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» Four Downs: AFC West

There's a serious need for defensive help in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. In Denver, meanwhile, the Broncos must determine whether or not Case Keenum can really be a long-term solution at quarterback.

21 Jan 2018

Audibles at the Line: Conference Championships

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails 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 Browns 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.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New England Patriots 24

Andrew Potter: New England's opening drive is held to a red zone field goal, but if the Patriots can keep getting Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola matched up against Telvin Smith this will be a long, long day for the Jaguars linebacker. We've seen a lot of talk this week about the Jaguars not having seen anybody who manipulates formations and matchups quite like Tom Brady, and that already showed up on a couple of plays early.

Aaron Schatz: Although the Jaguars didn't fall for "if we run base personnel, you have to have Paul Posluszny on the field." On second-and-9, they took him off despite the Pats having the 21 personnel.

Vince Verhei: Pats had nine plays on that opening drive, and zero runs out of the backfield. (Burkhead's carry was on a reverse.) This against the best pass defense in the league, but a below-average run defense.

Rivers McCown: If the Jags are able to keep running like they did in the first quarter, continually setting up Bortles with shorter third downs, I like their odds to keep this close.

Aaron Schatz: First quarter goes by super-fast, just a half-hour. Seems like Pats offense is trying to break everything wide, with three or four jet sweeps/end-arounds so far. Jags ran a ton on their first drive, passed more since, a lot of play-action bootlegs.

Andrew Potter: Nathaniel Hackett has called a superb game so far. Even on the two incompletions, his play design worked, but the quarterback's inaccuracy allowed beaten defenders to recover. The touchdown is the first time I've noticed the Patriots defenders on the broadcast feed actually bite hard on the play-action -- their other play-action plays have worked, but not necessarily because the play fake has dragged defenders out of position.

Scott Kacsmar: Chris Ivory is a healthy scratch again, right? Props to the Jaguars for breaking out Corey Grant today. He only had 41 receiving yards in the regular season and he already has 44 today. Good way to use a speed back for a change of pace from Leonard Fournette.

Aaron Schatz: Also, very little pressure from the Patriots on Blake Bortles so far, and the Patriots offense is 0-for-4 on third downs.

On top of everything else, Jags' kickoffs are much better today than they usually were during the season. Nullifies a Pats field position advantage.

Carl Yedor: To add to Aaron's point from earlier, the Jags are currently 3-for-4 on third downs. I highly doubt that both of those rates will hold for the rest of the game.

Rivers McCown: On the sack Brady just took with about six minutes left in the second quarter, he looked like he was actually anticipating the pressure.

That was so, so profoundly weird.

Dave Bernreuther: He was expecting it, Rivers, and tightly grasping the ball with two hands while moving in the pocket, which made it look even weirder. Smart, of course, but different.

Aaron Schatz: Patriots just had to punt yet again. I'm a little surprised at the lack of an attempt at a running game. There was all the wide stuff early and a couple of runs up the middle to Dion Lewis, but otherwise they're just passing over and over, which lets the Jaguars go after Brady non-stop.

Bryan Knowles: Brady's getting hit over and over. That's what you want when you're nursing an injured thumb, right?

Vince Verhei: It's not just Brady. Jacksonville's secondary is laying the wood to receivers. The front is knocking Patriots linemen on their ass. Jacksonville's blockers are putting Patriots defenders on the turf, especially on the screens. It's been a while since I've seen one team just lay a physical beating on another like this.

Tom Gower: Through the touchdown drive that made it 14-3, the Jaguars have thrown 12 passes and run the ball nine times on first and second downs, or 57 percent pass. That's a pretty pass-focused game plan from a team that mostly spent early downs running the ball (they were something like 60 percent run in the first three quarters when I ran the numbers in like Week 11). That's in sharp contrast to Tennessee, who was about as equally run-heavy in the regular season and was very run-heavy until they started throwing the ball on early downs in the third quarter, after going down a couple touchdowns.

Dave Bernreuther: The Jags continue their third-down streak, converting a third-and-9 and then a third-and-7 to Marcedes Lewis ... only to be flagged for delay of game. Right outside field goal range and with 2:20 to go, that's just huge, especially when Bortles takes a sack on the next play. Could be a game changer if instead of ending the half, scoring points, and possibly getting a double possession, the Jags allow a drive for points here to close the half.

Aaron Schatz: Gronk just took a massive head-to-head hit from Barry Church, which led to a 15-yard penalty, and Gronk looks really woozy. He may not be coming back. Jags followed it up with a big DPI that puts the Pats in the red zone.

Rivers McCown: The pass interference on A.J. Bouye was a horrific, game-changing call on an uncatchable ball.

Andrew Potter: I will never understand why two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties merit an ejection, but a blatant helmet-to-helmet shot on the other team's best receiver doesn't. No excuses for Barry Church there, it's not like some of those fouls where the receiver ducks or falls into the hit. Church went high and hit Rob Gronkowski high, and for the second time in the AFC playoffs a critical moment of the first half may well be a concussion to one of the game's top two tight ends.

Bryan Knowles: That's a major problem the NFL has with their penalties/concussion protocol. It's just not a severe enough penalty for a dangerous play. A 15-yard penalty in exchange for (possibly) removing Gronk from the game? From a purely in-game perspective (as opposed to a "don't injure other human beings" perspective), that's an easy trade.

We'll see if the NFL implements targeting rules this offseason, which are an imperfect solution but probably an improvement. Not saying that particular hit was targeting (which is one of the problems!), but it feels like they need to make the penalty for dangerous hits harsher.


Vince Verhei: I'm kind of stunned people are upset about the Church penalty. He led with his helmet, and hit Gronk in the helmet. That is a textbook penalty and needs to be called every time. And for those saying "What's he supposed to do, hit Gronk in the knees?" -- there's, like, 4 feet of human being in between those two spots. Go for the shoulder or hips.

Dave Bernreuther: The Jaguars committed half a dozen worse infractions last week in Pittsburgh than that one that gifted the Pats a first-and-goal.

They have nobody to blame but themselves, though. Procedure penalties are inexcusable. You can't snap the ball late on a third-and-7.

The Pats just scored a touchdown from the 15 in about 55 seconds, so the Jags, from the 25 and :55 left ... kneel?

Great effort, guys.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like the "uncatchable" clause in DPI has gradually disappeared from the entire NFL, whether it's the Patriots or any other team. How many times has one of us made that same comment this year?

Bryan Knowles: The Jags situational football was very poor at the end of the first half -- punting before the two-minute warning, the delay of game coming out of the timeout, etc. You leave little cracks like that open, and the Patriots will slide right through. They score a touchdown very quickly, and this thing feels a lot more competitive than it did half an hour ago.

Tom Gower: "Uncatchable" is normally called pretty loosely, and should be. Cooks is fast. Without any restriction by Bouye (and he got his hands up on him downfield, that's a good marker), he can cover a lot of ground.

Pretty clean game by the Jaguars ... until they went illegal shift and then delay of game, holding, Church helmet-to-helmet, and then the DPI call in 61 seconds of game time (for the last four, from 2:23 to 1:23).

In a different situation, I'd be really annoyed at the Jaguars for just taking knees after being pulled back to 14-10. But after the penalty sequence, getting the second-half kickoff, with Bortles, still leading, I don't mind it. Get re-settled, come out to start the second half, go back to throwing on early downs unlike what they did the series after my earlier email when they just ran, ran, and ran, and play football again.

Scott Kacsmar: A lot can happen in the second half, but I have to think we'll be talking about the Jaguars' poor management of the last 2:30. You can't come out of a timeout and not be ready to snap the ball on a third-and-7. That wiped out a huge conversion to Lewis. Then to punt before the two-minute warning was really bad. It's one thing not to let the clock run down, but they could have snapped it at like 2:07 to use up the stoppage, but didn't even do that. Very poor clock management. The Gronk hit was easily a flag, but the Jaguars have been hitting hard all day and it's having an impact. I didn't like the DPI call at all. You had two guys fighting down the sideline on a ball that was ahead of them. Just let that one go. Pretty predictable touchdown answer by New England. With 55 seconds and two timeouts left, I don't see how Marrone can defend two kneeldowns. At least give Fournette a carry or go shotgun draw or something to see what happens. I understand getting the ball first in the third quarter and not wanting to force something before the half, but you can't just kneel twice there.

Lots of good stuff from the Jaguars that half, but they showed their inexperience with those last few minutes.

Derrik Klassen: Surrendering a possession at the end of the half like that did not feel like the right move. Jacksonville does have a slow, boring offense, but to not even try to get at least three points there, is weird.

Aaron Schatz: Pats have to do something about the Jaguars leaking out blockers after play-action. It is KILLING them. Another big pass to start the second half, to Tommy Bohanon.

Dave Bernreuther: Credit where credit is due: Tom Brady couldn't have thrown that third-and-8 pass to T.J. Yeldon any better than Bortles just did to extend the opening drive.

Tom Gower: Good pass by Bortles, but Yeldon had to beat Marquis Flowers in coverage (not too hard with natural leverage of route) and then Kyle Van Noy waiting at the sticks to tackle him short of them. And, like he did against Fournette on the second touchdown, Van Noy lost that matchup.

Andrew Potter: That huge Brandin Cooks drop came after he had beaten Telvin Smith in coverage again. I like Telvin Smith a lot, but this defense puts Smith in those spots too often. Letting him be matched with a slot receiver like Danny Amendola is one thing, but with Gronkowski still off the field (and probably done for the day at this point) Cooks is New England's No. 1 receiver.

Aaron Schatz: Note that the Jacksonville offense is almost entirely on the right side of the field so far, for two reasons. 1) Stephon Gilmore. 2) Bortles is running so many bootlegs, and he's right-handed.

Vince Verhei: Jaguars get a field goal to go up 20-10 on one of the best drives of Bortles' career. He wasn't just chucking bombs or making one-read throws off play-action, he was scanning the field and going through progressions and making good decisions on the run. The flea flicker was a great example -- the deep throws weren't there and there was pressure off the edge right away, but he didn't panic, he just ran to the open space to his right. And even then, when he had space to run, he kept his eyes upfield and found a receiver for the first down.

Bryan Knowles: Feels like New England needs a counterpunch here. Game's far from over, but it feels like Jacksonville is beating them every which way at the moment. Play-action and a deep crosser -- like on the drop by Cooks -- would be great.

And then, woah! New England busts out some great trickeration, double-pass for a huge gain -- but Myles Jack strips the ball! HUGE play!

Bookmark that Jack fumble review for whenever someone complains that the Patriots get all the calls, especially in key situations. It was the right call, I think, but it's the kind of play that would have been overturned to a Patriots ball if the Vast Patriots Conspiracy was, y'know, an actual thing.

Dave Bernreuther: Bryan is right, but I won't lie: I was still expecting them to somehow give the Pats the ball back.

It's too loud here for me to have heard any explanation for why they actually got the call right on the field but still blew the play dead. Seemed to me like he should've been free to run after the recovery.

Bryan Knowles: I think Jack and Lewis were contacting each other on the ground, making Jack down by contact at the spot he recovered the ball.

Andrew Potter: Whisper it, but they didn't make that call (fumble, recovered by Jacksonville) in the moment. They only made that call after "conferring" (i.e., after they realized that Lewis might have lost the ball). If they had made that call in the moment, you're right, Jack would have been free to run.

Rivers McCown: If the Jags lose this game, that fourth-and-1 punt in Pats territory will haunt them.

Aaron Schatz: Brady moved the ball down the field easily on the next drive, making it 20-17, 8:44 left. A lot of this game has gone against the way the matchups looked coming in. Not only are the Pats not running the ball well against the below-average Jaguars defense, they are passing the ball outside the numbers all afternoon long even though the strength of the Jaguars defense is the pass rush and the outside cornerbacks. Brandin Cooks over 100 yards at this point. Phillip Dorsett had a huge contested catch on the scoring drive.

Bryan Knowles: The Pats go right back to their bag of tricks, with a flea flicker as a key part of an 85-yard drive, and we have a three-point game.

We've seen this story before. Feels like the Jaguars need a touchdown, despite having the ball and the lead.

Aaron Schatz: When I talk about how the game has gone against the way the matchups looked, I'll add that the Jaguars haven't gotten a lot of their passing yardage in the short middle of the field the way I expected.

Dave Bernreuther: Neither of the Jags' fraidy-cat punts have even been any good either. Fair caught at the 15 isn't all that good from midfield, and both times, the Pats calmly marched down the field.

At least that time they did it without flags helping.

It's the fourth quarter and the Jaguars have the lead and the ball. Which team do you think is nervous right now?

Great decision to bring that kick out of the end zone...


Bryan Knowles: The Jaguars had only 12 drives all season of 5:53 or longer. That drive lasted 43 seconds. And now the Pats are basically in field goal range, thanks to that special-teams advantage.

Oh boy oh boy.

Aaron Schatz: Pats get down into the red zone. Jaguars lose Myles Jack and Marcell Dareus to injury on consecutive plays. First-and-goal from the 4 after a Brady sneak to convert second-and-2.

Bryan Knowles: I'm surprised Jacksonville's not using some timeouts here. Save some time for the ensuing drive.

...Well, that's moot now that New England scores, but they could have had 3:30 and not 2:48. Because now they need to score. Because the Patriots have the lead, and we've all seen this movie.

Aaron Schatz: A reminder that in two Super Bowls this movie ended with the Patriots giving up a go-ahead touchdown. It's not over yet!

Vince Verhei: After that punt and big Amendola return, the Jaguars are averaging 38.3 net yards on six punts. The deepest of those pinned New England at the 14.

Patriots are averaging 41.7 net yards on six punts, with three downed at or inside the 10.

Dave Bernreuther: It's OK, Pats haters. Surely you can count on Blake Bortles here, down four to the Belichick Pats in New England with the Super Bowl on the line.

Aaron Schatz: After an awesome game, Stephon Gilmore finally gives up a 29-yard pass to Dede Westbrook, getting turned around in coverage, and that gets the Jaguars all the way down to the Pats 38.

Dave Bernreuther: At the two-minute warning I just now finally realized that Bortles hasn't taken off running even one single time in this game. Given his history, that's quite surprising. Yes, he has been pretty good this game (still inaccurate at times, but less so than usual), but there was some merit to that idea that he should take off by design a few times. Despite being on the move repeatedly in bootlegs, he hasn't.

Bryan Knowles: Patriots are doing a great job taking that away from him. He hasn't really had room.

Aaron Schatz: Marquis Flowers is usually mush-rushing and then dropping back into a spy position.

Dave Bernreuther: Aaron, I'd say Gilmore made up for it on that fourth-down play. Wow.

Bryan Knowles: Incredible play by Gilmore, knocking away the fourth-down pass. It was there -- it was a good throw to a decently open receiver; Gilmore just made an amazing play.

The Jags have all their timeouts, but that felt like it was it.

It turns out, it was it. The New England Patriots go to the Super Bowl. Again.

Andrew Potter: The rematch to this game in Jacksonville next year is going to be quite something.

Dave Bernreuther: The end of the first half looms large, as did experience, I think. Even with a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, you never got the sense that the Jaguars wanted to do anything besides speed up the game clock. Meanwhile, the other sideline knew better than to do anything differently at all.

Credit to Bortles: he wasn't Brady, but he wasn't bad either. As Vince said, he took what was there, didn't take risks, kept his eyes up, and made some plays. If that one great Gilmore play goes differently, we could've even been looking at a Jaguars Super Bowl week.

I can't help but wonder if these last three games tilt the scales in favor of paying Bortles. The AFC was weak, but they were that close. I can't imagine they cut him after this month, which makes a year-to-year Cousins-like situation possible. I guess as a Colts fan that's reason for optimism.

Tom Gower: Jacksonville Jaguars first downs, from going up 14-3 until they trailed at 24-20: 12 carries, 30 yards (8 percent success rate), Bortles 1-of-3, 15 yards (the flea flicker). Outside one 14-yard Leonard Fournette run, they were in second-and-7 or worse EVERY SINGLE DRIVE. Credit to the Patriots defense, but (a) 80 percent run is pretty extreme and (b) the Jaguars got their 11-point lead by passing early and often. The Jaguars got the level of Blake Bortles they needed to win the game, and didn't take advantage of it. Exasperating, but unsurprising.

New England's offense ... they're going to move the ball. Brady is good at moving in the pocket. Dante Scarnecchia is a wizard. Jacksonville isn't a complicated enough defense to make it hard for a great quarterback like Brady. Sooner or later he'll find the right throw or move or beat a linebacker. Them scoring felt inevitable, the only surprise was it took them as long as it did.

Vince Verhei: From the point they went up 20-10 to the point the Patriots took the lead, the Jaguars had four first-down plays: run for 2, run for 1, run for 1, run for -1. That's how you run yourself into a blown lead.

And then you go back to the end of the half, when they kneeled out with 55 seconds and two timeouts left. The unfortunate fact is, Jacksonville had a great defense this year, but this was not a good offense and they had no faith in their quarterback. They put everything -- EVERYTHING -- on their defense to win, against the best playoff quarterback the league has ever seen. That's an awful, awful lot to ask of any defense.

Aaron Schatz: Corey Grant had one carry and no targets in the second half. Did the Jaguars decide they had used their one big change-up against the Patriots' run-stopping heavy fronts, and they couldn't use it again?

Rivers McCown: Blake Bortles had two scramble-drill plays where he immediately got it down the field, and then the Jags started coaching again and got stomped.

I know this will never happen but I almost want to watch Bortles play uncoached to see what happens.

Anyway, congrats to the Patriots, the boring chalk that did not yield in the face of the Rob Gronkowski injury.

Minnesota Vikings 7 at Philadelphia Eagles 38

Bryan Knowles: Case Keenum and the Vikings march right down the field and punch the Eagles in the mouth. Philly's defense looked totally discombobulated on the touchdown, with no one covering Zach Rudolph and a linebacker covering Stefon Diggs -- probably a result of all the no-huddle and uptempo stuff the Vikings did on that drive. Very much a "try to keep up, Foles" kind of drive.

Aaron Schatz: LOL. Kyle Rudolph. :)

Bryan Knowles: Kyle Rudolph, Zach Rudolph, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer -- all of 'em would have been wide open on that play.

Dave Bernreuther: I like to think an Eagles linebacker could've at least covered Rudolph Giuliani.

Vince Verhei: I bet Rudolf Nureyev running corner routes would have been fun.

Welp, there's pre-2017 Case Keenum, throwing a pick right to Patrick Robinson, who makes a great return for a 50-yard touchdown. They're trying to say Keenum was hit on the throw, but regardless, there were two Vikings and four Eagles in that area, and nothing good was going to happen for Minnesota.

Aaron Schatz: Bad throw by Keenum turns into a pick-six. Bad, bad, bad. I mean, Chris Long made contact which is part of why it was thrown short but the receiver looked very clearly covered with defenders in front of him and to the side of him. 7-7.

Vince Verhei: First quarter ends with the Eagles driving. Lots of RPOs leading to lots of easy completions on slant routes for Foles.

LeGarrette Blount runs over Andrew Sendejo for an 11-yard touchdown. Biggest key is that the Zach Ertz converted a pair of third downs on the drive -- a third-and-10 on a dig route, and then a third-and-1 on a wheel. Saints only converted two third downs in the entire game against Minnesota last week.

Scott Kacsmar: Can really feel this one turn on the pick-six. Vikings look rattled on offense and the Eagles had a lot of easy plays right down the middle of the field on their touchdown drive.

Aaron Schatz: Eagles bringing lots of pressure. Vikings finally turn it against them with a nice screen to Jerick McKinnon. We'll see if there's more like that on the way.

I'm going to have to pass on the Vikings blocking scheme where the tight end (playing fullback) has to come all the way over from being offset on the other side of the formation to block the speed-rushing defensive end. I can't believe that didn't get blown up in practice. Strip-sack, Derek Barnett.

Xavier Rhodes comes off the field on third-and-10 for some reason, not sure yet why or if it was an injury, and on that play, Terence Newman is matched up with Alshon Jeffrey and Jeffrey just TOASTS him with a double move and a 57-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.

Ah, apparently, they were looking at Rhodes' foot for a possible injury.

Vince Verhei: 53-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Alshon Jeffery on third-and-10. Eagles now 5-for-7 on third downs against the best third-down defense we've ever seen. This is nuts.

Though credit to Troy Aikman for pointing out it was the ancient Terence Newman in coverage there with Xavier Rhodes out of the game.

Jaguars: Get ball at own 25 with 55 seconds left in half, take knees. Eagles: Get ball at own 20 with 29 seconds left in half, score field goal.

Tom Gower: Halftime, 24-7. For much of the year, the Eagles looked like the best team in the NFL because any time they got to third-and-long, Carson Wentz made a big play to continue the drive and eventually put points on the board. The first 30 minutes of this game, against one of the best defenses we've ever seen on third down, Nick freakin' Foles has done the same.

Minnesota's offense reminds me of Los Angeles at Minnesota: a great first drive and not much sustained offense since then.

Carl Yedor: Consider me very surprised that the Eagles have hung 24 points on the Vikings in the first half. Granted, seven of those were directly from the defense, but after how Minnesota looked last week (and all season, really), this is a big change. Minnesota has had some strong moments and started off sharply with a touchdown on their opening drive and a quick punt forced, but since the pick-six, it's been all Philly.

Bryan Knowles: I thought the Eagles could win this game, and I thought people were underestimating the possibility of Nick Foles looking better than he has this year so far.

I did not think the Eagles were going to a three-score lead in the first half against the No. 2 DVOA defense and No. 1 DVOA quarterback of 2017. This has the possibility to turn into a huge beatdown, but there's no way they can keep up a 5-for-7 rate on third down against these guys ... right?

I think the Vikings have to go back to Latavius Murray on the ground; they had 33 yards in the first quarter, but only 11 in the second. Just one carry for Murray in that second quarter.

Andrew Potter: I don't know whether the Eagles spotted tendencies on film and are going against them, or whether the Vikings safeties just chose a heck of a time to have their worst game of the season, but Andrew Sendejo (who did, of course, injure his brain last week) has been beaten again and again by the Eagles tight ends and Harrison Smith was just whipped by Zach Ertz on a sideline out-and-up in the two-minute drill. I was prepared for most of what I've seen in this first half, but I did not have Nick Foles dominating the Vikings secondary throughout the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: Harrison Smith is not shining with glory today. Zach Ertz is 5-for-5, 76 yards. Beat Smith with a double move on that last drive of the half. So much for the Vikings being No. 2 in DVOA against tight ends. The Vikings also are really missing Xavier Rhodes, who hasn't come back since that foot injury.

Dave Bernreuther: Hearty thanks to Doug Pederson for further highlighting Marrone's decision earlier today.

It's just inexcusable. You're underdogs in the NFL against the juggernaut. you have to try to score to win.

Tom Gower: Down 17, with the Eagles getting the second-half kick, does Mike Zimmer switch to Sam Bradford? I'm at least seriously thinking about the possibility. Neither turnover was completely Keenum's fault, and I don't know how Bradford's knee would take this pressure, but you need a spark and you're in a bad situation already.

Aaron Schatz: Keenum got you here. I think you stick with him. Your bigger problems are the defense (surprising) and the offensive line.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't think turning to Bradford would be crazy, but the Vikings seem to have way more issues today than the play of the quarterback. A lot of these plays Keenum was trying just weren't designed well to do any damage. Third down is also killing this team after owning it all year. The Eagles are 5-of-7 on offense, and the pick-six was a third-down killer for the Vikings. Also, I thought taking a knee was a fine decision for the Eagles with a 14-point lead and getting the ball first. However, they were aggressive in their own end and tried a safe pass that got the drive off to a good start. That's all I wanted to see Jacksonville try earlier today with over 50 seconds left. Huge failure by Marrone in that case, and good on Pederson for going for more points there. Foles looks just fine.

Wow, this graphic from ESPN says it all about how bad that half was for Minnesota. Doing things it never did all year

Bryan Knowles: Things have not gotten better.

Flea flicker, touchdown, and I think we can start thinking about an Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl.

Dave Bernreuther: So many flea flickers today!

Trae Waynes got beat, Harrison Smith couldn't get there quite fast enough, and this one is a rout. The Vikings' wide receivers' faces said it all. The Eagles' double possession, and 17 quick ones, has buried them.

Scott Kacsmar: To think it was once 7-0 and Minnesota had the ball. Crushing stat for Vikings fans from Josh Dubow. We haven't seen a scoring run like this in a conference championship game since the Vikings were smoked 41-0 by the 2000 Giants.

Vince Verhei: So that's a combined margin of 72-7 and counting ... against Kerry Collins and Nick Foles (with a 31-28 overtime loss to Drew Brees in the middle).

Scott Kacsmar: Vikings only allowed six third-down conversions in one game all season, and still held Baltimore to 6-of-16 that day. The Eagles are 8-of-10 on third down today. This is nuts.

Yet another touchdown for the Eagles. We said someone would have to Jeff Hostetler their way into this Super Bowl, and that leaves a fascinating stat. Foles' playoff passer rating is up to 116.5 in his three starts. That's the highest in NFL history for anyone with at least 75 attempts. The second highest is Hostetler at 112.0.

Tom Gower: Thirty-eight points in a row, with the touchdown coming on yet another third-down conversion. Total annihilation of a great defense.

Bryan Knowles: If this Foles and these Eagles show up in two weeks, that's gonna be a real fun Super Bowl. Fingers crossed.

Vince Verhei: Hey, if it's THIS Foles and THESE Eagles, they win by two touchdowns.

Rivers McCown: I think this week accentuated, as a whole, how much more important coaching is than the talent of your quarterback. Jacksonville had an uneven game after a great start and it cost them. Minnesota didn't seem to have a counter to the way the Eagles are playing them. Philadelphia let Nick Foles go deep and didn't get suckered into using a baby game plan, and it paid off for them.

Aaron Schatz: That's the thing about Any Given Sunday. It's just as likely to be these Eagles as it is to be the team that almost lost to Oakland. Most likely it will be something in the middle. Which is better for the defense than the offense.

Vince Verhei: It's 38-7 with less than nine minutes to go. At this point shouldn't both teams put in backup quarterbacks? Philadelphia to make sure Foles doesn't get hurt before the Super Bowl? Minnesota to reward Sam Bradford for all he has done just to get back to this point?

(Look, I'm reaching for stuff to talk about here.)

Tom Gower: (We sent maybe one email during the second half of Titans-Patriots. That game was closer than this one.)

Bryan Knowles: I'm now biting my fingernails, because Andrew and I are on different sides of a 3.5-interception bet for Lock of the Week for all four quarterbacks combined. Keenum's interception right there makes it two, so I've just got to dodge two bad Hail Marys the rest of the way.

That's about as close as I can get to interesting right now. That, and to mention that the Super Bowl line opens up New England -5.5.

Andrew Potter: I think you're safe on that one. I was counting on Blake Bortles or Tom Brady firing at least one in a failed comeback attempt.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 21 Jan 2018

197 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2018, 10:47am by GlennW


by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:51am

I concur with Tom's point. I was amazed by (and grateful for!) JAX wasting virtually every first down play in the 2nd half.
I wonder how many games in the BB/Brady era NE has won because of the other team turtling on offense too soon.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:50am

A big part of why New England wins so many games is that they seem to be the only team that's immune to this particular brand of self-sabotage. Once Jacksonville got up two scores, they tried to win the game by burning an extra 30 seconds before they punted with a first down run every drive. We've seen it over and over again that you will probably lose the game if you let Brady get the ball back with a one-score deficit.

by Alex51 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:56am

What a game. Can anyone think of a more impressive, satisfying win for Philadelphia since the Eagles Porn game of 2008?

by DavidL :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:30am

Maybe the Monday night game against Washington this year, not so much for the result as for the certainty that Wentz is a franchise quarterback.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:03am

Steelers game in 2016.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:14am

The Vikings have lacked an interior pass rush all year, Griffen has had no burst since November, due to injury, and that was concealed by excellent play by dbs. Well, their best db leaves the game due to injury, and they immediately give up their longest td pass of the year, and they screw up and give up another long td pass. Keenum has always had pronounced deficiencies, and a patched together (once again, sigh) o-line was very predictably outclassed completely, on the road, by an excellent defensive line. The Vikings had no business being favored, and I said so last Monday.

Now the meathead Vikings fans are blaming Zimmer, completely oblivious to how much the team overachieved.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:52am

He should have pulled Keenum for Bradford at some point.

Keenum clearly didn't have it, may not even be the regular next year, but that is an orthodoxy that has crept into the game over the years. Can't ever pull the starting QB for bad performance, because it will hurt his confidence or show him up or something like that. Used to happen all of the time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:07am

I think he might have, if the Vikings defense was playing well, and they were only down 14-7 when the Vikings started their first possession of the 2nd half. At 31-7, as badly as the Vikings were blocking, Bradford's immobility made that a much more problematic decision. Given how the Eagles defensive linemen were whipping the Vikings across from them, the two long td passes in the first half essentially ended the game.

The Vikings lost their starting qb and best running back early on. Their best d-linemen played half the season with plantar fasciitis, and they had 8 starting combinations on the o-line. 13 regular season wins and playing in the conference championship was an overachievement.

by Pat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:28am

Well, the first half or so went almost completely to script from my point of view, with the Vikings having great success attacking the sides/edges and having success when they had time, and then like I said, I was feeling pretty good when *both* big hits led to turnovers for Philly.

I still figured the Vikings could claw back into the game, though, because I didn't realize how shallow the Vikings secondary was with the loss of that one DB, and I did *not* see the emergence of "cannon-armed Nick Foles." Seriously, last week Foles gets a pass interference because his deep ball was so underthrown that the DB was like "no way the QB can't throw it *this* far," and now he's hitting Jeffery in stride 50+ yards downfield? WTF?

I'm still holding to the second part of my prediction, though - Philly's got no prayer against New England.

Hilarious note: How in the hell is New England favored by only 5-6 here? In 2005, the Patriots were favored by *7* over the Eagles - and no one in their right mind would figure that the Eagles/Patriots were *farther apart* in that game. I said in 2005 that Eagles +7 was a gimme bet that game (and I was right), and in this game, even Patriots -7 would be a gimme.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:47am

Foles was out of his mind, no doubt. Two months ago, I gave the Vikings little chance to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia, because a somewhat thin Vikings roster had sustained too many injuries to matchup well against the Wentz-qbed Eagles roster. If you had told me that Foles was going to be that hot, I would felt the same.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:06am

Last week was quietly played with a 20 mph headwind going in that direction. Ryan badly underthrew a bomb in that direction, too.

It wasn't that windy at field level, but anything that got high enough got caught in the wind.

by Pat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:36am

Also, Zimmer going for it on 4th down and failing when they were down 31-7 was a crap decision in my mind. I know virtually everyone would disagree with me on this, but 4th and 7 sucks. You're not even close enough for a safety to be a possibility if the other team takes over. And you're not going to claw back in with 3 TDs and 3 2-pt conversions. The field goal makes it a realistic 3-possession game - just take the FG.

I was glad to see the Vikings receiver freely admit (with his frustration) that he totally didn't catch that ball on 4th down. It's super-common to see the receiver continue to pretend that he totally caught it even when it's obvious that he didn't.

by Dan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:16am

The Church hit on Gronk didn't look dirty to me. It looked like Church was just trying to break up the pass by hitting with his shoulder/arm right where Gronk was trying to bring the pass in. And that's where the bulk of the hit was, in Gronk's shoulder/arm area. But the side of Church's helmet also connected with the side/front of Gronk's helmet as Gronk was leaning forward, and that correctly got a flag, since a blow to the head of a defenseless receiver is a penalty regardless of intent.

by LnGrrrR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:46am

I agree that the flag was correct, but it was unintentional. I think Gronk was off-balance, and that threw off Church's calculations. I don't think he meant to go THAT high.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:06am

Unavoidable, but that's the rule. Given the outcome, I'd argue that hits like that aren't flagged enough.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:58am

'Unavoidable'? Have you watched the play? Church, the smaller man, launched off the ground in order to strike a Gronk who was still in the air.
I'm not saying he was intentionally targeting the head, but he was trying to put the biggest shot possible at maximum velocity. Gronk was completely helpless. He'd was in the process of putting the ball away, bracketed by two players, off the ground. He wanted to stop the completion. It's football. But Church was certainly being reckless.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:34am

Actually, if you watch the play, Gronk has one foot on the ground and Church has two. He never leaves the ground.

Not disagreeing with the defenseless part though. But it even seemed to me like Church tried to lead with the shoulder. He was, most certainly, going at max velocity for the big hit that dislodges the ball rather than the torso tackle to get him down to the ground.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:57am

You might have missed this angle. It's not the one I based my original comment on but you can see that Church has one foot of the ground and is springing off the second (hard to tell if the foot is still touching turf). http://www.espn.com/video/clip/_/id/22170904

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:14pm

Yes, I watched the game. I don't like the Patriots, but I generally like Gronk. I think Myles Jack is a thug who played like it (my favorite was when he choke-slammed a guy who had already clearly scored a TD) and got exactly what he deserved. And to restate my previous statement, I think that kind of hit goes uncalled far too often.

Regardless of the NFL's rules, Newtonian Mechanics applies equally to everyone. You are expecting the unphysical.

Of course he was trying to transfer the greatest possible momentum. It's tackle freaking football. "oh, he might come down in a defenseless position, I'd best just let him run unfettered into the end zone" 15 yards vs. a near-certain TD is still a good deal, just like DPI when you're beaten deep, or the soccer and hockey intentional defensive fouls that trade a certain goal for a 50-50 penalty shot. It's part of the game.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:28am

I didn't think it was pre-meditated...until the other DBs, and then players on the sideline, started high-fiving Church. And this was after the penalty was called, and after Gronk was helped off the field.

Call me a cynic (why not? I do.), but I think that was probably discussed in practice this week....If Gronk leaves himself exposed and you can get a head-shot on him, take it.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:37am

If it wasn't discussed among the players I'd be shocked. There are only two ways to take Gronk away in a game - hold on for dear life and dare the refs to call it, or hit him so hard you don't have to cover him any more. The second of those options is much more likely to lead to winning and would still be so almost no matter what the associated penalty.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:08am

Gronk tried to cripple a DB earlier in the season, long after a play was over.

DBs aren't going to be sympathetic to his injuries.

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:49am

Agreed. Not sure of the relevance though...unless you think that the Jacksonville secondary planned a knockout hit on Gronk in retaliation for what he did to a Buffalo player, and otherwise would have hit him somewhere in the torso.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:12am

The relevance is that Gronkowski is a huge guy who plays dirty and has a history of targeting smaller DBs. For a reverse example, consider Vontaze Burfict or Cortland Finnegan. Do you think a FB or WR would feel bad if these guys got injured on a block? Or do you think they'd think they got what they had coming?

by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:40am


by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:43am

dp...server seems to be struggling today

by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:36am

While it is true that the play that got him suspended was a dirty play I don't think they are many people who would describe Gronk as a dirty player. He doesn't have a history of that and one mistake shouldn't hang the title dirty on any player.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:14pm

You've fabricated an entire career history by extrapolating from one play.

Sorry, that's just dishonest.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:26pm

How many times do you need to attempt to cripple someone before it sticks?

Jack Tatum only crippled one guy.

by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:33pm

And Gronk has crippled 0. The big difference is that Tatum had a career full of dirty hits and Gronk has had one. So I'm not sure about the answer to your question but most people would put it at greater than 1.

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:12pm

Albert Haynesworth only stomped one face!

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:21pm

So Gronk takes a cheap shot at a guy, once, and is now and forevermore a cheap player who is actively trying to cripple people.

A similar line of logic would hold that Ray Lewis is a serial killer on par with Elizabeth Bathory.

You're being irrational, and are normally better than this.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:22am

>A similar line of logic would hold that Ray Lewis is a serial killer on par with Elizabeth Bathory.

No, the similar line of thought would be that if Ray Lewis held the knife in Atlanta, it would make him a murderer. It only takes one murder to make you a murderer, it only takes one theft to make you a thief. So why wouldn't one severely dirty play (as bad as I've ever seen, IMO) make you a dirty player?

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:55am

'A history'? One idiot, dangerous move does not 'a history' make. Come on.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:50am

John Wilkes Booth only killed one man.

If he hadn't, you'd have never heard of him.

Crippling Darryl Stingley is the reason I learned who Jack Tatum was.

by aces4me :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:07am

Then you couldn't have watched a lot of football in the 70s.

by fmtemike :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:57pm

John Wilkes Booth does not have a history of trying to assassinate presidents

by fmtemike :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:57pm

John Wilkes Booth does not have a history of trying to assassinate presidents

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:21am

I can't believe how little comment there is, anywhere, on the Jaguars having zero 4th quarter pass rush. The Patriots will score multiple tds nearly every time in the 4th, if Brady is allowed to be that comfortable, I don't care who is playing tight end.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:35am

As an anti Pats fan...this latest win put me in a state of dispair. I have dear friends who are Pats fans so no ill will to them...they deserve it. Sigh....15 years they've dominated. The 2010 decade dynasty belongs to them just as 2000 decade did. A double decade dynasty. Yuck

Sigh, happy for Pats fans but tough being a proud pats opponent.

As an aside...beyond Tb12, the second half pass blocking and the second half pass rush turned the game around. The pass blocking allowed Ne to throw downfield and Brady was definitely comfortable in the second half. Kudos to him for adjusting once he knew he had time.

There are so many microadvantages that work in Nes favor...better blocking, better ST, better secondary coverage...

Prayers to the eagles fans. See the bullet coming...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:39am

Eh, I'm fine with it. McDaniels pulled out all the stops, the once again overlooked Patriots offensive line dominated another 2nd half, and the right team won, aided again by an opposing coach who hadn't thought it through ahead of time as well as Darth.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:49am

It’s almost like many coaches never think they might be leading vs the Patriots, and don’t have a plan for it when it happens.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:06am

In fairness...the second half pass rush evaporated as did the second half coverage. You would have thought a second half sans gronk would have made it easier but it didn't. Credit the Jax linebackers - its a hard assignment and they are a good group, but no linebacker is going to win matched up against wide recievers. And yet - because of brooks, the linebackers were stuck defending the receivers.

Other teams try this gambit of spreading the field, including the jags, but the o line doesn't hold up and it ends up being a sack or incomplete. The NE pass blocking holds up and Brady is ultra patient enough to let the right route develop.

AS an aside - for the first time - I saw Brady's arm strength showing in this game a la Peyton Manning in 2014. Ie - he needed his whole body and feet planted to launch a strike into the chest of a receiver 10+ yards down the field. Its not a prohibitive decline, but it was the first sign that Manning's decline was imminent. I don't quite know how this loss in arm strength became a harbinger of boneheaded decisions and interceptions as it was for Manning in 2015 - but that was what happened. Either way, seeing that made me realize that Brady's days are numbered. He might stave off 2018, but I'd be surprised if hes this good by 2019.

by LnGrrrR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:44am

While you are probably correct, he did have stitches on his throwing hand. He may have had to put more on the ball due to that.

by MC2 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:00am

I think Manning's problem in 2015 was that he still knew where the ball needed to go (based on the coverage, route combinations, and so on), but he was often physically incapable of making the throw. Of course, like all superstars, he possessed extreme confidence (bordering on arrogance), so he tried to make the "correct" throw anyway.

I think it took getting benched for him to realize that he simply had to change his mindset, and take more of a "Captain Checkdown" approach. I would guess that Brady will probably go through the same process of adjustment. Only time will tell if he is able to adjust more quickly than Manning.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:39pm

I will continue to insist that Kubiak stubbornly changing the offense caused an extra split second to be added to Manning's decision making process, which also led to many of those issues. His arm strength was no worse in 2015 than it was in late 2014, when he was still quite capable, although visibly diminished. In this NFL, and with that arm strength, that fractional extra time spend to process is enough to lead to problems, especially when you're suddenly trying to combat 17 years of instincts.

As for Brady, we've been able to notice drops in his arm strength and deep accuracy, especially later in seasons, for a few years now. Cian documented it well in last year's playoffs, and they managed it really well with his pitch count this season and the rest days. The added body effort is him adapting well. But he has underthrown a deep pass here and there pass several times this season, especially in recent weeks.

Cause for concern? Sure. To panic? Meh, not yet. I'm as sick of the guy as anybody but I can appreciate him for what he is, and I do believe, just as he does, that he has at least another 2 years in him at a very high level.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:55pm

The offense is smartly designed to minimize those weaknesses. And Like Manning - the brain remains sharp.

Still - the offense threw a bunch and that opens him up to hits. I think eventually the hits will start get him injured unless they transition entirely to a run heavy offense. I can see him operating the same pass heavy scheme next year to success. But by 2019-2020 season - I'd be surprised if hes still effectively operating a pass heavy offense.

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:01pm

It's okay, Brady drinks lots of water and gets lots of massages... oops I mean 'muscle-pliability training'. That will protect from all those big hits.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:26pm

Cian documented it well in last year's playoffs

Not that it matters to your larger point, but Cian's piece was pure rubbish. He concluded a drop in accuracy/strength merely on the frequency of interceptable balls while ignoring the most obvious factor - that Brady was under intense pressure in both games detailed.

The comparison to Manning is off as well, seeing as Manning's arm strength dropped precipitously after his neck surgeries. Given his intelligence, it was still passable with the right approach and skill players, but a small decline (which did happen in 2015, you could see it in how much more leg action he needed for throws) was going to be insurmountable.

Brady, by contrast, still has significantly more strength than Manning had in 2012, so a small decline will be noteworthy, but not career ending. Of course, he's older than 2012 Manning, so you would expect a steeper decline whenever it begins.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:37pm

You're kind of taking it to the other extreme; Cian didn't claim that to be the sole reason any more than pressure is the sole reason.

He was off on other passes too, and the same was true this year.

Of course, the most obvious conclusion is that all deep balls are tougher to be accurate on...

To my eyes, with the exception of a few total ducks that looked like literally his entire body (not just arm) was a noodle, 2015 Manning was basically the same as December 2014 Manning. Been a while already but I believe he had a leg injury, which I want to say was in a Chargers game, that year? Leg injury of course explains the disruption in the full-body process needed to throw an NFL level pass.

People want to knock Guerrero because of the past concussion claims, but the whole "pliability"/tensegrity/whole body elements to his training are legitimate (and if you ask me, common sense, despite not being mainstream medicine), and we're seeing that in Brady. I have no doubt he's still got two years left in him.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:06pm

You're kind of taking it to the other extreme; Cian didn't claim that to be the sole reason any more than pressure is the sole reason.

He didn't have to make the extreme claim; by ignoring an integral factor that could account for the data, his argument is useless.

He was off on other passes too, and the same was true this year.

A much stronger argument could be built this year, though it would be tough to disentangle it from the injuries and schemes NE was running down the stretch. Certainly the playoff performances seem to suggest diminishing skills was a minor factor in the December downturn.

People want to knock Guerrero because of the past concussion claims, but the whole "pliability"/tensegrity/whole body elements to his training are legitimate

I have no doubt that much of what Tom does/preaches is useful. It also seems likely that a good portion is BS, and that his attachment is more due to placebo effects and confirmation bias.

by amin purshottam :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:23pm

I think what is being ignored about those last 5 games is that besides the possibility that he was hurt, he had no Hogan, no White, no Burkhead along with no Wdleman and Mitchell. Cooks is still new. The lack of familiar weapons was as much to do with his poor stats as anything else. If everyone is healthy next year, the TD record is within reach.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:35pm

Isn't the DVOA model especially good at predicting when a player declines/drops off a cliff? I'd like to hear what it has to say.

by MC2 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:02pm

...especially when you're suddenly trying to combat 17 years of instincts.

I think this is probably the single biggest hurdle. It's one thing to sit in a meeting, watching tape, and say to yourself, "OK, I need to skip this part of the progression, because I can't make that throw anymore." It's another thing entirely to actually make those kinds of adjustments during the game, in the heat of the moment, when, as you say, a fraction of a second can make all the difference between a completion and an incompletion/sack/interception. In that situation, it has to be awfully easy to fall back into your old habits.

by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:52am

Marrone never seems to think he'll be leading anyone. Turtling is his default mode.

Also, the complete lack of a useful screen game in Hackett's offense reared it's ugly head again. Although it would have taken guts to call one after Bortles nearly threw the game away against Buffalo with one.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:48am

With better coaching, the Jags would have won the game going away. They had a short passing game that was letting them march down the field, and then they switched to a fruitless time-wasting run, run, pass approach that killed their offense. Taking a knee with 55 seconds left in the 1st half is inexcusable.

You don't beat the Pats by sitting on a lead with half the game left.

I was surprised that the second game turned into such a rout for the Eagles. I figured they could win and were being consistently underrated, but I certainly did not anticipate the butt-kicking.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:27am

The writing was on the wall from the moment the Jags took the delay of game penalty, then screwed up the clock management before the 2 minute warning. Belichick's eyes must have lit up at that moment.

In all honesty, the comeback could have been completed a lot earlier. The Jags kicker connected from 54, then there was the alligator-arming from Cooks on an easily catchable ball when wide open downfield, and the bizarre Dion Lewis fumble after a big play. Of course the final result reinforces the feeling that the Patriots are blessed from above, but in reality the Jags had plenty go their way (including Gronk's injury).

Regarding kneeling before half-time, I have mixed feelings. I prefer it to an obvious run up the middle; at least the coach isn't trying to disguise the fact he is a coward. But if you don't trust your QB to execute in that situation at the end of a half in which your O-line has dominated, it's time to get a new QB, or a new philosophy, or, more likely, both.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:02am

The Jags have some explaining to do on why, with the SB on the line, they did not have Brotles run more than 0 times in that game.

by Alternator :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:21pm

This wasn't a tactical error by the Jaguars - the Patriots had a spy on Bortles seemingly every single down, and they really focused on taking away his opportunities to scramble.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:08am

It was coaching that got them their lead in the first place, so I don't know how much you can blame the staff for the loss. At one point, scheme allowed Bortles to complete 8 or 9 consecutive high school level throws, with virtually all being to wide open first reads. It's hard to know with a single TV viewing, but I suspect NE made some adjustments and the team (rightly) felt that expecting Bortles to be an NFL caliber QB was too much of a risk.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:03am

I think coaching has a lot to answer for. Jacksonville turtled from just before halftime until they were behind at the end of the game, and that's inexcusable.
At least defensively the adjusted a little in the 2nd half (blitzing, Ramsey shadowing Cooks) even if it took a while, but the offensive gameplan after halftime was abysmal. No outside runs, no swing passes, no PA on 1st down, just run after run into the teeth of the D, and it cost them a place in the Superbowl.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:10pm

But thinking your defense can protect a small lead and that you don't need to score a ton of points to beat Brady and Belichick, at their home stadium, isn't even a risk, it's virtually guaranteeing failure. You're basically saying at that point that you have less confidence in Bortles to be NFL-caliber than you do of knocking Brady out of the game, or forcing some really, really unlikely mistakes on his part.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:04am


Completely agree. Would they like Norm Van Brocklin back? When you think how giddy we all got when Rodgers was injured, a division title? Wow! How we were considered favourites against the Eagles bewildered me.

To quote another ex Vikes coach, they were what we thought they were. The O line was much better but still not elite. Not having Sharif Floyd was a major loss given what he was capable of doing and fills a major gap on the line.

Also despite all the talk about Folds and the Chip Kelly era being unusual he did throw a lot of passes to the right person in that season.

While lots of colleagues are giving me the "great season" cheer up chat I am still gutted. Getting double digit Championship game appearances is a great and rare achievement. A 40% win rate is so-so but a 0% SB rate is dire. All I have done at work today is sigh, long day ahead in Sydney town for me.

After the Saints game everytime I heard the team of destiny comment my head started to hurt.

The Vikes are a very talented team with a squad that can win a SB. However in the off season my thoughts are;

1. Sign Bridgewater to a long term deal. He is clearly Zimmer's man and they would know far better than us how his knee is. Keenum still exceeded expectations even in the last two games but his sack and Int totals grew steadily.
2. Assuming Shumer goes to the Giants then would he take Keenum with him? Thinking about the QB needy teams both Keenum and Bradford should get some nice offers.
3. Draft a Guard.
4. Draft a NT/DT.

If Cook is healthy then the RB/WR/TE units look solid. (Imagine if they took Thomas from OSU not Treadwell???)

As you say some interior push on the D line is critical. The problem with Plantar Fasciitis is that the blood supply in ligaments is limited hence platelet infusions and other similar treatments have limited success. Like golf or tennis elbow often the cure is rest and the condition simply just goes away. Many rugby front rowers get it and it is debilitating for the victim. If you look at a DE it is a poster child position to get the illness as you are loading a lot of pressure on your foot, at speed, while pushing against a 300 lb. plus human being.

The team isn't far away from getting to the next level, the franchise and the team seem happy and functional. Sitting the opponents QB on his bottom and getting in his face is crucial at these level of games. When Brady was allowed to do his statue imitation the Jag's were toast.

There is a bottle of Shiraz in my near future.



by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:22am

They are talented, but if your qb is a mediocrity, then you need to be really talented and have good injury luck. They need help at defensive tackle, and another defensive end for the rotation; Robison is rightly retiring, with nothing left in the tank. They need at least one, maybe two offensive linemen, and then pray that guys can stay upright. They most of all, of course, need quality qb play. Keenum had a tremendous amount of good fortune, and they can't count on that. Is Bridgewater the answer? You'd be an optimist to think so, but they aren't selling high quality quarterbacking on Amazon, so I don't have any confident suggestions.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:32am

If you want an example of success breeding success, look again at the Pats picking up a veteran pass rusher, for nothing, who helps them win games in January and February. Last year's low cost veteran, of course, was helping the Eagles win today. Who knows where Harrison will be next year, but I bet the Pats will find another old pass rusher next year who will get some pressures and sacks in the post season. How much would have the Jags paid for one effective pass rush in the 4th quarter?

by BJR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:40am

As pointed out by Andrew Brandt on Twitter last night, the Eagles did an outstanding job this year acquiring modestly priced veteran free agents. Long, Patrick Robinson, Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, Blount, Ajayi, and of course Foles have all been key contributors. For all talk about building through the draft, hitting on several relatively low cost veterans in free agency/trade like this is a fast way to put a team over the top.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:26am

I, along with many others it seems, was caught up in the Carson Wentz MVP hype, believing there would be a precipitous drop off to Nick Foles. This is a very well-coached team, with good blocking and receiving, where many a QB would thrive.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:15am

There is a big drop to Foles, but the defenses so far haven't made it appear.

Foles is a good pocket QB, who executes well within the plan of the play. Wentz does all of that, but can also freelance productively when play design or execution fails.

It's much easier for Belichick to game-plan against Foles than it is against Wentz. In the context of the Patriots, Wentz is harder to scheme against because he thrives in chaos. He can add sudden variance to plays that can break well-planned defense. He's more Brees than Ryan. Foles can't do those things.

However, Foles is good at RPO decision making and Reid-Smith school forced variance. For all his statuism, he did run an option-based offense well.

by BJR :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:52pm

There's a significant drop off for sure. My post was more of a betting reference, as handicappers have lopped off something in the region of 7-9 points from the eagles rating since the injury, which in hindsight is crazy. That's Aaron Rodgers to Hundley territory. Only now, looking at the early Super Bowl odds, is this being corrected. (And not for a moment am I suggesting that I have profited from this - I would have preferred the Vikings -3 last night with a gun pressed to my head.)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:52am

The Eagles offensive line was so dominant I'm not sure there was much of a chance to see the drop-off; the Vikings continued to rush four and not get pressure, and Foles had all day. I tend to think of Zimmer as a very good coach, but I didn't see much in the way of adjustments for the way the game was going. A pressured Nick Foles is going to be very different from the QB we saw yesterday, and, if there's one thing Belichick will do, it's identify a weakness and exploit it.

I expected Foles to be bad yesterday, but that was largely based on the kind of pressure the Vikings had been getting consistently all year.

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:51pm

I would argue that in a lot of ways Nick Foles was in fact bad yesterday, but it never got punished. He was a statue in the pocket, and multiple times the Vikings came within a hair's breadth of a strip sack to a completely unwary Foles, only to miss and get pushed past him while he stared down a developing route, and stepped up to 'heave-ho' a deep ball with all his might and weak arm to a wide open receiver.

If the Vikes could have done anything at all to disrupt Foles base, he never throws those balls, or throws interception ducks. Then again the Vikes made a study of making zero adjustments that game and letting the Eagles attack their over-aggressiveness again and again with double moves that CB's would pass of to safeties who would pick them up late, or not at all.

The Foles hype train is ridiculous. He is a QB of exceptional limitations, none of which, to the great shame of the Vikings coaches, was attacked that game. (Maybe they thought Foles couldn't even hit uncovered receivers downfield in a vacuum, so that was the plan.)

by ClavisRa :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:51pm

I would argue that in a lot of ways Nick Foles was in fact bad yesterday, but it never got punished. He was a statue in the pocket, and multiple times the Vikings came within a hair's breadth of a strip sack to a completely unwary Foles, only to miss and get pushed past him while he stared down a developing route, and stepped up to 'heave-ho' a deep ball with all his might and weak arm to a wide open receiver.

If the Vikes could have done anything at all to disrupt Foles base, he never throws those balls, or throws interception ducks. Then again the Vikes made a study of making zero adjustments that game and letting the Eagles attack their over-aggressiveness again and again with double moves that CB's would pass of to safeties who would pick them up late, or not at all.

The Foles hype train is ridiculous. He is a QB of exceptional limitations, none of which, to the great shame of the Vikings coaches, was attacked that game. (Maybe they thought Foles couldn't even hit uncovered receivers downfield in a vacuum, so that was the plan.)

by cardbomb :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:42am

"Bookmark that Jack fumble review for whenever someone complains that the Patriots get all the calls".

How about the inadvertent whistle there that prevented Jacksonville from going up 27-10? Probably the most crucial botched call of the game.

by Kulko :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:13am

First: The return was stopped well before it had a chance to go to the house.

Second: Ive read this from footballzebras.com: In the scenario played of fighting for a fumble, the Defender is considered down by Contact if he falls to the ground, nonwithstanding if he is actually touched while on the ground. I believe its the same as for a recever that gets hit while catching a pass. When he falls down he is down by contact no matter if he is actually touched the moment his knee touches the ground. He can only avoid this by landing on another player or not falling at all.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:56am

Yup, there was no "inadvertent whistle", it was the correct call.

by Lyford :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:10am

You could make the argument, too, that Lewis had possession (hand on ball, ball on hip and not moving) when his knee hit the ground, in which case it should have remained New England ball. I'm not saying that I think that's right, but it's a close call, and some have taken that position, including Peter King in this morning's MMQB...

by dryheat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:46am

I'm 100% fine with the officials going with the original call, but I thought that replays clearly showed Lewis with possession when his back hit, and then Jack wresting it away -- I do understand that the ball briefly came loose before Lewis went down, but it looked to me he regained it well in advance of hitting the ground.

But I don't understand those today (and maybe they're all conspiracy theorists) saying that the play was clearly a fumble, and at the same time that Jack was not down by contact. If the play was a fumble, Jack and Lewis were necessarily in contact with each other when Jack wrested the ball away and the two went to the ground. If Jack never had possession while he was on the ground, then the play wasn't a fumble, but down by contact.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:09am

The fumble recovery rule is the same as the catch rule. To re-establish possession after losing the ball, Lewis needed to get two feet in bounds with clear possession and either establish himself as a runner or survive contact with the ground. Obviously not all of that happened on the play, so it was correctly ruled a loose ball.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:29pm

And to continue that - because Jacks was contacted while in the act of recovering the ball and going to the ground, he's down by contact as soon as he hits the ground. Nobody needs to touch him - just like a WR who gets drilled in the air.

It was the exact right call.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:36pm

This would be true if Jack had actually made a clean strip and established possession as he was falling to the ground. He didn't. He'd stripped the ball free (arguably-- this was at least the eventual call on the field) but didn't gain possession until the ball had hopped to him as he was lying on his back, well clear of contact with Lewis. As you've cited, we see the same standard applied to a receiver touched as he's going to the ground after gaining control on a catch. If the receiver has control of the football, he's down by contact at the point he hits the ground whether or not subsequent contact is made. But if he doesn't have control and the ball is being bobbled or is tipped or batted in the air, contact must be made by the defender only after possession has been established.

Furthermore, the league's official statement on this call was that the whistle had blown, so the play was automatically dead with no advancement allowed. This would at least suggest that there is no additional clarification that is applicable to the call on the play. If this is not the case, then the league is doing the officials a disservice in failing to offer that clarification.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:54pm

"But if he doesn't have control and the ball is being bobbled or is tipped or batted in the air, contact must be made by the defender only after possession has been established."

No, this is not how its ruled at all.

Seriously, read the rule book. If the receiver is touched by a defender at any point in trying to gain possession, and goes to the ground before becoming a runner, he's down by contact.

The attempt to catch the ball is defined as the first instance the receiver touches the ball, and it doesn't end until the receiver possesses the ball.

You can't just bobble the ball at the end of the catch to erase being hit.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:29pm

Re. "seriously, read the rule book"

I have. Please point me to the specific rule. I see nothing that explicitly differentiates this case under the "loose ball" and "possession" definitions. I find it very hard to believe that a defender who strips the football free is down based on instantaneous contact with the football if he subsequently rolls to the ground. This actually happens fairly frequently, including on plays where one player strips the ball free going to the ground and another player recovers and advances the football. In my experience I've never seen fumble recoveries ruled dead in such fashion. In a pile-up maybe, sure. But not with a loose football in the open field.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:51pm

The rules are literally exactly the same as a catch. If you go to ground during the act of making a catch, and are touched at any time during the process, you're down.

Jacks went to ground while stripping Lewis.

So this works exactly like a catch - he has to maintain control through the ground - which he did - but because he was touched during the process (by lewis) he's down.

Now, if the ball had popped out while he went to the ground, and someone else recovered it, its a live ball, as he did not successfully recover it.

Section 2 1A - Note: If, after contact by an opponent, any part of a runner’s leg above the ankle or any part of his arm above the wrist touches the ground, the runner is down.

There's absolutely nothing in the rules that specifies that the receiver need have full control of the ball before being contacted to be down. The entire action is treated as one thing - which is why bobbling the ball after the fact invalidates the "Catch".

If you catch the ball in the air, get hit by a defender in the air, hit the ground, then bobble the ball a bit - the options are incomplete, or down by contact. Bobbling the ball doesn't give you the option to get up and run.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:02pm

So, just to be clear, your view is that the Kearse Catch in Superbowl 49 was ruled incorrectly and that Kearse should have been down by contact?

I'm exceptionally intrigued as I have never seen anyone suggest that Kearse was already down; have you made that argument previously?

by GrandVezir :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:07pm

Slightly different situation: the ball was tipped in the air and fell to Kearse.

by HPaddict :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:20pm

No, Kearse clearly touched the ball initially (Butler touching the ball is actually less clear). They may have also been in contact on the first bounce.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:15pm

Yep, perfect example. Kearse goes up to catch the ball, it deflects high into the air as Butler contacts him, then Kearse catches the ball while lying on the ground and advances it a few yards before being pushed out of bounds. I stand by my contention on receiver advancement of a tipped football after prior contact by a defender but before any control has been established. At least this is how I've seen such plays called in almost 50 years of watching football.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:51pm

I understand that this is the contention, that the fumble recovery rule is exactly the same as for a catch. I was told to read the rulebook. I don't see any rule that is specifically applicable here. It's not Section 2 1A, which defines the downing of a runner in general. But establishment as a runner after gaining possession of a loose ball is defined elsewhere, and it's *not* upon initial contact with the football:

Rule 3
Article 7
Item 2. Possession of Loose Ball

To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and
then maintain control of the ball long enough to become a runner.

To be fair, I don't see any specific rule that covers the downing of a receiver as he goes to the ground either (where we're in agreement as to how this play is called in practice), never mind my "bobbled football" example. Your comment that "there's absolutely nothing in the rules that specifies that the receiver need have full control" is precisely the problem, apparently. I suspect that such plays are covered in the NFL's secretive "approved rulings" or the like. I'd just like a clarification from the NFL or an expert (e.g. Mike Pereira) on the ruling for advancement of a fumble where the football had never been controlled and is completely loose away from the runner and tackler. The NFL certainly didn't provide one for this play.

by GlennW :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:49pm

Okay, I've now read this @footballzebras interpretation of this play, and it makes some sense (although the standard described is definitely not explicitly called out in the rulebook and is somewhat subjective regardless). They're saying that when a strip and recovery occurs with direct hand-to-hand transfer of the football between runner and defender with no obvious freeing of the football, then the down-by-contact determination kicks in as soon as the defender *begins* to control the football, not when he has completely controlled it. I can partially buy that on this play as said transfer of the football was very brief with the ball shifting between the players without ever touching the ground. But if the football had clearly come free by contacting the ground or even popping into the air, absolutely the defender could have then controlled and advanced the football. I suspect (but don't know for certain) that the same standard applies when a receiver starts the process of controlling the ball-- if he's contacted while the football is being bobbled but not yet completely controlled then down-by-contact will apply, but if it's deflected well into the air the down-by-contact "clock" resets.

Then again, right at this moment I'm listening to former NFL officiating coordinator Jim Daopoulos on this "Boston Sports Tonight" program, and he's saying that the football could have been advanced if an official hadn't blown the whistle-- which they're instructed to do if there's substantial doubt-- and that the Patriots caught a break. Matter of subjective interpretation on this "hand-to-hand transfer" standard, apparently.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:00pm

This is good analysis, thanks!

by Dan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 8:43pm

It wasn't a direct hand-to-hand transfer - Jack stripped the ball with his right hand and then took control of it with his left hand. In between, the ball was resting on top of Jack's body while he was on his back. If Jack's body had been lying out of bounds then they would've ruled that he didn't recover it (or, had it been a pass, that it was incomplete) because the ball was loose after he stripped it and before he took control of it in his left hand.

by GlennW :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:47am

Only in slow-motion can you really see this. It's an incredibly difficult call-- I've never disputed this-- and I don't "blame" the official who blew the whistle. I only objected to the claim that down-by-contact was indisputably the correct call per the rules. Add Mike Pereira to the experts who are confirming this observation, that the official was in a tough spot on a decision that technically was probably wrong.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:46pm

Anyway the whistle does not actually end the play. The whistle SIGNALS that the play has ended.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:28am

I lost two posts in the open game thread last night to server errors, including one where I'd put a decent bit of effort into pulling supporting info off the JAX-NE play-by-play.

Guys. This website is awful. The content is great, the commenters are almost universally smart and respectful, but this web design has been outdated for most of a decade and it's got to change. IMO, bringing this website into the 21st century needs to be your top priority this offseason, even beyond working on the Almanac (which I love and read religiously every year).

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:14am

I complained probably 4 years ago that when the website was having problems - it tells you the database platform, and userid used to login to the database. It's still doing that. These are huge security issues.

Spend some money on some competent IT. If you have an IT guy - fire him. He's not doing his job.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:12am

There's a new IT guy since five months ago, and we're investigating a server migration that will help with issues. We don't like the technical problems either but I don't have the money that other websites have. It's just a fact of life.

Unless... would people like FO to go to an all-subscription model? That would be an influx of money to help solve technical issues.

by billprudden :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:26am

Sir -

I respect this website and its quality enough to think about it, esp. if it increased the functionality. Perhaps it is time to stop giving away so much of the milk for free?


by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:23pm

edit--double post. serious server issues today.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:56am

Perhaps more of us should think about voluntarily chipping into the pot. I think I'll sign up for one of the premium services even though I'm not likely to check the premium stats very often. I get way too much value out of this site to only give them $20 for the almanac every year.

Aaron, I bet you would get a good chunk of change if you asked folks to chip in what they could for a new website. You could find a sweetener like an early look at the Almanac or something to add a little value to it. I think enough of us are sick of server errors, poorly formatted comment threads, no mobile version, 64 characters, a spam filter that auto-rejects every single mention of a certain star edge rusher*, etc. I would toss a little bit into the pot to get this site modernized.

*You know the guy, #55 for Baltimore. Calls himself T-Sizzle and matriculated from Ball So Hard University. Name rhymes with Darrelle Bugs. I guess the filter auto-rejects his name because it includes the name of Tom Brady's favorite brand of footwear. It's a shame Mr Brady had to post so much spam on here that we had to ban anyone even mentioning that brand.

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:05pm

The spam filter seems to have gotten worse over time and now flags almost every single comment I make (it even flags editing my own comments). I've stopped coming to the site as often because it's a hassle to comment on articles or read anything on my phone. I would definitely chip in towards website modernization.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:33pm

I wish they would just let you enter the captcha as you post it instead of pushing you to a second page where you enter the captcha once they flag your post, which they do most of the time anyways. But even worse, there's a second tier to the spam filter, where certain posts simply get rejected entirely with no chance to enter a captcha. As far as I can tell, it blocks any post that uses the anchor tag to post a link inline with the text instead of just sloppily copy-pasting the url into the text, and any post that contains the name of the unholy fur boot brand. So if you ever see someone misspell Terrell S*ggs' last name on here, that's why.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:56pm

I know this issue hits a lot of people, but I've NEVER had to enter a captcha--not since we have permanent user accounts at least--not even when posting links. I use Android/Chrome.

What effing kills me is that the articles get hijacked by an ad EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME. The kind of hijacking where you can't hit back and you have to close the tab.

I've reported it several times. In past years they've been really responsive about this, but I get that there's other stuff going on. I've been a reader here since Easterbrook was hosted here years ago though and there's not much that would change that. I'll just have to get an adblocker for now I guess

by billsfan :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:43pm

I get the CAPTCHA every time, even with a 10+ year-old account. Really puts the amount of time I've wasted here into perspective!

The page-killing ads appear every. single. time. I come to FO on my phone (chrome/android)

by dcl0 :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:34am

I got an ad blocker for my iPad that seems to have stopped the page takeovers. You should try it.


by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:27pm

An FO GoFundMe?

by James-London :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:11pm

I'd happily pay for the content FO produces, but I'm against a subs model- lots of the value in the site is the reader comments, and I'd guess that would drop off dramatically.

Given it's taken me nearly two hours to post this comment (Bad Gateway, Server Not Found etc), I'd also contribute to an FO upgrade fund if such a thing existed- the site needs an upgrade very badly.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by aga :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:54pm

i agree... i too would be willing to contribute to such a fund... and dont really care about getting anything in return - just the site running better would be enough

and for similar reasons i am against a full subs model...

by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:12pm

Hell, put a tip jar link on the front page. You might be surprised how well that works especially on days when the squirrels powering your servers are on strike.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:45pm

You're an internet based business - IT should be one of your primary expenses - and one of your primary concerns. There are plenty of companies that will set up CMS systems and host a server for super cheap if you can't afford real IT staff. You've got content up on ESPN - you should be able to afford a hosted WordPress site.

This site shouldn't be difficult to maintain - nothing about the website itself is complicated or innovative - and large chunks of your data could be automated - instead of cutting and pasting from spreadsheets.

Frankly - and I'm sure I'm not the only one here - the main reason I don't pay for Premium is that I don't trust your infrastructure at all because of all the technical issues with the website, all the hacky shit you guys do (like cutting and pasting), etc.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:10pm

I'm glad you mentioned that. Automating all the data is my primary off-season goal, aside from re-writing the website entirely (which will also include proper mobile styling, better tables, hopefully a better spam prevention plugin, and better Paypal integration. And email that works.), as grabbing game and play data from feeds and manipulating it is exactly what I do in my day job. That's going to do a whole lot more for Aaron and Vince's weekly experience than any of the readers, of course, but it'll help.

Thank you for pointing out the over-share on the DB error page, btw. I removed that.

I'm the new "IT guy." I put that in quotes because I'm a web developer, not a sysAdmin, and at some point in the past the hosting setup got moved to a SysAdmin's wet dream of a rig that normal people can't really administer as well. I agree with you about the priorities; Aaron is still a very small business with limited resources, though. IT *is* one of his primary expenses, and it's made worse by having cycled through several different part-timers. (And being forced to race to bring someone on just in time for the season to start.)

In any event, site old-ness notwithstanding, the issues of the past two days are from some new bots going after the database. Some IP bans have lessened it, but a few other steps need to be taken, and we're moving to a different host, one which WILL give us full coverage from hardware up to the front end.

I guess the only thing I'll take issue with in your post is this: Wordpress has its own set of issues. We definitely won't be switching over to that. (Even if there was a good Drupal to WP migration tool.)

by dcl0 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:53pm

I would definitely Italy pay $20 per year for access to message boards.dennis

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:25pm


I would happily pay a subscription for what it is worth. The stats are not useful to me but the commentary etc. is fantastic.

What fee would you consider? You could try a de minimus amount for a couple of years and then slowly creep it up.

I buy the Almanac every year and a 1/2 package might make sense?

One thing I have noticed when people go crazy on the posting strings are phrases like, "look at the rule book", "watch the video" as opposed to the old humanities essay style phrase like "if one compares", "it can be argued", "the participants seemed to".

Some better manners would help but I know that isn't your problem. The issue is that I learn a lot from the differences of opinions and nuances people bring. But when they get snarly it diminishes the value.

Maybe a "Best Mannered Poster of the Year" award?



by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:24pm

It could also use css for mobile. These days every free Wordpress theme has this. It shouldn't be too hard to adapt one for this site.

Considering how much time I spend on this site, I should pony up for premium. Some of my favorite threads, though, happen when strangers to the site wander here and start some big row. With subscription only, that'd go away.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:59am

I'm surprised there was no mention of the 3rd and 18 conversion right before the TD that made it 20-17 as that seemed to be one of the biggest plays of the game.
Congrats on the Jags great year - what a talented team they have, especially on defense.
On the negative side, the Jags started the year and finished the year with 21 of the 22 opening day starters playing in their final playoff game (A. Robinson the only one missing). That injury luck is really, really hard to repeat.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:16am

Surprised me as well. And that scenario was almost identical (score differential and time of game) as in SB49, only the Pats had 2 downs to make 18 yards that time, after the Bennett sack.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:23am

Surprised me as well. And that scenario was nearly identical (same score differential and time of game) as in SB49, only back then the Pats had 2 downs to make 18 yards, after the Bennett sack.

by rj1 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:05am

Last planned backup QB to start a Super Bowl, Jeff Hostetler in the "Scott Norwood Wide Right" Super Bowl?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:18am

Are we not counting Brady?

by rj1 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:38pm

Here's the ones named after asking elsewhere:

Tom Brady, replaced Drew Bledsoe at the Patriots after Bledsoe got injured in week 2
Trent Dilfer, replaced Tony Banks at the Ravens after Banks got benched following week 2
Kurt Warner, replaced Trent Green at the Rams in the preseason after Green tore an ACL

Foles would appear to be the first late-season replacement QB since Hostetler though. Simms got injured in week 15, and Wentz got injured in week 14. In the case of the 3 above QBs, they all almost had a full season on the job.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:32pm

You're correct that Foles is the most recent very late-season replacement and first since Hostetler, though Banks also lasted longer than Week 2; he was the starter for the first half of the season.

There have also been a few more "guys who didn't start Week 1" who ended up going to the Super Bowl since then. Two of them really aren't backups (they started the season suspended), but there's still a couple names left that would fit:

2016 NE : Jimmy Garoppolo starts the season with Tom Brady suspended for Deflategate.
2012 SF : Alex Smith starts the season, gets injured in Week 10, and loses his job to Colin Kaepernick
2010 PIT: Dennis Dixon stats the season with Ben Roethlisberger suspended for violating the personal conduct policy.
2003 CAR: Rodney Peete was replaced after one half by Jake Delhomme
2001 NE : Drew Bledsoe gets injured Week 2, Tom Brady steps in.
2000 BAL: Tony Banks is benched after Week 8, Trent Dilfer steps in
1990 NYG: Phil Simms is injured in Week 15, Jeff Hostetler steps in.

Before that, you have Doug Williams replacing Jay Schroeder in Washington in 1987, Jim Plunkett replacing Dan Pastorini in Oakland in 1980, Vince Ferragamo replacing Pat Haden in Los Angeles in 1979, Terry Bradshaw replacing Joe Gilliam in Pittsburgh in 1974, Roger Staubach replacing Craig Morton in Dallas in 1971, Craig Morton replacing Roger Staubach in Dallas in 1970 and Joe Kapp replacing Gary Cuozzo in Minnesota in 1969.

I think that's everyone, though I'm sure someone will point out someone obvious I've forgotten.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:14am

Regarding Jags-Pats; I think one thing which is getting overlooked is the great conditioning the Pats showed on both sides of the ball and how much difference that seemed to make. The obvious impact of this is the collapse of the Jags pass rush and the linebacker coverage, but I think this also made a big difference on the other side of the ball; In the first half the Jags repeatedly ran the ball with some effectiveness when the Pats were lined up to stop it, in that fourth quarter you would expect results to be better in that situation but the Pats defense seemed fresher than the Jags offensive line. Rotation definitely is a factor, but I also think the lack of high-end physical attribute guys on the Pats has the side effect of producing a team with a greater ability to sustain effort.

On another note, on the Gronk hit, I really can't buy the argument it was unintentional. It was helmet-helmet on a guy who was falling out of control. It's on the easy end of NFL hits to control as a DB, and he made the right decision to try to take his head off based on the game situation. I'm sure he would do it again and his coaches probably would be happy to hear it. Lets be realy - if he hits him in the body Gronk makes that catch. If the league wants that play gone they are going to have to seriously change the incentives involved.

by rj1 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:17am

Agree entirely. I don't see how the league can rationalize not having college football's targeting rule short of they don't want players getting ejected.

by ncuba :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:45am

Possibly interesting way to go after those hits would be power play. In addition to or in lieu of ejection, would be replay of down with the defense down a player.

Could also have a penalty box or whatever with removal of targetter for X drives or say the-next-more-than-one-but-less-than two quarters.

Might be a bit tacky but could offer more opportunities to expose coaching and depth.

by Not Jimmy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:49am

I like the power play idea. And since we are bringing in features of other sports - how about the NFL adopts the soccer red card rule that if you are ejected from a game you are automatically suspended for the next game as well?

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

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:34pm

That is a good idea. Also more aggressive in game ejections or send offs make a lot of sense. What does Goddell do to justify his salary exactly?

What I would add is that in Rugby League they have tried to lay out a series of standard infractions matched to penalties. The tribunal is overseen by a judge/barrister.

The penalty is determined on the following;

1. Plea i.e. guilty or not guilty
2. Prior convictions
3. Severity of infraction

The system is far from perfect but RL used to be really violent (the good old days). Now it is extremely tough and physical but dirty play has been largely eliminated.

The helmet hits and unprotected hits could be eliminated in a month. Imagine Gronk getting a month for his hit.



by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:01am

Mandatory one-game suspension for any illegal hit that causes the other player to be diagnosed with a concussion, with the suspension duration increasing by one game cumulatively for each further offense during a player's career. It changes the cost-benefit equation substantially if the brain-injuring foul causes the defender to miss the Super Bowl.

On other sports, the onus is on the defender to ensure the safety of his opponent. Admittedly, football has a major difference from other sports, in that every yard matters more than it does in, say, rugby. Even so, rugby, soccer, field hockey, and many other ball sports place the onus very firmly on the defender to stay in control and ensure the safety of his opponent.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:49am

I'd be OK with an automatic suspension. Mea culpa, I thought the flag on Church was bad in real-time; The first replay made me look very foolish.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:05am

You don't think that can be trivially gamed?

The early 2000s Colts or Rams wouldn't have run a series with only special teamers as WRs who would run a bunch of sacrificial crossing routes and take dives to eliminate the Patriots' LBs and DBs?

For all soccer supposedly protects offensive players, soccer doesn't have free substitution. Actually injuring a player either makes them play a man down or costs them one of their three subs. If you attempted to impose that in football, the calculus would become making sure an illegal hit paid off, by injuring the offensive player in return for the ejection. I think you'd see an increase in kill shots. You're going to get tossed anyway; might as well take him with you.

by James-London :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:16am

If you are concerned that is a problem, you stop a unit substituting for the game- you want to use a depth LB to hurt the opposition? Fine, he's out, and the D plays the entire game with whatever personnel they line up on the next play.

Or, go full soccer, and your unit plays the rest of the game a man down. You knocked Gronk out? Great, now defend the Pats with 10 men...

Finally, it would be screamingly obvious that your practice squad call-up was in to deliberately injure, and then you drop the hammer hard on the offending organisation- Draft picks, multi-game suspensions, etc.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:39am

The early 2000s Colts or Rams wouldn't have run a series with only special teamers as WRs who would run a bunch of sacrificial crossing routes and take dives to eliminate the Patriots' LBs and DBs?

No, they wouldn't, because against inferior receivers like that the defensive backs would be more likely to cover and tackle them legally, and the neurotrauma consultants wouldn't diagnose a bunch of concussions that didn't exist. Plus, even an illegal hit causing a concussion would not get the defensive backs tossed from that game anyway -- I specified suspensions, not ejections, to give time for the concussion diagnosis to be confirmed -- so it wouldn't do the Colts and Rams themselves any good.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 9:44pm


I nearly agree.

Rugby Union is strongly based on denying letting your opponent going forward. We coach the players to deny the first two feet at contact so as to impede other players accessing the ball.

Rugby League is different due to the 10 meter rule i.e. they are just further apart, but RL goal line defence is identical to RU i.e. stop any progress at any cost.

You are correct that player safety is more paramount than in the NFL.



by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:00am

They say that, anyway.

The overall injury rates and rates of catastrophic injury aren't markedly different (it varies substantially from paper to paper, but the ranges overlap). Rugby mostly has different injuries. Fewer concussions, more neck injuries (the scrum is terrible for cervical vertebral fractures), about the same number of major head injuries. Rugby's concussion rate has been rising, though, since the definition loosened 20 years ago.

The elephant in the room is that the approach speed for collisions is much higher in football, and opening the game if anything makes that worse.

by jtr :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:10am

>The elephant in the room is that the approach speed for collisions is much higher in football, and opening the game if anything makes that worse.

I agree 100% with this. Kinetic energy is (1/2)*m*v^2; the velocity is more important than the mass. The hardest hits usually come from safeties, who aren't that big but are going full speed by the time they get to their target, who is usually going full speed in the opposite direction.

I see a lot of proposals to make the game less violent that propose to spread things out: weight limits, wider field, seven-on-seven, things like that. If you make those kinds of changes without removing hitting from the game, you'll only make things worse. Think about the hardest hits you've seen the last few years. I bet they're almost all between a safety and a receiver near the catch point. The most violent collisions aren't between the biggest players, they're between the fastest players.

by eagle97a :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 7:13pm

But the most dangerous ones from a long-term health perspective are the sub concussive hits that linemen experience on almost every single snap. The quantity is what really bothers me since it increases the chance of CTE in latter life.

I'm not saying violent high-speed collisions between safeties and receivers aren't dangerous but the less heralded sub-concussive hits between the trenches ultimately might prove more deleterious to one's health..

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:17am

Absolutely. It's weird (as noted previously) that two unsportsmanlike conduct calls in a game result in an ejection, but five illegal hits wouldn't (not that one ever sees that many, but you get the point).

As long as the penalty for knocking out an opponent's best players via avoidable (not necessarily always "deliberate", but almost always "avoidable") hits is "merely" 15 yards, the cost-benefit equation will reside on the side of making the hit. They may not say it out loud, but if you privately asked any Eagles coach whether they'd trade 15 yards to take Gronk out of the rest of the game during the 1st half, and forced them to tell the truth, every single one of them would make that trade. When it comes to hitting the QB, the standard has pretty much changed from flagging "deliberate hits" to flagging "avoidable hits" (and some would say the line is a bit too soft, and that some hits that simply weren't avoidable are getting flagged - although I'd guess the league would say that better/different form would make those unavoidable plays, avoidable). The standard almost certainly will start shifting that way everywhere on the field, if only to reduce liabilities as more is understood about brain health.

Football needs to return to being a game of tackling, not going for hits (ask Marcus Williams), or it's not going to exist at some point. There was no attempt to either tackle Gronk nor go for the ball/breakup the pass on the play, simply hit him high and hope for the best.

Perhaps something like "two personal fouls in a game is an automatic ejection and automatic suspension for the next game." I'd be OK with changing some things regarding personal fouls to cover that (for example, have a "facemask" penalty, and a "personal foul, facemask" penalty). One could even do something like some soccer tournaments do, where a personal foul in consecutive games doesn't result in an ejection, but DOES result in suspension for the next game. I don't know the answer, I just know that the current cost/benefit calculation on many penalties is out of whack.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:27am

Football stopped being a game of tackling when the game was opened up by constant rule changes to reduce brutality. It simply no longer resembles rugby sufficiently for the comparison to have merit. There's no play in rugby comparable to Church trying to tackle Gronkowski on a deep out.

There have been a couple of rugby and Aussie rules players in the NFL. None have been especially good tacklers. Rocca was decent for a kicker, but he also tended to rack up personal fouls at a high relative rate and mostly tackled with his shoulder. I've seen no evidence players with CFL experience are outliers in terms of penalty rate.

We likely will see the NFL adopt college rules; this continues a long trend of rules designed to hamper defenses. I would propose that the offensive equivalent of targeting calls should also become ejections -- crackback blocks and clipping should become auto-ejections as well.

Frankly, I'd like to see the PIs and holdings become incremental penalties instead of the biased auto-1st down/replay down split we have now. By incremental, I mean offensive DPI or holding would be treated like grounding -- they come with a loss of down. On the defense side, instead of holding on 3rd-18 being a 5 yard 1st down, it would become 2nd-13. The concern is that in late-game situations, teams would just serially commit penalties. Fortunately, there's already a provision in the rules for this.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:55am

Running that down some more, rugby-style kickers seem to be slightly more felonious than the norm. Rocca and Colquitt have more personal fouls than is typical.

Far and away the leader is Marquette King, though. He's got something like 5 of these.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:09am

Nate Ebner has been a fantastic tackler for the Patriots.

by rj1 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:43pm

"There's no play in rugby comparable to Church trying to tackle Gronkowski on a deep out."

Latest instruction from World Rugby to referees is hitting the head with no wrap like that would be a red card.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:46pm

There's a lot of passing or kicking in rugby to a player running free in the open field ahead of the ball carrier, like Gronkowski was?

A rugby defender will never need to dislodge a forward pass to a forward receiver like Church did with Gronkowski. Hell, even knocking the ball away is a penalty in rugby (knock-on).

There's nothing in rugby rules that will enlighten you about how defending against the forward pass should work, because rugby codes ban those plays. Offsides in football works much more like soccer rules than rugby rules.

by deus01 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:55pm

While not really the same thing, in Rugby the ball can be advanced forward by kicking. This is often done with a very high arc so that it's not unusual for members of both teams to be attempting to catch it. In those situations if one of the players tried to make a tackle instead of going for the ball it would be a penalty. It's also only a knock on if the ball gets knocked forward.

The problem in football is that the defense uses big hits, instead of wrapping, as an attempt to turn the pass into an incompletion. The NFL could require defense instead make an attempt to wrap while making a tackle though this would significantly alter the way things are played. I don't think the fact that it's a forward pass instead of a lateral really makes that much difference to how you treat tackling/hits.

I also believe that the Seahawks have been teaching rugby style tackling for years now.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:38am

I hate having suspensions tied directly to calls on the field. It happens all the time in soccer tournaments that a player picks up two silly yellow cards over the course of a tournament for relatively minor fouls that just happen to come at a point in the match where the ref is itching to give someone a yellow. Now that guy has to sit out a game due to bad calls that can't be changed after the fact. The same thing is happening in the NBA this season, where referees with itchy trigger fingers have been issuing technicals for minor offenses, and those add to a player's cumulative tech count that leads to automatic suspensions. It means that a bad call in one game can end up also affecting multiple games down the line, which is unfair and unreasonable in my opinion.

I think the way the NFL currently issues suspensions is the right process. Carefully review the play after the game and issue discipline based on the actual content of the play, not the call on the field. I don't think the NFL has necessarily gotten things right on what that discipline has been (it's still crazy to me that Juju Smith Schuster got the same penalty as Gronk this year for two wildly different offenses), but I think the process is the right one.

by FizzDude :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:08pm

I'm a Pats fan, but Gronk was already dropping the ball before impact. Don't think you can argue that he would have caught it if not for the head shot...

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:47am

" I also think the lack of high-end physical attribute guys on the Pats has the side effect of producing a team with a greater ability to sustain effort"

Sounds dubious. Why you think the sprinter/distance runner thing would apply here?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:07am

I'm not sure why we don't consider distance runners to represent "physical attribute" guys.

This all sounds like a veiled statement that New England has a lot of white guys.

\They're so scrappy!

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:38am

Rivers: "I think this week accentuated, as a whole, how much more important coaching is than the talent of your quarterback."

On one hand, I think this is true. In 2015 and 2016, Jeff Fisher went 9-23 with Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Jared Goff. Those guys are 42-25 when not QBing for Jeff Fisher, and have finished 1st, 2nd, and 6th in DVOA. How fortunate was Brady to have been drafted by Belichick and not Fisher?

On the other hand, Bortles is clearly the least talented (in execution terms) QB of this bunch, and was the most obviously in over his head. He was fortunate to escape Buffalo and Pittsburgh, and he turned back into a pumpkin in the second half. Opposite him was Brady, who like Manning and Favre before him, is mostly immune to sub-par offensive coaching. (Rodgers and Wilson are probably in this tier, Brees is harder to assess (he's never been exposed to poor coaching); Rivers and Roethlisberger probably aren't)

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:10am

If the Cleveland Browns had selected Tom Brady instead of Spergon Wynn at #183, nobody ever hears of Tom Brady.

He clearly had talent, but he was a project, and not the sort of project teams seem to prefer (the big arm who has bad mechanics or can't reed defenses)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:38pm

I really disagree with the notion that there has ever been a qb immune to bad coaching.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:53pm

Peyton Manning can set up his offense regardless of coach I feel.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:41pm

He did for his first couple of years in Denver. And then Kubiak forced him to adapt to his I-formation zone bootleg offense. Bad coaching.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:17pm

10 year vet Peyton Manning? To some extent, but even he would not have been able to save the Browns. There is some suck that cannot be unsucked.

Rookie Peyton Manning? There is more than one place that would have ended with him having an average at best career.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:59pm

I think 10 year vet Peyton Manning could still make a workable offense for any team. I dont claim that he would raise their defensive or special teams competency.

But assuming the coaches(which is a big assumption with Hue Jackson running the team) allow Manning to do his thing, I think he builds a functional passing game even with the sad sack browns.

A rookie PM? I guess we'll never know how much his command was through good coaching or through his own ability. Arians is a great coach, but he doesn't run a Peyton Manning offense. Far from it. That innovation seemed to be a coalescence from Moore and Manning, but we'll never know if a similar thing would have happened with Manning and another coach.

Edit - if I had the time - I would help build a better spam filter for FO than the one thats currently being used. I mean, my god just having words in a post triggers the filter every time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:11pm

You can never overlook the physical toll of the game. Manning became the best compensator for terrible blocking I've ever seen (this is why I will never agree that Brady has established himself as better), yet he still got decimated eventually. If he had been stuck on a truly talent vacant, poorly coached team from the beginning, he'd be like every other Plunkett/Manning the Elder: beat up, and only getting to a few good years, unless rescued into a better situation.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:42pm

Dan Koppen, a center who played with Brady and Manning in Denver, has explained that Brady made the line calls whereas it was the center's job to do it with Manning. There is also the fact that pressure allowed by NE's OL nearly doubled in Brady's absence in 2008, only to settle back down again in 2009.

In other words - and hopefully this doesn't start an irrational thread, I'm just responding to your pointed comment - if you want to credit Manning with compensating for bad pass pro, you must also give Brady credit for helping foster good pass pro.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:11pm

Tom Brady never had anybody blocking for him that even came within a parsec of The Universe of Suck that Charlie Effing Johnson inhabited. I could go on, but I will leave it at that.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:16pm

Id be curious to see if that was a change in Denver because there was a Seth Wickersham article about how Manning relayed protections to Saturday who would then pass that information to the rest of the o linemen.

Also - the 2008 season is a fascinating one. There was a clear spike in DVOA during roughly the middle part of the season and a corresponding drop in the pressure rate.

I suppose that could all be an artifact of chance as it is small sample - but I took it to mean Cassel was getting a lot more comfortable with the scheme and the coaches as well.

With all that said, none of the stuff above is meant to suggest Brady doesn't help his protection or that only Manning did.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:59am

Brady made the blocking calls and Manning didn't.

Are you implying Brady was doing more than Manning was, and is therefore more impressive? my first thought is that it seems SMARTER to delegate that to the center, leaving the QB free to focus his attention on the formation/shifts/probable defensive coverage.

Or does that still make Brady better because now he's "handicapped" by "having" to handle the line calls too? ;)

by eagle97a :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:54am

You can judge for yourself on what Koppen meant when saying TB made the line calls for the run game:


by theslothook :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 3:46am

"So there you have it. Brady’s in charge of all the protections prior to the snap, while Manning had his center do it for the run game."

Notice the oddity where it said Brady was in charge of the protections while Manning's responsibility ended once it entered the run game phase.

Anyways - if theres one statistical highlight for PM that has stayed consistent across his time in Indy and in Denver has been his sack rate. Since I have access to his pressure rate - hes also by far the lowest pressured qb in the nfl wherever hes gone. And before you think that pressure rate suggests his o lines have been good - sadly - pressure rate moves in lockstep with the sack rate, so no help there.

Its actually a pretty hard statistical problem trying to untangle all these effects.

by eagle97a :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:15am

True. Very low sack rates at the cost of slightly higher interception rates as compared to HOF caliber peers I suspect. I have always noted that interception rates have a slightly inverse correlation with sack rates.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:09am

You'll notice I didn't imply a single thing negative about Manning in my comment. Instead, I passed along Koppen's comments to dissuade the notion that Brady merely benefits from blocking. Both QBs deserve credit in their own way.

For all the flack Pats fans get about supposedly being biased, it's typically anti-Pats rhetoric that twists and contorts comments. Yours is a fine, if perhaps unintentional, example.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:13pm

Edit - just realized it's not my post you are replying to.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 1:56am

Actually I was joking, that's what the winky-face was supposed to signify ;)

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 8:46am

Doh! My apologies, then. :)

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:02pm


by James-London :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:51am

It's so disappointing that teams continually turtle against New England. Unsuprising, but so disappointing. The Pats don't die- you have to drive the stake through their heart, and punting on 4th & 1 on their side of midfield doesn't qualify...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:37pm

Now has never been a better time to be a fan of one NFL team. Pat fans have had it so good for so long. Now has also never been a worse time to be a fan of any other AFC east team. Honestly if Brady doesn't retire post Super Bowl is there any draft pick, free agent that makes me think Miami will win the AFC east next year? LOL, no way. Why should I care about the up coming draft, Miami's coaching pick ups, the free agency period or more to the point watch these play off games? Hint I skipped both games Sunday and won't watch the Super Bowl. The NFL hasn't given me * in years and I'm plum worn out. Congrats to Pat fans, though. It's an amazing run.

by Steve B :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:47pm

You could argue that it's never been a worse time to be a fan of any other team period. A certain amount of apathy/"what's the point of watching? I know how this is going to end" has set in and I would say is a big reason why the ratings are down.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:50pm

I certainly felt that way during the NFC title game. I might have changed my tune had New Orleans been in it.

Honestly - to beat the Pats, you need a good defense and a qb you can trust. I knew neither team had that in the title game - Case Keenum's season notwithstanding.

by jtr :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:20pm

TV viewership as a whole is declining, due to cord-cutting and competition from streaming services. The NFL's ratings aren't declining any faster than TV viewership as a whole. Treading water with the rest of TV viewership numbers isn't so bad for the NFL, considering this season was racked by political controversy, lousy performance from big-market teams in Dallas and NY, and a huge body count of injured superstars. IMO, the ratings issue this season has been blown out of proportion (largely by a particularly prominent twitter user), and are really just a symptom of how cable TV is rapidly becoming obsolete.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:04am

Yes, I agree the Patriots dominance causes apathy in fans of all 31 other teams. But is that the Pats' fault? Of course not! We should hate the other 31 teams instead, for being too inept to come up with a way to match them!

It's natural to want to hate the Pats, obviously. But it's also wrongheaded and self-defeating.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:18am

It would be one thing if they were just good, like the 50s Lions and Browns, the 60s Packers, the 70s Steelers and Dolphins, the 80s Raiders and 49ers, or even the less-sufferable 90s Cowboys.

But the Patriots are so Nixonian about it, constantly wracked with cheating scandals that are wholly alien to the other dynasties. It's not just that other teams get beaten, it's that they get cheated, and by such a relentlessly self-aggrandizing franchise (The "Patriot Way" bullshit). Then you add in a fanbase that demands to be beloved as well as admired.

The cherry on top is Gronk using his "big goofy moron" shtick to hide headhunting and Brady pitching Dr. Oz levels of woo. It's all gotten very stale. Frankly, we'd rather have the Yankees.

I will say, once the dynasty is over, and the Pats hit the skids again. We're going to just revel in 56-3 curbstomps over your 2-14 team. You'll never get to hear the end of it.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:24am

Then you add in a fanbase that demands to be beloved as well as admired.

LOL! No, all Pats fans ask for is that posts complaining about them don't include gobs and gobs of bullshit. When you reach that lofty goal, I'll let you know. :)

by Scott P. :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 4:14pm

Well, Miami fans had it real good for a very, very long time. 2 losing seasons in 34 years. 21 playoff appearances, 5 Super Bowl appearances in that time frame.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:18pm

The Falcons didn't turtle and we all know how that ended going for them...

by Steve B :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:49pm

Well, yeah, there is such a thing as being 'stupid aggressive'.

by Kulko :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 5:32pm

Yes there is! And its called hindsight bias.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:05am


by nat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:20am

Anyway, congrats to the Patriots, the boring chalk that did not yield

OK, Rivers. I give up. What is the "chalk that did not yield" phrase in reference to?

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:51am

In tournament/playoff vernacular, the "chalk" is simply the favorite or the default selection. In an NCAA Tournament pool, someone that "takes the chalk" is simply picking the favorites to win everything. If on a given day all the favorites win, it's sometimes said that "the chalk held" (or a similar phrase). Often the term is used when talking about people that don't necessarily know a lot about the event otherwise, like the secretary that picks the favorites and wins the weekly football picks by "talking the chalk".

Someone that knows football but doesn't follow super-closely (my boyfriend/fiance is a good example), given a list of teams in the playoffs, would almost certainly pick the Patriots based on past results. Taking the Pats is like the chalk-iest of the chalk picks one could make (hence the boring chalk, and they didn't lose, so didn't yield).

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:37pm

In tournament/playoff vernacular, the "chalk" is simply the favorite or the default selection. In an NCAA Tournament pool, someone that "takes the chalk" is simply picking the favorites to win everything. If on a given day all the favorites win, it's sometimes said that "the chalk held" (or a similar phrase). Often the term is used when talking about people that don't necessarily know a lot about the event otherwise, like the secretary that picks the favorites and wins the weekly football picks by "talking the chalk".

Someone that knows football but doesn't follow super-closely (my boyfriend/fiance is a good example), given a list of teams in the playoffs, would almost certainly pick the Patriots based on past results. Taking the Pats is like the chalk-iest of the chalk picks one could make (hence the boring chalk, and they didn't lose, so didn't yield).

by nat :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:58am

FO servers are handing off on first down to run out the clock?
FO servers are coming out of a time out, but still can't snap the ball on time?
FO servers took an OBVIOUSLY ACCIDENTAL blow to the head?
FO servers are NOT DOWN and should be allowed as much time to return as they need!

by aces4me :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:06pm

+1 assuming this post goes through.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:30pm

Mike Triplette ruled the FO servers were down by contact.

Incidentally, are you guys getting DOS'd, or is this an internal problem? Has something released magic smoke?

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:10am

Obviously the referee's union knows that FO readers are on to their conspiracy, and they're doing anything they can to shut us down! Since DoS/DDoS attacks involve stretching rules to unintended consequences, it's a very "crooked-ref" thing to do.

You really need me to point this out to you? You're off your game, Brooks!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:20pm

Let us consider two potential scenarios:

Scenario #1: You are up by four points as a significant underdog on the road in the AFC Championship Game against a QB/coach combo who are widely regarded as the best ever to do what they do and an established history of amazing playoff performances, and you get the ball back on your own 25 with two timeouts and 55 seconds, and you have one of the better kickers in the league, meaning you in all likelihood need about 40 yards for a realistic shot at a reasonably makeable 50+ yard FG attempt. You instead kneel out the clock and go into the half.

Scenario #2: Doug Marrone literally wrestles his QB to the ground and takes a dump on his face.

Honest question--which of those is actually more insulting to Blake Bortles?

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:01pm

I notice that people are killing the jags second half play calling as conservative. They also killed the falcons second half play calling for too much throwing. Well make up your mind!!

In reality, for whatever reason, 31 teams fail to keep the pressure on against Brady and fail to block properly against NEs pass rush.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:26pm

A 25 point lead is different than an 11 point lead.

People were killing the Falcons for not running the ball in a situation where running the ball made sense.

Basic game theory suggests different situations call for different strategies.

"Make up your mind!" means "do not let situation dictate your strategy!"

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:47pm

I agree there's tremendous variation in strategy depending on your lead. That said - I was speaking more generally.

I think the goal in winning is to pick up first downs. You can try to run out the clock all you want, but if you aren't picking up first downs - then its all moot. This gets to the bigger picture - how are you supposed to ensure a victory against a team that is selling out to stop the run? I think running the ball is a mistake unless you are absolutely in a situation where getting the first down is secondary to burning time.

I also thought Ne made a mistake btw running the ball on that third and long which ultimately ended the game. In years past - ne throws on that drive just as they did against Kansas City one year earlier.

by Tarrant :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:45pm

The Jaguars went into clock-killing playcalling when there were still nearly 30 minutes of clock to kill, up by only a handful of points. That was a situation where scoring more points would have been more important than shaving off a few extra seconds - especially when those first-down calls put them in second-and-long. New England only needed two scores and they have Brady and Belichick; you can't decide to go conservative with nearly a half left to go. Furthermore, going conservative on the playcalling meant NE knew what Jacksonville was going to do - even when the Jaguars ran on first down in the first half, they were passing some too, so NE couldn't assume a play and thus had to spread the defense, leaving holes for the running game.

Atlanta was stopping the clock when there was a quarter left to go, up multiple scores, where New England needed every single one of those seconds to even have a chance to come back - and in most cases Atlanta still went 3-and-out. Change a few of those 4th quarter incompletes to runs for no gain and New England doesn't have the time to come back.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:26am

Not only stopping the clock, but frequently snapping the ball with +/-15 seconds left on the play clock, extending the game by 10+ seconds per snap.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:15pm

Server update: We've discovered a sudden, unusual spike in requests to our server starting Sunday. Those requests are pinging it to 100%, causing the connection issues for readers. We are working on finding the source and removing the problem.

Please be patient with your comment posts so that they don't double-post and triple-post. Thanks.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:26pm

Good luck

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:34pm

I would suggest you look at your logs for last Sunday, as well. I was getting domain errors then, too. Not as many, and at higher comment counts, but similar issues.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 2:16pm

Spoiler Alert: It's Russian NFL fans.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 1:20pm

As I have written in other Audible threads, I figured at some point Keenum's good fortune relative to turnovers would bite him. What surprised me was the MN defensive play. I did not recognize that unit relative to what I have seen in other games.

I also find it incredible that above someone suggested that Favre was immune to coaching. Favre's play suffered between Holmgren and McCarthy as Rhodes for a season and Sherman for the remainder were reluctant to confront their qb about his issues on and off the field. Holmgren rode Favre about everything and McCarthy told Favre that he had to get into better shape. Favre absolutely needed a firm hand.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 8:34pm

The Pats are just who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"