Sunday Update – #NFL #NFCWildCard

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Sometimes playoff football shows you something you’ve never seen before — and that you won’t soon forget. That was certainly the case in Minnesota on Sunday, as the Seahawks beat the Vikings, 10-9, after kicker Blair Walsh missed a go-ahead 27-yard field goal in sub-zero temperatures.

That’s what you call “icing the kicker.”

It was -6 at kickoff, the third-coldest game in NFL playoff history, and the weather certainly played it’s part throughout the contest as the Seahawks were down 9-0 going into the fourth quarter and Russell Wilson unable to continue his hot streak in the frigid temps. Things finally didn’t get going until it seemed they were falling apart: Wilson was trying to check to a new play in the fourth and center Patrick Lewis snapped it too early, sending the ball flying 20 yards past his quarterback. Wilson did the only thing he could do, which was try to make the best out of a bad situation, and managed to pick up the ball and scramble before finding Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard gain setting up first-and-goal.

Doug Baldwin scored two plays later on a throw from Wilson, Baldwin’s 12th touchdown in the last seven games. Wilson’s 13 career playoff passing touchdowns ties Dan Marino for the second-best mark through four seasons……

Continue Reading: MIN K Blair Walsh misses would-be GW chip shot.

  • Seattle’s victory at Minnesota was the first of its kind
    • From Elias: Seattle rallied for 10 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday for a 10-9 victory at Minnesota. The Seahawks were the first team in NFL history to win a road playoff game in which they failed to score in the first three quarters, following 40 such losses.
  • Carroll is the postseason Comeback Kid
    • From Elias: The Seahawks’ victory was Pete Carroll’s fifth playoff win after his team had trailed by more than eight points. That is now the highest such total for any head coach in NFL history. Prior to Sunday’s game, Carroll shared the mark with Bill Belichick, who tied Carroll’s total of four when the Patriots overcame a 10-point Seattle lead to win the Super Bowl in February.
  • A game decided by the kickers
    • From Elias: For the fourth time in this century, an NFL playoff game pitted the league’s rushing champion against its passing leader (each of them won by the high-rated QB’s team). ButAdrian Peterson and Russell Wilson both struggled in sub-zero temperatures at TCF Bank Stadium, while Seattle’s kicker provided the game-winning points and Minnesota’s went from hero to goat in a matter of minutes.
    • Blair Walsh gave the Vikings a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and in so doing he became the first player in NFL history to kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in a playoff game played at 20 degrees or below. We’ll have more on that shortly; for now we will note that Walsh’s field goals measured 22, 43, and 47 yards.
    • But it was Walsh’s counterpart, Steven Hauschka, who gave Seattle a 10-9 lead with a 46-yard field goal with 8:04 to play. That became the game-winner when Walsh pulled a 27-yard attempt wide left with 22 seconds to play. Only three other players kicked a game-winning field goal as long as Hauschka’s in the fourth quarter of a playoff game: Adam Vinatieri, who did it twice, (including a 48-yarder as time expired against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI), Matt Bryant, and Gary Anderson.
    • Kicking in the kind of weather that Walsh and Hauschka encountered on Sunday is difficult at best. There have been 39 playoff games for which the temperature at kickoff was 20 degrees or colder. The longest field goal in any of those games was 48 yards, by Vinatieri for the Patriots in the 2004 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.
    • As for Walsh, his 27-yard miss was the shortest on a potential go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game. That distinction previously belonged to Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, who did it in one of the most famous games in NFL history. On Christmas Day 1971, Stenerud missed three field goals in Kansas City’s 27-24 double-overtime loss in a first-round playoff game at Miami. His 31-yard attempt with 35 seconds to play would have given the Chiefs a victory.

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After months of offensive stagnation, the Packers rediscovered their offensive identity Sunday. They lit up Washington for a 35-18 playoff victory, earning the chance to take on the Cardinals in the divisional round.

Though the game ended with a Green Bay blowout, it started far differently. Washington shut out the Packers through the opening 21 minutes while producing 11 points of its own. Despite making his first start in the postseason, Kirk Cousins threw the ball all around the yard, connecting with Jordan Reed for multiple large gains.

Cousins nearly gave Washington a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, but wideout DeSean Jackson foolishly failed to extend the ball over the goal line.

Jackson’s error proved to be the turning point in the game, as the Packers held Cousins and the offense to just a field goal on that drive. When the Packers offense finally caught fire in the second quarter, the lead was easily surmountable.

Unsurprisingly, it was Aaron Rodgers who led the charge for Green Bay. From the start of the second quarter onward, Rodgers completed 20 of his 29 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 111.1 rating. Rodgers’ receivers also stepped up their play, with James Jones hauling in seven passes, most of them contested, for 81 yards. Even the much-maligned Davante Adams made two big plays — an acrobatic sideline reception on third down and a touchdown — before exiting with a knee injury……

Continue Reading: Packers suddenly have a potent offense again.

  • When Green Bay got rolling, Redskins had no answer
    • From Elias: The Packers scored four touchdowns and a field goal on five consecutive drives to turn an 11-0 deficit to a 32-18 lead, then added a late field goal for a 35-18 victory at Washington. The Redskins have played 35 postseason games since 1970; this was the first time during that span that an opponent scored on more than three consecutive drives.
  • The visitors rule Wild Card Weekend
    • Green Bay’s victory completed a sweep by the visiting teams of the weekend’s four first-round games. The home-field advantage in the playoffs simply isn’t what it once was. For the first 12 years of the 12-team format (1990-2001), home teams went 35-13 (.729) in the first round. But over the last 14 seasons (2002-15), since the format change to eight division champs and four wild-card teams, home teams are 30-26 (.536) on “Wild Card Weekend.”
    • By way of explanation, from 1990 to 2001 there wasn’t a single first-round game in which the road team had a better won-lost record than its host. But that was the case for 20 of 56 first-round games since 2002, including two of four games this weekend: Houston (9-7) hosted Kansas City (11-5), and Washington (9-7) hosted Green Bay (10-6).

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#NFL Week 16 – United Stats of America – Elias Sports Bureau

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Falcons rebound from huge loss to hand Panthers their first loss

The Falcons ended Carolina’s bid for a perfect season with a 20-13 win over the Panthers. Atlanta’s victory came just two weeks after Carolina routed the Falcons, 38-0. But there have been many precedents for such a reversal of form. Since 1970, 12 other teams won a game against an opponent that beat them by at least 38 points earlier that season. And like Atlanta, which had a 7-7 record heading into Sunday’s game, none of those 12 teams had a winning record at the time of its turnaround victory.

Carolina had won 18 consecutive regular-season games (and 10 in a row during December), tying the third-longest winning streak in NFL history. The only other teams to win 18 straight games were Indianapolis (23, 2008-09) and New England twice (18 in 2003-04 and 21 in 2006-08).

nullFitzpatrick, Marshall, and Decker are too much for the Patriots

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall and an overtime game-winner to Eric Decker in the Jets’ 26-20 win over the Patriots. It was the eighth game this season in which both Marshall and Decker caught TD passes, an NFL record for games in which a pair of teammates both had touchdown receptions. The previous mark was set by Cris Carter and Randy Moss with the Vikings in 1998.

With his first catch of the day, Marshall broke the single-season team record that Al Toon set in 1988. Only two other franchises have a single-season record for receptions that has stood that long: the Titans’ record was set by Charlie Hennigan with the Houston Oilers in 1964 (101); and the Browns’ mark was set by Ozzie Newsome in 1983 (89).

The Patriots lost only one other game on a touchdown pass in overtime and it took a pair of future Hall of Famers to do it. In 1981, Lynn Swann scored from 24 yards out on a pass by Terry Bradshaw to give the Steelers an OT victory over New England.

An amazing streak comes to an end in Seattle’s loss

The Rams took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and were never caught, holding on for a 23-17 victory at Seattle. That ended the Seahawks’ extraordinary streak of 62 games in which they led at some point, corresponding exactly to Russell Wilson’s tenure with the team. Check this out: Not only was that the longest such streak in NFL history; but half of the 32 current NFL teams have never had such a streak even half as long as Seattle’s, including three clubs that date back to the 1930s: the Bears, Packers, and Redskins.

nullWeeden finds success in Houston

Brandon Weeden passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans’ 34-6 victory over the Titans. It was Weeden’s first win as a starting quarterback since 2012 with Cleveland. He was the first QB in the NFL’s expansion era to start for a first-place team in the month of December having lost his last 10 starts.

Weeden led Houston on touchdown drives of 65, 80, and 34 yards on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had produced a TD on only two of his last 27 drives. He hadn’t thrown two or more TD passes in the same game since Dec. 1, 2013, in the Browns’ 32-28 loss at Jacksonville.

nullSaints’ combo is tough to beat

Drew Brees passed for 412 yards in the Saints’ 38-27 win over the Jaguars. It was the 13th time that Brees topped the 400-yard mark, but this was the first of those games in which a teammate gained at least 100 yards rushing. Tim Hightower gained 122 yards on 27 carries. Over the last five seasons, the only other player to supplement a teammate’s 400-yard passing performance with 120 or more rushing yards was James Starks of the Packers in 2013. Starks rushed for 132 yards and Aaron Rodgers passed for 480 in a 38-20 win over the Redskins.­

Incidentally, that’s a combination that has never been beaten in the NFL. Teams with a 400-yard passer and a teammate with at least 120 rushing yards have a 7-0-1 record.

nullSmith and Chiefs win ninth consecutive game

The Chiefs extended their winning streak to nine games with a 17-13 victory over the Browns. That matches the longest winning streak of Alex Smith’s NFL career; he previously won nine consecutive starts with Kansas City in 2013 and eight straight with the 49ers in 2011. Only four other quarterbacks won eight consecutive starts in one season for each of two different teams: Jack Kemp, Earl Morrall, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

nullGillislee caps unexpected December with big game vs. Cowboys

Mike Gillislee, who spent the first three months of the season on the practice squads of the Cardinals and Bills, gained 93 yards on nine carries and scored a late insurance touchdown in Buffalo’s 16-6 win over Dallas. Gillislee finished the month with 239 yards on 23 carries. His average of 10.4 yards per carry was the fourth-highest in one calendar month by a running back with at least 20 rushing attempts. The only RBs with higher marks were Lenny Moore (12.7 yards per carry in Oct. 1956), Hugh McElhenny (11.6 in Oct. 1952), and Bruce Harper (10.6 in Oct. 1983).

nullFreeney and the Cardinals sack the Pack

Arizona sacked Packers passers nine times, including three by Dwight Freeney, in a 38-8 rout of Green Bay. It was the Cardinals’ highest single-game total since 1986, and the most sacks in one game against the Packers since 1982.

Freeney, who turned 35 in February, had five games with three or more sacks over his first five seasons in the league. But this was his first such game since 2006. Over the last 10 seasons, the only players as old as Freeney with three or more sacks in one game were Michael Strahan (at age 35 in 2007) and 37-year-old James Harrison three weeks ago.

nullPackers suffer their worst loss with Rodgers at QB

Green Bay’s 38-8 loss was its largest margin of defeat in a game started by Aaron Rodgers. While it’s impressive that Rodgers started 117 games before his first 30-point loss, Packers fans can take pride in the fact that Brett Favre started an NFL-record total of 200 regular-season games before losing one by 30 points, and Bart Starr didn’t lose by 30 points or more until start #143 in 1970, with a pair of Super Bowl victories to his credit.

nullCarey scores two short TD for Bears

Second-year running back Ka’Deem Carey scored on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard catch in the Bears’ 26-21 victory at Tampa. Carey was the second Chicago player to score on rushing and passing plays in the same road game this season, following rookie Jeremy Langford who did it at St. Louis last month. The only other Bears player to do that on the road in the last two decades was Matt Forte (at Detroit in 2008).

Since 2000, three other players scored 1-yard TDs by rushing and receiving in the same game: Marshall Faulk (2001), Pierre Thomas (2013), and Eddie Lacy (2014).

nullMallett wins debut with the Ravens

Ryan Mallett, making his first start for the Ravens, passed for a career-high 274 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17 victory over the Steelers. Mallett was the fourth different quarterback to start for Baltimore in its last six games, following Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, and Jimmy Clausen. Over the last five seasons, the only other team to start four different QBs in a span of six games was Green Bay in 2013 (Aaron Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn).

Like the Panthers, who also lost on Sunday, Pittsburgh had won its last 10 games in the month of December.

nullStafford maintains sharp form in win over 49ers

Matthew Stafford threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Lions’ 32-17 win over the 49ers. Stafford, who set a team record for completion percentage in one game last week, has now thrown 14 TD passes over his last five games. He has been picked off only once in his last 225 throws dating to November 15.

Source: Elias Says: Sports Statistics

9 Things To Know – #NFL Weekend Update

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1. Calvin and the Lions

Detroit survived a pair of missed extra points in an 18-16 victory at Green Bay, and a huge mistake from Calvin Johnson. The Lions’ streak of 20 consecutive regular-season losses at Lambeau Field, which began 20 years and one month earlier, was the longest in NFL history by any team at any stadium.

Of course, Green Bay’s dominance at home had extended well beyond its games against Detroit, particularly with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback against struggling teams. Rodgers had won 21 consecutive home games against opponents with a losing record at the time of kickoff, dating back to 2009.

Ironically, Matt Prater, who missed two extra-point conversions for the Lions on Sunday, finished the day as something of a hero, having kicked field goals of 49 and 51 yards in Detroit’s two-point victory. Prater was the first player in NFL history to miss two extra points but kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in the same game. Only one other player kicked two FGs of 49 yards or longer in the same game at Lambeau Field: longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson in 2010.

2. What’s Wrong With Aaron?

The Packers have lost three in a row. The good news is that the team built up some margin for error with a 6-0 start. But, that is mostly eroded now, and they need to start playing better immediately for this season to be a meaningful one. Though Green Bay had a chance to steal Sunday’s game against Detroit, a win may have masked some structural deficiencies. Right now, this is an average football team, or worse. Here’s hoping that the team is more aware that major adjustments are necessary than they are letting on publicly……(continue reading)

3. Sunday Was a Bad Day To Be a QB

The NFL’s Week 10 schedule featured some quarterback performances we’d all like to forget about.

Some of the worst showings from the league’s leading men were put forth by the usual suspects, while others were definite surprises.

This upcoming list would be even longer if not for some outstanding late-game efforts by a couple of superstars who pulled themselves and their teams up by the bootstraps after sub-par outings, saving the best for last.

The following quarterbacks would love to have a do-over after poor showings in Week 10……(continue reading)

4. OBJ and the Giants Can’t Close Out The Champs

You can debate all you want whether Odell Beckham Jr. technically “caught” a potential game-winning touchdown Sunday, but he knows there should never have even been any doubt.

The New York Giants wide receiver came close to snagging a go-ahead score with 2:02 remaining and the Giants trailing the New England Patriots 24-23. The superstar wideout had the ball in his grasp and came down in the endzone before Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball loose. The play was reviewed and it was ruled Beckham didn’t complete the catch……(continue reading)

5. All-Day and the Best of Sunday

Week 10 of the NFL season saw Peyton Manning break another passing record, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers improve to 9-0 and the Detroit Lions win a game in the state of Wisconsin for the first time in almost a quarter century.

Sunday also saw Manning benched during the worst game of his career, the Lions nearly choke away said win and a couple of disastrous defensive performances.

Here is the rest of the best and worst from the NFL’s tenth week……(continue reading)

6. Edelman Broken Foot

Tom Brady looked a little downtrodden when he took the podium after the New England Patriots’ dramatic last-second win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

It seemed a little peculiar to see Brady at anything less than elated given the nature of the incredible comeback victory. But there was good reason for Brady’s lack of exuberance. One, of course, was just straight fatigue, both physical and emotional.

The other reason was Julian Edelman.

The Patriots lost Edelman in the first half……(continue reading)

7. It’s Never Been This Good For The Cardinals

During the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast of the Arizona Cardinals’ wild, breakthrough 39-32 road win over the Seattle Seahawks, television analyst Cris Collinsworth paused for a moment to reflect on what he was seeing. “When you’ve thought about the Arizona Cardinals over the years, you can describe it in one word: Futility.”

You’re telling me, pal.

In my 30-or-so years of being a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, there have been three periods of success. I don’t mean periods of sustained success; there has been no sustained success. I mean one-or-two-year stretches where it has been not been actively……(continue reading)

GettyImages-4972971228. Worst Penalty Ever

The 2015 Baltimore Ravens have shown an incredible knack for losing close games. To be sure, all nine of their games have been decided by one score, yet the team is now essentially finished with a 2-7 record.

How does this happen? The end of Baltimore’s 22-20 loss to the Jaguars Sunday is a good example. Baltimore had the game won when Jags quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked on the Jacksonville half of the field when time expired. The only problem: Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was flagged for a facemask penalty to extend the game by one untimed down……(continue reading)

9. The Rest Of It All

+ Six Super Bowl-winning QBs go down, an NFL firstnull

For the first time in NFL history, six quarterbacks who had previously started and won a Super Bowl lost on the same day: Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning,Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. The previous high on one day was four.

The most shocking performance among those six losing QBs was by Peyton Manning, who completed only five of 20 passes and was intercepted four times in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs. Manning was the first player in 29 years to throw as many as four interceptions and complete five or fewer passes in the same game. The last quarterback to do so was Warren Moon with the Houston Oilers in 1986 (5-for-23 with 4 INTs against the Browns).

+ Hurns extends his scoring streaknull

Allen Hurns opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown reception in the Jaguars’ 22-20 victory at Baltimore. Hurns has now caught a TD pass in each of his last seven games. It is not certain that Jacksonville (3-6) will finish the season with a losing record. But it’s worth noting that only four players in NFL history caught TD passes in seven straight games for a team that finished the season with more losses than wins: Buddy Dial for the 1960 Steelers (an 8-game streak), Carl Pickens for the 1995 Bengals (7), Santana Moss for the 2003 Jets (7), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the 2007 Bengals (8).

+ Cutler and Langford star in Bears’ big winnull

Jeremy Langford scored two touchdowns, including one on an 83-yard screen pass, in the Bears’ 37-13 win at St. Louis. It was the longest TD reception by a Bears rookie since 1991, when Anthony Morgan scored on an 84-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, we may have buried the lead, since Langford’s TD reception wasn’t evenJay Cutler’s longest touchdown pass in the game. Cutler threw a short pass thatZach Miller turned into an 87-yard score. In 89 previous games with the Bears, Cutler had thrown only one TD pass of 70 yards or longer (89 yards to Matt Forte in 2010).

#NFL Week 8 Craziness on All Saints Day

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Brees and Saints win historic shootout vs. Manning and the Giants

Drew Brees tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes and Eli Manning threw six TDs. But it was Saints kicker Kai Forbath who delivered the dagger, kicking a 50-yard field goal on the final play of New Orleans’ 52-49 victory. The Giants tied an NFL record as the highest-scoring losing team in NFL history. That mark has stood for 52 years, since a Houston Oilers team quarterbacked by George Blanda lost its 1963 season finale to a Raiders team coached by Al Davis. More on those touchdown passes by Brees and Manning:

It was the second NFL game in which opposing players threw at least six TDs each. Billy Kilmer of the Saints and Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals had six touchdown passes each in a New Orleans victory at Busch Stadium in 1969.

It was the 10th game in which Brees threw at least five TDs, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning to set a new NFL record.

Brees passed for 511 yards joining Ben Roethlisberger as the only NFL players with two games of at least 500 passing yards.

Brees was the eighth player to throw seven touchdown passes in one game, and it was the 18th game in which a QB reached the 500-yard mark. But the only other player to do both in the same game was Y.A Tittle of the Giants in 1962 (505 yards).

Eli Manning was the 15th player to throw six or more touchdown passes in a game with no interceptions, and he was the first of those players to lose the game.

nullA star is born in St. Louis

For those awaiting the NFL’s next game-changing running back, your man has arrived. Todd Gurley gained 133 yards on 20 carries, including a 71-yard touchdown run, in the Rams’ 27-6 win over the 49ers. Despite an unproductive debut in which he was limited to 9 yards on six carries, Gurley has gained more rushing yards in his first five NFL games (576) than anyone except Eric Dickerson (645) and Adrian Peterson (607).

Only Gurley and Peterson reached the 100-yard mark in four of their first five games. And Gurley is only the third player in league history with a run of at least 40 yards in each of four consecutive games. The others were Tiki Barber in 2002 and Steven Jackson in 2007.

Broncos now 7-0

The Broncos improved their record to 7-0 and knocked the Packers from the ranks of the undefeated with a 29-10 victory at Denver. It was only the fourth game in NFL history between unbeaten and untied teams with at least six wins. The three previous instances:

1921 – Akron Pros 0, Buffalo All-Americans 0. Akron was 7-0-0; Buffalo, 6-0-0. The final score reflected the era and the teams: Akron shut out its first seven opponents while Buffalo allowed just six points prior to this game. The All-Americans missed four field goals.

1973 – Minnesota 10, L.A. Rams 9. Both teams were 6-0-0 prior to this game. Fran Tarkenton connected with Chuck Foreman on a 9-yard pass for the game’s only touchdown.

2007 – New England 24, Indianapolis 20. The Patriots were 8-0-0; the Colts, 7-0-0. The Pats rallied from a 20-10 deficit with eight minutes to play in a rematch of the previous season’s AFC title game. Randy Moss caught nine passes for 145 yards and a TD.

nullManning & Rodgers fail to find the end zone

Whoever would have imagined that neither Peyton Manning nor Aaron Rodgers would throw a touchdown pass in Sunday’s game? It was the first game in NFL history in which each starting quarterback entered with a career average of more than two touchdown passes per game. Sunday was the 65th day on which both Manning and Rodgers started a regular-season game. It was the first of those days on which neither threw a TD pass.

nullAnother big game for Rivers ends in defeat

Philip Rivers passed for 301 yards and three TDs but it wasn’t enough as the Chargers lost to the Ravens, 29-26. That was Rivers’ fifth consecutive 300-yard performance, but San Diego won only the first of those games. He is the third player in NFL history with at least 300 passing yards in four consecutive games, all of them losses. The others were Bill Kenney of the Chiefs in 1983 and Matt Schaub of the Texans in 2010.

Bengals remain perfect after a brief respite

Cincinnati survived its treacherous post-bye game and improved to 7-0, the longest undefeated start in team history, with a 16-10 victory at Pittsburgh. The game following a bye has tripped up many undefeated teams in recent seasons. From 2009 through 2014, teams with a perfect record of 3-0-0 or better lost more post-bye games than they won (4-5). That hasn’t been the case in 2015, as the Panthers, Patriots, and Bengals all avoided a post-bye defeat.

Big Ben coughs up a pair of INTs with game on the line

Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ loss, the first while protecting a four-point lead and the second as Pittsburgh sought a potential game-tying field goal. Roethlisberger hadn’t been intercepted twice in the fourth quarter of the same game since 2013, and he had not thrown a single INT in the fourth quarter of a one-possession game-that is, with a margin of eight points or less-since 2012.

nullPalmer is throwing TD passes at a team-record pace

Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes in the Cardinals’ 34-20 win at Cleveland, reaching the midpoint of his season with 20 TDs. That’s a team record through the first eight games of their season. The previous high was 16, set by Kurt Warner in 2008 and tied by Warner a year later.

Chiefs big London win extends Lions’ crazy losing streak

The Lions travelled to London for Sunday’s game against Kansas City probably unaware that they had ­lost their last 14 games played on the first day of a month, the longest such streak in NFL history. The last time that the Lions won a game on the day we flipped the calendar was on Oct. 1, 1973, when they beat the Falcons, 31-6, in a game played at old Tiger Stadium with Don McCafferty the head coach, Greg Landry the starting quarterback, and Howard Cosell in the TV booth.

Following a 45-10 drubbing by the Chiefs, you can make that 15 straight losses on the first of the month for Detroit, for eight different head coaches and 10 different starting quarterbacks in 12 different stadiums.

With that win, the Chiefs matched their largest margin of victory outside Kansas City since the merger. Kansas City’s only other 35-point win since 1970 away from home was also by a 45-10 score, at FedEx Field against the Redskins two years ago. The Chiefs largest road win in the AFL was a 59-7 win over the Broncos at University of Denver Stadium in their opening game of the 1963 season-a suitable NFL debut for two KC players en route to the Hall of Fame: Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan.

Bucs are taking advantage of opponents’ errors

The Buccaneers made the Falcons pay dearly for their turnovers, scoring after each of Atlanta’s four giveaways in a 23-20 overtime victory. Tampa Bay’s total of 20 points off turnovers was their highest in one game in more than three years, and its total of 64 points off turnovers this season is the Bucs’ highest through seven games since 1987 (when three of those games were played by replacements during the NFL players’ strike).

nullA big day for yet another Big 3

Derek Carr passed for 333 yards, as Latavius Murray (113) and Michael Crabtree(102) topped the 100-yard mark by rushing and receiving, respectively, in the Raiders’ 34-20 win over the Jets. It was the second 300/100/100 game this season; Carr, Murray, and Amari Cooper were the players who did it in a September victory at Cleveland. This is the first time in Raiders history that they had two such games in the same season.

Bears suffer a late loss in rare fashion (and we do mean rare)

A quick three-and-out by the Bears after the Vikings tied the score with 1:49 to play was the set-up for Blair Walsh’s 36-yard game-winning field goal in Minnesota’s 23-20 victory at Soldier Field. It was only the second time in the 96-season history of the Bears franchise-as old as the NFL itself-that they lost a game in regulation after leading by at least seven points inside the 2-minute warning. The first was also against the Vikings; it was the final game of the 1965 season. Minnesota scored two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes: a 22-yard pass by Fran Tarkenton and a 35-yard interception return by linebacker Rip Hawkins.

nullA big game for Texans’ pass-rushing duo

Whitney Mercilus was credited with 3.5 sacks and J.J. Watt with 2.5 in Houston’s 20-6 win over Tennessee. It was the first game in Texans history in which two of its players earned more than two sacks each. The only other teammates to do that this season were Chandler Jones (3.0) and Jamie Collins (2.5) of the Patriots in a victory over the Bills in September.

Seahawks stifle the Cowboys

The Cowboys managed only 220 yards of offense in a 13-12 loss to Seattle. That was Dallas’ lowest yardage total in a home loss since Christmas Day 2006, when they gained just 201 yards against the Eagles.

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What if I Told You…Sometimes You Should Never #Checkdown

I’ve seen enough.  It was a back-to-back showing on national TV and the script did not change.  No more, should the WR position shoulder the blame of ineptitude.  Sure, some of the fault could be laid at Andy Reid’s feet – but he has won a few games in this league, has gone to the playoffs, a Superbowl, etc…The issue at large lies squarely in the small hands of Alex Smith.

Did you watch last night’s game?  Do you remember anytime Alex Smith looked for a secondary read?
Or, did you witness as I did, a professional quarterback, a former 2005 #1 draft pick, no-longer a spring-chicken, stare down his primary target.  After three quarters, Alex Smith had 6 completions and 2 turnovers.  His numbers ended up being decent and yet that was garbage-time – no one who watched the game would say he was decent.

The problem with Chiefs having Cap’n Checkdown as their quarterback is they single logo_small
do not stretch the field.  You have to feel for Chiefs fans.  Sure Andy Reid does not run enough with Jamaal Charles, but the inability to throw further than 10 yards with any consistency is alarming, and as long as that guy is your quarterback – Kansas City will never win.

As for the Packers, word is, Aaron Rodgers is prettay, prettaay, prettaaay good.  How good? Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes, and Green Bay has now won their last 10 regular-season home games – scoring 383 points – the highest total in team history over a span of 10 home games. The only other NFL teams to win 10 consecutive home games while scoring as many points as the Packers; were the Rams in 1999 and 2000, and the Broncos spanning 2012 and 2013.

Rodgers has now thrown 43 TD passes at Lambeau since his last interception there (in 2012), more than twice as long as any other streak of TD passes without an interception in home games in NFL history.  It sure does help when you also have a tank in the backfield.  You know how they say “it takes a village” to raise a child? It also takes a village to stop Eddie Lacy. Green Bay’s 5-foot-11, 234-pound back ran 10 times for 46 yards — not great numbers, but enough to show he can turn a corner real quick and run you over.


Here week3’s #NFL perfect lineups

DraftKings

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FanDuel

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On the Lighter Side…

This is an actual ad that was posted to Craig’s list in Arkansas.  Top Marks for ingenuity – They are counting the days Bert.


 

Denorfia’s blast gives Cubs a rare kind of victory

Chris Denorfia hit the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning for a walkoff home run to give the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Royals on Monday. He’s the first pinch-hitter in major-league history to hit a walkoff homer for the only run of an extra-inning win.

Denorfia is only the third player to hit a walkoff home run for the Cubs at Wrigley Field in extra-innings of a game that was scoreless to that point. Joe Pepitone’s 12th-inning home run was the only run of a Cubs’ 1-0 win in 1971, and Frank Secory hit a two-run walkoff homer in the 12th inning in 1946.

Cardinals blank Pirates the hard way

Six Cardinals pitchers combined to shut out the Pirates on Monday, despite issuing 10 walks. It’s the first game in 33 years in which a team threw a nine-inning shutout while walking at least 10 batters. The Mets were the last team to do that, in a 1-0 win in Montreal in 1982.

nullOsuna joins the man who David Letterman called “a fat tub of goo”

Twenty-year old Roberto Osuna picked up his 20th save of the season in Toronto’s come-from-behind win in Baltimore on Monday. The only other pitcher to save 20 games in one season at age 20 or younger was Terry Forster, with 29 saves for the White Sox in 1972.

nullRodriguez wins 10th game of season

Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox’ 22-year old left-hander, improved to 10-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.85 in Boston’s win over the Yankees on Monday. The last Red Sox left-hander under the age of 23 to win 10 games and finish a season with an ERA under 4.00 was none other than Babe Ruth. The Bambino did that in three straight seasons: 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA in 1915, at age 20; 23-12 with a 1.75 ERA in 1916 and 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA in 1917.

The Red Sox have allowed one run in their last four games, their best stretch since the final four scheduled games of the 1978 season, when they gave up one run in four games to the Tigers and Blue Jays. That left the Red Sox tied for first place in the A.L. East with the Yankees, who won a one-game playoff-the “Bucky Dent Game”-at Fenway Park the next day.

nullIf only Sano had arrived earlier

Miguel Sano drove in the first run of the Twins’ win in Cleveland on Monday, giving him 51 RBIs this season. Sano, who made his major-league debut on July 2, is the second rookie in major-league history to drive in more than 50 runs in a season without having any before July. The other player to do that was Josh Phelps, with 58 RBIs for Toronto in 2002.

nullScherzer falls short of second no-hitter of season

Max Scherzer took a no-hit bid to the eighth inning in the Nationals’ win over the Reds on Monday. Scherzer, who no-hit the Pirates on June 20, is the first pitcher since 2011 to take a no-hit bid to the eighth inning after having completed a no-no earlier that season. Justin Verlander had two bids ended in the eighth inning that year after holding Toronto without a hit on May 7; and Francisco Liriano also had a no-hitter end in the eighth inning after his no-hitter against the White Sox.

nullCarter’s clutch homer

Chris Carter’s seventh-inning home run gave the Astros a lead they would not relinquish in their victory in Seattle on Monday. It was Carter’s first go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later this season, although he hit three of those homers in each of the past two seasons.

 

 

Weekend Update: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

It was a glorious weekend outside the DirtCanon Bunker – the College Football was fresh, the NFL was tasty.  Even my attorney showed up for the festivities of our Launch Party Sunday – he even paid!  But let’s get down to what we saw this weekend and Arkansas you are on the clock:

How does that taste Bert…dont care if its Bret, you’re now Bert…you mouthed off about Ohio State’s schedule and you get blown up at home, by Toledo?! That’s a MAC school, they are maybe the 4th best team in Ohio – you s’posed to be SEC.  In fact you were s’posed to be a team that road-grades its way to victory. That Oline, that running game – you have no business throwing the ball 53 times on Toledo – Bert you lost your balls, you get paid too much money to act like a Nutt

Auburn still needs help from the Refs, and this time it is to defeat Jacksonville St in OT.  Not a misprint, Auburn is terrible and with Tennessee’s choke-job to Oklahoma in double OT – the SEC is in danger ofsingle logo_small becoming ACC bad.  Sure, there were some bright spots, Kentucky snapped their 22-game loser-streak on the road beating South Carolina and LSU escaped Starkville.  But SEC-fan, you might want to start getting used to chants of “OVER-RATED”  – clap, clap, clap-clap-clap…

Notre Dame is cursed.  Last year, defensive injuries derailed a promising start to the season. This year it is the offense. Starting quarterback Malik Zaire fractured his ankle in Notre Dame’s 34–27 victory over Virginia, joining running back Tarean Folston, (who was lost last week) on the won’t-play-again-this-season list.

On a brighter side, the week 2 odds that were posted on Friday did fairly well.  On the highlighted picks – we were perfect SU and 68% ATS – overall, we were 89% SU and 63% ATS – just good enough to not be addicted and still better than anywhere else.

Here are some other Saturday thoughts I cannot put anywhere else:

  • Two wins to start the 2015 season has pushed Ohio State’s nation’s best winning streak to 15 straight.  Up next are TCU (10), Memphis (nine), Western Kentucky (seven), Michigan State (six) and Navy (five).
  • The “honor” of the longest losing streak had belonged to Georgia State, which had lost 12 in a row until Saturday night’s 34-32 win over New Mexico State.  The win also marked GSU’s first-ever win over an FBS-level team as an FBS team themselves.
  • Additionally, Colorado ended its 10-game losing streak, the longest amongst Power Five teams, with a 48-14 win over UMass.  With those outcomes, UNLV now owns the nation’s longest losing streak at eight straight.
  • Notre Dame, UCLA and USC are the only teams that have never played a non-FBS/Div. 1-A school since the current setup was established in 1978.  Following the 2016 season, and because of a conference mandate, Big Ten teams will no longer be permitted to schedule games against FCS programs.
  • V’Angelo Bentley is the only player in Illinois history to record a kickoff return, punt return, interception return and fumble return for touchdown in his career. Harold “Red” Grange is the only other Illini player with kickoff, punt and interception returns for TDs, but he never returned a fumble for a score.
  • Dalvin Cook‘s 266 yards rushing were the second-most in Florida State history?  Cook’s performance is topped only by Greg Allen‘s 322 yards in 1981

 

Manning vs. Flacco

Remember this post from March?  When we told you that “It’s hard to watch your heroes fall and attempt to hang on to long.  Age always wins“.  Well it seems wearing a swim-shirt was the fore-shadowing we needed on the final season of the Great Peyton Manning.  No touchdowns during the pre-season and none yesterday against Baltimore.   It was the 20th NFL season opener in which both starting QBs were coming off a season of at least 25 touchdown passes. It was the first of those games in which neither threw a TD pass. (Note: Tony Romo vs. Eli Manning on Sunday night was the 21st such meeting.)  For Baltimore, the rest of the season seems to be a more difficult one as they lose Suggs with a torn achilles.  But the issue is still Denver winning with a punchless offense – maybe someone should set Peyton up with DirecTV, because this cable-version of Peyton is hard to watch.

A first-of-its-kind matchup produces a historic performance

The last time Marcus and Jameis met on the field was in January, at the Rose Bowl – and the results were the same then as they were yesterday.  It was the first-ever opening-day matchup of rookie quarterbacks chosen first and second in the NFL Draft. But by halftime, it was all about Marcus Mariota, with number-one pick Jameis Winston earning only an interesting footnote, albeit an unwanted one.  Marcus was 13-16 with 4 touchdown passes – the only other player to do that in their first game was Fran Tarkenton – except Marcus threw 4 in the first half!  The Titans scored 35 points by halftime of their 42-14 win. Last year they NEVER scored more than 28 points in a game while going 2-14.  As for Jameis, he is has played 28 games in college and the pro’s, going 26-2 – his two losses are both to Mariota.

Sure, it’s only one game but seeing Mariota finish his first professional game with a perfect passer-rating that puts him ahead of Tom Brady (2nd) and Aaron Rodgers (3rd) gives the Titans hope that they chose correctly.  As for Winston’s role in this historic matchup, his first pass was intercepted by Coty Sensabaugh, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. Over the last 30 years, only two other players threw a pick-6 on the first pass of their NFL career: Jay Schroeder in 1985 and, believe it or not, Brett Favre in 1991.  It was not all bad for Jameis, he did finish ahead of Luck, Manning and Flacco in passer-rating Sunday.

Rodgers owns Cutler & the Bears

James Jones (two TD grabs Sunday) being back in Green Bay might be a lot more important to the Packers’ Super Bowl chances than we all thought.  The Packers defeated the Bears, 31-23, at Soldier Field in the 11th regular-season meeting of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler as starting quarterbacks. With that victory, Rodgers improved his record against Cutler to 10-1, with his only loss coming five seasons ago at Chicago – Cutler has now thrown at least 1 INT in every game against the Packers. The last QB to win at least 10 of his first 11 starts against another quarterback was Terry Bradshaw against Brian Sipe (1976-81).

In Rodgers’ last three games against the Bears he has completed 74 percent of his passes for 806 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is the first player to throw 13 TDs over three games against one opponent since Dan Marino did it against the Jets (1985-86). No other player has ever thrown 13 TDs and fewer than three INTs over three games against one team.

Note that Rodgers also led the Packers to a win over Cutler and the Bears in the NFC Championship Game after the 2010 season.

Rams win

Irony is after an offseason of debate about throwing at the goal line in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, the first play of the Seattle Seahawks’ season fittingly was a handoff to Marshawn Lynch. So was the last play … which got blown up on fourth-and-1 as the nullRams defeated the Seahawks, 34-31 in overtime, on a 37-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. But it was Nick Foles, in his Rams debut, who completed a pass unlike any other in the team’s long NFL history. Foles found Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard touchdown with 53 seconds to play and Zuerlein’s extra point evened the score at 31-31. It was the first game-tying or go-ahead TD pass of 20 yards or longer in the final 60 seconds of the fourth quarter in Rams history.  In other news – what were you thinking Pete Carroll with an onside kick in OT?

nullLockett ends longest return drought

Tyler Lockett opened the scoring in the Seahawks’ loss at St. Louis with a 57-yard punt return. Only three other rookies in NFL history scored on a first-quarter punt return in their team’s opening game of a season: George Atkinson of the Raiders (1968), Deion Sanders of the Falcons (1989), and Dale Carter of the Chiefs (1992).

Allen huge in San Diego’s comeback victory

Philip Rivers completed 35 passes for 404 yards, including 15 to Keenan Allen, in the Chargers’ 33-28 come-from-behind victory over the Lions. Allen set a record for pass nullreceptions in a season-opening game. The previous mark was 14, set by Andre Rison in 1994 and matched by Marshall Faulk in 2002.

San Diego trailed Detroit, 21-3, in the second quarter. Only one other team in this century overcame a deficit that large to win its season-opening game, and Chargers fans should remember the other well. Two years ago, San Diego squandered a 28-7 lead in losing its opener to Houston, 31-28, on Monday Night Football.

New York Blows it – Romo saves Cowboys

The optimists in Big D said the O-line was good enough to offset the loss of DeMarco Murray. But the Cowboys managed just 80 yards on the ground Sunday against a Giants defense that rarely stopped the run in 2014. Dallas only had less than 90 rushing yards nullonce last year, when the Giants only held two opponents below 80.  New York should’ve left Dallas with a W. But poor clock management — namely failing to milk it while opting to throw near the goal line on their final drive — provided Tony Romo with the opportunity to craft a successful comeback.  Tony Romo threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 7 seconds to play and Dan Bailey added the extra point to give the Cowboys an unlikely 27-26 victory over the Giants. That was the latest game-winning fourth-quarter TD pass in Cowboys history. The previous mark was set in a 17-14 win over the Redskins in 1967 when Don Meredith connected with Dan Reeves for a 36-yard TD with 10 seconds to play.

Dallas’ victory was unlikely in this sense: The Cowboys committed three turnovers and the Giants none. Over the past three seasons (2012-14), there were 100 regular-season games in which a team turned the ball over at least three times and had no takeaways; only three of those teams won.

nullBrees ties dubious NFL record in loss

Drew Brees passed for 355 yards in the Saints’ 31-19 loss at Arizona, his fifth straight season reaching the 300-yard mark in New Orleans’ first game. That tied the NFL record for consecutive season openers with at least 300 passing yards. Kurt Warner set that mark from 1999 through 2003.  Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes in his first game since last season’s ACL injury. Palmer has a 14-2 record in his last 16 starts

Marshall and the Jets

The Browns have now lost an NFL-record 11 straight openers, and Brandon Marshall might be the safety net the Jets need to stabilize their uneven passing game. He excelled in the red zone and bailed out Ryan Fitzpatrick by ripping the ball away from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson after an interception.  With that, the Todd Bowles era started with a strong defensive performance as the Jets forced the Browns into five turnovers and posted a 31-10 victory. During six seasons under Rex Ryan, the Jets ranked 19th among the 32 NFL teams with an average of 1.5 takeaways per game. They had only one game with as many as five takeaways under Ryan, forcing six turnovers in a 38-7 win over Buffalo in 2011.

Bills knock the Colts down a peg

The Colts were chic Super Bowl picks in many quarters, but didn’t look ready for the Bills, who shut Indianapolis out in the first half before winning 27-14.  The Bills were sending seven defenders at Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck on seemingly every passing down, especially early in the game. The all-out blitzes worked in Buffalo’s decisive upset.null

Making his first NFL start, the new Bills quarterback justified Rex Ryan’s faith in him by playing efficient, virtually mistake-free football. Taylor passed for 195 yards and a TD while adding 41 yards with his legs. Ground and pound, baby.  The Colts’ struggles to stop the run have carried over to this season. The Bills ran 36 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns – leading a terrific start to Karlos Williams’ NFL career, as he gave the Bills a 16-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown run on his first carry. It had been 20 years since any NFL player scored an opening-game TD of 20 yards or longer on the first carry of his career. The last player to do so was Michael Westbrook of the Redskins, with a 58-yard TD run in a 27-7 opening-day victory over the Cardinals.

But guess what? A few hours later, Ameer Abdullah of the Lions did it as well, capping Detroit’s opening drive with a 24-yard TD run on his first carry.

nullIt’s getting absurd in KC

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdowns but none to a wide receiver – again. Smith’s last TD to a receiver was Dec. 8, 2013.  On the other hand, Travis Kelce became the first Chiefs tight end to catch two touchdown passes in a game since Tony Gonzalez left Kansas City following the 2008 season. Gonzalez caught two or more TDs in a game 14 times for the Chiefs.

What about Bob?null

Another strong performance by a tight end was turned in by Tyler Eifert, who caught nine
passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bengals’ 33-13 win at Oakland. Eifert was the first Cincinnati TE with two TD receptions in a 100-yard game since Bob Trumpy scored three times in a 5-for-159 performance against the Houston Oilers in 1969.

Same Ol’Philbin, Same Ol’Washington

The Miami Dolphins are continuing a disturbing trend during coach Joe Philbin’s tenure with the team: They play down to lesser opponents. The offense came out flat in the first half at Washington, rushing for only 2 yards. But the most concerning questions from Miami’s victory were mental lapses on defense.

For Washington, things were looking good for the home team early on Sunday. But then Ryan Tannehill found Rishard Matthews for a 3-yard TD late in the first half to narrow the Redskins’ lead to 10-7, and the Dolphins scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 17-10 victory. Washington was the first home team to lose its season opener after scoring the game’s first 10 points since 2002, when the Jets rallied from a 10-0 deficit for a 37-31 win at Buffalo.  From the media-generated-controversy department – Why was CBS giving viewers constant reaction shots from RGIII — following many of Kirk Cousins’ throws?

Somethings never change

The Kelvin Benjamin-less offense produced just 263 yards and one touchdown – ouch. The supporting cast around Newton will likely add pressure on Carolina’s defense, nullespecially if MLB Luke Kuechly’s concussion proves severe.  In other news, Josh Norman intercepted Blake Bortles and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown in the Panthers’ 20-9 win over the Jaguars. That was a problem for Bortles as a rookie last season, when he tied for the NFL lead by throwing four pick-6’s, which was also a single-season team record.

Training Camp Counselor

It’s the dog-days of summer and football training camp is a few days away – NFL Films’ Greg Cosell will be doing a series of posts for Shutdown Corner taking a deeper look into the finer points of football, explaining how fans can look for the subtle nuances that make the game so interesting beneath the surface. – so in the meantime – ENJOY!

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
By Greg Cosell – July 5, 2015 12:30 PM – Shutdown Corner MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 30: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

On Sundays, I usually watch games without taking notes or looking at schemes or searching for details about why plays did or didn’t work. I just watch casually. And I know most people watch games that way, and that’s great.

But I also love when I come to the NFL Films offices on Monday and start to look at the coaches’ film to unlock why certain plays worked or didn’t, and what makes players successful or not. Those nuances, to me, are what football is all about.

Since NFL.com introduced the all-22 film (that’s the term for the high-angle coaches film you’ll see on my posts at Shutdown Corner) on Game Rewind, many serious fans have taken advantage of it. But I’ve told people, breaking down NFL film isn’t something you can do after dinner in 20 minutes. It took a lot of time before I knew what to watch for. Thankfully there are people who taught me various aspects of the game, like former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski teaching me how to watch from a quarterback’s viewpoint, or former New England Patriots coach and longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rod Rust explaining defensive concepts. There have been many others I’ve learned from, and I’m always learning new things.

What I’d like to do in a series of posts here this summer is pass along some of the things I’ve learned to look for when watching a game. Some things can be picked up by watching the television broadcast — though it can be a challenge because of the tight shots of game play — at the stadium or watching film afterward. My hope is that some of these things help your appreciation of your favorite team, or football in general. I love the intellectual side of the NFL. To me, that’s what makes the game great.

Here’s an obvious starting point for this post: There are things you can note before the snap on each play. I’ve watched film for so long, checking for these keys before the ball is snapped has become second nature.

Let’s use two plays from the Green Bay Packers‘ win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5 last season as examples. This was a second-and-7 at Green Bay’s 34, in the first quarter. Here’s the first picture of the play I see:

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

This looks like a typical football formation, but there’s so much we can learn just from this one frame.

On offense, the first thing I look at is personnel. There was a player in the fullback position, and I can see right away that’s not their normal fullback, John Kuhn (it’s tight end Andrew Quarless). Then my eye goes to the fact that they have two split receivers. The Packers often run play-action from this look, though I know that from years of studying coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. Then I noticed that the ball is on the right hash and the receiver at the right of the formation, Jordy Nelson, had tighter splits (meaning he was a little closer to the formation) than usual. I’m thinking, if this is a pass, Nelson will run some route that is taking him across the field. He has to get across the field, so he’ll take a tighter split. It will take too long to get across the field if he’s lined up wider. There was a reason Nelson is there. These are things you pick up the longer you study film.

After I’ve seen the offensive personnel and formation, I move to the defense. I’ve worked with Jaworski for years at the NFL Films offices, and he says about his pre-snap process watching film as a former quarterback: “I usually go from safeties to cornerbacks to the linebackers to the line.”

I start with the safeties too. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told me years ago, if you reduce it to simple terms you’re trying to see if it’s a two-deep safety shell or a single-high safety, and then you look for blitz indicators. The Vikings safeties on this play showed a two-deep shell, which indicated a zone coverage. They could be disguising the coverage because neither safety is that deep. One could drop down right before the snap, in theory. Anything can happen with those safeties, but it was a two-deep shell zone look.

Then look at the corners, especially the corner on the bottom of the screen. They were lined up slightly to the outside of the receivers, which indicated they are anticipating inside help from the safeties. That means it’s a zone coverage. Also, at the snap, if cornerbacks turn and face the sideline to push the receiver outside it tells you there’s man coverage, and if the cornerbacks turn to face the field it’s usually zone. And you can look at the linebackers’ first steps; if their first steps are backward it’s a zone coverage.

There was no blitz indicator from the Vikings on this play. If corners are playing tight man coverage, that could be a blitz indicator, but they weren’t here. The linebackers were stacked behind the line, and that was an indication they would not blitz. It would be different if a linebacker was up on the line of scrimmage or creeping up to it. The safeties showed two-deep shell, and that’s not a blitz indicator. Anything can change at the snap because teams will try to confuse the offense, but the Vikings’ alignment indicated this was a zone coverage with no blitz. It’s hard to blitz out of a two-deep shell, because you have two safeties deep and if you take another defender out of the front seven to blitz there are a lot of voids in the defense.

Keep in mind that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw all of this and processed the information in about a second or so. And as we’ll see, what he noticed mattered. As it turned out the Packers had a play called to beat the exact defense Rodgers saw.

The Packers went hard run-action to the left, the defense reacted (it was playing quarters zone coverage, with each defensive back being responsible for a deep fourth of the field). The safety to the run side was an “alley” defender, because he had run responsibility and he would run in the alley in run support if it’s a handoff. Rodgers faked it, and rolled to the right. Nelson released inside and he ran straight at the safety. The other safety stepped up in run support because of the fake, and also the receiver on the left side ran a route to occupy that safety. Nelson was screaming at safety Harrison Smith, who is a very good player, but couldn’t cover Nelson in that situation. Nelson caught a 66-yard touchdown.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That play was designed to beat a zone defense, to get Nelson running at the safety. That’s why the first look at the Vikings’ alignment, with all the clues of what defense they were running, mattered. There was a play earlier in the first quarter, and Rodgers called an audible to a run to beat a much different defensive look.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That was a lot different alignment by the defense. This appeared to be man-to-man coverage with a free safety, called “man free.” You know it’s man because the three cornerbacks were pressed up on the three receivers. Strong safety Smith was up on the line to the right side of the Packers’ formation. The two inside linebackers were lined up hard inside, slightly inside of the guards. It looked like a blitz mostly because of Smith. The way the Vikings aligned should send alerts to your brain: man coverage and potential blitz.

I don’t know if the Packers had a run or a pass called — the same touchdown to Nelson we described above probably wouldn’t have worked against this man defense, by the way — but Rodgers called an outside zone run to the left. Why? Because the linebackers were hard inside, they couldn’t stop Eddie Lacy outside. And it was to the left because Smith was lined up to the Packers’ right side. Randall Cobb, from the slot, ran like he might catch a bubble screen and that took the slot cornerback out of run support. The extra defender was the free safety, lined up about 15 yards deep. The Vikings were in trouble before the ball was snapped. Lacy gained 29 yards.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That type of play is why coaches like Arizona’s Bruce Arians say they don’t want quarterbacks who didn’t do anything at the line of scrimmage in college. Rodgers made this run by what he did at the line. If you just casually watched the game you might have thought it was a great play by Lacy, but in reality Rodgers deserved most of the credit for this. Rodgers was able to set up the run by diagnosing the Vikings’ defense from the snapshot he got before the snap.

And now you can look for some of the same things before the ball is snapped.

– – – – – – –

NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.