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Defenses have taken a wide variety of responses to the rise of 11 personnel. Is any one system better than another? And how has the rise of the "moneybacker" changed defensive philosophy?

15 Jan 2017

Audibles at the Line: Divisional Round

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.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Atlanta Falcons 36

Vince Verhei: Seahawks open the game with a 14-play, 89-yard yard touchdown drive that eats up more than 8 and a half minutes. Six first downs on the drive, including three third-down conversions. So far, so good. Taking that much time to score a touchdown will go a long way towards stopping Atlanta from jumping out to a big lead.

Bryan Knowles: Seattle comes out, picking up just where they left off against Detroit. They just marched down the field almost unopposed with a 14-play, 89-yard drive that ate up half the first quarter. Russell Wilson hit all four of his passes and picked up a 14-yard rush as well; it's a good reminder of what a healthy Wilson can do. Atlanta had issues stopping Thomas Rawls as well; perhaps not surprising for our 29th-ranked rush defense.

A very, very impressive opening for Seattle.

Ben Muth: I assume John Lynch is smart, but when he implies Seattle wasn't a zone running team when Marshawn Lynch played it makes me think he's very dumb or very lazy.

Aaron Schatz: I think the latter is more likely.

Cian Fahey: Keanu Neal took a false step on Jimmy Graham's touchdown. Stepped back into the end zone as Graham broke outside. Made it too easy for the Seahawks tight end.

Scott Kacsmar: Will be a long forgotten play, but I wouldn't discount the importance of Julio Jones stretching out for a yard to gain a first down on third-and-7 against Richard Sherman. Would have been tough for Atlanta to punt after what Seattle just did to start the game.

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends and Atlanta has not yet finished their first possession. Eleven plays and 62 yards so far. No matter what happens from here on out, this will probably be my favorite game of the year.

Aaron Schatz: It looks like they are moving Sherman around to follow Jones. Didn't do the Seahawks much good on the touchdown, as stacked receivers close to the goal line created a natural pick and Jones scored easily.

Bryan Knowles: Those first drives lasted so long that it became the first time the Falcons were held scoreless in the first quarter at home all season long.

Ben Muth: Shanahan is a really good offensive coordinator. He was really good in the first Seattle game about motioning Jones or people right at Sherman to get Sherman off Jones. On the touchdown he did it with the stacked alignment.

Carl Yedor: The first two drives took nearly 16 minutes off the game clock. I honestly haven't thought of much to say because there have been so few commercial breaks for me to ignore. Rees Odhiambo in for Germain Ifedi will be interesting to keep an eye on at right guard; earlier in the season when Ifedi missed time, since-released J'Marcus Webb filled in for him. Odhiambo is a rookie who has mostly been used in spot duty and as a sixth lineman in unbalanced packages.

Scott Kacsmar: At this pace, a sack is a huge defensive play and not surprisingly the first one went to Atlanta and Brooks Reed. Did just enough to lead Seattle to a field goal, though Wilson's first incompletion was a bad miss to Doug Baldwin in the end zone.

Vince Verhei: And there's Odhiambo, missing an assignment and giving up an untouched sack to Brooks Reed. Jimmy Graham gets a big catch to make it third-and-makeable, but then Russell Wilson overthrows an open Doug Baldwin on a corner route in the end zone. Should have been a touchdown, instead it's 10-7 Seattle after the field goal. 

That was all set up, by the way, by a big kickoff return by Devin Hester. That's an unexpected surprise from the veteran who was just signed two weeks ago.

Vince Verhei: Oh my god, what a swing here in the second quarter. Seattle forces a punt, which is news in itself, and Hester gets a big return inside the Atlanta 10 -- but there's a holding penalty on Seattle, before the ball was even kicked, and instead Seattle gets the ball inside their own 10. Then Jimmy Graham blows a block and Thomas Rawls is stuffed for a loss, then Odhiambo steps on Wilson's foot, and Wilson stumbles backward into the end zone for a safety. Ugh.

Carl Yedor: That is a huge swing. Massive punt return called back because of a hold at the line of scrimmage, and then two plays later, Russell Wilson trips over his right guard's foot in the end zone for a safety. 10-9 Seattle now.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, on the next drive Odhiambo missed his guy which caused a run tackle for a loss. Then Wilson falls backward into the end zone and the Falcons get a safety.

Scott Kacsmar: That sequence is why generic penalty stats just don't do the game justice. What goes down as a 6-yard penalty is actually a change of 86 yards in field position, and a minimum five-point swing after Atlanta got the fortunate safety.

Aaron Schatz: I would love to track how much yardage is lost to penalties by each team but unfortunately the official scorers will sometimes not list the full yardage of a play that is shortened or nullified by a penalty. You would end up with numbers that were somewhat skewed based on the habits of 32 sets of official scorers.

Carl Yedor: Ifedi back in for Odhiambo on this drive, but apparently with an injured ankle. We'll see if he does any better, even with the injury.

Vince Verhei: Doug Baldwin tackled on third down just short of a first down. That's a small play that makes a big difference, contrasted with Jones' ability to convert the same situation earlier for Atlanta. The good news for Seattle is that Jon Ryan's punt is downed inside the 1.

... but it doesn't matter, because the Falcons go 99 yards for a touchdown to go up 19-10. Most of the damage was done on easy completions up the gut. Seahawks are sticking with the four-man rush, and it's failing more often than it's succeeding. On the touchdown, Tevin Coleman leaked out of the backfield right up the seam and ran a corner route, and there was nobody by him. Looked like Seattle was in a Cover-2, which would be vulnerable to that route anyway, and you've got to think that they're unfamiliarity with that kind of coverage didn't help.

Scott Kacsmar: Just a standard 99-yard touchdown drive before halftime by Atlanta. Great throws by Ryan, though he did get away with one against DeShawn Shead. Looks like Seattle may have abandoned the shadow project on Julio. The score, 19-10, is unfavorable, but I would feel confident if I was Seattle with the pressure Ryan has seen in the half. Keep bringing that up and a turnover will come, and it's not like the offense has been terrible for Wilson and company. Going to be a great second half I think.

Andrew Potter: This Falcons offense is terrific, but what has impressed me most during that first half is Matt Ryan's pocket management. He is consistently making life much easier for his tackles by stepping up in the pocket when pressure is coming around the edge. Though there have still been some pressures -- most notably a wobbler that came out of Ryan's hand sideways in the direction of Levine Toilolo -- the only Seahawks sack came when Michael Bennett beat Jake Matthews to the inside.

Vince Verhei: Halftime. Falcons are ordinarily a running team. Today: 21 dropbacks, eight runs. They are very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this Seattle defense. And I think their longest play was a post to Taylor Gabriel up the middle, where Steven Terrell, who is not Earl Thomas, missed a tackle. 

I'm not giving up hope, but I keep going back to Wilson's overthrow in the end zone (his only incompletion) and the penalty that wiped out the long Hester return, and I can't shake the feeling Seattle has missed their best shots. 

And on Hester, he has run three kickoffs out of the end zone instead of taking the ball at the 25. Counting penalties, Seattle has started those drives at their 11, 45, and 8. That last one was at the end of the half and probably didn't hurt them too much, but it's still interesting that they have apparently given him the green light to make those deep returns. 

Tom Gower: Falcons up 19-10 at the half. A bit like the game I expected, with not much defense but Atlanta making a couple more plays. The sack to hold them to a field goal and Robert Alford's tackle were big. Pete Carroll went conservative at the end of the first half -- a very interesting call considering that all they need to take the lead with Atlanta getting the second-half kickoff is a stop and a score and a stop and a score, and one of those scores can even be a field goal.

Cian Fahey: The Coleman touchdown was all Kyle Shanahan exploiting the Seahawks coverage. The tight end took the wide linebacker to the flat, the receiver to that side took the cornerback away with a post, while nobody saw the back running the corner route from behind his left tackle. Just beautiful.

Bryan Knowles: There are quite a few fans in San Francisco who are seeing Kyle Shanahan carving up the Seattle defense and salivating.

DeShawn Shead goes down, untouched, clutching his knee. That's the last thing Seattle needs right now.

Ben Muth: I love watching Atlanta's offense because so many teams run outside zone poorly, it's refreshing to watch a team that runs it well. It takes a ton of practice reps that most teams aren't willing to put in, but it's the perfect run play. Atlanta has been running it for consistent, successful plays all day.

Vince Verhei: Falcons score on their first drive of the second half to go up 26-10. It's the best offense in the league, and they've found their groove against a defense where bodies are dropping. Seattle had only nine passes in the first half. That, um, is going to go up in the second.

Sho nuff, Wilson throws 10 passes on the next drive, including seven in a row at one point. The drive is extended by a dumb Atlanta penalty on a punt. The Seahawks struggle in the red zone when Wilson again has Baldwin open in the end zone, but this time his short Tebow jump pass can't connect. They get a field goal to make it 26-13, which is probably the right call on fourth-and-6, but with the secondary in tatters they'll probably need to start blitzing to get Atlanta off the field. They don't just need to get stops, they need to get fast stops.

Tom Gower: Yeah, I don't hate the field goal. I hated the punt on fourth-and-2, down 16 points in the middle of the third quarter, when your defense has one stop all day. But after the fourth-and-1 punt earlier and the wasting of the last 50 seconds of the first half, I wasn't surprised by it. I'd have expected a great coach like Pete Carroll to be more aggressive as an underdog.

Vince Verhei: Oh, look. A pass up the middle where Steven Terrell misses a tackle, resulting in a big gain for Atlanta.

Cian Fahey: The 49ers are for sure gonna come away from this game and hire Tom Cable instead of Kyle Shanahan.

Aaron Schatz: I swear, every time there's a play where Odhiambo doesn't blow his block, I feel like I need to say a hallelujah.

Tom Gower: Pete Carroll punts on fourth-and-4 down 16 in the fourth quarter. This is approaching Chuck Pagano-esque levels of trust in his defense.

Vince Verhei: Welp. Hated everything about that drive for Seattle. Hated Tanner McEvoy failing to come down with a catchable pass on first down. Hated the false start on George Fant. Hated Wilson overthrowing an open Baldwin down the middle, the third time this game Baldwin has been open for a touchdown and Wilson has missed. Hated the pressure leading to a scramble on third-and-15. And I really, REALLY hated the punt on fourth-and-4 when you're down 16 in the fourth quarter against an offense that has been steamrolling you.

Carl Yedor: Big challenge here. Seahawks really needed that break, though that definitely looked like a catch to me. But who even knows anymore.

Andrew Potter: So if that Taylor Gabriel play had stood as an incomplete because he didn't "complete the process," does anybody else think it a little bit dodgy that the ball was dislodged by a collision with a nonparticipant on the sideline?

Hah, just as I was typing that the broadcast team started talking about it.

Vince Verhei: Seattle makes up for it with back-to-back sacks, but they can't get the fumble when Frank Clark knocks it out of Ryan's hand. Alas.

Jeremy Lane apparently just headed to the locker room. Seattle now out its free safety and two of its top three corners. This is bad.

Bryan Knowles: Wilson is forced to just float the ball downfield, and Ricardo Allen picks it off. The Atlanta defensive line basically had three individual shots on Wilson; he was able to dance around to avoid some of it but finally just had to chuck it up and pray. No protection for him.

Aaron Schatz: I think Wilson may have been hit on the pick. 

Falcons against the Packers or Cowboys is gonna be a hell of a lot of fun for watching offense.

Ben Muth: What a performance by Richard Sherman after the first drive though. Jones probably had three catches for 35-ish yards and a touchdown after the first drive. Was silent the rest of the game. The difference seemed to be how consistently Atlanta ran the outside zone. Seattle looked overmatched.

Vince Verhei: Well there was a lot of excitement in the final few minutes there...

  • Another big Hester return, as Seattle's best player today was a guy they signed two weeks ago.
  • Wilson finally hitting Baldwin for a long touchdown.
  • A play where Luke Willson was down on his back with the ball in his hands that somehow turned into an interception.

... but it really all amounted to nothing. The game was decided before all of that.

I don't know what I can add to this that isn't patently obvious to anyone who has seen Seattle play more than once or twice all year. They were a very good team on the whole, but there's no way you win a championship with an offensive line this bad and so many injuries in the secondary. We'll look back at the 2016 Seahawks as an experiment that failed. Blocking still matters. Eighteen net points (20 scored by the offense, minus-2 on the safety) against this defense is a pretty bad day. 

As for Atlanta, yup, that's the best and most diverse offense in the league right now, and they were outstanding running against a great Seattle run defense. No other offense can beat you in so many different ways.

Scott Kacsmar: We might have to retire the "All Russell Wilson Games End Up Close Eventually" thing. This season tested the theory of how the team would look if they were more pass-heavy, didn't have a running game to lean on, and if the defense was no longer tops in points allowed. Naturally, the results weren't as good, and it was too much on Wilson's shoulders, who wasn't even healthy himself early in the year. Throw in the Earl Thomas injury and it was just too much for this team to overcome an incredible Atlanta offense on the road that was very sharp today.

After that historic 98-game streak of being at least within one score in the fourth quarter ended for Seattle, the Seahawks failed to do that in three of the last eight games. We're not used to seeing this at all, but again, the rest of the NFC has been able to catch up to this team when the offensive line remains such a weakness and the defense lost such a pivotal player. At least Paul Richardson looks fully ready to come alive next year. This isn't a Chris Matthews-type fluke, and the running backs should be healthier next year. You just wonder how much more the defense has left though, with Thomas dropping retirement hits already.

Vince Verhei: Chris Matthews was working at a shoe store when the Seahawks called him to come try out. He should have been expected to be a fluke. Paul Richardson was a second-round pick who hasn't been able to stay healthy. There's reason to believe he can really break out as a starter next year. I'll take a team with Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Jimmy Graham, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise. In a heartbeat I'll take that team. It would just be nice to have somebody to play tackle is all.

Aaron Schatz: And they need Earl Thomas healthy again. His importance is now frighteningly obvious.

Carl Yedor: Thomas really makes the Seattle defensive scheme work. It probably doesn't help that the Seahawks now have a more "stars and scrubs" salary cap structure than they did in 2012-2013 before Sherman, Thomas, et al. came due for their second contracts. Looking back at their 2012 cap is somewhat amazing: Aaron Curry had a dead cap hit of over $10 million, which was the highest amount on the team, followed by Russell Okung, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Marcus Trufant's dead money hit from his old contract and subsequent re-signing, and then Marshawn Lynch. Then pretty much the rest of their good players were on rookie deals and weren't expensive.

Tom Gower: I was actually kind of rooting for the wacky pinball interception to stand (not sure how it didn't get reviewed) and then Devonta Freeman to get in, so the Seahawks could be the second really good defense to lose a key player late in the season and then completely fall off a cliff and give up 43 points in their playoff defeat.

Vince covered what I wanted to say -- the surprise wasn't that Atlanta, the best and most versatile offense in the league put up points against Seattle (though their success with outside zone in the second half after mostly sticking with the pass in the first half was impressive to watch), but rather that Seattle's offense only put up 20 points of their own against a defense that was no better than average. And two of those drives were really aided by long Devin Hester returns. Only other touchdown was on the long, grind-it-out opening drive that had a bunch of people who should have known better saying things about how the game would go from there.

Houston Texans 16 at New England Patriots 34

Cian Fahey: In the past 12 months, Leicester have won the Premiership, Ireland have beaten the All Blacks, Portugal won the European Championships, the Warriors came back from a 1-3 deficit before the Cavs came back from a 1-3 deficit, the Cubs came back from a 1-3 deficit, Trump won the election… and yet, the Texans beating the Patriots tonight would be the biggest upset.

Andrew Potter: Easy there, tiger. Houston could win the Super Bowl 49-10 over the Falcons with seven-touchdown Brock Osweiler as MVP and it wouldn't be as big an upset as Leicester City winning the Premiership.

That other stuff, yeah, Texans winning in New England would be a bigger shock.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots score their first touchdown when Dion Lewis catches a pass and turns the corner wide on Benardrick McKinney. There's the first pass play where McKinney can't keep up with Lewis or James White. It will not be the last. Touchdown was set up by a long gain on a DPI call, A.J. Bouye covering Chris Hogan. It was a total Joe Flacco play, where Tom Brady just chucked the ball up and Hogan seemed to essentially manufacture the DPI by slowing down and forcing Bouye to "interfere" with him. Hey, it's a skill that a receiver should have, but I definitely understand Texans fans being pretty pissed about that one.

Andrew Potter: What were we saying Tyreek Hill would do to Houston's special teams coverage?

Aaron Schatz: Dion Lewis just makes the Houston kick coverage feel sad. Tyreek Hill would make them question their will to live.

Bryan Knowles: Hey, it's Houston's special teams! Hi, Houston's special teams! Welcome to the game.

Rivers McCown: I don't particularly care for the results of this game.

Bryan Knowles: Painful day for the Browns, too -- not only did Taylor Gabriel do very well in the first game, but now they have to watch Dion Lewis score multiple touchdowns. Both, of course, were cut by the Browns over the past few years.

Aaron Schatz: Hmmm. I think the Tom Brady interception was pretty much Michael Floyd's fault for letting it go off his hands. Twitter seems to disagree with me. What do you guys think?

Andrew Potter: The throw was too far in front. He barely got enough on it to deflect it.

Scott Kacsmar: Throw was too wide to be caught, but still an unfortunate tipped pick. And the field goal basically means the Texans keep blowing opportunities to make this a game. I really hated that third-and-1 call earlier when the quarterback sneak should be so automatic with a quarterback who has height as his main redeeming quality among announcers.

Tom Gower: Pass appeared to be thrown ahead of Floyd, but I think it was still catchable.

Texans unable to convert the good field position into a touchdown. Bill O'Brien kicks the field goal to make it 14-6, because you just have to get points whenever you can. I guess. Or something.

Aaron Schatz: And then surprising Patriots fumble on the kickoff return, and the Texans throw a touchdown pass to a wide-open C.J. Fiedorowicz. Wow. It's actually now going to be close after 20 minutes, 14-13.

Bryan Knowles: Credit where credit is due -- the Patriots bit hard on the reverse, leaving C.J. Fiedorowicz wide open for an easy touchdown. Misdirection is a potential way to even the playing field here.

I tell you what -- New England isn't looking like a team that should be 17-point favorites at this point in time.

Aaron Schatz: Actually, I think they still do. The interception was somewhat fluky... if they had recovered the kickoff return fumble themselves, totally different game. The Houston offense still looks horrendous. Brock Osweiler looks horrendous. And we knew the Houston defense was good. They have played excellent man coverage, and Whitney Mercilus has been very good rushing Brady tonight.

Scott Kacsmar: I need to see a birth certificate to be convinced that wasn't Rahim Moore on the coverage on Chris Hogan for a 45-yard bomb. At least it didn't cost Houston any points after another big sack by Whitney Mercilus.

Aaron Schatz: Hell of a goal-line stand by Houston before halftime. They had everyone covered on first down, with only three rushing the passer, and slow Brady couldn't even scramble up the middle for all 3 yards. The tackle by Eddie Pleasant on James Develin on second down was amazing, I was sure that was a touchdown. LeGarrette Blount got stuffed on third. They kicked the field goal on fourth, we go to halftime at 17-13.

Andrew Potter: As I'm sure we all expected, one of these defenses has performed admirably as it battled to overcome the turnovers and short fields given up by offensive and special teams mistakes. Now if they can just hit a couple more big plays, they'll give themselves a real chance of pulling out the win.

The Houston Texans, on the other hand ...

Aaron Schatz: The talk in the press box at halftime: would Houston have a better chance of pulling off the upset if they yanked Osweiler and put in Tom Savage? Could he possibly be worse?

Tom Gower: Patriots up at the half is no surprise. Patriots with 17 at the half is no surprise. What is surprising is the Texans with 13. Brock Osweiler had played mostly within himself, avoiding the costly mistake. Sure, he's under 5 yards per attempt, but he's made some plays at some times and hasn't made the costly mistake.

And look at the Houston scoring drives:

  • Three points after a third-down stop was negated by a Patriots personal foul.
  • Three points on a short field after the earlier Tom Brady interception.
  • Seven points starting in the red zone after the fumbled kickoff.

That's one good play (the C.J. Fiedorowicz touchdown) and one good series of plays after a stroke of extremely good fortune. That it's a four-point game means one big fluke or really good play could change things, but Houston will need a continuing string of good fortune to win this game.

Aaron Schatz: I honestly think you're giving Osweiler too much credit. Some of his incomplete passes have been ridiculously off-target, and he nearly made a costly mistake but Rob Ninkovich couldn't hang on to the possible interception.

Tom Gower: Yeah, he made the same mistake he made in Week 3, but got lucky. But that's been the only real potential game-changing play, unless you count the end zone ball that Fiedorowicz took out of Devin McCourty's hands. Some of the incompletions have been laugh out loud funny, but he has done a decent job of completing most of his short passes, and that's all I expect from him.

Aaron Schatz: And with 7:20 left in the third quarter, hey, there's the Brock Osweiler interception we've been waiting for, trying to hit DeAndre Hopkins on the sideline. Devin McCourty read it all the way.

Scott Kacsmar: A supercut of Osweiler's 10 incompletions would make you wonder how he's still in the game. A supercut of his 15 completions wouldn't show much either since they've barely averaged 6.0 yards per catch. With the Patriots going bombs away in unexpected fashion, there's just no way the Texans can keep up with this lack of production from the quarterback. I'm not sure Savage is the answer, but it's at least another option. He lost the job due to injury, right?

Tom Gower: Patriots started taking away the middle of field and the quick outs that Oakland didn't last week and forced Osweiler to try to do something he wasn't comfortable doing. Way too easy for McCourty there, and at 24-13 it now feels even more over than it did at 14-3.

Bryan Knowles: Chaos on the field -- What looks like Osweiler's incomplete pass is ruled a fumble, surprising almost everyone on both sides. New England recovers the fumble, scores a touchdown, but it's called back as the substitutes for the next play were all coming on the field. Probably gets overturned, but that was a very strange sequence of events.

Vince Verhei: That chaos on the field was exactly why I always appreciate Ed Hochuli's wordy explanations and bristle when people make fun of him.

Andrew Potter: Without a doubt, this is being overturned to an incomplete pass. That said, look at the difference between the reaction of Patrick Chung and that of Lamar Miller. Same deal as last week with Paul Perkins and Clay Matthews. If there's even the possibility of any doubt whatsoever, just pick the ball up.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my, Osweiler HAD a touchdown -- hit Will Fuller right in stride, in the end zone, on the first bomb of the game -- and Fuller just drops it. Right through his arms.

Scott Kacsmar: Texans are wasting a three turnover, multi-sack performance by the defense tonight. Horrible drop by Fuller on a perfect ball from Osweiler.

Aaron Schatz: Well, then. Tom Brady just threw a second pick. That one was clearly his fault, he didn't see a linebacker underneath who tipped the ball to Andre Hal for an interception. Turnover margin is now Texans plus-2 which nobody could have possibly foreseen. But will Osweiler be able to do anything with good field position?

Andrew Potter: No doubt about responsibility for that interception: just a defender completely unnoticed by Brady.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, and the answer to "will Osweiler be able to do anything with good field position" is no, of course not. Three-and-out, Nick Novak field goal. Now 24-16.

Vince Verhei: Texans are using tons of two- and three-man rushes. I don't get it. Do they think Tom Brady will make a poor decision with all that time?

Aaron Schatz: Second Osweiler interception, third Dion Lewis touchdown. So much for that one-score game. I'm not sure how anyone on the Texans offense will look Whitney Mercilus or Vince Wilfork in the eye after this game.

Scott Kacsmar: I picked the Patriots to win 31-16, so I'm very amused that it's 31-16 with just over 12 minutes left. Of course, another terrible Osweiler throw led to the latest touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: It's fourth-and-5, down 15 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Why on earth are the Texans punting? I know it's a long shot, but surely, at some point, you have to go for the win, right? Who cares if you give the Patriots a short field here; it doesn't matter if you fail and they score again. You have to try something, right?

Rivers McCown: Their quarterback is Brock Osweiler.

Bryan Knowles: I would argue that Brock Osweiler, with the ball, is more likely to score than the Texans defense without the ball!

Rivers McCown: I would disagree.

Andrew Potter: Nick Novak is certainly more likely to score when Brock Osweiler has the ball than he is when Houston's defense is on the field.

I think the time to try something if they were serious about winning this game was in the first half when they had fourth-and-4 and fourth-and-3 in the red zone and kicked two field goals. There's barely a coach in the league who's going for it in that situation in a playoff game though. Maybe, maybe Doug Pederson.

All of their talk was about having a chance in the fourth quarter, which is really saying they want to lose respectably rather than get thrashed trying to win.

Andrew Potter: New England's offense struggled mightily tonight, albeit against a very good defense. Tom Brady completed less than 50 percent of his passes. The Patriots turned the ball over three times in their own territory meaning Houston had possessions begin at the New England 27, 12, and 34. Houston's backs averaged a shade under 4 yards per carry ... and New England still allowed only 16 points, covered the 16-point spread, and ended the game with the ball in Houston territory. That's how bad Brock Osweiler is.

Aaron Schatz: In the end, the epitaph for the Texans is this list:

Worst Offense DVOA, Playoff Teams, 1989-2016
2016 HOU -21.4%
2010 SEA -17.3%
2005 CHI -17.1%
2010 CHI -15.8%
2003 BAL -12.7%
1996 BUF -12.7%
2009 NYJ -12.5%
1993 DET -11.8%
1995 PHI -11.6%
2006 SEA -11.2%

Vince Verhei: We're six games into the playoffs now, more than halfway through, and all six games have been decided by a final margin of 13 points or more. Not the best postseason we've ever seen.

Green Bay Packers 34 at Dallas Cowboys 31

Tom Gower: It's probably inevitable the NFL eventually turns divisional Sunday into conference championships Sunday with a more regular late kickoff for the two games so they can get more of the Sunday night viewing audience, rather than the 1/4:30 EST kickoffs they've been doing (and used to do for the conference championships as well). I'll certainly watch once they do. But this three-hour block of "I should be watching football but I'm not" created by the (necessary) delay of Pittsburgh at Kansas City really annoyed me today.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Rodgers catches Dallas with 12 men on the field. You think, eventually, teams would learn -- Green Bay has either led the league or tied for the league lead in getting defensive 12 men penalties in each of the last three seasons. It's a skill, and Rodgers is the best in the league at spotting it.

Cian Fahey: Cowboys' first third-down failure can largely be attributed to rookie Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark getting pressure up the middle. He walked Zach Martin back into the quarterback.

Carl Yedor: Has anyone else ever seen that kind of unsportsmanlike conduct penalty before? That seems bizarre to me that Brice Butler not knowing whether he should be in the game is worth a 15-yard penalty. I guess the league would want to keep offenses from trying to deceive defenses with substitutions running back and forth onto the field. But... I don't know.

Aaron Schatz: Seems to me a 5-yard penalty would be much more appropriate.

Tom Gower: It never happens, because teams know enough to avoid it. It's easily avoidable, and in general easily avoided. The strategic reasons for it being a 15-yard penalty are good, and the other attempted deception plays are also 15-yarders, to make them punitive so teams don't take the risk of getting caught.

Vince Verhei: Never seen The 15-yard variety of that rule before. More concerning to me is that Dallas has now had substitution penalties on both sides of the ball in the first ten minutes. Shouldn't the team coming off the bye be better prepared to play?

Cian Fahey: Aaron Rodgers has hit so many tight windows already and we're only at the start of the second quarter. Not much the Cowboys can complain about on defense, it's just great quarterbacking. Offensively on the other hand...

Carl Yedor: Worth noting is that the non-call down the sideline on the possible hold on Davante Adams occurred on the Dallas side of the field, which is a convenient example of that fivethirtyeight article from this week about where major offensive and defensive penalties happen.

Aaron Schatz: Well, suddenly we have a blowout. It's now 21-3. The Cowboys defense is getting smashed, completely different from the first game. They're blitzing much more often, which I just don't understand, it's completely different from what worked against Rodgers in Week 6. He gets outside the pocket, he buys time, he makes insane throws. Cowboys missing tackles doesn't help either.

Scott Kacsmar: This is Dallas' worst-case scenario playing out at 21-3. The middling defense can't get a breath on Rodgers, can't cover the receivers and the young Dallas offense looks out of sorts after not trying to win a game since the day after Christmas. If you were concerned with Jason Garrett's ability to have the team ready, multiple substitution penalties don't help, nor does the decision to settle for a 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 to start the game. Green Bay has just totally outclassed Dallas to this point, and there is plenty of time for a turnaround here, but it has to start almost immediately for the Dallas offense to give the defense a rest and chance to figure out something different.

Bryan Knowles: Welcome to the game, Dez Bryant! Back-to-back big plays get the Cowboys into the end zone, and at least they show some signs of life. That counts as that immediate turnaround, I think, but it certainly doesn't give the Dallas defense a chance to rest!

The ensuing kickoff goes terribly for the Packers, with Christine Michel botching the catch and only getting it out to the 6-yard line. It looks like he wasn't sure if the ball had cleared the end zone on the bobble or not; it hadn't, but I think it was the right decision to be safe and go forward rather than risking taking a safety. When in doubt, take it out?

Cian Fahey: The Packers blitzed on Dez Bryant's touchdown. Not sure they need to based on how the game has started. Especially since they don't have defensive backs who can match up to Beasley or Bryant.

Vince Verhei: Not sure why Green Bay even bothered punting with one second left in the half, risking a block or big return. Just have your punter stand there for two seconds and take a knee. 

Interesting that Green Bay's offense started last week ice cold and then caught fire, then came out unstoppable here before ending the half with back to back three-and-outs.

Scott Kacsmar: What happened to the fair catch and free kick rule? We always hear about Dan Bailey's kicking prowess. That was definitely a nonchalant ending to a half when there could have been so much more strategy involved by McCarthy and Garrett. Buck and Aikman didn't even bother to talk about any of it either.

Tom Gower: Packers up 21-10 at the half. I didn't think Dallas's defense was that bad early -- not great, but Aaron Rodgers did a lot of those things Aaron Rodgers does that I wonder if anybody else can do even occasionally, let alone consistently. Cowboys got a couple defensive stops late. Yes, there was a defensive holding that should have negated one of them.

The surprise was the Cowboys' early offensive struggles, even though Green Bay's defense hasn't been as much of a disaster as it was against, say, Tennessee. But after 21-3 they started moving the ball reasonably well.

I'm bummed Dallas didn't choose to attempt the fair catch kick at the end of the first half. They had the option to extend the half for it. Down eight, with the Packers getting the ball to start the second half, I think I would if I thought Bailey had a non-zero chance of making it. Maybe Garrett just didn't think it's in his range, but Bailey put his last kickoff to the back of the end zone so I kind of doubt that.

Aaron Schatz: Well, if we were waiting for Dak Prescott to make a mistake, we got one... and not the kind of mistake I would have expected from a rookie quarterback who doesn't have much experience playing from significantly behind. It wasn't a heave downfield or a misread coverage. It was a wide receiver screen and Micah Hyde just read it perfectly and stepped in front of the pass to intercept. The way Hyde anticipated that screen, I have a feeling he saw that in the film room this week.

Rodgers then comes back and throws a pick, and Dallas marches downfield with Prescott going 6-for-6 on the drive. Touchdown to Jason Witten, 28-20 Packers. Alas, the legendary Phife Dawg passed away before he could chance the lyrics to "We The People" to shout out Prescott instead of Tony Romo.

Bryan Knowles: Putting the expected-but-important note that Dallas probably should have gone for two after that last touchdown. Odds are strong that they'll have to go for two at some point in this game; do it early and have as much time as possible to plan around the outcome.

One day, an NFL coach might actually listen to that logic! But no, then you're "chasing points."

Aaron Schatz: The Cowboys' blitzes on Rodgers have really been working since the second quarter. I questioned them earlier because the Cowboys did so well rushing only three in the first matchup, but I have to admit, they are getting to Rodgers with the pressure. The zone blitzes in particular are getting to him, because the Cowboys are able to keep seven guys in coverage (or six guys, if they are sending five pass-rushers).

Bryan Knowles: We have been waiting all playoffs for a competitive game at the end. Here it is. Bryant gets into the end zone, followed by a Dak Prescott two-point conversion, and we've got a brand new ballgame.

Cian Fahey: Dez Bryant has been outrageous today. On more than a few occasions Dak has just put the ball up for Bryant to go and get it. Not surprisingly, Bryant has done that against these defensive backs.

Carl Yedor: I loved the quarterback draw call on the two-point conversion. I was hoping for some type of run (either to Elliott or Prescott) given Dallas's strength on the ground, and Prescott did a great job driving into the end zone through contact. Now, we see if Rodgers and company can drive down for a score without leaving enough time for a Cowboys response.

Aaron Schatz: Loved the Rodgers bootleg keeper for a first down on the next drive too.

I am somewhat annoyed by the defensive pass interference call on Anthony Brown that put the Packers in position to kick the go-ahead field goal. The contact was clearly made before Rodgers threw the ball, and that should be holding or illegal contact, not DPI. That being said, they ended up spotting it at the Dallas 35, which means it was only a 10-yard penalty. Demarcus Lawrence blowing up Green Bay's sixth lineman was beautiful, which stuffed Ty Montgomery. That knuckleball by Mason Crosby was not a good kick, but it made it in from 56.

Andrew Potter: That DPI is not only the wrong call, announced on the wrong player, initially placed at the wrong spot, but I greatly suspect that it would have simply been waved off as uncatchable if the overthrow hadn't been intercepted.

Granted that freebie, Mike McCarthy completely blows the resultant sequence in Cowboys territory. He's bailed out, however, when Mason Crosby somehow nails a 56-yard field goal.

Vince Verhei: These refs have been letting both defenses get away with murder as far as DPIs and holding go. They finally started calling it late, on Dallas' drive to tie the game, and then on Green Bay's go-ahead field goal drive.

Speaking of which, I hated Green Bay's decision to go for the long field goal there. Worst-case scenario, which was very likely, it's a miss and Dallas gets great field position. Best-case scenario, you give Dallas a chance to win with a touchdown. On fourth-and-long, I would have punted there and pinned Dallas deep. Though I also would have called a different play on third down to get a critical 5 or 8 yards closer.

And then Dallas very quickly gets into field-goal range off the kickoff anyway, so what do I know?

I hate Joe Buck, and he has made some mistakes today, but he is dead right about one thing: Dallas spiked the ball on first down, which cost them a play, and ended up having to kick their own 50-plus-yard field goal, still with a timeout in their pocket. You should never spike the ball if you have a timeout to call instead.

Aaron Schatz: And then Dallas makes it down the field enough for Dan Bailey to kick a 52-yard field goal. A much, much better kick than Crosby's but they count the same. So 31-31, 35 seconds left. Some really nice bullet passes by Prescott on that drive, especially the 24-yarder to Terrence Williams that started it off.

Vince Verhei: Well, Jared Cook just made the catch of his life.

Aaron Schatz: This really hasn't been a shining night for the Cowboys safeties. Penalties and the troubles covering tight ends, including on that ridiculous Cook catch.

Bryan Knowles: What a throw and catch! Rodgers to Jared Cook on third-and-20, and now Green Bay gets a field goal for the win. Aaron Rodgers is magic.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay gets a field goal at the gun to win. And now that first-down spike looks even worse. If Green Bay runs one more play, even an incompletion, the Packers never get to try that kick. 

And I'm so happy Jason Garrett's attempt to ice the kicker didn't work. Coaches who ice the kicker should be flogged.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. Crosby essentially hit three clutch 50-plus yard field goals in the final two minutes, since one was cut off by the timeout. That was an instant classic. Both offenses were phenomenal. Both quarterbacks were phenomenal. Over/under for Atlanta-Green Bay starts at what, 75?

Cian Fahey: The three downfield throws on the final drive were absolutely outrageous. Cook ruined two of them. Most quarterbacks don't give you three chances like that. Hell, most don't give you one.

Tom Gower: Like Green Bay-Arizona and Baltimore-Denver, to choose from a couple postseason games, I feel like I need to go away for a while and process that game before commenting on it intelligently. About all I have to say now is Dallas did a great job of coming back, the spike was awful, and Aaron Rodgers does more ridiculous things more consistently than any other quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 at Kansas City Chiefs 16

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs somehow had Justin Houston covering Antonio Brown and Brown caught the ball for a 52-yard gain. I do not understand that one at all.

Vince Verhei: God bless Houston, who knew from the get-go he was beat, but did all he could to keep up with Brown, read his eyes, and try to make a play on the ball. Then he made the tackle and popped up and looked back like "How did we let that happen to me?"

Spencer Ware leading the Chiefs in yards per catch is almost all you need to know about Kansas City's offense.

Aaron Schatz: Dueling tip-drill interceptions!

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers can move the ball at will unless they get into the red zone. We've been wondering why Bell's not getting the ball there, yet one of the biggest plays of the half was a surprise Bell carry on third-and-9 for a big first down. Now if the Steelers would just remember to go to him in the red zone, this offense might get a touchdown on the board before halftime in a game they feel like they should have a nice lead in rather than 9-7.

Vince Verhei: Le'Veon Bell's last nine carries had gained 5, 2, 9, 6, 7, 3, -1, 9, and 4 yards. Then on first-and-goal, they threw a pass, which was intercepted. Apparently that was a Ben Roethlisberger audible, but regardless of whose fault that is, they really need to just keep running Bell until Kansas City stops it.

Bryan Knowles: In other Le'Veon Bell news, I'm pretty sure whoever made that Frogger graphic didn't know how to play Frogger, 'cause Bell crashed into quite a few obstacles there.

One of the reasons the Steelers feel like they should be up by more than two points is the fact that I'm not sure Roethlisbeger's jersey has gotten dirty yet. He's had all day to work in the pocket against a Kansas City defensive line that ranked 27th in adjusted sack rate.

Scott Kacsmar: So after a week where the NFL world goes nuts pretending Aaron Rodgers has perfected the Hail Mary, the Steelers don't even try one to end the half after an unforced Charcandrick West fumble gave them three seconds to work with. Just some stat padding to Antonio Brown to drive up the yardage margin that should have produced a better lead than 12-7.

Chiefs have gone with 16 passes to four runs in the first half. Two of those runs picked up 7 yards, so it's probably fair to say that both teams are not running the ball as much as they should be.

Vince Verhei: That was a terrible half for the Kansas City offense. One good touchdown drive, then: five plays and a punt, three plays and a pick, three plays and a punt, and three plays and a fumble. They just can't do anything. Might help if they ran the ball once in a while. They have four runs in 20 plays. Why are you leaning that heavily on Alex Smith?

And yet they are very much in this game because Pittsburgh can't get into the end zone. They're up 275-106 in yards, 42-20 in plays, and 14-7 in first downs -- but they're 0-for-3 in the red zone.

Tom Gower: Le'Veon Bell has 19 touches. The Chiefs have run 20 plays. But it's still a five-point game, which means we're in perfect position for K.C. to get a couple random explosive plays in the second half, maybe a return of a tipped or loose ball and a couple booms by Travis Kelce and/or Tyreek Hill for another "they keep doing this, so I guess we have to give them credit for it, no matter how fluky it feels" Chiefs win.

Vince Verhei: Relevant note: Pittsburgh was seventh in red zone offense DVOA this season. But Kansas City was second in red zone defense DVOA (just behind Philadelphia).

Aaron Schatz: I'm trying to figure out why this game seems so dull. Bell has had some of his usual amazing runs but otherwise it seems like a bit of yardage goes nowhere and lots of field goals.

Tom Gower: It would help if Kansas City was doing something on offense. They had the initial touchdown drive, which was nice, but have barely done anything. They rely on explosive plays, but they haven't had any other than Jeremy Maclin's catch to convert third-and-20 to set up the field goal that made it 15-10 (where it stands after three quarters as I write this), if you want to count that, and that wasn't spectacular. This is a clear Pittsburgh domination, by and large, but Kansas City's red zone defense has kept it a five-point game.

Aaron Schatz: The Chiefs have to go for it on fourth-and-2, and Andy Reid takes a timeout. I guess it worked because the play they called afterwards converted, but I have a feeling they're going to need that timeout down the road.

Bryan Knowles: Eric Fisher gets called for holding James Harrison, taking a two-point conversion off the board. Harrison would have beaten Fisher and clobbered Smith had he not held, but the end result is the same -- Kansas City remains down two, and now they only have one timeout to work with.

Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that Twitter people apparently saw Reid say "He called timeout?" So Alex Smith may have called that on his own. 

But it will come back to bite them because an Eric Fisher hold took the two-point conversion off the board. The Chiefs have to stop Pittsburgh now and come back with a FG, and they have only one timeout left.

Bryan Knowles: Pittsburgh holds on to win, but something tells me they may have to find the end zone in New England.

Aaron Schatz: You know what I've always said, when the chips are down and you need one last stop, you need to depend on dropping Justin Houston into coverage instead of having him rush the passer.

Vince Verhei: This isn't as bad as last year, when the Chiefs were huddling with the clock running inside of two minutes down two scores in the playoff loss to New England. Still, the Chiefs got the ball tonight down by eight with about ten minutes to go, and they took more than seven minutes to get their touchdown. That basically put the entire game on that two-pointer. The Steelers only needed one first down to run out the clock afterwards. Had the Chiefs scored their touchdown in four or five minutes, they'd have had a lot more time to get a stop and then a winning field goal in regulation -- and that would have been the same scenario if they had converted the two-pointer too.

Andrew Potter: I wish I'd had more to say during this game, but I feel like I'd just be repeating myself from previous Audibles: this was the exact same Chiefs side we saw throughout at least the second half of the regular season. For such a conservative, risk-free offense, they are way too reliant on big plays for points. When they can get those big plays, as they did against the Broncos, they're spectacular. When it isn't clicking, as it wasn't tonight, they can look completely flat and lifeless for whole games at a time and don't have enough variety to drag themselves out of the doldrums. When they were finally forced to be more aggressive toward the end, they were able to move the ball and put up points, even overcoming a third-and-20 and a second-and-25 on those scoring drives. A little more of that earlier in the game could have made all the difference.

Vince Verhei: Chiefs offensive line allowed only one sack and five hits in 35 plays. Steelers line allowed one sack and two hits in 32 plays. Seahawks fans watch this and weep.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 15 Jan 2017

195 comments, Last at 03 May 2017, 11:09am by Hoodie_Sleeves


by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:55am

Only got to watch bits and pieces of the Pats game and couldn't believe Brady's numbers afterwards - was the Houston defense that good or was he just off? Also found the passing strategy - low-percentage bombs tossed way down the field - a complete reversal of the usual Foxboro Dunkin n' Dinkin [a not very effective pun on New England's Dunkin Donuts]. Did Belichick settle on that strategy because of the coverage skills of the Houston linebackers and see the corners downfield as a weak link?
Brock Osweiler is soooo bad...
How bad is he?
He's so bad that despite the gift of three turnovers (all of which, I think, involved short fields), he still couldn't cover the spread.
Managed to watch about half of the KC game. The Pittsburgh D looked much better than it did during Week 5 with the Pats. As far as the eye test goes, it seems like the Steelers D was both fast and extremely physical, and not easily fooled by play fakes, etc.
The Steelers, in fact, looked like the team that won by 16.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:08am

With the exception of backup safety Corey Moore, who was playing due to an injury to the vastly superior Quintin Demps, the Texans defense was lights out, with particularly outstanding games from Mercilus, Clowney and Wilfork. Bouye played well overall, but did drop an interception and get done for a (kinda ticky-tacky) long DPI.

Despite the mistake for the second pick, I would say Brady played pretty damn well under the circumstances. He was getting hit a lot.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:03am

I thought the texans confused the o line in the first half w some creative blitzes and they sat on most of the short routes. In the second half, they blocked a lot better and the pats switched to more intermediate stuff and went after Kareem jackson and the safeties. Overall Brady played pretty well, agreed.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:11am

I think NE is the one team where you have to force Brady to look deep. Intermediate and short throws he is going to eviscerate you. And sure he can make the deep throw. But those receivers are not best in class. I think Hogan drew maybe one DPI all season.

It's the not most terrible option against a tremendous offense

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:39am

They definitely blocked better in the second half (Clowney was abusing Andrews in the first half) - and that helped. HOU was flooding most of the underneath zones, and leaving the outside guys in man without safety help - basically daring NE to go deep.

There was a good chunk of the 3rd quarter where pretty much every play NE ran had receivers on both sides of the field running fly routes - and it took Houston way too long to realize that the Patriots were going to take advantage of the single coverage once they fixed the protection.

And that game was over as soon as NE started being able to move the ball - it didn't even matter if they scored on drives - just moving the ball 20 yards before punting was enough that Houston wouldn't be able to mount a scoring drive, and NE would win the field position game.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:30am

Seems like NE and HOU are/were the best remaining defenses in the playoffs, however PITs defense has gotting much better as the year has gone along due to getting some guys back. Having said that, I don't see PIT having the personel to do to NE what HOU did to them as PITs DBs aren't quite there yet.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:24pm

where NE has killed the Steelers lately is with the inability to cover a seam TE. It causes the whole secondary to play deep(even more than usual) and give up the easy underneath stuff. The one time they did play tight press man , they kicked the Pats butt all over the field. I think they have BETTER personnel to do so now than then.... but the coaching..... hmmm. I don't think Tomlin and Butler are that smart. They haven't played Shazier in man coverage or deep zone much at all this year.

The standard is the standard!

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:30am

The Texans defense abused Brady in the first half. They even had one of my favorite plays which is "Make Tom Brady scream petulantly because he doesn't get a roughing-the-passer penalty on a legitimate hit". Honest-to-God I'd love for a ref to flag him for unsportsmanlike during one of those tirades, but at this point that boat has probably sailed.

Unfortunately for the Texans their offense is terrible and the Patriots are very, very, very good. At no point did it feel like the Texans were in that game, even when the score was 17-13. It was taking mind-blowing performances from Clowney and Mercilus to keep it that close.

I'd be really excited about a Texans defense featuring Clowney, Mercilus, and Watt, but as long as their QB situation is what it is they're boned.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:37am

I empathize with opposing fans, but there wasn't a single instance where Brady complained about a legal hit.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:43am

Actually thought Brady was right to complain about that particular incident from the perspective of the "Rich Gannon" rule.

The initial hit was legal as the defender hit Brady within a step of the throw.

But defender then proceeded to drive through and land his weight on Brady.

Even so, there is definitely something incredibly f-ked in Tom Brady's head in the way he shouts petulantly at the referee about these moments.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:50am

He certainly looks whiny, but for the reasons you stated he was correct in complaining about that call.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:57pm

In addition, when people have actually tallied roughing calls, he gets among the least roughing calls per hit of any QB in the NFL.

And yeah, that hit should absolutely have been called. The initial contact was pretty bang-bang, but Clowney(Mercilus? can't remember) continued to hold on and then drove Brady into the ground several seconds after the ball was gone. It was pretty textbook roughing

by coremill :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:34am

Forcing deep throws also creates higher variance, and as an underdog variance is your friend. HOU adopting a high-variance strategy makes sense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 7:12am

Thought Brice held up ok after Morgan Burnett left the game. Same with Gunter who is the de facto number one corner in GB thanks to Randall being pretty bad and Shields on IR

Micah Hyde at mid season was being abused in coverage. The last month plus he has been lights out

Thought for sure Witten would kill GB. Instead he is a non factor

Save for the one gack on the KO return the special teams had another good week led by Mason "Money" Crosby. Wow

After Adams, Allison and Cook being manhandled all game folks are griping about a defensive penalty finally callled on Dallas? I am surprised

And speaking of penalties how is anyone in KC griping about that holding call?? Talk about obvious. But then like the GB/Dallas game the refs had let so much go the lineman probably figured he could do anything with no call

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:12am

With Burnett out GB was playing an undrafted rookie at safety, Kentrell Brice, an undrafted rookie in the dime package, Josh Hawkins, and Gunter playing as the number one corner. Gunter also made the team as an undrafted player.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:25am

That leads to the question - who the hell is going to cover Julio Jones?
This o/u has to be close to 90.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:30am

Dallas had a great running game, a stellar number one wideout and a number of other good receiving options. Sounds a lot like Atlanta.

Figure GB tries to do more of the same with Gunter taking his best shots at times solo mixed with some safety help at other moments. Gotta say this for Gunter, he does not back down from anyone.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:51am

I won't say Atlanta's qb is better (ok, maybe I will), but he is certainly more experienced at the pre-snap stuff, which can be critical in close games. I wonder (and not out a desire to be critical or 2nd guess their depth chart) if the Cowboys coaches tell Romo to spike the ball, like they did Prescott at the critical point on the Cowboys' last possession.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:17am

I didn't see a play go by where Witten wasn't being openly held, so that may have been a factor in his disappearance.

by Flounder :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:23am

The refs weren't calling any contact in the secondary on either team until the end of the game

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:24am

As was written in the recap, the refs were letting the defensive backs be physical. Davante Adams was routinely disrobed with nary a call.

And GB was 7th in defending tight ends over the season. Could be this output was legit

by Flounder :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:35pm

Amazing turnaround this year after so many years of being at the bottom of the league in that metric. Lots of credit to go around too - Thomas, Burnett, Hyde, even Jake Ryan has made a few nice plays in coverage.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:05pm

Yeah if anyone is going to complain about physical defensive back play in that game it is GB. I honestly think they let GB get away with so much later on because they were like, "well we already missed 5 calls against DAL, so we cannot start calling it now".

I strongly suspect the refs get an update at halftime about the relative proportion of missed calls and instructions to lean one way or the other in response.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:23am

Incredible that this will be the first playoff meeting between Brady and Roethlisberger since Ben's rookie season in 2004.

It's a bit of a dirty secret that Ben actually hasn't been great this season. He's not been bad or anything, but well below the high standard he has set in recent years. Some of that can be explained by receiver injuries, but again last night he clearly lacked precision on occasions. Needless to say he is going to have to play better next week; LeVeon Bell is not going to be allowed to win that game on his own.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:39pm

I'm pretty convinced hes got some kind of injury and either couldn't or didn't take the time to recover from it. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened.

by wiesengrund :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:50am

I think the Hester return is a prime example for why the NFL ignores the yards gained on penalty plays: They are purely fictional. Reynolds got basically held down at the LOS of the kick, later you can see Hester blaze by him en route to his big return. We will never know when Reyndols would have been back there had it not been for the hold, and hence all those yards gained are partially a result of that hold.

I think it's smart to disregard them. It's a purely fictional enterprise to count them in some sort of what-if world, and insinuate that the yards where actually there.

Adding dropped yards to QB passing numbers is a more realistic effort, and nobody seems to rush towards that. Don't know why negated return yards should get that treatment.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:22am

Agree - and I really hate listening to the commentators on TV wax about how this dumb minor penalty cost the offense/st so many yards, when the reality is that Hester gets dropped at the 20 if the guy doesn't get held, or the RB gets dropped for a loss if the LT doesn't wrap his arms around the DE.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:54am

The spike play by Dallas on their final drive was an appalling strategic error (on a weekend filled with them). With 40 odd seconds and a timeout remaining the game-winning TD was still very much in play, but they ended up settling for a 50 yard FG attempt, whilst simultaneously ensuring there was enough time left for a GB response. There has to be a go-to play that can be called in that situation that might gain yards - even a run play would be acceptable with a timeout in your pocket. Bad preparation, bad execution, bad everything.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:17am

Yep, I love Linehan, but if he called for the spike, as opposed to Garrett, well, it is just inexcusable disorganization, and I say that as somebody who thinks in game coaching is the least important task for a head coach. This really is a mid week error, however.

You have an outstanding o-line, great running back, good receivers, talented qb. There is no need to stop the clock on 1st down. Get up and run a play. Do not give away a down. It is the equivalent of having a your hitter in the 3 spot, who leads the league in OPS, laying down a sacrifice bunt in the 8th inning. Really bad use of your resources.

Frankly, I also hated the fact that they had 3 straight passes from the 15 on their last possession of the 1st half.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:47am

Not just passes, but all three were thrown into the EZ despite the ability to get a first down and a full minute still on the clock. A run or short pass would not only have forced GB to defend more space, but it would allowed Dallas to control the clock as well.

Despite struggling all game long, Dallas has a good chance to win if they had only screwed up one half ending strategy. But botching both was too much to overcome.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:58am

Exactly. A 4 or 5 yard run on 1st down at the 15 really forces the Packers to defend the 1st down, and not just a td, against another possible run, or a pass, while also making it less likely that Rodgers gets the ball back in time to drive for a FG. Throwing a pass into the end zone, the pass least likely to be completed, on 1st and 2nd down made things easier for the Packers, and preserved time for Rodgers, especially given that it dictates a pass on 3rd down.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:07am

Yeah, that Dallas spike was a critical mistake. Green Bay should never have had the opportunity to win in regulation.

In crunch time, coaches need to have an innate sense of several metrics - score, time, yards, # of plays, down & distance, # of timeouts. I think spikes should only be utilized when time is the highest priority of those things. In the heat of the game, I can see why juggling all those factors can be difficult. I've often thought that to simplify things, coaches should use a traffic light concept: when time is ample, think green; when time is critical, think red; yellow is in between. To me, that Dallas situation was green heading toward yellow. Their first priority should have been getting into range for a 45-yard field goal (and if time permitted, going for the win). They needed another first down to get closer, and they should have used that 1st down play to help toward converting the first down / getting yardage instead of spiking. Crazy that they preferred to lose a play at extreme FG range than call a timeout. But at least they had that timeout in pocket to try to ice Crosby. Oh, and credit to both kickers for making the pressure kicks.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:11am

But at least they had that timeout in pocket to try to ice Crosby

I trust the above is sarcasm?

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:30am

I hope so, if I was on the competition committee I would argue for a delay of game penalty whenever a timeout was called after the kicking team is set

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:26am

It's amusing watching the commentary about the Dallas-Green Bay game and the KC-Pittsburgh game.

1. You left too much time on the clock (x2)!
2. You took too much time off the clock!

KC's drive which took too much time left more time on the clock than the last three scoring drives in the prior game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:46am

I think criticism of Reid's management yesterday is a little overblown. Regardless of how much time the td drive takes, the Chiefs need to get a stop. Yes, it would be better if the stop didn't have to be a 3 and out, but the stop was required, and if they get it on the 3rd and 7, the Chiefs have an excellent chance to win the game.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:11pm

Sure but if they had preserved more time, then they could have conceded one first down and stopped them on the next. You are just limiting you options when you play that strategy.

by Damon :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:41pm

"Regardless of how much time the td drive takes, the Chiefs need to get a stop"

Yup, which is why I try to stay away from ragging on coaches too much unless it's just so blatantly obvious (see Tomlin vs Dallas this year with the 2 point conversion Olympics) that a coaching move(s) was the reason a team lost, because it ultimately comes down to the players as much of a tired cliche as that can be at times, it was definitely true last night.

by Jeremy Billones :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:49am

In the postgame presser, Garrett discussed trying to keep as much time on the clock so they could score, and never mentioned ensuring they didn't leave enough time for GB to.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:08pm

Even if the td is still the goal (as it should be), you are too far away from the end zone to be giving away a down. Your offense should be organized enough to get into a run/pass play choice at the line of scrimmage, very quickly, to allow you to pick up 4 or 5 yards on 1st down, and then get lined up for 2nd down. I dunno, maybe they think Prescott is still too inexperienced to fully manage the game at the line of scrimmage in time critical moments.

by Scott de B. :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:46pm

Precisely. The problem I had with the spike isn't that it stopped the clock (a minor issue), but that it cost a down, making it much more likely that Dallas would need to hit a long FG to tie the game. It was criminal that Dallas ended up needing a 50+ yard FG to tie.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:03pm

Brian Burke has waded in on the debate on ESPN just now: http://www.espn.co.uk/nfl/story/_/id/18487707/dallas-cowboys-fourth-quar...

I simply can't agree with his assumption that it would have taken Dallas an extra 15 seconds to run a play of the nature you suggest (he does not state where that assumption comes from), given that they were already at the line in order to spike the ball. An extra 5-10 seconds at most seems much more plausible to me, were the players and staff organised and decisive.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:52pm

The combination of the spike and the incomplete pass on 3rd down was brutal.
I get the idea of playing to win the game as opposed to playing for OT. But they have the best running attack in the NFL- why not run on 3rd and 3?

But I still would disagree with the spike. It only takes about five seconds more to call a play at normal pace, and the Cowboys were not pressed by the clock that much. Why put yourself in a position where you need to get 10 yards in only two plays?

On the whole, I'm not impressed by Jason Garrett's game management.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:02pm

Right - if it takes you more than 5 seconds it's because you were successful on the play (almost assuredly a pass) and then you're not nearly as worried about time because you've significantly increased your field goal/td chances.

You can afford to throw away a down at the 10 yard line to save clock, but not when you're barely in field goal range.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 9:29am

I do think given the quality of the Cowboy offensive line that the Packers pass rush chipped in just enough. There were forced bad throws and some scrambles that kept open receivers from being hit. Not a terrible day

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 9:53am

Kind of amazing that KC barely gained 200 yards in offense, had one more turnover than Pittsburgh, and had more penalties but still had a chance to win the game at the end.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:19am

If the Steelers aren't better at finishing drives next Sunday, they have no chance, it seems to me.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 9:59am

In a week where i saw a lot of high level qb play (brock who? Dunno who that is..), I was thoroughly impressed w Matt Ryan. He was truly great. I have no idea how he earned the choker label, but clearly Vegas didn't believe it to be true.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:55pm

"I have no idea how he earned the choker label"

I think that happened because his team lost the first 3 playoff games of his career , including when the Falcons were a 13-3 #1 seed, and got clobbered at home by a 10-6 Packers team. That kind of thing sticks in people minds, and the narrative is cemented.

People who throw around the label "choker" don't really look at context (i.e. the people who blamed Tony Romo for the Cowboys' underachievement from 2011-2013). The 2010 Packers were actually an excellent team that was slowed by injuries and lost a bunch of flukey games. And it wasn't Ryan's fault that Rodgers was just on fire in the 2010 postseason (like he is now).

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:03pm

I agree - though right now on one is killing Dak Prescott for losing despite throwing an awful interception in this game(btw, no one should). I still think the media is weird in who they extol and who they don't.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:49pm

"I still think the media is weird in who they extol and who they don't."

Preach on, Brother...

Trust me, if the Cowboys have another good team in 2017 (very likely), and then get eliminated in their first game again (definitely possible, depending on how much the Cowboys improve their defense), the whispers will immediately start about how Prescott being a choker, even if he plays fantastic and just gets outscored by the other team.

One of my friends, a long time 49ers fan, frequently talks about how some in the local and national media started talking about how Walsh and Montana "can't get it done in the playoffs anymore", after the 1987 team got upset in the divisional round against the Vikings. Of course, the '88 and '89 teams shut them up right quick, so no one remembers that kind of chatter now a days. My friend keeps bringing up that example whenever he goes on a rant about how the sports media are a bunch of idiots who frequently have no idea what they're talking about.

by NYMike :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:46pm

This reminds me of Colin "I Wish I Were Skip Bayless" Cowherd claiming that Rodgers couldn't be in the conversation as a great QB during the 2010 season because he had never won a playoff game. No, he hadn't. He'd thrown for 440 yards with 4 TDs and one pick, and put up 45 points, but that day, he'd missed a bomb by a foot-and-a-half, had a big first down called back on a bogus holding penalty, fumbled while having his helmet pulled down over his eyes by the facemask (all in OT), and lost because the defense gave up 45 points in regulation.

Don't get me started on the word "elite" in the context of sports.

It also reminds me of a stupid sports talk conversation I once heard that went: If you could only put two of Jerry Rice, Emmett Smith and Bret Favre in the HOF, who would you leave out?

Such insight!

by kaesees :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:35pm

edit: n/m, I was mistaking the game from the previous year against the Cardinals

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:02am

That Houston stat goes to just how easy a slate of offenses NWE has played this year. They played the easiest slate of opposing offenses since 2011, the worst offense in playoff history, and of the decent offenses they did play (PIT, BUF(x2), CIN), only Cincinnati was operating a fully-operational death star. PIT was sans Roethlisberger, and Buffalo was missing McCoy in one game in Watkins in both. Even Miami was the Moore version in week 17.

Basically, they've played one good offense all season.

Well congrats, your next two games are healthy PIT and ATL/GB, so unless they sign Hernandez off waivers, it's all good offenses from here on out.

Shame about Dallas. They and NWE are basically ordinal twins, even though they come by their offense and defenses by almost completely opposite means.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:05am

Im not sure i understand how Dallas and Ne relate.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:20am


2-3 in offense, 16-17 in defense, 7-10 in special teams.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:03pm

NE may have played a weak schedule offensively, but they have totally shut down these mediocre teams in the 2nd half of the year and were expected to play really well coming into the season. I don't know if you could say the same the DAL D.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:08pm

Exactly. I hate when people say so and so beat up a bunch of smurfs. Fine they did, but they were bludgeonings, isn't that the point?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:28pm

As FO has said in their DVOA ratings all year, there are no great teams.

I'd say it's pretty hard for anyone in the AFC to have faced a decent offense this year. The Raiders and Steelers have been the only offenses that really clicked, even the Patriots looked a mark below their usual standards other than when they had Brady and Gronk circa weeks 5-8.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:09am

Last fair catch kick converted was in 1976.

This return is probably why most teams pass on it.

No one has hit one since 1976, and the longest ever converted was 52 yards.

You get a run up, but it's still kicked off the ground, so it's harder than trying to put a kickoff through the uprights.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:36am

If they knew about it then they should have done an all out attempt to block the punt to get a shorter kick.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:23pm

GB's 46 yard punt at the end of the half was their shortest punt all day. DAL passed on a 72 yard FG try. The odds of hitting at that distance probably aren't good enough to risk the potential return.

Now, I'm not sure why GB bothered to:

1. punt
2. punt in-bounds.

It's like no one is aware of the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:06pm

I have no idea why they punted - put Rodgers back there and throw it out of bounds.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:13am

I want to echo Vince's point about Kc at the end of this game. I like Reid as a coach, but you have to manage end of games better. Like last year, his team was down in a playoff game and he didn't show any sense of urgency. You need to try to score while maximizing the number of possessions. Both times, the net result was relying on his defense to prevent a single first down to ice the game. It shouldn't come to that when your final drive starts w so much time left in the game.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:14am

Andy Reid has been a head coach since 1999. This is a trait that folks have been talking about his entire career. It's who Reid is.

I think the guy is a wonderful coach. Eleven seasons of 10 plus wins is very impressive. But Reid is not perfect. This may not be his fatal flaw but it is in the discussion

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:32am

At this point, Reid isn't really even the problem anymore - the problem is that the people who employ Reid haven't hired someone else to handle time management.

He's good at pretty much else, but he's abysmally awful at this, and his teams are always going to have inordinate trouble against other good teams because of it.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:41am

Reid is the head coach. I don't think Reid is ignorant of this issue, I think he doesn't see it as a problem.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:21am

I don't understand what your point is.

It's clearly a problem, and someone above Reid (owner, president, gm) should be taking this responsibility away from him. Whether Reid sees it as a problem, or doesn't think its a problem, or just isn't capable of fixing it is irrelevant.

When employees can't perform certain responsibilities, you either remove the employee, fix the deficiencies, or remove those responsibilities from their job description (and onto someone else).

This isn't an Andy Reid problem at this point - Andy Reid is what Andy Reid is - this is a Clark Hunt problem.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:24pm

When the employee knows that the employer's chance of getting somebody better for a mission-critical job is pretty slim, and the chance of getting someone markedly worse is pretty high, guess what? The employee has the leverage to ignore the employer to a large extent.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:25pm

I imagine that's what Mike Shanahan thought...

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:06pm

I think my point was: they could hire the world's foremost game theorist with all the charts and graphs displaying the optimal strategy and Reid would still disagree. At this point, he needs his qb have a Manning style "wave the punt team off" machismo for a Reid led team to change.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:59am

That drive is why I had no fear of KC coming to NE. It wasn't just the lack of urgency, it was the complete lack of awareness that a TD didn't necessarily tie the game. When there is a very good chance you will still be trailing after this drive, you generally don't want to run off as much time as possible... and even waste a TO when the clock was already stopped.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:36pm

On their 13 play drive, KC ran twice (once for 11 yards) and threw short complete four times. Twice were to convert 4th downs. Once was a shovel pass to Kelce on 2nd-close where Gay made a fantastic individual play to prevent a TD (with 4 minutes left).

Their remaining in-bounds plays were either chunk plays or a TD. They functionally had two wasted plays.

Basically, I'm not sure how much faster they could have gone. That last drive was 33% of their total yardage and they had to convert two 4th downs to get it.

One thing I thought they did wrong, though -- KC hit Kelce for 24 yards on a formation where they started quads-right and brought Ware fast across the formation to the left at the snap. PIT was badly confused on this play -- KC probably had three guys open, including Maclin who faked blocking on the bubble screen deception on the right. They never came back to it.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:24pm

KC converted the final 4th down with 4 minutes remaining, they scored the TD at about 2:30. Simply be playing with more tempo they could have easily left another 90 seconds on the clock.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:39pm

They snapped the ball on that 4th down with 3:29 left. They scored at 2:43.

by Flounder :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:43pm

KC converted 4th and 2 at the 4 at 3:29. They scored on the next play with 2:43 remaining. I didn't see this game and have no comment on where/how KC could have saved time on the drive - just pointing out the factual inaccuracy.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:29pm

Thanks for the correction, I guess I had rounded in my head. Despite this, I remain convinced tempo could have saved at least 90 seconds.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:15pm

Yeah I wouldn't worry about that, this commenter is really not known for his accuracy.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:39pm

Just to piggyback on this - in the infamous 4th and 2 game, the colts were down 31-14 with about 14 min left in the 4th quarter. That means they needed 3 scores and hoped NE wouldn't score again. Even that did not happen, as Ne put together another 4 more drives where not one where only one failed to get a 1st down(something to be expected when you have Tom Brady at quarterback). As such, the colts not only did their no huddle, they went hurry up and adjusted their play calling accordingly. Had they sauntered through even one of their last drives, they would have never made the comeback.

When you are down, you need to give yourself as many opportunities to come back and have a margin for error. That's a coaching blunder, plain and simple.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:46pm

Yeah.... no. You'll notice that when I was given the accurate information I immediately conceded my error, like any person interested in accuracy and information dialog would.

You, on the other hand, displayed far less admirable qualities with your comment.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:52pm

I wasn't sure who he was specifically referring to. Didn't think it was you but if it is, I guess he disagrees with me as well since I agree with you.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 7:50pm

It wasn't you. :)

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:53pm


by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:35pm

I don't see how a "sense of urgency" would have prevented the holding call that kept the Chiefs from tying the game.

The Chiefs took 7 minutes to execute a 13-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game when they were down 8 points. I know criticizing Reid's clock management is de rigeur, but in this case I don't see that it's relevant.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:43pm

It is relevant because there was an excellent chance that the game wouldn't be tied even if they scored the touchdown. Reid got caught between playing for overtime and leaving room for another drive and it created a more urgent situation at the end than necessary.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 2:13pm

Reid's clock mismanagement in a potentially one-score game cannot compare for ineptitude with what happened in two-score games, last year and especially SB 39.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:24am

I loved the fact that Pereira was willing to plainly state how bad the officiating was, about halfway through the 2nd quarter in Dallas. I can see why he is not warmly remembered on Park Ave. in Manhattan.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:31am

As a Packers fan it feels fantastic to finally be on the right side of a walk-off play in January. Of the teams remaining, I actually fear Atlanta the MOST because I know GB is going to probably have to put up 40 points to win. A Patriots-Packers Super Bowl would be spectacular.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:33am

You poor downtrodden Packers fan.

Your team has only converted three Hails Mary in their two prior playoff games, and won on 108 yards of FGs in the last minute this week.

You also won in 2015 over Dallas on a disputed call in the last four minutes. Your team is in about 31st place in the NFL on the prior list of having-a-beef.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:37am

Not interested in a who has greater standing in a 'whoa is me' competition.

But Fail Mary anyone?

by Led :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:56am

Eh, that shoulda been OPI but the simultaneous possession call was correct. When players fall to the ground trying to catch a pass, nobody has "possession" until they are fully on the ground. There was way too much dramatic kvetching over that call.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:02pm

Completely false. The DB had two arms on the ball, the WR just snuck a hand in and at no point had a legitimate claim of possession.

It was indisputably a terrible call.

by Led :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:25pm

Not indisputable because I dispute it! If the DB lost the ball when he hit the ground, it would've been incomplete regardless of his having two arms around it in the air. Antonio Brown had two arms around the ball and landed on his back in the endzone before Peters yanked it out Sunday night -- incomplete pass, and rightly so. (Great play by Peters, by the way.) There simply is no legitimate claim to possession by anybody, by rule, until the catch is completed by maintaining possession after going to the ground. I'm not particularly a fan of this rule, although I appreciate it's trying to establish an objective standard, but it's the rule. By the time they were on the ground, both DB and WR had their arms around it.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:32pm

It is disputable the same way a round Earth is disputed.

Your are conflating a few different rules. Yes, possession is not completed until you touch the ground, but that doesn't mean there is any difficulty in discerning possession when one person made contact first, had two hands on the ball and never lost control when the other person simply put one hand on the ball.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:09pm

Except that the rule doesn't care who made contact first, or who had both hands on the ball first.

You can't gain possession until you've gone to ground, so nothing that happens beforehand matters.

Whether or not the rule is crazy here is irrelevant. That's what the rule is.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:50pm

It certainly cares about who has two hands on the ball when contact with the ground is made. And the fact that there was no loss of control. And the fact that the Seattle player only had one hand on the ball. And the fact that the only reason the Seattle player was able to keep his hand on the ball was because the GB defender was keeping it nice and steady for him.

There is no legitimate argument for simultaneous possession, no matter how byzantine the rule is.

by alljack :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:21pm

The NFL comment of the Fail Mary play: "The scab referee did nothing wrong, and he'll never work another pro game in his life."

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:04pm

Simultaneous possession my ass. Touching a ball is not possession and except for Lance Easley and the Seattle Seahawks, it never has been. It's like some of the jokers at my agency who show up for a brief on a project I've slaved over, make an irrelevant comment, and then claim credit for helping work on it. Then your boss tells you that you have no way of proving they didn't help.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:23pm

Given that even the dense of mind Roger Goodell recognized that the official strike needed to end to avoid further such outcomes methinks the league itself disagrees with the above assessment

by Peregrine :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:35am

Bring it on, cheeseheads!

I'll speak on behalf of all Falcons fans: we are happy to be playing at home, but we are terrified of Aaron Rodgers. I was in the Dome in the 2010 playoffs when he defied belief on about a dozen plays. He's the most talented QB I've ever seen.

I suspect turnovers and red zone performance will tell the tale.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:39am

I think Atlanta was genuinely shell shocked by that game which led to the julio jones decision. Gb's secondary is running on fumes at this point. You can throw on this defense and the falcons have have the best most consistent pass offense all year. I like Atlanta even if Rodgers is like a horror villain who keeps coming after you

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:45am

The officials have been letting defenders be free with their hands most of the playoffs. That is GB's only chance to slow things down. That and a pass rush forcing Ryan to get rid of the ball sooner than desired.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:06am

I'm anticipating something like Colts@Chiefs in... was it the 2003 playoffs? Or Warner's penultimate game in the 2009 postseason against Green Bay. I've no idea who will win, but wherever they set the line on total points I'm taking the over.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:23am

Last I heard the O/U was 60.5.

by Mike W :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:50am

That's way too low. Seriously.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:22pm

clots 38, ciefs 31 playoff game was actually terrible gaem. packers at cardinals 2009 grwat game- one of best shootouts ever

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:04pm

Your memory for this stuff is much better than mine, RJ - I remember an awesome shootout around that time between Peyton's Colts and Trent Green's Chiefs, but it could well have been another game, not necessarily even in the playoffs.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:31pm

Colts-Chiefs had very little drama, just two teams efficiently alternating scores all game long.

Packers-Cardinals had tons of drama: Cardinals built a big lead, and then the Packers came storming back. Not a turnover heavy game, but every one marked a pivotal turning point in the game.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:48pm

The other thing in Packers-Cardinals is that despite the score, there was actually some really good defense at times that was beat by incredible offense. That Colts game just felt like no one was playing defense. I actually think Packers-Cardinals was better than yesterdays Packers-Cowboys for some of the same reasons. The defenses weren't as much of a factor. There were a couple of amazing plays but there wasn't as much incredible offense beating great defense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:54pm

I do think the Packer receivers made some fine catches yesterday. Rodgers was throwing into traffic and Adams, Cook, Cobb and Allison all made plays on balls that could have easily been incomplete.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:55pm

Charles Woodson is a hall of famer, but I thought the Packers defense did not show up in that game whatsoever. Warner was never under pressure, he threw short that led to 10 yard completions. He threw deep. The entire coverage unit looked lost in that game. It was really stunning.

That 09 team was actually better than the 2010 team in a lot of ways, but their no show playoff game on defense was a true headscratcher.

I'll always love that Indy KC game because of who I root for - though I concede as a neutral fan I absolutely abhor terrible secondary play.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:08pm

GB was playing Atari Bigby, Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood that day as part of the nickel/dime package. Bush hung around the league as a special teams ace for a long time but the team learned that he could not hold up in coverage. I think Underwood was out of the league after that season. The issue was compounded by the interior line being MIA the entire game. Jolly, Raji, Jenkins pretty much no showed. So while getting some edge pressure Warner had no impediment up the middle.

Too much to overcome with that quality at qb and receiver

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:10pm

How in the world did they finish 4th in pass defense?

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:24pm

Woodson was lights out all season. Nick Collins, also awesome. Tramon Williams took over for Al Harris at full corner around mid season. The outside rush led by Matthews was there all season. Nick Barnett had his last solid season in GB and Brad Jones had not yet been exposed. But injuries, the lack of inside rush and Kurt Warner having a 1 second delivery destroyed them that day

by dank067 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:55pm

I have a soft spot for that '09 team. Otherwise a great defense, but they were just too thin in the secondary as you alluded to to cope with great QBs and especially deep receiving corps. Not just Warner, but Favre and Roethlisberger lit them up that season as well. I think Warner and Roethlsiberger vs the '09 Packers are both on the all time single game DYAR leaderboard because on top of their great performance they get a massive opponent adjustment.

The 2010 defense was very similar to '09, but the addition of Sam Shields, who could play competently on the outside, was massive and prevented them from having any meltdowns vs the pass like in '09.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:13pm

Why was that terrible RaiderJoe? The colts never punted once. Hunter Smith basically got to be a fan that day.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:58pm

game never close as final scvore indicated. chiefs were down coupel scores most of the time. dante hall kickoff return mad e it closer. never got idea K..C Chiefs could win.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:12pm

If I remember correctly, most of the game the Chiefs had the ball down 14, or the Colts had the ball up 7, it was basically bouncing back and forth between a 1 and 2 score game all day, and the chiefs scored close to the end to make it 7 points.

I remember thinking at about the beginning of the 3rd quarter that the Chiefs should start onside kicking, because they weren't ever going to stop the Colts - so there was no real downside. Their best chance of winning was to steal a possession.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:08pm
by t.d. :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:15am

This is a much better Atlanta team (they're better than the dirty bird Falcons from '98, and they're probably the best team in franchise history- the '80 team may have an argument, they were before my time). Rodgers is truly great, and Green Bay will always have a chance as long as he's playing, but he had to be on his A game just to get them this far. You guys have a great shot.

I know Reid's getting criticized about the clock management, but I thought Dallas was worse with it- they absolutely should have gone for 2 on the touchdown that made it 28-20 so they'd know whether they needed one more possession or two, and they kept playing their base offense through the fourth quarter, even though they were trailing by 15 (which they should have regarded as a three score deficit, since they couldn't know they'd get the 2). They should have treated it like Clemson treated the national championship game- constant hurryup to maximize the number of remaining possessions. Obviously, they managed to tie it up, and even had a chance to win, but it still seems like sub-optimal strategy to me (which could rear its ugly head in future do-or-die situations)

by hscer :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:24am

"Vince Verhei: We're six games into the playoffs now, more than halfway through, and all six games have been decided by a final margin of 13 points or more. Not the best postseason we've ever seen."


"Green Bay Packers 34 at Dallas Cowboys 31"


by Mike W :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:31am

McCarthy, after calling a very good game for the most part, running only to keep the Dal D honest (though he got a little cute with Ripkowski once or twice), went full McCarthy at 28-28 once GB got in field goal position, not only running, but running from the most obviously power-running sets he could come up with. Like Andy Reid with his clock management stylings, this is a problem that's never going to go away, and fans just have to live with, and their teams just have to overcome.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 5:31pm

Yeah those play calls were very bad.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:38am

When the All 22 comes up, someone please look up the Cowboys' coverage on that last pass to Cook.

The Packers lined up three receivers right, Cook, Cobb, and Janis. Cobb also was in the same area as Cook, covered by Lee (!), which also seems like it might have been a good option for Rodgers. Tougher throw since he was more to Rodgers right, I guess. Adams was a little deeper on the left, apparently running a clearout for Cook.

Byron Jones was the one attempting to play some sort of defense on Cook. There is Lee and whomever was with Adams. The Cowboys rushed three, with a spy. The three linemen essentially got pancaked, with only the spy even getting a hand up. That still leaves four defenders, all occupied with Janis?!?

The Packers had a timeout, so they could use the whole field. But Rodgers rolled out. How can that not be better defended?

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:58am

Am I the only one who thought Prescott was right to spike the ball? I thought Dallas was playing for the win there, not the tie. There were only 49 seconds on the clock (according to NFL.com play-by-play). They are on the 40 yard line. It's a 57 yard FG from there. They still need yards. The mistake was passing on third down with only three yards to go. If you make it (and with Elliott there is a great chance you do), you have three more downs to play with and you can spike it there. If you don't make it, you either make GB burn their timeout or you wait until the clock is almost out and go for the tying FG.

The last thing you want is to go for the tie, then risk losing the coin flip and watch AR march the Packers down the field for a TD with no chance to even get the ball. As a Packers fan, I've watched that scenario play out twice in the last few years.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:20pm

You simply are too far away from the end zone to be giving away downs, if you are playing for the win, and with 49 seconds, you don't need to stop the clock yet. If you are organized, and don't want to risk a run (I'd be comfortable with it, but some may differ) then a pass with two outside options near the sideline, and an option 20 yards deep in the middle of the field, really provides a lot of upside. You get down to the 15-20, in the middle of the field, THEN you spike the ball. If you complete a pass 4-8 yards deep, with the receiver getting out of bounds, great. If it's incomplete, you haven't lost more than 4 or 5 more seconds from the spike. Yes, you can get sacked, but if you aren't going to trust that o-line, you're crazy.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:25pm

It is also true that by the defense in place GB was completely selling out for pass defense. Dallas has a great line and a fine running back. It is very possible that the bread and butter run play for Dallas could have sprung a big game. And then the spike happens

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:32pm

Yeah, I even would have been very comfortable with a perimeter run against a defense selling out to stop the pass, with that running back, and those blockers. Hell, there's a decent chance you get 15 yards, and Prescott gets out of bounds, which puts you in complete control of the clock, with a good chance to win the game.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:35pm

Yup. And the outside linebackers were regularly crashing inside on perceived pass plays leaving no contain

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:44pm

Look at what Prescott did to Matthews, when Matthews thought he had Prescott dead to rights, behind the line of scrimmage. You may want to give a guy like that a chance to win the game for you, when the opponent is focused on other stuff.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:04pm

Are you referring to Elliott?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:14pm

Yeah, mixed up Cowboys with last names ending in "tt". The look on Matthews face, as swung and whiffed, was priceless. Won't be the last good player Elliott does that to.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:11pm

Some of that is because Matthews likes to tackle people around the neck (which was just like his old position coach Kevin Greene). It drives me nuts and I'm surprised he doesn't get more penalties. I get why you do that when tackling a QB as it's more likely to interfere with the throw if you don't bring them down, but it's easier to escape as you are giving up center of gravity leverage. He hit Elliot like that, and Elliot just spun out of it. If Matthews hits him closer to the hips, there's a good chance he actually makes the tackle.

by t.d. :: Wed, 01/18/2017 - 5:01pm

Like the Pittsburgh game, where the give to Elliott went all the way, from about midfield

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:47pm

Announcer complaint: I understand that Bell's running style will attract a lot of commentary, and rightly so. I do wish it would be more frequently mentioned that the style would have rather less utility, absent an o-line that was really good at holding blocks.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:41pm

Sanders made it work.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:42pm

Barry Sanders had more negative plays than any other RB I can think of. He was a boom-or-bust RB. I loved watching the guy, but that style would work for almost nobody else.

Most RBs are told to hit the hole quickly because it won't last for very long.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:18pm

Barry Sanders had more negative plays than any other RB I can think of.

Welcome to Lions fandom.

You'll find James Jones, Garry James, Greg Hill, Shawn Bryson, Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Ameer Abdullah, and Theo Riddick cruppled up in a corner.

Put it this way -- only six players have ever rushed for 1000 yards in a season as a Lion. Barry Sanders accounts for 10 of those 18 seasons. In terms of single-season yardage, he's #1-7, 9-10.

All Lions RBs accumulate negative yardage plays. Barry just got positive ones, too.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 9:20pm

So... you're saying the Lions are bad at evaluating RBs...?

by sbond101 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:44pm

Absolutely, Watching that game I was amazed to see how the Chiefs DL never got Bell from behind as he was sitting in the hole delaying to make the next cut on his LB block (this must have happened a half dozen times). It's also worth noting that a lot of those slow-developing interior runs seem like they would be impossible if their are safeties attacking the LOS. In short, I think there is a lot going on in the game and in the NFL more broadly that is making what he's accomplishing possible. It will be fascinating to see what happens in New England; I'd be very willing to bet that the Pats play big on the DL to try to make Pittsburg win some other way.

by anotheroldguy :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:24pm

I was remarking during the game that there's usually some backside or edge rusher pursuit that kills that sort of hesitation on a run. Later in the game, there was a good Ware run where Harrison almost caught him by crashing down the line and diving at his ankles - and that was without much delay behind the line. And also KC seemed to adjust in the 2nd half by getting some penetration and catching Bell from behind.

Ben Muth asked about subjects for his column relevant to the remaining playoff teams. I would welcome an analysis about what PIT is doing up front that makes Bell's style work.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:24pm

Yeah, given what Julion Jones as able to do with Richard Sherman, if Atlanta has any success running at all, making the Packers respect the run to any degree, Atlanta will score 35 without breaking a sweat. Of course, the Rodgers may score 35 without breaking a sweat as well. The over/under seems pretty low.

by Mike W :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:41pm

First team to 40 wins. I'm not kidding.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:50pm

My perception is that the Georgia Dome is quite a bit more loud than ATT, either due to fan base, stadium configurattion, or both. If true, that might help the Falcons defense quite a bit. Even so, I'll be surprised if either team scores fewer than 30.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:58pm

Rodgers loves playing inside, and the offensive line (non Don Barclay division) has not shown issues with noise/speed rush. GB could well lose, but I doubt it will be due to anything related to the crowd.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:11pm

Harder to get the the opposition to jump when going silent count. It's not huge deal, but in a close game the non-huge can become huge.

A good chunk of Rodgers dome record came aginst Viking defenses, from 2010-2014 that made Tim Tebow look like Johnny Unitas. Rodgers is great wherever, but anything that makes things a little harder can be big in a close game.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:27pm

Rodgers tore apart a Falcons team with a better defense in the 2010 playoffs. He had a good game against Atlanta earlier this season. He moved the ball up and down the field against the Saints in 2014 where that crowd was going bonkers. In 2012 Rodgers was not the problem against the Seahawks in the early season game as that was the one example of the line having issue with noise/speed namely Bulaga who got abused the entire first half. Indianapolis Rodgers again played well. He tore up the Texans the following week.(roof was closed). He crushed the Rams the week next.

I could keep going, but I think you will be hard pressed to find a dome game where Rodgers had anything like the Favre disasters of yesteryear.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:33pm

I was not trying to attribute Favreian dome qualities to Rodgers, which is why I said he was great wherever.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:08pm

I dunno. I can imagine a team taking a 42-38 lead and going on to lose 45-42 quite easily...

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:15pm

I'm thinking 51-45 overtime win with 40 yard bomb to win it.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:39pm

If I were a Chiefs' fan, I would wonder why Sean Davis was not ejected for the helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver that knocked Conley out of the game. The officials have the discretion to eject a player under such circumstances if they feel the offense was flagrant. It certainly seemed flagrant to me. The Steelers got to trade a 15-yard penalty for knocking a receiver out of the game. That doesn't feel like an adequate punishment.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:45pm

I'll say again that the NFL would be smart to adopt the procedure used for targeting in college.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:28pm

For what it's worth, I will point out that rugby has just changed it rules around high tackles with effect this month.

From a BBC article ... "Players making contact with an opponent's head in "reckless tackles" will receive a yellow card at least in changes to rules over high tackles. Players will be punished even if the tackle starts below the shoulders. If head contact is accidental - for example, if a ball-carrier slips into a tackle - a penalty will be awarded."

by joe football :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:57pm

I can see why a fan might want that, but they'd have absolutely no reason to expect it. The NFL almost never ejects anyone for fouls that happen during the course of a play

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:43pm

Hey, anybody remember how well Haley's offenses have done against Belichik defenses, when Haley had a qb who was good? I can't remember how often an uninjured Roethilisberger has faced the Patriots since 2012. Did Warner ever face the Pats when Haley was in the desert? Oh, yeah there was that slaughter in 2008, when the Cards took December off after locking up a playoff spot. Not going to count that. Surely somebody will bail me out of being too lazy to look it up on PFR!

by RickD :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:57pm

I'm guessing Tyler Palko doesn't qualify.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:59pm

OK, that was funny....

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:54pm

Hey, BTF, would you say that this is the best pass protection that Rodgers has ever enjoyed? I really think so, particularly in the sense that Rodegrs hardly even gets any push in his face from the center, which really puts the speed rushers on the edge in a quandry. Bakhtiari is great, but I also think he has benefitted mighttily from how seldom his 3 teammates to his immediate right allow Rodgers to feel anything up the middle.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:38pm

Sitton is a much better pass blocker than Taylor thanks to his amazing ability to take a deep set and use his footwork/strength. By the end of 2014 that offensive line was rock solid. Linsley was a rookie but I don't think he allowed a sack that season. Bakh was not what he is now but he was solid. Lang, Bulaga and Sitton were excellent.

But if you weight things with left tackle clearly most important than this squad is better than 2014.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 2:58pm

I watched this game with a friend of mine whos learning football. I kept telling him - some of the stuff Rodgers does is the same things I have criticized qbs in the past for doing. Throwing off body without setting feet is a routine problem I have with Cutler. Throwing at odd angles is what I kill Stafford for. Rolling out cuts off half the field and that's what I killed Alex Smith for.

But with Rodgers - I kept telling my friend - look at whats about to happen. This is all wrong but its going to lead to an accurate timely throw. When others try it, they don't have the arm strength or accuracy to pull it off but Rodgers does time and and time again.

Sometimes, you are so talented it doesn't matter what mechanics you have. Pretty special.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:06pm

I laughed when Buck said Rodgers had a made "dangerous throw" over the outstretched hands of a Cowboys defender, who had undercut a short out pattern. As if Rodgrs hadn't seen the defender clearly, and knew he had about a 99.5% chance of throwing that short pass a few inches higher than the defender could jump.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:06pm

What should the Texans do with Brock? Cutting him will cost them 25 million. That's an insane figure. I think you have to go with him as the starter and hope he gets better.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:25pm

If I'm reading it correctly cutting him only costs $6M.

(IE, he costs $19M if he's on the roster, $25M if he's not). Most of it is sunk cost at this point.

I haven't watched a ton of his play, and the Patriots defense is pretty good - but from what I saw last Saturday Night, he's not an NFL quarterback. I think they need to look real hard at QBs in the draft.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:36pm

If I were the Texans, I'd just take the bitter pill of sunk cost, declare Osweiler as the world's most expensive backup, and look for a new starter.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 10:33am

>declare Osweiler as the world's most expensive backup

Tony Romo would like to have a word with you...

by SFC B :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 4:44pm

Tony Romo would probably not doom your team if he has to play. He might cost more in money but he won't cost you the game.

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:12pm

Bill O'Brian was, if the leaks are true, never a big supporter of the Brock contract, and that it was the GM and owner who made the call. I don't imagine he'll have much choice about whether Brock will be on the roster - something like, "Sure Bill, he was bad this year, but he'll improve, just watch!" - and he'll be left as a super expensive backup.

For the Texans sake I hope Savage is at least an acceptable starter next year. Early Kansas City Alex Smith is more than enough with that defense.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:27pm

Heck, late San Francisco Alex Smith should be more than enough with that defense, too.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:04pm

Honestly, they should draft somebody else. I doubt Tom Savage is the guy they need. Mahommes in the second round, or perhaps Chad Kelly late (but I hope the Jets draft him, but that means they won't). They could also give Geno Smith a back-up contract, and let him beat Osweiler like he probably would.... as long as he doesn't borrow money from Clowney or Watt. I really think Smith may surprise people when he gets a chance, because the last couple of years he's been snakebitten, but not bad.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 10:54am

Yea, agree with that. You won't find many franchise quarterbacks in the later rounds, but sometimes you get lucky, like the Cowboys and Raiders did. And more often than that, you find an average to below average starter, which would be a clear upgrade for Houston.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 11:49am


he was 2nd round opcik / Raiders didn't get lucky,. was star passer at fresno state. nto some guy with mediocre college career like tom Brayd at Michigan that was drafted because, "well he played at Michigan and was serviceable,. let's draft him as a backup."

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:19pm

By "later rounds" I meant later than 1st round, since for quarterbacks, the vast majority of franchise QB's are 1st rounders. I don't follow college football that much anymore, but I don't remember everyone getting excited about Carr in the predraft process. I bet even the Raiders thought they would probably be just a solid starter, not a star (don't follow what the local media thinks about what the front office thinks, so I could be wrong).

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 8:33pm

Carr was publicly discussed as a player who could go late in the first round, and in fact went close to the top of the second. In terms of pre-draft perception he should be bracketed with guys like Brees, Dalton, Pennington, Bridgewater, Jason Campbell etc, not guys like Brady, Romo, Warner... and the countless late round quarterbacks who did in fact belong in the late rounds.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Wed, 05/03/2017 - 11:09am

" but I don't remember everyone getting excited about Carr in the predraft process."

QBASE/LEWIN/etc had him with the 2nd highest projection in that draft (behind Bridgewater)


Bridgewater: 945 (32)
Carr: 645(36)
Garapallo: 560 (62)
Manziel: 486 (22)
Bortles: 471 (3)

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 8:47pm

Savage, insofar as there's any basis on which to evaluate him at all, looks better than Osweiler but not by a huge amount. He's also missed a ton of time, to the point where it's reasonable to wonder if he is in fact just injury prone. The Texans badly need to acquire a new quarterback, but it seems unlikely that they'll have a good opportunity to do so this offseason.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:07pm


by Cythammer :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:24pm

I'm a little surprised there hasn't been more talk about McCarthy's decision to go for a 56-yard field goal. I guess it since it worked it doesn't matter, but as it was happening I was convinced it was a mad decision, and we were about to see the Cowboys handed a win because of a crazy decision by the Packers. Crosby has hit about half of his career 50+ yard FGs, but most of those were probably shorter than 56, so I suspect the odds of him hitting that were not very good at all. If I were a Cowboys' fan, I think I would remember that kick as the game's biggest play maybe even more than Rodgers' late throw.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:27pm

Any Packer could tell you that Mike relishes a 50 plus yard field attempt. And playing inside Crosby told the coaching staff his range would be 60 yards. The long attempt was a given knowing MM's history in similar situations.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 3:42pm

I talked to my friend about this very decision and we both were on the edge with it. What were McCarthy's options? It was 4th and forever. Going for it felt like a stretch so it really came down to punting vs kicking and thinking about the payoffs, we felt it tilted ever so slightly to kicking. If they miss, the ball starts on the Dallas 46. If they punt, there's a decent chance it ends in a touchback or more likely, somewhere around the 10.

Dallas has all three timeouts and 2 minutes to work with. Is the trading of 30 yards for a tie game better than the chance of being up 3?

by dank067 :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:00pm

Given the potential downside of the miss in that situation, let alone having to later go on to hit the game winner (and then do it again), I can't even imagine what it was like to be Mason Crosby yesterday. Can't give him enough props for hitting those kicks.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:30pm

The guy has had one mediocre year as a pro, 2012. Since that season he's hit 86 percent of his field goals with 14/21 of 50 yards or longer over the same timeframe. And in big games had an argument of being the best player on the team. He certainly was in the 2014 championship game against Seattle. Nobody remembers him hitting the tying 48 yard field goal as GB gacked it away in OT.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:16pm

I didn't mind it. Crosby has enough leg and it was indoors. It's when McCarthy decides a 50 yd attempt is a good idea outside, windy, and 5^F when I think it's daft.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:27pm

For all the crap Reid is getting for his strategery in clock management/etc..... He totally worked the Steelers S/T over at the end with that deep kickoff instead of the onside kick.

Of course, I'd gamble on kicking to a guy so bad he couldn't make the Browns' roster and hadn't sniffed more than about 10 snaps this year myself.

The standard is the standard!

by DGL :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:12pm

It's risk management. If you have the hands team on the field and the other team kicks deep, the worst thing that will happen (barring something like a muffed kickoff, which is independent of how you line up) is what actually happened - you start the drive at around your 5 yard line (Bills kick return teams excluded). But if you line up for a normal kickoff return and the Chiefs go onside, there's about a 50/50 chance that the Chiefs get the ball.

Having the hands team on the field is the right strategy for the Steelers, even though kicking deep is the right strategy for the Chiefs.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 6:33pm

I enjoyed how you completely ignored the main point I was making. Playing to guard the onside is fine.

Having Justin Gilbert back alone to handle the ball if kicked deep and not crap his pants isn't.

The standard is the standard!

by DGL :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 8:51pm

I wasn't aware Andy Reid was responsible for setting who was on the Steelers' return team.

by SFC B :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 4:50pm

It's a decision made by Mike Tomlin. No matter what Mr. Tomlin does, good, bad, indifferent this particular commenter will find fault with it. It's his "thing".

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 5:30pm

the point was:

andy reid has choice:
onside kick
kick off deep

he sees that Steelers have ex-Browns flunkee back there alone, decides to kick deep

said flunkee fields ball, sees 11 oncoming poorly blocked men, runs backwards and almost gumps it, miraculously doesn't fumble while crappign his pants.

reid exploited tomlins dumb decision of WHO to leave back there with that solo duty. He made the +eV play. And save for a miracle AB84 play, it almost worked out for him.

The standard is the standard!

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 10:20pm

Sure. I agree that obvious on sides kick is worse, but why not go for a kick fifteen yards shorter or so; put the ball in no mans land with your whole team screaming down the field for it, and make it a real 50/50 ball with the chance to recover it already in field goal range to boot?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/16/2017 - 4:30pm

Does anyone have a GOOD explanation for the decision to head'fake' a 63 yard FG and then settle for a stat padder throw instead of a hail mary before halftime by the Steelers?

The standard is the standard!

by jtr :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 10:37am

I don't know that the play call was such a terrible idea. When the opposing team has everybody deep to guard for a hail mary, it's not the worst idea in the world to throw shallow to AB, who is arguably the best in the league at running after the catch. You're basically saying that you think AB has a better chance of eluding a half-dozen defenders in the open field than he does of beating the same number of defenders at the catch point. That's probably not a crazy bet.

by ZDNeal :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 1:29pm

It's obviously the wrong call because the worst coach in the NFL made it.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 2:15pm

I recall the Steelers doing the same thing with Brown in the final seconds of a loss to the Dolphins in 2013. Brown managed to take the play all the way to the endzone only to be called out-of-bounds by a fraction of a foot back upfield. Stranger things have happened, and as such AB gave me pause on this play too. (He probably would have been better off cutting back across the field on this play though, as the Chiefs had the sideline pretty well bottled up.)

by Jerry :: Tue, 01/17/2017 - 9:26pm

2013 was the last part of a multiple lateral play. From the NFL play-by-play:

4-9-PIT 21 (:03) (Shotgun) 7-B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to 88-E.Sanders to PIT 41 for 20 yards. Lateral to 89-J.Cotchery to PIT 36 for -5 yards. Lateral to 26-L.Bell to PIT 27 for -9 yards. Lateral to 77-M.Gilbert to PIT 27 for no gain. Lateral to 7-B.Roethlisberger to PIT 32 for 5 yards. Lateral to 84-A.Brown ran ob at MIA 12 for 56 yards.

by Travis :: Wed, 01/18/2017 - 11:52am

The Steelers have done that same stat-padding short throw to Brown at least twice before; at the end of the Cowboys' game this year (:02 left, 64 yards away from the end zone, 13 yard throw with 31 yards of useless YAC) and at the end of the first half of the Browns' game in 2014 (:01 left, 46 yards away from the end zone, 10 yard throw with 13 yards of useless YAC).

There were timeouts called before all three plays, so the playcall is probably designed. Maybe the Steelers own themselves in daily fantasy.