• Water Cooler: Wild Card Recap


    -Following a 1st quarter that followed the same script they’ve been writing since November 1, the Green Bay Packers seemed to finally wake up on offense. Aaron Rodgers made a few nice plays in the passing game, and the Packers controlled the game in the 2nd half on the ground. Frankly, it was a similar performance to what we saw in Dallas 4 weeks ago, when they beat the Cowboys 28-7 and racked up 29 1st downs. That performance, which we thought was a sign of their reawakening, proved to not be sustainable, and with a trip to Arizona on the horizon, the same Cardinals team that held them to 77 yards passing and 4 turnovers in a 38-8 win just a couple of weeks ago.

    -Yes, it certainly seemed to be an improved performance, and as Joe Buck kept pointing out, Aaron Rodgers even smiled on the field a few times, but his 5.8 YPA for the game is in line with his performance from the final 10 games of the regular season (5.97 YPA), and came against a team with a depleted secondary that finished 25th against the pass during the regular season, allowing a YPA of 7.8. Call me crazy, but I’ll wait at least another week before buying into the sudden reinvigoration of the Green Bay offense.

    -Let’s give a little credit to RGIII for being a classy dude. Cameras caught him shaking hands and saying goodbye to much of the field staff at FedEx Field. There are people who have endured less and handled it worse while getting much more praise than Griffin, and he’s been the epitome of a great teammate this year despite the circumstances. Here’s hoping he ends up with a team and a coach that will actually find a way to play to his strengths and give him one final chance at success. He deserves a real opportunity.

    -Brutal kick-in-the-gut loss for Minnesota. Blair Walsh takes the immediate blame for missing what would have been the game-winning chippie from 27 yards, but holder Jeff Locke did him no favors all game. And I thought Adrian Peterson was supposed to be their superstar.

    -I guess when you’re 2 games from your 3rd consecutive Super Bowl, it’s safe to assume that a few lucky breaks have gone your way, but Seattle’s fortune is bordering on the ridiculous. Last year, they won the NFC Championship game over Green Bay despite facing a win probability of 0.1% following an INT by Russell Wilson, down 12, with just over 5 minutes remaining in the game. Yesterday, down 9-0 early in the 4th quarter, a botched snap somehow turned into a 35 yard pass play to Tyler Lockett that set up their only TD. They took the lead on a FG following an Adrian Peterson fumble. Then, the missed 27 yarder by Blair Walsh finally sealed the game. Even looking back to last year’s Super Bowl, while they lost on the INT by Malcolm Butler, it took a ridiculously fortunate catch by Jermaine Kearse to put them into that position. ‘Tis better to be lucky than good, I guess…



    -It took one game for Brian Hoyer to undue a season-long effort to justify his standing as a starting QB in the NFL.

    -Just a friendly reminder that New England has lost 4 of 6, is extremely banged up on the OL, has a banged up QB, a couple of WRs returning from injury, and is facing a team with a quality defense that forces turnovers, has a nasty pass rush, and that beat them 41-14 just last season. They also destroyed Denver in Denver earlier this year.

    -This year, the NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, and we were served with a reminder of exactly how much the game has changed on Saturday night. If this were 40-50 years ago, that game would have been glorified on NFL Films for generations. Really, it looked and felt no different than a Steelers-Raiders matchup in the 70s, or Packers-Bears in the heyday of Butkus and Nitschke. Those games would get ugly—on the field, in the stands, and sometimes afterward in the locker room. Guys like Dick Butkus, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Doug Atkins, Chuck Bednarik, Jack Tatum (ok- pretty much all of the Raiders), and Jack Lambert would do the exact same things that Vontaze Burfict was doing. Lambert famously nearly had himself thrown out of Super Bowl X when he threw Cliff Harris to the ground for taunting Steelers K Roy Gerela following a missed FG. But while that era has become romanticized largely through the work of NFL Films, it’s a different game today, with player safety at the forefront. Burfict is a supremely talented player who has earned every last bit of his reputation. Just like a top-level CB who can get away with a little more in pass coverage than other CBs because he’s always in proper position, Burfict has long since exhausted his margin for error. The officials were on notice from the start thanks to the previous two meetings between the teams, and Burfict is one of those players who always wants to test the line, whether allegedly spitting in the face of Steelers G David DeCastro in a scrum, or subtly but intentionally slamming his knee into Roethlisberger’s shoulder following the otherwise clean sack that injured Big Ben.

    He’s made himself a target. That, in combination with an inability to keep himself under control, and a continued pattern of illegal hits, is why Burfict is likely to get suspended. No, he wasn’t the only player at fault, but that doesn’t negate his responsibility for his actions, and when he’s always in the middle of something, or attempting to draw attention to himself, like he did following the great play he made on what should have been the game-clinching INT, there can’t be complaint when he becomes the focus following what transpired on Saturday.

    - And it’s not like he’s only done this stuff against Pittsburgh. Two weeks ago, he was flagged in OT for giving an extra push to Virgil Green once he was out of bounds, and just last week, he gave a completely unnecessary head shot to Baltimore TE Max Williams who was running a route on the opposite side of the field as where the ball was being thrown. Yes Vontaze, you’re being targeted by officials. But it’s only because you’ve done a great job of earning that extra scrutiny.

    -No Pac Man, Antonio Brown was not faking. And you’re not helping your cause.

    -The shame is, all of the nonsense has taken away from Cincinnati managing to hang in despite Pittsburgh’s relative dominance through 3 quarters, the Bengal comeback, and then the heroics of Roethlisberger to find a to lead the Steelers down the field, converting a 4th down in the process, despite the injury to his shoulder. It is entirely possible that Pittsburgh would have been able to put themselves in FG position even without the help from the Bengals.

    -Ole Miss is the only team to beat Alabama this year. It’s easy to look at the +5 turnover margin as the major factor in a 6 point win, but digging a little deeper tells the real story. Ole Miss put the pressure on Alabama by taking an early lead, forcing the issue with the Tide offense. The Rebels led by 14 for a time in the 2nd quarter, then extended it to 20 in the 3rd, forcing Alabama to play catch up all game. Nothing makes a conservative, defensive-minded team more uncomfortable than an early deficit. Alabama is one of the best teams you’ll ever see at being patient on offense, refusing to take chances, and causing the other team to eventually have to try and force the issue against their vaunted defense. The Crimson Tide have a tendency to struggle against athletic QBs, and most athletic QBs can’t throw the ball like Deshaun Watson. Much has been made about Clemson not having faced a defense like Alabama’s, but Alabama hasn’t faced an offense like Clemson’s. If Clemson can jump out to an early lead, Alabama will be in real trouble. As long as the game is close and Clemson can force the issue on their own terms instead of Alabama’s, Clemson has a really good chance at pulling this game out.

    Comments 27 Comments
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Athletic quarterbacks do give Alabama fits, but the real thing to watch tonight is the Clemson offensive line. It was an inexperienced unit at the beginning of the season, but they've really grown, and the way you open up holes against a defense like the a Crimson Tide's is by attacking the line of scrimmage. You need to work inside and out against Alabama because if you just try to race to the edge or jam it between the tackles, you're going to have a bad time. Look for pulling interior linemen to try to create space for Deshaun Watson and company.

      For the record, I do think Clemson can do this and I kind of like them to pull off the upset.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Burfict suspended 3 games to start next season for hit on Brown.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      Given his history, I can understand the three games. I think it's excessive, but I also think it's fair.

      However, I am also irked that other penalties were not handed out. Yes, I know NFL said that the conduct of other players and coaches are under review for possible punishment. But, if you can punish Burfict, then you can punish Peko, and Shazier, and Munchak, and most especially, Porter.

      Do them all at once. Doing it this way makes it seem to me, as a neutral fan, that Burfict is being singled out. Bengals fans must feel that even worse.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I tried to embed the vine of Burfict's intentional knee to Roethlisberger's shoulder following the sack, but it just showed up as a link. If you haven't seen it, check it out above.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      Burfict suspended 3 games to start next season for hit on Brown.
      Sadly, this will only reinforce his belief ye s a target, and wont look at how to ajust his play.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Brian Williams View Post
      I tried to embed the vine of Burfict's intentional knee to Roethlisberger's shoulder following the sack, but it just showed up as a link. If you haven't seen it, check it out above.
      Unfortunately, this forum does not accommodate Vines. Gifs, on the other hand, we can do.

    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      So we have all heard (or at least heard of) Adam Jones' accusation that Antonio Brown was faking his injury and that Brown should be awarded a Grammy for the performance.

      Brown fired back. Perfectly.

    1. Nancy's Avatar
      That was definitely old-school Steelers-Bengals, and I rather liked it back in the '70s. In 2016, it's infuriating. I agree with Amy that the penalties were not meted out equitably. The Shazier hit, Joey Porter...sorry, that nonsense has me almost as riled as Burfict and Jones. Not quite, but almost. The hit on Brown wasn't as egregious as the CBS announcing crew would lead one to believe. It was a hard hit, too high, and completely unnecessary, but hardly the crime of the century. Burfict has most assuredly earned his reputation; the officials are watching him, he knows they are watching him, and yet he continues to be a dumbass. "Burfict Dumbass Play" may actually be in the Bengals playbook by now. I have made no secret of the fact that though I think both he and Jones are great players, I do not want either on my team. Jones gives lots of lip-service to how he's changed his life, to being a leader, blah blah blah, but I don't see it on the field or on the sidelines. You're 32; you've been in the league for 10 years, and you can't handle some goober coach cussing at you when your team is this close to winning a playoff game? Dear Lord, Baby Jesus, spare me from this foolishness.

      When I was a kid, everyone made fun of the Bengals for being too cerebral, too focused on "character," not tough enough; the prevailing thought was that the team needed to stop drafting players who could think, and find some "animals" who hit first and asked questions later (or never). Then we had the "Victoria C" bunch and the following downward spiral...and I have never in my life been as embarrassed to be a Bengals fan as I was Saturday night. They lost their composure, and they gave away a playoff game because they once again chose to field players who are known to act without thinking, and are incapable of learning from past experiences. The Steelers' behavior was equally or more appalling (their coaches were involved, for God's sake), but the Steelers and their lousy behavior are not my problem. I just want my team to behave with the tiniest bit of restraint and on-field decorum when it matters most. Asking too much? Perhaps.
      All else aside, no matter how many times I watch the slow-mo replay of Burfict's hit on Roethlisberger, the knee looks incidental. He's clearly not above that sort of thing and he's not quite good enough to hide it (a graduate of the Ndamukong Suh School of Dumbass Plays, perhaps?)--I just don't really see it in this hit. The one on Cam last year? Not the worst thing ever, but obviously intentional:
      https://youtu.be/CrTImYoXjcM
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      While Burfict's knee to Ben's shoulder looks bad (much like Suh's kick to Schaub's cookies a couple years back), the motion (in both cases, BTW) is consistent with trying to gain leverage or balance (you know, like when you wrestle). Burfict was going after the ball - good on him - and needed his knee to gain leverage to yank the ball away from Roethlisberger.

      But, because it's Burfict, it HAS TO BE DIRTY.

      Five years of dealing with crap like this with Suh was a pain in the ass. Get used to it Bengals, fans.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      I don't see anything dirty in Burfict's hit on Roethlisberger. I thought it was clean when it happened, and that it was absurd that Nantz even entertained the idea on air that it was a dirty hit.

      I do think the hit on Brown was dirty, though. It was intentional and it served absolutely no point but to cause pain to the point of injury. To that point, though, Burfict had played out of his mind in the fourth quarter, and if not for the meltdowns of that final drive, he would have been the reason Cincinnati won.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Can I just mention how Burfict still would have been a very interesting story if he wasn't down by contact on the pick? Maybe he felt the contact, but with the speed of play and slick conditions, I could see how he wouldn't have. Clearly, controlling his emotion is not his best virtue.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Can I just mention how Burfict still would have been a very interesting story if he wasn't down by contact on the pick? Maybe he felt the contact, but with the speed of play and slick conditions, I could see how he wouldn't have. Clearly, controlling his emotion is not his best virtue.
      Yeah, I thought there was about a 99% chance he was down by contact before seeing a replay, but I was half-rooting for a bizarre, go-ahead safety for the laughs.
    1. hobbes27's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      Yeah, I thought there was about a 99% chance he was down by contact before seeing a replay, but I was half-rooting for a bizarre, go-ahead safety for the laughs.
      That would have been so Cincinnati Bengals, if he wasn't down by contact and Pittsburgh got a safety. But the Bengals still found a way to lose a game that they should have won.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      I didn't see the knee until I saw the vine, but yes, I feel like it was intentional. I'm not saying he targeted the shoulder knowing that Roethlisberger had just landed on it and was injured, there wasn't enough time to process that info. I just think it was a matter of him getting up, and in the process, throwing a little extra business into his knee as he brought the leg forward to get up. And yes, that reasoning is at least partially colored because of the person involved. He's earned that reputation for a reason.

      Here's my only problem with the backlash against Porter, and I'm not saying he shouldn't be disciplined in some way because he should.

      When Gio went down, multiple coaches for the Bengals were on the field in much the same way as Porter and other Steeler coaches were following the Brown injury. Technically, only the HC is allowed on the field, but in the case of a potentially major injury, they routinely allow players and coaches on the field to check on the injured player. You'll often see players from other teams, even off the bench, checking on the injured player. This is nothing new.

      Porter is a recognizable face, and of course he went out there not only to check on AB, but also with the intention of speaking his mind. Just as I'm certain a few less recognizable Bengals coaches directed some choice words toward some Steelers after the Gio injury.

      He should be fined for stirring the pot and doing Joey Porter things when as a coach, he should probably have figured out by now that he's no longer a player and should keep his mouth shut. But he was with the group around AB, much like the precedent set earlier (and in many games), foolishly responded to something that was said to him as he was coming off the field (because he's Joey Porter and also has no idea how to back off), then was bumped by Gilberry prior to Pac Man trying to get to him, which led to the contact with the official.

      Talking is rarely a penalty for player or coach, even in that situation. Pac Man wasn't penalized for talking, he was penalized for making contact. But if we question Porter being on the field, we must do the same for the Bengals coaches earlier in the game.

      Blaming Porter is another way to deflect from the fact that the Bengals lost complete control of their emotions. Had they stuck with just talking as he was coming off the field, no penalty flag would have been thrown.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Also, players lower the crown of their helmet into a ball carrier all the time. It's stupid and reckless, and usually not with the ferocity or impact that the Shazier hit had, but it's not like we don't see that type of thing every Sunday. Gio was established as a runner by that point. He wasn't long established, but he was established. I'm not going to argue dirty vs. not dirty because that's subjective, and I find myself usually describing dirty as reckless anyway since I feel like most players are looking to inflict punishment, but aren't looking to intentionally injure. But even Mike Pereira came out on twitter after the play and deemed it a legal hit because Gio was established as a runner.

      The end result has caused us to mostly ignore that the Steelers should have been up 22-0 following the play.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      I hate the whole 'he was a runner, so helmet to helmet doesn't count.' That's not a slam on Shazier, it's a slam to the whole concept of sometimes it's not ok to hit a guy in the head, and sometimes it is. It either always is or it always isn't. That is on the NFL at the head office level to fix.

      That said, the fact that it is NFL legal does not make it a clean hit. It was a much worse hit, with what seemed to be more intent behind it, than the Burfict hit on Brown. I've yet to see an angle that actually shows helmet to helmet on the Brown hit, it looks like shoulder to helmet. I'm not saying that meas Burfict is innocent, the suspension is correct, even if I think three games is too harsh. I'd have gone with 2. Shazier went helmet to helmet and he seemed to intend to do it. That is what irks me about Burfict being painted in the way the media has.

      As for Porter, I would agree if he was anywhere near Brown. He was not! When the CBS team was showing the gaggle of Steeler people helping Brown off the field, Porter, Pacman, and the rest are not even in the picture. They had to pan the camera to find out where the flag was and why it had been thrown!

      I have yet to see anything that Adam Jones did that warranted a flag. Porter warranted a flag by being on the field. Yes, that is hardly ever thrown, but it needs to be. On all teams. If the rule is there, enforce it. If not, remove it.

      That was one of the many reasons why in my initial post on this, the person I first blamed was Dean Blandino. I still think he, and the two coaches, are the primary reasons we had this sort of thing all game.

      That said #GoSteelers! (For one week!)
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
      I hate the whole 'he was a runner, so helmet to helmet doesn't count.' That's not a slam on Shazier, it's a slam to the whole concept of sometimes it's not ok to hit a guy in the head, and sometimes it is. It either always is or it always isn't. That is on the NFL at the head office level to fix.

      That said, the fact that it is NFL legal does not make it a clean hit. It was a much worse hit, with what seemed to be more intent behind it, than the Burfict hit on Brown. I've yet to see an angle that actually shows helmet to helmet on the Brown hit, it looks like shoulder to helmet. I'm not saying that meas Burfict is innocent, the suspension is correct, even if I think three games is too harsh. I'd have gone with 2. Shazier went helmet to helmet and he seemed to intend to do it. That is what irks me about Burfict being painted in the way the media has.

      As for Porter, I would agree if he was anywhere near Brown. He was not! When the CBS team was showing the gaggle of Steeler people helping Brown off the field, Porter, Pacman, and the rest are not even in the picture. They had to pan the camera to find out where the flag was and why it had been thrown!

      I have yet to see anything that Adam Jones did that warranted a flag. Porter warranted a flag by being on the field. Yes, that is hardly ever thrown, but it needs to be. On all teams. If the rule is there, enforce it. If not, remove it.

      That was one of the many reasons why in my initial post on this, the person I first blamed was Dean Blandino. I still think he, and the two coaches, are the primary reasons we had this sort of thing all game.

      That said #GoSteelers! (For one week!)
      Sorry, but the bolded is not factually correct. I just watched the end of the game again today. When Brown is being helped off the field, Joey Porter is standing toward the right bottom corner of the screen among the Steeler contingent. You can see him facing the opposite way as Brown, either talking to an official or jawing with a Bengal, while slowly moving backward in the direction of the Steeler sideline. That's when Gilberry, walking toward the direction of the Bengals sideline bumps into Porter, which is what separated Porter from the rest of the Steelers. The flag on Pac Man is thrown shortly thereafter.

      If the stance is that all coaches and players who come onto the field, even in the event of a potentially major injury, should be flagged, then that's fine. But consistency would have first flagged the gaggle of Cincinnati coaches who were on the field when Bernard was hurt, and prior to Hill (who also went onto the field when he should have been on the sideline, but was not flagged) going after a few Steelers.

      I'm not questioning anyone for saying it was a dirty hit. To say it was worse than the Burfict hit, I think, is incorrect at best. Shazier lined up for a big hit on a runner, like any linebacker is coached to do. He dipped his head as many do (and shoudn't). But let's also use slow motion to give a little more clarity on the hit. His helmet hits the bottom left of the facemask, but then actually lands in the shoulder/collarbone area. When he dips, Bernard is still mostly upright. As Bernard begins the process of being a runner, his center of gravity dips, not much, but enough where his facemask wouldn't have been contacted had he stayed at the same angle. Shazier's hit was reckless, but the main contact came at the shoulder with the facemask getting in the way.

      Burfict lined up Brown's head with his shoulder pad, and leans into it as Brown is still coming to the ground. Yes, he was careful not to use his helmet, but it's clear he intentionally used his shoulder. And I'd argue that a shot to the side of the head, which brings the neck into play as well, is more dangerous than a straight shot to the bottom of the facemask, but that's me.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      While Burfict's knee to Ben's shoulder looks bad (much like Suh's kick to Schaub's cookies a couple years back), the motion (in both cases, BTW) is consistent with trying to gain leverage or balance (you know, like when you wrestle). Burfict was going after the ball - good on him - and needed his knee to gain leverage to yank the ball away from Roethlisberger.

      But, because it's Burfict, it HAS TO BE DIRTY.

      Five years of dealing with crap like this with Suh was a pain in the ass. Get used to it Bengals, fans.
      This Bengals fan is already way beyond sick to death of it. I'm sick of worrying about clean hits getting penalties because it's Burfict, and I'm sick of him behaving like a ninny. Ditto Adam Jones. They aren't ever going to figure it out, and they aren't worth it.

      I'm moving on to worrying about the injuries in the Panthers' defensive backfield while pretending to be confident that Josh Norman and Kurt Coleman can cover everyone, and that McClain and Finnegan are equal to Benwikere and Tillman.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Nancy View Post
      This Bengals fan is already way beyond sick to death of it. I'm sick of worrying about clean hits getting penalties because it's Burfict, and I'm sick of him behaving like a ninny. Ditto Adam Jones. They aren't ever going to figure it out, and they aren't worth it.

      I'm moving on to worrying about the injuries in the Panthers' defensive backfield while pretending to be confident that Josh Norman and Kurt Coleman can cover everyone, and that McClain and Finnegan are equal to Benwikere and Tillman.
      Few other teams are so used to playing the Seahawks than the Panthers. They alos are well versed on "keeping contain" on the QB from seeing Cam newton practice every week.

      Has there been any injury update on the Seahawks after the game with the Vikings? That cold isn't goof for ijuries.

      Biggest matchup of the week will be Bennet versus Oher.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Hue Jackson has accepted the Browns' HC gig. He reportedly has made it known he wants nothing to do with Johnny Manziel.

      http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-sh...181100380.html