin gets on the juvenation machine.

Frankly, I think Seattle-Denver is a fascinating game. Seattle's defense is good at stopping what Denver's good at, but Seattle's offense isn't constructed to exploit Denver's weaknesses (vulnerability to TEs, lack of DB depth). Seattle runs well, but so did SD and NE. Denver can stop the run. They hemorrhages when they sat back and good QBs kept hitting Hole-in-Zone. If Harvin plays, I like Seattle. If he doesn't, I like Denver.

Basically, I think Seattle can cover the run without giving up the seams and can cover the pass without giving the run free reign, Sherman can wash out D. Thomas, press-man and holding will give Decker kittens, and Chancellor can cover J. Thomas -- but who covers Welker? I can see him having one of those old 10-120-2 games and just killing Seattle via a thousand paper cuts.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:10pm

If a guy can run around long enough, however, somebody is likely to get open. Denver's secondary is one more injury away from disaster. I want a good game, so I hope Bailey stays healthy for 4 more quarters.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:38pm

Everyone's secondary is one more injury away from disaster.

We're two injuries away from a Tarvaris Jackson vs Brock Osweiler Super Bowl. Denver would be better served by activating Elway.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:48pm

If Elway "lost" another Super Bowl, would the narrative on him switch back? Or would he get the guy in his fifties adjustment?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:22pm

Probably. He'd just be like a kid out there.

by formido :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:25pm

Carroll already said Harvin is practicing this week. He's playing.

Seattle's slot corner Thurmond is elite in coverage and will cover Welker. He has the 13th best defensive passer rating against in the NFL according to PFF.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:41pm

Wilson has no middle ground against the blitz. He either takes a deep sack, throws a questionable pass that could be grounding (or worse), or he scrabbles and makes a huge play like the bomb to Baldwin. Total Feast or famine

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:15pm

Well, ideally, he'd do none of these things, and instead do what he did against the 49ers in the first game this year, which was to stay in the pocket and immediately throw to his hot route, which resulted in an easy touchdown. They never blitzed him again that night. The pocket bomb to Baldwin against the Saints is another example.

by Andrew Kelly (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:43am

Hey Rob,
Come out to Seattle some time and take in the experience of the 12th man. We're not overrated. The Niners didn't win the game and they couldn't overcome the defense or the crowd. Kaepernick is 0-3, with a 52.3%/5.9ypa/2 tds/6 ints line in Seattle. He's 21-5 with a line of 60.3%/8.1ypa/36 tds/10 ints in all other venues. We own him, don't try to tell us we don't.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:30am

I love douchebag fans almost as much as I love Richard Sherman.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:09pm

I expect we'll see a lot of them.

by jds :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:32pm

Mike, not going to see a lot of them. Will only see a few. Most are too fearful of the FOMBC.

by Andrew Kelly (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:25pm

So I'm a douchebag fan for bringing relevant statistics to the table? I'd expect a little better comments on FO.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:28pm

That isn't why you were called a douchebag. Think harder.

by jjh (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:24pm

Relax with the Dbag comment - or take that crap with you to the SB Nation forums.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:31pm

I wasn't the one who introduced the term. The person I responded to put forth an inaccurate implication as to why the term was employed. I was merely suggesting that some thought may produce a different conclusion.

by Andrew Kelly (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:12pm

Next time I'll remember to lend more credibility to uninformed opinions, that can't be backed up by any statistics whatsoever. How that validates name calling escapes me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:33pm

Again, you would be well advised to think harder.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:14pm

I apologize for using a derogatory term. I should have let the post speak for itself.

by JIPanick :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:34pm

"uninformed opinions, that can't be backed up by any statistics whatsoever."

Like the notion that crowd noise has any impact on homefield advantage?

by EricL :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:40pm

Like the notion that crowd noise has any impact on homefield advantage?

There is data to support this, but it has some circumstantial aspects to it.

First, Seattle has the biggest difference in net points per game at home and on the road of any team since the stadium opened.

Second, visiting teams have committed more false start penalties in that stadium than any other stadium over the same time frame. (This might also be true for delay of game, but I'm not sure.)

Now, you can't conclusively tie either of those things to crowd noise. However, when you try to determine why those two things are true, that's the one major feature of the stadium that stands out. The other is travel, as (I think) Seattle is the NFL city furthest removed from any other.

So, no, you can't conclusively say crowd noise has a measurable impact on homefield advantage. But it certainly looks like it might.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:46pm

"Second, visiting teams have committed more false start penalties in that stadium than any other stadium over the same time frame. (This might also be true for delay of game, but I'm not sure.)"

I would like to see this fleshed out more. How much are they ahead of the next team, and next 5 teams? Are the other top teams in this stat particularly known for being loud? Are the teams' division opponents known to have a lot of these penalties in their other road trips (for instance, San Francisco is currently known for committing a massive load of delay-of-game penalties)? The stat by itself tells me little without context.

by EricL :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 3:48pm

I'd love to see it fleshed out more, as well.

Just did 10 minutes of research, and found an article on Seahawks.com that mentioned Seattle had 130 opponent false start penalties at home since 2005, next highest was 115. I don't know when the article was posted, however.

I've just discovered NFLPenalties.com, and haven't fully dug in to what they have, but it seems the data goes back to 2009.

As an example of what I found on there, here are the pre-snap penalties for 2013 Seattle opponents:

Seattle opponents in their stadiums: 10 pre-snap penalties in 8 games.
Seattle opponents in Seattle: 29 pre-snap penalties in 10 games. (These are amazingly well-distributed: 8 of the games had either 3 or 4 pre-snap penalties.)

I don't have time, at the moment, do know if this delta is typical, but it seems pretty extreme at first blush.

Edit: Okay, here's some more data.

Seattle opponent offensive pre-snap penalties, 2009-2013 (If there are asterisks, that's how many more games beyond 8 they had in that category.)

2009: H: 22, A: 9
2010: H: 21*, A: 16*
2011: H: 12, A: 12
2012: H: 15, A: 17**
2013: H: 21**, A: 5

Overall average: 2.11/game in Seattle, 1.37/game elsewhere.
League average, 2009-2013, False Start + Delay of Game at home and road:
Home: 1.42/game, Road: 1.48/game.

It certainly looks like there's a tendency for opponents to commit significantly more pre-snap penalties in Seattle versus other road venues.

by coremill :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 3:05pm

The travel issue cuts both ways. Is Seattle's opponents' performance suppressed in games in Seattle due to travel, or is Seattle's own performance in its road games suppressed due to travel? Either or both could explain Seattle's home/road point differential.

by coremill :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 3:05pm

The travel issue cuts both ways. Is Seattle's opponents' performance suppressed in games in Seattle due to travel, or is Seattle's own performance in its road games suppressed due to travel? Either or both could explain Seattle's home/road point differential.

by Andrew Kelly (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 8:59pm

Which is why both of our playoff opponents felt compelled to buy custom made ear plugs for every player.

by CBPodge :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:46am

Ugh. That Bowman injury was horrible.

Glad I stayed up til 3am to watch all the Seahawks 9ers game. Was a goodun. Both Wilson and Kaepernick looked pretty poor at passing. I'm struggling to see how the Seahawks get any offence going against the Broncos. I mean, neither team had an actual offence yesterday in the later game, they just had a big plays that occassionally happened on the same drive.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:33pm

" I'm struggling to see how the Seahawks get any offence going against the Broncos."

Well, the Broncos' defense is not as good as the 49ers. And they scored 23 against the 49ers.

Not really seeing the issue here.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:50pm

The issue is that they aren't going to get multiple short-field chances from bone-headed Peyton Manning turnovers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:02pm

Any qb will turn it over if the pressure is fast enough, and the qb is put in a spot where he has to have a completion. How well Manning is protected will be huge, obviously. I wish I knew what the weather is going to be. Also obvious is if it is dry, 35 degrees, and not much wind, the Broncos' chances improve a lot.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:00pm

Yes. And the 49ers have a better defense than the Broncos, and a much better pass defense than the Broncos.

An inability to move the ball against the 49ers doesn't translate into an inability to move the ball against the Broncos.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:04pm

The Seahawks got two field goals on really short fields from a turnover and a long kick return. The offense stalled almost immediately on both drives. Their only two touchdowns came from 35 and 40 yards away, and neither touchdown drive was longer than 62 yards. The only other score, a field goal, came on a drive assisted by a 51 yard pass play.

All of Seattle's scoring came on long plays or short fields. Can they rely on that again? Denver might not give them many (if any) short fields. Prater will probably convert most kickoffs into touchbacks. Can the Seahawks put together multiple 80 yard drives to put enough points on the board to beat the Broncos away from home? I have my doubts.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:57pm

Prater managed 86% touchbacks at home, 57% on the road. His road TB% is better than most - including Hauschka's - but nothing like his HFA. That's why DEN's kickoff DVOA is below average.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:52pm

And then there's the posibility of Golden Tate punt returns creating short fields.

by CM (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:13pm

Or Percy Harvin.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 5:53am

Always a first time, but Percy Harvin has never returned a punt in an NFL game.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:22pm

What is different about kickoff and punt returns that causes teams to use two different players most of the time? Hester does both, but he's about the only one. Is it more about redundancy, i.e. not losing as much production if one happens to get injured?

by coremill :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:27pm

I think it's a couple things. One, punts are harder to catch since you can get hit immediately, and so being sure-handed, knowing when to fair catch, when not to try to catch at all and let the ball bounce, etc. is more important. Two, good punt returns are more about elusiveness and making the first guy miss, while kick returns are more about pure speed and hitting the gap opened up by the wedge as fast as you can.

So the skills are not entirely the same. But there's a fair amount of overlap so a guy who is very good at one will often be good at the other.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:38pm

The Bears have frequently used non-Hesters for kick returns too.

I think kick returns are more about top-end speed and hitting a seam without dancing around too much, while punt returns are more about acceleration and agility while setting up defenders to juke them.

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 3:05pm

Even then, the Bears had their best special teams ratings (particularly kickoffs) when they had Danieal Manning returning kickoffs, not Hester.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:28pm

"All of Seattle's scoring came on long plays or short fields. Can they rely on that again?"

The long play part, I don't see why not. Despite playing a mediocre set of QBs, 9.95% of pass attempts against the Denver defense were 20+ yard completions, 10th-worst in the league.

"Denver might not give them many (if any) short fields."

You have way too high an opinion of Denver's offense versus Seattle's defense. When they played each other in the preseason, pretty seriously and with both teams healthy, Seattle forced two three-and-outs in five drives that Manning and the first-team offense was in for.

by Lell87 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:25pm

It's unclear how it will play out now, but there's a big difference between playing a team in preseason and having 18 games of film and two weeks to prepare (obviously works both ways).

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:22am

Well, the nearest real game Seattle has played against a similar offense was last year against the Patriots. New England did everything people think Denver can/should do to win: chew up the clock by going on time-consuming drives (8-minute advantage in TOP), force an inconsistent offense into numerous three-and-outs (3 out of 11), shut down the running game (Lynch only had 41 yards) and force Seattle into driving the entire length of the field (a whopping 10 out of 11 drives for Seattle started from their 20-yard line or worse). And yet Seattle still won, and they won by typical Seattle methods: hound the opponent in the red zone (16 points on 6 trips) and strike with long plays (4 pass plays/pass interference calls of 40 yards or more).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:12am

Yes, arm strength is overrated, especially when the qb knows where to go with the ball with lightning speed, against non-great dbs (specially when the best one gets hurt), and gets it there accurately. When your qb is not an alien with superior cognitive powers, however, or when the coverage is a lot tighter, due to outstanding db play, or when the wind blows hard, superior arm strength is a very, very, good thing. I think there is a decent chance that even the alien is gonna want better ability to squeeze the ball into a tight window, with some oomph, in a couple weeks.

I refuse to listen to Phil Simmns, and the radio broadcast won't synch with the t.v. broadcast. Was the term "Quentin Jammer" ever uttered? Nice time for Champ Bailey to get healthy. I was surprised, however, at how badly the Patriots o-line was dominated.

In the other game, the Niners (Kopernick) just turned it over too often, and they yielded another short field on special teams. To beat Seattle in Seattle, you have to make their offense go some distance to score points. If you need to go the length of the field on your last possession, your liable to have one of Seattle's great dbs make a great play to end your season.

I wouldn't say Brady played poorly, and, no, the Patriots yesterday didn't have great receivers on the field. When you have chances to make big plays downfield, however, in a game like this, and miss badly, it greatly harms your team's ability to compete.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:16pm

No Jammer. They played Tony Carter a lot, and Kayvon Webster over him. Carter had a really nice season in 2012 but he was basically a nothing most of this season (in that he never got on the field), but he had a decent game, far better than Jammer against San Diego.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:06am

Aaron Schatz: Apparently, like the crew that did last week's San Francisco game, Gene Steratore's crew this week hasn't read the research about penalties going down in the playoffs. A lot of flags early.

Apparently Aaron didn't get the league memo.


by Kaepernicus :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:08am

This is starting to look like the 02 Bucs. Wilson had another awful game yet they won. I think the Niners have the game plan to beat him now. One thing is obvious though Kaepernick is a top 5 QB in the NFL. He almost single handedly beat an all-time great defense on the road while Gore had 14 yards on 11 carries. Flip the script on that and Seattle gets beat by 20. How many QBS have posted a negative 3.4 EPA in a championship game and won? DYAR is going to show the chasm between the two QBS play and I will sadly acknowledge the Niners were a part of another championship game they should have won. Eric Reid why couldn't you hold on to that pick?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:14am

They are the best defense in the league this year. "All time great" defense? I dunno.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:30am

He did write "an" all time great defense and they are the 7th best all time DVOA. So maybe somewhere in between.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:17pm

DVOA goes back, what, 26 years? 7th best out of 26 seems to be a generous use of "an all time great", but this is a semantic debate, obviously.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:35pm

More like 7th best out of 30*26 (roughly speaking).

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:34am

How many defenses finish 1st in points and yards allowed? Often it's two different teams. They also finished 1st in points allowed last year, 4th in yards. What more do you want?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:28am

I want them to not be one great play away, in the end zone, on a thirty yard pass, from losing the conference championship game, 24-23.

by c0rrections (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:10pm

To be fair to Seattle's defense they really only gave up two good drives (And the comeback attempt which I'll get to in a second) and one of them was based on Kapernick's otherworldly scrambling ability netting 58 yards and a 4th and goal conversion where the San Fran o-line could not have gotten blown up worse but the back made a great leaping play. The second good drive saw Kapernick get very lucky not to get picked by Earl Thomas. As for the last drive it was a pretty good one but it felt like once they got into the red zone they were going to have trouble finding the open man against that secondary (and especially that they were going to have trouble with time as they loafed a bit).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:28pm

Well, the other team in a conference championship usually has really, really, good players, and completing interceptions is a critical part of defensive execution. That is one of the reasons why the bar is set so high, to be considered one of the all time greats.

by EricL :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 6:05pm

Noticed something last night re-watching highlights. Go back and watch the 58-yard scramble again, only follow Red Bryant. (#79 - he lines up at right end.)

Bryant starts to rush, but not very hard - he's obviously spying on the play. After Kaepernick takes off, Bryant _stays in the picture_ for nearly the entire run. He can't keep up with Kaep (because, well, 300+ pounds), but that was some serious running by the big guy.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:09pm

"he's obviously spying on the play"

And we all know using a de facto DT to spy the fastest QB in the league is a great idea.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:40pm

A huge part of the narrative will clearly be written in 2 weeks time, but I think its ok to already be talking about an all-time great defence. DVOA thinks so.

It is surely now more difficult than ever for a defence to utterly dominate all of its opponents. These Seahawks come as close as any unit has for a while, maybe the 08/09 Steelers?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:57pm

7th out of 26 means DVOA says "all-time great"?

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:19pm

As RickD pointed out above, it's really 7th out of 26*30.

I can see why some would call that an "all-time great defense"; I'm honestly not sure where my cutoff would be (5th? 10th?), though.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:32pm

If you are looking at a sample of 50 seasons or so, then 7th place, it seems to me, might qualify as "all time great". In 26 seasons? I think you need to be at least in 5th place.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:39pm

It will be interesting to see how things shake out as DVOA incorporates some very good 80s defenses. The Bears and Giants alone from 85-87 could knock the Seahawks out of the top 10.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:51pm

The 1984 Niners may have had a better defense as well.

by tally :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:49pm

Out of 30*26=780 teams, 7th is in the top 1 percentile and close to 3 SDs from the mean, so I think it's within reason to call them an all time great.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:53pm

Like I said, it is a semantic debate. I don't think being parsecs better than this years' Vikings is much of an accomplishment.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:02pm

You'd have to use actual DVOA values, not rank to determine standard deviation and percetile.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:52am

Well I would say the game proved that Seattle has a much better defense than SF, as the stats showed. That's why they won. I told this to my friends and half time and they seemed skeptical. I'll mostly leave the "all time" issue to the experts. It also seemed they won general special teams execution.

Seattle's insane secondary is good enough and the D-line quick enough that they could just shut down the conventional running game, whereas it seemed that SF was focused more on pass defense. Maybe somebody else can comment on how many were in the box. SF's secondary was again exposed in a big game. That's why Wilson's numbers look better than his play. A blown coverage on a bomb. Bad play on the ball by Rogers on the TD. Not to mention bad run support on Lynch's TD run.

All of SF's offense was insane athletic plays by Kaep, or throws into very tight windows just about. I don't really think the crowd impact was that great--clock management and false starts weren't an issue--although I wouldn't say it was non-existent. Kaep didn't have a great game due to mistakes and usual mediocre completion percentage, but I honestly don't know who would do much better against these guys.

Be curious what DYAR shows. Kaepernick will get a big boost from opponent adjustments and his running, not so much from the turnovers. Think he should have kept going to middle of the field with 2 TOs left and not at Sherman, but hard to fault him entirely for that one. Wilson got a boost from blown coverage. It also seemed like he completed some 3rd down check downs, which DYAR won't like if so. I don't know who will get the blame for the botched hand-off.

As a SF fan, it was frustrating. They did several things they had to do to win--take the lead with an early turnover, actually score a couple of TD's, avoid dumb penalties and clock management issues--and still lost despite subpar Seattle QB play. Don't think this bodes well going forward for the rivalry. I think the best hope going forward is for Seattle to win the Super Bowl and to get a little fat and happy although part 2 might be wishful thinking.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:07pm

I disagree with your characterization of Seattle's big plays as defensive mistakes and SF's big plays as great plays by Kaepernick. For example, the "blown" coverage on the bomb happened after Wilson extended the play for an insanely long time. The "bad play on the ball" was a great catch and not entirely different from the SF TD, where the DB got his hands on the ball but couldn't make the play. And the bad run support had some great run blocking and great open-field running by Lynch.

I mean, you could also say Seattle had poor run support on some of those Kaepernick runs, particularly the long run where the spy LB was out of position.

The man with no sig

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:16pm

It's true when you're rooting for a team you don't have a completely balanced perspective, but I will defend myself. I certainly give Lynch credit for his running throughout the game and on that run in particular, but Reid made a terrible play to make it easier. On the first deep ball to Baldwin, he also seemed to be in the wrong place.

Re: the deep TD's, I don't think Thomas had much of a chance to tip the one to Boldin--that ball just seemed to have eyes--but I felt Rogers should have gotten a hand on the one to Kearse. This is admittedly subjective.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:40pm

" I don't think Thomas had much of a chance to tip the one to Boldin"

Um, well, Thomas actually did tip it.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:11pm

I think the rivalry changes a little once Wilson & Kaepernick get signed to their second contracts, and the franchises have to decide who to let go. They likely won't be getting Flacco money, but even a $10M cap hit in the first year changes things quite a bit. Richard Sherman's 5th round contract should also be running out soon, too.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:39pm

"Well I would say the game proved that Seattle has a much better defense than SF, as the stats showed. "

Total yards: SEA 308, SF 308.

This game "proved" that, if Kaepernick makes three turnovers, his team cannot overcome that. His first pick was utterly stupid. But I don't think it proves that the Seahawk defense was better so much as it proves that Wilson didn't give the 49er defense the same opportunities that Kaepernick did.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:44pm

Seattle getting a short field on a kickoff return doesn't have anything to do with Seattle's defense, either.

The game was extremely close. The Niners got the better of the ball on the round randomness, and, it seems to me, the Seahawks got the better of the officiating randomness. It wouldn't take much to swing the outcome the other way, and them back again.

by coremill :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:33pm

FWIW, the Niners didn't actually get the better of the fumble luck. Both teams fumbled three times, and had one recovered by the opponent. One of Seattle's fumbles came on a fourth down, so the recovery didn't help them that much, but it also prevented SF from running the fumble back for a TD/big yardage, which looked like a legitimate possibility if one of their quicker defenders could have made a clean recovery.

The officiating was bad all around, but the Niners definitely got the shorter end of the stick there. The personal foul on Whitner was the wrong call, the personal foul on Rodgers was the wrong call, the lack of a personal foul on the roughing the punter was the wrong call, I thought they missed the first intentional grounding, and the call on Bowman's fumble recovery was the wrong call. There were also a curious holding call on a fair catch punt return, which you rarely see, but I don't think Fox ever showed a replay of that, so they could have got that one right. There were some odd calls that went the other way (a phantom holding call on Seattle's O-line in the first quarter), but on balance the calls went Seattle's way, which in a close field position game made a big difference. It wasn't the only reason Seattle won (the inability of SF's secondary to prevent big plays downfield has been an ongoing problem against good teams for the last two years, and the fourth quarter turnovers obviously hurt), bu it was clearly a factor. I don't think Seattle scores that 4th-and-7 TD if they don't have great field position set up by the missed roughing the punter call, for example.

The frustrating thing is that SF probably wins this game if they play it at the Stick. And the reason the game was in Seattle goes back to ... the phantom roughing the passer call on Ahmad Brooks against New Orleans.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:42pm

When one of your scoring drives has a play where your qb fumbles well behind the line of scrimmage, and an offensive lineman picks it up, and turns it into a positive play, that's just phenomenally fortunate.

by coremill :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:50pm

Sure it is. But both teams had lucky bounces. When you fumble on the goal line and the defense recovers, and the officials don't notice, that's also phenomenally fortunate. When you fumble and the defense has a shot to pick up the ball with no offensive players in front of them, but the ball doesn't take a clean bounce, that's also fortunate. Two plays before Seattle kicked the field goal that gave them a six-point lead (which ended up being a big 3 points), Wilson fumbled the snap but recovered the ball. The fumble luck evened out. The officiating luck did not.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:59pm

I believe if I were to tally. A) a qb fumbling well behind the line of scrimmage, and an offensive lineman picking it up, and turning it into a positive play, and B) the number of times a ball doesn't take a clean bounce, precluding a return, and C) the number of times when a ball is dropped, without a defender around, and recovered by the player who dropped it, A would have by far the lowest tally. All fumbles are not created equal.

The fumble non-call on Seattle was of little import given the subsequent fumble.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:23pm

It felt like in the second half, Seattle could run the ball quite effectively and therefore the offense was more "reproducible" for lack of a better term. E.g. if the teams played again, Lynch might still get 100 yards, and Gore probably wouldn't (he had absolutely nowhere to run). I don't know that Kaepernick running for 120+ yards is really reproducible, although I guess that by going to zone to contain him, there were more openings in the passing game.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:35am

One thing is obvious though Kaepernick is a top 5 QB in the NFL.

Wait, what? I saw a very talented but raw young QB who made some great throws, but had poor pocket awareness and careless with the ball.

Manning, Brady, Brees, Rodgers... Kaepernick? I don't think so. Or are you taking one of those four out of the mix?

by Kaepernicus :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:08am

Those are the only other QBS in the league who have a chance in Seattle with 14 yards on 11 carries from your running back. He had 90% of their yards. He does have a lot of room for improvement which is ridiculously scary for the rest of the league. He is the best on third down already and can make throws no one else has a prayer of making. Right now he looks like an unholy combination of Mike Vick and Ben Roethlisberger. If Harbaugh can work him to get different loft levels on the ball consistently he would be absolutely terrifying. I think it will happen too he improved dramatically as the season progressed. Wilson is what he will be, which is really damn good, Andrew Luck is basically where he will be, awesome but interception prone, Kaepernick has a chance to go to a different level unknown in history.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:34am

He made some great plays, but also some poor ones, and he was not able to move his team consistently. He has a long way to go as a passer, though I agree that as a runner he's amazing.

The man with no sig

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:38pm

I shudder to think what crime "an unholy combination of Mike Vick and Ben Roethlisberger" would allegedly commit.

by jonsilver :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:59pm


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:36am

"DYAR is going to show the chasm between the two QBS play"

Are you sure? Two INTs and two fumbles (1 lost) tend to hurt one's DYAR.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:16pm

One of my Bucs-fan pet peeves about that 2002 team is the implication they won it all in spite of Brad Johnson; Johnson had an excellent year that year (9th in DVOA), and was generally quite good at QB throughout his career. Seattle's skill position players are markedly better than Tampa's were, but I think Seattle perhaps needs a few more years of defensive dominance to get in the same conversation as the '02 Bucs.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:26pm

Yeah, I think people instinctively think of Dilfer as the QB, even if they consciously know he'd already left by then. Probably because (and in spite of) the 2000 Ravens doing exactly that with Dilfer two years prior.

by TomKelso :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:56pm

People also tend to forget how much of that 2000 season the Ravens played with Tony Banks as the starter -- the offense with Dilfer running it was quite capable, as opposed to Banks, who was the starter in both the shootout with Jacksonville and the 4-game no TD stretch. Banks was all over the place, and the Ravens actually were much improved once Dilfer came on as the starter.

Which is why when Banks had to come in after Dilfer took a Tennessee cheap shot to the head in the playoff game, Maryland suffered a collective arrhythmia.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:43pm

Kaepernick proved that he's not a "top 5" QB. He had three turnovers in the conference championship game. Wilson had a better game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:52pm

Wilson fumbled at least twice himself, and Kaepernick's last int came on great play, in the end zone, when the Niners had to have a td on that drive. Without doing a detailed play by play breakdown, with use of the all-22 tape, it is pretty hard to say Wilson played better.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:15pm

CK was better at rushing. That's not even close.

When it came to passing, Wilson had more completions, a higher completion percentage, more yardage, more yards/attempt, as many TDs, and two fewer INTs. Wilson had a 104.6 passer rating to CK's 56.4. CK has the higher QBR, presumably because that includes rushing.

My personal opinion is that Wilson had the better game. But in any case, to the original point, that Kaepernick is "obviously" one of the top 5 QBs, I think that's definitely false. He's "arguably" one of the top 5 QBs, but I would have him outside of the top 5. IMO, the only QBs "obviously" in the top 5 are Peyton, Rodgers, and Brees. I would fill out the top 5 with Brady and Luck. DYAR would recommend Rivers and Ryan, DVOA would recommend Rivers and Foles. (QBR thinks Josh McCown played better than Peyton Manning, which I think is about all we need to say about QBR.)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:25pm

They don't give any fewer points on a drive, if the qb gets lots of rushing yards. Are there 5 qbs I'd take over Kaepernick, to help win a game in week 1 next fall, to save my life? Yeah.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:39pm

The proverbial story of the first half was Kaepernick running, and Wilson having no time to throw. It felt like Russell Wilson was being blocked for by five guys dug up from a local graveyard. Second half? Certainly more time, I recall seeing somewhere there was a 6th OL on the field pretty consistently; was that something Seattle specifically focused on in the 2nd half? It certainly seemed like Seattle was getting Lynch going, and that clearly helped with all the play-action plays they were running.

The improvement in Seattle's blocking in the 2nd half is what really changed the game around, plus Kaepernick's 4th quarter fumble/INTs. I'm going to assume Wilson's 2nd half rating/DVOA was far better than his 1st half, and Kaepernick was the converse of that.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:05pm

The list of HoF QBs who've had 3 turnover games in the playoffs in the prime of their careers is a long one. Two QBs playing yesterday besides Kaep had 3+ INTs in Conference Championships. Kurt Warner in '99 for the Greatest Show on Turf threw 3 picks in the NFCC vs. TB. I could go on. I don't think Kaep is Top 5 QB but 3 TOs in a conference championship is not the metric I'd use to prove my point.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:19pm

The list of non-HoF QBs who've had 3 turnover games in the playoffs is even longer.

" I don't think Kaep is Top 5 QB but 3 TOs in a conference championship is not the metric I'd use to prove my point."

Really? Why not? Isn't it a negative statistic?

Was there some point at which Kaepernick won an MVP trophy like Peyton Manning or Kurt Warner that I missed?

by jebmak :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:49pm

A negative stat with a really really small sample size...

by mrh :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 6:15pm


Of course a lot of QBs of all calibers have multiple turnovers in the playoffs. And a lot of QBs of all calibers have games with no turnovers in the playoffs. That stat alone, positive or negative, does not prove the point of top 5/not top 5. As part of a larger body of evidence (MVP/noMVP award) it may support the argument.

My point was that you used one single piece of evidence as if it were conclusive. I think it's not.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 01/22/2014 - 6:36pm

NFL starters this year that are pretty much inarguably better than Colin Kaepernick:

P. Manning
A. Rodgers
T. Brady
D. Brees
P. Rivers
T. Romo

NFL Starters at least part of the year who were meaningfully batter than Kaepernick but did not play every game:

N. Foles
J. McCown
J. Cutler

NFL Starters who are at least as good as Kaepernick (and with the exception of Wilson, in more difficult circumstances):

R. Wilson
A. Luck
M. Ryan
B. Roethlisberger
C. Newton

Quarterbacks who had a down 2013 but would probably have taken this year's SF team to a Super Bowl (in addition to the above):

E. Manning
C. Palmer

The 49ers are without question a top 5 football team. They are the most well-rounded, deepest, smartest, most physical football team in the NFL, and they just played the only two teams that are even in the competition in successive weeks.

Their biggest weakness is the quarterback position. Kaepernick is still getting by on physical ability and still does not have the skills to succeed as a passing quarterback. Fortunately, as the QB 49ers, he mostly doesn't need to.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/22/2014 - 8:52pm

I think the concluding criticism of Kaepernick is overly harsh. He just completed his 3rd year. He's got a huge cannon of an arm, and often very good accuracy to go with. Occasionally he displays very nice touch on his throws too. He's a guy who's not necessarily quick at surveying his receivers, and he doesn't throw with great anticipation, but it's not below average either. Is that the start to an all-time great career? Maybe not. Before we even really consider his running ability, it suggests a very promising future.

I would say their biggest weakness is receiving depth. Receivers aren't going to come off the 9ers bench to introduce a new wrinkle or challenge anything. Teams don't even have to plan for them at all.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:38am

Sherman made a great play on the final int, but Crabtree wasn't really open anyway.

The Seahawks should have kicked the FG on the one yard line. Said this before they fumbled. If you kick the FG, it is still a one score game, but it's very unlikely the 49ers use all of the time even if they get a TD. Then Seattle still has time for their own drive. Plus, as it played out the Seahawks got another turnover which led to another FG, which would have made it a two score game anyway. There was too much to lose in not making it.

by ptp (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:50pm

So the new NEW uncommon wisdom is to kick a field goal when it's 4th and goal on the 1? We are officially through the looking glass.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:23am

All factors need to be considered. As I mentioned, with the amount of time left it was extremely likely that Seattle would get the ball back. San Francisco's offense wasn't reliable enough to control the clock to that extent.

Even if Seattle goes up by 10, the game is not over. There is still time left for two scores by San Francisco. Granted that Seattle has a great defense and this will be tough to do. But San Francisco is going to be hurrying on their drive, trying to score fairly quickly. Seattle is going to be more conscious of the big play and giving up the short stuff a bit more. So San Francisco gets a field goal with 4-5 minutes left.

Seattle's offense is unlikely to be effective enough to run out the clock. So they will have to give it back, and San Francisco had all of their timeouts remaining. So even with the 10 point lead, San Francisco still will have the ball with enough time to drive for a TD. Granted that is going for a tie and not the win.

Whereas if the field goal is kicked, San Francisco is not going to be moving particularly urgently. If the drive stalled immediately, they would punt and try to get it back instead of risking turning the ball over. Which lowers the conversion percentage on the hoped for TD drive if it's coming with 8 minutes left rather than 3.

What it came down to for me is that I felt Seattle's defense was far more vulnerable to a FG than a TD at that point in the game. Also, there was a decent chance that Seattle would get another chance to kick a FG, either to make it a two score game later, or after a San Francisco touchdown. Since this actually wound up happening, the FG on fourth and one seems worthy of consideration.

by Gomer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 4:18am

Good point Jay. As much as I love the aggressive approach the reality is the conventional wisdom developed when EVERY TEAM played like SF and Seattle. It was an optimum strategy because a 3 and out was much more likely when two good teams faced each other. We've been the pass happy NFL since the early 80's.

Also, don't go up the middle on 3/4th and short against a D like Seattle or SF. Your asking for bad things to happen.

by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:58am

see also, Panthers Divisional game

by JFP :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:39am

Disappointed with the way the Pats lost, but not so much the loss. I really didn't get the offensive game plan.

Overall a good season though, and hopefully the playing time the younger players got will pay off next year.

One last note on the NFL in general. For the love of God please stop bringing the cardboard cut outs of the "D" and picket fence. That was played out fifteen years ago.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:46am

So No 1. DVOA offense vs. No. 1 DVOA defense in the Super Bowl. There's a first time for everything. If only I could see a Richard Sherman/ Peyton Manning 'Celebrty Death Match'.

by Led :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:19am

If Manning missed that many wide open deep passes in a playoff loss, the dolts (hat tip to Raiderjoe) would never stop yapping. Behold the power of narrative. As it was, Manning was surgical. So now it's Denver offense vs. Seattle defense, which is something truly worth yapping about.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:23am

1) Vince -- I'm pretty sure that unlike DPI there's no "uncatchable" rule for OPI. It's OPI no matter what. That said, the lack of a penalty there was irrelevant as the Pats got beaten handily on both sides of the ball.

2) For those who complained on the Preview thread that I was trying for the reverse jinx, the game went pretty much as I had feared.

3) So not surprised to see Brady miss a totally wide-open Edelman.

4) Bomb to Slater on 3rd-and-2 has to be an all-time "burn that play!" entry.

5) Once Talib was taken out, I turned to my wife and said "That's it -- the game is over" because I knew the cascading effect would doom the NE defense. Speaking of that hit, let's just say I won't shed any tears if Seattle DB decides to go after Welker's ribs and knee in similar fashion.

6) I would have loved to see DEN and NE play each other at full strength each.

7) Thank goodness NE failed on the onsides kick so I didn't have to torture myself about what could have happened if they had gotten the 2pt conversion.

8) Down 17 in the 3rd, 4th and 2 on the DEN 29, why not kick the FG? I don't understand going for it at that point.


by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:30am

Re: (5), I'm apparently not the only person who feels that way:

"I think it was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib," Belichick said during his Monday news conference. "No attempt to get open. I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It's one of the worst plays I've seen."

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:41am

"by the receiver".

Nicely done. He was only your best receiver for 7 years. You'd think Belichick would remember his name. He could have returned the favor with Amendola, but it would have broken him in twain. Hernandez might have more productive ideas on how to eliminate a DB.

That said, ball got touched. That's just a block. Didn't expect to see Welker laying a Ward on someone though.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:47am

So, they sent the 5'9" WR with two concussions in to "take out" the 6'2" DB?

It was a pick play which was arguably OPI, but there was no intent to injure.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:50am

Yeah, I don't Welker, with his concussion history, is looking to get into massive collisions. Belichik and Welker just have some bad blood between them.

by Led :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:12pm

Yeah, I don't want to hear complaints from the Pats, of all teams, about a pick play. But it was definitely a fraction of a second early to be a block:


Welker doesn't look like he was trying to lay the wood though. There's no knee bend or lowered shoulder. It looks more awkward than malicious.

EDIT: This is what it looks like when a receiver intentionally lays out a DB (on a perfectly legal block, mind you):


by CBPodge :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:03pm

Instead of, y'know, the 6'3", 230lb guy who caught the ball.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:53pm

Why not? A 5'10" DB for Cleveland took out the Pats' 6' 6" tight end just a month or so ago. If a person is intent on making a hit with an intent to injure, size really doesn't matter. All you need to do is apply a couple hundred pounds of force to a vulnerable area. And for Talib, that's the hip. Everybody knows that Talib has chronic hip injuries. And that's where Welker hit him.

You have no way of knowing what Welker's intent was. What we do know is that Welker showed a video to his teammates emphasizing the need for the Broncos to hit harder if they were going to win a Super Bowl. We do know that Welker and Belichick, at this point, pretty much hate each other. I don't think there's any question that Welker hit Talib as hard as he could. I don't think it was an accident that Talib was hit. Was it deliberately to injure? That's where you enter the region of football psychology, where football players trick themselves into thinking that they are intentionally hitting people hard but there's no "intent to injure". Welker certainly intended to hit Talib as hard as possible.

by Led :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:20pm

"I don't think there's any question that Welker hit Talib as hard as he could."

This is the sentence that tells me you're thinking with your heart not your head on this. (No disrespect intended as it's natural for a fan to think that way immediately after a big loss.) There is very much a question that Welker was trying to hit Talib as hard as he could. Compare the Welker play with the Edelman hit on Rogers-Cromartie that I posted above. See how a guy trying to hit someone as hard as he can bends his knees, lowers his shoulder, and finishes the hit with his forearm? Talib and Welker, on the other hand, just sort of collided awkwardly. Seems very possible to me that the injury happened the way it did precisely because Welker wasn't trying to hit him. But I could be wrong. Maybe Welker did intend to lay Talib out. I don't know for sure, but I do know you can't know for sure either.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:07pm

I would add that if Welker tried to hit Talib as hard as he could, he did a terrible job at it. In the gif you can see clearly he turned sideways and hit him high while leaning forward (forward in relation to his head, but sideways in relation to Talib). He didn't even hit the hip directly at all. If he had the intent to injure, it didn't translate to his technique.

The man with no sig

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:48am

I think it likely that Patriot receivers are taught to block defensive backs on plays like that.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:38pm

I looked for a video on the NFL.com website. The only view of the play I saw was on the game highlights film and it looks like a very benign hit. I just don't see it.

Sucks that Talib got injured though.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:57am

"5) Once Talib was taken out, I turned to my wife and said "That's it -- the game is over" because I knew the cascading effect would doom the NE defense."

I watched the game with Pats fans and they echoed the same sentiment. But really, the Talib injury had nothing to do with the fact that the Pats only scored 3 points in the first 51 minutes of the game.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:03pm

Well, yes and no.

The Talib play didn't make the NE offense play terribly.

However, it almost certainly reduced the number of drives the NE offense had to work with.

So in that sense it contributed to scoring 3 points in 51 minutes.

Again, I think Denver would have won the game anyway if Talib hadn't been injured. But it would have been a more competitive game.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:00pm

(8). If you can't stop the other team from scoring on six straight drives, settling for 3 points is only delaying the inevitable. You are going to need several touchdowns to eliminate the deficit, especially when the other team repeatedly continues to score. Belichick knew he needed to hastily outscore Manning's offense, not try to slowly catch up to it. The latter was never going to happen.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:31pm

Good point.

The old "delay the point of irrevocable loss" vs. "maximize chance of winning" thing.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:56pm

"8) Down 17 in the 3rd, 4th and 2 on the DEN 29, why not kick the FG? I don't understand going for it at that point."

Well, the defense hadn't forced a punt since the Broncos' first drive. The offense needed to score TDs to catch up.

And really, it was only 2 yards. The Pats average more than 2 yards per offensive play. They don't plan on having Logan Mankins serve as a turnstyle.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:03pm

Agreed; also, it wasn't just anytime in the third; it was with 2:30 left in the third. They needed a TD to stay in the game.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:05pm

Yeah. Can't fault the decision, and you don't expect you're All-Pro Guard to completely forget how to block.

By that stage I thought NE were in permanent 4-down territory anyway

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:45pm

In a one-play situation, isn't the median the more informative number?

by nat :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:13pm

1) Vince doesn't know the rules to football, apparently. Down-field blocking before the ball is caught is illegal. Period. Refs usually give some leeway for balls that aren't actually caught, but not for early blocks. Whether this was early was a close thing. But Welker was the only player in "runner, blockers, and tacklers" mode. Everyone else was in "receivers and coverage" mode.
4) When I heard Slater was on the field, I knew the Patriots were screwed. He doesn't play WR after all these years for a reason.
5) I wondered before the game if the Broncos would design plays to injure Talib. He was a single point of failure, the guy that the Patriots had no "next man up" for on the roster. As Belichick later pointed out, it was clear from the video that Welker was not running a route trying to get open. His assignment on that play was to hit Talib below the waist, wrecking him as he followed his man in coverage. Whether or not the hit took place before the ball arrived (it did not, but it was close) the hit was done with indifference to whether or when the ball was caught. It wasn't about blocking for a runner - there was no runner. It was about taking a free shot at a player looking the other way.
8) Didn't bother me at all.

by Always Refereed to the Letter of the Law (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:07pm

I don't think the Welker hit was a deliberate attempt to injure, but it was clearly a deliberate attempt to block before the ball arrives.
Which is, you know, illegal.
Kind of stings more for a Pats fan when it's the exact same penalty that was in fact called against NE earlier in the game. Then Denver runs another pick, with a receiver deliberately blocking a defender , and the only call is defensive holding.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:37pm

The contact with Talib was nearly simulteaneous with the receiver touching the ball, which makes the contact legal. If the contact with Talib was intitiated a tiny fraction of a second before ball contact, well, the expectations placed on referees can get a little outsized.

by bingo762 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:59am

"Brady's not showing accuracy on the longer passes today, he's missed almost all of them. That doesn't really mean Manning looks that much better -- Manning just hasn't thrown many deep passes today, and the ones he has thrown he was accurate on,"

Wait, what?

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:04pm

"I'm not sure that this wasn't not a compliment." -Dan Dierdorf

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:06pm

Cut a Patriot fan some slack, on a day like this.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:11pm

I meant that he didn't look much better on deep passes, because he had only thrown like two of them. He certainly looked better in the pre-snap phase, given how little pressure he faced compared to what Brady faced.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:24pm

I don't know how PFR classifies "deep", but they have Manning at 7 deep attempts, and Brady at 6. I think Brady's were deeper, however, if I remember right. He had some good chances, and didn't execute. It happens to the best, but obviously, in a game like this, it means a lot.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:04pm

Good grief, I just heard Jaworski, in talking about Kaepernick's 1st int, and Brady's troubles generally, say that he compares them unfavorably with Montana, who he says "always" had his best in the biggest games. He may want to google "Lewis Billups" and "Forty Niners vs. Vikings January 1988".

I think Montana was great, obviously, but c'mon.

by Led :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:07pm

The narrative giveth, and the narrative taketh away.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:21pm

And it's easier to taketh from the unannointed than from the HOF-annointed.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:17pm

"Brady's not showing accuracy on the longer passes today, he's missed almost all of them. That doesn't really mean Manning looks that much better"

No, I can't think of any reason why people think Aaron is in the tank for the Pats...none at all.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:53pm

People know that Aaron is "in the tank" for the Pats. He's a Pats fan, and freely talks about it.

What he does do is try to keep that separated from actual analysis, research, or objective articles. You can argue whether or not he does that successfully, but it's not like he or any of the other writers tries to hide who they're fans of.

Plus, this feature isn't really a place where I expect any of the writers to be un-biased. It's written from a fan's point of view.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:17pm

When Aaron's fandom creates a ridiculous narrative that smacks in the face of the actual on-the-field performance...on a site that "strives" to provide educated commentary beyond the ridiculous narrative...I'd say the objectivity has long since been lost.

I can listen to Phil Simms talk about Brady throwing balls "too well" if I want to get the ridiculous narrative. I expect more from a site that leads with that commentary on a consistent basis, this feature or any feature,

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:15am

You've clearly failed to read the disclaimer that Audibles is about the writers' reactions to the games as they're happening from their personal perspectives. These are not meant to be in depth game analyses, and are not meant to be any more valid than your fuzzy beer-goggle recollections.

by t.d. :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 12:24am

yeah, well, on that front he fails, hence the 'irrational' thread. I think you have Aaron confused with Simmons

by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:23pm

If Manning's Broncos had come out and laid an offensive egg for 3 quarters and put up 3 points...this site and the sports media would be fileting Manning like yesterday's caught trout. But since it's Brady...virtually NOTHING is being written about how Brady completely shit the bed.

And THAT my friends is why we have an Irrational Brady/Manning argument. When Manning's team loses, it's always, always, always Manning's fault. When Brady's team loses, it's "the team loses, injuries, Broncos d-line got great pressure, pot roast, blah, blah, blah.

The agenda couldn't be more transparent if it was written in Saran Wrap.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:28pm

Ummm... What world are you in? I think the consensus among everyone, both here and everywhere except in the minds of irrational Pats haters, is that Brady's poor play was one of the two reasons why the Broncos dominated. (The other being the Taliban injury).

by MJK :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:29pm

Sorry...TALIB injury. DYAC!

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:59pm


I thought this thread was about to take an unexpected turn.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:35pm

Is the Taliban injury serious? Can we plan on rehab in time for a fall offensive? Will they be ready for OTAs?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:37pm

I think they intend to beat the cap with opium smuggling.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:48pm

I imagine it would look something like this

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:15pm

Yeahhhh! New season of Archer! I can't believe I missed it!

The man with no sig

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:05pm

That cracked me up. I thought you were being a smart ass, but that's a hilarious autocorrect.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:26pm

I might rephrase and say that if Manning has a bad game it's because of some character inadequacy whereas if Brady has a bad game nobody calls him a choker.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:08pm


Citiation of this "consensus" needed.

by Independent George :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:30pm

this site and the sports media would be fileting Manning like yesterday's caught trout.

Say what?

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:37pm

Even before the game the a Brady narrative was being set up...

There was no mention that Brady was going against a Denver defense that was equally as decimated by injuries as the Pats defense. Denver was missing four defensive starters since the they played in November, Miller, Vickerson, Harris and Wolfe. That's two defensive lineman, a great cornerback and one if the NFLs top 5 defensive players. That is especially significant when considering how much Miller has dominated Nate Soldier in past pro and college games.

I think BBs remarks about Welker are designed to take the heat off of Tom Brady. He has to be getting roasted for his performance. Weapons or no weapons, he totally missed open receivers deep on plays where he had no pressure. If Manning had missed those passes, he'd be a choker.

In their last 16 playoff games to compare Brady and Manning...... Brady is 8-8 and Manning is 9-7, including two head-to-head wins in AFC Championship games. And two of Brady's wins would have to be considered lucky; a fumbled INT against San Diego and the Lee Evans drop.

by jds :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:28pm

Tanier had the following line in his Mandatory Monday column:

"Also, at this point in their careers, Peyton Manning is a far better quarterback than Tom Brady."

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:59pm

"If Manning's Broncos had come out and laid an offensive egg for 3 quarters and put up 3 points...this site and the sports media would be fileting Manning like yesterday's caught trout. But since it's Brady...virtually NOTHING is being written about how Brady completely shit the bed."

I wouldn't do that. I spent my Saturday evening compiling this on Manning and Brady:


by jebmak :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:09pm

Love this. Thank you.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:18pm

Well done...I'm quite impressed...thanks for the work and providing the link.

by anotherpatsfan :: Wed, 01/22/2014 - 1:49pm

Scott, you will definitely be in with the Patriot-hating cool kids here with this.

I agree Brady had his worse year since at least 2006. Statistically and visually obvious. I would like to see what he would have done with Denver's receivers this year. Don't think he would have done as well as Manning, but think it would have been looked better for him. Time will tell if this is the beginning of the end.

I think the Brady-Manning stuff was created by the fans here (particularly the crazier of the groups). I don't recall this site endorsing Manning as a choker -- it is IMO the mainstream talking heads who dissect Manning's can't-win-the-big-one-itis and its effect on his legacy (one would think from listening to NFL "insiders" his career goes down the shitter if he doesn't win this SB, which is nuts).

Despite Brady's post-2007 stats, I have a hard time seeing a statistical case for Brady being better than Manning. If someone could account for the (IMO) superior receiving talent Manning had over his career, we might learn if there is an credible argument in that regard (although you would also have to account for OL performance too). Would be quite a task, but at the end of the day I doubt it changes Manning's statistical superiority.

Manning IMO is indisputably a top 5 all time QB, knocking on the door of best QB ever. Brady ultimately cracks the top ten I think, but is not in the same super-duper-star strata as Manning. However, as a Pats fan, it is ok that the Pats had to settle for Brady. It's been a good run.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/22/2014 - 2:48pm

Brady is a historically great qb. Period. One context that tends to get ignored more than others, however, when looking at historically great qbs, is how some of the HOFers had one great coach, or one really good coaching context, to spend the vast majority of his career with. Brady, Marino, Kelly, and some others really benefited from this, and a guy like Montana had some change in coaching, but the overall context of a very well run organization did not. That doesn't take away from their accomplishments, but I do think some credit should be given to guys who really had to overcome managerial inconsistency. Guys like Manning and Elway never had to overcome bad coaching per se, but they did have some measure of upheaval that had to dealt with. A guy like Tarkenton is so unique, of course, due to his having actually really bad coaching to overcome until he was well into his 30s.

by bubqr :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:49am

Completely agree. And pointing out this site and M.Tanier as a proof that his statement is not true is meaningless, because those are not the ones thinking Manning is a choker. I 100% agree that the storyline would have been on Manning "choking again" if the roles were reversed, all the way. While there it's more along the lines of "Oh well the Pats did not show up". No one was giving those excuses to Manning even we he carried the Colts on his shoulders.

Looking back at the overall season, there is legitimate reasons to think that Brady is past his prime and starting to fade. I don't recall playing him as bad as he has played over a few games this season.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:25pm

Main themes from the AFC game.

Brady is inaccurate on the deep balls.

Denver has better wide receivers.

A defense already missing both starting DTs, two starting LBs, and then its best, pro bowl CB, can't stop Peyton Manning in good weather with healthy receivers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:31pm

Belichik's post game self-deprecating remarks aside, the Patriots, once again, are an incredibly well-coached team, and no, I am not inclined to root for the Patriots.

by deflated (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:52pm

Whereas a defense missing its #1 CB, best safety, All-Pro LB, best DT and starting DE can limit the Patriots in the same conditions?

Both defenses were beat up, one played better than expected and the other played much better than expected.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:29pm

The defense they faced wasn't as good as the 2006 Patriots and 2009 Jets, but that was an incredible offensive performance. 26 points doesn't seem like a lot, but with bad field position most of the game, and just 8 drives to work with, 26 points and 507 yards is ridiculous. 63 yards per drive. That has to be up there all time. 3.3 points-per-drive is above their season average.

The run game was good, the receivers did a nice job when not dropping TDs, the O-Line was great, but Manning was insane. He's now 3-1 in AFC Championship Games. The 1 loss may have been his worst game of his playoff career, but the three wins are arguably his three best.

The Super Bowl should be a great matchup. I believe when top ranked (conventionally) offenses adn defenses meet the defenses have won more of the games, but I think the Broncos give them a good run. They'll avoid Sherman most likely, but Manning will make Thurmond and Maxwell play well for SEattle to win.

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:39pm

Manning had a lot of picks in that 2003 AFC champ loss because Law made some great plays. People forget that Brady played much, much worse in that game. Brady made a horrible read when the Colts dropped Freeney on a zone blitz and hit Freeney in the helmet with the pass. Of course, the ball bounced high in the air and came down in the hands of the only Pat with a bunch of colts nearby. Brady also hit one Colt DB right between the numbers (dropped) and then threw a long one down the right sideline right to the Indy safety who dropped it. And then there was the brain dead choice to try to run over a Colt on a naked boot in the closing minutes where he fumbled, but just an instant after his knee hit.

All this despite having perfect pass protection. Boomer Esiason was doing the game on radio. By the third quarter he was laughing aloud at the amount of time Brady had. After one play, "folks, when I say he had all day to throw, I mean he REALLY HAD ALL DAY to throw. He can hold it as long as he wants."

Manning, of course, was getting sacked by 3 man rushes as the Pats had 5 defenders mugging the receivers and 3 deep over the top just in case somebody escaped the clutches of the underneath mugger.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:47pm

I really would like to see playoff game stats for qbs adjusted for dropped picks, if we are going to stupidly focus on playoff games to judge a qb's career.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:35pm

All that is true, but Peyton was still terrible. The worst throw was probably the first INT, a floater into the end zone for a pick when they could've started the game by answering NEs TD with one of their own.

That was 1 out of 2 games where I thought Peyton played badly while the rest of the team played well enough to win. The other the Colts did win - the 2006 Divisional in Baltimore.

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:41pm

the rest of the team not including the offensive line that couldn't block, the receivers who couldn't get open and the defense that couldn't hold onto interceptions or get any pass rush?

by MJK :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:38pm

Teams from Washington and Colorado are going to the SB.

The two states that have legalized recreational marijuana are...Washington and Colorado.

Just observing with no further comment...

by James-London :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 12:56pm

Simmons billed it as " The Doobie Bowl" last week...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:28pm

I called it Smoke-a-Bowl last year (as a hypothetical) and I'm sticking with it.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:28pm

I called it Smoke-a-Bowl last year (as a hypothetical) and I'm sticking with it.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:57pm

I prefer SB 420 (or SB IV-XX for those who insist on Roman numerals).

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:38pm

Technically, that would be SB CMXX, however.

by Lance :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:33am

I think you mean CDXX (D=500; M=1000).

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:57am

It would be easier to write it CDXX, but I've only heard the term pronounced four-twenty, not four hundred twenty. But I'm in my late 50's and calling it 420 is relatively new. As haven't hung around with anyone who toked in decades I could be wrong here.

by Bruce Lamon :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:00pm

I think Wilson's play has deteriorated because the O-line performance has gone from shameful (Ben Muth please comment) to execrable (plus, NFC West defenses at least have learned how to shut down his running game).

It's not on the receivers, who have been good enough all year. Baldwin and Tate have the hands, the ability to get down in bounds and the YAC ability, but they don't get separation except on blown coverage or while ad libbing on scrambles. Nobody this side of Manning could make the pinpoint throws they usually need when constantly threatened with immediate sackage. E.g., one key to the Kearse touchdown was Aldon Smith going limp after he was offside, thus giving Wilson a moment to look, plant and throw.

It's not just Wilson who suffers from an atrocious O-line. Imagine what Lynch would do with average blocking.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:25pm

Has anybody got the yards after contact numbers for Lynch yesterday? So many times he looked smothered in the backfield and somehow made positive yards. Really an great performance.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:45pm

PFF has him with 83 yards after contact (out of his 109 yards rushing).

by Tino (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 6:21pm

Seahawks fan here. I actually think the o-line has improved from where they were mid-season (when both starting tackles were hurt and Wilson was literally running for his life every play). Pass blocking has been OK in m opinion. Run blocking can still improve. Much of the pressure in yesterday's game was either 1) 49ers blitzing (and Wilson getting caught flat footed) or 2) Wilson getting good initial protection but holds onto the ball too long. Wilson seems to have reverted to how he was playing the first half of his rookie year -- ultra-conservative in the pocket even when guys are seemingly open, hence he is holding the ball too long and tries to escape the pocket to prolong the play.

I am, however, rather baffled by Seattle's continued shuffling of the o-line. Rookie Michael Bowie, who has generally exceeded expectations all season at RT, made a surprise start at LG against New Orleans..and was then made inactive against SF. HUH? If this wasn't an injury or disciplinary inspired move, it seems really bizarre.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:13pm

It looks as if Denver has taken a page out of the San Diego Charger strategy, which is to protect your defense by having long sustained drives. In the last two playoff games, Denver has had THREE drives that were over 7 minutes. Denver seems to have further adopted a San Diego tendency with sub-pedestrian red-zone efficiency, which is why they've scored ONLY in the mid-20s in their two playoff games, despite dominating both games.

Enough credit can't be given to Denver's front office that seems to have hit big on every major free agency signee: Vasquez, Knighton, Phillips, Welker and DRC.

Denver has not faced a defense like Seattles, but Seattle hasn't faced an offense like Denver's either. Both defenses seem to match up well against the respective offenses. The one thing Denvers defense has been consistently good at, is defending the run and Seattle's pass defense is obviously the best.

If these teams were full strength; Denver with Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Chris Harris and Kevin Vickerson to name a few... I think Denver blows them out. However that isn't the case and I think this will be a close game where whoever wins the turnover battle or get a big/lucky play/call wins the game.

Officiating will obviously be big because both teams push the limits on the rules: do they call Seattle for defensive holding? Do they call offensive PI on Denver's pick plays? Looks like the best Super Bowl match in a a few years.

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:20pm

I wonder if this does anything to end the constant worrying about team hiring retread head coaches that didn't "win" their first time around? Someones retread coach is going to win the Super Bowl this year. Granted these are two of the more successful retreads out there.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:23pm

For at least 2 of Wilson's sacks, the 49ers were showing blitz before the snap and Wilson just didn't get the ball out fast enough. On one of them he even audibles before the snap and is pointing right where the 9ers are blitzing from, so he knew it was coming. If Peyton Manning or Brady is in the backfield you can bet the ball comes out before the pass rush gets there.

So the offensive line might not have played very well but sometimes an offensive line is going to be beat (or outnumbered) and you want your QB to win with fast decision making and release.

by bubqr :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:41am

Exactly a point I wanted to make, people blame his OL to much. Especially the first one, when he got the slot corner (C.Rogers) and Bowman cheating after a fake snap count, he goes back, run the play, and surprise!, they blitz, and he just got sacked by keeping the ball too long. He is developing some bad habits, that to me he was not showing in the past (the Vick-itis, where you think you can scramble around and spin off every sack attempt).

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:35pm

So the Denver defense played much better than everyone was expecting. One thing it seemed like they were able to do was take away the crossing routes the Patriots love to run and force Brady to try throw deep or at least hit receivers running vertical routes (even if not deep). This caused 3 major incompletions on plays when the failed to cover the receiver (or failed to cover well).

Did anyone notice what they did to take away the crossing routes for much of the game?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:44pm

Has anyone seen a snap count for Quentin Jammer?

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:04pm

Pretty sure it was Blutarski's grade point average.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:17pm

Well, that's just it. If you had told me that Bailey would look relatively healthy, and Jammer would never get on the field, I would not have given the Patriots the chance that I did. If the Broncos' secondary's health does not get any worse by the time the last game is over, their chance of winning is reasonable. If they get to a point where the Seahawks score 30 or more, I'd say they have almost no chance.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:11pm

Hey plenty of teams that don't have cornerbacks in the middle of either binges have trouble stopping the Patriots passing attack. It seemed to me that the Broncos did something schematic that gave them a lot of trouble.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:49pm


According to PFF, Tony Carter, Kayvon Webster, David Bruton, and Michael Huff are the guys who made appearances as extra DBs.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:07pm

How did they so grossly misjudge their personnel the previous week, where Jammer almost made the game competitive?

This is why gambling on games is so hard, for the nonconnected. I can almost guarantee you that the sharpies had word that Bailey was looking good to go.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:11pm

There is a good chance Bailey was less healthy last week. There was an article about how Bailey was given essentially a pitch count of plays he was allowed to play per game and they threw that out this week because of desperation.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:19pm

I'm sure Bailey was less healthy last week. At this point , however, anybody they could get, or anything, even the proverbial inanimate carbon rod, may be a better choice than Quentin Jammer.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:44pm

It's worth noting that the Broncos never played defense with a single possession lead after Jammer came in. They might have made a strategic decision to make sure Bailey could go the next week and assume Peyton Manning an the offense could hold the lead against the Chargers.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:32pm

All season, many of us Broncos fans were scratching our heads at the decision to play Quentin Jammer and Kayvon Webster over Tony Carter who played great for the Broncos last year.

As it stands, we're still scratching our heads at that decision because he played great against the Pats.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:30pm

they realized that the Patriot receivers were really a bunch of scrubs outside Edelman and they kept Jammer out of the game

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 1:35pm

Not sure if this has been brought up already, but does anyone else think Wilson should have been called for a false start on the 4th and 7 for bobbing his head when he was trying to get the Niners to jump?

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 10:48pm

Not at all, given the hundreds of times Peyton Manning has bobbed his head and chicken-danced at the line in his career.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:10pm

No mention of the running into the kicker penalty that should have been routing and a 15 yard penalty? Noone saw Maragos taking out Lee's plant leg, which makes it the personal foul? It would have changed the field position even if the niners didn't manage to move the ball. Just me?

Overall, I am trying to be happy about what was still a very good season for the niners. The game could have gone either way, the niners probably win without that bizarre interception.

We have six picks in the first three rounds, the cap shouldn't explode for a couple of years, we should be back next year. The Bowman and Iupati injuries bummed me out though.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:32pm

Yeah, that was huge non-call. A hold easily could have been called on the Baldwin kickoff return as well, especially since it occurred right in front of Baldwin. On the other hand, it seemed as if the Niners got the better of the ball on the ground randomness.

Just a very close playoff game, in which non-predictive stuff pays a huge role in the outcome. As a Vikings fan of several decades, I commiserate.

by beargoggles :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:33pm

The Seahawks (and all of us) are lucky they fumbled the 4th and one. Otherwise the officials would be a much bigger story in the game. Now it's just one obvious blown call instead of 2 and it's easier to just chalk it up to the randomness of blown calls. I'm not happy about the blown call but I can live with it.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:44pm

The Seattle player was on the ground about a yard in front of Lee on that punt - the contact came when Lee sort of hopped forward a yard on his plant leg after he kicked. Seemed like a good no-call to me.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:09pm

So you are saying that he hopped forward and twisted his own ankle under the Seattle player?

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:16pm

If the purpose of the penalty is to prevent gruesome injuries, and I think it is, then he shouldn't have been in a position for the punter to land on him to begin with; even if Lee's plant leg did swing forward quite a bit on the landing.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:28pm

Then don't call anything, instead of taking the worst option of calling a penalty that clearly did not happen, since Lee's kicking leg was untouched.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 7:59pm

That's a good point, but per the rules it shouldn't matter. Here's the section of the rule book :


"Article 10: Roughing/Running into the Kicker...

Item 1: Roughing the kicker. It is a foul for roughing the kicker if a defensive player:
(a) contacts the plant leg of the kicker while his kicking leg is still in the air; or
(b) slides into or contacts the kicker when both of the kicker’s feet are on the ground. It is not a foul if the contact is not severe, or if the kicker returns both feet to the ground prior to the contact and falls over a defender who is on the ground.
Note: When in doubt, it is a foul for roughing the kicker."


Running into the kicker, on the other hand, is defined like this :


"Item 2: Running into the Kicker. It is a foul for running into the kicker if a defensive player:
(a) contacts the kicking foot of the kicker, even if the kicker is airborne when the contact occurs; or
(b) slides under the kicker, preventing him from returning both feet to the ground."


Neither of those defines what happened on the play, so it looks like it should definitely have been roughing. There's no allowance for the kicker hopping into someone who's on the ground. There is that line about a kicker who falls over someone who's already on the ground, but that should be neither roughing nor running into. That only applies when both feet are back on the ground.

Here's the GIF in case anyone wants to look :


by Gomer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 4:34am

Wouldn't the 'slides under the kicker' be applicable?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:55am

Although *really* rarely called (I want to say I've seen it called once in 20 years), the kicker embellishing the contact and diving is also an unsportsmanlike penalty.

I suspect the ref saw contact, wasn't sure who was faking what, and settled on the 5-yarder.

by coremill :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 11:22am

Huh? Where did the idea that Lee was faking come from? Look at the replay again. Lee's eyes are downfield on the path of the ball. The force of his kick carries him into the air, he lands on his plant foot and the Seattle rusher immediately puts his helmet into the ankle of the plant foot. That's about as textbook as it gets.

The whole point of the roughing the punter rule is that the punter is in a vulnerable position when kicking because he can't brace himself for impact, and is thus more susceptible to injury. The Seattle rusher crashes into Lee and rolls over Lee's left ankle. Lee very well could have (and maybe did, since he did not punt again in the game) gotten injured on that play. That's why the rule exists -- to deter precisely the conduct that occurred here.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:29pm

I didn't say he was. I said the rules presuppose he could have been. I also suspect the referee didn't have the angle FOX had.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:29pm

I looked at the replay again and Maragos' helmet never touches Lee's ankle; he hit him with his shoulder pad. Lee's plant foot also moved forward a full two feet from its original position. I agree with the rest of your point, though.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:14pm

Lee's plant foot moves as part of his punting motion, the motion is not relevant to whether or not there should be a roughing penalty. Margaros made a huge mistake and was lucky that it didn't hurt Seattle more (and Lee was lucky he wasn't hurt more).

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:41pm

Yes I know; I said as much at #194. It does look like Maragos realized he completely mistimed his jump and tried to slow down and turn his helmet to the side to avoid a more severe injury, which might've prevented an uglier fall and a harsher penalty.

by Jason Jou (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:11pm

From what I've seen of the All-22 film from 49ers in Week 14, Arizona in Week 16, and Saints in the 2nd round of the playoffs, it's different things that's stopping the passing attack. Also, teams have caught on that the OL sucks and are using their DEs to get pressure but are told to first and foremost contain Russell in the pocket. They then can have the DTs collapse the interior and get the sack. This is eliminating a lot of bootleg plays that were working earlier in the season.

Against the 49ers, Russell has no room to even think the pressure comes so quick. Okung must not be fully recovered since he had one of the worst games of his career against the 49ers and yesterday was no different. Against the Cards, the pressure wasn't as bad, but they have the athleticism at CB to cover the WRs one on one and no one was getting open even though the Hawks consistently got one on one match ups on the outside. That's why every pass seemed to be a deep ball. Against the Saints, it seemed it was mostly ultra conservative game calling due to the weather.

Obviously this is all oversimplifying everything, but it would appear that better OL play and better WRs would really help Russell out a lot.

by spujr :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:12pm

I hope there is a large DVOA asterisk for the Pats offense and the Den defense this week. Most of those yards given up by Denver came in the fourth quarter when Brady was making plays over the middle and eating up the clock. To me, it seemed NE fourth quarter was playing right in hands of what Den wanted to do.

I appreciate the credit given to the Denver defense this week. It seems whenever they do well the main talk on this site is how poorly the other team's offense played. I know the Denver Def is not the greatest and has its faults but the last two game they really shown up.

On a completely different note I just wanted to give kudos on this year's audible format. I know there have been some criticism, but I for one, really enjoyed the reads. Milkman's comments during the weeks were hilarious.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:33pm

Some weeks, it has taken conscious effort for me to not to make the Audibles tweet compilations for certain games a "best of MilkmanDanimal" with occasional filler from other commenters.

I love the playoff format with both the tweet compilation and the staff e-mails. The staff e-mails make for a much more readable article on Monday.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:42pm

The truth is that between (A) the season being soon over and (B) Greg Schiano finally being fired, I have no idea what I'm going to rant about anymore.

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:29pm

> I'm not sure anyone other than Michael Vick (in his prime) makes the 58-yard run Kaepernick had today.

Vick had a 61-yard run this year (certainly no longer in his prime) against the Chiefs, who had one of the top defenses in the league (especially earlier in the season).


by tuluse :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:37pm

It reminded me more of Steve Young than Vick.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:56pm

Kaep reminded me of Bobby Douglass only with actual QB skill.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:34pm

the niners qb had been fortunate to avoid turnovers in the other playoff games and it balanced out today. bad timing.

the niners pass was incredible all playoffs. just a constant push that encircled the qb. the san fran d-line abused every offensive line they faced these playoffs

where was Vernon davis? was he constantly double covered these playoffs?

think seattle should be able to handle Denver. better special teams plus far superior defense against a team that is all about offense. that's a good matchup for seattle.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:41pm

I thought barnwell had done some number crunching to show that the only team that had a legitimate homefield advantage was seattle?

by jebmak :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:38pm

I remember reading something about them having a measurably bigger homefield advantage than normal, but I don't remember if it was him.

All teams do have a homefield advantage though. I'm not sure if you meant to imply that they don't.

by Gomer (not verified) :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 4:40am

All teams have a home field advantage.

Seattle's is demonstrably better, but not by much.

Home field advantage usually fades by halftime.

And I don't think it was Barnwell but someone he references.

by bucko (not verified) :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 2:46pm

As a lowly poster, I want to thank the authors for minimal officiating commentary.

Everyone understands and acknowledges that nfl officiating is severely lacking. To discuss further is to just state the obvious.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:10pm

Have we confirmed that Danny is still alive today and not facing charges for going on a 3-state killing spree?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:07pm

Who does he think he is -- Aaron Hernandez?

by Theo :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 3:46pm

Did no one notice Dobbs #83 in the 49ers Defense?
I had a big question mark on my face, but apparently he's a Tight End with more time on defense than on offense. (8 tackles vs 0 catches)

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:10pm

They changed his number last year when he was being tried as a two way player, it made it easier to bring him on without having to report as eligible every time. They did the same thing with Will Tukuafu who then became a full time fullback.

by Led :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:53pm

Thanks for the info! I also saw #83 on defense and did a double take, and then forgot about it in the overall excitement of the end of the game.

By the way, as insane post-game tirades go, I'd take Bart Scott's "can't wait" tirade over Sherman's "sorry receiver" tirade, but I'm biased.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 01/20/2014 - 11:08pm

Just my couple quick thoughts on Wilson vs Kaepernick:

- Kaepernick looked like he was quick to jump on holes opened up by his OL to run for big gains, even when he had a decent pocket. That is something that the Seahawks won't have to face against Peyton Manning.

- Seemed to me that Wilson was looking more to make pass plays than run, but he got more pressure up the middle so he couldn't step up the way that Kaepernick could . Advantage 49er DL.

From what I saw the Super Bowl will come down basically to interior pass rush by both the Broncos and Seahawks.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 1:21am

"Seemed to me that Wilson was looking more to make pass plays than run, but he got more pressure up the middle so he couldn't step up the way that Kaepernick could"

Both Wilson and Kaepernick at various times this season have looked like they think (or had it drilled into their heads) that a QB's job is to throw the ball, and have been hesitant at tucking and running it even when there's open field ahead of them.

by EricL :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 2:40am

I think this applies to Wilson more than Kaepernick (and Wilson has even said he's always looking to throw during a scramble until he's past the line of scrimmage), but yeah. Both have shifted away from run-first scrambles.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 4:45am

It does now, but you should've seen the Niners forums during their first losing streak. Most people were calling for Kaepernick to just run it when he can't find anyone open, and his lack of good receivers in those games (as well as his own issues with moving from read to read) which meant that this happened often.

by coremill :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 11:27am

There were rumors that Kaepernick was battling some kind of foot injury early in the season that kept him from running more, although he denied that and he never showed up on the injury report.

It seems clear to me that the coaches kept Kaepernick from running too much in the regular season in an effort to keep him healthy for the whole season, and then took the reins off in the playoffs.

by MichaelEdits :: Tue, 01/21/2014 - 8:11pm

Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick were both elusive enough to make Ben Roethlisberger jealous.