"Last team with the ball wins" is a cliche, but sometimes cliches are the best way to get across the central narrative of an important game. If you like great quarterback play, you have to watch the NFC Championship Game.
07 Nov 2005
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. 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.
Bill Moore: As this game was winding down, I kept thinking to myself that this was going to be one of those games that looked closer than it really was. And then Pow! Blam! Splat! It actually turned close. Bryan Bollinger (as Dick Enberg called him) came in during the third quarter as Vinny reaggravated his Achilles upon being sacked. However it seemed to me that the Jets really pulled Vinny because they felt the game was out of reach and it made no sense to risk further injury to their "number one" quarterback.
Bollinger comes in and promptly takes a few hits. Note to Brooks, I know you ran the ball well in Wisconsin, but when the backup is Kliff Kingsbury, you utilize the hook slide. Still, maybe it's maturity in game situations or maybe it was a letdown by the Chargers D, but Bollinger stepped in and led a comeback. He broke the Jets' streak of 138 games without a touchdown by throwing two of them. (Future trivia: Who caught Bollinger's first TD? FB Jerald Sowell.) In the end, the Jets were unable to score from the 3-yard line with one run and three incompletes. Given the tough situation that was for Bollinger, it was surprising they didn't try running Martin more. There was time on the clock.
Mike Tanier: The Chargers were in control for the whole game but never delivered the knockout. They settled for field goals, turned it over once in the red zone, and squandered some other opportunities. The Jets stayed about a touchdown back until the final minutes, then forced a turnover and nearly won.
Brooks Bollinger isn't particularly good, but he's mobile and can throw touch passes. He really deserves to start at this point.
Bill Moore: Although much pre-game discussion by the "experts" suggested Ty Law would cover Gates, that never happened. On one play, Gates just abused Victor Hobson. Law almost all game covered his side of the field -- and was NEVER thrown at. However, late in the game, I did see Law (for the first time) motion over the left side. At first I thought it was because Barrett (who just gets pounded by opposing QBs) had gone out with injury, but it continued later in the game. I'm wondering if at some point, Law moved to man-on-man coverage on McCardell. I don't know.
More on Law: I don't know what happened to him, but he can not tackle anymore. He's easily blocked, easily faked and doesn't attack the ball carrier. At one point, LT just embarrassed him, leaving Law in his wake for a touchdown catch out of the backfield.
As MDS has mentioned previously, Merriman is really coming into his own. He hurdled his blocker on the way to a sack. And by hurdle, I don't mean jumped over a cut block, I mean jumped over a man standing fully upright.
Finally, I must say, the Jets have to be real happy with second-round pick Nugent. 10 attempts including this game, six good and four misses including one today. Couldn't have used that pick on a DB could you?
Bill Moore: For most of the first half, Trent Green just did not look himself. Unlike Brett Favre, he did not light it up after going through the emotional trauma of losing his father.
Kerry Collins really has a set of wide receivers that he can force the ball too. And its not just Moss. These guys are covered, but they just come down with the ball. However, that false confidence can come back to bite you. Collins, under pressure, tried to force it into quadruple coverage on Moss -- only to have it picked off.
Is there a fatter kicker in the NFL than Janikowski?
Both teams ran a lot of nickel coverage, but neither team was able to take advantage of it via the running game.
This game only really got interesting when Green finally hit the "ON" switch during the third quarter, and then KC just pummeled themselves with penalties -- some unjustified, others just stupid. And finally Oakland put together a nice drive capped off by Moss' first catch of the game for a TD.
But the best was saved for last. Saved by a rare defensive tripping call, Green hits Kennison and Johnson for a combined 49 yards to the one-yard line with five seconds to go -- no timeouts! Down by three, the announcers were calling for a quick pass -- no runs. I was already preparing a comment about the win probability of going for it, vs. kicking the FG and going to OT. I figured kicking the FG knocked your win percentage to 50%, but going for it HAD to be much greater. Anyone know what the probability is?
Before I could finish the comment, Vermeil made the bold decision that I thought was right, but didn't think they had the guts to call. Johnson runs it for a yard, no time left and a WIN. Great call!
Aaron Schatz: Kansas City, by the way, has converted about two-thirds of short running situations over the last couple years.
Mike Tanier: Let the record show that the Chiefs scored the winning touchdown by plowing right over Warren Sapp. Sapp was moved about four yards off the play; I am not sure if Casey Wiegmann or Brian Waters was the blocker. Ted Washington and Terdell Sands were the other Raiders linemen on the interior for that play, which is certainly a Heavy Jumbo defense, but they were just blown off the ball.
Aaron Schatz: If we're giving props, Will Shields took out linebacker Danny Clark, and tight end Jason Dunn (playing fullback) took out linebacker Kirk Morrison to clear the rest of the hole.
Mike Tanier: The evil Kerry Collins showed up for this game, the one that throws the ball away whenever there's a hint of pressure. The Chiefs sold out with lots of seven-man blitzes, and Collins just kept bailing out. I would bet that Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Doug Gabriel or somebody could get open against single coverage by the Chiefs.
Moss was targeted seven or eight times, but his only catch was the late touchdown.
Michael David Smith: Kansas City really, really missed Willie Roaf.
Ned Macey: What I loved about the last play for the Chiefs was that there was no trickery involved. I thought they should run but felt they would spread out the Raiders thinking they would assume quick pass. From the tight formation they lined up in, there was no play that would take less than five seconds, and they still scored with relative ease.
Mike Tanier: Chris Simms moved the ball pretty well early in the game and threw some sweet passes, not just the bomb to Joey Galloway. The running game and offensive line aren't providing much support right now. Of course, that pass at Chris Gamble won't make Simms' highlight reel.
My favorite play in this game: watch Ricky Proehl's 62-yard catch in the 2nd quarter. Proehl and Steve Smith are racing up the sidelines, and the safety commits completely to Smith as soon as Delhomme releases. If the safety turns to Proehl, he has a play. I would have turned to Smith, too.
Michael David Smith: Tampa Bay's Brian Kelly was really struggling. Steve Smith and Keary Colbert both beat him in the first quarter.
DeShaun Foster looked like the old DeShaun Foster we're all so used to criticizing around here.
Mike Tanier: I saw one series of this game. Slash scrambled twice, then after some running plays, the Ravens tried a WR pass where Randy Hymes threw to Slash. It's great to see that someone saved the Steelers playbook from the mid-1990s.
Ryan Wilson: Cincy's offense really didn't do a whole lot. In fact, the Ravens defense played pretty well. Unfortunately, their head coach is Morris Buttermaker, and their offense is abysmal. Anthony Wright and Kyle Boller are basically the same guy. Kordell Stewart got a few snaps and actually rallied the team to a field goal (of course he didn't even think about running the ball, and got sacked on a third down play, but that's actually an improvement).
Surprisingly, the Bengals pretty much stopped the run, and when they finally decided that Wright was only looking for Mason, they were able to stop the pass too. The only thing worse than watching the Ravens try and matriculate the ball down the field, is watching the them while Gus Johnson is calling the game. He was the second worst commentator on CBS this Sunday ...
Ned Macey: If you watch the Bengals, with all their weapons, you would think they would score more points. As you are watching, you feel like they are leaving points on the field and the opposing defense is playing well. But, at the end of the day, they had 21 at Baltimore which is a pretty impressive feat. They have become just a very solid football team. Carson Palmer, who was a turnover machine a season ago, is so much more mature with the ball. Then with only a five-point lead, he and Johnson connected on a huge play against Chris McAllister that basically clinched the game for them. Palmer is the best young quarterback in football.
Rudi Johnson is very underrated. He is a very tough runner, and if you took out an 11-yard loss he took on a busted play, he would have been over 100 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, which is still impressive against Baltimore.
As for the Ravens, the whole plan is play great defense, efficient play from the quarterback, and win the game on the ground. Against the woeful Cincinnati rush defense, Jamal Lewis gets 49 yards on 15 carries? Anthony Wright was bad, but he made 0 big mistakes. Unfortunately, Lewis seems to have lost all value. He got 15 carries to Chester Taylor's three.
Mike Tanier: Sam Gado: All Division I-AA selection by the Athletic Directors Association in 2004. Led the Big South conference in scoring and all-purpose yards. Part of a RB tandem at Liberty with Dre Barnes. Signed as a rookie free agent by the Chiefs but released. Born in Nigeria. No relation to Christian Okoye. That's all I got.
Aaron Schatz: Batch was awful, of course. There was a play where KGB went right around Marvel Smith to get Batch on 3rd-and-12, though Batch got away for 10 yards. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Marvel couldn't blow it that bad -- I think he was trying to push KGB around Batch's back but Batch took too many steps in his drop.
It seems that the PIT CB coverage has really declined over the last couple games, between all the yards they gave up to GB today and all the yards they let Derrick Mason have last week. Ryan, your thoughts?
On the other side of that issue, Al Harris is just absurd at this point. He's completely shutting down every single number one receiver that Green Bay plays. Hines Ward caught one ball today. ONE. The one time I saw Ward open, it was because Harris was on Quincy Morgan that play.
Ryan Wilson: Apparently one team learned a very valuable lesson from Monday night's game ... and it was Green Bay. The Ravens did a lot of max protection and only sent out three receivers. And on almost every occasion, Derrick Mason found a way to get open. Well, the Packers did exactly the same thing Sunday and Favre also had no trouble finding the open receiver. Here's the thing about max protect: when you keep seven in to block, only three can run routes. The Steelers haven't been phased by max protect because they still insist on rushing five and six guys. The result: repeatedly getting burned on third down. I'm not convinced the secondary is necessarily playing decidedly worse than earlier in the season, I just think they don't have a lot of help. They're in man coverage while the blitz is being picked up, and guys are getting open.
That Favre will inevitably have two or three crazy plays a game coupled with the fact that Pittsburgh finally decided to drop people in coverage, led to their finally making some stops on 3rd and 4th down.
Charlie Batch wasn't as awful as he could've been. In fact, it very easily could've been much, much worse (see Jaguars game). The Steelers didn't really have the ball on offense (see time of possession), and when they did, it wasn't really a secret that they were going to run the ball. Batch throwing the ball away or taking a sack is actually a positive play after watching the other backup.
That said, if Pittsburgh's defense isn't last in the league in DVOA on third downs, we might want to think about tinkering with the equations.
Aaron Schatz: After this week's games, Pittsburgh is 31st. San Francisco is last, although some people might argue that they are no longer actually in the league.
Michael David Smith: Charles Rogers, back from his four-game suspension, is inactive for today's game. After a week of practice, the Lions coaches decided that Glenn Martinez is the better receiver right now, so he'll be on the active roster instead. Let that sink in for a minute. Charles Rogers, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, who has already counted about $20 million against the Lions' salary cap, can't beat out Glenn "I've caught one pass in my career" Martinez for playing time. Where does Rogers rank among the greatest busts in NFL draft history?
Bill Moore: Wow. Up till this season, you really had to give Rogers an injury free pass. Seemingly, two fluke injuries killed his first two seasons. However, this HAD to be his year, and he has failed in multiple ways. I put him up there with Rick Mirer, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Blair Thomas, KiJana Carter, Heath Shuler, and Curtis Enis. All top-five picks that just laid an egg. I struggle to think of another wide receiver that fits the bill.
Michael David Smith: As much crap as Harrington takes, how many quarterbacks could succeed when Scottie Vines is by far their best receiver? This is one of the worst groups of receivers I've ever seen. Please, spare me the talk about how much talent the receivers have. Yes, three of them were very good college players. So what? Desmond Howard was one of the best college receivers ever, and in the NFL he was strictly a return man. If Harrington ever gets a chance to play for a competent organization, he can be a good quarterback. I'll be rooting for him.
Steve Mariucci is, I'm sure, a very nice guy. Are nice guys also good football coaches? I have my doubts when I hear him answer questions about why a player didn't practice this week, like he did after today's game, with "he's a little sore." A little sore? Do you think Bill Parcells gives guys the day off when they're a little sore?
Michael David Smith: I liked what I saw of Gary Walker against Jacksonville. He had a roughing the passer penalty, but he also had a very strong game against the run, really wreaking havoc in there.
Tim Gerheim: I'm not sure he started, but Ernest Wilford was definitely the no. 2 receiver for the Jaguars. Even so, I don't think he caught a pass until the second half. He was huge in their comeback (such as it was). I don't think Reggie Williams even saw the field.
David Carr is now unequivocally part of the problem, and not part of the solution. He bails out of the pocket too soon, and he's incomprehensibly loath to throw the ball away in obvious throwaway situations. On one play he started scrambling immediately after finishing his drop even though the protection was viable, and he ran to his left directly into the rush. He still throws very well, but his pocket presence is abominable.
With Domanick Davis out, Jonathan Wells looked a lot better running than I expected him to. I actually think that it was (believe it or not) the offensive line that got him most of his success, since he's pretty much a one-hit-and-go-down guy. But he was better than Vernand Morency, who really seemed to trip several times over that blue line on the field.
Corey Bradford had a big game, which was a big surprise, but then turned back into a pumpkin on the last play of the game. I can't wait for Jerome Mathis to get healthy and come back, because he's a younger and therefore faster Corey Bradford. Plus he returns kickoffs better than Tony Hollings, who likes to actually return it from more than 5 yards deep in the end zone, and wind up short of the 20.
Aaron Schatz: What a strange game. Atlanta had some quarterback who was able to accurately complete passes. I'm not sure who that guy was. Miami seems to have misplaced all Atlanta game tape involving Alge Crumpler, because for most of the game, they were leaving him wide open. Part of the reason for that was that they were really trying to stuff the run up the middle, and that had to leave something open, but why not make that something Michael Jenkins?
Later in the game at one point the Dolphins blitzed seven on 3rd-and-goal from the 11. Touchdown to a wide open Brian Finneran. Why are you blitzing seven on 3rd-and-goal from the 11, to try to knock them out of field goal range? For crying out loud, just prevent the damn touchdown.
Miami also had awful offensive play calling by Linehan. They must lead the league in gimmick plays that are easily sniffed out within two seconds and stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Chris Chambers going down for a loss of 12 on a silly double reverse was probably the best.
Yet despite these mistakes, despite the rare accurate game from Vick, Miami had a chance to tie at the end, but about 20 yards from the goal line they called a pass on 3rd-and-2 and Frerotte tossed an interception. Let me get this straight -- Ronnie Brown has been gashing Atlanta all day, you have no passing game and an unreliable quarterback, and a rushing play is much more likely to covert than a passing play, and you have two plays to get two yards, and you PASS????
There was also a really BS flag where Vick was running and got pushed out of bounds while his feet were still on green grass. Somehow this was called a personal foul. A few plays later, Chris Chambers catches a pass and is at the same point near the sideline and gets leveled and flipped end over end by an Atlanta defender. No personal foul.
Kevin Carter was getting a ton of pressure on Vick all day. Good game for him.
Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron about what a terrible play call the Dolphins made on 3rd-and-short where Frerotte threw the interception. I always like Moose Johnston games because he always talks about the fullbacks. It is so clear that he can't help watching the game that way. This time, however, he appeared to pick up that when the Dolphins went with Brown and Williams in the backfield, they almost always threw, and this was the case on the final play. They ran the ball well with both backs all day. I don't care what we've said about Ricky; I'd rather have the ball in his hands then good old Gus with the game on the line.
Ned Macey: The insertion of Reynaldo Hill into the starting lineup with his hair that matches Pacman Jones is extraordinairly confusing. It was so easy to pick out Jones and see how he was playing, but now with questionable spotting by the announcers it is difficult to pick out whicih one of the two rookies is missing tackles in the secondary. I have similar problems with Asante Samuel and Duane Starks for the Patriots, since they are #22 and #23 respectively and roughly the same size. At least with that one, 90% of the time I can go with the idea that if it was a great play it was Samuel and a terrible play it was Starks.
Bill Moore: Shaun Alexander takes the ball down to the ARI two-yard line on a second-and-goal. Denny Green challenges the call saying Alexander actually stepped out at the four. Why waste a challenge on that? The announcers suggested that Green was more afraid of Alexander in the Red Zone that Hasselbeck. What are Hasselbeck's red zone numbers? That seemed like a real waste. Hasselback threw a TD on the next snap.
Finally, from that same game, a nice clichÃ© flip flop. We all get jammed down our throats that it's harder for the offense the closer you get to the end zone because there is less room to work. The FOX stat people during the Giants game actually decided to break it down in square feet for the mathematically challenged. However, after Hasselbeck ran a bootleg into the end zone, the announcers let this one fly: "Well, being close into the end zone makes it harder for the defense as they have less time to react to a play. It really gives the offense an advantage."
Why do you stick with Kurt Warner? I mean really? Granted I am no McCown fan, but Warner is clearly not your long term solution. Why not play McCown, and if he can't fill the role, 1) you'll know it for sure by the end of the season and 2) you get a higher draft pick and go after a QB like say Leinart?
Tim Gerheim: Nobody plays for the draft pick. If it comes out that that's what you're doing as a coach, you're so fired.
Ned Macey: Sad to see so many empty seats. What a disastrous situation.
Who is on the Bears offensive line? I admit knowing little about that team, but they certainly seem like an impressive bunch. They have such a limited passing game, and yet Thomas Jones is having a huge season, and when he went down, Benson was also good and Peterson went through for the game-winning touchdown untouched. Sure it was the Saints, but it was also Adrian Peterson.
Aaron Schatz: On the first play of this game for Philadelphia, Josh Parry apparently confused the concept of "blocking" with the concept of "attempt to hurdle a defender" which resulted in Westbrook getting smacked.
I don't know if I can give specific examples here, but I'm starting to realize that the Philadelphia offensive line is no longer a strength. People talk about McNabb's injury and the lack of runs but are people talking about this? Especially at LT and RT.
Am I imagining things, or did Joe Theismann just say that the injury is not hurting McNabb and then two seconds later McNabb throws a pass that wobbles and then bounces three feet away from Brian Westbrook?
Bill Moore: I think he was being sarcastic to Paul McGuire because McNabb had just made a good scramble and throw without the ill-effects of an injury.
However, Earth to McNabb: If you want to run a Marino fake spike, better be sure the rest of your team knows too. If you're the only one, you'll easily add to that laundry list of injuries.
Aaron Schatz: Joe Theismann knows how to be sarcastic?
Ned Macey: The question for the Eagles is whether or not McNabb had the better game because they mixed their play calls or if they lost the game because they stuck wtih the run for too long. I think it's the former, as it forces the defense to at least be honest. If that's the case, then the Eagles have problems because they cannot run the ball.
On the last real play of the game, why was Westbrook not in the game? Is that possibly a good decision? A half-hearted play fake to Lamar Gordon that slowed down the play and held nobody at the line? They used a timeout to set up this play which precluded them from getting the ball back. I don't mind the use of the timeout since the play was so important, and they had a good chance to score, but if this is really your last chance, that is an awful play to run.
I do feel like I have a much better understanding of the TO situation after hearing Suzy Kolber's explanations all night, however. Very informative.
By the way, is there a game tomorrow?
Any Given Sunday: Still Undecided
Every Play Counts: Atlanta offensive line vs. Miami front seven
73 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2005, 8:47pm by Jerry