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22 Dec 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

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.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at Washington Redskins 27

Andrew Healy: Disappointed Chip Kelly kicked a field goal late third quarter on fourth-and-1 from the Washington 30-yard line with the Eagles trailing by 3. In the most similar situation a few weeks ago against Houston, Kelly went for the first down. Then lame coaching karma really bites the Eagles. Cody Parkey misses the 47-yard field goal, and then Bradley Fletcher looks like a high school corner as DeSean Jackson gets about three strides behind him for a very easy 55-yard throw. Touchdown a couple of plays later. Washington up 24-14.

Tom Gower: On the other hand, Fletcher would seem to fit fairly well on Jim Haslett's defense. With better quarterback play, the Eagles would be up instead of down 24-21 (with 10:27 to play as I write this).

Scott Kacsmar: If Chip Kelly had an "Analytics" badge, then this game would strip him of it. Bad decision on the fourth-and-1 field goal earlier and you really have to let them score at the end here to give yourself a real chance. Of course if you're Washington, be smart and don't score.

Aaron Schatz: Heck, I'm not sure why Washington even handed off. I would have just kneeled once the field goal was less than 30.

Tom Gower: NFL teams frustrate me sometimes. The Titans, yes, I expect that from them; they're very bad this season. But it aggravates a lot me more when teams like Philadelphia that can win games by doing good things do things that we can reasonably believe actively hurt their chances of doing that.

Courtesy of great Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia, here's what Eagles DC Billy Davis said about letting Washington score: "None. Never, ever, ever will there be a discussion about letting them score. Never, ever. We'll get the ball back. That's the only thing we talk about. Rip the ball, tackle the ball, get the ball out. We won't let anybody score."

San Diego Chargers 38 at San Francisco 49ers 35

Scott Kacsmar: Philip Rivers has pretty much looked woeful tonight, so here's a Frank Gore tangent:

In each of his first nine seasons Gore averaged at least 4.0 YPC on 100-plus attempts. Only Barry Sanders (10) and Jim Brown (nine) have tied or exceeded that feat in NFL history. Coming into tonight Gore was averaging a career-low 3.94 YPC. On the second play of the game Gore had a fantastic 52-yard touchdown run. Heading into halftime he has 129 yards on 14 carries. His YPC is now up to 4.28 for the season. This won't change what has been the most disappointing season of Gore's career, but it's a reminder of how one game can really move those averages, and how a few tenths in yardage aren't all that significant for one player.

The 49ers have 182 rushing yards at halftime and lead 28-7. San Diego had a solid run defense too. Its season high in rushing yards allowed was 154 against Kansas City.

Andrew Healy: Wow, an incredible two-play swing late in the third quarter. First, the 49ers have a long touchdown to long-lost Vernon Davis on what would have been his first target of the night. The very nice throw and run gets wiped out by a chop block. Then on third-and-20, Colin Kaepernick shows some terrible ball security under pressure and the second defender knocks the ball loose as his arm flails. The Chargers recover and pull to within seven, when it looked like they would trail 35-14.

A pretty apt two-play summary of the mistakes and unlucky bounces for the 49ers this year.

Aaron Schatz: I was convinced the flag on the 90-yard Kaepernick run was going to be holding or something. Hell of a run. Just seemed like it couldn't be real.

Then another Rivers overthrow and pick on the next drive. Rivers has done some amazing things in his career with backup receivers, but the Chargers' depth is really stretched past the breaking point here, and Rivers doesn't seem to be on the same page with these guys.

All these depth receivers... is Lardarius Green healthy? If so, where is he? When is the breakout coming already? With all these receiver injuries this would be a nice time for a big dual-tight-end breakout.

Tom Gower: Concur on not expecting the Kaepernick run to stand and the Chargers offensive line injuries becoming too much.

Green was questionable heading into the game, but he's active tonight. Unless he really is banged up that badly, I don't understand it either.

Aaron Schatz: Wide receiver injuries too. He needs Keenan Allen badly.

Tom Gower: Yup, no sustaining run game without Ryan Mathews and not the same sustaining pass game without Allen.

Andrew Healy: After Aldon Smith leaves with an injury on the Chargers' drive at the end of the fourth quarter, I think the 49ers have one defensive player on the field who had more than eight starts last year (Justin Smith) and just two with three or more starts. Amazing this defense has held together as well as it has.

The Chargers get back-to-back fourth-down conversions to get inside the 49ers' 10-yard-line with 0:42 left. Loved the first play. A great blitz pickup by the Chargers and then a perfect throw just beyond Antoine Bethea's fingertips into the arms of a diving Eddie Royal.

And they get a touchdown to Malcom Floyd to tie it 35-35 with 0:29 left. Another very nice throw for Rivers that drive on an often difficult night.

Aaron Schatz: I know the Chargers came back with some sweet fourth-down conversions. But again I'm just flabbergasted at offenses coming out in empty formations in short-yardage situations. San Diego did this on third-and-2 and Rivers got sacked. Why would you provide yourself with no run option other than a quarterback draw in short yardage?

Andrew Healy: I agree and I didn't have high hopes for them dealing with the blitz on fourth down after that third-and-2. Arizona completely killed them with big blitz after big blitz late in Week 1 and the Chargers did not adjust to deal with it. So it was good to see them able to pick up the late-game big blitz in this spot, at least.

And the Chargers complete the comeback with a field goal to win after the 49ers commit the game's sixth turnover on the first drive of overtime.

Baltimore Ravens 13 at Houston Texans 25

Cian Fahey: Pretty sure Joe Flacco won't be correcting the President on anything this week.

J.J. Cooper: This Joe Flacco game is pretty much inexplicable unless there is a hidden injury. Anyone who had Case Keenum outperforming Flacco in this game, raise your hand.

Kansas City Chiefs 12 at Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Scott Kacsmar: Andy Reid's game management continues to be a problem. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on third down and it certainly looked like an empty-hand play, but Reid didn't even challenge. Chiefs could have taken over around the red zone if rewarded the fumble.

J.J. Cooper: Steelers get a couple of breaks at the end of the first half. First the Chiefs get a generous spot on a third-down reception to get a first down. It's the kind of call that looks like a poor spot, but it's hard to challenge because spot challenges often feel like a roll of the dice. But because it's inside the final two minutes the replay booth calls the challenge and the spot gets overturned. Then the Chiefs go for it on fourth-and-1 and the Steelers stuff the run on fourth down. So Pittsburgh heads to the half up 10-6.

Cian Fahey: If you were to rank offenses in terms of who was most likely to overcome an 11-point deficit in one half, would the Chiefs be in the bottom five?

Andrew Healy: Maybe the Chiefs are close, but this top six is pretty hard to crack:

Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland, Tampa Bay.

If Johnny Manziel was still playing, the top one would have been extremely hard to crack.

Scott Kacsmar: This game only had 13 possessions with six for Pittsburgh, seven for Kansas City. The only other game I have seen that happen in was 2006 Colts at Texans. A final score of 20-12 tells you there was bad red-zone play and it mostly came from Kansas City. The fake field goal was nice, but they failed to turn that into a touchdown. The streak of not throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver continues, though Dwayne Bowe dropped one. The wide receivers played pretty well against a struggling secondary, yet Smith had his usual game of checking down and not testing things vertically. That was most problematic on the final drive when Smith repeatedly checked down to Jamaal Charles, down 20-9, without even really looking for the touchdown. That put everything on an onside kick and the Chiefs kicked it right to fullback Will Johnson to end the game. The referees were awful in this game, as was CBS' Mike Carey, who I think managed to take the wrong viewpoint on every appearance he made. One of the worst taunting penalties you'll ever see was called on William Gay, who directed all of his action in approval of his teammate and did nothing to the opponent. That helped the Chiefs convert a third-and-17 too, making it even worse.

Ben Roethlisberger and the offense played well, scoring 20 points on the six drives. It was a scary moment when Vance Walker took a major cheapshot and tried to trip Roethlisberger with a leg whip. Roethlisberger left the field, but returned and didn't miss any plays. However, he returned to the game in 2011 against Cleveland after suffering a high ankle sprain. He finished that one well, but the injury worsened afterwards and he was very ineffective the rest of the season. The Steelers better hope this isn't another one of those, or else this will be another short-lived postseason, not to mention a huge game against the Bengals next week for the division.

Detroit Lions 20 at Chicago Bears 14

Tom Gower: Good pass pressure from the Bears at times has gotten Matthew Stafford off balance. The Lions moved the ball pretty consistently in the first half, but it's only 7-7 thanks to two bad red-zone interceptions. The first came while Stafford was rolling to his left and went to an area with three defenders and two receivers. The second was an easy read for Ryan Mundy, coming up from his deep safety spot in zone coverage.

Jimmy Clausen was better than I thought he'd be in the first half. That he's under 5 yards per attempt should give you an idea of where my expectations were, though. The offensive game plan seems to have concentrated on getting the ball out quickly a lot, with many throws coming off a three-step drop. His numbers have been depressed by a couple drops by both Alshon Jeffery and Marquess Wilson, who has played a prominent role. He only led one real drive, though, getting down to the 2-yard line before failing on a throw to sixth-lineman Eben Britton. The touchdown came at the very end of the first half, when Jeremy Ross muffed a punt at the 10 -- nice touch by Clausen on the scoring toss to Forte against a big blitz.

Rob Weintraub: The Bears just got bailed out by a game-changing roughing the punter call, a total flop by the punter on fourth-and-23 when even running into the punter would have been a stretch. But an automatic first down was utterly egregious. Sure enough the Bears scored a couple of plays later to take a 14-10 lead.

Ben Muth: Dominic Raiola is an absolute clown. The stomp on the Bears defensive lineman is just another example. His dirty play might be somewhat tolerable if he was even a league average starter, but he's not. NFL has to suspend him and the fine should be at least an additional $25,000.

Rob Weintraub: OK, the Packers have done their part, with difficulty, beating Tampa. Your turn Detroit -- keep the Bengals-Steelers game off of prime time!!!

Tom Gower: I figured out what Clausen reminded me of -- Oakland switching to Matt McGloin last season. Like Clausen, McGloin did a great job of getting the ball out quickly instead of extending the play, and it worked well at first at times, especially when the receivers were making plays one-on-one, as Bears receivers started to do more in the second half. It's such a limited game plan, though, and eventually the defense will adjust, choke down, and challenge the three-step game, and the quarterback either throws incomplete repeatedly or starts holding the ball and looks lost. It happened to McGloin last year, and it happened to Clausen at the end of this game. Detroit's offense didn't do what I thought they would do, but they did enough for the win.

Minnesota Vikings 35 at Miami Dolphins 37

Cian Fahey: With every passing game, Teddy Bridgewater is building a lead as the best rookie quarterback in the NFL. Once again today, he has kept the Vikings offense on track with smart, accurate throws while connecting with different receivers down the field. He was unfortunate not to finish the first half with a touchdown pass when his tight end just stepped out of bounds, but another impressive stretch for the former Louisville prospect.

Some of the things that Bridgewater is doing as a rookie are simply phenomenal. In the fourth quarter, down by eight, Bridgewater drops back in the pocket, adjusts to avoid pressure while reading the defense from the left sideline all the way back to the right. He locates an open receiver with an underneath throw, but his work before letting the ball go dragged the coverage to the other side of the field. That left the receiver in space for a huge gain into the red zone.

On the following play, Cameron Wake obliterates the blocker in front of him when Bridgewater drops back into the pocket. This forces the rookie quarterback to rush his work from the pocket, but he delivers a perfect pass by throwing with anticipation down the seam for a touchdown. The touchdown is being reviewed as I type, but the play from the quarterback was exceptional regardless of the review.

Rob Weintraub: This game was decided by a blocked punt for a safety in the final minute of a 35-35 game. A bad snap snafu-ed the play from the beginning, and Miami's Terrence Fede reached out and swatted it out of the end zone. So the Vikings had to onside the free kick, which comes from a punt stance, not with a tee. Not a bad effort actually, but it fell out of bounds, and the Fish win it 37-35. Unfortunately for them, they were already eliminated from the postseason with the Pittsburgh win.

Tom Gower: I didn't see much of this game until the final five minutes, but that was a nice drive by Miami to tie it, then the Dolphins defensive line against the Vikings offensive line as they tried to break the 35-35 tie with a minute-plus to go was just better players feasting on inferior ones, particularly Vernon against Matt Kalil and Wake against Mike Harris on the outsides.

Atlanta Falcons 30 at New Orleans Saints 14

Rob Weintraub: The Saints' playoff hopes are going to come down to an incredibly close replay. Jimmy Graham catches a pass at the stripe of the end zone, he appears to just barely break the plane, but the Falcons hold him out and strip it free. Called a fumble and Atlanta ball on the field. May come down to that, as it is very very close.

The call stands! Not sure about that one, but Jimmy Graham has to put that one away.

OK, Jimmy Graham hangs on to a touchdown pass this time. 20-14 Atlanta, 5 minutes and change left. And with Cleveland somehow taking the lead on the Punchless Panthers, the Falcons could wrap up the division within the hour.

Atlanta punts to the Saints, Drew Brees needs to go 90 yards to save the season. And the Panthers went back in front, so the Peachtree City is atwitter!

Robert McLain jumps under an out route, and intercepts Brees to most likely put this one away.

For about the first time all season, Atlanta got consistent pressure on the quarterback. Bryce Harris was turnstiled on Brees' blind side all day, and Atlanta has played well enough in the secondary as a result.

Cian Fahey: It's fitting that the New Orleans Saints' season comes to an end with a Drew Brees' interception on an underthrown sideline pass. Brees' decline has been sharp and his arm simply isn't where it needs to be. Tough decisions to be made in New Orleans moving forward.

Rob Weintraub: Appropriately, the Falcons strip-sack Brees on the last play, and Osi Umenyiora turns in his lone big play in his Falcons career by taking it the distance, even though the game was already iced. And with Carolina about to win as well, all-the-marbles game here in Atlanta next Sunday.

Cian Fahey: Furthermore, Brees' cap hit is $26.4 million next year and $27.4 million the following year (via Spotrac). Those are exceptionally large numbers for any quarterback, but they're especially egregious with Brees at this stage of his career.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I'm going to fight you on this because I'm fighting people online about this. Drew Brees' decline has been "sharp?" How bad do you think he is?

I think this afternoon we finally reached the nadir of the "all quarterbacks are either elite Hall of Famers or suck-ass losers" theory with this Saints loss. Immediately, people were on Twitter attacking Brees for his "awful" season. I've been arguing now with Mike Freeman from Bleacher Report, who referred to "Brees apologists." Apologizing for what, the fact that he's an aging Hall of Fame quarterback who isn't quite as good as he used to be because of course, duh, that's how age works? Someone else got angry at me because I am excusing Brees for a "subpar" season. Prior to this game, Brees was third in passing DYAR and seventh in passing DVOA. He's clearly still one of the top dozen quarterbacks in the league, probably one of the top ten, maybe one of the top eight. Since when is that "subpar?"

This isn't an argument about the cap space. Yeah, he's not good enough for those salary costs at this point. But the idea that he is "sharply in decline" or "subpar" or "awful" is RIDICULOUS.

Cian Fahey: He has regularly missed open receivers downfield because of a lack of arm strength and he has repeatedly made simply dumb decisions from the pocket that have contributed a lot to losses. It's getting to the point that sideline passes are receiver-dependant because he can't fit the ball into spots like he used to.

Sure, he's still productive in specific ways, but he's not getting anywhere near as much out of his supporting cast within that offense as he should.

A sharp decline from being a consensus top-four quarterback can land you in the average range. Doesn't necessarily mean that he is awful.

Aaron Schatz: But he's not IN the average range. He's above the average range! Is the rest of the Saints offense that talented that an average-level quarterback could be third in the league in passing DYAR? I mean, it's a team game, we're measuring more than Brees with that number, but are the rest of the Saints actually lifting his performance up? Not based on what I've seen. The interior line certainly isn't what it used to be for the Saints, and neither are the wide receivers. Can you seriously name 12 quarterbacks you would rather have right now if age and future performance didn't matter?

Plus, this isn't anything about you, Cian, but the people I'm having arguments with on the Twitter aren't saying Brees has sharply declined to average. They're calling him "awful" and "subpar." And these people aren't just random fans. Mike Freeman is one of Bleacher Report's top three NFL columnists, and lest anyone respond, "yeah, well, Bleacher Report," remember that one of the other two men at that level for Bleacher Report is Mike Tanier.

By the way, has Brees' drop in arm strength as he gets older been any different than Brady's drop in arm strength or Manning's drop in arm strength? Haven't these guys all had the same issues with the deep ball this year?

Scott Kacsmar: Brees has played very well most of this year, but it's a great example of having bad plays at the worst possible moments. He has had way too many turnovers that have swung games to the opponent: a pick-six in Cleveland, a pick deep in his own territory that led to Detroit's game-winning touchdown, a sack-fumble in overtime against San Francisco that basically ended the game, a pick-six against Baltimore. Today, he was very poor, and this was another home loss to a division rival after that horrific performance against Carolina two weeks ago. They also only scored 10 points on Cincinnati. He has had some garbage-time numbers for which we would criticize Jay Cutler, but there's a lot of hollowness to Brees' 2014 numbers. You can probably add some of his best seasons together and not have this many crucial mistakes that lost games for the Saints.

Andrew Healy: OK, I was in the middle of a message on Brees, too, so this may echo other points. I criticized Brees after the loss to the 49ers for throwing too many picks, but that is a problem that predates this year. He has thrown too many picks over the last five years altogether.

Still, he came into today's game with a 70 percent completion percentage and his DVOA was seventh. For 2010-2013, his DVOA rankings were: 10, 2, 5, and 5. He'll drop a little with today's game, but man I still think he's a top-10 quarterback. Those are huge cap numbers, but the Saints are generally in cap hell (as Bill Barnwell wrote about) and I think Brees still merits big quarterback money.

Brees probably got overrated a bit when he was put in the Manning-Rodgers class. But he's in the next group even if he throws too many head-scratching picks. And he has been a cut below for a while now rather than declining dramatically this year.

Know we have had a long exchange already, but one more thought on Brees: I feel like his bad picks this season are more about poor decision making than poor arm strength. He had plenty of zip on the out that led to the second pick. He just shouldn't have gone there with the pass and got no help at all from his receiver. I feel like Brady's downfield problems, too, are less about arm strength and more about downfield accuracy. Manning seems the one where the decline in arm strength is most pronounced, although others will know this better than I do.

One final thing: Brees's first interception kind of shouldn't count. It came on fourth-and-7 in the first quarter. Smart play by him to force it in that spot.

I don't want to defend Brees too much. He has made some awful decisions. And the Saints' last two offensive home games have been terrible. But he is in danger of going from a little overrated to underrated, I think.

Rob Weintraub: OK, last thing on Brees -- no, I lied, it's about Matt Ryan. Whenever a team loses it's the reflex action, especially in TwitterWorld, to make it all about the failings of the losing team, in particular the quarterback. But Matty Ice won this game more than Brees lost it.

Remember this about the Falcons: even though everyone has written them off as losers, with the coach and possibly GM all but fired, with awful line play on both sides and a crappy secondary, they are 4-4 over the last eight games, including losses to the Lions and Browns that were essentially unloseable until Smith got his mitts on those games. And they lost a shootout in Lambeau by six and to Pittsburgh by seven without Julio Jones. Beating Carolina at home on Sunday sets up a likely home playoff game with the Cards, who they smoked already at home when Drew Stanton was in there. With an upset elsewhere, they might then rematch with the Pack or Lions, games they would surely would feel they can win, given the first time around. Suddenly, it's Atlanta at Seattle in the NFC title game!

And Mike Smith still would get fired...

New England Patriots 17 at New York Jets 16

Aaron Schatz: Hey, remember early in the season when the Patriots' offensive line was a mess? Have you wondered what it would be like if the Pats went back to that? Well, here's your answer. The Patriots have Dan Connolly out today and apparently that's enough to throw things into disarray. OK, that's not true. Rex Ryan's overload schemes are also throwing things into disarray. The Pats just did a terrible job of picking those up in the first half and Brady took four sacks. The running game also had seven carries for 8 yards in the first half. Josh Kline was playing in Connolly's place at left guard. Even worse were the six-lineman sets when the Pats brought Marcus Cannon in at left tackle and moved Nate Solder over to the right side as tight end. Solder was letting guys through, Cannon looked bad, and the tight end and back were having troubles too.

In the second half, things got a bit better; the Pats brought Cameron Fleming in at right guard and moved Ryan Wendell to left guard. (Aside: I wonder what it is about their individual skills that cause the Pats to do that rather than leaving Solder where he usually is and putting Cannon in the tight end spot.) (Second aside: I wonder why they were playing Cannon and not Fleming if Fleming was healthy; Fleming is the guy who played sixth lineman so much in that Colts game where the line was dominant.)

You can tell from Brady's passes that he's feeling the pressure, even when he doesn't take a sack. He's bouncing balls, and inaccurate in ways that seem to be less about inaccuracy and more about hurrying a pass and trying to put it where a defender can't pick it off (which of course also means the offensive player has a hard time getting it.)

Props to Jets rookie cornerback Marcus Williams who has looked very good today, even covering Rob Gronkowski one-on-one.

Jets offense looked horrendous in the first quarter. Absolutely miserable. Got better in the second quarter, finding nice big holes for running room and of course passes to Jeremy Kerley, who seems to always kill the Pats for some reason. Unfortunately for the Jets, I don't think we're going to be seeing a lot of Jets offense in the second half. Nick Mangold is out with an ankle injury, and Percy Harvin is hurt as well.

It was 10-7 Jets at halftime. They made it 13-7 when the Pats went three-and-out on their first drive, but the Pats then had a nice field-goal drive, Geno Smith threw a pick, and then the Pats went down for a touchdown. So now we're at 17-13 Pats.

One other note: anyone who watches this game has to realize that Rex Ryan would still make a kickass defensive coordinator, despite the fact that he could never properly build an offense as a head coach. The fact that he can do what he is doing against this offense with pretty much no secondary whatsoever... he's a great defensive scheme builder.

Rob Weintraub: When Rex is inevitably fired he should just go the full ronin and hire himself out to whomever is playing the Pats that week. Make Brady face the mad science every Sunday!

Andrew Healy: Fleming being good against the Colts was a pretty big surprise given his performance earlier in the year. The Pats' offense has been better in the third quarter, but Fleming hasn't done well on at least a few plays. On one in particular early in the quarter, he got completely trucked by, I think, Muhammad Wilkerson. It looks like they've been trying to help him on some plays and he stood around blocking nobody without offering help on another pass play earlier. Brady has still been under a lot of pressure even if no more sacks, and Fleming has been a big part of the problem. So there were problems with Kline and Cannon, but also problems with Fleming.

On Rex Ryan, I'd want him as a head coach still. Mark Sanchez's struggles in Philly support the idea that Ryan has had quarterbacks that maybe nobody could turn into good players. I'd like to see him get a chance with even a league-average quarterback.

The Patriots really miss Julian Edelman. After a first down where Danny Amendola gets little separation and then fails to make a difficult catch, Brady throws a pick targeting Brandon LaFell when Jason Babin hits him hard. The Jets brought overload pressure on the offensive left and Cameron Fleming stood around again at right guard offering not a whisper of help.

Have to give Amendola some credit. He actually created some separation on a good-Welker kind of option route, getting a big first down as the game winds towards the two-minute warning with the Patriots up one.

Undoubtedly important for FO's predictive model: the Patriots have never failed to win the Super Bowl when they beat the Jets 17-16 on the road.

New York Giants 37 at St. Louis Rams 27

Tom Gower: Inspired by Andre Williams (15 catches on 33 targets, 45 percent catch rate), running backs with a sub-50 percent catch rate and enough attempts to be ranked in DVOA table, 1994-2013 (unless I missed any):

2012: Bilal Powell (NYJ), 47%
2007: Kris Wilson (KC TE/FB), 48%
2004: Fred Beasley (SF), 40%
1999: Aaron Craver (NO), 45%
1997: Harvey Williams (OAK), 42%
1996: Clifton Groce (IND), 41%
1995: Errict Rhett (TB), 48%
1994: Bobby Mitchell (WAS), 49%

Indianapolis Colts 7 at Dallas Cowboys 42

Rob Weintraub: Even though the hole in the roof is closed, the good lord is smiling down on Dallas so far. A bad taunting penalty kept alive the Boys' opening touchdown drive. Then Indy fakes a punt, and Dewey McDonald is wide open to convert fourth-and-11. He drops it. Romo-Dez on the next play, 14-0 Cowboys.

Scott Kacsmar: This one's hard to believe: in first halves at Denver, Pittsburgh and Dallas this year, the Colts have allowed 80 points on 13 drives (6.15 Pts/Dr). That's 11 touchdowns, one field goal and a stupid decision to let Ben Roethlisberger punt inside the 40. Talk about not even showing up on defense.

Buffalo Bills 24 at Oakland Raiders 26

Andrew Healy: Derek Carr is unsurprisingly 6-of-16 against the league's best pass defense. And the Raiders are averaging 4.3 yards per offensive play. Still, they lead 10-7 and are driving late in the first half. The Bills' defense deserves a better offense. Kyle Orton has a 42-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins on a post. Altogether, though, his stat line is in rich-man's Manziel territory against the 27th-ranked pass defense: 10-of-18 for 92 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (Manziel was 10-of-18 for 80 yards, 0/2).

On his pick, Charles Woodson made a great play, but Orton also threw to his well-covered first read, when Greg Hogan came wide-open on an out not too far away. A small step forward and he had the time to get to beyond his first read.

Marcell Dareus went out with an injury early in the second quarter. At that point, Oakland had seven carries for 9 yards. Since the Dareus injury, the Raiders have 16 carries for 100 yards. The Raiders lead 16-10 with 5:00 left in the third quarter and they're driving.

Seattle Seahawks 35 at Arizona Cardinals 6

Aaron Schatz: Watching a game like this, I just keep asking myself, how on earth is Arizona not No. 1 in defensive DVOA? Then I went to look and there's an element of improvement during the season here. DVOA suggests the Cardinals looked better than they were in October. -1.7% defensive DVOA in Weeks 1 to 8. They were close to 0 most of those weeks except for being good in Week 1 (San Diego) and not so great in Week 3 (San Francisco). Then -23.0% defensive DVOA for Weeks 9 to 15.

I always talk about how defensive penalties aren't really an indicator of a team playing badly, and how they have no real correlation with losing, but egads, Seahawks, get it together already. Seahawks led NFL in penalties last year and do again this year (not including declined/offsetting), and have nine so far today (with 2:00 left in the first half). We're not talking all stuff that's about playing close, good defense, we're also talking silly stuff like Michael Bennett lining up 6 inches too far on two straight snaps. It's keeping Arizona in the game in the second quarter.

Vince Verhei: Well, that first half went pretty much according to plan. Arizona's defense is really good and gave Seattle (which is missing it's two best linemen again) all kinds of problems, but Russell Wilson made enough big plays with his feet and arm alike to put points on the board. Think all three big plays (the two runs and the touchdown to Willson) were all ad-libs.

And on the other side, Ryan Lindley is a third-stringer who is playing like a third-stringer against a great pass defense, and can't do a damn thing outside the occasional screen pass. If he can lead a second-half comeback against this crew, DVOA will break.

Tom Gower: Writing this week's Sunday Night Football column, I was very concerned that I would come across too mean, because it's hard to look at what Ryan Lindley has done in the NFL and find anything too positive to say. Terrelle Pryor's currently out of the NFL for good reasons, but this is the sort of situation that makes me say, "Well, if your quarterback can't throw, why not get a quarterback who can't throw but who can run around a little bit?" And Bruce Arians just threw on third-and-1, because that's what Bruce Arians does even if most of football media is wondering about his quarterback, and said quarterback is currently 6-of-18.

Scott Kacsmar: This table of the worst DVOA without pressure (2010-2013) sums it all up for Lindley for me.

If you want to pick out the very worst quarterbacks to get significant playing time, DVOA without pressure does the trick.

Vince Verhei: Luke Willson with two big catches on that last drive, both matched up against Larry Foote in man coverage, the latter a touchdown to put Seattle up 21-6. It looks like Russell Wilson has figured out the timing of Arizona's blitzes and knows where to throw the ball before the ball is snapped. And of course he's athletic and poised enough to make accurate deep throws with men in his face. In short: He real good.

Aaron Schatz: As this game went further and further along, the Cardinals got further behind, Ryan Lindley had to try to do more, and it became clearer how overmatched he is tonight.

Scott Kacsmar: Lindley was horrible, but I actually expected worse. We knew Seattle's defense had a huge advantage. I'm amazed at how dominant the offense has been tonight on the road against one of the best defenses in the league. This has to be one of the best offensive performances of the year. If Seattle can get it going like this with Wilson's dual-threat attack and Lynch doing his usual things, then the repeat is coming.

Vince Verhei: Very, very hard not to go into total Seahawks fanboy mode right now. That second half was pretty ridiculous, with all the biggest Seattle stars making all the biggest plays. Marshawn Lynch, in particular, may have out-Beastquaked the original Beastquake run. Like, he showed everything a running back can show on that play: patience, vision, agility, burst, power and speed. So I'm just going to say two things:

  • Russell Wilson is ours and you can't have him.
  • I hope Marshawn Lynch never starts talking to reporters, and never stops grabbing his junk when he scores.

OK, one more thing: the Seahawks have now given up 33 points, total, in five games since Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor returned from injury.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 22 Dec 2014

225 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2014, 6:22pm by chemical burn


by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:33am

"This Joe Flacco game is pretty much inexplicable unless there is a hidden injury."

To me it looked like Flacco got rocked several times early on in the game, and his mechanics subsequently fell apart. He was constantly backpedalling and failing to step in to throws. The Texans kept on bringing tons of pressure, and the Ravens poor skill position players couldn't get open in the short amount of time Flacco had.

Flacco (I had to change the autocorrect from "Flake", lol) also started feeling pressure when there was none, aka the David Carr syndrome.

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:51am

Trying to block JJ Watt one on one with a rookie free agent tackle is the sort of decision that led to Kubiak being let go from Houston. Since Kubiak's offense is very "simple" (I'm sure it's actually quite complex, but I'm not that football-smart and even I was able to figure out what the Texans were going to do under him, and the Ravens played the same way) it requires them to execute well. That the Texans were blowing up the Ravens line prevented that from happening. The only thing that kept the Ravens in this game was the Texans' offense being run by a QB who wasn't on the roster a until that week. Average QB play and the Texans win by 30.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:35am

Pretty sure Cian Fahey is on a quest to prove that no one in the NFL is actually any good.

by uosdwiS :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:42am

Except Teddy Bridgewater. I'm half convinced he's his uncle

by Malene_copenhagen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:25pm

Don't forget, Chris Harris is decent, so not everyone is awful.

Seriously, it's getting to the point where it hurts FO's credibility. If one of your major writers is that sharply at odds with your proprietary stats, doesn't it require some sort of explanation???? What it is about your stats that doesn't reflect what Cian sees on film?

Brees is "in sharp decline" and his arm "not where it needs to be" and Brady can "no longer be considered one of the best in the NFL".

Meanwhile, Brees rank 3, 2, 7 and 1 in DYAR, YAR, DVOA and EYARDS, while Brady ranks 5, 5, 6 and 4.
What gives?

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:02pm

Personally, I think a lot of the narrative (nationally, not here as much) around Brees has to do with fantasy football where he's been a disappointment.

by arias :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:03am

How many articles have you read by Cian, like two?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:40am

Thoughts on Brees, he's still good, but he makes more awful decisions than any top QB.

There's been a growing trend to take sacks over forcing bad throws and getting picks. You see it with Rodgers, who basically will take a sack over throwing a pick all the time. You see it with Peyton more or less. Drew Brees does not have this, and it has become more pronounced this year.

It is worrisome he's had two bad picks on out routes (Baltimore pick-6, this game), but to me more distressing were his interceptions against Tampa Bay (the first two especially, throwing when falling down), or Detroit. He's also made some bad decisions against SF.

Overall, his stats are good because they'll always be. They'll feast on some awful defenses, and Brees will have a few gigantic games. But they've lost a lot of their big play element. The WRs aren't that great. Jimmy Graham has had an off year. Add that all together and Brees has struggled.

It may be interesting to study if the bad plays are overriding overall very good play as the DYAR/DVOA would suggest, but I think so much of that comes to Brees just throwing all the time.

As for next Week's NFC South winner-take-all, I would favor Atlanta because it is in Atlanta, but quietly Carolina's defense has played rather well the 2nd half of the season. They were awful against Philadelphia, but had a negative DVOA in every other game since Week 8. They weren't smoked at all against Atlanta the first time, and I expect this to be a close game. What's shocking is the Cardinals will be the #5 seed assuming they don't win the division. The winner of this Panthers/Falcons game might even be favorites in Round 1.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:42am

"Thoughts on Brees, he's still good, but he makes more awful decisions than any top QB."

I have Andrew Luck on line 2.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:44am

I think Luck is more about general inaccuracy on his throws. He has to improve that.

His fumbling is a different issue, but in terms of throwing picks, I put it more to missing throws. For Brees, he's thrown a handful on plays that he should have just eaten but flung one stupidly up in the air.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:46am

I wish I had at the ready a roll of every stupid throwaway Luck has had this year in attempts to avoid a sack. 16 picks is low for him honestly. There are also like 9,000 fumbles.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:58pm

Is he talking with Eli Manning, perchance?

by Ranccor :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:32am

Let's not forget that Luck is still only a 3rd-year QB and nobody is pretending he is part of the elite club just yet. He is firmly in the "most promising of the young guys" and sometimes the "best of the send tier" camp. I believe (although I would have to look it up to be sure) that even Manning led the league in INTs twice in his first 4 years. INTs happen when you make a TON of attempts and your defense can't be consistently relied upon.

Luck has a lot of work to do with his decision making, his accuracy, his reading of defenses, and especially his fumbles, but he is doing quite well for a 3rd-year QB overall.

by Ranccor :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:32am

Let's not forget that Luck is still only a 3rd-year QB and nobody is pretending he is part of the elite club just yet. He is firmly in the "most promising of the young guys" and sometimes the "best of the send tier" camp. I believe (although I would have to look it up to be sure) that even Manning led the league in INTs twice in his first 4 years. INTs happen when you make a TON of attempts and your defense can't be consistently relied upon.

Luck has a lot of work to do with his decision making, his accuracy, his reading of defenses, and especially his fumbles, but he is doing quite well for a 3rd-year QB overall.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:37pm

Brees is pushing it in age. He always had to use his arm to make up for his lack of sight lines. Is an aging arm catching up to him? And faster than other 'great' QBs his age? Also, Brees has always been more turnover prone because of his dependence on sight-lines, throwing lanes, and timing.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:46pm

That seems like a plausible explanation. Brees has always been more of a volume quarterback than guys like Brady or Rodgers. He throws the most passes with high annual touchdown numbers and always high pick numbers (higher at least, the lowest I can recall is 11, and he's hit 17 and 22, etc.) The numbers look a bit like the Greatest Show on Turf--tons of passing volume with risky and foolish passes sprinkled in liberally with the great ones. Numerically at least there doesn't appear to be much dropoff this year or even in the past several.

Is it conceivable that Brees has frequently made similar mistakes in past seasons and we've been inclined to overlook them because the rest of the team bailed him out? Alternatively, is he forcing things a little more this season in crucial moments because he has no faith in the supporting cast? That can definitely be a problem.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:23pm

Just to put some comparative date behind the "high touchdown/high pick" part, here are a few QBs TD% and INT% over their careers :

QB - TD% - INT%
Brees - 5.3% - 2.6%
P. Manning - 5.9% - 2.6%
Brady - 5.5% - 2.0%
Rodgers - 6.5% - 1.7%
Romo - 5.7% - 2.6%
Roethlisberger - 5.1% - 2.6%
Rivers - 5.4% - 2.6%
E. Manning - 4.6% - 3.3%

It's funny how many of these QBs have 2.6% INT rates for their careers... Brees TDs and INTs also seem to be inline with other top QBs, so it's not JUST volume giving him big numbers. Maybe a little down on the TD end in terms of ratio.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:31pm

I'm gonna second Aaron's point...people need to stop with the hyperbole about qbs. I've seen brees manning and Brady all noticeably decline, but that still makes them really good as opposed to awesome. That's aging.

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:40am

Every time I see Bridgewater succeed I really, really hate the Texans for not trading up one spot in the draft.

by nath :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:04pm

They didn't want him. If Rivers McCown is to be believed, they didn't have him ranked any higher than Tom Savage.

by SFC B :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:24pm

I remember that report from Rivers. I can believe the Texans didn't see Bridgewater as being worth the first pick of the draft, but to have the 2nd round coming up, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum as your QBs, and Bridgewater available and not think "WOOO!" just shocks me.

by nath :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:02pm

It's the cost of being too enamored with physical attributes at a position that requires so much technique, precision, and mental tenacity. Bridgewater could play, but he's not 6'4" and doesn't throw a gorgeous downfield spiral with velocity, so he's not worth drafting until day 3.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:07pm

Is there some disconnect between Bill O'Brien and the Texans' scouting department, then? O'Brien had great success with Matt McGloin at Penn State, who's basically a college version of what Bridgewater is in the NFL, and O'Brien's offense seems to be built around smart reads and accurate short-to-medium throws.

by nath :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:10am

I suspect there might be; at the very least, the last two years of Texans drafting have me convinced that a lot is wrong with their scouting department.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:48am

Seahawks led NFL in penalties last year and do again this year (not including declined/offsetting), and have nine so far today (with 2:00 left in the first half). We're not talking all stuff that's about playing close, good defense, we're also talking silly stuff like Michael Bennett lining up 6 inches too far on two straight snaps.

I strongly suspect the Seahawks take little advantages like this (and contact with receivers) on every single play, under the assumption that it will only be flagged a small percentage of the time. There's an optimization calculation involved, and if you're the SB champ, that means you've probably done that calculation pretty well.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:01pm

You're saying that the Seahawks intentionally line offsides and hope the ref misses it? This is not subjective stuff like holding.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:16pm

Well that's a silly contention. I think they get penalties because:

1) their o-line is bad, worse than advertised and makes a lot of mistakes.
2) in defensive technique, jumping the snap, defensive contact, etc. they have made a decision as an organization to play as close to the rules as possible, and accept going beyond and getting flagged from time to time
3) they have a reputation for penalties so the refs look for more flags on the Seahawks, what I'd call the Rasheed Wallace corollary.

(I was a Portland Trailblazers fan when they had Rasheed Wallace who always led the league in technical fouls and for good reason. He once got a technical foul with his back to the ref, walking off the court, and the ref ran from across court to t him up. So, basically once he started getting technical fouls he also started getting unearned technical fouls because the refs were looking to T him up.)

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:34pm

Perfundle: You're saying that the Seahawks intentionally line offsides and hope the ref misses it?

Why not? No line judge is infinitely precise, so for any crew, there is some amount by which you can be lined up in the neutral zone and not get flagged. It could be that Bennett just found that particular LJ's threshold. And then did it again, just to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke.

gomer_rs: Well that's a silly contention. I think they get penalties because:
2) in defensive technique, jumping the snap, defensive contact, etc. they have made a decision as an organization to play as close to the rules as possible, and accept going beyond and getting flagged from time to time

Hmm, which contention are you calling "silly"? (Because your point #2 sounds like you agree with me.)

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:45pm

If you really think Seattle is intentionally committing entirely avoidable penalties in a vital game I don't know what to tell you. I mean, "make sure the first time wasn't a fluke"? Why hasn't that happened in other games? Don't you think the simpler answer is that Bennett is just very undisciplined considering he's been flagged an inordinate number of times this year?

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:43pm

I mean, "make sure the first time wasn't a fluke"?

Perhaps you underestimate Michael Bennett's commitment to the scientific method: http://xkcd.com/242/

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:59pm

That is the greatest cartoon ever. My wife and her doctor friends have that level of scientific dedication.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:17pm

I prefer this one.


by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:35pm

And for anyone new to XKCD, make sure you hover your mouse-over the comic for the secondary joke.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:50pm

And, as we all know (the denizens of this site more than anyone): http://goo.gl/pHyp27.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:48pm

I agree with the spirit of the argument but I think the idea that Bennett was lining up offside on purpose to be a little silly. Even when you're pushing the limits and accepting a greater error rate most penalties are simple mistakes. I'm rather confidant, having watched every Seattle game this year, except SD, that most of their penalties are on the offensive line. Which is the position group where they aren't pushing boundaries but are just bad.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by mrt1212 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 8:24pm


Almost half of the 128 are pre snap penalties by this account. If delay of game, false starts, illegal procedures, encroachment, neutral zone infractions, among all the other presnap penalties are in the pursuit of gaming the system to get a small advantage, that'd be surprising.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 8:27pm

Wow - those are also all penalties that really aren't judgment calls. It's not just, like, borderline defensive holding calls going against - that's just sloppy and not really open to a ref's interpretation. It seems like so much of the conversation is about the Seahawks aggressive defense, but it's really just simple avoidable sloppiness that's the culprit...

by willyeye :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:24pm

When I watched the game a second time, I noticed that when the Cards center bends down to get ready to snap the ball, the ball is on the super-imposed blue line, and when the center gets ready to snap it, he moves the ball forward about 12". This is what put Bennett in an offside position for at least one of those flags, maybe even both.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 6:44pm

That might have happened, but the line of scrimmage is determined by where the ball is first marked; moving the ball afterwards doesn't change it. And you can see that Bennett is offsides with respect to the initial line.

by RoninX :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:19pm

The "foul 'em every time because they won't call it" is a little tired, there is basically no evidence to support this concept other than we fans (and the media) seeing little tugs on replay (which occurs for every team in the league) and creating narrative based conspiracy theories. Seattle has only had 6 DPIs call on them which is basically average for the league and 11 defensive holding call which puts them in the top 5. And frankly, a sizable number of those have been suspect.

More directly, lining up the neutral zone is the easiest call in the game to make and is called and called correctly a huge percentage of the time. That is certainly not the area to try this hypothetical call shaving scheme with.

If Seattle is committing all this huge quantity of penalties in an effort to get away with a slightly higher percentage of them than they need to reevaluate their strategy.

by Led :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:45pm

The gross number of penalties in the secondary needs to be considered in context. Seattle, like every good defense, presumably has has had fewer defensive snaps than the average team. (Actually just checked and Seattle has had 847 defensive snaps through week 15; for comparison, the Bears have had 907 through week 15. Too much work to figure out the average!) I'll leave it to others to figure out if the number of Seattle penalties in the secondary is significantly above average on a per play basis.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:52pm


Click on Ply to sort by number of plays. The Bears have faced a lower than average number of plays probably because they give up nice big chunks of yardage and the offense is actually ok keeping them off the field. The Seahawks have faced the fewest defensive plays in the NFL. Almost 200 less than the Browns who faced 1053.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:43pm

I don't have a problem with the penalties being called on the Seahawks. I've got more of a problem with penalties not being called on their opponents. Their opponents are averaging something like 2.5 fewer penalties than normal when playing the Seahawks. It's a number that's WAY out of line with the rest of the league. (I think the next biggest number is around 1.2, and that's Denver.)

What would be interesting to know is if this is something common to defending champions, or if there's some outlier like this every year, of this really is strange. Fieldgulls did a look into this here: http://www.fieldgulls.com/seahawks-analysis/2014/12/1/7311285/pow-seahaw...

Yes, I know. Homerism. However, I really am curious about how common something like this might be.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:52pm

But in what way are the calls against their opponents differing from the opponents' average. If one of their opponents is flagged 10 times every single game this season then the Seahawks getting flagged 25 times that game doesn't imply the opponent was flagged an incorrect number of times.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:59pm

The Seahawks are 32 of 32 in terms of penalties called against opponents. The least penalized team in the league has been penalized more than the combined penalties attributed to all Seattle opponents. That's the complaint. That every team is getting free-bees against Seattle.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:42pm

The way the calls are differing from average is when teams play against the Seahawks, they commit, on average, 2.4 less penalties than they do in their other games. This number is more than double the number for any other team (in either direction). In other words, this isn't due to their opponents being teams that tend to commit less penalties.

San Diego and Dallas committed an approximately average amount. Green Bay and San Francisco (game 2) committed more. The other 11 opponents committed at least 1.5 penalties less than their average in other games, including a string of eight consecutive games (from weeks 7 through 14) below average.

Given we're comparing teams to their average, you'd expect the odds of this happening to be rather high.

(Edit: my data was a couple weeks old. The 2.4 number is now 2.6. The average Seahawk opponent has committed 99 penalties this season. The total number of penalties by Seahawk opponents in Seahawk games is 64. This number should be somewhere around 99.)

by Blykmyk44 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:04pm

During the drive where Bennett got called for offsides twice Larry Fitzgerald lined up a half a yard offsides and did not get called. This is what is happening, the refs do not call the same penalties on the other team. It is amazing that Seattle is able to overcome.

by Pen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:40pm

Last season, the Ravens were the defending champs and their opponents were called for more penalties against them than any other team. Their opponents would see as much as twice their average penalties called against them when playing the Ravens.

So the exact opposite of what we're seeing happening to the Seahawks opponents, who seem to escape every game with one, two, maybe three penalties.

by ZDNeal :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:27pm

But, as referenced in post 178, nearly half of the Seahawks penalties are for dead ball pre-snap type infractions (False Start, encroachment, offside, illegal motion/formation, 12 men in the D huddle...)

60 of Seattle's 128 penalties have been for one of those.

Denver, with 119 penalties, has been called for 35 pre-snap type penalties.

So, only 68 judgment call course of play penalties on Seattle but 84 for Denver. I just picked Denver because they lost the SB. I have done no further analysis, but feel free.

by Pen :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:36pm

You're confused about the subject of my post. I wasn't talking about the amount of penalties being called on Seattle. We were discussing the complete lack of penalties being called on Seattle's opponents.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:20pm

Seattle penalties:
Pre-snap: 60
"Judgement calls": 68

Opponents' penalties:
Pre-snap: ??
"Judgement calls": ??

If the differences are proportional, then there may be an issue with the officiating. If the difference mostly/all lies in the pre-snaps, there's definitely an issue with Seattle's pre-snap play.

by EricL :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 3:12pm

Per nflpenalties.com, I count 15 pre-snap penalties for Seahawk opponents this year.

So, Seattle:
Pre-snap: 61
Judgement: 67

Pre-snap: 15
Judgement: 49

That breakdown does make the effect less pronounced. ~1.5 fewer in-play penalty calls per game.

The opponent's pre-snap number, however, is also extremely low. The NFL team that has committed the fewest pre-snap penalties this season is Jacksonville, and they've committed 21. Eight other teams have committed between 25 and 29, and every other team has committed at least 30.

Yet, the Seahawks' opponents have committed only 15. 30% fewer than the least-penalized team in the league.

This is why I wanted to see this information broken down. On first blush, the data looks really bad. Looking deeper unveils much more nuanced information.

What it amounts to is this: The Seahawks commit four times as many pre-snap penalties, and 1.5 more post-snap penalties per game than their opponents.

Their opponents, on the other hand, commit half as many pre-snap penalties when playing Seattle (opponents average: 32.8), and one fewer post-snap penalties per game (post-snap opponent average: 66.1).

I think this is going to end up coming to nothing, but it's an odd trend that has been rather consistent all year. (Only two opponents have committed more than their average number of penalties when playing Seattle.)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 4:13pm

Seattle has 61 accepted pre-snap penalties. That's 16 more than #2 Buffalo. The difference between Seattle (#1) and Buffalo (#2) is as large as the difference between Buffalo and New England (#24).

It's pretty evenly split between offense (64) and defense (51), but even their special teams (13) get penalized a ton. All these numbers are roughly double their opponents, in basically the same breakdown. Not quite the disaster NE's ST are though (20 penalties).

I haven't seen a per-play breakdown for this yet, though.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:40pm

Or maybe the Seahawks defense is just really good!

by nath :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:58am

Good discussion on the Saints. I think Brees is in decline-- although I am with the guys who think it's not as steep as Cian does-- but what's worse is the way the talent around him has drained. His interior line isn't holding up like it used to (I don't know if that's more on being unable to replace Brian DLP or if Grubbs and Evans have declined). Colston went overnight from being reliable to being a serious risk for drops. Graham is so contact-averse that he can't make tough catches. Cooks was OK, but sometimes struggled to get separation, and it's tough to consider his season not disappointing given the way other first-round receivers have lit it up this year (remember, the Saints could have stayed put and drafted Kelvin Benjamin). Kenny Stills is the only reliable receiver on the team right now, and he's not physically dominant, so he's best suited to being a second or third option.

Speaking of draft trades, the other problem is that the Saints have lost so many picks, either trading up or because of Goodellgate, that they just aren't replenishing their talent pool. (And it doesn't help when they miss on picks-- seriously, their record on trading up is pretty bad, and then you have things like SJB over Phillip Gaines, when the latter has outplayed the former in defensive snaps something like 500 to 8.) The overall talent has been steadily eroding, and Brees was so good for so long he could cover for it. Now he isn't quite good enough to.

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

Further reading for those interested: http://zonereads.com/?p=2637

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:08pm

The interior line play is critical for a guy like Brees who needs his line to create throwing lanes.

Colston reminds me of Antonio Freeman. One season Freeman had that half step edge that allowed him to create separation and then it was gone. So his other assets of quick cuts and strength were less valuable since linebackers could keep pace much less defensive backs

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:50pm

I'd suggest that if Tom Brady were playing on a team not coached by Bill Belichick, we'd been talking about his "steep" decline. Think back to week 4 and the beating by the Chiefs and everybody was ready to see Brady replaced by Garropolo.

Unfortunately as you say, Brees is suffering from loss of surrounding cast. Quite possibly it would be the same story for Manning if Denver didn't have Fox coaching and that defense.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:10pm

That comment almost sounds complimentary to the conservative Mr. Fox...

by Alternator :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:55am

Since coming to Denver, Fox has shown a willingness to adapt his strategy to the players available - heavy running and trickery when stuck with Tebow, then airing it out with Manning, and now that Manning seems to be hitting a wall, Fox is channeling his boss and leaning on the running game.

It's good coaching - don't ask your players to do what they are simply not capable of doing, when there's something else that might work they CAN do.

by arias :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 2:59am

Peyton has looked like he's been in steep decline over the past month and people are talking about it.

by Biebs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:09pm

If Rex Ryan wants, he'll be a DC or a Head Coach next season. There are too many teams with good offenses and bad defenses that they wouldn't hire a guy like Rex. I think the only question is if he gets another Head Coaching job right away.

The Jets haven't developed a single good offensive skill player in six seasons. That's partially on the GM, but that falls on Rex, too. He just strikes me as an old style coach that should not be involved in player personnel decisions. I don't think he's that kind of coach. I think he could really stand to be a Defensive Coordinator again, and spend a little time observing a head coach and understanding more about the offensive side of the ball.

Rex is the kind of coach that will get a 2nd chance and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he won a Super Bowl with his 2nd team. To take Mark Sanchez to 2 AFC Championship games is a pretty incredible accomplishment. He will either need to be a Head Coach with a better offensive mind running the Offense, or a DC where he gets total control of the defense. Either way, unless he decides he wants to do TV, he'll be a head coach again.

by James-London :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:25pm

I'd welcome him coaching Miami's D. If nothing else he gives the Patriots' offense fits

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Athelas :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:17pm

As a Patriots fan, I would HATE to see Rex in Miami. I hope he goes to the NFC.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:26pm

If Mike Smith is fired by the Falcons, I think Rex would be a good fit in Atlanta. I'd much prefer him to Peyton Manning's "offensive coordinator."

by greybeard :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:38am

That makes great sense. They have good QB and receivers. Get a good OC and have Rex fix the defense.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:15pm

In addition to being a good defensive strategist, Rex's players seem to love him and usually give good effort (even this year, when they have had every reason to half-ass it for the last 10 games or so). I wonder if a team could hire him as HC with the understanding that Rex would motivate the troops and coach the defense, then hire a competent GM and a self-sufficient offensive coordinator. That would seem to be a great recipe for success.

Then again, the Ryan family has a history with attempting to influence the decisions of offensive coordinators... http://i.imgur.com/q4oRzTi.jpg

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:16pm

Rex Ryan may be bombastic, larger than life personality, but I never got the sense that he was a macho, alpha-male jerk like his dad.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:52pm

I always got the sense that while he obviously loves football and wants to see his team win, he doesn't take it so seriously that he loses all perspective.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:12pm

The Packers cut back on Peppers snaps even further this weekend and he looked to have snap back in his legs when he was on the field.

The bull rush/forced fumble (TB recovered) was great.

The special teams penalties have GOT to end. GB twice (maybe three times?) committed a penalty while the ball was being fair caught!

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:13pm

The Steelers/Chiefs game also saw the worst taunting call ever- William Gay got flagged after a 3rd down stop for taunting because he was celebrating with a teammate with no Chiefs in the vicinity. Somehow the refs miss Lynch grabbing his crotch on a TD run but you enjoy a good play your teammate makes with an opponent within 50 yards and the flag flies.

The Steelers exceeded my expectations this year. They're going to die a fiery death against either the Broncos or Pats in round 2 but I'm just glad they're back in the playoffs. Now they can't be forced to do Hard Knocks until 2017 at the earliest.

by DRohan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:51pm

On a Steeler site, someone wrote that the league was going to fine James Harrison $25K for Gay taunting Timmons.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 11:35pm


by Julio :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:29pm

Rex didn't have Sanchez thrust upon 'im. He loved Sanchez, had him tattooed
on his arm. He can't judge QB's.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:52pm

If I were to hire Rex I would have Rex hire a co-HC OC. That OC would have total control on offense and have the final word on players, play calling, play style, etc. on offense.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:56pm

They weren't co-head coaches, but the Bears did something similar to this when Jerry Angelo hired Ron Turner and told Lovie this is your OC now.

I get the impression that Rex would benefit from a strong GM who is a little more hands on with running the team.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:59pm

Lovie too, can't forget Lovie. Though, in Lovie's defense he had one year where Cutler, Forte, and I think Forte's backup all got hurt. He basically had an Arizona Cardinals year, when it comes to injury luck.

I couldn't believe how stupid it was of them to fire Lovie.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:40pm

I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that that was the wrong move...certainly not what's happened in Tampa this year. I still think it was the right move. Both Lovie and the team needed a change.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:14pm

Lovie's worst 2 year stretch was 16 wins. Trestman's 2 year stretch will now be 13-14 wins. Trestman got a team coming of a 10-6 season. Lovie got a team coming off a 4-12 season.

by Brian :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:44pm

Nitpicking here:

The 2003 Bears (Dick Jauron's final year) went 7-9. Bears fans will fondly remember this as the Kordell Stewart year.

You're probably thinking of the 2002 Bears, who indeed went 4-12. That was the year they played all their home games in Champaign. It was also a huge letdown season after the miracle 2001 season where the Bears inexplicably went 13-3.

None of this takes away from your larger point, which is that Trestman inherited a pretty good, if flawed, football team, and didn't do much with it. I mean the offense, if we're going by DVOA, is still better this year than it was in any of the Lovie years (excepting perhaps 2006, but even then I still believe this year's offense ranks higher). So the offense has improved. But the defense of course fell off a cliff. Maybe that would have happened anyway even if Lovie remained the head coach. We'll never know.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:47pm

Sorry, the Tampa Bay team Lovie took over went 4-12 last year.

by Brian :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:55pm

Ah, I see what you mean now. Sorry!

It was a good opportunity to mention the Kordell Stewart year.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:09pm

Maybe I'm just speaking as the fan of a team that had one playoff appearance between 1989 and 2002 (led by Jon Kitna no less), that you don't toss coaches who 1) take you to the Super Bowl and 2) whose performance floor seems to be in the 9-10 win category barring seriously bad injury luck.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:46pm

While I agree Lovie shouldn't have been fired by the Bears, it was becoming an issue getting anyone to take the OC position. Since Lovie had been living on the hot seat for a number of years, the Bears couldn't really find anyone to take over as offensive coordinator that was any good and in the end, it seems like management decided to start over rather than fully commit to Lovie. In retrospect, this was the wrong move as the Bears are a total mess and seemingly stuck in no mans land even if the coaching staff and GM is fired.

by Brian :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:03pm

I won't argue with that. I will say that I believe the organization had run out of patience with Jerry Angelo's/Lovie Smith's inability to fix the offense. They ran through a bunch of offensive coordinators, and a bunch of offensive linemen, with very little to show for it.

by osoviejo :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:35pm

Every time I see an organization fire a winning coach, I think about George Karl. In six seasons, averaged 60 wins. In the ten years following, the best they managed was one season with 52 wins. Annoys me to this day.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:36pm

I agree. The real failure was hiring Marc Trestman (and drafting poorly under Emery). Lovie Smith was by all accounts smart and well-respected in the locker room, but he was abysmal at evaluating offensive talent and offensive coaches, and arguably the NFL is evolving past his defensive schemes.

It's incredibly misleading to point to the 10-6 record in 2012 as evidence that Lovie would have been meaningfully better than Trestman had he stayed. No defensive coach would have been able to prevent Briggs, Tillman, etc, from getting older and getting injured. And you can't possibly tell me that the Bears would have been playoff contenders in 2013 and 2014 if the offense was much like it was in 2009-2012 and the defense was roughly the same as it turned out to be. I have no doubt that Smith could have gotten more out of what is there than Trestman/Tucker (could anyone get less?), but that still doesn't equal a good defense.

Long story short, it was time for a change, the Bears just completely missed on hiring the next coach. Imagine if they'd gotten Bruce Arians (who apparently was interested in the job before Emery was an idiot during the interview process).

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:57pm

"No defensive coach would have been able to prevent Briggs, Tillman, etc, from getting older and getting injured."

Said coach might have found and/or coached up effective replacements.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:29pm

I agree that Lovie would most likely have gotten more out of what he was given, but I don't think he had enough personnel control to mitigate the roster that Emery assembled. Hell, if he was the coach in 2014, he still probably would have been required to start Shea McClellin at linebacker.

To oversimplify things, Lovie Smith had numerous chances to put together a championship team based on great defense, great special teams, and a bad to barely mediocre offense. I think the decision to go in another direction (especially considering the aging and decline of some really special players like Briggs, Tillman, Hester, and Urlacher - guys that I don't think you can argue were great only because they were coached by Lovie) was warranted, and I was hopeful to see the Bears win a championship with a good-to-great offense and decent defense/special teams. Instead, what we've been given is a mediocre offense, a terrible defense and special teams, and a coach who inspires zero confidence in anything at all.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 3:36pm

I don't think letting Lovie leave was the worst decision in the world. However, what has happened is exactly what I expecting. The Bears let an above average coach leave and ending up with a below average coach*. This happens just about any time an above average coach is let go.

"guys that I don't think you can argue were great only because they were coached by Lovie"

Nothing in football is only because of one thing. That said I believe Lovie was heavily involved in the Briggs pick since he was basically a Derrick Brooks clone**. Guys like Major Wright and Chris Conte declined heavily and immediately upon Lovie and his staff leaving. Lovie would have had input on drafting defensive players at a minimum (unless Emery is some kind of AJ Smith ego maniac). A player like Fuller might have been even better than his reasonably impressive rookie year than he was with better coaching.

*Trestman may yet prove to be an average or better coach. Like I said, the way this year ended shows a poorly run organization, and I hate it, but coaches can improve with 2nd chances.

**Don't mean to imply he is as good as Brooks, just in the same Tampa 2 will backer mold.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:37pm

Minn/Mia- The Dolphins edged the Vikings in a game that saw a huge amount of points in the 4th quarter. Both teams had little to play for but the game was entertaining right up to the end. Tannehill was the first Miami QB since Marino to throw 4 TDs in a game. He pretty much is the Miami QB for the next 5-10 years and the fan base is going to have to just get over that fact. The Vikings young QB did all right as well. Joe Philbin is returning. I thought the new GM did a decent job this season. Rex Ryan, should he be let go, is likely to be heavily sought by Miami as assistant head coach-defense. Miami won't be in the play offs because 1) The LT went down to injury on a thin oline 2) Joe Philbin hasn't figured out how to manage the last 2 mins of the half and game 3) Their special teams were generally terrible in kick coverage, kick offs, and field goals 4) The defensive backfield looked old in the second half of the season. Miami fans have to wonder what if Smith and Davis had been back there instead of Grimes and whoever was healthy this week, but they can't erase the terrible moves of Jeff Ireland. Another offseason would go a long way to purging the last reminiscence of Jeff Ireland's stink from the roster. I expect a lot of new faces at LB, CB and safety. Is this team building, peaked or stuck at 7-9 wins? You ask that same question of much of the AFC where it feels like the Steelers,Ravens, Patriots, Colts, and Broncos make the play offs 8/10 years while the other franchises sputter in place.

by James-London :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:00pm

Didn't see last night's game, but I'm encouraged by the season as a whole.
Miami finally has a QB, and the draft this year looks good-arguably Ju'wan James is the best Rookie OT, and Landry's had a strong year, and Miami's free agents worked out ok. I'm fine with Philbin coming back, but he needs someone with a cattle prod stood next to him as remider that goofy time-outs are not OK, and I'd be really excited if he hired Rex Ryan as D co-ordinator.
This being Miami, Grimes & Wake are aging, and it would be typical for the defense to implode just as the Offense comes together.

O-line (esp interior), Linebackers and DB depth should be high on the list for the off-season

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:57pm

Finnegan and Delmas were already stopgaps; unfortunately Will Davis was injured all year and Jamar Taylor suffered that dislocated shoulder a few weeks back. Despite that injury, I think it could be argued that Jamar Taylor has been our best CB the last few weeks. (Grimes can look like one of the best when he's at his best, but needing to overcome his size and speed disadvantage with an insane knack for the ball and insane athleticism in that final moment to overcome his limitations means he can easily be beat through schemes or himself — how many times does he end up on the ground on routes trying to cut or jump a pass?) So the team will need some fresh faces in the secondary but I think with Jamar Taylor, possibly Will Davis (he hasn't shown he can stay healthy nor much on the field as yet), Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson, Walt Aiken, Michael Thomas, possibly RJ Stanford and the possibility of keeping the old guys (Delmas, Finnegan, Grimes) I'm not too conserved about roster depth/talent in the secondary. Every team needs to replenish their secondary every year.

Likewise, I'm not too concerned about the pass rushers. Cam can disappear for games or stretches but that has always been true while he remains relatively tread-free and a physical specimen. OV, Shelby, and Dion Jordan (yes, seriously — he's been playing hybrid role despite not being trained as a LBer and in limited down situations) are no slouches. Fede has shown his potential, making big plays on limited snaps on special teams. With some more experience and a bit more strength training, he could be a big asset.

What I'm most concerned with is the interior of the offensive line (still) and the defensive line. Up until yesterday, it seemed like Randy Starks had finally run out of gas. Likewise, Odrick and Mitchell seemed gassed and incapable of stopping the run the last 6 weeks. If Coyle sticks around, this defense can't operate and be successful late in the season without a strong DL capable of containing, if not stopping, the run.

(I won't mention the LBers because I presume we finally free ourselves of Wheeler in the offseason. While what remains is inexperienced and somewhat limited, basically everyone else is a bit beat-up and worn-down now, making the picture very unclear. What I think they need most in the LB corp isn't a better talent, but a true team leader... something Misi, Jenkins, and Freeny are unlikely ever to be. If Randy Starks is done, there is no beast on the team to lead the D, set a great example — just skill, finesse, quiet, workman types.

by CincySaint :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:47pm

Aaron -- thanks for providing a voice of reason in the Brees debate. I'm a huge Saints fan and I've seen every game they've played for the last 17 years (thank you Sunday Ticket). While Brees may have declined a little, his supporting cast has not lived up to the hype.

Let's start with the offense. Brees has never had elite receivers. Cooks has potential but he's a rookie and now out for the year. Teams are doubling Graham and playing him with DBs so he has not been as open. And the offensive line has not been very good at pass blocking -- particularly up the middle where Brees likes to step up into the pocket.

Using FO's drive stats, you can see that the Saints offense is still potent. First in yards per drive, fifth in points per drive, first in plays per drive, and first in drive success rate. Yes, only a pedestrian 16th in INT per drive but those numbers sound elite to me.

And regarding the comment about Brees not begin able to throw down field. I don't have access to the exact numbers but I did see them a week or two ago. Brees is first or second in completion % on balls thrown 20 yards or more down the field. But he has FAR few attempts at such passes than in years past. Why? No time to throw.

So why the debate on Brees aging? Because team success hasn't met unrealistic expectations and the defense is horrible.

How does the defense impact Brees? The Saints offense is 30th in starting drive position. So they are constantly in the whole, trying to move the length of the field. That makes turnovers potentially more costly. Second, the defense has given up a bunch of games were Brees and the offense set up a victory -- see ATL game 1, Cleveland, and the 49ers. Finally, because the defense is so bad the Saints have been behind in a lot of their games in 2014. In years past, they got out ahead and that made the offense more dangerous. Plus when sometimes when you are behind you have to make risks and thus INTs occur. Brees has always been a bit of risk taker and his INT % has historically been higher than Brady or Manning.

So to you Brees bashers, I ask two questions:
1) If the Saints defense held up its end and the Saints won just those three games I mentioned (so Saints would be 9-6 and NFCS winner) would anyone be criticizing Brees?
2) What other QB could do as much as Brees with so little? Maybe Brady but not Manning and probably not Rodgers.

Sorry but I'm not ready to ride Brees out to pasture. And to suggest that Brees' career is not in the same category as Brady and Manning is ridiculous.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:55pm

Manning did more than Brees with less in 2008, 2009 and 2010 (espeically those book-end years).

Peyton did not have good blocking late in his Colts tenure. Did not have any running game, and had receivers that constantly got hurt apart from Reggie Wayne. His teams suceeded.

Drew Brees's efficiency to me has been tied to the success of his run game more than any QB. Peyton and Rodgers have suceeded without real running games. Brady has as well the few years he hasn't had one (2005 being the best example). Brees has played well, but there is a real trend that his overall numbers and efficiency drops when his run game struggles at a larger rate than most top QBs.

By the way, Brees's career is not in the same category as Manning. You can make a stats argument vs. Brady, but even then is an extreme reach.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:59pm

I would agree with this. Jim Kelly is not in the same category as Steve Young or Brett Favre. He was still a hall of fame QB. That's where Brees is. There's no shame in being the Jim Kelly of an era.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:49pm

But he's got a ring (thanks Peyton!). McNabb strikes me more of the Jim Kelly of this era (00s/early 10s).

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 9:07pm

Kelly is somewhere between the two, once you adjust for era. Brees is top 2 in the league regularly in yards and touchdowns. Kelly was consistently top 5 or so. McNabb was 7th or 8th in the league a couple of times. When Kelly threw 18 touchdowns in 1993, that was good for sixth in the league; it might not crack the top 20 this year depending on next week.

IMO the closest current player to Kelly is Rivers.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 9:36pm

It's not a direct comparison. He's just clearly in the 2nd class of HoF behind Brady, Manning, and Rodgers.

McNabb was very good, but not HoF in my opinion. Like Mark Brunell or Drew Bledsoe.

by arias :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:06am

Strongly disagree with this. Only twice in Peyton's 13 year tenure with the Colts did his offensive line finish the season not ranked 1st or 2nd in the league in pass blocking via Football Outsiders rankings. Those years were 2007 when they finished fifth and 2001 when they were 7th.

In the years you mentioned Manning still had Reggie Wayne in his prime to lean on. What hall of fame receiver does Brees comparably have that he can depend on? Colston? Don't make me laugh. Peyton also had Marvin Harrison two of those years in spite of being past his prime, that's another hall of fame talent he had catching his passes as well as an above average Dallas Clark.

Brees has done more with less. He's made Kenny Stills into a serviceable option and Graham this year is about on par with what Peyton had in Dallas Clark. But I'm sorry Harrison + Wayne are the far superior receiving duo to Colston + Stills. There's really no comparison.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:05pm

1) If the Saints defense held up its end and the Saints won just those three games I mentioned (so Saints would be 9-6 and NFCS winner) would anyone be criticizing Brees?

Considering that people are talking about Peyton's retirement because of the recent lack of pass attempts on a 11-3 team, yes they would.

by Alexander :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:06pm

I disagree that Aaron is the voice of reason. Particularly because the line he is attacking with, "I think this afternoon we finally reached the nadir of the "all quarterbacks are either elite Hall of Famers or suck-ass losers" theory with this Saints loss." is actually half true.

Because QBs are all generally paid 20+ million once at least 1 GM in the game thinks they are good, QBs are either "Great HOF level" or "Crap". They aren't crap because they shouldn't be in the NFL, but they are CRAP because you can't assemble a good enough team around them to cover up for their deficiencies when you pay them $20 million.

Flacco can win a title on his rookie deal, its hard to win a title with Flacco on is current deal. He is now a bad player because you have to take into account the $15 million in players they could add if they just had Kyle Orton instead.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:01pm

Kyle Orton has been really bad for Buffalo as the year has carried on, though. Buffalo's defense+special teams is quite a bit better than Baltimore's (Buffalo's combined D+ST DVOA is 2.5x as high) and yet they're probably going to finish the season two games worse than Baltimore. You're not going to save that $15 mil/year against the cap and still get competent QB play unless you draft a guy and he's able to start right away and play through his rookie contract ala Luck, Wilson and Newton in recent years. If you're looking at the opportunity cost of Flacco's contract, I would compare it to more what the Dalton, Smith, Kaepernick and Cutlers of the world are getting.

(Of course, Flacco has a particularly bad contract, as does Brees and Romo, but that's because those teams were in bad cap shape when they went in for those extensions.)

by mrt1212 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:36pm

If you factor in salary based value comparisons, you'll need to do an entire redo of the site and the analytics they track.

by Alexander :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:35pm

I don't have the databases, but dyar/cap hit is a fairly easy way to start.

by Alexander :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:35pm

I don't have the databases, but dyar/cap hit is a fairly easy way to start.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 12:49pm

The arguments about Brees seem awfully similar to arguments about Cutler. "Mistakes are the worst possible times" I now read as code for either 1) bad luck or 2) a quarterback not getting enough help from his defense and keeping a game close until the end when he makes a single mistake.

Actually after writing that, it sounds like Brees is getting some Romo treatment.

by nath :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:09pm

New Orleans has had an absurd amount of huge, game-swinging plays this year: Pick-sixes, failures at the goal line (I count at least three), sack-fumbles or interceptions in critical situations (like the Detroit game). Hard to say with some of those how much is bad luck (both the result of the close play and the fact that it comes at the worst possible time) and how much is the result of bad decision-making or performance.

by Dan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:33pm

I read "Mistakes at the worst possible times" as a claim that his WPA is worse than his EPA. Which is true - Brees is 6th in EPA and 13th in WPA. His EPA is actually close to what it was in 2012-13.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:42pm

I'm saying players don't pick when they're going to make a mistake. If it's at the "worst possible times" it's because of one of the two reasons listed above. Things a player can't control and thus shouldn't be judged on.

by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:17pm

The Mia-Min game almost took the award for worst taunting. I don't know if the flag was thrown and picked up or someone was asking for it, but on Mike Wallace's sick tipped catch for a touchdown — as the team ran over to congratulate him, he joking ran away from them, streaked across the end zone to the Miami sideline, and simply, quietly took his place on the bench — the officials actually announced that there was no taunting on the play... No kidding, in what universe could running away from a celebration or simply returning to your side of the field be deemed taunting.

However, the game certainly had the worst personal foul. I tend to give the officials a lot of leeway in protecting players and in judgment calls, but late in the game, Bridgewater throws up a bad pass on 3rd down, a Miami defender gets his hands on the ball first in front of two Minnesota receivers, Jimmy Wilson gives a clean hit on the 2nd receiver in the back (no leading with helmet or elbow, no leaving his feet or spearing, clearly in the mid-back region)... The refs take a minute to discuss, presumably to note whether or not the legal hit was after the ball was tipped... Somehow call a PF and actually claim it was an elbow to the head away/after the play (can't recall exactly how they phrased it, but it seemed like they were calling it as some sort of modified defenseless receiver-type hit by the way they worded it).

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:47pm

I agree with you about how bad that pf call was, no elbow, no blow to the head. Horrible call. You aren't correct about the pass though - the Minnesota player (Thielan) dropped a very catch able high ball and then the Miami defender hit the Jarius Wright. Nothing illegal about it.

Being a Viking fan I'm biased but the call on the no TD at the end of the 1st half and the PI on the Viking db in the end zone with a minute to go were killers. In general, I thought there were a lot of bad calls in the game.

by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:07pm

I've seen a lot of bitching about the out of bounds call from Vikings fans, and I don't get it. You had 4 downs with a yard and a half to go to get a touchdown instead of the FG, whereas if they had been granted the TD, there was still more than 30 minutes to determine how Miami may or may not have overcome that touchdown — and as you agree, the Vikes definitely benefited and got the later touchdown off of the bad PF (Miami was definitely thrown off by that call, the next play was the big 40+ yard reception to get into the red zone, when the drive should have been over.) Meanwhile, Minnesota allowed Miami to score TDs on five straight possessions to end the game — but the game was lost on an out of bounds call a yard and a half away from the end zone? I don't think so.

The PI was definitely a good call. Yes, he did turn to look for the ball, but he was literally holding both of Mike Wallace's arms down at the upper shoulder, preventing him from making a play.

I also couldn't believe the Vikes didn't have an ejection (I forget who it was). That first jawing exchange that led to a clear punch in front of the officials... Even the player himself thought he was ejected, presumably he heard that from one of the officials... and then they let him stay around.

Yes, there were plenty of bad calls, but I thought they were either a wash and/or favored the Vikings.

by Tim F. :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:24pm

One of the other bad calls, I thought, against Miami was the false start against Darren Colledge late in the game. The O-line was set, he made one last hand motion to the line calling out the Viking's defense scheme but his feet were set... Then a moment later 2 Dlineman on Minnesota jumped the snap, they may not have gotten far into the neutral zone, more like twitched, but College extended his arm to make contact to trigger the offsides call... They call a false start on him. It ended up not mattering, but that's a call that goes to the offense 99.999% of the time.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:33am

I actually rewatched the game - the ref called a forearm to the back - it was Seragusa and the other colour guy that said it wasn't to the head. The ref never said anything but a forearm to the back - which is exactly what he did. Didn't know that was a foul.That was a 2nd down play by the way - arguing Miami was shaken up is kind of silly. They gave up another 50 yards or so for the TD.

If you want to argue that front - 3 or 5 Miami drives involved 15+ yard penalties against Minnesota.

As for the punch in front of the official - I watched the replay - it never shows up on the film - just the reaction of the players and the coach on the sidelines and the broadcasters saying the guy was ejected. The guy was flagged, but you can't have two 15 yard penalties on the same play.

Arguing which team benefited most from the calls is silly - it's always fan based. Neither team is going to the playoffs so it doesn't matter much, does it?

by Tim F. :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 11:38am

I don't get most of your comments:

Okay, if the refs said elbow to the back... that makes it an even worse call. I don't see any reason why it's silly to say that penalty put Miami out of sorts... yes, they gave up 40+ yards on the next play, I said that. Jimmy Wilson was literally risking another penalty demonstrating what he did ON A REF 3 minutes later... Thanks for correcting me on the down; still would have been 3rd and long rather than a 15 yard gain and first down.

I don't know what your line about Miami having drives with Minnesota penalties means. No shit. Most of them weren't horrendous, most of them were a result of a very touchy Minnesota team getting very chippy and "extracurricular" or standard procedural calls. Nothing to bewilder and enrage the team.

Unclear why a punch needs to show on camera, when it's clear to everyone on the field, including the officiating crew. Yes, he was flagged. Ejecting him doesn't mean you'd be throwing two flags.

My initial point was that Minnesota wasn't robbed of the game. That there were bad calls but with a small net benefit to the Vikings or a wash (again, as I said) but it didn't matter to the results. And, yes, I agree, neither team is going to the playoffs. No, I don't see why that means I'm not allowed to talk about it (but you are?). The game still happened even if you think it's meaningless.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:09pm

You can argue the Vikings "won" the game because by winning the game Miami might move up into 2nd place in the AFCeast and would thus face a tougher 2015 schedule and a lower draft pick. By losing the Vikings won in the draft and Miami lost:)

by Tim F. :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:10pm

I can't. Go ahead if you want to though.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:24pm

Drew Brees is the new Tony Romo.

The narrative about him is defined by negative television highlights created by his offensive line AND (especially) the Saints defense, while the body of his work is still very good.

That said, he has always been a compiler who depended a lot on screens and the like for his yardage totals. He wasn't as good in 2009 as people said, and he isn't as bad now as people say either.

He's Tony Romo, only older and less injury prone.

by arias :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:19am

Terrible comp. Romo has made a career out of being himself. Romo also doesn't have a ring and is not, at this time at least, Canton bound like Brees.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:41pm

The child beating running back has masked the inadequately physical Vikings offensive line since 2008; once Birk moved to Baltimore they began to slide, and it accelerated with Hutchinson's and Mckinnine's decline, and the installation of some pretty soft o -lineman would have a been a lot more obvious absent a HOF performance against loaded boxes for the past 5 years.

I think Bridgewater will be fine, if they obtain some nasty fellows to block for him. That's far from a given, unfortunately. I would be interested in seeing some numbers regarding pass rushers from northern teams who do not travel to Florida every November and December; it seems like the Vikings pass rushers really wilted in the 2nd half.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:44pm

"if they obtain some nasty fellows to block for him"

Would you be willing to take Dominic Raiola off our hands then? Oh, that's not the kind of "nasty" you were talking about? Well, nevermind then.

Seriously, most Lions fans (even the knucklehead ones) would wholeheartedly agree with Ben Muth's assessment about Raiola. I actually hope he gets suspended for the Green Bay game, not only because he deserves it, but also because Travis Swanson may actually be a step up in performance.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:48pm

Yes, I should have said "talented, smart, and nasty". Dumb, nasty, and slow doesn't do too much.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:54pm

I'd settle for competent regardless of nastiness.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:46pm

Yeah, Muth's comment ("His dirty play might be somewhat tolerable if he was even a league average starter, but he's not.") is morally reprehensible but 100% accurate.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:43pm

This was essentially the Incognito Effect up until last year. I never figured out why that guy kept getting chances, either.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:19pm

I think that Swanson was drafted with an eye toward redshirting him, then having him step in for Raiola next year. That's an upgrade they probably should have done 3-4 years ago. So what's a one-game difference? He should be ready by now.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:02pm

I'm very impressed by Bridgewater - he had a stretch of inaccuracy early on but over the last 4 games or so he's been very accurate. I read he's the first rookie ever to complete at least 70% of his passes in 4 consecutive starts (apparently guys like Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Luck have never done this either).

And, it's not like he's checking down more often, he's getting the ball down field more often than he was early on.

The Vikings have lost their last five by a combined 16 points. In their last nine only one game was outside of a td. The offence has improved as the year has gone on, but the defence slipped quite a bit since their bye week. But I think they have a really good young core on defence - so I am optimistic about this team for the first time in many years.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:13pm

If Peterson hadn't been criminal in his parenting, I think they'd be contending for a wild card spot this Sunday, which is remarkable, since I had them pegged for 6 wins with Peterson in the lineup. Hell, if Goodell had simply made good on the statement that Peterson would be on the exempt list until his case was adjudicated, I think the Vikings might easily be sitting on 9 wins right now.

From a purely wins and loss point of view, I think it is doubtful that there will be free agents available to the Vikings this off season which would give them a better place to spend 15 million cap space, compared to Peterson. I don't know how poisonous the relationship is at this point, obviously, but I think it is wrong to assume that Vikings can't or shouldn't honor the contract one more year, even at is price, given they aren't spending much money on a starting qb.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:17pm

re: Peterson - I think he'll be back with the Vikings. Just makes too much sense to keep him. You have a very low cost QB so you can spend big money on a star RB for a couple more years. Turner loves the star RB to support his offence.

The RB crop is very deep in this draft so you use your 1st and 2nd rounders to plug other needs (OL,LB,CB maybe WR) and take a RB in the 3rd or 4th round that competes with McKinnon as the 2nd back and eventual replacement for Peterson in 2016 or 2017.

If you trade him you'll never get the value he has to the Vikings - maybe a 3rd rounder? So why trade him? Releasing Greenway and Robison would probably save a similar amount of money to releasing Peterson anyway, and those two probably have earned their release on performance. No way they contribute what Peterson can in 2015.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:21pm

What about the PR hit, though? The Vikings probably won't be Super Bowl contenders while Peterson is still in his prime, so even if they might lose a little value by releasing Peterson, the ownership might decide that the public appearance of forgiveness for a child abuser isn't worth the extra X wins per year for the next 2-3 years if X isn't enough to put them over the top.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:41pm

The worst PR is winning 6 games. You don't need to win a Super Bowl. You do need to be playing meaningful games in December.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:22pm

I just don't see how they can keep him - fair or not, he's become the symbol of some really ugly shit and I can't imagine any sponsor will want him in front of their logos, smiling after a win. It's even worse if he's his usual self and playing at an MVP level - he won't be able to fade into the background like Ray Rice might be able to somewhere. I've gotten the sense a lot of Vikings fans want their best player back, but I can't imagine the team is willing to take the PR/marketing/sponsorship hit, especially considering the tsuris they've already endured. His "redemption" will almost certainly have to take place in another city, right?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:43pm

If that was the case, they could have saved a lot of money by cutting him, because his trade value is very small.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:11pm

Don't you think they were waiting to see how everything plays out before they make any rash decisions with their most valuable asset? Dumping him when his value was lowest was definitely possible, but again this isn't Rays Rice or MacDonald we're talking about. I think they were going to let things get clarified before they did anything. Things still aren't clear.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:19pm

When they decided to pay him for the balance of the year, after Goodell made it clear that he wasn't going to allow him back, I think they made a decision to bring him back next year.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:34pm

Interesting. That seems like a dangerous idea. He is the best RB in the league, so it's tough to argue with taking the risk of "will this be a disaster" vs. "will this blow over?" That Peterson doesn't seem at all contrite I think is big wildcard. All it takes is one press conference where he gets indignant over a question committing sickening, violent child abuse and it will all blow up. Personally, as a fan, I would never be able to root for him.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:53pm

Eh, NFL teams have employed people after they killed citizens with felonious behavior. Nobody cared, in terms of being willing to watch games.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:14pm

Oh absolutely, so betting it might blow over isn't entire;ly unreasonable. Two things though: this is child abuse. I, for one, can get over drunk driving arrests and bar fights, but beating the shit out of a child is beyond the pale for a lot of people. Secondly, the media atmosphere is very different in this case than just about anything I can think of - imagine if Michael Vick had come back as a starter (not as a back-up) somewhere closer to the prime of his career. Throw in the context of the NFL trying to repair its image and he's going to be under much scrutiny than Leonard Little or someone like that. That he seems unrepentant is the big wildcard - is he going to be able to suppress his feelings that he's right to do what he did? He hasn't displayed an ounce of self-awareness thus far. He won't have the option of being hidden behind lawyers during weekly press conferences.

by Raiderfan :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:30pm

Then, you have probably not lost a family member to a drunk driveras I have, and approximately 10,000 other people a year do, according to the NHTSA.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:45pm

That's absolutely true and I don't at all in any way mean to diminish it. Absolutely not.

I am very sorry for your loss and I truly apologize if I seemed glib about the problem of drunk driving. That's extremely shitty of me...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:28pm

People have bought way too much into the "all running backs are fungible" proposition. When you get a guy who forces d-coordinators to account for the possibility of a td run on every snap, while running between the tackles, that guy ain't fungible. The reason I was so irritated (I have no position on the NFL's pr stance, nor do I see it as a useful moral instructor) that Goodell kept Peterson on the exempt list after he pled to the misdemeanor, was that I thought we were going to get a near-perfect examination of what the true value of a running back talent like Peterson still is in today's passing environment, in the span of about a half-season.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 1:46pm

I really do want to see the Dallas offense go against the Seattle defense again; it just is a fascinating matchup.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:03pm

Dallas totally outplayed Seattle in that last game (outgained them almost 2-1, and only a blocked punt TD kept the score closer than it had any right to be).

Now that Seattle is playing much better, the rematch looks to be a heck of a game.

Of course, if the Cowboys keep doing dumb things like keeping Tony Romo in the game or giving an already-injured Demarco Murray carries when they're up by 5 scores in the 2nd half, then the rematch might lose some of it's luster.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:32pm

Seattle, to Carroll's credit, has constructed their defense with the modern offense's passing emphasis in mind. The Cowboys offense is a throwback to the 80s and 90s. I suspect that Seattle will be better prepared for the slugging match than they were last time, when the Cowboys just curbstomped them on their last td drive, but I want to see these two rosters have it out again.

I've loved the Cowboys roster all year, but the gross mismanagement of the Redskins game in Dallas really put me off. Maybe the players can overcome (excepting Marinelli, who is great) their management. The fact that Jerrel wanted to drafted Johnny Hype should keep any chance of Jerrel's reputation getting a boost, with anyone not named Jerrel, to a minimum, so I could find it palatable to see the Cowboys go on a run.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:26pm

I was just looking at the Cowboys' season stats on P-F-R, and they look exactly like a 90s team (more so than I've seen from any team in the past decade). Murray has 373 carries, and the next-highest RB has 47. Bryant has 84 catches for an average of 14.5 per catch, the starting TE has 60, and the only other WRs with double-digit catches have 34 and 31. Romo has only thrown 401 passes, and the team has run the ball just over 50% of the time.

Replace the names Romo, Murray, Bryant and Witten with Aikman, Smith, Irvin and Novacek, and nobody would think anything was out of the ordinary.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:37pm

It is amazing that the dummy in the owner's box could not recognize his own roster, and wanted to waste a number one pick on Johnny Freakin' Manziel. In the words of Bugs Bunny, what a maroon.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:37pm

Substitute Art Monk for a tight end, and they kind of remind me of a good Joe Gibbs offense as well. What is unique about them in this day and age is that they don't get scared out of running the ball, if the defense gets unbalanced trying to stop the run, despite being quite capable (unlike almost all Adrian Peterson/Viking offenses) of passing competently. They don't care what you do; they think they have the personnel to knock the snot out of you, and will pass on their own terms.

by David C :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:14am

That's probably because they have the personnel to knock the snot out of you.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:22pm

Dallas matches up better with Seattle than just about any other team. Dallas' excellent offensive line neutralizes Seattle's usual advantage in the front seven, and while Dallas has a porous defense, the Seahawks don't have the weapons to take advantage.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:10pm

Well, the Seahawks did just pile up 600 yards of offense against a top-5 defense...

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:41pm

Yeah, any fanbase that isn't terrified of the Seahawks right now is delusional. I guess New England could have a "wait and see" attitude. But Dallas? Come on, you don't want a piece of that.

by Blykmyk44 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:08pm

Think you're giving Dallas a bit too much credit. While they did double Seattle's yardage. They were pretty terrible in the second half vs Seattle as well. If not for a pretty amazing/lucky catch by the Dallas WR they most likely lose the game.

Dallas is probably the best match up for Seattle, but Seattle is still better (especially at home)

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:24pm

Eh, let's say the amazing catch and blocked punt TD cancel each other out, then. You can make the argument Seattle is better now (because, damn, they're playing lights out now), but if you're trying to argue they played better than Dallas in the 1st meeting, that's stretching it a bit.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:39pm

The Cowboys scored on as many 2nd half possessions as the Seahawks, for the same amount of points. On their most important possession, when they were down 3 points, yes, they had to convert a 3rd and 20 with an outstanding catch. They then proceeded to put the Seahawks defenders on their backs (no hyperbole, watch the film) for three consecutive off tackle runs, for 46 yards, to retake the lead. Total physical domination, for three consecutive runs, for half the field. They then forced the Seahawks into a 4 and out, and the game was over.

That may be a lot of things, but it sure isn't "terrible".

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:42pm

That is such a Seahawk-tinted view of the first game.

Dallas completely outplayed them. If not for special teams and a fumble handing Seattle 17 points on 19 yards, that game is not close.

That 'miracle' catch came when the Cowboys were trailing just 23-20.

In the 2nd half the Cowboys gained 163 yards. The Seahawks... 118. In that game, the Seahawks scored just three points on drives that started in Seattle territory.

The Seahawks are the better team, but Dallas is not a good matchup, and Dallas outplayed them in that game. By DVOA, Dallas outplayed Seattle by a 60 to -40 margin (VOA is closer).

by tictoc :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:44pm

I agree that Seattle got their butt spanked in that first matchup. As a Hawks fan it was a much more discouraging loss than at SD or StL. And not just because it was at home. They played Seahawk football against us. Ran it consistently and physically, ran well planned play action off the run game and defensively the Cowboys kept everything in front of them, swarming and physically pounding the ball carrier. Not only were the Seahawks beat, they were beat up. I told many friends after the game that if the 2 teams had switched uniforms no one would of blinked an eye. They beat us at our own game. I've looked back and tried to convince myself through the score and stats that it wasn't that way but I believe my initial reaction stands.

Now since then, the Hawks got rid of Harvin and the cute offensive stuff. They pound the ball and have stepped up the D. And while I'd be worried about a rematch with the Boys, I'd be confident we could bring the physicality in the re-match.
-----------> to exist is to comply<-----------

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:57am

One thing in Seattle's favor is that a win next week and a non-tie between Green Bay and Detroit means that Seattle won't have to face Dallas until the NFC championship. Dallas would have to go through Green Bay and Detroit, which won't be easy.

by a2coupe :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:37am

First off let me say that I understand every team has injuries but stay with me here..

Bobby Wagner was injured that game. I think we all know how big of an impact he has on the SEA defense. He came back in after getting numbed up but literally had a ligament torn off the bone in his foot. He missed the next 5 games following this injury.

Along with Wagner, they also lost Maxwell during the game. Simon was out and Kam Chancellor was playing injured this left the Seattle secondary starting...

CB1 - Sherman
CB2- Burley (who you say? yeah exactly)
CB3- Steven Terrell (see last comment)
FS - Thomas
SS - Kam (playing injured / was listed as questionable entering the game)

Many of these guys were out or playing injured the 1st half off the season. You can see clearly how the defense has improved with the majority of these guys back or playing healthy. So sure, injuries might not be an excuse but they damn sure have an impact.

Another thing I would like to quickly note is how terrible the officiating was against SEA that game. The "tripping" call on Sherman stands out. On the big Romo / Williams conversion there were atleast 3 holds by the DAL o-line 1 of which was pretty bad. The DAL o-line getting away with murder however is a story for a different day.

In conclusion go ahead and think that the week 6 SEA team is the same as the week 16 team. Let us know how that works out for you.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:28am

Literally nobody here thinks week 16 Seattle is the same as week 6 Seattle. Actually no NFL team is the same now as earlier in the season, with players getting injured or coming back from injury. No need to be so defensive.

Actually in my own post I said that Seattle looks monstrous now, which is why I'm so interested in seeing the rematch. Seattle looks like the best team in the NFL right now, but Dallas matches up really well to them. If the teams never changed throughout the season, I wouldn't be interested in seeing a rematch between teams where one soundly outplayed the other. In real life, however, this matchup looks much more interesting now.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:43pm

deleted for double post

by nath :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:05pm

Boy, I would have loved to see some mention of the Rams' repeated cheap shots at Odell Beckham, and how Jeff Fisher is never called to the carpet for his long history of encouraging cheap shots and dirty play.

by SuperGrover :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:06pm

Yeah me too. Constant theme throughout his career. Further, he does crap like last week in which he clearly taunts the Redskins org but somehow he never gets called out for it. Mediocre coach with a career of fostering this type of behavior.
I couldn't have been happier to see Beckham and the Giants continue to dominate after the brawl.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:09pm

As a fan of neither team, I'm still puzzled by the on-field outcome of the brawl. Apart from earlier events, the trigger was the clearly OOB hit on Beckham, for which a flag was thrown. Then it was the Rams who ran across the field to join in, and the bottom line was a huge yardage mark-off against NY and more Giants than Rams getting ejected. Obviously the scrum kept casual viewers like me from seeing all that went on within, but the fact that the Rams carried the fight into the Giants' bench seemed to be a non-issue for the officials. I guess there's no "3rd man in" rule like in the NHL.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:30pm

Jeff Fisher must be extraordinarily media-friendly or something. He's coached for 20 years and only been fired once, despite having a winning record only in only six of those 20 years and only once winning more than one playoff game in a season. And, as you mentioned, his teams are fairly notorious for dirty play and for players who aren't exactly the best citizens (Josh Evans, PacMan Jones, Janoris Jenkins, Kenny Britt, etc.). I don't see why any owner would hire him in the first place, much less hang onto him for a decade when the average coaching tenure has to be a third that.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:55pm

The Titans went through 2 periods of cap hell under Fisher. I believe that blame was laid the GM's feet.

by Sakic :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:12pm

The key to Fischer's longevity is that he never really hit rock bottom. He had a string of three straight 8-8 years with the Titans at the start of his career which would definitely put one on the hot seat but then makes it to within a yard of winning the Superbowl which began a string of double digit win totals in 4 of the next 5 years. They then tail off for a couple of years before rebounding for a couple of more nice years before another decline.

The moral of this story...as long you aren't too bad and can make the playoffs every few years you are going to be around for awhile. Essentially, he's a poorman's Tom Coughlin.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:14pm

Yea have to remember the start of his Oilers/Titan's career was in the context of the relocation turmoil, and a team that cleared it's roster completely after not bothering to prepare for the onset of the salary cap era. When you follow that up with a 13-3 Super Bowl appearance season, that buys you a lot of rope, and Fisher had been burning it slowly.

by coltrane23 :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:23pm

I have a big problem with the line of thinking re: Seahawks penalties that provides raw counts without context. It's misleading to simply say that Seattle gets penalized WAY more than their opponents without discussing the type of penalties being called. I've seen a ridiculous number of pre-snap penalties being called against the Seahawks this year, and they're pretty much indisputable. O-linemen are false starting AT HOME, for crying out loud, and Michael Bennett ought to have an over-under set in Vegas each week for the number of times he'll be called for lining up offsides in a game. These are not judgement calls; they're black and white. If we are going to complain about the disparity in penalties called, then you have to filter those penalties out of the comparison on both sides.

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:46pm

The complaint that has a bit of statistical weight behind it is the fact that Seahawks' opponents, if they were a single team, would be the least penalized team in the NFL by an enormous margin. It's a trend that continued yesterday with the one penalty accepted and one declined against Arizona.

I don't think it's any kind of grand conspiracy but it is annoying to watch week in and week out as random penalty luck goes against them. I hit peak ref annoyance after the missed PI call on fourth and goal that received an apology from the NFL along with approximately 1/1000th of the attention as the ultimately meaningless roughing the passer call from last week.

Now it's just something I accept but hope starts to even out at some point.

by EricL :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:55pm

What I'm most curious about is the context around this phenomenon:

Does this tend to happen to defending champions?
Does this tend to happen to heavily-penalized teams?
Does a number this far from the rest of the league happen frequently, or is this really an outlier?
Is inducing your opponent to commit penalties (or the reverse) a predictable skill?

There's a study to be done here that I've never seen attempted, and I don't have the tools to do it.

by Pen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 10:57pm

"Does this tend to happen to defending champions?
Does this tend to happen to heavily-penalized teams?
Does a number this far from the rest of the league happen frequently, or is this really an outlier?
Is inducing your opponent to commit penalties (or the reverse) a predictable skill?"

Did and done. The answers:

No. Last years defending champion, the Ravens, saw their opponents penalized more than anyone. Sometimes twice as many penalties thrown at Raven opponents than those teams averaged in the regular season.

No. There was no correlation going back 10 years between how penalized a team was and how few penalties their opponents recieved.

This is a historic outlier. In the ten years I went back, NO team has ever seen a variation between how few penalties were called on their opponents and what that opponent averaged against everyone else. No team has seen a lower average of penalties called per game on their opponents in the past 10 years.

No. Each year varies greatly. A team who's opponents were penalized more often than average one year might see them penalized less often the next. But never has any team seen this level of ignoring opponents penalties as the Seahawks have. As one website that did a study called it: This is beyond statistical anomaly and has to be the result of ref bias.

by Led :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:47am

This is actually consistent with the theory that Seattle is committing a large number of uncalled penalties (in addition to the penalties that are called) and the refs are compensating by declining to call penalties they would ordinarily call on the opponent in other games. In other words, Seattle may be forcing the refs to call games in a more lenient fashion while their opponents are still attempting to play by 2014 rules. Imagine a team coached up to play under 2014 rules playing in the 1990s -- wouldn't you expect that team to be called for a lot fewer penalties than their opponents?

I am not saying that this is true. You'd need more data and a lot of comparative film review to substantiate it. But it makes a heck of a lot more sense to me than the idea that the refs are just consistently biased against Seattle.

by Pen :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:50pm

But as was pointed out elsewhere, most of Seattle's penalties are of the false start, illegal procdure, etc. variety. Factor those out and the actual in play penalties they commit are less than Denvers. In short, No, the Seahawks aren't getting away with a lot of non calls. They don't have a strategy of fouling every play and giving the refs flag fatigue. Once the ball snaps, they actually commit less penalties than some of the other teams.

So that would seem to negate the theory that not calling penalties against their opponents is in response to Seattle committing so many. Plus, it flies in the face of the teams that throughout the past 10 years led the league in penalties, but whose opponents were not the least flagged.

In short, your theory, which doesn't stand up to the data, is based upon the bias that Seattle is full of cheaters who get away with cheating all the time - a view shared by people who hate the Seahawks, notably SF fans - and so the refs aren't penalizing the opponents in response. If that were the case, it wouldn't be the presnap penalties that were causing Seattle to be the most penalized team, it would be the in play penalties, which it is not.

by Led :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 1:14pm

See above. The Seahawks appear to have a league average number of DPIs and are top 5 in defensive holding despite having played many, many fewer defensive plays than the average team. So the data is there to suggest that they play a more physical style of defense in the secondary. The fact that they also have a large number of pre-snap penalties too is neither here nor there.

Look, I have nothing against the Seahawks. My brother lives in Seattle and he and my nephew root for the Hawks. I'm a fan of an AFC team that doesn't compete with Seattle. This is not a moral issue for me. I have no emotional investment here at all, but it appears you could not say the same thing. I just think the hypothesis that referees are trying to stick it to the Seahawks is ludicrous, so I'm entertaining an alternative hypothesis that is more consistent with what I think is amore sensible set of priors. I'm not wedded to it, but your argument doesn't do much to persuade me it's not possible.

by mrt1212 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:26pm

Histogram the Defensive Holding/Illegal Contact: Byron Maxwell is the obvious weak link here and accounts for over half of them.


Attributing to the entire defense what one starter has an profound impact on really doesn't make the case that Seattle plays at the margins of legality.

I'm a Hawks fan, live within earshot of The Clink so I can hear the fireworks before they show the score on TV, but I honestly don't think the refs are sticking it to the Seahawks based on the amount of presnap penalties, nor do I think the Seahawks are somehow more odious in their play on defense than other teams or we get away with anything that other teams don't based on the individual contributors of those penalties. Malcolm Smith is #2 on defensive holding for the team, and it's highly likely this is due to holds against slot receivers or tight ends. Look at the patriots for an example of a team where a lot of players ring in with multiple DPIs and DHs.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:50pm

I don't think anybody is disputing those calls. I don't think anybody is disputing calls on Seattle's secondary, it's the holding call that wiped the first Percy Harvin TD against Washington, way back when, that gets called against Seattle that doesn't appear to be called against their opponent.

I would hold that because the Seahawks DO commit more penalties the refs are LOOKING for more penalties, finding them or calling borderline plays, and ignoring penalties on the other team. See the Rasheed Wallace Corallary from my earlier post.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:26pm

There was also the "head-bob" penalty. Centers do that pretty much every game I watch, and blatantly, without any penalties getting called on them, but that got called and wiped away a TD.

by techvet :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:41pm

The Packers also went with an empty formation on 4th-and-goal at the 1 against the Bucs yesterday with similar results (FAIL).


by jmaron :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:53pm

Mike Zimmer seems to be doing an OK job as coach, but his clock management has been horrible and was downright ridiculous yesterday.

Mistake #1

1st half - ball on Miami's 1 yd line with 14 seconds left and one timeout. Vikings call a run play - it's stuffed, they use their timeout. This should have been a pass play - because if it's unsuccessful there is a good chance the clock is stopped and you don't have to use a timeout.

Mistake #2

3rd down at the one - 6 seconds left. Zimmer elects for a field goal instead of a pass play. 6 seconds is plenty of time to go for the pass and just throw it away if it isn't there.

Mistake #3

1st and 10 at their own 13 1:05 left on the clock- Mia has one timeout. Vikings call a pass - Bridgewater scrambles for 2 yards. The Vikings call a timeout with 58 seconds left. The play call you can understand but the timeout is nuts, now Mia can very conceivably get the ball back and your chances of getting in FG position aren't great at this point.

Mistake #4 2nd and 8, Min 15 yard line - Mia has one timeout. Now you pretty much have to run to kill the clock by forcing Mia to take their last timeout. They may get the ball back but they'll have less than 10 seconds to get into fg range and stop the clock. They pass - incomplete.

I didn't even point out he wasn't using his timeouts on Miami's last drive, which would have left them with a lot more than 1:11 to tie the game. In general Zimmer has shown some really poor clock management decisions thoughtout the year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:58pm

Eh, the run with 14 seconds left is ok, if you think Miami is expecting pass for the reason you outline. You do have to trust Bridgewater enough to get a goal line pass off in 5 seconds, however.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 2:59pm

Huh, I didn't realize Bobby Mitchell was still playing in 1994. Impressive that the player who desegregated Washington held on for that long.

by SuperGrover :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:07pm

Wrong spot.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:18pm

That Billy Davis quote irks me to no end. I've been annoyed all season with the gulf between the perception of Kelly's philosophy and what it actually is and that quote pretty much nails it - I thought this guy was supposed be Mr. Advanced Analytics who wouldn't be afraid to go for it on 4th down or try a two-point conversion in unconventional situations? Instead, we get that Davis quote and constant talk (which was unfortunately backed up on the field) about "establishing the run." His sports science stuff is interesting, but as far as being "next level" on the field of play, it's just not true (and I'm afraid that by the end of next season he's going to be viewed as a Steve Spurrier-esque overhyped joke...)

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:53pm

You don't go to college to find the guys that are good at tactics. David Shaw is a successful coach at Stanford, following Harbaugh, and his tactical and strategic insights make pre-analytics Ron Rivera look like the most enlightened coach in history.

And it looks like Kelly hasn't made the QB fungible, which would be the ultimate football innovation. But there is much nashing of teath for the record of a guy who won his division in year one and was not eliminated in his second year until game 6 of his back up QB. Heck they almost swept Dallas with the Sanchize. They just couldn't play D, which isn't what they hired Kelly for in the first place.

They're going to give Bruce Arians the coach of the year honors for going to the playoffs with an injured starter at QB.

I do not no anybody that is so down on the team they root for, that isn't a Jets fan and rooting for a team that actually deserves it.

Your criticism of Kelly reminds me of the complaints that U of M fans had against Rich Rod until the ran him out of town. Now U of M is looking for a new coach and Rich Rod is in the Fiesta Bowl with a top-10 team.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:30pm

Pete Carroll is an excellent tactician. Jim Harbaugh is an excellent tactician. Unless you have some definition of tactics way different than mine, your premise is incorrect.

Look, I could handle mediocrity if I believed in what they were building. I can't see how this roster has improved since the 4-12 team that melted down after getting hit by the injury bug. Malcolm Jenkins is better than Kurt Coleman. Almost everything is is the same or way worse. The LB corps has improved markedly, although Cole, Graham, Kendricks and Matthews are all Reid players. The secondary is worse, the wr corps is waaaay worse.

If they had come out and gone 2-6 (instead of 6-2) in that injury-riddled first half of the season, I would actually forgive that because injuries happen and they had a bunch. But they fell apart once they got healthy and got players back from suspension! It's not clear what he's building...

Also, you might notice their defense is ranked much higher than their offense in DVOA. So, the premise that their defense sank them is at best arguable. I would say people are only arguing it because of the unkillable, unearned notion of Kelly's genius on the offensive side of the ball.

(Also not sure what game you were watching where they "almost swept Dallas" - they held a lead for a matter of minutes in a game in which they were blown out.)

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:00pm

"I'm afraid that by the end of next season he's going to be viewed as a Steve Spurrier-esque overhyped joke...)"

If he keeps trying to trot Mark Sanchez out at quarterback, then there's danger of that happening, but otherwise I think he did a pretty good job considering the injuries and roster holes he's had to deal with this year (although some of the roster holes are of his own making, such as getting rid of D. Jackson, and viewing Fletcher as a shutdown corner). I thought getting to 9 wins was pretty remarkable when viewed in that light. I don't think Foles having such a good year in 2013 was an accident. Maybe he regressed this year, but you think with more experience and coaching he'll be better again next year, and so will the Eagles.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:09pm

But roster moves are the biggest problems - Williams and Fletcher are both his guys and he never did anything about Nate Allen who is every bit as bad as them. If you look at his two drafts, the best player is Bennie Logan. After that, you have a couple of guys who the absolute kindest proposition is that they've failed to live up to high expectations - Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson. Then you have a guy who showed promise in fits and starts (Jordan Matthews) and a bust (2014 1st round pick Marcus Smart who couldn't even get on the field despite significant injuries at the LB position.) Nobody else he's drafted matters (I mean, beau Allen is fine for a rotation player picked in the 7th round.)

He's winning with a team built by another coach/GM. His best players on defense (Fletcher Cox, Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks) and offense (McCoy, Maclin, Kelce, Foles) were all drafted and developed by Reid or were free agents (Jenkins, Sproles, Barwin.) He's jettisoned players who have gone on to be extremely productive elsewhere at positions of need (DRC and DeSean Jackson) for reasons that are dubious at best. When you aren't good at drafting or developing players, missing in free agency (like with Williams and Flecther) becomes a disaster. It's doubly bad when you refuse to bench Fletcher for an obviously better player like Boykin because in his own words, Boykin does fit the physical type he prefers for an outside corner.

Also, trotting out players like Mark Sanchez is exactly his problem. People seem to forget he gave Vick the starting job in 2013, who got them out to a 3-5 record while being awful, way worse than he had been under Reid. Even at the end of the year, he refused to concede the starting job to Foles, saying after the Vikings game that he'd take it on a game by game basis. This year, he declared it an open competition and there are many rumblings that Foles not starting the last two games is obfuscation, that Foles was ready to go - it's very similar to the games he played with the true extent of Vick's injuries last year and its role in who would be given a starting job. He simply doesn't want to hand the reigns to the only QB that's ever been productive for him - that's weird, if not damning in itself. Lots of people aren't sold on Foles. But taken in the larger context, there's no reason to trust his roster moves. And the Eagles are already floating the idea of shipping Foles! There's as much chance he won't be an Eagle next year as he will be!

And finally, the "hey, it's defense's fault and Kelly is not a defensive coach" is such horseshit. Good coaches like Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and the Harbuagh brothers take responsibility for all phases of the game. And if he's going to focus on offense, he damn well better have of the top unit in the league, not a below average one. You can blame Sanchez, but he built a weak roster with a broken running game that continues to give way too many carries to a hugely ineffective back (McCoy is 27th in DVOA while Sproles is at 24.5% which would tie Jamaal Charles for best in the league) and a wr corps with two horrible players (Huff is literally bottom 3 in the entire league by DVOA and Riley Cooper was just given a big new contract to be second to last in DVOA amongst qualifying players), one erratic developing player and a #1 who has been unable to bare that burden with any consistency (Maclin's number look especially rough in comparison to Jackson's, playing in an even worse situation.) Ertz is an ok receiver (a truly horrible route-runner, though), but such a bad blocker that he lost his starting job to the ancient Brent Celek. That's not all on Sanchez.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:39pm

One more thing about the back-up QB excuse. First, it's amazing how quickly people have flipped from squawking about his Qb-proof system, to saying "well, what did you expect?" Second, I'm a Philly fan - I've seen my coach win with back-up QB's quite a bit in the past 15 years: Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb, AJ Feely and a freakin' Detmer brother have all played significant time on teams headed into the playoffs. If Kelly can't handle it, find me a coach who can because we USED to have one.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:43pm

What exactly would his reason be for not playing Foles over Sanchez even though Foles is healthy?

by Insancipitory :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:51pm

It takes quite a while for bones to heal fully. If the Eagles are eliminated, let Foles heal, avoid unnecessary risks, continue to evaluate The Sanchize.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:59pm

Well now, there's no need to start him. But the whispers are he's ready to go and they're playing games, hedging their bets. they did the same thing last year in reverse with how they handled Vick's injury with the media. They've played these games twice, it's the way they handle their business...

(Also, the verdict is in on the Sanchize: his DVOA in Philly is worse than the majority of his seasons in NY. He sucks and will throw a game-losing interception with a regularity that quickly becomes season-ending.)

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:53pm

I genuinely have no idea. But the idea that Foles sucks is extremely popular in Philadelphia. Foles told the media three weeks ago before the Seahawks game that he was ready play that day. After that, they stopped putting reporters in front of him and had team doctors give their assessment that he wouldn't be 100% until at least the first week of the playoffs (initially assessments said it was small fracture and he'd be back in 4-6 weeks. Although Rodgers sat out 8 weeks with a similar injury last year.)

Anti-Foles sentiment is extremely prevalent - look at these boards after Sanchez's first 4 starts. The majority of folks commenting felt that there was either no difference between Sanchez and Foles or that Sanchez was better. You could not find anyone saying Foles needed to get back into the line-up ASAP if the Eagles wanted to make the playoffs. Everyone's treating it like this didn't happen and, of course, Foles is better! Kelly was one of those people saying he felt as comfortable with Sanchez as Foles - you can interpret that as what a coach would always say, but he's never displayed any interest in giving Foles a starting job. (One of the main reasons I mistrust his personnel decisions...)

by mrt1212 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 2:29pm

Philly fans deserve the seasons the Eagles give them.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 6:22pm

I haven't lived in Philadelphia in almost 20 years and I used to think all that Philly fan stuff was overstated... but this year I've had to be down there for work frequently and, holy shit, I agree with the idea that they deserve their misery. It's certainly a city full of ugliness...

by Duke :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:48pm

Jimmy Clausen, toast of Chicago. Threw like 40 times for 180 yards. Not the answer.

The team did seem better motivated, for what it's worth. Not sure if benching Cutler had anything to do with that or not, but it looked like the players at least cared if they looked awful or not.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:57pm

If Trestman can't motivate players without benching the starting QB, he should probably be fired for that reason alone.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:12pm

Look, I'm about 90% sure Trestman is gone, and I don't even say unfairly; hiring a staff is close to the most important task for a head coach, and it certainly appears as if Trestman failed at that task pretty thoroughly. Having said that, I do find it plausible, as some "anonymous" sources have said, that Cutler is just refusing to run the offense pre-snap at the line of scrimmage in the manner that he has been instructed. If that is the case, as the poor results keep rolling in weeks after week, at a certain point, the guy has to be benched.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:24pm

About 40 odd games into Favre's run as a starter Holmgren sat down with his coaching staff to discuss giving the job to Brunell because Holmgren was done with Favre not doing what Holmgren wanted him to do. Now, Favre did about 75 percent of what Mike wanted but Holmgren wanted 100 percent. It was if you believe the stories it was Steve Mariucci who talked Holmgren into giving Favre another chance and then brokered a sitdown between the two

Holmgren told Favre he was considering benching Favre, Favre recoiled, Mariucci asked Favre to cool the free lancing and follow the script, Favre bent and the rest, as they say, is history.

But Holmgren had the ace in the hole of a viable alternative in Brunell. And Favre knew it.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:40pm

Yeah, '93, Favre's 2nd year with major playing time, was the nadir. After that, sometime early in '94, it was a rocketship to the top. They weren't into his ninth year, debating whether he'd ever catch a clue.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:41pm

Maybe Cutler should have been benched, I can't rightly say.

What I'm saying is that the Lovie Smith Bears played hard every game whether it was Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler, or Craig Krenzel taking snaps. If you are failing to get players to do their jobs, you are failing as a coach.

I can deal with an average-ish team getting some bad luck and ending with 5-6 wins (but I still don't like it). This whole situation just makes everyone involved looked like amateurs or high school gossips.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:49pm

I agree in particular that the behavior of the oc is just intolerably stupid, and the proper response would have been immediate termination. Hell, I would have pulled an Al Davis, said it was for cause, and made the dumb s.o.b file for arbitration to have the rest of his salary paid. Some stuff just can't be tolerated in any way, shape, or form.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 3:58pm

I just read Clausen has a concussion and Cutler will start the last game of this season

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:27pm

Holy crap, what a season. That is going to be one awkward locker room.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:06pm

To be fair, his receivers drops depressed his stat line quite a bit.

But yeah, I agree with you. The Lions appeared to be desperately trying to give away that game, but Clausen was too limited a quarterback to take advantage of it.

He's not starter caliber. On the other hand, nobody thought he was even NFL-caliber before yesterday, so maybe he at least earned himself a backup gig for a few years. When you're Jimmy Clausen, having a non-embarrassing performance is a step up.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:04pm

Were the Lions trying to go all 'heel' in memory of Jim Schwarz or something? The stomp by the center. The spearing of the Bears qb. Just lots of bad acts by a team that doesn't need that stuff for folks to pay attention to them

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:11pm

Raoila is a scumbag (always has been) and I desperately want him off the Lions. Even if he were a competent starter, I wouldn't think he's worth the bad PR and the general bad feelings I get watching him.

The Ansah hit is a little more defensible. Ansah lowered his hed before Clausen started to slide, and the hit would have been on the body, but because he was sliding, his head came into the line of fire. Ansah has never been a dirty player and doesn't have a Suh/Raoila track record, so I don't think it was intentional. He does need to be smarter than that, though, and learn to tackle with better technique.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:30pm

I agree that Ansah was not deliberately attempting to decapitate Clausen. But he launched himself full-supersonic at the QB, leading with his helmet, and that's going to result in an illegal hit no matter where he makes contact. The fact that Clausen slid right when Ansah launched---and that, as big10freak correctly reports, Clausen is now out with a concussion---made it that much worse and probably means both Raiola and Ansah will be sitting the next game or two.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:34pm

The Packers offensive line is already talking about how Detroit will be taking a super aggressive approach on Sunday and that GB needs to be just as aggressive if not more so. If Rodgers takes a blow like that Sitton will get himself thrown out of the game with his response.

The refs better be ready for a rumble

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:46pm

Compared to the Jim Schwartz regime, this year's Lions defense has cut back dramatically on the roughing penalties, to probably around league-average. I would be surprised and disappointed if anything untoward happens next Sunday. The Ansah hit was an anomaly when you look at the rest of the year, but it's going to skew perceptions because it will be played on SportsCenter over and over again. That being said, it's unfortunate Clausen got concussed, and like I said before Ansah needs to be smarter than that.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:07pm

The Ansah hit certainly wasn't villainous, but it was definitely trying to get a hard shot on protected player, which is so dumb that it's hard not to take it as trying to sneak in cheap-shot. I don't think he's dirty, just trying to blow a guy up well beyond the new boundaries of them game. The idea clearly wasn't "I've got to tackle Clausen and stop this running play" but "I'm going to destroying that guy."

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:24pm

Like the rest of the league, he forgot Clausen was a QB.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:26pm

Well, I was thinking that he was just lured into a hit by what has to be one of the most punchable faces I've ever seen. Seriously, Clausen's face just craves it...

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 5:50pm

If nothing else the Bears have the market cornered on punchable qbs.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:09pm

Ha - Jesus, you're right. Although I always found the Whisky Kid totally charming...

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 4:39pm

I wasn't disputing that it was an illegal hit. He got a penalty and it was deserved. I don't think he'll be suspended because, unlike someone like Suh or Brandon Merriweather, this would be a a first offense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:26pm

Lions' Raiola Suspended for game against GB

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:11pm

So just to review the Goodell discipline scale:

Intentionally injure another player: 1 game
Punch your fiancee in the face: 2 games (unless it's caught on tape)
Smoke pot: 16 games

by thebuch :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 8:59pm

Really? With no comment on how many offenses before that length of ban for smoking pot? FBO commenters are better than this.

The scale is more like:
Intentionally cause injury to another player on the field of play: 1 or 2 games at most
Hit your wife or kid off the field of play: If able to sweep under the rug, no punishment. If media grabs hold in outrage, attempt a life sentence until an arbitrator reinstates the person
Win a fight against a drunk person that isn't a female: No punishment

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:53am

Im sure FO readers are aware of the details of Gordon's suspension. I was being intentionally hyperbolic to express my displeasure about Raiola getting off lightly.

Anyway, in my eyes, a player can smoke a mountain of marijuana, and it would never approach the seriousness of violence against someone helpless to defend themselves (whether it be an opponent lying prone on the ground between plays or a woman you outweight by 100 pounds)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 4:28pm

Just consider the pot suspension a minimum intelligence test.

If a 9 year-old can figure out how to not get caught, you're too stupid to be in the NFL.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/22/2014 - 6:27pm

Don't waste your time engaging with Freeman. You can't win when you don't even speak the same language (idiot) and are an adult. Just look at the never-ending retard slap fight he has with Pete Prisco. No amount of sanity or Logic will ever win.

by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 12:33am

So I wonder what phantom penalty on Den is going to kill this drive. This is the type of game that makes you wonder about gambling. A bunch of very weird flags on big plays. Maybe there wee some that went against Cin on the few parts I missed.

by Julio :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 5:55pm

Ha, no discussion of the GB-TB game. Obviously they would rather avoid
any mention of how poorly Rodgers and GB play on the road.


by Jay Z :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:09pm

Buccaneers' defense has been a lot better since the bye. Packers got 431 yards which is the most by a TB opponent in the 9 post-bye games. Detroit got 407 but that was in Detroit. 1-8 since the bye but only two losses by more than 10, Detroit (34-17) and this game (20-3.)

Detroit had 109 yards but only turned it over once, and that turnover led to kneeldowns so no points were scored off of it. So the Packers never had field position. Packers defense should also get credit, TB offense is bad but not that bad.