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23 Nov 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 11

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.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Atlanta Falcons 21

Aaron Schatz: Last week, the Patriots got the ball back down 3 with 1:47 left. Danny Amendola caught the kickoff just 1 yard into the end zone but immediately took the touchback to save as much time for Tom Brady's comeback attempt as possible.

This week, the Falcons got the ball back down 3 with less than a minute left. Eric Weems caught the kickoff 8 yards deep and ran it out anyway. He got to the 18, costing his team 2 yards and seven precious seconds.

It's the little things.

Cian Fahey: Dean Blandino said this week that the NFL doesn't have that many questionable calls on catch plays. It just so happens that the ones we do have are in big moments. That's pretty hard to believe, and also clearly not true, but we can add another controversial one to the list in big moments. At the end of the Atlanta Falcons game, Julio Jones appears to clearly catch the ball, take a couple of steps then go to ground in bounds before losing the ball. It was ruled and confirmed as incomplete, but even by the NFL's rules it's hard to argue he was going to ground as he caught it.

Vince Verhei: Saw that play live and... I hate arguing grey areas and semantics, but it never looked to me like he had a secure grip on the ball. I don't think you can rule that possession, especially when it was ruled incomplete on the field.

St Louis Rams 13 at Baltimore Ravens 16

Scott Kacsmar: Justin Forsett broke his arm today. The hits keep coming for that Baltimore offense. Marc Trestman may take some blame, but he was planning to have an offense with Forsett, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Dennis Pitta. Maybe even some Michael Campanaro in the slot, but he's on IR too.

Vince Verhei: Rams take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a Todd Gurley goal-line plunge. Big play won't show up in the basic boxscore -- Case Keenum lobbed a deep pass for Jared Cook, and it was underthrown, but Jimmy Smith was called for a pretty blatant pass interference, and we get the 49-yard penalty. Ravens challenged that Keenum had crossed the line, but he hadn't, so they're out a challenge and a timeout too. Nick Foles had been somewhat reluctant to try the shot play -- he only has 11 passes that have traveled 40 or more yards this season -- so maybe they'll be able to get more big plays with Keenum. (Most starters have 20-some 40-yard passes. Russell Wilson leads the league with 41.)

Tom Gower: The other thing about the Keenum play was his improvisation to get the play off. He scrambled right, then back left and forward before launching the deep ball. I don't see Foles with the mobility to make the same moves.

Vince Verhei: The injury notes about the Ravens are valid. But when Joe Flacco gets a clean pocket and gets Crockett Gillmore wide open on a little cross, but the pass sails 5 yards over Gillmore's head for an easy Rodney McLeod interception, well, health's got nothing to do with it.

When the Rams announced Keenum would start, I noted that Keenum didn't necessarily take a lot of sacks, but when he did get sacked they were for enormous losses. And watching him play, it's easy to see why -- this dude loves to run backwards. He'll run back to the right, or back to the left, or just back up the middle. He hasn't been sacked yet, but you get the feeling he could take a 20-yard loss at any time.

Rams have already lost Rodger Saffold and Jamon Brown for the season. Rob Havenstein is out this week with a calf injury. And Andrew Donnal has been knocked out with a knee injury. I believe that center Tim Barnes is the only starter playing for the Rams' line at this point. And as Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun notes, the Ravens are down to one starting lineman too. Yet somehow both lines still look better than Seattle.

Speaking of strange fourth-down decisions, Ravens' first drive of the second half results in a fourth-and-11 at the Rams' 33. They turn down the 50-yard field goal and keep the offense on the field... and watch as Joe Flacco dumps off to Kyle Juszczyk for a gain of 5. The football gods weep. Just TRY a lob to the end zone, dude.

Meanwhile, Case Keenum has three completions. Three. He tries a deep post to Kenny Britt and, with no excuse, underthrows the pass by 10 yards. Refs initially rule this another big pass interference before correctly ruling that the ball was uncatchable. Inspector Gadget couldn't have caught that pass.

This must be the worst quarterback duel of the year. Keenum botches a handoff to Gurley, ball on the ground, Ravens fall on it. Ravens then run a bootleg and Flacco throws another interception on a short pass. The line of scrimmage was the St. Louis 29, the ball went way over the receiver's head and was intercepted by Trumaine Johnson at the 26. Ponder that for a moment.

Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick played in the Super Bowl not even three years ago. What the hell?!

Tavon Austin then gets 16 yards on an end-around. Rams follow that with a three-tight end set, and with all those tight ends on the field, the Ravens lose track of Lance Kendricks, who gets open down the left sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. The extra point is blocked so it's still 13-3, but it feels like game over.

Andrew Healy: First, I didn't like John Harbaugh kicking a field goal to tie it 13-13 with about five minutes left on fourth-and-goal from inside the two.

Then with about 1:45 left, Greg Zuerlein missed a 52-yard field goal that would have given the Rams the lead. I never want to read too much into body language because how the heck do I know, but Zuerlein appeared to be chuckling after the miss. Strange.

Vince Verhei: Joe Flacco remembers, "I am a Super Bowl champion, dammit," and plays with a little pride, leading the Ravens to a 10-point rally to tie the game at 13-all. Big play was a dumpoff-and-run to Crockett Gillmore. They get the ball back with a chance to win the game, and then we get the worst play-call of the day. With a third-and-5 at the Baltimore 34, they call the give-up draw to set up the long field goal. What in the hell? The best case -- the BEST case -- is that you hit this 52-yard kick, and the Rams still have 1:41 to come back and tie or win. Instead we get the worst case, with Justin Tucker pushing the kick wide, his second 50-plus-yard miss of the day.

So the Rams get the ball, tied, at their own 41. Quickly it's third down, and Courtney Upshaw swats the ball out of Keenum's hand and the Ravens recover, as apparently neither team wants to win this game.

Scott Kacsmar: It's likely Case Keenum may have suffered a concussion, but wasn't even taken out of the game to be checked. He fumbled, oblivious to the pressure, two plays later. I thought the NFL was supposed to crack down on this stuff? It was obvious he was shaken up.

Aaron Schatz: Here's a Vine on that:

Vince Verhei: I am livid right now, and I'm not even a Ravens fan. Javorius Allen converts a third-and-1 run to give Baltimore a first-and-10 at the St. Louis 29, 42 seconds left with a timeout. They proceed to do... nothing. NOTHING. They stand around, they let clock run, and with three seconds left they spike the clock to set up the 47-yard field goal. THEY DIDN'T EVEN TRY A QUARTERBACK SNEAK AT EXACTLY THE POINT WHERE A YARD OR TWO MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE.

Tucker nails the 47-yarder and the whole point is moot, but Lord almighty, your kicker has already missed twice on the day from barely any longer than that, and you play like the field goal is automatic. Drives me out of my mind.

Andrew Healy: Amen to that.

We sure did write a lot about one terrible game. Ineptitude everywhere.

Scott Kacsmar: Wow, I think we know why the Ravens didn't do much at the end now. Joe Flacco tore his ACL. Season over. Streak of starts over. Baltimore really getting the injury bug in 2015.

Vince Verhei: More on Baltimore-St Louis: John Harbaugh just announced that Joe Flacco is out for the year with a torn ACL. That might explain the reluctance to try a sneak, if he knew Flacco was hurt, but they have a backup quarterback, right?

Tom Gower: Flacco was clearly limping as he walked off the field before the game-winning field goal, so that makes sense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45 at Philadelphia Eagles 17

Andrew Healy: I think Jameis Winston now has four first-half touchdown passes. The last one is ridiculously lucky. After Connor Barwin drops an interception thrown right into his hands on second down, Winston makes a very poor decision about where to throw and a likely interception somehow ends up getting through the safety's hands and into Charles Sims'. Winston also could have been picked on the play before one of the earlier touchdowns, another brutal throw where he floated one over the middle of the end zone. As much as Newton's stats underrate him for the year, Winston's overrate him today.

Denver Broncos 17 at Chicago Bears 15

Aaron Schatz: With Brock Osweiler now at quarterback in Denver, there's no more crossing the schemes. This is Gary Kubiak's offense now, totally and completely. Osweiler was under center on his first 11 plays until a pistol on third-and-4. He's also 4-for-4 so far, thanks in part to bad defensive play by the Chicago Bears. On Denver's first drive, the Bears blow coverage to leave Demaryius Thomas completely open crossing from left to right. The only guy with a chance to get him is Chris Prosinski, the backup safety forced into the lineup by an injury to Antrel Rolle. He takes a terrible angle, dives at Thomas, and misses. Wasn't Prosinski our league leader in broken tackles four or five years ago?* I'm sure he's a nice guy but I'm not sure why he still has a job in the NFL, even as a backup. He's never been an NFL-quality player.

And with Osweiler taking his third sack of the first quarter -- the second was nullified by a rare facemask penalty on an offensive lineman -- we've got our first Dan McGwire reference! Brock Osweiler is tall.

(Ed. Note: Prosinski was named to our All-Keep Choppin' Wood Team for 2012.)

Vince Verhei: Let's be clear about one thing, that first Osweiler touchdown was about 10 percent what Denver did and 90 percent what Chicago allowed them to do. I've noticed that receivers seem to score a lot when nobody covers or tackles them.

Aaron Schatz: Crazy play and bad luck for Denver with 6:00 left in the second quarter. Omar Bolden let a kickoff bounce in front of him in the end zone... and it bounced FORWARD and into the field of play. It's probably a bad decision by Bolden to let that bounce, but still, normally those balls then bounce out the end zone for touchbacks! The Bears came racing down with a chance to recover the ball; Bolden managed to pounce on it but the Broncos will start their next drive from the 2.

OK, halftime report: Brock Osweiler really does look better today than Peyton Manning has looked for most of the season. But I think a more appropriate comment would be that the Denver offense looks better today, as a whole. The plays seem set up better, like a good tight end screen to Owen Daniels called at just the right time to counter a Chicago blitz. There's more running and more play-action (although it's important not to overreact to the Denver running game getting going because Chicago was 31st in run defense DVOA coming into today). The Broncos definitely have the tight ends more involved. But Osweiler also looked comfortable running the two-minute offense at the end of the half. It feels like this game has been more one-sided than the 10-6 halftime score would indicate, but Chicago has had a couple of big plays to get into field goal range, and the Broncos ran out of time in their two-minute drill and had to kick a 24-yard field goal.

Vince Verhei: I think we can all agree that Osweiler is the Denver quarterback with the best hair.

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos hired a guy named Mitch Tanney as Director of Analytics this offseason. He's supposed to be on the headset with Gary Kubiak during the game to provide analytics advice. And... the Broncos just punted on fourth-and-1 on the CHICAGO 43. Not their own 43. Chicago's 43. It feels like we're never, ever going to win this argument with the old school coaches.

Scott Kacsmar: Dan Fouts said shoulder contact, but pretty obvious T.J. Ward hit Ka'Deem Carey helmet-to-helmet on the ground. Scary play and I'm sure a fine will be coming. One play later Jay Cutler throws a pick to Danny Trevathan. I view Chicago's situation in a similar fashion to the Ravens this year. They haven't been able to get their top three wide receivers on the field one time this year with really a lost season for rookie Kevin White. With Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal out today, you're asking Cutler to beat this top-ranked defense with No. 4 to 6 wideouts like Marc Mariani, Marquess Wilson, and Cameron Meredith.

Vince Verhei: John Fox is so conservative, even his old teams punt when they shouldn't.

ALTERNATE JOKE: John Fox is so conservative, even his opponents punt when they shouldn't.

Scott Kacsmar: After some hesitation, there's your fourth-and-1 call from Gary Kubiak. Ronnie Hillman stumbled on the carry after Osweiler accidentally tripped him. Damn, that is one humongous quarterback, and a big missed opportunity for Denver.

Aaron Schatz: The Broncos make an aggressive coaching decision! After the ridiculous punt, Danny Trevethan picks off Jay Cutler, and the Broncos march down to the goal line and then go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 2! Yay! Aggressive coaching! And the blocking is good, and there's a huge hole for Ronnie Hillman... and he trips over Brock Osweiler's foot and goes down short of the first down.

Andrew Healy: Maybe analytics got into Kubiak's ear on that one. We can hope anyway. Mr. Fox would likely have kicked to make it 10-9 on fourth-and-1 from the 2.

Interesting to see what Kubiak will do the next time that situation pops up. Could easily learn the wrong lesson from that failure. And that play should have worked.

Aaron Schatz: Continuing the discussion of fourth-down decisions... John Fox (!) actually decides to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 4. The score is 17-9, so it makes sense... if you kick a field goal you're just going to have to get downfield to score another touchdown. But still, with 10:10 left, it's a surprising decision from a conservative coach like Fox. Unfortunately for the Bears, Jay Cutler can't get anyone open, so turnover on downs.

The whole thing was set up by a long completion when Marquess Wilson beat Chris Harris deep. It seems like the Broncos defense is as good as always on most plays, high overall success rate, but they've given up a handful of big plays that have kept the Bears in this game.

Scott Kacsmar: Have to admit it was stunning to see John Fox go for it on fourth-and-goal just inside the 5. I think a field goal would have been fine there actually, but the real mistake was Cutler not running it in himself on either third or fourth down. His legs are really a better weapon than most of his receivers against this defense.

Andrew Healy: I was blown away that Fox went for it there. Maybe the analytics guy got in his headset during a radio switch-a-roo.

New York Jets 17 at Houston Texans 24

Cian Fahey: Been saying it all year, wrote about it before the year, Darrelle Revis has lost a step. Still a really, really good cornerback, but the better receivers in the league won't fear going against him like they did in previous seasons.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Father Time is undefeated. Why shouldn't it be that way for cornerbacks too? Post-ACL tear Revis has never been as good as pre-ACL tear Revis. He wasn't perfect last year. James Jones, of all people, had a big day against him in the Raiders-Patriots game last season. But he's still one of the top five cornerbacks in the league -- especially consider what he's asked to do in the scheme, something I know Cian emphasizes -- and I don't think Hopkins having a huge game against him today changes that.

Cian Fahey: That's ACL and microfracture surgery.

Andrew Potter: Remember when the Jaguars went through that crazy creative run of non-quarterbacks throwing touchdowns? One of those was thrown by Cecil Shorts, to Jordan Todman last December against the Texans. The Texans didn't forget: now in Houston, Shorts just threw a beauty to a wide-open Alfred Blue to put them up 17-10 on the Jets. Second career passing touchdown for Shorts, who is now 3-for-3 in his NFL career.

Washington Redskins 16 at Carolina Panthers 44

Andrew Healy: A Chris Culliver pick-six gets called back on a hit to the helmet on Greg Olsen. Such a tough call as it appeared to me to be inadvertent and he was mostly playing the ball. Tony Siragusa sure didn't like it. I'm all in favor of erring on the side of caution there.

Cam Newton has been awesome on this drive. A Brett Favre-esque laser to Jerricho Cotchery, then a nice read to go to Greg Olsen down the sidelines, and now Cotchery dropped a perfect touchdown pass that Newton made possible by creating extra time. It's hard to think of a quarterback ever whose stats fail to do him justice as much as Newton this year.

We're in line to threaten whatever the record is for neutral zone infractions, with Washington having done so four times a minute into the third quarter. On the three I've seen, it's been a Cam Newton hard count precipitating the jump in the red zone. It happened on two consecutive plays in the first half, helping set up a Panthers touchdown.

Cian Fahey: I'm not watching the Washington-Carolina game, but have to think they're getting away from their identity right now:

Dallas Cowboys 24 at Miami Dolphins 14

Vince Verhei: Interesting thought on commentary here, per the Dolphins coaches: Ryan Tannehill hasn't been running much, they say, because Miami has been playing a lot of 3-4 defenses. A quick reality check shows that Tannehill hasn't run for more than 17 yards in a game all year, so really he doesn't run much, period. But it does raise the question of whether a 3-4 is inherently better than a 4-3 when it comes to defending running quarterbacks. It makes some sense -- the nose tackle would be clogging the middle to stop the quick scramble up the gut, and you'd probably have more speed on the field in general. I know measuring defenses against running quarterbacks is hard, because one bad game against a Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson will kill you, but it's an interesting thought.

Aaron Schatz: I sense an offseason article.

Cian Fahey: Watching Tony Romo closely during the early games. He's not throwing the ball with great accuracy, but he's already a huge improvement over Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel. Changing plays on third downs on multiple occasions also. He did just throw a red zone interception as I write this, but early signs are pretty good.

The Dolphins have tried to catch Romo out a lot with disguised pass rushes and blitzes so far. Romo was intercepted on one, but has largely had answers to the questions they've been asking him. These aren't Kevin Coyle's Dolphins anymore.

Vince Verhei: Hell of a finish to the first half in Miami. Following an early Rolando McClain pick-six, Romo hits Terrance Williams down the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown with barely a minute to go. Cowboys get called for taunting on the play, though, so Dallas kicks off from the 20. And they get a horrible kick, so Miami starts at their 46. And then on first-and-15 following a penalty, Tannehill finds Jarvis Landry for a 47-yard gain down the field. That sets up a Tannehill-to-Jordan Cameron 12-yard touchdown pass, and a Dolphins offense that had given up more points than they had scored for 29 minutes goes into halftime down just 14-7.

Cian Fahey: There's no question that the Cowboys would be considered a strong contender if Romo had been healthy all season. His intelligence is something we lack across the league.

Vince Verhei: Holy crap! That kickoff-lands-in-the-end-zone-and-then-bounces-into-the-field-of-play thing that might happen only a few times all year just happened for the second time in a couple of hours. Tony Romo hits Dez Bryant for a touchdown that puts Dallas up 21-14. On the ensuing kickoff, Jarvis Landry lets the ball bounce, and it goes forward before Landry can corral it at the 4.

Ryan Tannehill appears to pick up the first down on a third-down run, but the play is called back for a holding penalty. Tannehill is then drilled by Greg Hardy on his third-and-long incompletion. Lucky Whitehead gets a good return on the punt, then Matt Darr gets flagged for unnecessary roughness, and the Cowboys are going to start this drive at the Dolphins' 21. If you haven't heard of Matt Darr, don't feel bad, he's an undrafted free agent. He's also a punter. Yes, the punter got flagged for unnecessary roughness. Only on this Dolphins team.

Cian Fahey: This game was quiet in the fourth quarter because the Cowboys essentially ran the clock out for six minutes to end the game. The Cowboys are probably still too far behind to catch up in the NFC East, but Romo playing like this will give them a shot at winning out.

Kansas City Chiefs 33 at San Diego Chargers 3

Vince Verhei: Credit our old colleague Michael David Smith for pointing this out: Dontari Poe broke William Perry's record today for the heaviest player in league history to run for a touchdown. Mr. Poe, fat men across the land salute you!

Dontari Poe covered the big-man news of the game, so let's talk about little men. Danny Woodhead, specifically. The Chargers have been a pretty good passing offense this year, and Woodhead has been a big part of it, with 100 more receiving yards than any other running back coming into today. Chiefs limited him to one catch for 9 yards, and the Chargers didn't have any other targets who could produce consistently, and so three points is all they got.

Green Bay Packers 30 at Minnesota Vikings 13

Aaron Schatz: More of the little things: Micah Hyde goes out with a hip injury after he's beat on a touchdown by Kyle Rudolph. So Jeff Janis replaces him to field the ensuing kickoff return. Janis is all speed, and put together a 70-yard return. The best part of it was at the end where he slowed down so he could slightly shift his angle, which threw off the last man on the Minnesota coverage team (Antone Exum) and allowed Janis to get an extra 10 yards. It was a really pretty play that most people would totally ignore.

Unfortunately, that great field position went nowhere because the Packers followed up a 9-yard Eddie Lacy run with an incomplete pass and then Lacy getting CREAMED in the backfield for a loss of 4. Say this about the Vikings defense: they really swarm to the ballcarrier. We're at 6-6 now since Blair Walsh missed the extra point after that Rudolph touchdown.

Teddy Bridgewater just turned in the face of the Green Bay pass rush and ran backwards. I hate when quarterbacks do that. Drives me nuts. Loss of 18 yards. EIGHTEEN!

That being said: here's an example of a difference between DVOA and most advanced stats systems, for readers who are interested in this sort of stuff. The DVOA system treats all losses of 12 yards or more as the same. Offensive plays that lose more than a dozen yards are so rare that there's really no predictive difference between a loss of 12 and a loss of 18 or even a loss of 24.

So for once, DVOA is going to rate a play for the 2015 Vikings better than conventional stats. But running backwards is still pretty stupid most of the time.

Actually, overall the Packers pass rush is really playing much better today than it has the last three weeks. Of course, some of that comes from the fact that Minnesota's offensive line is much better run blocking (10th ALY) than pass blocking (27th ASR). Matt Kalil isn't the weekly embarrassment he was a year ago, but he's not particularly good either.

Saw this on Twitter:

I would like to humbly disagree with Mr. Florio. The Vikings aren't sleepwalking through this game at all. They're playing hard. This is what happens when you play a better opponent than the ones you played earlier in the season. You don't look as good as you looked against Detroit and San Diego. I'm sure it looked like the Vikings were struggling against Denver back in Week 4, but none of us were paying attention to them at that point.

Scott Kacsmar: Looks like PFT deleted the tweet, but also had one that basically said "Vikings blowing it in another big game." That annoying thing where it's only a big game for someone if they're losing it, ignoring all the times they won similar games.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers looks a lot more comfortable today and he's back to being Aaron Rodgers again, despite his brief appearance on the injury report. He just fired one in to James Jones in the corner of the end zone, a bullet that was in just the right place where Jones could get his feet down and catch it without being out of bounds. Terence Newman seemed to let Jones go free in the end zone. Rodgers scrambled for a bit on the 2-point conversion and then flipped it sort of underhand to an open Jones to make the score 27-13. R-E-L-A-X.

Andrew Healy: Aaron Rodgers makes a sublime throw on the move to James Jones for the touchdown that makes it 27-13 after the two-point conversion. The degree of difficulty is so high on that throw. Everybody covered and he throws over the sideline, allowing James Jones to catch with his body out of bounds and his toes in. Might have been the only spot on the field where could go. An example of what Rodgers has to do on a regular basis lately.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers just sacked Teddy Bridgewater on both second and third down with eight minutes left. Six sacks today after zero in each of the last three games. Vikings down 27-13 and need to stop this next Green Bay drive or their short stay in first place is done.

San Francisco 49ers 13 at Seattle Seahawks 29

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 20-7 at the half, and for about 28 minutes that was about as dominant a performance as you could get. San Francisco's first four drives resulted in four punts and no offensive plays outside their own 30. Seattle's first three drives all ended in touchdowns and they appeared to be driving for a fourth. Then a hold and a sack forced a punt, and the 49ers drove 92 yards in about a minute and a half for their only score of the game just as the quarter was about to expire. The touchdown was an easy seam route to Vance McDonald, because he is a tight end and the Seahawks apparently believe that touchdowns by tight ends don't count.

Otherwise, holy cow, what an ass-kicking. Marshawn Lynch is out, but it still only took Seattle 20 minutes to run for 100 yards. Easily the best half all year for the line as a group, and it's starting to look like Thomas Rawls may be the best runner on the team. They finally scored two red zone touchdowns. The scoring threat in the passing game isn't the 6-foot-7 Jimmy Graham, it's the 5-foot-10 Tyler Lockett, who has touchdown catches of 24 and 11 yards.

On defense, Anquan Boldin is a part-timer today, though he did have a big first-down reception on the touchdown drive. But Richard Sherman is shadowing Torrey Smith and has erased him, Shaun Draughn is San Francisco's lead rusher and leading receiver, and, well, it's been a pretty long day for them.

Seahawks open the second half with a three-and-out after a sack on first down, and the teams then traded a series of long field goal drives and it's a 23-13 game at the start of the fourth, and it's close enough that I'm officially nervous. The two things giving Seattle's defense trouble: Blaine Gabbert's mobility, and covering tight ends. Vance McDonald has 65 yards, and Garrett Celek has 35 more. Gabbert only has two carries for 13 yards, but has at least one other big run called back on a penalty, and a few times defenders have abandoned their zones to cover the scrambling quarterback, giving up easy short throws that turn into big gains. They haven't blitzed much. I'd start bringing pressure and force him to make quick decisions in the pocket.

Jimmy Graham has one catch for 9 yards, and one holding penalty for a 10-yard loss, so he has been a net negative producer today. Hooray.

Seattle responds with a touchdown that makes it 29-13 after the extra point is blocked (their second missed PAT of the day). Missed tackles have been a problem for San Francisco all day, and they came up huge on that drive. Doug Baldwin caught a screen pass that had "2-yard gain" written all over it amidst four 49ers, but somehow managed to snake through them all without stepping out of bounds. Then Wilson hit Rawls for a 31-yard touchdown pass that should have been about an 8-yard gain, but the linebacker in coverage fell down and that was that.

Should add that Cary Williams was benched for DeShawn Shead in the second half. Don't know if that move is permanent, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Andrew Healy: After Thomas Rawls' huge day (255 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns), I would put the odds on Marshawn Lynch having the most carries on the 2016 Seahawks under 50 percent. Vince said he might be their best back, and I would change "might be" to "likely is." The Niners made it very easy on him, but 34 looks an awful lot like peak 24.

Cincinnati Bengals 31 at Arizona Cardinals 34

Sterling Xie: The Carson Palmer revenge game is off to an inauspicious start with two interceptions on Arizona's first three possessions. Both have seemed like strange reads based off the telecast -- Leon Hall had Larry Fitzgerald smothered on the first pick, while Palmer had a miscommunication with his receiver on the second and lobbed up a de facto punt for Reggie Nelson. But as Collinsworth mentioned on the broadcast, Nelson had the middle of the field covered for any post route (which is what Palmer must've been expecting based on the throw). A big play to A.J. Green set up a Tyler Eifert touchdown after the second pick -- can only imagine the terror in Tony Jefferson's head when he saw Eifert split out wide in an iso situation.

Scott Kacsmar: Palmer is forcing things, but I don't understand why J.J. Nelson is so much more involved than Jaron Brown, who I thought was clearly the fourth wideout and would move up with Michael Floyd out tonight.

Aaron Schatz: Nelson just streaked down the field for a sweet 64-yard touchdown. And that's why he's playing tonight. J.J. Nelson ran a 4.28-second 40 at the combine last year and Bruce Arians loves speed. (Just ask all the SEC guys on his defense.) I think Jaron Brown is more of a possession guy with special-teams value.

Scott Kacsmar: OK, I guess the speed shown on that long touchdown is why Nelson was in the game so much. He had three catches coming into tonight. Cardinals probably have the deepest receiver corps this year.

Sterling Xie: Cardinals have had more success when the likes of Calais Campbell and Kevin Minter have pressured Dalton up the middle. When Andy Dalton has been able to escape out of the pocket, he's done a good amount of damage with his legs and throwing on the move. I can't tell if Arizona made some kind of halftime adjustment to try and contain Dalton in the pocket more, but he hasn't been able to improvise as much on Cincy's first two second-half possessions (both punts).

Rob Weintraub: Second half impotence in big games -- a fine Bengals tradition.

The Bengals secondary is decimated by injury out of nowhere, and thus there is no chance to stop Palmer -- unless the pass rush picks up, which of course is absent too.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, the bigger problem here is Cincinnati finally dealing with injuries and having to go to depth. They've been so absurdly healthy this year except for Vontaze Burfict starting the year on PUP. Then this game they're missing Adam Jones, and all of a sudden the secondary looks thin. His backup, Darqueze Dennard, went out in the middle of the game, and Dre Kirkpatrick apparently has some sort of nagging injury bothering him although he wasn't on the injury report. With the emergence of Nelson tonight, this is just a terrible time to have depth issues in your secondary.

Scott Kacsmar: Seeing that vintage Dwight Freeney spin move beat Andrew Whitworth for a sack was definitely something to behold. Cardinals have just taken over on both sides in this half. Palmer had the early mistakes, but was absolute money on these touchdown throws. In addition to the wideouts, Arizona has a pretty good collection of running backs too (different styles). Tight end may be lacking a little, but that's OK. Nice play in the end zone in the first half by Daniel Fells. This team did have that inexplicable loss in Pittsburgh, but I still think the Cardinals are as good as anyone in the NFC this year.

Aaron Schatz: The fourth-quarter strip sack on Andy Dalton may go down as part of Dalton's prime-time loser legacy but I feel that one was on Andre Smith, who just totally got beat by Markus Golden. The Cardinals get the ball on the Bengals' 10 but can't get it in the end zone, so field goal and we're at 31-21. Michael Johnson strip-sacked Carson Palmer as part of that little mini-drive, but unlike Dalton's fumble, that one landed in an offensive lineman's hands. Ah, the slings and arrows of fumble-luck fortune.

Rob Weintraub: No one with eyes can blame Dalton for that strip sack -- Smith barely got out of his stance. People will also try to attach that as some sort of failure under pressure, but I can't think of many quarterbacks who aren't Russell Wilson who don't get nailed there.

And the "loser legacy" takes another hit when Dalton hits Eifert for a touchdown to close the gap to 31-28. Cincy may well lose, but they went down fighting at least. One horrible quarter got them.

Aaron Schatz: Also have to like Cincinnati's defense stuffing Chris Johnson on third-and-1 after they let him sneak through a bunch of guys for 9 yards on the play before.

Rob Weintraub: Kirkpatrick missed another tackle -- definitely the weak part of his game, injured or not. But indeed, the interior came up huge on third and short.

Cian Fahey: The Cardinals are sending hugely aggressive blitzes after Dalton at this crucial stage of the game. This is usually not the best way to approach the Bengals offense but even more so when Patrick Peterson is on the sideline with an ankle injury.

Aaron Schatz: One of the reasons Dalton has been so much better against the blitz this year is that Hue Jackson is great at designing plays to beat the blitz, and calling them at the right times. That's how Dalton can excel in the numbers against blitzes this year even though he struggles (less than in the past, but he does struggle) against heavy pressure. There are a lot of plays designed so Dalton never feels pressure.

Rob Weintraub: True enough, though I feel a big story in the game was the Bengals juuuuuuust missing big plays designed to beat the blitz.

Andrew Healy: I think the Bengals should have run there on third-and-2 with 1:14 left and trailing 31-28. Arizona had no timeouts and that would have allowed them to give the Cardinals almost no time to win it with a field goal if the third down had failed. Instead a long incompletion down the right sideline that could have been intercepted. Now Palmer has enough time to get the field goal to win it after Nugent ties it from 43 yards out.

Rob Weintraub: Which is exactly what is happening. Was screaming to run on third down but I guess not loud enough to be heard in Arizona...

And that is an atrocious way to lose a game.

Cian Fahey: Carson Palmer is cold. Looked as calm as calm could be on the game-winning drive. Justin Bethel will feel relieved after dropping what should have been the game-sealing interception on the previous drive.

Scott Kacsmar: For all the prime-time duds, respect to the Cardinals (and Seattle and Cincinnati) for two great games the last two weeks. We can only hope the playoffs have some games up to this caliber. As Cian pointed out, a lot of trash around the league this year.

Vince Verhei: I'd just like to remind you that here we are, Thanksgiving week, and the only quarterbacks to get wins against Arizona this year are Nick Foles and Landry Jones. Football is random and weird.

Aaron Schatz: The rare "simulating the snap count" unsportsmanlike conduct penalty handed the Cardinals a much easier field goal, but letting the Cardinals complete three straight passes to go from their own 16 to the Cincinnati 27 was the real reason why the Bengals lost.

Still... there's not a lot of shame in losing by three points on the road to one of the other top four teams in the league. Especially when that team is in the other conference, so the loss won't matter for playoff tiebreakers.

Rob Weintraub: No, no shame, but that is two losses in a row, by seven total points, thanks to end-of-game breakdowns. And all Bengals fans are warily eyeing the Steelers, just two games out with six to play, and still a matchup to come.

It should also be noted, in sore loser fashion, that this game isn't "Carson Palmer gets his shot against the Bengals" -- that game already happened, in 2012, and Cincy crushed Palmer -- and the Raiders.

Andrew Healy: Wow, just amazing how Palmer is peaking in his 12th year. And it's not just that he made those three great throws to get them in range. It's that it felt inevitable. He's one of the three or four quarterbacks you want most in that spot right now.

But that third-down call really cost the Bengals. Impossible to know for sure, but it looked like Bernard would have gotten the first down if he had gotten the ball instead of Dalton pulling it back, too. So it would have been either overtime or a Bengals win in regulation. And given what they had done the previous drive, I would have liked the Bengals' chances to finish the drive.

Rob Weintraub: Dalton's biggest flaw isn't some kind of jellied knees under pressure, or even prime-time fiascos. It is his insistence on forcing the ball to Green, especially when he sees man coverage, regardless of context. Tough to blame the guy for going to his best player in man-to-man, but it is a tendency that has cost them plenty over the years.

For what it's worth, Marvin Lewis says Domata Peko was calling out run alerts, not simulating the snap count. Doesn't matter, as was stated.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 23 Nov 2015

142 comments, Last at 24 Nov 2015, 2:05pm by nlitwinetz


by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:56am

What a great game for SNF. Credit to the Bengals for not falling apart after giving up the three straight TDs, and for fighting back to tie it. Just a really fun game between two good teams. It is nice when you have high expectations for a game and they match it. Also, I just hate people are bringing up the 'same old Bengals' crap. The Bengals that took the field yesterday would beat like 27 of the other 31 teams - they just happened to play one of the teams that is as good as them, if not better.

Palmer looked great apart from those two weird throws. It really looks like it will come down to them and Arizona (of course, caveat that anything can happen), and if it does it would be just a fascinating matchup. And to think the last time we saw these two was a 7-8-1 Carolina team hosting a Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals team.

Carolina looked great again. Amazing how Mike Shula and Cam can scheme that offense to one that is averaging 30 a game. With their schedule, I think they have as good odds as NE of going 16-0, which is ridiculous.

by Mike W :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:59am

I'm interested in how it happens that teams will sometimes seem to completely phone it in once or twice a year. I remember Mike Sherman's Packers would have about two absolute stinkers each season, when they looked as though they had planned during the week to go at half speed, lose, and move on, as if they needed a week off. It's hard to imagine how that would happen, but sometimes a team will just not be competitive, and not due to making a bunch of turnovers early, or some big, fluky plays. Just getting comprehensively dominated.

This week, Philadelphia looked like that. You could say Washington, but it's not about getting beaten, or even getting beaten badly. It's a matter of not being competitive in a situation where the game was winnable. Philly was home against a team they were about as good as, or maybe a bit better, and they scored on their first drive, and then they did virtually nothing good for the next three hours. It was embarrassing. Like, for the NFL embarrassing.

by Pat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:51pm

I don't think it's exactly that.

Tampa Bay was a pretty bad matchup for Philly's offense. They're pretty much one of the best rush defenses in the league, and easily a top-10 defensive line. So the run game really wasn't going to get going, and when they started getting down multiple scores, the game landed pretty much on Sanchez's shoulders. That's a recipe for a total blowout.

The surprise is really the Eagles defense giving up that much to Tampa Bay, but Tampa Bay had a really good game plan. The weakness of the Eagles is their secondary, by far, and so Tampa Bay just kept guys in, and let the wide receivers find holes in the secondary. Which they oh-so-much did. I mean, even the 2 long Martin runs were horrible mistakes by the secondary.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:11pm

I have an alternative explanation. No way a Lovie Smith team was going to let Mark Sanchez get the better of his defense.

I suppose that doesn't explain the offensive burst, but I was quite sure he was going to smother their offense.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:29pm

I mentioned this below, but I'm not sure how much of it was Lovie's defense, and how much of it was Mark Sanchez simply being terrible. By my count, in the second half, Sanchez was completely off-target on one screen pass and three swing passes, all very short to wide-open guys, and he couldn't hit any of them (and one of those turned into the easiest pick-six Lavonte David will ever have). Philly's offensive struggles appeared to be largely tied to a combination of Tampa's pass rush being surprisingly effective, and that pass rush making Sanchez be even more terrible than he usually is.

by Southern Philly :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:38pm

Sunday was bad Sanchez turned up to 11... even when he made good decisions he was laughably inaccurate, sailing balls over people's heads in the open field. It was a recurring problem last year and it was just awful yesterday.

by Pat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:49pm

Sanchez honestly had absolutely nothing to do with them losing.

Yeah, I mean, he wasn't good. Sure. But starting from the drive with the 80-some yard run, the Bucs scored 4 possessions in a row, with 3 touchdowns and a field goal. The Eagles offense this year, regardless of who's at quarterback, is never going to overcome something like that. And it wasn't like the Eagles were totally incompetent on offense, handing Tampa Bay great field position. The Bucs drove 85, 80, 80, 70 yards.

And one of those drives took 10 freaking minutes! Basically the entire 3rd quarter. At that point, you're down 35-14, and it's garbage time. This game was completely and totally about a defensive collapse from Philly.

I mean, sure, Sanchez had 3 interceptions, but honestly, all 3 of them were in situations where the offense is starting to press, and quarterbacks take risks. And Sanchez kinda sucks in those situations. But that's not why they lost.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:00pm

I think if you're an Eagles fan with a long term view, you have to become a Tony Romo/Eli Manning/ Kirk Cousins (!) fan for the next 6 weeks, because short of a last place finish, I think Chip Kelly is going get the chance to trade Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, along with a 1st round draft choice, to the Niners, to acquire Kaepernick, 24 hour prior to the Niners cutting him, with Kelly guaranteeing the balance of Kaep's contract!

by Pat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:01pm

I don't think last place is terribly unlikely at this point, though. I mean, the Patriots and Cardinals are pretty much given as losses, so now you're talking 4-8. The Lions, especially now that they might be playing decently, are a terrible matchup too - Philly's absolute Achilles heel is their secondary (31st in the league vs. #1 receivers, woo). So, given that they're facing the 6th best WR by DYAR on a short week... yeah. Not looking good.

They could easily lose to Buffalo, too, which would put them on a 6 game losing streak, sitting at 4-10 with 2 games remaining on the schedule. At that point I think the roster starts imploding, and things go downhill very fast.

It's funny, I said before the season that I have no idea how this team would get to 8-8, and 6-10 looked most likely. Damnit, I wish this team wasn't predictable.

by DEW :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:02pm

I just have to say, on that "simulating the snap count" thing, either Lewis is a liar (not unusual, a head coach playing the media and trying to take the heat off his player), or Peko is an idiot. Six seconds left, no time outs, on the 28, in a tie game...and he seriously thinks that the Cardinals are going to call a running play?

No, it makes much more sense that he was trying to bait the Cardinals line into a false start (which would have meant a 10-second runoff and the end of the 4th quarter, preventing the attempt at a game-winning field goal) and happened to get caught at it. As Aaron pointed out, the Cards were already in makeable field goal range; the penalty only made it easier, not possible.

by Bernie :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:26pm

I didn't see the game, so I don't have all the information, but was the clock running or stopped at the time? Isn't it only a 10 second runoff for a false start when the clock is running? If so, it seems like a really big risk to take for not much reward.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:21pm

You are right, but the media, and even the Bengals, have been running with that angle. There would have been no runoff.

by TGT :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:27pm

Uh...the clock WAS running

by TomC :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:45pm

Yes, the clock was absolutely running. The previous play was Palmer shuffling a few feet off the hashmark and kneeling down. (Not sure why this is even under debate: the play on which the penalty was called involved Palmer spiking the ball, which he hardly would have been doing if the clock had been stopped.)

Side issue: I don't get the decision to run that shuffle-and-kneel play at all. You very marginally improve your kicker's confidence by improving the angle, but you bring in all of these other risks.

by DEW :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:51pm

As a third voice who was watching the game, yes, the clock was running and the play that got whistled was the Cardinals trying to spike the ball. There absolutely would have been a runoff if a false start was called.

I think the shuffle-and-kneel play can make a significant difference if there's wind, or even if the kicker has a tendency to hook or slice, beyond mere confidence. (Also, I think it was likely more significant in past years when kickers were simply less accurate and every bit of advantage counted.) Otherwise, well, it's weighing an intangible versus other risks.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:16pm

I sit repeatedly corrected. Watching the game, I thought the clock was stopped, but obviously, as I was vicious cycle of nodding off and waking up, I had the order of events mixed-up. I had thought there was a pass that ended up with Fitz out of bounds, but I guess there was a play in between, or that he was ruled to be inbounds. That jibes with the intentional spike call.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:22pm

Correct. If the clock is stopped, there's no runoff.

But it would have taken the Cardinals from a 46-yard field goal to a 51-yard one, that's fairly significant.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:06pm

Mia/Dal- Miami finally returns home in time to find a healthy Dallas team because Miami can't catch a schedule break all year. The game got taken over by the refs early and often which killed most of the momentum of the game. Miami's return team strikes again with a 4 yrd return. Miami fans note, possibly by NFL rules the kick off should have been rules out of bounds and showed some video evidence of it. I don't know the rules enough to argue. The Cowboys felt like the better team all day and Miami's offense hasn't play well in years against a strong front 7. Tannehill is terrible on 3rd downs. They should probably just punt on 3rd instead:) When Devante Parker was drafted fans said there was no way he was another Ted Ginn Jr. They were right Parker has a ways to go to reach that level of productivity. Is there a team that gets less from their past 3 number one picks than Miami? AFC east watch: The Patriots go for the 2016 division title tonight or at least it feels like it. Bills with a win are in strong wild card position, with a loss they are in strong wild card position. The Jets don't have a QB, they are likely not going to be in draft position to get one. This off season might be time to call the 49ners about their QB situation. Miami is now the worst team in Florida as the Jags and Bucs are on what counts in Florida as a hot streak.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:20pm

Depressing, but basically accurate. Miami don't have the line to hold up on 3rd down, and it seems they're always looking for short stuff which defenses sit on. Inevitably, Tannehill winds up buried, either with or shortly after the ball has gone. That said, the pick 6 was brutal, rather like Jamar Taylor's coverage all day.
I said at the beginning of the season that this team had voids at both guard spots and all over the secondary (with the exception of Reshard Jones- he's been really good this year), and it proved sadly accurate.

At least the safety streak is broken

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by BlueStarDude :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:24pm

Don't see how that kick could have been ruled out of bounds. In order for that, Landry or whoever it was would have had to catch the ball with his foot out of bounds. But the ball in this case clearly hit in the field of play (the end zone).

Why do I always get flagged as spam?

by Sakic :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:27pm

Vince mentioned a week or two ago (I think) that the site has been getting hit hard with spam bots so they've had to up the filter.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:51pm

Here's the link to the discussion. Apparently this scenario was ruled out of bounds in previous games and would have helped Miami. In this case it would seem unfair to the kicking team, but apparently the rule might be unfair to the kicking team.


I don't know, but I imagine someone at football outsiders knows the difference between this play and the play Randall Cobb play. Or possibly they blew the call. Clearly Landry knew the Randall Cobb play because he was lobbying hard for the call.

by nlitwinetz :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 2:05pm

I was thinking the same thing when I saw this play live. That is a 36 yard difference in field position. Landry knew the rule, why the heck didn't they challenge this play? It is amazing that mistakes like this can be made at this level of the game.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 7:07pm

"Miami can't catch a schedule break all year"

Definitely picked a good time to play the Texans.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:25pm

As a Seahawks fan, that SNF game was an annoying way to end an otherwise great football day ('Hawks win handily, major Wild Card competition all loses). Hated seeing the Cards get away with a clear helmet-to-helmet hit on a crossing pattern, when they got the benefit of that call in a crucial moment last week. And then the 3rd-and-2 play ... just awful.

I get wanting to take a shot at the lead, but there was over a minute left. There was still plenty of time to do that if you pick up a first down. That's a play you run with 25 seconds left, not 65. Run the damn ball! Let Dalton run the read-option. Or at the very least call a safe possession pass (roll-out with a scramble option if it's not there). The contested pass just makes absolutely no sense -- total gaffe.

It's also annoying that the commentators said nothing about what a tactical error it was. (And I think Collinsworth-Michaels are the best among the big four networks, by far). At least I knew FO would say something about it today. You guys didn't disappoint.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:19pm

Looping this back to the "Analytics Guy" comment - don't the coaches go over these things ahead of time, so they don't get caught up in the moment? You've gotta run the ball there... or as you said, rollout/safe pass and tell your QB to stay in bounds.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:27pm

Regarding the catch/no catch in the Colts game: It was definitely close and I would have said catch. But the conversation about it seems to mostly be all wrong. It probably wouldn't have actually been very advantageous if it had been a catch...he was clearly down in bounds and it's unlikely they could have gotten another play off in 5 seconds. Although I am curious...what happens if that is overturned on review? In a strange turn of events, that would have actually been the most unfair result because it is likely that they ARE able to get a play off in that scenario.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:45pm

Good point. Julio's non-catch also overshadows the Colts getting an end zone pick that was almost certainly trapped. The ball clearly hits the ground during the catch process and even moves.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:06pm

What I don't understand about the Julio Jones non-catch is that one rule says the ground cannot cause a fumble. So why is the ground allowed to cause an incompletion?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:38pm

The short answer is 'because the rules say it can'

A fumble and an incomplete pass are fundamentally different things - one is a player who has already established possession of the ball losing said possession, and the other is a player who has not yet established possession failing to establish it. The rules are understandably different, as they're two very different state changes.

Generally the ground can't cause a fumble because generally you're down as soon as you or the ball contact the ground.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:15pm

Because a fumble involves a player already in possession of the ball. When going to the ground in trying to catch the ball the player has not yet established possession. He does not establish possession until he has maintained control throughout the process. Apples and oranges.

The "ground can't cause a fumble" thing really is not technically always true. The ground can't cause a fumble when player has possession and he is or was down by contact when the ball hits the ground and squirts out. So if a player is in possession and trips without contact and lands hard and the ball squirts out when it hits the ground it is a fumble. There are definitely situations in which the ground can cause a fumble.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:59pm

There is no such rule that "the ground cannot cause a fumble".

In practice, it rarely does, because the runner's body is down before the ball comes loose.

But, a running back that falls to the ground, untouched, and loses the ball, most certainly has fumbled.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:40pm

Unless the refs rule that the runner gave himself up (still remembers the Giants getting that call against the Bears).

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:31pm

I don't remember it going against the Bears, but I do remember a different game. Looks like it was against the Cardinals.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:38pm

I may have transposed the game in my mind. Seemed like a terrible call to me.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:24pm

I was rooting against the Falcons, and this same scenario crossed my mind. In effect, the replay would have allowed the Falcons to get their offense to the line and spike the ball immediately when the clock was restarted (like a first down in college football). I was pretty confident this wasn't going to happen (for as much as people complain, the NFL is pretty consistent about calling that an incompletion), but, you are right, it would have been very unfair.

Is this something that should be looked at? What could you even do? A five-second run-off for all replays in the final minute? Make everybody stand in the position they were at when the play was over and start the clock from there?

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:29pm

This should be an interesting week in Denver.... Kubiak's post game comments stating that he felt they ran better because Chicago had to defend the bootleg seem ominous in regard to a Peyton return. Kubiak wants to run the ball and its a lot harder to run out of the shotgun with a QB where the defense doesn't respect the full field.

I thought Brock was overall very solid in every area with the exception of pocket awareness, It looked like a few of his sacks were avoidable and a little bit of pocket presence would have led to a much greater play.

The penalty discrepancy between Denver and Chicago was unusual to say the least. While I believe Denver deserved some of the penalties, it looked like there was a different criteria to merit a PI flag between CHI and DEN.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:32pm

Denver's secondary was beating the snot out of the Chicago receivers. I didn't see any penalty called that looked remotely dubious.

I saw the success of the Woodson Era in GB where the secondary dares the refs to call something on almost every play. In the big games both during the season and in the playoffs the refs typically take the 'let them play' approach so it's a risk worth taking.

Sometimes you run into a crew willing to throw numerous flags.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:47pm

Speaking of zebra behavior, what's the mood in Badgerland today? I thought that was the worst striped shirt atrocity I'd seen in quite a while, since it entailed not one, but two touchdowns stolen from one team in a game that went down to the last play. To anyone who claims that overturning the td catch was correct, all I have to say is that when you agree with Matt Millen, you've taken a wrong turn in your life.

On the other hand, I'm not as familiar with the college rules, so perhaps waving your hands below your waist, telling your teammates to get away from the ball, invalidates the return. I still haven't seen any loss of control by the Badger pass receiver, however.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:37pm


On the punt return there is apparently an arcane and rarely enforced rule that any hand signal of any kind that is not a fair catch signal is illegal. So the returner can tell other players to stay away but not pick up the ball and run with it. The reason fans rarely see it called apparently is because so few returners pick up those types of kicks and try and return the ball.

So on that call the officials did get the call correct.

On the TD pass the officials claim the receiver did not complete the play wiht control. I have not seen anyone in the public forum who agrees save for the folks in the greater Chicago area.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:51pm

The game in Minneapolis on Saturday should be another interesting one, and likely to be similar in outcome, with regard to the visiting team prevailing. If Minnesota had not had such atrocious injury (and coaching) luck this year, I think they might have gotten the axe back for the first time since 2004. They have a chance, still, but they really are a crippled roster.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:54pm

Alas, Joel Stave seems hell bent on keeping every opponent in the game.

It's really quite strange. STave is a SMART guy. You listen to him talk for 2 seconds, and you can tell this is one savvy young man. But he just cannot help but make 2-3 dreadful plays per game.

Personally I think he is too thoughtful on the field. He needs to just 'grip it and rip it'. Instead he goes Mr Peabody in real time and too often tries to trisect an angle which is impossible.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:00pm

I was so desperately confused by this exchange (what two TDs is Will talking about? why would people in Chicago care about bad calls in a Vikings-Packers game? I thought the Vikings coaching staff was pretty good this year...). Obviously, I don't watch a lot of NCAAFB or live in Chicago anymore.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:11pm

Off topic in a pro football thread, but the University of Minnesota football coach story is a pretty heart-rending one, for something that doesn't entail death or severe incapacitation. Jerry Kill was a terrific coach, and by all publicly observable evidence, is an outstanding human being. The guy has had most of the same staff for 20 year, through three or four colleges, to give some sense of the loyalty he engenders. The guy beats kidney cancer about a decade ago, but then his epilepsy just becomes incompatible with the stresses of being a football coach at the level of a major conference. The guy just loves coaching, was pretty darned good at it, and it's a shame to see somebody like that deprived of the chance to continue.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:09pm

On the TD pass the officials claim the receiver did not complete the play wiht control. I have not seen anyone in the public forum who agrees save for the folks in the greater Chicago area.

I didn't see the game and only caught a couple of highlights on a certain four letter sports provider but this Wildcat fan completely agrees that the TD pass was complete. No idea how that could have been overturned. I couldn't tell about the previous play and they didn't show the punt.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:37pm

On the pass to the tight end his knee was clearly down just inside the one yard line. Refs got that call correct.

But that was OBVIOUS.

How a receiver can catch a ball, take several steps, fall down out of bounds and then drop the ball as he gets up be called incomplete is just really bizarre.

According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN if the receiver had done the very same sequence but stayed in bounds the entire time the catch would have counted. That's per the Big10.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:27pm

re: in-bounds vs. out-of-bounds validity (NOTE: I did not see the play):

Think of it this way, I catch a ball 10 yards from the sideline, but I'm clearly bobbling it (think like a circus juggler). Then, after 10 yards, I firmly grasp the ball.

If I've already stepped out of bounds, it's an incomplete pass; but if I control it prior to stepping out of bounds, it's complete.

I don't know if it applies to this play, but the in-bounds/out-of-bounds distinction certainly makes sense.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:43pm

I didn't see any clear evidence that the receiver ever bobbled the ball on this play (which is why the reversal seems positively psychotic to me) but if it did happen, it only occurred AFTER the receiver took two steps, then went out of bounds, and then fell to the turf. If the Big 10 stands by this reversal then I have absolutely no idea as to what constitutes a catch in that conference.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 8:15pm

My guess is that in an attempt to write a Calvin Johnson/Dez Bryant rule they wrote and instructed the rule to be enforced that "if the receiver goes to the ground in making the catch, possession must be retained throughout" without thinking through other scenarios where a catch is established before "throughout" elapses.

So Peavy catches the ball, and is pushed by a Wildcat defender which, eventually, causes him to go to the ground. By rule he has to complete the entire sequence. Four steps mean nothing, to a knee means nothing, rolls over, ball moves while out of bounds, boom, incomplete.

Rules need to be coordinated with other rules. I guarantee that if Peavy is on the field of play, makes that catch, is pushed, takes three steps, is hit by another Wildcat defender and drops the ball, that's a catch and fumble. Wisconsin had another catch and fumble earlier in the game. Standards of a catch should be consistent. If the player establishes control, however that is defined, subsequent events shouldn't matter. The "going to the ground" business is overriding other considerations. Peavy catches the ball, doesn't fall, takes two steps, throws the ball up in the air "yay we won", TD. Peavy catches the ball, doesn't fall, takes two steps, has the ball slapped away by a Wildcat, TD. Peavy catches the ball, is pushed, takes four steps, falls, ball moves, no catch. The establishing the catch rule should override the going to the ground rule when it is applicable.

My guess is that the Big Ten will quietly change their rules and instruction on this play and it will never be called this way again. Otherwise, the defense is incentivized to push and shove post catch in order to continue the play beyond the common sense ending of the play.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 8:39pm

How they ever arrived at the point where the same action at one point of the field could be called a fumble, but at another point it could be said the catch was never made, defies reasonable thinking

by Jay Z :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 2:01am

There was a play in the Michigan State/Ohio State game. Pass towards the pylon at the goal line. Receiver catches it, immediately turns and tries to reach for the pylon, ball hits the pylon, comes out of the receiver's hands. Touchdown.

The player made a "football move", clearly caught the ball and turned, did something with it. But the receiver took no steps, didn't "secure the ball to the ground" because it was out of his hands by the time he hit the ground.

So the call is not consistent even within the Big Ten. Peavy had no reason to "make a football move." Once the ball is secured, whatever that means, the play should be over. Judgment call, but secured. Not "he fell after and it moved so no catch" when that's not being enforced on other plays.

by NYMike :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 8:45pm

And this was called a TD on the field. Where was the "incontrovertible" evidence that it wasn't a catch?

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 7:49pm

Even Matt Millen is right twice a day. (Not an opinion about the call you were discussing, just a general observation.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:50pm

Bennett got away with a few OPIs and the Broncos got one really bad DPI call, but they got a way with a few marginal DPIs, that I've seen other crews call.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:45pm

curious how DVOA sees the GB Minn game. I was pretty surprised when I saw Minn had out gained GB 5.5 to 4.6 per play. Didn't feel that way.

Bridgewater threw the ball amazingly well. And, he really made some incredible Houdini type runs converting a few third downs. He is falling into the bad habit of backing up from the rush. He done it a lot this year. hard to judge him, the pass blocking is so bad.

The Viking oline was as bad as they were against Denver. Particularly the Kalil-Fusco combo. Has anyone noticed that whomever they put beside Kalil turns out to be awful? Fusco was a hell of a right guard, now he's horrible.

The game really did turn on the late GB 1st half TD drive and two big 3rd and long throws by Rodgers when he got out of the pocket. His accuracy when moving is sick.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:02pm

The 100+ penalty yards made a difference. A couple of the calls were ticky-tack, I thought, but the big one on Newman was obvious. A 50-yard catch there, instead of a DPI, and Green Bay shoots up to 5.2 yards per play.

I thought Minnesota would match up well with the Packers, but aside from the offensive line shenanigans, they really needed a second receiver, preferably a deep threat à la Mike Wallace. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they have Mike Wallace.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:37pm

The guy Diggs replaced, Charles Johnson, was way more effective last year than Wallace has been this year.

In the last 4 games Wallace has played full time - has 14 pass attempts his way and only 2 catches for 26 yards. Johnson who gets about 2 snaps a game has 2 catches in 3 targets for 60 yards.

I think the Vikings need to bench Wallace and play Johnson.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:42pm

Don't forget that Good Ol' Mikey had another drop yesterday!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:09pm

I laughed really loud when Wallace dropped it; the guy seems to have one identifiable NFL skill, and that is running really fast in a straight line and just maybe some of the time catching the ball if it hits him right in the hands. He and Cordarelle Patterson should totally hang out sometime.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:14pm

Is there room for Devin Smith?

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:50pm

I was really surprised to see Johnson not playing. He and Bridgewater seemed to be clicking at the end of last season.

by ammek :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:50pm

Bengals-Cardinals was a treat, which, for someone who watched football in the 1990s and 2000s, is almost impossible to say without a hint of irony. I'm pulling for a rematch in February.

The rest of the games were dire, though. The 4pm games weren't competitive; the early games might have featured as few as two teams heading to the playoffs. I have no idea what happened in Philadelphia. The Eagles didn't play that badly, but pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong for them. I thought Sanchez played ok, considering the game script.

The Packers' defensive line looks like an improved unit compared with last year. But let's not get carried away:

Opponent – ALY rank - sack rate rank - PFF offensive line rank
CHI – 15 - 5 - 23
SEA – 9 - 32 - 32
KC – 5 - 28 - 22
SF – 31 - 29 - 29
STL – 20 - 10 - 27
SD – 25 - 13 - 28
DEN – 29 - 11 - 16 (and a great X of shame from Ben Muth last week)
CAR – 14 - 18 - 4
DET – 28 - 15 - 31
MIN – 10 - 27 - 14

A three-game stretch against Dallas, Oakland and Arizona in December might expose the front seven, which I still think is a fundamental weakness.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:05pm

"The rest of the games were dire, though."

I couldn't agree more. Other than Cincy/Ari, there wasn't a single game that involved two teams that performed well. A couple had one team play well and the other poorly, most involved two teams that both played poorly. It was an ugly weekend.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:25pm

Vikings-Packers was a great example of why I enjoy this game, even when the team I'm rooting for loses, and not by a particularly close manner; it was just a fascinating contest, at least to me.

I expected the Vikings to be lousy at pass blocking, because that is their talent level at the task (they really didn't run block all that well in this game either). I expected Rodgers to make great throws, because that is his talent level, when healthy. What I didn't exect was the Vikings defense to be uncharacteristically poorly disciplined, which is what turned the game on the the critical Packer possessions, when they scored a td just before the end of the 1st half, and when they scored a td after the Vikings had drawn to within 6 points, with about 4 minutes-plus left in the 3rd quarter. If you are going to defend Rodgers, you absolutely must maintain pass rush discipline, and keep him in the pocket, and on both of those drives they allowed Rodgers to extend outside the pocket, to find guys way downfield. You also can't commit stupid penalties, like Linval Jospeh did with a pointless roughing the passer penalty, which negated a holding call just before the half, and probably would have forced the Packers to kick a field goal. Other than that, Joseph played another great game, but that penalty was just a killer.

Toss in the Vikings getting less fumble luck when Peterson put the ball on the ground, at the Packer 20, when it was still a two possession game early in the 4th quarter, and it is fair to say the Vikings wasted a pretty decent Bridgewater performance, via some dumb play which they have mostly avoided this year, and thus allowed Rodgers' talents to prevail. Lastly, although Bridgewater had his moments, compensating for the usual crap blocking, he also showed, on one play in particular, his ceiling is likely "solid above average starter", and not "gives defensive coordinators PTSD". There was a play in the 2nd half, when the game could still be won, when the Packers brought a safety (coming free, naturally), and Bridgewater read it perfectly, but being unable to fully step into the throw wthout risking significant injury, he just couldn't get enough on the ball, to get it to a receiver breaking open about 30 yards downfield. I think Rodgers would have had about a 50 yard td on the play. Oh, to have a talent like Rodgers fall to the 24th spot, 2nd qb selected, in the draft.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:38pm


What is your perspective toward the penalties? After watching GB receivers get manhandled the past two weeks I thought watching the game 'about d*mn time refs'

Rudolph is the real deal.

And apologies for the absence seeming like I was staying away because GB stunk. Wife's grandmother passed away and her mom was overwhelmed handling the estate duties

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:55pm

Well, look, the critical penalty on Joseph was little more than a gentle shove, but an NFL defensive lineman has to know that he can't take that risk, when the ball has been out of the QB's hand for that long. The illegal contact call on Barr was really ticky-tacky, it taking place about 5.5 yards past the line of scrimmage, but I just hate that the rule has the boundary set at 5 yards anyways, so I'm probably not the best guy to ask. The long PI on Newman was clearly the right call, and what was really strange on Newman's part was that he actually turned his head back to the ball. My guess is that he didn't pick up the ball against a pretty dark November sky. Eh, my overall take was that the Vikings certainly deserved to lose, and they did so by doing something they have mostly avoided this year, playing in a very undisciplined manner, on defense especially, which I did not expect at all.

Sorry for your loss. Handling estates is often very unpleasant.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:05pm

I wonder what Crosby said that got the returner to head butt a kicker of all players.

On a separate note Jeff Janis must have made a poor taste joke about Olivia Munn in the locker room because Rodgers will only throw to the guy as a last resort. Writers keep saying it's about comfort level but Rodgers was pitching Adams the ball within 2 minutes of Adams being on the field. Same with Richard Rodgers and I don't know how many guys. Janis cannot be THAT bad on his routes.

But the coaches have the same mindset. Janis is a receiver, can really run and the team is desperate for playmakers on special teams. Now Janis has been a great cover guy. But why have him cover kicks with Micah Hyde returning kickoffs? Hyde is solid on punt returns but mediocre on kickoffs. Just seems strange.

Thanks for the thought. Not my first rodeo unfortunately. But talk about building up goodwill with the mother in law and a grateful wife. I am rolling in it!! (Ha, ha)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:15pm

Patterson really oughta' grasp that he doesn't do enough things with competence (he's pretty much strictly a kick returner now, in a league whch is trying to minimze kick returns) to stay in the league, if he gets even two or three stupid penalties a year.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:57pm

I think the biggest turning point in that game was the no call on a hit to the head of Bridgewater on a sack with 2:30 to go (the one where he injured his shoulder). That should have put the ball on the GB 1st and 10. With that call the half likely ends 9-9 not 16-10.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:01pm

That's what I was thinking too. That non-call gave the Packers the time to get that TD.

It's the QB double standard at work.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:44pm

Minnesota is an OL rebuild away from being really good. Very impressed with Bridgewater... in the two games (DEN & GB) Ive seen him he's been composed despite getting the snot beat out of him.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:57pm

You can win a championship with Bridgewater, without it being a Dilferesque achievement.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:42pm

lot of rebuilding to do. Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman posted the 18 yd sack on Twitter. Check it out - it's hillarious

4 man rush

Clemmings the RT couldn't decide whether to block the DE or DT - ended up barely touching either
Harris the RG blocked his man well
Berger (C) - slid to help Harris - who didn't need help
Fusco (LG) got pancaked
Kalil (LT) got away with a hold and was beat anyway

4 men rushing against 5 and only one guy was even blocked

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:59pm

I think Sullivan has been a bit overrated, since he stopped being clearly terrible, at some point in 2011, but it is hard to overstate what it has meant to have a 33 year old career backup, who is not primarily a center, starting in place of Sullivan this year. Ugh.

Kalil is due 11 million next year, but none of it is guaranteed I don't think, at least not until the after the 1st game, so there is no dead money if they cut him. Then again, I don't think you can go down to Costco and pick up a NFL starting left tackle, so I don't have any advice to give Rick Spielman when he no doubt solicits it from me.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:24pm

I'm pretty sure you can get a LT at costco - but you have to buy a 5 pack for 55 Million.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:31pm

Black Friday Special!

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:01pm

I love all the commentary on DEN-CHI. The whole game was a John Fox referendum. What Aaron didn't mention is that Kubiak punted AGAIN on 4th and 1 from the Chicago 43 late in the 4th quarter when Denver had rushed for 168 yards and could have put the game away. Naturally, mediocre punter Colquitt (I forget which one Denver has) got off a mediocre punt, so the Bears were able to go 80 and get the (almost) tying TD.

But it was funny watching Fox's influence on the game. The guy regularly eschews going for it on 4th and 1, but then randomly goes for it on 4th and goal at the 4 with 10 minutes left! He wouldn't go for it on 4th and 1 in the past even when he had Tebow, who was only the most 4th and 1 QB ever.

Ultimately, Denver's O-Line still is going to hold them back. Evan Mathis and Michael Schofield took turns having some truly embarrassing moments that led to Osweiler sacks.

Finally, my weekly point about the defense and dumbass penalties: they're not stopping. They'll never stop.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:10pm

Do you think Denver would have punted if Chicago had taken the field goal and were only trailing by 5?

I liked what I saw from Osweiler, but it is hard to say how good his day really was when the Bears played that poorly. They couldn't stop a mediocre running game, left wide open guys in the middle of the field regularly and didn't get as much pressure as the sacks would imply.

Regardless, Brock was a clear upgrade over what Manning has been providing lately.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:53pm

As for Denver's penalties, it seems Ward is good for one every game and unlike many Denver fans, I believe they've deserved every personal foul penalty that been called against them. Whats concerning to me that their aggressive style of play may have built a reputation with refs where it seems they are more likely to get called for PI on those 50/50 PI or No-Call plays.

The OL is the weak link on the team. The sack Evan Mathis gave up was the most "Poster-izing" missed block I've seen in quite awhile.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:11pm

TJ Ward makes some great plays. He made the stop on the 2 point conversion. He also makes plays where I can't comprehend what in the world he is thinking, like that People's Elbow he dropped on Cutler after he finished his slide.

I agree that I haven't had a problem with the refs calling the personal fouls. I have a problem with Denver continually committing them. I'm not sure if that's led to them being more closely scrutinized for other subjective fouls, but I will say I didn't think Brandon Marshall committed DPI late in the game. And judging by his comments later, neither did he.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:45pm

I'd be rather surprised if Brock doesn't get the start against NE next week.

I didn't get to see the game, so I'm going on game stories, but it sounds like Kubiak kept to a pretty vanilla offense against the Bears. I hope that was to boost Osweiler's confidence, get him up to game speed, and (perhaps) keep BB from seeing the playbook. If the simple offense was due to Osweiler's inability to manage a more complex gameplan, well, next week's affair may be discouraging for Broncos fans.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:51pm

Brock was under center over 75% of the time which makes the running game significantly easier, and given the state of their OL, they need all the help they can get.

Along with the Giants in SuperBowls, the only team that has consistently beat the Patriots in the Bellichick era has been Denver when they were running the Shanahan/Kubiak offense. Obviously the cast of characters are different. Denver's OL isn't as good as it was, but the defense is much better. The strength of the Shanahan/Kubiak offense is that an athletic QB can thrive with simple reads if they commit to the system. I believe Plummer was 4-0 versus Brady and it looks Brock has the potential to be better.

Additionally, don't forget that Baltimore gave the Patriots fits with this exact offensive scheme last year in the playoffs.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:10pm

Define 'consistently beat the Patriots', because the Manning offense themselves went 5-1 in a 6 game stretch against the Belichick Patriots from 2005-2009.

The Shanahan/Kubiak offense also lost 42-14 (2012), 41-28 (2012) and 41-7 (2008).

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 9:26pm

During the Patriots heyday, 2001-2006, Denver was 5-1 against New England, with the only win coming in the last seconds against Danny Kannel...

This offense with Brock is the same one Baltimore had that did well against the Pats in the playoffs. Does this mean Denver will definitely beat the Patriots? Of course not, but in the same tone I wouldn't be too dismissive of its potential to beat them.

by Grendel13G :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:32pm

Third-string QB Danny Kannel with the flu, that is. Man, it sure was fun back when the Broncos were Patriots kryptonite. I forget which FO writer likes referring to the rock-paper-scissors of Patriots-Broncos-Colts in the early/mid aughts. A very apt metaphor.

by BJR :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 11:55am

The Pats are already beaten up and are coming off a short week. Their offence looked like it was running on fumes last night (by their standards). If Osweiler can have a functional day, similar to this Sunday, I won't be surprised whatsoever to see a narrow Broncos victory.

by duh :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 1:06pm

I think you're right, honestly I'd not be surprised if the Patriots got beat handily.

That doesn't mean I think it'll happen that way but I sure could envision a situation where the Patriots get down early, the Broncos defense can tee off and the Patriots patchwork line can't give Brady any time and none of the receivers can get separation leading to real ugliness for the Patriots.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 1:43pm

Yeah. If NE beats DEN it'll be because of NE's defense.

by Hang50 :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 2:03pm

And vice-versa. As a Broncos fan, I really hope that evil-sneaky Wade Phillips shows up to work this week. His game plan against the Packers was so good...

Of course, it's just as likely (and maybe more so) that evil-sneaky BB shows up.

by cjfarls :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:09pm

Agree completely.

The only thing worse than Kubiak's 4th down decisions was Fox's 4th down decisions. Fox is aggressive when he should take the 3, and comatose when he should go for it. With lots of time left, long yards, and down by 8,take the points... you at minimum remove the need to covert the 2pntr later and now are playing to win with a TD rather than a difficult chance tie, or if the other team gets a FG you still have a shot to tie. Chicago ended up getting the TD and still lost.

Kubes decision to go on 4th at the goalline was totally the correct call, even if the QB trip blew the play. Whatever, it happens. I hope that isn't what soured him on going for it later.

Because the refusal to go for that last 4th-and-1 was inexcusable. With ~4 minutes left, Kubiak was forcing the DEF to defend 2 opportunities in 4min up by 8, rather than potentially one time (up by perhaps 11) with only 2-2.5 minutes left. Is maybe 30-35 yards of field position worth that!?!?! (and that is even assuming Colquitt doesn't crap kick like he did!). If you're up by 3 and a FG matters it probably is worth the field position, but they were up by 8!!!!

The DEF made the first stop after the punt, but then because Kubiak chickened out, they had a 2nd opportunity with a full 2minutes left!

This clock management/4th down decision stuff is not rocket science... good gawd. If long yards and lots of time, take the points. If short yards and time under 5minutes, a yard or 2 to go... play to freakin win! If Denver had lost it would have 100% been Kubiak's fault.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:02pm

And the Rams defense causes yet another QB to be lost for significant time due to a knee injury.

That makes it 5 QBs in 19 games, I believe?

I'm sure it's mere coincidence. Nothing suspicious about the defensive coaching in St. Louis at all.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:44pm

I'd like to know how many happened at the Jones Dome first. The Rams home field turf is unbelievably bad. It's not much more than astroturf over cement. It makes for a very fast field, but one that is dangerous for players when they go to the ground. There's a reason Kurt Warner got all those concussions beyond just the Mike Martz philosophy of not worrying if your QB if being hit on every dropback.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:47pm

Considering his own lineman rolled up on his knee....

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:57pm

Ah - my bad. I had read something yesterday about a defensive lineman rolling into his leg late. Did not actually see the game/injury.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:03pm

Eric Weems caught the kickoff 8 yards deep and ran it out anyway. He got to the 18, costing his team 2 yards and seven precious seconds.

I disagree with this. The difference between starting a drive at the 18 or the 20 is nonexistent. I don't know how much time was left in the Falcons game, but in the Amendola example, the difference between starting the final drive with 1:47 or 1:40 left is pretty negligible.

But if Weems can take that out to, say, the 40-yard line, that's a significant difference for the final drive. And there's a non-zero chance he takes it to the house. In that situation, taking the kickoff out of the end zone is worth the gamble.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:12pm

It's an admitted appeal to authority, but Bill Belichick disagrees with you. The low probability of getting extra yards (especially when you admit that it would have to be more than just a few to be meaningful) at the cost of a certain 7 seconds is not a great bet at that point.

by Nevic :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:22pm

When you are losing at the end of the game you typically need to seek a high-variance strategy to maximize your chances at winning. That typically means attempting to return the kickoff.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:39pm

Sure, but with nearly a minute I still lean toward taking the touchback. That fact that it was caught deep in the EZ made a long return even that much more unlikely.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:07pm

Yup, nothing good was going to happen taking that thing out as it was a high, dep ball. Funny thing is that last week the ball DA didn't take out was very returnable, but they told him not to return anything in the end zone - as they should have.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:17pm

It'a also a different calculus when you have the best offense in the league, and one of the best two-minute-drill quarterbacks of all time. What makes sense for the Patriots in that situation may not make sense for the Falcons.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:29pm

While true that team/QB/offense plays a factor, the Falcons in the Matt Ryan era have been probably the best team in the 2-minute drill, particularly 4th quarter.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:43pm

No QB has engineered more game-winning one-minute drills than Matt Ryan. Okay, I have to check a few Johnny Unitas games out some day, but I'm pretty sure Ryan leads everyone there with a handful.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:30pm

But you are only looking at upside from what he did. There are plenty of other negatives in a kick return that "could" have happened e.g. fumble. At that point in the game, with NFL passing offenses where they are, 7 seconds can be easily turned into a 15 yard completion.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:05pm

The failure of the Bengals to run the ball on third and short, down 3, with Arizona out of timeouts, is really inexcusable. I'm not one to rip plycalling much, it being a practice especially prone to confirmation bias, but I was yelling "run the ball!" prior to the snap, and was disgusted that they would choose to pass, with that route in particular. Really dumb.

by rj1 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:10pm

Has there been more quarterback changes, either injury-forced or not, this year than any other in recent memory? It at least seems that way. How many first-week starters have played every game?

by Travis :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:35pm

After Flacco misses next week, 18 of 32. Bridgewater and Fitzpatrick have missed significant parts of games with injuries but managed to start the next ones.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:37pm

I want to do an article on this, but Thanksgiving week is a terrible time for that. So I'll try to aim for next week.

by Sakic :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:12pm

I seem to recall the 1988 season being absolutely brutal on starting quarterbacks. Going from memory I remember reading somewhere that only 4 starting QBs played in all 16 games that season which to me was an incredible number. I'm also pretty sure that the following season was the beginning of the "protect the QB era" as the NFL began incorporating the revised "in the grasp rule" which had quarterbacks being ruled down almost as soon as they were hit to avoid extra punishment (I remember game clips of QBs being lifted and slammed to the ground by defenders who had the sack wrapped up and would take extra liberties...it's why we can't have nice things now.)

Of course, they eventually tweaked it the other way and instead of giving defenders easy sacks they just made it basically illegal to hit the quarterback anymore than what was required to bring him to the turf.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:43pm

Has there been more quarterback changes, either injury-forced or not, this year than any other in recent memory? It at least seems that way. How many first-week starters have played every game?

Total number of quarterbacks with at least one game with 20 or more passes by season, through Week 11:

2010: 50
2011: 44
2012: 41
2013: 48
2014: 48
2015: 51

So, more than usual, yes, but not by a great margin.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:21pm

The Broncos-Bears game really gave a stark contrast of defensive ability. The Bears linebackers looked like they were running through a mud pit, and while you might be prone to blaming Soldier Field turf, the Broncos linebackers looked so fast and fluid. Really made me jealous.

The Bears also had troubles tackling all day long. Other than the first TD, it wasn't the embarrassing get juked out your shoes kind, it was just making contact a yard late and then getting dragged another 2.

Cutler was really playing out of his mind. The receivers were getting no separation most of the day, and on the rare play someone got open, he'd just fall down right after catching. I don't think a wideout made a contested catch all day. The TEs were better, but they're no Gronkowskis. Here's hoping that Jeffery has just had a run of bad luck and will have a decade of healthy production going forward.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:17pm

Agreed on all counts. I'm curious what poster Jimmy has to say about McClellin's performance yesterday---the upbraiding he gave me on this thread last week made me pay particular attention to #50 during yesterday's game, and I was underwhelmed at best.

The best news about the current state of the Bears defense is that the problems are becoming increasingly localized---i.e., the issues are all up the middle. Pass rush / OLB look passable, and Porter and Fuller look like an acceptable CB tandem (especially if Fuller eventually gets coached out of his mental mistakes); DL / ILB / S have major holes. Another good draft / free agent class could turn this into an average defense next year.

And yeah, Cutler did a great job with a terrible situation. I wish he would have tucked and run a bit more, and on the couple of crazy-wide-open plays a better throw might have resulted in a TD (but on those he was throwing on the run or backpedaling), but those are nitpicks. The interception was painful, but that was a great play by an LB (a lot like the Clay Matthews play on opening day).

For a guy that wants a new contract, Martellus Bennett sure seems uninterested in catching the ball.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:26pm

The usual weekly Bucs game thoughts:

Jameis Winston, holy @#$!!! A few questionable throws, sure, but that's who he's always going to be. TD #4 (the one to Charles Sims) was a terrible pass, and it was his third terrible pass in a row--Connor Barwin should have intercepted the ball on first AND second down, and then he flung it to Sims, who has really turned into a great complementary back. Winston's other throws were largely great, hitting guys perfectly in stride almost all day. Good timing, accuracy, pocket presence, and everything else. I'm frankly stunned.

Doug Martin, also holy @#$!!! Feel bad he didn't score, but, well, 177 first half yards probably makes up for it.

I'm beginning to think Vincent Jackson being out for a month was a good thing. The virtual nobodies in the WR corps outside Mike Evans have been coming on. Adam Humphries is doing the Edelman role in catching those little short passes in space, and Cameron Brate has turned into a reasonably valid receiving TE. If Sefarian-Jenkins comes back anytime soon and Brate keeps playing like he has, that's a really nice pair of options over the middle.

I don't fear the bogeyman. As a Bucs fan, I fear Darren Sproles. I cannot count the number of times Drew Brees and Darren Sproles stabbed me in the head. Sproles had an early TD catch on a screen, and then basically evaporated. I don't know what the Eagles were trying to do.

Mark Sanchez sucks. No, SUCKS. Can I do 72-point type in my post to capture the suckitude? After that pass to Sproles early, Sanchez completely missed him on a screen in the second half, along with totally missing him on three swing passes, the last of which was so terribly thrown it was a gift-wrapped pick-six for Lavonte David. Four short little passes in the second half, all to completely uncovered receivers, and couldn't come within a yard of any of them. However bad Sanchez's stats were, they do not begin to capture how utterly terrible he really was.

I might have enjoyed watching that game. A bit.

by big10freak :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:42pm

I was clearly wrong on Winston. I thought if he had any chance to be decent it would be via an extended growing pains period.

Just didn't think he had the accuracy to succeed so soon

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:10pm

Yeah. I gotta take my lumps on that one, too - I thought he was EJ Manuel with less accuracy and a more aggressive game, which could easily be a disaster. Instead, he got better, so that's why I don't get paid to evaluate talent.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:47pm

He really didn't early in the year, and he's still making a few really questionable throws a game, but the improvement in the last six weeks or so has been pretty shocking. His TD to Vincent Jackson yesterday was a perfectly placed ball on a slant, right between two defenders. That's the kind of pass he absolutely was not making in the first few weeks of the season. I still think his deep ball is pretty wildly inaccurate, but his mid-range game has improved considerably. His pocket presence has also really gotten better, and he's moving in the pocket far better. I'm frankly shocked. He's still a rookie and will undoubtedly have more terrible games, but he's been consistently producing with nothing more than a drop-happy Mike Evans and a bunch of UDFAs. I mean, for six weeks the Bucs' TE was a second-year UDFA, and the #2 and #3 WRs were UDFA rookies. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and for him to run into a really creative defensive coordinator who confuses him, but it's certainly been fun to watch.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:16pm

I have to say that, of all the QBs coming out of college the past few years, he looks like an NFL QB. Big, moves well in the pocket with his eyes down field, looks off WRs, etc. I even have to say that they are getting the plays in very quickly now, to the point that he has time to look over the field pre snap. Not the quickest release, but that doesn't matter when you know where you are going. Plus he is afraid to throw it up to let all his big receivers get it.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:46pm

How's the defense going in Tampa? Lovie has always got his Ds to work, are they using mostly zone or are they mixing it up with the man-free looks the Bears moved towards in his last few years there?

by TomC :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:54pm

No, no, the "man-free" is what the Bears have used since Lovie's departure---as in "we believe in having at least one offensive man run freely through our defense on every play" or "this offense should be allowed to operate without any human intervention on our part."

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:14pm

Better . . . ish. The secondary has been a bit better lately, though the fact Mike Jenkins continues to be employed in an NFL stadium in a role other than "guy who cleans out the dirtiest toilets" confuses me to no end. There's been a series of nobodies at DE who have been semi-productive, and the run defense in general has been good. The LBs were supposed to be a huge strength, and that has very much not been the case. LVD had a huge game yesterday, but he's been out of position far more than at any point in his career, and coverage from the LBs in general has been pretty awful across the middle. Kwon Alexander bounces between DROY candidate and guy who couldn't recognize a misdirection play if the QB held up a huge sign that said "HEY KWON WE'RE RUNNING MISDIRECTION LEFT THIS TIME THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW KTHXBYE".

Per usual, it's a Lovie team that strips the ball a lot, so plenty of turnovers. They seem to be improving in general, and it's not at least a train wreck.

by joe football :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:48pm

That Sims TD looked really bad in real time, but on replay neither of the defenders really had great shot at it. It turned out to be perfectly placed to where only his guy could get it. Maybe he knew what he was doing?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:34pm

" I thought the NFL was supposed to crack down on this stuff? It was obvious he was shaken up.

What bothers me more than the NFL not cracking down on this is that coaches seem to think that the quarterback who thinks he is Batman has a better chance of playing well than the backup - when clearly this isn't the case (as displayed by the unforced fumble here).

I see the same thing in a lot of sports though - clearly injured veterans playing (and performing terribly) while backups who could clearly provide superior performance (although not to the extent of the vet when healthy) ride the pine.

It's really strange to me - not only are you getting poor performance, but you're taking the chance of turning the injury into a worse one.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:34pm

This to me was the most troubling thing I saw yesterday. What exactly were the independent spotters for? Why didn't an official intervene? Why not Jeff Fisher? Why not the Rams medical staff? The guy stays down for over a minute, refusing help to get up, gets up wobbly and the conclusion is that he's OK? I've always suspected Fisher was a scumbag just for the fact that his teams always play dirty. I think I can confirm that he is indeed a scumbag. Get this joker off the competition committee immediately.

by DEW :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:03pm

That's always been the part that I didn't (and still don't) get, either. I can see why professional football players want to stay out there when injured--they're ferocious competitors *and* they want to prove that they've got big, clanking brass ones (and they want to keep their high-paying jobs by proving those things). And I can see why coaches want players to want to stay out, because that mindset is what pro football coaches want from their players, guys who'll give the proverbial 110% on every play. It's stupid thinking, but it's comprehensible thinking.

But I don't understand why coaches want the players to actually BE out there. What is Joe Flacco offering his team hopping around on an injury that will keep him out for the year? Case Keenum staggering around "punch-drunk" with an injured brain is not my idea of a player that gives the team the best chance to win.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 12:31pm

Flacco was hoping to win the game. They knew he was hurt, so they ran the ball three times, but he was out there as a threat so the Rams didn't load up on the run. Chad Pennington did something similar, when he re-entered a game after a shoulder injury and actually got the Jets to overtime only to lose it. The next day, they realized he was out for the season. The Case Keenum situation was way worse, and similar to how Colt McCoy was treated in Cleveland.

The Jets have a similar situation where Fitzpatrick perhaps should be sitting. He had surgery on his non-throwing hand the day after the Bills game, but he gutted it out in practice and played (not especially well) on Sunday. Fitzpatrick also had a head on collision on his running touchdown, before he threw picks to end their last two drives. But if the Jets do send Fitzpatrick to the bench, they may not be able to resign him next year, since he'll want to be guaranteed the starting position.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:53pm

The really disturbing thing is that the trainer went on the filed to check on him, and he stayed in the game! Brian McCarthy, an N.F.L. spokesman, said in a statement that immediately after the game, the league began a review to determine why Keenum “was not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant as required by our concussion protocols.”

by simonshure :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 1:39pm

"The Broncos hired a guy named Mitch Tanney as Director of Analytics this offseason. He's supposed to be on the headset with Gary Kubiak during the game to provide analytics advice"

I'm not saying this was sabotage but I'm totally saying he's a double agent. The Bears have been training him since 2013.

The long term plan finally came to fruition! Of course the Bears still lost, but what can you do?

by cjfarls :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:18pm

This is more plausible reason for why Kubiak chickens__tted that final 4th down call as any Kubiak might provide.

by Gladiator of th... :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 2:29pm

I'm beginning to get some Brett Favre-like impressions of Jameis Winston... in the sense that the Bucs are going to live or die by how his risky throws pan out in each game. Obviously they worked out in the Bucs' favor this week, big time. And I may be crazy, but I swear I heard an announcer in the last few weeks remark on how Winston "looks like he's having fun out there."

by Duke :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 3:51pm

A study into whether 3-4 or 4-3 defenses play running QBs sounds interesting, but I feel like the data would be skewed to the point of uselessness by "Green Bay vs. Kaepernick"

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:23pm

You can add Green Bay vs Wilson and after yesterday it looks like Green Bay vs Bridgewater may also be a problem for them. FWIW, the Packers should have also gotten hit with a penalty on one of Bridgewater's slides at the end of a run. He was clearly hit in the head by the defender's hand. It wasn't much, but they've been calling that penalty pretty consistently this year.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 5:13pm

I would have been a bit upset had they called that -- although not shocked. I think the difference was that the defender wasn't trying to hit Bridgewater at all -- but instead was putting his hand on the ground to push himself up, when his forearm grazed his helmet.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 4:25pm

That was my thought too, but I was waaay too late catching up with that thread at the time to plug in a reply there.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 8:00pm

I think it's fairly clear that the history of 3-4 "blitzberg" descended coaches against shotgun spread option is pretty bad. This includes GB v. Kaep & Wilson, Pit v. Tebow/Den.

And I think that the cause is the "blitzberg" zone blitz scheme attempted to turn West Coast Offense games into giant games of rock/paper/scissors while against read/option it just guaranteed someone is out of position on almost every play to exploit.

You generally are not beating the collegy offenses whether Seattle or Philadelphia by making them guess wrong but by winning the one on one match-ups at the skill positions.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 9:55pm

The read option adds another gap to be accounted for so in order to stop this attack you need an extra man, which suggests that you need to bring a safety closer to the line ie either using cover 1 or cover 3. The only other way to dal wth it is to have a front seven that kicks the crap out of the offensive line.

So basically if you can play man coverage and win or execute your cover three to a high level then you've a good chance. Yesterday the niners played mostly cover 4, that certainly isn't the best idea though learning to tackle would help. Not that bringing Rawls down is easy, I question how healthy a guy that runs like that will be in the long term but right now he's running like Hellboy.

by gomer_rs :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 1:11am

Health is definitely important. Even if he takes less contact he brings something to the table that Marshawn Lynch never has, speed and quickness.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:23pm

So...can we start referring to it as 'Revis Peninsula'? Or perhaps 'Revis Spit'?

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:47pm

The 'Isthmus of Revis'?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 6:55pm

Hey, now, this site is for football analysis, take your Jets slashfic elsewhere.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 7:26pm

I'm really torn about Fox's decision to go for it on 4th and goal from the 4, down 8, with 10 minutes and change left in the game. On the one hand, he actually did something aggressive! And with the Bears' top 3 receivers and starting running back out, against a very good defense, certainly there is an argument for going for the touchdown there on the basis that this is your best shot at a TD.

I know the Bears weren't running the ball very well yesterday, but I would have liked to see a running play on at least one of 2nd or 3rd down, that could possibly have made it 1-2 yards to go on 4th down instead of 4 even if the play didn't score. With the Bears' depleted receiving corps, it seems like being in an obvious throwing situation and lacking a guy you trust to go up and get the ball was a recipe for failure. (Though as Scott points out above, maybe Cutler would have had a shot running the ball in? I don't remember if it looked like he had any space).

Yesterday was weird for me because I didn't think I was capable of caring that much about the outcome of a 2015 Bears game. I guess I let the result against the Rams overcome my better judgment. Still, even at 4-6 they're better than I thought they'd be and it looks like the coaching staff is as good as promised. (I hope they can do it without Gase though since I can't believe he'll still be around next year). They seem to have too many guys on defense/special teams who don't belong on an NFL roster, period, and if they can upgrade in the offseason and hit big on a couple of draft picks, they might not be all that far away from fighting for a playoff spot.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:29pm

Not sure if this is the place but the Pats just got hosed.

by Steve B :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 1:21am

Bills got hosed worse overall. With this loss and the injuries they suffered, might be time to stick a fork in them. Steelers and Chiefs (who the Bills play next) are in the driver's seats for the AFC WC spots.

by jonsilver :: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 2:34am

Steelers at 6-4 with a leg up, yes (not driver's seat, though). KC, Houston, Indy, Buffalo and NY all at 5-5; too early to say tiebreakers or predicted strength of schedule will be meaningful, because the results of 6 remaining games each for those five teams could leave any of them with a better record than the others. Jon Silverberg