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The Cardinals had a winning record with backup quarterbacks last year thanks in large part to their high-profile edge rusher who terrorized opposing offenses. We look at defeat leaders for every position, as well as overall leaders over the past few seasons.

01 Dec 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Tennessee Titans 21 at Houston Texans 45

Tom Gower: Summary of first quarter of Titans-Texans: Texans third down conversion. DeAndre Hopkins with great catch of not so good Ryan Fitzpatrick pass. Texans touchdown. Titans don't score. Repeat those as necessary. 14-0, Houston.

Cian Fahey: The emphasis on new stats in broadcasting has largely been worthless, but I did like CBS highlighting the Titans success rate on 3rd-and-10+ situations. They were 6/43, now 6/44.

Tom Gower: 24-0 at the half. I'm not angry. I'm not even annoyed. I'm not even surprised, even though the Texans aren't so good it was unreasonable to expect the Titans to have a chance to win this game.

One thing I didn't note in the first quarter: the Texans actually did not convert all their third downs. The one they didn't, Bill O'Brien went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Titans 35-yard line, as he should have. That, they converted.

Cian Fahey: Jake Locker's horrendous season didn't end when he was benched, it was just interrupted. After Zach Mettenberger injures his should during the third quarter, Locker comes in and makes a terrible decision to throw the ball to a defender in the flat.

DeAndre Hopkins continues to compound his case as the best wide receiver from the 2013 class. His second touchdown of the day is again plucked out of the air over a defensive back.

Matt Waldman: From the 2013 RSP: There was a time I thought Hopkins might be the best receiver in this class. He's a fine route runner with excellent hands. He's probably the best receiver at winning the ball in tight coverage. He's also the least explosive of the top five. I think he's fast enough to be a primary option and with the right quarterback he could have the best career.

Cian Fahey: DeAndre Hopkins is just doing whatever he wants to do against the Titans secondary. His huge reception sets up Andre Johnson for an impressive reception in the corner of the end zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick has five touchdowns today, imagine what an NFL quarterback could have done?

Rob Weintraub: J.J. Watt with the trifecta--strip/sack/recovery, and for good measure he splits out to catch Fitzpatrick's sixth (!!!) touchdown pass. Incredible in all respects.

Tom Gower: Ryan Fitzpatrick has six touchdown passes before giving way for Tom Savage. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? I know you're not a fan, Cian, and he has some obvious and deeply, well, limiting fundamental limitations, but you can certainly do a lot worse.

Oakland Raiders 0 at St. Louis Rams 52

Cian Fahey: According to Gil Brandt, Tre Mason is just the fifth player in NFL history to have over 100 yards on four or fewer rushing attempts.

San Diego Chargers 34 at Baltimore Ravens 33

Aaron Schatz: Early report from Baltimore: San Diego offensive line is having trouble protecting Philip Rivers. One pass rush had Chris Canty in his face and Elvis Dumervil tipping his arm for an interception. But if Rivers can get the ball out before the pass rush gets there, the Ravens are having trouble covering his receivers, particularly Antonio Gates.

Chargers just had rookie center Chris "Not J.J." Watt go off with an injury. He is their fourth starting center to get injured this year. They are now down to their fifth center, Trevor Robinson, formerly of the Bengals.

Cian Fahey: Robinson isn't awful as far as fifth choice offensive linemen go. Adam Jones just had his first fair catch in a decade of returning punts.

Rob Weintraub: Trevor Robinson--heady but physically not strong enough for the NFL from week to week.

Aaron Schatz: I've got to admit, I thought the Ravens were going to start running away with this one because of weakness in the San Diego defense. But suddenly the Chargers got a three-and-out right after Watt's injury, and then their offense went right down the field. Beautiful, Merril Hoge slobber-worthy blocking on a Ryan Mathews touchdown run to make it 23-20, with a great pull right by left guard Chad Rinehart and sweet blocking on the second level by tight end Ladarius "still asleep for fantasy purposes" Green.

Rob Weintraub: And thanks to a spurious pass interference call in the end zone against the Ravens, the Chargers take the lead late in Baltimore thanks to an 80-yard drive. Nice smoke screen concept to Royal for the touchdown, but the penalty Floyd drew to get them close was iffy at best.

Aaron Schatz: Am I weird? I complain about pass interference calls as much as anyone and I thought that DPI on Ravens cornerback Anthony Levine was completely obvious. And frankly, a shonda fer da goyim.

I guess afterwards, Dan Fouts was saying that he thought that both Levine and Malcom Floyd were grabbing each other, but I thought it was pretty clear that Levine grabbed Floyd and held him down.

I would like to congratulate the Chargers for learning their lesson from their Week 1 loss to the Cardinals. I remember yelling at my TV when Frank Reich refused to leave in an extra blocker and kept putting spread formations out there when the Cardinals were big blitzing over and over. This time, the Chargers left their back in to block and pick up the Baltimore blitzes, and Rivers generally had enough time to make the passes.

Andrew Potter: Definite pass interference. I don’t see how that could have been called any other way. Floyd is trying to work back toward the ball, but is blocked from doing so by a defender with his back to the pass. See that called all the time.

Tom Gower: I thought it was pass interference on Levine. Floyd started playing the ball, Levine didn't and obstructed Floyd's arm.

Jacoby Jones giveth (73-yard return to set up field goal to make it 33-27), Jacoby Jones taketh away (muffing kickoff, return to inside 15 down 34-33 and then requiring a VERY generous out-of-bounds call on a four-yard completion on first-and-10).

Aaron Schatz: In case you didn't enjoy Kamar Aiken drop a pass earlier today when he was so ridiculously open that nobody from the Chargers was within 15 yards of him, you also got to see Aiken just catch a ball in field-goal range with five seconds left but fail to get out of bounds. San Diego wins 34-33. This has been today's edition of "reasons why Kamar Aiken never got playing time until this year even though he's been in the league forever."

Rob Weintraub: I thought it was iffy pass interference at first -- but on another look I do see your point. Was trying not to be obviously anti-Ravens :)

Still, all calls against Levine are inherently ferkakta...

And the purple almost pull off a miracle field goal try but Brandon Flowers made a sensational tackle on the sideline to keep Aiken inbounds and the clock runs out. So yeah, the Bengals won, the rest of the division lost, Cincy leads by 1 1/2 game headed into the final month. Need that pad with Steelers/@Browns/Broncos MNF/@Steelers to close the sked.

Vince Verhei: Baltimore blitzed a lot today, which resulted in lots of pressure, but also left their defensive backs in one-on-one situations against San Diego receivers. And that was a mismatch in San Diego's favor pretty much every time, especially when throwing to Antonio Gates. Even when the receivers weren't catching balls, they were drawing gobs and gobs of holding/illegal contact/DPI penalties all day long (and as a result, this game went nearly 3 and a half hours, even though it ended in regulation). It resulted in a lot of small-ball offense for San Diego, as they converted all their third downs in the first half, but had only seven points due to a Rivers interception (his arm was hit as he threw) and a lost fumble.

Baltimore's offense had plenty of opportunities, but they were clunky all day. Flacco was off for most of the first half, though his receivers often bailed him out with tough catches. Then in the second half, Flacco was throwing better, but his receivers started dropping everything. They spent most of the day avoiding Brandon Flowers (which meant a quiet day for Steve Smith) and picking on Shareece Wright. Justin Forsett also had a big day. I know Ben Muth has been praising the Baltimore offensive line, but Forsett's awfully good on his own, very shifty and good at making guys miss. I watched him tear it up for Seattle in the preseason what seems like eons ago, so it's fun to finally see him shine when given a chance as a No. 1 back.

San Diego shot themselves in the foot by kicking away from Jacoby Jones all day, settling for pooch kicks and dribblers that set the Ravens up outside their own 30- or 40-yard line all day. Oddly, they started kicking to him late with the game on the line. He ran the first back 70-ish yards to set up a field goal, but the next, he bobbled and was tackled inside the 15-yard line.

In hindsight, the call that might have decided this game actually occurred in the second quarter. Marcus Gilchrist, covering Steve Smith, committed illegal contact at the San Diego 6-yard line, but Smith fought through it and ran to the end zone, where Gilchrist flagrantly interfered with him. The refs called pass interference, but then spotted the ball with a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line instead of putting it at the 1-yard line, where it should have been. Three plays later the Ravens kicked a 21-yard field goal. If they get a touchdown on that drive, obviously the end of the game plays out completely differently. It's hard to feel too bad for Baltimore, though, because Smith was open in the end zone, and a better throw from Flacco there would have resulted in six points anyway.

As for the call against Baltimore at the end of the game, that was DPI all the way. Easy and obvious. When your hand is on the receiver's shoulder, pinning his arm to his side, sorry, that's going to get called.

Cleveland Browns 10 at Buffalo Bills 26

Matt Waldman: Johnny Manziel in for Brian Hoyer with 12:01 in the fourth quarter and down 3-20.

Scott Kacsmar: I guess that's a situation where you bring in Manziel looking for a spark, but sounds like a pretty crappy opportunity for him to have any success. Isaiah Crowell has just 18 yards on 16 carries. Good luck, JFF.

Rob Weintraub: Ladies and gentlemen, start your memes! Johnny Football threads one that just misses getting picked for big yards to Jim Dray, then scrambles in for the score. Just what I didn't need.

Matt Waldman: Third-and-1 for Bills after Manziel scores on first possession. Plays a 13 personnel set with a fake toss to Fred Jackson and hits former TE/FB/H-Back MarQueis Gray, who has two big plays against his old team. Always fun to see fringe players do well against former teams.

Never trust that sugar high from a Snickers bar, Johnny. The buzz is only temporary and the comedown is hard. Tries to bring ball down against Kyle Williams, but hand with the ball rebounds off Williams' helmet and Nickell Robey recovers the fumble in the end zone.

Cincinnati Bengals 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that both Cian and I made "Mike Evans sure loves to push off!" tweets within three minutes of each other.

Cian Fahey: What does Andy Dalton have to do to find his way to the bench? Seriously. Nobody ever even mentions this as a potential move, not least the Bengals.

As I type, the scorelines 24-0, 38-0, 21-3 and 28-6 exist. This has been a weird day and it feels like some teams have simply given up.

Tom Gower: The Bengals selected A.J. McCarron in the draft. He was the only quarterback in the draft who wasn't better than Dalton was at anything. Bizarre pick, even in the fifth round.

Aaron Schatz: I need to speak up for Andy Dalton here. The problem with "shouldn't Andy Dalton be pulled" is "what else is there?" You aren't going to be going Wildcat with Giovani Bernard taking snaps, right? I may win the All-Time Jason Campbell Apologist award but that was like six years ago that I was writing pleasant things about Jason Campbell. And A.J. McCarron probably isn't any better.

Andy Dalton has an average DVOA. He has an average DVOA pretty much every year. He has the benefit of one of the best receivers in the game, and usually a good offensive line, but that offensive line has had tons of problems with Gerald McCoy today and you can't blame him for that. Dalton is not a bad quarterback. He's an average NFL quarterback. Not everybody can be a top ten quarterback. What gets me about Dalton is that it feels like he should be much more consistent than he actually is. I don't have any research to back this up -- maybe that's an idea for the offseason -- but doesn't it *feel* like a quarterback who is primarily dependent on short accuracy like Dalton should be more consistent from game to game than a quarterback who is primarily dependent on arm strength like Joe Flacco or Matthew Stafford? And yet Dalton has really great games like he had against the Saints a couple weeks ago and total, horrid stinkers like today or every single time he has ever been on national television since the day television was invented.

Andrew Healy: For a quarterback with average DVOA, Dalton sure seems like he has an awfully high variance game-to-game. Not sure if that squares with the data over his career so far.

Just one more thought on Dalton: Watching him against the Browns a few weeks ago, I wondered if there might be something personal going on that caused him to be off. We forget that these guys are human beings sometimes, and people differ in their abilities to block stuff out. I have no idea if that's true, but he just looked so out of sorts and off-field stuff has to be a factor sometimes when players look that bad. Right no cue, Dalton with a nice throw down the left seam to AJ Green for the touchdown that puts the Bengals ahead 14-10.

Rob Weintraub: Dalton has a new baby at home. As any parent knows, that is something of a distraction. I remember when Carson Palmer's twins were born he went into a two month funk.

Meanwhile, Cincy just failed on the surprise onside kick. Works for everyone else, but not the Bengals. Like the call though.

Late here today but the real issue from what I've seen is that Marshall Newhouse is getting overrun at right tackle, and the Bengals have moved Clint Boling over there at times to try and sustain some blocks, with Mike Pollak playing left guard. But the Bucs, even without Lavonte David and Clinton McDonald, are in the backfield on virtually every play.

Aaron Schatz: Didn't Melvin Mora hit .230 the year his wife had sextuplets?

Rob Weintraub: It's a study/story idea I've wanted to do for a long time, except so far as I know there is no "new parent athlete" database out there, and when interviewed, I strongly suspect most players would hesitate to blame any outside forces for their struggles. But common sense says something like a new baby has to be a factor in your job performance.

This is what I've been saying for a while about Dalton--no, he's not great, and when he stinks he really stinks. But he is mentally tough, does more right than wrong on a consistent basis, and has his team in play for a fourth straight playoff appearance, unprecedented in franchise history. And more to the point, who's better that's available? Everyone always says to trade for this guy or draft that guy, almost all of whom turn out to be worse than Dalton. Yes, I'd prefer Rodgers or Roethlisberger to be my quarterback. Alas, they ain't for sale.

So while Mike Evans pushes off every play in Michael Irvin fashion, a key third down conversion pass to AJ (against big blitz, btw) is wiped out on a phantom OPI on Green, who limps off to add insult to injury. Then Mohamed Sanu drops a perfect seam throw that would have converted third-and-16. Sometimes it's just not your day. But it's all Dalton's fault...

Minutes after a patented Josh McCown "chuck one off the back foot to a huge WR and pray" job just misses when Evans is out of bounds, he converts one when Evans slides and this time stays in bounds.

Meanwhile, the Saints and Steelers just had a pretty good brannigan along the sidelines.

In "QBs everyone hates" news, Andy Dalton threads a perfect pass on third and long to James Wright to get out of jail. 12-14-155-1 in the second half. Which is what I mean by mentally tough. But of course the Bengals just punted, and the ball seemed set to bounce out at the 1-yard line, but took a weird carom into the end zone. Two minute warning, Bucs with no timeouts left but down only one. No doubt in my mind they drive for the winning field goal here. None. It's just that kind of day.

Sure enough, Bucs get into field goal range thanks to a missed tackle in the backfield. Then Garrett Gilkey commits his fourth penalty of the day, a hold, so Bucs have to throw. McCown completes one to the 20-yard line, but the Bucs clearly have 12 men on the field. The refs weren't going to call it, so Marvin Lewis alertly throws his challenge flag, even though he doesn't have a challenge. Cincy charged with a timeout, but as a result the refs go under the hood, and sure enough, the penalty is called. Move it back to the Cincy 46-yard line with 26 ticks left.

Incredibly enough the Bengals stop the Bucs and hold on to win! Great secondary play in the final sequence. And maybe--maybe--Marvin Lewis will get some love for that alert move. If it was Belichick, the world would stop spinning for thirty seconds in order for the entire globe to take a bow to his genius.

If I sound sour, know that I am a bitter, bitter man. Even in victory.

FWIW, Marvin just said in the postgame presser that Dalton has the flu and was up all night throwing up. So sue him--he's not Michael Jordan. I will point out that the Bengals just won three straight road games. Do you really think all these quarterbacks who are supposedly better options than Dalton would pull that off?

Washington Redskins 27 at Indianapolis Colts 49

Scott Kacsmar: Dan Herron with a 49-yard touchdown run today. Trent Richardson is playing in his 27th game with the Colts (including playoffs). He's finished with at least 49 rushing yards just six times. If Ryan Grigson doesn't regret that trade every day of his life then he's a prideful one.

Andrew Healy: And if a running back ever goes in the top five again, please fire that GM.

New Orleans Saints 35 at Pittsburgh Steelers 32

Scott Kacsmar: Just a field goal in the first quarter, but that's what timely pressures on third down by both teams can do. Kenny Stills burned William Gay for a would-be 76-yard touchdown, but pressure from Cameron Heyward forced the overthrow. Ben Roethlisberger nearly threw a pick-six on a weird looking screen that had to have some blocking errors. He hit his hand awkwardly on a follow through and has only thrown one pass since. This is something to watch. Fortunately Le'veon Bell is feasting on the run defense with over 70 yards in the quarter.

Andrew Healy: Great play by Cameron Jordan deflecting a Roethlisberger pass and then picking it off. Saints ball in the red zone up 14-6 early third quarter. And then a tremendous effort by Nick Toon to break through three tackles and get a touchdown despite being absolutely blown up, assuming he broke the plane.

Whenever a defensive lineman deflects a pass and picks it off himself, it makes me think of George Martin's interception for a touchdown for the 1986 Giants against Denver. Speaking of quarterbacks having bad days against bad defenses. Roethlisberger was 9/24 with 2 INT against the #30 defense by DVOA starting the drive after the Toon touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: I loved that Martin play. He dined out off that one for years in the Tri-state area.

Scott Kacsmar: In 17 games against the big four of Brady/Peyton/Brees/Rodgers, Dick LeBeau's defense has allowed 40 touchdowns to six interceptions. Again, a good defense isn't supposed to make the best play even better than usual, but the 2014 Steelers are a far cry from a good defense. Kenny Stills has 162 yards against Ike Taylor and William Gay and that easily could be closer to 240. Pittsburgh's offense had to show up today and Roethlisberger picked a bad day to have one of his worst games under Todd Haley.

I'm not sure I ever seen a more nonchalant 98-yard touchdown drive in the final 62 seconds than the one Pittsburgh had against New Orleans. Technically, the drive didn't start as garbage time since there was strategy to set up a score, get the onside kick and get the second score to win or tie, but as is usually the case the offense took too long to get the first score. Very misleading 35-32 final. Saints looked like a team that you still think can be dangerous at home against whoever is the fifth seed in the playoffs.

Arizona Cardinals 18 at Atlanta Falcons 29

Andrew Potter: The real Mike Smith is back! Opening drive against Arizona, Atlanta is stopped inches short on third-and-goal. Fourth down, the Falcons go for it -- play action, Matt Ryan throws the touchdown to Levine Toilolo.

Rob Weintraub: An incredible series of events in Atlanta--Devin Hester breaks free on a punt return, apparently headed for yet another return touchdown. But instead of cutting back at about the ten, he decides to plow through the punter, and gets called for offensive facemasking, of all things. Then of course Ryan is intercepted on the goal line.

Vince Verhei: Great point by the Fox crew on this one: Drew Stanton may prove to be the best quarterback of the 2007 draft. That sounds absurd to think about, but consider his competition: JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, John Beck, Trent Edwards, Isaiah Stanback, Jeff Rowe, Troy Smith, Jordan Palmer, and Tyler Thigpen. I wouldn't argue if you wanted to go with Kolb or Edwards, but I don't think it's obvious either.

Tom Gower: From my 2007 draft retrospective, published last April: Best player: Um ... do I really have to pick one? Third-round pick Edwards has the most attempts, completions, passing yards, and interceptions of any quarterback in the draft. Russell actually ranks third in all three categories, though of course he has been out of the NFL long enough that he is now attempting a comeback. I will cast a reluctant vote for surprise second-round pick and LCF's favorite quarterback in the class (thanks to a respectable completion percentage as a four-year starter at Houston), Kevin Kolb. He ranks second in attempts, completions, and passing yards, and has thrown the most touchdown passes. More importantly, he is the only quarterback in the class who still has realistic hopes of being somebody's starter six years on.

Vince Verhei: A few hours later, I must apologize to Kevin Kolb and Trent Edwards. Stanton was dreadful today. He had a lot of receivers open downfield, and either didn't see them, or missed the throws. His final numbers aren't terrible (24-of-39, 294 yards), but that includes a 6-for-7, 80-yard performance on a garbage time drive that produced Arizona's only offensive touchdown. A horrible performance against the defense that entered the week ranked dead last in both overall defense and pass defense by DVOA.

The other takeaway here was, oh my god, did Julio Jones kick Patrick Peterson's ass today. 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown in 12 targets, most of them one-on-one with Peterson. Granted, his longest play, a 41-yarder, probably would have been overturned if Arizona had challenged, but even then Peterson was guilty of holding and it still would have been a win for Jones.

New England Patriots 21 at Green Bay Packers 26

Aaron Schatz: Well, I've just seen something for the first time. The refs in the Patriots-Packers game called a 12 Men on the Field penalty against the Patriots on third-and-1. Belichick went ballistic screaming at them. That part I've seen before. The part I haven't seen is that he was right. CBS showed a replay and there were only 11 men on the field. I don't think the Pats even substituted. It was the same 11 guys as the play before. What on earth did the ref see? They ended up picking up the flag, although the Packers did then convert a run on third-and-1.

Andrew Healy: And this is why you don't punt on fourth-and-2 and fourth-and-1, particularly against Aaron Freaking Rodgers. Why give him the ball when you don't have to? 13-0 Packers.

Aaron Schatz: I notice a lack of Audibles comments this afternoon. I think that's because New England and Green Bay are both generally great and are playing like it so hey, not much to say. Randall Cobb is very good! Rob Gronkowski es fiesta!

Davante Adams is having a great day against Logan Ryan though. Some difficult, well contested catches, and some plays of getting open.

On other hand Revis has Jordy Nelson completely blanketed. He's really peaking these last couple weeks.

And of course as soon as I write that, Revis totally loses Nelson on a slant and Nelson scores to make it 23-14.

Scott Kacsmar: Packers are averaging 69.4 yards per drive, though did settle for three field goals. That about sums up the first half.

Aaron Schatz: I don't ever remember seeing the Packers using this much pistol. Is that new? (I ask, being too lazy to go check the charting right now.)

Scott Kacsmar: Tony Romo had a great pocket on a few plays against the Giants last week, but Aaron Rodgers just had forever and a day to throw. I'm not sure how the Patriots held up that long in the secondary. It was a four-man rush too.

Aaron Schatz: And yet they did. I couldn't believe it either until they showed a replay. Everyone was covered the whole time except Adams in the left corner for like half a second.

Adams then drops the easy touchdown on the next play. Field goal. 26-21 Green Bay.

Someone needs to explain to me Julian Edelman running an 8-yard route on third-and-11. But Belichick makes up for it by going for it on fourth-and-3. And they convert!

Gronk can't hold on to a diving touchdown. Brady sacked on third. (First sack of Brady all day?) Stephen Gostkowski misses field goal.

Am I total Pats homer for thinking Matthews hit Brady below the knee on that near-touchdown?

Scott Kacsmar: About the most basic four-minute offense you can execute (run, run, third-down pass), but the protection held up again and Rodgers hit Cobb for the dagger. Fun game. Maybe not a classic, but these teams are a cut above most of the league. I thought Green Bay's red-zone failures might haunt them, but that third-down sack was huge.

Aaron Schatz: I think the only thing that kept today from being a classic was the lack of specifically memorable plays.

As a Pats fan is there anything about this loss to worry me? Maybe, "is the Pats secondary good to cover 3-4 good wideouts at a time?" But even that wasn't a huge weakness. Just two really good teams both playing a really good game. I'm guessing both teams have positive DVOA after the opponent adjustments. Probably helps Packers odds for no 1 seed more than it hurts Patriots odds.

Denver Broncos 29 at Kansas City Chiefs 16

Aaron Schatz: Denver is running all over Kansas City with six-lineman sets. Apparently, six offensive linemen is the new black.

Scott Kacsmar: Chiefs have had a couple of third-and-1 disasters tonight with a pitch to Jamaal Charles and a read option by Alex Smith that failed miserably. Defense is holding Denver down this half, but the offense has yet to show up. Silly play calls on must-have conversions like that don't help. I still have yet to see Denver effectively cover Kansas City's tight ends this season, but Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce have one target each.

Aaron Schatz: I checked, the Broncos are ninth in DVOA against tight ends although they do allow an above-average number of total yards per game.

The Chiefs were 23rd against the run coming into this game and I've got to figure that's gonna be worse after this. Broncos are just running all over them. Not quite the Patriots against the Colts in the Giving Up on the Pass Department, but it's pretty bad.

Scott Kacsmar: This game probably isn't going to help the Denver offense in its home vs. road splits. I thought the first half certainly would help, but it's been a tale of two halves. The only thing they have in common is it's been a lousy three quarters for the Kansas City offense.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 01 Dec 2014

180 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2014, 11:44am by JoeyHarringtonsPiano


by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:10pm

That win by the Packers sows up the NFC North in my mind. I can envision no scenario where the Lions can win the week 17 game in Lambeau. The Packers are just too good at home. They comfortably outplayed the Pats for long stretches, but the red zone failures kept the game close.

Other than Seattle, I don't really see another NFC team that I can picture pulling off a road upset in the playoffs against them.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:24pm

Scenario one, Aaron Rodgers is hurt. Football is never certain.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:38pm

I guess I shoulda said barring injury.

Another scenario would be an uncharacteristically horrific performance on offense like the 2011 divisional round game against the Giants.

Either could happen, but are unlikely.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:10pm

That horrific performance by the Packers offense in 2011 was against a defense that could sit back in 2-man and still get consistent pressure with their front four—the Lions are totally capable of doing that. In fact I think that's what they did in Week 3 (I think Detroit mixed their coverages up more but the pressure by the D-line was key). The Packers O-line has really come together the last few weeks and played lights out, which has made me a very happy fan, but obviously the rematch with the Lions will be a big test heading into the playoffs.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:05pm

This is my thought (and hope) as well. The Packers have been on fire lately, but the only teams they've played this season who can generate pressure with their front four are the Lions and Seahawks. Both those teams shut the Packers' offense down, but those games were also a long time ago. I'll be interested to see how Green Bay does against the Bills two weeks from now, because that's another team that can generate heat without blitzing.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:36pm

As one sided as the score was in the first Packers/Vikings game, in Lambeau, the Vikings defense, which rushes with four credibly, was able to force five 3 and outs in the first half. They gave up a couple of huge plays, and Ponder was intercepted twice, one a pick-6, which is how the game was over by halftime, given the pathetic nature of a Ponder-qbed attack without Adrian Peterson. If the Vikings had any competence on offense, that was a game the Vikings defense could have made a credible competition.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:16am

You're probably right, but the Lions still hold the main tiebreakers (head to head, better conference record, better division record), so the exciting part is that neither team can afford to slip up against a weaker opponent. GB still has a tough road game in Buffalo, which could be tougher if the weather is awful.

by intel_chris :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 6:02am

Or, if the weather is bad enough in BUF, maybe it will be another DET home game, just played with the BUF players in that dome....

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 9:35am

Yea, I think BUF will be a tougher game for GB than most think. The problem is, even if DET/GB win their other games, they would both be 11-4 going into week 17, requiring the Lions to win in GB to secure the divison. It makes no difference if they're tied or the Lions are a game behind. That last game will be for the division.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:35pm

The likely top four teams (NE, DEN, GB & SEA) are all incredibly good playing at home, and I can not think of a year when home field advantage was more important. In every matchup amongst the four teams listed above, the home team has won. Likely if the venue was reversed for every game played between them, the outcome would reverse as well.

by Biebs :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:13pm

"I will point out that the Bengals just won three straight road games. Do you really think all these quarterbacks who are supposedly better options than Dalton would pull that off?"

That sounds dangerously close to "Mark Sanchez has 4 wins on the road in the playoffs". Though, if you switch Dalton and Sanchez, I wonder what kind of careers each would have.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:27pm

I think the point with Dalton is that he is say the 15th or 20th best QB. There are not QBs of that caliber freely available.

There is this odd thing where if a QB isn't clearly say top 10 or 12, people immediately go to "he is horrible and doesn't deserve to start". Someone has to be the 15th best QB, and there are not so many good young prospects that the bottom 15 can all be filled with young up and coming guys.

Dalton is a QB you can build your team around, he is not a strength, but he also isn't going to single handled ruin a season like the 28th best QB might.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:42pm

Agreed. Guys like Dalton are in the Neil Lomax, Dave Krieg, and Drew Bledsoe range. They can succeed with a good enough team around them, but not good enough to carry a mediocre supporting cast. The only difference with Dalton is that he has some mind-bendingly horrific, nationally-televised meltdowns.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:26pm

I think Dalton is a serviceable QB and Cinci should be content with him. I did not see the week 10 game against Cleveland, but any QB with a rating of 2 sure had a lot to do with losing the game.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:46pm

Honestly, I think the problem here is a question of potential unsustainable upside. Joe Flacco and Eli Manning both seem like 12-16th best career quarterbacks to me. I know ranking discussions like this generate firestorms, but look at it honestly.

Manning has peak performances of 8th DYAR and 9th DVOA. His nadirs have been terrible, ranking 40th in DYAR and 38th in DVOA (in a league with 32 teams!!). His career average performance relative to other quarterbacks has been: 19th DYAR and 20th in DVOA.

Flacco's peak performances have both been this year, ranking 9th in DYAR and 9th in DVOA. His lowest performances were last year, 40th and 35 respectively. His averages: 18th in DYAR and 19th in DVOA.

Those guys looks pretty similar in numbers. Maybe we even overrate them a bit relative to the rest of the league, but they're steady, generally mediocre players. The difference with them compared to Dalton is that they flash brilliance and go on little streaks where they radically over-perform their career averages. Both won Super Bowls while in the midst of such streaks. Dalton doesn't appear to have this kind of upside.

Dalton's career best numbers: 12th DYAR 7th DVOA with nadirs at 20th and 20th with career average comparative performance of: 15.5 DYAR and 14.5 DVOA with remarkably little variation.

What this conversation boils down to is that Dalton appears to be a remarkably consistent league average quarterback. It doesn't seem likely that a consistently average quarterback can lead a team to postseason success. Fans and franchises are remarkably patient when it comes to inconsistent average quarterbacks--guys who can show huge upside for stretches and potentially lead a team to the promised land, while also forcing them to endure long stretches of miserable play. Consistent mediocrity may just not be as good.

by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:47am

The point at which E Manning showed his first flashes of upside was after the point where Dalton is now. And his lows haven't been as low. That seems an odd comp for your point.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:59am

Eli was always a schizo player. To that point in his career (4 years) he had already his a peak of 9th DYAR and 17th DVOA in a season and a nadir of 40th and 34th. Flacco's trajectory might be a better comparison in terms of overall efficiency and consistency. Where does that leave you? How often does Flacco string together postseasons like 2012?

by JimZipCode :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:31pm

Lomax was awfully damn good for a brief window there.

by xMRNUTTYx :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:18pm

RE: Aaron's comments on Dalton.

Thank you. Not just for Dalton's sake, but as a Bears fan who comes off as a constant apologist for Cutler, you've summarized everything that needs to be said about QBs in that group. People better than Cutler or Dalton aren't sitting on the bench, they're not available as FA's, and they're not on the trading block. You can argue that both their deals were too rich for their output, but the reality is that's what average QBs who have potential to be more are going to get paid.

This morning, a co-worker asked me if I thought it is time to start Jimmy Clausen. I am not making this up.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:32pm

Not a week goes by that I don't hear a Lions fan saying Kellen Moore should be starting instead of Matt Stafford.

The nature of the QB position means that the middle class of QB's will be overpaid in relation to how good they really are. That's because if you can't find an equal or better replacement (more often than not, you can't), you're sunk. You can't remain competitive (other than a few Trent Dilfer or 2001 Bears outlier situations). That's not true of RBs, WRs, DEs, etc.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:23pm

Pretty amazed by both your comments. Not that Cutler or Stafford are great. But I agree that they are still above average QBs and that both Lions and especially Bears fans have forgotten the revolving door at QB before those two showed up. I shouldn't be surprised though. There were idiots calling ESPN Milwaukee after the first three games saying Rodgers was now terrible and TT should be looking to draft a QB next spring.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:43pm

I'm fairly certain Buffalo would be glad to take Cutler off your hands.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:33pm

I agree with the general sentiment here re: Cutler and Dalton. The only thing I think worth pointing out is that the Bears are probably 50/50 right now whether or not they clean house this offseason. They've been relying on so many vets on defense for such a long time and have so little depth at any position that it looks to me like they need at least two more offseasons to build a functional defense. So, given that they might have a new coaching staff, they may be a few years away from truly being competitive and Cutler will be 32 next season, might this be a decent time to cut bait and aim higher at QB? My initial instinct to answering this question is actually 'no,' I don't think they need to blow up their offense at the same time, but I think it's something a new front office might consider.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:13pm

I echo the Dalton and Cutler defenders. Yes, it's frustrating to watch your team's QB make the same mistakes over and over and be constantly reminded that he's not among the top 5 or 10 QBs in the league. By definition, though, the majority of teams will not have one of those guys.

The only problems I have with Cutler are that he's costing way too much guaranteed money (which is Emery's fault, not his) and that the Bears are enough of a mess all around that average-to-slightly-above-average quarterbacking isn't going to get them anywhere in the next couple of years except picking later in the draft. If Cutler had been franchised before the season as he should have been, the Bears could consider letting him walk if they saw a QB in the draft they liked (even if they had to trade up).

by JustBod :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:09pm

After the 2015 season, cutting Cutler would only result in a $3M cap hit, so drafting a QB this year, letting him sit for a year, then moving on from Cutler in 2016 wouldn't be that big of a deal financially.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:22pm

Revis has said something to the effect of "I'm not making excuses, but Jordy Nelson pushed off."
I'm a fan of that linguistic construction.

The consensus seems to be that the big mistake was McCourty's on that play. That one TD was devastating.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:23pm

Revis and all Patriots defensive backs should probably keep their mouths shut about hand contact. I've still yet to see a Revis highlight package this year without every single play involving some type of cleverly concealed borderline illegal contact.

I agree, though. It's hard to fault Revis for allowing a guy to make an occasional short catch, especially on a slant. McCourty should've prevented the six.

by formido :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:29pm

Sometimes excuses are reasons.

by oaktoon :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:40pm

Somehow I just knew there would be less discussion of this Patriots game than any other in the past month or so-- despite the opponent (Or because of :)), venue, import, quality and closeness of the outcome.

So rather than bemoan an obviously screwed up sense of significance, let me make a constructive criticism and ask somebody here--if for no other reason than to preview the potential rematch-- to go back and look at the film of GB OFF vs. NE DEF. Mike McCarthy is rarely mentioned as one of the best offensive minds/play callers in the league but somehow his teams have scored more than any other Coach-QB pairing in NFL history save Payton-Brees. He realized that Browner-Revis would try to blanket Nelson-Cobb (Revis started on Cobb, then switched mainly to Nelson) and came up with a bunch of formations and plays GB rarely uses to take advantage of the other matchups (Boykin was in the backfield once and got a swing pass/lateral; Cobb was in the backfield several times with what did look like a "pistol", Aaron) that NE gave them. That plus a very stout OL and Rodgers' brilliance won this game (and the GB defense helped, of course)-- it was close to a blowout but for red zone failures and even Adams dropping a sure TD pass that would have made the lead 9 in the 4th quarter. Yes, the Patriots had a shot at the end, but if you play that game out 10 times with the same yardage imbalance, I bet only once or twice does it ever come down to a final series, and 2 or 3 times it would have been a 14+ pt margin for GB. (Rodgers talked about the wheel route to Starks right before the Nelson catch at the end of the first half with bemusement-- as if he never expected that to happen. And the Nelson TD itself was the product of a timeout and adjustment to Revis' single-covering Nelson-- Rodgers got Starks, I think in motion, to get rid of one of the two blitzing LBs and open up the middle of the field. You have to assume that was a joint McCarthy-Rodgers production and it basically decided the game)

I suspect one of the reasons Belichick lingered so long with McCarthy post-game was his genuine respect for the game plan McCarthy beat him with. It was an offensive tour de force-- and of course might mean nada in February when the Packers might have to beat Belichick/Brady again.... Rodgers is fantastic, but McCarthy should get huge credit for this game.

So anyway in the biggest game of the year humor me and actually provide some analysis of what happened. If NE had won, there would have been three times the space-- be honest.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:44pm

What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

by oaktoon :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:23pm

"insanely idiotic"??

Sorry- what did I say? 1) McCarthy outcoached Belichick; 2) McCarthy is an under-rated play-caller; 3) the Packers switched up their formations and plays more in this game than most, if not all, others this season. I gave a couple of examples; 4) McCarthy deserves some credit for that; 5) arguably the most important play of the entire game was an adjustment made in reaction to the Patriot defense that speaks to all of the above points; 6) this game-- between these two teams-- deserved more comment. Aaron was on to something when he talked about the "pistol". Most of the rest of the comments lacked much insight about the game-- and I don't think either " we are fans of the Pats" or "this was a well-played game" is a justification about that; 7)and it was a more of a borderline blowout than a close game-- only one GB possession before the kneeldown stopped short of the 50-- the Packers moved the ball at will and I don't think anyone thought they would be that dominant. I give the Patriots full credit for stiffening in the red zone, but this was nowhere near an even game...

And 8) why not go back and analyze the GB game plan on offense as a coda to a great game?

If you choose to think that is "insanely idiotic" and that God should have mercy on my soul, well, I can't really help you.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:29pm

Look, you have clearly tried in several threads to start a flamewar. You have been asked and told by other posters to go elsewhere for that type of nonsense. Yet you continue.

Since you have either chosen to be tone deaf or are legitimately incapable or unwilling to take such direction I responded in language I thought someone of your ilk might understand

Why the admins of this site don't ban you baffles me but I imagine that speaks to their desire to be tolerant of even the most grating of posters.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:45pm

Lighten up, Francis. Or Harvey's Wallbanger - whatever your name is. If you think oaktoon's comment could start a flamewar, the standards here couldn't possibly be as high as you seem to think they are. Unless you spend most of your time on Free Republic.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:53pm

Freak may have been a little strong, but Oak's constant, weekly, griping about what he perceives as excessive Patriots homerism, on a site Oak chooses to comment in on a weekly basis, is a bit strange, and decidedly tiresome. If you have the same complaint about a place, week in, week out, it's time to stop visiting the place, it seems reasonable to say.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:59pm

Fair enough. I don't know the history.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:14pm

Then chiming in was definitely the right decision.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:15pm

Thank you, Brian McCann of FO.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:32pm

Yeah, I didn't know the background either, so I was surprised by the attack, but now it makes more sense.

by BigNachos :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:29pm
by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:27pm

When you start with "Somehow I just knew there would be less discussion of this Patriots game than any other in the past month or so-- despite the opponent (Or because of :)), venue, import, quality and closeness of the outcome" and close with "If NE had won, there would have been three times the space-- be honest," why would you expect anything but "insanely idiotic" back? Especially when you include snark like "I suspect one of the reasons Belichick lingered so long with McCarthy post-game was his genuine respect for the game plan McCarthy beat him with."

Look, you're pissing off the Packers fans here. I've probably been a Packers fan since before your father was born. I lived through the horrorshow of the 70's and 80's. My youngest brother (who still lives in GB) has the family season tickets (front row on the 13 yard line). If you want all Packers, all the time, check out ESPN Milwaukee. Jason Wilde is especially good, and still maintains his objectivity (though I'd slit my wrists if I listened to Steve "The Homer" True everyday). Your long paragraph had some good points. But when you envelope your argument in haughtiness, you're gonna get the slamming you deserve.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:57pm

I too felt there were some good points in the post, but the griping is seriously unwarranted.

FO is a site conceived, owned, and run by a very steady Patriots fan. He posts the longest and often the most in-depth thoughts on the weekly staff commentary post. Like most fans, I imagine he has relatively little to say after a tight, disappointing loss. What's so horrible about that? To say that he has little to feel bad about the Patriots after this loss is to tacitly acknowledge the greatness of Green Bay's performance, isn't it?

by ammek :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:00pm

Exactly how much more comment do you think the game deserved? An entire Testament?

I'm sure the Packers' offensive game plan will be analyzed to your heart's content during the week, if not here then elsewhere. As another long-time FO reader and Packer fan, I'd encourage you to take big10's advice.

The Patriots were a HaHa hand away from leading with three minutes remaining; that is not a "borderline blowout". The Packers piled up a lot of yards in the first half, but the big plays were mixed with unproductive 2-yard Lacy-runs-into-linebacker outside stretches on first down, which led to more third-and-longs than you would wish for. As it happened, the offensive line held up great on third down, and Rodgers was dynamite.

by oaktoon :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:01pm

I apologize. Let my exuberance get the best of me. I'll let the games play out and try hard not to be snarky. It's a damn good site. That's why I stay even if sometimes I have criticisms. There will be plenty of chances for the staff here to get into all of these teams, particularly the top half-dozen or so. I shouldn't have been so quick to criticize. (I do think Rodgers is Jordan-- we'll see if he convinces others in the next two months and beyond)

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:07pm

Patriot-baiting notwithstanding...

Yes, I thought it was clear that the Packers were specifically targeting their #3 WR. It's hard to have enough personnel to cover three high quality receivers, a fact that led to Sterling Moore being hosed by Mario Manningham in the most recent Patriot Super Bowl trip.

There were also a few plays where Rob Ninkovich was handed the impossible task of covering people much faster than him. That would count as a point in McCarthy's column. I think it's clear the Belichick has a good deal of respect for McCarthy (why wouldn't he?) and spent extra time after the game talking to both McCarthy and to Rodgers.

And yes, if the Packers had only scored more points, they would have won by a larger, more impressive margin. (That kind of comment doesn't really meet the standard we have around here.) Be happy that the Packers are 9-3 and in a very good position to get a bye (if not HFA), and will almost certainly not have to travel to Seattle in the playoffs.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:13pm

I loved during the game when on two different occasions the announcers were talking about how a just scored TD was important for reasons other than the score. 99.9% of the value of the TD was in the actual points realized.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:55pm

Really, you think they were specifically targeting the 3rd receiver, even before Phil Simms mentioned it about 75 times? Or were they targeting the open receiver, like they always do? You see, everyone here is so smart that nothing needs to be mentioned, because everything is self-evident. Duh.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:06pm

I thought the Packers did a great job forcing players like Ninkovich into tasks they can't do. The Pats generally do a great job placing players into positions to utilize their strengths. The Packers did great at attacking weaknesses. Even with that the Pats came close to winning anyways. These two teams look ready to walk into the play offs. The Pats still have some tough road games. Injuries seem like the only thing that derails either team, but with 25% of the season left... injuries could happen. Certainly this loss opens the door for Denver to possibly get home field. Denver at home is a scary thought going into post season. The AFC wild card should be a massive dash between a gaggle of tough-flawed teams that will likely not be able to damage the Pats or Denver in the playoffs but should at least be fun to watch these teams claw their way in.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 9:35pm

Reportedly one of the DBs (Arrington?) was supposed to have Cobb on that play out of the backfield, but he was "stuck in traffic".

The Pats have road games at SD and at the Jets. The Broncos have road games at SD and @Cincy. They both have a home game vs. Buffalo. Their other home games are Miami (Pats) and Oakland (Denver).

Two of the four matchups are identical. The other matchups are relatively even: Miami at home is harder than Oakland, but @Jets is easier than @Cincy.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:31pm

To me, it will come down to who beats San Diego. (I think both win their other three games).

Of course, San Diego could beat both or neither, but something tells me that one is going to get knocked off in San Diego, and it will decide who the #1 seed is.

I do think both have one game they have to worry about. For the Broncos, it is @CIN, and for NE it is home to Miami (despite how pathetic Miami looks so far tonight - down 13-6 as I write this).

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:11pm

Actually I thought the point regarding McCarthy being an underrated coach because his strengths are in offensive design rather than situational play calling were apt. McCarthy is a great football strategist and a middling tactician, and fans place too much importance on the latter.

That said, FO makes it pretty clear these are just transcribed thoughts they have, it is barely more than a fan liveblog, you should lower you expectations. I remember maybe four years ago they covered nearly every game but a 9-2 vs 10-1 or some such match between two division leaders because neither team happened to be one the staff was a fan of. It would be nice if they were more football fans and less team fans, but I guess tribalism is in some people's genes.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:09pm

Ok, PaulM -- after that we know it's got to be you. You can drop this "oaktoon" alias now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:14pm

Now, now, until we see an implication that Ted Thompson is the genetically engineered hybrid/clone of Albert Einstein, Aristotle, John D. Rockefeller, Nostradamus, and Vince Lombardi, you are selling PaulM short.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:02pm

Good point!

by Lance :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:50pm

You're asking for an alternate version of Serpentor??

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:35pm

Paul M was bad, but the greatest offender was probably 'QQ'.

He/She was the one who said that the Packers with McCarthy's perfect offense and Rodgers would win 6-7 Super Bowl and redefine what the NFL thought a dynasty was.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:28pm

That was Paul M.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:31pm

No, no, believe me. Go back and check, because you are missing out on the brilliance that was 'QQ'

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:09am

Did a little checking. They had some similar posts... both were very fixated on thinking that the fact that the Packers hadn't been behind in the fourth quarter for a long time proved that they were better than teams that had dominated much more, but lost a game here or there. (The argument seeming to be that the Packers were so good, they could "let off the gas" and not worry about the score being close.)

But the one post I really remembered was this (partial quote) from Paul M :

"...Youth, depth, draft and free agency selection, passing, multi-faceted QBs, aggressive offensive schemes and coaching are the hallmarks of the new NFL. One team has the entire package-- and only one team-- though others have many of the elements in place. With all due respect to this site and any others who must, by definition, look backwards against preestablished norms to determine current success, the offensive-defensive balance has utterly changed. GB and NO are head and shoulders above their NFC competition...

These Packers are the new Packers, the new Steelers, the new 49ers. They are going to lead the league through an entire paradigm shift, and in doing so establish historic greatness, so long as their QB stays healthy. And since the sport's very survival rests on protecting its players, the offensive trend will never abate. Not as long as the sport remains..."

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:24am

both were very fixated on thinking that the fact that the Packers hadn't been behind in the fourth quarter for a long time proved that they were better than teams that had dominated much more, but lost a game here or there.

Presumably both of them made this claim sometime in 2011, and if so, what teams had dominated much more than them? They had the second-best point differential and fourth-best DVOA in 2010, and obviously ran roughshod in 2011. Their track record of never losing by more than one possession coupled with their numerous blowout victories certainly is convincing proof of their strength. Of course, they forgot the part where your top players want a better payday, get injured, or undergo regression.

"These Packers are the new Packers[...]" is good though.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 8:44am

My memory may be foggy, but I think I told ol' paul that if the Packers went out and crushed three straight playoff opponents I'd be willing to put them in the group of the best ever, but until then it was premature to do so. I think I also said that as great as they had played, they were not physically dominant on the line of scrimmage in the manner of some previous great champions, and even in the new NFL, when their big guys kicked the teeth in of your big guys. you were probably going to get whipped, regardless of HOF qb and offensive scheme. I think last year kind of showed that once again.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:07pm

"...that they were better than teams that had dominated much more..."

I think that's poor word choice on my part. The issue I think was that they weren't #1 in DVOA, but I only glanced through the discussions.

I do seem to recall that there was some discussion of the guts and stomps kind of stuff (winning close games being a sign that you might not be as good as your record). And there was a lot of talk about how the Packers would let off the gas and COULD have won by a lot more if they had just decided to, but instead chose to simply hold their smaller lead. Because they were the most amazing team ever, and DVOA couldn't capture their qualities correctly, etc., etc.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:14pm

There's also this gem :

"I can't see this team doing less than the Patriots and Colts have, and because of the overall depth and youth of the roster I think it will be more. Perhaps much more. And the paradigm shift is real-- Walsh started the ball rolling; Brady and Manning perfected the stationary QB role; Rodgers (and Newton, Griffin and still unknown others behind him) is taking it up to another level, IN LARGE PART because of the injury cloud hanging over the entire sport. Pro football cannot survive at anywhere near its current level of popularity if its players keep wounding each other-- the pool of kids playing the game will dry up. This is not simply a Packer homer commentary which I grant you I could do anywhere-- it is a very specific observation about team, philosophy, player(s) and sport-- all converging to produce what I believe could/should be a historic run of greatness. It will be the dominant focus of this site and all others over the next 3-5 years-- so I'll be happy to be recognized as one of the first that spotted it, and then defer to people smarter than me to explain it more carefully."

These comments were actually in 2012, so we're currently in year two of the dominant focus of the Packers on this site and all others.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:35pm

(and Newton, Griffin and still unknown others behind him) is taking it up to another level, IN LARGE PART because of the injury cloud hanging over the entire sport.

This part is great. Did he think that mobile QBs who keep sacrificing their bodies when they scrambled would be less likely to get injured?

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:39pm

I think he thought offense would continue to be emphasized as a response to injury danger, and the Packers were the best team to take advantage.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 11:37pm

I do remember Paul M. pontificating on how the Packers and Ted Thompson were "creating a new paradigm for building winning franchises". I think they were the same person under different pseudonyms. Oaktoon gives off the same vibe, if not the same verbiage.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 12:23am

Nah - oaktoon gives off an "excited diehard fan" vibe while PaulM gave off a distinctly "deranged" vibe. I put PaulM with that shah8018 person who was a Michael Vick/Joe Webb partisan. Or Stephen Yang.

Oaktoon just seems like a dude really convinced GB is amazingly awesome and annoyed with how FO conducts itself sometimes.

On a semi-related note, anyone else think "Man, I'm surprised Arizona hasn't brought out the hordes begging for a full-on FOMBC?" And then Arizona suffered the curse anyway. Poor Arizona.

by intel_chris :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 6:15am

Actually, driving around PHX one sees as many Broncos, Steelers, Packers, Cowboys, and Giants symbols as Cardinals. The local TV game coverage also seems to think we are in the Chargers region, although that may just be because that's the "closest" AFC team. I'm not sure there is a rabid Cardinals fan base yet. Too much of the city is still transplants and snow-birds.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 9:46am

Agree with you there. Oaktoon, in recent posts, has shown a lot of self-awareness. I don't think PaulM would know what self-awareness was if it hit him in ass.

by JimZipCode :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:36pm

Nice post on the Packers offensive tactics.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:40pm

What made the game so much fun is that for the most part the officials let guys play. Translated that meant dbs were very physical with the receivers on both sides. Of course at times it went over the edge with calls not being made but that was consistent both sides. Adams pushed off to get open on a key third down and Nelson not once but twice was leveled in the end zone. But everyone had to play that way so no griping here.

I thought the Packers pass rush did just enough yesterday. Brady had to move and that may have impacted a few throws. Certainly Matthews forced a few throws to be rushed.

I know Gronk caught 7 balls for 98 yards but figured he would go off for 10/150 against GB. That he did not surprised me.

That throw to Richard Rodgers was impressive on about six different levels. Rodgers saw him for a second after pulling the ball back on a throw and then hits him with a pass only the receiver can get from 30 yards out. And to a guy who barely gets on the field because he struggles on run blocking. But his hands are excellent and he's a big target. If Richard Rodgers can get adequate on run blocking maybe he can be the end zone guy for number 12 inside the 10. That used to be GB's edge with guys like a Jermichael Finley would get so much attention because of his ability to create his own space in the end zone in crowded quarters.

Thought save for Gronk related issues GB tackled well yesterday. That really helped stall a few NE drives

McCarthy did himself proud yesterday. He went toe to toe with Sauron and was not consumed in flame. (stated with all due respect and good-natured jest)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:02pm

Hey, Freak, the game in Camp Randall was a good one, too, wasn't it? The Minnesota team couldn't get the turnover they needed in the 2nd half to close the talent gap, and Leidner backslid some, in part. no doubt, due to the talent gap at receiver outside of Maxx Williams. Stave is confounding; some days he looks polished, and some days he looks overmatched, and the Gophers got the polished version. Melvin Gordon is Melvin Gordon. I'd like to go back and look at Adrian Peterson's last year in college, and compare some measurables, to get a better handle on how Gordon projects as d-coordinator migraine in the NFL.

It looks the century-plus rivalry is going to get some even matches for a while, however, in contrast to the past decade.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:09pm


Stave has played pretty consistently over the last several games most likely because he's been 'the guy' and given more live game reps. He certainly has the arm and teh intelligence to play qb at the collegiate level. Without him there is no way Wisconsin wins the last two Saturdays. The recognition of the defense and then the throw to Erickson on that 3rd and 8 that went for 70 yards is representative of real ability.

The MN offensive line was really making things happen. If the MN qb had any accuracy whatsoever Wisconsin would have been in deep you know what.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:20pm

That was the most disappointing aspect for somebody who watches the Gophers; Leidner really reverted to early season form in terms of accuracy. He's 20, however, so if he has the requisite work ethic, meaning huge, of course, he has a decent chance to get much better.

As long as Kill is in Minny, and Wisconsin stays with the tradition started by Alvarez, Badger/Gopher games are going to feature offensive line play that loosens teeth.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:26pm

Wisconsin did its level best to give MN good field position. The Achilles heel of Wisconsin is that while their punt coverage, kick coverage and field kicker were all solid to good the punt/kickoff return man is shaky due to being undersized and the punters are abysmal.

Wisconsin needs to find a returner who weighs more than 150 lbs and therefore capable of taking a hit from a 225 lb backup linebacker and hold onto the ball.

by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:44pm

Wisconsin's strength on D is stopping the run, but Minnesota was able to run on them in the first half - helped by good field position brought on by being better than UW on special teams.

Corey Clement deserves some recognition too - even though he was hurting, his two big runs were huge in the 2nd half.

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

In my bid for The Obvious Trophy, I'll note that if you are going to beat the Packers in Lambeau come January, it'd be good if you had two or more pass rushers having very good days. The odds of repeating the Patriots' path to keeping Green Bay under 35, with multiple red zone stoppages leading to field goals, seem a little long. The one advantage I'd give Rodgers over Brady is that it usually will take more pass rushers having a good day to really hamper him.

I'll also push back on the notion that a running back should never again be taken in the top 5 of the draft. If the back is thought to have a good chance to be the best at the position, and is a legitimate threat to score every time he handles the ball, while also having the ability to get tough yards between the tackles, and will be serviceable when called upon to block a pass rusher, and the team is not driven to pick a qb, then I think such high spot for a running back can be justified, in that such a player will obviously help a quarterback quite a bit. It wasn't a coincidence that a 40 year old Brett Favre, without much in the way of receivers, was able to have one his best years, while handing off to Adrian Peterson.

Trent Richardson, of course, never came close to the above criteria.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:58pm

Not saying he's a top five pick and no idea if his skills will translate to the pros but you just described Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin. Leads the world in runs over 50 yards, gives supreme effort at all times, can block AND now catches passes showing some really good hands.

He's averaged more than 8 yards a carry while in college and yes it's the Big 10 and yes it's Wisconsin but boy if he's 70 percent in the pros what he is in college you have a guy who can help a team in a serious way.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:03pm

Yeah, see my post above; it's a comparison worthy of some real in depth analysis, if the FO crew sees this.

by Mike W :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:33pm

He's the best RB Wisconsin has had in a long time. The program has made a lot of average (not quite NFL-caliber) guys look good. Ball was pretty good, and I'll always have a soft spot for Brent Moss, but Gordon gets a huge number of yards out of little or nothing through patient inside running.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:36pm

It's likely my imagination but Gordon looks stronger than most of the guys blocking for him.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:52pm

Now, I think Gordon actually has NFL game changing speed, and perhaps power, but to be sure, I'd really like to see how he compares to Adrian Peterson while running forty-plus yards, in full pads, and carrying a football, and really go back and look at a comparison of the two breaking tackles against top-echelon college defenses. To take a running back that high really require more than efficiency, no matter how pronounced. He has to make opposing NFL d-coordinators scheme, in an effort to bring multiple tacklers to bear, in order to prevent an 80 yard run. That's when a running back really makes life substantially easier for a qb. Christian Ponder managed to achieve a 21 DVOA rank and 17 QBR rank in 2012; put an average rb in the Vikings starting offense, and I seriously doubt whether Ponder would have achieved Bridgewater's respective rankings this year, of 36 and 33.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:51pm

Running backs from Wisconsin usually under-perform in the NFL because they benefit from playing behind great offensive lines and systems that are very running back friendly. The same could be said for running backs from Alabama.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:05pm

This year's version is not one of Wisconsin's better lines. But I certainly understand your post and of course agree with the assessment

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:19pm

Gordon's stats are a bit different than those of the typical Wisconsin running back. Here are the YPC numbers of the last five leading running backs for UW:

Hill 5.2
Clay 5.4
Ball 5.6
White 6.2
Gordon 7.9

For that matter, Lacy stood out in Alabama too:

Ingram 5.6
Richardson 5.8
Lacy 6.8
Yeldon 5.9

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:26pm

Gordon has also evolved as a runner. Two years ago he was the guy you gave the ball to on an end around and if he got the corner he was gone.

Now he busts it up the middle, if it's clogged in the middle he can bounced outside and still get the edge and of course if he gets the corner he's off to the races

And previously Melvin would go down at contact. Now not only is he stiff-arming guys, running through tackles and delivering his own blow he does all this while also staying in bounds and getting to the end zone. Multiple times this season guys had clean shots at him to get him out of bounds as he was blowing down the sideline and Melvin fended them off while maintaining his balance.

I know I read as if I am gushing, but if you have not seen the guy run please check out the highlights. Because he is a marvel.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:53pm

I will look more closely. He definitely looks faster than the Dayne, Ball types that have flourished there in the past.

What NFL back do think he compares the most too?

by NYMike :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:29pm

A quick look across the Interwebs finds comparisons to Tony Dorsett (by Gil Brandt), and Jamaal Charles (CBS Sports). Walter Football, what ever that is, says Chris Johnson and Eric Dickerson.

Gordon is strong, has very good but not world-class top end speed, great vision, and amazing acceleration. He's got the best stiff-arm in college football, and great balance. Many Wisconsin fans think he's the best UW running back ever. Nebraska would agree. He currently has the 4th most yards gained in a single season ever, with at least two games to go (okay, with exactly two games to go ... UW in not getting into the playoff). The people on the list ahead of him are Barry Sanders, Kevin Smith, and Marcus Allen. And until the last two games, Wisconsin had no passing attack, so the game plan is Stop Gordon ... pretty much to no avail.

by NYMike :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:33pm

I should add that he's much improved in the passing game this year: good pass pro, good at slipping out as a safety valve, and much better receiver than last year. One of the reasons he stayed in school was to improve these aspects of his game. The 35-yard seam pass he caught against Iowa to seal the deal was a thing of beauty (also well thrown, but a great route).

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:47pm

The Charles comparison is pretty easy. But among backs I have seen in days past he reminds most of Robert Smith. Among Packer running backs it would be Ahman Green without the fumbling.

Both guys could break it from anywhere but also muscle you, especially Green. Green at his best was the best short yardage back around.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:16pm

Will ... if you had a RB who could take the load of as many carries as required, who never fumbled, who ran for a touchdown every time he touched the ball ... would he be worth a Top 5 pick? ;-)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:18pm

I dunno....I'd have to investigate his parenting style........

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 5:32am

Does he punt too?

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

It will help to have Sam Shields get injured again. This isn't something that is all that rare, I expect him to miss 4 games a year. NE had their first score on the series he got hurt and while House has improved, and Shields is not perfect, Shields is the top CB for good reason. The passing defense takes a noticeable hit when he Shields is out.

The Pat's secondary, like Seattle's is a good match against GB and is part of the reason for the red zone issues. Seattle had an advantage of GB not being as gelled and of course playing in Seattle. With a shorter field, being able to put more help on the 3rd - 5th options can take them away, while your top corners are keeping Nelson and Cobb in check.

I actually thought Revis on Cobb was the way to go. Nelson is awesome, but I've said it before, he isn't as good when things break down as other GB receivers are or have been in the past. Cobb is much better at making space for himself, Revis would take that away, and double coverage on Nelson is a good idea since it's double moves and precise routes that he makes his living off. Not that Revis can't deal with that either, but Cobb was able to make a few plays after they took Revis off him in just those conditions. Though most of Cobb's plays came off of unique formations that forced favorable match-ups.

I also agree with the value of a rare running back. Another of Favre's best years came when Ahman Green was playing his best. His Super Bowl years also came at Dorsey Leven's peak seasons (not that his peak was all that impressive). The caveat is that a solid RB can provide enough, especially if you have a solid line and solid RB's can be found in the later rounds or identified fairly consistently off the street. So you gamble with the earlier picks on different positions. But picking an Adrian Peterson quality back in the top 5, I don't think is a mistake. Making sure the player is that good is a different story.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:36pm

I think OL, RB and QB quality/production are all so intertwined that it is very difficult to determine cause and effect

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:21pm

I agree that playing to hold GB to FGs is not optimal when compared to heavy pressure, but I've seen Bellichick succeed with other counter-intuitive measures in the past. The mush-rush with heavy coverage NE gave Rogers in the Red Zone seemed to work Sunday, but considering how good Rogers and McCarthy are, I can't see it working again for NE or anyone else.

As for a running back being drafted in the top 5 picks, it's possible, but it would have to be a special player. It seems most teams have adopted (and succeeded) with the Shanahan philosophy on running backs, where they can be found and developed rather than drafted early, and too many of the 1st round backs in the last few years have underperformed.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:32pm

With the current CBA, I think we'll start to see a few RBs get drafted at the tail end of the first round. RBs tend to peak earlier in their career than players at other positions. There's not much difference between the late first and most of the second round, and the chance to get an extra year out of a player who may burn out quickly is a chance worth taking.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:13pm

It's also just no longer advantageous to invest in a good RB given how much the NFL has skewed the game towards passing. In the 80's and early 90's the top QBs were passing for ca. 3700+ yards in a season, while the top RBs were running for ca. 1300+ yards. Now, the top QBs are passing for 4100+ yards while the top RBs are still doing ca. 1300 or so.

In other words, offense is up but it's all because of passing. Thus, drafting a RB is just less important vs. a top QB, WR, LT, CB, and pass-rushing LB/DE. It's all about passing.

It does seems clear that RB's have a short shelf-life, but in the NFL of 25 years ago drafting a RB whom you knew would be great (say, 4-5 years of 1200-1500 yards each plus a few lesser years before and after) would have been an obvious high pick. But today if a GM had a chance to pick a RB that was sure to play for ca. 8 years-- 5 of which would be at a very high level-- versus a WR, DB or pass-rushing DE, he'd pass on the RB and get the player more focused on the pass (offense or defense).

I know I've sounded like a curmudgeon this season on FO, but I'm becoming less and less thrilled with the whole pass-happy focus the NFL has decided to take.

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:21pm

Running backs can catch the ball, too. That actually seems to be an area where you see some inefficiency. Teams seem like they undervalue the Sproles type catch-and-run RB compared to the between the tackles thumpers.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:37pm

The most likely type of RB to be drafted early would be a Faulk/Tomlinson type who plays in a college offense where that allows them to show they can pass block as well as receive out of the backfield.

by Duke :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 9:38pm

I think the problem there is the risk. There's just no way to know for sure that a player will fill all of their potential. I think it's fair to say that there may be years in the future where a RB will be one of the top 5 players to come out of a draft. But to say that to do that, he has to be a once in a decade talent, who has to hit on all of the upsides (not to mention staying healthy, not getting into trouble, etc.)...it's a big risk, and the upside isn't as great as other positions.

To put it another way, you can justify spending a top-5 pick on a QB, OT, WR, or DE who could be the best ever but possibly won't be top 5 amongst his contemporaries, because that second-best scenario is still valuable. A RB who is in the 6-10 range for most of his career is a very poor use of a top 5 pick.

And basically, I wonder if you'll ever be sure enough on a RB prospect to bet on him being that once in a decade talent. I kind of doubt it.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:30pm

Also, running backs are far more dependent on their supporting cast and scheme than the other positions. Even a top-five running back might struggle if he lands on a team with really bad run blocking or with a QB that the defense doesn't respect, whereas the other positions have skills that shine through regardless of their surrounding talent.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:41pm

Yeah, a TE or WR can at least win their individual match-up - with a RB, it's exactly what you say, there's no such thing as an individual match-up. Sammy Watkins can get open whether it's Orton or Manuel back there. If you put Toby Gerhardt on the Jaguars, suddenly he doesn't appear to be NFL caliber. A CB only has to cover one guy, a G only block one dude (or at most switch off between two.) The RB relies on the other individual match-ups to go well to succeed...

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 1:30am

Sure, drafting a running back onto a roster that is poorly suited to get benefit from a even a great running back is a bad idea; I actually think a team which has a bad defense, and gives up a lot of points in the first 3 or 4 possessions would be the worst fit. That still doesn't mean, however, that one is better off saying that a running back should never be taken with a high first round pick.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:56pm

For NE, that was essentially a replay of the 2013 AFC Championship, but with better offense on their end. Same issues, with GB going up and down the field all day at will, but having issues in the red zone. Both teams dropped a clear TD (Adams late, J. Thomas in the title game), and both teams put up a ridiculous amount of yards per drive.

What's odd is while in the Title Game Talib went out and Manning was in total control against an overmatched unit, here the Patriots top guys played reasonably well, but were still shredded. My word was Logan Ryan bad all day long. Revis looked good again, but was beaten literally one too many times.

Very good game. I hesitate to call it a great game, as I think the Packers were quite a bit better, but sloppy red zone play made it seem far closer (including a missed field goal by Crosby). Still, credit the Patriots for playing the Packers far closer at home than anyone else, and coming back from falling behind 13-0 against a team that has run away with leads at home.

As for the rest of the NFL:

- I really hope people don't bring up yesterday as evidence that Manning struggles in the cold. Manning wasn't great, but he was also throwing seemingly nothing but deep balls in the 2nd half. I have no idea what that gameplan was, but he threw ~8 deep shots in the 2nd half, and missed all of them (mostly long).

- CJ Anderson looks real good. If he can avoid negative runs, that will be a really tough team to stop.

- DeMarcus Ware is just a beast. He and Von had relatively quiet games the last few weeks, but they were there in full force yesterday.

- The Ravens/Chargers game could end up knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs. The Ravens seemed to be the better team all day, but man was that the return of Wk. 1-4 Philip Rivers. Just in time for NE & DEN at home in a 6-day span.

- Yes, Andy Dalton is terrible, but that defense is still quite good, and let's give them credit. They now lead that division by 1.5 games, and are somehow in striking distance of getting a 1st round bye if they can navigate an admittedly tough schedule down the stretch

- If only the Rams had a real QB...

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:39pm

Seemed like the Broncos assumed that with Berry out they'd have plenty available deep, and once they had the lead they were pretty comfortable taking those chances. I wonder how much different his stat line would've looked if the Chiefs offense had been competent early on. (Your comment about the Rams QB also applies in KC and Cincy and Houston and Philly and Cleveland and especially Buffalo... all those teams would be downright scary with a top passer.)

Anyway, it was kind of nice to see a game where Manning didn't have to be dominant to win. Games where he gets outgained by the running game, even if it's all clock-killing yardage, are very very rare compared to some of his contemporaries, even going back to the last credible running games he had back in the Edge James years. I don't buy the weather stuff either as much as I buy that having diversity and the ability to do that helps in January against better teams... so that bodes well for them in their playoff game(s). Combine the run threat of the last two weeks with a healthy Julius and you probably won't see things like that Ninkovich coverage/pick Peyton threw last month.

I hope that game does knock the Ravens out. It was kind of funny to see them lose a game on an underthrown ball that led to a DPI gimme instead of winning that way as they seem to always do. (I've always hated seeing those games where Flacco puts up three quarters of worthless 4ypa ball but wins after being rewarded for a badly thrown deep ball, which is doubly frustrating because he has enough arm strength to never do that.) I guess I'd consider him a more deserving playoff QB than Dalton and would rather see the Ravens take that division just so the 4-5 game will be more competitive, but still, I can't help but enjoy watching them lose.

I was really hoping for a 6-10 NFC playoff team but I guess that's out the window. Thanks, Pittsburgh.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:50pm

CJ Anderson looks real good.

Collinsworth mentioned Anderson's quick lateral movement, which I thought was a good insight. Compared to Ball and (to a lesser extent) Hillman, Anderson seems better able to squeeze through a narrow hole and then finesse a linebacker or cleanly side-step his second-level blocker. It also helps that his strength and balance keep him moving through arm tackles.

In other Broncos news, that defensive pass rush became almost unstoppable once it was fairly clear that the Chiefs were facing the situation where every down was a passing down.

Oh, and they found themselves a kicker who can reliably produce 35-year FGs, which is a bit of a change from recent weeks.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:02pm

That is one looooooooong field goal.

by cjfarls :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:11pm

Well, except that McManus missed exactly one short FG. 2 other misses were over 50 yards, and one I believe was upper 40s.

Might McManus have missed one of those gimme's last night? Maybe, but not sure if that was worth almost 100 yards in FG position DEN probably would've gained by kicking it off past the 10 yard line.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:22pm

I wondered about that, too. Last night, the Chiefs weren't going anywhere on offense, so it wasn't a big deal. Against a more productive unit, yeah, the tradeoff between FG points and field position would be a very interesting question. (Also, I don't have his stats, but it looks like D'Anthony Thomas is a pretty good returner.)

If I were an OC forced to make the choice, I think I'd prefer having a kicker who's going to make the FG when necessary, but his kickoffs are definitely an issue.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 11:56pm

The interesting thing is that according to one or two local sports news guys, the reason the Broncos went with Barth over Feely specifically because they were concerned about Feely's distance on kickoffs. It seemed like Santos was generally kicking short last night too, so maybe the wind/temperature were impacting kicks, it will be interesting to see if Barth can consistently generate touchbacks on a 50 degree afternoon in Denver next week.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:04pm

I hope CBS sticks with the offensive personnel displays they were using during the GB-NE game. Very handy to have the five eligibles listed on the side of the screen instead of squinting at the formation to try to figure it out. I hope they add a defensive personnel listing to it too; it would be too bulky to list all of the players, but a basic grouping (3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB or whatever) would be nice.

by duh :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:48pm

Yeah, I agree I thought this was a good addition to the broadcast

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:16pm

I do want to take a moment and acknowledge the complete whupping laid on the Cowboys by the Eagles. I thought Philly had a great chance to win but did not expect Dallas to get pushed around like the jv.

And to a similar extent the same applies to Seattle/San Fran.

Very surprising.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:19pm

I thought the SF SEA game pretty much looked entirely due to quarterbacking. Kapernick looks like he is regressing out of the league, Wilson looks like a stable starter.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:39pm

I'm thinking a lot of Kaep's problems comes from o-line injuries (read Tanier's Hangover column). Wilson also played poorly (but in different ways) a few weeks ago due to o-line starters being out.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:29pm

I think the owner in Dallas has real chance to blow his team's near lock on a playoff spot, if he sufficiently undermines his coach over the next 4 weeks. That might be one of the more enjoyable debacles to observe.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:35pm

Jerry just has to step up...Snyder has been racking up a lot of points in the "NFL's worst owner" competition this year, and Jerry Jones is too competitive to let that pass without a fight.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:37pm

How were they ever a lock? It has been 8 teams chasing 6 spots all year and they were never clearly in the lead enough for it to be a lock.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:01pm

Well, I overstated, but they have a 8.5% DVOA, and three of their last four opponents have, respectively, 6.9%, -9.8%, and -18.0% DVOAs. Losing to Philly again wouldn't be an upset at all, but if they manage to lose at least two of the three games which they have against lesser DVOA opponents, two of them substantially lesser, and miss the playoffs at 9-7, it'll be quite a bitter pill. Lose all four, of course, and hilarity ensues.

Unfortunately, I expect the Cowboys will beat the Bears pretty easily this Thursday.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:39pm

Just for purely entertainment purposes, I really wish ole' double J had given into his urge to draft Manziel.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:42pm

Rumor has it Robert Griffin III may be available soon...for the right price.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:43pm

Jerry will remember that 2012 Thanksgiving Game and sign him just because of that.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:15pm

Your Schadenfreude hurts me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:46pm

Now, understand, I only direct it at one person. I think quite positively of many of the players and coaches. If you can't root for emotional distress, caused by a wounded, bloated, ego, when the wounded, bloated, ego belongs to one Jerall Jones, however, you just aren't paying attention.

by Lance :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:00pm

I'm of course in the camp of having said owner somehow decide (or have decided for him if he were to fall into a deep coma) that he should have a real GM in not pretend like his glory days of Arkansas football in the 60's means he knows all that much about drafting talent, evaluating free agents, and maybe not putting Romo's cap hit at like $22 million next year.

That said, as a Cowboys fan their fabulous start had me thinking of maybe an NFC East title and maybe a play-off win. Now I'm afraid it's going to be 10-6 and no play-offs at all. I love Romo but I'm afraid his health isn't going to hold up to 2023 or whatever he's signed through meaning a retirement and huge, crippling cap hit is coming.

We'd all take glee in Jones going to his grave knowing that the success of the Cowboys under his ownership was due to Jimmy and (much later and much less so) Parcells. But as a fan, I'd still like to see some wins!!

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:38pm

No Thursday night audibles? It's like everybody was spending time with loving families for some reason.

Re: Green Bay winning everything forever: isn't there a history of Aaron Rodgers having 6 to 8 game streaks of absolutely perfect QB play, after which he falls back to earth and "only" looks like one of the top 4 QBs in the game?

The Packers have looked very good lately, but it's still the same team that got clobbered by the Saints. I think it's a little early to award them the NFC North--the Lions are capable of winning in Lambeau once Rodgers stops doing his Mobile Organism Designed Only for Completions thing.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:45pm

Like most of the elite teams, the Packers looked great in a home game that they were ready for. Your point about the Saints is sound, but for me the turning point in that game was when Rodgers limped off the field. He came back in, but he was just not "right".

And yes, if the Packers take the Lions less than seriously, they are likely to lose. The Packers aren't good enough to coast (no team is at that elite level this season).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:47pm

The Packers only got clobbered in the Superdome because of Rodgers' twitchy hamstring.

As far the Lions chances, the offense blowing up against a bad Chicago defense still doesn't inspire confidence when looking at the rest of the season. The Packers defense is good enough to win that game, even if Rodgers is less than superhuman.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:53pm

GB was also missing several defensive starters including about half the secondary.

But really the Saints played lights out. GB got stomped in the second half.

While folks keep kvetching on a team playing poorly for a quarter and a half versus a larger sample size puzzles me

by NYMike :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:48pm

You could be right but I don't think GB *is* the same team that lost to the Saints. They've stopped turning the ball over, started generating turnovers, and Rodgers is now comfortable with his third option at receiver, which he wasn't in NO.

Actually, that game and the Den @ NE game seemed very similar to me: two really good teams going at it, with one team playing perfect football (in the Saints case, about the only time all year), and the other screwing up uncharacteristically. The resulting scores were blowouts, but the games never felt that way, at least until Matt Flynn started playing QB.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:16pm

Rodgers being comfortable with his third receiver—as well as two options at tight end—has made a hell of a difference for the Packers as this season has gone on. That, along with the line really rounding into form, has allowed the offense to grow. And I mean, Rodgers was awesome, but I think those factors are what made the difference for GB in the game yesterday.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 1:48pm

Re: Bengals surprise onside kick. I didn't like the call at all. Why do that against Tampa Bay? Save it for Denver.

by OldFox :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:23pm

I agree. The onside kick seemed like a dumb idea to me. The Bengals were finally starting to gain the upper hand and Tampa Bay's offense had been going nowhere, so in that situation I'd just kick to them and let them do their three-and-out, giving me the ball in good field position. Trying an onside kick at that point just gave the ball to the Bucs inside Bengal territory, and also fired them up. You shouldn't use trickery on an inferior opponent. Just grind them down.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:59pm

Agree fully, in fact I asked the same question in the Chat Thread That Shall Not Be Named, with mostly the same reasoning that OldFox uses (you're clearly the superior team, you finally took a lead after a miserable first half, the only way you're going to lose now is another big, momentum-swinging play). In general, I thought it was a terribly coached game by Lewis---after taking a needless risk with huge downside (the onside kick), he went full turtle and ran up the middle on first and second downs for the rest of the game, and Cincy never sniffed another point. Predictably, a couple of fluke plays got TB in range for the game-winning FG ("predictably," because that's what always seems to happen when you let a bad team hang around). Finally, I don't get the love for throwing the challenge flag, when Lewis could have simply called the timeout. That would have given him time to talk to the officials as opposed to hoping that someone listens to him while the ref calls the penalty.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:05pm

On the TO, I heard later that Lewis had tried to call one but couldn't get the referees' attention so he threw out the challenge flag to get it. I'd say that given the overall ineptness shown by the refs at that moment, I wouldn't be surprised.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:08pm

OK, I can buy that.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:27pm

I don't think too many people besides John Harbaugh and a few insane message board posters have an issue with the DPI at the end of the Ravens game. Although I think it's fairly clear that PI was inconsistently called in that game.

But ultimately, when you have a reserve S starting at CB (Levine), your secondary isn't going to be good. The Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson injuries killed the Ravens weakest position group (although Jackson is coming of IR soon), and Lardarius Webb really has been a shell of himself since knee and back injuries. The safety play outside of Will Hill has been abysmal as well.

It's a shame because the Ravens front 7 really kicks ass, if they had even a competent secondary it would be a nice defense.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 2:40pm

Just out of curiosity, how has Danny Gorrer been doing? He seemed pretty good with the Lions as an injury fill-in, and lately I've been wishing the Lions had kept him instead of Cassius Vaughn.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:21pm

He was good in the first two games and even got a pick, but from what I remember was burned a few times yesterday vs. SD. I always liked Gorrer too, he played well when he was on the Ravens in 2011 and I remember being pissed when he was cut in 2012.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:32pm

Against the Packers in week 3 he did a great job against Randall Cobb, and was solid in the other games. He got forced out in the numbers game when the Lions nickel CBs started getting healthy. Once he was cut, I noticed the Lions having a significantly harder time covering 3rd receivers.

As far as against SD, well I guess he's allowed to have a bad game occasionally. I hope he latches on. Seems like a good guy in the locker room who never complains.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 3:51pm

Did anyone else think it was possible that Rodgers was actually not throwing the ball to Cobb on that nice final catch that iced the game?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:07pm

There was another receiver in the area (Quarless?), but I don't think there was any question it was going to Cobb. Cobb was running across the field in Rodgers view when it was thrown.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:07pm

Re: Mercifully undiscussed T'giving games:

As currently constituted, the Bears will give up 500+ yards and 40+ points* to any team with an NFL-caliber passing offense. As painful as it is to watch the shell of Lance Briggs chase tight ends and Chris Conte miss tackles, things just get worse when they go out and are replaced by guys that (at least for now) are even less effective.

*: They really did give up 40+ points on Thursday, the Lions were just too polite to take the last 14 or so.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:22pm

"the Lions were just too polite to take the last 14 or so"

If Jim Schwartz were still the coach, he would have run up the score, had Suh step on Cutler's face, challenged an unchallengable play, tried to pick a fight with Trestman over the handshake, and then had his players carry him off the field afterwards.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:14pm

Denver beat the Chiefs with a great running game, dominating defense and solid special teams.

Up until last night, the Broncos were completely dependent on Peyton to play well for every game they won. Denver had never won a game in the Peyton era when he had a passer rating below 90. The off-season goal was ultimately to be able to win without Peyton carrying them, and this new philosophy accomplishes that. It's great to see them playing under center because it create true play action and allows a greater variety of running plays. Anderson looks great, and could become what Terrell Davis was for John Elway.

It's no coincidence that Denver's running game has improved with Julius Thomas injured and Virgil Green, who is a MUCH better blocker playing in his place. It will be interesting to see what they do when Julius Thomas comes back. I'm guessing that Wes Welker's snaps will be significantly reduced and JT ends up playing more from the slot.

by cjfarls :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:39pm

It will actually be interesting to see Denver's ST ratings going forward.

Conner Barth made all five sub-40yd FGs... but otherwise their ST were horrific to the point of actually being good.

Barth's kickoffs rarely reached even the 5-yard line... some not even to the 10. Ouch. I miss McManus booting them through the end zone already. KC started inside their 30-yard line I think once on 5 or 6 kicks, so its not like DEN's coverage team were improved either.

Punting, Colquitt was terrible, and one shank was so bad it hit a KC blocker on the DEN gunner, leading to the "fumble" recovery.... horrible-ness so bad it came full circle to a positive play. But otherwise more of the same awfulness.

Anyway, let me say that I'm now convinced that DEN may regret cutting McManus in exchange for Barth... the slight increase in FG reliability probably won't make up for starting Luck/Brady/Rodgers/Wilson at their 35 all game if/when DEN faces one of those teams in the playoffs/SB.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:22pm

Last night I thought the weather affected the kick-offs, but I just heard that TB used a KO specialist with Barth, so you definitely have a point. However, I think the increase in FG reliability is much more than a slight increase.

Could Denver bring back McManus as a KO specialist, perhaps by putting Burse on the practice squad? Burse is purely a Punt return specialist who could be replaced by Welker. Given the emergence of Denver's running game, I would not be surprised to see Welker's snaps significantly reduced in flavor of more two TE sets with Virgil Green as the TE and JT playing more from the slot.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:33pm

That's OK, Peyton's used to having crippling field position disadvantages in playoff games.

by Lell87 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 9:51pm


by liquidmuse3 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:32pm

Here's what I don't get about the "Oh, McCarron does nothing better than Dalton, so why play him" narrative---Dalton throws key picks at the worst times, right? And we can go on & on about 'Bama's talent, but if the QB just avoids costly mistakes under pressure, that's the definition of allowing your team the ability to maximize all that talent. McCarron has proven that ability, while Dalton clearly has not. Fine, keep Dalton, stay with him this year, see how the playoffs play out. But if Andy tanks in the playoffs again, I think A.J. has to be on alert next training camp to step up a bit. Just weird to me the A.J. pick here was pooh-poohed across the board, almost as if he was a non-entity, yet, "We're stuck with Dalton".

by Biebs :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:44pm

McCarron has proven that ability at the college level with a lot of talent around him. Your are writing as though winning at the college football level reflects some sort of magic ability to win at the NFL level

As far as I can tell Cam Newton is the only QB in the last 25 years to win a College Championship and have any success at the NFL level (Only other guys to even start more than a season at the NFL level were Vince Young, Brian Griese, and Matt Leinart).

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:06pm

To put it more simply, he's more likely this generation's version of Gino Torretta.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:46pm

"McCarron has proven that ability"

Proven it where? In college? Lots of QBs proved they could do that in college, but that doesn't mean they'll be good NFL QBs.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:38pm

Question for the rules-obsessed out there:

When did the false start rules change? More than once this season, I have seen a DL jump across the line, come nowhere close to touching anyone, and suddenly the OL are jumping around and pointing. In previous years, this would be a false start on the offense, now it's NZV (but only sometimes). Any explanations? Thoughts?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 4:45pm

As written, the o-line has to flinch as a direct result of a defensive player crossing the neutral zone. I do agree that 'flinch' now has a very broad definition where there is enough time in-between where it is quite obvious the o-lineman is doing it specifically to get a NZV called.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:01pm

Yeah, standing up, pointing and yelling at the official is not what I would call "flinching".

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:19pm

They usually lead with a flinching type motion then transition seamlessly into lobbying for a call.

I think the rule on provoking a flinch has changed. I remember Bruce Smith being somewhat famous for inducing false starts by flopping to the ground and popping back up, but I think that would be ruled offsides now.

by Anger...rising :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 6:14pm

The neutral zone infraction has existed for over a decade.

by reiniroosh :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:38pm

Yeah that rule is dumb.
The defense can get back onside, unless they "induce" the offense to false start. That's why they jump and point...
Why in the world a second, offensive, penalty is a prerequisite for calling it on the defense, I can't say.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 9:02pm

It's a simple adage, "no harm no foul".

by Pat :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:32pm

I'm not sure I ever seen a more nonchalant 98-yard touchdown drive in the final 62 seconds than the one Pittsburgh had against New Orleans. Technically, the drive didn't start as garbage time since there was strategy to set up a score, get the onside kick and get the second score to win or tie, but as is usually the case the offense took too long to get the first score.

That was an interesting call at that point.

Their best strategy to win was just to kick the field goal with 31 seconds left, and then a Hail Mary, or some very long TD play, after an onside kick recovery. There just wasn't enough time for a comeback with two traditional drives.

Their best strategy to get into the playoffs was to score the TD, because there's some off chance that scoring margin might be a tiebreaker somewhere, and that off chance is probably higher than the chance of them winning in the first place.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 5:46pm

Do coaches actually worry about scoring margin? I get the impression they worry about winning first and injuries second, and that's about it.

Maybe some small consideration to showcasing a strategy for future games.

by Dired :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:27pm

I doubt they care about total points at all - winning and going home healthy is what they want. Fans who want to rationalize their team running up the score care about it a great deal, however.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:36pm

I, for one, have never seen point differential as a tiebreaker being given as a reason for running up the score, except for the one time in 1999 where it actually was the tiebreaker. Besides, the vast majority of fans have no issue with teams running up the score.

by herewegobrownie... :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:08pm

With the number of 7-5s +/-1 in the AFC right now, tiebreakers might go a good ways down this year.

by Ezra Johnson :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:45pm

Dominic Raiola seems to worry about it a little.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:09pm

I remember in week 1 of 1991, a Sanders-less Lions team went into DC and got thumped 45-0. That actually undersells what blowout it was. The Skins coulda scored in the 60's if they wanted to, but late in the 4th quarter, Joe Gibbs started calling 4 consecutive kneel downs in the redzone to give the ball back to Detroit on downs. Lions linebacker Chris Spielman said he felt insulted by this gesture of seemingly good sportsmanship. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, I guess.

My opinion is, this isn't high school or college, where you're talking about kids playing on teams with wide talent disparities. This is the NFL, and these men are professionals. If you don't like the score being run up, then freakin' stop them. Otherwise, quit bitching. As a fan, I have no issue with the other team running up the score.

by SFC B :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 4:28am

When I was much younger I had a tough time understanding why players would continue to risk their injury with when continuing to play hard in games that are blow-outs. I've come to think a couple of different issues are at play, as you stated with the DET-WAS in '91 example is these are professionals; if they don't want to get blown out they need to do better, and really, somedays you're the bug, not the windshield. The other thing I came to think, and reading FO made me think it, is that "garbage time" production matters to the players. Some 4th string DB intercepting the 7th round pick rookie's pass when they're down by 45 in the 4th still counts as an INT when he's trying to make a squad next year.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:25am

that assumes guarantee (or at least, basically better than 3/7 odds) of converting the TD

The standard is the standard!

by FireSnake :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:05pm

Regarding the Bengals non-challenge challenge for the 12 men ... it is worth mentioning that if the Bengals had no timeouts remaining (they had two left and were charged one for the incident), they would have been penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. The 15 yard penalty would have put the Bucs in field goal range even after the 12 men penalty. So the missed 12 men penalty by the zebras basically would have cost the Bengals the game without the Bengals being able to influence it. This shows how stupidly broken this whole replay system is (I would abolish it completely, judgement calls and missed calls are part of the game).

I know Blandino said the replay assistant or New York (who apparantly can do that as well) would have stopped the action anyway, I still believe a significant number of HCs would have gone ballistic and some would have thrown the challenge flag like Marvin Lewis did.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:43pm

I think Blandino is full of it. I've never heard of a booth review in the final two minutes being called for because of a missed penalty before. I realize many aren't reviewable and that a twelve men flag is usually thrown so basically it would be impossible to prove the negative, but you've got to figure the Bucs would've gotten that next snap off even if the booth did decide to review it and take the play away.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 6:24am


The standard is the standard!

by herewegobrownie... :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:09pm

He wasn't in the discussion set for the game, but very interesting article by Cian on Johnny:


by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/01/2014 - 8:40pm

The article itself wasn't as positive of him as the headline would lead you to believe, but a decent outing is a good start considering how bad he looked in preseason.

by Tim F. :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:23am

Best/funniest writing from Monday Night: including Trent Dilfer on the graphic for "Notable Quarterback Consecutive Games with 70% Completion Percentage"

(Trent did it twice btw, which I presume is the case for any "Notable QB.")

by Duke :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 9:49pm

Don't want to talk, or think, much about the Bears' debacle in Detroit. All I'd like to say is that I'm getting pretty tired of all the Bears fans who are pontificating that the problem is that the Bears didn't run the ball with Forte enough. Yes, more play calling that average 1.2 yards per play, please! If we had only done that, we could have scored no points in the first quarter.

(Disclaimer: I don't believe that's Matt Forte's fault)

I haven't run the numbers but it seems to me the problem with the Bears has been the inability to hit big plays. They just don't seem to be getting the 30, 40 yards at a time that they did last year. That leads to drives petering out instead of driving into the red zone. I don't know if it's a problem with the OL not being to hold up long enough to develop those plays, or if Marshall is hurt, or Jeffery has regressed, but something seems different. Although, again, I should probably run the numbers to see if I'm right at all.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/02/2014 - 10:42pm

You'd be correct. Last year 3.06% of their plays went at least 30 yards, 4th-best in the NFL. This year it's down to 1.70%, only good for 23rd place.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 9:28am

I thought Trestman was smart to go pass-heavy. Trying to run against Detroit is a formula to have lots of 3rd and longs, no matter how good your running back is.

The mistake I thought was trying to dink and dunk with Jay Cutler, as if he was Chad Pennington. The Cardinals and Patriots figured out that the Lions defenses' achilles heel is the nickel corner spot, and attacked it with medium (10-15 yard) throws.

Also, I haven't studied the all-22, but it seemed like Kyle Fuller was singled against Calvin Johnson much of the time. Kyle Fuller has been having a fine rookie season by all accounts, but that might be asking too much.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 11:11am

Pass-heavy is one thing; attempting only 7 rushes the entire game is another. Unless you have one of the truly great QBs, running *that* infrequently is not a formula for success. (And the Lions game was a rare occurrence for the Bears in that they actually had an early lead! It's not like they were down big right away).

I would argue that having an entire offense prone to presnap penalties and a coach who loves wide receiver screens is at least as much a formula to have lots of 3rd and longs as trying to run against a great run defense.

Which brings me to my next point (and I know neither of you were trying to argue that Forte is playing poorly): the whole offense except for Forte is incredibly dysfunctional and I put that squarely on Trestman. Hell, after the game when he was asked about the Bears barely running the ball he acted like he wasn't sure why or how that happened. And he's the playcaller on offense!

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/03/2014 - 11:44am

Point conceded, I agree 7 might be too few. Regarding the screens, they worked like a charm in the beginning, so I can't blame Trestman for keeping on trying them. His mistake was not adjusting soon enough when the Lions starting stopping them.