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30 Nov 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

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.

St Louis Rams 7 at Cincinnati Bengals 31

Rob Weintraub: Remember the time Nick Foles threw for seven touchdown passes in one game? Me neither. His second pick of the game is returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall. Bengals in a rout, 31-7, doing pretty much whatever they want -- and that includes completely shutting down Todd Gurley.

Vince Verhei: Leon Hall gets a pick-six to put the Bengals up 31-7 midway through the third. I've watched most of this game and would like to give you some kind of insightful analysis, but all I've really got is that the Bengals are really good and the Rams stink. I mean, they really stink. We knew that Nick Foles and the receivers and the line would suck, but Todd Gurley isn't doing anything today either, and the defense has looked totally outmatched too. The only reason they've scored is that Tavon Austin, while unreliable, is explosive. He has one 60-yard run out of a Wildcat formation with Gurley taking the snap, and that set up his own 5-yard touchdown run.

Rob Weintraub: Tyler Eifert made a great play earlier by racing behind Giovani Bernard on a long run and recovering his fumble. He suffered a bit of a stinger on the play however. He has been downgraded to out for the game but hopefully that's just a product of the score. Needless to say the Bangles need him going forward.

Vince Verhei: Kenny Britt is wide-open down the sideline, but Foles' pass hangs in the air about an hour and comes down into the arms of George Iloka. My worst-case scenario for the season is that Seattle misses the playoffs on a tiebreaker and I have to spend the offseason thinking about how they blew a lead against this team. I know they've blown a lot of leads, but the Rams seem like one of the very worst teams in football every time I watch them, and that's the one loss that's going to piss me off for months.

Oakland Raiders 24 at Tennessee Titans 21

Vince Verhei: Derek Carr had a couple of big-time throws on Oakland's first touchdown drive. The first was a deep post to Seth Roberts, a strong, accurate throw to a receiver who was surrounded by a trio of Tennessee defenders. Then the scoring play, a sideline comeback to Michael Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone. Perfect placement so it was either a touchdown or incomplete, with no chance for a turnover. Crabtree then made a great play to reel in the ball and get both toes down in the end zone.

Good situational football at the end of the half for Carr. Raiders have a third-and-goal inside the 10-yard line, just inside the two-minute warning, with Tennessee out of timeouts. Carr drops back to pass, but can't find anyone open, and scrambles for a short gain to put up a field goal that puts the Raiders up 10-6. However, the clock keeps running, and Tennessee gets the ball back with barely a minute to go, no timeouts, to try to answer. Announcer criticized Carr for not throwing the ball away, but honestly a tackle in bounds is a much better result for Oakland there. In fact, given the clock situation, you could almost argue that Oakland was better off kicking a field goal there than scoring a touchdown on third down, which have given the Titans another 40ish seconds to reply with a score of their own.

Titans get a pair of big completions in bounds to cross midfield, but then Marcus Mariota's fourth-down pass is knocked away. Raiders have ten seconds and a timeout left, and they hit a short completion. Looks like Sebastian Janikowski is going to try a 65-yarder, but Oakland runs a play instead. And it turns out to be one of the funnier plays of the year, as they treat like the last play of the game and not the last of the first half. Seth Roberts gets a reception for about a 30-yard gain, but then starts running backwards and sideways across the field, and then the Raiders keep lateraling the ball backwards. Eventually it gets all the way back to Carr, who is surrounded by Titans, and if he fumbles that ball it's a Tennessee score. Thankfully for Oakland he gets it and just goes down to end the half. I'm waiting for official play-by-play data to see how that gets scored, but it's taking forever. I think they're trying to figure out what the hell happened, honestly.

Tom Gower: Raiders up 10-6 at the break in Nashville. Tennessee had one good drive for their touchdown, with Marcus Mariota finding a wide-open Delanie Walker against zone coverage for a big play to get them out from their own 12 and finished the drive off with a great seam throw to third tight end Craig Stevens. The ensuing extra point was blocked and returned for what would have been a two-point conversion by defensive lineman Denico Autry, save for that pesky "illegal forward pass" rule. On another possession, Mariota took a sack on third down, after which Mike Mularkey eschewed what would have been about a 56-yard field goal attempt for a punt. The Titans made another shambles of a drive in the two-minute drill, ending up going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Oakland 44 with about :14 to play when they spiked on second down after an 8-yard gain on first down (Mariota is too willing to take the completion short of the sticks in that situation, I'd say after that and the end of last game). That gave Oakland another chance at the end of the half. They had a chance, but Jack Del Rio eschewed the 65-yard field goal attempt by Janikowski for a hail mary, which featured Roberts catching a short pass, running down to the 18 and then running back to the 35 (really) before attempting to lateral. Carr ended up with possession and slid to bring the half to a close.

Carr's taken a number of hits today, some unncessarily, and had to leave the game briefly for Matt McGloin. Overall, he's made a number of nice throws for Oakland. The touchdown drive included two in particular, a deep pass to Seth Roberts amidst a cloud of Titans and a sprint out throw to Michael Crabtree for the score. He's also been efficient on third downs, unlike Mariota.

Vince Verhei: That end-of-half play in Oakland was finally recorded as a 5-yard reception for Roberts. I think there are seriously going to 10 yards or more LOST after the catch on that one.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Not quite, but it's still fun to watch.)

Rain is pouring down in the second half. Kendall Wright gets 5 yards behind David Amerson for what should have been a touchdown, but perhaps due to the rain, Mariota underthrows the ball, and Amerson is able to dive and get a fingertip on it and knock it away. Greg Gumbel calls this tight coverage by Amerson, but... no. No, it wasn't. He got burned and got away with it.

Cian Fahey: Harry Douglas' greatest value to the Titans offense is as a pass interference draw-er. He doesn't create any separation so defenders are always tight to his body when the ball arrives. That was the case on his touchdown reception, but Douglas improbably made an outstanding catch before getting both feet down at the back of the end zone.

Scott Kacsmar: The number of interceptions in scoring territory today has been ridiculous. I thought Matt Ryan's was bad enough, but Marcus Mariota may have just topped it. Possibly a miscommunication, possibly a wet ball that got away from him, but it was an ugly pass with the Titans only down a field goal.

Raiders flagged for pass interference on third down in the end zone, but how was that pass ruled catchable? It was thrown well out of the back of the end zone. Titans get the go-ahead touchdown on the next snap, so huge, suspicious penalty.

Cian Fahey: Harry Douglas is a master of drawing pass interference penalties.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if I would call him a master -- he's no Torrey Smith -- but he does get a few each season. That's three this year, and eight in the last three seasons combined.

Tom Gower: The rain came in the second half, and after the teams traded touchdowns to start the third quarter to make a 10-6 game a 17-14 game, it descended into a slopfest. The Titans recovered a fumbled kickoff, but Mariota threw an ugly-looking interception and a punting war followed. That was broken by a Derek Carr fumble taking the snap from backup center Tony Bergstorm. The Titans finally converted a couple third downs without the benefit of a penalty (though they got one of those, too), and took a 21-17 lead with 4:41 to play.

A penalty knocked Oakland back to the 10, but Derek Carr got them to the Tennessee 36. He threw high for Amari Cooper on third-and-8, though, and a deep corner route for Andre Holmes was broken up. But wait, there's a defensive holding call, on Titans corner B.W. Webb (a former third-round pick by the Cowboys who joined Tennessee during the season from the practice squad) covering Amari Cooper away from the play. Given another chance, Carr hit two more throws, including the go-ahead touchdown.

Mariota had 81 seconds and a couple timeouts to get 3 points for free football and 7 for the lead, but Kendall Wright got knocked off his route and the pass instead went to a wide-open Nate Allen. Hopefully at 2-9, four games behind the Colts and Texans, I won't have to hear any more about the slim possibility the Titans could win the division.

New York Giants 14 at Washington Redskins 20

Sterling Xie: Eli Manning has already thrown two bizarre picks on New York's first two possessions. The first pick came when Shane Vereen bobbled a third-down pass and knocked the ball into the hands of Perry Riley. The second was even wackier -- Will Blackmon should have had a clean pick, but it deflected off his hands right into the arms of Dwayne Harris for an apparent first down. However, Harris got popped by the safety, who then knocked the ball back into Blackmon's hands for the interception. Washington has started both drives in plus territory, but hasn't picked up a first down, and just had a Dustin Hopkins field goal blocked. And now it looks like the Giants have lost Geoff Schwartz, which would be their third offensive line starter down. Your 2015 NFC East!

Vince Verhei: There was so much sloppiness in the first quarter here that Sterling missed a big one: Kirk Cousins threw a sideline route that should have been a pick-six for New York, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie couldn't catch the ball and it fell incomplete. That set up the blocked field goal.

Cousins redeems himself in the second quarter when DeSean Jackson gets behind Brandon Meriweather down the middle of the field, and Cousins hits him for a 63-yard touchdown.

Sterling Xie: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appeared to hurt his knee on a non-contact play, and one has to wonder if that's the straw that breaks the back of the shaky Giants secondary. DeSean Jackson burned his replacement Jayron Hosley on a 63-yard touchdown. Looked like Hosley was playing towards his safety help in Brandon Meriweather on the Jackson post route there, but who do you think is winning a foot race between Jackson and Meriweather?

Aaron Schatz: Kirk Cousins' performance at home vs. on the road this year seems to me like a major case of "Wyatt Earp Effect" rather than a split that actually means something.

Kirk Cousins, Home vs. Road, 2015
G Att Comp Pct Yds Yd/At TD Int Sk DVOA
Home 6 198 148 75% 1632 8.2 11 2 8 30.7%*
Road 5 194 120 62% 1155 6.0 5 8 9 -23.0%
*Not including Week 12

Cian Fahey: Geoff Schwartz fractured his leg apparently, that means the Giants are without Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Schwartz. Those are their four best offensive linemen. In a league where most teams don't have five viable starters, this is a major problem for the NFC East leaders. That division could go another week with the Eagles and Cowboys in with a realistic shot of winning it.

We're on course for Washington winning the NFC East and Kirk Cousins signing the most lucrative deal in NFL history. I for one am delighted about this.

Rob Weintraub: Holy crap Odell Beckham did it again! Diving one-hand catch in the end zone to make it a 20-14 game with five minutes left. Not quite his memorable one from last year but still -- wowsers.

Sterling Xie: In the final 10 minutes, the Giants digging their way back in to this. On fourth-and-16, which looked like it would be the game's last relevant play, Eli hit a 40-yard touchdown to Dwayne Harris, who was just running free across the field. And now Odell does what Odell does with a diving one-handed (left-handed) catch in the end zone to trim the lead to six with under five minutes left. Beckham has talked about wanting to become ambidextrous -- wonder how much it paid off on that play.

Vince Verhei: Giants are making a furious fourth-quarter rally, with most of the damage done on a pair of huge fourth-down conversions. Rueben Randle got their first touchdown of the day with a 40-yard score on a deep ball on fourth-and-16. Washington goes three-and-out, then on the Giants' next drive Eli Manning hits Will Tye on a slant route for a 28-yard gain on fourth-and-2, pretty much all the yardage coming after the catch. That sets up Odell Beckham's 21-yard touchdown down the left sideline, and suddenly this game is 20-14.

Aaron Schatz: Giants just can't get the ball back on defense, though. Craig Dahl wasn't even close to Jordan Reed when Reed caught a slant for a first down, then the Giants' defense let Alfred Morris run twice to get another first down. They didn't get Washington to fourth down until there was 1:10 left, and then Washington runs the clock down to 29 seconds before punting on fourth down.

Rob Weintraub: Yeah, tough to see Dahl, one of my North Dakota State Bison, get abused like that in a key spot. Dwayne Harris undoes any chance at a miracle by fielding the Skins' punt on the goal line. Washington takes over "first" in the NFC East.

The biggest game in the NFC East may well turn out to be that opener in Dallas between the Cowboys and Giants. Because the Giants lost to Tony Romo, and the Skins still have two games left with the Romo-less 'Pokes.

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Atlanta Falcons 10

Cian Fahey: Anthony Barr just punched out Tevin Coleman's ball for a fumble after he broke a big play downfield. The play itself was impressive, but even more impressive was how little effort Barr appeared to put in. He sauntered back before flicking his fist at the ball.

Rob Weintraub: The Falcons appeared to take the lead on a short touchdown run but it was called back for a clipping penalty. Subsequently Matt Ryan threw a terrible interception in the end zone. That leads to vociferous booing in the Georgia Dome. Ryan has been really terrible this year in terms of backbreaking picks. Every week there is local speculation that he is injured in some way, but then he comes out and denies it.

Meanwhile the Vikings rumble downfield behind Adrian Peterson into the red zone. Then on third-and-5 they run a fullback dive with Matt Asiata. And needless to say they settle for three. 10-3 Vikings.

I like to compare Teddy Bridgewater to Chad Pennington -- noodle arms but smart and very poised in the pocket and under duress. Bridgewater shows why on a big third-and-long ducking around the rush and dumping one into the flat for a decent pick up that sets up an easy field goal. Not a huge play, but a winning one. Now 13-3 Vikings.

The Mike Zimmer special! Fourth-and-inches for Atlanta and they go shotgun -- and here comes the patented A-gap blitz from Minnesota. Anthony Barr racks Matt Ryan, incomplete/fumble doesn't matter, turnover on downs. 13-3 and the Vikes are close to salting this one away -- and returning to first place.

Check that last message -- Minnesota HAS salted it away, courtesy of Adrian Peterson and his 35-yard touchdown that puts the Vikings up 20-3.

Buffalo Bills 22 at Kansas City Chiefs 30

Sterling Xie: In the AFC Sixth Seed Bowl, Sammy Watkins has been the difference early. Watkins has burned Sean Smith early on a pair of straight-up go routes, gaining 48 yards on the first one to set up a field goal and 28 yards on the second for a touchdown to put Buffalo up 10-0. Tyrod Taylor, who has yet to eclipse 300 yards passing this season, is already over halfway there through one quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Gee, maybe teams really do respect Malcolm Butler that much. Or is it that they respect Sean Smith that little? The Bills were so reticent to throw to Watkins last week. I'm glad they remembered that he's still their best receiver.

Sterling Xie: Rinse and repeat for Watkins, who just keeps running straight past Sean Smith, this time for a 21-yard score. The thing is, Smith has been in position on almost all these routes. There was one incompletion to Watkins where Taylor badly underthrew the ball for what should've been a pick, except Smith totally whiffed on the catch and ended up awkwardly chesting the ball as if he were playing the other football. Looks like a crisis of confidence in terms of tracking (or, more accurately, failing to track) the ball.

Rob Weintraub: I'm not an expert on touchdown dances but I do believe LeSean McCoy aped the Aaron Hernandez celebration after scoring against the Chiefs. Perhaps due to karma, the two-point conversion loses 15 yards. 24-22 chiefs.

New Orleans Saints 6 at Houston Texans 24

Andrew Potter: I'm a huge fan of the creativity the Texans have shown with Cecil Shorts the past couple of weeks. After throwing for a touchdown on a "double pass" last week, this week he has what should probably be considered a rushing touchdown on a sweep -- though it turns out it's been scored a passing touchdown, as Brian Hoyer flipped the ball forward to him instead of handing it -- after picking up 6 yards on a first-down end around earlier. Creative use of a versatile player.

Incidentally, that sweep being scored as a pass means Hoyer's officially 9-of-9 for 71 yards and two touchdowns, which itself says more about the Saints defense than anything I could type.

Vince Verhei: Saints' defense is just so, so bad. Jairus Byrd did intercept Hoyer on what I think was his only deep pass, but pretty much every other play has been either Hoyer sitting in the pocket and picking whichever target has beaten his man, or a running play where one of a trio of running backs (Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, or even Akeem Hunt) is gaining good yardage before they're even touched.

Andrew Potter: After my earlier email Hoyer has now thrown an interception, completion for a 2-yard loss, and incomplete in his last three passes. Shane Lechler gets some work, as normal service resumes for the Houston offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12 at Indianapolis Colts 25

Rob Weintraub: Mike Evans drops a pass that would have given the Bucs first-and-goal at worst. Then Tampa misses the field goal that would have drawn them within a point. Still down four against the Colts.

Scott Kacsmar: They called "leaping" in a Buccaneers-Colts game. Brings back some memories of 2003. Wasn't really leaping though, but I guess roughing the holder was the idea there.

Rob Weintraub: From the game of inches file: Tampa's Chris Conte comes right up the middle on a field goal attempt and somehow misses blocking the kick by millimeters. Instead he roughs the holder. Dick Stockton, broadcasting the game says "that's the first time I've seen that since Notre Dame-Syracuse in 1963. I'm not kidding." The flag gives Indy a first down inside the Bucs' 10, with a shot at going up two scores.

Miami Dolphins 20 at New York Jets 38

Aaron Schatz: Oh man, is this the game that offense forgot. Which honestly is a little strange, because by DVOA numbers these are actually two very average offenses over the course of the whole year, not bad offenses. But for the most part this game is punt, punt, punt, punt. The Jets did go for it on a fourth-and-1 from midfield early but Chris Ivory couldn't get the yard. Ndamukong Suh twisted 2 yards into the backfield immediately after the snap, which forced Ivory into the way of linebacker Neville Hewitt. (I had no idea the Dolphins had a guy named Neville Hewitt and that's an AWESOME name. Sounds like he should be Benedict Cumberbatch's sidekick.) The one thing the Jets really have going for them on offense is that 5-foot-10 Brent Grimes can't cover 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall on high passes, so Marshall has five for 67 yards and a touchdown while the rest of the Jets have three catches in the first 20 minutes.

Halftime report: Ugh, the Miami offense. There have been some really nice catches in traffic by Jarvis Landry but that's it. The Dolphins have a grand total of 8 rushing yards. Lamar Miller has five carries for 2 yards. He's not even getting out of the backfield on some of his pass receptions. The announcers said at halftime that the Dolphins weren't getting anything up the middle and wanted to run more outside in the second half, but when Miami tries those plays, Miller isn't even getting to the outside before the penetration kills the play.

Also contributing to the rushing problems: Mike Pouncey went out early with a foot injury and was replaced by rookie Jamil Douglas. That's affected the run blocking as well as the snaps; no aborted snaps yet but there have been plenty of low snaps that cost Tannehill a second of pass rush because he had to get set with the ball before he could look to pass.

Marshall just caught a jump ball in the end zone to make it 28-7 Jets. He got up in the air and caught the ball about 3 feet over Brent Grimes' head. Grimes' inability to cover Marshall is almost the entire story of this game.

San Diego Chargers 31 at Jacksonville Jaguars 25

Scott Kacsmar: These offenses are allergic to rushing touchdowns. I knew coming into the week the Jaguars had 20 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown, the only offense since the merger with numbers like that through 10 games. Well, San Diego is right there this year with 20 touchdowns (now 21) and two rushing scores. Should take that into consideration when looking at the rookie seasons for Melvin Gordon and T.J. Yeldon. But for Jacksonville specifically, Blake Bortles had a chance to run for a score or at least a first down, and he still had to throw the ball for a touchdown. However, he was over the line, so that's a loss of down as the Jaguars continue kicking field goals today.

Bortles did it again. Scrambled, wasn't decisive enough, threw a pass beyond the line of scrimmage for another penalty and another Jacksonville field goal. San Diego has been able to cash in with three red zone touchdown passes from Philip Rivers, and that's the difference in this one.

Aaron Schatz: One of the tidbits of conventional football wisdom that annoys me the most is the idea that even if the stats favor one team in a matchup, you should instead pick the team that "needs it more." I realize that a sample size of one does not disprove this old chestnut, but San Diego has nothing left to play for and Jacksonville still has a very real chance of winning is division. The stats all point to Jacksonville being the better team, and Jacksonville is at home, AND Jacksonville "needs it more." So, is "needing it more" helping Jacksonville win today? Sure doesn't look like it. And if you want a sample size of two, I present to you the Detroit blowout of Philadelphia on Thanksgiving. And if you want a sample size of three, how about Chicago beating Green Bay on Thanksgiving night? Three games, three losses for both the team that was better by stats AND the team that "needs it more."

I happen to think "better on the field" is more important than "needs it more," but "Any Given Sunday" is honestly more powerful than either of them.

Arizona Cardinals 19 at San Francisco 49ers 13

Sterling Xie: Cardinals just ran nine plays from between the San Francisco 4- and 1-yard line, in part because the Niners defensive backs committed three penalties in the end zone to keep extending the drive. Eventually David Johnson picked up the 1-yard touchdown as fantasy owners of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Chris Johnson threw up their hands in exasperation.

Vince Verhei: Ridiculous sequence on Arizona's first drive of the second half. They quickly get down inside the 10, and then San Francisco decides "let's just interfere with every receiver on every play." We then get nine snaps inside the 4, including four San Francisco penalties, before David Johnson finally runs in a score from the 1. Cardinals lead by the surprisingly slim margin of 13-3.

Tom Gower: Larry Fitzgerald did an awesome job of selling at least one of those calls. Crazy that's what it took for the Cardinals to get their first touchdown of the game against the 49ers.

Vince Verhei: Crazier still: thanks in large part to big receptions by Blake Bell, Vance McDonald, and Torrey Smith, the 49ers have rallied to tie the game at 13. And they just got a sack to force a punt. The only quarterbacks who have beat Arizona this year are Nick Foles and Landry Jones. So of course it only makes sense that Blaine Gabbert is giving them all they can handle.

Tom Gower: Deeper analysis may show otherwise, but I thought this game was a good example of the strengths and (better here in particular) weaknesses of the Arizona offense. Carson Palmer can do a lot to negate pressure, but sometimes he can only do so much, and deep pass plays are inherently more variable than shorter ones. Arizona's been so good on them this year that we haven't noticed, but this felt much more a 2014 Arizona with Palmer-type performance.

I don't have anything novel or interesting, even to me, to say about Arizona playing close games against teams with backup-type quarterbacks; it seems more fluky than anything else, as I'm not sure the defense played poorly and the offense was familiar, as I said.

Pittsburgh Steelers 30 at Seattle Seahawks 39

Vince Verhei: DeShawn Shead starting at corner for Seattle with Cary Williams moved to the bench, and Shead comes up big on the first series. Steelers tried a deep pass to Martavis Bryant on third-and-3, but Shead was with him step-for-step and broke up the pass to force a three-and-out. Steelers had Antonio Brown to their left on all three plays, and Richard Sherman moved to that side to cover him.

Scott Kacsmar: Thanks to the Steelers we have a challenger to Colt Anderson and Griff Whalen vs. New England for the worst play of the year. If you're going to go for it on fourth-and-2, leave Ben Roethlisberger and your best players on the field. Having Landry Jones try to throw one on a trick play is just stupid and that should have been a pick-six if Lane didn't fall.

Andrew Potter: Especially against Seattle, who are notorious for the number of first-team defenders they use on special teams. That Seattle field goal unit included such notables as Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane, Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill, and Ahtyba Rubin. It's not just young guys and backups; it's an NFL-calibre defense.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, I don't understand the theory of putting your field goal team on the field and then having them shift into a standard formation. If you are going to fake, then make it FAKE. Once you shift into the standard formation with Landry Jones at quarterback, the defense knows that a standard play is coming. The element of surprise is gone. Gee, what a shock, there are some standard defensive players on the Seattle field goal blocking team. And if you run a standard offensive play, they'll play defense.

Vince Verhei: That Steelers fake was much worse than the Colts fake. Landry Jones dropping back to pass with Alejandro Villanueva and Stephon Tuitt as eligible receivers, being covered by Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane. Shockingly, neither offensive lineman beat either cornerback in coverage, and Lane got the interception and the big return into Steelers' territory. I realize Villanueva played some receiver in college, but come on.

Steelers have now had three possessions, three runs, 20 passes. Antonio Brown: two receptions in five targets for 17 yards.

Thomas Rawls runs to set up what looks like a third-and-goal from the 1, but J.R. Sweezy commits an impossibly stupid personal foul to put the ball at the 16. No worries though -- Doug Baldwin runs up the seam, Steelers don't bother to cover him, and Russell Wilson hits him for the 16-yard touchdown to put Seattle up 7-3. Yay red zone touchdown!

Martavis Bryant scores on an end-around to put Pittsburgh up 10-0. He dodged tackles by Cassius Marsh and Earl Thomas in the backfield, then survived a big hit from Kam Chancellor just before the goal line to hang on to the ball.

Wilson then marches the Seahawks back into the lead, and it was pretty much all done on passes. After his third-and-long touchdown to Baldwin, he converts third-and-10, third-and-10, and third-and-16 on the next drive, then finds Jermaine Kearse on a 12-yard touchdown. 14-10 Seahawks.

Rob Weintraub: The Steelers fake was reminiscent of a terrible late game fake punt they tried against Cincinnati in the regular season finale last year. The Bengals intercepted that one too, and were marching for the game-winning score, but Tomlin got bailed out when A.J. Green fumbled in the red zone.

Aaron Schatz: I think the most impressive thing about the Steelers today is the play of the offensive line. They're giving Roethlisberger time to get the ball downfield, he doesn't even need to do it with guys hanging all over him like the old days of a couple years ago. Even the first sack Seattle finally got on Pittsburgh's first drive of the second half was really just a coverage sack. Alejandro Villanueva, the backup who used to be a wide receiver at Army and replaced Kelvin Beachum, looks pretty good. He's no Joe Thomas, but a lot better than what you would usually expect from a backup left tackle who had been bouncing around practice squads as a developmental player since 2010.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks start the second half with two three-and-outs and things are looking bleak. Then things get crazy. Seattle blows up a screen pass and the ball slips out of Roethlisberger's hand, and Ahtyba Rubin gets the interception. Next play, Wilson lobs up a deep ball, and Jimmy Graham makes an insane leaping juggling catch down to the 1. Thomas Rawls scores on the next play, but then Seahawks miss the PAT and Steelers still lead, 21-20. Between that miss and Pittsburgh's two-pointer (which seemed nutty at the time), that's a three-point swing on PATs.

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger's had three deep balls today that weren't caught, but I would chart them all as dropped/defensed, if not a flat-out drop by Antonio Brown on one early in the game. Pretty sharp passing day, but he did have an interception on a funky "QB Release Slipped" play. For a guy who pump fakes so much with success, it's rare to see him just lose control of one. Seattle took that mistake and got a crazy bounce on a catch to Jimmy Graham to set up a touchdown run by Rawls. However, the Seahawks missed another extra point so it's only a 21-20 game.

Vince Verhei: End of the third. Steelers now have 42 pass plays, 13 runs.

Aaron Schatz: Another deep pass goes badly, not particularly because it's Roethlisberger's fault. The interception at the start of the fourth quarter, Antonio Brown got his feet tangled with Richard Sherman and fell down.

Scott Kacsmar: I think Brown gets a flag there if it was a lesser player than Sherman. And the flag on Lawrence Timmons for hitting Wilson "out of bounds" was completely bogus. He was still in the field of play at contact and it wasn't even that much of a hit. Pretty much gift-wrapped that go-ahead drive, but plenty of time left in this one.

Aaron Schatz: This definitely has the feel of two really good teams playing a really good game. I've already argued over and over again that the Seahawks are better than their record, and the Steelers with Roethlisberger healthy are DEFINITELY better than their overall record.

Vince Verhei: Stunned Pittsburgh kicked the field goal down 5 from the 3-yard line late in the fourth. Their passive/aggressive decision maker seems totally random.

Aaron Schatz: I agree with you on the randomness. It doesn't make sense to go back and forth in a way that doesn't seem at all informed by what the odds of success actually are on any of the aggressive plays. I said on Twitter that I didn't think it was a horrible decision to kick the field goal because it was fourth-and-goal from the 4. I probably would have gone for it, but it wasn't an AWFUL decision. But then other people thought it was the 3, which changes the percentages. What really would have changed the performances was if it had been the 1 or 2, and then the Steelers could run a play with the threat of the run (or maybe even an actual run, although they haven't done much running today) and their chances of converting are higher.

Anyway, then the Seahawks hit Doug Baldwin on a crossing route when the Steelers blitz, and he breaks two tackles, and then there's nobody deep to stop him and he goes 80 yards for a touchdown. So now it is 39-30, with Pittsburgh having two minutes to score, onside, and score again. Which isn't going to happen with Roethlisberger heading to the locker room with an injury and Landry Jones now in.

Tom Gower: What made me hate the decision to kick was (a) the juxtaposition with Tomlin's earlier risky calls to go for the two-point conversions, and (b) his willingness to put his trust in a defense that had not played well earlier in the game.

Aaron Schatz: An added note on the Steelers kicking that field goal: Given that Roethlisberger did not come back in the game next time the Steelers got the ball, and that he's now in the concussion protocol, I think it's reasonable to believe that Tomlin's decision to kick was partly based on having to convert that fourth down with Landry Jones as his quarterback.

Tom Gower: Given that much of my motivation for going for it was related to the defense, I still would've gone for it with Jones.

Cian Fahey: On a serious note, do we discuss fourth-down play calling too much? My timeline exploded (and it generally explodes most in these moments) after the Steelers' decision and my timeline is all writers. Do fans really care this much about it or is it just something writers generally talk too much about?

I ask because I honestly find the whole fascination a bit bizarre.

Aaron Schatz: Fans do care about it. When I started doing this 13 years ago, fourth-down decision-making was such a big deal because the conventional wisdom said that the fans who screamed from the stands or called talk radio and demanded that coaches be more aggressive were idiots. And the math said, "no, those rabid fans are actually right, and the coaches are wrong." Now it seems like writers and stat people complain more than those rabid fans calling talk radio, but I'm sure the fans still care.

Cian Fahey: Aren't we just repeating the same thing pretty much all the time though? And anyone often anyone who suggests not going for it is portrayed as a stone-age moron. (Not saying this is FO people but just on Twitter that's the general feel).

Tom Gower: Fourth-down strategic decision-making I think is one of those areas where outside research is genuinely ahead of, and would be helpful to, NFL coaches. I can't tell Tomlin whether he should have run double slants flat or a fade to Bryant, to pick two of any number of possibilities, had he gone for it, because a lot of small details go into that sort of call and I was mostly watching Arizona-San Francisco until that game ended and spent Tuesday chasing my nieces and nephew around instead of scouting and game-planning for the Seahawks.

Vince Verhei: Didn't say much during the second half there due partly to battery issues, partly because the game was so intense. Holy cow. One of the best games of the year.

Considering the opposition, one of the best games of Richard Sherman's career. With Sherman mostly in coverage, the league leader in DYAR was held to five catches for 69 yards in 13 targets, plus an interception on the two-point conversion. Here's the clip of his interception when Brown fell down, and if anything, this should have been offensive pass interference. Brown was trying to push Sherman away, but Brown was the one who went down.

Unfortunately, the dropoff from Sherman to the DeShawn Sheads and Marcus Burleys and Jeremy Lanes of the world is pretty steep, but the dropoff from Brown to Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton is marginal, and that duo just killed the Seahawks. Wheaton, especially, finished with nine catches for 201 and a score, in 13 targets. Sherman moved to covering Bryant by the end of the game, but the Steelers weren't much able to take advantage. They tried a screen to Brown, but the Seahawks snuffed it out.

Obviously the biggest win for Seattle of the season, but it came at a price. Graham went down in the fourth quarter jumping for a ball in the end zone. He was carted off with his leg in an air cast, never a good sign, and now we hear that he has a torn patellar tendon and is out for the year.

New England Patriots 24 at Denver Broncos 30 OT

Aaron Schatz: With the Patriots down to Brandon LaFell and practice squad players, I have no idea why the Broncos decided to have single man coverage on Rob Gronkowski in the red zone. And by Darian Stewart, who isn't even particularly known as a physical coverage player, rather than one of their cornerbacks. Touchdown, Patriots.

Addendum from a Twitter follower making an excellent point:

Sterling Xie Teams have been having a ton of success against Gronk over the past month pressing him at the line and doubling him, even when he splits out wide. Not entirely sure why Denver decided to back off and, as Aaron mentioned, use Darian Stewart instead of T.J. Ward on him. Especially since Ward did quite well against Martellus Bennett last week.

Scott Kacsmar: So what kind of defensive strategy was that from Wade Phillips on the opening drive? Maybe I'm making it too simple, but I would sure take my chances with Chris Harris and Bradley Roby on Brandon LaFell and Chris Harper, while using Aqib Talib and a linebacker or safety to consistently double-team Rob Gronkowski, the only real threat on the field. Instead they have Darian Stewart on an island with Gronk for an easy touchdown? That's about as bad as switching to Von Miller in single coverage in the red zone like Jack Del Rio did in last year's meeting.

Andrew Healy: Yes, this does not seem difficult. When we talk about how these coaches of course know so much more than non-coaches, well we can overdo that.

Really nice throw from Brock Osweiler on a deep cross to Emmanuel Sanders on the Broncos' third drive on, yes, a throw that Peyton Manning hasn't made this year. And then a very young-looking bootleg on the next play. Nothing spectacular but still good.

Also, as a Patriots fan, Ty Law or Darrelle Revis looked good in No. 24. Rashaan Melvin, not.

What a killer sack that Brock Osweiler took to turn an impressive 12-play drive into one of those 16-yard net punts after going five yards further backwards trying to escape Jonathan Freeny. That was Freeny's second career sack. Nobody gets more out of former Scarlet Knights than the Patriots.

On the Patriots' drive after that punt, second-and-long and Bradley Roby singled up on Gronkowski. In fairness, Stewart appeared ready to provide a double-team, but the quick throw prevented the help from arriving. Still a very easy 15 yards. Sure seems like Talib would make sense. He was just shadowing Keshawn Martin. When he was with the Patriots, Talib once pretty much erased Tony Gonzalez from the stat sheet. I'd certainly think that would be worth trying as the main plan.

Aaron Schatz: Talib is 6-foot-1, 205. Roby is 5-foot-11, 192. Darian Stewart is 5-foot-11, though bulkier at 220 pounds. Still, from a physical perspective, I'm going Talib, and he is the best cover guy of the three as well.

Andrew Healy: I'll admit that I don't have a ton of objectivity on Malcolm Butler, but I think he is making a legit push for Pro Bowl consideration in recent weeks. Osweiler made a really nice throw down the right sideline to Emmanuel Sanders and Butler showed great recovery speed to bat it away.

On the Pats' next drive, Gronkowski catches a 3-yard in on third-and-5. The pass is high and Darian Stewart comes playing in from safety to crash into Gronk's knees. It's the play that happens every other week and feels for a split second like it could be the season-ender. That one seemed particularly dangerous with him being engaged up high. Almost fortuitous that it's snowy so Gronk can't get his legs fully planted.

Dont'a Hightower limps off and Ronnie Hillman quickly scores on a 19-yard run where Jerod Mayo nips at his ankles but can't quite get him down. 14-7 Patriots late second quarter. Looking for more Denver running if Hightower stays out.

Aaron Schatz: Mayo's still supposed to be a strong run defender. He had become a much smaller part of the defense early in the season because Hightower and Jamie Collins are much better pass defenders and the Patriots, like most teams, play majority nickel at this point. If going from Hightower to Mayo is also a loss in the run game, that's a real problem, especially with Kubiak running his Kubiak offense now.

Andrew Healy: I think Hightower is so good that it is a loss even in the run game. I guess it's right that his loss makes it just as easy to pass, though. Watching that play, just couldn't help thinking that Hightower would have made that play. And that's not even an insult to Mayo since he closed quickly. Few linebackers could have made that play, but Hightower probably does most of the time.

Scott Kacsmar: With the Patriots getting the ball to start the third quarter, wouldn't you want to get another possession if you're Denver? Kubiak didn't call timeout after second down, and he let the clock go down to 5 seconds to call one after third down. Pretty conservative.

Andrew Healy: OK, equal time rules probably require mentioning that Sanders has beaten Butler a couple of times on in routes, including on the drive that set up a missed Brandon McManus 48-yard field goal attempt in the middle of the third quarter. It's been Logan Ryan who has made a couple of nice plays lately. On the Broncos' next drive, great coverage on a slant on Demaryius Thomas. Even then, Thomas probably should have had it.

Amazing how much this injured version of the Patriots can feel like the 2003-04 team. Tons of front seven depth and an offense that finds a way even though it never feels easy.

Cris Collinsworth just said that there's a pretty clear dropoff for quarterbacks at age 39. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he knows about the older data kind of pointing to that being a little true in the past, although even then it's more of a gradual dropoff that starts earlier.

But more recently there's basically no evidence for this, as I wrote about over the summer.

As the third quarter ends, it's becoming a punt fest and it feels like 14 might be enough for the Pats. They're still up seven.

Scott Kacsmar: Patriots probably as good as anyone at getting running backs on linebackers, and that long touchdown to Brandon Bolden could put this one away. A poor night from Demaryius Thomas makes for a pretty limited Denver offense, and New England's defense has played very well.

Andrew Healy: Such a great decision by Brady on that throw. Michaels and Collinsworth complimented the play call, but that wheel route looked like Brady's last read. He'd already brought the pass back after looking to go left. At the last second, he finally saw Bolden as his one open option, although it would be good to see the film later to check that out.

And Jerod Mayo looks awesome on defense. He looked very much like Jamie Collins on that blitz that forced the Broncos punt on the first drive after the Bolden touchdown.

Tom Gower: I mentioned this on Twitter earlier this month, but 13 quarterbacks have been league average or better by ANY/A in their age 37 season. Eleven have done it in their age 38 season. Just two, Warren Moon and Brett Favre, have done at or beyond age 39. Brady's still playing well and could join that group. Of course, I also thought the same of Peyton in August.

Cian Fahey: Put a bunch of bets on New England before the fumbled kick return. Who knew I was the kryptonite to the Patriots' perfect season?

Scott Kacsmar: Not used to all of this Denver fumble recovery luck. Saved one on offense deep in own end earlier. Got the big one on New England's fumbled punt. Just recovered one on its own punt.

Andrew Healy: Yup, Denver is 3-for-3 and it's why they're still in the game.

On aging quarterbacks, it's largely about sample selection since people retire (there aren't many 39-year-old quarterbacks in the sample). There's not really enough data to be able to tell, but I think the idea of a cliff at any certain age is less plausible than an age limit varying by player and subject to randomness.

Denver has the ball third-and-goal on the Patriots' 3-yard line with a chance to tie at 21, so looks like I was wrong to think the offense had little hope. After another incompletion to Thomas (who still has no completions), the Broncos kick the field goal to pull within four with 6:15 left. Yes, I don't like this decision and I imagine I'm not alone in our group, although I could see some dissenting voices on this one given the time. Will they get this close again? With the Pats' injuries on defense, the chances are not as low as they otherwise would be, at least.

By the way, Demaryius Thomas currently has no catches on ten targets. That would be just the fourth time a receiver has had double-digit targets without a catch).

And I'm sorry, but I can't believe that wasn't roughing the passer on the flying wrestling move that Shaquil Barrett just put on Tom Brady a play after a very questionable offensive pass interference on Gronkowski to bring back a third-down conversion. Unbelievable that they didn't make that call and almost as unbelievable that Collinsworth does such a poor job to miss it.

Make that 11 targets. That's almost all Logan Ryan guarding Demaryius Thomas. Again, Logan Ryan.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think it was roughing the passer on Barrett, but I also don't think it was OPI on Gronk. It feels like Gronk is getting the Shaq treatment now. They just can't believe he's so good and physical, so every little thing gets called, stuff that other tight ends do all the time with no penalty flags, because when Gronk shoves a guy it just looks so much more severe than when some other tight end shoves the same guy.

Also, while Andrew noted the Patriots' injuries on defense making offensive success more likely for the Broncos, the same goes for Broncos injuries on defense (T.J. Ward, in particular) making offensive success more likely for the Patriots. Losing Louis Vasquez doesn't make life easier for the Broncos either.

Cian Fahey: By far and away, this has been my least favorite season of football. Gronk's knee exploding just adds to an already horrible year for injuries, performances, and team quality.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't think that should have been OPI on Gronk, but bigger story now is will we see Gronk again this year? Didn't look good as a knee injury, carted off. Unbelievable how many big injuries we've seen this year, and the Patriots have been hit very hard for a month now at the skill positions.

Tom Gower: Full arm extension is often what draws the offensive pass interference contact, and Gronk's arm did extend. Between that and the separation from the defender, it was easy to see why the official made the call. And, yes, I fully expected the roughing the passer call after Barrett's hit.

Injury to Gronk later on, carted off. OPI or not, as a fan of great football players, that sucks.

Aaron Schatz: To add insult to injury, Logan Ryan finally allowed a reception by Demaryius Thomas for 36 yards, and the Broncos have a real drive going now. They need a touchdown, down 21-17.

Why did the officials announce a timeout for the injury to a Denver player, Malik Jackson, and then start the clock back up before the snap anyway?

Tom Gower: Because after a defensive injury fourth timeout, the clock starts on the ready for play after the stoppage.

Aaron Schatz: Right. I was confused by the officials calling it a "timeout." It really wasn't a timeout because it doesn't stop the clock.

Andrew Potter: When is a catch not a catch? When is a timeout not a timeout? Man, it's a good job the NFL rulebook is so clear and concise otherwise we'd end up confused about stuff like this every week.

Aaron Schatz: Want to mention I think it was wise for Emmanuel Sanders to slide down at the end of his punt return in overtime. A fumble there would have been killer. Better to just go down and not risk a slippery ball getting stripped away in the snow.

I thought the outside pitch to C.J. Anderson that won the game was an interesting call. I know that play worked earlier in the game, but the Patriots have been great against running backs trying to go outside in recent weeks. On the other hand, going up the middle on third-and-1 is what the defense usually expects and is bulking up against. And on a third other hand, we tend to complain about slow-developing runs in short-yardage situations, and that was a slow-developing run. But the blocking all worked, and then Anderson broke a tackle and that was the ballgame.

Scott Kacsmar: Everything you think you knew about the AFC, it's changed today. I hate how much injuries have impacted this, but this season's going to have a wild ending. And what happened today won't stop people from saying Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck shouldn't get their jobs back.

Aaron Schatz: The odds that Andrew Luck will be the old Andrew Luck when healthy are a lot higher than the odds that Peyton Manning will be the old Peyton Manning when healthy, or that Peyton Manning will get healthy in the first place. So I think the calls for Luck to get his job back make a lot more sense than any calls for Manning to get his job back. Honestly, is anyone actually arguing that Manning should get his job back at this point? And the fact that Osweiler fits the Denver offensive scheme much better than Manning just makes the argument for Osweiler stronger in a way that doesn't exist for Luck vs. Hasselbeck.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 30 Nov 2015

388 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2015, 1:46pm by Mr Shush


by TimK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:01am

Interestingly a number of places are reporting that the game ending Anderson run was an audible at the line by Osweiler. I guess if there is one thing you get from sitting on the bench for some years it is that the coaches trust you enough to let you call the odd check down or alternate play.

For the record I agree with Tom - in the replay I could see why the offical called the OPI, but I also expected Barrett to get called for the hit on Brady (which I don't think was malicious, it simply made some kind of contact high). Perhaps Barrett jumping to block the pass and kind of landing on Brady rather than really following through or launching at Brady made the difference - he certainly could have made his impact far worse for Brady I think, by lower head, or twisting to go shoulder first. Going with the way Gronk gets called for more OPIs I wonder if Miller would have been called for that hit?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:39am

There's just a randomness to penalties called that always is going to be fodder for conspiracy theories and assorted screaming by fans. I'm to the point where I just want the refs to not make any obviously bad replay interpretations or flat out errors with regard to timekeeping or rules knowledge. Or misplaced tootin' of the whistle, fer' cryin' out loud.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:13pm

Make up call for the egregiously ticky-tack roughing the passer call on Von Miller earlier in the game?

Or maybe refs tired of Brady whining at them all the time. No QB in the league spends as much time begging for calls.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:16pm

"egregiously ticky-tack"? Come on. I loathe the Patriots and was rooting hard for the Broncos in that game, and that call on Miller was obvious, justified, and gets made 99.99% of the time.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:22pm

I'm a huge Bronco fan, and Von Miller's penalty was completely justified and could have almost merited even worse treatment....

by MarkV :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:30pm

hehe, also a broncos fan but I both agree and disagree.
The Miller call was correct. However, Millers play wasn't egregious - there was less half a second between when Walker hit Brady and when Miller did. Considering that Walker could have missed or Brady dodged him (not realistically, but in the 1 second to act time frame that football is played in), its not egregious for Miller to attempt a hit. To lower his shoulder and hit hard was flat out unnecessary roughness, and a correct call - if it was intended but its possible that he was falling at that point and it looks rougher than he meant. Regardless, the call was right.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:31pm

I think Brady may have a "Boy Who Cries Wolf' thing going with the refs. Last night it looked like every time he was hit he looked to the refs to throw a flag. At some point that has to work against him.

Reputations matter, and I do think if Von Miller or TJ Ward make that hit on Brady its probably called. After re-watching, the controversial calls weren't as egregious as the Patriots and many of their fans have voiced, but were 50/50 calls that went Denver's way.

One of the reasons why so many people dislike the Patriots is because they never lose... There is always an excuse (injuries, penalties, etc) and hearing Brady's comments was disappointing. The Patriots lost because they muffed a punt, couldn't stop the run, mismanaged the clock in the last four minutes and had coverage collapses at the worst moments.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:34pm

Brady asks for a flag with the exact same frequency as every other QB -- namely, when there is a play that ends in him getting hit in an illegal, or close to illegal, manner. I don't care who the quarterback is -- Manning, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, right on down to Hoyer, McCown, and Bortles. Every time they go down after they throw the ball, or if they get hit near the head and neck, they look for a flag. And frankly, they should. Just like every single receiver who has played the game in the last 10 years demands a PI flag every time he doesn't come with the ball in a contested situation.

Brady is a little more fiery than most, and the camera loves to show him, but I find it humorous every time I read that he whines for flags more than any other quarterback. He actually whines for flags less than virtually any other QB, because he tends to get hit less.

Now, the point to having a reputation is a fair one. TV loves to show replays of Brady barking at a referee when he feels he got hit late, or high, or low. And officials are, I think human (I can't imagine a machine that worked so poorly still being in use). So maybe there is, or will be, some conscious or subconscious effort of the official's part not to throw a flag on close plays. I don't know.

Likewise, every team has an excuse why they lose. Too many penalties. We were playing against two teams. We lost it more than they won it. And that's just from yesterday. Against the Patriots, unless it's Tom Coughlin or Rex Ryan, other teams never lose. The Patriots cheated to win. It's a great salve for losing so often.

For my part, I had no real problem with any of the penalties called (I think Gronk probably draws no flag if he were any other TE in the league, but that's not the same as saying it was a bad call). They were bad against the run once Hightower left the game. They were 0-3 in fumble recoveries. All in all, Denver just played a better game, especially in the 2nd half.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:16pm

Yeah, but you can see that yesterday Brady's behavior towards the refs was extremely unusual, right? I've never seen a QB screaming in the refs faces over and over like that. I mean, maybe I have but it is certainly a very rare occurrence.

by MarkV :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:32pm

I think that speaks more to production choices than Brady. "screaming in their face" isn't really something we can judge from TV IMO

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:24pm

They all work the refs, but He definitely does it more than anyone I've seen and in a much more disrespectful way. Imagine if Cam pulled that... what would be the overwhelming sentiment????

As far as I'm concerned, If he wants to waste part of his time between plays arguing with the refs, thats fine with me, as thats less time he has to plan for the next play.

by BJR :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:28pm

Philip Rivers comes to mind

by TimK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:37pm

Rivers certainly plays angry, and Brady seemed to be doing that last night. He eeemed to be showing something close to disrespect to the
Broncos before the game (post on his Facebook page, which Broncos responded to after game, not bothering to name Osweiler, etc... ). Not sure if this is normal, but makes me wonder if he was either taking for granted that Broncos wouldn't move the ball, or was upset to not play Manning or whatever. Brady saying he was as angry at losing as he'd ever been might be a symptom of that as well. It could easily be that the pressure of chasing another perfect season with hardly any supporting cast staying healthy was getting to him more than he'd like to admit as well? No idea, but the cool, calm, unflappable ball distributor was not on show much last night.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:49pm

Brady just seems especially angry at the moment.

There was an occasion when he got sacked and he went back snarling at his offensive linemen. Last week against Buffalo, he was prowling and scowling at them on the sidelines.

I'm trying to recall whether he was like it at the beginning of last year. In most years he is surrounded by decent receivers and running backs, not taking numerous hits week-in, week-out or generally struggling to score points. I wouldn't be surprised if there is also some hangover from the deflategate stuff he went through during the offseason.

Media Tom is Mr Happy and all smiles but don't be fooled. On field he's Mr Angry. The refs just happen to be one of his targets.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:19am

This seems like a particularly weird week to stick to the already-annoying tradition of ignoring the Thursday game, especially since there were three of them. NFC North (and, ahem, NFC East fan) fans must be particularly irked...

by joe football :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:42am

I mean it was thanksgiving

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:50am

Yeah - I mean, sure have the writers watched one or more of the games, too. They're some of the highest rated tv shows of the year. It's just bizarre to ignore the Thursday games as rule and utterly incomprehensible to flat-out ignore the Thanksgiving games. Especially since there were a number of intriguing stories: Philly's stunning and total collapse, Detroit's resurgence, the NFC North favorites and perennial powerhouse falling apart, Romo's career potentially being over, the Bears clawing their way back to respectability, the only remaining undefeated team played, for God's sake! Thursday was probably more interesting than Sunday, truthfully.

by joe football :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:34pm

Certainly possible that various FO people saw all or part of all or some of the games. The format of the article is emails sent amongst the staff while the games were taking place, and there was zero chance of the writers doing that during thanksgiving for their part time job and/or hobby of writing for the football website

by Eleutheria :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:10pm

Given that Aaron Schwartz's twitter account was inactive during thanksgiving I think it's far more likely that everyone was spending time with family.

And sure they probably watched the games, but there's a big difference between watching a game with family and watching a game for the purpose of looking for insights on the teams.

I think it's unreasonable to expect them to do a write up on thanksgiving.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:06pm

It is my understanding that at least some of the people who write here do this professionally. In most people's professions if you take off the one of the top twenty or so days of your business year for a holiday you are let go.

We are not talking about a 60 page report here, we are talking about taking 5 minutes every hour or so you are watching football on the what 80 days that matter on the football calendar to make a few comments.

Anyway it seems oddly petulant and alienating to people looking for more comprehensive coverage. I think complaints like this are valid and are mostly just people pointing out that the level of professionalism they would desire from the site is lower than the level of professionalism it has. It is a perfectly valid comment.

The site is well warranted to say "well this is how we run the site take it or leave it", but that seems an odd way to respond to customer/product feedback. I think FO really missed on opportunity about 5 years ago to grow this into THE community site for people interested in advanced NFL stats (like BP or fangraphs), because of just this attitude. But maybe the revenue sources are different than I imagine, they obviously know their business and work/life preferences better than I.

by rfh1001 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:26pm

It seems much more likely to be a business thing than an 'attitude' one, and it's possible (I could be wrong) that you have a very rosy idea of what writers earn. Don't get me wrong, I wish the FO staff were paid in Ferraris and champagne, but they're obviously not and I don't notice myself helping out, except when the Almanac comes out. Under those circumstances, I too would choose to enjoy the holidays. Yes, other people would write it for free on those days, but we're here because those other people tend not to be as good.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:53pm

It seems oddly petulant to demand a couple of paragraphs about games taking place on the number one family holiday of the year. Did you watch any of those games? They were awful. Is there really anything that still NEEDS to be discussed about them? Romo's injured, Philly doesn't have a secondary and Davante Adams can't catch?

I would imagine they don't include Thursday games in Audibles because they've been analyzed to death over the three previous days. It's also possible that the FO staff was watching the games and sent emails, but those emails were edited out because the information is stale.

If you just want them to add some bs about the games for the sake of simply saying something about those games, then that's just as interesting as not writing anything at all.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:56pm

"Oddly Petulant" is the other thing on my business card.

by acr :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:57pm

Your criticism isn't really about the product. It's just that you want more free content on a national holiday that FO has been clear they grant to their writers.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:56pm

Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, the various beat writers etc. also cover football for a living, provide us with free content, have families and lives, etc, and I would have been surprised if the games had been played in silence and without coverage because the networks and papers said hey, it's a national holiday, go relax and have fun.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:03pm

I'm sure if Aaron offered the boys Joe Buck's salary, or even salary of the Denver Post's beat writer, things would change. Now, if you have some constructive remarks as to why Aaron doesn't do so, feel free to post them.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:25pm

I have no constructive remarks whatsoever.

On the other hand, my comment was "free content" so apparently you're a rude, horrible person for complaining about anything it may have been lacking.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:59pm

Free content: shut up because it's just garbage you rude man!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:38pm

I wasn't complaining. I was noting the remarkable nature of thinking that somebody working for Football Outsiders might be in some way be a useful comparison, in terms of demands placed on their time, to the demands FOX Sports puts on Joe Buck. Now, if you want argue that if Aaron just got on the ball, he could sell beer ad space to Coors like FOX does, and thus tell the boys to treat Thanksgiving like any other game day, because he could then pay them like Joe Buck gets paid, feel free.

Truthfully, I don't care one way or another, but it just seems weird that people care this much that they don't get contemporaneous game comments on Thursday games from FO writers.

by Kurt :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 12:46am

Hey, I personally pay Joe Buck exactly the same amount I pay FO writers. To me, it's all free content.

My main reaction to your first response is that I'm honestly curious what beat writers at the Denver Post make. Whatever it is, I'm sure those people didn't work at a major paper at their first jobs. They probably started at smaller papers, maybe covering college or high school ball. And when there were high school games on Thanksgiving, they were probably there to cover them.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:16am

Yeah, this isn't a daily newspaper. It's a website devoted to quantitative analysis of the NFL. Only a very small part of that involves contemporaneous commentary on NFL games. For better or worse, Aaron has decided to not be comprehensive in that regard. You may not have that preference, just like I don't like that the brewpub a mile from my house doesn't have an imperial stout. That doesn't make the guys who run the joint less professional, or their business poorly run.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/02/2015 - 11:03am

It used to be that reporters could work their way up like that, but it hasn't been true for decades, since before journalism degrees were standard in journalism. These days you're kind of slotted into a category of reporter when you're fresh out of journalism school. Small-town reporters will likely always remain small-town reporters, and big-paper reporters have mostly always been big-paper reporters.

by acr :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:10pm

Right their bosses didn't give them the day off. Many of them make enough revenue from that day that it would be hard to justify anyone having a day off. Do you think FO has the same kind of business imperative to be operating on Thanksgiving? Are you going to pay to make sure FO makes money on Thanksgiving or are you just going to complain and be rude to them if they aren't working on Thanksgiving and you don't get more of the free content you typically get?

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:26pm

Hundreds of TV dudes would jump at the chance to work any holiday for that national exposure. Analogizing TV commentators -- whose whole work life has been geared to getting their faces on TV and who make a shit ton of money -- to the people running/contributing to this site is silly.

FO has an open discussion thread for all the games. Consumers of the site can make all the "audibles" they want.

If the site is too marginal for anyone and the failure to generate content on and the day after TG is too much to bear, GTFO, or at least talk about the actual games instead.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:32pm

Wait - no it's not. Several sites/authors that started at the same time as FO (or on FO) have gone on to major success and are considered professionals for doing work literally no different than what they did for FO.

This is a condescending defense that I'm sure they would reject. The "hey, they're not professionals and they don't deserve to get treated like them" defense. I'm sure they'll all be rushing out to agree with you in saying "the site is this way because w're not real writer/analysts. we're more like free garbage that you should have no expectations for."

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:59pm

They all went to places that had far larger corporate backing than Football Outsiders. Now, you can say that FO could have gone corporate and aligned itself with some large media outlet, but losing writers to PFT (NBC Sports), SI (Time Warner), Grantland (ESPN), Bleacher Report, Yahoo! is natural.

If anything, it shows FO is getting enough mass media attention for so many of their people to go to big media companies.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:01pm

Absolutely - but it also shows that they're currently real writers on a real site that should be held to professional standards. I'm sure THEY would agree with that.

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:07pm

I don't understand why you're spending so much time on this topic, unless it's just because you enjoy trolling. If that's the case, carry on. Otherwise, seems like it's kind of boring and not adding anything to anyone's day.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 8:37pm

Do you really think that Aaron Schatz wouldn't have his pick of job offers from those same places if he chose to not run FO?

FO is a niche site. It caters to this strange and wonderful community of football fans who love the game AND understand/appreciate mathematical concepts more complex than "average". I like that the content usually remains elevated and I probably get too salty when it does not. I had more than my fair share of arguments with Barnwell in these comment sections when he'd publish his trademark "this-is-only-different-from-Pete-Prisco-because-I'm-saying-it" columns. This is one of the few places where I can reliably learn something new about the game and that's why it's earned my eyeballs (and even some game charting time) for over a decade

It will never have a huge audience because the content is for a specific group of people. It has nothing to do with their unwillingness to work on Thanksgiving. Expecting it to operate like a huge media conglomerate is silly. Even then, go read ESPN/SI/Bleacher Report on Christmas and tell me if they put out the same amount of content (they don't).

Also, I would love to hear how you know FO's financials when we don't even know how DVOA is calculated.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:20pm

I remember those arguments. And you were mostly right.

That said, I'd swap Barnwell for Kaczmar in a heartbeat.

by mrt1212 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:10pm

I actually appreciate that they're humans with lives.

by Grendel13G :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:00pm

I agree. I read this comment thread earlier today when it was almost all complaints, but didn't have time to respond. I'm glad sanity and perspective have prevailed since then.

I'm glad the writers had Thanksgiving off, which is more important to me than their thoughts on a few additional games.

by Pat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:45am

Flag, Audibles rule violation: if you don't like that a game is missing, don't complain: talk about it yourself.

The Eagles game was depressing as all hell. Not because they lost. Because they did it so predictably. I said two weeks ago that the Lions weren't a great matchup because the Eagles secondary was so bad. Then they lost to Tampa Bay, and the Lions played well, and I *really* didn't like the Eagles matchup.

That secondary is just... godawful. I mean, it felt like every play you saw someone either miss a tackle horribly, or just do something incredibly stupid. I'm *positive* that Thurmond and Jenkins missed more tackles than they actually made. You could have a Yakity Sax reel from the past two games of those guys diving towards people and ending up in the dirt.

Then again, there were also plenty of plays where they couldn't even attempt a diving tackle because they took such a bad angle or were so out of position they couldn't get there in time.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:54am

This isn't about wanting to talk about the Eagles (believe me, I don't) it's about ignoring 3 games including any discussion of the only undefeated team left in the NFL. It's also about a policy of ignoring a game every week when the NFL season is short and limited to begin with. I mean, with the Packers and Panthers playing on Thursday, a huge chunk of the most meaningful NFC play happened then.

I personally don't really care about Packers/Bears but it seems like a bad policy to ignore that game, as a matter of policy and NOT preference on the part of the writers.

by SFC B :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:11pm

Maybe they just don't email much between each other on Thanksgiving. Heck, if their families have the same "no devices at the dinner table!" rule mine does the email discussion would consist of "Man, the Eagles are terrible" and "Gotta go, turkey is being carved!".

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:18pm

If their families have a "don't do your job" policy, that is also pretty questionable. But again, this wasn't a Thanksgiving issue, this was a "as a matter of policy the Thursday games are never discussed" issue.n

by Xao :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:17pm

It's not questionable at all. Not working on a holiday is a perfectly reasonable policy.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:54pm


by BritPop :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:33pm

I might just be an unfrozen caveman lawyer, and my primitive mind might struggle to grasp these concepts. But there's one thing I do know- when internet writers dare to provide me with free content, there can be no holidays. Thank you.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:40pm

I keep an internet writer masked and chained, in a box in my basement, just so he doesn't forget who's in charge.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:48pm

You seem to have the impression that "internet writers" are a special species of writer who isn't required to be a professional, make money, build an audience or improve their work. I know you're a very old man, but the internet is where real businesses are now located, especially periodicals and journalism - and readers who were born after say 1974, expect them to be run like a real live newspaper might have been. Or they believe them to be worthless junk.

I personally do not believe FO to be worthless junk, but a real analysis and news site and, obviously stupidly, hold them to standards beyond a 1997-ish concept of what it means to run a Sportz Blog. No "my mom was in town, so no updates today!" for them!

(If they can't afford to run their business correctly, it is a poorly run business - and knowing the promotion/crossover FO gets, management is likely to blame.)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:19pm

I have the impression that you are kind of humorless when discussing chained, basement dwelling, internet writers. No doubt due to my elderly status.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:22pm

Well, I'd say I'm definitely more mean-spirited than humorless, but that's splitting hairs.

by Kurt :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:26pm

I don't *really* care either way - it's their site, they can do whatever they want with it, neither Aaron nor any of the other writers owes me a thing.

That said, I honestly am not understanding how comparing them to other professionals who cover the NFL for a living is supposed to be *more* rude and insulting than using "free content" as a blanket defense against any expectations or standards whatsoever. I mean "internet writer" is the sort of thing Wilbon says when he's trying to insult someone.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:28pm

Yeah - this is the non-dickhead version of my point.

(And for the record, I'm being a major jerk about this for no good reason.)

by Grendel13G :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:04pm


by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:26pm

Yes, this is definitely true: if something is free, it has entered a realm beyond good or bad, beyond quality or professionalism, it is in a magic world beyond criticism.

I'm sure that FO would be quick to agree with you, that because their website is free, they don't care about its quality!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:42pm

HOT TAKEZ! Yes, why would a reader demand writing from a website? Too much! You got me! Zinged me real good with your internet meme!

Honestly, expecting professionalism from FO is unreasonable and you have all convinced me. I'll now go back to the ESPN comments sections where my own HOT TAKEZZZ!!! will clearly be more appreciated. You've gotten the best of me.

by Xao :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:04pm

Professionalism has nothing to do with working on a holiday.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:29pm

What is going on in your life that causes you to whine so much about FO not including a two or three paragraphs about a 4 day old game? I honestly can't fathom why there's a group of people who actually care about this.

It has nothing to do with professionalism or the legitimacy of the site. FO is going to cover the teams that played on Thursday in any number of the other articles they produce during the week. We may see a Bears/Packers Any Given Sunday. Or a piece on the Panthers chances at going undefeated. This is also what they do every other week of the season.

The cost of having a bunch of writers, some of whom are probably freelance, skip out on their Thanksgiving holiday to add some half-thought out remarks didn't exceed the benefit of having those games added to Audibles. They skip a number of other games during the year because the writers either didn't watch them or they weren't interesting. I don't see how this is all that different.

by blan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:46pm

What is going on in your life that causes you to whine so much about FO not including a two or three paragraphs about a 4 day old game?

Dude, he's an Eagles fan.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:29pm

Double post

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:51am

This is the best place to put this post, so it can be deleted as part of the griping mini-thread that may be deleted (as per request from posters on page 2). As a New York Jets fan and survivor of a dreaded Thanksgiving game, please please please do not force your employees to tweet about games on Thanksgiving, especially if a team plays in green. Really, please don't.

by Pat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:33pm

I don't think you understand the idea/history behind Audibles.

The FO writers are football fans.
They watch football on Sunday.
They email each other as they watch them.

A long time ago, one of the writers thought, hey, maybe our readers might want to see some of these. And it doesn't cost us anything to write them up since we're already doing it. It's just a matter of a staff member literally grouping them by game and shoving them up. Bonus article!

That's the point. Audibles is bonus content. Everything you get is a bonus. The games aren't being ignored. They just didn't email each other during those games. Audibles is not their job. It's just like a social media outlet for FO (before social media was cool - trendsetters). Which is why you'll frequently see old FO writers show up on Audibles, because it's just what they do on Sunday.

This is all right there in the disclaimer at the top of the article.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:39pm

No I absolutely get it, it's just another reason FO is a marginal site and all its best writers jump ship the moment a "real" job offer comes along. It's a poorly run business and always has been.

Audibles is one of its most read and commented weekly features. Treating it like "bonus content" has always been and will always be a mistake. Audible IS their job (to the extent that any of this website is anybody's job) and for some reason they don't seem to understand it.

Anyhoo, not a big deal overall.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:46pm

No I absolutely get it, it's just another reason FO is a marginal site and all its best writers jump ship the moment a "real" job offer comes along. It's a poorly run business and always has been.

The door is right over there. Feel free to leave any time you want if you feel like you aren't getting what you paid for.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:50pm

I think the comment was more about it being a questionable business decision to skip an important set of games that takes place on a holiday but that ultimately it's not a big deal. Just chemical trying to provide constructive criticism.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:59pm

If you think It's a poorly run business and always has been. is constructive criticism then clearly we have different definitions of "constructive".

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:21pm

Okay, so I wouldn't call it a poorly run business and the writers are free to do whatever they want, and good for them if they would rather spend time with family, etc instead of doing work, I know I would.

However, having said that, FO provides some of (if not) the best analysis for football. I think it would be in their business interest to expand their coverage to Thursday, especially for Thanksgiving, in order to try and attract a larger audience. As I said above, I also don't like working on holidays, but sometimes my job requires it. There's always going to be a balance between work and personal life that everyone will have to make their own decisions on. I don't think it's unfounded for people to question why there isn't coverage for these Thursday games though.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:39pm

Yeah, I wouldn't want to be accused of being constructive. I'm shitting on a dumb policy they've always had.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:52pm

Until you've suceeded at making money running a website, you may wish to adopt a little more humility with regard to issuing judgement as to who is epecially good or bad at it. It isn't like a football team, where the output is easy to rank. It seems to me that the goal, beyond profit, is to have a site that people like to visit. It is thus odd, based on the amount of comments you post, to have you describe it as "marginal". Do you normally consistently consume those things you judge to be "marginal"?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:52pm

Until you've suceeded at making money running a website, you may wish to adopt a little more humility with regard to issuing judgement as to who is epecially good or bad at it. It isn't like a football team, where the output is easy to rank. It seems to me that the goal, beyond profit, is to have a site that people like to visit. It is thus odd, based on the amount of comments you post, to have you describe it as "marginal". Do you normally consistently consume those things you judge to be "marginal"?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:34pm

Eh, edit:

One of FO's main principles is "never improve, no matter how much your clients complain."

That's an awful way to run any business.

(Also, of course most of what I consume is marginal - what a weird and irrelevant question.)

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:40pm

I am sure that's prominently set forth in FO's core values...

Similarly, I am sure that "never stop being a dick" is prominently written on your business cards...

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:51pm

Hahaha - it definitely is. You'll get farther in life if you're up front about things.

And FO should be more upfront about its unwillingness to be held to a professional standard! Just kidding, there's a disclaimer at the beginning of the column, so they really are, aren't they? It's almost as though... they're announcing it as a core value!

And so we come full circle.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:59pm

They're announcing it as a core value for this one regular feature. None others. As Pat has already explained, this feature has a particular provenance, the tone and feel of the feature and the resulting comment thread is informed by this provenance, and most of the consumers of this feature like it that way. If Quick Reads or DVOA was regularly pre-empted because Vince or Aaron had a final exam due, I think the reaction would be very different.

In summary:

1) Audibles is different.

2) You're the only one complaining.

For both of these reasons, it seems like a completely reasonable business decision to keep things the way they are.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:20pm

Wait, wait, wait - people complain every single week. Go back and look through the column literally every single time its posted - there are multiple people complaining, every week for years on end.

But anyways, it's not a big deal.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:41am

I've kind of wanted to get out of this conversation most of the day, but it's kind of stuck with me, the way you made "being a dick" synonymous with "being up front with people", and asserted that you "get further" by doing so. There's a ton of data which suggests that none of these things are necessarily true. As with most things involving the extraordinarily complex world of human interaction, the answers are conditional.

In any case, I think you're a smart guy, with a ton of interesting stuff to say about football. Maybe you don't care about the persuasive power of the rhetoric you deploy, but if you do, it may be worth considering that antagonism is not always the path that provides the best chance of the desired outcome.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:47am

If I wanted to antagonize, I'd make some crack about posting on FO with a mobile device.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:50am


by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:50pm

If you have proof of the validity of that assertion, as opposed to "There are some things that Chemical Burn and some others don't like which persist", feel free to post it.

Look, you don't like what you don't like. Same with me. Same as everybody else. This is not especially meaningful. The fact that I don't like the beer that the brewpub nearest me makes doesn't make it "marginal" or "poorly run". If they close their doors, then I can say they weren't successful, but even then I'd be hesitant to say they were poorly run, relative to others in the industry, because what they are doing is hard to succeed at, and there a lot of factors which could have forced the closing, which were more important than my preferences.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this site for more than a decade. It ain't perfect. I have a lot of respect for what Aaron has tried to put forth, and has put forth, even if it isn't perfect.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:54pm

Will, I like you a lot!

(I even like Snack Flags - he was a lot of fun on the endless Deflategate thread!)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:03pm

My favorite part of that thread was when The Lessons of The Nuremberg Trials were invoked as a useful prism with which to view the misdeeds of Roger Goodell's investigation of allegedly deflated footballs.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:19pm

It was like Godwin's law, but somehow wonderful.

Truly Will, I don't take anything on here seriously - and you're really fun to argue with!

by BritPop :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 8:30am

Unfrozen caveman lawyer has a simple solution to this!

Make Audibles a separate "premium service"; FO writers are professionally obligated to watch and analyze every game, in depth (minimum 2 writers per game), including the Thursday and Monday games.

Now its a straightforward business question. Less free content means less page views from casual visitors, presumably, which is less ad revenue.

And to be clear, I'm not necessarily being cynical (though if you are going to lecture these guys on business strategy, at least come up with something better than "work harder for free"). I would pay for the premium audibles service.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:48pm

Flag, Audibles rule violation: if you don't like that a game is missing, don't complain: talk about it yourself.

Here, here.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:17pm

Very true. What I don't like is that Thursday Football is never discussed, as a matter of policy. It's particularly egregious when there are three games.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:33pm

It's not egregious at all, except to self-important readers.

Audibles is not FO's primary mission. That would be stats analysis and understanding of what factors determine which teams win and which lose. Audibles is just for fun. They make all of this very clear.

All of your whining and demanding might just make Audibles less fun for the writers. The result might be that they stop doing altogether. Is that what you want?

Incidentally - this particular comment thread would have been a lot shorter if you chosen not to hijack it with endless arguing and complaining.

by billsfan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:28pm

They should really put a disclaimer at the top!

by TADontAsk :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:17pm

Perhaps they don't cover Thursday games because everyone is watching?

Opening line of every Audibles is this: "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"

That doesn't really apply to Thursday games. If you're watching football on Thursday, you're all watching the same thing.

Just throwing it out there.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:21am

With the Broncos-Pats game being the first OT game I've watched this season, I tried to remember what the revamped OT rules are. Just a few years ago we knew what a catch was and that "first team to score wins in OT", now we have to think about it.

by nat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:37am

OT is not very hard.

It's "first team to score unless it's a first drive field goal". The only thing remotely confusing is what happens if the first team gets a field goal.

And, frankly, that's not very hard, either.

If we're finding it confusing, the fault is not in our rules, but in ourselves.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:51am

Nat, I didn't say the rules are confusing.

I understand them.

But they aren't instinctively obvious.

I'd liked it better when I could watch without have to think them through.

by nat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:59am

Fair enough. Me, I don't find the "new" OT rules distracting at all. But I was okay with the old ones, too. YMMV. Happy Thanksgiving.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:05pm

I did have a twinge when Andersen scored of "soooo.... is that it? Game over?" But it was a split-second. I kinda think the new rules don't do anything to make overtime more "fair" which was their intention (and the game is so tough on players that I hate extending it even by a couple minutes) but they don't make it less fair. It resembles college football to me, which is another thing I don't prefer in my NFL football...

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:10pm

If you really think the added time playing in OTs is a concern you should be calling for the abolition of football. I never ever understand this or say Bill Simmons comment that they absolutely should not do 18 games.

It is just a bizarre position for someone so clearly interested in football.

by akn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:21pm

What an absurdly hyperbolic claim to make.

Being concerned about excessive playing time in OT is about not wanting to see worn out guys playing bad football and having to wait through even more rounds of crappy Viagra commercials. And being opposed to 18 games is about not wanting to see mash units made of up of 3rd and 4th stringers struggle to not go 3 and out while hoping our favorite starters get healthy enough by the playoffs.

If you just want football, you can always go down the street to your local high school game or turn on the Grey cup or something. What we want is good quality football played by the best, healthiest players in the world. There's a difference.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:35pm

No he's right, let me go on the record:

Football should be abolished.

by Biebs :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:37pm

I don't know if it's "fair", but certainly more fair than before.

It's a pretty big deal that kickers now kick 50-55 yard field goals (50+ are 75/115 this season) at a better accuracy than 30-39 yard field goals were when OT was introduced (1974) (30-39 were 123/190).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:44pm

I think the game would be dramatically improved by narrowing the goal posts by 4 or 5 feet.

by duh :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:06pm

Seconded, it would make for better balance in the game.

by andrew :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:54pm

I would think it would be dramatically improved if the goalposts were on a swivel so they slowly rotated constantly. Kick at the right moment and you have the full width, kick at the wrong moment and they are lined up one behind the other (although you can still make it if the ball hooks just right).

But none of my revolutionary ideas to make the game more exciting (really tall grass in end zones so receivers can hide, hanging a rope from the roof of domes that players can swing on, adding water hazards at the 30 yard lines, etc etc) will ever see the light of day.

by Jeremy Billones :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:17pm

When they built the 'new' baseball field in Houston (it was then called Enron field, that's how long ago this was) they put two obstacles on the field. First, there is a hill leading up to the center field fence. That's still there. Second, there a was a flag pole - on the field - in the middle of that hill. They took that out, which is probably for the best because there's no way Bryce Harper is still alive if it was still there.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:52pm

In Tiger Stadium there was a flag pole in center field. It was about 2-3 feet or so short of the wall on the warning track. I think it was not until the 1970's that they put padding around it.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:59pm

I can beat that, there was a tree in the outfield at Kent Cricket ground, until it fell down after a storm in 2005. It had its own rule for what happened when the ball hit the tree.


by andrew :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 11:29am

I recall reading about a baseball field in mexico that had railroad tracks that ran through the outfield. The rule was when a train came through everything stopped (baserunners, fielders etc) until it passed.

They depicted something like this in Brewster's Millions.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 4:41pm

I suppose railway bests tree.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:20pm

Chain some hungry tigers in that tall grass, Roman Collusseum style, now you're talking real entertainment!

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:24pm

Well they have the Tear your ACL ring of death if you go too far out of bounds in St. Louis.

by Grendel13G :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:08pm

The rotating goalpost idea is amazing.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:52pm

How about Bonus Multiball!

by Nahoj :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:11pm

The current overtime rules are actually one of my favorite NFL changes over the past several years. I always hated games where a team won the toss, drove a few dozen yards, then had a kicker hit a 50+ yard field goal for the win. But I also have never cared for the college version where it feels like they let both teams score ad infinitum.

I concede that the current OT rules aren't immediately intuitive, but I still like the balance it offers and the incentive for trying for TDs, and in a few more years I doubt most people will even pause to think about the old version of the rules.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:50pm

I think it would make more sense if each time had at least one possessions. So even if you scored a TD on the first drive the opposing team would still have a chance to go down the field to tie.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:11pm

The obvious and awesome option was to let the coaches bid for field position.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:36pm

I'm already bored by having to sit through a second coin-toss, now I got to sit there while someone explains the bidding system to Jim Caldwell?

by jonsilver :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 10:13pm

Uncalled-for...your 101st snarky comment in this Audibles leads to an ejection...
Jon Silverberg

by leviramsey :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:11pm

The only alternative that might be an improvement is to treat OT as an extended fourth quarter with sudden death. If you score to tie at the death, you kick off, otherwise, continue as you were. Same timeout situation, etc. Coaches would have to account for the possibility of OT, and might be more willing to try to win in regulation.

by TimK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:43pm

Don't think that would work - if you begin OT where the 4th quarter ends then no reason for 2 minute offence at the end of a tied game to win it.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:56pm

I like the new overtime rules a lot more than I thought I would. It adds a lot of interesting strategy to the decision on the coin toss. Take the ball and get the first chance to win, but kicking away gives you the benefit of information assuming you prevent a TD (you know if you need to be in 4-down mode or not on your possession). Also, as in this case, if you go 3-and out, the advantage shifts hard to the other team.

The main downside, besides being somewhat overly complex, is that it makes the games longer. My suggestion had always been to go back to the original sudden death, but get rid of the coin toss. Simply make whoever had the ball to start the game also get the ball to start OT. Since most coaches now defer when winning the coin toss (because it is almost always the smart thing to do), this would balance that out a bit. It would also add urgency if it was the other team trying to decide whether to kick the easy FG or go for the win in regulation when facing 4th and goal from the 2.

by Eleutheria :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:13pm

Personally I'd much rather college football OT rules.

Team A gets a drive, then team B, if score is tied we go to double OT.

by Kyndynos :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:22am

Will DVOA adjust for the Gronk injury if (God forbid) he misses significant time?

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:37am

Word by all accounts is he's fine and might not miss even a single game. Makes his writhing on the field super-annoying even if you're a Pats fan. (Why give everybody a heart attack?)

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:39am

There are certain pressure points in the body that cause incredible pain. One of them is in the knee. Apparently that's where he was hit.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:45am

Yes and pro football players are hit all day everyday on those pressure points. To see a player writhe like that without serious injury is a real rarity. He was pounding his hands on the ground and wincing for a long time after the blow. Jimmy Graham, for comparison, wasn't a quarter as demonstrative. I don't blame the dude, but it was very UNUSUAL to see an NFL player behave like that and have it be nothing.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:05pm

I've had several friends tear their ACLs and they said it didn't really feel like much of anything. Having sprained ankles vs. broken an ankle, the bad sprains were more painful. The severity of the injury =/= amount of pain.

Add to the fact that this is a guy who had his knee already annihilated by a low hit, and the writhing makes sense. But sure, you should be the arbiter of how much pain a football player should feel.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:09pm

Hahaha - true. My only point was that it was surprising - you really truly don't frequently see NFL players behave like that and then be ok for the next week. I was thinking that when people get the wind knocked out of them, it looks a little scary and then they're back in the game quickly, but there's not a lot of writhing involved. I mean, Gronk was going bananas. It's a relief he's not hurt, but it's obvious (and inarguable) his behavior is what had everyone fearing the worst (and certainly not the replays where it appeared to be a glancing blow.)

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:13pm

It may not have been pain necessarily. Being that the Patriots could be starting Irving Friar at WR next week, Gronk may have just been pissed off that he was going to miss time. If you hyperextend your knee (or whatever happened), it's not like you can self diagnose on the field.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:20pm

Yeah - I think we're agreeing somewhat. In retrospect it does appear to be a bit of a tantrum or an expression of frustration. Whereas, at the time, it looked like "whelp, he's injured again."

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:58pm

Unless one has played professional football (and I haven't), I don't think one can really comment on how much pain a given injury should or shouldn't have and what is an appropriate response to that pain.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:11pm

Joe Staley went down at the end of a Rams game a couple of years ago, he was screaming in apparent pain, you could hear him on the broadcast. Ten minutes later he's in the locker room, the medical staff had determined that was absolutely nothing wrong with him and his teammates were taking the mickey out of him. Injuries can be weird.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:13pm

There are many other ways to suffer a torn or sprained knee ligament or a broken bone than through professional football. Restricting commentary on this seems overblown.

by jacobk :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:23am

I believe Brown's numbers on the passes where Sherman was on him in coverage were 3 for 8 for 22 yards.

I also (through the homer glasses) thought Shead looked pretty good. The Steelers went right after him and he made some nice pass breakups that I don't think Cary Williams would have managed. The plays where he got beat seemed more like high quality throws than poor defense.

It's honestly the safety play of the Seahawks that has me a little worried, which is a weird feeling.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:42am

Really? My reaction to Shead was "wow, he's awful. Guess they can't plug ANYBODY in there." I was curious what Seahawks fand thought about Sherman moving around the field to shadow the best WR. To me, as a non-fan, it looks like it's screwing with their scheme, which was always based on simplicity and rigid execution. I feel like there's less clarity on what anybody should be doing on any given play now that Sherman moves from one side to another to the slot, etc. The Seahawks defense just looks confused so frequently and has a massive problem holding a lead in late-game situations when the opposing team's goes into the hurry-up - there's just more chaos and blown assignments than I've ever seen from that defense. They just don't even look like the same players - Bobby Wagner is a non-factor now and Earl Thomas always seems to be a step late. I know the excellent Steelers offense will do that to a lot of players, but even the Steelers' high standard that pass defense got whupped yesterday. Just wondering what Seahawks fans thought the explanation was...

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:07pm

I thought Shead played fine. He had a couple of big breakups on some one-on-one deep balls. In general, I think people are way too down on the LOB this year. I'm not one who can "break down" a defensive game plan, but it seems to me they are being asked to do more than most other secondaries. Yesterday is a good example. The Seahawks blitz very infrequently, the Steelers almost abandoned the run game almost altogether, and Roethlisberger -- a great QB (his TD pass to Wheaton, dropping the ball perfectly into a moving bucket 40 yards downfield while on the move, was particularly awe-inspiring) -- racked up some yardage against them (but also threw two picks), because he rarely felt pressure. It happens.

The Seattle secondary has had the misfortune of playing their worst at the worst possible times (see Lance Kendricks, see Greg Olsen, etc.), but overall, even when it seems like they get torched, the numbers don't really support it. Roethlisberger is only QB to throw for more than 334 yards on them. The Seahawks defense isn't great like in 2013, but it's still pretty good.

Also, since it hasn't been mentioned yet, Russell Wilson played perhaps his best game as a pocket passer (possible exception, the playoff game against the Panthers last year). He was phenomenal.

by jacobk :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:36pm

Shead was in the vicinity and had more than his fair share of pass breakups. If Roethlisburger drops the ball in perfectly forty yards downfield, not much you can do but tip your cap.

They've moved Sherman around in the past without wrecking the defense, though they didn't do it as often. I think the safeties both might be dealing with lingering issues from their injuries last year, as they both seem to be just a bit off. Getting Lane back should help as well, he's good in the slot.

Also, the stats suggest the defense hasn't fallen off that badly. Everybody can play the "what if" game to some extent, but the Seahawks could very easily be 8-3 with the same overall level of play they've shown so far, in which case I don't think there would be nearly as much concern over the LOB.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:00pm

Shead was in the vicinity and had more than his fair share of pass breakups. If Roethlisburger drops the ball in perfectly forty yards downfield, not much you can do but tip your cap.

This is pretty much what I saw too. Roethlisberger was frequently throwing to guys that were covered and putting it in the spot where his guy could make the catch. Great game for Big Ben.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:26pm

Well, they went from being in the discussion for "greatest ever" to 8th overall/9th in pass DVOA. It's a notable decline, if not a surprising or crippling one. Normally, when a team falls off, its because of injuries or loss of key components to free agency/retirement - the Seahawks are still fielding a very similar team to the last two years but with notably worse results. I mean, they CANNOT hold late leads, which is so strange to say about those guys.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:42pm

Beyond the utter atrocity at covering tight ends, the biggest decline has been their inability to get interceptions. That was what they did so amazingly well in 2013, and a decrease in interceptions was why their DVOA dropped in 2014. A lot of these interceptions were off of tipped passes, and those have simply dried up this year. A particularly glaring example was against Arizona (I think), when Sherman read a pass perfectly, tipped the ball in the air and was about to catch it before the intended receiver recovered and snatched it away from him; Arizona would go on to score a TD on that drive.

Also, this year several opponents (Chicago and SF both times) decided that they would rather play as conservatively as possible and lose by a respectable margin than actually attempt to win the game. If they had done the latter I'm guessing we would've seen more games like Eli Manning's 5-intercaption one against Seattle in 2013, which would've boosted their defensive DVOA.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:51pm

Jed York said that the niners won't make changes if the team is competitive so at this stage I reckon Tomsula would run out the clock on a three point deficit if he could.

Maybe Arians is smart enough to eke out a win last weekend, thus ensuring the continued incompetence of a division rival.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:15pm

Yeah, I was really surprised to see the difference in their interception numbers. Like, I knew they were really good the last two years, but not THAT good and I knew Sherman was struggling to make plays this year, but not that the whole team was failing to get its hands on the ball.

(Interesting note about Chicago and SF - although, I think Chicago under Fox has been exhibiting a season-long conservative tendency that is actually proving to be a good way for them to compete meaningfully with more talented teams. Getting Cutler to be more conservative and situationally-minded is like seeing someone have a major breakthrough in therapy.)

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:25pm

In 2013 they had Sherman, Browner, Thurmond, Maxwell, and Lane at CB. They had the best CB in FB, three solid #2 CBs, and a solid slot CB. They were as close to attrition proof at DB as a team has ever been.

Browner, arguably, won the SB last year by taking on the WR that had 89 passing yards out of nowhere that NE couldn't stop until Browner shadowed him.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:37pm

Yeah, I definitely take Seahawks CB#2 for granted - I guess because Thurmond and Maxwell are such garbage for the Eagles that it's tough to think of them as being useful players. I mena, honestly, I'd rate Cary Williams as better than either of them. (Of course, Cary Williams at safety might well be a bigger disaster against the run than even Thurmond.)

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:41pm

The Seahawks have benched Williams. He didn't play yesterday. I think at this point the question will be if they get a dead money hit for cutting him in the off-season. Maxwell was a system guy, like Thurmond less Browner, where by asking him to play one specific coverage over and over again he could close down very good WRs. Kelly is asking Maxwell to do way to much.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:53pm

Well, they're only asking him to play man-press with constant over-the-top help. It's hard to imagine how they could ask him to do less. And in the context of his contract, asking him to do so little is a total disaster.

Kelly is definitely asking Thurmond to do too much, though.

(Also I know Williams got benched - I'd still rather him back than Carroll, Biggers or Maxwell. Ironically, he can do "more" better than Maxwell but apparently does "less" much worse.)

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:05pm

Well man and zone can be two different skill sets that do not always translate.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by jonsilver :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 10:24pm

Well, no, they should be 5-6, along with Detroit...Jon Silverberg

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:43am

As a homer on the other end of the fence, I think Shead's play is what won the game for you guys. If Bryant pulls in just one more of those deep balls, I think the game could very well have gone the other way.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:58am

Really? As someone with no stake in either team, what allowed the Seahawks to win it is the Steelers' pitiful secondary. You can't take the Steelers seriously as a contender with coverage, tackling and game-planning in the secondary that awful. Their lack of pass rush against a porous o-line didn't help anything either. Their LB's are good in coverage and their run defense is good, but man that secondary stinks.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:06pm

Yep, if you are going to tackle like that, you better have a historically great offense, and Pittsburgh's offense is really good, but not at a historically elite level.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:15pm

The Steelers secondary tackled? I must have missed that play.

Seriously, I agree with what you're saying 100% - and Roethlisberger's chronic injuries this year could conceivably keep them from even consistently being "really good" come the playoffs (which I'm not confident they'll make.)

by drobviousso :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:33pm

I don't think they are contenders. I think they are a wildcard that might pick up 1, maybe 2 wins in the playoffs.

I just think that if Bryant pulls in one or two of those balls - something he's done pretty regularly - this game could have gone the other way. And, based only on my memory, Shead had a pretty active hand in breaking those plays up.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:23am

The Vikings defense, after having played an uncharacteristically undisciplined game against the Packers, returned to their normally intelligent play, and the Vikings o-line managed to avoid looking like 5 drunks looking for a contact lens, and when those things happen, the Vikings are very difficult for a less than wonderful team to beat. The Falcons, Julio Jones aside, are very definitely a less than wonderful team, especially when Ryan plays less than wonderful. It helps that the Falcons don't get much of boost from home field when they aren't on a roll, and the fans turn silent.

Barr, if he has decent injury luck, is going to have a great career. On a field filled with extraordinarily elite athletes, he stands out for making things look ridiculously easy. With Zimmer running the defense, he is going to have all manner of chances to make huge plays.

There is a temptation to overstate how much better the Vikings o-line is at run blocking than pass blocking. Yes, they have an easier time with it, but the biggest difference is 28 inducing all manner of panic in opposing linebackers and dbs, as he attacks the line of scrimmage, and then 28 makes the blocking look good as he takes advantage of defnders being in the wrong places. Merrill Hoge does a really good job in breaking down what Peterson does, and has been right about Peterson's strategic value since he was drafted. If you can ignore the hype-laden language I suspect the ESPN producers encourage Hoge to employ, he's a guy who really illuminate NFL running games.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:38am

Yeah, Barr's a stud. He'd be just as good outside in a 3-4, or inside, he's that kind of talent. Maybe his best fit is in Zimmer's attacking 4-3 where he gets to show how versatile he is.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:46pm

Zimmer is terrific in his flexibility on defense, and it's great that he is secure enough to openly engage in self criticism when things don't work out. You can easily see why guys love playing for him, and it's pretty damning of NFL teams' management that he waited as long as he did to get a head coach job. I strongly suspect that his constitutional inability to sugar-coat anything, even when speaking to a billionaire looking to make a hire, is what led to him losing out in several interview cycles.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:53pm

I live in the Twin Cities so root for the Vikings as a secondary team just for something resembling local loyalty, but it's gotten significantly more avid since Zimmer came on. I love how he's built that defense, how the team plays in general, and he's just so damn fun to hear talk. The Vikings are likely going to move to my suburb within the next year or two, and I keep thinking I have to figure out some magic way to run into Zimmer in a bar so I can buy him a beer or two and get him talking about how he still wants to punch Gregg Williams in the face.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:08pm

I think about what this team might have accomplished if the Wilf had hired Zimmer instead of Childress in 2006, instead of having the worst 10 consecutive years (if we count 2005) that Vikings fans have seen.

by Duke :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:55pm

As fun as that is to think about, people change and grow over 8 years. Zimmer might not have been able to succeed as a head coach in 2006. You might have instead ended up with the Belichick Cleveland era.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:08pm

I think about what this team might have accomplished if the Wilf had hired Zimmer instead of Childress in 2006, instead of having the worst 10 consecutive years (if we count 2005) that Vikings fans have seen.

by jmaron :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:50am

The safety play looked pretty good to me, which is surprising given they were your 3 and 4 guys.

Smith is great obviously, but Sendejo is terrible in pass coverage. He runs around and smashes into people, but he gets beat deep often and doesn't seem to cerebral out there. Personally I would like to see more of Blanton and Exum and less of Sendejo.

The 3 TE sets they are running a lot lately seem to be doing the most damage for them offensively. I thought Ellison had a great game.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:53pm

...the Vikings o-line managed to avoid looking like 5 drunks looking for a contact lens....

Wow. I'm not used to you ripping off similes of that quality, Mr. Allen. Nice job.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:31am

Nobody gets more out of former Scarlet Knights than the Patriots.

Maybe the Bucs if we’re talking the entire history of Rutgers in the NFL. Especially if we’re saying getting more out of is exceeding their draft value. Using a 7th round pick on Harry Swayne wasn’t so bad or a 3rd round pick on Jeremy Zuttah. I’m thinking Tampa got more out of Tim Wright and Tiquan Underwood than the Pats did.

by poboy :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:40am

Yeah, but didn't Schiano come from Rutgers? That cancels out a lot of positive value.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:52am

That's sort of like saying the Pats ought to have some of Dave Wohlabaugh's value cancelled out because they once hired Dick MacPherson.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:55am

I've been a Pats fan since the mid-70s. I had to look up Dave Wohlabaugh.

Dick MacPherson certainly had more of an effect on the team than Wohlabaugh did.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:07pm

I guess we’re a little different. I may not remember off the top of my head a guy who started 4 years on the OL for my team, but if someone brought up a name like Wade Griffin or Jeff Blackshear, the memories would come back.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:05pm

There's probably a DVOA (efficiency) vs. DYAR (volume) split between the Patriots and the Bucs; my guess is the Patriots as a rule managed to get better play out of Rutgers players, but, considering when Greg @#$!!! Schiano was the coach it seemed like half the Bucs' roster was from Rutgers, there was probably simply more volume from Rutgers players on their side.

Also, @#$!!! Greg Schiano.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:36am

The KC/Buffalo game was interesting - Sammy Watkins got shut down in the second half and ended the day with a less impressive performance than Maclin, who beat Darby so badly it's actually instructive in comparison to what happened with Watkins/Smith.

Watkin's stunning first half was based entirely on amazing grabs and pinpoint made throws made through tight coverage. He didn't get wide open on almost any play and his biggest catches relied on the ball just barely squeaking by Smith or the CB slipping in the rain at the worst possible moment. So, in the second half, to shut Watkins down, the Chiefs did... nothing. They left Smith in coverage with over the top help. The same thing they had done in the first half. And as the game got tighter, Taylor seemed to lose the guts to make the risky throws and just stopped looking his way. There was nothing to really criticize about how Smith played in the first half, sometimes there's nothing you can do about a good throw to a good WR.

Maclin and the Chiefs, on the other, figured out Buffalo's defense quickly and started toying with it. They picked up Rex's blitzes with ease (despite significant injuries to their o-line), Alex Smith used his legs to run to the space created by the defensive-schemes and the run game poked at the d-line weaknesses and LB's setting their pre-game spots in "exotic" (i.e. "out of") positions. The Buffalo defense clearly got the memo that KC doesn't go deep, so Maclin put on a rout-erunning clinic and got Darby falling over himself biting on comeback, quick outs, short crossing and interior routes. He just set him on fire and on most of Maclin's catches he was wide open. (Even the disputed catch had steps and Smith just missed on the throw - that's in contrast to Taylor's intentionally under-thrown, back-shoulder ball for the Watkins TD where Sean Smith fell down.)

By contrast, Watkins was just running down the sideline and trying to use his speed to get by Sean Smith (again, which didn't really work,. Smith was step for step with him on most plays.) It was just such a striking contrast in smart game-planning and in-game adjustments. After one quarter, it looked hopeless for KC, but they regrouped (they stopped falling down in the rain less, for one) and started doing coaching-judo to use Buffalo's strategies against them. They attacked Buffalo deep and when Buafflo tried to account for it, Alex Smith would run to the space created underneath. They welcomed the exotic blitzes and came up with answers on the fly. Buffalo had nothing other than "chuck it to Watkins running straight down the sideline in tight double-coverage then hope he makes a spectacular play or the safety gets there late."

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:52pm

I'm not usually a "torches and pitchforks" kind of fan, but honestly this gameplan defensively was so terrible it should get Ryan fired.

Offensively wasn't much better - there were yards there for the taking with Watkins given the cushion Smith was giving him on most plays, and there were no routes to take advantage of it. His role all day seemed to be to run go or post routes, which is a severe under-usage of him.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:11pm

I'm not sure how much you can put on Rex - Reid's in-game adjustments just got them totally turned around, the Chiefs starting anticipating everything they were going to do and then played entirely out of character to take advantage. It'd be like if the Vikings came out and didn't hand Adrian Peterson the ball even once all game - you'd think that would be playing into the defense's hands. Buffalo saying "let them beat us deep and not use any screen passes, make them run up the middle and keep Kelce in as a blocker!" is actually very a reasonable approach to the Chiefs. I don't think anyone could've expected the Chiefs to kill them down the field along with back-up the o-line and RB over-powering them up the gut - the Chiefs were getting an extra 3 yards every play just pushing the scrum. "Make them be all about power football and the deep ball" would seem like a very good description of how to beat the Chiefs.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:14pm

I think, given Buffalo's D-Line injuries, that them getting run over was something I expected. Alex Smith having time to throw deep was something I didn't expect, and the vanilla "rush four and flood the short stuff" approach was already failing by the end of the first half, so I expected an adjustment. We'd just seen a lot of bewilderingly complex zone/rush combinations on Monday night, so the lack of them surprised me quite a bit. There was no way KC's line could have handled that.

I'll have to review the game. My impression during it, though, was that they kinda overlooked KC in the game planning.


by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:38am

Regarding the timeout, it seems that the effect of the fourth timeout on the defense is minimal. First, the officials moved the play clock from roughly 25-30 seconds to 40 seconds. Then they placed the ball in play and wound the clock. Which was at about 25-30 seconds? The Patriots didn't think the clock was going to start until the snap, so they lost about fifteen seconds before snapping it with 10 seconds to go.

So...what's the point of pushing the play clock up to 40 seconds if you're going to wind the clock anyway? All it did was create the illusion that the Patriots had 40 seconds to work with. But they didn't.

I'm not faulting the officials here. They apparently adjudicated the rule correctly. The way the rule is written seems to be flawed. The first violation on the offense costs them a 10-second runoff. The first violation on the defense seemingly can have no practical effect at all. More time is added to the play clock even though the extra time is irrelevant.

Yes, the second "excessive time out" is a 5-yard penalty. But that doesn't quite address the whole imbalance. As things stand, the defense can have a player fall on the field with 20 seconds left, get some time to get their proper defense ready, and not suffer any ill effects for delaying the game.

Also, the name "excessive time out" is misleading, given that no actual time out is granted.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:43am

The Pats should know the rules and not complain because they didn't.

I mean, the irony is obviously delicious.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:53am

Last year the officials specifically told the Ravens that certain players were ineligible. At one point they even said that the Ravens didn't have to cover Vereen.

In contrast, the officials last night told everybody watching that the Broncos were being charged with an excessive time out, and then they added time to the play clock. But adding time to the play clock would do absolutely nothing if they then wound the game clock, which was still 15 seconds lower.

Was trying to have a dispassionate discussion here.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:03pm

Wait... are you serious? They didn't know the rules. The ref applied it correctly. For a Pats fan to complain about the situation is beyond comprehension.

There's no discussion needed, dispassionate or otherwise - it was a rule that makes sense applied correctly. The rule makes sense because it doesn't award the offense a free time-out (you wouldn't want to encourage injuries to your opponent as a strategic advantage) it merely gives them the full play-clock to work with. It allows the game to run fairly when there's no timeout available but a literal timeout must be taken. The second penalized timeout is to discourage the defense from gaining an advantage through "injury" to their own player.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:25pm

Oh come on.

It's on BB and Brady to know the rule there.

by Kaelik :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:30pm

You do understand that excessive timeouts can occur when there are 45 seconds left in the game or two minutes right? You keep harping on the playclock like it matters, but the rule is written for all possible times in the game, not just under 10 seconds. There could be two minutes left with the defense wanting more time on the clock because the offense is within 5 yards of the goal and down by 2. Then setting the playclock to 40 results in the full 40 seconds being run off while the offense waits it out, just like if there was no injury.

The rule doesn't only cover the singular situation you saw, and the refs don't get to say "and the playclock doesn't reset, because who cares am I right?"

Yeah, it sucks for the pats that Brady didn't know the excessive timeout rule, and that no one on the sideline decided to radio it in to him. But it isn't a conspiracy to destroy you.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:57am

Clearly they need to spend more time reading the rules.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:18pm

Exactly. I knew the rule. The rule makes sense.

by dank067 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:16pm

I see your point about allowing the defense to organize and get set without penalty, but it also allows the offense to get a play called from the sideline and get set at the line of scrimmage while the clock is stopped. In a two minute drill I would think that more often than not it would benefit the offense much more.

(I forget if the snap was imminent before the officials called it dead last night, if that's the case then NE didn't stand to benefit from any time savings but rather just the playcall.)

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:23pm

It's pretty logical rule, though. Firs player down: we've got to stop the game, but there's no reason to award the opponent a free timeout. Second player down: don't make a habit of this, here's a penalty.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:30pm

"So...what's the point of pushing the play clock up to 40 seconds if you're going to wind the clock anyway? All it did was create the illusion that the Patriots had 40 seconds to work with. But they didn't."

Isn't that how it's done every play? If the clock is running on a play that ends with 23 seconds left, for example, the play clock still gets bumped up to 40.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:32pm

Not if there's an intervening clock stoppage.

If the clock is running, and then refs stop it for whatever reason, then start it again, I believe the play clock is reset to :25.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:37pm

Ah, OK. That makes sense.

by makerowner :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:53pm

This didn't end up having much impact since the Patriots got the field goal anyways. Maybe with the extra 15 seconds they get a touchdown and win the game in regulation, but that offense didn't look like it was going to be moving down the field in a hurry.
I agree with the other posters that it's on them to know the rules, but given the misleading nature of the term "excessive timeout" and also that it doesn't come up very often, the officials could have explained better what was going on. When they come back from a video review with a live ball, they often announce "the clock will start on the ready for play" and they could have done so here.

by jonsilver :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 10:41pm

Jon Silverberg

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:08pm

I think it was definitely OPI on Gronk, and I wish the referees would call that more. The reason is that when a receiver lowers his shoulder into the defender and then pushes off (even if just slightly) the defender has virtually no recourse but to let him get open or to grab him, and if he does the latter he will almost certainly get flagged. So calling OPI in that situation is really the fair thing to do.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:13pm

I'm loving, loving, loving this year's rules emphasis on OPI - stuff like what Gronk did (and so many, many players do) is the only thing that created separation on that route. The defender had him blanketed, wasn't confused and could match him step for step, the only separation was created by shoving him away. Since the post-2004 rules for so unfriendly to defenses (roughing the passer has become idiotic) there's got to be some real enforcement of offensive penalties in the passing game. Glad they're cracking down on push-offs, illegal picks and wr's blocking prematurely...

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:29pm

I agree completely. I've noticed the crackdown especially on offensive pick plays (rub routes) and I think it is good for the product on the field overall.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:37pm

Who knows? It could bring back run blocking, which would be great.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:57pm

Even then they screw it up though. Vance McDonald was called for OPI yesterday on a play where he simply ran downfield on a corner route taking his defender with him, never contacted the player in coverage on the receiver who caught a drag underneath and they somehow threw the flag.

But then the officiating in that entire game was absurdly crap, I'd be pissed if the niners weren't more likely to benefit from losing the game than winning it.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:09pm

In general, I'm glad they are doing it, too. However, it does seem like Gronk (and a few others) are getting unfairly targeted. Someone commented that it's almost as if Gronk is getting the Shaq treatment.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:25pm

Yes, Shaq was often pounded on, with no call resulting. He also was frequently allowed to pivot, lower his shoulder, and knock over defenders, with no call resulting. These things tend to be more complex than is frequently portrayed. To give the refs in all sports a break (except for mlb umpires, for whom I have hate which burns with the heat of a 1000 suns), it's a really hard job.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:22pm

I think it's also a matter of Gronkowski has been a master of skirting the line - he clearly knows what triggers a flag (hence the "chicken wing" motion they all made after the play to indicate he hadn't fully extended his arm) - and now that they're calling it tighter, his abilities to walk right up to the line are drawing more attention. Think of it this way: the borderline calls were more or less getting ignored before this year. A player that mastered playing on that borderline is going to draw way, way more flags with the rules emphasis than a player who hasn't made it a part of their game. (And getting separation through physicality is a major part of his game.)

by MJK :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 4:12pm

Every single receiver in the NFL is coached to and works hard to do whatever they can to gain an advantage within the rules (i.e. without drawing a flag). Every single good receiver is good at doing so. It's one of the things that makes them good.

However, Gronk seems rather unfairly targeted. He has twice as many (6) called on him this year as the next most OPI-incurring players (Jordan Reed and Mike Evans, both tied for 3).

Of his 6, one (vs Dolphins) was flagrant (although it didn't affect the play at all; it negated an Edelman TD but the defender Gronk pushed would have had no opportunity to affect the catch). Another (vs Jaguars) was borderline--Gronk initiates contact with a DB downfield as Amendola is catching a pass elsewhere. It's not entirely clear if contact was initiated before or after the pass was caught, but we can give the officials the benefit of the doubt.

Of the other 4, one (vs Giants) was when he bowled over a defender within 5 yards of the LOS who tried to chuck him off his route. This one was a clear case of Gronk simply winning a physical battle and getting wrongly penalized for it--you're allowed to engage a defender, and more relevantly, fight to disengage a defender that tries to chuck you off your route, within 5 yards of the LOS.

The other 3 (2X vs Broncos and one versus Jaguars) all occurred when a defender contacted Gronk first, while he was running his route, more than 5 yards downfield. In every case, Gronk disengaged without extending his arms, and in every case he was called for OPI. My understanding is that if a DB initiates contact with a WR beyond more than 5 yards beyond the LOS, then illegal contact or at most offsetting penalties should be called. Yet Gronk got hit for OPI 3 times.

So of his 6 OPI's, one was legitimate and one was probably a legitimate mistake on the part of the officials regarding timing. The other 4 were cases where either no flag should have been thrown, the defender should have been flagged, or at most offsetting penalties should have been called.

Here's a film review of Gronk's six OPIs:


by morganja :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:54pm

How is that these defenders initiate contact while standing still?
It's this constant violating the rule up until they think the refs will call it, and then getting mad when the refs call it, that is one of the main things people detest about the Patriots.
Even though the rule is that the offensive player cannot initiate contact, they deliberately run into the defender, initiate contact, shove him out of the way, and then think that as long as they don't 'fully extend' their arms where the ref can see it, that they've done nothing wrong.
How about playing football according to the rules and when you violate them, accepting that you aren't always going to get away with it?
Until Gronkowski stops committing OPI on just about every play, he should be targeted. If he's so good, why does he need to chuck the defender out of the way every play? Or is that his entire skill set?

by eagle97a :: Wed, 12/02/2015 - 2:10am

You might want to remember that as long as football has been a sport it has been a contact sport and full of physicality. There always will be judgement calls as long as humans will be reffing it and no amount of legislation will make an exact determination when a particular incident will be deemed a foul/violation. You might want to try playing Madden if you want consistent reffing.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:45am

It wasn't OPI, and it's quite clear on the replay. The defender stops his backpedal and pushes his hands into Gronk's chest. The defender initiates the contact, and Gronk uses his arm to disengage. That was illegal contact by the defender. I thought it was pretty obvious watching it in real time, but watching the replay in slow-mo it could not be more clear. This is as bad a call as you will see in the NFL, and the penalty negated a first down, stopped the clock and killed the drive.

by Kaelik :: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 4:19pm

"Rulebook specifically lays out an exemption to illegal contact for a defender to "defend or protect himself against impending contact caused by a receiver."

From another poster. So yes, when you barrel into the defender at full speed, they get to stand still and use their hands to brace for you running into them. So back to how the defender stopped his backpedal (something he is allowed to do) and "initiates the contact" to defend himself against the impending contact caused by the receiver. And then Gronk shoves him but doesn't fully extend his arm.

So yes, Gronk counts as initiating the contact, since the defender is allowed to stop, and allowed to defend himself against Gronk running into him. And then Gronk is not allowed to shove off regardless of if he only shoves off 70% because his elbow was slightly bent at the end.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:18pm

The problem I have with the call is that it is determined by who initiated contact, which to me is not always evident. IF the defender jams the receiver then he can fight back to get away and no penalty. If the defender moves into the receivers path but does not move into him then no contact by the offensive player is allowed without a potential penalty. I am assuming both of these are within 5 yards of the LOS.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:53pm

Yeah, I'm really confused at all of the Audibles writers thinking that it wasn't OPI on Gronk. He runs 10 yards or so downfield and then essentially throws a block on the defender. Seriously, why do you guys think it WASN'T interference?

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:06pm

It was absolutely a penalty, on DENVER.

The initial contact took place 7-9 yards down the field, and the defender initiates it, giving him a square on shove as he is running downfield. That's illegal contact. Gronk just gives worse than he gets, and so gets flagged. But the defender should have gotten flagged, or no flag at all.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:07pm

Here's the replay:


You can see the yard where contact initially occurs clearly in the live shot at the beginning, and clearly see that Broncos #30 initiates the contact in the replay starting at 0:44.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:21pm

I watched the replay. The defender is standing there. Gronkowski deliberately runs into the defender, and then extends his arm to push off after he makes contact I don't see how you can see the defender as initiating contact. He is literally just standing there and then does his best to keep his balance as he gets hit. Would you require the defender to leap out of the way?
It is clearly OPI.
Thirty other quarterbacks in the league get a personal foul for what Brady did after.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:27pm

The defender puts his hands on Gronk first (clearly visible at :46-47 in that video) -- outside of the legal chuck zone -- and then Gronk shoves him.

Should have been either illegal contact on Denver or offsetting penalties.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:31pm

I wish they'd call offsetting penalties much more often, it'd be like saying 'a plague on both your houses!'

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:45pm

He puts his hands on Gronk because Gronk is charging him like a bull. (What's he supposed to do run out of the way? Let Gronk truck him?) I don't see how any impartial observer could say the defender initiated the contact when he is literally standing in one place the entire time, and Gronk b-lines directly at him.

It was not a clear-cut call, but it is one I'm glad the refs made and hope they continue to make.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:08pm

Given the amount of "contact" in that play the ref shouldn't have called anything at all, actually.


If Gronk trucks him, so what? That would be a clear penalty on Gronk.

Until the receiver actually contacts the DB the receiver has not done anything wrong/illegal. The DB has no right to take preemptive illegal action because of what the DB thinks might happen.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:51pm

It's hard to fathom what you think you are seeing in that video. The defender brings his hands up to defend his chest, because Gronkowski is running full tilt into him.
And then, after hitting him, he extends his arms to push the defender away.
That is OPI.
This is not a 50/50 call. This isn't ticky-tacky. This is blatant OPI.
That he gets away with it more often than not does not make it any less OPI.
Gronkowski could make his cut a a foot in front of the defender.
But he chooses not to. He chooses to run into the defender, and then push off, extending his arm.
Very simple and easy call.
As is the 15 yard penalty on Brady for his post-play theatrics.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:15pm

Yeah, that call was not 50/50 on any planet. A CB doesn't have to concede ground when a TE or WR runs into his space. At best, it is a frequently ignored penalty... but saying "but it usually isn't called!" is very different thing from "it was not a penalty."

Brady not getting flagged for any of his barking at the refs was quite eyebrow raising, although I have no idea what the specifics of the rules in that instance might be. He was yelling at them like I've only ever seen coaches yell at them...

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:25pm

My guess is that Brady didn't use any of the "magic words".

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:34pm

He's a Michigan grad, so his verbiage may be along the lines of "Forsooth, montebank! Endeavor to persevere in your struggle to avoid the status of a whoreson!" .

About three hours after the game, the light bulb comes on over the head of Jeff Triplette....

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:00pm

Now this is definitely hyperbole. It should take at least three *days* for Triplette's light bulb to come on.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:53pm

Evidence of a light bulb remains at best hypothetical.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:52pm

When has any player been flagged for "barking at the refs" if it didn't include swearing?
When has any coached been flagged for "barking at the refs"?

People act like this is a common penalty.

The language of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty proscribes

(Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1)
" The use of abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the League. "

Simply "barking at the refs" isn't a penalty.

I'm sure Brady was saying things like "How can you keep calling that as a penalty? Why aren't you calling the same things on the Broncos? Gronkowski didn't push off at all!" etc.

Believe it or not, complaining about a penalty, even vehemently, does not, by itself, constitute behavior that should itself be flagged.

In baseball, you can get thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. There is no similar rule in the NFL.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:55am

Are you even listening to yourself? "to defend his chest"? He was backpedalling, and he stopped, of his own volition, and extended his arms into Gronk's chest. There cannot be a clearer example of initiating illegal contact than that. That play is practically a training video in calling illegal contact on a defender.

by dank067 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:06pm

Rulebook specifically lays out an exemption to illegal contact for a defender to "defend or protect himself against impending contact caused by a receiver."

by RickD :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:39pm

"He is literally just standing there and then does his best to keep his balance as he gets hit. "

That word - literally - it doesn't mean what you think it means.

The defender is certainly not "literally just standing there". He moved backward to stay in contact with Gronk. And then Gronk turned to go to the right. Like receivers do all the time. Did he push the defender away? No. Did he initiate contact with the defender? No. Did he "deliberately run into the defender"? Since the defender wasn't directly ahead of him, no.

Saying that contact means OPI simply isn't how the rule is written.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:27pm

What an interesting example of fan-blindness. We have a video. It's clear as day. And yet you still insist on 'seeing' something which LITERALLY does not exist in the video.
You aren't even claiming that the video is showing something contrary to what you think happened. You really are looking at this video, and 'seeing' what you greatly desire to see. No wonder you Patriot fans are so delusional. You LITERALLY cannot see anything that contradicts what you want to see.
There is no 'backpedaling'. The defender is standing on the 28 yard line, and continues to stand on the 28 yard line, until he is contacted by Gronkowski, at which point the contact drives him three yards backyards, past the first down marker.
Gronkowski then makes his cut, pushing the defender off by extending his arm as he does so.
These are all indisputable, and it is a straightforward case of offensive pass interference.
It's all there, LITERALLY in the video.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:04pm

You're a fine one to talk about fan-blindness since -- assuming you're not lying as usual -- you already incorrectly narrate the sequence of events by falsely claiming that the DB did not put his hands on Gronkowski (:47 of video) before Gronkowski made contact with him. But hey -- if whining about NE makes you feel better about being a Jags fan, go for it!

by morganja :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 6:37pm

That brings up an interesting point. Patriot fans are by far the worse of any American sports fans. What you are exhibiting above is one example of many.
What we have is a clear video that is clearly obvious to any disinterested observer, show it to someone from a different country and ask them what they see. One thousand out of a thousand will see Gronkowski running into the defender.
If we changed uniforms on the players, you would see it too.
There is some sort of mental block which prevents Patriot fans from seeing anything that they don't want to see that goes far beyond the normal bounds of insanity that is fandom. Fans of 31 other NFL teams will criticize their franchise. But not the Patriot fans. Fans of 31 other teams will admit that they got away with one, or that they deserved to lose, or their coach or GM made a mistake.
Not Patriot fans.
Instead we get a team that lost their first game in the 12th week of the season, yet insists that the league is out to get them. That if it wasn't for the the NFL purposely targeting the Patriots for some completely unknown reason, that the Patriots would be.....what? 55-0 this season?
It's become some kind of cult up there.
It makes me wonder why.
Do you think it is because the Patriots have not gone through anything remotely close to a bad season in a generation? Without enduring the tough season every once and a while, perhaps fandom starts to become more of a religious cult and less like following the home town sports team.
After a 4-12 season, one can question their team, come to grips that their team might not be the greatest thing ever and for always.
Maybe after such a long run, the Patriots need to have a losing season, for their own mental health.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/02/2015 - 11:14am

As a west-coast NFC guy who rarely sees either team play, I have to agree with morganja that it looks to me as though Gronk runs into the DB.

I do not, however, think Pats fans are any more delusional than any other fans. A good 80% of the time we have these slow-motion replays of penalty calls, perfectly reasonable and intelligent people end up arguing over what literally happened.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/02/2015 - 11:33am

Which is why I try to reserve by most harsh officiating criticism to those instances when a replay review is blown, or a rules, timekeeping, or whsitle blowng error occurs. I suppose blinding a player with a penalty flag clears the bar as well. The vast majority of officiating complaints involve the judgement of the relative positions of human bodies, and a ball, moving at a high rate of speed. That's really hard.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:38pm

The initial contact took place 7-9 yards down the field, and the defender initiates it, giving him a square on shove as he is running downfield. That's illegal contact. Gronk just gives worse than he gets, and so gets flagged. But the defender should have gotten flagged, or no flag at all.

Yeah, there's only one guy that was giving a "square on shove" in that clip and it wasn't the guy whose head snapped back as a result of the contact.

by Dan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:27pm

The initial contact clearly occurs less than 5 yards downfield. It's easy to see because it's 3rd & 5, so there's a bright yellow line at the 30 yard-line marking the 5 yard limit.

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

I agree, and this is an important point. The defender is allowed to bump him at that spot because it's inside 5 yards, so Bruton is in the right.

How hard Gronk pushes him is less clear to me, but I'm not anything remotely like an expert on what is PI and what isn't. IN fact, pretty much every week I find myself asking what PI is (both DPI and OPI).

by morganja :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:11pm

My take on it is that the Patriots are so used to getting calls their way that they really don't know the rules as they are applied to everyone else...
Gronk has made a career out of shoving defenders out of his way. This year they are starting to call it more often. Gronk's reaction was to publicly call out the refs and dare them to keep calling it on him.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:09pm

Mia/NYJ I'd like to think Bill Lazor was fired post game not because he never runs the ball, not because he runs dreadful blocking schemes, not because his trick plays seemed to always be called at the wrong time, but because he okay'd the dumping of long term back up center this past week. Clearly the rookie Douglas was not ready to play center. Miami has struggled for years now against good front 7s and without a center Sundays game was ugly. They draft linemen year after year and none are developing. That's Lazor's fault. Tannehill has the best garbage time stats of any QB. If you look at the box score 350 yrds, 3TDs then you'd think he had a great game. If you watched the game, then you probably didn't make it through to the part late in 3rd and 4th when he racked up all those stats. AFC East round up: The Patriots have suddenly become old man and the sea. If injuries prevent another play off run... does it matter? They already are the best team of their generation. No wins or loses will change that. They are playing for the end narrative of how great they were the past decade and half, not if they were/are great. The Jets hop the Bills this week in the play off race. The Jets remaining schedule has 4 of 5 hungry teams fighting for the playoffs which might be bad news for them. They're not many Miami's left for them to play. The Bills still sort of control their own path to the wild card with games against the Jets and Houston left. Miami has reach the writing fan fiction stage where everyone fantasizes about coaches who are never coming to Miami. The reason coach X is not coming to Miami are A) No one wants this job, that's why they settled for Philbin. B) The coach that takes the job knows he will be coaching for 2nd place as first place in the AFCeast is not available. C) Miami's salary cap is filled with terrible signings that need to be cut, there is no way to quickly fill the depth this team lacks. D) No one has been able to control the Miami front office which brings you back to A. Dan Campbell might be the best candidate for the job.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:46pm

It appears I picked a great week to not see any football. Sadly, the last part of this post reminds me there may well be many weeks in the seasons to come when it's a great time not to see any football. Miami are dangerously close to Lions/Rams/Titans levels of institutionalised irrelevance

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:04pm

They haven't just lost to their divisional foes this season. They've been destroyed by them in games that were over at half time. When you watch the 49ners fight tooth and nail in a divisional game this week you are reminded that these games are traditionally hard because the teams know each other. I just think to myself wow how far behind is this Miami team. On a sadder note if the season ended today neither the Bill or Jets would be in the playoffs. There was talk that the AFC east would have one maybe even two wild card teams this season. Right now they're in danger of zero again :(

by jonsilver :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 11:03pm

What you are blaming on Lazor regarding the backup center and the line seems to me to be more the province of the OL coach (in a rational organization)...I think the OC is supposed to be viewing things at a more macro level...of course, ascribing rationality to the Dolphins' organization might be a mistake...
Jon Silverberg

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:27pm

While I understand that NE's quick underneath game is gone given that all the quick&shifty guys are injured, I'm still not getting the "throw approx 372 sideline bombs to Scott Chandler" strategy. It's not like they were even remotely close on any of them.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:35pm

It seemed to me like they stopped throwing to Bolden after his long touchdown, when he was doing an adequate job of filling the Edelman role prior to that. They also seemed to force some throws to LaFell downfield, which Brady missed on pretty badly.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:38pm

I cringe every time Brady throws a deep ball. Even when he connects the receiver seemingly always has to slow down/stop and wait for it.

Yeah, LaFell should not have dropped that floater bomb that clanged off his hands at the Denver 5, but I'm flabbergasted the defenders didn't get into position to intercept it. That hung up forever.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:41pm

Yeah, seeing Chandler lined up at wideout and running a fly pattern is not the kind of thing I can imagine working regardless of injury situations. Scott Chandler certainly has some NFL-level skills, but "running really fast in a straight line and catching the ball over the shoulder" is likely not one of them.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:12pm

I assume it was because it was the best matchup. Every time Brady threw to Chandler, he was single covered by someone that *should* have been a mismatch. Clearly, the Broncos strategy (after the beginning of the game) was to take away the "real" skill players on the Pats offense (Gronk, LaFell) and force the Pats to try to beat them with Bolden and Chandler. Brady sees a tall, athletic TE matched up single man to man with a LB and will throw there every time.

Unfortunately, the Broncos were right. Scott Chandler << Gronk. His hands aren't very good this year, and either he's a lot slower than Brady thinks he is, or Brady was getting too much air on his deep balls, because they never were really very close.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:16pm

As a Bills fan, his hands were never very good. He just got thrown to a lot when standing still in open space.

Buffalo hasn't exactly missed him even with the awesome display of mediocrity they're getting from the position this year after dumping a truckload of money at Clay.

Captcha: PBHD4

by makerowner :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 8:09pm

Chandler used to always kill the Patriots though, so I as a Pats fan have been disappointed with him this year. I was hoping for something like the 2010 two tight-end offense, but with less homicide.

by jacobk :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:37pm

So you had Chandler penciled in for 4-5 TDs and a little voluntary manslaughter?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:31pm

Also would love to know if Harper was instructed (as he should have been in that game situation and those weather conditions) to either FC that punt or get the hell out of there. Up 21-7 and about to get the ball back, with a practice squad rookie in lousy weather conditions you have to concede the return and play to avoid the deep-in-own-end turnover. And I was screaming "fair catch" as the ball was in the air, so that's not MMQBing.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:02pm

My thoughts exactly. If Belichick or Judge didn't instruct the kid, in no uncertain terms, to simply fair catch the ball, then that fumble is as much on them. The reward in that scenario wasn't in the same area code as the risk.

by duh :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:44pm

And now Harper is being waived.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:35pm

NE defense also (unsurprisingly) got noticeably worse when Hightower went out (prelim reports are MCL sprain, BTW).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:36pm

I'm tempted to say that firing a coordinator of a 4-7 last place team is the epitome of a pointless gesture, but when I look at the standings of either conference, no 7 loss team should give up on the season yet, no matter how fruitless it appears on the surface. I don't have any insight on this particular move, but generically it isn't ridiculous.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:56pm

Generically Will you might be right, but a 4-7 team that's 0-5 in the division probably can call it quits. Said 4-7 team needs to start the firings in the front office; co-coordinators appear to be the least of its worries

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:00pm

Yeah, I don't pay enough attention to the AFC East to dispute your take on it.

by James-London :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:03pm

I always thought you sagacious, Will. The AFC East hasn't been worth paying attention to for a decade

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 2:00am

Yeah, it's not like anyone from the AFC East has gone farther than the divisional round in the last ten years.

by eagle97a :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 4:20am

The Jets did go to back to back AFC championship games circa 2009-2010.

by James-London :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 6:09am


Not intended as a dig at the Jets, rather a recognition that 2008 (Brady's injury year) aside, no-one has been close to winning the division. In the same way, the AFC South during Manning's prime and the NFC North during the Reid/McNabb years, wasn't particularly interesting, even though other teams made the playoffs.

Two AFCC Games is great, but in neither year was the division race in any way compelling.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by ZDNeal :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 11:41am

I don't remember McNabb's NFC North tenure that way at all.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 1:31pm

Yes, I was being sarcastic, but I had a different point; that the AFC East has put a team in the AFC championship game 8 out of the last 10 years. Yes, 6 of those were by the Patriots, who also won the division the two years the Jets went to the AFC championship. The division race hasn't been compelling except in 2008 since 2003 (2001 and 2002 were close), but even when the Pats faltered in the playoffs the Jets got to the championship game.

by johonny :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:08pm

It depends on who coaches the team next year and what that coach wants to do/ be doing. I think it is clear Dan Campbell doesn't want to run Bill Lazor's offense. He has a huge chunk of home games left so there is a slight chance to impress someone either at the pro/college level. He might as well run the offense/defense he wants for those 5 games. It's not like losing Bill Lazor could make the offense less effective.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:50pm

I know the NBC announcers highlighted it, but Kubiak's offense is so much more effective with a QB able to operate under center. Anderson was able to find cutback lanes most of the night. The Denver O-line, so maligned early in the season while the coaches were trying to scheme around Manning's limited mobility, looked good in run blocking and not horrible while pass blocking.

Also, based on my oh-so-scientific viewing of a handful of Denver games this year, I think that Anderson and Hillman must sit on a karmic teeter-totter. One has a good game while the other looks out of sorts; then they switch up the next game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:58pm

Well, after the field becamse snow-covered, the pass blocking improved, as it typically does whn pass rushers struggle to keep their footing. Before that, the pass blcocking for the Broncos was pretty terrible, it seemed to me. You are right, however, that they simply can't run unless the qb is under center. Given that they can't win in the playoffs unless they run effectively, I don't think they will be better off if Manning gets healthy enough to play.

by Ketawa :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:06pm

To my eyes, it looked like the Denver pass rush picked up a lot of steam when the footing was worse. Von Miller was a monster in the second half.

Also seemed like Denver was frequently keeping extra blockers in to pass protect in the second half.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:27pm

Both you and Will raise an interesting question: Was the improvement in line play a result of the snow accumulation or NE succumbing to altitude fatigue?

I have a hard time believing that (a) a team from New England would be stymied by snow and (b) that only the Broncos would benefit from the changing field conditions.

My suspicion is that NE's injuries hit the depth chart harder than Denver's and that altitude was a factor.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:52pm

I'm surprised altitude isn't considered more often in the second half of games in Denver. There is a very noticeable difference between sea level and 5,600 ft and even if you're in amazing shape you're going to find out how much harder it is to breathe.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:01pm

I'd say both played a significant role. Ever try running on deep, loose, dry, sand on the beach? It's really tiring. I've also done it on sand dunes at altitude, and that's really, really, tiring. Bad footing and high altitude are hell on endurance, even before you account for big, ill-tempered, fellows trying to subject you to violence.

by deus01 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:07pm

I don't think that running on snow like that is as tiring as running on sand (though I grew up with lots of snow and not much sand). Besides, I would think both teams would be affected by snow roughly the same, New England players aren't used to the altitude though which gives Denver an advantage since they train and play half their games there.

by blan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:04pm

I also thought the snow played a significant factor in Denver's comeback. It seems to me that offenses usually have an advantage in snow games. The offensive players know where they are going, while defenses have to react, and slippery fields seem to make reacting quickly to the offense more difficult for defenders.

I thought the Broncos' use of designed runs to the outside with their quick running backs was a great strategy to take advantage of the field conditions. In order to stop the outside runs, the bigger linebackers have to sprint to the edge and slow down or at least adjust the direction to make the tackle. That's a lot harder to do on a slippery field than it is for the lighter backs.

I was surprised the Patriots didn't make a similar adjustment with their running backs and continued to pound Blount (their heavier back) between the tackles. Also, I was really surprised that they gave punt return duties in the middle of a snow storm to an undrafted rookie from Encino who played at Cal and likely never fielded a punt in the snow before last night. The Patriots coaching staff almost always seems to make the right calls, but I don't think you can say that about last night.

by duh :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:17pm

The Patriots don't have a 'quick' back on the team at this point. As for the punt return it isn't like they had a lot of choices. No matter who they put back there it would be there (at best) 3rd string returner probably they just should have put no one back. (they did that later)

by blan :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 7:40pm

They don't have Lewis, but I would classify Bolden and White as quick backs. They're not as quick as Anderson, but I think they're quicker than Blount. They're certainly lighter than him, which I think matters on a slippery field.

Obviously they needed to use a backup punt returner, but they could have used Chung who I'm sure has taken reps in the snow. My main criticism was that they asked a player to do a critical job in conditions that he's probably never practiced in before (I don't believe it's snowed in Foxboro yet this year).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:01pm

I'd say both played a significant role. Ever try running on deep, loose, dry, sand on the beach? It's really tiring. I've also done it on sand dunes at altitude, and that's really, really, tiring. Bad footing and high altitude are hell on endurance, even before you account for big, ill-tempered, fellows trying to subject you to violence.

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:10pm

Running in the snow sucks. In my youth, I lived in a rural, snowy area and just walking down the sidewalk was a nightmare. You exert tons of energy trying to keep your balance, in addition to the wearying "like running in sand" qualities that are there too. Trying to run through like 4 inches of snow is impossible. Backyard football games in the snow would last about 15 minutes before everyone was too tired to go on.

by morganja :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:58pm

I run in the snow all the time. It is much more fatiguing. But what is worse, is that your toes and foot gradually gets frozen to the point that you can't use your toes to maneuver, and your foot is sometimes not where you feel like it is.

by Grendel13G :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:20pm

You know, I really like football games in the snow. There should be more snow games. Make it happen, NFL!

by duh :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:33pm

Snow making machines for all domed stadiums!

by chemical burn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:39pm

I'd watch those games.

by TimK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 9:41pm

Wind machines too, please ;)

Though that is not quite as ridiculous as the calls at one point this year to install rain sprinklers to randomly water the track to spice up Grand Prix motor racing. They'd probably do that in Dubai just to prove they can...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:51pm

Expected weekly Bucs rant:

-What a BORING game. Seriously, even as a fan it wasn't interesting. FGs, dumpoffs, just boring.

-Tampa's offensive line must have eaten so much turkey at Thanksgiving they were still tired three days later. The improved blocking was really not improved. At all. Winston was constantly under pressure.

-Winston hit Mike Evans perfectly on a deep fly route, and Evans dropped it. Right over the shoulder, through his hands. This is notable both for being another drop, and because the ball traveled 30+ yards in the air and was accurate. There was another bomb later that he overthrew Evans by about five yards, which is an improvement over the usual "throw it way short" thing. I've seen stats that say Winston is a good deep passer, but I would say any time he has to put air under it, he's pretty terrible. His short/mid/even long-on-a-rope accuracy has been notably good, but he's been consistently really off on bombs.

-If you can't sack 95-year-old Matt Hasselbeck behind Indy's offensive line, you should maybe dedicate every single pick in your next draft to DEs. Jacques Smith had some sacks in the first few weeks of the season, but eventually every RT in the league apparently figured out all he has is an outside speed rush, and you can just gently push him out of the way every single time.

-Donte Moncrief caught 75 passes on third down, and managed to have 80 first downs. Yes, he was so consistently open on third down, he actually broke the fundamental laws of reality. So, coverage so bad it's going to destroy the universe. Thanks, Lovie.

-Chris Conte's leaping penalty was the Chris Contiest play ever. Great athletic play in cleanly hurdling the line, somehow missing the FG when it should have been the easiest play ever, and then getting the wrong penalty called. The only thing that could have made it Contier if he'd managed to concuss himself doing it.

-Tampa had one TD called back for a penalty, and then a second-half fumble recovery that could have turned things around canceled by another penalty. So, you know, good work with that disciplined team there, guys.

-Austin Sefarian-Jenkins' injury has allowed TE Cameron Brate to get playing time, and he's now made ridiculously good catches in consecutive weeks, and has turned into a really nice midfield option. Presuming ASJ ever comes back, there would be two impressive pass-catching TEs out there for when Winston gets tired of Mike Evans dropping balls.

-@#$!!! Greg Schiano.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:33pm

Yeah, Indy line down it's best tackle too. They were letting a lot of holding go, but somehow that didn't seem to be helping the Tampa oline enough.

I'm a Colts fan, but hopefully generally unbiased. I think the Colts did enough to earn the win, but that game should have been close at the end. A lot of officiating gifts needed to make the final score look convincing.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:54pm

The refs were typically terrible in that game, and I would say the terrible-ness made things worse for Tampa than Indy. That's not conspiracy in any way and I don't buy the silly theory that refs favor particular teams (no, not even the Patriots, seriously, let it go, people), but there are just days when bad calls favor certain teams, and the bad calls went more Indy's way. I do feel like the Colts were the better team and should have won, but, man, there were a lot of stupid ref moments in that game.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:48pm

Yeah definitely not saying that it was intentional favoritism, just seemed like all the iffy calls just about in the 2nd half went Indy's direction. Made an 18-15 type of game into a 25-12 one.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:01pm

Yup. Somebody on Bucs Nation was ranting about how a small-market team was getting too much press, so the refs decided to knock them down a peg. Really? People genuinely think this crap? Sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they go the other way. There will be a game later this year where Tampa gets an inordinate number of calls, and I doubt that twit will then talk about how the NFL wanted to pump up its small market teams and blah blah blah. That stuff is just too silly.

Or, more accurately, to quote Hanlon's Razor, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 3:45am

Love it! Though I thought it was Triplette's Razor.

I saw just parts of 2 games, Raiders--Titans and Cards--Niners. God was the officiating awful, and completely random. In first games, terrible phantom calls cancelled each other out probably. In second, Niners more screwed but as KarlCuba said, not much long term benefit to actually winning the game.

by Duke :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:02pm

Yeah, if that Lovie Smith regime is gonna work down there (and I've been skeptical, but impressed with the fact that Jameis Winston hasn't been turned into a tire fire so far), you need a pass rush from that front 7. Draft it, sign it, whatever.

by TomC :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:24pm

I always learn something from Audibles comment threads. Didn't ever expect it to be the comparative and superlative of the adjectival form of "Conte," but I'm not complaining.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 12:59pm

Both the Pats and the Broncos are very good teams, even with their injuries. Both of them made key plays at key times to win the game. Both deserved a win.

The Broncos got the win because of (slightly) better injury luck, a few high leverage ticky-tack calls going their way late, and, most of all, fumble recovery luck.

Congrats to the Broncos and looking forward to a rematch in the playoffs.

by Hang50 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:30pm

I think you're right about the randomness and its impact.

by cjfarls :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 4:21pm

Well said.

Both teams had adversity, and both teams had chances to win.

As has been the case for most the past 15 years, these are 2 well-run franchises with solid teams. NE has been slightly better overall (better coach generally) and thus has a few more wins, but no game between the 2 is a gimme and injury luck, randomness, etc. is probably going to decide more games than talent differential.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:25pm

It was actually one of the few New England games I've watched where I didn't feel like they were playing with their usual methodical grind the opposition down to win.

They began well by forcing two Denver 3&outs and marching down the field off a bad punt. It looked like it was going to be a rout.

But after that their 2nd TD came off a short field (15-yds) and their 3rd TD was a long pass on a mismatch.

It felt like New England realised that with the snow falling it was time to just do what they did against the Titans in 2009(?) and pass deep knowing that the passrush wouldn't get to the QB and defenders would struggle deep. In part I felt like they went to that because their short passing game is screwed without Edelman or Amendola.

Every time I watch New England I marvel at how well they seem to do the basics. Their defenders rarely get called for unnecessary roughness, their kickers just make kick after kick and their punt returners never seem to fumble. Ahh and that last point without Amendola even that happened.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/01/2015 - 5:55pm

Almost all the success the Bears had against the Broncos was off the deep passing game. I think such that their incredible defense has a weakness, it's that they like to play a lot of single coverage and there are some opportunities to get big plays.

by Gormiepoo :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:04pm

Well, you gotta consider...

1) Gronk has already lost most of a season to knee stuff...he's doubly sensitive to knee issues

2) It's a funny biological fact...minor injuries frequently hurt a *LOT* more than major ones at first...paper cuts hurt worse than having your limb torn off (I'm told by medical sources I consider reliable...)...your body processes pain weirdly...

3) Add in frustration of the stress of chasing perfection...and the fact that Gronk would be the 5th Skill player lost for significant time...a little bit of emotional upheaval as well.

Thankfully, reports today seem to indicate that, pending an MRI, it's nothing serious...but I know that for about 8 hours last night I pondered starting to follow hockey for the year...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:12pm

I, for one, am pleased that your limb torn off knowledge is strictly anecdotal via reliable medical sources.

by akn :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:07pm

As a reliable medical source (I'm a doctor)...

Minor injuries can hurt less than major ones, but most of the time, that is not the case. When we ask patients how much something hurts, we generally address major pains before minor ones.

While shock can mitigate a great amount of pain, under no circumstance does a paper cut hurt more than a torn limb. Unless unconsciousness as a result of massive blood loss counts as not feeling pain.

by Parmenides :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:15pm

Damn, I was hoping for an all unbeaten superbowl. Oh well. Damn if the Panthers don't figure out new ways to win. We've been killing teams with great defense and a good offense. This week, the defense did a huge portion of the scoring while the offense had what looked to be a meh day. The rest of the schedule looks like, not a cake walk, but something in a similar vein.

by Steve B :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:15pm

LMAO at Brown "fell down" on that int. Gimme a break, Vince

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:06pm

I was wondering if he put the wrong clip up. Sherman shoves him after five yards, which should be illegal contact right there, Brown tries to push him back, then Sherman pushes him with both hands and Brown goes down. I don't see how that isn't flagged for something, I'd like to hear from some of our Seattle fans on this. If that happened to your receiver you'd be pretty pissed wouldn't you?

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:01pm

Sherman never shoves him. They are hand fighting, which is not necessarily illegal (and Brown is giving it as good as he gets), and then Brown just stumbles. It almost looks like Sherman "pulls the chair out" -- that is, Brown is expecting more contact and loses balances when it doesn't happen. As a Seahawks fan I would have been livid if they called that.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 3:58pm

Are dbs allowed to initiate hand fighting? I thought that was what illegal contact was?

And the first thing Sherman does is push Brown's shoulder, not slap his hands away. You might be correct that Brown falls down because Sherman causes him to over balance after he puts both hands on him but since when was a defender allowed to shove a receiver with both hands?

I guess we'll have to disagree, I think that should be called every time.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:37pm

Illegal contact is supposed to have a demonstrable effect on the route. So, hand checking someone's shoulder pads when it doesn't impeed them in any way isn't a foul.

It looked to me, on the replay, that Brown attempted to get separation by using the hand fighting as cover for an one arm shove only to find out that Sherman is bigger than he expected (outweighs him by 10-15 lbs) and pushed himself down.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:21pm

"If that happened to your receiver you'd be pretty pissed wouldn't you?"

I think it's been happening a fair bit, actually. I keep seeing opposing QBs getting bailed out on third downs with holding penalties while Wilson never does, and the numbers bear it out more than I could've imagined. Seattle has been the beneficiary of by far the fewest coverage penalties (DPI, defensive holding, illegal contact). The average team gets such a penalty on 2.9% of dropbacks. Seattle's opponents only get called on 0.5% of dropbacks, and the next-lowest team is at 1.4%. A small part of that is because Wilson doesn't like to throw to covered receivers, so there won't be that many DPI calls, but that doesn't explain only 2 holding calls when the league average is 12.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 4:47pm

I was talking about that phenomenon with someone in the open game thread, my highly informed analysis is that I have no clue why that's happening.

by dank067 :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 5:56pm

One possible contributing factor- illegal contact is not penalty when the quarterback is outside of the pocket. Doesn't explain holding though, which looks like a major outlier. Wonder if refs may be more hesitant to call holding in the same situation.

by Kaelik :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 6:24pm

Not that it would definitely completely make up the difference, but I would not be at all surprised to find out that most DPIs are called against good receivers who would catch the contested ball without that. IE, you probably PI Julio Jones more often than practice squader #4.

If you combine Wilson not throwing contested throws in favor of scrambles with the fact that very few of his receivers are any good at all, it is probably the case that a lot more defensive backs are going to stay with it and just try to cover the ball.

Like in this case, if Sherman could keep up with Brown, no need to shove him, but since Brown had a pretty good chance of just going by sherman, sherman needed to reach out and slow him down. If the guy running with you isn't going to escape... who cares.

Also... maybe Pete Carrol trained the refs doing all the Seattle home games to not call things, since he certainly coached his team to skirt and push the line on DPI as far as they can to get the refs acclimatized to not calling it. So then maybe in return the refs don't call it when other people do the same thing. Since most teams play one or two games with the Seattle home refs, and Seattle plays at least 8, maybe more, that could effect things.

Not 100% sure how reffing works, but would be interesting to see if the Seattle Home refs also ref a lot of Oakland/San Fran games, and if those teams have fewer calls in those games.

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

During the Seahawks/Steelers game, I'm pretty sure I heard Phil Simms say "Richard Sherman likes to reach around receivers", and I am in no way pointing out in an incredibly childish and/or inappropriate-for-this-site sort of way that I might find that hilarious in about 57 different ways.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:27pm

I'll make a contribution to Thursday game discussion. It's always interesting to me when a team appears to me to quit because they hate their coach, because lots of coaches are eminently hateable, but few teams actually let it affect their play significantly. Adam Gase should have a head coach job the day after week 17 games conclude, for what Cutler has been this season alone. I'd love to see him and Luck together. I don't know what to make of the Packers.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 1:58pm

Yea, I can't figure out the Packers, either. They easily handle a good Vikings teams on the road, but they lose to the Lions and Bears in consecutive home games (something the Packers haven't done since the Lindy Infante era, I believe).

If you think Adam Gase has done a good job, what about about Vic Fangio? There's not a single individual player on the Bears defense that scares me, but as a unit, they're playing very well lately.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:16pm

The Bears are very well coached, offense and defense. All complaints about the head coach's in game performance aside, Fox deserves a lot of credit, as well. In a qb driven league, however, a guy with Gase's track record, with the epitome of a professional qb, and one who isn't, to put it mildly, really should have a head coach job in a little more than a month.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 11/30/2015 - 2:23pm

He should have had a head coaching job this year, Trent Baalke had offered him the niners job with Fangio staying on as DC. Then Jed York, the meddling plonker that he is, insists that Tomsula gets the DC job. Gase realised that the niners were not a good place to be and decided he'd rather be some other team's offensive coordinator than our head coach.

The really depressing bit for niners fans: York is under thirty, he could be in charge for another fifty years.