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18 Dec 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

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.

Chicago Bears 10 at Detroit Lions 20

Bryan Knowles: No one watched that epic Detroit-Chicago battle? I'm shocked, shocked.

Tom Gower: I watched, by which I mean I had my eye on and somewhat paid attention to, Lions-Bears. Not much of a game, as the Bears are just too limited on offense. I was mucking around with the DVOA workbooks during the week and noted Mitchell Trubisky was the second-worst passer in the league from shotgun (min. 100 plays, which includes sacks but excludes scrambles, and this was before the MNF/TNF opponent adjustments). We saw some of that today as well, what with a few of his interceptions coming when he wasn't under center. It was pretty much the kind of game I expected from the Bears: a pretty solid overall defensive performance against a Lions front that was banged up yet at no point did it feel like they had a realistic chance of beating a decent but not great team on the road.

Dave Bernreuther: The most entertaining part of that game to me was a play that came back on a penalty -- Tarik Cohen's kick return where he showed off some remarkable acceleration after slowing down to let defenders pass 60 or so yards into his run. For some reason the Human Joystick Dante Hall came to mind when watching him run like that. I feel like he made one move too many or else he'd have gone all the way. Not that it'd have counted.

Los Angeles Chargers 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 30

Bryan Knowles: One of the reasons the Chargers have bounced back from their left-for-dead start? Third-down defense. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Chargers allowed opponents to convert 44.6 percent of their third downs, sixth-worst in the league. Since then, they've improved to 36.0 percent, ninth-best. They open the game with a big three-and-out thanks to pressure from Melvin Ingram; it forced Alex Smith to scramble around and miss Travis Kelce coming open deep over the top. Pass pressure! Alex has been better, in general, about standing up to pressure and buying time, but there, he just ran for his life.

I have seen deep defenses in desperation Hail Mary attempts; never with two minutes left in the first half. But, facing a third-and-21, the Chargers lined seven players up on the first-down marker, leaving about ten miles of open space between them and the front four. With them off camera when the snap started, it was one of the more bizarre things I've seen. Yeah, they stopped Kansas City from picking up 21 yards, but they basically gave them 18, and that was enough for Andy Reid to gamble and go for it on fourth-and-3. Eighteen yards means something in the first quarter, guys! That prevent stuff is for when it's touchdown or bust! It ended up with a field goal anyway, but that could have ended up being a disaster.

The Chargers are still last in our FG/XP metrics, as they can't seem to find a kicker. They have already cycled through YoungHoe Koo and Nick Novak, but now Travis Coons has missed an extra point as well. Los Angeles is lucky not to be down by more, as the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal attempt early, and missed a second field goal with seconds left in the half. Kansas City's outgaining L.A. 222-142 -- on one fewer drive, to boot -- but that high-scoring offense from September feels like it happened in 2007, doesn't it?

Dave Bernreuther: Alex Smith is at 13-of-16 with three passes having been dropped, according to the graphic they just showed, but I do seem to recall him throwing a pointless and inaccurate negative-ALEX pass while running to his right that wouldn't have gotten the first down anyway. They have done a pretty good job cooling off the Bosa/Ingram pass rush through the half, and Smith has looked pretty good otherwise, including on the deep strike to Tyreek Hill.

Ordinarily I'd argue against chancing a 52-yard field goal outdoors on fourth-and-3, but with seven seconds left in the half I can't complain. Harrison Butker missed just wide left, which is no huge surprise.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Travis Benjamin, no. Facing third-and-8, down 10 points, Rivers hits Benjamin for about 6 yards. There are zero Chiefs between Benjamin and the first-down marker, though Marcus Peters and a couple other Chiefs are right on the other side. If Benjamin lowers his shoulder and runs straight forward, he almost assuredly gets the first down. Instead, he cuts off to the side, presumably trying to break a big play, and gets stopped short. That forces the Chargers to go for it on fourth down with just 8:30 left in the game, and Philip Rivers throws an emergency off-balance pass which was intercepted by Ron Parker. If Benjamin just goes forward, that doesn't happen, and the Chargers are still in this one.

If this drive does anything -- even just eating a couple minutes off the clock -- that's ballgame. In which case the Chargers will be back on life support; they wouldn't be dead at 7-7, but they'd almost definitely need the Chiefs to slip up against the Dolphins and Broncos or the Ravens to suddenly struggle with the Browns.

Dave Bernreuther: Under two minutes to go, on your own 6 down by three scores, why on earth would you hand off to Melvin Gordon three times, exposing him to needless hits and injury risk, when you could just kneel it out and go home?

Those 10 yards just made me ten extra dollars in DFS too, but it's still infuriating.

Bryan Knowles: For that matter, why go into hurry-up mode down three scores ... but still include hand-offs at all? Pick one strategy or the other, Chargers.

Scott Kacsmar: This game may have been another case where the season data says more than the recent trends. While the Chargers had been recently playing better than Kansas City, we know the Chiefs have a very talented roster and were the best team in the league earlier this season. The talent of guys such as Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt, and Marcus Peters really showed up tonight. Put this team at home in a near must-win game and I'm a bit surprised the Chiefs were a slight underdog. The Chargers turning into a mess in the second half is also about as predictable as it gets. Benjamin's failure to convert that third-and-long by not running forward was the highlight for me -- a real asinine play.

It still wouldn't shock me at all if the Chiefs pulled off a Giants- or Ravens-esque Super Bowl run to cap off this five-year window of the Smith/Reid era with a ring. While Pittsburgh has been this team's bugaboo, maybe they can avoid them in January thanks to a Jacksonville upset, and I still say this is the AFC team most likely to win a playoff game in New England. While so many were quick to write the Chiefs off, they just opened up a 26-0 lead on the Raiders last week and won by 17 against the trendy new AFC playoff favorite in the Chargers. It's really two of the team's most impressive games all season and it is coming at the right time.


Green Bay Packers 24 at Carolina Panthers 31

Bryan Knowles: Hey, points for Carolina for not letting recency bias control their decisions. Jonathan Stewart ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns last week -- by far his best game of the season. It's one of only two times he has topped 50 yards in his past nine games, though, and he remains in the bottom five in both DYAR and DVOA. So, forget the "hot hand" theory -- the Panthers have gone right back to Christian McCaffrey, who at least offers receiving value. Nine touches for the rookie on Carolina's first drive as they march right down the field. Despite this, no one decides to cover McCaffrey on the goal line, and he catches an easy, easy touchdown. Aaron Rodgers nowhere to be seen on that defensive stand, for shame.

Speaking of Captain Collarbone, he certainly isn't playing like he's hurt. He's willing to scramble around about as much as normal -- three scrambles so far -- and hit Davante Adams for a touchdown. No hesitation, no second-guessing. Ian Rapoport and company report that the collarbone isn't fully healed, and maybe -- maybe -- it came into play on a couple incompletions. That could just as easily be rust, though, and it's hard to look at every play and try to figure out what is and isn't an effect of the injury.

We harped a bunch on Oakland's inability to get an interception for the majority of the season, but the Panthers cornerbacks have been struggling, as well. They only picked up their first interceptions of the season last week -- and now they have another, as pressure forced Aaron Rodgers to basically do an arm punt deep downfield. An interesting strategic switch for the Packers today; they're using a lot of four-receiver sets. That would make sense, going from Brett Hundley to Rodgers -- but they weren't exactly using a ton of them earlier in the season. My guess would be a knock-on effect from Martellus Bennett leaving the team; they kept Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers to try to keep Hundley upright and are opening things up more now that ARod is back.

Aaron Schatz: The Rodgers arm punt wasn't really an arm punt, not on purpose. He was trying to make a play under pressure, had David Bakhtiari pushed back into him and it messed up his footwork, which had him hanging the ball up. Rodgers has been under a lot of pressure today, more balls thrown away than usual. The Packers switched their strategy on the last drive of the half, going to all short stuff: receiver screens, slants, and flats. One of the short crosses, the Panthers totally forgot to cover Randall Cobb, so he was able to scamper for a 33-yard touchdown. 14-10 Packers at halftime.

Tom Gower: We saw the Christian McCaffrey show early and at other times, as the Panthers were clicking on every third down early. Converted all three on the first drive and the first on the second drive before stalling in field goal range. But now they've stopped doing that, thus the Cobb touchdown puts Green Bay on top.

Bryan Knowles: Well, anything Aaron can do, Cam can do better. Rodgers took a shot on the Cobb touchdown, so Cam Newton decides to do the same thing to start the second half, absorbing a shot as he finds a wide-open Greg Olsen for a go-ahead touchdown. It feels like the Packers have blown a lot of coverages today, but usually it's receivers they struggle with, not running backs and tight ends. Today, though, there seems to be someone wide open on every other play.

And now things are beginning to get out of hand, as Damiere Byrd scores a touchdown on what I'm going to call a "questionable" review. Byrd made a pretty astounding jumping, bobbling catch in coverage, but it sure looked to me like he didn't gain possession until he was sitting out of bounds. If that was Austin Seferian-Jenkins, it's not a catch. 24-14 Panthers, and the Panthers are picking up steam.

Aaron Schatz: Carolina just challenged a third-quarter catch by Damiere Byrd based on the idea that his left butt cheek hit the end zone before the right butt cheek hit out of bounds, and that therefore there is a catch and a touchdown. And they won the challenge. Buttfumble? Now we've got the Buttchallenge. 24-14 Panthers.

Tom Gower: That Carolina touchdown was part of why I LIKE getting actual explanations from officials. The explanation we got was the receiver was ruled down by contact in the end zone, which says nothing of how and why they reversed the call on the field. An actual explanation would have said that "the receiver landed in the end zone and controlled the football before touching out of bounds," the "landing in the end zone" part of which was not obvious to me until Fox showed the zoomed-in replay after we got the call on the field of reversal. Had they shown that to us before the call, it would have been clear to me and presumably others that a reversal might be coming.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers now has three interceptions. All three have been underthrown. The first underthrow was definitely because of pressure and the left tackle pushing him backwards, but perhaps Rodgers is not as healthy as we all want him to be?

Bryan Knowles: That would line up well with the Packers going to short stuff after their first couple drives; if Rodgers went to the sidelines and said he was lacking something on his deep ball, maybe they changed up their strategy to put him in a better situation? But with the Panthers marching up and down the field, they had to take some deeper shots, leading to the interceptions?

I have no idea if that's the case, but it would at least seem logically consistent.

31-17, and this one is just about over, and with it, Green Bay's playoff hopes. So here's the question that will be asked over and over again this week: should the Packers have rushed Rodgers back? I'm not saying Brett Hundley would give the Packers a better chance to win, but was the long shot the Packers had (needing to win out and get some help) worth bringing Rodgers back at 80 percent healthy or whatever it turns out being? I do lean towards "yes" here -- you have to at least give it a shot when you're in playoff range -- but it's not a cut-and-dry situation. The Packers don't bring him back if they're 5-8.

Tom Gower: Unless Rodgers has a significant risk of worsening the injury such that his availability for Week 1 next year is in question, you play him as soon as he's cleared. But he's clearly not the Aaron Rodgers we're used to seeing. He's not visibly hampered a la 2015 Zombie Peyton Manning, but we've noted the underthrows, it's his first three-interception game of any kind since 2009, and down 31-17 with just under six minutes to play, he took big sacks on third-and-6 and then fourth-and-14. Yes, Jason Spriggs is bad, but I'm used to not seeing quite that from the great Rodgers we're used to seeing.

Dave Bernreuther: 31-24 on a Rodgers-to-Rodgers hookup, then I blinked and the Pack have it inside the 40 at the 2-minute warning.

Maybe those playoff hopes aren't dead just yet...

Aaron Schatz: Recovered the onside kick. It's onside kick recovery day. Miami also recovered theirs in the final 2:00, then Jay Cutler immediately threw a pick to end the game.

Wait, now it looks like the playoff hopes are done. James Bradberry just punched the ball out after a catch by Geronimo Allison, and the review upheld the fumble ruling. Panthers will kneel it out.

Bryan Knowles: ... but Geronimo Allison fumbles, this time definitely ending this one. Allison's only playing because Davante Adams had been knocked out of the game by Thomas Davis on a pretty brutal shot earlier.

Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Bryan Knowles: So, this is apparently Marvin Lewis' last season in Cincinnati, possibly in a "you can't fire me, I quit!" situation. The Bengals are really playing their hearts out in honor of their departing coach. Oh, wait, not that, the other thing. Through a quarter and change, they're averaging just 1.8 yards per carry on the ground and 2.8 yards per pass. Eric Kendricks has 31 yards on an interception return; the Bengals have just 26 offensive yards. So yeah, that's going well.

Rob Weintraub: No excuse for the Bengals -- well, there is a bit of one, the whole team is hurt. They are currently playing nickel 100 percent of the snaps as they are down to two healthy linebackers, one of whom was recently signed from the practice. Meanwhile, the four starting defensive backs are all out too. So the touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs was thrown between Tony McRae and Clayton Fejdelem. Who? Exactly.

But still. The only reason this won't end 50-0 is because Zimmer won't humiliate Lewis. Complete (overdue) housecleaning coming in Cincy.

Bryan Knowles: Welcome back, Teddy Bridgewater.

Tom Gower: Welcome back indeed, Teddy Bridgewater. Brutal injury, and I wasn't convinced we'd see him on a football field again.

Philadelphia Eagles 34 at New York Giants 29

Scott Kacsmar: Well, Carson Wentz didn't play defense. Eagles somehow give up three touchdown drives of 75-plus yards to start the game in New York. The Giants haven't scored more than 24 points in any game this season, and the season-high 24 points were also against the Eagles actually. Divisional games, man.

Andrew Potter: Anybody who thought the Giants might upset the Eagles this week would probably have been expecting Nick Foles to struggle against a Giants defense that still contains most of the key players from DVOA's second-ranked 2016 defense. Instead, Foles has four touchdowns in eight drives and the Eagles have only punted twice, but the Giants have four touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer, including strikes of 67 and 57 yards. Shepard's 67-yarder was particularly bad from a defensive perspective, as most of the yards came after the catch while potential Eagles tacklers floundered around him. Scott already mentioned the previous game: the Giants now have both of their highest-scoring games this year against the Eagles. It could be worse, but the Eagles special teams is having a huge game blocking kicks: a field goal, an extra point, and a punt all blocked so far.


Baltimore Ravens 27 at Cleveland Browns 10

Scott Kacsmar: Terrible job by Baltimore in the red zone could be a turning point in this one. First, they had Joe Flacco run a kamikaze dive on a zone-read keeper, and he came up short after nearly getting killed on the play. Then, to the chagrin of the conservative CBS analyst, the Ravens rightfully went for it on fourth-and-goal, but a terribly blocked run with Alex Collins was stuffed in the backfield. The Browns drove 96 yards for a go-ahead touchdown after that when it looked like it was going to be 10-0 Ravens.

Bryan Knowles: Kind of amazing that the Browns had the lead in this one despite DeShone Kizer having just 7 passing yards. But that's really not fair; Kizer actually has 19 passing yards if you don't have this unfair prejudice towards positive yards. And if you include interception yardage, he'd have 45 yards! He even made history: his -12 passing yards in the first quarter were the lowest total in one quarter since Kerry Collins had -22 in 2009. See, it's all about maintaining a positive attitude and trying to find the best in any given situation. That, or their move away from analytics includes forgetting that the stats indicate throwing forwards might be helpful.

17-7 after a Cleveland fumble, and, well, the Browns are Browning.

Tom Gower: Plus, the Titans were down 59-0 in the game where Collins had -22 passing yards in a quarter. The Browns only being down seven isn't bad at all, and it's not like that Titans team had any more wins at the time than the Browns do. Granted, 0-5 and 0-13 are not exactly the same, but it's the thought that counts.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We discussed Collins' bad day in 2009 in Quick Reads last week.)

New York Jets 19 at New Orleans Saints 31

Scott Kacsmar: I liked the little bubble screen from the Saints on a fourth-and-2 in a spot where most coaches would have kicked the field goal. You're playing the Jets, you're at home, so why not? It was initially ruled a touchdown before being correctly overturned, but still more than enough yards to convert for a first. I naturally oppose bubble screens in general, but they make a lot more sense when you need a couple of yards as opposed to 12.

Dave Bernreuther: Not really watching, but I have no idea how the Jets have kept this one close. Every time I look up at the game they look hopeless, and after seeing Bryce Petty rifle one directly at the feet of Robbie Anderson behind the line of scrimmage I am again forced to wonder just how bad Christian Hackenberg must be if he can't even beat out Petty...

Houston Texans 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars 45

Dave Bernreuther: The gaudy stats shouldn't fool you; Blake Bortles is still inaccurate as can be, and it's still ridiculous that a team with him at the helm is on track to host a playoff game and, pending the 4:25 result, even have the inside track for a bye.

But the defense is good, and T.J. Yates seems to like throwing while falling backwards and is generally even worse, so the Jags are running away with this one.

Arizona Cardinals 15 at Washington Redhawks 20

Dave Bernreuther: What's funny to me is that I have Blaine Gabbert on the TV right next to the Jags game. And he's doing a fine job showing us all that the Jags are still actually better off, even at quarterback, than before. At least he gave us some comic relief when he doinked one off of D.J. Foster's head before the Cards settled for yet another field goal.

The Redskins don't look good on offense. And it seems like every Samaje Perine touch is met by Cardinals defenders behind the line of scrimmage. But they have scored two touchdowns, and the Cards haven't sniffed the end zone in two games, so they have held an insurmountable one-score lead for the entirety of this contest. 17-12 at the moment.

After a Buttfumble-esque play by Gabbert, the gunslinging Bruce Arians decides to punt from near midfield with 2:30 to play down 20-15. But Bruce, how do you expect to have time to kick two more field goals?

Oh my, this just got a lot dumber. On first down, Kirk Cousins ran straight backwards, turned the wrong way, and chucked the ball into the pass-rusher. So somehow, the Redskins are punting the ball back to Arizona -- and leaving them a timeout -- with 2:12 on the clock.

Of course, it's still Blaine Gabbert. He of the 13-of-34 stat line. So maybe it doesn't matter. But still ... that was poor.

Not to be outdone, however, punt returner Brittan Golden eschews the fair catch to try to make a return. He had space up the sideline, but turned toward the middle of the field, danced, ate up clock, then finally lunged toward the sideline ... but it was too late, as the clock passed the two-minute warning and cost the team a play. To add injury to idiocy, Golden got hurt and had to be carted off.

None of this mattered, of course, because Gabbert. And all this Colts fan can think of is the 80-yard game winner to Cecil Shorts that the Colts allowed to him back in Luck's first year.

Los Angeles Rams 42 at Seattle Seahawks 7

Vince Verhei: Defense dominates early here. The Seahawks fumble the ball away on their first possession when Lamarcus Joyner knocks the ball out of Tanner McEvoy's hands on what would have been a third-down conversion. Rams take over in Seahawks territory, but have to settle for a field goal after Earl Thomas covers a ridiculous amount of real estate to tackle Robert Woods on a third-down screen pass.

As expected, the Rams defensive line has dominated Seattle's offensive line. Ethan Pocic just gave up a tackle for loss to Ethan Westbrooks and a sack to Aaron Donald on one three-and-out drive. That sets up a short Jon Ryan punt, but the Rams have to settle for a field goal again when Cooper Kupp drops a pass in the red zone. Kupp dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown the last time these two teams played. Rams lead 6-0, thanks largely to starting two drives with good field position.

On the Seahawks' third drive, Jimmy Graham catches a pass over the middle to convert a first-and-20, but John Johnson yanks the ball out as he goes to the ground. It's ruled a catch and down by contact, but the Rams challenge the play, and it is overruled to an incomplete pass. That's twice in the first eight official snaps of the game a Rams defensive back has negated a big catch by ripping the ball out of a Seattle receiver's hands. That leads to another Donald sack and another short Ryan punt, which Pharoh Cooper returns to the Seattle 1. Rams special teams come through again. Todd Gurley scores on first down to put the Rams up 13-0 and the Seahawks don't officially have a first down yet. Los Angeles has started its first three drives on the Seattle 40, the 50, and the Seattle 1.

Bryan Knowles: The Seahawks, notorious slow starters, are at it again. First three drives are two three-and-outs and a three-and-fumble-and-set-up-the-Rams-in-good-field-position (less catchy, that last one). The final punt ended up leading to the Rams' first touchdown when Pharoh Cooper returned a punt 53 yards to the 1. Honestly, Seattle is a little lucky to be down just 13-0; Cooper Kupp dropped a key third-down pass that could have led to a bigger play. Defense looking fine, but offense and special teams letting Seattle down so far. Holding penalties, dropped passes…

Vince Verhei: Seahawks finally get a little something going on offense, so this time when they punt it goes into the end zone for a touchback. Rams then drive inside Seattle's 30. Todd Gurley is stuffed on a third-and-1. Rams go for it, and it's a pass instead of a run. Don't like that call -- they've had much more success running it today, especially to the right side. But Jared Goff play-fakes and rolls to his right, and under pressure lobs a pass to nobody in particular. Michael Wilhoite catches an interception that he would have been better off dropping -- they lost about 10 yards there compared to what a fourth-down incompletion would have been -- but I'll take it. Great play by Bradley McDougald to take away the quick throw to Gerald Everett, then turn and put pressure on Goff.

Seahawks follow that with another three-and-out, and Cooper gets another big punt return to the Seattle 36. Are there records for field position? Because you can't get much better than what the Rams have had today. And it quickly turns into another goal-line touchdown for Gurley. Biggest play was a 15-yard screen pass to Kupp. Rams lead 20-0 and look very much like the best team in the league. Seahawks were actually favored coming into this game, which was confusing at the time and mind-boggling now.

Oh hey, there's Robert Quinn beating Duane Brown and forcing Russell Wilson to drop the ball, and the Rams are starting at or across midfield for the fifth time in their first six drives.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, it was surprising that the Seahawks were favored -- but as surprising as the Rams taking a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter? I know the Seahawks have historically struggled with the Rams (though they beat them earlier this year), but this is, frankly, astonishing. They're dominating in every phase of the game, and it's not even really close. Aaron pointed out on twitter that, amidst all the injuries this season, the Rams have stayed healthy and dominant. People are worried about all the stars getting hurt; there are plenty of stars in Los Angeles fans will get to watch this January.

Vince Verhei: Wilson hits J.D. McKissic down the sideline for a big gain, but then pressure get to Wilson again, and he tries to throw the ball away, but it's a backward pass out of bounds and a loss of 23. This of course leads to another punt, and ANOTHER big return by Cooper and the Rams start in Seahawks territory AGAIN.

Frank Clark then beats Andrew Whitworth for a sack-fumble, but Rams recover. It's funny, I would argue that the one guy on the Rams who is NOT having a good day is Goff. He has had a lot of throwaways, the one failure to convert on fourth down, and most of the Rams' receiving yards have come after the catch. That leads to a third-and-20, and in the final minute they run a give-up draw to Todd Gurley ... who zips into the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown. He's now over 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Rams now up 34-0, and it's going to take a monumental second-half effort just to stop this from being the biggest blowout of the Pete Carroll era.

Rams start the first half with their first punt of the game, but the Seahawks soon respond with a punt of their own. We're in the third quarter now, and the Seahawks offense has given up more sacks (six) than it has gained first downs (five). There's a scuffle after the play, and Seattle's Delano Hill is ejected. Second week in a row the Seahawks have had a player thrown out of a game. I'm not calling for anyone's head, but the wheels are quickly coming off this team.

Dave Bernreuther: This just in: it's still really freaking hard to sack Russell Wilson.

Robert Quinn had him dead to rights on one play, which he somehow wriggled out of and managed a throwaway, and then had a one-on-one shot at him the very next play, only to see Wilson shift to the center of the field and pick up a first down. One play later, and at least the Seahawks are on the board, Wilson-to-Willson. 40-7 now. Despite that sequence, I'm sure Andy Benoit will find a way to spin this as a reason to prefer Matthew Stafford.

Vince Verhei: It's 40-7 at the end of three quarters. Rams have run for more than 200 yards as a team. Seahawks only have 118 yards of total offense. Seven sacks and counting. I can't imagine that Russell Wilson plays in the fourth quarter. I mean, they'll still be alive in the playoff race after this weekend, though there's not much reason to believe they'll actually make the playoffs, or that they deserve to.

Actually, for that matter, why the hell is Jared Goff throwing passes up 40-7 in the fourth quarter? Carson Wentz got hurt AGAINST THEM! They know what can happen to a quarterback late in a game!

Dave Bernreuther: Wow, I didn't know they got him seven times. Maybe edit my last message to "can be."

Also, Goff is at 120 whole passing yards in a game where his team has 40 points through three quarters. That can't be all that common.

Vince Verhei: Oh, it totally is [hard to sack Wilson]. They've just dominated the line so much Wilson often has had no chance to flee. And sometimes he has held the ball forever waiting for somebody to get open too.

Rams take over with about 12 minutes left and it's Sean Mannion at quarterback and Tavon Austin at tailback. I'd think all the starters will be out soon.

Tennessee Titans 23 at San Francisco 49ers 25

Bryan Knowles: 49ers take an early lead, and if you didn't know better, you'd think it was San Francisco that was fighting for a playoff spot and Tennessee that was dead. The 49ers marched fairly easily down the field on their opening drive before being forced to settle for a field goal after an Avery Williamson sack when the 49ers went empty. The Titans went three-and-out when DeForest Buckner sacked old college teammate Marcus Mariota. The stands are slightly more full for Jimmy Garoppolo's first start -- turns out, when you have a draw, people come to watch you. Amazing! 6-0, 49ers.

Not a good day for Delanie Walker, coming back to Santa Franclara for the first time since Trent Baalke declined to re-sign him in 2013. He has dropped a touchdown that bounced off of his hands, and just fumbled the ball when Brock Coyle ripped the ball out.

Meanwhile, we have a Jim-Trent connection firing on all cylinders for the 49ers. Garoppolo-to-Taylor seems to have a little more chemistry than Harbaugh-to-Baalke. It's just amazing what competent quarterback play can do for a team; we have seen it very clearly in Houston this season, we have seen the Packers' offense fall off without Aaron Rodgers, and we see it in San Francisco now. How on Earth did the Patriots only get a second-round pick for this guy? 16-3 as we approach the half.

Tom Gower: 49ers lead 16-10 at the half. San Francisco controlled the first 28:28 of the game. They've had the ball four times and scored four times. Like other Tennessee opponents, they can't establish much on the ground (Matt Breida and Carlos Hyde are a combined 16-for-28), but Jimmy Garoppolo has more than made up for it. He has looked pretty good so far, composed in the pocket even when the Titans have tried to bring pressure and throwing some pretty precise passes at times. Not perfect, but the touchdown was a nifty one where he signaled to Garrett Celek and made a play outside the pocket in the close red zone. This looks better and more coherent than the not-yet-on-schedule Falcons we saw in 2015 in Kyle Shanahan's first season there.

On offense, the Titans have done something like their usual mix of not-so-good and very good. The drive that started with 92 seconds to go in the half was a thing of beauty, with Mariota going 5-of-6 for 64 yards and the score to Delanie Walker, who held on this time after an earlier drop. A couple of the throws, notably the one to Rishard Matthews that put them in goal-to-go, were very good (ditto the throw that Walker dropped on the earlier field goal drive). So they'll probably go three- or four-and-out a couple times to start the second half before randomly being good again.

Bryan Knowles: Tennessee has woken up with the AFC South title -- and possibly any playoff spot --hanging in the balance. After the very nice drive to end the first half, they have controlled the third quarter. They opened with a 14-play field goal drive, forced a quick punt from the 49ers, and are driving again as the quarter comes to an end. Still down 16-13, but they have looked more like a playoff team -- at least in the AFC -- after the break. Both quarterbacks will get a chance at a fourth-quarter comeback here, most likely.

While we have all been nail-biting in Pittsburgh, the 49ers and Titans have been marching up and down the field and trading field goals. The most recent one makes it 23-22 Tennessee, with 1:06 remaining. With C.J. Beathard or Brian Hoyer behind center, this is over. With Garoppolo...

Yup, yup. Garoppolo marches the 49ers down the field 64 yards for another game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould. This is becoming old hat. First three-game winning streak for the 49ers since 2014.

For the Titans, this ends any realistic hope they had of winning the division, meaning things are beginning to get a little clear in the AFC. Had the Patriots not lost on Monday night, we'd essentially know the AFC goes NE/PIT/JAC/AFC West Winner. That one loss does keep things in play for at least another week, though.

Tom Gower: Excluding the drive at the end of the first half, where they ran the ball once and let the clock run out, the San Francisco 49ers scored on seven of eight possessions. The Titans' only actual "stop" came when Trent Taylor dropped a pass that would have given the 49ers a first down. Even holding an opponent to field goals, it's hard to win many games when the other team gets points basically every time they get the ball. The Titans actually moved the ball well most of the time, scoring on five of their own eight possessions, but it wasn't enough. Delanie Walker's first-half drop shouldn't be forgotten, as well as that they call two run plays after getting first-and-10 at the San Francisco 40, which is how they ended up kicking a 50-yard field goal to take a narrow lead. It's kind of funny, because this is the kind of game I expected to see a lot more of from the 2017 Titans -- a low-key shootout where both offenses ended up moving the ball well but not necessarily for touchdowns.

New England Patriots 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Aaron Schatz: Well, it does look like the day we've been waiting to see for years has finally arrived. The Steelers have finally given up trying to play Cover-3 against Tom Brady and they're playing a lot of man instead, particularly Man-2 Under. It didn't help that on one early Cover-3 snap, Artie Burns got caught looking into the backfield on double play-action (both a fake handoff and a fake jet sweep) and thus left his third completely open for Brandin Cooks to catch a big deep pass that set up the first Pats' touchdown.

The Steelers offense looks good, with a couple of blown plays by Eric Rowe trying to cover the slot receivers leading to the first touchdown, and then a wonderful diving catch by Martavis Bryant after he put it into another gear and sped away from Stephon Gilmore. Unfortunately ... on that drive, Antonio Brown got sandwiched between two defenders in the end zone and injured his left calf. He's in the locker room now. It seems like these two teams can't play without one of the main Steelers offensive players getting injured, or being injured going into the game. 10-10 tie, nine minutes left, second quarter.

Steelers take a 17-10 lead with a one-handed grab my Martavis Bryant on a lob pass in the end zone. Stephon Gilmore tried to hold Bryant and couldn't even draw a DPI flag on it.

Scott Kacsmar: Roethlisberger made some great touch throws in that half, often from awkward positions to save some third downs. Very good day for the receivers too, but I'm pretty sad that Brown went down. He's the guy who seems to always stay healthy in this offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bryant really have to step up, and both have so far. Steelers are finally playing with a lead at halftime on Brady, which is something they have only done three times before (all at Heinz Field too). I'm still skeptical of this defense against the Patriots, but if the offense can continue to grind out long drives like that, then this could be a 2011 type of victory, the last time the Steelers beat New England. I'd imagine leaning on Le'Veon Bell a bit more in the second half. Not just on the ground, but as a high-percentage receiver.

Bryan Knowles: Now news has come that Antonio Brown is going to the hospital. Damn it. We can't have nice things in 2017.

Dave Bernreuther: I'm wondering what the upside was to kicking at 23-16 instead of going for two. Odd decision by the coach that tends to break the mold when it comes to going for two.

Aaron Schatz: Some random thoughts about Pittsburgh, now at 24-16 Steelers after the
Steelers respond to a Brady interception with a touchdown:

  • Steelers' tight ends and wide receivers have been outstanding run-blocking this evening.
  • Steelers run play-action less than any other offense in the NFL, less than 10 percent of pass plays, but they've had some nice big plays with it here.
  • Patriots lost Rex Burkhead to what I'm going to guess was a torn ACL, and while that's nowhere near as big as losing Antonio Brown, it is a loss. The Pats can bring Mike Gillislee back next week but he's not the weapon in the passing game or the value in special teams coverage that Burkhead is.
  • Steelers' pass rush is really dominating the Patriots' offensive line today. The exception for the most part is Nate Solder, who was terrible at the start of the year and has been much stronger since the Patriots' midseason bye week. The difficulty Brady is having getting time to throw is starting to feel like Super Bowl LI. Given how Super Bowl LI ended, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing for Pittsburgh.

Bryan Knowles: The first three-and-out of the game happens with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter, and the worst possible time for Pittsburgh. You don't want to give the ball back to Tom Brady with any time left.

The Steelers can't stop the Gronk. Practically single-handedly marched the Patriots down the field and added the two-point conversion, to boot. 56 seconds left for Big Ben and the Steelers to answer, without Antonio Brown.

Oh my. Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster takes a 5- or 6-yard crossing route and runs it 80 yards downfield. Amazing. This game.

Aaron Schatz: Sixty-nine yards, actually. Appropriate way to beat an unstoppable Gronk. Great blocking by Le'Veon Bell on the side of the field as Smith-Schuster went up the sideline. Then the Steelers connected with Jesse James for the touchdown to take the lead ... except that it was overturned because the ball was bobbled. Who the hell knows what a catch is, part 9,567.

Dave Bernreuther: That's a far more obvious call than either ASJ overturn. Riveron got one right.

Bryan Knowles: ...and, after it was reversed, Ben Roethlisberger forces the ball into traffic, it's batted up, and the Patriots come down with an interception. Wow.

It doesn't quite seal up home field in New England because of the loss to Miami, but wow. I thought for sure this game was going to overtime.

Aaron Schatz: I'm going to need a few minutes to process this and I can't even imagine how Scott feels.

Carl Yedor: After the dropped would-be-interception, Gronkowski was just uncoverable on the final drive. Three chunk plays to get the Patriots inside the 10 and then topping it off with the two-point conversion.

And then, JuJu Smith-Schuster takes a crossing route 70ish yards to get it into the red zone. Pittsburgh scores on their next play in the middle to Jesse James. Or so they think! The catch rule rears its head again!

Boy does that end up costing them. After a short pass over the middle, Roethlisberger tries to run a fake spike-to-slant route (similar to last year against Dallas) but the ball gets tipped and intercepted. Patriots win after an absolutely wild final two minutes.

Andrew Potter: There is going to be a massive freak-out about that overturn this week, but that was an obviously correct call with the rule written the way it is.

Unbelievable ending. The Seahawks Super Bowl all over again.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I think I've calmed down a little bit here. I want to point out a couple things about those final couple plays. First, the Patriots completely blew coverage on the would-be Jesse James touchdown. Two guys followed one receiver and nobody covered James. It was the return of the defense from the first part of the season, between the bad tackling on the Smith-Schuster play and the bad coverage on the James play. They deserved to lose because of that. But that's not how we decide games. And on the final play -- the fake spike by the Steelers was ballsy but egads Roethlisberger, you have to throw that thing away if the initial throw is not there. You can't hold the ball and try to make something happen. You throw it away, and take the field goal and overtime. Just a huge, huge error, and it probably cost the Steelers home field in the AFC Championship (and cost the Jaguars a first-round bye).

Scott Kacsmar: Going to take a while to process that one. If the Steelers couldn't win that after everything they did well, I don't see how they get the job done in New England where they always play worse. I'm not sure Joe Haden can be a Gronkowski stopper, but something has to change there.

Dallas Cowboys 20 at Oakland Raiders 17

Tom Gower: Man, that first half of football felt completely anti-climactic after two huge matchups in the late window and two of the three games in the window going down to the final seconds. Oakland's disappointing season is continuing, but Dallas wasn't looking that much better. Dez Bryant with only one first-half target against this defense felt like a particular mistake.

Aaron Schatz: They did not get lucky with the end-season prime-time matchups. This game feels meaningless even though Dallas is still in the race. Next Saturday's Packers-Vikings game is now probably meaningless after the results of today. The early Saturday game involves the Colts, yawn. The two Christmas Day games are both one-sided, Steelers-Texans and Raiders-Eagles. They rolled the dice on teams that made the playoffs last year or would theoretically be in the playoff race at this point, and they lost.

Tom Gower: Notwithstanding what I said earlier, that ended up going down to the wire like the two late games involving AFC teams. And like one of those games (arguably both of them, depending on whether you hated the two Titans' runs before their field goal as much as I did), it ended in kind of a dumb way, what with Derek Carr fumbling forward into the end zone for a touchback. A pretty special game for Michael Crabtree, officially with seven catches on 17 targets for 39 yards and those two touchdowns, which of course ignores that 55-yard pass interference penalty he drew to set up what could have been a game-tying or -winning score.

Also, Gene Steratore getting out the penalty card for that measurement on the Cowboys' fourth-down conversion in what proved to be the game-winning drive was pretty fantastic. It's like he knew what he was doing at least bordered on the ridiculous, but he knew he had to do it anyway. Eventually technology will be to a point where we get AI officials who get everything precisely correct with no management hassle, but that doesn't seem like the sort of problem you can brute-force your way through.

Vince Verhei: Am I the only one who remembers seeing refs use index cards on a chain measurement like that before? I can't find a pic or clip now but I swear it has happened before.

Bryan Knowles: No, I seem to remember it happening when I was a kid, but it has been a long, long time.

Aha! Here's one: Browns/Ravens in 2013. Here's a video of the play.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 18 Dec 2017

332 comments, Last at 27 Dec 2017, 12:40pm by bengt


by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:24am

The last two Rodgers interceptions were completely on him. He underthrew Cobb where if he lofts it at all Cobb gets a big gain and possibly a TD though Cobb has been run down by linebackers this year so who knows. Nelson was also open but Rodgers throw allowed the db to recover.

Rodgers also owns the Packers completely giving up on the run even though the o-line was making holes with the Panthers putting 6-7 guys at the line on many plays. Rodgers said he had RPO on most downs and chose pass repeatedly. Bad move as Carolina pass rush could just hurl themselves upfield without having to worry about the run.

Josh Jones was the guilty party in most of the blown coverages. Kid is really athletic and in a year maybe he's a good player but right now he's a negative because he just cannot consistently be where he needs to be in pass coverage.

by GwillyGecko :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:01pm

the catch rule has been badly misinterpreted by contemporary officials.

heres what the rule says about going to the ground:

"Item 1. Player Going to the Ground. "If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground""

Steelers receiver still had control of the ball after his knee hit, yes yes?

by DGL :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:46pm

But the word "after" is open-ended. How long "after his initial contact with the ground" must the player maintain control of the ball? 30 milliseconds? Until the heat-death of the universe?

I think the standard the NFL uses is "until he regains his feet or is touched down by contact," which is why you almost always see the receiver stand up with the ball post-Megatron. It can be inferred from 8.1.3(c), "maintains control of the ball... until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner," though it's not explicitly written anywhere.

by GwillyGecko :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:32pm

"But the word "after" is open-ended"

only if you're an idiot.

"How long "after his initial contact with the ground" must the player maintain control of the ball"

according to the rulebook, having control immediately after initial contact with the ground=catch

jesse james, knee hit the ground, still had control=catch, shouldve been upheld ACCORDING TO THE NFLS OWN DAMN RULE BOOK

PERIERA, BLANDINO ARE MORONS, and in their "video" they didnt even address what the rule says, just the nfl's own bad interpretation they gave as guidance to officials when pereira was still on the job

by scottw :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:55pm

I'm not sure the logic you're applying *here* would hold up under other cases. The mechanic that seems to have been pretty consistently used is that "initial contact with the ground" is *not* the millisecond any body part touches the ground, but rather until the "going to the ground" part is completed. I would also claim that this rule is pretty consistently called in this exact manner. Probably not 100% -- I've definitely seen some strange upheld and overturns -- but generally this is the mechanic.

Further, imagine this scenario happened on the 5 yard line instead of the goal line, and the ball was recovered by the patriots. Would the steelers be arguing that it was a completed catch and then a fumble? I doubt it.

If you apply the new "they are morons" rules to every catch, i think you'll have WAY more "obviously incomplete" catches that are now ruled completions than you will have "obviously complete" catches that are ruled incomplete. So you'd have *fixed* one kind of call (which is pretty rare) and replaced it with other bad calls (which are a lot more frequent). I'm not sure that's a good way to go.


by DGL :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:23pm

To be fair, I suspect in the overwhelming majority of similar situations within the field of play, the ball is immediately controlled by the receiver, not taken away by the defense. We're talking about cases where the replay official needs several minutes of super slo-mo to even determine that the receiver did not "control" the ball through the entire process of going to the ground, not where the ball came out and was pounced on by a defender.

And also to be fair, the end zone is different. Imagine that it was Smith-Shuster who after running 65 yards got to the five, stumbled, fell, and before he was touched lunged towards the end zone from his knees, with the ball breaking the plane then hitting the ground and coming out of his hands. Touchdown. James caught the ball in the air on the one and lunged towards the end zone on his knees, with the ball breaking the plane then hitting the ground and coming out of his hands. Incomplete pass. Wh-wha?

by scottw :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:56pm

I'd be hard pressed to quantify how often one situation happens compared to the other (I suspect both are rare). We're not talking about re-legislating what is a touchdown, we're talking about re-defining what is a catch.

I'm generally in favor of making the rules objective. I've yet to see a re-formulation of the catch rule that looks to me like it would accomplish all of the following:

1) Be objective
2) "Correct" this situation
3) Not produce a host of other problems in other situations.

The league has made a definite choice to go with "incompletion" instead of "catch and fumble" in cases where it could be a grey area. The things i've seen proposed here reverse that choice, which i think will lead to a lot more problems (and, in fact is why the rule is the way it is IMHO).


by DGL :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:27pm

Care to show me where in the rulebook you see the phrase "immediately after initial contact with the ground"?

I'll wait.

by JMM :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:45pm

Polamalu's interception of Manning way back when is the extreme case of applying the rule. It was ruled an incompletion after he caught it, went to the ground and dropped it after rolling around during standing up.

I found it amusing that the "official" NFL video describing why the overturn was correct began with the sentence: "First Roethlisberger completes a pass to Jessie James." This is from Al Riveron, head of officiating. You can't make this stuff up.

by morganja :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 1:18pm

"If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. "

There you go.

by DGL :: Thu, 12/21/2017 - 10:29am

You know, I read that over five or six times and I still don't see the word "immediately".

by morganja :: Fri, 12/22/2017 - 1:19am

You have a career ahead of you as a replay official. By ignoring the grammatically correct meaning of a sentence, we can bend it any way we want.
In the English language, the sentence states that 'control' after 'initial contact with the ground' is a catch. Any moment after 'initial contact with the ground' in which the receiver has 'control' and before a moment in which it is defined as an incomplete pass, is a catch.
The only things that can happen after a catch are 1) advancing the ball, 2) a touchdown, 3) a fumble 4) down by contact or 5) out of bounds.

by Tarrant :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:26am

The collection of talking heads last night and this morning going "Wha? Wha? I don't know what a catch is anymore!??!!?!" just infuriates me. Especially when they often will reference MULTIPLE OTHER INCIDENTS of the rule being enforced EXACTLY THE SAME WAY, showing what is actually a fairly consistent application of the "Going to the ground in the process of making a catch" rule. They should know better (but part of their job is "Keeping the conversation going).

I was at a bar in Manchester, NH watching the game and as soon as they showed the replay with the ball rotating (you could clearly see the laces rotating - and no one is going to rotate the laces like that intentionally - it's clear by that happening that he had lost some control of the football) while the nose of the ball was touching the ground, I knew it wasn't going to be a catch. Just like those times where a receiver catches the ball while going to the ground, slides out of bounds, and the ball moves a little when they're out of bounds. Not a catch.

One can argue that the rule is illogical, or dumb, or should be changed, but it's actually been ruled pretty consistently for the past few years. If you aren't upright and able to establish yourself as a RUNNER (after which the standard runner rules apply, such as crossing the plane with the tiniest edge of the football), then you have to do everything in your power to hold onto and fully control the ball.

One reason it is more controversial than some other types of calls is that because of the "auto-review" on scoring plays, that's where it'll come up. If that play happens with 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter on the 40 yard line, it isn't reviewed because the team doesn't use a challenge.

by nat :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:48am

I agree.

I don't know what a catch is anymore has become the laziest, most overused cliche in sports writing. At this point, if football writers really don't know what a catch is, they are bad at their job.

We know exactly what a catch is. If you go to the ground in bounds, either keep the ball from touching the ground or keep a firm grip on it before, during, and after it touches the ground.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, the "or keep a firm grip on it" part was a loophole added to make it easier to make exciting catches while going to the ground. The loophole was that complete, continuous control could trump the ball touching the ground. Trapping the ball, catching it on the skip, bouncing it on the ground, having it roll around (in your hands or not) while touching the ground remained the incomplete passes they always were.

Once we saw the ball touch the ground and spin out of the player's control, this call was foreordained.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:50am

"I don't know what a catch is anymore has become the laziest, most overused cliche in sports writing. At this point, if football writers really don't know what a catch is, they are bad at their job."

That's how it's stated, but the statement should be taken to mean "We can no longer predict a referee's judgment based on what's seen on the screen."

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:58am

Generically, perhaps, but this case was pretty cut and dried. It would have been inconsistent if they *didn't* overturn.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:25am

I root for the team that was first victimized by the Calvin Johnson rule, but I've made peace with the fact that Megatron did not catch that ball in week 1 2010...according to the rules.

It may be a dumb rule, but it was absolutely enforced correctly in this situation. I would have been shocked if that TD wasn't overturned.

by Anger...rising :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:00pm

You shouldn't have made peace with it, because getting up off the ground after the play is over still is not part of the process of the catch.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:40pm

Yeah, I remember it happening and wondering if they were going to rule he didn't catch it for that reason. They should have done what they frequently do with rules victimizing the Lions, changed it after it screwed the Lions.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:38pm

I agree that this probably should have been overturned, however, the rule itself is what's stupid and should be changed. This, the Dez non-catch vs GB, and Megatron all should have been catches.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:46pm

The Megatron one was the worst because he was clear that he placed the ball on the ground intentionally. Dez's was next because he got two feet in and dove the pylon. In this case, the lose of control was more blatant and there wasn't as much of a "football move" to use an outdated term.

If I have a suggestion for the rule, it would be that lose of control should be simultaneous with initially hitting the ground. It makes sense that some semblance of control needs to be maintained, how can you have possession without any surface contact? But something like this, where the initial contact with his knee didn't affect control in any way, would be considered a catch.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:54pm

I agree with that ordering.

That's probably a reasonable suggestion for what to consider a catch though I'd think you'd want it as part of a single motion. Otherwise it would leave open situations where a receiver who's diving drags a knee before the ball is knocked out as he hits the ground. That probably shouldn't be a catch, but situations where someone grabs the ball and then makes another motion like extending towards the goal line before the ground knocks the ball out should be.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:09pm

Please accept my apologies for the lose/loss autocorrect. Doh!

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:10pm

Your proposed rule simply continues the tradition of using a narrow set of edge cases to subtlety introduce subjectivity through mistaken pseudo-objective criteria. What would these new football moves motions consist of? Why should a receiver that chooses to cradle the ball, because extension would likely lead to negative outcomes, be punished?

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:32pm

Cradling a ball would be a move that would result in a catch, what I meant is that the receiver hasn't been able to move the ball from its original path in a way that's under control before hitting the ground. Ultimately I think many of these situations rely on using a subject measure as no single rule is going to suffice.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:33pm

I'm not picturing what you mean. Any sort of movement of the ball, short of obvious bobbling, would constitute moving "the ball from its original path in a way that's under control" unless there is a whole lot of machinery in 'under control'. And that's the machinery we're interested in.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:32am

Also lost in this is that you have to coach your players better than that. The Steelers tight end (81) could had no reason to attempt to turn his body and stretch out, and could have just focused on completing the catch and tried to fall back into the EZ. There is still 1) a very good chance he gets in the end zone to win 2) if he doesn't it's 1'st and goal from the one inch line with 30 seconds on the clock to give it another shot - at this point everyone in football knows how stringent the catch rules are, the body turn and stretch is a stupid decision that ends up costing the team the game. This is a tiny subset of the large number of situations in which NFL players really struggle to understand the risks/rewards of trying to make a play vs. a more disciplined approach - and the coaches/GM's who chronically under-reward things like not fumbling, taking the touchback on a KR, & securing the catch/interception/fumble recovery rather than worrying about the ensuing run.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:42pm

Fire Omar Tomlin, is that you?

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:32pm

I'm many things, but I could never match the tenacity of "Tomlin_Is_Infalable". If Tomlin deserves to be canned for these coaching mistakes, I suspect that a ton of other coaches in football do too. I just think these points are really interesting examples of mis-aligned interests; The most obvious example of this is the kick return example that we all see every week around the league, but we see it all over the place with players who are simply trying to make a play either for their job/contract, or are too stupid to realize their extra effort is hurting the team. A classic example; RB Comparison, Fred Jackson vs. Green-Ellis (putting aside receiving value for the moment); Similar number of carries, Fred Jackson put up 0.5 YPC more mostly because he was constantly fighting for extra yards; However Jackson Fumbled 28 times - about 1.7% of his touches compared to 5 times, 0.47% of his touches. Giving up a 1/2 yard per attempt in exchange for ~3.5 less fumbles/year is an interesting coaching choice; brought down to the situational level there is a time and a place for both approaches - that time & place needs to be coached.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:57am

by rule it was obvious, the problem with the rule is this was the guy making a football play. In the Green Bay game the big fumble at the end involved a guy catching the ball and taking 2 full steps before being stripped and the call was fumble but the review the ref said the play stands - not confirmed - as if it was close.

When you get right down to it, for all the arguing that the rule sucks, etc. It's nearly impossible to come up with a simple rule that works in all cases.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:20am

"Making a football play" hasn't been part of the rule for a few years now. Calvin Johnson made a football play when his TD was overturned.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:16pm

right you are - rule reads

"...until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps"

I think the way the rule is now for the Pitt/NE play is probably pretty good. I think the one that bothers me more is the part about being a runner. I think the going to the ground rule is pretty consistently enforced. But I think the definition for becoming a runner is much more vague and as a result less consistently enforced.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:27pm

I think players need to adapt a little. I don't think it's always foremost in the players mind that they need to secure the ball - they take risks extending the ball for TDs, or even just extra yards, when they should focus on make sure this damn ball doesn't move when I go down.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:20am

double post

by rj1 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:15pm

"When you get right down to it, for all the arguing that the rule sucks, etc. It's nearly impossible to come up with a simple rule that works in all cases."

Okay, but that should be the goal of the rules. Saying they can't be perfect is no excuse to not try and improve.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:34pm

"Okay, but that should be the goal of the rules. Saying they can't be perfect is no excuse to not try and improve."

Is anyone saying they shouldn't?

The problem is that for all the bitching, the rule is actually really good.

These things are tricky - every single suggestion I've seen causes a huge problem somewhere else.

by Lyford :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:54pm

"Saying they can't be perfect is no excuse to not try and improve."

Improving the catch rule is how we got to the current rule. There's no judgement involved, it doesn't matter who the referee is - if the receiver going to the ground doesn't maintain control, it's not a catch. Plain and simple.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:04pm

Okay, but that should be the goal of the rules.

Only if the rule space allows for a simple rule that works in all cases, If such a rule can not be expected to exist than forcing the issue will lead to bad outcomes.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:46am

problem is play has not been callec consistently all year.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:02pm

Do you have an example of one of these were it was called complete?

Because it seems remarkably consistent to me - ball moves - its not a catch.

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:05pm

Ball moved on Brandin Cooks against Houston. Called a catch.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:38pm

Which Cooks play are you talking about? I don't see any ball movement in the toe-touch corner catch, and you can hear the commentators saying "Controls the ball all the way through"

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:40pm

There is a video going around of a Cooks catch during the Texans game where it appears the catch rule wasn't called correctly.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:45pm

Post a link then. The stuff on NFL.com doesn't show the ball moving.

You're making a claim - back it up.

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:50pm
by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:49pm

Did you not read the article?

They're arguing the refs made the right call there - because Cooks never lost control of the ball.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:06pm

cooks TD catchvs Hout

steelers guy in touchdown earlier in season. have to recall wheat game it was.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:46pm

!00% agree. This meme must die. There needs to be a $100 tip jar on every sports studio set you have to pay into every time you say "no one knows what a catch is". We do know, and 99.9% of the time it's clear, including James' incomplete catch.

There was a much closer ruling in the Chiefs game where the player clearly got control of the ball in the air, the ball dragged on the ground as he was going down, and one hand came off the ball. But, it seemed to me that one hand maintained firm grasp of the ball, and the ground did not aid in the catch, so I felt that should have been ruled a catch. But it wasn't. That is the closest thing you will see to a borderline call, and it happens maybe a handful of times all season; that's great; that means the rule overall is clear, fair, and working well.

If you follow football, and you can't clearly see that the pass to James was incomplete, you need to check yourself and evaluate your mental biases. Something is clouding your thinking.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:24am

I agree with nothing you wrote.

was rootingfor Pates to win and saw a clear catch. James then extended ball into end zoen and ball moved a little. definitely not an incoimplete pass from any normal common sense point.

also, today Shane Vereen was guest on WFAN and said, "I don't know what a ctach is."

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 6:06am

I'm with RJ.

There's the NFL definition of a catch ... and then there's what everybody else sees as a catch, every other level of football sees as a catch and what the NFL was happy to consider a catch until a few years ago.

I'd be more than happy to return to the old rules "two feet down, control and a football move". This change occurred because the NFL tried to get really specific to fix something that happened in an important game (Burt Emanuel) and manged to f'k things up even worse. There's at least two important games been made worse by this abomination of a rule that no-one likes (see also Dez Bryant catch) and quite a few other games ruined by it.

But if you want to keep the rule then at least let the NFL take a leaf out of racewalking's rules ... if you can't spot the infringement in realtime, it's not an infringement. No slow motion replays.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:00pm

Race-walking rules? This must be a first.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:12pm

You mean you don't watch it ?!?!?

You are missing out.

The Packers wide receivers are big fans ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCQwWAKgSC8

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:13pm

Doubly post

by DRohan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:22pm

There was not a clear view of the ball touching the ground. The fact that the review took so long is further indication of lack of clarity. To overturn the original call without definitive evidence is the biggest problem I have with it.

Given the constant tinkering with the rules, I don't know if the "irrefutable evidence" principle is considered any longer, but it should be. The replay reviews should be in place to correct obvious errors. There's no need to study the replay at a molecular level to understand what occurred. If it's not obvious within 10 seconds of reviewing 2-3 angles, then move on with the call on the field.

by Coaldale Joe :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 2:42am


My biggest gripe is that the irrefutable evidence principle seems to go out the window with these catch/no catch calls. It was ruled a catch on the field. Was it irrefutable that the ball touched the ground, or was James's hand under it? I never thought the ball actually hit the ground, even if you think it did, was it really irrefutable? They should go to a time limit. If you can't decide in 60 seconds to overturn the call it's almost certainly not irrefutable. If they do decide to over turn, then they can take more time to get the spot right, etc. But irrefutable should be easy enough to rule out.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 9:43am

The primary camera angle quite clearly shows that the nose of the ball touched and both hands lost control. But since you said that wasn't clear, you can always try this one.


I suppose that there was some infinitesimal chance that James' pinky and/or ring finger were fortunate enough to remain beneath during the period of lost control, creating a nanometre of space between the ball and the ground. But the picture above shows the evidence actually is irrefutable.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 9:47am

Do you understand that if there is "infinitesimal chance" that x did not occur, then it cannot be stated that it is irrefutable that x occurred?

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:20am

Read my comment again. That infinitesimal chance was based on having access to the original angle only. Once you include the linked image, it goes away.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:59am

Ok. My only point in this debate was that the video which was broadcast to the public was not strong enough to reverse the call. I still think that is the case, but I'll concede that the reversal may have resulted from video which was not broadcast. My overall preference, as outlined at the bottom of the thread, is that video reviews be finished within a minute, and if nothing irrefutable can be seen in that time frame, the call stands. I watch for entertainment purposes, and waiting more than a minute kills the entertainment for me. I don't care enough about who wins to make the pursuit of perfection in each call worth the wait.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:36am

If we're using "infinitesimal chance" as the standard for not overturning calls, then no call ever should be overturned. This is getting a bit absurd.

The ball is clearly on the ground.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:42am

No, Will was just pushing back on what he misread as contradictory terms, not necessarily how they relate to logistics. He would have been right had I meant it as he interpreted.

by nat :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:28am

Oh my. Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster takes a 5- or 6-yard crossing route and runs it 80 yards downfield.
It was a zero-yard crossing route. He caught it on the line of scrimmage. That's right. A "-10 ALEX" play in that situation almost won them the game. That's attacking the whole field for you.

It was a gutsy play call. He absolutely HAS to get to the sideline and turn the corner for that play to be better than an incomplete pass. Then he had to get yardage down the sideline AND get out of bounds to stop the clock for it to be enough to give them a reasonable chance. Or that's how the play was meant to work, anyway.

He took a huge gamble cutting inside to get more yardage. He gained an additional 30 yards, so on balance it paid off. But it cost Pittsburgh their final time out. That turned out to be the final straw, since the pick doesn't happen if the Steelers have time to make an unhurried play call on third down.

Kudos to the Steelers for going for the win instead of kneeling for OT. It's a great choice if you believe a TD is more likely than a turnover, which I think is true even for a pass into traffic. That said, Ben should have "overthrown" the ball into the stands when he saw the Patriots weren't as confused as he had hoped.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:55am

I second the kudos, but they had enough time to run a more traditional play. The whole fake spike thing just threw everything off and it was integral to there being no Steeler players around to catch or knock down the ricochet.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:46pm

Playing for a tie in a situation where Gronk is stealing your lunch money AND your girlfriend AND giving you an atomic wedgie? I would have forced it in too.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:48pm

I didn't suggest playing for a tie, I suggested having a better play cued up in advance.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:05pm

Apparently only Ben and the receiver he threw it too knew that it wasn't a fake spike, while all the Patriots were expecting a fake. It goes to show that good coaching and being prepared for game situations wins you games.

by nat :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:12pm

Most of the D line stood around after their first step, too. It was kinda weird looking.

Good work by the D backs and linebackers, though.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:09pm

Shouldn't Ds always expect a fake spike? What's the downside?
And to me, the 2nd down play was done wretchedly as well. Final seconds, no TOs, the pass HAS to be to the sidelines and/or into the end zone. It's clock-running result lead directly to the 3rd-down botch, IMO.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:55pm

The downside is if you charge the offensive line like it's a real play, and it's a spike, you will get an unsportsmanlike penalty. That's the problem with fake spikes; when the offense fakes a spike, the defenders have to pull up, because they can't see the ball, and the QB gets to pass with guaranteed no pressure on him. Either fake spikes should not be part of the game, of defenders should be allowed to crash the line hard on real spikes until the whistle blows, which will just piss off the offensive team and its fans.

So, the Steelers got just desserts on that play.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:44pm

Good point and the kind of taking advantage of a technicality that...Bill Belichick delights in. Can't remember Brady having tried the old fake spike though.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:39am

There was a big controversy a while back with Schiano (?) coaching his players to play victory formations/fake spikes like regular plays, and try and get to the QB - I don't remember any unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:53am

Yep, that was Schiano. I recall a player on I think the Giants said that at the end of the game just before the kneeldown, Gerald McCoy told him they were going to go after Eli post-snap on the kneeldown because the coach made them do it, and he actually apologized for it. Because Gerald McCoy is a great guy, and Greg Schiano is a human garbage factory.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:51pm

The worst part (beyond Ben not throwing the ball away when it clearly wasn't going to work) was that if the Patriots hadn't seen through it, the play call had the receiver running directly into a bunch of defenders who were standing around.

Running an inside slant when the opponent is milling around in the middle of the field is just stupid. Run a fade or something.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:12pm

Yep! Read it wrong! D'oh!

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:12pm

Yep! Read it wrong! D'oh!

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:31am

Ben throwing short of the sticks on 3rd down right before the 2 minute warning was also a poor decision. You have to go for the first down not hope your receiver can get there.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:34am

The Davis hit on Adams should have resulted in an ejection.

His "Oh I am so sorry" routine after the play was pathetic. And after the game he was speaking to Rodgers and you could tell Rodgers wasn't buying his contrition act.

Spare me the Panther fan posts on how Davis is a good guy and how this play is so out of character. He is a veteran player who knew EXACTLY what he was doing.

Game is tough enough without this garbage.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:42am

The NFL can't get to the college football targeting ejection procedure fast enough, in my view. Hell, they could even improve on it, by having the ejection decision made in New York, thus eliminating the home crowd influence.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:46am


by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:05am

double yup

by ChrisLong :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:22am

I was continually disgusted through the rest of the game because he had a ton of big tackles.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:05pm

I thought of New York as well. They don't even have to stop the game for it. In this case Davis wasn't in the game for the next few minutes anyway; just have him pulled after review.

This particular play was so blatant - a specific block that has been outlawed, plus head to head. Why does the NFL needs days to pore over this while players are concussed out of games every single week? The Panthers can live playing part of a game without Davis.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:13pm

I'm not going to object to a suspension because dangerous hits need to be eliminated from the game whether intentional or not, but the block wasn't bad, he purposely angled his body to hit the front of Adams, rather than the shoulder. The bad part was the helmet to helmet. If there wasn't helmet to helmet contact, it is a clean and legal block.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:47pm

It's a blindside block, and they are heavily restricted. Any contact to the head was a penalty, much less a helmet to helmet.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:16pm

Davis launched himself, both feet off the ground, head first, directly into Adams head.

It was a textbook example of terrible, dangerous tackling technique. It was far worse then Trevathan's hit on Adams earlier this year, which could at least be argued that the spearing was merely reckless rather than intentional.

Even if it isn't strictly against the rules, there is zero reason for a blocker to launch themselves except to cause injury.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:38am

Lost in the catch ruling hysteria (my only question is due to the fact that the broadcast audience was not given a shot where the ball is clearly shown on the ground) is a dropped interception again being a huge play, and nearly uncommented on, the inept goal line defense on the two point conversion. If that isn't successful, the Steelers just kick a field goal to win.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:40am

Single coverage on a guy who has wrecked your defense in the 4th quarter is a curious move.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:43am

Especially at the two yard line. Egads.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:09pm

I'm not sure that he wasn't supposed to be doubled there. Looked like Mike Mitchell screwed up.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:53pm

Sure looked like the defender expected inside help.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:34am

To be fair, by that point, their defense had been inept for most of the past several minutes, so many of us kind of just expected it by that play...

Revisiting my comment about the 2 pointer at 23-16, I just realized that had they done that, there's almost no way the Steelers even put themselves in that position at the end. They certainly clock it and kick.

23-16, go for 2: 25-16; Pats TD would get a kick, 25-23; Gostkowski FG makes it 26-25, Steelers are in position to kick to win, not tie. Or, if they miss, the situation is the same, minus a point per side.

Yeah, yeah, decision making changes, etc. But still... the normally aggressive coach that goes for two early in games chose not to attempt to take a 2-score lead. And that very well could've won them that game.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:03pm

We've kicked this situation around before.

538 walks through it, in one example.

The difference is marginal. For a 50/50 conversion, the penalty for being up 7 versus 8 (-3.3%) is slightly greater than the benefit of being up 9 vs 8 (2.9%).

A team down 9 knows it needs two scores. A team down 8 isn't sure. If it's not a matter of imminent clock expiration, it's not a meaningful score difference.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:26pm

I always get a little peeved when writers discuss WP without mentioning the effects of a bounded state space. Obviously marginal points are somewhat less valuable when a team is up by three touchdowns but a lot of the effect outlined in Morris' chart lies in WP being bounded; once you are at a WP of 99% no amount of points will improve your WP past <100%.

And while this effect is generally irrelevant in the cases were it is most obvious, it does provide a nice explanation for why WP suggests kicking a EP when up by 7 while intuition suggests going for it; 2.9% WPA at ~86% WP is more valuable than 3.3% at ~83%.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:47pm

That table says with 10 minutes left in the game. It's a far bigger deal if there's like 3 minutes left in the game. Either way, this was a third-quarter decision for the Steelers, so I don't think the benefit of going up 9 was going to be that great. I also think that "knowledge" of being down two scores is one of the most overblown points. Offenses still tend to take their dear old time in these situations. Look at Chicago's slow march down 17 on Saturday. This happens every week, even with HOF QBs running the offense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:42am

I know Minnesota is a good team, but the Bengals getting stomped a second straight week surprised me. Cincinnati has had some challenges this season but also a lot of bad luck. Whatever happened in that game against Pittsburgh clearly sapped the Bengals of any remaining competitiveness.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:50am

You sometimes see that in December with teams that have had bad injury luck. If the Falcons win tonight, do you think Rodgers forces his way onto the field next Sunday? I know he'll lobby hard, but the smart move would be to play Hundley, and hope he has a big game against a less than intense Vikings defense, thus driving up his trade value.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:52am

Does McCarthy have enough cred within the franchise to bench a healthy Rodgers?

Rodgers is 1st ballot. McCarthy is fungible.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:01am

Rodgers is playing. He wants revenge on the Vikings. Rodgers has made that very clear to everyone.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:46am

This is where Ted Thompson should earn his paycheck, and take the heat for making an unpopular decision. What's Rodgers going to do, demand a trade? I'd prefer Rodgers playing,since I really do care most about being entertained by the games themselves, and not who wins, but if the GM job is to ruthlessly serve the organization's interests, if the Packers are eliminated from the wild card chase, Hundley starting is the decision.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:07pm

If Thompson lets him play if the Packers are 100% eliminated than he's an idiot and has no business being a GM.

But, unlike yourself, when it comes to the Vikings, I do care more about winning then entertaining close football. So I want him on the side line.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:36pm

In 2006 GB was 4-8 and fans were looking forward to another high pick. And GB won its last 4 as everybody who could start, started

In 2008 GB cratered after being 5-5 and went into the last game 5-10 but everybody played to beat the winless Lions.

GB will rest guys going into the playoffs. I don't see guys resting when it's not about the playoffs.

If the team is going to have Rodgers sit it will have to be negotiated. Because he is still incensed about the hit and what he thought was done intentionally to hurt him. And the Line backer openly gloating afterward to teammates on the field just confirmed that notion in his head.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:43pm

Also, outside of Green Bay, highly-paid franchise QBs like Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, etc. have not been benched late in the season in recent years when their teams were out of contention. (Again, of course, if Rodgers actually does have a higher injury risk right now, it's not a comparable situation.)

by bengt :: Fri, 12/22/2017 - 6:14am

This is correct for Roethlisberger, but not really meaningful, as the Steelers had to play exactly one game during his career where they had already been eliminated from the playoffs. However,he played all offensive snaps, even two kneeldowns, going 15 of 23 for 134 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:53pm

If he really thinks that was a cheap shot, he needs to grow the hell up.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:57pm

No. He thinks the tackle was done in an effort to hurt him. And again, there was video shared with Rodgers where the guy is yucking it up with his teammates while Rodgers is still on the ground.

Not defending Rodgers' stance. Just sharing. I thought the tackle was legal and posted as such at the time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:18pm

He wouldn't be the first elite athlete to look for any excuse to perceive an insult. Thompson's job is still to make the team better, no matter the feelings of the players under contract, even the most important player.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:50pm

Would seem to connect to the Martellus Bennett issue when he was ready to stop playing hurt after Rodgers. Green Bay really does seem to expect a certain ethic from homegrown players. Problem is, free agents don't see it that way, understandably.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:39pm

Here's one reason to let Rodgers keep playing: the Packers are probably going to have some tough roster decisions to make after this season, particularly at tight end and wide receiver. Unless they are contemplating replacing the coaching staff (lol), Hundley has proven to be too limited to run the Packers offense correctly. I think two more games of Rodgers can still provide value in helping figure out roster decisions that will have significant long term implications.

This is only valid assuming that Rodgers truly has no increased risk of injury right now. I believe he wasn't supposed to come back until that was the case, but probably only the Packers really know the truth.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:51pm

I don't think that assessment is needed. If you need Rodgers as your QB to be effective then you need to be replaced. In a year the receiver squad needs to be overhauled. And if Adams leaves GB is in 2000 fat Freeman and alligator armed Bill Schroeder territory.

GB's offensive line is solid. Running backs have ability. They need a real tight end and at minimum another legit receiver assuming they retain Adams.

On defense find some defensive backs who can stay healthy for more than 2 games in a row and a legit pass rusher versus someone who can only exploit 3rd string tackles (looking at you Nick Perry)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:12pm

Hundley having two good games in a row wouldn't be the biggest upset in history, and if he were to do so, he'd have some substantial trade value, I'd guess. That's the biggest reason to play him; it gives you a chance to obtain talent.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:18pm

There's a lot of space between "need Rodgers at QB to be effective" and "limited backup who can't execute significant aspects of the offense can't get you the ball" though. Tough decisions to make either way.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:32pm

I don't think the decisions are that tough is my point. Cobb even with Rodgers has over the past 2 seasons been shut out by pedestrian slot corners. Every so often he has a game like the Giants playoff game last season but that is the exception not the rule.

Nelson is great in the red zone because of his moves, strength, height and hands. He's a sleek tight end. He can stay but not be considered a wide receiver. The team clearly does not trust Trevor Davis outside so apparently the team needs to look elsewhere.

Allison was healthy and MIA before suddenly appearing in December and contributing. No idea what happened there.

GB needs another reliable receiver. And if Adams leaves GB is SOL

by Guest789 :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:37am

It's depressing, but I find it hard to disagree with you. Maybe Montgomery moves back to wideout...

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:15am

seems that way, definitely didn't show much life, but the Vikings having pretty much stomped opponents offences at home. Avg this year is about 250 yards, and last five games is around 220, and that included the Rams who netted 254.

Vikings are a way better defence at home than on the road. That's kind of why I'm hoping the Pack decide to rest Rodgers next week. I think it would be best for all involved.

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:54am

It is a shame that 58 minutes of amazing football are going to be ignored due to 1 call. That game was a barn burner.

by nat :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:18am

Irrational whiners and haters have spoiled many a chance to analyze exciting football at FO. It generates clicks and page views, I supposed. But it's really, really lame.

I totally agree that was a "barn burner" of a game. Those insanely long Pittsburgh drives! The Brady pick! The comeback drives! The missed extra point! The critical stop to give the Patriots a snowball's chance! The Gronk-o-matic drive! Roethisberger escapes and Brady bullets! Bell sweeps! Sixty-nine yards after catch on a 0-yard crossing route! A dropped (bobbled onto the ground, whatever, go away now, whiners!) near-TD! A critical tackle in bounds! An insane (or insanely brilliant if it had worked) attempt at the fake-spike play! A tipped pass and interception to save/lose the game!

Anyone who threatens to quit as a fan after this gem should really just go away now. They need another sport. I suggest Chess Boxing. https://www.wcbo.org/chessboxing/

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:50pm

Agreeeeed! Relegate the other 30 teams! Pats V Steelers every week!

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:03pm

Irrational whiners and haters have spoiled many a chance to analyze exciting football at FO. It generates clicks and page views, I supposed. But it's really, really lame.

Strawman much? The tease for audibles on the main FO page says: "Saturday night's alright (for football), but Sunday's best turns out to be a valid contender for the NFL's Game of the Year," and the exchange about the game is 95% "this game is awesome" with one very small "I don't know what a catch is" reference. So I'm not sure which whiners and haters you're referring to. (If you mean people in the comment thread, then the bit about "clicks and page views" doesn't make sense.)

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:57pm

Steeler fans were extremely salty. Go to their SBNation page and read the dozens of teary-eyed 'I'm done with this sport! You won't have me to kick around anymore!' renunciations. I also saw plenty of sobbing on ESPN, etc.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:12pm

This seems like the two most opposite games to combine. And even after going to the site and googling it I am not sure it is real.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:53pm

Wu-Tang Clan agrees with you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJk0p-98Xzc

by nat :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:18pm

Also, this was a game with the inside track for the top seed on the line between the two best teams of the century. Drama and consequences galore.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:07am

Mia-Buf I watched a few quarters of this game. It wasn't a very good showing by Miami, yet somehow was close all the same. Buffalo apparently read the scouting report about Miami's inability to cover TEs. Miami also doesn't have a linebacker talented enough to shadow Taylor. The difference in the game came down to Cutler sucking at the beginning, middle, and end and Taylor giving Miami fits like he always does. AFCleast watch 1) NE I assumed last season NE would win again this season. They have. They'll win next year too. We all know it. I mean, is there any other team in this division that looks on the brink of putting it all together? 2) Buf Wild card hopes are still alive. They look like a one and done, but it beats the last 20 years or so if it happens. 3) Jets, played the Saints tough and don't have Jay Cutler. 4) Miami They played the Bills tough, but have Jay Cutler.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:09am

Any insight into Brown's injury? I know the expectation that he'll be able to return for the playoffs, but in what kind of capacity?

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:56pm

Definitely nowhere near the severity of Brown's unfortunate injury, but I tore a quad in college and was our for 8 weeks. But with the magical meds and treatments of today - it could be less? From what I've seen, a torn pec or biceps on a lineman is season ending. A calf on a wide receiver? Maybe sort of like an Achilles injury?

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:00pm

He just needs the Ray Lewis rehab program of deer antler spray and holographic stickers (and lots and lots of steroids).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:19am

The Rams good injury luck is the story that hasn't been focused on enough. It really gives them an edge for the next 6 weeks, if it is maintained.

The Vikings desperately need Rieff to recover from his ankle injury, the nature of which has been cloaked in Zimmerian fog. Hill is a remarkable find; a 2nd year tackle who was undrafted who is obviously competent, but he is better suited for the right side, and I think he is better than Remmers, who was on roller skates sometimes yesterday. Griffin's plantar fasciitis is subject to a debilitating flare up at any time, so they'll just have to hope for the best.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:24am

Minnesota's health has been consistent with the division. Detroit is down 5 linemen across offense and defense and GB lost Rodgers for much of the season.

Chicago may or may not be healthy. Do they still play football?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:32am

Because of Keenum's performance, people overlook that he could only command a 2 million dollar paycheck this year. Nobody in Vikings headquarters wanted him starting 14 games this season.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:44am

Indeed. The idea that "Case Keenum is our full-time starter now!" qualifies as injury luck is an entirely unexpected development.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:06pm

Carson Wentz only commands a $540k paycheck this year. =)

by Chip :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:54pm

Not healthy and unfortunately, they are still playing - Bears-Browns on Christmas Eve anyone?

Bears are down 8-9 intended week 1 starters. Top 3 receiving targets (WR1, WR2, TE - Merideth, White, Miler) and their only ProBowl player (Kyle Long OG). Defensively, they are down 3 DE (L.Floyd, W.Young, P.McPhee), MLB (Freeman) and SS (Q. Demps)

They are still playing hard, but terrible game plans/coaching and heavy injuries have take their toll.

by ChrisLong :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:27am

What is the logic behind sticking with the call on the field by default? There seem, to me at least, to be a ton of instances where 90% of the evidence on replay says to overturn but there is some tiny shred that leads to the call standing because of the call on the field. Aren't 12 cameras in slow motion, and a ref not rushing to make a judgment, better or equal to the ref on the field who has one view and has to make a reactive decision? Are we really worried about the replay review overturning a correct call by an official on the field?

by Tarrant :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:34am

It's sort of like the "Tie goes to the runner" rule in baseball, or "Simultaneous catch goes to the offense" in football. You have to have some unambiguous way to "break the tie" if the replay truly can't conclusively determine the outcome of the play - maybe that 10% of the evidence that the referee can't see on the replay would make a difference? Sticking with the call as made unless the evidence is indisputable I think is fine. The live referee may have had an angle on the play that the cameras did not.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:05pm

I am very much in favor of requiring "indisputable evidence" to overturn, and I think a big problem this year has been overturning based on very disputable replay evidence.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:06pm

The advantage is entirely in the perception of fairness. Which is important for any sport, and enough so to make this policy a slam dunk.

Yes, if it's still not completely clear, you may be more likely to be right sometimes with an overturn, but now you've created a feeling of arbitrariness in the game, and they will be innumerable close calls that look similar enough, and it will be impossible to stay consistent in replay rulings at the razor's edge. So, it's better to just go with the call on the field, where people can at least understand that close calls will sometimes go your way, or not, and it's just an inherent part of the game.

Even with the policy of only overruling when the evidence is clear, look at the amount of uproar some replays get. The perception of unfairness would be untenable if they didn't have the "incontrovertible evidence" clause.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:31am

In consecutive weeks, I rooted for the Vikings and Packers to win for the first time in my life, and of course they disappoint me.

But it's probably for the best. Even if Atlanta somehow collapses, I don't really feel like watching the Lions lose to the Rams 45-17 in the first round. With all the injuries on Detroit's offensive line, I would also be worried that Aaron Donald would put Stafford in the hospital.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:37am

Was yesterday the final death knell of the Seahawks as true Super Bowl contenders? They have Wilson, but their other star players are old and expensive, which is not a great combination.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:52am

I would say so. For starters, they have to first make the playoffs, and even winning out would only give them a 43% chance of doing that (per 538's odds calculator). If they make the playoffs Wilson gives them a chance of an upset or maybe even two. But I don't see them as a serious contender any more like Minnesota, LA, Carolina, and New Orleans. Philly, too, if you trust Foles, since they'll likely have HFA. Just too many injuries in Seattle on top of a team that was flawed to start with.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:07pm

Give it one more year. Any team can be crippled by injuries for one season. Even the Patriots.

by serutan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:42pm

While I think yesterday did doom the Seahawks for this season, I agree
we shouldn't bury them quite yet. IF the injured guys come back full strength,
and IF they can stay healthy (a proposition that is dicey with an older team)
they may have another year or two.

{This is considered spam?!?)
Was wr

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:15pm

Everything is considered spam by the filter. It's incredibly annoying.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:56pm

I'm guessing it got flagged as spam because you have carriage returns at the end of lines instead of just letting standard wrapping work.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:11pm

My comments are always flagged as spam and I don't have any carriage returns. In fact, this reply is also flagged as spam.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:12pm

If they were in the AFC they'd likely be a 4th seed right now. They have a good organization, and in the NFL teams with good organizational skills seem to have the ability to rebuild quickly. I think we can assume in a QB driven league so long as they have a quality QB, a decent front office, then they'll not be long from the play off picture. Although they may go through a few Drew Brees in the wilderness years during the transition. That said, how long can their coach keep going and if/when he leaves can they still keep this level of organization and style of play together? That I don't think anyone knows.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:21pm

You sure about that? They did lose to both the Jags and the Titans and almost lost to the Texans.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:13pm

Well, it's impossible to know for sure. But their record and DVOA seems to fit in well with that scenario. Assuming they'd replace KC on top of the west they'd be 4th seed. They're 11 in DVOA last week (although probably lower now) so they'd fit in rather comfortable in that exchange for KC at 10. The AFC might see the highly rated Ravens sit home while the Titans and Bill go in. However, there's still two weeks left and the AFC playoff picture might appear more friendly to having good playoff games. Of course there's also more time left for horrible interest sucking injuries...

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:38am

I've yet to see a replay of the should've been James' TD where -

1) The ball touches the ground

2) If it does, he hand isn't under it

How is that ruled no TD and yet this one was ruled the opposite -


by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:57am


Watch at 0.25 speed. Immediately after his elbow hits the ground and the ball starts spinning due to James' left hand losing control, you can clearly see the nose of the ball on the ground (10:25).

It's possible (though highly improbable) that he gets his hand fully under the ball for the most visible part of the spin, but by that point the damage was done. Lose control, contact the ground, incomplete.

EDIT: Regarding the Cooks catch, I was concerned it might be overturned, actually. There was another replay that seemed to imply the movement in this angle wasn't due to a loss of control, so the situations aren't quite as similar as you imply. But a reversal still wouldn't have surprised me.

by Digit :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:06pm

I think the difference between the Cooks catch and the James catch is that Cooks went up and landed with the ball in his grasp, THEN went to the ground, while James was already falling to the ground.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:00pm

In the NFL's video

I see the left hand no longer under the ball and the ball hitting the ground.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:05pm

Right arm is still under the ball. No CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE that the ball touched the ground. Lost in all this, there was clear DPI on the game-ending int. How is that the most flag happy crew in the league only hits NE with two penalties and both those being automatics (a false start and a player going OOBs and coming back in).

by Digit :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:16pm

There is no way the right arm is under the ball. The right -hand- is to the side of the balls. Maybe a couple fingers are underneath it, but if so, that's a pretty thin area of 'maintaining contact' to be counting on, especially since the left hand spins from the side of the ball to the top of the ball.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:34pm

It's not clear what caused his hand to come off the ball though, it could have been his elbow hitting the ground as he seemed to keep his grip on the ball with his right hand the entire time.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:49pm

It's clear that his left elbow hitting the ground is what triggered a loss of control. And given the fact that the ball both spun and twisted, it isn't possible that his right hand grip was maintained. The only case that could be made is that he just happened to have the good fortune of his prone right hand remaining under the ball while it spun and gyrated, but that argument fails when you see the nose of the ball on the ground prior to the most dramatic part of the spin.

by Tarrant :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:32pm

Thing is, it doesn't matter whether or not his other hand held onto the ball. The nose of the ball pretty clearly comes into contact with the ground. And even if his hand is under the rest of the ball, it's hard for me to see the replay of the nose touching the ground and be able to say with any credibility that none of the ball touched the ground.

Player going to the ground while catching ball + ball touching the ground + ball spins = no catch.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:36pm

As soon as you say "maybe" then the evidence isn't irrefutable, and the original call should stand.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:42pm

There's no maybe here. The tip of the ball clearly touches the ground, and the ball spins in his hand. You can see both happen clearly in the broadcast.

If the ball touches the ground at all, you have to maintain perfect control of it - it cannot move. The ball touched the ground, and it moved. That's cut and dry.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:41pm

I haven't seen it in the broadcast footage. The shot is too wide angle.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:29pm

There's another angle where you can see the limit of how much the right hand is under the ball. This angle is better for showing just how much control was lost with the left hand. The ball clearly hits the ground.

As with a lot of these arguments, "there isn't irrefutable visual evidence in this camera angle" isn't the end of the story.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:24pm

The ball rolls from his left hand to his right. It never moved in his right hand. No clear shot of it touching the ground. You guys are GUESSING that it did.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:48pm

There are several things we can say with certainty given the camera angle:

1) Control becomes tenuous after the left hand loses control.

2) The ball spins and jostles in a way that it is impossible for control to have been maintained throughout by the right hand.

3) The right hand is positioned so that it is impossible for the ball not to be in contact with the ground from about 10:25:50 in the video above.

These are not guesses, they are irrefutable. If you want to make a claim that the ball didn't make contact with the ground during the period where neither hand had control, that's fine. It don't buy it, but at least it's consistent with the footage and has an infinitesimal chance of being correct.

Still, given the league's history with this stuff, the evidence was sufficient to overturn.

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:25pm

I didn't see that play live but even as a Pat's fan I would say that shouldn't have been a catch.

In the process of catching he went to the ground (he didn't walk away from the catch), and thus he should've maintained possession, and he clearly didn't. The refs screwed the cooks catch up.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:21pm

I think Riveron is an absolute joke, but he got this one right. He only has one hand on the ball and it's not underneath the ball - a finger or two at best are underneath.

by Rich A :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:10am

My comment was in reply to the comment regarding the Cooks TD vs Houston.

I probably should've started off by remarking that the Cooks TD sure looked like he lost control as he went to the ground to show that was the main topic of my post.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:33pm

That does clear that up a little, but I wasn't specifically replying to you, just to everyone in general above who thought it shouldn't have been overturned. I probably should've found a better spot to post.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:38am

The Vikings won easy yesterday but the offence was really shooting itself in the foot all day. The line committed tons of penalties that kept putting them in a hole. Keenum threw a horrible ball that should have been picked on the 2nd series, then missed a open Thielen for a big play. A little later in the 1st half a check down to McKinnon when a TE was 20 yards downfield with no one near him - would have been an easy TD.

The offence is very capable, but they sure as heck can't afford to make so many mistakes, a good defence would have really hammered them yesterday. I would say the last two games have been the worst 2 for the offensive line all year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:44am

Remmers was bad yesterday, and he doesn't have the excuse of being the guy who was assigned to block Geno Atkins one on one, who is really great, and was the one Bengal who decided to earn his paycheck.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:44am

Hey Scott Kascmar, I think maybe having Antonio Brown for more than 10% of the game next time would help, too.

by Shylo :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:56am

It's apparent the Titans are going to lose out, finish 8-8, and not make the playoffs. Mularkey is coaching out not to lose. If people haven't lost him before, they have now. If ownership doesn't have the balls to can him, the fans are going to be apathetic at best.

by nosoop4u :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:19am

Even if they lose out, all they need to make it in, is for Miami to lose to KC week 16, then beat Buffalo at home in week 17, and the Chargers to lose one of their last 2 games.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:36pm

Chargers have Jets and Raiders left- not a sure thing, but neither is particularly challenging, either

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:09pm

The problem is that the wrong call on the TD catch was exacerbated by the bad DPI call that set up the Patriots FG, the non-DPI on the final play, the total of 4 yards of penalties called on the Patriots compared to 63 for the home team, and the fact that the refs ignored so many penalties committed by the Patriots to get the game to that point.
How, for example, does Gronk avoid a taunting penalty on his 2 point conversion?
It would have been a great game except for the sickening feeling left in everyone's gut outside of New England by what seems obvious; once again Kraft's buddy Sheldon Adelson fixed the game.

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:17pm

I've seen Sheldon Adelson get accused of a lot of stuff but fixing football games is a first for me. What brings his name into all this?

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:55pm

Really? Sheldon Adelson is a known gangster that controls Las Vegas, the center of gambling in the US. Of course he fixes football games, as well as every other sport. What did you think he did for a living?

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:01pm

I didn't know he was a casino magnate but when you own the house you don't have to do anything but collect the money.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:29pm

I was hoping you really were trolling, but on the off chance you aren't, no, the outcome of a football game is not important enough to fix, when you have a net worth of 38 billion, even if you are the most evil, Blofeldian, mastermind in human history.

You can have the last word, since my interest is exhausted.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:46pm

Not important to Robert Kraft? Interesting argument. Not important to Kraft's buddy, Sheldon, who is from Boston?
You are being completely purposely naive to think that there isn't fixing in professional sports. There is a long historical documentation of it.
Of course games are fixed.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:19pm

I really don't want to pursue this further, but if you are going to argue with me, argue with what I wrote, instead of arguing with what you wished I had wrote. I neither stated or implied that professional sports had not experienced fixing.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:24pm

You argued that it was absurd for someone that rich to fix the game. One, it is important to Kraft, both financially and otherwise. How much do you think Kraft just made on getting home field advantage through the playoffs?
Secondly, leaving aside Adelson's personal preferences, that's how gangsters like Sheldon Adelson make their money. It's not like they are legitimate businessmen who are risking their legitimate business empire in order to fix a game. Fixing bets is his line of work.
Patriot fans keep going on about how the NFL is out to get them, despite their extraordinary run of luck going back to the tuck rule game.
They might be right, at least in a a sense.
My take is that the NFL knows there are shenanigans and have been trying to stop them without hurting the game. If it ever got out that Kraft had his buddy fixing NFL games all the owners would lose.
That is why the NFL has been trying to get control over the refs. The replay happening in NY headquarters was an attempt to stop some of the abuses.
But what happened?
For some inexplicable reason, the guy that was supposed to run that, Dean Blandino,'retires'. and Alberto Reveron takes over.
No one has any idea what happened. But one thing is for sure. There were shenanigans.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:03pm

I have no idea why you watch NFL games.

I'll forgo explaining what "marginal advantage gained" or "risk reward ratio" means, in the context of someone worth 38 billion dollars.

Like I said, I've exhausted my interest. I appreciate you not misrepresenting my views this time.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:50am

I can't help but wonder.... when the refs picked up the obvious ineligible man downfield flag to allow Pitt's first TD to stand, had they not been informed of the fixing yet or was it all part of the grand scheme?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:22pm

Yes, generally in lower-level sports or colleges when there is much less money at stake for the players.

Unless there has been some seriously good hiding and silence, major pro sports in the US has done a good job of avoiding such things.

The exceptions are either the NBA refereeing scandal, which admittedly might have been much larger than we even know, and baseball from a century ago (or Pete Rose, I guess).

I seriously doubt there was chicanery at play here. Especially given if the intention was to ensure the Patriots win, they let it go awfully close and got somewhat lucky that was the final outcome.

by Kyndynos :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:39pm

Do you have any evidence whatsoever to back up that assertion? When you make a wild-ass claim, the burden of proof is on you to support it. I’ve heard 9/11 conspiracies more plausible than the idea that Sheldon Adelson (who, let’s not forget, got out-gambitted in his own city by Mark Davis, who is famous for his stupidity)is secretly the Illuminati and manipulating the outcomes of NFL games to make Robert Kraft happy.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:06pm

pretty dumb to risk an ongoing cash generation machine just to juice the returns from one contest. If it's being rigged its being done by someone to whom the relatively trivial amount to be gained is a big deal and if it's being rigged it is not being rigged by correctly calling replay reviews. Give me something plausible like an iffy pattern of holding calls made and not made if you want to sell me a conspiracy.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:39pm

/If your going to rig a sporting event for profit, you really need to rig one where you can get better leverage in the betting market than PIT vs. NE. Something like horse racing where you routinely get 20+:1 odds would be more suitable than a 1:1 cash outlay against a spread like football (realizing of course that non-obvious match-fixing isn't a foolproof endeavor).

Actual match-fixing happens all the time in international Soccer (and people sometimes get caught, jailed, etc..) but the multi-jurisdictional nature, and poorly compensated participants, of that sport really changes the dynamics for getting that done.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:34pm

"Non-DPI" on the final play? As in, there should have been a call?

Yes, the league has proven to be steadfast in its pro-Patriots agenda.

In the past I thought you might actually be serious with your comments. Deluded, but serious. I appreciate you finally making it clear that I was tripping over Poe's Law.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:54pm

Are you just hearing that there should have been DPI on the final play now? Truly you must dwell within the most secluded mysts of mythical Boston. How is it that the receiver ended up on the ground before the ball got to him? Divine intervention?

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:10pm


You'll have to point out exactly where this supposedly happened. Rogers cuts, gets jammed (the only contact that could even generously be flagged, though it'd be holding and not DPI), continues through and experiences no further interference. Rowe has his hand on his back but for legal leverage only, there is no further interference in any way.

As for why he ends up on the ground (which doesn't happen before the ball got there), he dives in an attempt to make the catch.

Pro tip: when you bullshit, it helps if you're consistent with the actual footage.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:36pm

Not even sure the DB touched him when he came up to play the cut across the middle and cover him going across the field. It was great coverage/good football - as often happens, the receiver was the only one asking for a flag, Tomlin certainly didn't. DB was clearly playing Ben/the ball as the receiver cut across the middle. Not sure if his foot clipped the receiver's foot at or after the throw (incidental contact/not DPI) or if the receiver just went soft. Terrible throw by Ben as well - did not lead his guy when he had the window to do so.

by milo :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:14pm

No.. the DB didn't touch him. At 11:20 the receiver's jersey balled itself up in the DB's right hand all by itself........

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:44pm

Um, the receiver's lower jersey was pulled from behind. I understand why it was missed, because it was damned hard to see in real time, but it was definitely DPI.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:00pm

Maybe, but its subtle.

Unlike the PIT LT riding the NE Defensive End on the long Martavis Bryant catch:


by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:08pm

Hey, I have no rooting interest in this.

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:20pm

Not sure how Pats fans can complain about officiating when they were called for one penalty for a false start in the entire game on the road with the flag-happiest crew, but go right ahead.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:25pm

Please use accurate information when whining - there were two penalties called against the Patriots, since Cooks caught a pass after being forced out of bounds. There were only six called against the Steelers, so the most flag-happy crew in the NFL didn't live up to their reputation for once.

Both teams were allowed to get away with quite a bit.

by Rocco :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:26am

Oh, that illegal touching changes everything.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:43am

Well, they might complain about the obvious ineligible man downfield on Pitt's first TD that was oddly ignored despite actually being flagged. :)

That said, I doubt you'll find many Pats fans complaining about the officials yesterday. Maybe people pointing out mistakes in an effort to dispel ridiculous claims like you'll find by scrolling up this page, but that's about it.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:26pm

I very rarely look out for offensive holding, but I was sure they were going to throw a flag for that.

Was so surprised when there was nothing.

Also, did anyone else think that on that Bryant catch that the ball may have moved when hitting the ground there as well?

I definitely did, but indeed we didn't get too many looks at it.

by serutan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:46pm

The final play was totally boneheaded on Ben's part; only one guy running a route and double covered. The pass should have been chucked out of the end zone, and then kick the field goal.
Was wr

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:47pm

This is not good trolling.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:33pm

I'm looking forward to what the win this week does to LARM's DVOA. Gotta think they open up a sizable lead over the rest of the field.

You can't overpay for good coaching.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:45pm

Although you can pay Jeff Fisher the remaining years on his contract to just sit at home as far away as possible from your team :-D

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:38pm

I thought the Packers main beat writer, Tom Silverstein, made an excellent point on his podcast (mostly because it's been my point about Capers for a while). The Packers have a lot of guys playing well individually (Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, Randall) but the unit is not playing well as a group.

I think Capers and the d-staff can clearly DEVELOP guys. But it is not translating into cohesive action.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:40pm

So for whatever reason on the post above I had to Captcha and the entry was 'fatwa'. I hesitated to enter thinking I might be associated with bad things happening to Capers. I do think he has earned being placed. But nothing more!

by Chip :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:45pm

Sounds like a great college coordinator...

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:54pm

Anyone else think that Cam made McCaffrey's route an angle and not a wheel once Matthews called the wheel route out?

Love that Cam was, "Oh, so you watch film, that's cool, watch this".

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:58pm

Yup, noticed that as well.

Cam seems really comfortable in that offense right now - getting Olsen back healthy is going to be huge.

They'll end up really regretting dropping that Chicago game inexplicably. Tough for them their most likely round 1 opponent at the moment seems to be the Saints, as I think they can give the other three division winners a real run.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:05pm

The one handed grab Olsen made was remarkable. The man must have huge hands.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:17pm

I was pretty annoyed at just how much Romo and the rest of the analysts were trashing zone defense. Romo basically made it sound like its unplayable against good quarterbacks and that the Steelers should live and die with man coverage.

First of all - even last night, the Steeler defense didn't exactly corral Ne's offense. It was a better performance than in the past, but that's probably because the Steelers don't play zone defense well against Ne.

Also lost in the whole man vs zone debate with regards to Miami was that Gronk didn't play. Watching him last night - there isn't a single defense in the NFL that I think could take him away. If not for his injury history, the Patriots should be feeding him the ball on every third down, every red zone play / any pass they absolutely need to hit.

by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:29pm

They got better results than last games (an INT! Plus, not failing to cover guys at all, like Hogan in the AFCCG), but two things must be outlined:
1) home vs. away (2 of the last 3 games, 3rd was the Landry Jones experience)
2) offensive ball control from Pitt was perfect, controlling TOP and reducing TB12 chances

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:39pm

I agree with all of that which is why I'm not buying this whole man vs some thing against NE. And where is it said that Zone defense means you forget to cover receivers?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:42pm

I think the 2002 Bucs defense would do just fine against this Patriots offense, playing zone on every play.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:52pm

I'd be very curious to see how well they would defend Gronk. Gronk's routes are slow developing so it requires good protection - which New England often affords.

The best defenses I've seen on Gronk have a linebacker jam and ride him and then there is a pass off to the safety at just the right time so that hes technically covered in that window. If the linebacker loses track of him or passes him too early to the safety or if the safety loses him- its game over.

The only team that I've seen this work through the whole game was Seattle last year when Wagner, Kam, and Thomas did an effective job corralling him. That's 3 all pro level players on one defense.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:06pm

The Bucs linebackers were killers in pass coverage, and Sapp would reliably provide inside pressure.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:04pm

great talent can make just about any scheme work. Every x years some coach comes up with a new way to defend or attack and gets by for a short time with lesser talent, but it doesn't take long for others to figure it out, and then talent takes over again.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:31pm

They have Derrick Brooks, who is one of the best coverage linebacker's I've seen. I guess he is a bit undersized, but could've probably done a decent job.

I also wish he played the against the other notable Tampa-2 team in Lovie Smith's Bears. Him vs. Urlacher/Briggs would have been great.

The best job I've seen anyone do really is Eric Berry this year in Week 1.

by InTheBoilerRoom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:43pm

I think very good pass coverage linebackers are critical to containing Gronk. The Panthers have only faced the Patriots twice since Gronk was drafted, but it seems they have managed decently well keeping him somewhat contained (yes, lots of qualifiers in that statement). This is consistent with the thoughts that you need very good coverage linebackers (e.g. Keuchly and Davis).

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:41pm

You either need a very fast LB (Shazier or Kuechly type) or a very physical safety (Eric Berry, Kam Chancellor). Berry did a very good job shutting down Gronk Week 1. Sad that he was injured towards the end of the game and has missed the rest of the season.

Or you could have such a great pass rush that Gronk is needed in pass protection.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 11:40pm

match one speed/strength/skill freak combination with another.

the only trick is having one available

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:37am

Funny that three our of those four guys are on IR.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:46pm

Under which rules? 2002 or 2017?

Under 2002 rules, they would have just had Lynch lay Gronk out early in the game.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:12pm

Under 2017 rules.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:13pm

Yeah... The current rules for hitting "defenseless" recievers really undermine what the 2002 Bucs (and contemporary Eagles) did. The 2016 Seahawks still took the game plan of getting Kam to knock him into next week after the catch, but it's a lot more difficult to do now. It fundamentally undercuts the value of playing zone (zone used to create a ton of opportunities for picks when the ball came out as a result of hitting a guy in the process of the catch), which is too bad (though perhaps the game is better off).

It's interesting, I think under the rules of that era Gronk might still have been the best TE's in football simply by virtue of his run blocking.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:38pm


In 2002, Sharpe was still in the league and you had peak Gonzalez and a baby (and still sane) Shockey. Crumpler was around, too. Witten, Gates, and Clark would show up in 2003.

If anything, Gronk would have had more competition at TE than he has now. Remember when Graham got serious consideration for best TE? That wouldn't have happened in 2003.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:04pm

Gronk would have suffered less than most receivers from the more 'relaxed' pass interference calls of ye olden times. How many safeties in 2002, or any era, would have an advantage in grappling over Gronk? And he could still easily run away from big box safeties.
It's incredible how nimble he is for his size. There was the shoetop catch while running full stride and on the two-point conversion, he juked the safety so badly at the line that the guy didn't even get a finger on him.

by Rocco :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:18pm

It would be funny to watch big, strong Gronk tumble theatrically and look for flags every time Lynch or Brooks hit him.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:51pm

Not covering receivers in zone is SOP for GB's secondary.

This is something else that has hamstrung Capers in 2017. Clinton-Dix has played in a seeming daze all season. Constantly late to the play. At times looking to be shy of contact. Everyone insists he is not injured. But every time I see an athlete who has performed well and then regress this much for this extended period of time NOT due to injury something is going on outside of the team like a sick relative or a relationship issue.

I don't WANT to read about Clinton-Dix having a relative dying of cancer but I would feel a lot better about his 2018 than folks just stating it was an off year. Because holy h8ll it was a terrible season. He played a lot of snaps. But very few quality snaps. Frankly, it seemed like GB was playing with 10 guys sometimes

by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:21pm

From Bryan Knowles comment: "How on Earth did the Patriots only get a second-round pick for this guy?"

-High 2nd round (even if Garoppolo is working on lowering the value)
-8 regular season games left on the contract
-Only 2 games of tape (1 and a half, to be precise)

Last year Pro bowler and 2nd team All-pro Jamie Collins was in the same contract situation and left for a compensatory 3rd.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:48pm

The Browns could have had Jimmy G in March if they'd been willing to give up one of their high draft picks. At the time Belichick's thinking was "Garoppolo is better than any of the QBs in the draft and should thus be worth a very high draft pick".
Nobody met his price so he eventually lowered it to the SF 2nd round pick, which Jimmy G is making less and less valuable every week.

There are lots of teams with QB issues that should have outbid what SF paid for Garoppolo. But hey, some franchises are just poorly run.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:45am

It doesn't sound like there was any bidding. Lynch was sitting in his office and fielded a call from the Patriots asking about a 2nd rounder for Garoppolo. It took him and Shanahan about ninety seconds to say yes.

Also, the 49ers asked about Garoppolo this off-season and were told no without ever getting to the point of making an actual offer. It's hard for me to believe the Patriots were dickering with the Browns but shutting down the 49ers down when both were likely to have high first rounders.

Whatever was happening in New England with Garoppolo doesn't seem to have had much to do with the rest of the league.

by Yu Narukami :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:23pm

I am wondering how and how much Gronk will be deployed in sunday's "revenge game" vs. Buffalo.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:35pm

It's one of the reasons it should have been more than a 1 game suspension. It's perfectly predictable that a when a teammate gets concussed, while lying facedown, out of bounds, when an opponent who was also down, gets back on his feet, and and launches himself at the face down teammate, that revenge will be attempted. What discourages that predictable response is a multigame suspension to the original offender, with a warning that an attempt at revenge will get double that. A Bill would not be crazy to think that one concussion shot on Gronk will result in a one gamer, and think "Yeah, I'll take that".

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:37pm

I agree...what stops one of the very from crashing into his knee on every play? I hope they dont mind you.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:15pm

They are still in contention for a playoff spot so bad penalties might wait until the game is out of hand and even then an attack that costs someone a game check like Gronk lost is an expensive indulgence. Also if they won't settle for the league discipline than they will just invite retaliation for their retaliation, no one wins that game.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:49pm

What do you mean?

30 teams win if the Bills and Pats get into a Hatfield-McCoy retribution cycle of injuries and/or suspensions.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:19pm

no one involved :)

but of course fans of train wrecks will enjoy it just as we always tune in for Bengals-Steelers

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:53pm

Do they want to leave the stadium safely?

Do they trust Foxboro police to protect them if they intentionally injure Gronk and thereby kill the Patriots' Super Bowl hopes?

I would hope the fact that Tre'Davious White didn't even miss one game and that the Pats lost the game Gronk missed would be enough for the Bills. But if they want to bear a grudge and/or escalate, I expect things could escalate even further.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:49pm

This entire conversation jumped the shark with the assumption the Bills would cheap shot Gronk. They may be mad, but the best way for them to retaliate is the scoreboard. It's not like they're a dirty team, because they aren't.

If the Pats should hold Gronk out of any game, it should be the Jets game because Jamal Adams likes to hit people hard. Not that he's dirty either, he just hits guys hard.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:11pm

“It's not like they're a dirty team, because they aren't.”

Yea, we’re not talking about the Seahawks, here.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 6:02pm

"Do they trust Foxboro police to protect them if they intentionally injure Gronk and thereby kill the Patriots' Super Bowl hopes?"

Do you want to start that game?

Is there a more hated team in the NFL than the Patriots? There are many cities whose cops would happily look the other way during a massive field intrusion or bus attack.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 6:33pm

Errr, perspective? This is a game of football we are talking about...

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:55pm

While doing financial work I had some old Packer games from the 60's playing on the computer. Along with guys beating the hell out of each other that the ref would make a call, a guy or two might bark for a bit and then everyone would go back to the game was so refreshing.

Not trying to say 'back in the day' but I ended up watching like six games and there was no drawn out protests like we see now. That is another drawback of replay. Enabling and encouraging the griping/complaining/whining/disputing.

The downside of these videos was the multiple guys getting laid out with obvious concussions and the defense slapping hands as a guy was taken off the field. And good lord did Bart Starr and the qbs take a pounding.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:11pm

What always amazes me about pre 75 footage is the head slaps defensive linemen were allowed to attack offensive linemen with. As much as people complain about rules favoring offensive players today, it was a worse state of affairs when that stuff was going on.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:40pm

The Green Bay linebackers throwing forearm shivers while tackling backs and quarterbacks is something else. Clearly taught because it was all of them.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:58pm

And defenders left their feet every opportunity to launch at quarterbacks. Dave Robinson should have trademarked that move.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:36pm

There is footage of Carl Eller walloping Forrest Gregg so hard upside the head, like a grizzly bear swatting an elk, that Gregg's helmet goes flying 15 feet in the air, 10 yards behind Bart Starr. Gregg, helmetless, tries to stay with the block, as Eller smacks him with the other paw, and then buries Starr.

How the hell any of those guys pass blocked the great defensive linemen back then is amazing.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:08pm

I know it goes against perception, but maybe those 1960s Packers teams ran so often because they couldn't pass block.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:13pm

Oh, they could pass block just fine, by the standards of the day. There's a reason Starr set a record for 300 attempts without an int, and it wasn't just due to efficient running and Starr. The rules just made offensive linemen human sacrifices in the passing game.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:01pm

When GB did pass it was typically downfield. It was considered some kind of innovation on the fly to throw to Donny Anderson in the title game against the Cowboys. I am sure that was similar across the league, but GB must have done it better as the voiceovers always reference Starr's rep for going deep on short yardage downs.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:16pm

Jerry Burns is not given nearly enough credit as an innovator. His hiring by Lombardi in 1966 really expanded the use of running backs as receivers. Bud Grant obviously saw something he liked; I always wondered why Phil Bengston let him leave, or if it was just a money thing. NFL teams were so tightfisted with assistant salaries back then.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 6:04pm

Passing was less rare than you'd think during the 1960s. Probably because of GB's success people think of that decade as rush-heavy. The NFL was actually more pass-oriented than the AFL was, and the merger created a brief return to run-heavy football.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:21pm

There is a reason Belichick says, "Ball security. That's number one on my hit parade."

The Raiders and Steelers both lost games yesterday because the players failed to prioritize ball security near the end zone. Both players took high risk sell outs for the goal line, and lost the unnecessary bet. Protecting the ball would have still had them in a favorable position to win the game. They didn't lose because of refs, or bad luck, or bad rules. They lost because of bad situational football.

Contrast that with Brady taking a sack instead of heaving a desperation pass, and taking a chance on the defense making a stop instead for one more series of downs.

Speaking of bad situational football, Roethlisberger may have had one of the worst end of game set of decisions ever. Third down, with plenty of time to run a normal hurry up pass play that would keep the clock from expiring for a 4th down FG, instead he's calling for a clock-stopping spike. The Pitt coaches correctly tell him to run a play, but by then it's already screwed up because there's not enough time to change the call for the whole offense. He signals to receivers to run routes, but only one does, and instead of throwing the ball away, he forces it into coverage, and loses on a tip drill interception with most of the team just standing around. That has to be the epic fail of the season.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:24pm

Yeah, it was great situational football when Brady threw up a desparation floater that was picked off instead of taking a sack or throwing it away.

Man, we get it. NE is perfect at everything.

I'm very sure there have been NE players in the past that lunged at the goal-line. They just have been lucky enough to not have one of those go against them so far.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:49pm

Personally, I think it's more Lombardi sucking-up and don't really buy it. But for the record:

"Interesting tidbit from @mlombardiNFL on GM Street pod: Patriots players are forbidden from extending at the pylon or while falling across goal line in process of catch. Belichick has made it clear they will be benched."

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:53pm

Interesting, if true. I generally give no credence to what Lombardi has to say, but he may have some info here.

Will look out for this now to see if the Patriots ever try to extend for a TD.

Also, is this from the past? Maybe BB made this declaration today after what happened with James yesterday?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:00pm

We certainly know that any back or WR who fumbles at the goal line gets immediately benched.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:03pm

Sure. He's benched players for fumbling anywhere in past.

I'm interested to see if he would actually bench anyone for trying to extend at all.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:12pm

Well, "extend during a catch while falling to the ground" is an unlikely set of circumstances. I'm fairly certain many Patriots have extended the football towards the goal line in the capacity of being an established runner.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:33pm

But if anything extending as a runner has bigger downside risk. Lose the ball there and it can easily be a touchback.

For the receiver falling to the ground, it's just an incomplete pass.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:52am

There's a quote from Matt Slater saying the same thing - saying they're only ever allowed to do it on 4th down or 2 point conversions.

And if you actually watch the Patriots (and Patriots fans) - there's no shortage of frustration from people that the RBs absolutely refuse to try and reach the ball out over the goal line on close plays.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:59pm

That's not what's being said. Belichick actually coaches his players to not reach out with one hand to try to get that extra six inches to get a TD. Given how many times we've seen a team lose an easy TD because of goal-line fumbles, that seems like a smart way to coach.

If Jesse James had tucked the ball in, the Steelers would have had the ball at the 1 foot line, most likely scored the go-ahead TD (with less time on the clock, mind you) and probably won.

It's not like this is a new rule. And yet the learning curve in the NFL remains flat.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:22pm

I was talking with a friend last night. There are hall of fame players, elite players, and then there are some players that I think have very few true peers - players that were so unique that its hard to really find a fair comparison.

For example - Von Miller is a hall of fame player, but I can name several edge rushers that are in his stratosphere.

Marshall Faulk is someone I don't think has a true peer or comparison. He was very unique. Randy Moss is another. And I think Gronk is also in that group. I know Gonzo and Gates and Sharpe are all hall of famers, but Gronk really is a totally different animal.

So I pose this question - who is the most dangerous player of these three - Moss, Gronk, or Faulk?

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:22pm

Moss, without question; he's the most dangerous skill position player ever. His effort wasn't always consistent, but a motivated Randy Moss was going to get his pound of flesh, and lacked durability concerns. I'd say Gronk is more dominant than Faulk was, but given the choice I'd probably prefer Faulk just due to Gronk's injury history.

What sets Gronk apart isn't that he's an amazing receiver - which he is, but there's been a few other comparable players - but that he's a great blocker, and doesn't mind laying down the blocks. That combo is unique.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:24pm

I actually went with Faulk. I think Faulk in the modern NFL with the right offense would be truly terrifying. He would play all three downs and be able to attack all of your weakest defenders in coverage.

My friend disagreed and said Gronk for reasons you detailed. Moss' inconsistent effort was a real concern

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:54pm

I would go with Gronk for a bit of a different reason; I've never seen Gronk legally taken out of contributing significantly to a game (apart from injury). I've a few teams match up with him as a receiver (usually on nights the refs allow a lot of downfield contact from a safety), but invariably that matchup yields the opportunity to play the "big" run game. Gronk is great at staying productive in those games. Moss is difficult to figure out because it wasn't always clear when defenses had taken him away vs. when he had given up, but I think it's fair to say sometimes defense "convinced" him to give up. I didn't watch as much of Faulk as I did the other two, but my understanding was that you could really limit him if you made a team-effort at LB & Saftey to hit him on every release (if you had the right personal). In fairness, some of that impression might be post-hoc rationalization after the '01 superbowl. The best alternative argument I can see is that when Randy Moss got going he frequently rendered games out of reach quickly. e.g. during his rookie year vs. a very good cowboys team he put up two catches 2 touchdowns & 107 yards on the first three Vikings drives (he'd end up with 3 touchdowns over 200 yards including a DPI, and a two point conv). There isn't another player I've seen that could take over a football game like that and come as close to winning on his own as there is in football in a few plays.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:53am

Moss. In a world full of athletic "freaks", Moss stood head and shoulders above anybody else. I have no doubt that he would have been a hall-of-fame basketball player, baseball player, or if he was raised in a different part of the country, hockey player.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:31pm

Apparently Thomas Davis got two games for his helmet-to-helmet hit of Devante Adams.

In a vaccuum, I have no issues. But I fail to see how this is seen as worse than Gronk's People's Elbow of the Bills CB from two weeks ago.

Anyway, given Davis's good track record, I have a feeling this gets reduced to a one-game ban, which will be huge given the potential playoff implications of that Week 17 CAR @ ATL game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:42pm

It is ridiculous that a guy who inflicted a concussion via hit which was against the rules, while making a football play, gets two games, while a guy who inflicted a concussion via a hit which was against the rules, that plainly had zero relationship to the offender attempting to make a football play, gets 1 game.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:08pm

Thomas Davis is a repeat offender. That's why he's getting two games.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:29pm

Yeah, and that's reasonable because the repeat nature weakens the argument that it was an attempt to make a football play within the rules, that went wrong. Gronk, of course, had no possible argument that he was trying to make a football play, so the point remains the same.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 7:28am

A simple rule would reduce a lot of dangerous hits by players: if you make an illegal hit and injure a player, you come out of the game, and all future games that player is inactive due to injury. You end his career, and you've ended your own career, too. Players will be a lot more disciplined when it's their own career on the line. Apologies come cheap when you're hurting someone else with illegal hits.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:05pm

Six total offenses, including late hits and other borderline calls, over a 12 year career for a pro-bowl linebacker doesn't really seem to qualify as a repeat offender.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:44pm

Of course not -- he's not a Patriot.

You're so transparent it's a miracle birds don't fly into you.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:43pm

Yeah ditto. The 2 games feels fair but once again, the League's deliberate opacity means theres no standard.

When you have no standard, it starts to become a weird comparison problem. How much more severe was Gronk's action vs Davis'? And what about the fight between Crabtree and Talib? And then Ray Rice and Greg Hardy vs Aldon Smith and his repeat drinking?

For the record - if Davis and Gronk were suspended 6 games, I would be completely ok with it, but that;s just me.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 5:52pm

There is so many things wrong with the way the NHL has conducted its operation, but one area that I really credit for them is how much transparency they've added to the Department of Player Safety - the body that doles out suspensions and fines.

The videos they release to explain a suspension are always a good watch. You may disagree with the ruling, but it lays out clearly why they fined or suspended the way they did.

The NFL sorely needs this.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:20pm

There is a standard, though: Gronk wasn't a repeat offender, Davis is, therefore Davis receives the harsher punishment. It's really that simple.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:22pm

Ok, but is it written somewhere that repeat offenders get 1 game extra regardless of what they have done.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:19pm

He got two games, and it'll be reduced to one on suspension. Isn't that how the Gronk one turned out?

I do think Gronk's hit was far more egregious in every possible way and should have been multiple games.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:28pm

Gronk received one from the start, I think, which is nuts.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:23pm

I know you want to argue that some types of defenseless receivers are more defenseless than others, and that fact should override the consideration that some hits are pre-meditated and made helmet-to-helmet, causing more damage, but I don't think this line of argument has gotten traction with the NFL head office.

Let's keep in mind that throwing a punch at somebody only gets a 1 game suspension for a 1st time offender.

The argue that Davis's headhunting should be partially excused because it happened on the field during a play also doesn't seem to be gaining any traction. The problem is that, in contrast to the hypothetical that says players might attack each other before the game or on the sidelines, there is a very real danger that players will take the opportunity to take cheap shots during play, if they're allowed to argue down the level of the offense by claiming "I was just blocking". If the NFL buys into that kind of transparent excuse-making at all, the number of violations will dramatically increase.

And let's remember that the force of impact increases with the square of a players velocity. It may not be as visually impressive as jumping on somebody's back, but it's more dangerous to run into somebody and hit him in the helmet with your own helmet.

And that explains why Vontaze Burfict has missed two games so far while Tre'Davious White didn't miss any.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:40pm

If you are going to argue with what I've written, please state my argument correctly. I've not said some defenseless players are more defenseless. I've said penalties should be based upon the danger of the offense, and how plausible it is that the offender was simply trying to make a play, and it went wrong. Thus, a swing at a helmeted head may obviously have nothing to do with playing football, but it really isn't very dangerous, if the receiver of the swing sees it coming. A helmet to helmet hit is dangerous, but for a 1st time offender, a plausible argument may be possible, that the offender was just playing football, and made a good faith error. A repeat helmet to helmet offender loses the benefit of the doubt, and Gronk's offense has no relationship to playing football, and is dangerous. Thus they both warrant more severe penalty.

Yes, it is obvious that the league employs different reasoning when they evaluate this stuff. Like I said, I think they are reasoning very poorly.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:01am

I'd say that what Gronk did was more obviously reprehensible, but what Davis did was way more dangerous, and because of that, I have no problem with the suspension being longer.

Davis lined a guy up blind side from 10+ yards away, sprinted at him, and rammed into his head. It was very obviously illegal, and very dangerous. The fact the play was still going doesn't hold much weight to me when you're headhunting guys who are looking in another direction altogether.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:06pm

For those on the lookout for conclusive evidence that the ball touched the ground:


I'm not exactly sure when this shot is from, but take note that the ball is not only out of the left hand, the right hand doesn't have controllable contact, either.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 7:36am

Or watch literally any camera angle at all. When he reaches across the goal line and his arms slam down into the ground, literally the first thing to hit the ground is the nose of the football. We know the ball moved significantly, and we know it hit the ground. Incomplete. Pretty simple.

Everyone worrying the final position of the ball, which is irrelevant at that point. Amusing the lengths people go to over-complicate this.

by t.d. :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:09pm

Steelers aren't going to be in the AFC championship, and I won't be surprised if the Pats aren't, either

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:13pm

Woah. I could see one or the other, but both? Are you counting on KC to right the ship? Or maybe Baltimore to work their usual playoff magic?

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:36pm

I think it will be a tougher road than last year. With the possible exception of that s**t Titans team coming to Foxboro, I think any potential divisional round opponent will present bigger challenges than the Osweiler Texans did.

I can see KC giving them a game (it seems that righted the ship somewhat). Baltimore has discovered some semblance of an offense recently. Buffalo has the defensive ability to hang with them. Ditto for LA if they can sneak in and pull an upset.

Pittsburgh should do better in a potential title game than they did last year assuming Brown is back healthy. I think this is a better Steelers team than last year's version. I think Jacksonville can hang given how good that defense is. Their pass rush can control the LOS, and turn it into a 2011/12 AFC Title Game.

Of course, all if this expects some QB to not fall apart. Oddly, I trust this collection of TEN-excluded AFC teams more than recent years.

I would make NE the favorite easily of course, but at this point less than 50% in my mind.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:46pm

I think KC has already righted the ship. I also think Baltimore is turning into a quality team, I think the Titans finish 8-8, and San Diego (ed: Los Angeles, of course) gets the other wild card, giving the AFC six tough teams in the playoffs (which hasn't happened in ages)

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:17pm

I would be pretty surprised if the Pats don't get to the SB. They are going to get homefield - a virtual death sentence for every competitor in the AFC.

Jacksonville is a supersized version of Baltimore, but I don't trust Bortles yet, especially if he has to go to Foxborough. Ditto for the Steelers.

Now that Wentz is out, I also don't feel like theres a true NFC competitor out there that can legitimately handle NE anymore. Yes, I know the rams and vikes look impressive - but I've seen way too many teams with more talent fall apart against New England.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:34pm

It is tough to trust teams we haven't seen on the big stage before, but my impression of watching Minnesota and the Rams this season is that they are very well-coached, which I think should bode well for them in any playoff matchup. Certainly they've played well enough this season to compete with anyone. Haven't been able to watch the Jags as much, but they are posting phenomenal pass defense numbers—that is again something that seems to me should allow them to go toe to toe with anyone.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:16pm

JAX has an outstanding pass rush paired with two true shutdown (that word is overused, but not in this case) corners. They simply erase your WR1 and WR2. I can see them having trouble with a healthy Gronk, though. In the last game they lost (against ARI), for instance, Ricky Seals-Jones had a huge game, and they seemed to have trouble covering him.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:54pm

agree on gronk being a huge matchup problem for them, though i'm sure they'll gameplan for him in ways they didn't for ricky seals-jones. wouldn't be shocked if gronk isn't healthy after this week either, though

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:57pm

Not sure about the Vikings, but any team with Aaron Donald would be a pain for the Patriots to beat. Pressure up the middle is the the way to cause problems for Brady. Also not sure if Patriots defense is better than the Seahawks, and the Rams just planted a 40 burger in Seattle.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:36pm

NFC teams that could hang with Patriots (or Steelers):
Vikings - they are very physical, have a solid defense, and very good coaching weakness at QB?
Saints - no problem at QB, running game is very good, defense is improved, good pass rush
Eagles - if Wentz were there, certainly. They only make Super Bowl if Foles is playing well
Panthers - certainly since they already beat the Pats.
Rams - less consistent than some of these teams, but certainly showed mettle yesterday

Would not be surprised to see an NFC team win Super Bowl this year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 8:47pm

I'm certainly not predicting that they'll win the NFC (I've been predicting Rams since September, and have no reason to change now) but if the Vikings do get there, the coaching matchup, across the board, will be damned interesting, if it is against the Patriots.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:12pm

If you did, you didn't see it in the Super Bowl. All of the Patriots' Super Bowls have been close. Where did you see it?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:20pm

One of my first thoughts after that call was made at the end of Pittsburgh-New England was it was going to automatically turn Audibles into the Irrational Patriots Thread.

I mean, more than usual.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:51pm

Given that we're on comment #218 (I guess this will be 219), and fewer than half have been about that play, and fewer than half of those have been irrational, I think we're doing remarkably well.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:16pm

Yup, far less of this has been about that play than I expected. Also, most of it has actually centered around the ruling and the catch rule in general, not "Pats are so lucky" or whatever.