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09 Jan 2017

Audibles at the Line: Wild-Card Round

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to 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.

Oakland Raiders 14 at Houston Texans 27

Aaron Schatz: Oakland-Houston II: The Brockening
Oakland-Houston II: Too Many Cooks
Oakland-Houston II: Snake Stabler Rolling in His Grave

Just think, if Pittsburgh takes care of business tomorrow, Bill Belichick will spend his Monday morning press conference making one of these teams sound like the 1963 Green Bay Packers.

Bryan Knowles: Michael Crabtree is apparently the emergency quarterback for Oakland today. I believe that's what we all have to root for at this point.

The Raiders are not only starting a quarterback making his first NFL start, but a left tackle making his first start at that position -- Menelik Watson moves over to the left side because Donald Penn has been ruled out, and he has to handle Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans do one thing well, and that's shut down passing games; they must be salivating at playing a third-string quarterback and a backup tackle.

Tom Gower: I'm sure if Houston wins Belichick will talk about the 1978 Oilers that beat the Patriots on the road in the divisional round for their first double-digit win of the season.

If we ever get back that far, I bet DVOA will hate the 1978 Oilers. Went 10-6 with no wins by more than seven points, were outscored by 15 on the season, then beat the Dolphins 17-9 and the Patriots 31-14 in the postseason before the Steelers crushed them at Three Rivers.

Scott Kacsmar: Can't wait for the playoffs to start tonight.

Tom Gower: Bill O'Brien punts on fourth-and-5 from the 37 on the opening possession. Nick Novak doesn't have that kind of range, so he had to either punt or go for it. The NYT 4th Down Bot approved of bringing Shane Lechler out there, and the quarterbacks for both teams today make me agree with the bot.

Carl Yedor: One offensive series in, and the loss of Penn is already being felt. A run on first down goes nowhere, and Jadeveon Clowney swats down a pass on the next play, rushing from the offensive left. Oakland is forced to punt, but the defense keeps Houston from going anywhere on their subsequent possession and forces a Nick Novak field goal on fourth-and-2.

Bryan Knowles: Oakland is getting destroyed right here, as Houston's just teeing off -- getting pressure on nearly every snap. Oakland's gotta try something a little deeper to make Houston at least respect Cook's arm downfield, or this is going to get ugly. Uglier.

Aaron Schatz: Good job, Carl, sending that message about one minute before Jadeveon Clowney tipped an attempted third-down screen pass in the air, batted it a couple times, and then caught it for an interception. There was what, one blocker in front on that screen? And two defenders who read it properly. Oy.

Andrew Potter: I was starting to write this even before the interception, but so far Houston's defense is absolutely living up to its billing as the best unit in the game. Chalk up that 10-0 lead to the defense, and Jadeveon Clowney in particular.

Carl Yedor: It's too bad that J.J. Watt and Clowney haven't been healthy together for a full season yet. Or, I guess, good if you ever worry about Blake Bortles, Andrew Luck, and Marcus Mariota making it through their two games against Houston each year unscathed.

Bryan Knowles: This first quarter has gone about as poorly as possible for Menelik Watson. I'm not sure he got a finger on D.J. Reader on that sack.

Vince Verhei: I haven't watched a lot of Texans offense this year. Do they have any pass plays other than "out route to a tight end?"

Aaron Schatz: Yes, they also have "deep throw that Will Fuller catches" and "deep throw that Will Fuller misplays."

Bryan Knowles: Oakland finally gets on the board -- I'm not surprised at all it came off of a big return against Houston's special teams.

Oakland went up-tempo on that drive, and it seemed to really help.

Scott Kacsmar: Derek Carr and the offensive line got a lot of credit for the offense this year, and rightfully so, but the trio of running backs have been really impressive this season with timely plays. Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have combined for more than 2,300 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns this season. That committee approach always gets overlooked with the absence of a big-name back. A broken tackle by Richard on a punt return set up Oakland's first score of the day, a rush by Murray. They're going to have to help Connor Cook out a lot today, and they can do it in a variety of ways with these backs.

Vince Verhei: Aaron, you forgot "wide receiver screen that Will Fuller catches for a loss on third-and-long."

Aaron Schatz: That was a great run by Murray, but on the season, Richard and Washington were a lot more impressive by DVOA.

Watson doing better against Clowney in the second quarter, but the Raiders still brought in a sixth lineman to help him in a clear passing situation, third-and-8.

Carl Yedor: Well, after Oakland's start to the game, I was worried we might be seeing the reverse of the Chiefs-Texans wild card game last season, but Oakland's offense has looked at least passable since the crazy Clowney interception. There have been some goofy special teams plays on punt and kick returns that helped with Oakland's field position and some solid punts from Marquette King, which have helped to even things out a little.

Aaron Schatz: Osweiler is definitely outplaying Cook today. He was excellent on Houston's scoring drive at the end of the first half to make it 20-7. Bullet to Will Fuller, great deep throw that dropped right in the bucket to DeAndre Hopkins, and then recognizing the coverage and throwing a bullet to Hopkins on the slant at the goal line for the touchdown. Great drive. It would be nice if he could do this for more than one drive per game, but that was a great drive.

Tom Gower: Halftime. Texans lead 20-7. Oakland's offense has been about what we were expecting. They had one good drive, from the no-huddle, where Cook made a couple throws and they did a nice job of fitting up some runs for Latavius Murray. But outside that possession, little on the ground and not much through the air. Cook's bouts of inaccuracy and bad field reading have come into play, as have the protection issues, which may get worse now if Rodney Hudson's injury proves serious. Watson seems like less of a disaster, but they also seem to be giving him more help.

The surprise has been Houston's offensive performance. Their first 10 points all came off short fields, but the field goal drive to make it 13-7 started inside the 10 and Brock Osweiler had a nice deep sideline route to DeAndre Hopkins to set up the second touchdown before he did in fact find Nuk on the slant. No, Oakland's defense is not good, but you have to have a basic level of competence to exploit that, both up front against the pass rushers and in terms of execution assuming protection. Houston was accurately regarded as doubtful in those areas, but they have done both well enough in the first half that they deserve this lead.

Vince Verhei: I don't know if the game is miced differently or not, but I'm hearing a lot more plain English calls from Osweiler than I think I have heard from an NFL quarterback. We're used to Peyton Manning shouting "Omaha!" 50 times a game, or other secret code words. Osweiler is literally calling things like "make sure we block that guy!" and "there's two over here!" and "move over to this side!" And I noticed this first, and then the announcers were mentioning that Osweiler was complaining about the offense being too complex, and... I'm trying to think of a nice way to say this. If you're a coach, and your offense works best when you simplify it for your players, then it is your obligation to simplify it for your players, not give them more than they can handle.

Bryan Knowles: Raiders go to max-protect, and still get sacked. Still time left on the clock, but if you take away three Pro Bowlers from their offense, it turns out they don't perform as well!

Someone on special teams or defense is going to have to give Oakland a spark if they want to get anything going, because I'm not sure the Raiders offense can put together any sort of sustained drive at this point.

Aaron Schatz: Amari Cooper has one catch for 1 yard through 40 minutes. He is being shut down by a combination of Johnathan Joseph and A.J. Bouye, since they tend to stick to sides instead of following specific receivers.

Bryan Knowles: Not to give Cook TOO much of an excuse here, but it would be nice if Oakland could hang on to the few accurately thrown balls that he has managed to throw.

Andrew Potter: That one 14-yard DeAndre Washington run eclipsed Oakland's total from its previous six drives combined. Three plays later, they're punting again. The Raiders haven't managed a single drive of more than five plays through three quarters of the game.

Oh, and it's absolutely typical that the Texans finally get a great special teams play and it doesn't count because Whitney Mercilus ran into Marquette King.

Vince Verhei: And then the re-kick is very nearly fumbled back to Oakland, which would have been the perfect summary of Houston's special teams.

Scott Kacsmar: Not used to seeing a quarterback throw this many ankle-balls in a game. Cook is channeling a bad Donovan McNabb performance, but he doesn't bring any real movement in the pocket or scrambling ability to the game.

Aaron Schatz: Michael David Smith makes a great point on Twitter:

Carl Yedor: So about me saying the Raiders offense looked "passable." I looked back at the drive chart for the Raiders, and through the first three quarters, they haven't had a drive last more than five offensive plays. Their only 5-play drives were the touchdown drive on a short field and their most recent drive that netted them one first down. Outside of their touchdown drive, their longest drive by distance has been 15 yards. Oof.

Bryan Knowles: Hey, the Raiders went back to the no-huddle and scored a touchdown! That makes two drives they have done that on, and two drives on which they have scored.

Maybe they should have looked into doing that again before the end of the fourth quarter?

To be fair, it feels like Houston has backed off the gas somewhat on defense, which is bound to help a rookie quarterback.

Cook's third-down throw sails on him and is intercepted by Corey Moore -- that should more or less seal this one.

Full credit to Houston -- they played mistake-free football today, never really giving Oakland an opening to take advantage of and get back into this one. They had no turnovers for only the second time this season (assuming nothing truly disastrous happens in the last 4 minutes), which I would not have seen coming.

I do wonder why the Raiders didn't go no-huddle earlier; they found some success when doing that, as opposed to the constant three-and-outs they had the rest of the way. I also wonder what the game plan was coming into this one; Cook looked better against Denver with no prep time than he did with a full week to prepare in this one.

Aaron Schatz: There's a common comment that seems to be going around Twitter, that this game proved that Derek Carr should be the MVP because look how bad the Raiders were without him. As if Donald Penn is chopped liver.

Scott Kacsmar: There will be countless "if only Carr was healthy" stories written about the Raiders, but I think I already know the theme for this team's FOA 2017 chapter. I'm a believer in a team's biggest weakness showing up in the playoffs, and the fact is the Oakland defense was not good this year since Week 1. Today, that unit made Brock Osweiler look competent, or even good in the first three quarters. The team in general looked unprepared today for a big game. Even with Carr, I think Oakland would have lost to a Pittsburgh, Kansas City, or New England soon enough in this postseason. So while Carr should be healthy and fine for Week 1 next year, Oakland has to get a lot better on defense if this team is going to start winning playoff games.

Meanwhile, Houston had about the best performance it could have hoped for as a J.J. Watt-less roster. Osweiler to DeAndre Hopkins was a thing, Lamar Miller touched the ball often, Jadeveon Clowney had some big plays, and the defense in general was strong, albeit Connor Cook had a terrible outing in his first start. I would still imagine this team gets slaughtered in New England or beat comfortably in Kansas City, but this was a good performance.

Detroit Lions 6 at Seattle Seahawks 26

Aaron Schatz: So, early on, Matthew Stafford is making plays. He's got a sharp ball tonight. Eric Ebron sort of screwed it up early by dropping a third-down conversion. Meanwhile, the Seattle offense looks bad because the offensive line is getting absolutely CRUSHED.

Vince Verhei: Detroit's third drive ends on one of the worst fourth-down plays I've seen in a while. Stafford play-faked and bootleg, and obviously the first read was a deep receiver, but Seattle had him covered. So, fine, go to your second read. But the second read was Matthew Mulligan way behind the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field, and Seattle swarmed and put him down. 

Detroit's small-ball game plan is in full effect. First drive was a three-and-out, but since then they have used five plays to gain only 26 yards, and then nine plays to gain 36 yards.

Aaron Schatz: Way to challenge the missing Earl Thomas downfield, kids. Maybe you should try that? Occasionally? A couple times maybe?

Now in the second quarter, we're seeing how bad the Detroit run defense is. The Seahawks offensive line is doing a much better job with run-blocking than pass-blocking, and Thomas Rawls is now up to 75 yards on 12 carries. Uh, I guess I *should* have taken him in the Staff Playoff Fantasy Draft.

We'll need a Paul Richardson touchdown grab GIF in here because ZOMG.

Bryan Knowles: Paul Richardson just made one of the greatest catches you will EVER see.

Carl Yedor: Coming out of college there were injury concerns with Richardson, so naturally he has spent most of his career to this point dealing with injuries. When he has been able to stay on the field, you can see what the Seahawks were hoping for when they drafted him in the second round in 2014.

That was a crazy catch.

Vince Verhei: That catch was amazing, but I'm just confused by the third-and-goal play. You run a bootleg and throw a pass to Thomas Rawls (one career touchdown catch) while leaving Jimmy Graham (59 career touchdown catches) in to block? They gave up so much to get Graham and still sometimes use him like he's just another tight end. 

Also, that drive was awesome. Fourteen plays for 60 yards, including 11 runs (nine in a row at one point) for 52 yards. FOOTBALL!

With less than five minutes to go in the first half, I've got the Detroit wide receivers down with two catches, three drops, and one personal foul call for shoving a guy in a coat on the sidelines.

Aaron Schatz: Thomas Rawls had 37 carries for 56 yards in the last three games of the season. I did not do enough to consider opponent weaknesses in the Staff Fantasy Playoff Draft. Bad Aaron. Bad, bad, bad.

Ah, finally, Matthew Stafford tests the Seahawks deep with 1:30 left in the second quarter. It was on the sideline, so not really Earl Thomas' territory, but they threw deep on Jeremy Lane and he connected with Marvin Jones for 30 yards.

Cian Fahey: Absence of Theo Riddick, or any viable receiving back, has really hurt the Lions offense. He was huge for turning ill-advised checkdowns into first downs by making defenders miss, but he also contributed to stretching the field horizontally when the receivers worked downfield. Zach Zenner isn't going to take advantage of space or one-on-one matchups like he did.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Thomas Rawls already has 107 rushing yards. That's his best total since he had 209 against San Francisco in Week 11 last year. So it doesn't matter as much that Russell Wilson has only 45 yards -- granted, he has only thrown ten passes, but he has also taken a couple of sacks, one of which was very much on him. 

You know the crazy thing about Detroit throwing just the one deep pass? Not only is Seattle down Earl Thomas, but also his backup Steven Terrell, so now they have backup strong safety Kelcie McCray manning the deep middle. And they're still aligning for pressure all over the place! Most of that half, they had ten guys within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. On Detroit's first second-down play, the Seahawks used two deep safeties and I did a triple-take because it looked so weird. I thought it would be the new normal, but no, it was just a one-time thing.

Aaron Schatz: Man, Seattle is even getting reasonable pass-blocking now. The Detroit defensive line is a serious problem here.

Carl Yedor: As someone who has watched at least part of every Seahawks game this year, I had honestly forgotten what it looked like when Wilson was not constantly under duress right after receiving the snap.

Aaron Schatz: I guess Mike Lombardi is pointing out on Twitter that the Seahawks are getting all this ground yardage on nickel runs, but geez, there's still four defensive linemen out there and they aren't supposed to be getting pushed around like that no matter how many defensive backs are on the field.

I have no idea how this game is only 13-6 after more than three quarters. Doesn't it feel like Seattle has dominated this thing? This is the thing Detroit has done all year. They slow things down, giving up very long drives that sometimes end in punts or field goals... every Detroit game seems to end up with a lower score than your brain believes is possible.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks kick a field goal to go up 13-6. They're now averaging 3.4 yards per pass play against a pass defense that was last in the league in almost everything this year. And it's not because of excessive pressure! Wilson is getting good time to pass more often than not, but he can't manage to find anyone open for significant yardage. This is about the opposite of what I thought might have happened, but if Detroit comes back and wins this game, a lot of blame will have to go to Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, etc.

Cian Fahey: Anquan Boldin didn't get kicked out of the game for a second penalty but it looked like he would be for a minute. We haven't had it happen, but it would be a terrible way for someone to get kicked out of a playoff game.

Vince Verhei: Seattle dodges a huge bullet when DeShawn Shead outright tackles T.J. Jones in coverage, but the refs rule the pass uncatchable. I don't know if he would have caught it for sure, but I have seen NFL receivers make catches like that before. Add that to the missed facemask on the Seattle touchdown (which should have been offsetting penalties and still fourth-and-goal) and the missed block in the back on Russell Wilson (on a drive that ended in a Seattle field goal) and the Lions have a lot of valid complaints to make.

Aaron Schatz: Then a nice 8-play, 82-yard drive to go up 19-6. Wilson finally found some passes open to his wide receivers, including Doug Baldwin in a big hole in the zone on third-and-5 and then Baldwin deep down the left sideline on the next play for 42 yards.

Cian Fahey: Seahawks should send in their heavy package and shift to a spread formation more often. With Graham, Luke Willson and Marcel Reece it's a tough matchup for defense.

Aaron Schatz: Oops. That may have been a mistake. Now that they're down 19-6 with half of the fourth quarter left, the Lions have to make those downfield passes that have been missing all game.

Or, Matthew Stafford could just throw it right to DeShaun Shead. Egregious dropped interception for the Seahawks there, would have come close to ending the game.

Carl Yedor: DeShawn Shead just had one of those "I can't believe he threw the ball straight to me" dropped interceptions. He was all geared up to break on a throw to Boldin and then all of a sudden, Stafford hits Shead right in the stomach. Seahawks force a punt and get off the field right after, so it only ends up costing them field position.

Bryan Knowles: Committing pass interference does not seem sufficient to stop Paul Richardson. He's having a heck of a highlight-reel night, even if his individual stats aren't huge.

Vince, Baldwin just stole six points for you in the Staff Fantasy Challenge. That was Kearse's touchdown, fair and square!

Vince Verhei: I laughed my ass off at that play. And it came right after he literally caught a pass with his ass. An amazing series. 

I remember one other play like the touchdown, years ago. Randall Cunningham was in Philadelphia and threw a pass into the end zone to a guy breaking from the right to the middle. A guy breaking from the left to the middle caught it instead. But this was different, two guys running the exact same seam route. It was like a downfield I-formation.

I am glad that the final margin was big enough that the bad calls did not totally decide it. The Seahawks outplayed the Lions AND had a bunch of calls go their way. 

Russell Wilson now has eight playoff wins. The Detroit Lions, in their 81-year history, have seven.

Aaron Schatz: As bad as the defense was, especially the run defense tonight, I think the epitaph for Detroit's season can be written on Matthew Stafford's finger. The Lions just didn't want to throw deep tonight. They didn't want to take advantage of the weakness of the Seattle defense. So their offense really did nothing, so it didn't matter that for the first couple quarters the defense was able to trap Seattle in those long, protracted drives and only give up one touchdown.

Tom Gower: Final, 26-6. That feels a lot closer to game flow than what the score actually was for most of the game. Attacking Seattle's deep pass weakness would have been a reversion to the old, pre-Jim Bob Cooter Matthew Stafford. But his finger, and maybe in part the offensive line, didn't help that happen, so instead we got a pretty blah game where Seattle held a noticeable but not overwhelming edge throughout. Detroit never got the break they needed to go beyond that, and the late game produced the exact margin. Oh well. Hopefully tomorrow's games will be better.

Carl Yedor: The broadcast timed in at a little under three hours; that seems super fast, especially considering this game was in prime time. I imagine the long drives had something to do with the overall game speed (17 total non-kneeldown drives for the game), but the length felt more like a regular season baseball game than an NFL game.

Vince Verhei: There were only 21 combined clock-stopping incompletions. Connor Cook had 27 by himself in the first game. 

Not much else to say. Seahawks made the big passing plays at the end that made their overall numbers better than they really were, but 26 points against that defense isn't great -- the Lions gave up 31 last week, and 42 the week before that. Seattle will have to play better on offense next week, because I'm pretty sure the Falcons will get more than 6 points.

Scott Kacsmar: I guess we can question if Detroit's season would have ended differently if Stafford never injured the finger, because his play clearly slipped, but how much was this the competition again? We're just so used to seeing the Lions lose to good teams, and the Giants, Cowboys, Packers, and Seahawks made up a brutal stretch of opponents that Detroit went 0-4 against. Detroit was a bit like the Oakland of the NFC this year, relying heavily on comebacks and not playing good enough defense to be a serious contender. While the quarterback's health entered into the spotlight late in the year, I again just don't think the team was good enough to ever make a serious playoff run this year.

Miami Dolphins 12 at Pittsburgh Steelers 30

Bryan Knowles: Mike Garafolo with a fun note on twitter. Yesterday, Adam Gase said that the Dolphins couldn't let the Steelers turn 5-yard gains into 50-yard gains. That Antonio Brown touchdown? A 50-yard gain on a play that should have been much shorter. Adam Gase, truly the Cassandra of NFL coaches.

Aaron Schatz: If the Dolphins get penalized for 12 Monkeys on the Field we are in serious trouble.

Cian Fahey: Todd Haley has made great use of screen designs where only his center goes out as a blocker. Eli Rogers' big play on the first drive came when Maurkice Pouncey advanced downfield and the other four linemen stayed in. It's often done to Le'Veon, new wrinkle to give it to Rogers.

Surprised more teams haven't adopted it.

Bryan Knowles: Huh, it's weird that CBS would show a replay of that long Antonio Brown touchdown a few minutes later...

Oh. Oh no, Miami. Terrible angle by the safety there, but this is beginning to get out of hand.

Scott Kacsmar: Charting has Miami with the 11th-highest broken tackle rate on defense this season. I know it was definitely a problem against Buffalo and New England recently, but some huge misses today that the Steelers used to take a quick 14-0 lead.

Aaron Schatz: I'm busy fighting on Twitter with people who disagree with me that this game is not over. Will Pittsburgh win? Probably. The Steelers were favored before the game for a reason, you know. And it's better to be winning 14-3 than losing 14-3. But the NFL's recent history is FILLED with ridiculous, unexpected comebacks. Not necessarily by great quarterbacks. In the current offensive climate, it is simply easier to come back from a large deficit than it was 20 years ago. Don't put a fork in a team after one quarter.

Scott Kacsmar: Well if the Steelers lose a home game after leading by 14 points, that will be a first in team history. If this one gets out of hand, I might be looking up the other 31 teams to see if they can say the same. There was that 2002 game against Michael Vick's Atlanta team that ended in a tie after a 17-point Pittsburgh lead, but never a loss. The Ravens came back from 13 down to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh last season in a game started by Vick that went to overtime.

Vince Verhei: We are in the midst of a massive windstorm in North Bend and have already lost power a couple of times this morning, so before I disappear I just want to point out that with Le'Veon Bell gaining 99 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown early in the second quarter, my playoff fantasy team is having a great weekend so far. Now I just need Jarvis Landry to come through with a dozen catches as Miami spends the entire game in comeback mode.

Aaron Schatz: What on earth is going on with the Steelers' adrenaline levels here? They have a huge lead and they're basically losing their minds, fighting with the Dolphins, then Bud Dupree leading with his helmet and coming close to decapitating Matt Moore.

Cian Fahey: No idea how Matt Moore only missed one play after being laid out on the field for five minutes.

Andrew Potter: The randomness of football cracks me up sometimes. Ben Roethlisberger had thrown two incompletions before his interception, but they were both wiped out by penalties so he technically started 11-for-11 on the stat sheet. The 11th of those should have been an interception to defensive lineman Earl Mitchell, but the ball popped up off Mitchell to Jesse James for another completion. Then his 12th pass hits Antonio Brown in the hands but pops up to free safety Michael Thomas for the interception Roethlisberger should have thrown on his previous attempt.

Only four drives per team in the first half, excluding the kneeldown after Matt Moore's fumble. As Cian notes, there was a long stoppage after Bud Dupree's foul on Matt Moore, but otherwise the half has largely flown past.

Cian Fahey: For the drive-ending fumble at the end of the second quarter, James Harrison initially lined up over Branden Albert before dropping onto the slot receiver. When the ball was snapped he came back and Albert had completely focused on the defensive tackle. Disguise more than execution got him home.

Vince Verhei: Per Aaron's earlier comments, at 20-6 at halftime, this game does not feel over. Miami has moved the ball, they just need to play better in scoring range. Both quarterbacks have been hot -- officially, a combined 21-of-25 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, the two touchdowns are both Roethlisberger's, which is important. But I'm not convinced Pittsburgh's defense will keep Miami out of the end zone the entire game.

Aaron Schatz: The game started 14-0... and in the half hour since, the Steelers are only winning 9-6, and that's with Miami having two awful fumbles recovered by the Steelers. Bell is slashing through guys but I still feel like we're not seeing the great Ben Roethlisberger today. It's not necessarily the bad Roethlisberger, but it's not great either.

(I realize Roethlisberger is 12-for-13 with only that interception that bounced off a receiver's hands, but it's a lot of short passes for the most part, heavily dependent on those two huge YAC plays from Brown.)

Oh, and then Matt Moore immediately throws a pick when he doesn't see Ryan Shazier drop into coverage, so the Steelers get the ball again, this time right on the 25. If they can get into the end zone here instead of settling for a field goal, we may be done.

Cian Fahey: Matt Moore essentially ends a game that was already over with a bad interception midway through the third quarter.

Vince Verhei: Oh, Tony Lippett. You can jump like Bobby Wagner, but clearly you can't time the snap like Bobby Wagner. He hurdles the center on a field goal attempt, but the ball was never snapped, and that's a first down for Pittsburgh. 

I feel like this game has been very even for about 60 plays, but the other 5 or 10 plays are all giant plays for Pittsburgh, usually based on Miami mistakes.

Cian Fahey: This game is going to take some of the immediate shine off of the Dolphins' season and Adam Gase but anyone who has watched these two teams all year knew that this was a likely result. Just different levels of talent.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, most of the luck-related bounces have gone against the Dolphins in this game. The talent gap isn't even as big as the final score. And I agree, I think what Adam Gase did in turning this into a playoff team is a damn good job. Miami was basically an average team that took advantage of an easy schedule, but a year ago who would have even thought you could say "Miami Dolphins" and "average team" in the same sentence?

Scott Kacsmar: I never bought into Miami this year, but thought it would be closer than this today. I also can't believe Antonio Brown is returning a punt with a 30-6 lead in the fourth quarter, or that Le'Veon Bell is still touching the ball after 30 touches coming into this drive. Bell has all 29 carries for Pittsburgh today, and Roethlisberger just threw two incompletions (one dropped by Brown). I'd run Fitzgerald Toussaint three times in a row on that drive if I had to. Would have been a better use of clock at the very least. Just get this game over and onto Kansas City.

The James Harrison strip-sack was the play of the game. Really felt like Miami could go into the half down 20-13, getting the ball first, but great job by Harrison to knock the ball out. It's one thing to just get the unblocked sack there, but Miami likely would have gotten the field goal. But in knocking the ball out, created a huge turnover and just never felt like Miami recovered from that.

Bryan Knowles: Roethlisberger, still in the game, gets dragged down by Cameron Wake and gets up nursing his shoulder. He seems to be fine, but there's no reason to have him be within 100 yards of the field at this point in time.

Tom Gower: I didn't expect this to be much of a game, because Miami's defense is dependent on their pass rush, and Pittsburgh's offensive line wasn't going to lose that matchup unless the team just came out and laid a complete egg. That meant Miami would have to score at least in the twenties to win, and Matt Moore, while a very good backup, can't make enough plays while avoiding mistakes. 14-0 early on and this one was done, especially because now you can't get away with running out of bounds to get open and catching a touchdown pass.

New York Giants 13 at Green Bay Packers 38

Bryan Knowles: A bit of a quiet first quarter in Green Bay-New York. Biggest note is probably New York's uber-conservative kicking strategy so far. They punted on a fourth-and-5 on the Packers' 35 yard line, and then kicked a field goal when facing fourth-and-3 at Green Bay's 8. It has worked so far -- they're up 3-0, after all -- but it feels like they have left more than a handful of points just hanging out there, and I'm not sure that's a good long-term strategy against a team which has looked as good as Green Bay has over the past month.

That being said, Green Bay managed a whopping 7 yards of offense in the first quarter, so the Giants' defense is doing what they need to do. Still would have liked to see the Giants be a little more aggressive on the road in a playoff game.

Cian Fahey: NFL wild-card weekend: Where complaints about officiating spiral out of control.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of conservative, boy, the Giants really are wedded to the 2-yard runs on first-and-10. Things would be a lot better for the Giants without a couple of drops on the first couple drives, particularly by Odell Beckham in the end zone when he beat his man deep. Their offensive line is holding up, although we all know that at least one egregious play with Ereck Flowers getting pancaked is coming. On defense, Aaron Rodgers seems unable to find guys open in the Giants' zones. They're getting to him with the pass-rushers but usually after a few seconds. But we'll have to see how much the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will mean given the big gap in the charting stats between him and Eli Apple.

Carl Yedor: Does Dwayne Harris have something against calling for a fair catch? There have been multiple times where I was surprised that he didn't fumble. Giants have been playing this one as if they're a favorite who doesn't want to take risks and give Green Bay any unnecessary breaks as a result. Well, except for Harris trying to dance around inside his own 10.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Rodgers can extend a play like no one else -- dancing around and buying time in the pocket until FINALLY, Davante Adams gets open for a the go-ahead touchdown.

Great job by the entire offense there -- the line keeping Rodgers upright, the receivers for keeping the play alive, and Rodgers for dancing and finding the open man.

Vince Verhei: Aaron Rodgers on that first Green Bay touchdown -- oh my god. Don't think there's anyone else in the league right now who can move in the pocket like that, maintain his composure, find a receiver, then make that throw. He's a one-of-a-kind. And how shocking is that that Davante Adams, of all people, made the big catches to get Green Bay back in this game?

Giants have to feel a bit sick, leading 194-67 in yardage, but losing 7-6 on the scoreboard.

Aaron Schatz: That was like 10 seconds. Just ridiculous. There's nobody open, there's nobody open... eventually there will be someone open. Also, the Giants aren't bringing much pressure as long as the Packers put two guys on Olivier Vernon.

Cian Fahey: Davante Adams was literally never open on his touchdown reception. This is absurd from Rodgers.

Vince Verhei: My goodness what a first half that was.

Bryan Knowles: And just like that, the Packers are up 14-6 and will be getting the ball to start the second half. Those conservative play calls early are coming back to haunt the Giants; you just can't stop Aaron Rodgers from doing Aaron Rodgers things. I highly suspect he is magic.

Aaron Schatz: The Hail Mary to end the first half was not as much proof of Rodgers' awesomeness as it was a case of "What the hell are the Giants defensive backs doing?"

Carl Yedor: I was saying to myself that the Giants should have allowed the completion on third down to let time run out, but I didn't think anything would come of it. Rodgers had other ideas. Randall Cobb did the subtle push off in the back of the end zone that's never getting called on an offensive player, especially on a jump ball at home, and Green Bay is now up 14-6 at the half.

Bryan Knowles: I'll spot you that the first play was better from a quarterbacking point of view, but that's a heck of a throw, across the field from 50 yards away. Should the Giants have knocked that one down with better coverage? Yeah, definitely. But it was a heck of a throw -- and as Carl pointed out, a nice subtle push-off from Cobb to get the extra few inches of space.

Tom Gower: I was going to make a Detroit-Seattle comparison, in that it felt like one team was playing better but not so much better that they took an overwhelming lead. Then Aaron Rodgers did a couple things, and the Giants went from up six points to down eight with the Packers getting the second-half kickoff.

Aaron Schatz: I agree that the Hail Mary throw was pretty great. Nobody has the strong arm for those like Rodgers. But I don't think it was specifically aimed for Cobb to subtly push off and catch it in the back of the end zone. I'm guessing it was enough for Rodgers to get it downfield 50 yards up for grabs, and that the actual catching of the thing had more to do with the Giants defensive backs losing it in the air.

Vince Verhei: Deion Sanders with the last word on that Hail Mary:

Scott Kacsmar: I guess you can say Jordy Nelson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie both being out offsets, but it's still a big loss for each side. And being a defender against Aaron Rodgers has to be extremely frustrating with the way he holds onto the ball and buys more time. The Giants are still getting their sacks, but it just takes one of those special plays to turn a drive into points.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I feel like I need to mea culpa. I said something about the Packers doubling Olivier Vernon... I don't know if I was just seeing things or if they changed it up. On that great Rodgers scramble drill touchdown to Davante Adams, they definitely had two guys on Vernon the entire time, which kept him away from Rodgers. But since then, it has almost all been just David Bakhtiari on him one-on-one, and he's actually doing a pretty good job.

Vince Verhei: Third-and-1: Don't give Aaron Rodgers the ball, let the fullback get stuffed.

Fourth-and-1: See third-and-1.

Oh god, they called a timeout on third-and-1 too. What a miserable sequence for Green Bay. 

Which gets MORE miserable when Tavarres King scores a 41-yard touchdown two plays later. 

I feel the need to link to what I wrote about Mike McCarthy after Green Bay lost an un-lose-able game to Seattle in the playoffs two years ago.

Bryan Knowles: Well, this game is certainly bringing the drama the first three games lacked. Two plays after the stop on fourth down, Tavariousness Tavarres King gets wide open on a post route, and Manning hits him for a 41-yard touchdown. That's a way to get around tough fourth-down decisions; just score on a bomb.

Aaron Schatz: Honestly, running plays do normally convert more than passing plays in short yardage. I don't really have a huge problem with Green Bay's play calling there, especially the Aaron Ripkowski handoff. Yes, I probably would have let Rodgers throw one -- on a bootleg where he also could have scrambled for the yard if it was open. But it's not a huge mistake. The run-blocking just wasn't good enough.

Actually... hmmm, Packers were 30th in short-yardage conversions looking at our offensive line stats. So maybe I do have a problem with that play calling.

It's OK, Packers get it back in just a couple plays on the next drive. Randall Cobb beat Trevin Wade in man coverage and sauntered into the end zone. Wade's only in because of the DRC injury.

Tom Gower: Going for it on fourth-and-1 was fine. I objected to the play call, calling a tight formation and running against a loaded box. I need to break out the loaded v. not-loaded stats for those short yardage plays, but in general success rate is lower against loaded boxes (by ESPN's definition of more defenders) because, hey, there are too many defenders to block. Go spread and run or call an RPO and trust your quarterback.

And of course New York kicks the extra point at 14-12. I presume it was because we're still in the third quarter, and you can't go for two that early. Or a near-certainty of being down 1 is better than potentially being down two because being tied doesn't matter. Or something, I really don't get the logic. At least it's now an 8-point game so we can see what McAdoo does now.

Bryan Knowles: There's your KCW for Bobby Rainey. The ball on the kickoff is sailing out of bounds, and the Giants will get it at the 40 -- except Rainey, inexplicably, catches it and falls out of bounds at the 3. Oh my.

Andrew Potter: The Giants' special teams were generally better than the Packers on everything except punt returns this year. Boy has that advantage flipped in this game. Jacob Schum has outpunted Brad Wing kick for kick all game, leading to several Giants drives starting around their own 10; while Green Bay's return game had outperformed New York's even before that horrible mistake from Bobby Rainey taking a kick return out of bounds at his own 3.

Scott Kacsmar: Does choosing to board a boat in Miami on Monday do anything different for your hands on Sunday than sitting in Jersey to watch some film would do? I don't think so, but someone is going to write that article this week. Just a bad game from Beckham in particular while Randall Cobb is putting on a vintage performance with another touchdown. Packers have blown this open and I'm not sure this postseason has a great defense anymore, if you even buy the Giants as a great one in the first place.

Bryan Knowles: A bizarre play there -- Manning is hit as he throws, and the ball bounces, incomplete. Except ... not incomplete. The receiver and cornerback just sort of stand around, but there was no whistle, and Clay Mathews pushes his way through for a fumble recovery. One of the stranger fumbles I've ever seen.

Andrew Potter: I was sure I'd seen a play like that before in a Patriots-Chargers game -- turns out the circumstances were slightly different. In their 2010 regular season game, Jacob Hester thought a lateral from Philip Rivers was a forward pass and didn't recover it when it hit the ground. Rob Ninkovich played the part of Clay Matthews, continuing to play when the opposition had stopped, and got the fumble recovery.

Inexcusable mistake from a professional player.

Vince Verhei: That last "drop" by Beckham -- which caused Joe Buck to talk about the boat trip, which caused everyone to give their HAWT TAEK on Twitter -- was a terrible overthrow by Manning. Beckham didn't have a Packer within 10 yards, and Manning still air-mailed the throw and made Beckham jump just to get his fingers on it. Beckham didn't have a good day, but neither did Manning, neither did the defensive backs, neither did the pass-rushers. The Giants, as a team, were beaten today. The Rainey return at the 3, not going after the Manning fumble, letting a Hail Mary go over their heads, the drops -- there is plenty of blame to go around.

Tom Gower: As I wrote at halftime, the Giants were only up 6-0 despite really controlling the game. That mattered quite a bit, because Green Bay has been much the better team the last 30 minutes or so (we're at the 2-minute warning as I type this), and they are now up by many more points.

The HAWT TAEK I'd like to see people go with is the game changed when Ben McAdoo sent the extra point team out at 14-12. The Packers had been stopped offensively early in the second half, including that fourth down followed by the Tavarres King touchdown. But since then, the game has been all Packers.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 09 Jan 2017

141 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2017, 8:52pm by DraftMan


by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 11:55am

ssurprised GB scored ovber 30 but qauarterback obviously all time great. d. Rodgers-cromartie going down for gaints did not help situation for them.

Raiders: 13-3 in 2017. Super Bowl 52. just a shame d. carr injufed. C. Cook not givebn enough reps, too inexperienced. wish thers was developmental league or spring thing so guy like that could play a little more.

Loins- seahawks- ehh. what is it with these games in seattle always having fishy officiating benefiting seattle>? am tired of it,. will pass on watching most seahawsk home games fopr near future.

Dolphins-Steelers. no surprise Dolphisn not good enough to beat Pitt. nice season. team on upswing. Fans should enjnoy that and for their sake maybe doklphisn will make playoffs again next season

by James-London :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:42pm

RJ, your comment on the Dolphins is spot-on; this year was much more fun than looked possible after 5 weeks

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 11:59am

I read something this morning about how the arc Rodgers puts on his hail mary throws is part of the reason for why he's successful at them. Apparently DB's are used to those throws coming in at a much shallower angle so they misjudge the path of the ball. If you watch the replay you can see a number of the Giants defenders jumping up and it looks like at least some of the are attempting to play the ball, it's just descending at an angle they aren't used to so sails right by them.

It would probably make sense to put in at least a few of your best receivers on obvious hail mary attempts though (or even a punt returner).

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:10pm

There was an article on Deadspin today discussing exactly that.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:43pm

I think you might be up to something about punt returners. Rodgers last two Hail Marys were caught by Janis and Cobb. Janis has returned a fair number of kickoffs and Cobb has handled a number of punt returns, even this year.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:47pm

The Janis catch was a big strong guy outmuscling two guys for the ball while at the highest point he could reach. That was not representative of any punt return catching ability.

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:52pm

It's wasn't but the trajectory of those throws resembles a punt more than your typical pass play, so returning punts may help you judge the ball and allow you to time your jump better.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:56pm


by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:19pm


by techvet :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:29pm

Let's not forget the pre-Hail Mary pass to Janis on 4th and 20 in that Cardinals game in which Rodgers was at one point 1-2 feet from the back of his own end zone. That pass of itself was worthy of Hail Mary consideration.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:22pm

It looked to me like the Giants defenders were getting knocked around in the crowd which prevented them from making a good play on the ball. 4 defenders in the area of the catch:

#24 is initially getting boxed out by Cobb, and then gets boxed out by Davante Adams.

#25 is the one who Cobb pushes off of, so he isn't able to get up into the air. He also wasn't facing the ball which makes timing hard.

#21 gets bumped by Jeff Janis, so he isn't able to get a good jump.

#57 gets there late and can't get through the big clump of people (especially Adams and #25).

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:56pm

The real problem if you watch closely is that all four guys collapse on one defender. There were also a couple other giants who were deep and could have been in the area but did not sprint to close on the ball so it was only a 3v4 situation when it could have been I think 4v7 if everyone had hustled.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 7:51pm

The Hail Mary pass could obviously have been defended a lot more competently by the Giants, but your post kind of highlights the uncomfortable position that defenses are faced with in that scenario. Receivers are basically free to jostle, push off (as Cobb did) etc. with almost zero downside. The defenders, however, are at peril of giving away a crippling pass interference penalty if they infringe. It's when the discrepancy in punishment between offensive and defensive pass interference is at it's least fair.

The obvious corollary to this is, why don't teams ever call Hail Mary plays in regular game situations on 3rd and long?

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:48pm

Patriots routinely would have Gronk on D for opponents' hail-Marys. Probably would put in Bennett should the occasion arise this PS.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:03pm

While PIT certainly had the better luck, I'm surprised at Aaron's read on the PIT-MIA game. I'd be interested to see what DVOA has to say, especially given the differences in the respective rushing games.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:08pm

Couple things I want to say, include a repeat comment from the preview.

First, you guys seem a bit stuck in 2015 when it comes to evaluating Davante Adams. he had just under 1000 yards and was tied for second in the NFL with 12 TD catches. He's still inconsistent, but it should not longer come as a shock when has has a good game.

Here are his DYAR and DVOA numbers that show his improvement from last year. Difference is night and day:

2015: -109 (86th) and -27.8% (84th)
2016: 217 (16th) and 10.0% (24th)

Regarding Bakhtiari, it should also not be surprising that he was rarely given help. He's been a stud pass blocker all year. It seemed questionable before the season when he was given a big extension, but no one has argued it much since. GB's O-line is pretty average at run blocking, but I doubt there is a better pass blocking unit in the NFL. The sack/pressure rate stats are misleading because most of the sacks Aaron Rodgers takes are coverage sacks, as was the case last night.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:39pm

I know there are a lot of Packer fans who think the game has passed Ted thompson by but one thing the guy has going for him is that he typically gets the 'big' decisions correct.

To your point there were few who thought Bakhtiari was worth a big contract extension. The young man has clearly met and exceeded expectations in 2016.

Locking down left tackle for several years is no small thing in a pass crazy league

by Guest789 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:47pm

Agreed. He correctly recognized that a top-10 left tackle is more valuable than a top-5 left guard, and that plus the age difference made Bahktiari an easy call over Sitton. He's been way better than top-10 though - this is the most secure Rodgers blind side has been since Chad Clifton was still in in his prime, and Bahk has improved his run blocking from underwhelming to average as well.

by johonny :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:10pm

Mia/Pit This game was pretty dull. Heck all the NFL games stunk this weekend, but this got out of hand early and then Miami dangled faint hope for about 30 additional minutes. I checked out early in the 3rd and started the offseason early. The last 4 trips to the post season for Miami ended in blow outs. Most fans aren't old enough to remember all 4 :) Feels like with all those high draft picks on the Oline they shouldn't have allowed two strip sacks, but this oline has massively underachieved most of the season. Sure, injuries didn't help but the strip sacks were a result of bad pick ups by the line. No one takes worse angles to RBs than Miami's linebackers. Miami feels like they're light years from taking the division from the Pats at this point. They got alot of cap space, but alot of holes. Their LBs stink, they need another DE, S, and TE and/or G. They also must resign Stills. There's talk of Miami losing their D-coordinator in the offseason to a head coaching job. I can't tell if he worked miracles with a terrible unit or somehow what I saw the last two weeks is somehow what people want in a coach because this unit right now isn't very good. As for the Steelers, I think they can get past KC, but Moore passed at will against them and you can't allow that against Brady so I don't like their chances. Of course Houston might win...HAHAHAHAHa.

by ChrisLong :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:39pm

I don't think resigning Stills is a must. Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry have been better according to DYAR. Stills is a replaceable deep threat.


by James-London :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:06pm

"Their LBs stink, they need another DE, S, and TE and/or G. They also must resign Stills"

Agree with all this, and I think Miami might need a center. Pouncey's really good when healthy, but this is two straight season's he's finished on IR with the same hip injury. I don't know how good you can feel about counting on his being available

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:13pm

As a Seahawks fan, I was rooting for the Giants because I want Aaron Rodgers to be eliminated as early possible, but I found the Giants offensive approach so infuriatingly passive that I started pulling for the Packers. (By contrast, Mike McCarthy going for it on 4th-and-1 in his own territory?!)

Overall, this wasn't the best weekend for football.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:42pm

It might have been the worst weekend for football. The first three games were progressively unwatchable, with the Dolphins turnover-fest on Sunday wrapping up an atrocious outing.

The fourth game redeemed things somewhat, but I would only call NYG-GB a passable game, not a great one. At no point in the second half did I think the Packers would lose. But at least we saw that the Giants belonged on the same field. Too much early conservatism did them in - that and their inability to bring real pressure to Rodgers.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:15pm

It feels strange to excuse the defense when they just gave up 38 points, but this loss feels like it's on the Giants offense and specifically Eli Manning. In four games that I've watched Eli this year he's been either mediocre or horrible in all four. I think Giants fans need to be really concerned about what he is going to be going forward.

Hes just not an accurate thrower and hes never been a good decision maker.

by Kurt :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:17pm

This is crazy. Long term of course there's concern, and we was generally bad this year, but yesterday in particular he was pretty sharp aside from one bad miss to Odell. The receivers had five drops in the first half alone.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:27pm

Agree. I thought Eli played well and this with bad tackles and no running game

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:30pm

It wasn't sll his fault. I guess I found him generally inaccurate. Even his td throw...the receiver had to stop his route to catch it. Had that not been a blown assignment, it might not have been caught.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:18pm

That was one of the best playoff performances of Eli's career. He was just victimized by critical drops early on, some oddly conservative play calling in certain situations and his defense's inability to make a stop in the second half. That lack of a run game didn't help much either.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:24pm

Yeah, if guys catch the ball, he may have obviously had one of the best days of his career. I was suprised his protection held up as well a it did.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:45pm

Eli had a lot of help. Beckham had the worst game I've seen him have.

But the Giants should start thinking about finding their QB of the future. Eli wasn't good this year and there's no reason at this point to think he'll improve. His last dazzling playoff run was five years ago. That's probably not coming back.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:15pm

GB's special teams, namely Jeff Janis in coverage, Schum for punts and Hyde on punt returns, was REALLY good. Praise the heavens. Best all around special teams performance in forever. Even the one block in the back was a phantom call where Montgomery likely drew the call for pulling his arms back when he had not even touched the cover man.

David Bakhtiari has been handling everyone one on one for some time. He has been the anchor of the offensive line all season. Bulaga also had a really good game. If those guys don't need help that means McCarthy can help look out for Taylor who has a tendency to lunge in pass protection and giving up the quick pressure.

Julius Peppers showed flashes which is all GB needs from him. Sack, some pressures, a tipped ball. Not bad for the oldest guy on the team by several years.

GB being able to defend the run with 6 guys allowed them to put a LOT of focus on OBJ. Which was needed as he could have had a big day with a little luck and some better throws at key moments. What a player

by Flounder :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:39pm

I don't know what the issue was for Janis most of the year on special teams, but he seemed distinctly improved the last two or three weeks of the season, and was an absolute beast yesterday.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:42pm

I dunno about Eli's throws being all that bad. One ball off OBJ's hands I think gets caught if he just keeps running instead of making a leap. Combined with the other blatant drop on the first Giants possession, when building a lead was critical, and I thought he had a pretty mediocre day.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:45pm

I wrote below that I thought Manning overall played well. But there were a few throws that if the accuracy were a hair better then it's big gain for the Giants. Rodgers did the same thing early in the game when he blew throws to Cook and Nelson respectively. Not an indictment of his overall play

by whateverdude :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:21pm

"One ball off OBJ's hands I think gets caught if he just keeps running instead of making a leap"

Yeah, I said the same thing to my wife as soon as it happened and then Aikman said the same thing, but it seemed like 95% of Twitter was blaming Eli. The only time a receiver running downfield should leap is if they're trying to make a contested catch. Otherwise they are needlessly slowing themselves down. It's the same reason you shouldn't slide into home plate (unless you are trying to avoid a high tag).

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:28pm

Well diving forward is faster then just running, you can see this with some analysis of runners sliding into first but you basically have to touch the bag simultaneously with your body hitting the ground.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:33pm

If the Giants get out to a 13-7 lead at the half, by catching the ball and playing reasonable Hail Mary defense, they might have had a chance. I thought the Giants might lose big by Eli giving up short fields, but it ended up being special teams play that made the difference in field position.

I like the Packers chances in Dallas quite a bit. The Cowboys defense has been outplaying its talent level by a wide margin all year, although the emergence of David Irving changes things . Still, given the pass protection Rodgers is benefitting from, I think the Packers have a very good chance of scoring in the high 20s, eary 30s, given ATT has never been an especially difficult road environment. If Nelson is out, I may need to re-evaluate.

Still, it woudn't be a shocker to see the Dallas o-line do what it does; the Giants o-line fared better than I thought it would against the Packers front, and it was only the drops that kept the Giants fron pretty successfully overcoming a persistent field position disadvantage. With a line of 4 points and 51 the points number, however, I guess I like the over and the Pack.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:36pm

I will be very surprised if Nelson plays next week. Nelson is a tough guy so those ribs have to be at least fractured if not broken for him not to return yesterday.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:52pm

Besides the obvious time of posssession advantage the Dallas o-line provides, I really don't know how the heck Marinelli has been getting his guys to do what they have done this year. I thought their defensive talent was awful when the season began. Sure, the emergence of Irving is big, as is some good health luck, but I keep waiting for them to get scorched. I think McCarthy should come out super aggressive next Sunday.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:07pm

The Packers have a chance, because Rodgers is special, but the Cowboys have a pretty good secondary, and Mo Claiborne was actually playing like a guy worthy of a top-5 pick when he got hurt (he should play Sunday). Until Rodgers retires, the Packers will always be terrifying, but this is probably one of the worst teams he's dragged to the postseason (my fear is that Rodgers has a knack for turning to guys like Geronimo and Janis when his main targets are unavailable, and the dropoff isn't what you'd expect)

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:52pm

The Packers have a decent chance, because Rogers, but I think the Cowboys offense will put up 30 on Green Bay. Dez Bryant and the rest won't be dropping that many passes at home, and I don't think Hole in Zone will cover as well as it did in Lambeau this weekend. Could be a 50/50 game, where whoever gets the ball last wins.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:57pm

33-30, with either team winning, wouldn't surprise me in the least. If either team fails to get to 23, I'll be very surprised.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:00pm

Green Bay won't be able to stop the run game with just 6 guys like they did against the Giants. I'm not sure they will be able to stop it all. So they had extra guys in coverage all game and still had coverage issues against New York, I think it was good enough to likely win even if they weren't dropping passes as much as they did, but it would have been close. Dallas has a much better offense. Sure I think they have a significantly worse defense, but the Packers aren't scoring on every possession. They will just have some 7+ and out's vs 3 and outs they had vs the Giants. Can they win? Sure. Capers can still schema up enough confusing stuff that could be a problem for a rookie QB and they may get a turn over or two for extra possessions, but I'm not so confident that happened against the Giants translates well vs the Cowboys.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:08pm

Yes, it is safe to say that if the Packers leave the box as unpopulated next Sunday, as they did yesterday, Ezekiel Elliott is going wear out a pair of shoes. The key will be Rodgers jumping the Dallas defense early, and turning the game into one with a lot of possessions, it seems to me.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:34pm

James Harrison is one hustling SOB. That guy was all over the place yesterday helping make plays.

Pittsburgh's run defense was clearly ready. Lots of good discipline and not leaving any opportunity for Miami backs to cut back. I don't know how well Damien Williams played during the season but yesterday was a nightmare for that guy. Getting run over in pass protection. Helping his qb fumble. Falling down when going out for passes. Just.........wow

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:50pm

On the Bobby Rainey KCW moment: That kickoff probably goes into the endzone before going out-of-bounds. Rainey took a pretty long stride after fielding the ball before his lurch out-of-bounds. Still a bonehead maneuver. Getting the ball on the 25 is still preferable to starting on the 3.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:53pm

Yeah I would love to see an all-22 angle with a trajectory line on that ball. I thought it was a mistake of starting at the 3 vs the 25, didn't realize people thought that was going out of bounds before the endzone. So while I thought it was a big error, I didn't think it was a 37 yard error. So maybe I didn't see it right, hence wanting to see a better line.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:21pm

Letting a kick-off land in the field of play is never a good idea, which was the only other choice Rainey had. It is unclear where the ball would have gone if he did not catch it. It was a good kick-off not allowing him time to get over fast enough to correctly receive the kick. P.S. I think it would have only been a 32 yard error (ball is placed 30 yards from the spot of the kick-off)

by DraftMan :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 8:52pm

Back when kickoffs were from the 30, an OOB kickoff was spotted 30 yards from the point it was kicked (so as to place the ball normally at the 40). Then they moved it forward to the 35, but still wanted to keep the penalty for OOB kickoff at the 40, so it's now specified as just 25 yards beyond the point of the kick.

by whateverdude :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:27pm

From the main TV angle I thought it was going out of bounds, but right before they went to commercial they showed an angle from behind Rainey and it looked apparent that the ball was heading to the endzone.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:54pm

GB also received really good work from the interior d-line. Daniels was a beast while both Guion and Clark held up at the point. NY was focused on inside runs and for the most part those guys were trashing their guys blowing up assignments. Would have liked some interior pass pressure but that would have been gravy to their primary mission.

Getting anything close to this result next week would be a HUGE accomplishment

by InTheBoilerRoom :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:18pm

Regarding the Russel Wilson block that some think should have a been called a block in the back, is that correct? My recollection of the block was that the defender had overshot the runner, and had his back to the runner when Wilson blocked him. Naturally, Wilson made contact with the defender's back, because Wilson was between the defender and the runner.

My questions are, am I remembering this wrong, and the defender did not actually have his back to the runner? Or, if I'm remembering the relative positioning of each player correctly, is the rule that you cannot make contact with a defender's back while blocking, no matter where the blocker is relative to the defender and runner?

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:57pm

I didn't see the play, but it would not be a penalty as you described it.

by Pen :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 7:37am

Yeah, it was not a penalty. But around here, people's anti-Seahawk bias blinds them. vs Atlanta, Julio Jones was fouled by Sherman, despite Jones committing hands to the face to start that play. This weekend, PRich committed PI despite having been clearly hit by the defender while the ball was in the air. So hey, must pay off the refs right? You get used to the bias around here after a very short while.

by whateverdude :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:33pm

Yeah, that's how I saw it, too. The defender had turned away from the ball carrier (and hence, had his back turned to any prospective blockers), which invalidates any block in the back violation. Otherwise d-lineman could just back into an o-lineman and generate a block in the back at will.

Here's what I found in the 2011 NFL rulebook:

Blocking is the act of obstructing or impeding an opponent by contacting him with a part of the blocker’s body. A Block in the Back is a block that is delivered from behind an opponent above his waist. It is not a block in the back:
(a) if the opponent turns away from the blocker, or
(b) if both of the blocker’s hands are on the opponent’s side.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:26pm

I don't know what to make of Steelers at Chiefs, except the obvious that Arrowhead is a tough road environment and the Steelers are not road warriors, and KC special teams might win the game. Liked the Chiefs as a home dog, as it opened yesterday, but I think the Chiefs are slightly favored right now.

by mrh :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:28pm

As a Chiefs fan, my subjective take is that bad weather reduces their HFA substantially, as the fan enthusiasm is reduced by coping with the environment and noise is deadened by winter clothing.

Since the start of the Peterson/Schottenheimer regime in 1989 KC has gone:
147-83 at home (.639 win pct)
99-134-1 away (.424), so much better at Arrowhead - not sure how this compares to other teams
but only 20-14 (.589) when temp was 32 or below. The sample size may be too small to be significant but the record at least conforms to my perception.

Even worse, KC is 1-3 in playoffs when it's below freezing (1-1 above 32). And while that's too small to be meaningful, at least the "1" was against Pittsburgh, back in 1993.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:25pm

"Aaron Schatz: I'm busy fighting on Twitter with people who disagree with me that this game is not over."

Why bother? Honestly, this is one of my only complaints about this site: the thin skin you guys have on Twitter (it's why I had to stop following you, Aaron - too much of your content was bickering with random nobodies on Twitter - just ignore them if they are clearly not using logic).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:30pm

Twitter is such an awful format for anything more complex than traffic reports. I don't know why anyone spends time with it.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:34pm

I just follow some Finance and Econ peeps. Pretty good

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:57pm

I suppose as a tool to drive traffic to formats where complexity can be embraced with some nuance, it may be ok, if done well. Mostly it just seems to me that so many just use it as a loudspeaker for overly simplified nonsense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:48pm

The folks I follow post links to articles and other items of interest. I also do follow a few folks for humor. The Old Hoss Radbourne twitter feed is pretty funny sometimes

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 1:59pm

I use for getting short updates from a number of sources but it's pretty terrible. I hate trying to follow any kind of conversation on Twitter (third party apps help with this). There are so many better options in a usability sense the problem is that people just don't use them.

by Sakic :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:10pm

I have no urge to ever use Twitter but it does have it's uses. My wife follows most of the Wisconsin based craft breweries as it's especially handy to keep informed about all the seasonal beer releases. :-)

by Theo :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:11pm

Yes, but you can get a quick ego fix by getting compliments from people when you post some nudity, when you get followers because you were the first with a joke or when you can slap arguments at unexpecting idiots.
It's so rewarding!

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:22pm

I tried twitterfor a while because so much news appears there first but it's a distraction engine more than an information source and I found the amount of anger and spitefulness corrosive even to witness.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:02pm

Twitter is absolutely fantastic for getting recent news, especially breaking sports news like in-game injury updates or press conference quotes, and as a carefully curated resource for articles by writers you follow. It's the easiest way to follow everybody from independent analysts through beat writers, big sports sites, and official resources all on one platform.

It's horrible for actual communication, but I'm totally okay with that.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 7:11pm

Twitter can also be a good source of pithy humor if you follow the right people, though not many can pull it off. I think it's a good test of comedic talent actually.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 7:27pm

Do enjoy the twitter if I msut say so myself. Of course, do have to unfollpw dopes and whiners herre and there. Bill Simmons was one.

Most people I follow have good comemnts. Even mike tanier

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 6:39am

I LMAO at a lot of things you post on there RJ. The tweet about Jim Lash and guinea hens being a good example.

Am intrigued by your Arizona Cardinals themed Christmas tablecloth as per the Doug Plank and Cleveland Browns Shake,Rattle,Roll tweets of last week.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 11:43am

my wife put that tablecloth n table. is nice tablecloth.

big fan of guinea hens so abel to work them into a trading card comment was fun.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:21pm

Yeah I really don't understand the whole attraction of arguing with the 5% dumbest people out there, which is what most Twitter arguing is.

Stop seeking out ways to find people with stupid opinions.

by bingo762 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:08pm

Rodgers>Favre, right?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:27pm

Well, sure, but give Rodgers Mike Sherman as head coach and GM from 2013 until now, and maybe we see things differently. McCarthy isn't Mike Holmgren, but he's helluva lot better than Sherman, and Thompson isn't much of a drop from Ron Wolf, but the drop to Sherman as GM is the Marianas Trench.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:13pm

Multiple reports that Jordy Nelson has:
* broken ribs
* pneumothorax
* lacerated spleen

Hard to imagine him playing at all in the postseason, let alone this week.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:29pm

I wonder why we didn't get a !!!! rage comment about how vicious and evil that "leading with the helmet" hit was.

The standard is the standard!

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:38pm

I will likely regret responding but

A) the league rarely calls this penalty on non-head contact
B) it looks like a typical football play

But as I understand it from hearing players talk the players regard this type of hit as a cheap shot.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:50pm

I really would prefer that leading with the head in that manner result in ejection. Yeah, it may result in a few guys getting unfairly tossed, but overall it would, I think, alter behavior in a way that would provide a net benefit.

I think that the college game handles replay and illegal contact better than the NFL.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:54pm

Here is the amazing thing about college replay. It is way faster than the NFL. I have no idea why. But with some exceptions the college replay has got to be half the time if not less than the pro version. And while they get all kinds of calls wrong I have not seen too many replay calls bungled.

As for targeting, it's like college hockey. Once the league made it known this was a point of emphasis the players mostly adapted. The exception being when a qb ducks his head just as a rusher is getting to him and the refs toss the poor SOB who was clearly aiming for the guy's chest or even stomach. That is really disappointing.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:59pm

At least they employ replay pretty efficiently when they employ the targeting call. The Gophers had a ton of ejections this year, and some were of the unlucky variety, but for the most part I thought the system worked well, and I'd like to see the NFL not be so propietary as to resist it, and the replay method in general, migrating to their league.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:04pm

I was thinking of U of MN as they were the talk of the Big 10.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:08pm

It was kind of weird in that MN has not been getting unsually penalized for this stuff since Kill came on board, but maybe his assistant wasn't as good at maintaining discipline. Well, he's gone now, so who knows?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:07pm

Human physiology and biomechanics, in conjunction with helmet design, dictate forward motion by football players is inherently a "lead with the helmet" situation.

The standard is the standard!

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:24pm

"Leading with the helmet" is shorthand for "leading with the crown of the helmet."

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:38pm

The person in question has -- in no fuzzy words--- informed us their words are to be read in only the most literal, strict, and exact form they are written.

The standard is the standard!

by ChrisLong :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:56pm

"I really would prefer that leading with the head **in that manner** result in ejection."


by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:30pm

If you watch rugby, you'll see that players tackle other players using their shoulders.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:41pm

They are still often leading with their head.

Here's a hypothetical experiment (though I assume no liability if you injure yourself attempting it). *NOTE, please don't actually do this just trying to prove me wrong*

Close a typical hinged door in your home. Run at it at full speed, tackling the right side of door frame/wall with your right shoulder as a good rugby player might. If your face doesn't get smashed into the door, I'll eat my words. If your face does however get smashed in the door, guess what? your head was leading your body.

The standard is the standard!

by LyleNM :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:48pm

I don't know of any football players or rugby players that are shaped like doors. How about a telephone pole?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:52pm

What does the shape of the target have to do with whether or not the head is actually leading the body? I just chose something that would painfully prove the point.

If you're looking to get me to concede players could be more careful in how they use their tackling technique, gladly.

If you're looking to redefine what a common plain phrase means.... no.

The standard is the standard!

by LyleNM :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:13pm

Because "leading" in the context of football is usually taken to mean the first part of your body that you contact the opponent with. Many players execute correctly to contact with the shoulder first - and OF COURSE the head is going to follow. (Watch Seahawks tackling technique for example.) This is why the shape of the target actually does matter. It really isn't that difficult to contact a human shaped stationary target with your shoulder and either no or minimal contact to your head if you are using proper technique. The problem gets to be when the target is no longer stationary...

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:28pm

While I would like to agree with you, unfortunately the forum god has issued commands that we must**** read what he writes literally. There is no inferred context, meaning, missing words, etc. WHWIWYG.

And thus, he commands football players must not lead with their helmets

I would therefore assume you need to file your ocmplaint with him over the inability of humans to overcome their biomechanics. I'm just doing as I've been ordered.

The standard is the standard!

by LyleNM :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:34pm

Well, since this is what Will wrote: "I really would prefer that leading with the head in that manner result in ejection," and since that does not at all contradict the tackling technique I described, I therefore order you to agree with me.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:37pm

but he didn't write that it only applied to tackling scenarios (that would require implied meaning), sooooo he wants all football players who run ejected.

I agree with you on that.

thanks for helping make football great again, Will.

The standard is the standard!

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 8:36pm

I've always maintained football would be a safer sport if they got rid of helmets altogether. Leading with your head would then be its own punishment.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:55pm

This. Lead with the helmet, and off you go. Impose a suspension (1 game for 1st offence, and escalating thereafter) and it would stop overnight. When teams suffer actual consequences, they'll have zero tolerance for it.

The hits on Nelson and Matt Moore were disgraceful, only exceeded by a concussion protocol that let Matt Moore back in after missing one play.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:07pm

The silly thing is how it is viewed by some as a radical experiment for football, despite the evolution in the college game. I think it likely that both hits would result in ejection college, and the targeting ejections are modifying behavior, without hurting the game.

by anotherpatsfan :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:40pm

IMO given that he lowered his head and initiated contact with the helmet, the play falls within the defenseless receiver rule and a 15 yard penalty was justifiable. But IMO not an ejection-worthy play.

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:31pm

I'm so glad you're combining "being okay with people being needlessly hurt" to your already endearing trait of "hating a stranger because they're black".

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:06pm

Speaking of strawmen, false accusations, and ad hominem attacks....

would you care to answer this classic:
"When did you stop beating your wife?"
The standard is the standard!

by Theo :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:09pm

Care to explain that last one, because it's not a light accusation.

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 8:21pm

Pure conjecture on my part. But the years long crusade (remember "Omar Tomlin"?) against someone who is, for all his flaws, a successful NFL coach whose record would be the envy of, what 75% of NFL teams, I can't really say anything else would make sense. If he said Mike Tomlin ran over his puppy I would believe it. If he wants to crap up boards with 25 post question-begging screeds then I'm going to assume the worst for his motivations.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 8:31pm


I'm not sure he's "stupid", either - I agree with his core point that Tomlin isn't that good a coach. It is sure weird how long and how loud he beats that drum, though, I give you that.

by BJR :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 12:12am

You have to be careful judging people's motivations based on a few message board posts. For however annoying you may find this poster, I'm not sure these accusations are warranted. By definition of being a 'fan' you lose perspective and rationality on your chosen team/subject (I know I have done it), and I think that is all that is in play here.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 2:30pm

Interesting hypothetical given Tomlin's relationship to Michael Vick. Personally, I don't devote a ton of thought to Tomlin one way or another and I don't know how good of a coach he really is, but I have zero respect for the man.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:24pm

The funny thing is that this is actually more dangerous than hits to the head. It just looks worse. But punctured lungs and lacerated spleens are no joke.

But who cares about anyone's health other than QBs anyway right?

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:36pm

Or QBs named Newton.

I get that football has some inherent danger and that when people are moving at high speed you're going to end up with some dangerous collisions that can't really be avoided, however, they really need to crack down on obviously dangerous tackles like this. I think a step in the right direction would be to allow these plays to be reviewable but also take away the responsibility for that from the officials on the field and have it done in some centralized location. The first offense could be an ejection with fines potentially leveled later. This would give a chance to review the play to determine how 'dirty' it was without substantially slowing down the game. Immediate ejection would also make players more aware about trying to avoid those kinds of hits instead of giving them one free chance to injure another player.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:45pm

Less true since the 1950s.

For better or worse, WWII and Korea revolutionized treatment of trauma injury, and torso injury fatality rates plummeted.

Prior to that, most football fatalities were sepsis-related.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:49pm

Random thoughts on the games:

* As I wrote above, I think Eli played very well and NY could easily have had a commanding 14-0 lead without the drops.

* Along those same lines, I was reminded of the 2010 NYJ/NE playoff game where a potential 14-0 lead morphed into 3-0 solely due to unforced offensive miscues. In both games, you could see how much that early reprieve meant to the players, particularly after GB hearkened back to one of their own playoff failings with the Hail Mary.

* Stories abound about how scary Seattle and Pitt look, but I think those games indicate what we'll be able to take from a potential NE-Hou blowout this weekend: nothing. Seriously, did we learning anything we didn't already know from either of those performances? About the only thing I can think of is that Seattle's receivers might have much better hands than I realized.

* It won't surprise me if I end up regretting my rooting interest (the same way I did in 2010, 2012 and 2007), but forgive me if I'm overly contented by seeing the Giants out of the tournament.

* I was pretty convinced Oakland still had enough pieces to get past Houston.... until I watched the extended highlights from the earlier meeting. Something about that felt more predictive than Miami/Pitt's previous matchup, to give a point of comparison.

* That said, it's hard not to feel bad for Oakland. Losing Carr was probably enough to turn a legitimate contender into an also-ran, but the Penn's absence really sealed the deal.

* Rodgers' first TD pass was one of the most impressive I've ever seen. The pocket movement was obviously noteworthy, but the throw itself was incredible. At first glance it looked like a pretty good sized opening, but the replay made it clear how little room Aaron had to fit it in there.

by t.d. :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:47pm

Seattle, in particular, seems to match up poorly with Atlanta, without Earl Thomas. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, played their best game of the year against KC (albeit at home)

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:50pm

I might be remembering wrong, but it seemed the Steelers abandoned a lot of their 13-yard-off coverage against the only team in the league they weren't afraid would throw the ball deep on them.

The standard is the standard!

by James-London :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:00pm

And yet, when Miami did throw, there were plays to be had. Miami didn't make enough, but they were there

Pittsburgh were much the better team, and thoroughly deserved to win, but the Steelers D was no better than OK. The offense on the other hand is downright terrifying...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:53pm

I remember earlier this season, Richard Sherman posted on Twitter that it's legal to hit a receiver before the ball is thrown if the quarterback is out of the pocket. This being the case, why don't defensive backs wipe out Rodgers' receivers as soon as he starts scrambling?

For example, in the play in the gif, couldn't Sensabaugh just lay Adams out or drive him out of bounds once Rodgers leaves the pocket to his left? If so, why don't more DBs do this? Is it too difficult to execute in real-time? Am I misunderstanding the rule?

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:40pm

I think you understand the rule correctly, but it's easier said than done.

First, the DB has to be sure the QB is out of the pocket. Rodgers does a lof of moving within the pocket, so a DB can't just assume that after, say, 4 seconds that it's safe to hit the WRs. On the Davante Adams TD Rodgers holds the ball for about 9 seconds before making the throw, and it looks like he's in the pocket for about 8 of those seconds. It's especially tough with man coverage, when the DB isn't looking at the QB, but would be fairly tough even in zone coverage.

Second, the DB has to successfully knock down or push out a scrambling WR who is probably of similar size, without losing coverage. One missed shove and the CB is down on the ground, leaving the WR wide open.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:10pm

Yes, you are probably correct that it is easy said than done. But perhaps it should be tried/practiced against scrambling QBs.

Also, do you know, if a QB leaves and then reenters the pocket is he considered "in the pocket" for the sake of the illegal contact and/or the intentional grounding rule?

by jtr :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 1:43pm

Per NFL rules digest: "After the ball leaves the pocket area, this area no longer exists."
So once a QB scrambles outside of his tackles, he's considered outside the pocket for the remainder of the play.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:12pm

well if push a guya nd kniock him down he could get right back up again. os if push him, it is not like coneback can go somewhere else unless passer has thrown ball or been sakced. otherwise, recveiver might get right back up and be open. this technique Sherman spoke of, best utilized near goal line when passer cannot fiddle too much due to close quarters. more middle of field area, not as easy to execute this stuff.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:41pm

You are correct. I imagine it's coaching philosophy. Would you rather risk a DPI knocking down the receiver when the QB exits the pocket, expecting the ball not to be in the air, or would you rather prevent the much more likely completion by taking the WR out of the play.

Another possibility, I never see this happen to Seahawk receivers when Wilson scrambles, maybe the WRs of the scrambling QBs are just playing with their heads on the swivel a little more, and not giving the opportunity.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:52pm

Illegal contact is not enforced but holding and pass interference can still be penalized. I think it is very hard to be sure the QB is out of the pocket from 40 yards away while you are also trying to watch a receiver. In zone coverage, on a shortish pass pattern vand if the receiver is between you and the QB and the QB is on your side of the field then it would be easier to do this. So usually too difficult.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 2:56pm

I'm a bit surprised nobody discussed Matt Moore's incredibly fast concussion protocol test. It was quite the topic on Twitter.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:03pm

I was shocked, but supposedly the neuroligist said he passed the protocol, and combined with the neurologist clearly seeing the hit was on the jaw, with a mouthpiece inserted, he made the call. Is the union paying these neurologists? I would hope it isn't the league.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 3:19pm

According to former Chargers team doctor David Chao, the initial exam only takes around two minutes to administer and Moore was off the field for around five minutes -- more than long enough to be cleared.

If the situation with Tom Savage in Week 17 is any indication, Moore probably underwent another exam at half time and was cleared again.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:29pm

Lets be clear a concussion is not a gunshot wound to the chest. Yes they should be taken seriously, and yes severe or multiple ones can lead to long term issues, but people in a variety of walks of life have gotten concussions for a long time, and football is dangerous in a wide variety of ways.

If Matt Moore is satisfied with this treatment and the protocol I am not sure why there is so much hysteria about it. It is one serious health risk in a game absolutely full of them.

by Kyndynos :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:28pm

Al Davis must be rolling over in his grave. His Raiders are relevant for the first time since Jared Geoff was in elementary school, and their season ends by becoming the victim of Brock Osweiler's first (and for humanity's sake, hopefully only) playoff win as a starter.

by Ivarsson.se :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:19pm

Actually, if mr Osweiler would get just one more, I wouldn't object. As a fan with a rooting interest outside the Pats...

Also, imagine the fun we're going to have ridiculing the AFC South next year too, as HOU will surely hold on to a 2-playoff-win QB as the uncontested starter.

by Kyndynos :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 4:59am

Think about what you're saying, sir! The Texans already gave Osweiler 72 million for a home win against the Patriots. What are they going to give him for a playoff win on the road? A majority stake in the team?

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:46pm

Can anyone remember another hit to the qb that was as devastating as the the Moore one? Bud Dupree was running full speed at him.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:55pm

Actually, if we want to be really scary about it, Dupree probably wasn't at top speed yet.

The standard is the standard!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:07pm

Bryce Petty a few weeks ago, Tom Brady early in his career on a run vs the Bills , Colt McCoy vs the Steelers, Eric Hipple vs the Bucs ,

The standard is the standard!

by Led :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:00pm

Mo Lewis hitting Drew Bledsoe, ushering in the Brady era.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 6:02pm

The one that finished Steve Young wasn't pretty

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by lofistew :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 7:33pm

Wilber Marshall absolutely destroying Joe Ferguson in 1985 has always been my gold standard.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 6:33am

Pretty much anything from before a decade ago.

Some memorable takedowns are:
- 86 playoffs - Jim Burt knocks the snot out of Joe Montana
- 90 Conf Championship - Leonard Marshall also on Montana
- 85 MNF - Lawrence Taylor breaks Joe Theisman's leg.
- 00 Conf Championship - Tony Siragusa deliberately puts his weight onto Rich Gannon at the end of a sack.

You just don't realise how much QB are protected these days until you watch old time football ... https://youtu.be/k4Q_vzk9Lbo?t=1m39s

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 9:57am

You wanna know why Terry Bradshaw doesn't seem quite all there sometimes?


by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 11:21am

He also got knocked unconscious in Super Bowl X on the game-winning 64-yd TD pass to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. Only found out in the locker room what had happened on the play.

by big10freak :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 3:16pm

I will always remember an interview with Lynn Dickey. Dickey was the Packers qb in the early 80's, and he could really throw but was a statue thanks to multiple knee injuries. As in he could take the snap and go backward but had no ability to move. He was immobile in the pocket. Despite that Dickey had some amazing seasons in Green Bay because when given any amount of time he could sling it especially to James Lofton. So he's long retired and being asked about Brett Favre's scrambling and how Favre would at times take some huge hits. Dickey's response, "Well, when I felt the bad guys coming I would either throw the ball or lay down" If you could have heard this in Dickey's laconic response in his Kansas accent you would have laughed too. Just really funny

by Travis :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 11:30am

Eric Hipple vs. the Bucs in 1985. He missed the next two plays, but came back for the following series.

by Theo :: Tue, 01/10/2017 - 11:14am

It probably wasn't even the hardest Moore took in his NFL career:


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 4:47pm

It seems the clearest indicator of this weekend was that teams that could catch passes thrown into their hands won, and teams that could not lost.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:16pm

Also, starting a healthy first string QB against a not healthy or not first string QB was a decisive advantage.

Only the NFC matchups had a full set of first stringers, and thanks to Stafford's finger only GB-NYG featured two healthy first stringers.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/09/2017 - 5:39pm

Yup. If that was end of season, pistol formation 2014 Rodgers on Sunday the game could have played out very differently.