• Zone Blitz: Unpredictability, The Tony Romoest Ending Ever, and your NFL Week 16 Open Thread



    Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013 8:24 AM
    From: Brian
    Subject: Re: Week 15 Blitz
    To: Amy


    We Think We Know, But We Just Don’t Know

    This week was one of those NFL slates where I thought I had a pretty good feel for what was going to happen. It’s late in the season, so teams are pretty much a known commodity at this point. And with the fantasy playoffs in full swing, the more “sure things” the better. Following the trends, and generalizing how a game will unfold is essential in not only predicting the outcomes of games, but also in constructing player rankings and lineup decisions in the fantasy football world. However, things didn't exactly turn out as planned.

    The NFL slate started in Denver on Thursday night. While the playoff-contending Chargers looked to be a feisty bunch, the outcome going into the game seemed to be pretty clear. Denver would continue to run the ball effectively, Manning would utilize Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas (especially with Welker out), Phil Rivers would put up good numbers in an effort to keep up, and the Broncos would win a relatively comfortable high-scoring game. Instead, the Chargers controlled the clock with a performance from Ryan Mathews (29/127/1) that the Chargers envisioned they would get on a consistent basis when they drafted him a few years ago. The Broncos were the team in catchup mode, and while Moreno, Ball, Thomas, Decker, and Julius Thomas all disappointed, it was actually Welker replacement Andre Caldwell who had the nice performance, scoring both of Denver’s TDs. Kudos to Mathews, who has managed to stay healthy this season, and has put up his first 1000 yard campaign.

    On Sunday in St. Louis, while the Rams have a nice defense that isn’t afraid to punch you in the mouth, it seemed pretty clear that the Saints would do just fine, since the Rams don’t have a stout pass defense, and the game was being played in a dome. But as we’ve seen before from this Saints team, when you get pressure on Brees, he struggles. The Rams created pressure all day, and dominated the Saints from the start. We really need to start giving more credit to the job Kellen Clemens has done filling in for Sam Bradford. Clemens, drafted in the 2nd round in 2006 out of Oregon, was a guy who always had talent, and was at one point thought to be the future of the Jets. By the time he was done in New York, it didn’t even appear that he was a decent backup. But this year, he’s received his first extended look since 2007, and while the numbers aren’t great, he’s accounted for himself very nicely. Against a Saints team that has quietly been solid on defense, he was efficient, and along with a great grind-it-out game from Zac Stacy, was able to lead the Rams to a big win. Jeff Fisher has some real talent in St. Louis, but has been stuck in an NFC West that has exploded. The Rams are a team that would be leading roughly half of the other divisions in the NFL this season.

    Minnesota hosted Philly with no Adrian Peterson, which means their offense was being led by Matt Cassel and some dude named Matt Asiata. Along with a pass defense that has been horrid, this seemed like an easy win for a Philly team that was playing great football, and in the driver’s seat for the NFC lEast. So of course the ViKings put up 48 points in a rout.

    Then, of course, there’s Miami, who upset the Patriots. That’s two HUGE wins in a row for them, and they now find themselves in the driver’s seat for that 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC. Is it just me, or with that arm, size, and athleticism, does Ryan Tannehill look a bit like a young John Elway? We’ll see where his development leads, but that dude has some serious skill. Tom Brady put up some big numbers yesterday against a Miami pass defense that has been really good all year. But despite 23 total catches from Amedeldolaman, without Gronk in the lineup, the Pats lack a red zone threat, and struggle putting up points.


    So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance…

    Until the Bengals can play well on the road, they can’t be taken seriously as a Super Bowl Contender. That is all.

    I learned from the ESPN Playoff Machine that the Steelers somehow still have a chance to make the playoffs. All they need to have happen is to win their last 2 against GB and Cleveland, have Miami lose their last 2, Baltimore to lose at least 2 of their last 3, San Diego to lose at least 1 of their final 2, and for the Jets to win both of their final games. No worries, {we’ve got this thing in the bag}…

    Did you know that the Ravens now control their own destiny, and if they win out, they win the AFC North? Where did that come from?

    With the Bengals’ bad loss in Pittsburgh last night, the big picture in the AFC looks like this- Denver can’t win in the cold, New England can’t score consistently without Gronk, the Bengals look terrible on the road, Indy is about as inconsistent as they come, and KC has Alex Smith. I’m fairly certain at this point that the AFC will not have a representative in this year’s Super Bowl.


    This Week’s Most Tony Romoest Ending Of All Time

    And the winner is…. TONY ROMO!!!! Romo, with significant help from his defense, was spectacular in coming from ahead to lead his Cowboys to an unexpected defeat at home this week. After already having let the Packers back into a game that the Cowboys were dominating in the first half, Romo hits Sam Shields on a beautifully thrown INT inside of 3 minutes left, which the Packers then convert into a TD, and a 1 point lead. Romo then gets the ball back with about a buck and change left, and 2 plays later, has Cole Beasley pull up on an out, and hits Tramon Williams in the chest to ice the game for the Packers. I get that Romo has great 4th quarter stats, and that his lack of a “clutch” gene is probably way overblown, but why does it seem that stuff like this happens all the time with Romo/Garrett? I get that Jerrah gave Jason Garrett the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this year, but there’s no way he survives the season, right?



    Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 10:12 AM
    From: Amy
    Subject: Re: Week 15 Blitz
    To: Brian


    Execution? I'm All For It...

    It was choke weekend, there's not much more to be said. You've covered it pretty well.

    I don't have anything to add to SD/Denver.

    I was pretty stunned at the way the Vikings just kicked the Eagles around, and I blame the Dallas D much more than Romo for the Packers win. Can you blame Garrett for the defense? I'm not sure that you can. On the two picks that Romo threw in the 4th, the first was not his fault. The WR said, after the game, he didn't run his route properly and that was the reason why. On the second pick, Romo put the ball in the wrong spot, but if he doesn't, that has a very good chance of being TD Dallas. To often we let result and not process determine if a play was bad or good. Romo made the right decision, he just executed improperly.

    The Rams proved my point. Hit the Saints early and they lose. If the Panthers win out, they win the South. Biggie must be freaked out the Lions loss. The Ravens get no TDs and win. The NFC North is still up for grabs.

    It felt very strange rooting for the Steelers Sunday night, but I was and I'm glad they won.


    Your Weekly Pat Chat

    As for the Pats, I disagree that no Gronk was the key factor. Yes, it would have been nice to have him, but, him out didn't beat us. Beyond McDaniels not calling enough runs on a day where Blount and Ridley were both running well, the loss is not really on the offense. Miami took Vereen out of the game, but Danny and Minitron were great and we got a Gronk like catch from Hooman of all people! Our main issues were coaching and Special Teams. Really, 6 plays made the difference:

    Special Teams: Steven missed a FG and had a kick off out of bounds.

    Coaching: BB chose, twice, to take a FG inside the 10. The second was a 4th and 2, from the Miami 5, in the 4th. I'd have gone with Danny and Minitron wide, Hooman on the left side of the line, Vereen and Blount in the backfield, then motioned Vereen to the right slot. If the D rolled to cover him, go with the inside run. If not, go to him, or a release delay for Hooman. Show the heavy run set, then once the D is on the field, make it, in effect, 4 wide.

    Offense: Danny dropped a TD on the last drive, but it was a well defended play.

    Defense: On Miami's last drive, they went for it on 4th and 5. Ninkovich read the play, blew it up a yard deep and missed the tackle. He hardly ever does that, and if he make it, we win.


    The More Things Change...

    At the end of the weekend, nothing really changed. A lot of teams choked, and the seedings are the same. Carolina is the only playoff team that really helped itself. If Denver had a good team in the last 2, KC would have as well, but Denver gets Houston and Oakland, meaning they have the #1, barring something crazy. Seattle will be the other #1 seed.

    I still have Panthers/Pats in New York, though!



    Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 1:55 PM
    From: Brian
    Subject: Re: Week 15 Blitz
    To: Amy


    Perception Is Reality

    Hey, I'm actually somewhat of a Romo fan, and a sometime defender. But no matter the reason, whether the coach, QB, WRs, defense, or whomever, it's always something in Dallas. And remember, there are hundreds of times that Michael Jordan failed in a big spot. But we don't remember him being pick-pocketed by Nick Anderson, we remember him draining the game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo and Byron Russell. Similarly, while Romo has had some great finishes to games, with him, we remember the failures, mainly because there's not a signature big moment with him that led Dallas to a championship of any kind. And right, wrong, or indifferent, that's what it comes down to. QBs, more than any other position in sports, are defined by championships. If you win, you will be lauded for your "clutch" gene. If you don't, you'll be consistently scrutinized. That's exactly why Romo's end-game performance is a headline, while Brady's last play failure is largely ignored, and instead we remember Tannehill's clutch drive from that Pat-Phin game. Fair or not, perception is reality when it comes to QB performance.

    Think about Cutler's performance in Cleveland. He throws that go-ahead TD to Alshon Jeffery, that quite honestly, was a terrible decision/throw. But Jeffery makes a great play, and suddenly no one in Chicago is questioning that Cutler is the starter moving forward (a decision I agree with, by the way). BUT, if that throw is rightly picked, and Cleveland ends up scoring the winning TD, many of the folks in the Windy City would have suddenly remembered that it was just last Monday that Josh McCown was playing like Brett Farve's dad had just died.


    Bears-Eagles
    Speaking of the Bears, I still can't believe that other than the record-setting Broncos, they're the highest scoring team in the league. And they have a huge game on Sunday night against Philly. There's an outside shot the Bears could enter that game with a chance to clinch the North, provided the Packers lose at home to the Steelers, and the Lions lose at home to the Giants. Of course, the game could mean a lot to Philly as well, if the Cowboys lose at Washington earlier in the day. But if Dallas wins, no matter what happens to Philly on Sunday night, they'll be playing for the division in Dallas week 17. Either way, all I know is that the NFC playoffs will be infinitely better if both Chicago and Philly are able to claw their way into the mix, and leave out the perpetually disappointing Cowboys and Lions in the process. While both teams are incredibly flawed, they also both possess the weaponry to pull off an upset vs. any of the top teams in the South and West. As dominant as we all think Seattle to be, it honestly wouldn't shock me at all if a nothing-to-lose Eagles or Bears team gets on an offensive roll, and gives the rest of the NFC fits in the postseason.


    NFC South Showdown
    You mentioned that you still think the Panthers are going to the Super Bowl, and I'd love to see that happen. But if they want to entertain serious thoughts of a Super Bowl run, then a win over New Orleans at home on Sunday is a near must. The Saints will clinch the South with a win, but a Panthers win would put them one game up with one to play. While the Saints would still own the tie-breaker, obviously a win in week 17 over Atlanta would give the Panthers the division, and the 2 seed in the playoffs. We've seen the M.O. on how you beat New Orleans. You punch them in the mouth, and make Brees uncomfortable in the pocket. St. Louis did that to perfection last week. Carolina has the type of smashmouth team that can give the Saints fits this weekend. It didn't play out that way a few weeks ago in the dome, but this is the week we find out whether or not the Panthers are a legit threat in a suddenly loaded NFC playoff picture.


    Playoff Fever In... Atlanta?
    The team to watch over the last 2 weeks could very well be Atlanta, especially if you're the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons get the Niners this week, in what could be the final game ever played at the Stick. Then, in week 17, they close their season by hosting the Panthers. The Cardinals meanwhile must win out to finish 11-5, then hope that any of San Francisco, Carolina, or New Orleans lose both of their final games. Arizona gets SF at home in week 17, but even if they upset the Seahawks in Seattle this week, they will likely still need a win plus additional help in week 17, unless the Falcons can find a way to take down the 49ers this weekend.


    The Pats' Fatal Flaw
    Finally, I get that a play here or there for the Pats, a better gameplan, or a better performance by the defense would have won last week's game for them. But big picture, the Pats are not content with just being a playoff team. They're a yearly Super Bowl contender. And this year, they've proven that without Gronk in the lineup, they're nothing more than a middle-of-the-road offense that's lacking a shut-down defense. Having watched the Steelers' passing offense for years, I know what it's like to watch a team without a legit red zone threat. The loss of Gronk is going to turn 1 or 2 TDs into FGs every week, and that's likely to be the difference between a win and a loss in the playoffs. The other factor is that while they have some really reliable options, Dobson is the only WR who showed signs of turning into a dynamic down-field threat. Without him, or any type of red zone prowess, all teams have to do is let Edelman/Amendola get theirs, take out Vereen, and make Gostkowski their most explosive offensive weapon. Sorry, but I don't see a big run for your Pats.

    Oh, and did you really call KenBrell Thompkins "Minitron"?

    Comments 84 Comments
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      I didn't comment on this within the thread, but feel like it needs to be commented on.

      Can you blame Garrett for the defense?
      Yes.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Trumpetbdw View Post
      I didn't comment on this within the thread, but feel like it needs to be commented on.



      Yes.
      He is the coach that hired a 4-3 Tampa-2 expert to take 3-4 personnell and try to use a defense that no longer works (the Bears were the last great Tampa 2 team, and they spent the last 2 years increasingly going to more man concepts because of the rules changes that opened up the middle of the field even more. Zone coverage is less effective when there is no fear of been blown up. The Steelers have lost their TO margin running the zone blitz. I get the personnel is older, but zone coverage always required hard hitting safeties to make up for catches in the soft spots. That fear is no longer present, and it's why the zone blitz and the Tampa 2 have become less effective. Or that at least is my theory.
    1. Wordsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by iwatt View Post
      He is the coach that hired a 4-3 Tampa-2 expert to take 3-4 personnell and try to use a defense that no longer works (the Bears were the last great Tampa 2 team
      Monte Kiffin was a Jerry Jones hire. He saddled Garrett with Callahan and told him to work with Kiffin because it's what Jerry wanted. Jason Garrett doesn't get to make any of those decisions.



      You can blame Jerry Jones for bringing Monte Kiffin's aging, predictable 4-3 zone system to a roster full of DBs that perform better in a 3-4 man set (as they were built).

      You can blame Kiffin himself for lacking the foresight, ability, or willingness to adjust his strategy to maximize the talent he possesses, and for making what appears to be zero adjustments at halftime of games.

      You can blame Bill Callahan for losing whatever pages of run plays he may have in his playbook at halftime when he has a big lead. Garrett, too.

      You can blame Jason Garrett for poor game and clock management, and for historically encouraging the abandonment of the run game despite success it may see against opponents. There were seven called run plays in the second half of a 26-3 game after Murray had been torching the Pack for huge chunks of yards. Romo's first INT came on a pass option he took from a called run, that tells him to quick throw at Miles Austin when Green Bay puts eight in the box - which they did. However, as the head coach, you have to take that option away from Romo and commit yourself to running the ball. Limit Green Bay's comeback opportunities. Control the tempo, impose your will, and trust in what got you the big lead in the first place. Don't put your defense back on the field by taking a chance when it's not absolutely necessary, and do not throw your quarterback under the bus for making the correct option call at the line of scrimmage when you should have removed it from the situation. That's on you.

      Garrett repeatedly does this. I go back to the 2007-08 playoff game between Dallas and NYG when Garrett was coordinator. Dallas dominated the first half on the ground, gaining 107 yards on 18 carries including a score. Included in that was a 9 play, 96 yard TD drive that took 4:57, followed by a mammoth 20 play, 90 yard TD drive that took 10:28 - one of the biggest in playoff history. Enter the second half. Dallas tries to pass it more, mixing up their playcalling, and their second half drive summary reads: FG, Punt, Punt, Punt, INT (to end the game).

      Jason Garrett shows this is his makeup, his DNA as a coach. This is not a temporary problem that needs tightening up to get Dallas back on track. This is a long history of poor gameplans and shoddy game management that alludes to a greater issue.

      The entire regime in Dallas needs to be flipped. There is no structure, no effective hierarchy. It's a total clown car sh*tshow headed by a maniacal owner that gave his own maniacal GM self a vote of confidence on his radio show this week. Ask any Raiders fan what the last decade under Al Davis was like, and you'll see an image of what the Cowboys have turned into.

      As long as Jerry Jones is alive, Dallas will never win another championship.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Wordsworth View Post
      Monte Kiffin was a Jerry Jones hire. He saddled Garrett with Callahan and told him to work with Kiffin because it's what Jerry wanted. Jason Garrett doesn't get to make any of those decisions.
      I know Jones made those decisions. Garret is the HC who's let himself have his play calling taken away and have a DC coordinator foisted on him.

      But here is the thing. He is the HC. He gets paid as a HC. He could have said no. Of course, he would no longer be the HC for the Cowboys if he had, but it would at least have shown some backbone. Garret is the Head Coordinator right now, and that also affect players accountability and responsibility.

      Jerry Jones is a ****ty owner compared to other 31 teams, since he not only micromanages personell and drafting, but playcalling and coaching. But it's not like Garret was unaware of this truth when he took the job. Blame Jerrah all you want, but Garret is the one with the HC label on his front door. With that comes responsibility.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Both of you are making some great points. And Words, you're spot on with your rant. That was some great stuff.

      But iwatt's last point is one I agree with. Garrett's problem is his lack of a backbone. Of course, that's also why he's still employed as an NFL HC. But as HC, you are responsible for the performance of the team on the field each week. If it's not performing up to snuff, then adjustments need to be made, and good HCs, no matter the situation they're dealing with in the owner's/GM's box, find a way to make sure that they and their coaching staff is on the same page.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      Callahan and Garrett should have been fired and left at the stadium after that debacle.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by iwatt View Post
      I know Jones made those decisions. Garret is the HC who's let himself have his play calling taken away and have a DC coordinator foisted on him.

      But here is the thing. He is the HC. He gets paid as a HC. He could have said no. Of course, he would no longer be the HC for the Cowboys if he had, but it would at least have shown some backbone. Garret is the Head Coordinator right now, and that also affect players accountability and responsibility.

      Jerry Jones is a ****ty owner compared to other 31 teams, since he not only micromanages personell and drafting, but playcalling and coaching. But it's not like Garret was unaware of this truth when he took the job. Blame Jerrah all you want, but Garret is the one with the HC label on his front door. With that comes responsibility.
      The thing is, why fault Garrett?

      In all of this, insert Generic Cowboys Head Coach. Then criticize him? It doesn't matter if it's Garrett or someone else. It's a Cowboys problem, like Lil' Danny is a Redskins problem.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      "I still have Panthers/Pats in New York, though!"

      I have no idea who the AFC champ will be. They're all showing significant weakness.

      But that Panthers pick ain't so bad, I'm thinking. They're really coming together at the right time. Any team which plays defense as well as they do has a great shot. Their problem will be a leetle road trip to the Great NorthWet against another good defense. Could be a gobsmacker.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by iwatt View Post
      He is the coach that hired a 4-3 Tampa-2 expert to take 3-4 personnell and try to use a defense that no longer works (the Bears were the last great Tampa 2 team, and they spent the last 2 years increasingly going to more man concepts because of the rules changes that opened up the middle of the field even more. Zone coverage is less effective when there is no fear of been blown up. The Steelers have lost their TO margin running the zone blitz. I get the personnel is older, but zone coverage always required hard hitting safeties to make up for catches in the soft spots. That fear is no longer present, and it's why the zone blitz and the Tampa 2 have become less effective. Or that at least is my theory.
      No, he isn't. This guy is:



      Agree on the rest.
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      I watched that great blizzard game in Philly a couple of weeks ago and was hoping that we'd get something similar for SNF football this week. According to weather.com the high temperature in Philly on Sunday will be ..... 69 degrees. Seriously. High of 69, low of 50 on December 22nd in Philadelphia. I was going to pack long underwear and a ski mask, now I'm not sure I'll even need a shirt.

      http://www.weather.com/weather/5-day/Philadelphia+PA+USPA1276:1:US
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      So, shirtless Andy in a ski mask on SNF. Be there!
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Better make that post invisible to brauneyz, Freeland. We'd hate to see you pick up another stalker.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Andy Freeland View Post
      I watched that great blizzard game in Philly a couple of weeks ago and was hoping that we'd get something similar for SNF football this week. According to weather.com the high temperature in Philly on Sunday will be ..... 69 degrees. Seriously. High of 69, low of 50 on December 22nd in Philadelphia. I was going to pack long underwear and a ski mask, now I'm not sure I'll even need a shirt.

      http://www.weather.com/weather/5-day/Philadelphia+PA+USPA1276:1:US
      They're probably right, but when I pulled the 5-day on Denver's game with KC it forecast a low of 24. Game time the temp was actually a balmy 40. Those forecasts can be shaky more than two days out.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Yes, we're expecting a significant warmup down here this weekend, just in time for the official start of winter. When you tune in, I'll be the guy beside Freeland with the second half of Cris's initials painted on my chest.

      I figure that's safer than breaking out my Walter Payton jersey.
    1. Andy Freeland's Avatar
      Headline on NFL.com:

      York: Harbaugh, Baalke 'butt heads' but have strong relationship


      There has to be a better way to say that.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      I hate to come right out and say it, but I like the Panthers' chances against Nyquil Boy and his bunch this week. The Panthers are good at home, and even though it's going to be warm (yeah, 74), there is a chance of rain which I think plays right into the Panthers' hands. I was impressed at how easily they took down the Jets last week; the Panthers' D is still vulnerable to the long ball, but the Saints didn't really attempt to exploit that last time (granted, they didn't need to) and I don't see them pushing it outdoors in potentially wet weather, either.

      Geez, it feels good to have a big game here at the end of the season. It's been a long, long time.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
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    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Honest question to Bengals fans: How in the heck is the game for Sunday not sold out yet? It only has huge playoff implications. I get the stadium stuff and hatred of the owner, is that all it is?

      I saw this when I saw a tweet saying the Bengals got an extension for the game to avoid a blackout.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Honest question to Bengals fans: How in the heck is the game for Sunday not sold out yet? It only has huge playoff implications. I get the stadium stuff and hatred of the owner, is that all it is?

      I saw this when I saw a tweet saying the Bengals got an extension for the game to avoid a blackout.

      A) Many Bengals fans are fickle and fairweather.

      B) Traditionally, the week of Christmas game has struggled to sell out, not just in Cincinnati, but every city that doesn't consistently sell out every game. A lot of people travel and celebrate Christmas that weekend. If you don't have an extremely large season ticket base, I imagine you have trouble selling that game out as you don't get a high number of walk up sales.

      C) For whatever reason, home games against NFC opponents has never sold great.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Pretty cool look at how the NFL and the state of New Jersey are preparing for the possibility of heavy snow at the Super Bowl.

      821 trucks would be ready for snow duty within 30 miles of the stadium and an additional 2,400 trucks could be called in from elsewhere in the state. In New York, the officials said, 2,000 garbage trucks that double as plows would be standing by, along with 440 salt spreaders and more than 230 front-loaders.

      The stadium itself has six plows, 30 front-loaders and 12 trucks to haul snow in addition to the 600-tons-an-hour melter and a couple of smaller ones, and the stadium went through what amounted to a dress rehearsal in the snowy weather last weekend. Brad Mayne, the president and chief executive of the stadium, said crews cleared and melted 5,000 tons of snow from the parking lots.
      All that and some wild new snow removal machine that can melt 600 tons of snow an hour.

      Wowzers.