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» 2017 Offensive Personnel Analysis

It's a three-receiver league, but for the first time since 2010, the frequency of 11 personnel actually went down last year. Was it a blip, or sign of things to come?

16 Nov 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 10

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.

Detroit Lions 18 at Green Bay Packers 16

Aaron Schatz: There's going to be a lot of talk about Aaron Rodgers' struggles in this game but the Packers' defense has also really faded the last couple of weeks. It's not just about injured cornerbacks, and Sam Shields is back today. But the pass rush is having trouble getting to Matthew Stafford and there have been tackling issues.

... and, of course, as soon as I write that, the secondary makes a play as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix jumps a pass intended for Lance Moore up the middle for a pick in the red zone.

Scott Kacsmar: I was wondering why you were questioning the defense in a 9-3 game, but sometimes I don't get these emails until way later than the actual sent time. I haven't seen much of this game, but I'm shocked the Packers are struggling this much at home with a very bad Detroit defense. I know Green Bay has had issues on offense since the Chiefs game ended, but the last two weeks were easy to chalk up to the quality of the opponent and playing on the road. This is going to be hard to explain, but since it's still Detroit, I almost expect the Packers to come back and win at the end.

Aaron Schatz: Remember what Tom Brady looked like in the first four games of 2014? That's what Aaron Rodgers looks like today. He's playing fast, like he doesn't trust his offensive line at all. There are a lot of throws where he isn't setting his feet, or he's throwing sidearm. The receivers don't seem to ever be where he thinks they're going to be. He throws ahead of guys, or behind them. And I don't know where this has come from. You can't specifically blame it on the loss of Jordy Nelson, because the offense was fine the first few games and Jordy Nelson wasn't playing in those games.

Rob Weintraub: This Packers and game has last night's Oregon-Stanford game written all over it. Looking forward to Green Bay scoring, then missing the two-point conversion.

I believe I called this Packers result -- right up until the onside kick part.

And the Pack run out of miracles.

Vince Verhei: I don't think you can discount Jordy Nelson's injury in what's going on in Green Bay. I think it took NFL defenses a month to figure it out, but it's clear now that Randall Cobb is not a No. 1 receiver. His numbers are down significantly in a bigger role given Nelson's absence -- he led all WRs in DVOA last year, and he's never been below 20% in that category. This year his DVOA is negative, and he ranks in the 40s.

Scott Kacsmar: Cobb has some of the Peerless Price Effect going on. They also don't have a very good running game this season with Eddie Lacy struggling. We also put too much hype on Davante Adams, who basically had two huge games last season (New England and Dallas). He's still more cut out for a No. 3 receiver role, though he had like 20 targets today, including the failed two-point conversion that would have forced overtime. I also don't think much of Richard Rodgers, so it's definitely an offense that misses Nelson, but could also use an upgrade at tight end in the offseason. Of course the Packers like to grow their own players and rarely dabble in free agency, so it would have to be a high draft pick.

Aaron Schatz: I guess I'm just surprised that it took opponents five or six games to adjust their defenses to account for the loss of Nelson, if that's indeed what's going on. Maybe that's just a case of bad pass defenses -- Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco -- but Detroit was a pretty bad pass defense most of this season, until today, and they had just lost one of their starting cornerbacks (Rashean Mathis) to injured reserve. Didn't most of us already know that Cobb was a slot receiver, not a true No. 1? Rodgers isn't that great but it isn't like he's worse than the other tight ends Green Bay has had since Jermichael Finley's career ended.

Maybe one difference is other teams putting more attention on James Jones. Jones was the big surprise of those first couple Packers wins, and he had no catches today.

Carolina Panthers 27 at Tennessee Titans 10

Cian Fahey: Dexter McCluster has been the focal point of the Titans' running game during the first quarter. He initially botched a handoff with Marcus Mariota on the first drive before absorbing a huge hit from Shaq Thompson to lose yardage on a pitch outside. Mike Mularkey's commitment (kinda) paid off when the running back made a defender miss on his long touchdown run. That touchdown run came when he went untouched into the second level because of great blocking upfront.

Cam Newton opened this game setting a personal high for consecutive completions with 11. That's a significant achievement considering his receivers aren't exactly reliable, but it should also be noted how awful the Titans defense has been. With both starting cornerbacks sidelined, they haven't had much chance.

Aaron Schatz: When I went online last night to update the premium picks, I noticed the line in this game had moved from Carolina -6 to Carolina -4. Who the hell was putting a bunch of money on Tennessee yesterday? Was it that couple from the awful Nissan commercial? Seemed so strange, especially given the injuries in Tennessee (not just defenders, but also Kendall Wright).

Tom Gower: Cian has already noted Carolina's offensive success against the Titans today. They went down the field without many issues for touchdowns on their first two possessions, as Cam was sharp, Greg Olsen played a big role early, and the Titans did little. One semi-interesting moment: the Panthers' one third down, they gained 1 yard on third-and-2. Expecting Ron Rivera to go for it in field goal territory, Mike Mularkey accepted an illegal formation penalty to make it third-and-7, which the Panthers converted.

Mariota has been pretty sharp, finding holes in the middle of the field. The Titans seemed to pick a bit on Charles Tillman early. Delanie Walker, who has spoken in the past of his dislike for being split out wide because it normally means he isn't getting the ball, caught a slant while split out wide on Tillman, and they worked a combination to pick Tillman to get Anthony Fasano open for a catch-and-run that converted third down. The McCluster score Cian noted, the Panthers seemed badly aligned, some good blocking at the point of attack, and Roman Harper in the open field as the last line of defense somehow was not a winning strategy.

The Titans did manage a stop on third down on Carolina's third possession. Cam threw his first incompletion, and on third and long the blitz got safety Daimion Stafford free. A punt return score after the Titans ran McCluster up the middle on third-and-2 was called back for a penalty, and it's 14-10 at the half.

Scott Kacsmar: I wouldn't have put a bet on it, but I actually did like the Titans for the upset in this one. Think getting rid of Whisenhunt and the return of Mariota makes that team much more competitive. Carolina not exactly blowing out the competition and it is a road game.

Aaron Schatz: The Titans did just sack Cam Newton on two straight plays. Titans were second in adjusted sack rate coming into today. Pass rush very underrated, people haven't noticed as much because 1) it's Tennessee and 2) Titans face a very low pass/run ratio because they are always behind, so the number of sacks isn't as impressive as the rate.

What's more shocking is that the Panthers' offense was tenth in ASR coming into today. TENTH! With the big holes on that line and a scrambling quarterback, still better than average preventing sacks. Wacky.

Cian Fahey: Dick LeBeau's creativity rushing the passer and the Panthers' odd decision to move away from running the ball has kept the Titans competitive in this game as we work through the third quarter.

Tom Gower: Tennessee's top two backs, McCluster and Antonio Andrews, have combined for 14 carries for 33 rushing yards, 25 of those on McCluster's touchdown run. Their lousy wide receivers have barely done a thing (somehow, I don't recall Harry Douglas being targeted at all). The defense kept them in the game with pressure for quite a while, but the Panthers kept getting the ball close to midfield and eventually wore them down and broke through. 27-10 with 2:42 to play, and the crowd is mostly filing out of Nissan Stadium.

Huh, I forgot one, Douglas has a catch. Got his second the play after I wrote that email, behind the line of scrimmage after Mariota scrambled to buy more time.

Chicago Bears 37 at St Louis Rams 13

Vince Verhei: Bears lead 24-10 at the half and I am wondering, as always, how the Rams beat the teams they have this season. Nick Foles had completions of 29 and 31 yards on the Rams' first drive when the Bears forgot to cover Jared Cook and Todd Gurley. Then the Bears settled down and remembered to cover people, and Foles has seven completions for 40 yards (and only two first downs) since. And that's with a surprisingly pass-heavy attack that has seen Foles throw 20 passes while Gurley gets only eight carries. (The Rams have 11 as a team.)

Even the Rams' usually dependable defense is looking foolish. Zach Miller catches a basic out route and cuts back inside, and at least three Rams decide they just don't feel like tackling today, and it turns into an 87-yard touchdown. Then the Bears call a perfect screen pass to beat a Rams' blitz, and their wide receivers push the St. Louis defensive backs all the way out of the dome, and Jeremy Langford gets an 83-yard touchdown. Just a lousy effort all around for St. Louis so far.

You can tell how little the Bears fear the Rams' offense when they call a pitch play on third-and-10. You can tell it's just not the Rams day when Langford takes that pitch and turns it into a first down. Bears are getting rushing yards even without Matt Forte. Langford has 67 yards on 19 carries; Ka'Deem Carey has 11 for 56.

Rams tried a fake punt at one point. Johnny Hekker has had a lot of success on those in the past, but fake punts only work when you have the element of surprise. The score suggested a fake, and the formation that actually sent a man in motion across the backfield made it clear a fake was coming. Hekker's first read was covered. So was his second, and he was short of the sticks, and Hekker's pass was underthrown anyway.

Langford just added a rushing touchdown. He's up to 182 yards from scrimmage and the Bears are up 37-13 with less than five minutes to go.

Forgot to mention something else about this game: Bears had a fourth-and-1 at the Rams' 38 with the score tied at 10 in the second quarter... and John Fox went for it! A lot of teams might have tried the field goal there, some might have even punted, but Fox and the Bears ran a play-fake and Jay Cutler hit Langford for 11 yards and a first. Bears went on to score a touchdown on the drive.

Miami Dolphins 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 19

Vince Verhei: Dolphins give up a safety for the third week in a row. Damien Williams fumbles a kickoff return deep in the end zone, then foolishly attempts to run it out. His teammate Jay Ajayi is so desperate to get him to just take a knee that he basically clotheslines Williams, who collapses in a heap just outside the goal-line. So the offense gets the ball at the 1. They commit a false start that moves them back about a foot, then on first-and-still-10, Walter Thurmond comes in unblocked off the edge and drills Ryan Tannehill, sending the ball flying through the back of the end zone for two points.

Aaron Schatz: Hopefully this link will still be available tomorrow morning for a Vine of the awful kick return:

Sterling Xie: Looked like the Eagles were going to run away with this one after going up 16-3, but a long Dolphins drive (which ended in a red zone field goal) followed by a Zach Vigil blocked punt on Donnie Jones led to a Lamar Miller touchdown catch, giving the Fins 10 quick points. Miami has primarily featured Miller and rookie running back Jay Ajayi, who gained over 40 yards on his first two carries of the game. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford has almost 200 yards passing, with Brent Celek balling like it's 2009 (three catches, 120 yards midway through the second quarter). If I were an Eagles fan, I'd be a little alarmed that the running game has looked terrible the past couple of drives. Miami has begun to sell out a bit against the run after Ryan Mathews bullied them on the goal line.

Aaron Schatz: Good example in the Miami-Philadelphia game of how often a football game turns on a tiny difference in timing. Dolphins got a sack-fumble of Sam Bradford on a third-and-3 at the Philadelphia 27. Olivier Vernon looked like he had recovered the ball around the 12-yard line but then he fumbled it and Bradford pounced on it at the 3. The original ruling was that Vernon had possession of the ball and fumbled, which means that a second change of the possession would mean the Eagles get a new set of downs -- at the 3, so they're backed up, but still, that's better than fourth down. However, Miami challenged and the officials decided (after a period of confusion) that Vernon never officially had possession, so the Eagles ended up having to punt from their own 3. I'm confused about why the ruling stated that Vernon never had possession. Mike Carey, on the CBS broadcast, said that the rules for fumble recovery are similar to the rules for what is or isn't a catch, but those rules aren't exactly known for their clarity, are they?

Vince Verhei: Eagles lead 16-13 at the half in a game full of zaniness. We already mentioned the botched kick return, the ensuing safety, and the blocked punt. Let's not forget Sam Bradford's lousy fluttering interception... which was then wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty. And there's still 30 minutes to go!

Injuries aside (Sam Bradford has left the game, as have a number of Miami defenders), this is the funniest game of the year. In addition to all the first-half shenanigans, the second half has seen a shotgun snap go over Bradford's head; a tipped pass at the line that turned into a touchdown for Miami; and just now, a Mark Sanchez pass that hit DeMarco Murray right between the numbers -- but they were the numbers on the back of Murray's jersey, not the front.

Aaron Schatz: The Eagles end the game with Mark Sanchez throwing a 5-yard cross to Jordan Matthews on fourth-and-10. I understand that Sanchez was under pressure and didn't have much choice, he had to get rid of the ball or he was going to take a sack. But why have your best receiver running a route 5 yards short of the sticks when it means the end of the damn game? I sure hope some people in the NFL are reading Scott's ALEX columns because this stuff has got to stop.

Scott Kacsmar: Jordan Matthews was jogging that route too. Just an all-around terrible effort from the Eagles on fourth-and-ballgame.

Cleveland Browns 9 at Pittsburgh Steelers 30

Scott Kacsmar: One of the more eventful beginnings to a game here. Johnny Manziel fumbled, setting the Steelers up in the red zone. Landry Jones was injured on a third-down incompletion after Marcus Gilbert rolled up on his ankle. The Steelers did something pretty unique in making Ben Roethlisberger the No. 2 quarterback (Michael Vick is inactive). Some will say if Roethlisberger is healthy enough to be the backup, then he should start, but I see it as a way to give him rest for the foot, but still have a backup plan in case Jones struggles. And yes, I think it also shows a lack of respect for a bad Cleveland team. The Steelers figured they could get through this one without Roethlisberger, but that's not possible because of the injury. Roethlisberger hit a great deep ball to Martavis Bryant on his first drive, so I would expect him to keep playing today despite Jones returning to the sideline.

Manziel threw for close to 100 yards in the first quarter. Some opportunities are going to be there against an aggressive defense if he keeps extending the play today. Travis Benjamin already has a catch for more than 60 yards. Also, Ian Eagle reported that Heath Miller is the emergency quarterback for the Steelers. That would be... interesting. Long gone are the days of Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El.

Vince Verhei: I'm trying to think of another incident where knocking the starting quarterback out of the game was a bad idea. I remember Michael Vick's rookie year in Atlanta when he was coming off the bench, opposing defenses were always careful to not hit Chris Chandler too hard and went out of their way to help him back to his feet and make sure he was OK, because they knew had nothing to fear from the veteran but Vick scared the hell out of them.

Scott Kacsmar: Browns sacked Roethlisberger on third down, but are called for leverage on the field goal. Steelers took the points off the board and added eight more with a pair of passes (a touchdown and then a two-point conversion) to Antonio Brown. Steelers are now 5-of-7 on two-point conversions this season. The way he's throwing the ball today, Roethlisberger probably should have just started.

Browns are bad and unlucky today. Cleveland has a league-high 14 lost fumbles, including two today. Jacoby Jones muffed a punt deep in his own end, yet Cleveland somehow didn't recover. DeAngelo Williams just fumbled inside the 5-yard line, but again the Browns failed to recover.

Everyone knows Cleveland has one of the league's worst run defenses, so naturally at the half the Steelers had 306 passing yards and 3 rushing yards. So much for balance. There were some reports that Landry Jones may be getting back in there, but Roethlisberger is coming onto the field with his helmet on in the third quarter. Tramon Williams and Desir are no match for Brown and Bryant today.

Add in some hidden yardage: 112 yards in pass interference penalties on Cleveland, according to CBS' Ian Eagle. So the Browns have basically given up over 400 yards through the air, and 1 yard on the ground on Williams' first 8 carries.

Not sure if the rest of this fourth quarter will be worth talking about, so I'll just give my final thoughts now. This game should put to rest the idea that Josh McCown should start another game this season. Manziel was impressive, but received very little help today. Yes, he took a few bad sacks, but he threw the ball well and moved around to make things happen. He had an incredible scramble where he escaped a sack with the defender having a handful of jersey, and Manziel almost had a touchdown. In fact, I bet he would have got the touchdown if there wasn't a Steelers defender in the way on the only decent angle from the pylon. So instead of first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Browns backed themselves up with a few poor penalties and the drive actually ended in a Manziel interception on fourth down, trying to make something happen.

It's a projection only based on six games, but it's pretty damn amazing regardless: Antonio Brown's 16-game projection with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback this year is 165 catches for 2,416 yards. That includes a St. Louis game where Roethlisberger left in the third quarter, however that also includes last week's Oakland game when Landry Jones had that big gain to Brown on the game-winning drive. I really think we could have the NFL's first 2,000-yard receiver if these guys can ever stay healthy for a full season.

Jacksonville Jaguars 22 at Baltimore Ravens20

Rob Weintraub: Simply impossible Ravens loss. Jags down a point, no timeouts, a Blake Bortles duck is picked -- then dropped. Next play is a short completion shy of the 50. Clock runs, ref sprints in to spot the ball and the snap gets off a millisecond before triple zeroes. Bortles falls down, then gets sacked by Elvis Dumervil as everyone stands around assuming the game was over. But wait! Facemask penalty on Dumervil! That puts Jacksonville in range for a 53-yard figgy, which of course is good. Jacksonville wins 22-20.

Just not Baltimore's year. I was hoping they would pull this one out for draft choice reasons at least, but they couldn't even do that.

Andrew Potter: Absolute insanity in Baltimore. Jaguars have a desperation drive, down 1 with no timeouts. Two short completions and a Blake Bortles scramble get them to around their own 40 with 25 seconds to go. After a couple of incomplete passes (including a near-interception that would have clinched it), Bortles completes a short one over the middle to Julius Thomas for 11 yards on third-and-15 with about eight seconds to go. The Jaguars scramble and somehow get a fourth-and-4 play off with milliseconds left, but Bortles is sacked by Elvis Dumervil to end the game... except Dumervil pulls Bortles down by the facemask. Personal foul, 15 yards, puts the ball on the Ravens' 35 for an untimed down. One silly icing timeout later, Jason Myers drills the field goal perfectly to give the Jaguars the 22-20 win.

Tom Gower: What they said about the ending, but what got to me was how Jacksonville started that drive. They had 66 seconds to go 80 yards, and burned half of that with a pair of underneath completions that picked up a combined 14 yards. If Bortles doesn't manage to scramble for a first out of bounds, they're not even in position for the ending wackiness to happen.

Scott Kacsmar: Jaguars didn't need 80 yards, they needed a field goal. But yeah, pretty conservative start to that drive and Bortles was going to have to use his legs to make something happen. I just can't believe a quarterback in the fetal position on fourth down with no time left ended up getting the win. That was ugly.

Minnesota Vikings 30 at Oakland Raiders 14

Rob Weintraub: Terence Newman still a force -- so long as Mike Zimmer is coaching him, anyway. His second pick of the day comes in the end zone as the Raiders try to come back down nine just before the two-minute warning. He was on the decline without his master in Cincy last season but he's just fine in Minnesota with Zim whispering in his ear.

Adrian Peterson then races 80 yards to lock up the game and first place.

New England Patriots 27 at New York Giants 26

Vince Verhei: Odell Beckham gets a long touchdown when New England's safety decides "I'm not going to tackle Beckham, I'll run right by him instead, but I WILL tackle the cornerback covering Beckham just to make sure this is a score."

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, you don't see a lot of blown plays by Devin McCourty, but that was on him. He was specifically deep to prevent Beckham from getting a play like that if Beckham did beat Malcolm Butler for a catch. Telecast said at 87 yards it was actually the longest pass touchdown allowed by the Patriots since Belichick became the head coach in 2000.

Giants making a smart move, with Jason Pierre-Paul moving inside a lot to try to take advantage of the rookies at guard and center for the Patriots. Has helped him bring some pressure and knock down a pass. Still, there's definitely a big difference between this Giants pass rush and the defenses that beat the Patriots in 2007 and 2011.

We write a lot about quarterbacks who aren't getting help from their receivers. We were just writing it about Aaron Rodgers today, in fact. Eli Manning is not that quarterback. The Giants' receivers make some really pretty plays. We know about Odell Beckham, but earlier today Myles White had a sweet leaping catch on the left sideline, and then Rueben Randle just had a great catch down the right sideline despite tight coverage from Logan Ryan, a 31-yard gain that the Giants really needed to get a shot at a score on their final drive with a minute left in the second quarter. A couple plays later, Manning hits tight end Will Tye with a laser between two zone defenders up the seam. Eventually get a touchdown with Dwayne Harris dragging his left foot in the back corner of the end zone to go to halftime up 17-10.

Vince Verhei: Eli's touch pass to Tye in the seams of the zone was a beautiful throw, but yes, by and large it's been his receivers making plays today.

Andrew Healy: With 1:00 to go in the first half, Logan Ryan looks a lot like he did against Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl: utterly helpless against a tall receiver. The very next play, the Giants go deep down the right sideline again, this time incomplete looking to exploit the same matchup that went for the 87-yard touchdown on the first drive (Beckham vs. Butler).

Aaron Schatz: I thought Ryan's coverage was way better than against Matthews in the Super Bowl... Yes, Randle got above him, but Matthews was just plain wide open in the Super Bowl.

Andrew Healy: The Patriots may be hitting a tipping point with the injury to Julian Edelman. Can the offense work with none of the five offensive line starters from the Super Bowl playing in the same position, no Dion Lewis, and no Julian Edelman? Seems like you could pretty easily devote two guys to Gronk now, but the Giants actually seemed to leave Craig Dahl on an island for a big third down late in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: The other tipping-point injury -- or rather, tipping-point illness -- is to Jamie Collins, because he's the best Patriots linebacker in pass coverage. The good news for the Patriots in the long term is that some of these injuries are not season-ending. Collins should be back in a week or two. On the offensive line, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon should be returning at some point.

Andrew Healy: Malcolm Butler has mostly been really good in coverage other than that first play to Beckham. That's the only completion to Beckham five minutes into the third quarter and he's been right in his hip pocket on those plays. He just got a pass interference on a comeback on the right sideline, but that was good coverage and a pretty brutal call.

As I write this, Butler gives up the second catch for 4 yards, but again really nice physical coverage on Beckham. Giants kick a field goal to go up 20-10 and the Patriots' undefeated season is in serious jeopardy.

Aaron Schatz: Butler literally did not even touch Beckham on that DPI call. I'm trying to not have on my Pats-colored glasses here, but that's the most phantom of phantom DPI calls I've seen in quite a while.

Andrew Healy: The Patriots go back in front 24-23 on a 76-yard pass play that leaves me befuddled as to what Craig Dahl is doing. He has the deep middle and somehow he's not shading at all towards Gronk even though one deep route was run and it was by the one real threat the Patriots still have. If he's at all shading that direction he can break up that pass. Not sure this offensive personnel would work against a better defense.

And Malcolm Butler continues to just dominate Odell Beckham. Whenever you can see the coverage, Beckham seems incapable of creating any separation at all from Butler. On Beckham's last six targets, he has 5 yards receiving.

Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady is fallible. After a bomb to Brandon LaFell down the left sideline, Brady threw behind LaFell on a slant at the goal line and the ball was right into the arms of Trumaine McBride. Jim Nantz strangely compared the play to the Super Bowl interception, but it wasn't really anything like the Super Bowl interception. More a bad throw than a great defensive play. Frustrating for Patriots because LeGarrette Blount looked like he scored two plays earlier but there was a holding call on center David Andrews.

Andrew Healy: Far from me to question, but with Beckham unable to do anything, not sure I get the move to a zone on third-and-1. That leads to Beckham's first catch of more than 5 yards since the early-game touchdown to get the Giants out of dodge on their first possession after Brady's goal-line interception.

And Butler completes his domination by knocking the ball out with 2:01 left to prevent the touchdown that would have put the Giants up by 5 or 7 depending on the two-point conversion. That play reminds me so much of the Sterling Moore punch-out on Lee Evans in the 2011 AFC Championship Game, which also seemed to happen at almost the moment the second foot hit the ground.

If McCourty makes the tackle in the first quarter, Beckham's stat line against Butler would be something like two catches on ten targets for about 25 yards. Butler is the main reason that this very limited Patriots team has a chance to kick a field goal to win it. They trail 26-24 with 1:47 left after a short field goal for the Giants.

Going back to the Brady interception, they miss Edelman on that play. The timing was the problem as that throw has to come out quicker. I think he's trying to throw it away from the safety, but LaFell was too close to the middle of the field.

That kick by Stephen Gostkowski to win the game is kind of incredible. From the TV angle, it looked like it was going to go wide by how far left it was and how high it seemed to be, but it turned out it was already at the goal post, curling inside the left upright about two-thirds of the way up the post. Had the distance to be good from maybe 70 yards out. Wow.

Cian Fahey: If you lined up 100 people who didn't know anything about football, showed them the Odell Beckham catch and asked them if he caught the ball or not, I'd be surprised if even one person said he didn't. Yes, the rules can't be just "use common sense" but we're at a point where the whole thing is so convoluted that we've lost sight of what actually matters.

Beckham 100 percent made that catch in the end zone by any logic that isn't tainted by those trying to apply the NFL's arbitrary standards. Even if you consider the NFL's logic, he caught the ball in the end zone and controlled it while touching both feet on the ground. He wasn't falling to the ground and he was in the end zone so a "football move" is a contradictory concept.

Aaron Schatz: See, my response was the exact opposite. When they called that a touchdown originally, I was shocked and had a strong feeling it was going to be overturned based on how they've called similar plays over the last couple years. It was far from a completed catch in the end zone, Butler slapped it out after about one or two steps. If that had been anywhere but the end zone, would that have been an incomplete pass, or a catch and fumble? It absolutely would have been ruled an incomplete pass, right? Those are the rules for the end zone too. The rules are different for running plays, when all you have to do is cross the plane and you can lose the ball after that and be fine. Maybe it doesn't make sense, but that's how they're calling things and this one was nowhere near as questionable as, say, the original Calvin Johnson play that started all these arguments a couple years ago.

Phil Simms, being ridiculous as usual, said before the final Gostkowski field goal that everything worked for the Patriots offense on that final drive. Uh, Phil, were you watching when Brady almost threw a pick on the first play, and then had two incomplete passes and was forced to convert fourth-and-10?

But I really liked the Patriots not spiking the ball after every new first down on that last drive. Brady just kept the offense moving forward. They had the fake spike, which didn't work, but didn't actually waste a play without trying to gain yardage until that last spike that stopped the clock for the game-winning field goal.

Vince Verhei: We can argue about the validity of it being a catch or not, but why on earth did the Giants go pass-wacky at the goal line? If ever there was a time to take three knees and kick a game-winning field goal, that was it.

Tom Gower: First down is what gets me, the Beckham catch. Run off six seconds there, or force the Patriots to use a timeout. Incomplete and no score before the two-minute warning was basically the worst possible situation, but it was entirely too likely to be the actual result for that to have been the ideal decision. Then again, after the end of the Cowboys game in Week 1, was that really a surprise?

Scott Kacsmar: In the last two minutes the Giants dropped a go-ahead touchdown in the end zone and dropped a game-ending interception. There are some definite strategy flaws to discuss, but those are pretty hard to overlook. Game was there for them.

And the Patriots are in luck that Danny Amendola is the perfect replacement for Julian Edelman, who was the perfect replacement for Wes Welker. Now if Amendola gets hurt, it's past the trade deadline so they can't get Cole Beasley, so then they may be in trouble as Welker was signed by the Rams. But man, they have such a specific profile and role for that position in their offense.

Aaron Schatz: I know Scott and I have a lot of disagreements about this, but Odell Beckham did not drop the go-ahead touchdown. When the ball is slapped out by a defender, that's not a drop. That's a strong defensive play.

Scott Kacsmar: It's dropped/defensed, but that's still a type of drop in my book. You're just giving a reason for it. What do you call a completion where the defender makes a hit or good contact on the ball and the receiver hangs on? That's just a catch for everyone. Maybe we should start tracking defensed catches, and I think each year the number of those would easily outweigh the number of dropped/defensed plays. On a related note, I know someone was working on a study of 50/50 balls to see how close to 50/50 they really are, but I don't believe he ever finished or published those results.

Kansas City Chiefs 29 at Denver Broncos 13

Vince Verhei: They stopped the game after Peyton Manning's first completion broke Brett Favre's record for career passing yardage. It was hysterical because the pass set up a third down and you could tell Peyton wanted to just play football, but they forced him to stop, and of course he's professional enough to address the crowd as they cheered him for a minute or so. He should have kept the party going -- here we are an hour later and I'm not sure the Broncos offense has been cheered since. Broncos' first five drives have ended in two interceptions and three three-and-outs, and there were noticeable boos after the last one. This one looks more like it's on the receivers than on Manning -- there's just nobody open, and he's forcing the ball to well-covered guys, thus the two picks and a bunch of other breakups that probably should have been picked off. I just checked and Kansas City's season-long defensive stats are just OK except for coverage against tight ends, but their secondary looks great today.

It's halftime, and Peyton Manning now has thrown more interceptions (three) than first downs (one). He's also been sacked twice with a fumble, and an intentional grounding call. That third pick was all his fault, as he never saw Josh Mauga dropping back into what was basically a zone blitz. But otherwise, there's just nobody open. He's throwing these passes, and they all look like the defender is running the route. There's nowhere to go.

Alex Smith and the Kansas City offense are playing well considering the opposition, but still, they came out of the two-minute warning with a first down at midfield and all three timeouts, and I found myself wondering if they had enough time to score -- and they barely did, kicking a field goal as time expired. They had one good chance to score a touchdown when Albert Wilson got open in the end zone, but Smith threw behind him. Still, Chiefs are up 19-0 and it feels worse than that, and it's hard to imagine Denver scoring three times if the Kansas City defense keeps playing like this.

Peyton Manning throws his fourth interception. Broncos defense then forces a punt... and Brock Osweiler comes out with the Broncos offense. Yup. Manning benched.

Tom Gower: Osweiler gets the Broncos down to the red zone, but goes down to Justin Houston on a bootleg on third down and his pass for Demaryius Thomas in the end zone on fourth-and-10 is tipped by Sean Smith and intercepted by Eric Berry. Still most of the fourth quarter to play, but it seems likely this will go down as the worst Broncos offensive performance we've seen in a long time.

And Charcandrick West houses a short pass two plays after the pick to make it 29-0, plus T.J. Ward gets tossed for hitting Jeremy Maclin in the head. Man, 6-0 v. 6-0 feels like two months ago.

Vince Verhei: Osweiler's first drive was another three-and-out. He picked up a few first downs on his second drive against a defense that was suddenly much more willing to surrender short completions than they had before, but then he was intercepted in the end zone. The one thing about Osweiler is, he can break a tackle or two and move around a little bit (two things Manning almost literally can't do anymore) to buy guys more time to get open, which was an absolutely necessary trait to play quarterback for Denver today.

I should also mention that, lost in all the Manning hullabaloo, Kansas City's kickers were excellent today. Dustin Colquitt had five of six punts downed inside the Denver 11, including one at the 1. Cairo Santos went 5-of-6 on field goals, including kicks from 48, 49, and 50 yards. His one miss was from 48 yards, when the Chiefs were ahead by 23 points in the fourth quarter.

Arizona Cardinals 39 at Seattle Seahawks 32

Aaron Schatz: OK, as long as we're wondering about the rules... Arizona got completely jobbed near the end of the first quarter when they had pressure on Russell Wilson and he threw the ball away. He was out of the tackle box but the ball bounced 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That's really intentional grounding and a safety. I guess the rule says the quarterback has to throw the ball "at or about the line of scrimmage" but three yards is not "about the line of scrimmage" unless we're really stretching things.

Tom Gower: Yeah, no defending that call, and it was an obvious miss. Disappointing job. Not reviewable, because the NFL doesn't want second-guessing whether a pass was sufficiently close to the vicinity of an eligible receiver or whether a passer was contacted late enough that he was already throwing (another instance in which something otherwise intentional grounding is not intentional grounding). I suppose you could formally define "about the line of scrimmage" in a way that passes like that could be reviewable without expanding the scope of second-guessing too much, but that feels like something that would come up maybe three times a year.

Scott Kacsmar: The language for the rule for intentional grounding is "a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage." No "about" in there. Wilson didn't get it there and Arizona should have two points.

Tom Gower: Says "at or beyond," but it seems to normally be enforced with leeway. The other aspect of that play is that a passer outside the pocket gets more protection from contact by a defensive player and does not have to have started his throwing motion if the contact significantly affects the throw. If they'd announced it that way, the call would be more understandable. I'd still disagree with it, I think, but I'd understand why they made the call they did.

Aaron Schatz: Well, the Cardinals sacked Russell Wilson in the end zone two minutes into the second quarter, so they got their safety eventually. The Seattle offensive line looks horrible. The Seahawks really need to run some plays where the ball gets out a lot faster. Wilson just constantly holds onto it way too long for this line to hold up.

This game conveniently had a play similar to the ODB touchdown not-catch, this time by Jimmy Graham right before the two-minute warning of the first half. Graham actually took three or four steps in the end zone before losing control of the ball. And like the Beckham play, it was not a catch. (This time it didn't even have to be challenged and overturned.)

Scott Kacsmar: Carson Palmer threw a bad pick in the red zone earlier, but he's been excellent otherwise tonight. Those throws to Michael Floyd couldn't have been much better. Arizona may not have a valuable tight end, but one of the better three-wide-receiver offenses in the league, and that's a good way to attack Cary Williams and avoid Richard Sherman.

Still think Russell Wilson does his best work this year in sandlot football. Run the no-huddle, let him make the decisions and live and die by that sword. That last touchdown drive was better than everything else they've done all night combined.

Scott Kacsmar: Another example of a catch-and-fumble getting ruled incomplete and no one knows what's right. Something has to be done about this. I should watch them both back before making this comparison, but what was the main difference between Dez Bryant's Hail Mary touchdown last week that got knocked out late and the Beckham play today that didn't count? Tenths of a second? Pretty sure both guys had the ball with two feet down, and it was knocked out. Did Bryant do a "football move" or did he just hold it a tad longer so that it counts? It's frustrating to go through this every week.

Aaron Schatz: I'm guessing that Scott is talking about the Darren Fells incomplete pass that looked like it was a catch with three or four steps before a fumble. So that's two of these plays in just the second quarter of this game. It's a problem.

Mike Pereira suggested this on Twitter:

So, what would be the problem with having more fumbles? I suppose the league wouldn't want offenses hurt in that fashion, there would be more turnovers, and less scoring is bad for ratings. But I also think there would be a problem with injuries. More fumbles would mean more chances for everyone to try to pile on the ball in a desperate attempt to recover, and that would likely mean more injuries.

But maybe they could change the catch rule so it's different in the end zone than it is otherwise, in the same way that you can fumble the ball on a run if you've crossed the goal line first. Maybe they could make it two feet down with control in the end zone, without requiring the receiver to "become a runner" or whatever, but leave the rule as is outside the end zone. With the idea that getting the two feet down with control would be the equivalent of crossing the plane of the goal with the ball as a runner.

As for this game, specifically, the Cardinals have done a great job of neutralizing the Seattle pass rush. And when Seattle does get some pressure, Carson Palmer is great at maneuvering a little bit in the pocket to stay upright and make a pass downfield.

Mike Kurtz: The sooner you make peace with that the better, Scott. Collinsworth spent 5 minutes talking about the need for some sort of objective test for a catch. The problem is that where we are now is the end result of 10 years of attempts to create that objective test. The rulebook is festooned with single-case scenarios like "going to the ground" and objective-ish language like "making one's self a runner." The end result is somehow worse than where we started, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the search for an objective test that will give us the "right" answer regarding catch and possession is impossible. If anything, the hyper-specific rules are creating the illusion that there is some acceptable objective solution. Like Aaron just alluded to, almost all of the suggestions result in an unacceptable number of fumbles (and turnovers), now that the entire league has aligned itself around passing offense.

I do disagree with Pereira, though. The easy solution is to make the rule purposefully vague and give the officials discretion over catches on a case-by-case basis. It would make the commentators furious, because they would no longer be experts. It would ruffle everyone's feathers because it would remove catch/no catch from replay review entirely. On the other hand, that's what's happening 90 percent of the time already, and between 5-minute review timeouts and the constant shouting about what is or isn't a catch, I'm not sure that the outrage under that scheme would be any different from the drawn-out outrage we have now. And with a subjective test, there is at least the possibility of everyone resigning themselves to the fact that sometimes calls do not go their way, and we can stop spending half of our Sundays getting in fruitless, circular debates and just watch football.

Aaron Schatz: Seattle's pressure has improved in the second half but otherwise it's hard to tell quite what's changed to get Seattle back into this game. Overall, Seattle's offense seems to be having the same problems, but Wilson's just hit a couple of extra plays, like the touchdown to Doug Baldwin, where a guy was able to get open. Plus, of course, it's easier to hit a touchdown when a fumble by the other team lets you start the ball at the 4.

Well, then, the pressure has actually improved a LOT. It helps that the Cardinals keep blowing their blocking calls somehow and leaving blitzers unblocked. Seattle just came in with Bobby Wagner unblocked up an inside gap and that was another sack-fumble, and that actually puts Seattle ahead 29-25. (But no more, as they miss a two-point conversion attempt for the second time.)

Tom Gower: And when Arizona looks dead in the water at 29-25, suddenly Carson Palmer finds just enough space to get off some more spectacular throws, the four-minute drill results in some clock being run and a long Andre Ellington touchdown to make it a 10-point game, and Larry Fitzgerald holds on to the onside kick. I'm done doubting Bruce Arians and the Cardinals. If you throw me back on Scramble next year and the Cardinals' O/U is 16.5, screw it, I'm picking over because Arians is a wizard who can do anything.

And Russell Wilson drops to 0-12 in his career when the Seahawks allow more than 24 points, for the QBWins crowd.

Aaron Schatz: So, Arizona ends up coming back with a touchdown drive to take the lead, then puts together a nice four-minute drill to ice the game.

With Seattle down 39-29, I saw a lot of people commenting on Twitter that the Seahawks had blown it with their two attempts at two-point conversions. If the Seahawks had only just kicked those extra points, the game would have been 39-31, a "one-possession game." Except, if you think an 8-point lead is a "one-possession game," you are forgetting that making up that deficit would require... a two-point conversion! Why does conventional wisdom seem to think that if you try a two-point conversion instead of an extra point early in the fourth quarter, you're basically giving away points, but if you try that two-point conversion in a comeback effort late in the game, it's counted almost as a guaranteed score?

Scott Kacsmar: I hate when people say "if they would have kicked the extra points, the score would have been [this]." No, that's an assumption. The game would have played out differently if these things happened. Had Seattle kicked an extra point to go up 30-25, then Arizona would have went for two on its touchdown to make it 33-30. If Seattle went for the extra point early, the Seahawks would have still been compelled to go for two after the second touchdown to make it 32-25. If that failed like it did, then Arizona still would have been down 30-25, going for their own two.

Vince Verhei: So I couldn't comment during the Sunday night game, but I actually watched most of it. Some stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

Like the rest of you, I no longer have any idea what is or is not a catch anymore. I'm going to do my very best to just stop worrying about it.

I was hoping that putting Patrick Lewis back in at center might have cured some of the offensive line woes. Obviously, it didn't.

Seattle finished with 6.4 yards per carry, which sounds great, but their actual rushing attack wasn't nearly that good because of all the holds on running plays. This means their running DVOA is going to come out over-inflated too, because the "bad runs" (i.e., holds) don't technically count as running plays.

Every time a defense plays cover-zero defense against Seattle, Russell Wilson hits a long touchdown pass. Happened again tonight to Baldwin. His career DVOA against Cover-0 must be at least 1,000.0%. Unfortunately his DVOA against anything else is worse than that.

Related thought: Wilson is at his best when he is in shotgun and the field is spread and he can make very quick decisions on where to go with the ball. That has always been the case, but it's especially true this year when that horror show of an offensive line can't even give him time to drop back, let alone go through his reads. It's really a night-and-day difference.

I've been trying to think of a tasteful way to say this, and I just checked and Mike Iupati was released from the hospital so I think it's OK to say, but man there's a lot of offensive linemen who have tried to block Kam Chancellor and have ended up getting the worst of things. Too bad he can't cover as well as he hits.

We were obviously wrong about Arizona in the Almanac, and two of the biggest reasons: Chris Johnson gives their running game an explosiveness they didn't have last year (and have almost never had since leaving St. Louis, really); and we expected Carson Palmer to regress to his pre-2014 self, but instead he's gone hard the other way and is having far and away the best year of his career. He was awesome tonight.

(And I just now realized that it was Andre Ellington, not Johnson, on that long run at the end. Point still stands: Cardinals weren't getting these long runs last year.)

Aaron Schatz: Actually, it's an interesting idea to try to add offensive holding into DVOA in such a way that we consider holds on runs and passes differently. As you note, all those holding calls on runs say something about how efficient the Seattle running game is overall.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 16 Nov 2015

331 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2015, 7:53am by Scott Kacsmar


by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 11:56am

For all those who like to complain about a "Patriots bias" on this site, please note that this is the only article I've read anywhere today that even bothers to point out the throws Brady made prior to the 4th and 10, while most of the others went with the typical "Brady led them down" bunk and Peter King went as far as calling him the offensive player of the week.

It was actually weird for me to see them attacking the way they did on those first passes. They only needed a FG drive and there was more than enough time. No need to rush at all. Throwing it deeper seemed uncharacteristically impatient, even though it made sense.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:52pm

Yes. If some non-"golden boy" QB - Cutler or Stafford or someone like that - had made those two throws, the narrative would have been how lucky they were to escape after almost giving the game away.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:02pm

I haven't read much nationally, but from what I have read and watched, that is the narrative in this case as well. I've yet to see a highlight package that didn't involve both pick (attempts), and even Brady said his throw on the goal line was terrible.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:41pm

I was speaking more of the written articles, though I did see a quickie highlight package that only involved the kick. Peter King's was the one that mostly annoyed me. (Though a few national guys like Freeman and OConnor did as well.)

Brady has always been harder on himself than anyone, which is why he's so good. Back at the height of [everyone/me] rooting against him, they talked about that deep ball to Moss in the 16-0 game in NY and I loved that his answer wasn't to celebrate the successful one, but to point out that he was mad that he underthrew the first.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:07pm

1) NFL will never have consistent rules on catch/possession because why should they screw with what works

2) Martavis Bryant is possibly the least "coverable" WR in the league right now.

3) Big Ben is the best play caller in the NFL

4) Mike Tomlin will never admit the "Jacoby Jones for Archer" swap has been a massive failure. Hell, he is still giving Jarvis Jones reps. Just don't field kicks at all.

5) Get Bud Dupree more reps. Insane how me makes plays with almost no real technique.

6) Peter King sucks almost as much as Excel plots.

The standard is the standard!

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:21pm

1) the NFL rule for catches certainly isn't working right not. Unless its purpose is to piss off fans.

It's a terrible rule and what's worse is that it's not applied consistently. But since it's a rule with vague language ("complete the process of the catch" or something like that) it's inevitable that it will be applied inconsistently.

by fmtemike :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:21pm

Common sense says return to the old definition of a catch: both feet down, control of the ball. But that goes back to the days when contact with the ground could cause a fumble. My sense is the league changed the rule mostly to help offenses: incompletions retain possession; fumbles (esp downfield) can lose it, and create extra problems with recovery.

But every attempt to define the transition from receiver to runner has been muddled, and the current 'becomes a runner' does not lend itself to legal parsing.

I wrote a column a couple of weeks ago on this, for the next issue of Gridiron (no18) in the UK, which comes out at the end of the month. My solution was to go back to the old definition (by which Beckham's catch is what the untrained eye thinks it is, a catch) and live with more fumbles. I wish Mike Pereira had been there when I was in college and caught a 2 point conversion pass in the end zone, took two steps, got hit and dropped the ball (I think I was looking for my friends in the crowd to celebrate) and it was ruled incomplete. We managed to win 18-17 anyway, and stay unbeaten.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:52pm

My point was a "conspiracy theory" type of "the nfl wants controversy, page clicks, 30 minute highlight replay breakdown and debate on sportscenter, etc. "

Kind of the old "there's no bad publicity" type thing.

The standard is the standard!

by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:13pm

Has anyone actually stopped watching though? Or just debating about NFL related stuff even more? Something to think about.

by Junior :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:39pm

I've stopped watching (haven't watched a full game since at least 2012) but suspect I'm in the vast, vast minority.

It's just evolved into a game I'm no longer interested in watching but still enjoy the stats quite a bit.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:21pm

I'm much less interested than I was five years ago. Where I was once an avid fan, it really doesn't bother me if I miss games.

Mostly it's down to Goodell's regime which has sought to extract every ounce of commercialisation it can at the expense of the integrity of the game. The Nike uniforms on Thursday were just another nail in the coffin.

by Jerry :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:52pm

It's impossible for any replacement of Dri Archer to be "a massive failure". Even if Jones is another Allen Rossum (in terms of their Pittsburgh careers), it just counts as trying somebody different in the second half of the season.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:31pm

paying 3 Million dollars for a rental who is performing WORSE than the cheap guy he replaced is by definition a massive failure.

The standard is the standard!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:15pm

Yesterday was one of those days I wish I rooted for a more exciting team; Tampa-Dallas was just a simply awful game. Mistakes, lack of offense, and, up until there was a minute left, it was 6-3, with both teams missing a long FG as well. Five FG attempts. Winston was definitely more shaky, throwing two picks and had a couple other questionable passes. Mike Evans had one really bad third-down drop, but was far more consistent yesterday. For a while, it seemed like Tampa's entire offense was "fling the ball deep at Evans and hope for pass interference". It's like they took a page from the Detroit offense's playbook or something.

Insane last minute of the game or so. Bucs drive down to the 2 or so, and everybody's covered. Winston tucks the ball and runs for the end zone and dives, trying to extend the ball, and simply drops the ball when he's moving it forward. Dallas recovers, game over. Except . . . Dallas safety Jeff Heath (who got both picks on Winston) got flagged for a really blatant defensive holding call. On Russell Shepard, who really is Tampa's special teams ace, and is really good and weaving through blockers and tackling guys on returns. He's technically a WR, but he has five career receptions in three years . . . and somebody thought it was necessary to hold him. Seriously, if you can't cover Russell Shepard, you should find new things to do with your time. So, first down for Tampa on the 1, next play Winston bootlegs it in for the score.

Matt Cassel was actually rather accurate yesterday, which is presumably because Tampa's pass rush is somewhere between abysmal and abysmal (it's bad enough to violate the rules of language and/or general reality). Cassel was throwing well on the last drive, and, on effectively the final play, the Bucs really kind of blew their deep coverage, and Dez Bryant got deep in one-on-one coverage. Cassel threw a pretty nice looking deep ball, but maybe Bryant was busy thinking about his monkey, and really didn't seem overly interested in the football. Bucs safety Bradley McDougald blocked him off and made a really pretty over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone for the game-sealing INT. I really think if Bryant had been trying he takes that in and the Cowboys win, but he didn't seem to care.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:31pm

Was there wind in that game?

I was watching it but from a distance and without sound, and it really looked like had the post not been thrown too far behind (toward the corner), Bryant would've caught it in stride.

But that's the kind of thing you adjust to in stride, and he was still running toward the post, not adjusting to the corner.

Which makes me think it's either: a) a really bad effort by Bryant or b) the wind took it at the last second.

Either way, I grew hating the Cowboys but have had some real sympathy for a few friends that are their fans during the Romo era. This is just depressing.

It hardly seems fair that Winston got to win that game after that unforced fumble pre-jump on the play before. I hate when that kind of stuff gets bailed out and ultimately forgotten.

The bootleg was really well done, though.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:33pm

Does DVOA take that into account? I mean talk about fumble luck.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:14pm

No notable wind, pretty much a perfect day weather-wise.

And I agree; the last pass to Bryant wasn't perfect, but you're throwing the ball to a single-covered Dez Bryant. It doesn't have to be perfect. To paraphrase Tanier's comment in Hangover, if you are Dez Bryant, you do not let minor contact with somebody named "Bradley MacDougald" adjust your route. You are freakishly big, strong, and fast, and you make his butt move, and you go up and get the ball. Bryant didn't even really look for the ball. I mean, you are in total desperation mode and you are single-covered in the end zone; how do you not look for an eminently catchable ball and go get it?

Tampa totally deserved to lose that game with Winston's idiotic fumble, but Tampa has lost a lot of games over the years they should have won. I'll take it.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:24pm

Yeah that's why I wondered about wind. Because I can't think of any other reason why he didn't just overpower the guy en route to the ball. Instead it looked more like Macdougald was the intended receiver and slightly pushed off the decent coverage by a DB he was slightly behind...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:42pm

I've been thinking about that, and my theory is this--Dez Bryant has been playing with the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel for seven games, and, after that, he either assumed (A) Cassel simply wouldn't throw the ball deep at all, or (B) if he did throw it deep, it would be so far off-target he shouldn't bother. He's basically been so beaten down by QB incompetence, it didn't even occur to him the ball would be in a catchable location.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:15pm

Bryant was hurt though, so I don't think he had to play with Weeden at all. Was this game 3 with Cassel? (I'm trying to block the last seven weekends out of my memory.) I think he just got lazy.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:50pm

Cowboy fans and Jerry Jones would be loath to admit this, but they might be better off keeping Romo off the field and losing out the rest of the year. I realize their cap situation is harsh, but imagine that team with Joey Bosa.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:18pm

I agree that there's not much drop-off for the Pats in a 2 WR set if they switch from LaFell and Edelman to LaFell and Amendola. But the Pats use a lot of 3-WR sets which already include Amendola. So then you're replacing Edelman with Dobson. And that is a big drop-off.

I've also seen it suggested that they use a two TE set more often. But Edelman to Chandler is also a big drop-off.

The Edelman injury will definitely hurt the Pats, esp. on top of the Lewis injury. They've lost two of Brady's three best targets in their past two games.

by Mike W :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:27pm

Not only two of the three best targets, but two of the three best YAC guys, and the two most prominent short route guys, which is the foundation of their offense.

by Rhys :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:28pm

Looking at this: https://twitter.com/BenVolin/status/666234704815878144/photo/1

It seems to me that the majority has become Gronk/Lafell/Amendola + an extra TE and a RB for the majority of snaps. Even accounting for Edelman on 27% of the snaps, 185% of the snap-positions in the game were accounted for by TEs.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:18pm

saw someone on the site really pissed about the article about Rodgers 0-25 record when down at least 9 in the 2nd half. Guess he's not any happier today.

Watched a little GB recently and what strikes me is the WR/TEs just aren't very good anymore as a group. They don't seem to get much separation. Rodgers looks indecisive, which happens when no one is open.

I'm pretty convinced DVOA is missing something in the Vikings. They won by 16 on the road against a decent team. They did it wasting 10 pts (dropped TD and two missed fgs).

by Xexyz :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:42pm

Eye test pegs the Vikings as a middle-of-the-pack team. Their low offense DVOA is warranted; Teddy doesn't throw the ball downfield and has consistently missed open guys the few times per game he tries. They struggle a lot when they get down inside the red-zone, which I believe is at least partially due to them not having a big, tall, receiver who can go up for jump balls or run fade routes.

It's the low defense DVOA I don't understand. They don't look particularly stout but standard metrics say they played a really good game yesterday: Of the Raiders' 11 drives, they had 6 punts (4 of which were 3-and-outs), 2 drives ending with a turnover, 2 drives ending in touchdowns, and the end of game drive which ended when the game ended. The Raiders moved the ball pretty quickly on their last two drives, but that was with the Vikings playing prevent. I'm interested to see what the Vikings' defensive DVOA will be after this game is charted since the Raiders had the 6th ranked offense by DVOA coming into the game.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:06pm

I honestly don't understand the Vikings. I've watched them in full games 4 times this year - versus SF, the Rams, Broncos and Chiefs (I half-watched the game yesterday and the one versus the Bears) and each time I've thought "Well, this Vikings team stinks. They'll be going on a losing streak any time." But they don't. They keep winning ugly games and Bridgewater never impresses (his low DVOA/DYAR checks out to me) and Peterson isn't the player he used to be and there's no single thing their defense does particularly well (15th in DVOA against the pass, 25th against the run, 14th in sack rate) and the WR's are nobodies... but they just keep winning.

And Vikings fans aren't enthusiastic either - Will Allen seems to think they're a bit of a mirage and there's been scarcely a sniff of them around trying to invoke the FOMBC. Are they good? It's just so hard to believe based on what I've seen of them.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:33pm

I've said since the draft that, if they block people, they'll make the playoffs, but I didn't think they would block anybody, especially after they lost Loadholdt and Sullivan. And I was right for weeks (about the inability to block), as the Vikings had the great fortune to be playing the easy, easy schedule they were given in their first half of the season.

Well, one thing people often underestimate is how much a team can change, for better or worse, over 17 weeks. They really are blocking much better now, as their rookie, but very athletic, rt gained experience, and two other guys adjusted to new positions, one guy more successfully than the other. It happened just in time, too, as the schedule became a lot more difficult.

I'm puzzled a bit as well by the low dvoa rank of the defense. They aren't dominant, but they don't let the other guys score much.

(Edit) I will say the decline of Peterson as a nightmare producer for defensive coordinators, when he takes a handoff, always seemed pretty overstated to me, and sure enough, as the blocking improved, Peterson has been gashing defenses.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:42pm

I think Peterson looks like a shadow of his former self, it's just that the shadow is still a very good NFL running back.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:09pm

The performance in 2012 was so unworldly that everything else kinda' seems watered down.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:58pm

I can totally identify with you on this, since Revis 2014/2015 is just a shadow of his 2009 self, and he must be overpaid/stink now, especially since he allowed 20 yards to Sammy Watkins and 30 yards to Amari Cooper. I think the New York media has problems figuring out the numbers on the back of burnt defensive backs.

by Pen :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 8:39pm

Ever try to tackle a shadow?

by ammek :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:09pm

Without adjustments, the Vikings' defense is 9th in VOA. It's difficult to read adjustments into the viewing experience.

by Grendel13G :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 12:12am

This is a really good point.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:30pm

Every time I bet on them to play well, they don't, and then I decide "OK, they're not quite good enough to avoid a bad game against a good team" and bet against them, they win. I thought Oakland at home with the way they've been playing and the way Minnesota looked against St. Louis was an easy bet and an easy to swallow setback for a Vikings team that's trending up but not quite there... And while I still think that's a good way to describe them, there they sit in first place and here I sit with less money in my account.

(Actually I just looked and I'm 3-3 on them this year. So not awful. Still, that's well below my overall %)

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:04pm

I'm one of those unenthusiastic Vikes fans. They win ugly, unconvincing games. But they have been doing so consistently, against both bad and good opponents.

So...they are 'consistently unconvincing'. Bridgewater looked better last year, somehow, even with the emergence of Diggs as a legit WR. Part of that may well be the protection (or lack thereof).

The defense, however; it actually seems solid overall. But then it'll disappear for much of a series, before reestablishing itself. It's not one of those 'bend but don't break' defenses, more like something based on Brownian motion to get all of the defensive parts lined up together. It is, then it's not, then it is again.

Maybe Zimmer just knows how to turn up the heat.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:06pm

I was on the fence on this team, I thought they were closer to middle of the pack than bottom dwellers that DVOA has them. Yesterday's game has me thinking they are closer to a top 10 team.

They've played 4 games against top 14 DVOA teams and they are 3-1 and plus 22 pts. Did they seem much better than those teams? nope, but they certainly didn't seem over matched. They seem about on par.

They do seem to be getting much better in the offensive line play. Since the KC game the run blocking has gotten significantly better. The first 5 games they averaged 4.3 per carry. In the last 4 - 5.4 per carry. Sack percentage has dropped from 9.3% to 8.0%, not a huge drop, but it seems more of the sacks are on the QB than early on when they were mostly jail break type sacks.

An interesting stat for the oline/Bridgewater...at home they have given up 4 sacks in a 104 attempts, on the road 21 in 181 attempts. And, the quality of the pass rushes in terms of sack % was better in the home opponents. But, the rushing attack on the road, 5.6 vs 4.1 at home. Quality of the rush defences were almost the same.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:38pm

I think we'll see the Vikes numbers climb significantly over the next couple weeks -that anchor of a SF game will start having less weight, and they'll also be playing the toughest part of their schedule (GB, @ ATL, SEA, @ ARI on a short week). That or they will be exposed as a fraud. But if they can go 2-2 through the next 4 games, then they almost certainly make the playoffs (last 3 games are CHI, NYG, @GB).

That is an interesting stat on the sack splits. Maybe Bridgewater and/or the center is having trouble initiating line calls/adjustments on the road, with hostile crowd noise? The O-line is, as Will and you both point out, better; however it's still not great, and has its 'derp!' moments.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:13pm

An o-line with two guys at new positions, a rookie, and a 33 year old career back up, without many starts at center should be expected to have a much harder time on the road, especially with stunts.

by poplar cove :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 4:14pm

You also have watched arguably 3 of their 4 worst games this season though as well. Both Lions wins were dominant, I know not saying much but still. Looks like you also missed SD and Oakland as well and both of those victories came by 17 and 16 points respectively.

Diggs seems to have taken them to a higher level offensively and their style does remind me a bit of the Harbaugh early year 49ers of a couple years ago where they seem to be very physical. No doubt way they are doing things is a bit different.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:18pm

They also scored from a kick-off return and an 80 yard run in what was effectively garbage-time - two not especially predictive events. The Raiders had been driving to make it a one point game with 3 minutes remaining before Carr was picked in the end zone.

I'm always confused by the brow beating on this site when a team's W-L record and DVOA ranking diverge considerably at mid-season. Over a span of 9 games it's no surprise that this should occur to at least one team. The Vikings have won a bunch of dead-close games; a lot of random and hidden stuff has likely gone in their favour (or at least I'd favour that explanation over DVOA being broken).

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 8:45pm

who's brow beating....all I said was I don't think DVOA is right this time. That's not brow beating.

ELO ratings have the Vikings 9th.
Sagarin ratings roughly 13th.
SRS has them 15th.
The talking heads have them anywhere from 6th to 10th.
DVOA has them 26th.

Given that none of these sources are really much more predictive than the other. If I was betting I would not go with the outlier.

by anonymoises alou :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 9:41pm

If you think I'm pissed at FO because the *Green Bay Packers* lost a football game then you didn't understand what my gripe is. I'll be pissed any time that chart of QB Winz(tm) shows up, and I'll be pissed whether it shows a positive -or- negative result for any particular QB. Quarterbacks don't win and lose football games; football teams win and lose football games. That's an uncontroversial statement around here the vast majority of the time, but when the Rodgers/McCarthy Packers screw up, all of a sudden QB Winz become defensible as long as they're presented in a nice clean chart and comparisons are drawn with other QBs' Winz Ratios in similar situations.

If Kascmar wants to start acting like an adult about it and talking about it in terms of football teams and their overall problems, I'll stop giving him crap. As long as he's doing his Bayless impression, yes, I'm going to keep reminding him that he's an embarrassment to FO. The dude worded his QB Winz criteria in a way that allowed him to include a game for which Aaron Rodgers spent prep week on the Scout Team, FFS. He could have easily left off the '07 Dallas game that then-backup Rodgers came into in the second quarter down 17, but that wouldn't have brought the QB Lossez stat to a nice round 0-25. It's controversy-courting clickbait trash (he tweeted it out by saying, "Aaron Rodgers is 0-25 when the Packers are down by 9" or similar; if someone can point out the difference between that and something Bayless would say, I'm all ears, it's transparent as hell, and yes it deserves to be called out.

by jmaron :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 10:36am

oh I remember your argument - I just figured you'd be pissed because the guy can now say 0-26.

I don't take individual ratings very seriously it's a team game. But to be fair, it does seem odd that Rodgers has never come back from such a deficit when he's so damn good and so has been the team in his time there.

As a Viking fan I'm horrified that he will pull it off this week.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Wed, 11/18/2015 - 7:53am

I told you last week why the Dallas game should count, and which types of games shouldn't count.

You actually think I would count a game just to make the stat say 0-25? Then explain this tweet from September 2014 (during the GB-SEA opener) that says 0-19: https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar/status/507717457428353025

I'll do it if I have to, but I shouldn't have to explain the value in identifying a team by its QB of record, and that it's always assumed the W-L record is not solely the result of the QB's actions in a team game. It's assumed that "Aaron Rodgers is 0-25" is equal to saying "The Packers with Aaron Rodgers at QB are 0-25."

I write articles with researched data. Skip Bayless says stuff on TV that he doesn't bother to look up himself.

by Mike W :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:24pm

The Packers' problems on offense are twofold, I think. One, their line isn't protecting well, which is obvious. Two, receivers aren't getting open, which, also kind of obvious, but more importantly this leads to a story of how this came to occur, which is that (1) for the last few years, Rodgers has been able to complete a lot of passes anyway - "throwing guys open" is the phrase, I guess - and this I think got the coaching staff kind of lackadaisical about coming up with a plan B. But a combination of (2) Nelson is hurt, and the subsequent DB cascade has made it harder for everyone to get open, (3) teams are responding to this by playing a lot more man coverage, and (4) Rodgers isn't able to keep plays alive for as long as usual by running around because of the OL woes, has led to the current problem. GB should respond by modifying the playbook, running more pick plays and other routes designed to combat tight man coverage. But I think they have gotten spoiled by Rodgers being around. How often do you see a guy wide open, or get a lot of YAC?

I'm always amazed to see how good Brady has it. Not that he's not great, accurate, an awesome guy, yadda yadda, but his guys run short ins and outs and Gronk runs seam routes and they're wide-the-f*** open half the time. (Which is great, because Brady doesn't throw the other routes particularly well.)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:06pm

I watched that game yesterday, and was shocked at (A) how nobody was ever open and (B) how the Packers didn't seem to try to do anything about that. McCarthy seems to have just pushed everybody up a slot and is trying to pretend Cobb is Nelson and Adams is Cobb, and nobody is open. Cobb doesn't have the straight-line speed to threaten deep like Nelson, and Adams doesn't have Cobb's shiftiness in space. Between that, the bad offensive line, and the fact Eddie Lacy's backside is getting large enough to demand its own ZIP Code, it's not shocking things are getting ugly.

by NYMike :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:35pm

The offense stopped producing when Ty Montgomery got hurt. Up until then, they were doing fine. I'm not saying that Ty is a great receiver, but he was fast and big and adequate, and made it much more difficult to double Cobb. Without Ty, there just really is no third option getting anywhere near open.

Bottom line, injuries have really caught up with this team.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:06pm

Not sure about everything that is going on in GB. Nelson's loss shouldn't have this big an impact. As you said, Jones was productive, a "big play" guy in the first few weeks, but he has become very quiet with seemingly no cost to the defense.

There are a couple of other receivers, Montgomery and Quarless, who are disappointing now too. Cobb has been pedestrian, Jones never gets thrown too, Adams disappointing, R. Rodgers disappointing, Eddie Lacy disappointing... Aaron Rodgers doesn't look good half the time either. Starks has looked good most of the season, but even he did nothing yesterday.

It is strange for teams to switch up strategy and for the Packers to just have no answer for weeks at a time. Something else should be open or look better and it just never happens. Aaron Rodgers is trying to break things to the outside, but that never seems to work anymore either. Either he gets too bottled up or there is nothing open anyway.

They have tried to blend in other receivers now due to lack of production. Abbredaris and the other tight end who had a lot of catches yesterday.

I have some idea this might be McCarthy's last year in GB. He is at the point where some coaches hit the wall. That might have something to do with all the struggles adjusting. They don't look like the same team.

I would compare this to Mike Sherman's last year. Multiple receivers got hurt, and the replacements never got separation. Favre had a several game streak with no TD passes. But Sherman never lost the team emotionally, the team came to play. Just limited talent. I think McCarthy might have lost his edge here, the team has a different feel to it.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:11pm

But wasn't Jones's big strength getting open on Rodgers's scrambles? I think teams have committed to keeping Rodgers in the pocket and that's taken away a lot of what GB was getting by on in the first few weeks. Pocket Rodgers doesn't force DBs to come up and deal with him as a running threat.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:25pm

the NFL catch/fumble rulings are almost like NBA travelling calls. They have gotten to the point of ridiculous in the interest of offence.

by Independent George :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:27pm

I'm a Giants fan, and I thought that was clearly not a catch in the end zone; Butler gets the game ball in my opinion. That was a tremendous job on Beckham throughout the entire game.

Giants 5-minute drill was awful. I can understand Harris not going down inbounds with 2:17 left, as his momentum was already carrying him outside when he got pushed out, but that was the first mistake.

But once the Pats started burning time outs before the 2-min warning (which was, as usual, the right call by Belichick), they should have run it at least once more before passing. I don't even like getting a TD in front of the 2-min warning; that's plenty of time for Brady.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:39pm

I don't disagree with you, but then I don't understand why the Dez Bryant "pseudo hail mary" catch versus the Eagles last week (where Maxwell swatted the ball out of his hands immediately) was ruled a catch. I just don't understand the catch rules any longer - for years, possession and two feet down in the endzone was a TD. If a CB stripped it after that or a S knocked it out, so what? The play was over the moment the receiver had possession. That seems really clear to me. After the bizarre Calvin Johnson call, it seems like the NFL has spent years trying to retroactively justify that horrible call. Like, they doubled-down on a bad ruling and sought to increase grey area and judgment calls.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:44pm

I propose that after a catch the play should have to complete the Ickey Woods shuffle to show that they truly have possession of the ball. If they are unable to complete the entire sequence then it will be ruled incomplete.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:50pm

I just think it should be in the same spirit as a player stretching out to make the ball cross the goal-line plane - it doesn't matter if an LB runs up and swats it out of his hand a split-second later: the play is over. It's a TD.

And as much as I like your Ickey shuffle idea, you just know the suits in marketing would get ahold of it and make the dance a weekly sponsored thing with players having to do the hotline bling one week and the nae nae the next.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:00pm

I agree. I think the problem is that while it would immediately become a touchdown in the end zone if it happened on another part of the field it would be a fumble. I'm okay with that but it seems like the league isn't.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:07pm

You could have different rules for end zone plays since in the end zone a player shouldn't have to "become a runner".

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:12pm

Ideally the rules should be the same for what is a catch. The difference is that in the endzone a catch immediately becomes a touchdown so can't be fumbled while on the field of play it can be.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:18pm

Well, you do have different rules for the endzone than the rest of the field - WILDLY different rules, rules so different they might be overlooked in their obviousness: you get 6 points for possessing the ball in the opponent's endzone, for example. Also, the play ends immediately once possession in the endzone is established. There is no "next thing" that happens. The ball break the plain, the play is over. Therefore, the threshold should (and has always been) slightly LOWER in the endzone than on the rest of the field. You don't have to "make a football move" or any of that kind of nonsense because there is no further "football move" to be made once you have possession in the endzone. That's it. Play's over. That is obviously not true at the 35 yard line, where there are dozens of football plays to be made even by a player attempting to "give themselves up" to end the play.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:53pm

I'm not arguing there should be anything about football moves or other nonsense. I think we also agree on what a catch should be; my only real difference is that I want a catch to be determined irrespective of field position and using our definition of 'catch' this would lead to a lot of fumbles in the field of play (but more completions in the end zone and when going out of bounds).

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:02pm

I'm ok with more fumbles in the field of play (but there probably wouldn't be as much as you'd think if you kept the whole "ground can't cause a fumble" idea in place) - but I think if you just treat the boundaries as harder triggers for the end of a play, it's so much more coherent and simple to enforce that the downside would be a fair trade-off.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:13pm

The endzone is a boundary. The playing field's boundaries have the ability to end the play. The current catch rules are essentially like it were possible for a player who steps his tippy-toe on the sideline to fumble the ball back into the field of play. No: the play is over once that boundary is traversed. He doesn't have to maintain possession through his journey to the sideline bench area of the field. That would ludicrous. Traversing the boundary ends the play. Same thing for the endzone. It should be: WR has possession and two feet down in the endzone, the play is over.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:17pm

I agree.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:37pm

It is exactly the way you're suggesting the way it should be - the threshold for "has possession" is just higher than you think it is.

Players need to just start putting some more thought into holding onto the ball, and less into reaching, highstepping, etc.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:56pm

I agree that it's higher than I "think it is" (for the record, my possession is that the I can't understand the rule - "I think" that the rule is unenforceable) in the sense that right now there's seemingly no cap on when a play is over and what SHOULD trigger the end of the play (possession after the ball crosses the plane) no longer triggers the end of the play when it comes to a catch.

Also, "highstepping" - what are you talking about? This sounds dangerously like curmudgeonly old man "play the game the RIGHT way" stuff that I can't support in good conscience.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:03pm

Possession after crossing the goal line absolutely ends the play. The issue is that you think Possession means "getting two hands on the ball" and it absolutely does not mean that.

Possession is clearly defined. You can disagree about what possession SHOULD be, but not what it is.

The highstepping was somewhat in reference to the Calvin Johnson play, but more the Deshean Jackson/Danny Trevethan plays - players don't seem to think holding onto the ball is important.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:06pm

What does the DeSean Jackson play have to do with any of this?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:24pm

It's reference to the fact that some teams clearly don't think that holding onto the ball is all that important, despite the fact that the rules make it very clear.

There's a constant pattern in these complaints - they're almost always WRs not taking care of the ball after they get their hands on it. The Jackson, Trevathan, and Johnson plays all show the same thing - you need to maintain possession of the ball until the play is actually over.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:32pm

Oh, I see - you're trying to compare the Jackson play to the Johnson play. The difference, of course, is that you will not be able to find a single human being in the world who believe the Jackson play was not a fumble. To me, contrasting the clear-cut Jackson play with the still ambiguous Johnson play only illustrates the problem with how catches are ruled.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:37pm

I think most people would also say that the Johnson play is a clear cut catch.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:45pm

No, most people WANT the Johnson play to be a catch, and allow that to cloud their judgement.

The Johnson play is absolutely not a catch. He is contacted in the air, hits the ground, and loses the ball before he comes to a stop. It's a clear incomplete. Not understanding the rule and not agreeing with it are different things.

The fact that he lost the ball because he banged it on the ground under his own volition is irrelevant - he didn't have enough control of it.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:03pm

Please. Transferring the ball into one hand as you use the other hand to brace your fall is control. The league then just decided to double down on it's bad call and make rules that try to justify why it was rule incomplete and left us in the situation we're in now.

by jonsilver :: Wed, 11/18/2015 - 1:11am

Jon Silverberg

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:04pm

So you agree the Bryant play we're talking about wasn't a catch? He loses it before he comes to a stop, he's mid-motion when it gets knocked out.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:39pm

He hits the ground, goes to one knee, and then sits there for a good second and a half with the ball.

It's nothing like the Johnson non-catch.

There's a clearly distinguishing moment where he has control of the ball - there's no such moment for Johnson

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:05pm

"Clearly?" Johnsons clearly has the ball and then lets go of it. "Establishing moment" - is that honestly language in the rules? I've never heard it before and Johnson seems very well established to lots and lots of fans. I mean, if that language is in the rules, there's your problem right there. What a horrible, useless, incoherent standard!

Again, the length of time isn't in the rulebook. Going to one knee is irrelevant because you can't be down by contact in the endzone. His body never hits the ground, he slides off a pile of players and is attempting to regain his balance when the ball is swatted away. All the things you bring up are either not in the rules or point to a higher standard for a catch that he doesn't precisely and inequivocally meet.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:14pm

And I don't think anything about possession other than it is now unclear as to what it is. For what it's worth, I've added "two feet inbounds" to every thought about it I've put out there. I think if a player has a ball fully in his grasp and two feet in bounds, this is a very coherent standard for possession. Of course, it is not the current standard, the current standard is incoherent and highly debate (notice the debate.) It is further complicated by the endzone and sideline boundaries.

I mean, that's the whole discussion.

To me, though, the biggest problem is the unclear cap on how possession is established. Right now, that cap can last anywhere from zero seconds to around 3 seconds with dozens of "football moves" and "natural acts" occurring in the interim between those timeframes.

If a player standing still in the endzone catches the ball with two feet inbounds, the play ends instantly. If he is jogging with no defenders around and he catches the ball, the play ends instantly. So, at very least, in some instance all that is required is possession (not even "two hands on the ball" - he's free to make a one-handed catch!) and two feet inbounds. That's A definition of possession that's not in dispute.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:15pm

The current standard is not incoherent. Your disagreement with something does not make it incoherent.

There is no unclear cap - you just disagree with the rule. The cap is very clear - you need to hold onto the ball until it is clear that you have control.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:16pm

Unless you're Golden Tate or half a dozen other receivers this year.

by jonsilver :: Wed, 11/18/2015 - 1:14am

Jon Silverberg

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:21pm

Come one - you really think these calls are black and white? There's been a dozen or more hotly contested calls that smart fans can't agree on this year.

Let me ask you point blank: should the Dez Bryant "pseudo hail mary" catch last week versus the Eagles have been a catch or not?

And here's a warning, whatever you position you take, I'm going to use THE RULES ARE THEY ARE WRITTEN as well as CURRENT EXAMPLES to take the opposite position. And I will be able to make a very reasonable case. That's the definition of incoherent.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:37pm

Do you really think that play is similar to the one in the Pats/Giants game?

Bryant comes down, and is holding the ball for a good 3 seconds before the defender runs over and knocks it out. (On the video on nfl.com, he gets both hands on the ball at 0:11, hits the ground at 0:12, and is starting to stand up at 0:14 when the defender comes over and knocks the ball loose (at 0:15).

Totally different situation than Butler/ODB where there wasn't a large time gap with the receiver holding onto the ball.

This game is a waste of time though - because the refs making bad calls every once in a while isn't evidence that the rules are incoherent.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:59pm

EXACTLY, finally you get it - there is nothing in the rules about length of time for possession! The difference in the two plays is only the length of time between when the defender knocks it out!

So the plays were ruled differently based on an issue the rulebook DOES NOT ADDRESS. That's incoherent!

To make it simple: you ARE NOT down in the endzone when your knee goes down. You are down in the endzone once you have possession and break the plane. Bryant being down or not doesn't matter, that's not what the rule you are defending says.

That's what makes it incoherent - the refs are making rulings based on things the rulebook does not address... and they have to make those rulings based on other rules. The rulebook is currently in conflict with itself.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:18pm

I agree with you that the rulebook is unclear, but those two plays aren't all that comparable. Dez Bryant had it for much longer and was actually standing back up when the ball was knocked away. The defender doesn't even appear to be trying to break up the pass any longer, it's done more out of frustration than anything.

I know there is no time component quantified, but it should be patently obvious that they longer you hold the ball after getting both feet down the more likely it will be ruled a catch.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:34pm

"It should be patently obvious" - of really? You think everyone has been arguing about this stuff for weeks on end because it's all patently obvious?

My entire point was to take two extremes in terms of the TIME of possession before the ball was knocked away - the Bryant catch and the Beckham non-catch - to show that these plays are being decided on judgments outside of the rulebook. (Call it "patently obvious officiating.")

As the overall situation about what constitutes a catch become cloudier, the more it infects every judgment, leading to a situation where something that should be "patently obvious" like the Bryant catch is not defensible on grounds different than a hotly contested play.

Again, my issue isn't that Beckham's catch should have been a catch (as someone who hates Beckham and thinks he's massively over-rated, this has all been a tough conversation for me), but that the rules are in conflict with each other and the refs are REQUIRED to make judgments calls based on nothing in the rules, which further makes judgments calls based on nothing a standard that infects the gameplay.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:39pm

You don't think a positive correlation between length of time possession is maintained and likelihood it will be ruled a catch is patently obvious?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:47pm

In terms of split-second differences, I think nothing is patently obvious. I took the two most extreme I could think of quickly.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:47pm

I was thinking that you could make the rule about to be something about if in you're in contact with the defender then you would have to maintain control throughout that contact. So if a back gets a hand in while you make a catch and then knocks it out after it would be incomplete. However, even that would still make Beckham's catch a touchdown as Butler didn't make contact with him until after he already had it. I don't think there is anyway to resolve this aside from 'control and in bounds', if the ball is knocked out after that, even in a very short amount of time, then it would be fumble; unless of course you're already in the end zone for a touchdown.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:58pm

The thing that makes the endzone different (and has until this year for the 30 years I've been watching football) is that the play ends instant when the wr makes the catch. There have to be rules for the field of play to decide what to do about a defender disrupting possession in the regular field of play because the play is still occurring after possession is established. "Is it a fumble? Is it a catch? What IS a possession, really, when you get down to it and how should we handle the post-possession disruption?" Those questions need to be answered and right now the NFL has answered those questions with a bunch of nonsense. In the endzone, those questions about post-possession disruption don't exist. And what I'm trying to remind everyone is that "time of possession" is not in the rules and absolutely not a factor.

So there had better be a more coherent explanation for why Beckham's catch wasn't ruled a catch beyond comparing it to what would have happened in the field of play and/or time of possession. Those are the only two things that have been offered and they both don't make sense in the context of the rest of the rules.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:04pm

Again - you keep repeating this stuff when you'd be much better off reading section 3.2 of the rule book. All of this is clearly defined.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:12pm

No, you're misunderstanding. There is language in there, but very little of leads to clear definitions and some of it can't be reconciled against itself.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:22pm

No, I'm not misunderstanding.

You just can't be bothered to spend 45 seconds to read section 3.2 of the rulebook, which very clearly explains why Beckham is not a catch, and why Bryant is. There's nothing unclear, and there's nothing that can't be reconciled.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:03pm

We'll have to agree to disagree. Which is a dispute! Which means this conversation should (like the Bryant catch) therefore be ruled incomplete. I'm just joshing with you, it took my a long time to understand that you're a Pats fan with a lot of personal involvement in the outcome of the Beckham, whereas the outcome is purely of theoretical interest to me. I do think your "this is just like that highsteppin' DJax" stuff was pretty bizarre and crypto-curmudgeon, but otherwise you've been ok. Consider me totally unconvinced by your interpretation of the rules, but thankful for the discussion!

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:41pm

"there is nothing in the rules about length of time for possession"

There doesn't need to be - because time of possession isn't the issue - it's that the break between gaining the ball and the ball being knocked out is clear. With Bryant there is a clear time when he has possession of the ball, with Beckham there is not.

There's nothing incoherent here.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:49pm

I disagree. With Beckham there is a short period of time where he has control. You're trying to argue that in a short enough period it's impossible for a receiver to have control. The question then would be what is that time frame? A second? Half a second? Two seconds?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:07pm

Here's the exact language, from the official NFL rulebook:

Item 2. Possession of Loose Ball. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:16pm

Wait - so it should have been a catch then? He has complete control, both feet in bound and is capable of warding off impending contact (not that it really applies.) He didn't lose the ball while simultaneously touching both feet - it happened after. Seems like he caught it - which really confused me.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:28pm

Is it your penultimate sentence the reason why we're still discussing this? When Hochuli overruled the penalty he actually* said "The player lost the ball simultaneous to getting his second foot down."

If Hochuli believes what he said to be true, which apparently is different from what you saw, is it still a cloudy area?

*Maybe not actually, but as close as I can remember the afternoon after.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:42pm

It doesn't really matter though - the rules are all worded so that the onus is on the receiver proving he has possession, and one of the notes is "If there is any question by the covering official(s) as to whether a forward pass is complete, intercepted, or incomplete, it always will be ruled incomplete"

If it's cloudy, it's incomplete. If you and the referee disagree on whether the ball came loose before or after the foot came down, then it's cloudy, and the CALL is clear.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:00pm

But what would have been the magical moment it changes from "cloudy" to "not cloudy" for you? If instead of a single frame between the catch and warding off the defender, there had been 3 frames? 6 frames? 406? On replay, it's as clear after one frame as it is after 1,000. In real time, that's a significant difference.

To me, Hoculi "clearly" got the call wrong by saying they are simultaneous when they are not. If that's the standard, it's as unambiguous as awarded a player a TD when they're down at the one.

by Alternator :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 11:34pm

I'd say "When the player has enough balance to change directions," as a good rule of thumb after jumping for a ball, personally.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:39pm

I wonder if the solution is to only allow replays at normal speed.

If it's not obvious to an official in realtime that the player had control when both feet were down etc, etc. Then it's not a catch, interception or whatever.

It's not going to be perfect but clearly this debacle has now reached the point where it never will be while replay is part of the game.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:23pm

The cap is incredibly unclear. Right now it's a coin flip as to whether any catch under these circumstances will hold up or not. Sometimes its incomplete, sometimes it's a fumble/touchdown/interception. It's impossible to be consistent with these calls the way the rules are currently structured.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:35pm

The "time cap" is the entire reason I keep bringing up the Bryant play (and the trap I'll be able to catch Darth Hoodie in if he engages it) because in terms of the rules as they are written there's nothing that makes the Bryant play a catch but the Beckham catch not one apart from the amount of time elapsed. In anything, the Beckham catch is MORE of a catch according to the rules (and his own language about "natural acts") than the Bryant catch... but I think most people feel it would be ludicrous to argue that the Bryant catch was not a catch.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:38pm

The time elapsed is part of the difference - It's clear that Bryant has control of the ball - it's never clear that Beckham does.

There's nothing unnecessarily arbitrary there.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:39pm

"the Beckham catch is MORE of a catch according to the rules "

Explain - as I think this is the crux of your problem here.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:56pm

The Beckham catch is (arguably and only arguably) more legit because Bryant has not completed his motion of "going to the ground" - he's halfway between up and down, he's at the midpoint of any "natural act" and the rulebook has feelings about that. Meanwhile, Beckham has done everything the rulebrook requires of him for a catch in the endzone.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:18pm

This isn't remotely accurate, Chemical. Bryant catches it cleanly, falls to the ground without losing any control and is standing back up when the defender comes along. If it were truly comparable, Bryant's ball would have been knocked out almost immediately after hitting the ground, in which case it would have been ruled incomplete.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:27pm

You're misunderstanding me - I think the Bryant catch is clearly a catch. Ruling it otherwise would be insane. But according to the rules, the Beckham catch meets the same standards. If anything, there are fewer rules that could be interpreted otherwise in the Beckham instance. The singular difference is time of possession. And there's nothing in the rulebook about time. There are several things in the rules which suggest that what Bryant did is not a catch (and "the standing back up" doesn't matter when it comes to proving possession throughout the process - remember, Calvin Johnson was standing back up when we got into this mess) - I think these conflicts are making the catch rulings ridiculous.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:42pm

"But according to the rules, the Beckham catch meets the same standards."

You keep saying this, but it's not even remotely true.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:52pm

Yes it is. According to the literal rules.

Look at it this way, if Beckham had done everything the same and held the ball .5 seconds longer, would it have been a catch? He doesn't take extra steps, the defender stills rips it out, etc. It's exactly the same play but for length. What about 1 second? What about .8 seconds? What about 1.2 second? If he had merely held it the "patently obvious" 3 seconds longer we can all agree it would have been a catch. But what's the cut-off and how is that coherent or enforceable.

Beckhman did everything the rule book says he needs to do to establish possession: two feet in bounds, ball in grip (with no juggling) to the end of the play (because the play ends the moment he does the other two things, unlike in the field of play where it continues.)

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:01pm

No, it isn't. Like I said - read the real book before continuing this nonsense.

Here's the rule:

To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone

The 2nd to last sentence clearly applies to Beckham and doesn't apply to Bryant.

Stop doubling down and READ THE MANUAL.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:25pm

But this is why I'm saying that's incoherent - this looks like the Beckham catch could be ruled a catch by letter of the law AND that the difference in "clearly" between Beckham and Bryant is only a matter of time, a concern which is entirely unaddressed by the rules themselves!

AND on top of it there are rules about "going to the ground" that apply to Bryant and not to Beckham that complicate the situation further.

You are repeating back to me what I'm saying to you - for some reason it doesn't bother you. I can accept that.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:25pm

" this looks like the Beckham catch could be ruled a catch by letter of the law "

No, it doesn't.

"a concern which is entirely unaddressed by the rules themselves! "

No, it is explicitly addressed in the rules.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:40pm

No - time is not addressed by the rules. It doesn't say how long any of this needs to take. Can an establishment be split-second, how much clarity is needed upon review to meet these standard? In the slow-motion replay, it's very clear Beckham has firm control, both feet in bounds and makes himself a runner - very clear. As a "bang bang" play, not at all. Does that count as an open question (there's total clarity on the replay) and, if not, what would? If the answer is "he needs to hold onto it a second longer," then don't you think there should be SOMETHING in the rules that touches on that?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:48pm

"It's very clear Beckham has firm control, both feet in bounds and makes himself a runner - very clear"

No, it's not.

You continuing to repeat this doesn't make it true. The ball is knocked out around the same time as his second foot is coming down. Hochuli says simultaneously, but it doesn't matter as the rules states that if there's any question, it's incomplete.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:51pm

But TIME is the issue. If it's simultaneous (it is not, no way, that's just incorrect) then the ruling is correct. If not, he meets the criteria. Again, the only difference between this catch and the Bryant catch is time. How much time is needed to make something "clear?" How much on super slow-mo high def replay?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:57pm

The Bryant and Beckham catches are not similar at all. Bryant goes to ground, Beckham does not.

Your hung up on nonsense.

by Anonymouse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:14pm

This is why I hate instant replay. We have people arguing that events that occur 1/24th of a second apart from each other aren't "simultaneous". If we want to break out the stop-watches for every replay, we might as well measure every forward progress situation using ball-mounted GPS units, and have the uprights extended another one hundred feet.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:24pm

Exactly, exactly, exactly my point! The problem is that "clearly" in and of itself makes for a judgment call. Two feet in bounds, for example, doesn't require a judgment call - feet are either in bounds or they're not. "Clearly warding off a defender" is three different judgment calls piled on top of each other, especially when you have replay and can see "yes, he gets the ball, his second foot down AND then starts to fight off the defender - and of, by the way, this all happens in 1/29.99th of a second" This is a ludicrous way of judging a play especially when combined with other rules equally reliant on judgment calls!

Are "unclear" and "uncomfortably close to being unclear" the same thing? No, they are not!

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:25pm

I think the sticking point is here: 'If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession.'

In my opinion Beckham lost possession just after having both feet in bounds which means that it should be ruled a catch. I can see why it wouldn't be but that also opens the door to a lot of other unclear situations.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:49pm

He's also established as a runner - he meets the definition because he's warding the defender off. He has the ball in his control and attempts to prevent the defender from moving it.

On replay, it's all clear as day. Live, not so much. I'm astounded anyone can take the position the ultimate ruling was 100% correct.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:50pm

You think that - but the rule says otherwise.

The rule says the player must CLEARLY become a runner, and to become a runner he must be capable of defending himself and the ball. The rule also says if there's "any question" it's incomplete.

Do you really want to argue that Beckham was CLEARLY capable of defending the ball while it was being swatted out of his hands??

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:57pm

He was obviously not successful, but he was CLEARLY without a doubt defending it - you can see him getting control and THEN fighting the defender. This all takes place in a split-second, though. He gets possession then begins to fight. I don't know how you can take the position otherwise.

Conversely, this is part of why the rules are bad and why I'm not arguing Beckham should have been ruled as making the catch: what would it mean for a player to fail to ward off an opponent? What does that look like? Bryant actually utterly fails to make any attempt whatsoever to ward off Maxwell because he's caught up in trying to navigate the pile below him - in other words, while trying to maintain possession through his movement to the ground, he fails to establish himself as a runner.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:00pm

"you can see him getting control and THEN fighting the defender. "

You keep stating this as fact, and as clear, but it conflicts with most people's view of the play, and conflicts with the referees.

It's all nonsense anyways because of note 1. The fact that, as you said, it happens in a 'split second' means it HAS TO be ruled incomplete.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:08pm

Split-second means the ruling is incorrect because the rule says simultaneously. According to the rules he had possession and both feet in bounds and was arguably a runner, maintaining control for more than a split-second is not a requirement.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:28pm

I mean, it seems like it should be pretty clear why I'm hung up on time, right?

by nat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:00pm

Here's the relevant rule, with the NFL's emphasis:
To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone.

The emphasized words "then" and "until" make it clear that in the NFL the process of "becoming a runner" takes time - enough time switch focus from catching the ball to being able to ward off or avoid a would-be tackler. How long that might be is a judgment call and intended to be so. But in no universe did Beckham have enough time after getting his second foot down to do anything other than act surprised when the ball was knocked out of his hands. He didn't have time to secure the ball, to move it out of the way, to change his own direction, to tighten his grip, to duck, to shed his tail, to expel his viscera through his anus to scare predators, or even release a spray of ink.

So you are flat out wrong about the role of time in this rule. The rule is quite clear that becoming a runner cannot happen at the same time as securing control and getting the second foot down. There must be some elapsed time, and that time is significant.

The NFL's intent is also clear in this note later in the same section:
If there is any question by the covering official(s) as to whether a forward pass is complete, intercepted, or incomplete, it always will be ruled incomplete.
and by the requirement that the player be "clearly" a runner to be given possession.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:02pm

There have been some high profile catches this year that do not meet that definition in my opinion.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:08pm

Cobb in the first game of the year for example.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:09pm


There have probably been dozens of holding and PI calls that don't match the rulebook standard. Dozens of false starts called encroachment and dozens of OPI incidents that called DPI.

The refs aren't good. They'll probably never be really good until we let them review EVERYTHING without the burden of "the call on the field stands absent incontrovertible evidence" - somewhat because they're not fast enough to be in good position, and somewhat because there's too many things going on and not enough of them.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:26pm

You're confusing the inevitable usage errors that will exist in any system and a system that itself encourages and ensures errors.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:33pm

Refs don't get a few minutes of looking at the plays on an HD TV screen in slow motion for those plays.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:06pm

By this rule then Dez's catch should also be ruled incomplete because he was still in the process of establishing himself as a runner, it just took longer than usual because it was in a pile of other players.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:13pm


Stop arguing and read ALL of section 3.2 of the rulebook.

The fact that you think these plays are similar means you haven't read it.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:22pm

The rules are all about clearly becoming a runner, except there are additional rules about going to the ground which would apply to Dez but not to Beckham.

You could argue that Beckham established himself as a runner in that short period of time and losing the ball after that would be irrelevant.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:28pm

You can argue that, but it's addressed by the rules, in several places.

"until he has clearly become a runner"

The word clearly makes that argument nonsense, and the following note confirms:

Note 1: If there is any question by the covering official(s) as to whether a forward pass is complete, intercepted, or incomplete, it always will be ruled incomplete.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:34pm

You have a problem with thinking things are clear because they seem clear to you - we wouldn't be having this discussion, if repeatedly, over and over throughout this season, we hadn't seen the lack of clarity rear its head. It's not clear AT ALL that Beckham has failed to establish himself as a runner before the ball is pulled loose.

In contrast, there is "any question" - it was questioned at the time - as to whether Bryant had completed the requirements for the going to the ground motion. By the rules it should not have been a catch. That's absurd. The refs had to make a judgment call there and ignore enforcing the rules as they are written.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:52pm

"You have a problem with thinking things are clear because they seem clear to you"

This is rich.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:17pm

Is it? I've never encountered anyone who was as confident about the Calvin Johnson play as you are. It was a shocking play because no one could understand how it wasn't clear he had possession. The rule created its own ambiguity. That's what bad rules do.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:22pm

No, it means the rules are forcing to refs to rely on judgment calls and that the judgment calls are increasingly in conflict with each other. Hence, the idea that these things are incoherent and unenforceable.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:26pm

The fact that the referees have to make judgement calls does not make the rules incoherent or unenforceable.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:28pm

It does when they are several areas of judgment that are in conflict with each other. And a system of rules that are so vague as to be always up for interpretation is the same as having no rules at all. Watching games with no rules is no fun.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:53pm

"It does when they are several areas of judgment that are in conflict with each other."

You keep saying this and then refusing to define what is in conflict.

Be specific. Define exactly where the rules conflict each other - and use the text of the rules.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:15pm

For starters, the going to the ground rule (which has created a weird space for a complicated redefinition of what is a catch - you're the only person I know confident about eh Calvin Johnson ruling) and the traditional "endzone possession ends the play" notion - which used to mean that if a safety knocked a guy's block off and sent the ball flying, it didn't matter so long as he caught the ball and got both feet down first in the endzone. There's a drift on all these meanings and the space for "clearly" in the word of high-def slow-mo replay has only contributed to the problem. They got rid of the "football move" language and replaced it with equally unclear "established as a runner" language. There's a conflict between what it means to be down in the endzone and what it means to "complete the motion of going to the ground." There's a conflict between what happens in real time on a "bang bang" play and how it looks on a replay when decisions hinge on the word "clearly" and the only factor in that judgment is about the passage of time - especially since there's a compression, expansion and distortion of time on the replay. The refs have no guidance of in what context something needs to be clear (replay or live? split-second or expansive?), for how long and just how clear is really clear, so all of these aspects combined to make it untenable.

For comparison, there are very clear rules about say, what constitutes a fumble (if there's no pass involved). There's almost no judgment required from the refs in terms of a variety of plays from botched hand-offs to messed up laterals to straight drops. The with the passing game is how the bad "going to the ground" rules and "established as a runner" language do little to clarify and don't mesh with each other - in, say, the Golden Tate in the endzone situation or versus the Eagles when Ted Ginn made a catch, ran a few steps was tackled, had a knee down and then lost control to flip the ball up in the air for an interception.

The issue is not the Beckham call in specific (which SEEMS like they got right but the rules sure aren't decisive about) but how a cloud of confusion has settled over the game when it comes to catch rulings and the refs are more likely to get things wrong and believe a bigger part of their job is judgment calls than it should be because the rules are so vague they're regularly forced to make them. By having things this unclear, it's ensuring that more errors happen than need to. I don't see how anyone can watch these games and say "yup, this is aaaallll makes perfect sense."

by Ben :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:39pm

I disagree with you on this. I think the rules being different in the endzone is what causes a lot of these problems.

If that ODB play happens anywhere else in the field, it would be an incomplete pass, so it should be incomplete in the endzone too.

I think that the rules for a touchdown should be changed. It should not be the instant the ball crosses the plane, the play is over and a TD is awarded. I think it should be that the play isn't over until it would be over at any other point of the field, i.e., the ball carrier goes out of bounds, is tackled, forward progress is stopped, or voluntarily gives themselves up (take a knee). If at that point, the ball would be placed across the goal line, then it's a TD.

So, reaching across the goal line, but then getting yanked back would be a TD due to forward progress. However, things like the Golden Tate play from earlier this year would be an INT and the Calvin Johnson play would be a fumble, just as if they happened in the field of play.

Doing this would take out a lot of the "does the receiver have it long enough to be a TD" and "did the ballcarrier fumble before or after he crossed the goal line" questions.

Granted, it wouldn't solve the "is or isn't a catch" issue, but it at least takes out one more variable, which is important on potential scoring plays.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:43pm

I really disagree with the idea that it should require more than possession. It also wouldn't actually solve the did the receiver have it long enough for a catch thing. It would just be to decide fumble/incomplete.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:04pm

Boundaries always add complications; requiring players to treat the endzone similarly to all other points on the field would simplify the rules through the removal of a boundary.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:37pm

But it's still a boundary, that isn't removing it. It's just changing the nature of it.
A runner crosses the plane, isn't ruled down, is prevented from going down by the D and is stripped, when is the runner's "forward progress" (scare quotes since what constitutes forward seems weird once your in the endzone) stopped? Can the runner declare himself down? How does he do that? Can he do it the instant he crosses the line?

Also, if the receiver can't declare himself down then the receiver must always "go to ground" introducing that whole ball of wax to every endzone reception.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 10:27pm

There will always be a boundary; the boundary would just play essentially no role when enforcing the rules on the current down.; TDs would be awarded prior to the 'subsequent' down in a manner similar to first downs.

As Ben argued earlier: plays in the endzone develop in a similar manner to, and end exactly the same as, they do everywhere else on the field. After all the rules determining possession, including down-by-contact, forward progress, etc. are enforced the ball is placed appropriately. If that spot is in the endzone, then the play is a TD; if not then the down is updated and play continues. Forward progress is no more difficulty to determine then it is anywhere else on the field.

Players already can down themselves. QBs do on slides; KRs (and defensive players) do in their own endzones. We don't often see players down themselves in the field of play because they are generally more motivated by yardage, but they can. They could down themselves in the endzone similarly, either by going to the ground, in a tackle or by taking a knee, or running through the back. They won't be allowed to down themselves verbally just like they can't in the field of play.

There are an endless number of ways to change the rules of football big and small. Ben's proposed rule change would keep the essence of football while also simplifying the rules. This rule removes the ball-of-waxness from plays like Beckham's and Tate's while the vast majority of the plays that retain this wax-ballness are already waxy.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:51pm

They could just move to Rugby style rules for a try. If you don't go down in the endzone then the ball can still be fumbled/recovered.

That would stop a lot of the running back reaching for the goal line and fumbling just as he crosses issues too

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:43pm

"He doesn't have to maintain possession through his journey to the sideline bench area of the field."

Under the current rules, he might well have to. If the receiver is going to the ground as a result of being tackled, simply being in bounds with possession is no longer enough. He can lose possession of the ball after he's legally out of bounds and that will nullify the catch.

"That would [be] ludicrous."

It is ludicrous. The current state of the rules is ludicrous. That's what happens when you have a commissioner who is reactionary with little feel for rules and who does everything in response to the latest PR kerfuffle. Every reactionary rule change makes the rulebook more convoluted and byzantine.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:53pm

I agree 100%. I think these rules are very close to unenforceable. I think the catch rules have lost their damn mind.

(And also agree that the PR kerfuffle dating back to Calvin Johnson is EXACTLY why we have this idiotic situation.)

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:55pm

Trying to justify that horrible call is just making things worse and worse (and Dez Bryant's in the playoffs).

Let's just agree that sometimes zebras make bad call that have significant consequences but not let it ruin the game going forward.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:58pm

"simply being in bounds with possession is no longer enough"


Again, the word possession in a football context implies control of the ball. It does not just mean 'touching the ball with both hands' - if you can't hold onto it in the natural act of coming down to the ground, you've proved you never actually had control, or possession, of the ball.

Also, as much as I dislike Goodell, this has literally nothing to do with him. The Competition Committee makes these rules, and he's not on that committee.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:04pm

I wouldn't say the commissioner has nothing to do with the competition committee. I'm sure he has input with them.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:05pm

"Natural act" - this is the kind of nonsensical language that causes these problems. If you can't see how applying the concept of "natural act" to the Beckham catch is a problem, you're on a different wavelength from everybody else chiming in here...

(Also, I didn't blame Goodell directly - just that the horrible PR from the Calvin Johnson ruling has been a major factor in all this and it would be tough to argue it hasn't...)

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:11pm

"Natural Act" is shorthand here for falling down/hitting the ground/etc. Falling victim to the natural laws of physics.

Read Aaron's comment - and many others. It was pretty clear live that Beckham never had control of the ball - he got both hands on it, but was just getting his feet down and trying to shift his hands when Butler knocked it out. Your appeal to the masses is not only evidence of nothing, it doesn't have he support of the masses.

If you allow that to be a catch, we're going to have about 10 fumbles a game - and a whole lot more 'Kill The Receiver' going on.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:17pm

Ok - I see what the problem is. You think I'm arguing about the Beckham catch in specific (I am not) and what I'm concerned about is the Beckham call in the context of calls like the one in the Eagles/Cowboys game and GB catch mentioned below.

Also, for all the talk about fumbles, the Beckham non-catch wouldn't have been a fumble. It still would have been a TD. The play would've been over. Not would the Bryant catch, nor the weird fumble-into-an-interception at the goal-line in the Eagles Panthers game, all of which are among the disputed catches that have led to this discussion.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:45pm

Stop arguing with Strawmen.

I never said the Beckham catch would be a fumble - it's an incompletion 99 of 100 times in the middle of the field - which is why it's an incompletion in the endzone.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:02pm

But I love strawmen! You should also stop calling Beckham a jewel thief and letting that influence your opinions here. The evidence that Beckham is a jewel thief is limited at best.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:47pm

I would posit that the back of the end zone is the boundary, not the front of the end zone. On offense, a QB can drop back and run around in his end zone, but he can't step over the end line. Likewise, a fumble is a live ball in the end zone, but dead once it crosses the end line.

There are different rules for passing the ball into the end zone, and running the ball into the end zone. The rules for a successful passing of the football into the end zone are the same as the successful passing of the football anywhere else on the field, the player must come down in bounds in possession of the football. Beckham didn't do that. As Aaron said, anywhere else on the field, that's a clear incomplete pass. I'm shocked that anybody who regularly watches football would have thought that was a touchdown, as I thought it was an obvious missed call live, and doubly obvious on replay.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:02pm

Opponent's endzone is the boundary. Also, the endzone boundary has different rules than the sideline boundary. No one would argue otherwise. A ball isn't "out of bounds" when it crosses the sideline plane.

And again, it's not that I thought it was a TD, so much as the rulings have become impossible to parse.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:33pm

Gotta agree here. That play would almost never be considered a catch a fumble anywhere on the field, so it wasn't a TD in the end zone.

That's the error people make when comparing running vs. passing plays. On a running play possession is never in question, so simply breaking the barrier is enough. On a pass, it has to be complete to the point that it would be considered a fumble on any other part of the field.

Not that I don't have problems with the catch rules myself, but that one was entirely consistent with the way things have been called. I'd even say it was more consistent with the rule than a lot of other non-catches this past year.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:45pm

But where in the rules does it say that? In the field of play, the play continues until the player with possession is down by contact, reaches the endzone or touches a sideline boundary.* In the endzone, a play is over the MOMENT a player has possession. In terms of the game, post-possession strip does not occur in the endzone. In the field of play, the standards for what constitutes possession are entirely different because the play continues beyond the moment of possession. That's a significant difference. I think the Beckham catch was ruled incomplete (and you don't have a problem with it) not because of anything it says in the rules, but because of the cloudy nature of what constitutes a catch at all these days. Beckham wasn't going to the ground - the play was over the moment he had the ball firmly in his grasp with two feet in bounds. I'm not sure the rules say otherwise, anywhere. (Although, please feel free to prove me wrong - I genuinely can't keep up.)

(* I suppose an illegal forward pass would also end the play, but I honestly don't know what would happen if an RB ran for 10 yards and then chucked the ball forward to a receiver, especially in the case of an incomplete pass.)

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:55pm

There is no cloudy nature of what is considered a catch.

If we're going to keep having this discussion - you should actually read the rules.

There is no difference in what is considered a catch in and out of the endzone - the rules are the same:

To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone

That is the rule - it specifically addresses the player losing the ball in these sort of situations. (there's a note about going to the ground too)

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:31pm

This isn't cloudy?
"and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner"?

In the end zone? Where there is no need to "become a runner"?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:44pm

Yeah, especially when Beckham clearly starts to fight the CB off - he's warding off a defender (he loses off course) but he's by any reasonable definition "warding him off." He's got the ball and then he fights the guy trying to take it away from him - it couldn't be a more dictionary definition example of "warding off." He's trying to prevent the defender from moving the ball.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:55pm

"In the end zone? Where there is no need to "become a runner"?"

The rules specifically state that one needs to become a runner, even in the endzone.

Read the rules. Seriously. The rules for establishing possession are exactly the same on every part of the field.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:29pm

So if an unguarded receiver catches the ball in the endzone while stationary and throws it to an official it's not a catch? Or does throwing make him become a runner? Is that "avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent"?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:54pm

Irrelevant! When would such a thing ever happen?!

Just kidding. Obviously, the "establish as a runner" language is ambiguous by its nature. If that were the only thing in terms of catch rulings that was heavily judgment based and ambiguous, it wouldn't be a big deal. Combine it with the several other conflicting ambiguities and you've got a problem!

I've actually seen this happen a few times this year where I've wondered if the refs are going to rule it incomplete - an unguarded, stationary player is very quick to either spike it or flip it away. Certainly, there's nothing in the rules protecting them.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:38pm

The NFL would never double-down on a bad ruling!

Unrelated*: any news about whether the NFL will ever release psi measurements from games played this Fall?

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:56pm

I'm kind of surprised they don't have PSI sensors in the balls that broadcast their readings. The networks could then display this on screen with their advanced stats.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:20pm

What I find screwy about the ODB call is that Cobb was awarded a TD on an identical play for the Packers against the Bears which was reviewed, ummed and ahhhed over etc. The head of officiating was out defending the call the next day and so forth. Yet when ODB does the same thing you get the exact same process but with exactly the opposite result.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:24pm

Yeah, you can find plenty of plays this season that went the opposite way - after this weekend, I'm of the mind that the rule in unenforceable as written.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:46pm

"Awful" seems a bit strong for a drive that took them from their own 3 to the opponents' 5. I didn't like the playcalling once they got within FG range either, but overall it's hard to call that drive anything other than a success.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:32pm

RE: the comments on Jordan Matthews on 4th and 10 - that shallow crossing route is basically all Matthews can run. It's certainly his signature route. The entire problem with the Eagles' offense is that on that 4th down they WERE having their best receiver run his strongest route. Also thought the "Eagles fans should be concerned about the running game" comment was pretty funny. Like, "no shit, Murray has been awful all year and Mathews is out." This wasn't a a surprise in-game development.

Celek's sudden resurgence was interesting - the Dolphins seemed to be aware of the Eagles' o-line issues and that they were having to play Celek a lot to help with them blocking. I don't think they at all expected him to come out running corner routes and deep out. It didn't even seem to process that they should be covering the TE. Of course, they caught up to what the Eagles were doing and Celek did almost all his damage in the first quarter.

Very strange game - I'm curious what DVOA will think about it. It will probably think the Dolphins dominated because the Eagles had such good fumble luck and it can't see the crazy batted ball reception for a TD that was the difference in the game. There were a handful of laughably bad plays by both teams, like plays that will turn up in end of year "goofz and blunderz" montages.

by lokiwi :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:59pm

In retrospect it seems insane that there wasn't more concern about letting Maclin go. I like Matthews, but they aren't just expecting him to be a No. 1 receiver in his 2nd year. They are expecting him to be a No. 1 receiver with Riley Cooper and the corpse of Miles Austin as the other options. I guess they expected more out of Agholor, but rookie wideouts are notoriously unpredictable.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:13pm

I mean, the WR problems started when DJax got cut. I said it then: by allowing Maclin to bet on himself in an offense that puts up a lot of raw yardage, you're begging for him to become overpriced. I think Maclin is a nice 1b, top notch #2wr. The Eagles should have overpaid to bring him back this year because they had no choice, but they didn't have to end up in that position - if they kept DJax around for the final year of his contract, one or the other of them would've been able to be had at a reasonable cost. If Maclin had only put up 900 yards and 5 TDs (because DJax took the Lion's share), they would have been able to afford him at a #2's salary. Conversely, they could have paid DJax a reasonable #1's salary if he had been the one to underperform (and let Maclin go.)

They also would have been a far superior team in 2014, but that's beside the point.

Really though, the problem is letting both go while signing Riley Cooper to a longterm deal. You can't whiff on roster moves that badly (I've got three WR's, let me see... yes, I'll pay good money to keep the worst one!) and stay afloat.

by Pat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:43pm

Yup. They were screwed the instant they signed Maclin to a 1-year "prove it" deal when he was the only receiver with significant experience. He was always going to be able to prove he was worth a decent contract, and obviously someone else was going to overpay to get him.

They absolutely had to sign him to a multi-year contract in 2014, and they didn't. And they could've done it easily, too, by just offering enough guaranteed so that he would win out compared to a low guarantee in 2014 + franchise tag in 2015. Instead they're left with a completely garbage set of WRs, and the national media still hasn't noticed...

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:33pm

It's especially dumb when kelly himself should have been well aware that his system puts up really big raw yardage numbers even if you're not playing particularly well. I mean, Matthews this year is (was? not sure after Sunday) on pace for the Eagles' single season record! Kelly had to know that "prove it" was going to mean Maclin's price would get overinflated.

But at least before getting injured, Bradford hit exactly the minimum number of starts to trigger giving St. Louis more draft picks. There's always that.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:03pm

Sounds a little like how the Jets have burned themselves with the Wilkerson situation. Idzik could have signed him longterm two years ago, now they are going to have to franchise him and figure it out, when he's having a monster year for them so far.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:19pm

Can they afford to tag him with Richardson and Williams on the roster? Aren't they a little tight for space?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:29pm

I'm not sure. They'll cut Cromartie and Coples this offseason, and that will cut 15 million off the cap total. Restructure D'Brickashaw, and then they might be able to sign Fitzpatrick and tag Wilkerson. They need to tag him to at least get a trade offer, but if I were them I'd keep Wilkerson and eventually let Richardson go. Wilkerson produces, and doesn't do stupid/crazy things in the offseason. There are some other guys they could cut (Colon will be gone, but I don't know if that shaves anything off). I should go look at Over the Cap to figure this out.

Richardson and Williams are on their rookie contracts, so that doesn't effect the financial stuff so much. The contracts for Revis, Cromartie, Coples, Ferguson, Harris and Mangold are the real issues there.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:01pm

So I went to Over the Cap to look this over. The Jets have 141 million invested in 38 players for next year's cap. Subtract Cromartie and Coples, that falls down to 126 million. So they will have 25 million to spend in 2016 on 10-13 players if the cap is 150 million. So they should be able to tag Wilkerson and resign Fitzpatrick and probably Ivory. The interesting thing is where all their money has been spent; Revis accounts for 17 million of cap space next year, but Ferguson accounts for 14 million (9 million of that is saved if they cut him before June 1). The offensive line accounts for a large amount of their spending, moreso than the defensive line. They really need to start drafting offensive tackles and a center to replace Mangold eventually.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:26pm

You'll need to sign at least fifteen players if you cut those two and after the ten million you'll need for the draft class, five for contingencies and eight for the other eight it looks like it might get very tight. I don't know what the tag value will be but it should be at least $12 million so very, very tight. You'll need to sign a qb too.

Full disclosure: I've been eyeing Wilkerson up as a potential niner signing, largely because of him being rather awesome but I think Williams looks like a beast too and after taking him it looks like they'll have to move on from either Wilkerson or Richardson at some stage. Maybe it should be Richardson but it's much easier on the cap to go with the younger guy.

I'd love to see him hit free agency, partly because guys like that almost never hit free agency at the stage he's at. You are quite right that they should have signed him up a couple of years ago, fantastic player.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 8:14pm

Agree with you about Wilkerson's worth. There's a rumor that the cap will be 160 million next year; that might save several other teams. If Wilkerson hits free agency, I doubt the Niners get him; the Raiders and Colts have somewhere between 70 to 50 million dollars of space.
Lets do the math:

155 million cap

Room after cutting Coples and Cromartie : 155 -125= 30 million.

Subtract tag value, lets say 15 mil: 15 million left for draft class and 14 players. Yes, you are right, they will need
to do more, either cut more players (Marshall, 9 million, Mangold, 9 million), or shift D'Brickashaw Ferguson's 14 million around.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 8:49pm

The niners will have more than $50 million after cutting Ahmad Brooks, even more if they move on from Kap, they should be players in a free agent class with very little quality talent (which is why I'd love a guy like Wilkerson to be there!).

Not that the niners are a premium destination anymore.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 10:49pm

I can understand wanting Wilkerson to be a free agent, but the Jets are probably the 4th or 5th cap strapped team in the league, if that. It's possible they let Wilkerson go, it would just be foolish. Salivating over signing a Cowboy, Detroit Lion or Saint is even more justifiable. Let's not forget the Bills and Dolphins either. Entirely possible Drew Brees is in San Francisco next year. It will be an interesting offseason in the Bay Area between the Raiders and the Niners.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 11:45am

Aren't "premium destination" and "lots of cap space" usually opposites?

Funny that just a year ago they were indeed premium. That'll happen when you trade Harbaugh for Tomsula, Fangio for Mangini, Roman for Chryst, and pass on Gase altogether.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:25pm

Yeah - but you have to remember they CUT DJax, who had another year under contract at a very reasonable price. It'd be more like if they cut Richardson this off-season because of his shenanigans and then Wilkerson had the monster year so they had to let them go. Suddenly a team strength is just a promising rookie and some hope he can carry the unit.

It's also slightly tougher because Wilkerson and Richardson were always going to command bigger deals than either Maclin or DeSean - there's really no reason they couldn't have brought Maclin back, it would not have required major ingenuity on their part. They especially should have done if they were going to just spend the money on DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford instead.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:39pm

That's true; Kelly is really out of his league as a GM, and throws players away because he thinks he can just replace them on the fly. It's not good when you look at the Jets' roster moves the last five years and are jealous.

I think it's obvious the Jets should try to hang onto Wilkerson and let Richardson go somewhere else in a year or two, unless Williams does not show any promise by then. I really didn't want to mention this, but the fact that Wilkerson is a muslim should be a huge edge in his favor; he's not supposed to drink or do drugs in his religion, and has only had one weird offseason thing happen, which was a car accident a couple of offseasons ago.

The stupid thing about the AFC East is how overextended the division is; even the Pats are at 120% in the commitment index, which is reasonable for them since Brady is 38. The Jets will have to cut people this offseason to fix their cap, but it's nowhere near what the Dolphins and Bills will have to do. You would have thought one of those teams would have decided to build in the draft like the Raiders, so they could be rising right when Brady retires.

by Digit :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:30pm

I think they -were- building to take advantage of this time frame. I don't think they ever thought the Patriots would be (on average) the youngest team to win a Super Bowl, and they expected a fall-off from Brady roughly around this era (remember the howling when Brady looked terrible against KC last year?)

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 8:09am

Miles Austin not being cut today is what I would call strange. His "missed" TD is inexcusable. I think that might have been the last nail in the coffin for me, this Eagles team just depresses me too much. And they might even make the playoffs.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:43pm

The Bears-Rams game is one of those that makes me think I should give up trying to predict anything and just enjoy the circus. By all metrics (standard stats, advanced stats, eyeball test), that game should have been a blowout the other way. Great rookie RB against league's worst rushing defense, also missing their best defensive player (McPhee). Great defense against an offense missing their 1st-string RB, with their top WR at about 50% (and lacking explosiveness and leaping ability because of a groin), and a guard playing center and 2 street free agent guards.

And three minutes into the game, it definitely looked like the expected result. Shea McClellin, who suddenly became a vital piece of the defense when he wasn't playing (at least in the minds of network analysts trying to excuse the Bears' awful D---"but they're missing Shea McClellin!"), missed reads on three consecutive plays on the first drive, and the Rams scored easily. Then Marc Mariani foolishly tried to take a kickoff out of the end zone, and the Bears start inside their own 15. At that point, the crowd should have been deafening (in a dome, home team comes out roaring, visitors backed up against their goal line), but the end zone seats were about 40% empty and a significant fraction of the non-empty seats were occupied by Bears fans, so Cutler and his patchwork line were quite comfortable. Then, as noted above, the Rams forget how to tackle and madness ensues.

I was going over the play-by-play listing for that game to figure out why the Rams didn't run more before the game was out of reach, and I was reminded that three different times in the first half, the Rams were called for holding or some other illegal block and started a drive 1st-and-20 (or 2nd-and-20), which kills a run-first offense. That and the RTP that led to the 2nd Bears TD were huge.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:54pm

Mike Tainer made of the Ram's playcalling with regard to the Austin end-arounds, but they seemed to work except for the all the blocking penalties (I think 2 holds and a an illegal blindside were called on positive Austin runs).

Some of the "Fisher coaches dirty" meme must have gotten to the refs as there were calling the game very tight on the Rams.

Edit: Also what is the point of Mariani? He doesn't have ball security and he doesn't have Hester like returning to where you can except a few muffs. His style of returning also seems to least to block in the back calls every time he does make something happen.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:02pm

The Rams getting a lot of penalties (including offensive ones like holding and procedure penalties) is not something that just happened. They've been undisciplined for a while. They were 2nd in accepted penalties in 2012, 3rd in 2013, and 6th in 2014.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:51pm

Agree 100% on Mariani. He gives you zero chance of actually breaking one, so the only reason to have him in there is to make good decisions and hold onto the ball. He did that very well last season and markedly improved the Bears' return game just by mostly taking a knee and fair-catching the ball. Something has changed now, and there's no way he's on the team next year.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:55pm

I think you should start to enjoy the good coaching from Fox. The penalties you point out were certainly a factor, but a good coach is always going to turn the other team's strengths into weaknesses and brook the flow of the game around his own team's flaws. Fox did exactly that yesterday - he turned the Rams into a pass-first team with a defensive line that couldn't disrupt the backfield.

by bsims :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:03pm

My favorite bit of color commentary oddness came from this game. To explain why the Rams were generally unsuccessful after their first drive, the CC guy (don't remember the name) said this was because the Bears had "gotten a chance to breathe" and "realized they needed to commit to stopping the run game."

The first drive of the game featured two 30 yard completions, both coming off play action. If anything, that would suggest the Bears were too focused on stopping Gurley, and needed to focus more on not letting receivers run wide open.

And yeah, Greg Robinson getting called for a bunch of (relatively minor looking) holding penalties sure made the defense look better, too.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:10pm

Did Quinn and Long play?

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:19pm

Long didn't play. Quinn was in for 14 snaps according to pfr.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:48pm

The first pass to Cook McClellin did get the right read but late, by the time he spotted Cook he was in no position to cut him off. The pass to Gurley was entirely on Christian Jones, who also forgot to cover a TE at the goaline (only to be bailed out because Foles sucks). In fact Jones was poor all day and not surprisingly gave up some playing time to Anderson.

Bears fans still hate McClellin though even though he has been playing well this year.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:49pm

My memory disagrees with you about the Gurley play, but until I can go over the game tape, I can't be 100% sure. And I definitely disagree that McClellin has been playing well this year. Until yesterday's game, 95% of his tackles came from chasing guys downfield after they'd gained at least 5-10 yards, and the defense did not look markedly worse when you replaced him with a rookie or a guy off the street.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:22pm

Trust me on the Gurley catch, I went back and watched. McClellin took the wheel route to the defense's right, Jones stepped up toward to pocket and completely missed Gurley running past him.

And we are going to have to disagree on the other part too, he has been good, the best ILB on the roster by miles. And the 'he only makes tackles downfield' is a lazy meme that isn't true. I have watched most Bears games this year on the 22 tape to check - given that my opinion of Shea seems to differ wildly - and unless I am a moron who can't tell my arse from my elbow in football terms, McClellin is playing quite well.

The longest tackle he is credited with this year was against the Pack on Lacy; Jones and Amos both contrived to get blocked by Richard Rogers (completely blocked, both out of the play), McClelln fought off a guard and chased Lacy downfield to make the tackle...good play by McClellin? Or just tackling guys downfield?

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:44pm

You have clearly watched way more all-22 than I have this year, so I will happily defer to your judgment (particularly happily because if you're right that's one less hole the Bears have to fill).

"lazy meme" hurts, though.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:51pm

Sorry fella, meant no disrespect. I have been perusing Bears fan blogs a bit (ie. WCG). Everyone seems to notice when Shea makes a pursuit tackle but never when he is at the bottom of a pile at the line of scrimmage.

It may have become a bug bear, and my phrasing unbecoming of FO, again apologies.

(I should spend more time here, it remains the best place to talk football)

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 9:20pm

Heh, none taken. You just caused me a moment of "shit, am I that guy?"

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 11:46am

Tone it down, you two! Take that kind of garbage over to ESPN!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:47pm

I know he's injured, but Manning looks cooked. As pointed out above, the Mauga interception wasn't even about a lack of athleticism on Manning's part. He missed the LB standing in the zone underneath and threw the ball right at him. Yesterday he wasn't even playing with the football intelligence that is supposed to be helping him overcome his diminished skills.

I don't know what the Broncos should do, though - I think the KC secondary is very underrated because of a tough early season schedule mixed with simultaneous injuries and suspension. Sean Smith is very good and Peters has played well from the get go and improved every week. My point is, I think if say Revis & Cromartie had picked off Manning four times, a healthy amount of credit would be going to the DB's and there'd be less of a sense of total, irrevocable meltdown about Manning. And I think Smith and Peters are very, very good - a lot of credit goes to the defense (Houston included - although, I won't echo Mike Tanier's absurd sentiment that he's single-handedly keeping the team afloat.)

by nat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:59pm

I don't know what the Broncos should do, though...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:09pm

Just to see how people were freaking out, I did a Twitter search on "Cowboys" a while after the game yesterday. One of the top posts was Skip Bayless talking about how he was right that the Cowboys should have signed Tebow to play QB. I now feel dirty.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:10pm

Poor decisions happen, and while they seem to be happening more often to Manning this season I think at least some of that can be chalked up to a new scheme and being rushed to throw. One of those picks Sanders also either fell down or just got run over by the defender.

Manning is playing poorly but he's also not being helped out at all by his team. He's not able to cover for their deficiencies like he used to. The broncos were again completely unable to run the ball and receivers just weren't getting open. Asking Manning to try and force balls into tight coverage has always been a bad idea, never mind against the reduced injured shell of Manning in the current game. The offence needs to figure out a scheme that will work because aside from Green Bay it's failed to do anything for an entire game. Anyone who says they just need to try out Osweiler is also delusional. Even playing in garbage time he showed that he's not the answer. And for all the money they gave Thomas he doesn't seem to be getting open very often.

KC was also coming of a bye and their defense played great. I don't think they are getting the credit they deserve because it's easier to write about the Manning is done narrative.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:31pm

Yeah, and Reid has only lost I think a single game in his entire career coming off of a bye - I personally had total confidence in a KC win yesterday (they should have won the first game, Talib would be suspended, the secondary is healthy, etc.) so maybe I'm less shocked than others, but I'm not sure that this is the moment to write off Manning. It's a bit of a "made your bed and now you have to lay in it" situation where they made all of these decisions this offseason about going with an aging Manning, the new scheme, letting a few pieces on offense walk the past few years, revamping the o-line, etc. and you have to live with them.

If you go to Osweiler, it's because you're giving up on 2015. I'm not sure you can do that with this defense. And I'm not sure Manning has reached Tony Banks levels yet, although he's uncomfortably close. It's not fun to imagine that they're going to waste this amazing defense, but they sorta set themselves up for this and there's no panic button worth pushing now. I mean, they looked phenomenal against Green Bay just a few weeks ago - there's no reason to believe that level of play is simply unattainable for this team. They JUST attained it!

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:48pm

I think they can do it but will seriously need to think about sitting Manning for some games to let him rest and heal up. I'm also not impressed with Kubiak and was very skeptical when he was hired. His system doesn't work with this current team. Manning had some success moving to something that resembles the Tom Moore offense but even that might not work going forward. They really need to sit down, remove everyone's ego's and figure out what they can do. They've had flashes of looking good like Green Bay and the second half in Indy (even in the first they had receivers drop a bunch of perfect passes) so it's possible. They just need to sustain that.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:50pm

"If you go to Osweiler, it's because you're giving up on 2015"

If you keep playing this Manning, you're giving up on 2015.

Osweiler isn't good - but Manning is so limited right now that he can't even force defenses to even respect outs or anything further than about 15 yards downfield - it's like watching Pennington on his last legs.

Osweiler atleast has enough that he can take advantage of broken coverages downfield, guys wide open, etc, which means the defense actually has to cover most of the field.

IF the Broncos keep starting Manning, he's not going to make it out of this season - as teams respect his ability less and less, he's going to get hit more and more.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:02pm

None of the Broncos players are getting wide open that's part of the problem. When the offense as a whole has been working Peyton has made enough throws to be competent (or even good) as in Green Bay and Indy.

The problem is that nothing is working. No one is open, they can't run and they can't block. This just makes everyone look even worse than they would on their own.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:05pm

None of them are getting open because they only have about 8 yards from the line of scrimmage where they can run routes.

Almost the entirety of yesterday's game was garbage time - but the defense didn't soften up until they swapped to Osweiler - and that's because there's not reason to soften up with Manning - as there's no chance of him beating you over the top for a quick score.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:15pm

He did beat the Colts over the top for a couple. But missed a bunch more. They were clearly daring him to do it.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:51pm

I don't see how you can ask Manning to play through his foot injury. I do a good bit of long-distance running. I've known runners who've gotten plantar fasciitis. They just stop running. And they stay stopped for quite some time. It's way too painful. I don't see how Manning can just play through it. Yes, in theory he can just take "the needle" and turn the foot into a deadened club. I doubt that's better.

It's not like the foot is Manning's only physical issue. I would rest him at least a month and go from there. If the Broncos want to have a legit shot at a Super Bowl, they need more from Manning than they've gotten from him this season, with the minor exception of the Green Bay game. And it's not a coincidence that his one solid start came after a bye week. The guy needs rest. If he gets that rest, he might be able to come back in late December and give them a puncher's chance in the playoffs. Certainly with this defense, a healthy Peyton could lead them to road victories, and they'll probably win the division regardless.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:59pm

Roethlisberger is a good comparison - if Peyton still had an arm, he could just numb the foot and wing it. That's what Ben did, and he sure looked inaccurate at first yesterday by his standards. He doesn't, though, so he needs to full-body it, which was already an issue due to the added time it takes for the delivery and how much more time that gives a D to break on it, even when he doesn't have a guy in his face. So now he can't improvise, can't throw with arm alone, and can't plant and twist that right foot...

Are we really even sure that that terrible LB pick wasn't actually supposed to be well over his head and into Green's hands downfield, but just thrown poorly?

Sit him down. Even for New England. Their only hope in January is a run game that works and a healthy Manning. They aren't getting home field at this point even if they do best the Pats, so just keep that one simple and plan for later.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:52pm

It really is the perfect storm, as we talked about in that Denver O extra point. Nothing is working well. Manning certainly didn't help at all yesterday, but even if you remove the four picks - look at the down/distances the run game was putting up. And show me an open receiver on any play, really.

KC D really did play excellently and deserves more credit for that. They could've had several more picks, including two more off Osweiler that were dropped.

Like the comment above, I had a big hunch they'd win outright too, especially after seeing Sanders warming up to test his ankle. He was slow. I even said to the guy next to me "watch, that'll cost them and make Peyton look worse," and while Manning did that well enough on his own, sure enough Sanders fell on his face and a ball right to him landed in a Chief's breadbasket instead...

Money line wasn't great though and I was too much of an optimist, so of course I laid off (and took a beating on Pats-7 and Oak-3 instead.) Oops.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:19pm

The Chiefs D definitely went to sleep once Osweiler was in. His numbers look better they easily could have been just as bad between the dropped picks, the lack of blitzing and the increase in zone coverage.

by tunesmith :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:27pm

Why is everyone so sure that Osweiler is awful? He's had barely any playtime, seems a bit of a quick conclusion. After watching him in preseason for a few years, he's inconsistent sometimes and he flashes other times, which is about what you'd expect for someone without a lot of playtime. There have been a few times where he seemed to get better as the game went on.

Yesterday I saw him a) get the Broncos out of a hole at their 1-yard line, while KC was still playing their starters, and drive them the length of the field before a 4th-down endzone interception; b) 80-yard drive for a touchdown, c) 62-yard drive for a touchdown.

So, I know, garbage time blah blah, but it's not like it was comparable to what was happening with Manning.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:13pm

Could be wrong, but I seem to remember reading something a few weeks ago that indicated that Osweiler was closer to being the Broncos' #3 QB than the heir apparent to Manning. Anyone else remember this?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:04pm

Maybe you just watched him play yesterday? That would leave such an impression.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:08pm

I had a lot of doubts about Osweiler coming out, but we really don't know that is any good, or bad, for that matter. Honestly, this could end up like Pennington taking over from Testaverde in New York in 2002. Curtis Martin was quoted as saying the team didn't have any faith in hanging Chads, and all Pennington did was lead the league in passer efficiency. It could also end up being a disaster. At least the Broncos have a great defense.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:06pm

If Revis and Cromartie picked off Peyton 4 times, Revis better have all of them, because Cromartie has fallen off just as much as Peyton has. I get your point, I just wanted to point out that Cromartie isn't a top tier corner anymore, or even a decent one.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:23pm

Oh absolutely - and my point was entirely about names and public perception and NOT production, which is why I picked Revis/Cromartie (I was initially going to say I think Smith/Peters is a better duo (because they are) but decided to not open that can of worms.)

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:13pm

You'd have an argument, but Revis/Marcus Williams is a better duo as well, and that might be the one the Jets use from now on. The Jets issues with pass defense the last month until they played Buffalo come down to Cromartie stinking and Marcus Williams missing tackles. Williams will miss tackles at corner, but he can still cover fairly well, and if they get Pryor back soon the tackling issues won't be as big a problem.
Smith/Peters also have the good fortune to have an authentic pass rush from the edge.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:49pm

Feels like it's been forever since the Bears put a good old fashioned beat down on another team. I'm actually quite enjoying this season apart from the Jimmy Clausen experience. I really think a star and a couple good players added to the defense and you have a really good team in Chicago.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:59pm

The Bears have become one of my favorite teams to check in on and watch for a while every Sunday - I thought they had one of the worst rosters in the league coming into the season and watching Fox develop the team is a real pleasure. They just come out and looked PREPARED every single week. There's not enough talent there to get ideas about them sneaking into the playoffs, but they definitely give you ideas about them becoming a factor for the next few years in an NFC without a ton of consistently dominant teams.

by danplatt17 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:26pm

Amen. It has been fun to watch the Bears again this year. And it's been a while for that, too. During the last few Lovie years, it never felt like they were progressing. Just falling back on the same schemes and stars, waiting for the other shoe to drop (key injuries, inept offensive coaching/talent, one or two brutal quarterback games) before just missing the playoffs. Now, you can see where this is heading. With the level of defensive coaching they now have, plus some position upgrades, they will be a top 10 defense. All thhe position upgrades don't even need to be home runs - just getting guys that fit a 3-4 scheme at a decent level. Fangio is a magician with what he's done with this defense so far. It is night and day compared to last year, even though the talent level is arguably worse.

And, if they can maintain some continuity with offensive scheme (even without Gase), Cutler and the offense will be dangerous. They should have Jeffrey, Bennett, and White composing a very good receiving corps next year, plus Langford, and possibly, Forte, running the ball. If the line can maintain some continuity, the offense should be good.

Looks like the rebuild may be on schedule to bear fruit (in the form of a playoff appearance) as soon as next year.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:33pm

Well, I actually loved the Lovie Smith teams. Hell if you could give me Lovie Smith defense and special teams combined with Adam Gase offense, I'd probably take that right now. No sense in dwelling though, going to enjoy the ride.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:36pm

Yeah, Fangio is very quietly putting together a body of work that suggests he's the best d-coordinator in the league. I don't know who I'd take over him - the best d-coordinators seem to be HC's at this point with Bowles, Carroll, Rex, you could even throw in Belichick. I suppose that just means he's in line for a head-coaching job...

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:42pm

I'd give Marinelli a shout out as a very good d-coordinator.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:50pm

Why? He took over a very good defense in Chicago, then shoved them all the way down to 22nd in DVOA. In Dallas he's had defenses ranked 22nd and 25th and, believe me, they've looked every bit of those rankings. To me, he's a total Gus Bradley style "right place at the right time" kind of coach. The smartest thing he ever did in his life was get hired by Monte Kiffin. I hope he's Cowboys d-coordinator for the next twenty years.

(He's also just the kind of "good ol' FOOTBAW GRIT!" guy that personally grates on me a huge amount.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:01pm

I think you might have your timeline wrong. He took over the Bears defense ranked 21st (admittedly sans-Urlacher), immediately improved them to 4th and coached on of the top 20 defenses of all time.

4th, 4th, 1st was the best run of Chicago defenses since Rivera was there. Babich was not a very good coordinator (he usually had them around 10th).

In Dallas he took over the 30th ranked defense and improved them to well only 22nd. However, it's a pretty talent poor defense. However, the guy you are boosting, Fangio, has the 28th ranked defense before this game.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:28pm

Yeah, I think I'm a year off. Mea culpa. That's pretty darn good!

I will concede that he's just a human being I hate!

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:21pm

The 22nd ranked defense two years ago was also done by pulling d-linemen from off the proverbial street. Last year the linebackers were decimated. Injuries are a deal for most teams. But in Dallas there has been a tendency to get a lot of injuries on defense at the same position. Most importantly he's been dealing with Jerry as GM who has not managed to bring in a plus safety since Woodson retired, and who whiffed in FA with Carr and the draft with Claiborne.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:28pm

Look, if you want me to place blame and disgrace on Jerry Jones, I am more than happy to do that.

They got that real team leader Greg Hardy in there though now so things should be turning around for the d in D anytime...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:29pm

The thing is that Fangio has a very long record to look at and he's coached some very good and very bad defenses. It seems that he coaches to the level of his players; when he has good players his defenses are good and vice versa. I think this sums up to an average defensive coordinator.

Now there's value in that, he's not a cretinous nincompoop that will torpedo your chances like Mel Tucker or Eric Mangini so I'd expect the D to be better than last years Bears but they were still 28th in DVOA going into last weekend.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 7:06pm

Yeah. The 2005 Texans are not exactly a strong point on anyone's CV.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:53pm

Well I love what Trestman has done to the Ravens' offense. But I doubt Ravens' fans would agree.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:57pm

Come on, injuries to WR and TE did that, not Trestman.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:08pm

While we're showering love on the Bears coaches, how about some for (I'm an obsessive Bears fan, and I still had to google his name) Dave Magazu? The O-line was a question coming into the season, then they: 1) moved their star guard to OT and put Vladimir Freaking Ducasse at starting RG; 2) lost their starting center for the season and his promising rookie backup for an indefinite amount of time, as a result sliding their remaining professional football player guard to center and putting in another "who the hell is he?" guy at LG; 3) lost their starting LT and replaced him with a 7th rounder. And that line is 12th in ALY and 7th(!) in ASR. The latter has partly to do with Cutler, but still, that's a remarkable achievement.

And speaking of Cutler, I predict that this game will be his best DYAR as a Bear, given opponent adjustments and the sick efficiency of the passing offense in that game (~25 dropbacks, 19 completions, 8 first downs and 3 TDs), but it wasn't even his best game this year. I mean, he was quite good, but it looks way better because of the Rams-defenders-as-pylons plays to Miller and Langford.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:11pm

On this we are definitely agreed, Mazugu has been fantastic.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 12:59pm

a lot of throws where he isn't setting his feet, or he's throwing sidearm. The receivers don't seem to ever be where he thinks they're going to be. He throws ahead of guys, or behind them. And I don't know where this has come from.

Thus the rest of the NFCN's plan is complete and Rodgers has become the unholy union of Cutler and Stafford. Mwuahahaha.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:05pm

My brother, also a lifelong Lions fan, put a significant amount of money on the Packers, AND picked them for his suicide pool. After the game, he texted me, "No matter what, the Lions always find a new way to disappoint me". I mean really, they couldn't have picked a year where they were actually in contention for something, to finally upset the Packers on the road?

by Biebs :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:10pm

Not a complaint about "not having a game", just unsure... is there a separate "Thursday Audibles at the Line"? I didn't realize until recently that there isn't audibles for Thursday night.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:19pm

Sometimes. This week, there's an Clutch Encounters on Bills/Jets, so I wasn't expecting an Audibles, too, though it could be amusing.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:55pm

Exclusively opening night, at least since I started compiling it. The only other non-standard Audibles columns are the Saturday playoff games and, last year, the college National Championship.

by Biebs :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:14pm

My thoughts (as though anyone cares) on the Beckham play in the endzone was

1. That is an event where someone threw a ball, and someone caught a ball
2. Based on how the NFL has called balls in the endzone in the last few years, there was no way that was a catch
3. Beckham seemed to relax after catching the ball. If he's not in the endzone, he doesn't allow the ball to be slapped away.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:22pm

2. However - only last week, the same thing happened in Eagles/Cowboys where Maxwell slapped the ball out of Bryant's hands after he hand made a catch. Bryant had possession for only a moment, he came down out of the air, got two feet down and established possession and then Maxwell slapped the ball away. It was ruled a TD.

The rules have reached a point where no one is going to argue passionately one way or the other because they make no sense. I have no idea whether the Beckham catch was "really" a catch or not because the current rules are unenforceable.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:28pm

Just in terms of my own personal enjoyment, I actually prefer the catches called like ODB's non-catch. If you can't hold the ball long enough to look like you really have it in real time, I'd like that not to be a catch.

As everyone else has asked for though, let us please have a consistent rule that refs can actually enforce.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:42pm

I agree. In real time I didn't think it was a catch, and the fact that people do surprises me.

I definitely blame the enforcement too but I'll take it a different direction: I think the rules all make sense as they are written and I understand why each part of them is there. I don't even think it's that difficult to enforce.

I just think the refs are bad at it. They're bad at it at the same level that they're bad at almost everything else, and this badness just gets magnified because it's so frequently on scoring plays and bigger gains. The rule doesn't need fixing, the enforcement does. Full time refs and more assistance from NY... Which also requires more competence in NY, of course.

I mean, just look at (listen to) Mike Carey. The guy is awful at his job and he has the benefit of replays as they happen from the booth. He gets almost everything wrong. And he reffed forever. He reffed Super Bowls. That means he was one of the BEST ones!

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:53pm


And I'm against a change that would generally result in converting current incompletions to fumbles.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:43pm

I don't have any personal preference (certainly I'm never rooting for the Giants to win), I just want something coherent.

I personally feel like it would be more coherent to make "clear possession, two feet down" the standard for a catch and increase the number of fumbles after the ball gets knocked away on "bang bang" plays. Because the game is so passing friendly (and interception rates have plummeted) I wouldn't mind giving some of that back to the defense. But that makes the game much more chaotic, which I can see lots of folks having a problem with.

My other big rule change would have been a factor yesterday, too: they should get rid of illegal contact. Just get rid of it. It doesn't do anything that defensive holding and DPI don't already do. It's a very grey rule that leads almost exclusively to questionable calls. Let DPI pick up the very minor amount of slack that will be left over on unquestionable illegal contact calls and ditch this terrible penalty.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:48pm

"I personally feel like it would be more coherent to make "clear possession, two feet down" the standard for a catch "

That's pretty much what the standard for a catch is - you're just redefining possession to "whatever I think is a catch"

IF you're going to use the word possession differently than the NFL is using it - you have to define it specifically.

So what is your definition of Possession? (and if you use the word Control, define that too)

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:21pm

The problem is defining "clear possession".

And for the "two feet down" part, what about diving catches?

by joe football :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:16pm

I would love for the NFL to ditch illegal contact because it goes against the spirit of the game and does not exist at any other level of football, but it would be a pretty major change. I don't think you'd go back to the mid 70s on offenses, college offenses find plenty of ways to score with no illegal contact, but it would change NFL strategies a lot if you could shove receivers all over the field

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:41pm

For me, it just destroys the underneath pick & rub/shallow cross game that I find so boring. If I have to watch another half decade of 4 yard wr picks out of the spread, I'll probably stop watching football. I also don't think with some shoving and physicality, you'd an increase in injuries or even a slow-down in so much of the passing game. DPI is called very tight and it still would be. The defenseless receiver and headhunting rules would still be in effect. There'd just be far fewer "scrub WR runs three yard cross after bigger WR slams into the DB's" plays. And that would be heaven.

Also, far fewer instances of "flag thrown for... well, let's see on replay... for nothing. apparently."

by Boots Day :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:28pm

Regarding Cardinals-Seahawks: After the back to back strip-sacks on Carson Palmer, Arians put Ellington in the backfield instead of Chris Johnson, and suddenly someone was able to block that extra Seattle rusher. That little move totally turned the Arizona offense around. Kudos to Cris Collinsworth for pointing that out.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:11pm

Chris Johnson really isn't having as great a year as people think. He's good to switch with Ellington, but Ellington is a better reciever.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:24pm

Yeah, I was wondering why no one pointed out that Johnson just completely skipped blocking the guy coming in untouched (Irvin? I can't remember) and turned the other way? I know that I don't know what protection was called, but Palmer's reaction seemed to be that he was surprised that no one blocked him.

by nlitwinetz :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 1:59pm

They could make the catch rule extremely simple and objective.
"Receiver must maintain possession of the ball for 1 full second for a reception to take place."
This rule would make reviewing the play a matter of looking at time stamps on the replay tape.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:01pm

Mia/Phil Dolphins had a 1 yrd kick return. They also managed to get a 15 yrd unsportsman conduct penalty on a punt return. Miami's return team is very bad as DVA would suggest. Both teams run a get my QB killed passing scheme and Sam Bradford almost died at least twice. Fumble luck was with Phillie all game. Unfortunately so wasn't Sanchez. I think this game demonstrated why the Chip Kelly scheme that Miami and the Eagles run works and doesn't work. Was I the only one screaming "dear god try a run play here"

by James-London :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:13pm

No. When the Dolphins run, good things tend to happen. Good things also happen when you cover the TE, but it took Miami a half to work that out.
First time I've seen the Eagles this year, and I wasn't overly impressed with their offense, even before Sanchez turned up, but Dear Lord, Fletcher Cox is good. Suh had a really good game, and was comfortably the second-best DT in the game.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:07pm

I was impressed by Suh - I haven't seen much of the Dolphins this year and all I've heard was that he was a bust and borderline Albert Haynesworth-esque. The Philly radio was making fun of him all week, so I was surprised that he still looked very, very good. Has he been that way all season or just in spurts?

(Cox is a beast, but Bennie Logan is just as good, don't sleep on Logan!)

by johonny :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:18pm

Suh has looked very good in Campbell's schemes which are very aggressive. He looked poor early in the year mostly because he was used differently and his teammates really weren't doing anything with their one on one blocking. I was surprised that Miami had much better gap control this week. They've been very aggressive of late, but with resulting poor discipline. The Eagles seemed to anticipate this early in the game with several nice movement/crossing plays, but fail to exploit pretty much after first quarter. You could argue the two offenses are so similar that both teams defenses seemed rather well prepared for each other. I think part of the Eagles second half problems were in part to Bradford having a concussion. After I heard that his fumble-bumble filled second half made more sense.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:33pm

Eh, I detected no difference in Bradford. He's done that all season: look ok for a stretch then commence with the bumbling. (Or vice versa: start with the bumbles and then look ok.) The Eagles' use of Celek definitely caught them off-guard at the beginning, but they quickly settled in to what Kelly was trying to do. Both teams did A LOT of bumbling, to be truthful about it.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from Miami because I watch them rarely, but Suh was a surprise. The Eagle's interior line is a real issue and he certainly took advantage. I just heard so much about him being a bust, that seeing him blow things up really caught my eye...

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:21pm

From what I've seen of the Dolphins this year, Suh hasn't played poorly. He had a terrible missed tackle of Chris Ivory in London, but honestly the Jets just game-planned around him and no one else took care of things. He really hasn't had much help in the front seven. JJ Watt is playing well this year and Houston's defense is still pretty lame; one guy can only do so much. Which is why you don't spend a quarter to a third of your cap space on one defensive player.

The Eagles' defense is really good, and has been saving their season all year long.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 7:35pm

This. Suh, hasn't been bad, and has been very good since the coaching change. The real trouble is no-one else has done very much (an all too briefly healthy Cam Wake aside), and Suh's contract requires him to be transcendent every week to justify it. The contract gets much worse from next year- he'll need to perform like the unholy love child of JJ Watt, Reggie White and Bruce Smith to justify it.
Meanwhile the corners will still suck, the linebackers will remain mediocre, and the Guards will still have Seattle shaking their heads in sympathy. Oh, and Lamar Miller & Rishard Matthews will walk for teams that can afford to pay them a bit more than the league minimum.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:06pm

When I heard about the end of the Jacksonville game, I assumed it would be a marginal face mask, and the story of the game would be the controversial call. Then I saw the highlight. My God.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:16pm

Oh, yeah, he basically tried to tear his head off. That has to be the singly dumbest game-costing play since that guy on the . . . Chiefs (???) years back tore off his helmet to celebrate a missed FG and got penalized for it, with the opposing team kicked a winning FG the next play.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:46pm

I thought yesterday's play was much worse than the Chief who took his helmet off. It's semi-understandable that he would have thought the game was over, and got a little exuberant in celebrating. At what point is it okay to grab a quarterback's facemask and spin him around like a rag doll?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:59pm

For your last question there, my answer would be "Whenever the QB is named 'Josh McCown'."

by SFC B :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:11pm

I thought it was a Raider rookie who did it last season.

by patriotsgirl :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:25pm

Of course it was the Browns (Dwayne Rudd), though it was in Kansas City.

by Junior :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:20pm

It was in Cleveland vs. KC, 2002 Week 1, 40-39

by dmepolitic :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:12pm

On the Beckham catch, I am wondering why the golden tate catch would not be the relevant precedent. Beckham did not go to the ground and had two feet down BEFORE the dislodge. In addition calling the Butler swat a strong defensive play is a very generous reading, no corner would plan to allow his man to catch the ball let him get two feet in then knock it out late and rely on the refs for a favorable interpretation. To say Butler "dominated" ODB when he was one questionable ruling from a 110 yard, 2 td day, seems to be a strange reading of the game. Especially when you consider the help over the top he received.

For a site usually devoted to sober unbiased analysis, this all seems like a very interesting reading.

- Thanks

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:18pm

Almost every corner in the NFL is taught to swat at the ball like that. In the context of the way the NFL defines catches, it is a strong defensive play.

Pretty much the only time Butler had significant help with Beckham was the play where McCourty tackle him. It was pretty much 1-on-1 all game, and Butler held him largely catchless.

by Alternator :: Tue, 11/17/2015 - 12:30am

And if McCourty managed to play clean up like he's normally so reliable at, it's a 0 TD 55 yard game for ODB, which would be a remarkable success for Butler.

Manning kept trying to get ODB passes, and Butler kept preventing it. That's great play by the defender.

by medelste :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:22pm

We could put this catch-or-not-a-catch weekly debate to rest if we changed one simple rule: GET RID OF THE FORWARD PASS!

Diminished-value running backs

by Led :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:35pm

"If that had been anywhere but the end zone, would that have been an incomplete pass, or a catch and fumble? It absolutely would have been ruled an incomplete pass, right?"

This is exactly right and why I expected the TD call to be reversed, which is the "correct" call in terms of the current application of the catch rules. But boy oh boy, the Giants are terrible at managing the clock.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:39pm

But IT DID take place in the endzone. A player reaching out for the endzone with the ball who gets it knocked out of his hand before he's down and "the play is over" would have THAT ruled a fumble elsewhere on the field of play. The endzone is a boundary - having possession in your opponent's endzone ends the play... unlike elsewhere on the field.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 2:41pm

That's because the player outside the endzone has already established possession. Beckham never has possession.

by Led :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:03pm

Exactly. The issue is gaining possession -- and the rules for that are the same in the endzone as out of it -- and not losing possession.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:22pm

Yeah, but why? He had the ball firmly in his grasp, both feet in bounds, took multiple steps - according to the rulebook, he HAD established possession. Honestly, and I'm not being sarcastic, show me where in the rules it shows he didn't do everything he needed to do to establish possession. He didn't go to the ground, so none of that stuff applies.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:37pm

"He had the ball firmly in his grasp, both feet in bounds, took multiple steps - according to the rulebook, he HAD established possession"

No, he didn't.

The ball was knocked out as he was getting his second foot down.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:12pm

Would you please read the actual rule for once?

Rule 3, Section 2, Article 7, Item 2:

Item 2. Possession of Loose Ball. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:42pm

Read the rule: he establishes that he's a runner because he gains possession and then a split-second later begins to fight off the CB. I know it's the split-secondness that bothers you guys, but repeating a rule that confirms the point everyone is making doesn't help your case.

by N8- :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:06pm

McCarthy has to feel some heat on the seat if this continues. The past 4 seasons were supremely disappointing, especially 2011 and 2014. The way that Ray Rhodes was fired by Ron Wolf, and Sherman by Thompson shows that the organization expects to win, especially if they feel that the talent level is high and underachieving.

Quite frankly, there is no excuse for the coaches to go in week after week without adjusting the offensive strategy to the talent that exists. This Jordy Nelson obsession is just out of control. You play what you have and you coach to their strengths. There are round holes and square pegs, and the coaching strategy is the trusty "Get a bigger hammer."

by NYMike :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:33pm

The Packers under Ray Rhodes were the most undisciplined, ill-prepare Green Bay teams since Wolf got there. He was fired because of that, not the record.

by dmepolitic :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:25pm

But on the Golden Tate play or the Dez Bryant hall Mary last week those players had
Not established possession before entering the end zone. According to those precedents
and the official standing two feet away ODB had a td. To characterize the initial td ruling as
"Shocking" is simply wrong.

And a strong defensive play would be preventing the catch, swatting at it after the fact is the
Last option of a beaten defender and butler absolutely had help and coverage shaded his way on
More then one play in this game. I think Butler is a good player, but can we stop force-feeding the
Malcolm Butler elite corner narrative because we are not there yet.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 4:22pm

RE: Butler

I'm hesitant to do this, because none other than Devin McCourty was an all-pro CB as a rookie, but I think we are there yet. Take a look at his matchups this year, starting with Antonio Brown in week 1. Yeah, Brown got his, but Brown will get his against every cornerback in the NFL. He's more often than not on an island vs. the opposing WR (granted, not always the #1 WR), and every game he's severely limited that players impact on the game. Sammy Watkins, TY Hilton, Brandon Marshall, Desean Jackson, Beckham -- when the game's over, he's gotten the better of all of them.

I don't know that there's 5 better CBs in the league right now.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:15pm

DJax was playing through an injury in the Washington game and had to leave the game this week because of that. Not sure that one should be on the ol' resume. Watkins has been battling injuries all season as well - don't remember his state versus New England. Hilton is 50th in DVOA, so pretty much every CB is getting the best of him. Marshall's 35th and has impressive raw numbers because they force-feed him the ball.

Don't have huge opinions on Butler, who I haven't seen much of, but the slate you outline above doesn't put him in the Top 5 just on shutting those guys down - it truthfully looks kinda weak to me. Stopping Beckham is good, but he had 104 yards and TD yesterday, which is not the stuff on which All-Pro resumes are built.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:43pm

With 87 yards and the TD coming on one play because the safety help didn't help, and in fact hurt by crashing into Butler, obliterating pursuit (Although Beckham probably wins that footrace regardless), I'd say he did a fantastic job on him. Beckham was targeted 12 times, and on most of them, he had no play on the ball because Butler was glued to him. Of his other three catches, two of them were against a zone.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 6:52pm

Like I said, I haven't seen him play much, but that doesn't look like a murderer's row he shut down. Especially since Brown and Beckham still ultimately got theirs, reasonable (and I'm not being sarcastic - I'm with you on Beckham) excuses aside.

How would you rate him against the consensus Top 5 of Josh Norman, Revis, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib? Sherman (and Seattle) are having the worst year, but all of the rest play in better pass defenses (by DVOA) ranked higher against #1 WR's than the Patriots. New England is actually kinda crappy against #1's (22nd by DVOA.) It seems like Sherman is the only one you could argue he deserves to take a spot in the Top 5 from and I'm not sure you'd find any takers to back you up on that...

I'm not sure he's a 1st team Pro Bowler yet (Talib and Revis are the shoe-in's) and I personally have a hard time believing he's even notably better than even Chris Harris, Honey Badger or Marcus Peters...

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/16/2015 - 3:40pm

The NFL has been trying to eliminate the grey areas and create an entirely black and white officiating system. The problem is that this will inevitably be futile because the game is played in real life, not the hypothetical legalese universe of the rule book so plays like the ODB incident will continue and no one will be able to tell what is and isn't a catch on some plays.

I have no idea what the solution is though, especially for a play like that which could have been called either way.