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22 Jan 2017

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

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 emails 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.

Green Bay Packers 21 at Atlanta Falcons 44

Bryan Knowles: Green Bay put Atlanta in a couple of third-and-long situations on that drive, one of Atlanta's few weak spots on offense, relatively speaking (19th in the league in converting by conventional stats). Atlanta converted both of them, and draws first blood.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm still convinced 2008-2015 Matt Ryan doesn't make that little flip pass on the run there. He's really stepped up his improv game this season, which is key to his career-year success.

Carl Yedor: Methodical drive down the field by the Falcons. A few important third down conversions, but nothing we didn't expect coming into the game. I'm pretty happy this game is happening in a dome so we can see the offenses at their best instead of fighting with the elements (although it's only about 40 degrees in Green Bay right now).

Aaron Schatz: They called unnecessary roughness on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after the first Falcons touchdown, and the Falcons just kicked deep from the 50 for an easy touchback. I do not understand why we are not seeing more onside kicks in that situation. With the touchback at the 25, you are talking about the difference between an unsuccessful onside kick and a successful touchback being roughly FIFTEEN YARDS. That is absolutely worth giving up for a 10 to 15 percent chance of keeping the ball and putting your offense back on the field -- especially in a game like this where we know there will be a ton of points scored!

And it took Green Bay two plays to move the ball past where they would have recovered a failed onside kick. Two plays.

Cian Fahey: Packers aren't slowing their pass rush early on. Getting a good rush too, tightening Rodgers' pocket.

Aaron Schatz: Surprisingly it's the Falcons having trouble catching the ball early, with three drops in the first two drives.

Vince Verhei: Atlanta's second drive ends in a field goal after a first-and-goal false start, but they still take a 10-0 lead. Weren't we talking a few weeks ago about Atlanta's offensive improvement, and trying to figure out what personnel move they made to cause it? Well let's not forget that their 2 and 3 receivers last year were Roddy White's corpse and Leonard Hankerson. After two drives, Mohamed Sanu leads Atlanta with 53 yards from scrimmage. Taylor Gabriel has only contributed one drop so far, but regardless, the depth of options in the passing game have been a huge improvement.

Aaron Schatz: Healthy Tevin Coleman too, and a strong rookie year from Austin Hooper.

Scott Kacsmar: They're playing pretty well, but I still find it odd how quick some are to gloat about Sanu and Gabriel this year. Are we forgetting some of the great receiving corps from over the years? The Cardinals once made the Super Bowl with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston as their No. 2 and No. 3 guys. I'd also take Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham from the 2011 Giants over those two, not to mention Randall Cobb and Davante Adams on the other side of the field today. The Atlanta scoring machine in general has just been really impressive this season, but I think most fans would still struggle to name the tight end on this team.

Vince Verhei: I never said they had the best corps this year, or the best of recent playoff teams. I just said they were much better than the guys Atlanta had last year.

Scott Kacsmar: Right, it's a clear improvement on the 2015 Falcons, the weakest offense of the Ryan era. But as far as MVP quarterback seasons, and 500-point scoring teams go, this is still one of the lesser supporting casts of skill players that we've seen.

Andrew Potter: They're never, ever calling it, but surely that should have been a safety after the Aaron Ripkowski fumble. Jalen Collins clearly deliberately rolled himself into the end zone from the 1-yard line.

Vince Verhei: I thought so too, and I am VERY annoyed none of Fox's announcers mentioned that possibility. But on replay (and all turnovers are automatically reviewed), it looked like Collins didn't actually secure possession until he was in the end zone. So, touchback.

Scott Kacsmar: His knee is on the line when he gets possession. It's close, and Fox definitely should have brought it up, but no controversy here.

Tom Gower: I rewound the initial (and thus far) only look we got a couple times, and it looked to me like the ball was in the field of play when Collins finally possessed the ball, but he was moving. In that case, no safety because of the momentum exception, but Atlanta's ball at the 1 rather than a touchback. That 19 yards of field position difference makes a pretty big deal, and I won't use the words I want to use to describe Fox not mentioning it because there are preschool toys around.

Andrew Potter: Well it's not like they have a rules expert available at a moment's notice or anything.

Bryan Knowles: There's enough controversy that Dean Blandino tweeted out the explanation

Said that his leg was on the goal line, and thus, a touchback. I thought the ball had to be in the end zone to be a touchback, but apparently the rule was called correctly.

Either way, odd that Fox didn't even mention it.

Vince Verhei: Matt Ryan scrambles for a touchdown to put Atlanta up 17-0. The Falcons have dropped, what, three or four passes, all downfield? Ryan is still 15-of-22 for 187 yards.

Credit to Chase Stuart for pointing out that Dom Capers has no idea how to defend quarterback runs.

Andrew Potter: I know it's still kinda early, but man based on how the game's gone so far I'd have been seriously considering going for that fourth-and-2.

Granted Mike McCarthy's not who I'd pick to call the play if I was going for it, but even so...

Bryan Knowles: I have no idea how no one caught that Matt Ryan bomb. It hung up there forever, and three Packers and a Falcon all had a shot at it.

Tom Gower: I'm pretty sure Aldrick Robinson thought Green Bay was going to intercept it and was trying to make sure the defensive back didn't catch it rather than trying to catch it himself.

Aaron Schatz: Touchdown Falcons with three seconds left. 24-0. I thought Julio Jones had his toe touch out of bounds but I understand that's tough to overturn. 

The Packers absolutely should have a run in them in the second half. But the problem is they not only need a run, they also need to keep the Falcons out of the end zone.

Vince Verhei: Among the many reasons Atlanta is lighting up Green Bay so far: outstanding pass protection. In the first half, Ryan had 32 passes, plus two scrambles (for a team-high 23 rushing yards). The Packers defense has no sacks, and only four hits. 

The Packers ran the ball three times in the first half, and will probably run even less in the second.

Tom Gower: Falcons up 24-0 at the half. I'm not that surprised the Falcons have 24 points in five possessions. Their use of running backs in the passing game is tailor-made to annihilate Green Bay's linebacker corps, forcing Dom Capers to play more of his highly questionable defensive backs and opening up the outside zone action or letting Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman catch passes. We have seen a lot of Joe Thomas and Jake Ryan, it seems, and the Falcons have spent basically the whole game in the air (Ryan 32 passing attempts to ten carries for the backs).

But zero points for the Packers? Some of it is understandable -- they should have three, but Mason Crosby missed a makeable field goal. Aaron Ripkowski had the big fumble (Atlanta is 2-for-2 on fumble recoveries). And two normal stops (I thought Green Bay should have gone for it on fourth-and-2 down 17-0, on the edge of field goal range or not). So nothing in four possessions, which isn't that strange. But it does stress the hill they have to climb. Atlanta's not scoring quickly, so Green Bay needs to make up 24 points in, oh, maybe five or six team possessions unless they really hurry? Dallas had to do a lot to get into the game last week; they managed it, but Green Bay's task is maybe twice as hard? Even harder, because it's not like Atlanta's offense has slowed down? At least they'll get the ball to start the second half.

I forget who I saw mention it on Twitter, but the Julio Jones touchdown at the end of the first half was definitely a "just tackle the receivers" scenario with so little time left and Atlanta out of timeouts.

Scott Kacsmar: Third down was one area where Ryan's season wasn't overly stellar, but he has delivered today. Can't really pinpoint it to any one thing either. There have been great throws, great catches, blown coverages, and some timely running from him. Pretty stunned to see 24-0 at halftime.

Cian Fahey: These playoffs continue to offer no actual competition (outside of the Green Bay-Dallas game). It's halftime and it's 24-0 with no reason to think the Packers can come back. Rodgers has actually played well but the Packers are losing in pretty much every other area.

Carl Yedor: So much for that shootout. At least Green Bay gets the ball to start the second half. Not much else to say that hasn't already been said, but it does feel like Green Bay is unfortunate to be down by as much as they are.

Bryan Knowles: Three-and-out is not precisely the way you want to start your big second-half comeback.

Terrible drop by Jared Cook there.

Vince Verhei: He had drops on first down and third down on that three-and-out. It's almost like somebody wrote about how lousy this Packers team is except for the quarterback.

Julio Jones' 73-yard touchdown in which he shamed and emasculated Green Bay's entire secondary, throwing them to the ground like children, reminds me of Percy Harvin's kickoff return touchdown to open the second half of Seattle's Super Bowl win over Denver: an amazing athletic feat that also signaled the exact point when everyone knew the game was really over.

Cian Fahey: We have reached the relying-on-Christine-Michael stage of the evening.

Scott Kacsmar: Packers finally find the end zone, but why not start going for two on every drive? You have virtually no hope of winning anyway, so what is there to lose? Try to maximize scoring on each drive.

Vince Verhei: Mike McCarthy, the same coach who punted on fourth-and-2 down 17-0.

Bryan Knowles: A delay of game on the ensuing kickoff is an embarrassing error, even if it ended up not mattering. That's a Jaguars-level mistake.

Vince Verhei: Packers finally get a sack... and it's wiped out by a defensive holding call.

Cian Fahey: I have British TV talking about how Aaron Rodgers has been off his game today. If I wasn't sure NFL Media is about to adopt the same narrative it'd annoy me. Alas...

Bryan Knowles: Probably meaningless in this case, but would you rather have the Packers at third-and-goal from the 18, or fourth-and-goal at the 3? Falcons chose the former, and I'm not 100 percent sure that's the right call.

Andrew Potter: Given the DPI call against Robert Alford on the resultant third down, I'd guess Atlanta would also walk that decision back if they could.

The beauty of that Jared Cook touchdown, of course, is that now Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Jared Cook have all caught touchdowns. Look, the receivers weren't the problem, honest!

I'll also enter Mike McCarthy's two-point play calls (and last week's failed fourth-and-short against Dallas) as evidence in support of my earlier point: that while I would have considered going for the fourth-and-2 in the first half, Mike McCarthy is not the guy I'd want to have calling the play.

Cian Fahey: Jared Cook has 7-78-1 today and is receiving praise all over my Twitter timeline. Sometimes I think they transmit a different game across the Atlantic.

Bryan Knowles: Nose tackle Letroy Guion is in at guard for the Packers because they're just out of linemen now with Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, and Lane Taylor all out. That certainly hasn't helped the Packers today.

Vince Verhei: Writing the Seahawks-Falcons preview, I pooh-poohed Atlanta's late-season defensive improvement because some of their opponents had nothing on the line. Well, the Falcons have now played well on defense two playoff games in a row. Not dominant, but about average. And that, with this offense, is more than enough to beat anyone.

Tom Gower: Packers ending defensive performance last week: TD, TD, FG (under time pressure).

Today: TD, FG, TD, punt, TD, TD, TD, TD, punt (at 44-21 with less than three minutes to play).

Difficult to win games when you give up eight touchdowns in 12 possessions over five quarters.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at New England Patriots 36

Aaron Schatz: Patriots start off the AFC Championship Game by marching up the field easily until Malcolm Mitchell drops a pass on third-and-1 from the 13. Field goal, 3-0. Steelers rushed only three on almost every play of that drive. I can't imagine that's a good strategy against Tom Brady for an entire game.

Tom Gower: Surprised to see Bill Belichick (a) choose to receive after winning the toss, and (b) kick a field goal on fourth-and-1. Of course Phil Simms likes the decision to kick.

Vince Verhei: Though it pains me to agree with Phil Simms on anything, I'd have kicked the field goal too. I think New England will get plenty of red-zone trips today -- they don't need to force a touchdown now, and can afford to take the easy three.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm already annoyed. We know Ben Roethlisberger is a high ALEX threat on third-and-short, but down 3-0, you can't afford to throw away a drive with a low-percentage deep shot on third-and-1. Sammie Coates was great to start the year, but the guy has two catches on 18 targets since Week 6. Maybe he's healthy now, and that was single coverage, but just run the ball with Le'Veon Bell and keep the drive going.

Aaron Schatz: One reader on Twitter did think Bell was the initial read on that third-and-1 pass, but Rob Ninkovich peeled off immediately to cover him tightly so he wasn't available.

Cian Fahey: "Hitting Brady is the best way to beat him." You hear that a lot when the Patriots play in the playoffs. It's basically the same as saying "Pick the best players in the draft." Hitting Brady is the result of your strategy, it's not a strategy in itself.

Bryan Knowles: Chris Hogan running wild in the end zone! A blown coverage leaves him wide open for the touchdown, and that's just too easy.

Nice drive for Hogan, with four receptions for 57 yards, including the touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: At least one Pittsburgh unit is shining so far. I think the offensive line has done an excellent job of keeping early blitzes away from Roethlisberger without somehow drawing a holding penalty.

Now 10-6, Patriots just converted a third-and-8 with a pass to a wide-open Hogan on the left sideline. Do the Steelers know he's in the game? That's like the third or fourth time he has been wide open.

Oh, and next play, flea flicker, 34-yard touchdown to Hogan. Although the Steelers did have a guy on him that time, Hogan beat the defender. Now 17-6. Man, I love flea flickers.

Bryan Knowles: CBS is running this new Hunted show after the game, about regular people trying to avoid pursuit. I presume Hogan's game so far is a clever promotional tie-in.

Andrew Potter: Brady is getting so much time in the pocket that Kevin Harlan is one drive away from describing the way his shirt ripples in the wind during his dropbacks.

Aaron Schatz: Although to give the Pittsburgh defense some credit, the defensive line has been very good on running plays so far.

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger is hitting all the short stuff, but Sammie Coates and Cobi Hamilton have dropped his best throws today on what would have been huge plays.

Check that -- I don't think I'd chart the Coates play as a drop, but a play he needed to make.

Aaron Schatz: So, the Steelers get down to the red zone and it looks like they throw a touchdown pass to Jesse James. Review shows that James didn't quite get into the end zone. And I thought -- and said on Twitter -- I think it would be better for the Steelers if this didn't get into the end zone, because that would have left the Pats two minutes and three timeouts for their final drive. It's usually easy to score on first-and-goal from the 1, you get four tries. Yes, I know about what happened in Super Bowl XLIX, but that kind of thing is absurdly rare.

Well, I forgot that the Pats' run defense is way better than their pass defense. Because they stuffed DeAngelo Williams on first down, stuffed him even more for a loss on second down, and then got an incomplete pass on third-and-goal from the 5. Field goal, and the Pats get the ball back with 1:39 left in the half, although no timeouts because they just used them all to keep the Steelers from running the clock down. Other than a turnover, it's the best possible result they could have asked for from that whole series.

Vince Verhei: In their last six quarters, the Steelers have scored one touchdown on 19 red zone plays.

Scott Kacsmar: Four straight quarterback sneaks by Roethlisberger would have worked down there. Hell, one or two was probably all they needed. Just bad stuff, and barring a score to start the half, I don't feel too good about Pittsburgh here given the defensive breakdowns.

Tom Gower: Patriots up 17-9 at the half. The Steelers have moved the ball with some success a couple times, but haven't finished in the red zone and it's all been short. I'd actually go against Scott and blame Coates more than Hamiton for their missed deep balls. Coates failed to locate the ball and didn't even attempt to make a catch, while it looked to me like the defensive back actually did get his arm in there to make Hamilton's catch more difficult than it otherwise would have been. I'd still call it a drop, but I'm not sure it would've been by our charting (and Eric Rowe is credited with a pass defensed on the play).

My casual impression of Pittsburgh's defense (I haven't studied them at all) has been that they have reached the level where they force opposing teams to play well to score on them as opposed to beating themselves. Hasn't looked like that tonight with how Chris Hogan has gotten way the heck open repeatedly. True, a lot of that has been the product of some good scheming -- it's not like they're just blowing simple coverages. But they have not been responding well to floods and stretched zones the way you want a good zone defense to.

Aaron Schatz: The other reason to be pessimistic about the Steelers is that, as much as DeAngelo Williams is one of the best backup running backs in the NFL right now, he's not Le'Veon Bell. We may not be seeing Bell again today. It sucks, they finally get the three Killer B's healthy and playing together in the postseason and one of them immediately gets hurt.

Vince Verhei: God, the CBS announcers are killing me on the fumble review on the Brady sneak. The ref did not say there was a clear recovery on the field, they said Pittsburgh was CHALLENGING that there was a clear recovery on the field. And on review, there wasn't.

Aaron Schatz: Tom Brady sneaks on third-and-1 and the Steelers claim he fumbled and they recovered. Mike Tomlin challenges. it is my opinion that there was no way they were going to find clear evidence on video of either (a) Brady losing the ball with his knee clearly not yet down, or (b) which team recovered the loose ball. Steelers fans on my Twitter timeline say that this is just my clear Patriots bias, that the replay obviously showed Brady fumbling and the Steelers recovering, and that the refs are biased against Pittsburgh.

How do the rest of you feel?

Andrew Potter: There was no video replay of a clear recovery. Doesn't matter how clearly the fumble is shown, the recovery isn't. That was a clear "we wish it were so" challenge.

Tom Gower: It appeared from replay that the ball was out. Dean Blandino tweeted out that there was no clear recovery. I wish Terry McAuley would have given us a better explanation that that was in fact why the call on the field stood, and CBS would have done a better job of making it clear that Pittsburgh was challenging that there was a clear recovery (Simms stated the opposite, that McAuley said there in fact WAS a clear recovery) and shown replays that did a better job of showing what happened after Brady lost control of the ball. So, probably a good call, but a mess in multiple ways.

Vince Verhei: These broadcasts have both been terrible today. Network people not doing their job of explaining what's going on to the people at home. And if they don't understand, that's part of the problem. It was plainly obvious that was going on. Nantz and Simms have no excuse to be so confused.

Tom Gower: Mike Tomlin just punted. On fourth-and-7. From the New England 39. While trailing by 11 points. In the middle of the third quarter. Remember when Mike McCarthy punted earlier today, on fourth-and-2, and later went for it on fourth-and-13? OK, fine, the Packers converted, but I'm expecting something like that.

Andrew Potter: One of the real themes of this postseason for me has been the passivity of losing coaches. Ben McAdoo against Green Bay. Bill O'Brien (and in fact at least three of the four losing head coaches) in the divisional round. Mike McCarthy earlier today. And now Mike Tomlin here. That fourth-and-7 punt is nonsense.

Vince Verhei: And then New England received the punt, drove down the field and score a touchdown to go up 27-9. You could give New England 200 yards to go and I'd expect them to score at this point.

Scott Kacsmar: After Tomlin punted, this one was over.

Vince Verhei: Steelers now at one touchdown in last 24 red zone plays.

Tom Gower: If what I saw on Twitter earlier tonight is right, Steelers now have more goal-to-go possessions ending in a non-touchdown in the postseason than they did in the regular season. This is the third week of the postseason. The regular season is 16 games long.

Vince Verhei: An hour later, Jim Nantz just apologized for mishearing the ref on the sneak-fumble. Well, hell, there's nothing else to talk about right now.

Bryan Knowles: 10 games, eight blowouts. Maybe we're saving up all our dramatic game karma for one last thriller at the end of the year.

And by that, of course, I mean next week's Pro Bowl!

Tom Gower: The Pro Bowl should still be after the Super Bowl, dammit.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 22 Jan 2017

303 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2017, 11:09am by jgrenci@zoominternet.net


by Rich A :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:43am

One of the interesting things to me was the disparity in the referee's subjective judgement on the matter of holding.

I don't really remember much about the Atlanta game since I was asleep shortly after halftime, but I do remember seeing the 73 yard Julio touchdown and saw that the flag was for holding and it was fairly clear holding before the pass. But then in the Patriots and Steelers game the refs were letting a lot of grabbing on both sides go. I think I can clearly recall a few times where Pittsburgh held Edelmann (third down), or when Chung was holding James a bit (not enough to turn him, but in "perfect" trail technique)(also a third down play).

And then this discrepancy with penalties was also clear in regards to DPI. There was the Atlanta-GB DPI that was played pretty well by the GB safety, who got his head around, but he did leap a bit early and was into the body of the receiver a bit, but in general it was pretty soft, and it was called. And then in the NE-Pitt game I think I saw several times where the NE db's were getting away with turning their heads fairly late and having quite a bit of contact (although not quite as early as that aforementioned GB play).

I'm not sure what article here pointed out to the referee crews, I think it was the NFC Championship preview, but I'm wondering how the ref is for the Superbowl. Although I think both Atl and NE have receivers that can fight through some of that holding (Edelmann and Julio).

I wonder if Dan Quinn, former Seahawks D co-ordinator, will dial up a plan that will rely on jamming/holding at the line? I don't know Atl that well, how do the corners play in that technique? Or will Belichick dust off the 2001 Rams and 2003 Colts gameplan and basically hold on every play? I'm guessing both teams test the referees discretion early.

Is it strange to say that it still kinda feels like NE's defense is a mirage, but at the same time there's no denying their effectiveness. By the end of the game I see the points allowed and I'm wondering: how did that happen?

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:52am

Carl Cheffers will be the ref for the Super Bowl; I believe with the same crew he worked the Kansas City-Pittsburgh game.

by Rich A :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:58am

I think I remember thinking that referee crew was fairly level, not too soft and handing out calls to everything but not loose and not calling everything.

Although I'm pretty sure that was just my take on the one Fisher-Harrison play where Harrison did beat Fisher to the edge and Fisher pretty clearly held him (when he didn't really need to since Smith stepped up). In general I don't remember much about that crew, so maybe that's a good thing.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:47am

" One of the real themes of this postseason for me has been the passivity of losing coaches. Ben McAdoo against Green Bay. Bill O'Brien (and in fact at least three of the four losing head coaches) in the Divisional Round. Mike McCarthy earlier today. And now Mike Tomlin here. That fourth-and-7 punt is nonsense."

It's still amazing to me that most modern NFL coaches don't seem to understand that if you're going to take a risk, its better to do it early, and have a chance at dealing with a negative result, than to wait until you absolutely need to take it.

Had Tomlin gone for it then, maybe they're not forced to go for it on 4th later in the game, or not forced to take ridiculous shots down the field into double coverage.

As to the Brady fumble, on the side view, it looked to me like his elbow hit before the ball came out. It was a ridiculous challenge either way - theres no way that should have been overturned, no matter what the original call was. No idea why the steelers were so cocky about it (had their offense out on the field during the review). Too much of a mess to challenge.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:03am

Most NFL coaches (indeed, most coaches at all levels) are abnormally risk-averse. It's a strong cultural bias that leads to a lot of poor decisions being made. I suspect a good portion of Belichick's advantage is simply not having any respect for the notion that any decision should be made in a certain way simply based on traditional thinking. He's thought at a minute level of detail about every aspect of the game of football. So every decision he makes is based on only on understanding the relative risks, but also on several decades of experiences validating and/or refuting certain choices.

As a contrast, consider Phil Simms, who's never seen an offense punt or kick on 4th down without the decision meeting with his approval.

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:17am

RickD, not sure if you are old enough to remember the board game "Talking Football" (early/mid 70s) but the offensive coach picks a disc to pop in the player based on his offensive call and his opponent (the D coach) spins it to the appropriate D call and presses it in. The mechanical device then announces the play.

One of the plays (on a passing disc) was "It's a quick kick, no it's a fake. QB throws... in-com-plete."

I'm sure when Simms played this game as a child, he always cheered at the quick kick part before being disappointed by the fact that it was a fake. And to bolster his twisted perspective, the incomplete pass "proved" the quick kick was the right call. Every time.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:13pm

I was 3 when it was released, but I don't remember it. I did find a video on YouTube of somebody playing every single possible combination of offensive and defensive call. I have a limited number of years left in my life, so I didn't listen to that very long.

It does seem like Simms had some influence like this game playing an inordinately large role in his life. Maybe a beloved family pet died and his father said "That's because the Giants went for it on 4th and 2!"

by fmtemike :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:36pm

Coaches are risk averse because if you go against the book and lose, it's your fault. If you follow the book and lose, it's the players' fault (if you need it to be).

Belichick doesn't have to worry about his job, so he can do what he wants. Though watching him you can see how aware he is of football still being a field position game, as it was when he was a kid. He doesn't take risks for the sake of it.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:06pm

That's the theory, but in the end the owner takes a look at the coach's W-L record and then the piper comes calling. I suppose if a coach is making some *really* risky decisions that don't work out his firing could be expedited, but typically it just comes down to winning and losing. No one is going to remember whether or not Tomlin should have gone for it on 4th down in that situation (he should have) but they sure as heck are going to remember that his team got its butts kicked just the same. Maybe just maybe if the Steelers had converted there (it was only 4th-and-7) and eventually scored a TD on the possession, it might have ended up as a reasonably competitive game. But ~25 yards of field position? Who cares. That got chewed up in three plays.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:20pm

This isn't necessarily true. For a recent example, look at the Bears' last two coaches.

Marc Trestman was not a good coach, but more importantly, was not a good coach in unconventional ways. He had a CFL background, he took an intellectual approach to things, and he basically let players do what they want. The Bears went 8-8 and then 5-11 under him, and he was fired after two seasons.

John Fox followed him, and went 6-10 and then 3-13. That's four fewer wins total, and the same three-win decline between seasons one and two. But Fox is as typical a coach as there is, and is very risk averse.

I'm not saying that the Bears should have kept Trestman, or even that they should get rid of Fox (wait, I actually do agree with that latter stance). But the overall point is that Trestman was given much less rope due to his less conventional approach to things - it didn't just come down to his record.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 8:55am

Same thing with Chip Kelly. With Philly, he went 10-6, 10-6, 6-9, after the team had gone 4-12 the season before he showed up. Yet he got fired before week 16 in the 6-9 season (ultimately 7-9 after a win by the interim coach). Normally, a coach would get much more rope than that after the way he quickly turned the team around after Reid's last season. Although with Kelly, it's hard to determine how much his firing came from his unconventional approach (for the NFL at least) and how much it came from interpersonal strife he was involved in.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:49pm

I'm going to disagree with you a bit on this. I would argue that Trestman may have been an unconventional coach, but that wasn't the reason he was fired. He was fired for completely losing the locker room. Perhaps his unconventional approach led to him being too soft on players and losing the locker room, but the approach wasn't the root cause of his firing. Had he lost the locker room by being too tough on players, he'd have been fired just the same.

Also, Trestman may have been given less rope due to his methods but it was also because of where the team was at. He took over after Lovie Smith was fired for missing the playoffs at 10-6. The Bears believed in Jay Cutler and expected Trestman to make him play up to his potential. It also wasn't clear yet that the defense was in total collapse with players retiring and getting old. There was a ton of hope in 2013 and even in 2014 that they could win the division. (And let's not forget that they blew it in 2013 with that embarrassing loss to the Eagles and then losing to the Packers in the final game - 9-7 would have won the division that year).

Whereas when Fox took over, the goal for 2015 was to pretty much restore some respectability to a sad, embarrassing team. 6-10 did that. 3-13 this year was awful and I am also not sure that Fox should keep his job, but at some point injuries do have to be a partial explanation for the win/loss record. And it's not John Fox's fault that Kevin White is made of glass or that there is nobody in the Bears secondary who should be starting games in the NFL.

by Rich A :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:18am

In regards to the Brady fumble: I'm not quite sure, it was hard to tell, the broadcast did a horrible job showing the different angles. Though you're right, in general that's a challenge that's nearly impossible to win.

I used to kill it in Madden (top 100 on xbox 360 in 2010), and you'll see super aggressive play at that level. Basically what a lot of people in the slack group were suggesting about the Atl-GB game. At a certain point you know the opposing offense is near impossible to stop and so you just know you're going into full game mode: you're going 4 downs the whole field and you're always onside kicking it. A game that will be trading touchdowns turns on a turnover or two. The yards don't matter, only possessions and scores. If you're going to give up points you have to turn it into a shootout by any means necessary, which means making sure your offense stays on the field. Even if that's running every play at 3 ypc. Do something that gets TD's or at least FG's.

What boggles me is that current coaches think that field position is a thing in these games. Maybe if you've got a defense, but when half your defense is injured to such a degree that they're not playing half your starters and half the line-up is just above replacement level, well, then ride your alien QB to either the glory of a ridiculous win or the ignominy of a attempted win that was insane. But at least go for the win. You don't play the whole season to just throw away the year by not trying to win.

Coaches before they're hired should have to answer a logic game that shows whether they know the difference between decisions to pursue the win (increase win probability) and decisions which prolong the absolute point of losing (decisions which hold or decrease win probability). These decisions are not the same and it's insane how many head coaches don't know it.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:21pm

I agree that it looked like his forearm was down and he still had the ball and that is was not a good challenge. In the replays I could not tell when the ball came out and who recovered it. An explanation by the ref beyond "the call is confirmed" would be nice. Simms is so annoying.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:29pm

It did look like the football was squirting loose before Brady's elbow or forearm had touched down-- which was McAuley and Blandino's assessment upon review-- but there's no way that call was going to be overturned on replay. What was annoying though was the way the call was made on the field. There was no immediate down-by-contact call, Hargrave had come away with the football and yet there was still no possession signaled either way for quite some time. So what was the basis for the ruling of a New England recovery/non-fumble? Seemed like a guess to me. And if you're going to guess, the general trend has been to rule a fumble on the field, and allow replay to overturn the call based on down-by-contact (as replay reversal is generally not possible the other way around). We see this all the time, even with very obvious forward passes being initially ruled as fumbles instead of incompletions. Not this time.

by slomojoe :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:32pm

My impression is that in cases of pile-ups after fumbles the refs are reluctant to just automatically assign recovery to the last guy who comes out of the pile with the ball, because they do not want to provide further incentive for bottom-of-the-pile shenanigans that could get someone hurt. Typically, they seem to go with an "educated guess" of who is more likely to have recovered.

In general, it happens almost every game that some dude jumps out of a scrum all excited holding the ball, and the refs just go the other way.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:59am

Turns out Bell's groin was injured coming into the game. He wasn't on the injury report (rules violation). He may well have hid the injury from his own coaches.

It's a shame he couldn't play the whole game. Even though he's playing against the team I root for, I really like watching Bell play. In a league that's mostly lacking high-level RB play, Bell is a pleasant exception.


by Bobman :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:25am

When will people learn that (1) honesty is the best policy, especially when you are working for a very publicly scrutinized company that required weekly disclosures and punishes "errors."

And (2) if you are going to lie, you freakin' stick with it till your dying day.

Seahawks' Pete Carroll made an honest mistake regarding Sherman (not realizing that his absence from practices was disclosed but that it was not for the reason he let slip to the press--it's not the coach who makes those disclosures), and now Pitt and Bell? I wonder a bit about Indy as well--Luck was on the injury report more or less all year, but I don't think his shoulder (for which he just had surgery and Irsay said it goes back to a 2015 game) was listed as the reason each week. Clearly, given his season, his throwing shoulder was not really a problem worth calling out specifically each week. But if the dude is gonna miss 10 games with internal organ lacerations in October 2015, why not have his shoulder scoped THEN?

Okay, Indy has more problems that the injury report to deal with this offseason. They're off on the right foot regarding the GM, but the coaching rumors are... okay, too far off topic.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:59pm

After Bell's performance in the last game, why would anyone (including his coaches) think he was injured in any substantial way? There are injuries, and then there are injuries. Seriously, at this stage of the season you could write up an injury report on every single player. (Then when the player aggravates the nagging injury, you're covered, I suppose.)

by RBroPF :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:55pm

It was a shame that Bell couldn't play the whole game, but it seemed to be almost inevitable. I'm actually surprised he held up as long as he did with his extreme workload. Bell had carried the ball (rushes and receptions) well over 400 times coming into this Sunday and he did that in 14 games.

Giving a back that kind of workload, and having your team's fortunes so completely dependent on him is not a formula for sustained success, imo.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:37am

The Atlanta scoring machine in general has just been really impressive this season, but I think most fans would still struggle to name the tight end on this team.

Do you mean the tight end with the most receptions, the tight end with the most receiving yards, or the tight end who started the most games?

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:43am

I think it's well-established that the fine readers of our august website aren't "most fans" ;)

by JustAnotherFalc... :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:39am

Don't forget that one of those three is the NFL's most hated player.

by jw124164 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:43am

and that SOB is on IR - proof that without his malign influence, there's no stopping us now!

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:30pm

Richie Icognito plays TE for Atlanta?

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:43pm

Or Vontaze Burfict?
I seriously barely know anything about any of the Falcons TE's, certainly not enough to hate any of them. Which one of them is supposed to be the most hated guy in the NFL, and why?

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:09pm

I would have also nominated Burfict for "most hated player".

The only TE on the Falcons' IR is Jacob Tamme. I never knew he was hated. Apparently this was a joke in response to a Twitter poll.

He's been accused of such transgressions as "not sorting the laundry" and forcing people to listen to Nickelback.


by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:43pm

Or Vontaze Burfict?
I seriously barely know anything about any of the Falcons TE's, certainly not enough to hate any of them. Which one of them is supposed to be the most hated guy in the NFL, and why?

by Bobman :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:58am

Aaron Schatz: They called unnecessary roughness on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after the first Falcons touchdown, and the Falcons just kicked deep from the 50 for an easy touchback. I do not understand why we are not seeing more onside kicks in that situation. With the touchback at the 25, you are talking about the difference between an unsuccessful onside kick and a successful touchback being roughly FIFTEEN YARDS. That is absolutely worth giving up for a 10-15 percent chance of keeping the ball and putting your offense back on the field -- especially in a game like this where we know there will be a ton of points scored!

Aaron, you complete me.

I've been raving about this to my family all season. Basically, the kicking team is given a gift and says no thanks. They get, what, 75% touchbacks anyway, so getting a 100% guaranteed one is a minor benefit. But one more possession, now THAT's big. Just ask Drew Brees in 2009.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:34pm

Correct me if I am wrong here, but if Atlanta had simply kicked the ball out of bounds, Green Bay would have gotten the ball at the 20. As I read it, the penalty for the kick out of bounds is receiving team gets the ball 30 yards from the spot of the kick.

Unless you're allowed to decline this penalty and make them re-kick, if nothing else, Atlanta gains five yards here.

I'll never forget a few years ago, the Lions scored and were gifted 2 personal foul penalties, so they ended up kicking off from the opponent's 40 yard line. So many options: onside kick, pop-up to force a fair catch inside the 20, squib kick to the goal line to try and pin them deep. What did they do? Have the kicker blast it into the stands. Unreal. (I forget which year it was, but unsurprisingly they were in last place at the time.)

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:26am

Ne will win sb 51. Its just hard to believe a really competitive league till hasn't figured a way to beat them. Brady is awesome and that's part of it, to be sure. But managing to be a competent defense with that personnel??? I mean, name me another team that could take that group and field half respectable defense. The answer? None.

Its funny - think about what it has taken to suppress NE from winning even more sbs than they have. It took two miracle plays, a herculian defensive line, and one of the greatest qbs of all time to stymie then in the first place. Otherwise, the machine keeps rolling with no end in sight. Seriously, if Archie Manning had been celibate, they would have won 8 championships.

Can we nominate BB for President?(And I'm not joking).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:58am

Yes, the Patriots are favored, and rightly so. No, it would not be a shocking upset if the Falcons win, and I kind of like a Quinn defense and Shanny Jr. offense having a chance. It is interesting that this is the highest over/under in Super Bowl history.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:40am

To piggy back on a point I made above: Look over the defensive roster on the patriots. Who is really that good? Sure, Malcom Butler, Mccourty, Hightower. Fine.

But you took this same roster with their mclellan and Van Noy cast offs and put them with an average coaching staff and we'd be ridiculing this defense. And yet somehow, not only are they respectable at their lowest, their good???

I mean, what is this? And take hogan for instance. Its not an accident he was nothing in Buffalo. He'd be Jeff Janis in Green Bay. But he's a killer in Ne. They simply know how to leverage proper skill specialization and scheme better than anyone.

Ideas get stolen in every other business. Competition rarely lets incumbents dominate an industry this long. And yet, Ne does so. I don't get it.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:42am

By the time any coach comes into the league, he's already developed in a system and adapting major aspects of another system is probably inconceivable at that point. That doesn't explain why people from Belichick's coaching tree haven't done all that well, but maybe it's because he handles them in the same way he does his players - 'This guy can give me X but can't handle Y, so I'll only use him for X.' Then when the guy becomes a head coach he has to do Y on his own, and can't.
Although, if O'Brien had a decent QB we'd be talking about the changing of the guard this week. They befuddled the Pats O most of the day and with Watt back they're going be flat-out nasty. Won't matter if they don't have adequate QB play, however. I've heard it reported that O'Brien was against the Osweiler signing. Anyone know the details on that?
Also, what made the Steelers think playing a defense similar to all the other times they've been blown out by the Pats was going to work this time? The zone schemes looked the same as always.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:43am

I think a lot of the problem with the BB coaching tree is that these guys have never worked in a place where the coach doesn't have both the power to make changes wherever he wants, and the cache to weather out a bit of a downturn so that long term decisions can be made.

McDaniels may have been a shitshow in Denver either way (and Fox certainly wasn't) - but it seemed clear that he was trying to make large scale organizational changes, and didn't have the good will to see them through, or the job security to see if the long term plays he made worked out.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:50am

Those factors certainly contributed, but the biggest reason why McDaniels failed is because, in trying to incorporate Bill's demeanor into his own, he ended up coming off as a petty tyrant.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:48am

Mangini came off as a petty tyrant too. His first act as Browns head coach was to have a mural of Browns history painted over, just to be a dick.

by Purds :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:04am

I will give a different take on BB's success and the BB's coaching tree lack of success (so far): I think we vastly underestimate BB's ability to coach the small details, the techniques, and BB's ability to get coaches who will do that same task exceptionally well. For example, notice that when Pitt punted early, the NE return man (Eddleman?) blocked the coverage unit so the ball would be allowed to go into the end zone. When NE punted, the Pitt guy wither fair catches or let NE catch it. Those things matter, when you compound them over and over. BB is certainly a very good tactics coach, but I think we underestimate his ability to coach the nitty gritty that we often assume pro athletes already know. And, that's not something that a coaching tree can just emulate, like tactics may be. (Other reasons I think this: how well NE's offensive line became once they got their O-line coach back from retirement, the number of guys who flourish in the NE team but not so much on other teams, the inability of the coordinators to be successful with other teams).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:31am

Parcells always had a knack for the nitty-gritty details as well, and his tree has had extreme success. It's an oddity that has always stood out to me, and that I have no explanation for. Makes me think it is just a random thong.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:36am

Honestly confused by your claim here. You say that BB gets coaches who handle the 'nitty gritty' exceptionally well, which would seem to make for a successful coaching tree, not an unsuccessful one. Are you trying to imply that his coaches don't make similar hires when they take bigger jobs elsewhere?

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:39am

I think you aqre underselling the level of talent on the NE defense. Sure, they have no monsters and a lot of castoffs from other teams, but they most of those castoffs were pretty high draft picks that were playing in the wrong system for their talent. They also have a lot of above average talent - and few injuries.
I also take it back as Malcom Butler is a a beast - an undrafted beast.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:21am

The defensive line has some talent. Branch is a stud against the run, Brown is inconsistent but has moments when he flashes his first round pedigree and I won't be surprised if Trey Flowers is a household name in a year or two. It's mostly the LBs where you have Hightower and a band of misfits.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:22am

It sounds simplistic, but the #1 qualification to play defense for the New England Patriots is to be a sure tackler. They may not have been well-known college players. Sometimes their DBs are slower and less athletic than other teams, and they usually don't have an Ace pass rusher, but all 11 guys on the field can bring down the ballcarrier in the open field.

Every time you watch the Patriots you repeatedly see an Edelman or Hogan turn a 3 yard gain into 12 yards by making the the first defender miss. What you hardly ever see is that same scenario play out with the Pats defense on the field.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:31am

Tackle well, eliminate big plays, and most teams will make some sort of mistake every couple of series that leads to a stall. Sometimes its a run for no gain, or an incompletion. Sometimes its a penalty.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:51am

Belichick has realised that having sure tacklers is more important than going for the big hit or strip fumble. Likewise containment of running QBs rather than going all-out on the passrush. I'd say the league crackdown on hits reinforces tackling as the better defensive option these days.

Interestingly, if you go back to SB XL when the Steelers beat the Seahawks, I distinctly remember admiring how Pittsburgh were excellent at tackling and eliminating YAC !

by Boots Day :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:28pm

The most talented player on the New England defense this year was Jamie Collins. I think that's very telling.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:04pm

Certainly the most athletically gifted. And somehow the defense played better after he left.

I wonder how much the Browns will offer to try to retain his services. He's really managed to do a lot of damage to his career. He should be packing for the Super Bowl right now, but instead he's waiting to hear from the front office of the worst team in the NFL.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:40pm

As a point - yesterday's gameplan, which required a ton of discipline on the part of the defensive line and linebackers, simply wouldn't have worked with Collins - not because of his athleticism, but his inability to do what was asked of him.

(The defensive line essentially put a huge priority on contain over collapse, in order to stop the draws/screens/delayed runs - it's exactly the sort of game where Collins would have been shooting gaps and getting burned)

It's the whole "Do your job" thing - its more important to know where to be, and to be there, than it is to have elite speed/etc.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:55pm

4/50, 26 guaranteed

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:38am

When will they learn?

by BJR :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 8:43am

Sooner or later the Browns have to try and actually improve, rather than just accumulate draft picks forever. They have to spend money on someone, and Collins is available and should improve the team.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:40am

The Browns are somehow carrying over a ridiculous $50.1M in salary cap space which they are eventually mandated to spend (likely most of it in 2017). Browns dollars are not the same as Patriots dollars-- Browns dollars might as well be a foreign currency. It's a bit of a loser's curse that terrible teams have to spend good money on whatever talent might be willing to play there (and there are always players who are going to want to get paid), but that's the hole the Browns have to dig themselves out of.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:50pm

Branch is one of the stoutest run defenders in the league. Pitt averaged like 1.7 ypc when running against him. Brown and Valentine complete a very run stout interior. Chung is one of the best safeties in the box in the league and solid in coverage (since NE only has him cover guys he's able to). Everyone can tackle, especially the DBs. Nothing goes past McCourty, so teams rarely take the top off the defense. Flowers is a fantastic pass rusher, inside and out (used inside mostly lately).

NE has excellent players who grade out highly on PFF, one of the top defense in the league base on those individual ratings. But, yes, they are also greater than the sum of their parts, because the Pats coaches never put them in the position of having to execute a role outside their skill set, and they have great leadership and communication.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:04am

The Falcons generated an effective pass rush, the Packers did not. The odd thing is that the Falcons had a fair number of execution errors, or they may have served a fifty burger on Green Bay by the end of the third.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:21am

Look, if you are going to critcize, rightly, excessive pacifism by punting, then I think it is a little problematic to criticize the deep throw on the 1st 3rd down the Steelers had. The receiver was open, the ball there, and the catch needed to be made. If the receiver can't be trusted to make that play, then the problem is with the depth chart, not the playcall.

If you don't get an interior pass rush on Brady, the Patriots are going to score a lot of points, and control a lot of clock in doing so. It was reasonable for the Steelers to be aggressive throwing deep, against a good run defense that doesn't rush the passer exceptionally well. Frankljy, if the Steelers catch the ball in the 1st half, the tenor of the 2nd half may have been quite different

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:52am

That's classic Belichick strategy though - if someone is going to be open, let it be the guy who is further down the depth chart for a reason.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:10am

Sure, and if the Falcons don't know that somebody not named Julio Jones is going to have to have a big 1st half, in order to beat the Patriots, then they aren't paying attention.

Jones has been nagged enough by injuries, with other guys stepping up quite productively, to make it reeasonable to think they are up to the task.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:28am

Yup. Lot of talent on the offensive side for Atlanta. I'm still not completely sold on the Patriots backfield although that might be a Pavlovian reaction from all the years they trotted out cannon fodder to be sliced and diced. I'll have to look it up but my sense is that Atlanta's D showed real improvement in the second half of the season also.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:23am

With some obvious exceptions, I thought the play from the receivers in both games was pretty lousy.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:10am

Yeah. Malcolm Mitchell dropped a fairly easy catch inside the five and later wasn't careful with his feet on the sidelines. Stopped drives in both cases.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:45am

Think if Pittsburgh receivers beyond Brown could catch, they might have given the Patriots a game. But they didn't so that was that.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:01pm

Rogers was productive, esp. in Q2. Coates was bleh. And I got to make a "Coward Bob Ford" joke regarding Jesse James's disappearance. :)

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:26am

Not to defend Capers but with an overmatched defense he likely played the odds that Ryan would not scramble so he kept guys in coverage.

Of course Joe Thomas had to have the worst game of his career. Thomas is not a great linebacker by any stretch but up to today his issues were in run defense where his size hurts him. But today he was just lost. Every choice he made turned out horribly. Peppers was desperate to get to a Super Bowl but did not help that cause by getting handled by everyone on the Falcons line. GB tried to rest him as much as possible between games, but he had to play too much the last 4-6 weeks so the tank was empty. Randall played so ridiculously soft if GB had any other options he likely would have been benched.

For a guy who preaches toughness the Packers were definitely NOT the tougher team yesterday. That was a bit surprising.

GB needed the front seven on defense to make some trouble to give the back end a fighting chance. Except for every so often from Daniels or Perry they were not to be seen. And the result was what one had to expect.

Certainly agree that McCarthy was not nearly aggressive enough. I wrote a while back I wondered if Mike would recognize he was playing a superior team and come out swinging as his team did against Seattle in the NFC Championship game. Mike clearly came in to the game thinking his squad was equal to Atlanta and that was the first but biggest mistake. If he had planned for taking on the far better team he schemes things differently.

I know the above reads as kind of loony but I am pretty comfortable that it is correct.

by Mike W :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:01pm

No, you're right. It seems like he didn't expect the D to be so overmatched, especially in their inability to get any pressure on Ryan.

I wonder how much longer McCarthy has, or Capers. We know Thompson isn't going anywhere, perhaps unfortunately. One SB trip in all these years with Rodgers is not a good result, and it's becoming obvious. We've seen how good this team is with Rodgers out, and by this point we can imagine it pretty vividly also. I don't expect the organization to match up to NE's level - as no one does - but we've seen how well they do without Brady. They get to the SB over half the time. I think maybe 3 SBs in the Rodgers era thus far would be ok. They haven't done it.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:37pm

Depending how you look at it, the Packers have had 23-25 straight years of having one of two qbs who were capable of, at a minimum, playing at a Pro Bowl level. 7 trips to the conference finals, winning 3, is not terrible. It isn't world-beating, but getting to a conference championship every 3.5 years for nearly a quarter century or so is an accomplishment, even if it isn't what the Patriots have pulled off.

If they don't get back to the Super Bowl while Rodgers is still great, however, and they don't have good fortune in their next starter, this will be seen as a substantial missed opportunity.

by RBroPF :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:32pm

I appreciate you looking at the big picture here. My impression is that free agency and the salary cap have recalibrated what we should expect for postseason success even when a team has an elite QB. But because the Patriots have been able to defy those reduced expectations, fandom in general hasn't caught up with the change yet.

Peyton Manning went to 3 conference championships in 13 years with Indianapolis.
Drew Brees went to 2 conference championships in 11 years.
Brett Favre went to 4 conference championships in 16 years.
Aaron Rodgers went to 3 conference championships in 9 years.
Ben Roethlisberger went to 5 conference championships in 13 years.

If you exclude the Pats, the Packers with Rodgers are near the top of the list for championship games per year. That's about as good as it gets in the age of parity.

But you have to see past what the Pats have done, realize that's basically impossible and not hold that up as the standard.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:36pm

"Aaron Rodgers went to 3 conference championships in 9 years.
Ben Roethlisberger went to 5 conference championships in 13 years.

If you exclude the Pats, the Packers with Rodgers are near the top of the list for championship games per year. That's about as good as it gets in the age of parity."


"But you have to see past what the Pats have done, realize that's basically impossible and not hold that up as the standard."
well yes, one team winning it all every other year is not a "standard" that every team can attain; that's a consequence of the fact that there are 32 teams and only 1 champion.

However, per your list, among teams WITH a HOF caliber franchise elite QB, it doesn't appear close to "impossible" ; unless of course you mean something like 16% (or 20% depending how you view 2 QBs on 1 team) is impossible.
The standard is the standard!

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:41am

First of all, I'm looking at CCG appearances so that doesn't preclude another elite team from achieving that also in any given year.

Among teams with an HOF-caliber QB, the 5 other than Pats/Brady are all clustered between 18% to 38% of their seasons in which they got to the CCG. My argument is that that's what should now be considered the standard for success. And by that measure, Packers/Rodgers at 33% shouldn't be seen as a disappointment.

By the way Colts/Luck and Seahawks/Wilson have been to one and two CCGs respectively in their first five years. If those ratios hold for the next 5 or so years, that would put Colts/Luck at 20% or in line with Saints/Brees and would put Seahawks/Wilson in line the Steelers/Ben at 40%. Looking at those organizations, that sounds about right.

Flacco/Ravens come in at 33% (all on his rookie contract). While Eli/Giants clock in at just 13% (not elite!)

Meanwhile, the Pats with Brady have gone to the CCG in 73% of their seasons. That's an enormous outlier from any of these other elite QBs and I don't think we'll see that kind of success again over a 10+ year career.

I just think it's "nearly impossible" for an organization to be able to maintain a championship quality roster around a highly-paid QB over an extended period of time without having more down years than up years.

by Mike W :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:03pm

If you look at CCs, yes, then the Rodgers era has been ok. But the standard should be higher. Given that if you have a HOF-level QB, you should expect to take a mediocre team and go 9-7 or 10-6 at least (right?), then you should make the playoffs pretty much every year. If you look at that stat for HOFQBs, they should for the most part be around 75% and up (Brees no, but that's another thread). That stat won't be very discerning, and it shouldn't be one you look at, since you have a HOFQB, and making the playoffs is the least you should expect, for chrissake. As you go up the ladder, though, to %inCC or %inSB, or %wonSB, those stats separate more.

As I said before, comparing to NE/Brady is a bad idea. But if you look at more relevant stats like %inSB or %wonSB, Green Bay looks kind of bad. As a fan, I don't care if Indy largely wasted Manning also. I want Green Bay to not waste Rodgers.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:29pm

I think that if you get to the conference championship game that means you have a championship caliber roster. At that point you're playing other excellent teams in a single-game elimination.

Even HOF-level QBs only win the CCG a little over half the time they get there. After getting to the CCG, they win the SB 35% of the time. Having an HOF-level QB doesn't make you that much more likely to win those last two games. Although winning those last two games makes it much more likely that a QB actually gets into the HOF.

If GB is wasting Rogers, then they wasted Favre much worse, Indy wasted Manning much worse, the Saints wasted Brees much worse. Only the Steelers have done better.

The Steelers have won a SB every 6.5 years that Ben's been there. The Packers have won the SB every 9 years with Rodgers. Is that really so different? Rodgers has 4 more years at least to match Ben.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:03am

As a Jets fan, I think you need a little perspective. Of course, the team I root for did make it to two conference championship games only six years ago, but they haven't had a championship caliber QB since 2006 or 2004 (I don't count Brett Farve's Jet year, perhaps I could), and haven't had one stay healthy for three years in a row since possibly Namath.
The other item to consider is Brady's cap hit. He cost a little more than Ryan Fitzpatrick did this year. His marriage to Giselle has allowed the Patriots to fill the team with talent without cost cutting, the way the Seahawks did with their offensive line this year, the way the Colts did with their defense. That's the reason Belichick should retire when Brady does, or soon after. Jimmy G won't be giving him a hometown discount, unless they can set him up with a supermodel worth billions. I doubt the Patriots run of playoff success continues after Brady (they may still keep winning the division a lot though).

by RobotBoy :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 7:35am

Come on. This is sourest of sour grapes. Brady was a multi-millionaire long before Giselle. He took a hometown discount (which is actually not as big as you imply) and is not the only star player to ever do so. The stability of the Pats made it easier for him to make that choice.

by RobotBoy :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 7:35am

Come on. This is sourest of sour grapes. Brady was a multi-millionaire long before Giselle. He took a hometown discount (which is actually not as big as you imply) and is not the only star player to ever do so. The stability of the Pats made it easier for him to make that choice.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 8:04am

It really would be interesting to have a piece on each team's top 5 players, in terms of % of cap space consumed, for each year of the past decade. It would be a ton of work, however, and I'm sure too lazy to do it.

by eagle97a :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 8:59am

Not very sure but overthecap might have the data you are looking for.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 01/26/2017 - 3:37am

It's not sour grapes, its cap room. Go read Over the Cap about this. I'm not griping either, I'm trying to explain why the Pats are so dominant when the system is set up for parity. The only other team to continue like this has been the Colts, and even with Manning they had bad years. But the rest of the team grew weaker around Manning near the end. The Saints couldn't keep the team together around Brees, and they're in cap hell. The Steelers had cap issues a couple of years ago, but their drafting ability has helped. Denver did have Manning on a huge contract, but they had most of their defense on rookie contracts until a year or so ago. Seattle had a bunch of guys on rookie contracts. The easiest way to win Super Bowls now is to have an elite quarterback on a rookie contract, so you can spend to build the team around him.

To be honest, lately I've been rooting for the Pats in the playoffs even though I'm a Jets fan. Sick of the Giants winning when they're mediocre, and I hate the Steelers. A lot. Last weeks game was very enjoyable for me. I'm going to root for Atlanta, but not be bummed when the Pats win it.

by RBroPF :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 3:23pm

For the record, Peyton Manning earned $249M in 18 seasons, or $13.8M per season.

If you take out Brady's first two seasons on a 6th-round rookie contract, and assume he plays out the rest of his current contract, he will have made $227M in 18 seasons, or $12.6M per season.

So yes, he has taken some hometown discounts and should be admired for that. It definitely has helped the Pats build a strong roster around him. But the overall effect can be easily overstated.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 3:44pm

Let's not forget he restructured before this season so his base salary was only $1 million for 2016. I bet he was gutted to lose almost $235,000 in that four game suspension :-D

by BJR :: Thu, 01/26/2017 - 9:29am

Once you have adjusted for cap inflation in the 4 years that Manning's career precedes Brady's non-rookie-deal career, that gap will increase.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:09pm

Bullsh!t. Mike McCarthy is a highly successful coach.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:36am

The more I think about this, the more confident I am that Quinn/Shanahan Jr. won't be outschemed by Belichik and minions. Now, the Falcons are young enough on defense where inexperience could be costly, and there is not an obvious force to provide an inside pass rush, so the Patriots are very, very, deserving favorites. I kind of like taking the points however, especially if it gets north of three.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:06am

Hageman would provide an inside rush if he is healthy- an inconsistent pass rush, but still something. I will be impressed if Belichick can keep Atlanta in the low twenties; the Falcons torched Seattle, a much more proven defense. Still like the Pats in this one, just expect it to be close.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:24am

Seattle's defense fell off a cliff once Thomas went down. As much as Atlanta scares the hell out of me, they benefited from a very easy slate of pass defenses the past two games.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:21am

It was almost as if Thomas had the range to cover a lot more than a typical half or quarter role that most in his position get asked to play. Thus allowing other players to 'cheat' a bit.

The standard is the standard!

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:49am

This is an honest, non-sarcastic question -- why does PIT keep using the same defensive scheme against NE when NE has eaten it for breakfast every single time? (Is Tomlin a Bullwinkle fan ("This time for sure!")?) Even if you don't think you have the personnel to play a better anti-NE defense shouldn't you try it since the defense you use against NE clearly doesn't work?

(I wonder if a certain commenter stroked out yesterday...)

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:16am

I wondered about this myself. I know the DBs are inexperienced, but Simms rightly (!) said that the NE offense is designed to kill zones, and the Steelers stayed in zone and rushed 3 for a lot of the game. I watched the Bills do the same thing in the 2nd game against NE and Brady just picked them apart.

What are they seeing on film that makes them think it will work?

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:20am

Pittsburgh has been pretty rigid in running Dick Lebeau's zone and zone pressure schemes for decades. This year Butler has been a tiny bit more flexible, mixing in some 4-3 looks for instance, but his blitzes and coverages have been straight out of a Dick Lebeau playbook that hasn't really changed since the '90s.
They've got a young secondary that's developing rapidly, so I'm hoping next year they have enough confidence in their corners to play more man to man, but I'm not that confident that they'll ever evolve beyond their stale defensive playbook as long as Butler is around.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:18am

actually, when their D was working best late season they were in a lot of 2-4 , but the biggest problem with Butler (aside from this specific pats game) is he doesn't use the 2 players on his D with all-world athleticism in any intelligent or creative ways.

The standard is the standard!

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:29am

The Ringer put together a detailed article on Pitt's improved pass rush over the second half of the season. It was supposed to be a credit to the Steelers, but the stuff there were doing was so reminiscent of past match ups that my immediate thought was, "Brady's going to have a monster day."

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:46am

Honestly, the PIT defensive plan and performance was just mind-bogglingly stupid.

First, they so many times flat out lost guys, like on the 1st TD by Hogan, or the 3rd down to Hogan right before the flea-flicker.

Second, they rushed three way too much. Unless you have the 2015 Broncos personnel up-front, rushing three against Brady is basically never a good idea. The line is too well coached to allow that to work. Also, given how much they did this, losing guys in coverage when you are dropping 8 is just inexplicable.

Finally, they actually had some success doing classic LeBeau-esque zone blitzes. From my memory, the early sack that killed the second drive was seemed like a classic zone blitz.

What I will never understand is the one time they said 'eff it, let's just play man', they played really well against the Patriots - this was in 2011 agianst, if anything, a better Patriots offense. Why they have never replicated that is beyond comprehension.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:00am

something mind-boggling stupid from Omar?

"we do what we do!

the standard is the standard!"

The standard is the standard!

by nat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:09am

...rushing three against Brady is basically never a good idea.

The Patriots offense has given up a safety just one time in 33 playoff games. That was against a three-man rush.

Of course, you do need to cover the receivers for this to work. Just sayin'.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:13am

I believe it was 3, with a spy or delay on the 4th. This was the Super Bowl right? Giants covered teh play brilliantly, and at their best they fall into the '15 Broncos camp of having the personnel to do it.

if you are a team that depends on your LBs for pressure, probably not a good idea to rush 0 or 1 of them.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:07am

I remember Rex Ryan sending 8 guys in coverage against New England in the 2010 playoffs, and that seemed to work out well. Having Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in their prime probably explains that result though.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:09am

'same scheme' .... {same result}

"I think that’s why you play the game. You can take analytics to baseball and things like that but football is always going to be football. I got a lot of respect for analytics and numbers, but I’m not going to make judgements based on those numbers. The game is the game. It’s an emotional one played by emotional and driven men. That’s an element of the game you can’t measure. Often times decisions such as that weigh heavily into the equation."

Read his answer and their performance as ego/arrogance. THIS TIME he will prove Belichick wrong. His gut tells him so. And we all know there's more nerve endings in his gut...

The standard is the standard!

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:54am

Part of the core strength of the Pittsburgh organization is the schematic consistency that goes along with long-tenured coaches, loyalty to players in the front office, and repeatedly drafting players with similar skill sets. The 2011 game was kind of stunning as a NE fan, because I can't recall another time when Pittsburgh left script like that. It is precisely because of the schematic consistency that Pittsburgh is not a meaningful rival of NE, that NE fans worry about Baltimore... Honestly, I think the schematic rigidity greatly limits Pittsburgh.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:47am

The Steelers organization is in love with their schemes. When it works, it can all come together in an organization focus that keeps everyone working to the same goals. When it doesn't work, it results in firing Bruce Arians for 'abandoning the run' or trotting out a soft zone in front of Brady over and over and over again.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:01pm

not sure. maybe m. tomlin very stubborn guy. fi animal, would be a mule.

dumb defensive atgtack vs Pates yetsredya. zone coverage, free rleases fro receivers, crap pass rish.
To beat Pates inplayoffs, New York teams (Jets once, Giants twice), broncos (couple of times), and Ravens (twice in wions and once in near-win) showed how to keep T. Bardy from doing anuytghing he wants. Clots beat Pates in playoffs too but that was more about simply outgunning the Pates.

Steelers have had no clue in these playoff games. Tema was dumb vs Tim Tebow's Denver Bonrocs aas well.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:17pm

To be fair, the best way to limit Brady, which New York, Denver, and Baltimore teams showed, is to bring pressure up the middle without blitzing linebackers (which opens up the middle for Edelman), preferably by bring athletic defensive ends who are also strong enough to take on guards and centers inside, e.g. through stunts and twists.

I don't know a lot about Pittsburgh's D-line, but it wasn't my impression that they really had players that could do that.

The main issue, though, was that their D-backs seemed easily confused by the Patriots offensive formations. This happened on all of Hogan's big plays. It seemed like the Pittsburgh coaches thought they could minimize that by dropping guys into coverage and playing zone, but I think a better strategy would have been to simplify things and just have them play straight man, maybe with a safety over the top, and bring more pressure. The Patriots don't have an Antonio Brown or a Julio Jones that can regularly win one on one battles (now that Gronk is out). Edelman can, but only for small chunks of yardage.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:47am

There was an interesting take by Hasselbeck I believe on how Brady would bait Pittsburgh out of man into zone by shifting his receivers. So even if it was their intention to play man, they were lured out of it. Against the Pats, you either have to be successful with your 2nd or 3rd option, or have players with such an overwhelming athletic superiority that you can stay in your base and overwhelm them. Of course, in the long term you have to pay those players, so BB outlasts his greatest rivals with his roster building techniques.

by billprudden :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:48pm

"Team was dumb vs. Tebow" is a hell of a good point sir.

We were all too busy "did that really just happen" after that game to second-guess Pit, but you right. And NE, a week later, went "this is how you confound Tebow" for all the world to see.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:01pm

Its valid points like this that make me agree partially w the fire tomlin guy. In fact, if he didnt constantly repeat himself and take such an over the top stance, most might even agree.

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 8:13am

why does PIT keep using the same defensive scheme against NE when NE has eaten it for breakfast every single time?

I was wondering the same thing. The two best answers I can come up with are:

1. It's a scheme that generally works against 30 other teams, even after they watch tape of team 31.

2. With all the kids on defense, Tomlin and Butler may have been wary of trying to install a major change in one week. (They claim to have considered it.) It would be easier with more experienced personnel.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:56am

Pittsburgh has been to 5 conference championships and 3 SuperBowls, winning 2 of them in the Roethlisberger era. They are the most successful team other than the Patriots over that timeframe, so yes to point #1.

Point #2 is a maybe. The reasoning is certainly valid, but scheme flexibility is not built into Pittsburgh's DNA and I'm not sure they'd change their scheme for one game even if they had more experienced personnel.

Overall, I don't think Pittsburgh will, or should, make major changes to the way they do things just to try to deal with one particular team. The Chargers tried to do that after losing to the Pats in 06 and 07 and haven't been relevant since.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:57am

If you don't have dbs who can mix in man concepts effectively, then you better get a defensive tackle who can get in a qb's face in a hurry, thus allowing the edge rushers to turn the corner.

John Randle's gotta wish he was 26 again, negotiating his 2nd contract.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:11am

The past is the past, and Steelers pass defense has been fairly sketchy since 2013 in the regular season with some cracks appearing even before then in the postseason, against what are typically the better passing teams. It's not like we'd be abandoning proven success by mixing things up a bit.

I also see the physical qualities in players like Burns, Cockrell and Davis that lead me to believe that they could handle some man coverage. (Willie Gay, no. Probably time to go there, decent career, thanks for your service.) Yes, Burns and Davis are rookies. That won't be an excuse next season-- turn 'em loose.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:27am

The Super Bowl will provide an interesting contrast with the Falcons, who start 3 rookies and 4 2nd year players on defense. If Quinn can coach those young guys up where they can play a variety of concepts, without the obvious mental mistakes that the Steeler defenders made, they can win. It'll help if the Falcon receivers, unlike the Steeler receivers, make the plays that are available in the first half, and thus put at least 17 points up before Gaga takes the stage.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:27am

I think the plan is that Davis is the slot corner of the future, so that would mean the likely end of William Gay in Pittsburgh. Not sure how much of a future a 32 year-old good-not-great slot corner has anyways.
With Cockrell, Davis, and Burns developing into better players and Shazier to cover the TE, there's no reason besides stubbornness that they can't play man coverage in the future when it makes sense to.

by jgrenci@zoomint... :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:35pm

but is it THAT hard to change the scheme in one week, yes for one team? it is easy to say now, but these players have played football all of their lives; it just seems to me they could have adapted. Brady had a 26 to 3 td to int rate lifetime against the steelers, and yes that includes mostly lebeau who had some complex coverages, but never a straight man to man. the steelers had nothing to lose. I said that before the game. this should not have been a surprise to anybody. I didnt think that Brady had to even be good. he hit wide open people, and sometimes not even in their wheelhouse.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:00pm

Yeah, it kind of is, if you don't draft for it, and work on it year round. If somebody wants to fault the coaching and management for not doing so, that's legitimate. You can't work on a concept one week a year and be competent at it, however.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 9:56am

Mike McCarthy called multiple fullback runs in one drive, in a game situation where he had under 10 minutes to score 4 TDs. I hope they put that on his tombstone.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:00am

Ok, point taken, but there is a strategy for scoring 4 tds in 10 minutes like there is a strategy for winning the Powerball.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:59pm

Speaking of which, I won the Powerball on Saturday! Gonna go cash in that $4 bonanza and live la vida loca today.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:02pm

Carpe Diem!

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:21pm

Meh I strongly suspect that in a lot of game situations regardless of the defense not a single pass should be short of the first down marker and you should be using all 4 downs.

The success of the various types of plays is not that different (particularly between the 6 and 7 yard passes you see so often and the 11-12 yard ones), that it is worth giving up the chance for more downs.

I strongly suspect if you could put the league in a simulation or whatever so you could ramp up the number of trials, you would quickly eventually reach an equilibrium where the pass going at least 10 yards was like 85% of the plays or something overall, and definitely was the only play call when down 2 or more scores.

The strategies do not change enough based on game situation, and generally the whole game evolves more much more slowly than the rules/player ability changes.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:45pm


by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:26pm

My point (which was very tangential) is that there is a strategy for that and generally it is probably a more effective strategy overall and ones teams should be useing much more often, but they are soooo slow to change.

And the fullback runs are inexcusable.

by jgrenci@zoomint... :: Thu, 01/26/2017 - 11:09am

Joshua, I see your point (I think), and I agree. what is the equilibrium for pass and ru ratio? I think its possible most teams are below it, and yes, I have to believe that passes that pick up a first down, while having a slightly lower completion percentage than passes that don't, likely pay off more in the long run.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:10am

I'm officially queasy. I'm an Atlanta native and have been a Falcons fan - and occasional season ticket holder - for four decades. The consensus among Falcons fans is that this is the best team in our 51-year history. And yet I'm expecting to lose to the Patriots in two weeks.

We've been playing great for months now, but this is still the team that managed to lose the season opener - at home! - to the Bucs. Seems so long ago now, and the team has grown, but we are capable of some stupid things. (Check out the home losses to the Chargers and Chiefs for additional proof.) The Patriots are exceptionally good at not beating themselves, and I fear that will be the difference, along with red zone performance and turnovers.

The Falcons better come up with a plan to get receivers open against physical man coverage. That has been Belichick's standard operating procedure against good passing offenses for decades now. Don't see why it would change here. And if we can't pressure Brady, don't bother showing up.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:45am

I don't know. It seemed like Pitt could have moved the ball at will had they just ditched the run game and used Brown as a decoy. There were seemingly 8 free yards available to a secondary receiver on every down. Given Atlanta's willingness to ignore convention and their superior depth, I have a hard time seeing NE holding them under 28 barring several drives stalling inside the 10.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:58pm

They certainly made a lot of hay taking that approach in the second quarter. I was screaming at the TV "Who is 17! Somebody cover this guy!" It was clear from the replays that pick routes to free Rogers over the middle were working. But I think the Pats made an adjustment to that at halftime.

The Steelers had a lot of opportunities that were missed because passes were off by a foot, or because WRs dropped passes that might have been caught. But we saw nothing like what was going on in the other direction, where apparently Chris Hogan wasn't on the Steelers' scouting report at all.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:21pm

The pick was by far their best play. On Rogers's first big play, James simply drove block the player covering him (Chung, I think) into the defender on Rogers (Ryan, I think)...which Roethlisberger still had the ball. There wasn't even a nominal pass pattern run where you could pretend you accidentally picked the defender.

The referees were very Laissez-Faire calling defensive penalties -- both ways. It was a refreshing change from seeing offenses continually bailed out of tough down and distances by a ticky-tack defensive holding penalty.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:44am

"The consensus among Falcons fans is that this is the best team in our 51-year history. And yet I'm expecting to lose to the Patriots in two weeks."

The '98 team was better. Went 14-2 and beat the 15-1 Moss Vikings that set the record for points in a season in Minnesota to advance to the Super Bowl, had an 1800+ yard rusher, two 1,100+ yard receivers that both averaged 17+ yards per catch, led the NFL in takeaways and were 4th in points allowed.

by Scott de B. :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:41am

Eh, if Garrison Hearst hadn't broken his leg on the first drive, the Falcons wouldn't have made it past the 49ers that season.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:08pm

Steve Young still threw two interceptions in the 3rd quarter down 4 and 7 points though, so while losing Hearst didn't help, the 49ers had their chances and didn't get it done.

by Scott de B. :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:39pm

With a functional running game they wouldn't have had to throw as much.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:04pm

1980, 1998, 2012 and 2016 r the Mount Rushmore of atalnta Falcons teams.
two got to super bowl, two didn't make it due to losing home games in playoffs.

tough to say. have not done study on this but first thinking is 1980 and 1998 teams better than 2012 and 2016 trams.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:17pm

I know they weren't great, but the 1991 team was really fun to watch (and I'm not even a Falcons fan). Or maybe that's just me being nostalgic for my childhood.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:29pm

I think this is mandatory when talking about the 1991 Falcons.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:49pm

Who DIDN'T love the 2 Legit 2 Quit Falcons?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:23pm

Of course! How can I forget? Should also be mentioned that part of the fun was the Chris Miller was a mad bomber that year, throwing deep over and over again. Michael Haynes had over a 1000 yards receiving with only 50-something catches.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:29pm


by jw124164 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:06pm

Falcons fan since '73 here ... the '98 defense was certainly better, especially the front 7. The offense was good, but not up to this year's model. That was a career year for Chris Chandler, but he's no Matt Ryan. They should have lost to the Vikes in the NFCCG - Vikes beat themselves.

I think the SB will come down to coaching - we're not going to out-Belichick the master, but I think we should at least be able to anticipate what he's going to do on D, and try to make sure we don't lose our dynamism. On the other side of the ball, maybe we need to see some flexibility out of Quinn with regards to the Seattle-style zone (i.e., rush 6 and play man on some downs).

I certainly get the pessimism - I've spent the last two weeks suppressing any positive thoughts so as not to "jinx" the team. I think now that we've reached the big game, it's time to see all the ways we could win, rather than obsessing on how we (same 'ol Falcons!) can lose.

Looking ahead - can Matt Ryan be his own OC next year?

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:49am

Isn't that the year when all the Atlanta players were hungover for the SB?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:26pm

Don't remember that, but I do remember Eugene Robinson (a key player on their defense) got himself arrested for soliciting an undercover cop just before the game.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:39pm

Aw, descrbing it like that takes all the fun out the memory! Makes it sound like he was trying to get to play with the cop's handcuffs....er....then again, maybe he was......

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 4:02pm

Dirty Birds indeed...

(I'm sure I'm recycling a joke that a million people made in February 1999)

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:58am

fool Tomlin once, shame on you
fool Tomlin twice, .... we do what we do!
fool Tomlin for the 9th?? time.... that's OK next year! Time to unleash hell!

why this bozo refuses to learn/adapt that soft off zone without elite pass rushers is just playing into Brady's hands...

you know on the sideline, Belichik sees this stuff and thinks.... "nice, we got this one. and then he chuckles: 'people think this guy is a good coach?' "

The standard is the standard!

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:08am

Repeating yourself is the first sign of madness.

You already said all this over in the Discussion thread.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:13am

And attacking me instead of refuting the point of the argument pretty much concedes I am right. (which we all knew all along to begin with.... )

The standard is the standard!

by jw124164 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:08pm

Didn't say you weren't right - said you were descending into madness :-)

by jonsilver :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:29pm


by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:08am

They've been doing this to everybody in the AFC (6-1) title game except Peyton Manning teams (1-3) since 2001, even Steelers fans beloved Bill Cowher, who they beat twice on the road in 2001/2004.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:11am

1) nobody trots out Bill Cowher as some godly coach

2) in 2001/2004 they didn't have an experienced HOF caliber QB

3) I don't care about everyone else.

4) I'd rather they risk it , play tight man, maybe lose by 30, but maybe win than go in and play what they know will lose by 20 every single time.

The standard is the standard!

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:39am

"nobody trots out Bill Cowher as some godly coach"

Your entire shtick is predicated on Tomlin's earlier success being due to the team he inherited.

From Cowher.

I get it. He's a successful black man whose been succeeded in a job previously done by a white guy and that upsets you.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:48am

Another thread, another flatout false accusation of racism from you.

cue shock.

The standard is the standard!

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:59am

It's that or Mike Tomlin ran over your puppy a decade ago.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:12pm

That's interesting food for thought. I have also tended to have the sense that Tomlin is overrated--a reasonable coach, but one who profits considerably from the organization he is a part of, but I have never paused to consider that opinion in terms of even latent prejudice. I would tend to hold up Arians, definitely Harbaugh, perhaps Pete Carroll, as better coaches. I would be interested to hear some discussion comparing Tomlin to Marvin Lewis--a discussion I have waged with Scott on these forums before. I still think Lewis is a pretty good coach, even after all these years, who has largely been saddled to a lousy organization and nevertheless accomplished a lot with it, but it's very hard to argue against the terrible playoff showings.

Who's a truly great African American coach in football? Tony Dungy? Caldwell has now presided over playoffs teams for two franchises...

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:28pm

Dungy was a good coach and a good teacher. Marvin Lewis is too I think, but his in game management is pretty lousy.

Im not a Tomlin fan at all, though who do you replace him with? Part of what makes the Steelers the Steelers is there a scheme continuity. Hiring someone else threatens to upend that all of that

by leviramsey :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:46pm

Firing Tomlin won't change anything for the Steelers. Organizational inertia will ensure that whoever replaces him will be gone soon after he deviates from the plan and loses (see Arians). It will take a sustained period of 6-10 seasons for the Rooneys to be willing to change the organization. I don't know if that's possible as long as the Browns are in the division.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:30pm

Well, just a quick look at NFL coaches on Pro Football Reference and sorting by, say, playoff wins: Dungy is the African American coach with the most playoff wins (9).

(I think...I'll confess that I don't actually know what race many coaches, or players for that matter, are; they're names but not faces to me. Even on the Patriots, I could probably name the race correctly for only about half the players).

And Tomlin's right behind him with 8.

Sort by Wins and Dungy shows up in the top 30, along with guys like Marvin Lewis, Tomlin, and Dennis Green.

So you're right; there is a significant dearth of quality African American coaches. Some of that, I think, is history; racism kept African Americans out of the head coaching chair for a very long time (and arguably still does to some degree).

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:38pm

I'm not sure that the dearth of good African American coaches is any greater than the dearth of good white guys. On average, I'd say that Black coaches have been better than white, in part because it's been harder for them to become coaches in the first place.

Dennis Green certainly had a great run in MN before cratering in Arizona.

Herman Edwards is a punching bag for his silly antics, but he had some very reasonable teams in New York and competed for a while in KC too.

Lovie Smith had consistent problems in Chicago but some great teams and performances as well. He fell apart in Tampa, but you don't go to Super Bowls and have repeat playoff success without a lot of ability.

Tony Dungy had a lot of coaching success, and was probably the "best" black coach in NFL history to date. It's hard to evaluate him in Indianapolis because he was so overshadowed by the white QB, but I thought he did great work in Tampa Bay. Honestly, just very hard to evaluate.

Jim Caldwell is making a case for himself in Detroit, and seems to be very respectable on a whole. I didn't expect that after the Indy collapse, so he has impressed.

And that largely brings us back to the discussion of Marvin Lewis and Mike Tomlin. I tend to agree with the general sentiment that Tomlin has underperformed as head coach of Pittsburgh, but probably not more so than the underperformance of McCarthy in Green Bay, in terms of championships, etc. Personally, I had a hard time with the scandal over the tripping incident in... 2013? And Tomlin's attitude as expressed in stuff like the locker room leak last week is unfortunate. I'm not really sure that there is a racial element to the judgement. A bit like Dungy, I think that he is hard to judge in context because of the organization around him.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:53pm

I really hate how Peyton Manning's greatness is held against Dungy. Almost half his career as head coach was in Tampa, which was historically about the worst franchise in the league in the 20 year's of it's existence. He nearly immediately changed the culture there, in a tough division. Yes, he had great players on defense; show me a great coach who didn't have great players. He then goes to the Colts, wins a championship, averages 12 regular season wins a year, and we're supposed to doubt the quality of his work because his team lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champs 3 times? That's really specious.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:06pm

People say Tomlin has underperformed the last 6 years (Meanwhile, people still fawn over Sean Payton?!?!?), mainly because the Steelers have struggled to rebuild their defense, but let the QB get a pass on this front for his poor play/injury history that has cost the Steelers a better playoff seed at times too. Not to mention the fact that in 2016 for the first time since the 2010 season, they finally had their key pieces at playoff time and despite playing WC weekend still advanced to the AFC title game.

As for McCarthy, GB had playoff losses in three straight years against the 49ers, Seahawks (Brandon Bostic) and Cardinals where Aaron Rodgers led them to the game-tying points, yet the defense couldn't get the stop necessary to give Rodgers another chance. Sometimes you just have say, "we got beat" and not look to place blame on the coach and QB, especially when they aren't picking the defensive talent (or lack of) and can't control the absurd number of injuries they seem to suffer each year.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:16pm

"Jim Caldwell is making a case for himself in Detroit, and seems to be very respectable on a whole. I didn't expect that after the Indy collapse, so he has impressed."

In retrospect, it was probably unfair that people (including me) assumed that the 2011 Colts sucked without Peyton Manning because Caldwell was a bad coach. In reality the 2011 Colts sucked without Peyton Manning because the rest of the roster was terrible.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:43pm

The 2010 roster wasn't much better, which is why, for my money, that was one of Manning's best years, and one of the best ever by a qb. Kind of like going 10-6 with the Browns this year.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 3:00pm

Agreed, one of the few true examples of a great quarterback dragging a bad team to a playoff berth. Seeing Brees struggling in New Orleans the last few years, and Marino struggling with some the mediocre late 80's Dolphins teams is reminder about how difficult that truly is.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 6:58pm

Aaron tweeted after the Pats beat the dolphins 30-0 in week 3 sans Brady that it fueled the argument that when one adjusts for team, PM might very well be the GOAT.

The closest comparison was when lebron left cleveland.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:10pm

The Patriots lost Tom Brady in 2008 and went 11-5 with Matt Cassel. The Colts lost Peyton Manning in 2011 and went 2-14 with Painter, Orlovsky, and Collins. Definitely worth considering that when you look at the legacy of both guys, especially when the old COUNT DA RINGZ argument comes up.

by Alternator :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:33pm

Also worth considering: Cassel was a decent starter for two years, and then a marginal starter / decent backup afterwards. The ancient, shambling husk of Kerry Collins alongside two terrible journeymen is not an equal comparison.

Don't go trying to deny us our long, drawn out arguments.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:11pm

Comparative roster strength (one of NE's better non-Brady, likely Indy's worst), the dramatic difference in backup QB quality, NE's remarkably easy 2008 schedule and the fact that NE's passing DVOA dropped in Brady's absence more than Indy's did in Manning's (and NE's shot up into the stratosphere again when Brady returned in 2009) all serve to short circuit the "Indy fell off the map!" argument for those who give it a sincere review.

Not that it's even necessary, but an argument could also be made that Indy's roster construction, by virtue of emphasizing positions leveraged by good QB play, created a scenario where any drop off would be disproportionately magnified.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:30pm

I have a few different counter-arguments to the points you made above, but since I discussed this topic so many times before, I'm going to refrain from doing so one more time.

I do realize it was me who opened this Pandora's box with the comment I made. I'd rather just say I was very impressed with what Manning did in 2010

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:42pm

No worries. I have no real interest in a Manning/Brady debate, I just find that particular line of reasoning decidedly poor.

I don't see how anyone could not be impressed with Manning's 2010 season. I can still recall the SD lineman sacking Manning by literally throwing Linkenbach (?) on top of him.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:49pm

Me neither. I also agree, a simple win difference glosses over a lot of subtle and interesting details.

One day, I think both sides will passionately miss these salad days. Its the best rivalry that ever existed.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:20pm

I'm going to argue the opposite side, from the opposite direction, now. When I tell Patriot fans that Brady's performance in Denver last January may have been his finest game, they tell me I'm nuts. I think they say this because they don't agree with me that football is at its core the execution of precise skills while being subjected to extreme violence. The quality of throws, against extremely good coverage, that Brady was able to execute late in that game, after getting the last molecule of crap stomped out of him for the previous 3 hours, was simply stunning. Never seen anything like it.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:39pm

Yeah somehow Brady after getting pounded and throwing two awful picks never was bludgeoned into submission the way others had been by that same defense. He just kept coming back. Reminded me a lot of Eli against SF.

Brady never seems to get enough credit for his toughness. I suspect thats because of that one play with Suggs where he called for a flag(I don't even blame Brady, everyone tries to sell for a flag).

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:24am

I put qb performance whie getting atomized into a completely different category. Yeah, the numbers look great when the guy stands back there, surveys the field, his receivers outmatching the opposing dbs; think Montana against Broncos or Young vs. Chargers in SBs.

When a guy is just gettting obliterated, play after play, and keeps his team in the game, I don't care what the final score is, those are the best performances. I never saw him in his prime, but the real old timers say that's what made Unitas special; he'd be limping up to the huddle, like a WWII tank with it's tread blown off, and he'd put it together, and be tossing bullets 30 seconds later. When I see the great ones stand up to that kind of violence, and execute, well, that's pretty damned special.

by RBroPF :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 3:32pm

I'm a Pats fan that completely agrees. That was one of Brady's finest hours.

And to think it came to naught because of a fluke missed PAT directly caused by Belichick lobbying to the move the PAT back. Ahh, the brutal irony.

by eagle97a :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:33am

Agree that TB did very well during that AFCCG under extreme duress. The beating he took previously but still almost managing to tie the game... impressive to say the least.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 10:54am

IMO, Brady's best game is the finale of the 2007 regular season against the Giants. Tom took a serious beating (not comparable to the SB, but closer than history recalls), but not only did he keep getting up, he torched NY at a level that would be impressive if the pocket were clean all day.

by slomojoe :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:20pm

Also worth considering in comparing those 2 seasons, the 2011 Colts were deep in their Suck-for-Luck campaign and probably not really trying that hard, at least "institutionally", to win. The 2008 Pats on the other hand were just off their 18-and-duh season and had a legitimate shot at another playoff run with a quasi-in-his-prime Moss, peak Welker etc.

by theslothook :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 1:42pm

Oh my God really, this again??? If they were in deep suck for Luck mode, why did they win two of their last three games nearly blowing their chance at the number one pick? Not to mention if they really were in suck for Luck mode, then the owner stabbed everyone in the back since he fired everybody at the end of the season

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 2:57pm

There is no evidence of a suck for Luck campaign.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 01/26/2017 - 11:02am

There is no evidence to support that they were tanking. First off, they won two of their last three games - and came reasonably close to winning all three. Had they won the third they would have lost the top pick.

They also took leads in numerous games.

That was just flat out not a good team across the board there was no sign at all of tanking.

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:48pm

Slightly more than 1/8 of the American population is black, so four among the top thirty coaches for wins is what you'd expect. You'd also expect four black head coaches in the NFL, just based on population data.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:04pm

10 of the 31 current coaches played in the NFL, one was on the practice squad (John Fox), and one had tremendous success in the AFL (Jay Gruden). A number of others played in college. The full population is not a great representation of the pool of candidates.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 8:40pm

The NFL players are about 68 percent black. One would imagine that more than 12 percent of the coaches would be black, given that fact. There has been a bias toward white coaches based on significant cultural stereotypes, and I would argue that it affects every rung of the coaching ladder. That's why there's a discussion to be had when one dips into considerable criticism of a minority coach, as we strive to consider the possibility that we are holding him to a higher standard than we would a white coach.

Such bias may also impact the degree to which I have the perception, for example, that Dungy's success in Indianapolis borrowed heavily from Peyton Manning, though I think my ready acknowledgement that Dungy performed superlatively in Tampa somewhat mediates against it. Latent racism is subconscious, and research suggests that it is far more insidious than most of us are in touch with. That's why it's an interesting subject to reflect on.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 8:59pm

There is no reason in the world why the percentage of black coaches should be at all related to the percentage of black players, just as there is no reason why the percentage of 300 lb coaches should be related to the percentage of 300 lb players. The skill sets needed to play and to coach are not the same.

That being said, I agree with the rest of your post.

However, I'm willing to bet that within 40 years, well more than 50% of coaches and coordinators are black.

Change takes time, and needs to come from the bottom up.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:33pm

Again former NFL players make up a substantial minority of NFL coaches, why wouldn't you expect the various percentages to be represented at least approximately?

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:08pm

Amongst the subset of coaches who played in the NFL, I would. You seem to be making a reflexive argument, but maybe I'm not getting it.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:27am

No reason in the world? Really?

"There is no reason in the world why the percentage of black coaches should be at all related to the percentage of black players"

I doubt that would stand up to rigorous statistical scrutiny.

"The skill sets needed to play and to coach are not the same."

No, but the knowledge base that one needs to coach is very often developed as a player.

"However, I'm willing to bet that within 40 years, well more than 50% of coaches and coordinators are black.
Change takes time, and needs to come from the bottom up."

I agree with these sentiments.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:59am

I wonder what the percentage of black coaches in college and high school is, and if that will affect future hires.
It seems to me that it's more common for white former players who go into coaching to move up the ladder quickly than black former players.
Perhaps more white guys who love football realize they don't have the talent and move into coaching earlier, while black guys who realize they don't have the talent don't move into coaching...because there aren't that many black head coaches and they don't have models.
It's complicated, for sure but what's not complicated is that institutional racism has something to do with the fact that there aren't more black head coaches.
It took way too long for black QB's to be given a shot in the NFL. 'Great athlete but...' Just as it's taking waaaaay too long for black head coaches to be given a shot in representative numbers.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:08am

Many years ago in the days when black QBs were only Doug Williams, Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham ... the comment was that for them to have a chance they had to be exceptional. The average white HC could get a job but not the average black HC.

But the Rooney rule has made a difference. There was a point about five years ago where 7 or 8 of the HC's were black - essentially a quarter of the league. I've said previously that I felt one of Dungy's contributions that made him HoF worthy was that he legitimised black HC's by winning a SB.

I don't believe it's the issue it once was. I couldn't tell you which of the new hires is black or white because no-one talks about it in the media anymore ... "team x hires black head coach".

I'm sure one or two teams have some level of institional racism about hiring a black HC but I don't think it's as widespread as it was.

It would be interesting to look at how many of the league's 32 franchises have had black HC's at some point.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:13am

It doesn't have to be institutional racism, it can just be unconscious, personal bias from the one person making the HC hire. How many of the guys hiring the HC are black? Ozzie Newsome probably. Any others? That's exactly why we need the Rooney rule, and maybe some other progressive actions also.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:30pm

Reggie McKenzie - Raiders GM is black. He's hired two white HC's and an interim white HC.

And Ozzie has hired 2-3 white HC's. Definitely Brian Billick and John Harbaugh, plus Marchibroda arrived the same time as him.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:42pm

My quick look at the list of franchises that have had black HC's

The whole AFC west - Oakland and KC twice
AFC East - Jets twice and Bills had two interim black HC's.
AFC South - Indianapolis
AFC North - Pittsburgh, Bengals, Cleveland twice

The whole NFC north - Vikings twice
NFC West - SF, Arizona
NFC East - Philly, Washington had an interim
NFC South - Bucs THREE times, Atlanta had an interim

That's 17 teams that had permanents plus three more interim appointments if I count correctly.

But there's still work to be done because the Mike Singletary, Raheem Morris and Perry Fewell's don't get a second chance after failing first time around unlike the Norv Turners.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:59pm

>But there's still work to be done because the Mike Singletary, Raheem Morris and Perry Fewell's don't get a second chance after failing first time around unlike the Norv Turners.

It's always tough to judge these too much on generalities. I feel that Singletary, for instance, performed at a level that suggested that he is probably over his head at a position higher than LB coach. I would compare him to Greg Schiano, another rah-rah tough guy who's also probably not going to get a second chance as HC. Fewell is probably worth a second look from somebody though, and I just don't know enough about Morris to judge either way.

by Travis :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:04pm

AFC East: Dolphins (Todd Bowles interim)
AFC North: Browns (Terry Robiskie interim)
AFC South: Colts a second time (either Dungy or Caldwell), Jaguars (Mel Tucker interim)
AFC West: Broncos (Eric Studesville interim, Vance Joseph 2017), Chargers (Anthony Lynn 2017)
NFC North: Packers (Ray Rhodes), Bears (Lovie Smith)

by Eddo :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:29pm

He noted the Broncos, Chargers, Packers, and Bears (he just says "the whole division" for the NFCN and AFCW), though you're correct that the Colts x2 and the other interims were missing.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:43pm

Thanks Travis - 17+5 then.

Let's put it the other way round ... who hasn't ...

Baltimore ... a black GM hired three white HC's.
New England ... never hired a coach since the Rooney Rule came in.
NY Giants ... just hired two HC's since Rooney Rule (Coughlin / McAdoo)
Seattle ... two coaches hired since Rooney Rule (Jim Mora and Pete Carroll).
New Orleans ... one coach hired since Rooney Rule (Sean Payton)

Dallas ... three coaches hired since RR (Parcells, Phillips, Garrett)
Houston ... three HC's in their history (Capers/Kubiak/O'Brien)
Tennessee ... Jeff Fisher until 2010 then three HC's (Munchak/Whisenhunt/Malarkey)
LA Rams ... four white HC's coached since Rooney Rule came in (Linehan/Spags/Fisher/McKay)

by Travis :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 3:30pm

And the Giants have a black GM who hired one white HC during his tenure.

by SFC B :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:43pm

The Texans' GM Rick Smith is black. He was hired a couple months after Kubiak and was the GM who brought in O'Brien.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 01/25/2017 - 3:49am

Thanks for the additions guys.

I missed Carolina off my list ... hired two coaches since the RR ... the 2nd being Hispanic.

Seems to me that unless we want to get into conspiracy theories about blacks being hired as interim coaches of losing teams to prove they're incapable; or black GMs being Uncle Toms ... I'd venture to say that at most there's 3 or 4 which *might* have an issue with hiring a black HC.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:30pm

John Harbaugh has just the missed the playoffs three years in a row though and Bruce Arians? Meh.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:50pm

The Ravens have made the classic mistake of not having a plan to rebuild once their great players retired. They also gave Flacco way too much money. They haven't fully recovered from the retirements of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Harbaugh isn't the problem there.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:27pm

"The Ravens have made the classic mistake of not having a plan to rebuild once their great players retired."

This is "classic" mistake that happens to everyone not named the Patriots. Its why they are who they are. Their foes in the early 2000s are long gone. So are their foes in the mid and early 2010's. That's the point. Eventually, age gets you and you are forced into a rebuild.

Only the Patriots continuously survive roster churn like this. Its not just about Brady. Manning's colts did not really survive the roster churn and still haven't.

Ne is unique and uniquely alone in this regard. That's all BB in my opinion

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:32pm

BB is constantly churning the roster. They said yesterday that 30 of the 53 guys on the roster didn't play against Seattle two years.

Back in 2012-13 when Tom Brady was 35 lots of people were saying the Patriots need to go into win-now mode and bust the salary cap to take advantage of Tom before he was gone. Bill didn't do that.

Actually what BB has done is get rid of his backup QBs (Hoyer/Mallet), draft new ones (Grop/Brissett), replace the receiving corp, replaced the secondary (immediately after winning a SB), traded two of his best defensive draftees of that period (Chandler Jones/Jamie Collins) and gone onto six consecutive AFCCG and two SBs.

Bill Walsh was very good at this with the 49ers. Players tell how he would call them into his office for The Talk ... "You have four years left in this league and two left with the 49ers". He knew that you couldn't hang onto players for emotional reasons. It was all about how well can they play.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:28pm

The Patriots have essentially rebuilt the team multiple times during the Brady era. The 2000-04 team was a build-up that then fizzled down into 2006, which was a squad with no starting-quality receivers but still could very easily have won it all. Then they rebuilt into 2007 with a run that arguably lasted into around 2009 when the defense began to fall apart. They rebuilt the offense around the two tight ends in 2010 and had a run through about 2012 that highlighted Wes Welker and a powerhouse offense with an often questionable defense. The defensive rebuild for the 2014 season was somewhat overshadowed by the high-profile free agents, but the surprising depth of players like Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler fueled a new defensive resurgence after that. It really is just continuous rebuilding.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:43pm

Team's have tried that though and failed. New Orleans never replaced the core that they spackled together in 09. The colts tried to draft a new line after the core left in the mid 2000s and they failed miserably. Green Bay is in that midst right now after seeing a lot of their talent decline/leave after that 2010 championship run.

Curiously, only Pittsburgh seems to have survived a successful roster churn, but even that one feels odd since that churn resulted in a radical departure from their prior identity.

I think a big part of Ne's success is teaching as you see this with their general continuity on special teams, offensive lines, and general acceptable play from their defensive backs when they aren't starting street free agents.

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 7:09pm

I think the key is the big names that New England has been willing to replace - Belichick is has the (extremely rare) combination of cold-blooded ruthlessness, talent as a coach, and job security to get away with replacing his stars before they burn out entirely. Sometimes, that means letting them go when they still have a year or two left (Seymour, Vrabel), and most coaches can't get away with that. Sometimes it means entirely bombing a free agent signing (Adelius Thomas) and admitting it quickly, which most coaches can't get away with (see: Houston and Brock).

How many other owners are willing to commit to a coach for the long-haul, and let him run his own rebuild - maybe a half dozen have the patience and the confidence? Then those teams would need a quality QB, which is difficult to find, and a coach who's at least solid overall. The Rooney family has the patience, Big Ben is a great QB, and Tomlin (for all his game day flaws) is a solid coach, so the Steelers have been able to win while they rebuild - no surprise there.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:53pm

By my count the Falcons only have 16 of the 53 remaining from their 2014 season. Four other plays were on the roster in both years but were on IR in at least one of the years. My guess is that this leave of roster turnover is common in the NFL.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:55pm

FOX brought up the 2012 Title Game loss when Atlanta took a 17-0 lead, and I think mentioned only 6 guys remain from that team.

That's a pretty astounding level of turnover.

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:01am

Not really. Cannot speak for the league, but Green Bay turns over the roster pretty regularly.

Just using 2012 as the baseline the offensive starters still in place from that team are Rodgers, Nelson, Lang, Bulaga and the only defensive starters are Matthews and Burnett. Others still on the team are Don Barclay(!), Randall Cobb, Mason Crosby, Nick Perry and Mike Daniels.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 8:01am

But is it that common in SB winners?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:23am

Damon - it's not worth trying to discuss or influence him.

He has his own psychosis that can't be broken or reasoned with.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:56am

psychosis would be "trusting your gut" instead of the patently obvious #s

you know, what Omar brags about doing.

The standard is the standard!

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:44pm

If you'd like the accusations of racism to go away, you could lose the tired, unfunny "Omar Tomlin" joke that you lifted from Bill Simmons a decade ago. It's impossible to take you seriously every time you trot it out.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:46pm

I was wondering where the omar thing came from. Its not funny and it does imply racism even if its not meant to be.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:07pm

The "Omar" in the Simmons comparison is Omar Epps. Mike Tomlin looks like Omar Epps. A lot. That's not a racist statement. Although if you didn't know the source, you might be forgiven into thinking that it was.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:09pm

Mike Tomlin supposedly looks like the actor Omar Epps. That's the extent of the joke. The poster in question finds that to be endlessly hilarious. Even if you want to ignore the racist undertones, it's an assault on humor.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:23pm

I didn't lift it from Simmons. Thanks for the continued assault on my character though.

Your posts have been reported to the site administrators.
The standard is the standard!

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:37pm

I didn't call you a racist. I said that if you'd like to lose those accusations, it would be smart to not keep going to that well. Your dumb, oft-repeated joke opens the door to that interpretation of your words. And it's very simple thing to avoid. Just call him by his name, Mike Tomlin, instead of your stupid, unfunny joke, Omar Tomlin.

If you'd like full credit for the terrifically unclever joke, then have at it. You came up with something completely underwhelming and unoriginal. No one has thought it before except for Bill Simmons and half of the internet.

You should learn how to tell the difference between people's criticism of your remarks and people's criticism of you. I haven't maligned you at all, I've only made fun of your belief that the phrase Omar Tomlin is funny.

Also, the gap between what people can say about you on a messageboard and what you can say about a man you've never interacted with (Mike Tomlin) is really remarkable. Your comments show a real persecution complex. Maybe if you lowered your vitriol toward Tomlin's character, people would interact with you in a more healthy manner.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:49pm

Also, how can ANYONE be assaulting your character? You're an anonymous person on a messageboard. You have no character to protect. Literally no one knows who you are.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:54pm

The basic problem is not that Tomlin is such a bad coach, but that Belichick is better. And given that the Steelers just made it to another AFCCG, they won't be getting rid of Tomlin any time soon. After all, the Steelers simply don't fire coaches.

I agree that they need to do something different in their defense vs. the Pats. Most Boston writers said something like "Brady is going to eat that defense up" - and they were right. The return of Roethlisberger didn't mean as much as it might have - his accuracy was off much of the game.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:23am

Here's my question for you Steelers fans, if you want to beat NE and don't believe Mike Tomlin and staff can do the job, who do you want to coach the Steelers?

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:28am

It should be noted that a certain one-topic commenter on here is not representative of all Steelers fans. Personally, I think Tomlin is fine. I'm not rushing to put him in Canton, but also don't think he needs to be kicked to the curb. I would like to see a fresh mind come in for defensive coordinator, since I think Butler's Lebeau-lite scheme is played out at this point.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:33am

Do you think the Steeler reluctance to use free agency to bolster the roster is overly stubborn?

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:45am

I don't think they've done such a bad job with that. Mike Mitchell was a decent pickup to fill a glaring hole after Ryan Clark became illegal under modern rules. DeAngelo Williams, Ladarius Greene, and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been great cost-effective depth. I think they've been smart about plugging holes on the cheap while keeping cash available so they will be able to keep homegrown stars like Bell, Brown, and Shazier, who are all better than any free agent they would have been able to snag anyways.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:54am

the Green deal was the Steelers getting bamboozled with damaged goods.

The standard is the standard!

by jtr :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:39pm

I would hardly say that anybody gets "bamboozled" by giving a guy with serious upside a contract for $20M over 4 years with less than $5M of that guaranteed. Considering how good he looked when he was healthy, I think it was a perfectly reasonable gamble. Especially given that his issues (head injuries) are the hardest injuries to predict.

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:51pm

The Steelers made a perfectly reasonable decision with clear upside and limited downside, but since it didn't turn out perfectly, and Mike Tomlin is their coach, it was a terrible choice and they were bamboozled.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:26pm

how many $ per TD scored is that 5M going to work out to when they cut bait on him shortly?

The standard is the standard!

by drobviousso :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:50am


by billprudden :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:33am

Both Ryan brothers, of course!

by Travis :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:38am

Well, Rex IS undefeated against the Patriots in the playoffs.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:52am

He wouldn't be good as a HC, but as DC I'd be thrilled if they could get Gary Patterson. He manages to turn (identify and coach up) 3* athletes into adaptive scheme fit top defenders against spread schemes that the NFL is going to use more and more. Imagine if he had all world talent to start with. Honestly, I'd be fine with Omar as long as he actually hired competent delegates and just stood there on the side making his tough guy /cheerleader faces and ZERO decisions. The problem with him as is (in this respect) is he picks incompetent lackeys with marginally better football IQ than he has AND he makes decisions that impact them (players in doghouse, players with broken hands, refusal to try new schemes, etc)

The standard is the standard!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:50am

Minor observation,because it never became a factor, but I thought it interesting that Rodgers never had to use a silent count yesterday, despite the Falcons crowd having plenty of reason to be revved up, before it was obviously a blowout.

Anybody know of anyone compiling silent count snap percentages from around the league? To me, that is when HFA gets maximized, when the opposing offense can't employ a snap count, yet I've never seen anybody compiling a metric for which stadiums it happens in most frequently.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:10pm

Wow. I don't get everyone (mostly in the mainline media) that thinks the Patriots will beat the Falcons easily. And the line has opened favoring the Patriots. I'm a big Patriots fan, and if I had to pick a team straight up, I would go with the Falcons.

The Patriots offense is great; but the Falcon's is otherworldly right now. The Patriots defense is maybe a bit more than a mirage, but it's predicated on taking away the top guys, making the secondary receivers make plays, and counting on eventual mistakes. That worked against the Steelers, where Coates and Rogers were subject to mistakes, James isn't a world beater, and they had no receiving back once Bell went down. The Falcons have secondary receivers that are really good, so even if you take Freeman and Jones away, Gabriel, Coleman, et al can certainly beat you.

The Patriots defense also benefits a lot from their offense being better than they other guy's, so they start with better field position and don't have to worry about facing as many drives. They won't have that luxury against the Falcons.

Meanwhile, the Falcon's defense has been developing a knack for pressure, and Dan Quinn knows how to get the to the Patriots.

Bottom line, I don't think either team will win easily, but I would put the line at something like Falcons +3 or so.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:32pm

It may sound strange after yesterday's blowout, but I think if the Falcons don't execute on offense better against the Patriots, than they did against the Packers, the Patriots will win. The Packers, depleted on defense as they are, are just so terrible against offensive talent that the talent can make a fair number of mistakes and still hang 40 on them.

The reason I think the Falcons have good chance at the upset is because I think they will cut down on the execution errors on offense, and the Patriots don't have the pass rushers to force easy-to-capitalize-on qb mistakes. What gives me pause on going all-in on the Falcons is how young they are on defense, without a dominant interior pass rusher. If Quinn gets the young guys well prepared on defense, I think they are athletically talented enough, especially with regard to tackling, to win the game, because I also think Kyle Shanahan and Matt Ryan have too many ways to attack, and Shanahan is no Mike Martz. He'll ruthlessly attack the soft spot.

It really may come down to red zone execution, which may provide an edge for the Patriots offense over the Falcons inexperienced defense. Will the Falcons be made to settle for field goals?

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:35pm

I know the pats were at home, but I saw a pats team starting a motley crew of dbs -including a wr as a slot db - shut down a record-setting offense that was even more dangerous than this Atlanta Falcons offense. The Pats always get the better of you.

"In Bill We Trust" indeed.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:24pm

Pats fan here. My belief is that Pats will pretty munch dominate SB based on ATL D being average to slightly above average at home, but average away or on neutral field and NE defense being one of the best in the NFL right now.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:46pm

I think you're suffering from recency bias regarding the Falcons' offense. They've just beaten up two defenses that were reeling with injuries.

You're certainly overrating the Falcons' defense.

Historically, the way to beat the Pats is to have the defense that can get to Brady a lot, rattle him, and shut down the Pats' offense. I've never seen a team that can beat the Pats in a purely offensive horse race. They Colts kept losing that way until they shored up their defense.

As a Pats fan, I feared the Cowboys, the Giants, and the Packers more than the Falcons. (I didn't think either the Lions or Seahawks had any chance of advancing far.) The Giants have the kind of defense that can beat anybody, the Cowboys have a complete team and a great o-line that would have been hard to stop, and the Packers have Rodgers. From the Pats' perspective it was ideal that Rodgers had enough magic to beat the most complete team, only to then have it fall apart against a weaker team.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:03pm

I think you're underrating the Falcons offense, that was on a roll well before the last two games.

They are historic in their 1st down efficiency, and while they may not measure up to the great Patriots/Colts/Packers offenses, they aren't that far off.

Their largest issue seems to me their red zone offense isn't as great as other great offenses, but they led the NFL in scoring by ~80 points.

As to their defense, I agree with you completely.

To the final point of teams not winning horse-races, the best versions of the Manning Colts could and did. Their defense was never that great and only had success against Brady when Freeney/Mathis were at their most dominant best.

The games they won against the Patriots they scored 40, 27 (w/ two missed field goals), 38, 35, and 18 in the Matt Cassel year.

Not sure if Atlanta can, but I think they have a shot to win a 30-27 type game. Their offense is really, really good. I would say they are mutliple steps above the Le'Veon Bell-less Steelers team that has never been as good as the sum of their parts.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:53pm

The thing is, the Patriots offense is Really Really good too.

Last week's weighted DVOA numbers have them as +22.5% and +29.4% - so yes, the Falcons offense is better, but only by a little bit.

On the defense though, the Patriots are at -9.5%, and the Falcons at +4%. That's a huge, drastic difference.

And on special teams, it's similar - Pats at +6.1%, Falcons at -.3%.

So while the Atlanta offense is a little better than NE's offense, they're going to be facing a drastically better defense than NE's offense is.

And their offense is going to have to go further on each drive, and their defense is going to have to make quicker stops, because of the ST difference.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:56pm

Do you have Atlanta's weighted defense at your fingertips?

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:39pm

The +4% is the newest weighted stuff (as are all the other numbers) - I assume it will get a couple points better after yesterday's game gets added in (the Patriots defensive numbers should get better too).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:42pm

Reading comprehension is my friend......

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:50pm

I'm of the same mind. Even with Pitt's subpar secondary options, it seemed like they could have moved the ball at will if they were willing to let Brown be a decoy. Atlanta has both superior secondary options and the willingness to use them. I see this as a 55/45 Atlanta victory with only the Falcons being capable of winning by two scores or more.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:59pm

Well, look, as young as the Atlanta defense is, the stage could easily end up being too big for them, and could combine with there being no obviously superior internal pass rusher, resulting in the Patriots not punting all day.

Quinn has been on this stage before, against this offense, which leads me to believe that the Falcons defense is more likely than not going to be well prepared, meaning they won't be completely outclassed. They have a decent chance.

by BJR :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:00am

The Falcons are particularly weak in run defense, ranking 29th in DVOA, but that really hasn't been exposed in these playoffs with them jumping out to big early leads in both games. I expect the Patriots to not only score, but control the ball and the clock at will, provided they also don't go behind big, early.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:14am

Which means Shanahan should be very aggressive early.

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:54am

Yup. The Packers common failure in these championship games is not being more aggressive.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:28pm

Why was Brady in the game with 3.5 minutes left and a 19 point lead? No way it matters but GB should have tried a 20 yard pooch kick instead of the traditional on-side kick since Atlanta had 10 guys between the 45 and 50 yard lines.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:33pm

Belichik is obviously a terrible NFL coach.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:43pm

No, I don't think that is the reason.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:47pm

Sorry, I was making a joke about how this sort of lack of substitution in late game stomps is often taken as evidence that the coach is a moron.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:15pm

No problem. I am just curious if it is inertia or the backup really sucks or extreme risk weighting to a loss (to be avoided at all costs) versus a potential small risk injury (part of the game). Or perhaps with the reduced in-pad practice time it is seen as a valuable experience/reps.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:34pm

I would have preferred seeing Garoppolo at that point, to be honest.

A few years ago in a blowout vs Miami BB put in Hoyer (I think it was Miami and I think it was Hoyer - could be wrong about the details). He immediately threw a pick and the other team scored a TD quickly and suddenly it wasn't a blowout any more. Hoyer/Mallett sat down and Brady was brought back in to win the game.

Since then BB hasn't pulled his QB early, with only rare exceptions. If the other team pulls their QB, he'll pull Brady. And at times he'll pull Brady in the last 2 minutes.

Brian Burke pointed this out on Twitter and said at some point Brady will get hurt in a situation like this. That's a mathematically sound argument. Even slight risks become inevitabilities if they are tested too long. I think that yesterday, in the situation you were alluding to, Brady was mostly handing off and avoiding getting hit.

Still, I think Jimmy should have been in the game.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:55pm

That was Cassel in the 2007 game.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:47pm

Damn, I'm getting old. It feels like it was more recent.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:58pm

It was Matt Cassel, 2007 versus Miami. Jason Taylor returned Cassel's second pass attempt for a touchdown to make the score 42-21. Brady returned and threw another touchdown as the Patriots won 49-28.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:59pm

JG played an entire quarter against the Jets in game 15, and half a quarter in game 16 this year, which is much more than they usually pull Brady.

Still - that drive was strange - I get not throwing the ball away on 3rd down for clock reasons, but I would have rather had that whole series not happen. I don't like him getting hit late in a game thats totally out of control.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:01pm

At least in a playoff game, a coach can argue that it's win or go home, and if pulling the QB gives the other team a 0.001% better chance of coming back in a blowout then it's a bad idea. I don't subscribe to that, but it's defensible. It is mind-boggling to me how long Brady gets left in in regular-season games.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:13pm

Yep, any other coach does that and their QB or another star player gets hurt late in a regular season game they would be getting crushed, but Belichick is above criticsm, I guess.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:19pm

Uhhhh... you've seen Belichick being criticized in this very thread, even by Pats fans. Must you insist on looking for any reason to chide Bill (and chide others for not chiding Bill), no matter how trivial?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:50pm

It's sure a good thing that another coach didn't risk injury by leaving his starter in to run a clock-killing drive in the fourth quarter of a blowout game. I mean, other than Dan Quinn with Matt Ryan.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:03pm

Not only that, but why the heck was Julio Jones used so heavily in the 2nd half given that he's been battling an injury for weeks? That was inexplicable to me. I said at halftime that they should plan to shut down Jones unless the game tightened up again. It's one thing to risk a potential injury; it's another to keep riding a star who is already hurt.

It's like coaches are terrified to admit the obvious when the game is out of hand. It's not baseball - if the opponent cuts your lead to the point that it's no longer a blowout, you can always bring the starters back in.

Perhaps ironically given how much he's criticized for game-day decision-making, I remember McCarthy being smart and pulling Rodgers early in the 3rd quarter of that debacle in 2014 when GB was beating Chicago 42-0 at the half.

by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:25am

What was Julio Jones's snap count in the second half vs the first half? My concern of sitting him would be that once he starts to cool down/tighten up, he's done for the night. The nightmare scenario is that the Packers start to come back (not a crazy thought as long as Rogers is in the game) and Jones can't get loose again. Maybe you don't sit him, but cut his number of snaps down to what it takes to keep him in the game.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:35pm

That's a surprisingly difficult number to find...all I can see is that his total for the game was 44. So it looks like they did give him some rest in the 2nd half. What you point out is true, and additionally for a toe injury I'm not sure what extra risk there is for him running routes and taking hits as opposed to just staying warm on the sideline. Whereas something like a knee or a back injury I would be really concerned about taking extra hits.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 1:55pm

I didn't mind seeing Brady, but why the hell was he passing? Just run the damn ball, kill a couple minutes and push the game back to a 4-score impossibility. If you don't want to run any of the top RBs into a brick wall, then give the ball to Bolden!

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:39pm

I've seen teams with lesser defensive Talent slow down the Patriots, including an awful 2013 Den D and a mediocre 2012 bal D. The key is all about coverage. You make sure you don't get picked on short routes and you make them hit big plays. They might still kill you that way but it's at least not their best stuff

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:07pm

Denver won in 2013 because NE only had one healthy receiver and the DL (Potroast in particular) eviscerated NE's OL.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:22pm

Pot Roast had some big plays in timely moments but pff recap showed the broncos d line rarely got pressure. The broncos were also supremely injured too and Brady had receivers open deep that he missed. Remember, this was the same defense forced to start 1000 year old quenton jammer at corner. My point was that you don't need a 2015 broncos roster to slow NE's offense down. To shut it down, you might, but not to slow it down. Pitt had more talent on the field by a mile than that 2013 Den squad and yet it failed at basic coverage time and again - letting receivers go wide open.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:40pm

Denver being injured is only tangentially related to the topic. It also should be recognized that any advantage Pitt has over 2013 Denver is significantly outweighed by the advantage 2016 NE has over their 2013 counterparts.

EDIT: To elaborate, NE's passing offense had really tailed off down the stretch. Cleveland shut them down for three quarters and it took a miracle to pull that one out. They lost in Miami and beat Baltimore in a game with a misleadingly high score and then relied heavily on the run against both Buffalo and Indy. I can't speak for everyone, but I thought it was pretty much a given that they weren't going to move the ball much without serious contributions from Blount and Ridley.

EDIT #2: This isn't to say that I thought Denver would be capable of such run dominance. Just that once that variable is known, the rest falls into place.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:58pm

Sure, I agree with all of that. But, the results were pretty dramatic. Ne did nothing for 3 + quarters v Den. NE did everything they wanted through the air v Pitt last night. Is that result what you expected given the talent on both Ne's side and their respective opponents?

And furthermore, whatever advantages Ne has personnel wise does not follow that Pitt was going to perpetually leave receivers wide open.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:14pm

whatever advantages Ne has personnel wise does not follow that Pitt was going to perpetually leave receivers wide open.

I never said otherwise. In fact, in a comment above I mentioned how reading The Ringer's break down of Pitt's elevated last season pass rush gave me great confidence heading into this game. My only real contention is with the Denver game, which again had little to do with what Denver did in coverage and more to do with a dearth of weapons and a bad OL performance. I have little doubt that this Patriots offense playing against the 2013 Denver defense (same personnel and scheme) could put up at least 24 points.

I probably should have made it clear that I didn't disagree with the overarching point, though. My apologies for not doing so.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 3:24pm

Well, I thought Denver's Defensive approach was solid given their limitations. Say what you will about Ne's crumbled offensive personnel at that point, its still Tom Brady and he's scary even if you have me at receiver. Broader point was - you need a good approach on defense, not just personnel. I don't doubt Pitt even with this personnel was going to stop NE, especially at home, but they could have done a much better job than this.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:27pm

The Broncos defensive issues are not tangential at all. You said the Broncos DL eviscerated the Patriots OL. That simply did not happen - at least in pass rush.

That was also a Broncos line missing Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson (a starter that year) and Derek Wolfe.

They were starting Robert Ayers and an aging Shaun Phillips.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:42pm

That Denver was missing guys doesn't change the fact that they dominated NE's interior OL. There really isn't anything to dispute about this and, similar to the conversation in the pre-game post, the topic has nothing whatsoever to do with relative injuries.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:50pm

I would very much argue that they dominated the Patriots OL. They had two sacks, but didn't hit Brady much apart from that. They did well against the run, but the Patriots barely attempted to run in the game.

That was more Brady being off, missing multiple throws that he probably should have made, and the Patriots having zero answer to stop the Manning offense apart from guys dropping passes in the red zone and settling for Field Goals.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:55pm

You are mostly repeating everything I've already said. From above:

EDIT: To elaborate, NE's passing offense had really tailed off down the stretch. Cleveland shut them down for three quarters and it took a miracle to pull that one out. They lost in Miami and beat Baltimore in a game with a misleadingly high score and then relied heavily on the run against both Buffalo and Indy. I can't speak for everyone, but I thought it was pretty much a given that they weren't going to move the ball much without serious contributions from Blount and Ridley.

EDIT #2: This isn't to say that I thought Denver would be capable of such run dominance. Just that once that variable is known, the rest falls into place.

The Patriots barely attempted to run because Denver forced them out of it. Denver's offensive success is irrelevant since we are only discussing one particular match up.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 5:46pm

I think I disagree to the level of mismatch the denver D had over the NE o on paper. Sure, in that game it looked like a colossal mismatch, but that's just how it played out. Ex Ante, I doubt most pats fans thought the offense would be horrible for most of the day. I certainly didn't.


"In addition to the poor throws, the pass protection, which was stellar for much of the day, seemed to break down at inopportune times."

They made timely plays, but it was not the offensive line meltdown you saw in 2016 or the 2007 sb.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:24pm

I never said anything about on paper, nor did I say I thought the offense would be "horrible most of the day." In fact, I said the exact opposite.

It seems like some on this site get prickly when injuries are discussed, as if there is excuse making or diminishing of opponent play. I've done neither, I'm simply introducing facts, though I may have misremembered how well they performed in pass pro.

To hopefully make things clear, allow me to rephrase. NE's offense had leaned heavily on the run to cover up a dearth of passing weapons. So long as the run was moderately successful, I think Brady could have manufactured passing offense, but I considered it a lock that any team without an objectively terrible pass defense that could stop the run would give them fits. I did not expect Denver to be as successful as they were against the run but once they were, I was resigned to a negative outcome.

The main point I was making is that I don't think Denver did anything in coverage that had more impact on the outcome than their dominance against the run and NE's lack of weapons. Yes, they didn't do anything as stupid as Pitt, but that is a really low bar to be giving credit for.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:47pm

So... Patriots fans in Gillette were mocking Goodell. While I appreciate that as much as the next Patriots fan, I wonder if we should be thanking him. The Brady suspension clearly didn't hurt the Patriots this year (maybe without it they might have started 4-0, beating Buffalo, but maybe not; Brady could have lost one of those other games).

And it may have helped them. He's 39 years old. He has four fewer games of wear and tear on his body right now. Four fewer games of getting pummeled. And they were early season games, before the O-line has a chance to gel, before the Pats had Dion Lewis and Gronkowski, and before Hogan and Mitchell had matured in the offense.

While we never know what *would* have happened, what did happen is that Brady sitting for four games didn't have appreciable downside, when all was said and done, and physically he's probably better off for it...

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:02pm

Now they just need to leverage JimmyG's good showing into getting the first and fourth round picks back. Rog can keep the money.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:14pm

I will never forget and never forgive.
I thank the Pats for overcoming adversity, I don't thank greasy goodel for his arrogant sleaziness.
besides, if I'm going to give a vital veteran an in season vacation to try and keep him healthy for the playoffs it would be Gronk.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:54pm

I don't think the four games off hurt Brady at all, and there's something to be said for the theory that having to play only 15 games instead of 19 could only help a 39-yr old QB.

As for Goodell, I plan on continuing to bad-mouth him as long as I live. He made a calculated decision to smear Brady in order to protect his own reputation. I want to make it clear that he deeply underestimated his power to protect his own reputation.

No other commissioner in sports history has done such a thing as Goodell did. Most league officials promote their star players. I might believe that he thought he was "only doing the job" if there were not so much evidence of lying on his part.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:59pm

I'm not convinced "he" did anything. More likely, "he" was told do it.

by Ambientdonkey :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 2:10pm
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 4:19pm

thanks. will hodl off on the Sierra Nevada for a sepll. will instead be druinking rest of big rum bottle.

by In_Belichick_We... :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:11pm

I didn't read all of the comments yet so feel free to ignore if already mentioned:

Why don't teams go for onside kick more often after personal foul penalties assessed on kick-off?
Specifically, there was a personal foul penalty called on Green Bay and the yards were assessed on the kick-off. The result was Atlanta kicking off from the 50 yard line. They chose to drill it though the end zone for a touch back (a net gain of 25 yards).
Why not try an onside kick there? If it fails, Green Bay likely gets it between their 35 and 40 yard line instead of the 25. Not a lot of field position, especially in a game that was expected to be somewhat of a track meet.

With the kick off at the 35 and the touch back at the 25, I'm surprised we don't see more onside kick attempts when kicking from the 50 because of penalty.

Am I misunderstanding something here?

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 8:51pm

I almost feel bad for Packer fans (the Cowboy fan in me can't quite get there after our last two playoff exits, and with Jerry's entrenched role as GM). Apparently, the six straight trips to the playoffs without a Super Bowl berth has never been done before (obviously, going back to the seventh year keeps the heat off of McCarthy, relatively speaking). For a couple of years, at least, it's seemed like they're the prime candidate for "it'd be nice to see how they'd do with a different coach," but, with the turnaround they pulled off, mid-season, there's no way it happens now. If nothing else, maybe it's time to get Capers a nice gold watch. They seem to test the principle that just getting to the playoffs every year and waiting for your turn to catch the breaks. Alternately, Pittsurgh's defense seems not to have any idea how to hold the Patriots under 35, and, once again, an awful lot of those points come on completely blown coverages. Didn't their only win in recent memory against New England come when they went against tendencies and employed man coverage? Tomlin's done a good job of turning over the roster while not really missing much of a beat, but the challenge on the fumble was awful, and settling for the field goal on the 1st and goal from a half-yard away drive was dismal (they seemed to play into the Pats' hands with predictable playcalling). At this point, the Steelers almost have to question whether building their offense around Bell is worth it (to be fair, the Pats have overcome the loss of Gronk repeatedly, and he's just as fragile). Should be a fun Super Bowl, and they're probably the two best teams (seems like Shanahan the elder gave the Pats fits in days gone by, and this particular Falcons team has been able to run up the score even without dominant contributions from Julio; conversely, it's hard to get a read on how good this Patriot team is, because, while they were rarely challenged this season, they pretty much coasted to easy wins all season long, and this Falcons defense is arguably one of the softer ones they've faced in a while)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 10:11pm

I found a few more six-straight trips without Super Bowl.

The Rams from 73-78 made it each year without reaching the Super Bowl.

They, of course, made it in Year 7 (1979).

The Chiefs from 90-95.

by t.d. :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:23am

Yeah, it's Rodgers failing to reach the Super Bowl through six straight playoff berths that has never been done before (both of those teams ran through several quarterbacks in their streaks). I misread the post on reddit. Still think McCarthy has probably underachieved over this stretch, and that they'd benefit from a new direction

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 3:26am

If his special teams player had fallen on the ball, would MCCarthy have still been an underachiever?

by t.d. :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:25am

Yeah, he would. I think the coach is responsible for the makeup of his roster, so I don't absolve him of responsibility on that one, but one title in a decade with arguably the best quarterback ever is presumably disappointing (ask a Packer fan I guess)

by dank067 :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:54am

That the Packers were a single ST player blowing the onside kick recovery away from a second Super Bowl appearance for McCarthy/Rodgers—and a pretty fair shot at a second Super Bowl win—is I think a good demonstration of how finicky a stat like "Super Bowl Appearances" and even "Super Bowl Wins" can be, and why it can be a bad way to judge individual players or coaches.

That the Packers did manage to blow a Super Bowl appearance when they had 99.9% win probability with less than 4 minutes to go in the conference championship game... now that is completely fair game when it comes to judging McCarthy as coach.

To continue some random thoughts on the subject, I think playoff matchups and playoff roads also play a big part in Super Bowl appearances. The Packers in the McCarthy/Rodgers era (and going back to Favre too) have made their potential path to the Super Bowl much more difficult by blowing untimely games in the regular season or by just by losing too much during rough patches (sometimes injury-related), and in my mind that's been a significant limiting factor in the overall lack of titles they've achieved over this time.

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:58am

While I agree with the overall point in the case of Bostick the guy's place on the roster was solely because of MM's and TT's infatuation with his athletic ability versus the actual results. Bostick ran poor routes, had terrible hands and was not the sharpest guy. He was on special teams because they needed someone to fill out the squad. He rarely DID anything that helped.

But he looked great in the uniform!

by Damon :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:11am

"To continue some random thoughts on the subject, I think playoff matchups and playoff roads also play a big part in Super Bowl appearances."

Totally agree, that statement also holds true for a lot of teams over time who've suffered tough playoff losses and never achieved the level of success expected.

by BJR :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:37am

Agree with the last paragraph. The lack of Super Bowl appearances can at least be partly explained by randomness in one-off matches against other good teams. More damning is that Green Bay has only been a top 2 seed twice, and the 1 seed once in the Rodgers era. The easiest way to make the Super Bowl is to play at home following a first round bye, and Green Bay are seldom finding that path, in spite of all-time great QB play.

I mean this year, in a year of no dominant NFC team, they utterly blew their opportunity for a top 2 seed with their weirdly pathetic mid-season stretch. Had they faced the Falcons at Lambeau, rather than the Georgia Dome, they would have stood a far greater chance of slowing the Falcons offence, even with all the injuries.

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:47am

McCarthy's takeaway from the 15-1 season was that he wore out his team. He spends a good portion of the regular season tinkering. He has openly stated that the goal is getting 'into the tournament'. The 'how' is not as big a priority.

But the root cause of the team not having a bit more success is special teams/defense. Until one or both become better than average units this team will always be at risk when the offense sputters even a bit.

GB does not lose shootouts in the regular season. They lose when the offense cannot fire consistently while the defense and/or special teams are getting rolled.

by BJR :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:06pm

That sounds suspiciously like confirmation bias from a coach who won a Super Bowl as a 6 seed, then followed it the next season with a one-and-done as the 1 seed. Of course 'getting into the tournament' matters a lot, but there is no logical argument against aiming for a higher seeding to improve the chances of winning that tournament.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:28pm

The Patriots have been the 1 or 2 seed in every season they've gone to the Super Bowl, and only made 1 Championship game from a lower seed position. By securing the bye, you have to play one fewer game, which all by itself provides an enormous advantage in getting to the Super Bowl. I would argue that they've actually been somewhat inefficient in getting to the Big Game and in winning championships. They've won 2/3 of their Super Bowls, and about 64 percent of their championship games, but when you only need to win 1 game in the playoffs to get to the Championship, you're likely to get there a lot. Green Bay's seeding has arguably played a huge role in their playoff performances.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:45pm

Yep, the best way to avoid wearing out your team is to give them an off week in early January, and avoid having to travel until February.

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:55pm

No question getting that playoff bye almost doubles your chances of winning the SB.

But, a 65% win percentage in CCGs and SBs, against the other elite teams in the league, is inefficient? How many other teams have even won more than 65% of their regular season games over the past 15 years?

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 3:52pm

I can only share what the man has said. He wants the team finishing strong and 'getting into the tournament'. He thinks home/road in the playoffs is 'not really that important'. (using quote marks for quotes not trying to suggest criticism or sarcasm). Beating divisional rivals is a focus area with special commendations for doing it on the road. He really fusses about the team if they beat a divisional for on the road.

Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren were win division, win conference. Period. Holmgren absolutely wanted as many home playoff games as possible.

McCarthy decided about 5 years ago he doesn't give a (blank).

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:26pm

Here's a completely wild theory out of the blue: The Patriots won the coin flip and elected to receive, contrary to their standard choice of deferring. They did that so it wouldn't be suspicious if they do that in the Superbowl, because they are planning to open the game with a surprise on-side kick play that they have been practicing for a few weeks now.

Patriots will definitely have a handful of trick plays for the Superbowl, but that would be a wild one.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:36am

I'm confused - if they wanted to start a future game with an onside kick, why not just defer so they would kick off to start the AFCCG?

My feeling here is that they chose to receive based on the opponent (obviously it was based on the opponent since it's not the standard strategy) as they felt getting an early lead would help the overall strategy. This might be their thinking for when they face teams with stronger offenses - if so, then I would expect them to do the same thing in the Super Bowl.

Or maybe BB just got tired of deferring? Perhaps the whole "defer" thing was a ploy to get to see how many other NFL coaches would copy him? (Answer: lots.)

by aces4me :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:54am

NFL coaches could pick a worse peer to copy.

by aces4me :: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:54am

double post.