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24 Oct 2005

Audibles at the Line: Week 7

Hey, folks, we're going to try something new this week. Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. In an effort to get some Monday morning content going, we're going to experiment with putting some of these comments online in a bit of a notebook format. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.

By the way, the discussion thread for this roundtable is an excellent place to suggest injuries you would like to see Will Carroll cover in this week's Black and Blue Report. And at the end we'll give you a little preview of what games we're analyzing later in the week.

Philadelphia Eagles 20, San Diego Chargers 17

Mike Tanier:The Eagles defense played very well overall. On several big Chargers plays, their receivers were covered but made great plays on the ball. The Chargers got the ball in Eagles territory several times and only really had one long drive.

The Eagles had several productive drives, but for most of the second half they couldn't move the ball at all. There were a lot of dropped passes and poor throws by McNabb in the second half.

Merriman is really good.

L.J. is a fumble machine. I am not sure how he holds the ball but I've never seen a football just pop out of an NFL player's hands so often. And on that final clock-error play of the first half, I think it is his mental error, not Reid's or McNabb's. McNabb throws a pass to a receiver next to the sidelines. The receiver turns upfield. Duh.

I am guessing that the first read was end zone. McNabb was out of pocket and should have thrown it away, but he probably figured he could make a play. I am guessing that with Todd France kicking, no one assumes an easy field goal.

And McNabb's red and maroon zone decisions are getting a little punchy. The guy really knows how to get sacked out of field goal range.

The Philly media is in the process of declaring Armageddon despite the win. My feeling is that if you re-order the plays in this game, it doesn't look like a "lucky" win. Stick the blocked field goal in the first quarter and the TD to Owens in the fourth, and suddenly this is a gritty, come-from-behind win where the offense "got it together at crunch time" and McNabb "did enough to win" blah blah blah.

And by the way ... on the second play from scrimmage, Reid called a run to Westbrook, who gained six yards. The crowd at the Holiday Inn next to the Linc cheered. A running play! But it was called back.

Michael David Smith: Did everyone see how San Diego just gave away its trick play? Drew Brees was in the shotgun and they did a direct snap to Tomlinson, but they didn't get the play off in time and the clock expired, so the play didn't run. Way to show off your trick plays without getting anything out of them. (The Colts ran the same play and Manning got called for illegal motion.)

Bill Moore: You notice how they stupidly called it again on 3rd-goal from the 15? They'll get nothing and like it.

Ned Macey: I only got back home for maybe the last 5 minutes of this game, but two plays stood out. First, McNabb was pressured and was unable to escape Castillo, gaining only two yards. Healthy McNabb would have busted out of the pocket and gains serious yardage. Second was the play where they threw on 4th-and-1 and McNabb made an awful throw to a covered Lamar Gordon. I dismissed this lack of running game thing all year, but it is starting to be a problem.

Bill:At the end, SD started marching again with success deep. Here are my exact notes from the last drive:

Note 1 -- abt 1:45 left in game "How long before Reche Caldwell becomes a household name?"

[He had made a number of good catches .... One play passes .... Caldwell catches another long pass that clearly puts them in AT LEAST FG range ... fumbles]

Note 2 -- abt 1:34 left, "That's not what I meant."

Aaron Schatz: I think next week I'll count Donovan McNabb's play fakes. I swear, the Eagles must play fake on at least half their offensive plays, and I don't know why any team would take these fakes seriously.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 13

Ryan Wilson: The penalties against the Steelers in the Bengals game were ridiculous (even as a homer, I still think this to be the case). After a first down catch, Hines Ward got an unsportsmanlike pentalty for gesturing for a first down after spiking the ball. Ike Taylor got an unsporstmanlike penalty after hip tossing Chad Johnson in bounds in what looked to be a completely legal tackle. Chris Hope was called for a late hit out of bounds on a play that was obviously anything but a late hit out of bounds. And as long as I'm complaining as a Steelers fan, Hines was called for a bogus hold, and the officials blew a Cincy fumble dead even though it was a legit fumble. Honestly, this game could've been 42-6 if not for all the official intervention. After watching this game, I'm convinced that every conceivable infraction is a point of emphasis this season.

Russell Levine: Ryan, I don't think you're being a homer, except the call on Chris Hope probably gets made more often than not. He got a little extra shove in there, several yards out of bounds.

The Bengals really did not answer the bell today. They looked great on their first drive, had an incredible TD catch by CJ overturned on replay, had another TD pass dropped, then missed a field goal, and largely folded up the tent after that. Not that surprised, given that it's the team's first really big division game in god knows how long and Pittsburgh has played dozens of them in that time.

Ryan: The Steelers rushed the ball 33 times for 220+ yards, and threw the ball 9 times for 93. And of the 9 passes, Heath Miller caught 6 while Hines caught the other three. And yes, his River Dance impression was actually worse than his T.O. impression last season.

The Steelers pass rush did a good job of making Palmer rush his throws, and they ended up with 2 picks and a couple of sacks. And they also didn't let CJ get involved in the game. Both Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden (who didn't start, but came in as the #2 CB later in the game) both played pretty well, and if those two guys can consistently perform, it will give Dick LeBeau even more freedom to send LBs on blitzes.

The Bengals run defense is worse than advertised. To take this team out of the game, all you do is run it straight up the middle, right at Odell Thurman. Thurman's great in pursuit, but he's not very strong at the point of attack (learned that phrase from Mike Mayock). The Steelers basically ran The Bus right at him all day (and ran Willie Parker outside).

New York Giants 24, Denver Broncos 23

Aaron: Denver looks like the dominant team that their fans thought they were before -- they are much better this week in the red zone and on third downs to go with everything they were doing well already. In the third quarter, at least, they didn't have the second half problems they've had in weeks past. [Note: This e-mail was sent at the start of the fourth quarter.] They're running all over the Giants, and the defense is confusing Manning with a lot of late blitzes, where someone runs in late after the blockers have all decided who to take, and so Al Wilson or John Lynch comes in unblocked...

Ned: The forgotten big play of the DEN-NYG game is that after Denver intercepted Manning late (funny how people will forget to mention that one in talking about Manning's amazing courage ... although in his defense it looked like Burress should have laid out for the ball and at least knocked it down) was the Broncos facing a 3rd-and-5 and intending the pass for Tatum Bell covered by Will Allen. On a play that can win you the game, is this possibly the matchup you want? Further, there was a definite possibility they would run the ball into the line and make the Giants use a timeout, but instead they motion Bell out before the snap and go empty backfield. Awful play call that allowed Eli to be the hero.

Oakland Raiders 38, Buffalo Bills 17

MDS: I didn't watch a lot of Oakland-Buffalo, but I think Derrick Burgess is really starting to look like one of the best pass rushers in the league. I think he's a great fit for the Rob Ryan defense, which is all attack and no read-and-react for the defensive ends. MikeT, any idea why he wasn't that kind of pass rusher in Philly?

Mike T.: The dude was never ever healthy. Then we had Kearse on his side of the field. Finally, Kearse switched sides and he had a great playoff series.

It helps that Ryan shuttles guys off the field a lot and splits his DE's reeeaaaaly far wide.

Ned: Obviously, the big story in BUF-OAK is that Buffalo's run defense sucks. The most impressive player, however, was Doug Gabriel. He was a beast. It made me wonder if any position gets as little out of early 1st round picks as wide receivers. So many of even the great receivers are 2nd and 3rd round picks, and people like Gabriel just show up out of nowhere. I'm probably forgetting someone (and I know Mike Williams played well today), but I think Brandon Jones has been the best rookie wide receiver this year, and he went in the 3rd round. Of course, under the theory that whatever Matt Millen does must be wrong, this may be an obvious observation.

MDS: It'll come as no surprise to hear that I think early first round is just to high to take a receiver. Actually, Mike Williams didn't play as well as his stats look. He made some plays, but he also lost a fumble, and there were a couple of plays when he was obviously the first option but Garcia had to look elsewhere because Williams didn't get any separation. I was a big Doug Gabriel fan when he was at Central Florida. Glad to see he's doing well.

Bits and Pieces

MDS: So what's with the epidemic of players punching opponents in the nuts? Logan Mankins last week, Damione Lewis this week. I was stunned the NFL only fined Mankins $7500. They threatened Jake Plummer with a bigger fine than that for refusing to take his Pat Tillman sticker off his helmet.

Al Bogdan: I never understood why NFL players don't wear cups. Maybe this rash of nut punching will get players to start wearing them.

Ned: I only watched the first half of DAL-SEA, and in what I saw, Hasselbeck had nobody open to throw to. In particular, Hackett seemed to always have somebody on him (except for one play where he beat Newman and Hasselbeck underthrew him). Bledsoe completely reverted to his old form, holding the ball, taking hits, and apparently throwing the game away.

MDS: [Sent during second quarter] So Garcia has already used two timeouts and taken a delay of game. And do you know what the announcer (Ron Pitts) said? "Garcia not afraid to burn the timeouts today." He said it like it's a good thing!

[A few minutes later] And the first half ends with the Lions in field goal range but unable to get the field goal team on the field because they're out of timeouts. Good thing Garcia isn't afraid to burn timeouts.

Russell: Man, if the Saints didn't think everyone had it in for them after last week, I'm sure they all do now. Got killed on a tough non-replay call on a play that started outside the last two minutes and finished inside, but they were out of timeouts and couldn't challenge.

MDS: We might be talking about San Francisco as one of the worst teams of all time.

Tim Gerheim: Washington Redskins:San Francisco 49ers::Texas Longhorns:Texas Tech Red Raiders. That is, 52-17. Now quit hyperventilating; this isn't the SAT's. That says more about how terrible the 49ers are than how good the Skins are though. I still don't trust Washington, but I can no longer come up with a logical reason for it.

After Peyton's really terrible interception to Dunta Robinson (who, by the way, absolutely ought to go to the Pro Bowl), they caught this little smirk on Manning's face on replay. It said, roughly, "oh well, let the kids have their fun." Mind you, the score is 14-7 at this point, and the ensuing Texans drive ties the game. I don't know if that's confidence or arrogance, but it's embarassing that he was right.

Later This Week

Tuesday's Any Given Sunday: Raiders over Bills
Thursday's Every Play Counts: Cincinnati defensive line

Posted by: admin on 24 Oct 2005

89 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2005, 2:47pm by Sid

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 2:30pm

Hey, Aaron, you've got a typo there.

In an effort to get some Monday morning content going,

Let me fix that for you.

In an effort to eliminate all work days for our readers,

Much better!

2
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 2:47pm

It seems that the more I see Manning or hear about him, he's more and more of a cocky jerk. I dunno, maybe it's just what I've been seeing and hearing and he's really a great guy, but I think the word that crosses my mind first when I think of him is "petulant."

3
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 2:57pm

I give Drew Brees a lot of credit for how he played yesterday. With no running game to speak of, and with the Eagles blitzing hard on nearly every snap, Brees knew that he had to buy a little time and then attack the defense over the top, even if it meant taking a big hit in the process. You're never going to hit on all of those deep throws, but you'll hit on enough to make the defense pay for its overreliance on Cover 1 and Cover 0.

4
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 2:59pm

RE: Eagles and running game:
Although I was stunned that Reid decided to throw it on fourth and short, I have to conclude that Reid will simply continue to throw as long as he thinks that will be more productive than running. If teams stop reacting to the play-fake, I imagine there will be more running.

This may be the result of having a shaky running game. That is, due to injuries, Reid knows he cannot run the ball 35 times a game, he simply does not have the running backs to do so. And so a proclivity to throw becomes an outright mania to throw, despite injuries to McNabb.

Can you imagine an injured McNabb AND an injured Westbrook on top of Buckhalter? I can't, or at least don't want to as an Eagles fan.

5
by Opiwan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:00pm

I can tell you why football players don't wear cups. You're already mobility-limited (at least I was, but I'm not all that mobile to start with, nyuck-nyuck) by all the pads you're wearing, and to have another uncomfortable hunk of plastic in your groin region when you're already wearing hip pads and a tail pad (like we were requried to in high school) isn't something many people are interested in. Besides, do you think that pro athletes, half of whom don't even seem to want to wear mouth guards, are going to voluntarily wear a cup? I think not...

6
by foos (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:07pm

Re: cups

The cup can shift during play and the edge can actually be more effective crushing nuts than any opponent's fist. FYI.

7
by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:10pm

Just lost my post - add this user to list of those who liked the old preview better. Anyway...

Opposing kickers are something like 12-12 or 13-13 against the Cowboys. Is that an oddity at this point (with a minimum of, say, 8 attempts against), or, being week 7, is the season still too early on for this to be noteworthy?

Maybe it's in my mind because Aaron wrote about something similar happening to the 1998 Cowboys. Or maybe Cortez's miscues make such stats stand out all the more.

8
by Tim Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:10pm

I'm with Ned on the 3rd&5 empty backfield being a poor call by Denver - I can't help feel that even a half-hearted play-fake with Bell or Anderson and Plummer under centre would have had a chance to make some space. They've run at least as well as passed on that sort of length of third down it seems this year, and had been breaking tackles and running over Giants earlier. Oh well... If you win games playing badly, you have to expect to lose some you play pretty well in...

9
by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:12pm

I always hated wearing a cup. What I never understood was why they couldn't make a protective padding that was soft rather than hard. The groin protectors that boxers wear seem to be more comfortable and more effective than the traditional cup, but those don't seem to be widely available.

When I was in fourth grade I was standing in line to get equipment for my youth football team and another kid on my team was looking at the list of required equipment and asked me, "What's a jock and cup?" I didn't quite know how to explain it to him, but an older kid turned around and helpfully said, "Just tell your dad you need a contact lens and a band-aid." Good times.

10
by Kuato (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:16pm

[i] I never understood why NFL players don’t wear cups. Maybe this rash of nut punching will get players to start wearing them. [/i]

Football players don't wear cups? I never knew that and it is insane. One strange bounce from a baseball taught me a lesson I would never forget.

11
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:17pm

I'm still amused by the fact that sportswriters everywhere are lambasting the Eagles for passing on roughly 70% of their plays, yet completely ignoring the fact that the Chargers did as well.

12
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:21pm

Funny how Denver's loss can be attributed to a failure to convert on 3rd and 5, just like DVOA said was Denver's big problem. I guess the formula doesn't have to be fixed after all.

13
by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:23pm

To say that Reid doesn't run because he doesn't have the personnel is no excuse. He didn't just inherit this team without a running game. Yeah, Buckhalter got hurt, but it's the front office's (including Reid) job to have a backup plan. It's the NFL. People are going to get hurt, especially guys like Corell Buckhalter who are always hurt. They had the draft to get a Plan B and they took Ryan Moats who is less capable of handling a running gane than Westbrook.

14
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:23pm

Regarding the cup thing, and wouldn't it be fitting for a cup article to appear in the Saints chapter, since that's where Benson and San Antonio plan on punching us Saints fans, it hinders mobility, really doesn't help in the long run, and proves one's wussness. Hell, many of the "skill position" guys don't wear knee, thigh, hip, or butt pads these days.

I know that if I saw a guy on the pitch wearing a cup, he would get ridiculed to the point of death.

15
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:43pm

RE 11:
The Chargers didn't run because the Eagles completely shut down their running game. The Eagles seem to just not like running. I know it's an overstated point, but I agree with the million or so people who claim the Eagles will not win a superbowl without a power running game. It doesn't even have to be great, just adequate. And yes, I think Westbrook is a glorified 3rd down/change of pace back. He has good skills, but he's still limited. Good luck getting 4th-and-1 straight up the middle with him.

16
by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 3:58pm

Tim Gerheim and Fnor:

Mindreading at Football Outsiders? What can we look forward to next?

Having spent a lot of time in huddles and on sidelines, I can assure you that whatever you think you saw is wrong. Even speculating is really silly.

17
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:01pm

Mike Williams did seem to play better on Sunday than in his other games so far, but he is developing a distressing habit of fumbling while trying to get an extra yard. Look, guy, the extra yard doesn't make much of a difference with this offense. Go down after an 8-yard gain and be happy with it.

18
by Bobby Mozitis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:07pm

The reason the eagles run so few times is that their O-line is built for pass blocking. Thats their strength. They just dont ever seem to produce good holes for Westbrook to run through. So the Eagles just use the short pass as their running game. Theyve been doing it for years. Thats not their problem. (althoug the playfakes don't make much sense.) Mcnabb not being able to move is their main problem on offense......................Also, I couldn't beleive how long it took Schottenheimer to start passing every down. It was obvious that the Eagles whole gameplan was to stop Tomlinson, but it wasn't until midway thru the 3rd quarter that Marty decided to open up the offense, and thats exactly when SD started scoring..................Hopefully Sheldon Brown will start getting some recognition now. He's better than Lito Sheppard, and was last year too, despite Sheppard getting more accolades and a pro-bowl appearance. Sheppard is good too, but his high interception total last year led to him being over-rated by the press. Brown has been much more consistent.

19
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:11pm

Cortez is fired! There is some sanity in the league.
Martz is out. The world still sucks :/.

20
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:14pm

Well as a former hockey player (for maybe 16-17years) I would have to say that a cup does ever so slightly hamper mobility (maybe 2-3%, just an educated guess). At the same time getting hit in the nuts can be a horrible, horrible experience. Once (when I was maybe 15)in a no pads captains' practice I took a stick to the nuts and I seriously could not walk for over 2 weeks. I am really surprised football players do not wear them. I suppose things are not moving nearly as quickly as they are in hockey. Plus there are no sticks/pucks.

21
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:17pm

Merriman is really good.

Except when he draws costly unnecessary roughness penalties...
Wasn't it Merriman who incurred a 15 yard penalty on what would have been a drive-ending sack? I know Godfrey made a similar mistake by driving McNabb into the turf on the next play.

22
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:20pm

stan:
So I'm supposed to pretend I didn't see Manning try to chat up the refs in between plays? Or stare daggers at the Baltimore bench because they DARED to score a touchdown in garbage time? Or that whiny look he had last year in the NE loss?
I mean, yeah, I'm not there, but if you give off body language like that and say things like what Tim quoted, you're not building a great case in my book.

23
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:20pm

My point about the Eagles and the running game is this: If you believe that you are better off throwing the ball 70% of the time, are you irresponsible for throwing the ball 70% of the time? Wouldn't it be irresponsible if you threw the ball 50% of the time if you believe and knew that you are a better team if you throw it more often? How many wins per year does Reid win? How close did the Eagles come to winning the Superbowl last year? How many home losses do the Eagles have in the past 3 years?

If the Eagles are not as strong a team as they expected this year, it isn't because they don't run the ball. Are people blaming the Patriots for their scheme this year? The Eagles schedule has been a lot tougher than anyone anticipated this year, and they have struggled since McNabb's (their star player, mind you) injury. If Manning had a sports hernia and was less effective because of it, would people criticise that offensive system?

All the said, I still can't believe that they threw on fourth and short. I mean, that was amazing.

24
by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:25pm

Becephalus, you honestly couldn't walk for more than two weeks? What did you do? Bed rest? Wheelchair? How did you explain it to people? Did your mom have to call your teachers and tell them you'd be out of school indefinitely because of severely swollen testicles?

I had a teammate on my youth football team (a few years after the aforementioned story) whose mom came to practice one day and said, in front of all the other kids, "My son won't be here because he bruised his testicles on a roller coaster yesterday." That went over real well with the rest of us.

25
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:32pm

JG (#15): Are you trying to say that you think it was a good thing for SD to run as much as it did (gaining so little)? You don't think that if SD had the game to do over, they would've passed a lot more (and done a lot better)?

26
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:40pm

I've worn cups for organized football and unorganized roller hockey (only when I was goalie), and I always got used to it just like any other pad. I always figured the slight decrease in mobility was offset by the bonus of not getting hit in the nuts.

I think it would be funny if someone tried to ridicule me to the point of death for wearing a cup on the field. I figure I'd enjoy a good laugh, right after I racked him in the nuts.

On a more football-related note, I didn't catch the end of Cleveland/Detroit, but I heard part of it on the radio. Was I imagining things, or did the Browns punt while trailing with about 1:25 to go?

27
by Xao (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:42pm

Fnor,

Manning didn't actually deliver the quote in Tim's email. That was Tim's interpretation of an expression on Manning's face. I have to agree with Manning's displeasure with Baltimore during the Ravens' game. I'd consider it fairly bush league to try and extend a decided game after Indy had already tried to do the humane thing and end it. Manning's stare was certaintly no more ridiculous than the Baltimore coaching staff's decision.

28
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:48pm

I'm going to say it again: why the heck is it good to pack it in? And why the heck would you take offense at the other team not doing so? And, again, at what point does packing it in become "cool?" The Ravens were toast in the third quarter in that game. Should they just have traded kneeldowns and punts, since it was already decided? And what about the value of at least giving your young QB some reps, even if it isn't against starters, it's better than the practice squad he's used to playing.
I think the better question is: why should we ever expect a football team, a group that we all expect grit, toughness, never-say-die attitude and all that, to simply roll over a die? It doesn't make any sense. "Bush League" is getting pissy when the opposing team has the gall to *gasp* PLAY FOOTBALL!

29
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:48pm

Pat,
What I meant was designing an offense with no short yardage running capability is going to be a severe handicap. You don't necessaraly need a 100 yard rusher, but if you don't have one you atleast need a guy who can grind out some yards at the goal line and late in the game when you're leading. Kinda the role that Bettis plays now, or even that rookie the Giants have (Brandon Jacobs?).
As far as the Chargers go, they were absolutely right in abandoning the run and should have atleast considered it earlier. The difference is that in that case SD was modifying a game plan to meet a certain situation. Had the game gone the other way they would have been perfectly capable of switching to a power running game and grinding out the clock. Philly doesn't have that capability. It cannot switch to a ball/clock control offense. I will admit that it is only my opinion is the short pass will never be quite as effective as a ground game, and you are more than welcome to debate that. But at the very least you have to admit that a short passing game will have periodic incompletions, stopping the clock. If you are winning late in the 4th quarter, a run for no gain with the clock running is infinately preferable to an incomplete short pass. I hope that clears up my post somewhat.

30
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:51pm

pawnking, I think part of the questioning of Philly's playcalling comes from combining two parts of your argument. Under normal circumstances, Philly might very well be better off throwing 70% or even higher. But, as you pointed out, McNabb is injured and less effective. Isn't it likely that, given an injured, limited QB, that their chances are better given a little more running?

I don't think it's a matter of questioning the system because McNabb's less effective this year. I think it's questioning the system, since we already know McNabb's going to be less effective due to injury.

As Pat has pointed out many times though, a lot of the passes are of the screen/long handoff variety. It'd be interesting to see what percentage it is (possibly from the game charting project, which could also theoretically tell Aaron how often they playfake - and how often the defense doesn't even pretend to honor the fake). So it may just be a lot of complaining about nothing. I really don't know, since I'd rather play goalie cupless than be an Eagles fan.

31
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:52pm

Seems to me we'd be better off analyzing Manning's play than his facial expressions.

Trogdor, you weren't imagining that Cleveland punt. I found it a little strange, too, although they were facing fourth-and-long, and if they had stopped the Lions on the subsequent third-and-short, they would've gotten the ball back.

32
by Adam H (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:53pm

RE 6 My high school wrestling coach told us that if we realized our enemy...er opponent was wearing a cup, the first thing we should do is shoot a high crotch and make his life miserable. Cups are a good idea for straight on impact, bad idea for anything lateral.

33
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:56pm

Trogdor,

I don't know of any rugby players who wear cups. Sorry. Sure, hockey is understandable, as is baseball. Hard objects flying at upwards of 100mph. I get that. But football guys? Nut it up and just play. If someone hits you in the nuts, everyone knows who did it, and he'll have a target on his back. No worries.

34
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 4:59pm

How many years has it been since Steve Walsh won his first superbowl? If you need evidence that passing more than running, or "the offense commonly known as the West Coast Offense (with due Respect to Air Coryell)" is a successful strategy in the NFL, look no further than the 2003 Pats, the 99 & 2001 Rams, the 2000-2004 Eagles. I don't have to go on, do I?

35
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:04pm

I'm not saying that passing more than running can't be effective. I'm saying that passing without even the possible threat of running cannot be as effective. This years eagles are passing without the possible threat of running.
The '99 Rams stick out on that list of yours B, I don't think anyone would argue with you that they were a passing team, without a doubt. But would they have won a superbowl without Marshall Faulk (a future hall of famer) as a threat to run? I highly doubt it. As for the 2000-2004 eagles, they didn't win a superbowl. And the 2003 Pats, BB is smart enough to know that there were times they just had to run the ball, and they did a decent job of it. Not their specialty by any means, but it made due.

36
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:06pm

I was thinking about my Colts and their lack of recovering fumbles this year and decided to look up the stats for the teams with the most forced and recovered fumbles (ESPN.com data).

Team Recovered Fumbles/Forced Fumbles
IND 4/12
KC 8/10
DEN 8/9
DET 5/9
PHI 6/9
CIN 8/8
CLE 8/8
CAR 9/8
BUF 7/7
NYG 10/4

I know DVOA is based on an average rate of fumble recovery, so this would mean the Colts are helped significantly and the Giants are hurt significantly in the DVOA adjustment, correct? Does this mean anything about the Colts or have they just been unlucky? I know a lot of their FF have been by the quarterback which I would assume is more likely recovered by the offense than other types of fumbles.

37
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:14pm

Re 26 and 31: while they did have three time outs left, they were basically trading three time outs and about 45 seconds of game time for the chance at three downs and 16 yards (it was fourth and 26). I guess if you can't convert third-and-short or third-and-long, it makes sense not to try fourth-and-very-long.

38
by Sammy3469 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:18pm

trogdor, The problem i have with the entire 70% is optimal position is that if the defense knows what's coming they can basically have 7 guys covering the Philly recievers. At this point teams know McNabb can't beat them with his feet so they can rush 4 have their 3 LBs key on Westbrook, clogging up the middle for all the screens, and then double team TO.

Philly has become very predicable. In the NFL that's a very bad thing. Most competant NFL defenses can stop an offense if they know what's coming.

39
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:21pm

JG: One team wins a Super Bowl. One. That win can be caused by anything - anything at all. Attributing the Eagles Super Bowl loss to a lack of a running game is completely without merit, especially when the game is still tied going into the fourth quarter. If Deion Branch twists his ankle at the half, the Eagles most likely win the game.

The Eagles from 2000-2004 have won more games than any other team in the NFL, and I'm pretty sure they've been to the playoffs more times than any other team in the NFL. Claiming that the strategy was a failure is simply nuts. If you want to identify a strategy that's a failure, look at Steve Spurrier's offense. That's a failure.

40
by NYCowbou (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:23pm

Mondays suck the day after a tough loss, and yesterday's was as tough as they come. We're missing Flozell the Hotel already, and I never thought I would miss Billy Cundiff.

41
by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:24pm

Re Bobby's comments in particular, how much has the Eagles offensive line changed in the last two years? It's hard for me to believe that they wouldn't be better off if they still had the 3-headed monster to complement Owens.

My props to Jimmy Johnson. Remember how badly the Eagles defense sucked against the run last year until they put Trotter in at MLB? If you had told me back then that they'd be able to hold Tomlinson to only 7 yards, I would have guffawed rudely.

42
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:45pm

Pat, I will agree with you that the Eagles have been one of the best teams in the NFL the past 5 years. No doubt. But this years Eagles team is not the same as the past few years. To illustrate this, this years Eagles are averaging 17 carries per game for 57.5 yards (3.4 avg). Over the 3 years previous the eagles averaged 27 carries per game for 124.5 ypg (4.6 avg). Infact, this year the Eagles are dead last in rushing yards and rushing attempts. In 2002 and 2003 they were in the top 10! I would say that qualifies this years Eagles as a team that is built differently. I know a small amount of the difference can be attributed to McNabb not running, but he was never a 70 yard per game guy. The difference is the scheme.

43
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:47pm

Is the question would the Rams have won without Faulk as a reciever, or without Faulk as a rusher? To the extent that we can seperate the two, I'm pretty sure it was the threat of Faulk catching a ball out of the backfield that really gave the Rams fits. For the 2003 Pats, Antwion Smith was so completely ineffective as a rusher that the Patriots had to rely on QB draws to pick up crucial 3rd and short plays. I'm pretty sure McNabb can still rush as good as Brady, and even if he can't, I'd take Lamar Gordon over the 2003 version of Smith anyday.

44
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:47pm

Err, that sould be gave the Rams OPPONENTS fits.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:48pm

Re: Eagles offensive line. Not much, actually. In 2003, it was Thomas/Welbourn/Fraley/Williams&Mayberry/Runyan. The sole changes are Welbourn for Hicks (and Hicks is better), and Shawn Andrews for Mayberry.

46
by Rob S (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:50pm

Regarding the Eagles and their unbalanced attack, I do agree they need some semblance of a run to make the pass more effective but I think that their lack of a deep passing attack the last two games probably has disrupted their offense even more than the lack of a running game. They put up a lot of points against KC without running the ball. But out of the 54 passes McNabb threw yesterday, only 4 were thrown beyond 15 yards and only 1 was completed. This despite the fact that SD only had 2 healthy DBs available. If the defense doesn't need to defend the run or the deep ball, it makes for a pretty simple task to shut down an offense.

Also, I agree with Greg Westerbrook at TQM that while running up the score in college is unsportsmanlike, the pros are paid to play football and shouldn't take offense if a team does what it can to score as many points as it can. That goes for both teams - the Ravens' players and staff are paid to try and win, not to roll over and give up.

47
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:53pm

JG: The year isn't over yet. Except for Dallas, all of Philly's opponents have had poor passing defenses. All of them. You don't rush if you have open receivers. The Dallas loss is worrying, but it's one loss. If they drop a second versus Dallas (one that looks exactly the same), then I'll agree.

Random fact: total number of teams with a negative passing defense DVOA on Philly's entire freaking schedule: 1. Dallas.

48
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 5:59pm

B- Faulk was an incredible reciever out of the backfield (over 1000 yrds & 5 TDs that year) but you can't ignore the almost 1400 yrds, 5.5 yard average, and 7 touchdowns he got rushing in '99 either.

Pat- You are absolutely right that if the pass is more effective than the run the eagles should pass. Go with what works. My concern is that in a game like Dallas where the pass is not effective I have yet to see any indication this year that Philly is willing or capabale of running, especially in short yardage. That's all I'm trying to say.

49
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:01pm

JG: In other words, you're projecting Philly to go 13-3, since as I pointed out, the only decent pass defense they face for their entire remaining schedule is... Dallas.

50
by JG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:06pm

Pat- That's quite possible. If they go 13-3 more power to them. But in the playoffs I can guarantee that they will have to face atleast 1 good pass defense, I mean pitting the good teams against each other is the point of the playoffs, right? What will they do then? You can't build a team one dimensionally, in either way. A team that can run and can't pass won't make through the playoffs either (see my team, the Bears - I'm predicting they win the division 8-8 or 9-7 and lose the first round of the playoffs because they have no passing game)

51
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:06pm

Fnor:

How about this for one reason to pack it in: Your top QB (who is not very good anyway) has been injured and will miss several weeks. You have NO CHANCE of winning the game. You're playing a team in a situation that knows, if you're going to try to win an unwinable game, will have to pass on every down. The team you're playing has a very good pass rush when they know you are one dimensional, like right now. Do you think the chances of another injury, this time to your second-string QB, go up just a bit?

And then, Fnor, what would your reaction have been if Manning had tossed a TD pass instead of kneeling two times to run out the clock? Let me guess: He's all about stats -- doesn't care about winning--what a loser!

52
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:28pm

Of course, the only reason Manning or the Colts were upset that the Ravens trying to score when the game was over is because they are all about the stats, particurally the shutout stat.

53
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:36pm

Purds: There's a difference between telling a team to run up the score and telling it to roll over and die. And for the record, the colts can do whatever the heck they want with their lead. It's in their best interest to just kneel it, however. Lower chance for stupid injuries or turnovers. That isn't to say that the losing team isn't risking those things, but they have a lot more to gain, pride- and rookie experience-wise in playing than a winning team has in running the score up.

54
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:40pm

Kind of a special case since that was a team who has ranked in the 20s in defense for several years nearly shutting out a team that was (at the time) a likely playoff team. Also, if you read what players said, they were partially upset because giving up touchdowns late in the 4th quarter isn't a very good habit to get into.

55
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:43pm

Well, this whole Ravens-Colts thing is really silly, but if we're going to discuss it, one point: The Ravens weren't trying to win at the end of the game. When they finally scored to make it 24-6, they kicked the extra point. If they really thought they had a chance, they would have gone for two.

56
by admin :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:46pm

Well, clearly people like this feature. Feel free to suggest better names for the column.

57
by B-spectacled (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 6:57pm

Mr. Wilson (re: PIT@CIN) - I think if you had a chance to review those calls, you'd see that most were legit: Ward's unsportsmanlike was because the spike was at a Bengal, not for the first down signal, the toss of the man with the golden teeth was because CJ had already stepped out of bounds, so the play was dead and apparently the whistle wasn't heard, yeah the late hit was weak, but it took out the cheerleader nicely!, Ward's hold was obvious, and yeah, the whistle might have been blown a little early on that "fumble". But even us realistic Bengals fans knew that we were outplayed, irrespective of Carson's thoughts.

BUT, maybe this is one of Cowher's super-tricky psychological motivations? Have veterans (like Hines) do things to make it seem that even the refs are against them, just to fire his team up more!

58
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:01pm

Hey, regarding that San Diego idiotic direct-diagonal snap to Tomlinson - has that play ever worked? I just can't imagine it looks the same to a defense.

59
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:11pm

Exactly, B! It's all about the stats. That's why Manning has been calling so many runs near the goalline this year -- he figures if he gives the RB's (Edge and even Carthon) enough TD's this year, people will forget his stat-hungry ways and then he can go after 50 passing TD's next year without anyone hassling him about chasing stats.

60
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:12pm

MDS:

What, are you trying to bring reason to this argument? Shame on you!

61
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:15pm

Fnor:

I miss the days of R. Harrison, so I will play him for the moment. "Man, those Ravens were dis-respecting us. We'll see what happens next time!"

62
by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:23pm

I wholeheartedly second post #55. How another Peyton Manning debate (not even about the one blurb in the article that mentioned him, no less) got started is beyond me. That Baltimore game is so last month.

As for the bit in the article, I agree that the really sad thing is not so much whether his smirk said it, but that it was so true. The Texans are horrible, and their gameplan yesterday seemed designed entirely to lose by less, rather than actually compete to win. Fourteen pass attempts -- that's a little too old-school. If you're afraid to pass in the modern NFL, you cannot win. And their running game really wasn't all that impressive, considering they ran it 33 times.

63
by Goldbach (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:23pm

Re: Names for this feature.

"5 Things We Think We Think (using the Peter King math)"

"Proof that We Actually Watch the Games"

"We Need Something Because People are Complaining About the Lack of Weekly Discussion Threads This Year"

Seriously, I'm thinking something like:

"Cheap Seats Banter"

...or just keeping "Roundtable" works, too.

64
by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:33pm

I like "Proof that We Actually Watch the Games", or some slightly shorter variation.

65
by BillT (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 7:50pm

"The Texans are horrible, and their gameplan yesterday seemed designed entirely to lose by less, rather than actually compete to win"

It certainly wasn't designed to cover.

66
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 8:02pm

I thought the Texans had a good strategy. They tried to exploit the weakness in thier opponent's defense. The Colts dared the Texans to run, and they did, with great succes in the first half. Then the Colts adjusted to stop the run, and the Texans couldn't adjust. They tried to win, and failed abysmally, but at least they tried.
And considering how bad Edge is near the goal-line, I can't think of a reason why the Colts would hand the ball to him in that situation, besides an attempt to pad his stats.

67
by mike (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 8:30pm

B-spectacled #57 I just watched the Hines Ward play again, he turned away from the two Bengals players who tackled him to spike the ball, but it took a funny bounce and hit a third. I hate penalties which require the ref to make a judgement call, they depend too much on the ref's mood. And did you see how he pelted Ward with the flag? Talk about taunting.

And the tackle on Johnson was not called a late hit, it was ruled unnessessary roughness.

68
by admin :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 8:35pm

Um, just to make sure, you know that we still have weekly discussion threads, right? Hit the blue button on the front page.

69
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 8:46pm

As Aaron scolds us from behind the anonymous username...
I like roundtable. It describes what it is very well and won't confuse people.

70
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 8:55pm

B
yes the west coast offense has been uber good, won a ton of games.
Also the average nfl team will pass more than run.
My original point was that the Eagles have certainly passed on a high percentage of their plays in previous years, last year it was 61%.
This year they are passing on 73% of their plays, an increase to be sure.
the problem with this is the incompletions. I feel they have too many plays for zero yards or less.
Where the heck is James Gibson, he could help us.

71
by Paul (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 9:22pm

Re 57 Bespectacled.
If you really do go back and review those plays. Yes Ward spiked the ball, but nothing more than what a Bengal did later after a first down rush. The only difference is that the the ball (which was spiked closer to a Steeler than Ward's was to a Bengal) then proceeded to NOT hit a Steeler, though Ward's did. Given how the game was being called and the way a football bounces, it should have likewise been called on the Bengal.Two, on the CJ throw down, the whistle sounded WHILE CJ was in the air, not after. It was very clear on the broadcast. It is not clear from the broadcast that CJ was out of bounds, though he may have been. His foot was very close so he could have been.The late hit was more from the Steelers behind him giving a shove, while everyone was in bounds. It was an iffy call, but if the refs are calling them all tight that one is harder to argue against. I saw absolutely no intent on that one and it probably should not have been called.The hold was very similar to one a couple weeks ago when a defender grabbed the blocker and then then twisted and fell, pulling the blocker along. Offensive holding. BS. Some of the cincy pass blocking on blitzing LBs was as much a hold as Ward's play was. The fumble was likewise a really bad call. Really bad.The refs have seemed particularly bad this year, but maybe that's because I have been watching Steeler games all year, plus all the other bad calls that get replayed over and over on ESPN.

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 9:23pm

thad: total number of decent pass defenses the Eagles have seen this year: 1. total number of decent pass defenses the Eagles saw last year: 5. You take what the defense offers you.

73
by Lions fan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 9:49pm

In Garcia's defense, you can't exactly blame him for taking those timeouts. Considering its his first game action with this team, I'd rather him take a TO (timeout) than force something that's not there and end up with the bad type of TO (turnover)

74
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 10:20pm

Pat, I assume you mean the
Panthers
Ravens
Steelers
Redskins twice?
If so, I checked and the Eagles ran on 37% of their plays against those teams, a tiny bit lower than their season average. Interstingly enough, in one game against the redskins they ran 51% of the time. In the other they ran 30% of the time. In one of their games against Dallas they ran 53% of the time, and the cowboys pass defense last year was horrible, well to be fair their run defense and pretty much every aspect of their team was really bad.
I don't know Pat, maybe you are right. Andy Reid is a great coach, a am a mediocre couch potato. To the best of my knowledge no team has passed this often in years, it should be a very interesting experiment.

75
by thad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 10:21pm

I meant to say I am a mediocre couch potato

76
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 11:04pm

The biggest problem is he's passing this often with a quarterback who is not physically able to throw a deep pass very easily because of the injury from what I've heard.

77
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 10/24/2005 - 11:10pm

If by some intervention of Thor or Odin, the Ravens make the playoffs and play the Colts, we will need a joke thread about Colts being unhappy that the Ravens avoided a shutout in Week 1. If both teams make the playoffs, it could become this year's Peyton vs. Brady, except slightly more meaningless.

Of course, it would be overshadowed by the Ravens making the playoffs with Wright behind center.

78
by Bruce Dickinson (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 2:50am

Re: packing it in to prevent injuries.
you don't do that in the first week of the season. if you're already scared of injuries in the 3rd qtr of game one, you might as well not play the next 15.

re: manning
i think he's a jerk. isn't this the same guy who put his ass in a girl's face while in college and used his status to sweep it under the rug?

re: manning's talent
he's one of the best ever so it's easy to ignore his personality. i liked Bill Simmons comments on him in his last weeks picks.

i'd still take Brady in any situation.

79
by Eli is the classy one (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 4:17am

Manning's reputation took a hit when an assistant UT trainer filed a sexual harassment suit against the university. Among 33 complaints, she charged Manning with baring his buttocks in her face in 1996 while she was treating his foot. She agreed to a $300,000 settlement with Tennessee the next year. In 2002, the trainer sued again after Manning, in a father-son biography, claimed he was mooning another athlete that day and noted that the trainer had a "vulgar mouth." Jamie Naughright's defamation of character suit was settled in 2003, the details sealed by the court.

80
by Eli is the classy one (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 4:19am

And stop making those condescending commercials, you phony twit.

81
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 8:25am

This may have been commented on earlier in the thread, but if it hasn't.....I think the bad call the Saints got near the 2:00 warning was part of the instant-replay effect. That is, prior to replay the play would have been blown dead more quickly (prior to the 'strip'). As refs have adjusted to replay, they have been slower to whistle a play over figuring that gives replay the chance to correct any mistake.

The result is situations like in the Saints game where they delay themselves into an obviously incorrect call but there is no means to correct it. IMO, replay hasn't improved the accuracy of key calls, it's just shifted the mistakes a bit.

82
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 10:37am

Two comments: Eagles' play-faking, at this point, is to set up draws and make the linebackers ignore the run. Maybe later in the season. ;-)

Pat (#58 )--
Hey, regarding that San Diego idiotic direct-diagonal snap to Tomlinson - has that play ever worked?
Superbowl 38, Patriots' 2-point conversion try was a diagonal snap to Kevin Faulk, where Brady further jumped and turned like it was a bad snap. Not the prettiest thing ever, but they did score.

83
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 11:06am

SS: You're right, I forgot about that. As the FO roundtable pointed out, though, trying to surprise the defense (and c'mon, this is the Eagles defense, for crying out loud - you don't get much more experienced than them) after having already half-run the play before is just plain stupid.

I'm waiting for new tricks to come out of these coaches. Especially Atlanta. Now that we know that Matt Schaub can indeed pass, c'mon, where's the Vick/Schaub backfield with a Schaub-to-Vick option run?

84
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 1:19pm

#77: from what I'm seeing, theyre going to need a heapin' helpin' of Zeus, Amaterasu and Cthulu to pull that. On the other hand, Wright looks pretty good, and could mature well if they get some recovers and stop pretending Todd Heap is a WR half the time.
Pat: Schaub under center with Vick and Dunn as split-backs would be pretty awesome. They could run most any play out of the same formation, screwing up the defenses assignments, and giving the coordinator a headache trying to gameplan for it.

85
by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 2:11pm

Pat - re 83
Why not have Schaub as the third and long quarterback? Especially after last night's passing performance by Vick.

86
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 2:41pm

Re: #84

I'm not sure how much more maturing Wright is capable of. He's 29. I'd still take him over Boller though, at least in the short term.

87
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 3:00pm

Re #66

Upon further reflection, I'm willing to cut the Texans a little slack. Their running game actually was working in the first half. But more importantly, after looking back at the game log, I now see why they were so afraid to pass. The second half passing numbers look like something out of Madden, with the AI set to Rookie.

88
by TomC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/25/2005 - 3:02pm

Kindly add my name to the "Please post the roundtable every week" petition.

89
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 2:47pm

RE: 33

Not when certain players *cough*vrabel*cough* grab player's crotches at the bottom of a pile.