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03 Nov 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 9

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at Cleveland Browns 22

Aaron Schatz: Brian Hoyer overthrows his receiver slightly, Tampa Bay pick. Mike Glennon says anything you can do I can do better, throws it six feet over his receiver's head. Cleveland pick. The Aristocrats!

Scott Kacsmar: Brian Hoyer's accuracy has not impressed me at all this season. I would like to see the percentage of his passes that are thrown wide of the mark because that seems to be his problem: throwing behind guys. Just missed a throw that Johnthan Banks intercepted. Now Tampa Bay fans are wondering where those hands were last week when he could have won the game against Minnesota.

If Hoyer's pass was bad, I'm not sure what Mike Glennon just did on an interception in the end zone.

Cian Fahey: Alterraun Verner was widely regarded as a bargain in free agency. He has been an absolute travesty for the Buccaneers. Beaten badly by Taylor Gabriel for a long touchdown there.

Tom Gower: I think the contract he got, which was in the $6 million range instead of the $8 million to $9 million one, told us NFL teams weren't quite that high on him. I thought Tampa would be a nice fit for him, but that whole defense has spent too much time looking like a tire fire this year.

Andrew Healy: Hate the PI call on Mike Evans that negates the fourth-and-1 conversion. He and Buster Skrine were engaged off the line and Evans was just getting off Skrine's contact. Could just be the angle on the replay, but looked like a pretty bad call. Then the refs miss a false start on the next play, which falls incomplete to probably end the game.

Arizona Cardinals 28 at Dallas Cowboys 17

Aaron Schatz: 1:30 left in the third quarter. Brandon Weeden just completed his second pass to a wide receiver. Neither pass went to Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams.

They showed Larry Fitzgerald on the phone on the sideline. "Mr. President, send in the Texas Rangers, cause we are killing the Cowboys."

Philadelphia Eagles 31 at Houston Texans 21

Andrew Healy: Nick Foles makes a terrible decision, resulting in a pick-six, on a post to Riley Cooper. Hit as he threw but it's not like he was close to being able to get that ball there. Looked like it might have been a bad decision even if he could step into the throw, too.

Vince Verhei: I assume that NFL offenses practice "interception coverage," but A.J. Bouye's interception return tells me maybe they don't. Or the Texans defense spends a lot of time practicing interception returns. Bouye returned the ball 51 yards right up the middle of the field, and he zigged and zagged a little bit, but didn't really do anything special after he caught the ball, and he went untouched the whole way.

Andrew Healy: Foles injures his shoulder on a hit where Whitney Mercilus drives him into the turf. Now we'll get to see some evidence on whether Rex Ryan failed Mark Sanchez or whether no coach was going to squeeze much out of that stone (as I think). Never want to see anyone get hurt, but this will be interesting.

Tom Gower: J.J. Watt beat Lane Johnson pretty badly. Foles was hit in motion and couldn't step into the throw at all, so no surprise the ball ended up well short and it was intercepted.

The Texans are currently playing without Kareem Jackson (knee injury) and Johnathan Joseph (concussion evaluation). Foles hit Jeremy Maclin against rookie seventh-rounder Andre Hal for a long touchdown, and now Mark Sanchez (in the game with Foles getting looked at in the locker room after going down hard on a sack) hits Jeremy Maclin on his first snap.

Another note on this game -- both Foles and Ryan Fitzpatrick have taken some bad sacks. If you want, you could write them down as coverage sacks, but I'd assign most of the blame to the passers. They had opportunities to get rid of the ball and didn't take them. You can't expect your line to block forever.

Andrew Healy: Of course, Sanchez immediately finds Jeremy Maclin on a beautiful 52-yard deep ball.

Cian Fahey: Playing quarterback for the Jets in the past and playing quarterback for the Eagles in their current form aren't even comparable situations. From coaching to scheme to supporting cast, it should be no surprise at all if Sanchez is a more productive player in Philadelphia.

Scott Kacsmar: What did we write in FOA about building Chip Kelly a statue if he makes Mark Sanchez look great? Those were some throws on that drive. Jeremy Maclin has also been phenomenal this season.

Rivers McCown: It is fun watching your favorite team's backup cornerbacks (and D.J. Swearinger) turn Mark Sanchez into a superstar.

Time to switch to bourbon.

Andrew Healy: Don't want to read too much into five throws, but it wasn't just the preseason. Sanchez looks like a completely different quarterback. Calmer with his feet. Throws another good ball into a small window that should have been caught, but it gets batted into the air instead for an unlucky pick.

Aaron Schatz: It seems like the Eagles offense is more simplified with fewer play fakes and fake read-options since Sanchez came in.

Tom Gower: Houston's defense can't tackle. After Randy Bullock misses from 39 yards to potentially tie the game, the Eagles go 70 yards in four plays, all on the ground, all that should've been stopped before they were.

The ensuing drive features an incredibly Ryan Fitzpatrick play. The protection fails almost immediately -- I thought it would be a screen from the way left guard Ben Jones was blocking, but it wasn't. Fitz eludes the pressure from multiple players, including Trent Cole, then throws the ball downfield... just too far out of bounds for Andre Johnson to come up with it. Fourth down, punt. Oh, and Arian Foster also left the game for the second time with an injury that series.

Vince Verhei: Good coaching and bad coaching in Texas. The Eagles are up three late in the fourth quarter, with a fourth-and-1 inside the 5-yard line. Rather than settle for the field goal that would leave Houston in the game, they go for it, and appear to have it by inches on a running play. Bill O'Brien then challenges the spot, even though there is no hope that the referees would find "indisputable video evidence" that the runner was stopped short of the line to gain. I guess you could argue that Houston's only chance to win was to get that call reversed, but it sure seems like a waste of a challenge (and worse, a timeout) in a critical situation.

Sure enough, Houston loses the challenge, and Sanchez goes on to throw a touchdown pass. Philly up 31-21 with less than four minutes to go.

Tom Gower: I didn't mind the challenge. If you don't challenge, the Eagles either get a touchdown to go up two scores or probably burn two minutes (less 1:20 if you use your two timeouts) off the clock. I think that's worth risking :40 in a game with 4:00 left.

New York Jets 10 at Kansas City Chiefs 24

Andrew Potter: Anthony Fasano's touchdown "reception" is this Jets season in a single play.

Aaron Schatz: Only if Fasano had been a defensive player and the pass had been thrown by Geno Smith.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 at Cincinnati Bengals 33

Scott Kacsmar: A.J. Green just cost himself a touchdown by lining up offsides. You almost never see the offensive player called for that.

Rob Weintraub: Just a quick wrap-up on this one -- a sloppy win from Cincy in a game they clearly were playing with the full knowledge that they are A) banged up and B) gotta play the Browns on Thursday night. Had the Bengals held on to any of four picks (three of them dropped by Emmanuel Lamur), this would have been a far larger rout. Ditto if Allen Hurns doesn't wrench two jump balls away from Bengals defenders for touchdowns. Ditto if a Dalton screen pass in the fourth quarter doesn't somehow ricochet off two offensive linemen into the hands of a Jag. Dalton has thrown six picks this season. Four of them have deflected off a Bengal in some capacity.

But Jeremy Hill did what they picked Jeremy Hill to do -- slam away between the tackles with some wiggle and break a long one in the fourth quarter to ice the game. Hill did that a handful of times at LSU -- I guess it translates. He sat in the locker room and did interviews, in full uniform, when the rest of the team was long gone. I liked his perspective -- "I'm going to appreciate the moment because it can all go away in an instant." Rare to see a rookie acknowledge football mortality.

San Diego Chargers 0 at Miami Dolphins 37

Aaron Schatz: Miami pass rush looking good today. In Philip Rivers' face, forced him to throw the ball while falling backwards, and he sailed it over the receivers' head and into the hands of Reshad Jones. Miami now driving again already up 14-0.

Scott Kacsmar: A lot of teams with a 20-0 lead and 1:03 left at their own 24-yard line would just run out the clock and get to halftime. I like that Joe Philbin was aggressive given San Diego has done little to stop his offense yet. Caleb Sturgis missed the field goal, but the chance was there.

Aaron Schatz: Rishard Matthews just got very far away from whoever was supposed to be covering him. Touchdown, 27-0 Miami. San Diego looks awful in every phase today.

Cian Fahey: Mike Wallace has trouble making receptions with two hands, yet he continues to think that he can make difficult receptions with one hand when two is a better option. He must be infuriating to coach/play with.

Aaron Schatz: As bad as the Chargers look today, also have to give props to the Dolphins' secondary. Rivers' mistakes wouldn't be picks without their strong coverage. And there have been a couple of clear coverage sacks too.

Washington Redskins 26 at Minnesota Vikings 29

Scott Kacsmar: Even when Robert Griffin is doing the right thing and staying in the pocket he suffers a nasty looking sack that could have been another serious injury. That one would have been bad luck though.

Vince Verhei: Cordarrelle Patterson is getting open for big plays, but Teddy Bridgewater can't hit him. The first was a blown coverage by Washington where Patterson was 20 yards behind any defender, but Bridgewater overthrew him. Patterson grabbed his head in frustration while the ball was still in the air. Later, Patterson got behind his man. He wasn't wide-open, but the throw was there to be made. But Bridgewater underthrew him, and the defensive back was able to break up the pass.

Big play by Captain Munnerlyn to force a punt. Washington has a third-and-1, and the Vikings stuff every defender they can find in the A gaps. Alan Page and Chris Doleman might have been in there. Washington then pitches the ball to the outside and it looks like an easy first down, but Munnerlyn stands up his blocker, cuts off the edge, and forces the runner to the sideline, giving his teammates an opportunity to pursue and make the tackle for no gain. I couldn't see if that was Matt Kalil or a tight end trying to block him, but either way that sounds like a mismatch teams would try to exploit, and Munnerlyn shut it down. Classic example of a "doesn't show up in the box score" play.

Cian Fahey: Robert Griffin has had an outstanding first half in this game. Early plays both from the pocket and extended into the flat will have reminded anyone watching of the skill set that made him a top draft pick in the first place. His comfort is something that we really haven't seen since his rookie season.

Vince Verhei: More problems between Bridgewater and Patterson. Bridgewater tries a deep pass down the left sideline. David Amerson has good coverage, running ahead of Patterson, and the only hope for a completion is a ball to the inside and slightly underthrown, where Patterson can jump for it and box Amerson out. Instead the pass is overthrown and drops into the bucket into Amerson's hands. Amerson rolls out of bounds bobbling the catch, so it's not an interception, but regardless, the quarterback and receiver remain on radically different pages.

Cian Fahey: Bridgewater's deep ball has been bad, really bad, but Cordarrelle Patterson's inability to play wide receiver is also being highlighted. At this stage of his career, Patterson is a better running back than he is a wide receiver.

It's not necessarily no-huddle situations, but when the clock becomes an issue Bridgewater appears to be at his best. It has been like this since the preseason when he constructed that comeback against the Arizona Cardinals to win the game. At the end of the second quarter in this one, Bridgewater found a wide-open tight end in the end zone for a touchdown, although it should be noted a drive previously had stalled on fourth down before Griffin threw the ball back.

Vince Verhei: Following a Griffin interception, the Vikings get on the board when Chase Ford gets 5 yards behind Ryan Clark for a 20-yard touchdown. Read that sentence again. This is a very entertaining game between two teams that are playing terribly.

Jerick McKinnon is rapidly becoming one of my favorite players to watch. He just took a dumpoff from Bridgewater and juked the safety (Meriweather, I think) with a head-fake so badly that the safety didn't even try to make a tackle, he just turned and watched McKinnon go by. McKinnon entered the weekend leading the league in rushing DVOA, and it's clear that's no fluke.

Cian Fahey: DeSean Jackson is having an outstanding season. As much as Chip Kelly is always going to have a productive offense because of his philosophy and overall coaching ability, moving on from Jackson was a mistake in my mind.

Vince Verhei: Not counting a three-runs-and-punt affair when they were killing clock at the end, the Vikings scored four touchdowns on their last five drives. It looked like Washington switched to a lot more zone defense, with a pass rush that couldn't get to the quarterback and coverage that was stretched too thin across the field. Bridgewater spent most of the second half playing pitch-and-catch with wide-open receivers. It definitely feels like the crappier team lost this game.

Tom Gower: From what I saw of the game, I thought the Vikings offensive line issues continued, but Teddy did a good job of moving in the pocket and getting rid of the ball. When he had time, he delivered some nice passes to open receivers. I'll be curious when I watch the whole game to see how Robert Griffin played back. He apparently had some nice throws early in the game, but the fourth down throw for Pierre Garcon was a bad play in a situation where you can't make a bad play.

St. Louis Rams 13 at San Francisco 49ers 10

Andrew Healy: Love the idea on the Rams' attempt to block the field goal early first with Daren Bates (I think) jumping the line Polamalu-style (although landing on his feet).

Tom Gower: I've had most of my attention on PeyTom, but I just wanted to note the Rams have six sacks in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I'm curious for a J.J. Cooper review on that game. Rams defense finally balling out, or 49ers offensive line crumbling? Or Colin Kaepernick perhaps just running into pressure?

J.J. Cooper: Looking forward to watching that one to see what happened, but Kaepernick is the master of the long sack. Kaepernick had eight sacks of 3.2 seconds or more through Week 7.

Andrew Potter: Mind-numbingly stupid play by Tavon Austin on a missed field goal return. Brought the ball less than a yard out of the end zone, then juked back to the goal line and was tackled. Still analysing and reviewing whether or not it's a safety. He never had any remote chance of a return, so this shouldn't even be an issue.

Vince Verhei: The Austin play at the end of the half was ruled a non-safety on forward progress, a close but correct call that never should have happened in the first place. It's just his latest failure in St. Louis, and between that and Cordarrelle Patterson's struggles in Minnesota, and the Percy Harvin disaster in Seattle, I'm more and more convinced that "athleticism" is such a small part of being a successful receiver. Good receivers run crisp routes, fight for the ball in traffic, and have good hands. None of those skills have anything to do with kick returns or rushing, and GMs who fall in love with all-purpose players in college who can't actually catch are going to be heartbroken more often than not.

Denver Broncos 21 at New England Patriots 43

Aaron Schatz: It's not even good snow. It's crappy 35-degree sorta snow.

Hey, what happened to "Everyone plays Cover-2 against Peyton Manning?" The Broncos went three-and-out on the first drive with the Patriots playing single-high safety on three straight plays.

Tom Gower: Ask Seattle. Especially with the wind, I would put guys in the box and dare him to beat me throwing deep, too.

Andrew Healy: Brady misses Brandon LaFell pretty wide-open for a touchdown. Reminded me of missing Edelman in the AFC Championship Game last year. Not a good memory.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots also don't have Darrelle Revis on Demaryius Thomas. My guess is that they see Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as both being dangerous, so why specifically assign Revis to Thomas? Instead, if you leave the corners on specific sides, Brandon Browner is going to be a lot more comfortable. If both receivers are really good, you might as well get the most you can out of Browner.

Andrew Healy: Where have you gone Bill Belichick? Fourth-and-2 from the 31-yard line, field goal. Even worse because they're playing Denver.

Aaron Schatz: Never mind. It isn't cornerback by sides. They're just moving everyone around and trying all kinds of things. I thought it was Revis specifically on Sanders and Browner on Demaryius Thomas, and then the play after that Revis was on Thomas and Browner was on Julius Thomas.

Vince Verhei: That actually makes sense. Peyton's specialty is finding a mismatch and exploiting it. By swapping your coverages, you're going to make it harder for him to find a weakness.

Tom Gower: Bad interception by Peyton to Rob Ninkovich, or good job to confuse him. Either way, Patriots have good field position.

Remember how the Bengals linebackers kept biting hard on initial moves? Yeah, the Broncos seem to be doing it as well. Corey Nelson got nailed a couple times on the second field goal drive, so Denver went to nickel, but he hasn't been the only culprit.

Aaron Schatz: I think Ninkovich looked like he was going to rush the passer, then dropped into coverage as a robber. Manning never saw him there.

Andrew Healy: Yes, that's what happened. The Patriots don't do that a lot. They brought four, dropped Ninkovich and Collins came up the middle. Dropping Ninkovich that way is not something I think the Patriots do a lot and Manning wasn't looking for it. Ninkovich did a great job gaining distance quickly.

Cian Fahey: Sluggish start for the Broncos in seemingly most areas. Rob Gronkowski is really in that Calvin Johnson area as a skill position player who completely changes the offense when they're in and when they're out.

Andrew Healy: How did they not block that punt?

I love Julian Edelman. I loved Troy Brown and now Julian Edelman. No insightful analysis to add here. He rocks.

Aaron Schatz: Also a little surprised how much the Broncos have been running the ball on offense. Not only running a lot more than I expected, but with very little success.

Andrew Healy: I'm mostly surprised just by the lack of success on the ground. Six carries so far for 6 yards (versus 16 pass attempts), with 8:08 left in the second.

Good things seem to happen when the Patriots bring Jamie Collins up the middle on the blitz. Almost a pick by Arrington when Collins does that on second-and-10 from the 23-yard line.

Aaron Schatz: Wowee zowee. John Fox finally acknowledges that Brandon McManus isn't very good and that Peyton Manning is his quarterback, and goes for it on fourth-and-6. Patriots sack Manning when the Broncos fail to pass off a stunt by Akeem Ayers, who loops around Orlando Franklin blocking a defensive tackle and comes up the middle.

Andrew Healy: Some chance Peyton Manning was the coach on that one. He was calling to go for it right after the third-down play. Maybe that's too skeptical of Fox, but I do trust Coach Manning to be correctly aggressive much more than Coach Fox.

Aaron Schatz: Belichick goes for it on fourth-and-5 from the Denver 37-yard line, in no-man's land. Too close for a punt, too far for a field goal, but most coaches would have punted anyway. Yay for finding your balls again, Bill!

Andrew Healy: Yes, it's a completely obvious call by the numbers, but he's in a very small group who'd go for it there, so indeed credit for Belichick's temporary ball relocation.

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos have gotten some pressure, primarily with Von Miller off the edge, but for the most part Tom Brady is just sitting back there in the pocket, waiting for his man to get open, as if the first couple weeks of this season never happened. Bryan Stork has been fine at center, Ryan Wendell is better as a guard than he was as a center last year. Nate Solder seems to have cleared up his problems of a few weeks ago. The offensive line just looks completely different.

Just to sum up in Foxboro... I still think the Broncos have the best team in the NFL but they are really going to have to watch this film and learn from it. They got outplayed in all three phases today.

Scott Kacsmar: Not too many surprises for me. Thought I had a fairly prophetic preview on this one. Special teams were big. Could deem a 13-point swing when you remember the bad punt and 15-yard flag early in the game to set up a short field. Denver only minus-1 in the turnover battle, but that Wes Welker tip-pick was a big swing. Set up the Patriots at the 10-yard line. Gronkowski dominant as expected. Loved that one-handed catch in front of the goal line. Both running games really irrelevant. Biggest surprise was Denver going 0-for-4 on fourth down. Normally you'd expect a conversion or two there.

Do all these Denver mistakes happen at home? Maybe not, but might never find out now with the Patriots in control of the No. 1 seed. I think Denver can win out, but we have some legit questions about this team's road performances. Haven't looked good this year. Patriots have the tougher remaining schedule, but if they play like this, they can beat anyone. Wasn't even their sharpest day, which is a scary thought.

Oakland Raiders 24 at Seattle Seahawks 30

Vince Verhei: Expert first-half analysis: Derek Carr sucks, the Raiders' line sucks, the Raiders' game plan sucks. This is not a team that should be trying to target Richard Sherman, but they have thrown at least four passes his way, resulting in one catch for each team. Carr's other interception came on an amazing leaping play by Bruce Irvin in coverage, leaping high in the air to tip it to himself, then reeling it in and taking it to the house for six.

Now, to be fair, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks game plan sucks only slightly less. I am so, so tired of watching the failed bubble screens. They're not working, Darrell. Stop it. It's also clear now how much Seattle misses Golden Tate. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are OK when they have a legit No. 1 wideout to create mismatches or dictate zone coverage. They are not much of a front-line combo. I'm reminded a little of Seattle's last Super Bowl team, which retained Shaun Alexander but lost Steve Hutchinson. In hindsight, you'd have liked to swap those two players. The Percy Harvin-Golden Tate situation isn't an exact comparison, but the result is the same: in hindsight, they let the wrong guy go.

Raiders return a blocked punt for a touchdown, then get a 27-yard punt return from T.J. Carrie. (Each team has also missed a field goal -- Seattle's special teams letting them down again.) Darren McFadden takes a dumpoff and rumbles 23 yards, and that sets up Carr's fourth-and-goal touchdown to Mychal Rivera. Full credit to Carr, this was a tremendous throw to find Rivera in the back of the end zone with two unblocked rushers in his face. Seattle now up 24-17 and in serious jeopardy of suffering the biggest upset of the season. Russell Wilson continues to be terrible, throwing passes so badly it's hard to tell who he's targeting. Also, their two best linemen (Russell Okung and Max Unger) are out, and their backups committed back-to-back false starts to kill their last drive. Just bad news everywhere you look.

Aaron Schatz: Is it true that the Seahawks don't even have 46 healthy guys suited up today? I had seen someone mention they had 10 different guys out with injuries.

Vince Verhei: I hadn't heard that, but it wouldn't surprise me. No Okung, no Unger, no Schilling (Unger's backup), no Miller, no Wagner, no Maxwell, no Chancellor... that's off the top of my head. But hey, they've got all three running backs healthy. So there's that.

Well, thanks to some overly soft coverage at the end of the game, they needed to recover an onside kick to finish things off, but Seattle is getting out of this with a 30-24 victory at home against a winless team. They're 5-3 now, but it does not feel that way. The season's half over, and their offense still has tons of issues. Wilson entered the game with a negative DVOA, and I can't imagine that will change. He also threw what should have been an interception with the Seahawks protecting a two-score lead in the fourth, but replay correctly ruled the defender dropped the ball. Just an awful, awful game for him.

Baltimore Ravens 23 at Pittsburgh Steelers 43

Scott Kacsmar: I'll keep using this line until he proves me wrong: Martavis Bryant is everything Limas Sweed was supposed to be. Third game in a row with a touchdown after the Steelers finally deemed him ready to play. Turnovers are finally coming on defense thanks to some pressure and we have a familiar looking Pittsburgh team again. Still some definite flaws like that laughable protection that broke down on three consecutive sacks, but this looks like an old slugfest with Baltimore.

Five minutes later: Steelers are doomed. Ryan Shazier, James Harrison and now Troy Polamalu have all left the game with injuries; some of a potentially serious nature. That's a lot to lose with Ike Taylor and Jarvis Jones already down.

Well James Harrison is back in and back to pressuring Flacco like it's 2010 again. Doom rescheduled.

Tom Gower: As it happens, Polamalu missed precisely zero plays. Limped out at the two-minute warning, was in for the play after the two-minute warning, when pressure from an also-returned Harrison forced an incompletion.

The Steelers seem to be doing a nice job against the Ravens' run game, which has left Baltimore going back to their old "Joe Flacco bombs it to receivers when he manages to stay upright" standby.

Cian Fahey: Dooooo Do Do Do Do Doooooo Do.
Dooooo Do Do Do Do Doooooo Do.
Dooooo Do Do Do Do Doooooo Do.
Dooooo Do Do....sorry, I got caught up in Seven Nation Army for the billionth time.

This has been a sleepy game. Joe Flacco making a rookie type play for the interception and Lorenzo Taliaferro gave up a bad fumble to give Steelers a good lead. The Steelers offense has been solid on the whole, with Martavis Bryant again providing his value. The matchup of Le'veon Bell versus C.J. Mosley in space has been one worth watching.

Scott Kacsmar: It's a bad night to not have Jimmy Smith, but Lardarius Webb was just beat cleanly by Markus Wheaton for a 47-yard touchdown. Easily the best Roethlisberger throw of the night. To pour salt in the wound, a hiccup on the extra point hold still worked out with Matt Spaeth catching a two-point conversion from punter/holder Brad Wing. Yes, he hung on. 22-10 Steelers.

Tom Gower: Well, OK, after going in after not missing a play, Polamalu has now been declared out for the game early in the third quarter.

J.J. Cooper: Antonio Brown is amazingly consistent as he breaks the game open with a long touchdown. It's worth remembering that when the Steelers locked him up to a long-term extension it seemed to be a puzzling move as it meant the Steelers would not be able to afford to keep the more accomplished Mike Wallace. It's safe to say they made the right call.

Scott Kacsmar: Baltimore shut the running game down, but so much for that. Roethlisberger has really never had a two-game stretch like this one in his career. Practically no quarterback has if you're talking 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Just in a good zone and using all of his receivers very well. Impressive pressure on Flacco tonight as well.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 03 Nov 2014

174 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2014, 2:40am by Will Allen


by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:20am

Yeah, Bridgewater's deep passes are poor at this point, and it is unacceptable to overthrow a receiver on a blown coverage, as Bridgewater did Patterson. It is more unacceptable for Patterson to quit on a ball, that had Patterson laid out and grabbed it, would not have made the top fifty of spectacular catches on the season. It is plays like that which makes me wish guys could be fined a gamecheck for not putting in the minimally professional effort. Hansen on Red Zone speculated that Patterson lost the ball in the sun, but even if that is the case, you throw your hands up and hope to get lucky.

The Vikings have a non-trivial chance to get to 8 wins, which is a lot better than I expected after week 2. If Peterson pleads to a misdemeanor soon, which I kind of expect, and he gets sentenced by Goodell to games missed and a pile of cash, they might have meaningful December games after all.

I really couldn't watch Broncos/Pats closely but my impression is that this is the best Pats secondary in many, many, years, and that this allows Belichik's scheme prowess to reach its fullest potential. Combine that with no pressure up the middle on Brady, and beating the Pats in Foxboro gets to be an extraordinarily daunting proposition for anyone.

by JFP :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:27am

I really couldn't watch Broncos/Pats closely but my impression is that this is the best Pats secondary in many, many, years, and that this allows Belichik's scheme prowess to reach its fullest potential.

The prevailing thought among fellow Pats fans I was in touch with during the game was the secondary hasn't looked that good since the 2003/2004 teams.

Even when Manning made a good throw it seemed like the Pats were right on the receiver in coverage. Haven't seen that on a consistent basis for awhile from the Pats.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:34am

Yeah, if those dbs continue on that level, then an opponent is going to need a superior performance by the defensive line, especially the defensive tackles, to beat the Patriots in the playoffs, because you aren't going to outscore them 35-31.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:13pm

Yes, this is the best the secondary has looked since 2004, when it featured Ty Law, Asante Samuel, and Rodney Harrison. Much much better than last year, or even their last Super Bowl team. I still have nightmares about Sterling Moore in single coverage on Mario Manningham.

by Xexyz :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:03pm

I think Patterson's biggest problem is that he's not comfortable catching the ball over his shoulder. As a result, he turns his body toward the pass which slows him down, making it look like he's giving up on the play.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:16pm

It's hard to catch the ball with the palms of your hands pressed to the sides of your helmet.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:23pm

He runs horrible routes. Despite his speed dbs are always sitting on his outs and slants. As for missing him on deep balls, he's usually only open deep when someone mixed up a coverage, not because he ran a good pattern. He made Bridgewater look horrible on the ball that was intercepted but ruled out of bounds.

He's got a long way to go as a receiver, but he has some incredible tools.

I thought I was sensing some frustration on both Patterson and Jennings part yesterday. Patterson made it obvious on the deep overthrow, but Jennings also looked peeved when Bridgewater hit him late in the half on a deep out, he caught the ball, but by the time the ball got there he had no choice but to step out of bounds, he would have made a lot more yards had the ball been out earlier.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:11pm

I think Playmaker Score projected Austin and Patterson as not even the best prospects at their respective schools, much less the draft. Folks here shouldn't be so surprised.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:21pm

While the Patterson vs. Hunter argument can certainly be entertained, I can't imagine that Bailey or anybody else would have been ranked as a better prospect than Austin.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:15pm

I thought the offensive line had it's best game in quite a while. I thought the pass blocking was pretty good for the most part.

Bridgewater's deep ball misses mostly seem to be long with not enough air under them for the receiver to react. His stats out of college suggested this was a weakness. But I like the kid because he seems physically and mentally tough.

Really enjoying watching some of the young defensive players develop. Griffen, Floyd, Smith and Barr all seem like pro bowl level talents. Even Rhodes and Robinson are looking competent. This could be one hell of a group in the next couple of years. Football Analytics had them as the 5th best defence in the league going into the Washington.

After 20+ years of horrible defences, it sure is refreshing to watch decent defensive football.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:42pm

Now, now, the 2008 defense (great defensive line and decent dbs) and 2006 (Tomlin coached) defenses were quite good, and the 2009 defense was above average. The Dungy-coached defenses in the early to mid 90s were upper echelon; there was a reason he was given the opportunity to turn around the utter train wreck in Tampa, after all. When they have been below average, however, they have usually been awful, and very poorly coached, so it just seems like they have been bad for 20-plus seasons. I'd say the only years they have been competently coached on defense since Dungy left has been one year, 2003, with bad personnel, with George O'Leary as DC, and 2006 with Tomlin, and now with Zimmer as head coach.

This bunch has a decent chance to be very good indeed on defense, especially if they add a good corner and linebacker. Zimmer appears to be an outstanding teacher and manager of defensive talent.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:29pm

you are right - I guess I'm over reacting the frequent bottom tier defences thrown out there under Green, Tice and Frazier.

By the way - You've got one hell of a memory.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:53pm

A good way to remember unit performance is if the coordinator of the unit received a promotion to head coach, and succeeded on that level, chances are that the unit under the coordinator was pretty darned good.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:18pm

I thought watching it live that he lost the ball in the sun, too. It's hard to fault a guy for not pulling off a highlight-reel play, or for reacting naturally.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:58pm

Sure, if he lost it in the sun, them's the breaks. However, pressing your hands to the sides of your helmet is never a good move for a receiver. If he saw the ball and did that, on a ball that he had chance to get a hand on, or even two hands on well, that's just unprofessional nonsense.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:05pm

As Tanier said elsewhere:

Patterson broke wide-open up the left sideline in the first quarter against the Redskins, only to lose Teddy Bridgewater's pass in the bright Minnesota sunshine. Patterson covered his helmet with both hands like a tee-baller fearing a pop-up as Bridgewater's pass sailed several yards beyond him.

When you hear that a young receiver is unable to play a larger offensive role because he has bad instincts, well...fearing that you might be struck in the well-protected head by an object you are paid a great deal of money to catch is an extreme example of "bad instincts."

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:52pm

I was also perplexed by the commentators completely blaming Bridgewater for the poor throw while absolving Patterson when he pretty clearly gave up on the ball. Now, it *was* an overthrow and it's quite possible that Patterson had zero chance of catching it, but it sure looked to me like he could have gotten his hands on it if he'd kept trying.

This was the first chance I had to look at Bridgewater, and I still think he is the QB of the 2014 draft class who's most likely to succeed in the NFL. He definitely needs to bulk up a bit and obviously needs to work on his accuracy, but for a guy who's been thrown into a team that's kind of dysfunctional on offense (and is missing the guy who was the unquestionable lynchpin of the offense for the past few years), he looks pretty poised and confident.

by Xexyz :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 8:00pm

One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is how Jerome Simpson being cut has impacted the receiving corps. Neither Jennings or Patterson (yet) are traditional down-the-field receivers, so with Simpson gone they really don't have a receiver on the roster that fits his role.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 9:27pm

was it just me or did the commentators get the wind direction wrong the entire second half. It seemed pretty obvious to me by the kicks and punts which way the wind was blowing - yet they continually said the opposite.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:20am

Just like last year, the Chargers are a bad team outside of Rivers and a couple of receivers. The defensive deficiencies were covered up earlier in the season playing against some wretched offences (Buffalo with Manuel, Jets, Jags, Raiders) and their signature win in week 2 against Seattle looks a good deal less impressive now. Rivers has frankly performed miracles with the pressure he's withstood and the complete and utter absence of a running game, but yesterday under constant pressure he started to look skittish, made some bad decisions and the whole thing fell apart.

They looked like locks for an AFC wild card spot a couple weeks back but now the Dolphins, Chiefs and the whole of the AFC North are probably ahead of them.

by JFP :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:21am

Bryan Stork has been fine at center.

Too think everyone though he was brain damaged. Glad Belichick gave a shot to the plucky kid from Delta House.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:19pm

"What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We're all expelled. There's nothing to fight for anymore."

Douglas Kenny was a comedic genius. He was one of the founders of National Lampoon (really!) and a principal writer for Animal House and Caddyshack. He died at a young age when he inexplicably walked off a cliff in Hawaii.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:08pm

I had no idea he was dead (or what his name was, to be honest). I am sad now.

by Sophandros :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:31am

Wow. No one watched the Thursday night game? I was looking forward to some snarky commentary about the NSFW South. Now I has a sad.

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

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:44am

The officiating in the Niners-Rams game was abysmal from start to finish. Both sides can reasonably claim to have been screwed by the striped halfwits as they showed a true commitment to incompetence.

The only thing worse was the niners' pass protection. It went like this, "Hike! Aaaarrghh! Thump!". I really don't know what's happened to this unit, they've gone from awesome to awful and it's mostly the same guys. FO have pointed to continuity as a key for O-line success for a while and this year they haven't had any at all, yesterday was the eighth different starting lineup, all prompted by injury.

The niners probably need to go 7-1 in the second half of the year to claim a wild card as the Cards are just too far ahead. It looks more than a little unlikely to me at this stage.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:48am

I didn't see the game...woke up this morning to see how many points we'd won by...hah!

What was with that last fumble call? From the few things I can see it looked pretty arbitrary.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:11pm

The problem is if you see the whole play (and most of the replays just show the end of the play): he starts juggling it almost immediately after the snap, SEEMS to regain control and then loses it at some point when you can't see the ball's relationship to the goal-line. So there are two problems that make it absolutely impossible to overturn the ruling on the field. Does his actually totally regain control? Questionable. If he does regain control, does the ball definitely cross the goal-line before he loses it? Questionable. It seems like the correct call considering everything...

But yeah, I think SF needs to go on a tear to avoid being cooked. One thing in their favor is so few of the SF vs. Seattle vs. Arizona games have been played and I really think they match up well versus those two, even this year. If SF misses the playoffs though I think SF fans shouldn't panic - the story of their year really is injuries and suspensions (and the attendant lack of continuity.) They're still a team with talent, depth and good coaching, just one playing in a tough division...

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:54pm

Will Harbaugh still be the HC, though? I have a feeling he'll be in Ann Arbor this time next year.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:09pm

I'm wondering why it was called on the field? That's what seems arbitrary about it. How can it get called a fumble if no one can tell when he hit the ground or where he was in relation to the goal line?

I mean, if it's just a big cluster-f*ck, why would you make a game-ending call?

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:11pm

I suppose it has to get called something. Worst case, officials have to take their best guess.

by Ben :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:12pm

Kaepernick bobbled the snap. On the replay, it looks like he regained it, but one of the ref's might have seen that initial fumble, and just assumed it was never controlled again until everyone unpiled.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:12pm

It has to get called a fumble because he bobbles the snap and is still securing it before he hits the pile. Also, watching the replay again, I completely disagree that the ground causes the fumble - it's definitely out of his arms before he hits the ground (if unclear whether it is over the goal-line._ You have to call it a fumble because he's fumbling it from the moment he touches it and the pile is total chaos and he definitely loses it in the chaos. I think the whole thing is unclear, but if it had been called the other way, it would have read like a botched call - all of the "maybe's" shade ever so slightly in the Rams' favor and none in the 49er's favor.

But I agree the Crabtree catch should have been an incompletion or a TD, not at the one-inch line. He never gets it more secure than he has it when it's a foot across the goal-line...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:25pm

I can see how the call ended up going the way it did, though I still think he scored. I think the Crabtree call was worse and the refs were pretty poor all day.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:17pm

Kap mishandled the snap, recovered it, scored, got facemasked, then fumbled as his elbow hit the ground, Laurinitis picked it up and the Rams won.

At least that's what I think, it is quite hard to work out. There're a couple of shots on Niners Nation, one from the end zone where you can tell where Kap still has the ball together with a side on view that shows his progress to that point.

The problem is that none of the officials had much of a view so they ran in to unlike and try to work out what happened, saw the Rams had the ball and ruled a fumble. Then they needed the replay to be incontrovertible, which it really isn't.

Crabtree should have been awarded the TD a few snaps earlier though, I don't get how they missed that much clearer call. Well that isn't quite true, they're a pack of idiots, that's how they missed it.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:24pm

That's what you THINK - and you are a rabid SF fan. None of that is decisively on the video, even the facemask which MIGHT be there. And the idea that he totally recovered the ball is the most dubious part - think of how long a guy needs to have it in real time for possession to be "official." He has it cleanly for maybe a second and then loses it immediately. It's the right call, to have have done anything different would have been a real botch job...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:44pm

Hmmm, not sure what the need is for passive aggression. I've already acknowledged that it was a mess and I was just giving my opinion.

Have a look at the picture and the vine at the top of this page. The facemask is pretty clear and so is Kap controlling the ball.


And I really don't think I'm a 'rabid' anything.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:59pm

I see a hand on a facemask, but no grabbing. I would call that a possibility of a facemask only.

Who, me?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:06pm

Really? It looks like he's trying to adjust his contact lenses to me.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:13pm

I was going by the still only, but after watching the replay, I don't see a facemask at all. There's no change however slight in the movement of the head as the hand brushes by the facemask.

Who, me?

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:15pm

That doesn't necessarily imply he grabbed the face mask. His hand is undoubtedly on the face mask, but that's legal as long you don't grasp it.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:37pm

I was jut trying to be generous - I agree there's no facemask. Imagine if the game turned on that penalty getting called!

by coremill :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:54pm

I think it's pretty clear that he recovered the snap, but it's impossible to tell conclusively if he got in on video -- you can try to make some inferences by combining the multiple angles, but there's nothing conclusive there.

OTOH, Crabtree was pretty obviously in on his catch on the first down play. If he didn't have control at the point he was over the line, then I don't see how it can be a catch. I actually would have been ok with an incomplete ruling (it seems pretty iffy to me whether he ever really had control at all), but IF it's complete I think it has to be a TD.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:13pm

Totally agree on the Crabtree catch - he either has it secured over the goal-line or never has it.

by coremill :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:10pm

I think 6-2 will get the Niners in if they win the right six, but it would require either beating Seattle twice or splitting with Seattle and Seattle losing another division game (@AZ would be the most likely candidate). If they can finish ahead of Seattle, they have H2H tiebreakers over both NFC East contenders, and it's hard to see both of those teams getting to 11 wins since a) Dallas and Philly have to play each other twice, and b) they are both starting backup QBs for the foreseeable future.

Even 6-2 looks pretty unlikely though right now, so none of that may matter.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:23pm

6-2 only looks even vaguely possible because of games against Oakland, Washington, NYG. But then we thought we'd best the Rams at home.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:25pm

Don't sleep on NYG when the have Jennings in the line-up, which they should at that point. He's a difference-maker for that offense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:13pm

The Niners deservedly got credit for turning Alex Boone into a very good guard when he came into the league as a big lug. Now he looks to being a big lug again only one with no push and bad feet.

What the blank happened?

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:20pm

No clue, it's not just him. You could make a strong case that Joe Staley has been the best tackle in the conference over the last three years and he's been a bit average for much of this season. They both got a pay raise, could that explain it?

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:26pm

I have seen other guys on the line have issues but Boone looks to be the epicenter of a lot of the ugliness. And there is a bit of a difference between a guy going from really good to average and a guy completely falling off a cliff in performance.

by coremill :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:34pm

Boone held out for all of training camp and only showed up about four days before the first game. You would think that would have some detrimental effect, but after 9 weeks the rust should have worn off.

The drop-off in Staley's play is more shocking. He was a Top-5 LT in the NFL the last three years, but his pass blocking has been awful this year. No idea what's going on there.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:10pm

Just going off what you guys are saying, it sounds like a synergistic effect has left along with the decreased play of the guard. So it's like a double loss.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:35pm

I'm curous what 49er fans think about all the Harbaugh drama and how it's impacting the team - if a couple guys who clearly were definitely coached up Harbaugh all start playing badly, is there any chance that a couple of them starting shutting him out mentally (especially if they just got paid?) I really thought that SF was going to be one of the teams to beat in the NFC in the second half after the injuries and suspensions started to clear up, but they're getting too far behind track to catch up...

by zenbitz :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:22pm

I thought it was very unlikely until this week. They are just SO sloppy and ineffective. Maybe there is something too it.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:38pm

I think the defense is playing well though, especially given the the missing pro bowl linebackers and our top cornerback. I'm really beginning to think that Greg Roman is not doing a great job.

When he first arrived in the NFL he stole a march with his run scheme of power plays in concert with a plethora of traps that the NFL hadn't seen in years. Now most teams seem to have a handle on how to stop that stuff and his passing scheme has never been that great, so the offense is struggling.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:21pm

The NFL Network replay was on during lunch right now and the center is definitely a disaster - he's a rookie making his first start right? He's 90% of the problem in that his weakness causes a cascade effect across the line. On almost every pass play he's allowing pressure right up the gut, the DE's secure the perimeter - the interior pressure causes the QB to pull down the ball and then he has nowhere to run because the defense is so focused on maintaining their edges.

Their defense is so amazing though - their LB corps has to be considered amongst the greatest of All-Time if you consider depth as a factor (meaning they have a squad of the 8 or 9 greatest LB's ever assembled on a roster.) They're unbelievably good - some of those guys cover like safeties and hold the point of attack like DE's. I was never really in awe of Seattle's defense last year which I really do think relied on their secondary exploiting officiating tendencies, but whenever I watch SF's defense over the past few years, I of those think of world-class Ravens, Steelers, Bears defenses that got so much from LB excellence...

by James-London :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:44am

Where has this Miami team been hiding all year? I only have three gripes:
1: Points left on the field-2 dropped TDs & a missed FG
2: Mike Wallace needs to quit the half-assed one handed catch thing
3: CBS cut to the friggin' Jets in the 3rd quarter

1st World Problems I know, and it'll be interesting to see if Miami can replicate this against the Lions & Buffalo over the coming weeks

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:30pm

Mia/SD-This game ended up a lot like the Raider-Miami game. Dolphins defense controlled the game, but this was one of the few weeks the offense came out on fire. The huge thing about this game was how Miami kept Tannehill upright and his passing lanes clear. My big question is how did Mike Sherman coach Tannehill all those years and not realize he was really good at play fakes on options. Lazor has had some iffy play calling at times this year but I'm giving him major props for seeing something and using it. You can see the defenders freeze when Tannehill play fakes. He's good at it and is a threat to run. Miami still has At Det, Buf and at Den and the Ravens so while the division appears close right now... I still have wild card hopes but after watching Dev-Ne I'm doubting the Pats lack of talent everyone keeps harping about. Football outsiders cry for the Pats every year and every year they win the AFC east. I wonder what they'd sound like if the Pats were ever actually a bad team:)

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:47pm

Miami's defense is for real. They can get pressure with four and have a great secondary. They already have a head to head win over NE, and they play in Foxboro better than anyone. New England plays a killer schedule the next month, so if Miami can keep up they have a chance.

The biggest difference in Miami's offense is they finally realized Tannehill's skill set more closely matches Cam Newton than Tom Brady and are letting him play that way.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:01pm

That collapse against GB may kill them in the end for the division. Had they pounced on teh fumble, or tackled Adams in bounds, or stop the 4th and 10, they are 1/2 game back, tied in teh loss column, with a h2h win already on the books.

Still, they look really good right now. Their losses don't even look too bad right now.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:08pm

GB was a soul-crushing loss, but ultimately, the KC & Buffalo defeats might hurt more as that's two teams chasing a WC with a head-to-head win. Miami has Buffalo again and can level that up (and I cannot bring myself to believe in Kyle Orton), but Buffalo are usually a problem for Miami.

Still, that Miami D can play with anyone.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:57pm

The real test is Buf and Det. Both teams feature strong defensive lines. The past few years Miami's oline has not been able to handle strong Dlines and this has resulted in (huh?) WTF type loses. If Miami looks good in these next two games I think WC chase is officially on. But if they look like they did in the first Bills game and the two from last year then I think 7-9,8-8 is what we are looking at. I'm more optimistic then a few weeks ago, but the team has to show it can handle a solid defensive fronts and keep Tannehill upright before I believe they'll survive what is appearing to be a brutally close WC chase.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:17pm

"They already have a head to head win over NE, and they play in Foxboro better than anyone."

Miami's last win in Foxborough was against Matt Cassel in 2008.

Their previous win was in a meaningless last-week game in 2005 when the Pats were locked into the #4 seed, IIRC. They've yet to beat the Patriots in a meaningful game in Foxborough with Brady starting. There have been some close games but there have also been some drubbings.

I wouldn't say that the Dolphins have played better in Foxboro than the Jets. The Jets actually won a playoff game there in 2011.

I'd say the most impressive visiting team in recent years was the 49ers in 2012, who took a 31-3 lead on the Pats, started taking it easy and gave it all back, and then won anyway.

edit: yes, I'm nitpicking here. The Dolphins currently have a 2-game winning streak over the Pats, and that has to be respected, even if both games were in south Florida. But Miami visiting in December is usually one of the games I take for granted. Ever since that convict on a work-release program plowed the field in 1982, the Pats have found ways to win these games more often than not, esp. in the Brady/Belichick era.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:32pm

That's my feeling too. The Dolphins and Ravens historically defend Brady better than anybody, but the Dolphins just don't win in Foxboro -- not that we couldn't see that happen this year. Nobody who plays regularly in Foxboro does well. The HFA seems minimized vs. the Jets, who usually hang within one score, and there have been some one-offs, like the Cardinals early in 2012 and the aforementioned 49ers from the same year, IIRC, the Giants from the previous year...

by Dave Bernreuther :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:46am

That probably still qualifies as better than anyone.

by hatersgonhate :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:53pm

Tannehill wasn't even always playing quarterback at A&M, so that could explain why Sherman didn't notice his skill set.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:00pm

Nah, Sherman ran him a little last year. See the Steelers game. Sherman just didn't see how it could work week to week. In theory it might buy Tannehill enough time to survive the Lions and Bills pass rush. We will see...

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:31pm

They've played pretty well all year except for the Buffalo and the Kansas game. Not that I saw this beating coming at all. I can't believe they stopped the Charger offense in its tracks.

Who, me?

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:41pm

they looked scary good to me week 1

by nat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:51am

...that Wes Welker tip-pick was a big swing. Set up the Patriots at the 10-yard line.

Now would be a good opportunity to reread Aaron's article at http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2003/how-many-points-turn...

A turnover at the 10-yard line is indeed more important than one at the 35. The difference is about a quarter of a point in net expected value of the next score, about equal to an extra five yards on a kickoff return.

Win probabilities would swing more in a second-half interception. But that's just because there is less time left to recover from the mistake, not because the damage is more.

by Lyford :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:54am

Is there a better player in the NFL than Rob Gronkowski (when healthy)? I don't mean most valuable, necessarily, or most impactful, but is there anyone who is a more prototypical, better-in-all-aspects-of-his-job player than a healthy Gronk? There are TEs that are great blockers and TEs that are essentially big receivers, but is there anyone, at any position, that does all aspects of his job any better right now? JJ Watt, maybe? Calvin Johnson, maybe, when healthy?

It can't be a very long list...

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:58am

He's amazing at his position, but the value he provides that offense is off the charts. You could argue that he dictates the defenses on every snap. Do you play an LB on him and risk getting burned? Play a safety and lose some of your over the top coverage? Or do you sacrifice your best corner on him? It's clear that everything flows from him when he's totally healthy. Not only will he still burn you for huge plays, but the second you sacrifice extra coverage on him, Brady finds another open receiver. I just don't know that any team yet has found a recipe for slowing everyone down while he's in the game.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:39pm

The blocking is what really sets him apart. Graham and Thomas are arguably better receiving tight ends (maybe, barely), but neither is the blocker Gronk is. If you put anyone smaller than a LB on him, the Pats may well audible to a running play and run behind him as he pancakes the guy.

His only weakness is blocking for extra points. :-)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:08pm

You said the name of the guy who is... Watt.

I've never seen someone so ridiculously dominant at everything.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:19pm

Watt didn't seem very dominant at conditioning yesterday - he was sitting on the sidelines taking a breather for big chunks of the second half when Mark Sanchez was taking the game away from his team. Huffing and puffing in crunch time...

(Sorry, I know he's great and he certainly embarrassed the Eagles o-line at times yesterday, but ooooh is all his dancing and strutting is so fucking obnoxious, especially when they're getting beat up on defense by Mark Sanchez and only in the game because of series of dubious turnovers. The Texans almost had to call a timeout at one point because he was still dancing around when the Eagles were ready to snap the ball for another play.)

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:11pm

I sometimes say that Randy Moss was such a great athlete, he'd be an All-Star in any sport he pursued, including hockey if he'd grown up in a different part of the country.

I feel pretty much the same about JJ Watt. I have no doubt he could have been a gold glove third baseman with 40 Homer power or an immovable power forward (NHL version). He could probably bowl a 300 game with some practice. His athleticism and co-ordination are scary good.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:40pm

I tend to think that about most really "elite" athletes and how they would have the chance to be great at any number of sports, and then I try to imagine Peyton Manning playing hockey or boxing or really doing anything other than QB and decide my theory isn't that good after all.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:56pm

Well there are athletes with phenomenal physical gifts (Bo Jackson, Lawrence Taylor, Tony Gonzalez, JJ Watt), and those who have a good combination of physical and mental gifts, like Manning. I suspect he'd be fine at baseball, though he wouldn't have Brett Favre's fastball.

I would add LeBron James to the list.

Basketball and football require a lot of similar physical traits. Usually guys who are really good at one of the two are at least passably good at the other. Baseball has highly specialized skills that seem to pop up in people who otherwise don't seem terribly athletic. Hockey is a weird case. You have your physical enforcer types (JJ Watt would be great at this) but you also have your high skill guys. I don't think anybody would want to see Sidney Crosby try out for the NFL.

Actually, let me change that: I bet you'd find a lot of people who'd love to see Sidney Crosby try out for the NFL. Just nobody who would think it would go well. For Crosby, that is.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:05pm

The thing with Lebron is, it's not clear if his body could withstand the NFL. You get a lot of force applied at strange angles in the NFL, and the taller you are the more torque that points on your joints and extremities.

Also, NBA players are quite a bit slower than NFL players in a straight line. Allen Iverson reportedly ran a 4.6 40.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:24pm

Yeah, Iverson was all about amazing burst from a standstill for a distance of 6 to 12 feet. There's no reason to think he'd play like DeSean Jackson on the football field despite their similar body types and famous "speed."

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 6:30pm

Although 40 yards is an even more useless distance for BB than football. It was probably the farthest he ran in years

by Guido Merkens :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:27am

Well, Harold Carmichael was a borderline-HOF receiver at 6'8", and Levine Toilolo, the Falcons' current TE, is almost exactly LeBron-sized. Given that most current TEs are 6'4" or so, I'm guessing that the lack of taller receivers is more due to the relative scarcity of people that tall, and to how the rare outliers are pushed toward basketball, than to any structural reason why they can't play football.

by Jerry :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 9:13pm

I have no idea whether Sid has a strong arm, or how the skills involved in passing pucks into tight windows translate to passing footballs into tight windows, but his vision and accuracy would seem to be useful for a quarterback. (FWIW, I remember him hitting a batting practice home run into the seats at PNC Park as well.)

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:08pm

Wayne Gretzky is that guy for me. I guess I could imagine him playing soccer, or maybe a passable outfielder, but that's probably the limit.

I guess by now I've established myself as a puckhead, but in the Hockey News there was a pretty amusing quote along these lines in an article about Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, and his strength and athleticism, and it went something like:

"Some guys, like (Islander forward) John Tavares, they are outstanding hockey players, but you see them doing anything else, and they look clumsy. A guy like Stamkos wins at whatever he is doing."

by Sakic :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:51pm

They ran physical fitness tests on those Edmonton Oiler teams of the 80's and Gretzky finished dead last every single time. He wasn't the fastest skater or had the hardest shot and nobody could quantify how he was so much better than everbody else. He just played the game like he was 3 steps ahead of everyone.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:05pm

So he was Manning in hockey? Yeah, I can buy that.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:11pm

Hockey's not like marketing; it's more of a sport.


by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 6:33pm

Hand eye coordination meant great passing skills and pin-point shooting

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:47pm

JJ Watt as a bowler? Seems unfair when the pins would be too frightened to keep standing upright.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:10pm

"JJ Watt as a bowler?"

The Limey read this and immediately thought 'JJ Watt plays Cricket?'
I bet he'd be awesome at that as well

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:17pm

Aaron Rodgers makes the shortlist I guess.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:06pm

He's as impossible to defend as anyone in the game. I always roll my eyes when idiots make the Peyton/Weapons argument because Peyton has actually never had anyone who was quite as impossible to guard as either Gronk or Moss are/were at their peaks (of ability and health).

The final touchdown play and completion was obvious to everyone in the room last night because we saw him trotting out to the edge followed by an LB. Even if it had been well defended, he'd still have caught it.

When you have a player like that healthy, acceptable line play, and a good QB, you can beat pretty much any defense if you're patient and careful (ie, good QB). Heck, if you're a bad QB having a lucky day you can still beat pretty much any defense with a player like that.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:28pm

You don't think there is a viable argument that Peyton has had a better/deeper receiving group that Brady for most of their years in league? Seriously? This year? Last year? 2006? All the years Manning had with Harrison and Wayne? Having the best receiver on the field is not the same (and may not be as desirable as) having a deeper group of weapons.

I've said here before I don't think there is a statistically based argument that Brady has had a better career than Manning, but if there is one, it would likely involve finding a way to weigh QB performance by quality of receiver (and O-line).

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 7:50pm

That's not what I said though. Of course there's a viable argument. But people that cling to examples like 2006 forget that he also had peak Welker and two unearthly talents, and often forget that Manning has had his share of Mooreheads and Blair Whites and Ben Utechts too. Of course depth matters. It's just that the Skip Bayless "first rounder" argument is pretty easy to disprove.

For what it's worth I think a lot of people that have become known as studs were benefitting in large part from having Manning throwing to them and more importantly drill sergeant-ing them year-round. That said, Brady has had similar effects on people in his later years, so that can be called a wash.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 10:03pm

Not just his later years - he did pretty well throwing to the "Smurfs" during the SB-wins era. How many reasonably productive (and still young) Pats WR disappeared after leaving NE during the first 5-6 yr of the century? How many remained productive or got better?
Still may be a wash, however.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:36pm

Great numbers by Ben, but I thought he was very unimpressive through three quarters and change, before I stopped watching. It did seem like every of his few successful completions went for TDs, so there's that. They weren't even hard throws, though.

Who, me?

by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:55pm

Maybe the great numbers were a case of "making it look easy"? Why knock the guy for finding the easy throws? Or are you saying it was more a case of the Ravens not covering well?

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:03pm

Yes, on those particular plays the coverage was pretty bad but you still have to find them and make them, so that's ok. My main point is he didn't complete a lot of successful passes the rest of the time. I'm curious to what his DYAR will look like.

Who, me?

by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:42pm

I guess it was a little boom-or-bust... some 5-10 yard screens and hitches mixed with 40 yard TDs... looking at the play-by-play for Roethlisberger there are :

12 incompletes
13 completions < 10 yards
9 completions >= 10 yards and < 20
3 completions for 33, 47, and 54 yards

by Grimmbles :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:21pm

He hit 67.6% of his passes, what more do you want? He can't be 80%+ every week.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:32pm

Like I said, I'm talking about successful completions, not just completions. And the sacks count, too. DYAR will settle the point.

Who, me?

by Grimmbles :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 7:07pm

Good point. I was too far in to my cups by the second half to truly judge how many of those completions were really good.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:01pm

The Denver-New England game in some ways reminded me of the San Diego game last year in that they were awful on 3rd downs and special teams.

Denver's defense couldn't get off the field and was absolutely out coached. How could Denver allow a situation where Von Miller is outside covering Gronk one on one at the goal line? Obviously a poor scheme and use of personnel by Del Rio. Whatever coverages they were using weren't effective and it looked like the DBs were arguing with each other after big conversions. New England was able to thwart Denvers running game and short passing game, and Manning was off on many of his throws all day, especially on 3rd/4th downs, and the 2nd quarter pick was awful.

The bobbled snap on the punt, caused the coverage to overrun the returner. The missed 41 yard FG was really a 6 point miss because it led to Denver going for it instead of kicking it on the next drive. Penalties on kicks completely flipped field position.

Overall, Denver wasnt prepared (completely outcoached) and like last year, looked like a team that can only win when Peyton plays well. Their defense (which has been good) and their running game (which is too dependent on Peyton's success) didn't show up.

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:19pm

There does seem to be something about NE against a Jack Del Rio-led Denver defense. You've got picks/rubs, guys in the flat, tons of zigs, and Gronk down the middle. That and some running between the tackles seems to me to be the essence of the NE offense. Denver looked prepared to stop absolutely none of that but the running.

I lost count of how many times I saw a defender crashing a short route only for the receiver to pivot and get wide open. How do you bite on so many small-time double moves?

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:25pm

I think that analysis is fair. Manning didn't play well, and not to slight the Pats, but Denver's defense just looked completely incapable of stopping them. The whole stadium knew that pass was going to Gronk.

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:29pm

That's where you take a page out of the Belichick defensive playbook and give Gronk the Tony Gonzalez treatment--double him at the line and make them look elsewhere.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:27pm

This was a typical Peyton wind game, much like the Super Bowl last year or the last two meetings in Foxboro, where his style of play is less effective. Sometimes he wins these games anyway, but not every time and not tonight. I'll remind everyone that a Peyton "off night" against a good team on the road was good for 430 yards of pass offense; I say none of this to take away from Manning, who I continue to believe is the best quarterback in the NFL and not close.

But he's always had more trouble with wind than his non-Drew Brees fellows, in part because he doesn't rotate the ball as much as others and in part because his offense has always required a lot of accuracy.

Has anyone noticed that the Denver ground game has utterly disappeared this year? Hillman has had a few moments but outside of a late CJ Anderson sighting with the game out of hand, running plays were just wasted downs.

On offense, New England was just very good. Brady's day was a lot like Peyton's, only a bit more focused on the short stuff and with one less pick.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:00pm

Yes, Denver's running game is nonexistent and They really miss Knowshown, even if most of his yards came against small boxes.

IMO, their scheme doesn't allow for a successful running game because too much of it is out of the shotgun. Running out of the shot gun limits the areas where you can run because the formation dictates where you run, it takes away quick runs(esp in middle) and backs get the ball without forward momentum.

It seems like the only teams that can consistently run out of the shotgun are teams that have a dual threat QB that forces the backside to stay home. The closest exception I can think of is 2013 Eagles, but they had the best OL in league, a unique offense and Foles moved around more than people thought, (obviously more than Peyton).

Brady was much better on 3rd down against similar down/distance circumstances.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 9:37pm

I wouldn't say the Broncos' run game is nonexistent. Hilliman got over a hundred yards rushing against the Jets, who have a better run defense than the Patriots for the last two years. In fact, the Pats only got about 60 yards rushing against the Jets 4 days after that Broncos game. I might add that the Jets got over 200 yards rushing on New England, and their quarterback usually lines up in the pistol or shotgun. Granted both Geno and Vick are threats to run (I won't say they're dual threats, because I don't know how scared anyone is of their passing at the moment), but the Broncos have been able to run well against several teams this year. I didn't get to watch the game (CBS showed the Raiders-Seahawks game in the Portland area), but did the Pats stack the box? That would make sense with Revis and Browner.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 10:54pm

On the contrary, I believe they played with a seven man box on one snap, and six or fewer on the rest.

Wilfork just collapsed the interior on the first few attempts, allowing Collins and Hightower to stuff Hillman at the LOS, and the Broncos just gave up on establishing the run.

by duh :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:18pm

Yes, Wilfork looked like a markedly different player Sunday as compared to the Jets game. Given that he is old, large, and coming off a serious injury last year I wonder the short rest before the Jets game hurt.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 11:44pm

Well, that and Mangold, who usually plays Wilfork to a draw or better.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 1:37pm

Mangold is also having a better year, so yeah, perhaps that's it. I remember in 2012, PFF insulted Wilfork, claiming he was having a terrible year, and then the Buttfumble game happened. Perhaps he was taking it easy in the first half, and now everyone else in the AFC is screwed.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:38pm

Not to go all IB-MT here, but I don't buy that this was a "wind game." I don't buy that Peyton was bad or off, and I don't buy that Belichick is "in his head." I don't think I'm being a homer, either. To be honest I thought he and Sanders were the lone bright spots and the weather and Belichick might've been in everyone else's heads.

Like everyone else, I expected the wind to play a significant factor for both QBs, but especially Peyton. His (their) strength is his (their) mind(s) and with age comes the weakening of the arm. Throwing ducks into wind seemed like a recipe for disaster... but I saw two guys that were perfectly willing to throw deep and I didn't see a ton of ducks. Rooting for Denver, in the first half I was scared nearly every time the ball left Peyton's hand because I figured the duck would hit a wall of wind or sail... but while he threw behind more guys (on horizontal routes) than I'm used to seeing and threw into tighter coverage than I ever expected from that D, his north-south accuracy wasn't really bad at all. Neither was Brady's, really. Sure he missed a touch long on the deep one to Lafell that would've been huge, but I thought Brady's accuracy issues came more on several shorter sideways balls he overthrew.

Ninkovich made a great play on that interception... not because it was so spectacularly deceptive (as Reiss pointed out, they were doing that all game) but because he managed to step up and get the tiniest of rubs on Sanders on the crosser first before dropping back. Seen from the end zone perspective it really looked to me like the deeper route was going to be well behind Nink, so I get why Peyton threw it. Especially if he saw that first step forward. I would've been surprised by the pick too, even if I knew the coverage... The TV view sure made it seem like a much worse decision to throw it. The return on both picks (and subsequent plays) really made them into crushing blows... two plays, 14 points.

Anyway, the second half really stood out to me when compared to my expectations. I thought Peyton's arm was astonishingly good in both directions, with the "weakness" in his game coming from the mind. Namely in throwing several times to a very tightly covered one-armed Jacob Tamme. (It sure seemed in real time like his arm was being hooked twice, but on slow mo it looked more legit.) His placement was good, but Tamme isn't Thomas or Gronk and isn't going to make circus catches. The deeper throws he made in that half were really on the money. The one he threw to his right was a perfect over the shoulder into coverage throw and it wasn't unique in the second half.

So I was surprised. I thought there'd be more errant passes. Unless I'm mis-remembering, there weren't.

Ordinary bad bounces/luck and special teams aside, the big difference I saw between the teams was the quality of the coverage. It seemed like the Pats receivers were always finding large and comfortable holes, open on nearly every play, while the Denver guys were being blanketed. Even by Chung of all people. (And again, asking a noodle armed guy in gusting wind to hit tighter windows greatly lowered my expectations.) The Pats DBs played really, really well. As did their OL, for the most part; they've really come along. It reminded me of the past years under Dante - lots of plays were Brady gets to stand there comfortably and really step in to throw a bullet (although Ware and Miller each cleanly destroyed their man a few times - I don't want to make it sound like I'm saying he had a super clean pocket all game, as he didn't). I've been unimpressed by Denver's OL all year but even with subpar play Manning tends to stay pretty clean. That 4th down sack was a pretty catastrophic assignment failure. You have to figure they'll clean that up though.

It's hard for me to explain why Denver managed to move the ball so well but fail so miserably on 3rd and 4th down all game long (aside from the obvious - harder to convert third and long when there's no run game on 1 and 2). But I think if you take away the punt return the difference in 3rd down success was the real difference in the game. One play that stands out is that 3-11 the Pats faced. Getting the ball back would've kept hope alive, but by that point I had absolutely no confidence that they'd cover everybody (similar to the worst of times during the boring Cover-2 Colts years. Or now, I guess, when the pass rush isn't working), and sure enough, wide open uncontested completion.

Anyway, getting back to the Manning homer stuff, I guess I thought he played pretty well. He exceeded my expectations and I'm not even one that buys into the narrative about him, BB, Brady, and Gillette. 7.7 YPA in a situation where everything aligned against him is nothing to sneeze at. The Pats played very well across the board. No shame in being beaten by that. If it takes a surprisingly strong effort from the opposing D to hold you to 430 yards on a windy day when everyone plays poorly, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism about a rematch.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:46pm

To me, where that rematch is located is the most important factor.

Losing to the Pats didn't stop the Broncos from getting the #1 seed either of the last two years. The Patriots definitely have a tougher schedule coming up (a tough four games off of the bye), through the rest of the year. They're also playing really well, but it is hard to see them going 4-0 in that four game stretch.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 6:01pm

I agree analysts overreacting by saying Pats have inside track for HFA -- Denver could easily get it.

Wonder if HFA will be the key if they meet again. Interesting tidbit in Tanier article today: in the previous TB-PM outdoor matchups, PM has not won when temperature lower than 56 degrees. Small sample but that surprised me.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 6:33pm

P-F-R lists the kickoff temp for the '06 regular season game at 40 degrees.

In each of the last two years, the Pats had HFA in their sights but lost due to a late season loss (SF in '12 - at the time that seemed to cost the Pats a bye before the Texans meltdown). Last year it was the same week of SD's upset in Denver, when the Pats lost to Miami.

I'm not saying that will happen. Heck, I thought this team would be fortunate to go 3-3 when this six game stretch (starting with vs.CHI) started. Now they've already gone 2-0. Of course, the seventh game (vs.MIA) now seems a lot tougher than that vs.CHI game, but they still haven't lost in a while.

It will be interesting to see them after the bye. The Colts/Packers/Chargers are not great on defense, but generally play better at home. The Pats only road win in this stretch was against the Bills. I still would be surprised if they escape the next four games better than 2-2, but they've done better than my expectations myriad times before.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:34pm

I actually agree with most of this. Even in the wind, Peyton is very good and difficult to beat. The Broncos scored 21 and it easily could have been 35. I was just pointing out that compared to his normal standard, he often doesn't play as well in the wind. He's still better than anyone but Brady or maybe Rodgers on a windy day. But on a calm day he's better than anyone.

Anyway, that's why Denver didn't put up 50 points and win the game DESPITE the fact that the defense and special teams wet the bed. If this game is in a dome, it looks a lot like the Jerryworld shootout game last year. A couple of more completions early would have made a very different game.

Also, in the 4th quarter the referees were lying dead on the sidelines having choked on the whistles they swallowed. The New England DBs in particular were manhandling receivers.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:15pm

I give Carson Palmer a lot of credit for toughing out some bad times to be with a good team again. He's not playing great but he's helping the cause and that matters.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:32pm

Carson Palmer is the most underrated quarterback of the last ten years, and every year the competition gets weaker as more of Chad Pennington's career leaves that window.

His accuracy is merely good for an NFL starter; in the area of Roethlisberger or Eli Manning rather than Brees or Rodgers. But the only reason he doesn't have two rings like Eli and Ben is that he played out his prime for a series of dysfunctional organizations; his other skills are as good as anyone in the league.

by Grimmbles :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:26pm

Roethlisberger's completion% is a lot closer to to Rodgers/Brees than it is to Eli. Hell it's higher than Brady's...

by jeffd :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:20pm

Regarding Seattle: I'm not a canny enough football watcher to determine this for myself: how much of Wilson's poor play recently is due to him constantly running for his life? I think I can count on one hand this week the number of times his pocket held up long enough for him to go through his progression; for the most part he's having to dodge tackles and scramble on every drop back.

by Ryan :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:34pm

Some contend Wilson leaves the pocket too early and of his own volition when his first or maybe second read is missing. I haven't watched enough either to determine this. But he does itch to run.

by coltrane23 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:46pm

From what I've seen watching this year, there are three basic types of Russell Wilson non-bubble-screen pass plays: 1) quick-hit timing plays where he's throwing to where a receiver ought to be with great timing; 2) pass plays where he rolls out (typically to his left) to get a clear view of the field before releasing the ball; 3) jailbreak-style breakdowns in protection that force him to scramble and hopefully take advantage of breakdowns in coverage. I didn't see the game yesterday, but I've seen all of his previous games this year, and that's the general pattern I've observed.

I'll start with the bubble screens: get rid of them. Please. He's been good with timing routes, but they involve a lot of slants, outs, etc. to work outside or along the numbers, presumably because of his height. I think a lot of plays where it looks like he's bailing too early are due to him trying to get a clearer view of the field and/or buy time for his receivers to get some separation. There haven't been many clean pockets this year, but I've seen him leave clean pockets semi-regularly. He's probably also looking for man coverage on these types of plays so that he can run if there's no one around and receivers have cleared out an area for him with their patterns. Finally, I suspect he's simply more comfortable throwing on the run. The jailbreak scenarios seem to result in the biggest pass plays, since he's excellent at escaping the rush and finding the open man downfield under duress.

by jacobk :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:15pm

Wilson didn't play well this week, but I don't think he played quite as poorly as his numbers indicate. Kearse had a drop, Willson had a million drops (estimated), and several big pass plays were called back for completely pointless penalties--two or three on ineligible men downfield, and one on a hold roughly 15 yards downfield. There was also the big DPI that set up the first touchdown which doesn't show up on the stat sheet.

I'm going to hold off on worrying over Seahawks style points stuff until they've recovered from the current tsunami of injuries (or until it becomes clear that no recovery will happen).

by Ten Drink Drunk :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:47pm

I agree with you on the drops and am anxious to see the Seahawks get healthy on both sides of the ball.

Wilson may be leaving the pocket too early in some cases, but clean pockets are not common. What frustrates me is the lack of decisiveness when he leaves the pocket. There have been numerous instances where he leaves the pocket, has room to run, but hesitates crossing the LOS, looking to make a throw. The result is usually a bad throw, a short throw or a scramble for just a few yards when he could have had 10.

I wonder if they are trying to get Wilson to go through all his progressions before tucking and running and maybe he's doubting his instincts? That said, he had some bad throws yesterday. Maybe he's just in a slump.

Finally, those bubble screens... I think Tanier had a 'burn this play' in his old walk through column. Please, burn it. That play was successful like one out of five times for five yards. It seems like a play with a low success rate for the NFL at large and even lower for the Seahawks. (Would be curious to see some numbers on this.) We see it coming, the defense sees it coming. Please stop.

by jacobk :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:55pm

He's always been a run to throw kind of guy. I think in part it's looking for the big play down field and in part it's trying to manage the number of hits he takes. There's a pretty noticeable difference in the 4th quarter and OT when the team needs a score.

I agree on the bubble screen. Either go the Philadelphia route and run it out of a bunch of different looks or dial it back to be a true constraint play. They're treating it like it's a core part of the offense that will work even when the defense is anticipating it, which is sort of crazy. They did have a nice play yesterday where Wilson faked the screen and went deep, but that's really not enough payoff for all of the failed screens they've run.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:20pm

A lot of backup qbs have come in for the starter and presented the appearance of competence. Then the same guy is asked to start for a few games, the league checks previous film and fans are shocked, SHOCKED, to discover the guy ain't all that and a bag of chips

Maybe Sanchez in a new setting and different coaching has improved his game. But I will hold judgement until I see some more live game performance before declaring him a new/better player.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 4:24am

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect Sanchez will play better than he did with the Jets. Mainly because he's anywhere besides with the Jets.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:22pm

On the Washington fourth down couldn't RGIII have run for the first down? It looked like the corner was there versus making an against teh body throw to a guy on the run.

I was watching over someone's shoulder on a plane so if I missed the defender(s) in the area my apologies

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:28pm

It initially looked that way live, but looking at the replay I don't think he'd have made it. He made the right decision, he just didn't get anything on the throw.

He shouldn't even have been there, though. He certainly played well enough to win.

by mrh :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:27pm

I guess I would say he played well enough to lose, but I guess I'm a hater.

I thought that his mistake on the 4th down play was coming out of a good throwing position (shoulders pointed downfield) as he slid to his left away from some pressure so that when he released the ball his shoulders were parallel to the LOS. This made his throw to Garcon terribly inaccurate.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:40pm

This is why young qbs should all go through the semi-legendary off season work that Favre reportedly was put through by the ridiculously good coaching staff Holmgren hired, when Holmgren arrived in Green Bay. Drill, drill, and still more drill, with thousands and thousands of passes in March, April, and May is how you make mechanically sound throws under adversity in November. Sure, Favre backtracked some later in his career, when he wasn't being coached hard, but it was the offseason work when he was traded to Green Bay that was the foundation for three MVP awards.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:44pm

Would it be legal under the current collective bargaining agreement for a team to demand that many workouts from a player in the offseason? Esp. if we're talking about workouts supervised by a coaching staff?

My understanding is that a lot of coaches don't like the newer off-season restrictions. It's harder to do enough coaching before the season starts these days.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:50pm

While total hours are limited, the main limitations seem to be on contact workouts. If you're just asking the QB to throw over and over, that shouldn't a problem.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:39pm

Also, are there hard limitations on the number of hours coaches can work with players, or just limitations on the number of hours they can *demand* from players in the offseason?

If it's the latter, and we're talking about a potential franchise QB working with a very good coach who might be able to help him elevate his mechanics to the next level, then "mandatory" shouldn't even matter. The QB should have the desire to work hard in the offseason to improve.

by CaffeineMan :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 1:21am

I think there are limits on the amount of contact that coaches can have with players. That's what give rise to the (non) story about a player and coach getting together with Nick Saban in Alabama. I also think that's what has given rise to the number of players working with independent coaches. Players can do work out all they want, they just can't do it under the direction of the team's coaches.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 3:13am

I think the players like, and demanded, the restrictions for exactly the reasons coaches don't like them. The players didn't feel like they were getting enough downtime, and management frowned on players missing "voluntary" sessions. So, while significant numbers of players work out on their own or in groups, there's free time available to the guys who feel like they're burning out.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:46pm

Agreed. Almost all things that look improvised on the field have been to some degree simulated elsewhere.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:00pm

Think about how qb play would improve throughout the league, if every staff had a young Holmgren, Reid, Gruden, and Mariucci.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:07pm

Yeah, all you need is 4 future coaches who will all reach the Superbowl. Why doesn't every team do it?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:14pm

There's reason why the '96 Packers was one of the greatest teams ever, and it wasn't just player talent. An interesting question is how much staff hiring performance by a head coach is skill and how much is random. I'm pretty sure head coach hiring has a huge random element.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:33pm

I think there is a definite skill in hiring assistants. Walsh, Parcells, and Schottenheimer all showed continuing ability to find quality assistants.

Even a lesser coach like Lovie Smith went through 3 defensive coordinators, and replaced the one weak one (Babich [this did take 3 years though]).

I have no idea how to evaluate if a coach knows how to evaluate assistants though.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:14pm

I don't see the difference between them and Rex Ryan, Marty Mornhinweg, Anthony Lynn, and David Lee.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 4:29pm

Seeing "Favre" and "mechanically sound throws" in the same sentence is amusing. That guy was the All-Time king of getting away with bad mechanics and dubious decisions based purely on athletic ability. No QB was more likely to roll out of the pocket, skid to a stop at the los and attempt an across the field throw from his back foot. I have heard a lot of (very deserved) praise for Favre but never for his mechanics or consistency...

by dank067 :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:31pm

There are tons of 90's Packers highlights on youtube, check out some stuff from his MVP years. He was always great at improvising and throwing on the run, but look at his throws from the pocket in particular. While his mechanics aren't always correct (his feet are always in weird spots), you can see based on his rhythm as he drops back and scans the field that he had the timing of that offense down so, so perfectly that he could still be incredibly precise. That obviously comes with a lot of practice and attention to detail.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 5:52pm

If you don't see a big difference in consistent mechanics under Holmgren, compared to Rhodes and Sherman, you aren't paying attention.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 7:35pm

I thought his decision making was very different but his mechanics were always quite similar. That three quarter arm release with many throws of his back foot, he just worked much more within the system under Holmgren.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 9:49pm

I think playing within the system led to significantly fewer throws with a terrible delivery, although, to be sure, the unearthly arm talent of Brett Favre especially prior to his thumb injury, always meant that a Favre thrown ball with a terrible delivery, had a hugely better chance of success than a ball thrown with a terrible delivery from any other qb.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 1:52am

What I see and he's notorious for, is an incredible inconsistency with his mechanics and a willingness to throw without his feet set, on the run, across his body, underhand, sidearm and all manner of ways. He could throw from the pocket with great form and of course often did. But mentioning Favre as guy to study to learn mechanics and consistency from is downright bizarre. It would be like saying "You should study Peyton Manning to learn how to scramble." Now, I'm sure Manning has a really high success rate with his scrambles because he's smart and selective, but it would still be a deeply weird thing to say.

If you referenced Montana or Marino or even Bledsoe or Chad Pennington, those guys were regular as clockwork - in Pennington's case, he made up for a lack of physical tools with amazing form and was by all accounts a practice workhorse on the order of Manning. But Favre's whole thing was the wild improvisation and crazy back-footed throws. It was indeed worse as he got older and no one had the authority to reign him in (and the tales of his autonomy in the GB locker-room are downright hilarious.) Yeah later he made more and more crazy throws. But he was never, ever a paragon of form, mechanics and consistency. It's just like, something I never in my life expected to hear suggested.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 9:24am

Of course, I didn't say he was a "paragon of mechanics". That was something you invented in your head, to have something to argue about. I said that when he arrived in Green Bay, he had an exceptional coaching staff, which drilled with him exceptionally hard in the off season, so as to make his function during the season consistent, and that such consistency resulted in 3 MVP awards. I then said that when he wasn't coached as hard, he backtracked. This happens to have the virtue of being true. It is funny that you mentioned Manning and scrambling, as a means of pointless argument, because it also happens to be true that Manning worked exceptionally hard later in his career to become more effective moving out of the pocket and throwing, so, yes, as a matter of fact, comparing later Manning to early Manning in this regard would be useful as means of grasping the mechanics of throwing on the run.

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 3:42pm

So when he was on his own, training-wise, was Favre Cutler-Lazy?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 3:57pm

Yeah, I'd agree with the proposition that in the absence of hard coaching, Favre had a tendency to get lazy, albeit lazy with more throwing talent than Cutler, which meant that Favre had more throwing talent than just abut anybody has ever had. Even a guy who had real limitations as a coach, like The Chiller, could get more out Favre simply by being willing to get pretty confrontational with him. One thing about The Chiller; nobody could ever accuse him of being reluctant to pick a fight. If you didn't get on the jeans model pretty regularly, that's when the really stupid stuff would appear with more consistency.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 5:54pm

I always considered SuperBowl 32 as the turning point in Favre's career. Perhaps this is where the hard coaching discussed above wore off and the hubris wore in. After that game he never seemed the same, at least not for a full season/post-season. That game is where he began to devolve from a perennial MVP to a Gunslinger who takes too many chances, as he always seemed to make the worst decisions at the most inopportune times.

by Nathan :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:20pm

Granted, I don't really remember the game that ended Favre's 2009 season (I do recall there were a number of picks), but I remember it being pretty impressive. I'm guessing that's what you mean by inopportune times.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:47pm

Let it be noted again that Favre outplayed Brees by a large margin on that day.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:54pm

A real good decision maker would have snuck some stick'em onto the Viking defenders' gloves.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:20pm

Or Adrian Peterson's, or Bernard Berrian's, or Percy Harvin's (or was it Sidney Rice, who fumbled on the end around backed up in Saints territory).

How a team can go on the road and outgain an opponent 475-257 (and that was more lop-sided through 60 minutes, given only the Saints touched the ball in OT), and something like ~220-40 in the 2nd half, can lose is beyond me?

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:28pm

"How a team can go on the road and outgain an opponent 475-257 (and that was more lop-sided through 60 minutes, given only the Saints touched the ball in OT), and something like ~220-40 in the 2nd half, can lose is beyond me?"

Lazy off-season coaching I think is argument being made.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:35pm

I don't buy that, though. That team was safe with the ball all season long. They dominated on both sides of the ball in terms of what they wanted to do. It was a great performance, except for all the fumbles (granted, that was a problem in Peterson's early career). I believe there was a long thread on the Audibles following that game on Childress coaching and the fumbling.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:42pm

Oh, I think the argument is absurd. But I also know some folks think Childress was one of the few guys who would "confront" Favre, so who knows what people will say. I think it was just a spectacularly unlucky day for them with a lot of bad bounces going against them and all at seemingly the worst possible moments.

They were also playing a very, very good team, so they were going to capitalize on mistakes - it was extremely unlikely they would get bailed out by the Saints defeating themselves either.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/05/2014 - 1:58am

Will you stop lying, please? It was not stated that Childress was one of the "few guys" that would confront Childress. It was stated that Childress was more willing to be confrontational with Favre than Sherman and Rhodes, and that Favre's performance with Childress in '09, at a much more advanced age, superior to that which took place under Sherman and Rhodes. Again, this has the distinct virtue of being accurate. Why you are compelled to be dishonest with regard to what others have written is puzzling.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:26pm

So let me get your argument straight here: some players are better when they are worked harder in the offseason and don't have the autonomy to blow off coaches' advice, ignore critiques of form/mechanics or worry about the repercussions of risky play? I just want to make sure I understand all of the nuances.

Yes, it's probably better if some players can't get away with doing whatever the hell they want on the football field. But using Favre of this example seems EVEN STRANGER because he was still excellent despite your ideas about his Culter-esque laziness/sloppiness. He was so good that he was able to get away with such sloppiness for at least a decade and was in serious consideration for the MVP a couple times within that era (and you could argue that he won 3 MVP's to begin with because he didn't have competition like Brady, Brees and Manning playing in the inflated pass-numbers era.)

If he backtracked, he's Exhibit A if you wanted make the argument "Why Backtracking is Fine and Listening to Your Coaches Doesn't Matter."

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/05/2014 - 2:40am

If someone wished to examine Favre's DYAR rankings under Holmgren's last 5 years, then look at his DYAR rankings under Rhodes and Sherman, then look at his DYAR ranking under McCarthy (another guy who didn't defer as much to the superstar qb), and his DYAR ranking under Childress, this is what we see.

'94-98 4,3,2,3,9 (Holmgren)
'99-'05 9,9,5,14,10,5,10 (Rhodes and Sherman)
'06-07 15,3 (McCarthy)
'09 5 (Childress)

The last two years listed, of course, took place when Favre had the respective ages of 38 and 40. He was injured in '08. If you wish to claim that these differences were solely due to different personnel around him, or that it was random, without influence by coaching, or that bactracking doesn't matter, well, golly, you just go ahead and do that.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:28pm

I forgot to include another tale of niner-related woe. After congratulating themselves for being oh so clever by 'stealing' à bunch of players who fell in the draft due to injury, it now looks like drafting a bunch of injured players isn't such a wonderful plan.

Tank Carradine can't get on the active roster and Marcus Lattimore is, sadly, close to hanging up his cleats. It's a bit of a case of overthinking things when you end up targeting the guys who've blown out their ACLs.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:33pm

Ted Thompson had to learn that the hard way as well.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:21pm

The Bears did that with Jerry Angelo. Try to get 2nd round talents in the 4th/5th round due to injury concerns. I still think it's a valid risk to take because in those rounds everyone as some risk or another.

It's another thing when you draft a 1st rounder with an injury risk of course (Chris Williams).

by RickD :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:39pm

Belichick does that regularly. Gronkowski has been his greatest success with this approach, even if we note that Gronk has missed a lot of time and playoff games because of injuries. And, as you say about Chris Williams, Gronk is a 1st-round talent who dropped to the 2nd round.

Of course, Aaron Hernandez also dropped in the draft, because of "character concerns", and those turned out to be well-founded.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:53pm

A few gambles here and there make sense, but SF used too many of their early picks on "NFL Redshirts".

I think SFs approach was greatly influenced by the Adrian Peterson effect, that threw off reasonable ACL recovery expectations.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:08pm

I don't think it's his ACL that's keeping Tank off the field. He looked great in preseason. Apparently it's his comparative ignorance about the defensive scheme that's keeping him off.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:21pm

That's what I'm hearing too but how much of that is his inability to practice all of his rookie offseason and much of this year's? That could be a very important factor that the niners failed to properly account for.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:15pm

I guess finding talent in the draft becomes a lot tougher when you are constantly picking at the very end of the cycle. I recall they've also accumulated a lot of mid/late round picks through trades? Under those circumstances it probably makes sense to gamble on players with risk attached.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 1:33pm

"no Unger, no Schilling (Unger's backup)"

No, Unger's backup is Lem Jeanpierre (sp?) who is on IR. Schilling is 3rd string. The current Seahawks starting center is a guy they signed off the street a week and a half ago!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:05pm

Regarding Cleveland-Tampa, yes, the OPI call on Mike Evans on 4th and 1 was ticky-tack B.S. and never should have been called; there was just lots of hand-fighting, and nothing that doesn't happen all the time. Pretty ridiculous that it be called in that situation. That being said, Tampa would have found another way to blow that game anyways, so it didn't really bother me.

Possibly the only good news of the season for Tampa is Mike Evans appears to be a stud; yes, yesterday was his "breakout" game, but he's looked more impressive every week. The thing that's most notable about him is he looks like a "real" WR in that he's running crisp routes, catching the ball well, blocking, and doing everything right. He had 12-+ yards and two TDs yesterday, and Glennon missed him on two deep throws that would have been TDs.

Speaking of which, I wanted to see Mike Glennon as a starter, because I wanted to see if he had the capacity to be an NFL starter. I believe that question has been answered now. He appears to have regressed in recent weeks, and any improved accuracy has vanished.

Let us all pray for the sake of (A) Tampa fans and (B) the humor of the universe that the Jets draft Jameis Winston.

by jimkimber :: Mon, 11/03/2014 - 3:57pm

Anyone else have the 49ers as the final leg in a weekend accumulator that would have yielded £400 profit? Probably a good thing that my 'audibles' remained inaudible to all but my own ears. Shouting at the TV is reasonably cathartic but is sadly all too familiar.