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05 Dec 2016

Audibles at the Line: Week 13

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails 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 tune 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 emails 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 solely 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.

San Francisco 49ers 6 at Chicago Bears 26

Bryan Knowles: Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Have to love snow games. It can make even the least appealing games moderately appealing.

Though not if you like football past the 1940s, I suppose. The teams combined to go 0-for-3 passing in the first quarter.

The last game to have less than 10 combined complete passes? Chicago and San Francisco, in the worst game I have ever watched -- November 13, 2005, when Cody "I was an NFL quarterback" Pickett went 1-for-13 and Kyle "totally unprepared rookie" Orton went 8-for-13 in a game that featured 40-plus-mph wind gusts.

Scott Kacsmar: It actually looks like it's raining snow in this one, but the stats would make you think there was some blizzard. There wasn't a single completed pass in the first quarter, as the teams combined to only throw three passes. Colin Kaepernick was sacked more times (two) than he let a pass go (once).

A quarter and a half before the game's first completion, and it was a failed one. The next completion, and first success of the day, came just after the two-minute warning from Matt Barkley. Then he hit two more throws and the Bears may actually score before halftime. Sometimes, you just have to put the ball in the air and good things happen.

Vince Verhei: Bryan's comment about 1940s football was no exaggeration. At halftime, the 49ers have four pass plays (including two sacks and only one completion), and 30 runs. This sounds awesome.

Bryan Knowles: San Francisco has minus-22 net passing yards as we approach the end of the third quarter.

The franchise record for futility is minus-10, set in 1963 with Bob Waters and Lamar McHan at the controls.

I believe the all-time record is minus-53, set by Denver in the AFL in 1967. The post-merger record is minus-52, by Cincinnati in 1971. We're a few sacks away from those historic landmarks, but it's something to watch for as this game goes into the fourth quarter. It may be the only thing to watch for.

Vince Verhei: Have we ever had a quarterback start and play a whole game, and not qualify for the Quick Reads tables? Because at the end of the third Colin Kaepernick is 1-of-5 for 4 yards. He has also been sacked five times (with a fumble), which will probably put him over the minimum number of plays. And you can't blame this on the snow -- in the same weather, without Alshon Jeffery, Chicago third-stringer Matt Barkley is 10-of-16 for 186 yards.

Bryan Knowles: A week after appearing near the top of quick reads, Colin Kaepernick has been benched for Blaine Gabbert -- who, if you remember, was benched for Colin Kaepernick earlier in the year.

Good chance we see Christian Ponder start a game for this team before the year is over.

It also should be noted that, with the 133rd pick in this year's draft, the 49ers picked cornerback Rashard Robinson, their second cornerback of the draft. He has been pretty solid this season, actually, but if anything can qualify as a luxury pick for a team with as many holes as San Francisco, it would be taking a second cornerback on a team that already had picked five young secondary players in the previous two years.

With the 135th pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott. Just saying.

Vince Verhei: That could be the "the Jaguars drafted a punter five picks before Russell Wilson" of 2016.

Detroit Lions 28 at New Orleans Saints 13

Andrew Potter: On Detroit's opening drive, right after Chris Myers invokes the announcer's curse by praising the lack of red zone interceptions for Matthew Stafford, the Lions catch a massive break when Stafford throws the ball way too high for T.J. Jones. Jones pops the ball straight up in the air and it floats back down into the hands of Sterling Moore -- who starts running for the pick-six before he finishes catching the ball. Incomplete, but that goes down as an absolute gift squandered by Moore.

Even on those rare occasions when the Saints do get perfect coverage on a receiver, it doesn't matter.

The aforementioned shoulda-been-pick-six is Stafford's only incompletion so far, early in the second quarter. He's 11-for-12 with a touchdown to Theo Riddick (who made a mockery of Stephone Anthony in coverage at the goal line), and the Lions lead 10-0.

Scott Kacsmar: Lions are really hogging onto the ball here, up 13-3, and they will get the ball to start the second half too. Announcer actually said Drew Brees is about to have his lowest first-half passing yardage (34) since joining the Saints. Who was the top-salaried fantasy quarterback this week? Brees, against the 32nd-ranked pass defense. Who went all in on Brees? This guy, and I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Andrew Potter: Saints are dominating the Lions in the punting game in the first half. Thomas Morstead has pinned Detroit around their own 10 twice, and Tommylee Lewis had a great return to set up the first Saints points of the game.

Alas, the Lions have dominated the Saints in every other area of the game. Morstead has gained more yards for the Saints than the entire offense: 143 yards to 137. That is not what anybody had expected here. New Orleans has managed one sustained drive, and it was the two-minute-drill field goal to end the first half. There was a lot of talk during the week about a potential emotional letdown after last week's Gregg Williams Revenge Derby, and New Orleans certainly has looked flat on offense. Going the other way, the Lions receivers are simply better than the Saints defensive backs man-for-man. That means the secondary and linebackers are merely reprising the rest of this season's performances: if the line doesn't get to the quarterback, there's nothing at all behind them. Stafford has looked great in the pocket, so that pressure has struggled to get to him, and 19-of-23 for 175 yards and 13 points from four drives is the result.

Lions just got their second touchdown on a play that is exactly typical of the Saints defense. Dennis Allen dialed up a big blitz on third-and-10 and got pressure, but Stafford hung in the pocket just long enough for Golden Tate to get behind B.W. Webb and nailed the throw just as Cameron Jordan arrived. Tate caught the ball in space, Vonn Bell took a bad angle, and 66 yards later it's 25-13.

Drew Brees throws his third interception at the goal line as time expires, and the Lions seal a convincing win in New Orleans. A lot for their fans to be excited about: Zach Zenner returned to action with Dwayne Washington hurt, and Zenner will probably still be carrying Saints defenders for extra yardage when he boards the team charter back to Detroit. Golden Tate had probably his second- or third-best game of the year, and Matthew Stafford played pretty well too: poise, pocket presence, great throws under pressure, effective scrambling, and not trying to force the ball when the throw wasn't there.

More encouraging, though, will be the defensive performance. Drew Brees wasn't under huge amounts of pressure in this game, only being sacked once and hit a handful of times, but he struggled to find open receivers consistently until the Lions softened up their coverages with a two-touchdown lead. Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass at home for the first time in 60 games spanning over seven years. That stat alone is a massive credit to Detroit's secondary.

Miami Dolphins 6 at Baltimore Ravens 38

Bryan Knowles: Elite Joe Flacco showed up today! He's 11-for-14 for 136 yards and two touchdowns already, as we approach the end of the first quarter in Baltimore. He has only thrown two touchdowns in two complete games so far this year, so that's quite the first quarter for Flacco -- against a team in a playoff slot at the moment, to boot.

Aaron Schatz: I was wondering why none of us are watching the Dolphins-Ravens game to comment on why the Dolphins have completely folded... but based on the 506 maps it's not really being shown in much of the country outside of AFC North markets, Miami, and... Mobile, Alabama.

Scott Kacsmar: I didn't think the Dolphins were a good team despite the winning streak, but getting blown out by a monster Joe Flacco performance (381 yards, four touchdowns) is one of the more surprising results of the season. Seriously, the Ravens struggle just to get 20 points most weeks. They have let Flacco operate like he's Brady or Brees today, calling very few runs and just attacking Miami underneath.

Aaron Schatz: I'm going to mea culpa on this one. In retrospect, I maybe should have treated the Miami defense in the game against injured Big Ben the same way I've been treating the Buffalo defense in the game against injured Jacoby Brissett: bringing it up in my writing when I can, and adjusting the rating used in the playoff odds simulation. We don't adjust DVOA based on injuries, but obviously that game plays a strong role in how well the system has rated Miami this year...

... although the Dolphins had only -18.9% defensive DVOA in that game. One of their better ratings this season but not an outlier, really. As opposed to the Bills who had -40.5% defensive DVOA against the Patriots in Week 4.

Los Angeles Rams 10 at New England Patriots 26

Vince Verhei: True story: I woke up this morning to the news that Jeff Fisher and Les Snead were getting extensions and almost immediately collapsed back to sleep. As such, I was off to a late start this morning, and didn't start watching games until early in the second quarter. First thing I saw: Tom Brady to Chris Hogan for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Rams down 14-0. This seems appropriate.

Carl Yedor: Unfortunate interception from Jared Goff to end the first quarter (bounced off tight end Lance Kendricks's hands) but thus far the No. 1 overall pick hasn't looked super sharp. He underthrew a ball intended for Kenny Britt down the sideline that Malcolm Butler almost intercepted earlier in the game, and he threw behind Brian Quick on an intermediate throw earlier on that drive.

This is still only Goff's third start, so he obviously has plenty of time to get better over the rest of this season and in the years to come. But with head coach Jeff Fisher freshly extended for two more years, it seems like Fisher's job security will be tied to Goff's development. Though, I imagine having Rams Chief Operations Officer Kevin Demoff's father as Fisher's agent can't hurt Fisher's future stability with the Rams organization. 

Aaron Schatz: The Rams had Aaron Donald sitting on that drive. I mean, I understand rotating your defensive linemen, it's a very tiring position to play, and Dominique Easley is a talented guy, but is a drive where the Pats start at your 30 after an interception REALLY the right time to sit one of the four or five best defensive players in football?

Vince Verhei: Color guy in the L.A. game just said that with Tavon Austin out today, the Rams don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver. I mean... have you EVER watched the Rams play football?

Bryan Knowles: To be fair, he's not wrong. I mean, there's no causation between those two clauses, but...

Vince Verhei: Kenny Britt's a No. 1. He's on the low end of No. 1s, but he's a No. 1.

Scott Kacsmar: I like Kenny Britt, but the only plays I've seen from him today were two dropped-defensed incompletions that don't help Goff's effort.

Aaron Schatz: I honestly think Austin being out is better for Goff's development in the long run. Don't get him used to that offense that's built around 2-yard passes to Austin all the time. Let him learn to throw downfield. Then hopefully Austin becomes a useful slot guy instead of the featured star of your passing game.

The Patriots are getting pressure on Goff today with cornerback blitzes. It's not something they do frequently against other teams, but they have sent Logan Ryan at least three times today, and got a sack and a throwaway out of it. The offensive line is doing a reasonable job against the Pats' front four, which is not a positive statement about the Pats' front four. However, the run blocking is atrocious as usual. Best play of the first half was Todd Gurley running into a wall of two overwhelmed blockers at the line of scrimmage and then cutting around them to the left to get 3 yards.

Vince Verhei: Patriots close the first half on a 13-play, 48-yard drive that eats up more than 5 minutes and ends with a field goal with 6 seconds left. Rams close things out with a kneeldown. They could have had plenty of time for some kind of response drive, but they didn't call ***any*** of their three timeouts during New England's drive, and take them all into the locker room. They're literally not even trying. I cannot imagine anyone in Los Angeles actually paying money to watch this team.

Jeff Fisher just had to run down a ref and verbally challenge a play because he literally couldn't find his challenge flag. This man got a contract extension just a few hours ago.

Bryan Knowles: Jeff Fisher lost his challenge flag. Gameday preparation!

Aaron Schatz: The Rams finally had a drive that crossed into Patriots territory, then stalled out with fourth-and-3 on the 26. They kicked a field goal instead of going for it. Hey, 17-3 makes it a two-score game, and it isn't like the Patriots are likely to score again today. We all know the way to beat Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium is with field goals.

I don't know how the Rams are supposed to solve these offensive problems. Throw a bunch of draft picks at the offensive line? They've been doing that. Greg Robinson was the second overall pick in 2014, and they used second-, third-, fourth-, and sixth-round picks on offensive linemen in 2015. Maybe the problem isn't that they can't scout these guys, but that they can't develop them. They kept pressure away from Goff for much of the first half but he has constantly been under pressure in the second half and the run-blocking is non-existent. There are plenty of quality players on this defense, especially when Robert Quinn is healthy, but what do you expect them to do when the offense is constantly going three-and-out? Imagine how much worse it would be if they didn't have Johnny Hekker to help flip field position.

Vince Verhei: That management team that can't scout players, and that coaching staff that can't develop them, traded away next year's first- and third-round picks as part of the Jared Goff deal. So the cupboard is bare, the grocery store is closed, and they're going to have to stock the shelves with Pop-Tarts that have been sitting on the gas station shelf since Fisher was losing games in Tennessee.

Johnny Hekker boots a 76-yard punt. There have now been 12 punts of 70 or more yards this year. Hekker has three of them. Pat McAfee (2) is the only other player with more than one.

It all came in garbage time, but Kenny Britt did finish with 67 receiving yards today. That gives him 855 on the year, the first Ram to go over 800 yards since Torry Holt in 2007.

Kansas City Chiefs 29 at Atlanta Falcons 28

Carl Yedor: Kansas City had third-and-14 with just over a minute left in the first half. Atlanta then came out with three down linemen and the remaining eight players camping out at the first down marker. So what does Kansas City do? Alex Smith throws a quick receiver screen that predictably gets stopped well short of the marker. 

And then, on Atlanta's first play of their ensuing drive, Eric Berry picks off Matt Ryan and returns it for a touchdown. All according to the Andy Reid master plan.

Tom Gower: Falcons offense dominated early, with their first three possessions all going inside the 10. But only one of them made it to the end zone, which contributed to the 20-16 halftime deficit they're currently facing. The defense, even without Jeremy Maclin available to take advantage of Desmond Trufant's absence, has been about as porous as you'd expect save a Vic Beasley strip-sack of Alex Smith, with linebacker De'Vondre Campbell standing out as one player with matchup problems. Spencer Ware caught a touchdown on fourth-and-1 from inside the 5 (good Andy Reid) and had other successful plays, while Travis Kelce has also stood out. A blocked extra point had it at 13-all late in the first, but Matt Ryan, who started off hot, had a bad pick to Eric Berry, who was sitting in the middle of the field and waiting for the latest in-breaking route as the Falcons tried to hit that well again. Matt Bryant hit a 59-yard field goal to cut the deficit to where it stands now, but the pick-six at a bad time and the two short field goals are the kind of things that decide even games.

Vince Verhei: Kansas City's 2016 highlight reel is just going to be clips from this game. We've got three wide receiver runs for 47 total yards; Travis Kelce's four catches, which have gained 16, 21, 27, and 35 yards; Eric Berry's 37-yard pick-six; and just now, Albert Wilson's 55-yard touchdown run on a fake punt, technically another wide receiver run.

Bryan Knowles: Rapid change of events! Atlanta scores a touchdown late to go up 28-27. They decide to go for two to extend it to a three-point game...but Ryan throws an interception to Eric Berry, who returns it all the way for two points for Kansas City! So now, Atlanta is down one and has to kick back off to Kansas City with only 4:32 left in the game.

Aaron Schatz: Eric Berry ends up on man coverage on Aldrick Robinson in the red zone and Robinson cuts in front of him for the touchdown catch to put Atlanta ahead 28-27. I had no idea Aldrick Robinson was back in the league. Berry then makes up for it by picking off the 2-point conversion try for Austin Hooper and running it all the way back for a defensive pick-two, and now Kansas City is up 29-28 and about to get the ball with 4:32 left.

Vince Verhei: 1) I say again: Kansas City's highlight reel is just going to be clips from this game.

2) The defensive score on a two-pointer is going to give my brain troubles for a long time. It's going to take a long time to handle things like a team scoring and then getting the ball, or a touchdown being worth four net points.

Tom Gower: Chiefs get a touchdown on a punt fake on fourth-and-1 after a timeout. Falcons can't convert a fourth-and-1 at the 10. And, then, Atlanta takes the lead, but Matt Ryan again doesn't see Eric Berry and he jumps the route for another pick. Third-down stop, Georgia State's Albert Wilson gets the inside release, and Alex Smith finds him for the slant and the conversion. Frustrating loss for the Falcons. Chiefs had a number of penalties in the first half, and Frank Zombo (if I recall correctly) probably got away with a hold on Devonta Freeman on the fourth-and-1 stop (pass play), but Atlanta just didn't make the plays they needed to.

Rob Weintraub: I took my 7-year-old boy to the Falcons-Chiefs game, his first foray into live pro football. Now I fear I will have to buy season tickets after that thriller. He was one bubbly little guy on the way home.

Philadelphia Eagles 14 at Cincinnati Bengals 32

Aaron Schatz: Thought for the future on the Eagles-Bengals game, from a reader: we need to take a specific look at whether teams with very bad offenses see their defenses decline more over the course of a season. Of course, this might be an issue of pace and defenses getting tired... the Eagles didn't have a bad offense last year, per se, but there's an argument that the defense declined in the second half of the year because of Chip Kelly's offensive pace.

Bryan Knowles: Cincinnati gets goofy up 29-14, and runs a tackle-eligible play. Jake Fisher catches the ball and rumbles forward -- but he's not a ball carrier, and fumbles on the tackle. Philadelphia ball.

To add injury to insult, Fisher's hurt on the play. Not a great day for J. Fishers.

Denver Broncos 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Bryan Knowles: While I'm on my bad quarterbacking kick, Blake Bortles! He has now thrown 11 pick-sixes in his three-year NFL career. He has fewer wins (10). According to Elias, no quarterback has ever thrown as many pick-sixes in his first three seasons. Congratulations, Blake.

Denver's win, coupled with Miami's loss, puts the Broncos back into playoff contention. It also means that Jacksonville becomes the third team to be eliminated from playoff contention this year, extending its streak to nine straight seasons sitting at home in January. Been a long time since the Jags saw competitive football.

Buffalo Bills 24 at Oakland Raiders 38

Aaron Schatz: Bills up 10-6 on the Raiders, about halfway through the second quarter. The Bills are running all over the Raiders today, 76 yards on 11 carries so far, and the Bills defense is holding its own against the Raiders' passing game. So far Tyrod Taylor is 9-for-11, David Carr 5-for-13. Of course, not Carr's fault that Michael Crabtree just dropped an easy touchdown pass, but the Raiders were only in position for that because of a 23-yard DPI on Stephon Gilmore... bad decision by Gilmore because he had Amari Cooper well covered. He didn't need to grab onto Cooper's arm, it should have been an incomplete pass and fourth down.

Bryan Knowles: Buffalo is doing a great job stymieing Oakland's offense -- Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been held to a combined 52 receiving yards so far. Their offense, after putting together two long drives in the first quarter, sputtered some in the second half, allowing Oakland to climb back into it with a trio of Sebastian Janikowski field goals, hence the 10-9 score. Fans seem to think they've gone super-conservative, with a prevent defense allowing the Raiders to climb back into range for a field goal. They're not entirely off-base, but you still have to be happy with that first-half performance against the co-AFC leading Raiders.

Aaron Schatz: I did an appearance on a Miami radio station this week and someone asked me whatever happened to the read option. I said, "Well, it's still a useful play if you sprinkle it in rather than building your entire offense around it." Well, the Bills just did a great job of sprinkling it in; Tyrod Taylor did a great job of reading the defender, and got the whole defense to follow the running back while he kept the ball for a 12-yard touchdown run. That followed up a beautiful 54-yard run with LeSean McCoy accelerating past the entire Oakland front seven.

Well, it WAS 24-9 and the Bills running game was trampling the Raiders. The Raiders came back with a touchdown drive. Then the Bills went three-and-out when they got a stuff and an incomplete on second-and-4/third-and-4, and Colton Schmidt hit a terrible low, short punt for 35 yards that got just 18 yards net. Raiders had to go just 38 yards on the next drive, which they did in five plays. You simply can't ask the Buffalo defense to defend short fields like that, they aren't good enough. Raiders offensive line pushing them around on that drive. Jack Del Rio brings out Sebastian Janikowski, who doinks the extra point but it angles through, 24-23 Bills, 1:00 left in the third quarter.

Vince Verhei: Is there any defense to going for 1 there? With a minute to go in the third, is there that much difference between being down 1 and being down 2?

Aaron Schatz: Probably not. I know head coaches get afraid of being caught behind and then "chasing after two" all game. I probably would have gone for two.

Tom Gower: Obviously, Vince, you should never go for two before the fourth quarter, and it wasn't the fourth quarter yet.

(William Krasker's now-dated chart has the break-even down 2 at 20 percent with 15 minutes to play and 25 percent with 18 to play. So, about 22 percent for Oakland, and going for two is probably even more attractive now that you're more likely to be down 2 with the extra point, as Janikowski nearly demonstrated.)

Aaron Schatz: It turns out it doesn't matter because the Bills offense shut down again, giving the poor defense another short field to defend, and they can't do it. Amari Cooper beats rookie sixth-rounder Kevon Seymour with a double move to put the Raiders up 30-24. What is a sixth-round rookie doing covering Oakland's best wide receiver, anyway?

To answer my own question, Ronald Darby is still in concussion protocol from last week, and Seymour is his replacement.

The Bills are single-blocking Khalil Mack with Jordan Mills. That's not a good idea. Mack just destroyed Mills and hit Tyrod Taylor in his own end zone, which caused a pass to fly high into the air, and it came down into the hands of Nate Allen. Everything that can go wrong for the Bills seems to have gone wrong since the first drive of the third quarter.

The CBS broadcast did a good job earlier of pointing out that the Raiders have built this great offensive line almost entirely with free agents. It's a really interesting counterpoint to the Dallas line. The Raiders have four free-agent starters and one player they drafted, right guard Gabe Jackson. (I think they would prefer to have Menelik Watson at right tackle, which would be two drafted players, but he can't stay healthy.) Compare that to the Cowboys, where everyone on that line was drafted by the Cowboys except La'el Collins, who was a UDFA. (Doug Free is included there, although he has been around for nine years.)

Washington Redskins 23 at Arizona Cardinals 31

Bryan Knowles: Our weekly Larry Fitzgerald Appreciation post: Fitz has caught Andre Johnson and moved into the top 10 in all-time receiving yards. He could easily catch Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, and Marvin Harrison before the year is out. If he passes Harrison, he will have set the record for most receiving yards by a player who only played for one team -- not the most receiving yards for a single team (Jerry Rice has that, of course), but the most yards for a player who has spent his entire career in once place.

Oh, and at the same time, he caught a pass in his 191st consecutive game. That's the third-longest streak in NFL history; he could catch Tony Gonzalez for No. 2 next year.

Vince Verhei: Washington has a first-and-goal at the 1. They call a bootleg and get Robert Kelley wide open on the right side, but Kirk Cousins misses the throw. Washington also has an illegal motion penalty, so it wouldn't have counted anyway. And they go on to kick a field goal to make it 7-6 Arizona. The color commentator (Chris Spielman, I think) says all of this was caused by Washington's "crazy bootleg" on first down, when they should have just run the ball. Never mind that Kelley ran the ball on second-and-goal from the 1 and was stuffed for no gain. Never mind that Kelley was wide open and the play should have scored except Washington beat themselves. It's all that CRAZY BOOTLEG. Maybe this is the 1940s.

Kristina Pink's ability to step over the moving first-down chain without tripping or taking her eyes off the camera was one of the more impressive athletic feats I've seen today.

Washington gets a goal-to-go again after Cousins hits a deep pass to DeSean Jackson for 59 yards (Tyvon Branch in coverage). From the 5, they go incomplete, Kelley up the middle for 4, Cousins with sneak for a 1-yard touchdown on third down. Maybe that bootleg was crazy.

Cousins giveth away, and Cousins taketh back. Calais Campbell gets a strip-sack recovered by Markus Golden, to set Arizona up at the 10. Three plays later, Carson Palmer hits Michael Floyd for a 6-yard touchdown. But Washington answers with a 75-yard touchdown drive of its own. Biggest plays were a 28-yard completion to Pierre Garcon on third-and-5, and the 26-yard score to Jamison Crowder

David Johnson, by the way, is over 100 yards from scrimmage again, and its just the end of the third. He joins Edgerrin James as the only players to top 100 yards in each of his team's first 12 games.

This is turning into a hell of a game. Arizona goes back on top 24-20 on a 25-yard wide receiver screen pass to David Johnson. Drive covered 10 plays and 75 yards, including nine plays and 63 yards passing. And they're not chasing the clock, there's still about 11 minutes to go.

Arizona may have just put this one away with the most Bruce Arians drive ever. After a Washington field goal, the Cardinals took over at their own 25, with 6:01 to go, leading by a slim margin of 24-23. They quickly get a fourth-and-1 at their own 34, and opt to go for it, even though failure would leave Washington in position to kick a winning field goal. David Johnson converts with a 14-yard gain to save their bacon. Now they've got about three minutes to go, but they are unconcerned with the clock, throwing three passes in a row. The last is a third-down incompletion, but Josh Norman is called for holding on Larry Fitzgerald on the play to give Arizona a first down. Cardinals call one run to kill a Washington timeout, but then on second down, Palmer goes deep to J.J. Nelson, who outruns double coverage for a touchdown. The play is reviewed and upheld. I'm honestly surprised Arians didn't go for two and a nine-point lead, but he calls for the kick, and it's good to put Arizona ahead 31-23. The kickoff is a touchback, and Washington is getting the ball at the 25 with 1:56 to go and two timeouts.

Bryan Knowles: Patrick Peterson's interception will seal it -- Arizona knocks off Washington. The safety blitz rushed Cousins, but even considering that, it's still a bad throw.

The result means that Dallas officially becomes the first team to clinch a playoff spot, while it also keeps Chicago alive for one more week. Mathematically, at least.

Vince Verhei: Arizona actually used the exact same safety blitz on its last two plays, and twice D.J. Swearinger came in totally unblocked off the offensive left side, forcing an incompletion on one play and an interception on the next.

New York Giants 14 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Vince Verhei: Ben Roethlisberger finds Antonio Brown for a 22-yard touchdown that puts Pittsburgh up 11-0 on the touchdown-field goal-safety trifecta. The safety came on a holding penalty on Ereck Flowers in the end zone, which wiped out a 15-yard gain by Odell Beckham on third-and-14. Giants had another drive that reached the Steelers 9, and Eli Manning had Larry Donnell open, but underthrew him and Lawrence Timmons pulled in a leaping interception.

Scott Kacsmar: This game really turned after the Timmons interception, which was a fantastic grab on a day where the regular Pittsburgh receivers are having some problems with drops. A lot of short throws from Roethlisberger, but he kept the ball on a play where he had a first down if he wanted to run for it, and delivered that throw to Brown for the touchdown. Cue another random Mike Tomlin two-point conversion call, and this is now a 14-0 game at halftime. Eli Manning doesn't seem to be seeing the field very well today. He's not seeing instant pressure at all, but the Steelers are making him hold the ball long and he's not making anyone pay. Tough uphill climb for the Giants here.

Vince Verhei: This is a weird game. It feels like the Giants offense has played terrible all day, but really, they have had plenty of chances to score, they just have screwed up in the shadow of the end zone. They had the interception earlier, plus two failed fourth-down plays in Pittsburgh's territory, both down by at least two touchdowns. So really, they're just a few plays away from being tied or even ahead.

Houston Texans 13 at Green Bay Packers 21

Rivers McCown: These are both bad football teams. I know this is not news to anybody. But man. The Packers couldn't muster much offense, and continually gave the ball to James Starks so he could average 0.3 yards per carry to help set up some more bad situations.

The Texans look like they've basically quit on offense, and that Bill O'Brien just mashes the Madden recommended play before the snap, only it comes from Jeff Fisher. They're not creative, they don't find any easy yards, and they have no ability to create explosive plays without a defender falling down. I feel bad for the Houston defense. At this point it is a good unit sans J.J. Watt looking for a real team to be on.

Carolina Panthers 7 at Seattle Seahawks 40

Bryan Knowles: Derek Anderson starts under center for Carolina, shockingly. First play from scrimmage is an interception.

What the heck's going on?

Aaron Schatz: That's going to certainly be interesting in the postgame press conference.

Vince Verhei: That legitimately looked like Cam Newton and Derek Anderson decided amongst themselves that Anderson would start and didn't tell any of their coaches or teammates. And Mike Tolbert looked so surprised that he couldn't hang onto the ball, leading to an easy interception for Mike Morgan.

Tom Gower: Panthers radio network reporting it was a coach's decision, which typically means a disciplinary issue. Very interesting.

Bryan Knowles: Panthers Radio is reporting Newton was benched for disciplinary reasons.

I repeat, what the heck?

Vince Verhei: And it leads to Russell Wilson nearly giving the ball right back with a brain-fart shot-put into the end zone that should have been intercepted. Can we just start this game over? No? Well, Seattle kicks a field goal and takes a 3-0 lead.

Bryan Knowles: And now Newton's back in.

I'll admit, some weeks, I have to really dig deep to find a questionable coaching decision for Scramble. Maybe not so much this week.

Aaron Schatz: Seahawks moved the ball well on their second drive. The Panthers defense was bad because of the young cornerbacks early on. Without Luke Kuechly, it's even more disorganized. Thomas Rawls hopping through guys easily.

Vince Verhei: If I could ask Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell one question about these Seahawks, it would be: what is up with the focus on Jermaine Kearse early in games? At least Kearse is catching them today.

George Fant down for Seattle. Garry Gilliam was a healthy scratch tonight, so your tackles for Seattle right now are Bradley Sowell and Rees Odhiambo.

And Odhiambo almost immediately gives up a sack to Charles Johnson ... but now Johnson is down grabbing his knee. Domino effect injury here.

Well a lot happened in a few minutes in the second quarter there:

  • First of all, I didn't even realize that the Odhiambo sack had come on fourth down. So, oops.
  • But it didn't matter, because K.J. Wright forces a fumble by Jonathan Stewart, and the Seahawks recover.
  • Fant returns, but gives up an immediately pressure that would have been a sack -- but the linemen coming up the middle got to Wilson before the edge rusher.
  • That led to Wilson throwing a brutal interception to Tre Boston, who was literally just standing there when the ball was snapped and easily broke on the pass.
  • Newton tried a deep pass down the middle to Greg Olsen. Earl Thomas does not allow deep completions down the middle and broke up the pass. But then HE goes down with a leg injury and is eventually carted off the field.
  • Newton says "Ooh! Earl Thomas is off the field!" and throws another deep pass down the middle, and it's a 55-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn.
  • And the Seahawks answer when Thomas Rawls stutter-steps behind the line of scrimmage, fakes out the entire Carolina defense, and then finds an empty field once he crosses the line of scrimmage for a 40-yard touchdown.


Aaron Schatz: This is kind of a rollercoaster, isn't it? Cam Newton hits Ted Ginn deep one play after Earl Thomas goes off the field with an injury, and then the Seahawks come back with Thomas Rawls scampering 45 yards for a touchdown (after a 12-yard carry that started the drive). This one he didn't even do with broken tackles; he ran into a block where the lineman couldn't push the Panthers defender back, so he just jump-cut to the right and then accelerated past everyone. He really can do pretty much everything you want from a back.

Vince Verhei: Things settled down at the end of the half there, and this game looks more like what we expected: the Panthers hopeless on offense, while Seattle had little trouble moving down the field, even if their red zone offense remains, um, unimpressive. (Which, actually, describes most of the Russell Wilson era.) Panthers have 55 yards on one play, 60 yards on their other 22 snaps. Russell Wilson has 16 completions for 187 yards at halftime -- he had 17 for 151 in a whole game against Tampa Bay last week. It's 23-7 at the half, and it's going to take some major changes for Carolina to get back in this game. 

And then before I can even hit "send," Tyler Lockett opens the second half with a 75-yard touchdown on a jet sweep, Seattle's up 30-7, and Carolina's odds are even bleaker.

Scott Kacsmar: So a week after Seattle's 98-game streak of leading or within one score in the fourth quarter ended, the Seahawks end Carolina's 36-game streak that was the longest in the league. The longest streaks now belong to the Broncos (22 games) and Lions (20 games).

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 05 Dec 2016

91 comments, Last at 07 Dec 2016, 12:33am by jayman4


by DGL :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:40am

End zones don't cast shadows, Vince.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:43am

"With the 135th pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected Dak Prescott. Just saying.

Vince Verhei: That could be the "the Jaguars drafted a punter five picks before Russell Wilson" of 2016."

I really hate this meme or cliche or whatever it is. With the benefit of hindsight and having no pressure on you to actually make the selection, you cherry pick player A who is having success and point out that a team could have drafted him instead of selecting player B, who has turned out to be a failure. Drafting is not an exact science and no team, general manager, player personnel director, or fantasy football owner can be infallible. There are ALWAYS going to be mistakes. To use the Prescott example, the Cowboys themselves passed him up through a number of rounds before finally choosing him. If they knew he was going to enjoy so much success, either they should have guaranteed getting him by taking him in the first round or they are the most brilliant team ever, knowing with 100% confidence that he would be passed over by every other team until the later rounds.

Yes, all the other teams could have drafted Tom Brady before NE did or Antonio Brown before Pittsburgh did. But those teams have made some errors with some of their selections, too.

I will concede that drafting the punter was a blunder.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:47am

also, d. Prescott was number three quarterback, for Cowboys. Kellen Moore was backup btu he got injured in training camp. although, think Prescott would have become starter anyway as Moore is pretty craptastic

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:16pm

It's a blunder largely because it was Jacksonville, a team that had so many holes that drafting a punter was patently nuts considering the other issues on that team (YES I KNOW INSERT AGUAYO JOKE HERE). That being said, the thing that gets missed in the constant jokes is Bryan Anger has consistently been a really, really good punter, and, based on all the time I spent looking up kicking statistics and draft position this offseason (INSERT OTHER AGUAYO JOKE HERE), it seems pretty apparent that, while drafting a kicker really has no impact on whether or not a kicker turns out to have a decent career, drafting a punter does actually have an impact, and most good punters are, in fact, actually drafted. Granted, drafted later than the third round, but at least drafted.

Anger was a bad draft pick because he went too high for a team with more pressing needs. If he'd been drafted by a consistently good franchise with something like a fifth round pick, he'd stop being a punch line and be recognized as actually valuable.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:44pm

Also the justification given by the Jacksonville brass for taking Anger was eminently mockable. They said Wilson would have come in as the backup and they wanted to pick a "starter" -- as if all starters on the field are equal, and you can pencil in your starters in the NFL before the season and roll with it, because nobody every gets hurt or bombs and situations never change.

The Seahawks picked Wilson in the third-round despite the fact they had just signed Matt Flynn to a pretty large contract (and John Schneider might have taken him higher, but Pete Carroll had him pegged as not going until at least the third round, so they picked Bobby Wagner in the second round).

This isn't a case of using hindsight to evaluate draft picks. It's an example of a poorly run franchise using a poor process to make a poor decision, that looks even worse in hindsight.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:14pm

"It's an example of a poorly run franchise using a poor process to make a poor decision, that looks even worse in hindsight."

Jacksonville gonna Jacksonville.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:36pm

There's a fair point here, of course -- and it won't be as bad for San Francisco, because Robinson himself has been pretty good this season.

I face-palmed when the 49ers made the pick, and wrote that they should have taken a quarterback because of their awkward situation. Of course, the quarterback I suggested they take was...not Dak Prescott. Nate Sudfeld, instead. So, you know. Half-right?

by jds :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:24pm

There is also the point that the Dak Prescott we see with the star on his helmet is not the same Dak Prescott we would see behind that line, and with that coach, with 49er on his helmet.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:46am

watcedh a lot of texcans vs packers fgame. green bay not interesting. really hope they dopnt make playoffs. Liosn will have tough time holding on to division leaf even with 4 games to go and 2 games up on grene bay and Minnesota. NFC playoffs so mucgh more interesting to see Loins in them instead of Packers. most of country has had enough of Packer.s

by ammek :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:05pm

Yes it was a dire game. It's hard to believe neither of these teams is below .500. Opponents are playing the Packers the same way, with press coverage and very little blitzing, and McCarthy just has no solution to it. Sans Clowney and Watt, the Texans couldn't get any pressure at all, and Rodgers hung on and on before settling for short passes, up until the fourth quarter when a defensive back slipped in the snow. Jordy Nelson then caught two or three difficult deep balls; Capers' prevent defense screwed up again; and that was all the entertainment for the day.

Two more or less mistake-free wins against bad opponents should not disguise the fact that Green Bay's offense remains broken and needs to be significantly retooled in the offseason. And yes, perhaps the worst part of all is that Rodgers & co have become boring to watch. It's one thing to be fed up with a team being successful; what's really annoying is a team which is successful without being any good.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:29pm

I saw this game. If the pack don't fumble at the 1, thats 24 to 28pts scored in a snowstorm. Texans D maybe overrated, but they aren't the packers Defense. Under the circumstances, I thought the gb offense played pretty well.

by ammek :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:05pm

That fumble was the seventh play on a drive that had gained 22 total yards.

Cobb's touchdown came on a 10-play drive which began at midfield.

Otherwise, in the first 40+ minutes of the game, the Packers offense picked up a total of one first down on its five other drives. When it got the ball at the end of the third quarter, it had something like 103 net yards on 35 plays. "Not interesting," Raiderjoe describes it, diplomatically.

The offense (mainly Jordy Nelson) did step up in the fourth quarter, and the absence of a viable running back on the roster does make it harder to play Tundra Football, but still it was unsightly. And it's not a one-off.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:18pm

It should not be surprising that the guy with excellent body control, strength and use of hands and the qb's trust should excel in bad weather. As has been stated several times in these threads, Nelson is a slimmed down tight end at this point in his career. Rodgers has shown he pretty much only trusts Nelson which for most of the season has hurt the offense as Adams is the superior big play option.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:40pm

Adams has made some nice plays when he's able to get open but he just still doesn't create separation often enough against competent-to-good corners. And he certainly doesn't display the ability to make contested catches or have the sideline awareness of even James Jones last season.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:10pm

I have seen multiple contested catches. Adams is playing much tougher this season. He's not 'great' but he's the superior option to Nelson who has lost a half step and is really only effective near the end zone where his lack of speed is less of an issue

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:33pm

How many times has Green Bay's prevent defense led to a TD with less than 1:30 off the game clock? It seems like so many times...........

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:56pm

Given that Capers is bad at coaching zone defense it's unsurprising that GB struggles with a prevent defense. If Dom's team is not attacking he pretty much has no viable alternative for which he has shown success.

by ammek :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:24pm

Be fair, this time it took Osweiler two minutes and four seconds.


by big10freak :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:04pm

The fundamental thing that needs to be examined is what is the coaches criterion for getting on the field?

Ty Montgomery provides many more offensive options than Starks. Montgomery's play is sporadic.

Trevor DAvis and Jeff Janis are the only receivers with plus speed. I somewhat understand Janis not being on the field more often as he still clearly is not clean on his assignments. But why is Davis sitting?

Why did it take Don Barclay getting overwhelmed for the 150th time before the coaches decided that Springs could play guard to fill in for Lang?

How many times does Micah Hyde have to be humiliated before the team moves on and picks someone off the street?

I could continue, but these should suffice for now. I just do not 'get' the who plays and who doesn't decision-making.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 5:46pm

David sits because of his hands I think. Not good so far.

Otherwise I agree. Would like to see a Janis/Davis approach where one guy is running deep routes any time GB is outside red zone. And Montgomery should be the starting RB, even if he doesn't get a ton of carries.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:48am

Think the Raiders are looking the AFC's most likely contender for the Super Bowl this year.

As good a record as 10-2 is for New England, I've not been that impressed by their offense (and that was before Gronk got injured) and I just can't see their defense handling the Raiders offense and stopping it from putting up 30+ points.

HFA will obviously be important but I can't see that New England has the run defense to stop the Raiders o-line and they've always been susceptible to decent passing attacks late in games.

I'd say the only thing stopping the Raiders will be inexperience, a snow game, or Belichick finding a bit of unexpected magic from his defense.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:32pm

May want to pump the brakes on the Raiders as they haven't had to play a road game since October, when they beat a team with no running backs at theend of the game, and have to play SD, KC and DEN on the road out of the remaining 4 games. They have played pretty well on the road this season, but playing any divisional opponent on the road is difficult let alone 3 of them in 4 weeks.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:42pm

Fair enough, I've not been watching that closely just seeing the Raiders come out of nowhere to a 10-2 record and wondering who else is contending?

- The Raiders beat the Texans although that seemed to be more the case of the Texans throwing it away.
- In the North, the Ravens and Steelers have both lost 5 games.
- The Broncos don't look like the team of last year.

So that leaves the Patriots and Chiefs. I don't think the Patriots match up well against the Raiders but the Chiefs have beaten them so maybe that's how the Raiders don't get to the big one.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:54am

There's something cathartic about the Raiders coming from behind to win 38-24 over the Bills.

Only took 26 years but I remember a devastating 38-24 loss to them in 1990 when the Bills scored 24 points to come from behind on Sunday Night Football.

(Yep same years as the AFC Championship game disaster)

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:34pm

Yeah, I was thinking about that, too, in-between cursing Ryan's defensive calls. Rushing 3 and dropping 8 and sending 6 seemed to be all he called, unlike the first half.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:30pm

I think the frustrating play calling is Rob's influence. In New Orleans he ran an awful lot of ineffective 3 man rushes.

by Charles Jake :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:58am

PleasePleasePlease put Kaepernick's numbers in Quick Reads, even if he shouldn't qualify.

An object at rest cannot be stopped.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:34pm


How can the same guy play THAT Miami game and THIS Chicago game?

by TomC :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:58pm

Kaep's stats are going to look horrendous, but I'm not sure how much of that is on him and how much on Kelly. As the broadcast crew (Albert & Johnston) kept pointing out, the weather conditions favored the offense and, in particular, an offense that can make the defense change directions and make quick cuts. So of course, if you have Colin Kaepernick at QB, the right thing to do is run RBs straight up the middle or drop your QB straight back in the pocket. I claim if SF had run lots of read-option and Kaep run/pass bootleg options, they would have rolled up and down the field with little resistance. Especially because the Bears were playing rookies and street free agents at ILB and safety.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:18pm

It's almost like you're saying the 49ers tried not to win. Is Chip that clever?

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:59pm

True, the play-calling was cave-man. It's almost as if they knew beforehand that Kaep would be terrible throwing in snowy weather, though how could they know that? The guy had never played in snowy weather before.

But it was true, when Kaep did try to throw the ball he looked horrendous. He was either missing open receivers by several yards or checking down with his fast-ball specials, most of which were of course dropped because it's hard to catch a fast ball with icy hands. It was the perfect game to have a QB who throws wobbly lame ducks, and man was Barkley suited for that. (Is there a QB who throws an uglier ball than Matt Barkley?)

Poor SF. They stayed on the East Coast over the week...but where they stayed was Florida. Flying to Chicago they were dropping 50 degrees.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:35pm

Kaepernick played at Nevada (Reno) in college. He's played in cold and snow before.

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:07pm

The Steelers could have won by 30 points if not for their pathological need to keep the game interesting due to penalties and stupid turnovers.

by Jerry :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:44pm

I just enjoyed a defense that had played soft and cheesy for so much of the season playing physically and well.

by jtr :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:23pm

It's been weird seeing three straight weeks of decent pass rush from Pittsburgh after no rush at all for the first half of the season. I'm hoping it's actually a turning point for the unit, but it has been against three straight bad and banged up O-lines.

by Topas :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:22pm

Vince, that line made my day. Thanks.

I'm honestly surprised Arians didn't go for two and a nine-point lead, but he calls for the kick, and it's good ...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:24pm

Listen, I know you don't watch every game, but the Bucs are actually vaguely semi-relevant for once! Excitement! Drama! A plethora of missed short FG jokes! Sigh . . .

Standard weekly rant:

-I'm convinced Dirk Koetter ran over some old Romani woman in the offseason, and she cursed the offense. Cecil Shorts destroyed his knee yesterday, and Adam Humphries went out with a concussion. Throw in Vincent Jackson going out earlier in the season, and WRs #2-4 are gone. Add to that four different RBs have started, and it's kind of amazing the offense has kept clipping along considering something called a "Freddie Martino" was catching passes yesterday.

-Speaking of pass catchers, Cameron Brate I think was last in the league in YAC last year from some FO article in the offseason, and that's not going to change. Very good route runner, excellent hands, consistently gets 8-10 yards on his catches, just doesn't ever run with the ball after catching it. Still reliable as heck.

-Haven't checked the play by play, but it felt like the Chargers used Melvin Gordon less in the second half after he'd been killing Tampa early. Blessedly.

-Winston should have thrown a few picks, because he doesn't want to take a sack and just flings the ball away. Terrible, terrible decisions, and the Bucs were lucky to escape with this one.

by Flounder :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:41pm

Gordon was definitely used less.

******stupid fantasy rant no one cares about******

I had a comfortable lead at halftime of the afternoon games (around 15 points). I had Gordon and Watkins still playing, opponent had Carr and Beckham.

All I needed was a few more touches for Gordon, another catch or two for Watkins, and Buffalo not to allow Carr to go crazy in the second half.

None of those things happened........

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:30pm

In the Washington-Arizona game, I think Jay Gruden made a very subtle error in calling timeout with 2:03 remaining instead of letting the clock run down to the 2-minute warning and saving the timeout. By calling timeout when he did, he gave the Cardinals a free passing down. That is, they could throw without the fear of stopping the clock since it would stop anyway. Now, Bruce Arians is the opposing coach, so maybe the Cards throw anyway, but maybe not. Either way you need to keep the fear of an incompletion on the table there.

Also, I *hated* the defensive holding penalty on Norman that extended the drive. This is without question my least favorite part of the NFL's on-field product (not counting injuries, which are a whole nother ball of wax). It's way too hard to play coverage. I now expect a flag every time there is a key incompletion, which majorly detracts from my enjoyment of the game. The NFL should make it explicitly legal to contact (and even hold) receivers as long is it's brief and the defender is in good position. It you are hanging on a guy as he's beating you down field that's one thing. But a little tug on the jersey on the shoulder pad to maintain position on a receiver should not be justification for a flag, in my opinion. "Let them play," is the apt cliche.

by Cloister :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:47pm

Either give the defenders more leeway on holding, or start calling receivers for pushoffs that are as ticky-tack as a lot of the holding calls are. I was stunned they actually called the Carolina receiver for the blatant pushoff on Sherman.

by joe football :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:52pm

I'm a big advocate for eliminating illegal contact but I can't see much argument for legalized holding. You don't need to hold to play good coverage. You just need to decide not to grab the opponent, whereas it's pretty easy to get called for illegal contact or even pass interference even while trying to play honest coverage. Of course, you can be more effective if you hold and professional players will try to get away with whatever they can, but I don't see why even minor instances of what is an essentially intentional foul should be ok, any more then it should be in line play

I could see changing defensive holding to a 10 or even 15 yard penalty with no automatic first down though

(I did not see the Norman play)

by DGL :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:25pm

The prevalence of holding and illegal contact penalties is one thing that has led me to the conclusion that teams should never run the "safe" give-up draw on third and take-a-bus. Throw the ball downfield, even if it's a short slant or something else that's nowhere near the yard markers, because your chances of getting a holding or illegal contact penalty are way higher than your chances of throwing an interception.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:36pm

"your chances of getting a holding or illegal contact penalty are way higher than your chances of throwing an interception."

*applicable only to non-Brock Osweiler/Blake Bortles quarterbacks.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:45pm

Houston sucessfully converted several third and longs via the shotgun draw yesterday and set themselves up to score a TD on 4th down after a solid gain on a 3Rd down draw. Don't ask me how the Green Bay defense kept falling for it.

by RoninX :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:13pm

Snow football operates on a different axes than regular football. If someone really wants to unseat the NFL they just need to start a football league in which every game is played with 1-3 inches on the field.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:39pm

Why not just run a four verticals on 3rd-30 and throw an arm-punt short of your deepest receiver? There's what, a 50-50 chance the DB gets called for a 45 yard DPI, right?

by xMRNUTTYx :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:43pm

"The last game to have less than 10 combined complete passes? Chicago and San Francisco, in the worst game I have ever watched -- November 13, 2005, when Cody "I was an NFL quarterback" Pickett went 1-for-13 and Kyle "totally unprepared rookie" Orton went 8-for-13 in a game that featured 40-plus-mph wind gusts."

I was at that game, in the north end zone. At one point, the 49ers attempted a stupidly long FG (given the conditions) on the south end. From our vantage point, we saw the ball go up and nearly end up in the stands... the stands on the west side of the stadium. It was probably 30 ft or so up in the air when it looked like it made a sharp right, seemingly breaking the laws of physics.

Also, if that's the worst game Mr. Knowles has ever watched, he obviously hasn't seen a lot of Bears games. Bear-Chiefs in 2011 (PALKO VS. HANIE!) was so bad I questioned whether I could ever like football again.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:50pm

2011 Seahawks versus Browns can hold it's own in terribleness as well. It was Charlie Whitehurst against Colt McCoy and Marshawn Lynch was a late scratch, so the leading rusher for the Seahawks was Leon Washington. (It was Montario Hardesty for the Browns.) The Browns won 6-3.

by RoninX :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:04pm

Plus, that game has in its "favor" that it was decided by a phantom block in the back penalty on what should have been a Washington return touchdown.

by xMRNUTTYx :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:07pm

I didn't see any of it but I will always be torn whether this game:


would have either 1) made me stop watching football forever or 2) created a deep appreciation for how good the sport usually is. I probably look at those stats like 2 times a year and shake my head.

Seriously: just looking at it again, I see McElroy's QB rating at 118. He averaged a hair over 4 yards per attempt, and 45% of his passing yards were on one play. If you take that play away, he went 4 for 6 for SIXTEEN YARDS.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:19pm

That 4 of 6 for 16 yards is a better yards per attempt than the opposing quarterback had WITHOUT taking a play away.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:38pm

I absolutely love this game. Not for the game itself, but for this amazing running commentary, which is infinitely better than actually watching the game. I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading it.


by Raiderfan :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 9:10pm

Really miss Grantland. It was my favorite sports site--non advanced statistics category

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:40pm

The 2005 Wind Bowl was great. Nathan Vasher setting the NFL record for FG return.

I think Gould hit a field goal, where he aimed like 15 yards to the right of the posts and the wind pushed it in.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:52pm

Yeah, the wind bowl was fun-bad. This game (which I attended) was far, far worse:


by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:11pm

fun gae, to watch. 49ers at bears have had some real clunkers

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:24pm

This, however was a pretty fun one:


Best in the history of the series? (Don't remember if the Mike Ditka Bears and Bill Walsh 49ers ever played any interesting games).

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:35pm

Outside of the Walsh lining up Guy McIntyre as a blocking fullback in the '84 NFC Championship game and then Ditka 'retaliating' in the following regular season with an unheralded rookie called William Perry?

They met in the '88 playoffs as well if I recall.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 4:56pm

The immortal Johnathan Quinn.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:07pm

IMO, the most intense "Wind Bowl" was the 1962 championship game, GB at Giants with the visitors winning 16-7. The game was played with temperatures dropping through the teens and increasing winds that gusted past 50 mph during the 2nd half. Poor Y.A. Tittle, who had led the league in passing that season, could do little - the Giants' only score was off a blocked punt. Jerry Kramer kicked 3 FG for the winning margin, none longer than 30 yards, while missing 2 from similar distance. On his last, he said he aimed 10 yards outside the posts and watched it get blown to right between them. Coach Lombardi said that the cold felt worse in this game than the "Ice Bowl" in 1967 due to the gales, even though it was 25 degrees colder for the latter game.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:40pm

I watched every game of the 2005 49ers. I know bad football when I see it :P

The elements, combined with two quarterbacks who really shouldn't have been out there, made for a disaster. And that field goal attempt! If I had been writing Scramble at the time, I would have been all over Mike Nolan for opting to boot that one in the gusting winds. I mean, you can't predict the 108-yard return or whatever it was from Vasher, but dang. Dang, I say.

by D :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 10:23pm

If we are talking bad football games, I vote for '06 Bears-Cards game on Monday night football, where Arizona let the Bears come back from being down by 21 despite the Bears not scoring an offensive TD. The Cardinals couldn't run and at all because for some reason the Cardinals thought it was a good idea to leave Brian Urlacher unblocked for the entire 2nd half and Neil Rackers missed the game winning kick.

And then of course, Dennis Green topped it all off with the greatest sport's rant of all time.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:02pm

Nets Cardinals 2012. Nuff said.

by D :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 1:23am

Well of course that game was terrible... the Nets aren't even a football team!

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 2:16pm

Argh, I pulled a raiderjoe there. JETS JETS JETS

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 2:16pm

Argh, I pulled a raiderjoe there. JETS JETS JETS

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 3:38pm

That Arizona allowed Chicago to make the comeback is shocking, but for the worst offensive effort in a win nothing can top '02 Steelers-Texans. Houston was an expansion team playing on the road, got 47 yards and 3 first downs in the entire game and got outgained by nearly 400 yards --- and blew out Pittsburgh 24-6.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:56pm

Weinke started and played the entire game in 2006 against Atlanta, and had 11 total plays, but that looks like it might have included a kneel. Which was fumbles. It's a weird play-by-play.

Carolina won, too.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:20pm

I remember listening to that game on internet radio.

The Panthers just ran the ball pretty much every play on the first drive as I recall on the way to a touchdown.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:26pm

DeAngelo Williams took 11 direct snaps in that game and ran with all of them. (This was two years before the Dolphins brought the Wildcat to the NFL.)

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:20pm

Weinke stat line was 4-7-32-1 TD and 3 sacks. His QB rating 108.3, what a great stat.

by thewhitesnake8 :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:18pm

I was at this one, the famous Orlovsky-out-of-back-of-the-endzone. 3-2 at half. In the dome. Riveting action.


by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:18pm

That game infuriated me, because Atlanta at the time had Michael Vick, and should have been running "wildcat"-style, designed QB run stuff all the time, but they were insistent on making him a pocket passer who only scrambled when necessary. Then the Panthers just beat them with the very same simple stuff they should have been doing, and proving that it could work.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 1:36pm

Ive criticized flacco a few times this season, so its fitting the one game he goes off that i decide to watch gb houston. Instead, the flacco award of the week goes to Eli. Pitt did a good job on beckham and eli was horribly inaccurate all day. Vince's first reaction was the correct one since turnovers and Pitt's offensive conservatism kept the game in striking distance. The giants just stunk too much to take advantage.

Lost in this giants playoff push has been the giants offense, which has fluctuated between inconsistent and disappointing. I havent seen too many giants games, so Id be curious to hear why.

by Kurt :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:42pm

IMO the #1 reason is Eli. He's playing worse than he has since his first few seasons, definitely worse than the 27 INT 2013 with a hopeless team around him. No idea why he's playing so much worse than even last year, but if this is what he his now he's not good enough.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 8:41pm

Pittsburgh's offensive playcalling was conservative, and at the end of the game also borderline irresponsible. Bell has among the heaviest workload of any ball handling player in the league and was still being slammed into the line on the final drive, 2 scores up. This feels like an injury waiting to happen.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:16pm

" it seems like Fisher's job security will be tied to Goff's development."

They should have saved themselves the time (and Goff's career) and fired him this year. He's in his 5th year as HC there, and he'll be lucky to finish 6-10, which will be only 1 win short of his previous high.

The last time he had a winning season as a coach, Kerry Collins was a pro-bowler. And even that team barely had a positive offensive dvoa (4.0%,16th). He seems like Rex Ryan without all the promises - a guy who can put together a good defense, but doesn't care, or know anything about the offense - but somehow he's managed to keep a HC gig for 20+ years despite having almost no success over the last decade. He's had two >.500 seasons in the last 12.

I just don't understand how this man keeps getting HC jobs.

Goff will be the 3rd top 5 pick at QB he's worked with during the guy's first couple years. Young never developed at all and Bradford looked a little better under him than the previous guy, but has looked much better in PHI/MIN than he ever did in STL.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:33pm

Internet commenter somewhere else that I shamelessly stole from:

"Nothing new for Teflon Fisher. He’s coached 22 years with only six winning seasons and three losses away from having more than any other head coach in NFL history. When a nuclear explosion rids the world of humanity, there will only be Jeff Fisher organizing a group of 53 cockroaches into a 7-9 insect football team."

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:34pm

2008 was Jeff Fisher's last winning season. He didn't coach in 2011 but this will be his 7th consecutive non-winning season. Has any other coach topped that?

I can see why Fisher keeps getting renewed. If you work through the thought process year-in, year-out then it's kind of understandable, at least when he was in Tennessee. Hired in 1995, SB appearance in 2000, AFC championship game in 2002, 12-4 in 2003, then the cap/roster blew apart and McNair left. Then he built through 4-12, 8-8, 10-6, 13-3, 8-8 years all while up against the Colts in their prime before getting fired after 6-10.

The Rams seems less explainable other than I guess value his experience in terms of moving a franchise.

Ultimately as bad as his record seems - it's the same as Tom Coughlin's - minus two Lombardi's.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:39pm

My biggest problem with Fisher was his archaic philosophy to winning football games, namely 10-3 wins with some uber conservatism sprinkled with a fake special teams play or two. For the sake of Goff's development and Gurley's body - the rams really should fire Fisher.

by RoninX :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:48pm

Tom Coughlin was not a good NFL coach in my opinion either. The bottom line is that neither of these guys are BAD coaches, and when you spin the coaching carousel you can easily end up with a guy who can't even get you seven wins, much less ten, so I think there is a fair amount of "bird in the hand" in play here. And as obnoxious as it is to most hardcore fans the Rams ownership will probably settle for 8 games under .500 over the next few years as long as they can be sure they don't go 2-14 two years in a row and foul their new nest in LA. And Fisher pretty much guarantees them exactly that.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:52pm

I cannot imagine a single reason to prefer Jeff Fisher over Lovie Smith, who has been available twice while Fisher has been maxing out at 7-9.

by RoninX :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:04pm

Hey - I'm not going to disagree with that. I'm just trying to figure out the rationale that the Rams' brain trust is using in making this decision.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 2:50pm

Have found Dan Henning with seven consecutive non-winnings years. His best was 7-8-1 in 1986. Atlanta 1983-86, Chargers 1989-91 ... 38-73-1 0.343%

by Travis :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:02pm

Marion Campbell had 9 consecutive losing years (1 of those years was as an interim coach) and never had a winning season.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:16pm

Maybe the Rams ownership wants to own the record. It's the only shot they have at one in the near future.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:43pm

Marion Campbell is a fascinating story. Chase Stuart wrote a nice article on him here:


The Falcons actually brought him in a second time, even though he was terrible the first time! Even with young versions of Steve Bartkowski and Chris Miller, the defensive-minded Campbell never got anything out of them, and they both looked better under different coaching staffs. I can't help but think that Fisher may have stunted the development of Sam Bradford, and may be doing the same thing to Jared Goff.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 3:48pm

Scott Kacsmar:
"Brees, against the 32nd-ranked pass defense. Who went all in on Brees? This guy, and I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Hey, I got that one wrong, too. This was the most unexpected Lions win since the victory in Lambeau Field last year. Their defense has improved quite a bit since they got Kyle Van Noy off the field, and they started using a heavy nickel as their base defense (which limits Quandre Diggs' time on the field).

by dcl0 :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 5:20pm

Interesting about Van Noy. He seemed to have a good game for the Patriots yesterday. What were his main problems in Detroit?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/05/2016 - 6:47pm

He was terrible at pass coverage and missed a ton of tackles when defending the run. It may have been an issue of scheme fit (Detroit primarily run 4-3 or 4-2), but I don't know what he's being asked to do in New England. It would not surprise me if the Patriots, yet again, snagged a player that another team gave up on, and found a way for them to make a positive contribution.

by jayman4 :: Wed, 12/07/2016 - 12:33am

I know this is just the random teams you care about or games you find interesting, but two weeks in a row with any digital ink spilled on my flailing Bolts. They were playing relevant teams at least...