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28 Nov 2006

Any Given Sunday: Titans over Giants

by Ned Macey

The New York Giants saved their season in Week 2 with a furious comeback win over the Eagles. That win was the first of six in seven games that had the Giants atop their division and cruising toward a return trip to the playoffs. Those wins came with a cost, and the Giants lost one key contributor after another. Now, after a stunning loss to Tennessee, the Giants are fighting for their playoff lives.

Meanwhile, optimism abounds in Nashville, where a rebuilding team finally has a quality win to add to its resume. The Titans just missed in upset bids against Indianapolis and Baltimore, falling by one point in both games. This win gives them four wins in their past six games. Add in the close losses to the Colts and Ravens, and the Titans have been a quality football team six times in the past seven weeks. This is the best football the team has played in three years, and while they are still a ways away, the future is bright.

The only future date the Giants are concerned with is this Sunday's game against Dallas. A loss to the suddenly-hot Cowboys would leave the Giants 6-6 and no shot at the division crown. They have one week to sort out an inaccurate quarterback and a leaky secondary.

The Giants are severely hampered by injuries. The sheer quantity of injuries has upset a team uniquely built to survive an average onset of injuries. The Giants' starting roster is constructed brilliantly with balance throughout and few weak spots. The team, when healthy, has no real holes. They ranked in the top 10 in pass and rush offense and pass and rush defense before Sunday's game.

Unfortunately, their bench left much to be desired. Thanks to the injuries, they now have a suspect secondary, a limited pass rush, and a dearth of quality receiving options. All that is left in full force is the running game, and even there, Tiki Barber has slowed in recent weeks. Reserve tackle Bob Whitfield has been pressed into starting action, where he is overmatched. Reggie Torbor finds himself starting at linebacker. Tim Carter was a reach as the third receiver and now is starting. The Giants started Frank Walker and R.W. McQuarters at cornerback, something no playoff contender should ever have to do.

Even the one place the Giants have depth, defensive end, has become a problem due to three injuries. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora have both missed a number of games. Reserve Justin Tuck has been lost for the year due to injury. That left rookie Mathias Kiwanuka and erstwhile tackle William Joseph as the starters on Sunday.

The Giants pass rush, among the most feared a season ago, has suffered this year. The defensive line has a total of 18 sacks through 11 games. A season ago, it averaged over two sacks per game. The Giants have compensated by blitzing more often, but blitzing is a questionable proposition with Walker and McQuarters manning the secondary.

Offensively, the loss of Amani Toomer, merely an average receiver at this point in his career, has turned Eli Manning into a bit of a disaster at quarterback. Toomer had been the Giants' most productive receiver on a per play basis this year, even though he was not often targeted. Without Toomer, Manning has no other wide receiver option besides Burress. A defense now must only defend Burress, Barber, and Jeremy Shockey. Those three caught 14 of Manning's 18 completions. When throwing to other receivers, Manning went 4-of-10 for 30 yards and an interception.

Sunday's disastrous fourth quarter highlighted the struggles of the pass offense and pass defense. The Giants built an early 21-point lead, scoring after two Tennessee fumbles and stopping them on a fourth-and-goal play. They completely controlled the third quarter with runs and short passes, but both of their drives petered out just beyond field goal range.

The Giants forced a punt on the Titans' first drive of the fourth quarter, but after that, all hell broke loose. Two plays into the ensuing possession, Manning went for the kill on a long pass to Burress in a one-on-one match up with Pac-Man Jones. The ball was overthrown, and Jones made a great catch for the interception. The Titans converted the turnover into a touchdown. After forcing a quick three-and-out by New York, including another near-interception by Jones, the Titans cashed in their second touchdown.

The Titans' game-tying drive involved the game's oddest play. On fourth-and-10, Kiwanuka had Young in his grasp. Young made a pump-fake, and Kiwanuka, fearful of a roughing-the-passer penalty, released Young, who proceeded to scramble for a first-down.

This odd looking play has led to some condemnation for Kiwanuka, but this gaffe was certainly understandable. The NFL has seen a number of questionable roughing penalties, although not an overall increase. Had Young thrown the ball and Kiwanuka tackled him, the rookie would have been everyone's goat for picking up a personal foul. A Tennessee drive had already been extended on a personal foul when Young was stopped short of a first down.

When he released Young, the quarterback still had over 15 yards to run for a first down, but Young evaded all tacklers. Will Demps had a perfect opportunity to make a game-winning tackle but missed. Demps' failure is more cause for reproach than Kiwanuka's.

Young's feint raises a difficult problem for referees and the Competition Committee. Already, it seems that some quarterbacks are testing the rules by delaying their slides to the last minute or tiptoeing down the sideline, almost trying to induce the penalty. Protecting the quarterback is an important objective, but when players stop making legitimate plays for fear of a flag, the situation needs to be reexamined.

Young finished that drive with a beautiful touchdown pass to Brandon Jones. Overtime seemed imminent, but Manning got delusions of grandeur. Flushed from the pocket, he made a terrible throw that was intercepted by Jones. Two short completions and a long field-goal form Rob Bironas later, and the Titans were celebrating their biggest win in three years. For the quarter, Young completed 13 of his 17 passes and scrambled for two first downs. The four scoring drives included only two handoffs.

Outside of the misplaced blame on Kiwanuka, most of the criticism has been leveled at Manning. His first interception was a bad throw but excusable. The second one was an unpardonable mistake. At the same time, it seems odd that people are only now realizing what has been true for the past season and a half. Manning is an inaccurate quarterback prone to making mistakes. He is playing at almost the exact same level as a season ago.

That lack of improvement seems to be the problem. Many people forgave his shortcomings a season ago because of his youth but now expect him to be a seasoned veteran. Quarterbacks do not automatically make some incredible leap in their third season. Of those quarterbacks drafted in the past 15 years who played significantly as a rookie, only David Carr has made a substantial step forward in his third season. Even he followed that up with major regression in his fourth. Several quarterbacks, including Jake Plummer and Drew Bledsoe, declined considerably their third year.

Manning remains a work in progress. Other than his last name, there is little reason to think he will become one of the game's best quarterbacks. He ranks just outside the top 10 in DPAR this year, a slight improvement from a season ago. He appears to be settling in for a Jake Delhomme or Marc Bulger-type career. Most people do not realize that is not an insult. Among recent first overall picks, he is likely to have a better career than Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, and Alex Smith. He is likely to be worse than only his brother and Carson Palmer, two of the three best quarterbacks in football. Hopefully people will begin to understand that Eli can be a good but not great quarterback without being a major disappointment.

Tennessee fans are currently convinced that Vince Young, the first quarterback taken this year, will be a great quarterback. He was superb on Sunday. He was accurate on the underneath throws and has the arm to get the ball down the field.

All the same, expectations must be tempered a great deal. Sunday's 249-yard performance was just his second over 170 yards on the season. He is completing less than 50 percent of his passes. His touchdown to interception ratio is 1:1. Even his running, on display at times on Sunday, has been only adequate. The lack of passing success leaves defenses free to employ a spy, and he is not matching Vick or a young Steve McNair's production on the ground.

Still, Young has done admirably in his rookie season. Surrounded by arguably the worst collection of skill players in the league, Young has held his own. The Titans have established their first solid ground attack in years to protect him. Center Kevin Mawae was one of the best under-the-radar signings of the off-season. Also worth noting is the solid play of second-year tackle Michael Roos. If the Titans start making annual trips to the playoffs, it will be no surprise to see Roos making annual trips to the Pro Bowl.

Young's entrance into the lineup has helped springboard the Titans into an improbable run. What is amazing is that the turnaround has been across the board. After four weeks, the Titans had lost all four games including embarrassing losses to San Diego and Dallas. Their DVOA through four games was a pathetic -59.4%. Since that time, the Titans' DVOA is 13.6% and above average on offense, defense, and special teams. For perspective, the first figure would be far and away the worst in the league. The second would be on the fringes of the top 10 in the league.

After four weeks, it appeared that Jeff Fisher's days in Tennessee were numbered. Rumors started floating of Norm Chow's return to the college ranks. Now, including defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Tennessee staff is turning in one of the best coaching performances of the season.

Young's insertion in Week 4 is obviously the easiest change to highlight, but the improvements in special teams and defense were just as pronounced. All discussion of the Titans defense and special teams has to start with Pac-Man. At some point, the rest of the country will realize that aside from being immature and holding an odd nickname, he is one of the absolute best young defenders in football. Jones is currently the best player from the first round of the 2005 draft (non-steroid division).

Against New York, he had two interceptions, an impressive punt return, and even a first-down run on offense. Even more impressively, the Giants completed no passes with Jones as the primary cover man. Jones' importance to the team is highlighted by the fact that the defense's only bad performance in their past seven games was a game he missed due to suspension.

Jones is developing into a great player, but he is hardly the only reason for the turnaround. Two other crucial upgrades have come somewhat by accident. Following Albert Haynesworth's suspension for stomping an opponent, the Titans inserted Robaire Smith at defensive tackle. That first start for Smith coincided with the Titans' current run. Haynesworth returned to the starting line-up on Sunday, and the middle of the line was disruptive.

The other change is more recent with rookie Stephen Tulloch slotting in at middle linebacker due to an injury limiting David Thornton. Peter Sirmon has shifted from the middle to Thornton's position. Tulloch will likely keep his position when Thornton reclaims his starting status, and the Titans will have three speedy linebackers capable of controlling the run.

The Titans are suddenly a pretty good football team. They host Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and New England down the stretch, and they will give those playoff contenders a difficult time. After suffering through salary cap problems, the Titans have ample space for another active free agent period. They have their quarterback for the future, a developing young defense, and a solid coaching staff. The rebuilding plan is taking three years, not the one or two they hoped, but it appears near completion. For 2008, the playoffs are again a legitimate goal.

The Giants, as defending NFC East champions, harbored legitimate Super Bowl hopes for this season. The injuries have hampered the Giants to the point where now the playoffs are the primary goal. If Eli were as good as his brother, the Giants would still be a Super Bowl contender. Instead, he is just a good quarterback, and the Giants will be lucky to squeeze in as a Wild Card. The one way to save their season is a win over Dallas this Sunday. It is hard to see this current version of the Giants winning that game. The press will question the team's character, the quarterback's development, and the coach's control of the team. All may be legitimate concerns, but the simpler explanation may be that with all the injuries, they simply have less talent.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 28 Nov 2006

86 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2006, 10:58am by Wanker79

Comments

1
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:17pm

The thing that really confused me was how Demps just FROZE when Young went by him. He doesn't even move. It's bizarre.

2
by Diane (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:29pm

Besides pilloring Manning for that 2nd INT late in the 4th, perhaps we can save some vitriol for Coughlin and the OC, for calling a pass play in that situation to begin with?

3
by Jay (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:31pm

Why would you yell at Coughlin/the OC for calling a pass play then? It's somewhat similar to Brady during the 2001 SB. Somewhat untested young QB who had a big lead and just gave it up, with time to either go to OT or try to win the game there. If he completes two passes instead of throwing an interception, perceptions are mighty different.

4
by James G (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:32pm

The problem with Manning isn't so much how he compares to Peyton, Palmer, Alex Smith, Couch, Vick, and Carr. It's going to be his comparison to Philip Rivers. As long as Rivers does better than he does, I believe he will be pilloried.

5
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:34pm

Watching the play, it was like there was some kind of "phantom whistle" in the Titans backfield. Kiwanuka grabs Young and all the players behave as if somebody somewhere has blown the play dead. Somebody get the grassy knoll investigators on this one.

Recalling Week two: karma sucks, eh New York?

6
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:34pm

"Two plays into the ensuing possession, Manning went for the kill on a long pass to Burress in a one-on-one match up with Pac-Man Jones. The ball was overthrown, and Jones made a great catch for the interception."

One thing that should be mentioned here is that this play represented a patented Plaxico Burress Give Up. Yes, Buress was well covered and the ball was overthrown. However, he was one-on-one against a much smaller defender, and bombs to Burress in those situations constitute a lage part of the Giants' offense. The only reason they're not unacceptably risky is that it's assumed that even if a bad ball is thrown (which will happen all the time with long bombs) and he can't make the catch, the WR will at least get close enough to prevent the defender from making the catch. In this case, Burress simply let up while Pac-Man Jones continued to run hard. (Burress than compounded his error by jogging half-heartedly toward Jones with a "so, you're gonna go out of bounds, right?" attitude.)

This is nothing new for Burress. It's at least the third time in the last two years that he could've broken up an interception if he'd cared to.

Burress' Give Up, Frank Walker's late hit on 4th down, and Kiwanuka's botched sack -- if any one of these screw-ups doesn't happen, the Giants win.

I can no longer watch highlights of this game.

7
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:35pm

re: Kiwanuka's tackle.

Tom Brady was on the radio last night, and they asked him about Juking out Urlacher sunday night. His response was something along the lines that he was the only player on the team who would have got the first down there: He said that any other player Urlacher would have leveled, but Urlacher couldnt level him because he had to respect the possibility of a last minute slide.

All this protect the QB crap is ruining this game.

8
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:36pm

I will say that I feel bad for Kiwanuka. It was a terrible mistake (even if he thought the ball was gone, he should've just held on to Young until he was sure), but he made a really nice move to get to the QB in the first place, which is not at all unusual for him. He's going to be very good.

9
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:39pm

#2-3: FYI, the OC is John Hufnagle.

I didn't watch this game, but I've seen almost all of the Giants' other performances this season. Thus, I am not at all surprised that Will Demps was a major reason that NY lost. He has been awful this season (most notably on that ridiculous draw play that allowed Chicago to convert a 3rd & 20-something in the late 2nd quarter). For a guy who came to the team with a decent reputation for run support, he has made some truly embarrassing tackle attempts.

10
by Len (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:42pm

Some inaccuracies and homerisms in this article.

Toomer, merely an average receiver at this point in his career

Obviously he's more than average. He was Manning's security blanket and a chains mover.

Manning went for the kill on a long pass to Burress in a one-on-one match up with Pac-Man Jones. The ball was overthrown, and Jones made a great catch for the interception.

Where's the blame on Plax here? It's obvious he quit on the route. Plax is a sloth.

a game-winning tackle but missed. Demps’ failure is more cause for reproach than Kiwanuka’s.

Uh, no. Any good DL will tell you damn the refs, full speed ahead. The responsibility lies on Kiwanuka to wrap him up.

Many people forgave his shortcomings a season ago because of his youth but now expect him to be a seasoned veteran. Quarterbacks do not automatically make some incredible leap in their third season.

How about a consistent gait, much less an incredible leap? Manning is highly inaccurate and streaky and is severely regressing. Stories like Romo's make Manning look worse. He might be benched now if not for his last name.

Oh, and click my name for a hilarious blog post about Eli.

One more: Hopefully people will begin to understand that Eli can be a good but not great quarterback without being a major disappointment.

People, especially the Giants' management, will never understand this, nor should they. You don't mortgage the farm as they did for a Delhomme type QB.

11
by Ian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:56pm

TMQ makes some excellent points that the Giant's coaching staff blew the game much more than Manning. I don't see how you can blame a QB for blowing a 21 point lead 3 minutes into the 4th quarter. The Giants should have been running the ball nearly every down and attempting only ball-control passes and they would have won the game. Yeah, Manning made the LAST mistake, but Coughlin was the reason they were in that situation in the first place. Coughlin also needs to take some responsibility for Eli's slow development under him. Blaming a young player like that for losing a game where you made playcalling mistake after mistake is one of the biggest signs of bad coaching. I am no Giants fan but I can't believe they haven't fired his sorry ass yet.

12
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 2:59pm

thanks for talking about my titans...

If people didn't see my comment in the audibles article, let me fill you in on the worst coaching move of the game for the Giants offensive coordinator.

the titans CB's (pacman and renaldo hill) play strictly on a given side. They do not follow certain recievers. Pacman is on the offensive righ and hill on the offensive left.

In the first half the gmen threw an underthrown go route to plaxico for a catch going against hill.

at that point, I was sure the gmen would continue to throw at hill. everyone else has.

but they didn't, they tried to throw at pacman and paid for it. Maybe eli throws better to the right. i don't know, but they should have attacked hill.

As we say on titan message boards, when it is 3rd down, the other team should always call the same play:

3rd and Renaldo...

13
by gmc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:00pm

If you had every ball thrown to you overthrown by at least four vertical feet, you'd start giving up on them after a while too... Doesn't really excuse Plax, but you can at least understand that he's frustrated?

To be fair, with the exception of Plaxico Burress vs. Keenan McCardell (about which arguments could be made - at this point KM isn't a bullet but he's so bloody professional...), every skill player Rivers has is vastly superior to their NY counterpart, especially in the passing game. It's no surprise he's doing better, especially with a much better coaching staff and worlds better O line. With Shawne Merriman, the Chargers are the best team in football, probably.

Manning needs to calm down and Coughlin needs to rethink how he uses him. I think the comparison to DelHomme is useful: Manning has a similar skill set. Carolina, note, is a run first team. I think NY will be better off next year, basing their offense around the Brandon Jacobs beatdown.

14
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:04pm

on vince, he took a lot of heat the week prior about his inaccurate passing in the TN media.

He was great in this game. Of his incompletes (i think there were ~9 of them)...2 were spikes and 4 were thrown into the hands of his terrible WR's.

But what isn't in the stat book is the tremendous leadership he brings to the team. He sent a WR off the field once for not running the right route. His teammates made lots of comments of his poise in the huddle when the Titans were down. At one point he looked at the guys in the huddle and said something like, "we are going to win this, if you don't want to be in the huddle, you need to leave".

And one last thing that was sortof mentioned in the article was how his very presence makes his teammates on both sides of the ball play better.

there are lots of comparisons of him and leinart since some think TN should have taken matt. well, I am thankful we didn't. Matt might be able to throw for 400 yards, but the Cards still didn't win.

15
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:04pm

Eli Manning Attempts per Interception Watch - 16 Game Moving Average.

Baby Manning's 16th game was Week 9 of 2005 against the 49ers. Since then ...

Year Week Opp. Att/INT
2005 9 sfo 32.50
2005 10 min 27.44
2005 11 phi 30.19
2005 12 sea 34.33
2005 13 dal 30.65
2005 14 phi 30.39
2005 15 kan 30.89
2005 16 was 31.11
2005 17 oak 32.76
2005 W car 30.67
2006 1 ind 29.58
2006 2 phi 28.20
2006 3 sea 24.57
2006 5 was 25.86
2006 6 atl 24.22
2006 7 dal 24.00
2006 8 tam 23.91
2006 9 hou 26.50
2006 10 chi 24.36
2006 11 jax 22.78
2006 12 ten 22.65

Not a good trend for Baby Bro'. He's turning into a turnover machine. Worse, the Giants have been giving him more attempts per game, so not only is he turning the ball over more, he's being given more opportunities to do so.

16
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:07pm

Re: #7.

What is the current rule for the QB slide? Is it the rule that is the problem, or the interpretation of it by the refs?

I would propose that rules protecting QBs while running be lifted. It seems the most horrific QB injuries occur while they are in the pocket anyway.

17
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:19pm

re:16
The issue is that the rule is supposed to be a compromise between the QB and the tackler. The QB gives up a couple of yards to prevent getting hit. The problem is, QBs are waiting basically until theyre about to get killed before sliding. Theyre sliding after LBs are already diving, etc.

If its even close, the tackler usually gets flagged, which IMO, is backwards. If its even close, the QB waited too long to slide, and deserved to get leveled.

The problem is, you dont get to the NFL without being a competitor, and QBs are going to stretch it as far as they can.

I think these rules are a downward spiral. The more you protect the QBs, the more theyre going to push things, and the more risky situations theyre going to be put in. IE, the more you enforce the "you can't hit the QB after he lets go of the ball," the longer QBs are going to wait to throw, assuming the guy is going to pull up.

Im all for having some late hit protection in the pocket, but as far as I'm concerned, the rest of the stuff needs to go. If a QB wants to run, he needs to be able to take a hit. If that means QBs need to start wearing real pads, and passing numbers go down, so be it.

18
by Goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:32pm

The league must deal with roughing the passer, its ruining the game. Great example last night, Seahawks stopped at midfield on 3rd & 10. Totally bogus roughing call on the packers, instead of punting the hawks get a 1st down at the 35. And I turn off the game disgusted, despite having zero bias for or against either team. Put in that context I understand Young being let go. What I don't understand:

Burress quiting on his route. If he just kept running he could have likely broken up the play.

Manning's last int.

Going deep on 2nd and four up 21 pts in the 4th.

Roughing the passer on 4th down.

...

19
by Kulko (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:37pm

Re 16.
You mean like the one suffered by Trent Green?

Apart from that I agree, that the misuse of that rule turns into a problem.

20
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:37pm

the compromise that the Gianst DE could have made was holding onto young without throwing him to the ground...young may have still completed a pass with someone wrapped around him but he wouldn't have run....

21
by BlackThunder (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:37pm

As a huge Giants fan, this was painful.

However, as I'm sure most knowledgable fans know, QB development isn't a linear progression. It's a bunch of bursts and sputters along the way.

Can Eli turn it around? Yes, he probably can. But the Giants' coaches definitely don't help him out by continuously calling low percentage deep passes. I would much rather have Eli throw short comebacks, curls, slants, screens, etc. Then run the ball with Tiki (and next year Jacobs) 30-40 times a game.

Lets face it - Eli's only 33 games into his starting career. Did the Giants give up too much in the trade? Probably. With better coaching and playcalling, can be be a Super Bowl winning QB? Absolutely.

22
by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:37pm

Mathias has my sympathies.

In seventh grade, I played fullback and MLB. In our final game of the year, against our big rival, and in the 2d half of tie game, I blitzed up the middle, with perfect timing. Snap, I'm through the gap and have the QB wrapped up before he's taken a 2d step back.

Then it seemed like everything stopped -- granted this was all in a split second -- and I suddenly was sure I must have jumped offside. I let go of the QB, everyone started moving again, and the QB completed a pass for first down. They scored a TD on that drive and we lost by 6.

That was 25 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. If only I could have the moment over again! '-)

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:44pm

I don't give a damn about how frustrated Burress is with Manning's inaccuracy. He CANNOT quit on a route, and thus give a db an unimpeded interception, and then follow it with a crappy tackle attempt! I don't even like the Giants, but that effort should be offensive to anybody who enjoys watching football. In addition, Burress is one of the highest paid players on that team, and thus has additional leadership responsibilities that the 45th guy on the roster does not shoulder. When the higher-paid guys dog it, it becomes more likely that other guys will lessen their intensity, given the higher paid guys are harder to move off the roster.

In order of inexcusability, the reasons for the collapse should be attributed first to Burress, second to Coughlin, third to Manning, and fourth, and perhaps not even then, to Kiwanuka.

Sorry for the profanity, but plays like Burress' should be viewed with utter and complete contempt. Without getting into a debate regarding free will, just look at it this way; no matter what any coach attempts, Eli Manning is never going to have the arm of Favre or the speed of Vick. He simply lacks the physical ability, and no amount of behavior modification can change that. On the other hand, millions of people make huge changes to their behavior, even behaviors which have deep seated and strong physical and psychological cravings at their center, after the right incentives and disincentives are made apparent. Whether Mannings' bad decisions are due to lack of effort, or lack of experience or cognitive ability in those circumstances, I can't say.

Burress, on the other hand, clearly just decided to stop trying, and given the nature of NFL contracts, has the incentives pretty set for a while now. Therefore, the only thing available to change his behavior is to put forth very large disincentives, and public scorn is often a good one. Heaping it on people who put forth the effort that Burress did is only somewhat rarely a bad idea.

24
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:52pm

Looking at Peyton's numbers in 2001 (his second full year in the league) there was a 5 game span where he threw 11 interceptions. If I remember, him and Mora had a spat in the media after the San Fransico game (4 int). Mora was fired and the rest is history.

25
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:52pm

I'm sorry, his FOURTH season in the league!

26
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 3:54pm

Mora was fired at the end of the season. Sorry, many brain farts!

27
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 4:50pm

Re: 19

If Green doesn't slide there, he doesn't end up injured. He's suggesting getting rid of sliding altogether.

28
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 4:51pm

as a titans fan, I am struck by the tone of about how the giants-titans game went...mainly in the mainstream media...

why is it that making mistakes in the 1st half is different than making mistakes in the 2nd half?

The giants were not destroying the titans before the big comeback. They were lucky to recover 2 fumbles, stop vince 1 inch shy of the goaline, and have the titans miss a FG.

The titans fumbled twice (and lost the ball twice) in the first half that resulted in a short field for the giants to score with. And this is interpreted to be the Giants are way better than the titans.

But in the 2nd half, the Giants make mistakes and this is still interpreted to be the Giants being better than the Titans and just messing up.

Where is the love for the titans? The giants were outplayed by the Titans for most of the game. But reading most mainstream media you would think that the giants were dominating for 3+ quarters then gave the ball away.

Pacman did more on those 2 INT's that led to scores than the Giants did on the fumbles they recovered.

29
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 4:51pm

24
You give me hope.

30
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 4:51pm

as a titans fan, I am struck by the tone of about how the giants-titans game went...mainly in the mainstream media...

why is it that making mistakes in the 1st half is different than making mistakes in the 2nd half?

The giants were not destroying the titans before the big comeback. They were lucky to recover 2 fumbles, stop vince 1 inch shy of the goaline, and have the titans miss a FG.

The titans fumbled twice (and lost the ball twice) in the first half that resulted in a short field for the giants to score with. And this is interpreted to be the Giants are way better than the titans.

But in the 2nd half, the Giants make mistakes and this is still interpreted to be the Giants being better than the Titans and just messing up.

Where is the love for the titans? The giants were outplayed by the Titans for most of the game. But reading most mainstream media you would think that the giants were dominating for 3+ quarters then gave the ball away.

Pacman did more on those 2 INT's that led to scores than the Giants did on the fumbles they recovered.

31
by dbt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:00pm

I'd like to see the old two step on "late" hits rule come back but keep the spearing/helmet-to-helmet rules. And a two step rule on the QB slide as well.

Finally, the "blow to the head" crap is just retarded. A hand on a helmet isn't that bad. Deal with it.

32
by NF (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:16pm

David Lewin's PFP article on drafted quarterback performance projection had an interesting model of QB development in the first 9 years that was used for assessing the performance of QBs. It was tangiential to the goals of the article, so it wasn't discussed much, but it is very interesting by itself. Lewin used DPAR/game to measure performance, and found that the most development of QBs usually occurs between the first and second year. However, the second-most was typically between the third and fourth year, with the least development between the second and third year. And that model also used estimated PAR from historical stats, so small sample size is not skewing the results.

Just a very peculiar result. I wonder if that is actually the "rookie" wall, that enough film of the QB is accumulated after two years that opposing defenses are able to take advantage of all the flaws in the QB's play.

33
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:16pm

#10:

Toomer, merely an average receiver at this point in his career...

Obviously he’s more than average. He was Manning’s security blanket and a chains mover.

And, by FO's own stats, 11% better than average (10.7% when adjusted for defense).

34
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:18pm

13: If you watch both of them play, Rivers is far more accurate and overall a better quarterback.

35
by NF (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:34pm

#13: Keenan McCardell this year is a shell of the player he was last year. I'm not even really sure if he is still the #1 or not. The best WR on the Chargers is Eric Parker.

36
by Kyle (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:44pm

Re: 1
AGREED eleventy billion percent. When Kiwi didn't wrap him up, I got angered of course but figured he was scared of the roughing the passer call. A mistake, sure, but it happens. Will Demps, on the other hand, saw Vince Young running full steam ahead and merely stopped and stared, doing his best impersonation of a USC defensive back in the Rose Bowl last year, jaw to the FieldTurf in awe of the Almighty Young One.

37
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:50pm

zack #28:

as a titans fan, I am struck by the tone of about how the giants-titans game went…mainly in the mainstream media

Eagles fans heard the same thing after Week 2. It was all about how the Giants had become a better football team than the Eagles because they could pick up their own fumble in the endzone after it bounced 20 yards down field and recover another fumble in scoring position and convert it to a score.

Basically, the Giants can do no wrong until they actually lose, and when they win or are winning, it is irrelevant how poorly they are playing.

38
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:56pm

Titans have been playing at 13.6% DVOA since week four. Colts DVOA right now is around 16% (Will be higher when the new ratings come out). Tennessee played Indy within a point earlier in the year. With this information, plus home field advantage for Tenn, it's starting to look like Tennessee can upset the Colts on Sunday.

39
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 5:58pm

Expanding on #19, and while Brady may be right about Urlacher's perception, he's wrong about how the NFL treats a player attempting to tackle a late-sliding QB. Green slid late. The defender (Geathers) was not penalized or fined. I personally thought he should have been, but as a Chiefs fan I'm biased. Many others, including the league, felt Geathers launched himself to make the tackle before Green began the slide and was not in a position to let up.

The "blow to the head" call last night was totally bogus.

40
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:08pm

Eli Manning started the game completing 16-21 passes with a short passing game. Why was that successful? BECAUSE THEY WERE RUNNING THE BALL WELL! As others have said on this site frequently, the Giants are a run the ball first, play-action pass second team. After the score became 21-7, the Giants got 7 yards on 5 first or second down carries by RBs. If the Giants do that, they won't win a game regardless of who they're playing. In the blame game order, I go (1) lazy Plaxico, (2) offensive line's performance in second half, (3) Kiwanuka, and (4) Manning. Unlike others, I can't give Kiwi a break.

IMO, the Giants' fall is directly attributable to injuries. In a month and three days, look at the difference between the starting lineups against Dallas and Tennessee. Eight starters were missing. Umenyiora and Arrington (obviously) haven't played a down since that game and neither has important backup Justin Tuck. Sam Madison has played two quarters since that DAL game. Strahan has played five quarters... Toomer played eight, two with a partially torn knee ligament... Petitgout six.

#30... No one is taking credit away from your team, but jeez, that's a homerific post. The Titans didn't get their second first down of the game until midway through the first quarter, missed a 48 yard FG (that's not a gimme), and couldn't score with 4 tries on 1st and goal from the 6 yard line. That's certainly not outplaying the Giants all game.

41
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:10pm

Oops, my bad. I meant the Titans didn't get their second 1st down until midway through the second quarter.

42
by Sunil (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:11pm

Re: 30
Zack - big Titans fan here. I agree whole-heartedly that the media has just not given enough credit where credit is due. The Titans have played solid ball in the last 7 weeks (bar one Sunday they just didn't play against JAX). The upswing has started since the Indy game and has largely gone unnoticed in the sports yak world that is increasingly focused on major market teams (a.k.a NFC East).I recently posted on another article (see link) that the Titans will only get better and I attribute this as much to VY as I do to the offensive line improvement and better play from the corners (Reynaldo included). I'm predicting a 7-9 season which would be quite an improvement for the young team. Will it be improvement enough for Bud Adams to fork out $5 million for Jeff Fisher next year? I don't know but I hope he does hang on to Fisher.

43
by G (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:24pm

KevinNYC,

I for one am done blaming the injuries and I've had it with Eli Manning (who's fast becoming more unpopular than A-Rod). They've still been in these games regardless of the injuries, but they speficially lost on Sunday by ignoring the simple rule of always sticking to what you do best. The pLAXico play should have never happened. With Eli struggling as mightly as he is, his attempts should be cut down to 15-20 a game, with no long passing plays in the 2nd half. I hope to god this Coughlin and his staff aren't back next year.

44
by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:26pm

re 24: I believe it was after that San Fran game that Mora gave everybodies favorite "Playoffs?!?" quote.

45
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:31pm

re #40

punts for the game:

titans=4
giants=5

scoring opportunities:

titans=3 TDs, 1 FG, 1 missed FG, stopped on 4th down at the 1 inch line

giants=3 TDs

turnovers:

titans=2 fumbles...giants were lucky to recover

giants=2 INT's...

Final score 24-21...Titans outplayed the Giants even with 3 of the lucky plays (2 fumbles, missed FG) going for the Giants...throw in the TD 1 inch a away and the titans could have won this game by double digits.

Again, the media narrative is that the Giants gave the game away. They did not. If anything the titans gave the game away by fumbling and then took it back by intercepting eli. The titans outplayed the giants, the giants did not give the game away.

46
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:34pm

re #40...more...

don't give me the injuries stuff...

we were playing a practice squaud guy at DE...the Giants DE back up was a first round draft pick.

We had a late draft pick rookie playing MLB b/c of an injury.

Our #1 WR is injured (givens).

Our #1 and #2 TE is injured (kinney and troupe)

Plus we are young anyways.

injuries are not an excuse...

47
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:38pm

#43... I still support Eli and I'm quite disappointed by Giants' fans reaction to him. He's not Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, or Ryan Leaf. Do these people realize Phil Simms highest QB rating his first 12 seasons was 78.6? Also his highest completion 57%?

The injuries have killed the defense because there's no depth. Four defensive linemen are playing 90% of the snaps, including a thin rookie DE and a backup DT playing DE. Even if Manning was playing like Johnny Unitas, the defense can't give up an average of 20+ points in the second half alone like they've done the past three games.

48
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:39pm

re: 1 and 36
I was thinking the same thing about USC. That was amazingly like what happened in the Champ game. I think VY clearly has some deceptiveness in his running style that causes people to freeze like that. A little understated juke step one way gets someone leaning and then he easily goes the other way while the guy can't adjust. Meanwhile it appears as though he was running straight past them and they didn't even want to get him.

49
by billsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:48pm

re: 13
You overstate the superiority of the Chargers' skill players. LDT wins over Tiki, but Barber is by no means "vastly inferior." DVOA even puts them at 3 and 4 rushing and 5 and 6 receiving, respectively. Who's #1 in rushing DVOA right now? Brandon Jacobs! FWIW, Michael Turner is #1 in the "not enough carries" category.
FO rates the offensive lines as 1 (NYG) and 2 (SD) for run-blocking, which is no surprise based on the mentioned RBs. For pass protection, SD comes in 11th, NY in 13th. Still pretty close.
Lorenzo Neal and Jim Finn are both very competent lead-blockers.
Gates and Shockey both have comparable stats, but the edge clearly goes to Gates, since Shockey tends to play like an idiot.
SD has an edge in receivers, but it's hard to compare the ability of receivers in a QB-neutral way.It's entirely possible that Eli Manning just isn't as good as Rivers, Kaeding, Merriman, and some extra cap space.

50
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:54pm

Zack, isn't that narrative understandable? Many of us didn't see the game, but we did see that a 21-0 lead was blown/taken away in the fourth quarter. It's not like a bunch of mindless fools are misinterpreting the game: from the outside, that is the narrative.

51
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:59pm

re #50...

I don't think so...

why are forced turnovers in the 4th quarter turned into the Giants giving the game away?

when unforced or lucky turnovers in the first quarter were b/c of superior giants play?

52
by Mnatr (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 6:59pm

One note about the rules protecting the QB:

Does anyone think it was much more than a marketing move by the NFL? The league doesn't want teams losing their QB to injury, putting in a scrub, and scoring 6 points a game. That turns fans outside of Chicago off.

I say this because announcers seem to think the rules are unfair because they are too protective of QBs. The league didn't make the rules to make things fair. They did it to make money.

53
by MIke (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:02pm

Again, the media narrative is that the Giants gave the game away. They did not. If anything the titans gave the game away by fumbling and then took it back by intercepting eli. The titans outplayed the giants, the giants did not give the game away.

Which it will tend to do when one team is leading by 21 points going into the second half of the 4th quarter. If the Titans were outplaying the Giants so badly, why didn't they have any points at that point? I suppose the Vince Young just fell down on the one yard line, with no help from the Giants defense. Causing fumbles isn't a part of defense (although recovering them is luck) either, I supppose.

54
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:02pm

39.
The Green non-call, was IMO, one of the few where they got it right with a non-call. There are a ton of late hit plays that get called that shouldnt, and a ton that should get called and dont. It just seems that whent the QB is involved (whether sliding, going out of bounds, or whatever) they like to throw flags.

55
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:08pm

52

The question is: Is the league's perception correct? I dont think so. They have this perception that we all want to see 45-43 games every week. I'm sorry some people dont find a good defensive game exciting, but plenty of us are turned off when neither team can stop the other one. Thats not a good game...

I think, in all its messiness, Chicago-NE was a great game. GB/SEA, on the other hand, wasnt. 300+ yards passing does not a good game make.

If they made the game less quarterback-centric, I dont think fan numbers would fall any, and an injury to that position wouldnt make as much difference. Unfortunately, they seem to be going towards the game being the equivalent of two guys in a field throwing balls through tires.

56
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:08pm

#46... What the hell are you so angry about? I NEVER said the Giants lost THIS game because of injuries. I said their poor play over the past 3 weeks is due MOSTLY to injuries. YOU said the Titans outplayed the Giants most of the game. There's literally no way a reasonable person can say that. The Titans didn't even score until there was 10 minutes left in the game. Prior to that, they missed a LONG FG and were stopped on 4th and goal run from the two yard line. The Giants weren't up 21-0 by magic. I agree that the Titans had to MAKE plays to win the game. That's obvious. However, I think we can both agree the game is over if the Giants make one of two plays that were already there... like Frank Walker hitting VY out of bounds when he's already short of the 1st down ON 4TH DOWN and Kiwi letting VY go ON 4th DOWN. Plays like that are why people are acting like the Giants "should've" won the game. They didn't.

57
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:13pm

re 56...

plays like that re why people are acting like the giants should've won the game?

again, why is plays in the 4th quarter different than plays in the 1st?

If the Titans fall on either of the fumbles, they win without the needed comeback. See how the game works.

I'm just amazed that after a great Titans win, what I read over and over in the main stream media is how the Giants gave it away.

Again, the titans gave it away by fumbling, and took it back by intercepting eli.

re 53...one fumble was caused...the other was unforced on a bad hand off between young and white...

58
by Mr.X (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:18pm

I call bullshit on the Kiwanuka’s tackle. Saying he feared for a Roughing call sounds like a total cop out to me. It's only 15 yards if the ball is gone. Dont scapegoat the rule. Man up and take blame for quiting on the play.

59
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:26pm

He appears to be settling in for a Jake Delhomme or Marc Bulger-type career. Most people do not realize that is not an insult. Among recent first overall picks, he is likely to have a better career than Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, and Alex Smith. He is likely to be worse than only his brother and Carson Palmer, two of the three best quarterbacks in football. Hopefully people will begin to understand that Eli can be a good but not great quarterback without being a major disappointment.

Couch, Vick, Carr, or Smith didn't force a draft day trade by threatening not to sign with the team that drafted them. If someone is that arrogant and elitist, just being good but not great isn't going to be enough. For Eli to not be considered a major disappointment, he not only has to be better than Rivers, he has to be better than Rivers, Merriman, and Kaeding combined. That's just not going to happen, and he deserves every single bit of criticism he gets. He brought this on himself.

60
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:30pm

Re: 58

Actually, it's 15 yards and an automatic 1st down. And considereing one scoring drive had already been kept alive by an automatic 1st down penalty, I can't kill him for trying to avoid another one.

61
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:34pm

57
Titans suck! Giants are amazing! Eli is the best quarterback ever, and teams from NYC can do no wrong! Tennessee is the new Afghanistan! Phil Simms is better than Steve McNair. Go Gators! There, I said it. Happy now?

Sheesh.

62
by Jim (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:38pm

Re: 59

Really? Eli forced the Giants to trade for him? All he did (to my knowledge) was say he wouldn't play for the Chargers. He didn't choose to get drafted #1, he didn't force a trade. He was very up-front about what he would and wouldn't do. (Heck, there are lots of companies in my chosen profession that I wouldn't choose to work for; why can't he express a similar preference). I don't think he claimed to be better than Rivers, for that matter. Now, I agree that he needs to be better than Rivers + Merriman to keep the Giants organization from looking stupid, but it's beyond me why people vilify Eli for that.

63
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:40pm

I was on the Titans bandwagon a year too early...

64
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 7:58pm

The question is: Is the league’s perception correct? I dont think so. They have this perception that we all want to see 45-43 games every week. I’m sorry some people dont find a good defensive game exciting, but plenty of us are turned off when neither team can stop the other one.

Actually, to be fair to the league, they just seem to be trying to maintain scoring parity, rather than go to 45-43 games each week. Scoring in general is down this year, and it was down last year, and only two years ago (for a one-year boost) was it up on a longer average.

It kinda seems to be that offense needs constant rule boosts in order to even keep pace with defenses.

65
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 8:37pm

As with any game, victory can have as much to do with the losing team's mistakes and shortcoming as it has to do with the winning teams successes and skills.

It's fair to say a team with a 21-0 lead in football blew the game; it's a sport that has strategic mechanisms for preserving victory.

However, it is also fair to say that the Titans took the game away. They forced the turnovers and made the plays to legitimately take the victory.

But it's hard to quantify whether victory is owed more to one team's goodness than the other team's badness.

66
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 8:58pm

Re #57. Please stop this "no respect" stuff. It is incredibly tiresome.

67
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 9:01pm

re #66

almost as tiresome as reading about how Kiwi's botched sack cost the Gmen the game...

68
by thad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 9:27pm

"again, why is plays in the 4th quarter different than plays in the 1st?"

Are you for real? Why do you think?

"Actually, to be fair to the league, they just seem to be trying to maintain scoring parity, rather than go to 45-43 games each week. Scoring in general is down this year, and it was down last year, and only two years ago (for a one-year boost) was it up on a longer average."
I don't have my PFP 2006 with me right now but I bet if you checked the tables in the back scoring would alwways hover between 20-22 points per game. There is a good article by Mike Tanier to go with it. I think almost every one of the rule changes he mentions over the years favors the offense.

69
by billsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 9:28pm

re: 57

It's really quite simple. Plays in the 4th quarter "is" more important than plays in the 1st quarter because the first quarter has three more following it, leaving time to make up for early mistakes. This past Monday's game is a perfect example: Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck both threw three interceptions and fumbled once. Hasselbeck's all came in the first half, including his fourth turnover: a fumble run back for a TD. Three of Favre's turnovers came in the last 6 minutes of the game. Guess who won?

Also take note of Seattle's last three possessions when protecting a close lead with 10 minutes left: 13 rushes, 4 passes.

70
by Zack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 9:46pm

so in the DVOA calculations is a first down in the first quarter worth more than a first down in the fourth quarter?

i stand by my statement.

the 21-0 score was misleading (isn't that what the site is about, not using the actually score as a measure of who played better?). The giants were not dominating the titans even though they were up by 3 TD's.

They were the recipient of 2 lucky bounces of the football on fumbles and capitalized with a short field.

I'm loving how annoyed people are when the conventional wisdom that the titans suck this year is not true.

the giants were lucky the titans decided to spot them some points...in no way did the giants choke a game away in which they were the better team.

:)

71
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 10:12pm

Zack is somewhat correct in that every single play is just as important as every other play. People put too much emphasis on the beginning ("setting the tone") and the end ("finishing" or "clutch"). Some people say that an early mistake puts you in better position to fix it. Sure, you have more opportunities. You might have a higher percentage chance of doing so. That doesn't make the late one any more important, however, because you still have an opportunity to fix it, unless it's at the very end.

At which point, you wouldn't be in that position had you played better on one of those boring, "insignificant" downs during the middle of the game.

Cherry-picking mistakes doesn't get anyone anywhere, however. I would also say that fumbling in general is a) much more dependent upon the offence than the defence and b) either random or at least randomly distributed (within situations). I hate it when commentators talk about critical fumbles "forced" in the red zone. Everyone plays to strip the ball, it's how they train and what they drill. That defender was in the right place and the ballcarrier was holding it just the right way. Sure, it's great for the team, but people talk about defences "based upon" takeaways. The way I see it, this is just a code for "has played a lot of bad offences."

So, ranting aside, complaining about turnovers helping the other team really doesn't help the loser; it's a bunch of luck, choosing poor paths and bad ball control habits (paging Mr. Vick... Mr. Vick...). How does that make the losing team look better, again?

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 10:50pm

I think almost every one of the rule changes he mentions over the years favors the offense.

Um. Yes. See my previous comment. Scoring almost always goes down in football over the years. In order to keep things constant, rules changes therefore will always favor the offense.

As a point: 1984 had teams averaging 42.4 points per game. By 1993, teams were averaging 37.4 points per game. They then "reemphasized" the illegal contact rule, and it jumped to 40.9 points per game. 2004, after the last "rules change"? 43 points per game. Last year? 41.2 points per game. Note a pattern? The rules changes aren't shoving the total points per game consistently upwards. They're just maintaining parity - about 40 points per game.

When teams scored more in 1984 than in 2005, and all the rules changes favor the offense, it's fair to say that for some reason in the NFL, defense always wins.

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 11:17pm

Yes, Zack, a 10 yard pass for a first down in the fourth quarter, while trailing 42-0, is worth less, by DVOA calculations, than a 10 yard pass for a first down in the first quarter, while the score is 0-0. Having said that, you are likely correct that the Giants were not dominating in the fashion that a 21-0 fourth quarter lead suggests. Having said that, however, being in possession of a fourth quarter 21 point lead, no matter how it was obtained, should allow one to adopt a strategy that prevents loss of said lead in the overwhelming majority of such occasions arising.

Thus, even when the team trailing by a large late margin has clearly better personnel, like the Bears have in relation to the Cards, it is entirely appropriate to remark on the ineptitude of the Cards in blowing said lead.

When the trailing team does not have such an edge in personnel, as the Titans do not have over the Giants, it is even more reasonable to remark on the ineptitude of the Giants in blowing such a lead.

As to which qurter's plays are more important, one can't really say without a given context. However, if one were a coach, and was given the option, prior to the season, of having each initial possession in the games result in a touchdown, or having the last possession in each game result in a touchdown, knowing that one's memory of being given such an option would be immediately erased, before the season's start, one would be crazy not take the touchdowns on the initial possessions. Having the the early lead, or immediately erasing an opponent's early lead, is always very, very, powerful, while scoring seven point in the final possession is without meaning in many games.

74
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/28/2006 - 11:27pm

Pat, I think it is due to the width of the field remaining the same size, while the players get bigger and faster. This favors defense, because a bigger, faster, player can better defend a static space, no matter that the offensive player is also bigger and faster. We're eventually going to run out of rule changes that don't mean the end of the game of "football" as we understand it, and then we are going to wish the grandstands were on movable rollers, cuz to maintain the scoring averages, the field will either have to be made shorter or wider. I'd prefer wider, not being a big fan of arena football.

75
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 12:18am

I’d prefer wider, not being a big fan of arena football.

Just a wild guess, because you don't seem amused by the irony: not much of a football (ancient) historian? Do you know the last time there was the idea of expanding the width of a football field?

1906. Walter Camp wanted to widen the field (again ironic, considering he reduced it in the first place) instead of instituting the forward pass. The intention there was to reduce the number of deaths resulting from the game. One could say that's essentially the same thing as reducing the strength of the defense. :)

Camp's idea was abandoned for the same reason it won't happen now (which you alluded to): because Harvard Stadium had just been built.

76
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 12:43am

Interesting, if pseudo-scientific, article on the Giants' body language in today's New York Times. Some choice quotes from two body-language experts who watched a tape of Giants-Titans:

“Even when they were winning, their body language wasn’t all that good,� Reiman said. “They seem to have a defeatist attitude. You see disagreement and restrained anger. There’s not a lot of communication among them.�

I noticed the same thing in the Giants-Jaguars game. They looked like they were playing with no energy - I'm not sure if (on defense) that's a result of injuries to personable stars (Strahan, Arrington), the vanilla-flavored defense (few blitzes because of the injuries), or something else.

Manning is like a movie star,� Fiel said. “He seems sort of elite, detached, above everything. I think he’s an introverted, locked-up guy, not very connected to the others. Nobody speaks to him. He acts so alone.�

Not a personality you want in your franchise QB.

Burress watched as the interception led to a touchdown and eventually a loss. “It was an indication he had given up,� Reiman said. “It was such a lack of effort, a lack of spirit. I didn’t understand it.�

Again, nothing new.

“I don’t see any positive reinforcement from the coach,� Reiman said. “He always seems to have a downtrodden look.�

Coughlin, stone-faced through his first two years as the Giants’ head coach, recently has shown some cracks. Running up and down the sideline Sunday, he seemed to realize what was at stake, for his career and the team’s future.

“The guy is suffering,� Fiel said. “He looked like his eyes filled up with tears. It is all going on inside of him.�

77
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 1:08am

Now that I think about it, Pat, how much ticket revenue would be sacrificed by removing seven rows from each long side of the field, to widen the field by 10 yards? Heck, even widening by five would have a non-trivial effect on the safeties ability to give corners help, and on the corners to lend run support, to say nothing of the added pressure on linebackers to cover the flats. If the reduced seats can be sold at a higher price, and the added scoring was seen as helping aiding t.v. ratings, maybe it could happen after all.

78
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 1:57am

#77: I think the easier solution (and the one they're on a trajectory towards) is to simply give WRs a big ol' stick to beat DBs into submission with.

Remember, widening the field would help the running game, too. We don't like running. We like passing.

79
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 4:56am

I did an MGoBlog-style UFR on the Titans' offensive plays in the 4th quarter, if anyone's interested. See link in name, or go here and scroll down until you see the mondo chart.

80
by jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 6:12am

Another Titans homer checking in....

I don't agree that the Titans outplayed the Giants, nor do I believe that the opposite is true. I actually think it was a very evenly matched game.

The Giants scored their first points at Q1-4:26, and scored their last TD at Q2-8:09....approximately an 11½ minute scoring spree.

The Titans first scored at Q4-9:38, and scored for the last time in the games closing seconds....a 9½ minute scoring spree.

During those short bursts, it was as if one team could do no wrong, while the other could do no right. Both teams moved the ball at will and scored easily.

But other than that, the two teams battled each other to a standstill. The one exception was the Titans' drive down to the NYG goal line toward the end of the first half...other than that, they played between the 30's for most of the day.

I do think Manning is receiving a bit too much blame for his "poor" passes...personally, I thought both balls were well thrown, and would have been completions if not for the spectacular play of Pacman Jones. On the first INT, Pacman took away the route from Plax and got inside him; rather than getting flagged for PI, Burress chose to give up on the route. But the fact remains that Pacman's coverage forced Burress' hand one way or the other, and he made a very difficult over-the-shoulder catch at full speed with his arms fully extended.

On Pacman's second INT, he basically played rope-a-dope, making Eli believe he was covering the short area, then quickly breaking for the deeper route. The ball was actually well-thrown....had Pacman stayed short or mistimed his jump, then that play was probably a TD, or at least huge gain. Pacman jumped about 5 feet straight up, tipped the ball to himself, and caught it as he fell to the ground. Manning's decision to throw the ball was questionable, but the interception wasn't the result of a poor throw...it was simply a remarkable effort by Pacman Jones. (Off-field issues aside, you really need to check this kid out....he's always been an exciting returner, but his defensive play has improved immensely this year. He's become the illegitimate lovechild of Deion Sanders and Dante Hall....crazy stuff.)

81
by Sunil (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 9:48am

Re: 80

illegitimate lovechild of Deion Sanders and Dante Hall….crazy stuff.)

Still laughing at this comment.... Titans homer here too - good to see Pacman get some props. He's on a hot streak right now - hardly gets any balls thrown towards him.
Also, your observations are on the money re: Pacman's play. Eli's reads on both plays were accurate when the ball was thrown - he didn't account for Plaxico giving up on INT 1 and Pacman juking him on INT 2.

82
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 12:28pm

Remember, widening the field would help the running game, too. We don’t like running. We like passing.

I don't think the rules committee particularly cares about running vs passing - I think the only reason passing rules get changed are because they're the obvious ones which can be changed that actually have a real effect on scoring.

I know it's a pretty standard cliche that the league is constantly trying to make a high scoring, aerial, exciting game, but I really think it's just that - a cliche. Teams in 1984 averaged 228 yards passing a game. Teams in 2005 averaged 218 yards passing a game. Teams in 2006 are averaging 220 yards passing a game. That's 21 years, multiple rules changes which directly encourage passing and protecting the quarterback (1996, 2001, 2004, and now 2006) and we still have less passing than we did in 1984 (and 1983, which was 225 yards passing a game).

If the NFL rules committee is trying to encourage passing and scoring in order to get 45-41 games, they're doing a really piss-poor job of it.

83
by morganja (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 4:36pm

The roughing the passer calls are turning the league into a sad joke. How many games are being decided by bad roughing the passer calls that punish a player for clean hits? The Peppers hit on Campbell sunday and the Hasselbeck hit both were game changing calls. The first called back an interception in a close game, the other led to a touchdown instead of a punt. I watched two games this weekend and both were essentially decided by terrible roughing the passer penalties.

On Brady's potential slide getting by Urlacher and Green's slide leading to his penalty, the difference is that Brady is an annointed star by the NFL. If that had happened to Brady instead of Green, the defender would have been suspended for the year. How many Personal Fouls has Vick drawn while on one of his scampers? It defies belief.

84
by Jim G (not verified) :: Wed, 11/29/2006 - 5:48pm

Couch, Vick, Carr, or Smith didn’t force a draft day trade by threatening not to sign with the team that drafted them. If someone is that arrogant and elitist, just being good but not great isn’t going to be enough. For Eli to not be considered a major disappointment, he not only has to be better than Rivers, he has to be better than Rivers, Merriman, and Kaeding combined. That’s just not going to happen, and he deserves every single bit of criticism he gets. He brought this on himself.

Eli couldn't "force" anything by himself. Everybody has the right to try to get the best deal for himself that he can. There's nothing arrogant or elitist about it. Even you have the right to do it when you get a job.

The person responsible for this situation is Giants' GM Ernie Accorsi -- he's the one who signaled that the Gints would pay anything for Eli and the one who actually agreed to do so. Without him Eli couldn't force a dang thing.

If the deal "Rivers + three draft picks who became regulars for Eli" turns into a monumental bust for the Gints, the person for Gints fans to be "disappointed" in -- make no mistake about it -- is Accorsi, not Eli.

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by ElTiante (not verified) :: Fri, 12/01/2006 - 12:51am

Kevin Gilbride is the NYG's QB coach. Some people (in Buffalo, for example) understand now why Buddy Ryan once tried to punch him out. I'm surprised his name hasn't come up in relation to the Eli nondevelopment issue.

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by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/01/2006 - 10:58am

Re: 84

I am so goddamned sick and tired of people trying to apply real-world business practices to sports. They are two completely different things! Eli participated in a DRAFT. My job did not draft me. Eli could have chosen not to participate in the draft, and then any bargaining he took part in after that would have been fine. BUT HE DIDN'T. He decided that he was such an immense talent that the same rules that apply to everyone else didn't apply to him. And that is the definition of elitist and arrogant.

Accorsi is a moron. Eli is an elitist douchebag with more ego than talent.