Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Sep 2013

Mandatory Monday: Early Returns

Jump to conclusions? Well, it's that or go into Karl Rove denial! Ron Rivera and Marty Mornhinweg's play calling get ripped. Maybe I have some left over Andy Reid hostility. But if I do, I took it out on Jim Harbaugh.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 09 Sep 2013

30 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2014, 7:06pm by duvetica piumini


by Leyoz :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 7:19am

I agree wholeheartedly about the Harbaugh comments. The man is obviously a great coach, but he also says a lot of unnecessary/stupid things.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 9:07am

Harbaugh's comments were pretty stupid, yes. On the other hand, he wigged out over Matthews's comments as if Matthews was going to intentionally take cheap shots at his quarterback...and then, presto, in the actual game Matthews did indeed take a cheap shot at his quarterback. To extend Mike's Godwin's Law metaphor, it's like finding out that the random forum poster you're comparing to the Nazis is actually a member of a white-supremacist group.

(Or in other words, just because Harbaugh is acting like an idiot doesn't mean that Matthews doesn't need to pay more attention to what he's doing. If anything, Harbaugh's comical, flag-baiting overreaction is the main reason we're not seeing more columns today comparing Matthews to Suh.)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:02am

That was a 2010s sort of cheap-shot, not an 80s sort of cheap shot.

10 years ago, that wasn't even a penalty.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:20am

Nah, Lavonte David's LHOOB could be qualified that way, I agree, but Matthews was more egregious. Reminds me a lot of Leonard Smith, who was always good for one personal foul a game for the Cards and Bills back in the 80s and racked up a lot of late hits out of bounds.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 12:58pm

I'm a Jets fan. David's 'hit' wasn't even a 2010 cheap shot, just a dumb play. On the other hand, Dashon Goldon is a cheap shot artist, and the Bucs in general take stupid penalties a lot. I could see Niners fans being happy he's no longer on their team, kind of like how I am glad Rex Ryan finally let Eric Smith go.

As far as the Matthews hit goes, I saw its equivalent in the 2011 Jets Giants game. Aaron Maybin went airborne to prevent a running back from getting past him when the running back was almost out of bound. 15 yards. The tackle around the head was a little much, but I don't know if I would throw it in the same garbage bin as Leonard Smith's hits. He once shoved Wesley Walker into the bench on the Jets sideline and then got ejected for throwing a punch. Matthews plays like he's crazy sometimes, but he's not that crazy. I hope.

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:22am

Do agree that it wasn't the "Sweep the leg! Intent to injure!" kind of cheap shot that Harbaugh was hollering about, though.

by akn :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 12:22pm

I don't have a horse in this (well, I'm a Bears fan), but that tackle was clearly a cheap shot almost at the "sweep the leg" level. I don't know what school of tackling teaches someone to go horizontal at shoulder level, Superman style, to wrap someone around the neck area. The only way this type of tackle is successful is when the other player is entirely unaware it's coming (or if he has given himself up as in this case). If Mathews tried that same tackle in the field of play, an aware ballcarrier would have ducked him entirely, or at least braced himself for the blow.

I do agree that the tackle had nothing to do with Harbaugh's bloviating, as there was no read option context when he did it.

by Kaelik (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 1:06pm

So I have a completely different view on the Mathews thing. I really think that was, while maybe a penalty, and maybe not the most efficient tackle, shouldn't have been a penalty.

Mathews left the ground before Kaepernick was out of bounds, was he supposed to predict that Kaepernick would run out of bounds a yard short of the first down on 3rd down? Or was he supposed to do what he could to prevent the first down, including tackling the runner who had not yet gone out of bounds, and easily could have?

Also, fuck that Geno Smith call. He was inbounds when the guy pushed him, and it was really fucking light and Geno through himself into a dive in true soccer fashion.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 2:47pm

As I view it Matthews still had one foot on the ground at the time that Kaepernick had one foot out of bounds. In fact Kaepernick was clearly going out of bounds before Matthews even began to start launching. It was just a late shot.

There's a video here titled "Clay Matthews late hit on ...", scroll forward to about 43-44 seconds and you'll see a good angle:

by Kaelik (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 6:04pm

While the link didn't quite work, I found what you were talking about, and that is definitely the best view I have seen of it yet. Yeah, that was a late hit.

However, based on similar video of the jets, I still maintain that contact was made while Geno was still in bounds, and he probably threw himself to make it look like a hard hit.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/10/2013 - 5:38pm

Maybe I just remember Michael Vick's freshman season, where he beat WVU on a play late in the game where he started towards the sidelines like he was heading out of bounds, the DB relaxed, and he cut back in-field for 20 more yards. VT won on a long FG as time expired.

So long as we're talking cheap shots, I've also seen Kaepernick lean back in and hit a DB who held up as he goes OOB. If close sideline tackles are going to be called, then runners cutting back in after faking an OOB run also need to be flagged for unnecessarily roughness.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 09/10/2013 - 5:46pm

Totally agree. I've seen quarterbacks play on this at NFL level too. A late hit should be obviously late and an actual hit, not a two handed tap on a guy who's barely, if at all, out at the time.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 09/11/2013 - 9:31pm

Just saw both videos the first time. Matthews clearly leaped late unnecessarily and gave a full tackle. Good call.

David was sprinting to the sideline to cut off the run and only just got his hands on Smith. Maybe Smith was out or so close to going out as to render the hit "late," but taking that angle, which was a valid football decision, meant that collision was going to happen arms extended or not. So if he doesn't extend his arms and instead just runs him over is that still a late hit? I think it can't be because it was the unavoidable result of legitimate play. I think arms out probably softens that blow rather than increases it, so it cannot rationally make the hit unnecessarily rough.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 09/11/2013 - 4:41pm

I'd call it unsportsmanlike rather than unnecesary roughness, but the penalty would be the same.

by dryheat :: Thu, 09/12/2013 - 10:16am

Kordell Stewart beat the Patriots in the playoffs on that play, when a linebacker (Todd Collins?) slowed up a half-yard from the sideline, and Stewart tucked inside of him and ran for a ~70 yard touchdown down the sideline.

I'm a big proponent of escorting the runner out of bounds. I don't buy this idea that it was obvious Smith were going out of bounds.

by Whatev :: Fri, 09/13/2013 - 5:01am

I've also seen Ben Roethlisberger do this thing where he makes like he's going to slide and when the defenders pull up to avoid hitting him, he leans forward for 2-3 extra yards.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 9:36am

"he also blew a timeout on a challenge that had little chance of succeeding"

To be fair to Rivera (who IS terribly incompetent, more on that in a minute...), the catch was a spectacular sideline toe-tapper to convert a 3rd and 8 play into a first down. Up to that point, Seattle had not managed much on offense, and this was the first real big play for them. It was definitely worth looking at, based solely on the risk-vs-reward of not letting them convert that play into a first down, and the potential doubt based on the degree of difficulty of the catch.

To further complicate matters, Seattle rushed up to the line of scrimmage immediately after the play, to attempt to run another play before the Panthers could get a good look at the catch to determine whether or not they wanted to challenge the call on the field.

Even worse, the Panthers were attempting to substitute defensively, and they had too many men on the field. There were at least two guys trying to run off the field before Seattle could get set to run a quick snap play.

The Panthers were going to have to call a timeout to avoid the penalty for 12+ defenders on the field. If they had to burn one timeout anyway, why not go ahead and challenge the call on the field, and hope he didn't get both feet in, or that he bobbled the ball on the way to the ground? There is nothing to lose here, other than the timeout you already needed to burn.

In the ultimate irony, I don't believe Rivera had that complete thought process mapped out when he elected to challenge the play. I think he probably only challenged the play because Seattle was rushing up to quick snap.

It's a great tactical move for coaches to have their teams run up for a pre-designated quick snap play following any and all borderline plays, even if they know they converted them. The potential to force the opponent to burn a timeout and a challenge is very valuable. This is the kind of awareness I expect to see from New England or Denver, and never from the Panthers.

by DJG (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:08am

Agreed. That was actually a good challenge by Rivera. Watching the game live it was impossible to see without slo-mo if Baldwin came down in bounds (even in slo-mo it was close), and as you mention the Seahawks smartly gave the Panthers' staff no time to get a look at the replay. It was a HUGE third-down conversion. Without knowing for sure it was a catch, the reward of a successful challenge greatly outweighs the risk, I believe.

With that said, as a Seahawks fan I felt Carroll over Rivera was a nice advantage, and so it was. The final drive is a nice illustration of this. The Seahawks -- instead of going chalk (i.e., Rivera-esque) and plowing into the line twice with Beastmode to set up third and long -- ran those little play-action passes into the flat. Smart calls.

by Ryan D. :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:19am

It was pretty frustrating to see the Panthers fall for three play action passes to the flat on that last clock-killing drive by Seattle. At least the Seahawks threw the last one to the right flat, for variety's sake.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 1:02pm

I'm not sure I agree with the "worth a challenge" concept. We often hear that from the booth on close plays, but one area where the refs definitely do an outstanding job is getting sideline two feet down calls correct when they are in good position. The ref in that case perfectly place to make the call. Neither "close" nor "impactful" are elements the refs use when deciding whether to uphold or overturn a play.

The Seahawks definitely made the right move by giving the Panthers as little time to decide as they did. Hurrying up there is always the right play whether you think it will be overturned or not, as the game turned out that lost timeout could easily have been decisive if the Panthers could have stopped Seattle's screens on that last drive.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 12:13pm

Watching that game at home, I was screaming at the Broadcast for not showing at least SOME sort of replay on that, maybe not the perfect angle in slow motion, but at least something - nope - closeup of the WR's expression, and then Seattle running up to make the play.

I said out loud "They are forcing him to throw the Red Flag blind!" and he did.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 3:28pm

An added bonus of the offense rushing to get the next play in is that the broadcast doesn't have the time to reshow the play either, especially since it would be in slow motion.

by Theo :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 9:48am

I'll stay in the middle of the road and say the Steelers will go 5-11.

That's what teams do when they have no fantasy on offense and rely on home runs on both sides of the ball.
Ben will miss some games, Clark will miss some games. Polamalu is a liability in coverage - he will anticipate a snap count and make a sack to make the highlight reel once or twice a game, but the 10 other defenders won't be able to compensate losing a freelancing Polamalu.

I hope 1 or 2 new players can step up - the Steelers will need it.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 09/11/2013 - 9:50pm

While I can't disagree on the prediction, I think your reasons for it are way off.

The Steelers rely on home runs on neither side of the ball. The offense may have done that under Arians, but Haley has not given much indication of that under his direction. The defense is predicated on preventing the home run play for the offense. It has been very poor at generating turnovers. This is exactly the opposite of relying on the home run.

Polamalu is a freelancer. This is true. But he is not a coverage liability. He is still excellent in coverage when he's in coverage. When he does other things that obviously hurts coverage, but that is the same tradeoff any blitz makes.

But yeah, Roethlisberger and Clark missing a couple games each sounds likely.

by pm :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 10:39am

The Jets didn't win 17-14. That would make the last penalty a lot less devastating.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 12:04pm

The Dolphins offense really didn't look good at all. Specifically Wallace may turn out to be a complete waste of money - I don't think Tannehill has the arm strength to utilize his speed. The announcers went on and on about Tannehill needing to 'calibrate' how fast he was, but the problem looked a lot more like he was pushing the limits of his arm.

Really Tannehill looked good primarily because of Hartline and Gibson, both of whom were working shorter/intermediate routes, and I think their success has more to do with Cleveland than Tannehill.

I never really thought Tannehill looked that much better than Weeden. Weeden just had utter garbage receivers (other than Davone Bess and Cameron). 2 of Weeden's interceptions were just flat out his receiver's fault. But really, the whole game just looked like two mediocre teams. *Someone* had to win.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 12:15pm

Looking forward to the DVOA numbers.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 1:05pm

Love the article, but I have to disagree with the Wildcat hurting Sanchez's development. He wasn't that good a prospect to begin with, and his Lewin forecast will back me up in that. Hopefully Marty gradually loses the wildcat stuff as the season goes on, because it will hamper Smith's rhythm during games.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 09/09/2013 - 3:35pm

The September-through-November version of the Seahawks had a 8th-ranked offensive DVOA, a 4th-ranked defensive DVOA, a 4th-ranked special teams DVOA and a 4th-ranked overall DVOA, so that's not such a bad place to be.

by duvetica piumini (not verified) :: Wed, 01/15/2014 - 7:06pm

seule la Gr