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The Notebook: Home field embarrassment

Former NFL defensive end Stephen White puts a pair of coaching decisions under the microscope, one good and one bad. Also, two of the game's top linebackers right now are being overlooked, and Green Bay has a new closer.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles head coach and, for all intents and purposes, offensive coordinator, Chip Kelly, put Buccaneers defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan in clown shoes at the end of their game on Sunday.

Let me set the stage for you. The Eagles got the ball with 8:03 left in the fourth quarter and holding an eight-point lead, 28-20, over the winless Buccaneers. That's a one possession game when you factor in the potential for a two-point conversion, so the Bucs defense had to try to fight to force a three-and-out or at the least force a punt to give their offense a chance to win the game. Eight minutes is usually a lot of time, but it goes without saying the Eagles would try to run the ball to milk the clock, something somewhat foreign to Kelly's fast paced offense, or try to score. The Eagles began the drive on their own 45-yard line, which is pretty good field position.

Now that the stage is set, I just need to explain one more thing to you. When I say "tackle over," that means one of the offensive tackles has lined up on the opposite side of the center than he usually does. Teams do this at times for a variety of reasons, but generally it's a change0up that is sprinkled in just to catch a team off guard. If I say "tackle over right" that means the left tackle, in this case Jason Peters, lined up on the right side. That leaves a tight end and a guard on the left side of the center. And vice versa if I say "tackle over left".

Here's tackle over right on first-and-10. The yellow arrow points to Peters.


I am going to list the formations in order that the Eagles lined up in from this point in the game until they didn't have the ball anymore. Without getting too technical I'll also tell you if they ran (and which side they ran to) or if they passed.

1. Tackle over right. Run right.

2. Tackle over right. Run left cutback.

3. Tackle over right. Run right.

4. Tackle over left. Run right.

5. Tackle over left. Run right.

6. Tackle over left. Run left.

7. Tackle over left. Run right.

8. Tackle over right. Run middle.

9. Tackle over right. Hard count, Bucs jump offsides.

10. Normal two tight end formation. Run left.

11. Tackle over left. Run right.

12. Tackle over left. Run left.

Now here is the yardage gained on those plays: 6, 2, 4, 8, 9, 2, 6, 1, 5, 2, -4, 8.

Do you notice a pattern here?

At the end of those 12 plays, the Eagles had run the clock all the way down to 2:38. Perhaps more important than that, they got all the way down to the Bucs 6-yard line. That was plenty close for the field goal that ended up putting the game out of reach. They probably could have scored a touchdown if they wanted, but I'm sure Kelly was having too much fun watching Sheridan try to find an answer to his running game and repeatedly coming up short.

Maybe I haven't made it clear to you but a team lining up in tackle over is a rare occurrence. I have seen a team run tackle over a handful of times in a game, but I don't think I've ever seen a team do it 11 out of 12 plays on a drive where they had their full complement of offensive linemen and tight ends. This was an embarrassment of immense proportions that a team would basically line up play after play after play, essentially pointing across the field at Sheridan to say "Yep, here it comes again. Now try to stop it!" ... on the Buccaneers' home field.

Losing happens. The Bucs are 0-5, and they lost several games right at the end. However, getting embarrassed is a whole other animal, and for me, it wasn't the players who got embarrassed in this situation, but the defensive coordinator who never could come up with an answer.

Football karma

After the Saints lost to the Patriots, I saw a lot of folks on social media playing the blame game. Some of them blamed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan because his defense gave up the last-second touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Kimbrell Thompkins. Others, more conspiracy-minded folks, blamed the referees for not calling holding on the Patriots offensive line on that play.

Not me, ladies and gentlemen.

No, for me, the blame for this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Saints head coach Sean Payton. Payton angered the football gods with two foolish decisions earlier in the fourth quarter and their punishment was swift and painful. I like to call this football karma.

The Patriots trailed 24-23, and were forced to use two of their timeouts before the two minute warning. Payton had a decision to make with 2:33 left on the clock on third-and-seven at the Patriots 21-yard line. He could make the smart call, run the ball again and force the Patriots to use their last timeout or allow the clock to run all the way down to the two-minute warning. His other option, the riskier call, was trying to complete a pass for the first down and maybe even a touchdown. Payton decided to get aggressive and call a passing play, one that was almost picked off I might add. The incompletion allowed the Patriots to save their final timeout. It also forced the Saints to kick a field goal before the clock ran down to the two minute warning. Now its 27-23 and Brady inexplicably throws into double coverage on the Patriots first play of the ensuing drive which means the game should be over, right?


Because the interception happened on the first play of the drive two things were still true. First, the Patriots still had a timeout and the two-minute warning. The Saints had the ball at their own 30-yard line and 2:16 left on the clock, You would think that they would run the ball three times. They can punt it if they can't get a first down punt. That would at least pin the Patriots back on their end of the field with too little time to get the ball down the field to score a touchdown.

You would be wrong again.

I might as well point out that Pierre Thomas averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the game. Rookie Khiry Robinson averaged a whopping 7.5 yards per carry in the game. They only had 18 carries between the two of them. This is where you pick the best run in your playbook, or whatever has been working that day, hand it off, and let the chips fall where they may. If he gets one or two yards you are punting from your own 35 or so. A 45 yard net punt puts the Patriots on their 20-yard line. Hell, you may just bust one for a first down and the game is over.

Instead, Payton chose to go with the naked bootleg. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones didn't fall for at all, and the Saints ended up losing five yards. They get a 42-yard punt, and the Patriots start on their 30 yard line.

The rest, as they say, is history.


One last thing to chew on: The Saints defense forced a fourth-and-four on that last Patriots touchdown drive. That would have been a great time to call a timeout after the Pats lined up to make sure everyone on defense was on the same page. But the Saints didn't have any more timeouts at that point. Why? After the Patriots used their first timeout on the aforementioned drive, the Saints used their last timeout before another play. The offense came out on the field after a timeout, already in field goal range after the defense forced a turnover on downs at the New England 24-yard line, and they still weren't ready to go.

Who do you blame for that?

Its karma, baby.

Texans-sized problems.

I have some good news and some bad news for Texans fans. First the good news. Arian Foster looked as good running the ball as I have seen him in some time. The guy gained 141 yards on just 20 carries. His longest carry of the day went for 23 yards, so its not like he had one long one to skew the numbers. He also added 57 yards on four catches. That's a damn good game for him. The bad news is that as well as he played, the Texans were still blown out 38-13 by a pretty average Rams team.

There are a lot of reasons for the loss, including the fact that they had seven penalties for 95 yards and lost two fumbles, but when Foster has a day like that it usually means the Texans are at least in the game. If that formula is no longer working for the Texans offense then there are some dark days ahead for that team. Not saying it's all on the quarterback or any other one player, but something has to give and soon.

Can Pryor play 60?

If you did not watch the Raiders/Chiefs game -- I am sure a lot of people didn't and just saw the final score -- you probably have a very erroneous idea about how the game went. The truth is with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter the Raiders were only down a touchdown 14-7, and they had what appeared to be the makings of a promising drive.

Then it all fell apart.

After a couple of completions, including one third-down conversion, Terrelle Pryor had the Raiders at the 50-yard line and looking good. Then these things happened one after the other:

1. Holding call takes them back 10 yards to the Raiders 40 on first down.

2. First-and-20 Pryor tries to avoid a sack and fails for a loss of 12 yards.

3. Second and 32 the Raiders take a delay of game penalty for a loss of 5 yards.

4. Second and 37 Pryor again tries to avoid a sack, again fails. Loss of 11 yards.

5. Third and 48. Yes, THIRD-AND-48! Incomplete pass.


The Chiefs didn't score on the ensuing drive, but it set up the rest of the game. On the next Raiders drive, Pryor threw a pick to set up a Chiefs field goal. Then, Pryor threw a pick-six on the Raiders drive after the field goal. Fittingly, with the game out of reach and only six seconds left on the clock, Pryor took yet another sack to end the game. I love watching the growth Pryor has shown as a professional, and for most of the game, he played winning football. But he can't continue to fall apart late in the game like this and expect to be the Raiders quarterback of the future. Period.

Detroit's wheels

Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy had one hell of a game against the Browns. He notched seven tackles and two interceptions, including one with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter when his team was nursing a 24-17 lead.

It was another play he made, however, that caught my eye. I have often marveled at the speed Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin possesses, and it was on full display when he took the hand off for an end-around near the end of the first quarter. He ended up gaining 45 yards before he was tackled. I had to rewind to see who it was who caught him from behind. I was expecting a cornerback or a safety, but no sir, it was Levy. What made the play even more impressive is that Levy lined up opposite of the side Benjamin ran around. He even took a few steps up into the line before he was able to turn around and hawk Benjamin down from behind. I can't even say he had that great of an angle either. Not only is Levy a playmaker, but that dude has some serious wheels!

Meet Thad Lewis

I really need for someone to explain to me why Bills quarterback Thad Lewis was on the practice squad rather than on someone's active roster up until last week. The guy has bounced around since entering into the league in 2010, and even started the Browns' finale last season. On Sunday, he played as if he had been a starter all along. I'm sure the Bills cut down the playbook some for him, but it couldn't have been by much. I was especially impressed with his poise; it was obvious from the start that the moment wasn't too big for him. All he did Sunday was complete close to 60 percent of his passes, throw two touchdowns and ran for another score. And that game tying touchdown? Yeah, that was a 40-yard bomb to rookie Marquise Goodwin that was right on the money.

Let's be clear: The Bills weren't in this game because of some crazy bounces of the football, they were in it in large part because Lewis played his ass off. The Bengals defense is pretty damn good, I might remind you, but the kid was as cool as a cucumber. Obviously, this is E.J. Manuel's team whenever he gets healthy, but if Lewis can keep holding down the fort like this, I would hope other teams would take notice for next year.

The closer

The Packers appear to have found their closer and his name is Eddie Lacy. The rookie running back had 120 yards on 23 carries against the Ravens on Sunday, but it was the work he put in at the end of the game that caught my attention. With 11:46 left in the game and clinging to a 16-10 lead, the Packers put together a drive that ate up seven minutes and 26 seconds and saw Lacy run six times for a total of 31 yards. The drive ended with a field goal that appeared to put the game away.

Not so fast my friend.

The Packers defense decided to make it interesting by giving up a 63 yard bomb from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Tandon Doss on fourth-and-21(!), and then allowed an 18-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to tight end Dallas Clark on the very next play with just over two minutes left in the game.

Not to worry, that just gave Lacy another opportunity to close out the game. To be fair, part of work on the ensuing drive came on a 52-yard pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Jermichael Finley. The Ravens still had two timeouts. If they could stop the Packers from getting another first down, they still had a shot to get the ball back. After losing a yard on first down, then gaining nine on second down to force the Ravens to use up both of those timeouts, it came down to third-and-two at the Baltimore 13-yard line with 1:32 left. If the Packers gained a first down then they could kneel on the ball until the final ticks came off the clock. If not, they would probably have been forced to kick a field goal, then kick the ball off to the Ravens with a chance for them to score and win the game.

Lacy not only gained four yards, he also had the wherewithal to slide to the turf in bounds to make sure the clock kept running.

As great as Rodgers is, a running game like Lacy provided on Sunday could make the Packers offense deadly. And with some Packers wide receivers out for awhile now with injuries, Lacy's continued development will be even more important. On Sunday he was up to the task at hand.


I have to give a quick shout-out to Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. Davis, if you didn't know, is the only guy to ever come back from three ACL surgeries. Somehow, in his eighth year this season, he looks better than ever. Through five games the guy already has three sacks including the two on Sunday he racked up against the Vikings. His career high for a season to this point is 3.5. It says a lot about Davis' work ethic that he was in fact able to come back from all those injuries and not only play but play at a very high level and I salute him for that.

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